A Pregnant Pause
Concept: Graham returns to Sunnydale and gives Xander startling news: he's pregnant! And the father is Spike! A humble attempt at writing the first non-slash, non-AU, non-gender-reversal, non-curse, non-spell, Spike-gets-Xander-pregnant fic. Takes place approximately two weeks after the events in the "Restless" episode of BtVS.
Rating: R, for language and suggestive situations.
Spoilers: Some general spoilers up through Season 5.
Feedback: Please. E-mail Mikelesq@aol.com
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. Music lyrics quoted are the property of whoever owns the publishing rights (Paul Anka, I'd assume, and certainly not me). The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like.
TO BE COMPLETED BY FIELD AGENTS NO MORE THAN THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER INITIAL DEBRIEFING
TOP SECRET, CLASSIFICATION A-5
NO UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION
AGENT'S NAME: Miller, Graham
AGENT'S DESIGNATION: Agent
AGENT'S CURRENT STATION: Sunnydale, California (reassignment pending)
ASSIGNMENT CLEARANCE NO.: D2G144269
AGENTS ARE REMINDED THAT NO FACTS, CONVERSATIONS, OR OTHER INFORMATION, WHETHER CONSIDERED BY THE AGENT TO BE MATERIAL OR IMMATERIAL, SHALL BE OMITTED FROM THIS REPORT.
AGENT'S NARRATIVE REPORT:
6/2/00, 23:30, PST.
I didn't want this assignment. If I'd had my choice, I would have never returned to Sunnydale. Unfortunately, if you're one of the few surviving members of a failed covert operation, you don't have a lot of choices. I had one chance to earn back my spurs. I took it.
I was standing in front of the frat house with my duffle bag over my shoulder. Goodman pulled up at exactly eleven-thirty p.m. He was right on time, just like you'd expect from a military man. He reached over and opened the passenger door. I jumped in, and he drove down the street.
"Miller, right?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "You're Goodman?"
"That's me," Goodman replied. "We can be at the safe house in five minutes."
"Don't go straight there," I instructed. "Some of the other guys might see us. I'm supposed to be on my way to the airport."
"Oh, yeah," Goodman said. "Sorry. I'll head up to Franklin, then loop back around. I guess most of the others opted to get out, after the whole Initiative fiasco."
"Yep," I said.
"I've heard a lot about you," Goodman said. "Impressive stuff. I'm glad you picked me to work on this one. I'm just sorry I didn't get through training in time to get in on the Initiative project."
Yeah, I thought. Poor guy.
"I read your outline for this mission," Goodman continued. "Interesting. Kind of...well...when I first read the mission objective, I thought this was going to be a simple snatch and grab. I'm surprised that Major Ellis authorized so much civilian contact. If we just drugged the kid, we could do the surgery and he'd never know what happened. I mean, it's like something out of a bad spy novel or...um, sorry."
"Turn here," I told Goodman. "Head for the safe house."
"Gotcha," Goodman said, turning onto Franklin Street. "It's just that...you know...we're a military operation. They taught us in training that the simplest approaches usually are the most effective. Maintain covert status. Quick execution. By the book."
"Did they also teach you not to question a senior agent?" I asked.
"Uh, yeah. I mean, yes, sir."
"That's better," I said. I was in no mood to explain myself to an agent who was only two weeks out of training.
"Will Agent Finn be participating in this mission?" Goodman asked.
"Riley Finn is no longer on board," I said.
"I guess that's why they gave this assignment to you," Goodman said. "I mean, you were the one who got closest to...."
"This isn't a business for people who like to talk."
"Um, yeah. Sorry."
"We're here," I said, as Goodman pulled up to the curb in front of the safe house. He cut the engine, and we both walked up to the front door. I stooped down and placed my open palm on the black glass flower pot by the door. A dim glow indicated that the scanner was working. After it had verified my hand print, the front door swung open, and Goodman and I entered the house. Agent Marks and two others were waiting in the hallway.
"Graham," Marks said. "Good to see you. This is Agent Brown and Agent Henderson."
Brown I'd expected. I'd handpicked all of the agents for this mission. Henderson I didn't expect.
"What about Ramsey?" I asked.
"He's still on the mend," Marks replied. "The Brass sent Henderson to fill in."
I shook Brown's hand, then shook Henderson's.
"How's the shoulder?" I asked Marks.
"Not too bad," he replied. "They got out the quills from that Ixcartha demon that clawed me on the way out of the Initiative. The doctors say I should get back a full range of motion in a couple of months. I'm just glad I got out at all."
"Do we have them?" I asked.
"They're in the basement," Marks confirmed.
"Is everything ready?"
"Pretty much. The basement's all set up, Doctor Saunders is here, and the pre-mission report is on your desk upstairs."
"Good," I said. "Come up with me. Goodman, take Brown and Henderson downstairs and keep an eye on things."
"Yes, sir," Goodman said. He walked with Brown and Henderson toward a door behind the stairs. Marks walked up the stairs with me.
"How much does Henderson know?" I asked.
"Not much," Marks replied. "He just transferred from the Sub-T research department over at the FBI. I figured you'd want to brief him."
"Not really," I said. "This mission's need to know."
"Fair enough," Marks said, as we got to a door at the top of the stairs. "Your office is set up in here. Well, it's your office until Ellis shows up. The file's on the desk."
"Good," I said, walking in. "I'll go over it. You go downstairs and keep an eye on the others. They're a little green, so you may have to hold their hands."
"Got it," Marks said. He left the office. I shut the door behind him, sat behind the desk, and started in on the file.
A quick review of the file showed that everything had been prepared as I'd asked. Henderson's dossier was included. He'd been deep cover for about two years in the Occult Intelligence branch of the FBI, researching demon cultures. He'd actually spent six months in Sunnydale, documenting Sub-T migration patterns. They'd pulled him out of the field after his partner got vamped in a raid on a nest in Frisco. I would have preferred Ramsey, but I couldn't really complain about having someone on the team who'd just come off a bad mission.
There was one other thing I wasn't happy about. A safe house is supposed to have secured rooms. Whoever had arranged for this house hadn't checked the soundproofing. The floor vents for the heating system were old, and sound carried through them from room to room. I knew this because I could hear the conversation from the basement.
"So that's him?" a voice asked. I recognized the voice as Brown's.
"Yep," Marks' voice replied.
"He doesn't talk much," Brown observed.
"He talked even less when he wasn't in charge," Marks replied.
"I wish he wouldn't talk at all," Goodman said. "He's got an attitude problem. All I did was say that this operation seemed a little out there, and he starts all in on...."
"Goodman," Marks interjected, "when you've seen half of what we've seen, you'll be entitled to pass judgment on our plans, and our attitudes. Things got ugly. Real ugly. We buried a lot of good agents, and it was mostly because we thought we could just waltz into Sunnydale and take control. We were wrong. I'm not sure I would have signed off on Graham's plan, but that's not my call, and it's a better plan than anything Professor Walsh ever came up with. So why don't you just keep your thoughts to yourself?"
"Is anyone going to tell me what this plan is?" Henderson asked.
"You haven't been briefed?" Goodman asked. "Oh, boy, you're not gonna believe this. Major Ellis authorizes us to come in here and grab...."
"Enough, Goodman," Marks said. "We've all been told what we need to know. You'll find out soon enough, Henderson."
I actually thought about going downstairs and dishing out a little attitude adjustment. I decided against it. Maybe they were right. And right or wrong, I just wanted this mission over with. I locked the file in the top drawer of the desk, and made my way downstairs.
As I descended the stairway to the basement, I saw the agents seated on the chairs that had been set up against the wall. A guy in a white coat (who I recognized as Dr. Saunders from his dossier) stood by the operating tables and equipment. In the center of the room, two men lay unconscious, each with their hands bound behind their backs.
"Approve of the setup?" Marks asked.
"Not really," I said. "But it'll have to do. They give you any trouble?"
"Brown did most of the hard part," Marks said. "I pretty much watched and let him take care of the physical end. My shoulder wouldn't let me do much else."
"Well?" I asked Brown.
"Neither one was a big problem," Brown replied. "The kid went down as soon as the chloroform hit. The other one struggled a little, but he really couldn't retaliate with that chip in his head. When Hostile 17 tried to take a swing at me, he...."
"Brown," I said.
"Hostiles One through Sixteen are no longer in custody. He's called Spike."
"Oh, yeah," Brown said. "Well, when Spike tried to hit me, the chip kicked in. He was on the ground holding his head when I finally got the chloroform on him. After that, he was out like a light."
"Alright, wake the kid," I instructed. Dr. Saunders grabbed a packet of smelling salts off of one of the instrument trays, walked over, stooped beside the sleeping pair, and waived the packet around until a coughing sound filled the basement.
"Hello, Xander," I said.
Xander blinked, gasped, and fell back into unconsciousness.
"This make take awhile," Dr. Saunders said, reaching into his lab coat to grab a hypodermic.
6/3/00, 01:14, PST
"Ugh, my head," Xander said, struggling to sit up. Spike sat beside him. His vampire strength must have allowed the effects of the chloroform to wear off more quickly.
"Where am I?" Xander asked no one in particular.
"In a basement with the army wankers," Spike replied.
"Spike?" Xander asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Same as you, I suspect," Spike surmised.
"Not exactly," I said.
"Graham?" Xander asked.
"It's me," I said. "Look, we need to talk."
"Yeah, do that," Spike said. "Meanwhile, what say you let me go before I rip yer head off?"
"Spike, we put that chip in you," I said. "Don't insult my intelligence with empty threats. Now, do you two want to know what's going on?"
Spike glared at me, but remained silent. Xander looked at me with a combination of fear and curiosity in his eyes.
"Look, Xander," I said. "No one's sorry than I am about what happened in the Initiative. As soon as things are squared away, I'm out of here for good. But we found out about one of Professor Walsh's experiments that needs...containing. It involves you."
"Me?" Xander said. "How?"
"Professor Walsh was interested in human/demon hybrids," I explained. "She took samples from the demons she captured, including your friend Spike."
"He's NOT my friend," Xander protested.
"Bloody well right I'm not," Spike agreed.
"In any event," I said, "she took tissue samples. Hair, fingernail clippings, and...fluids."
"Fluids," Xander repeated. "Like blood?"
"Well, no," I said. "Blood wouldn't really tell us anything. I mean, it's not his blood in him. No, these samples were a little more...intimate."
"Intimate?" Spike asked. "What do you...hey, you don't mean...?"
"We have...technicians," I explained, "who specialize in collecting...well, samples."
"So while Spike was knocked out and getting that chip in his head," Xander deduced, "you were also getting a sample of his...."
"You bastards!" Spike screamed.
The vamp broke the plastic restraints on his hands. He lunged for me, but the chip kicked in before he could get within a foot of me. He collapsed to the ground in pain.
"Aw, poor Spike," Xander said, a giddy smile crossing his face. "Don't worry, I'm sure the nice soldiers will give you your sample back. If you're a good boy, you might get a free army thermos out of the deal."
"We can't give it back," I said. "Professor Walsh used it."
"Used it?" Xander asked, turning his attention back to me. "For what?"
"Perhaps Dr. Saunders could explain better," I said. Sanders came forward with a manila file in his hands.
"The point of Professor Walsh's experiment was to see if the DNA of a vampire could create a human/vampire crossbreed," Saunders explained. "DNA strands from the hair and skin were grafted to the single-celled organisms that were placed within the...sample...and then were fertilized with a human ovum. The fertilized egg was then stored for implantation until a suitable human host could be found."
"I still don't see what this has to do with me," Xander protested.
"According to Professor Walsh's notes," Saunders continued, "there was some concern that if a female subject was used to carry the fetus, the natural defense of the woman's reproductive system would cause a miscarriage. She theorized that the experiment would stand a better chance of success if the embryo were implanted in the abdominal cavity of a male subject."
"So she wanted to use a man," Xander said. "How do I fit into...wait a minute. You're not saying that....that...."
"She also wanted to use a subject with natural resistence to the side effects of dark magic," Saunders said, flipping through pages of the file. "According to her dossier on the Slayer's circle of friends, you grew up in Sunnydale, and actually attended high school on top of a Hellmouth. Continual exposure to a center of mystical convergence made you an ideal subject for...."
"You son of a...!" Xander said, trying to lunge at Saunders. Since he didn't have a vampire's strength, the plastic restraints kept his hands behind his back, and the imbalance kept him from getting to his feet. He fell backwards.
"Hold on just a bloody, buggery minute!" Spike shouted. "Are you saying my...stuff...is in his tummy?"
"Well, in a manner of speaking," Dr. Saunders chimed in. "Since the DNA was spliced directly into the ovum, it's purely your DNA. However, it's been grafted to living tissue. We could learn a great deal from the development of...."
"You impregnated me with Spike's baby?!?" Xander exclaimed.
"Not us," I said. "Professor Walsh. If the brass knew what she was up to, they would have never...."
"Spike," Xander said. "Are you sure you can't kill these guys?"
"Not with this chip," Spike replied. "Tell you what. We'll team up. You kill them, and I'll drink the blood out of them."
"I can't get my hands...how is that teaming up!?" Xander exclaimed.
"Well, it's all I can do," Spike said.
"This is all your fault, Spike!" Xander shouted.
"My fault? How the hell is it my fault?"
"You promised to stay out of Sunnydale!" Xander accused. "If you'd stayed out of town like you promised, none of this would have happened!"
"If I'd stayed out of Sunnydale, you would have died in the bloody bunker, you twit!"
"We wouldn't have been in that bunker if you hadn't lured us there!"
"You wanted in!"
"You were trying to kill us!"
"And I would have, if that git Adam hadn't bollixed it up!"
"Will the two of you please listen," I said. I'd be collecting Social Security in Sunnydale if I waited for those two to stop shouting at each other.
"I don't buy a word of this," Xander said. "It's...it's...ridiculous. There's no way."
"Doctor," I said, turning to Sanders.
"Mr...Harris, is it?" Sanders said, getting out a chart and a pen. "Yes, Harris. Mr. Harris, about four months ago...specifically around January twenty-eighth, did you notice any generalized abdominal pains?"
"No," Xander denied. "I didn't...well, I did have sore abs for a couple of days. I worked a construction job at the end of January. I was saving for Anya's Valentine's present."
"Actually, the discomfort was from the injection of the embryo into your abdomen by a pair of technicians while you were sleeping...I believe...yes, in your parents' basement," Saunders said, his finger tracing lines on a page from the file.
"That's crazy," Xander said. "It was just from exertion. I was sore all over."
"So...you experienced general muscle and joint stiffness concurrent with, or shortly after the abdominal pains?" Saunders asked.
"Well, I suppose," Xander admitted.
Sanders and I exchanged knowing glances.
"How about weight gain?" Saunders continued. "Have you noticed any weight gain over the past three to six weeks? Somewhere between five and fifteen pounds?"
"Not...really," Xander stammered. "I mean, I may have gained a little. But that's because they opened this donut shop down on Main Street. The apple cinnamon turnovers are really good. I have them every morning."
"So," Saunders said, pausing to take a pen out of his pocket and take notes in his file, "would you describe your appetite for these pastries as a...craving?"
"Well, I guess that's one way of...oh, my God."
Xander's face dropped into his hands.
"Well," Spike said, "you always did remind me of a wet nurse. More because of the whining and pansy-ass screaming, but...."
"Spike!" Xander shouted. "One more word out of you and...!"
"Hormones," Spike said, turning to the doctor. "Maybe you could have one of the soldier boys rub his feet?"
It took both Brown and Henderson to hold Xander down before he could take a lunge at Spike. The plastic ties on the kid's wrists were rated for 350 pounds of tensile strength, but as mad as he was, I wasn't sure it would be enough.
"Alright, you two," I said. "We've talked about the problem. Doctor, the solution."
"We've expanded on some of the technology developed by Dr. Walsh," Saunders said. "This," he said, walking over to a tank against the back wall of the room, "is a containment unit. With the proper mix of plasma and liquid protein, it will allow the demon to gestate to term."
Xander calmed down enough to focus on Dr. Saunders.
"These electro-dynamic impulse units," Saunders continued, gesturing toward a series of wires running from a computer terminal onto the tank, "will allow us to both simulate a living metabolism within the tank, and monitor the development of the creature. All we need to do is remove the demon from your abdominal cavity and transfer it to the gestating chamber. We can prepare you for surgery in about two hours. The procedure will be done by morning. After that, you'll be off your feet for about a day. With our laser surgical techniques, you'll experience no ill effects beyond what you'd feel after a simple appendectomy. Less, actually, if there are no complications. There's no danger to you whatsoever."
Xander paused, then asked:
"None," Saunders replied.
"And after that, I'm fine?"
"Perfectly fine," Saunders said.
Xander drew a breath, and then said:
"Alright. Whatever. I just want this over."
"Doctor, if you would get started," I said. "Spike, we need to take some tissue samples."
"We unfortunately don't have any of Dr. Walsh's original specimens," Saunders said. "We need some samples of your DNA to calibrate the fluid composition to make it compatible with the creature's cellular makeup."
"Wait a minute," Spike said. "I don't care what you idiots want to do for Xander and science and all that rot, but there's no chance in Hell I'm letting you take another dose of my...."
"No, no," Saunders said. "Nothing like that. Just hair and nail clippings, for the DNA."
"How do we know you're not going to kill us once we're unconscious?" Xander asked.
"You were unconscious when we brought you here," I said. "We could have killed you already."
"He's got a point," Spike said.
"I take it you'll cooperate, then?"
"Fine," Spike said. "Anything so I don't have to hear this ponce whine all night."
"Spike," Xander said, "when this is over I swear I'm gonna...."
"We're in agreement then," I said, not wanting to give Xander and Spike another opportunity to argue again. "Brown, you and Goodman get them set on the tables. Henderson, get upstairs and watch the door. Holler if their friends don't come looking for them. Doctor, upstairs. We need final clearance from HQ."
Brown and Goodman led Spike and Xander over to the tables. Saunders, Marks, Henderson and I walked up the stairs out of the basement. We left Henderson at the front door to keep watch. When we got to the office up at the top of the stairs, I closed the door behind us.
"How long to get Harris prepped?" I asked Saunders.
"About two hours," he answered, "if we follow standard surgical protocols to screen for infection and adverse reaction to anesthetics. Of course, this is a field operation, so I can cut a few corners and...."
"Don't," I interrupted. "I don't want any risk of complications."
Marks and Saunders exchanged worried glances.
"Any problem with that?" I asked, a deliberate hint of annoyance in my voice.
"You're in charge," Saunders said. He turned and walked out of the office, closing the door behind him. I could hear his footsteps go down the outside stairs, and then down into the basement.
"You sure you want to do it this way?" Marks asked.
"Yes," I said, walking past Marks and taking a seat at the desk. Desks convey authority. At least, I hoped this one would.
"We could have snatched the kid," Marks continued. "Had him in surgery and dumped him back in his basement, and no one would have...."
"And when he woke up?" I retorted. "He'd know he was gassed, he'd know he had surgery, and he'd tell his friends."
"So what? They'd never know...."
"The Hell they wouldn't," I said. "We underestimated this town once, and in the end I had to hose some of my best friends off my boots. So did you. This time, we use our brains."
"You're not going soft, are you, Graham? You seem a little too worried about hurting this civilian."
"I'm not a murderer. And even if I were, this whole mission is for nothing if the kid dies in a toxic seizure from the anesthetic."
"We could have done without the vampire," Marks said. "He wasn't necessary."
I made a mental note to include Marks if we ever had to do a tough interrogation. Switching subjects is a tried and true way of shaking someone's nerves. Fortunately, I knew that, too.
"The vampire is necessary," I replied. "The kid's going to want to tell someone eventually. Now, he doesn't have to. Someone knows, and they'll both keep their mouths shut."
"If we'd just taken the kid...."
"No civilian casualties."
"That didn't seem to be a big priority for the brass."
"It's my priority. And I've just about had it with insubordination."
"You might want to check your priorities, Graham," Marks said, turning to leave. He opened the door. "No one's going to want to give you a command in the hot spots if you can't get your hands dirty in Sunnydale."
After Marks was gone, I tried to focus on the reports on my desk. I should have been thrilled. I'd made a tough assignment about ten times tougher, but so far it was going according to plan. It would have to. Marks was right. This was my shot. The tragedy of Professor Walsh's spectacular failure wouldn't stay fresh in the Pentagon's memory forever. If my own attempt at a kinder, gentler espionage was going to get me my job back, there was no room for error.
6/3/00, 02:53, PST
I was about halfway through typing my interim mission report when I heard a crash down in the basement. I grabbed my Beretta and a stake out of my duffel bag and ran down the stairs. By the time I got to the basement, whatever had happened was over. Marks was rubbing his shoulder, Henderson was getting up from the floor, Saunders was hiding behind one of the tables, and Brown and Goodman were looking out of a broken window along the ceiling of the basement.
"What the Hell happened?" I screamed.
"Vampires," Spike said. I turned. He was standing in the corner, pulling a cigarette out of his jacket.
"No smoking," I said. "Marks, where's...?"
"They took him," Marks replied. "Four of them. They came out of nowhere."
"How did they get in?" Goodman asked. "No one invited them."
"Nobody lives here," Henderson explained. "They only need an invitation to get into an actual home."
"They came in through the window," Brown said, turning toward me. "They were fast, and they knew what they wanted."
"Did they kill the kid?" I asked.
"No, he was alive," Marks said.
"Probably worshiping him as we speak," Spike said.
I turned to the vampire. "You know them?"
"Not personally," Spike said. "But I know who they are."
"Alright," Spike said. He lit his lighter and held it to the cigarette in his mouth. It didn't take a genius to realize that it was an open act of defiance. The vamp had something in mind.
"More than happy to lend a hand, mate," he said, exhaling the smoke from his cigarette. "We'll have a nice, long talk about the vamps who snatched your little guinea pig...after the doc here does a little favor for me."
"What do you want, Spike?" I didn't have time for niceties. Ellis was going to arrive in about an hour.
"You take this chip out of my head," Spike said, "and I tell you what I know about the vamps."
They teach you a lot of negotiating tricks in training. I wasn't going to use any of them.
"Goodman," I said. "Break a leg off one of the chairs and stake him."
"Wait a minute," Spike protested. "If you want...."
"I don't want anything that bad," I interrupted. "Vamps get the kid, worst case scenario is there's another demon on the street, and another dead civilian in Sunnydale. That's nothing new. You, on the other hand, are a different story. We let you live because we thought you were harmless. Your little proposition shows you're still a threat. Goodman, I'm waiting."
Goodman walked over to one of the chairs against the wall.
"Alright, alright," Spike said. "Bloody hell, you can't blame a bloke for trying."
"Yes, I can," I said. "I think that was the point. Now, who were they?"
"There's this vampire sect," Spike sighed. "They've been around a few odd centuries. One of the vamps who snatched Xander said something about praising Ul-Thar. He was some kind of a prophet. Wrote a bunch of rot about a vamp having a baby that would do all kinds of nasty stuff to humanity. Just about any vamp who's been around long enough runs into them."
"Great," Marks said. "Just what we need. We delay our withdrawal from Sunnydale for a day to take care of business, and we run into a messianic vampire cult."
"We've got to find the kid," I muttered.
"We should wait for Ellis," Henderson said. "He may want to just scrub this one. It's getting out of hand."
"We're not leaving," I stated.
"That should be Ellis's call," Henderson said. "This isn't within...."
"How did they know?"
Everyone stared at me.
"What do you mean, Graham?" Marks asked.
"They knew the mission," I said. "And where to find us. How did they know all that?"
"Maybe the vamp," Henderson replied. "You heard him. He want's the chip out. Maybe he contacted these guys so he could...."
"He hasn't been alone since he got here," I said. "But you have, Henderson."
"Demon cultures, that was your specialty with the Feds, right? And you were in Sunnydale on assignment last year. Plus, you're the only one who's been alone since we got here."
"That's crap," Henderson spat. "Don't try and pin something on me because your stupid plan went haywire! I didn't...."
"Your partner died," I continued. "You wouldn't blame the government for that, would you? Maybe you took the transfer to the military to make a little money? Or get a little payback? Or both?"
"If that makes anyone a suspect, it's you, Miller," Henderson shot back.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't me," I said. "We issued everyone a cell phone as a part of their civilian cover. We generally don't advertise that all calls are traced and recorded. When we get your calls analyzed, what are we going to hear, Henderson?"
Henderson didn't have an answer for that.
"Look," I said. "We're not the FBI. We don't even exist on any records. We don't send traitors to jail. They just disappear. You don't really think that McNamara died down in the Initiative, do you?"
Actually, he did, but a good bluff can work wonders.
Henderson sighed. "Look, they said they weren't going to hurt the kid. They just...."
"Where are they?" I asked.
"They said they'd meet up with me after I could sneak away. They offered money. But that's not what this was about. My partner...."
"Where. Are. They."
"A warehouse on 18th and Hauser," Henderson admitted.
"Take him upstairs," I told Brown. "Goodman, get the vamp tied to a chair until this mess is over."
Brown pulled a .45 out of his belt and gestured for Henderson to walk upstairs. Goodman grabbed a plastic tie out of one of his pockets and walked over to Spike.
"Good detective work," Marks whispered as he walked over to me. "You were right. It had to be Henderson. He was the only one who thought...."
"It could have been anybody," I said. "Any one of us could have contacted the vamps and made a deal for some quick cash."
Marks frowned. "They how did you know...?"
"I didn't," I said. "But he was the only one I didn't pick for this mission. If it was anyone but Henderson, it would have put me in hot water, and I figured my luck had to change eventually."
"So now what?"
"You sit tight," I instructed. "Wait for Ellis. I'll go get the kid."
"Alone? Are you nuts? I can keep an eye on Henderson and the vamp. You can bring Goodman and Brown for backup."
"If we mount up everyone," I said, "and Ellis gets here before we get the kid back, it'll look like a disaster. I go alone and bring him back, it looks like a minor setback."
"I'm going with you," Marks said.
"With that shoulder?"
"Ellis will figure it was a really minor setback," Marks replied. "How bad could it have been if I go along?"
I didn't have time to argue. And he was right. Four on one against a vampire gang made for steep odds, and if I got myself killed, the whole operation went up in smoke.
6/3/00, 03:42 a.m. PST
Marks and I got to the warehouse as quickly as we could. We both grabbed taser rifles out of the back of the SUV and circled around the perimeter. There was a service entrance near the back. A lone vamp guarded the door.
We crouched behind a stack of crates and waited for the vamp to turn away. Marks took aim and landed a taser blast on the vamps arm. I jumped out as quickly as I could. The vamp was still shaking on the ground when I shoved a stake into his heart. Fortunately, he was dust before he could scream.
Marks and I crept to either side of the door. I looked in through a small window. The coast was clear. I opened the door as quietly as I could and snuck in. Marks followed behind me.
We made our way through the stacks of crates toward the sounds of voices. When we got close enough, I saw Xander tied to a chair in the middle of a trio of vamps.
"So let me get this straight," Xander said to one of the vamps. "I'm kinda like...Jesus?"
"Well, if you insist on using a Christian metaphor," the vamp replied, "you're more like the Virgin Mary."
"Well," Xander said, "I hate to disappoint you, but...."
"You don't have to be a...oh, forget it," the vamp said. "All you need to know is that you carry the One prophesied to lead our glorious race to victory over the humans."
"So...I have this baby, and you let me go?"
"Actually, you have the baby and we nourish it with your flesh."
"I wouldn't count on that," I said. Marks and I walked out with our rifles pointed at the vamps. The Initiative must have really made an impression on the lower beasts of Sunnydale, because the vamps looked at the tasers and immediately stepped back.
"You!" the vamp shouted. "You dare defile this sacred event!"
"You got that right," Marks said, walking over to Xander, and cutting him loose with his combat knife.
"You will pay for your interference," the vamps threatened. "Nothing you can do can stop the coming of the miracle child! As Ul-Thar wrote, so shall it be!"
"Listen," I said. "If the miracle child was going to be carried by a man, wouldn't you think Ul-Thar would have mentioned it?"
"Well...we're looking into that."
"Yeah, well, let us know how that goes," Marks said, helping Xander to his feet with one hand and pointing his taser with the other.
"You're not leaving, humans."
"It's three on three," I said. "And we've got weapons."
Footsteps emerged from behind the crates. I counted eight vampires surrounding us, plus the three standing before us. That made it three on one, and one for good measure.
"We've been recruiting," the head vampire said, a twisted smile crossing his face.
I shot a quick glance at Marks and Xander. The kid looked like he was going to be sick. Marks kept up a good front, but we both knew that we couldn't fight our way out.
At that moment, the lights in the warehouse suddenly went dim. I fired my taser at the lead vamp. Marks took out one as soon as I'd fired. I didn't know what happened to the lights, but I wasn't going to wait to find out.
The vamps started advancing. We got a few of them with the taser fire. Three slipped through, and we started grappling with them hand-to-hand. I'll give the kid credit; he'd been knocked out twice in the same night, but he held his own.
I concentrated on trying to throw the vamp I'd grabbed off to the side, figuring that another would be close behind him. Finally, the vamp overwhelmed me with his strength and wrestled me to the ground. He was on top of me, trying to get in biting distance. I was struggling to keep his fangs from my neck when I felt him disintegrate in my hands. As he disappeared, I saw that a shadowy figure stood above him.
I heard the quick footsteps of scattering vampires headed for the exits. Apparently the confusion convinced them to make a hasty retreat. Marks must have taken a shot at one of them as they ran, because I heard the crackle of the taser, and a blue light illuminated the air for a moment. That moment of visibility was all I needed to identify the shadow that had saved my life.
"Hey, Riley," I said. I reached out a hand toward him. Riley didn't move. After a moment, I figured my tacit request for assistance was being rejected, so I lifted myself to my feet.
"Graham," Riley said grimly, shoving his stake into his belt.
"Finn?" Marks asked. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm patrolling, the way us civilian citizens of Sunnydale are apt to do," Riley replied. "Xander, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"The question is," Riley continued, "what are you doing here?"
I didn't answer.
"I guess that story about transferring to UC Davis was just a lie?" Riley asked.
"No," I said. "It was my cover. You know the drill."
"I should have known," Riley muttered.
"No, you look, Graham," Riley interrupted. "I thought we were friends."
"We are," I said. "This is business. It was your business, too. Remember?"
"Yeah, and what a great business it was," Riley retorted. "What's Xander doing here?"
I had to think fast. I didn't like lying to Riley, but I wasn't in a position that gave me a choice.
"I've seen the kid in action," I finally said. "He handles himself alright. We're always looking for good people. I asked him to meet us here and made him an offer. He turned us down. Something about a girlfriend. I guess there's a lot of that going around."
Riley looked into my eyes, trying to find a hint of deception. Apparently he came up empty, because he called out:
"Is that true, Xander?"
And there we were. The true test of the mission. These weren't the circumstances I'd hoped for, but it was as good a trial as any. The whole mission was pointless if Xander blabbed about it to his friends.
"Um, yeah," Xander said. "Graham called and said he wanted to talk. When I found out what he wanted, I told him to take off. We were about to break it up when the vamps showed. Guess it was kind of a lucky break for me, huh? Being with a bunch of commandos when the vamps attacked?"
"Yeah, real lucky," Riley said.
So, given the choice between admitting to his friends that he'd been impregnated by a vampire, or keeping his mouth shut, Xander picked the latter. Hey, who wouldn't?
"Look," I said. "We're not here to cause any trouble. We're just...."
"Up to the same old games," Riley completed. "I don't believe you, Graham. After what happened to Forrest, after what happened to everybody, and you signed on to go at it again."
"The brass is gonna fight demons with or without us," I shot back. "Quitting doesn't solve anything. I'm trying to make a difference."
"So am I," Riley said. "I just don't have to lie to my friends to do it."
"Really? So where's your girlfriend?"
"She's none of your business!"
"Riley, you try and beat this town by yourself, and it'll take you down."
"I'm not by myself."
"It sure looks like you are. I know you, Riley. You're never gonna be happy as the Slayer's sidekick. That girl's not enough reason for you to...."
"Graham," Riley said. "I want you to stay away. Stay away from my town. Stay away from my friends. And stay away from me. Sunnydale's off limits to anyone on the Pentagon payroll. I see you in my town again, there's gonna be trouble."
"It's not your town," I shouted, as Riley turned and walked toward the exit. "It's cursed! It got Forrest and it'll get you, too! There's nothing here for us but bad luck!"
Riley didn't even pause as he walked out the door.
I must've been standing there for longer than I thought, because Marks came up behind me and asked:
I didn't answer.
"Hey, kid," Marks called to Xander. "Go wait for us in the truck. We'll be out in a minute."
"Sure," Xander said. As he got to the door, Xander called back:
"Hey, Graham. Thanks for not telling Riley about...well, you know. I appreciate that."
I didn't answer him, either.
"Look," Marks said, once Xander had left. "We're done here. We get the kid into surgery, we take off, and we never have to come back to this town again. After awhile...."
"I'll be back," I said.
"You remember what they taught us in tactics training, Marks? Rule Number One? The first, last and only rule that matters?"
"Yeah," Marks said. "Leave no one behind."
"Let's get the kid back to the safe house," I said.
"Graham," Marks said. "That rule, it...it doesn't apply here. Riley's not one of us anymore."
"Let's go," I said.
We drove back to the safe house in silence.
6/3/00, 04:39 a.m, PST
Goodman was upstairs watching Henderson as Xander waited downstairs for the surgery to start. Brown was down there, too, keeping an eye on Spike. I was standing at the front door with Marks. We were both waiting for Ellis to arrive. He was due any minute.
"Well, I guess all's well that ends well," I said.
"We'll see when Ellis arrives," Marks replied. "I doubt he's going to like the way you handled this one."
"He could have shut us down," I said. "I emailed him the mission report."
"Yeah, and he probably didn't read it until he got on the transport plane. He's not going to like trusting the security of this operation to the discretion of a couple of civilians, especially when one of them's a vamp."
"They won't talk," I said. "The warehouse proved that."
"For the moment," Marks said. "But how do you know that, once the shock wears off, one of them won't...?"
Marks was interrupted by the sounds of a scuffle in the basement. We both ran down the stairs. The last thing I needed was something else to go wrong.
As we got down there, both Brown and Saunders were trying to restrain Xander, as Spike stood a few feet away smoking a cigarette.
"What the hell is going on now?" I shouted.
"Make him shut up!" Xander exclaimed. "I swear, if he doesn't shut up, I'll...."
"Pipe down," I instructed. I turned to the vampire. "What started this?"
"Nothing," Spike said, trying his best to look innocent. "I don't know what got into him. I was just sitting here, right? Minding my own business. Then this git starts in again with the whole 'this is all your fault' rubbish. I wasn't much in a mood to listen to him, so I let my mind wander. I started singing a little tune to myself...."
"Spike!" Xander shouted. "Don't you dare!"
"Just started crooning the first song that popped into my head," Spike continued, obviously trying not to smile.
"I'll kill you, Spike!" Xander screamed.
Spike took a deep breath (since vampires don't breath, it was obviously for dramatic effect), and then sang:
"YOU'RE HAVIN' MY BABY!"
Maybe we should have tried to recruit the kid. Xander actually managed to escape the two-armed hold Marks had him in, and get his hands around Spike's neck.
"Spike!" Xander yelled as I tried to pull him away from the vampire. "I'll wring your neck, you...."
"What...a beautiful...ack...way," Spike gasped, in as close to a tune as he could make with Xander's hands squeezing his throat, "to say...agh...how much...ugh...you love meeeeeeeeeee!"
I finally managed to pry Xander off of Spike, and I stood between the two of them.
"That's enough," I said.
"Not my fault the poof can't take a joke," Spike said.
"Oh, I'm a poof, am I?" Xander shot back. "I'm not the one who wound up making a donation to the Initiative bodily fluid bank."
"Shut up," Spike said. The jovial tone was gone from his voice.
"Hey, Graham," Xander continued. "You remember those technicians you talked about? The one's that gathered the samples? I don't remember there being a whole lot of WOMEN working for the Initiative, so...."
"I said shut it!" Spike roared.
"You know," Xander said, rubbing his chin in a mock-musing fashion, "I wonder if he was completely unconscious. I mean, he DOES paint his fingernails."
Spike lunged at Xander. This was getting old. Xander gasped in surprise. Spike cringed and retreated as the chip sent pain through his cranium.
"Listen, you," Spike said to Xander. "You tell anyone about this, and, chip be damned, I'll break your bloody neck!"
"You tell anyone about this and I'll shove a whole damn tree in your chest!" Xander shouted back.
"If either one of you tell anyone about this I'll have you both declared security risks and I'll assassinate you myself!" I yelled.
That got their attention.
"Saunders," I said, "get the kid on the operating table. Spike, get the hell out of here. We're done with you."
"Fine," Spike said, ascending the stairs. He paused for a moment, apparently thinking of making a parting wise crack at Xander. He caught the look in my eyes, thought better of it, and left.
It took a few minutes to get Xander into a operating gown and reclined on the operating table. Dr. Saunders was holding an anesthesia mask, ready to put it over Xander's face, when Xander said:
"Yeah, what?" I said, tying a surgical mask over my face.
"Um...if it's a girl, could you name it Faith? And if it's a boy, maybe name it Jesse? Of course, if it's evil, you can name it whatever. I mean, I guess Spike would be the one to ask...wait a minute. Why should I care if...?"
"Xander," I said.
Saunders placed the mask over Xander's face, and for the next thirty minutes, the basement was blissfully and uncharacteristically quiet.
6/3/00, 05:11 a.m., PST
Ellis showed up as Dr. Saunders was sewing up the incision in Xander's stomach. Marks was standing beside me as I watched. Ellis walked over, and I handed him a surgical mask.
"Status?" Ellis asked, as he tied the mask behind his head.
"On schedule, sir," I replied.
"We're just stitching up the incision now," Saunders said. "So far, there are no complications. We made scar just big enough to give the impression that a tissue mass was removed from the abdominal cavity."
"We implant those into the patient's scalp," Saunders said, gesturing to a mass of short brown threads on a surgical tray.
"Hmmm," Ellis said, picking up one of the strands. "I heard these fiber optic cameras were the size of a human hair, but I didn't realize they actually were this small."
"Not only the same size," Saunders said. "But also the same texture and color. Specifically, the same color as the subject's hair. I'll implant about forty of them at various points on his head. We'll be able to get multiple images, depending on the vantage point we want to observe."
"How long will they hold up?" Ellis asked. "I mean, what about when the kid gets a haircut?"
"There are multiple segmented lenses along the strands," Saunders explained. "Cutting will have no effect on them."
"And the audio?"
"We'll implant an audio chip directly onto the eardrum," Saunders said. "We'll hear what he hears. Literally."
"We can bounce the signal off the satellite we're leasing from The Weather Channel," I added. "Anything world-threatening happens on the Hellmouth, and we've got live audio and video, and get a team here in twelve hours."
"Assuming no one finds out about the implants," Ellis said. "Now, Miller, I'm only going to ask this once, and you'd better convince me the first time. Are you SURE that the subject actually believes we impregnated him with a vampire's baby?"
Rather than argue the point, I went over to one of the computer terminals by the operating table, punched up the surveillance footage, and stood back so Ellis could get a good view of the action. It was all there. The fighting. The vampire's little karaoke act. The mutual threats of death. Everything.
"They bought every word," I said. "And neither one of them will talk."
Ellis scowled. "And you're telling me that these are two of the civilians that keep Sunnydale safe from Armageddon, while we got run out of town?"
"They're not exactly the brains of the team, sir."
"I'd hope not," Ellis replied. "Doctor, what are the chances that the implants will take."
"We'll give the kid a prescription for a month's worth of antibiotics to prevent secondary infection," Saunders said. "And we'll give him a number to call if he experiences any side effects. If there's an infection, or if his body rejects the implants, we'll be able to respond."
"Let's say we couldn't do that," Ellis said. "Let's say, hypothetically, if we'd just grabbed him, put in the implants, and dumped him. What then?"
"Well, it's impossible to know for certain," Saunders said.
"Approximate," Ellis commanded.
"We would have injected him with the strongest antibiotics we had," Saunders explained. "But without a regimen of antibiotics over the next four weeks, I'd say he would have stood a one in three chance of secondary infection. If he went to a doctor, they might have been able to treat it. Of course, if he assumed it was just a flu or something, well...it would have been more...problematic. And, of course, if his body rejected the implants, a civilian doctor would have had no idea how to...."
"Did you disclose these possibilities to anyone prior to this operation?" Ellis asked.
"Well...it was in my report."
"And you sent that report to...?"
"Well, Agent Miller received a copy. He requested an evaluation prior to...."
"Thank you, doctor," Ellis interrupted. "Miller, my office."
I followed Ellis upstairs to the office. He sat behind the desk as I stood before him.
"Miller," Ellis barked. "This was not the mission I authorized. Explain."
"You heard the doc, major," I said. "One in three chance of secondary infection. The way I see it, my plan increased the success probability of this mission by thirty percent."
"And you expect me to believe that your decisions in this matter were purely based on that factor?"
"No, sir," I replied. "My decisions were further motivated...actually, sir, they were almost exclusively motivated by my concern for the safety of the subject."
"Commendable," Ellis said. "If we were in the Peace Corps. We're not. This line of work isn't for men who can't handle tough calls."
"Agreed, sir," I said. "It isn't. Professor Walsh couldn't handle tough calls. I can. My way. I'm one of only a few living men on the payroll who actually has Sub-T combat time. I'm an asset. I want to be an asset. But I'm not a murderer."
Ellis took a moment to consider that.
"Fine," Ellis said. "But from now on, consider yourself on a short leash, Miller."
"Does that mean I'm back in? For keeps?"
"Until you screw up, yes," Ellis said. "And Miller, you won't get more than one screw up. Think about that the next time you put together one of these elaborate schemes. There are a few idealists over at the Pentagon that are actually rooting for you, Miller. But none of them are betting on you."
Ellis waited for me to answer. I didn't.
"You're dismissed, Miller," he finally said. I didn't have to be told twice.
I walked downstairs to watch the rest of the surgery. Ellis was right. It would take a lot more than one good mission to get me to a point where I could call the shots full time. But I'd get my chance.
I got back from a field mission in Oregon this morning. We'd spent about two days out there on a Search and Rescue op. A couple of fleshy tree demons had kidnaped a vacationing chapter of the Sierra Club (which even they had to admit was ironic). I came back with orders from Ellis to schedule a physical. Lately I've been strong. Too strong. Even the trees thought it was weird. Before we killed them, of course.
I was on the phone setting an appointment with the staff nurse when our office clerk handed me this file, with a memo from the Brass asking for an evaluation.
In summary, after the implants in Xander's scalp and eardrum started sending regular signals, the surveillance duties were transferred to our Remote Observation Division. Our Internal Affairs department caught wind of a rumored security leak a couple of weeks ago, and investigated. During a search of the footlocker issued to Pvt. Nicholas Banks, IA investigators discovered a plain brown paper bag, containing a VHS videocassette and a handwritten note reading: "Banks, you've GOT to see this! The chick's name is Anya. She fucks like a minx!"
Since the extent of the security leak is not know at this time, this agent concurs with the position of the IA department, and of security division. Specifically, I agree that the monitoring of transmissions from Xander Harris should cease, and all further surveillance on the Hellmouth should be executed through standard means (wiretapping, satellite photos, etc.). Means which, I'd point out, are what I recommended from the beginning.
Sunnydale. No two ways around it, the town's just bad luck.