College Days - Part One
In order for anyone to have the faintest idea about what's going on in this story, like how Xander became a Jedi and how he taught Oz, you're going to have to read my earlier story 'Jedi Harris'. So there. Oh, and disclaimer - I do not own these characters. I wish I did, but I don't. Sob.
He opened his eyes slowly and frowned at the ceiling of the tent. He felt weak and hot, but his mind was still clear. Still clear. Then he turned his head to look at the man standing at the entrance to the tent.
“What is it Jacques?”
“We have received the signal my Lord. They are ready.”
He sighed tiredly and nodded. “Good. Then the moment has come. Tell the men to prepare to attack.”
“Yes my Lord.” There was a pause. “My Lord are you well?”
“I’ll be perfectly fine, Jacques. Tell the men to get ready.”
“Yes my Lord.”
He waited until his second in command was gone before he closed his eyes and summoned the Power to enable him to rise off the bed. The wound from the arrow flared viciously at his side, but he beat the pain down with his mind. There would be time to acknowledge it later. Heh. If he had time. He knew that he was dying. He just could not die yet. Not while he had one last job to do. He took a step forward. Then another. Yes, he could do this. Once he was on his horse then he could just sit there, right? It would be easy. He looked down at his surcoat, with the red cross on the white background. What an irony. The last man who dared wear the symbol of the Order in public. A dead man who still walked.
Coming out of the tent he saluted the two guards with a solemn nod. “Join your unit; you will have other duties today.” The pair bowed and then trotted off, their spears ready at the salute. He watched them go with a smile. Had he ever been that young? Perhaps he had. A long time ago. A long time.
The camp was astir with activity now, as men ran backwards and forwards, pulling on chain mail and other armour, hefting spears, shields and swords, the horsemen checking the clinches on their saddles… preparing for war. For one last battle.
Speaking of which… he turned to look at the castle ahead of him. There it was, the home of the Others. The ones who knew of the Power, but who misused it, twisted it, worshipped the dark side of it. They loved anger, hatred, envy… everything that the Order was opposed to. But now the Order was gone, smashed by the greed of a king and a Pope, along with the rest of the Templar Order that surrounded it. Few Templars could manage to comprehend the Power. Those that did… found something else. Something noble and pure. And also powerful, which was why the Others had always hated them. And had now almost destroyed them, by pouring poison into the minds of the King of France and the Pope. How many had escaped the purge? Few. He had been one. But he had been able to get to a place where he still had friends, where he was able to raise a small army for one last campaign – to smash the stronghold of the Others. They could not be allowed to go on spreading their poison with the Order gone.
He shook his head and then grimaced slightly as the arrow wound flared again. He had not escaped from the fall of the Templars unscathed. The wound was slowly killing him. But not before he finished his last mission.
Nodding to his groom he raised one foot into the proffered stirrup and then paused, summoning the Power again. He had to show strength now. Weakness, in any form, would be bad for the men around him. Then he mounted his horse with one clean movement, ignoring the renewed flare of agony from the wound. Settling himself on the horse he turned to receive his shield and then his lance, settling the former on his saddle pommel and the latter by his stirrup. Then he reached out for his helmet. He smiled as he looked at it. Old memories of past battles flickered through his mind for a moment, until he thrust them away. No woolgathering, not now. He had too much to think of.
Turning his horse to one side he spurred him off to one side of the camp, where the men were falling in. As he rode along the lines he smiled and nodded to passing old acquaintances. Old friends who had faced the Reaper together with him. One last time. One last battle to do good before the darkness fell.
He pulled at the reins as he reached the leading rank and the horse slowed as he steered it to where Jacques was waiting. The castle of the Others loomed in front of them all. He looked up at the crag with a sigh. Then he nodded at the man next to him. “Give the signal.”
A nod and then Jacques was gone, moving quickly across the camp in the direction of the great signal fire that had been built there. A burning brand was waiting. It had been there, in various incarnations, for two days, waiting for this moment. A quick thrust and it was in, sending the first curls of smoke into the air.
As he waited he looked back at the castle. It was brooding. He could sense the evil inside it, like a malignant growth that he had once heard a Jewish physician talk about. Well now it was time to wipe it out.
“There,” came a grunt from the man next to him and he turned to look up at the crag, where an answering column of smoke was rising. Then something fiery shot up into the air from the crag and fell, trailing smoke as it descended, into the heart of the castle. Two more joined it quickly as the men on the plain below watched, holding their collective breath. Two more volleys came from the catapults that had been taken apart, then so carefully, painfully, carried up the crag and rebuilt up there. It was one last stroke of genius. It had taken days, days that he had forced himself to endure as the pain from the wound at his side grew and then started to burn.
A mutter went up and then a great snarl of satisfaction from the men and he forced himself to look at the castle. Tendrils of smoke were now rising from the main keep. The missiles, huge bundles of wood covered with pitch, were doing their horrible work. Burn them out.
They waited. What would the men inside the now-burning castle do? What could they do? When the gates opened then the waiting forces had their answer. Fight. Outnumbered, but led by the great dark force of their leader… a tall man in black armour on a black horse, now riding out down the road to the burning castle. His follower in the dark arts was next to him, also riding a black horse. He snorted. The Others had little imagination. Black everything. He had no doubt that they even had black bed sheets.
Time for action. He gripped the base of the lance and felt the weight of it pull at his arm. He would not let it fall. The wound flared with agony but he shut the pain away in the back of his mind and filled himself with the Power. Then he urged his horse forwards, at the head of his men, a great wall of shields and spears. He thought of his father for a moment and almost smiled. Alea Jacta Est. Let the dice fly high. Time to end this.
The present day
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yuh… yuh… yes.”
Spike span around and glared at the smaller vampire. “Stop bloody stammering! Or stuttering! Or… whatever it is!”
“I cuh… cuh… can’t help it. Yuh… you make me nervous.”
Spike considered snarling at the vampire and then dismissed it. He reminded him of that prat with the glasses from Sunnydale, the one that the Judge had killed. After a moment he tried smiling gently and unthreateningly. This seemed to make the vampire even more nervous. Spike closed his eyes, drew out a long and totally unnecessary breath and asked: “Are you sure?”
“Yuh… yes. Hang on a muh… muh… minute.” The vampire closed his eyes and breathed out himself. Then he opened his eyes again. “Right,” he said in a strong Scottish accent, “It mentions Boca Del Inferno, which as we know is the Hellmouth, better known as Sunnydale and-”
“Hang on a bloody minute. Why are you a Haggis-muncher all of a sudden?”
The other vampire shrugged. “You told me to stop stammering. I’ve found that if I change my accent then I can speak properly. It’s a mental thing.”
This earned him a bemused stare. “You sound like you’re from Glasgow.”
“Would you rather I went back to making odd noises?”
“No. Go on.”
“Right, well it says in the book that it was buried in a vault by the last of his followers by a road in the south side of a place where ‘evil never sleeps and where the forces of night fight to exit the Mouth of Hell.’”
“That bloody sounds like Glasgow.”
“In the ‘far side of the new continent to the west’, where to paraphrase it a lot, the earth shakes a great deal.” He put the book down. “Sunnydale, I’d say.”
Spike nodded thoughtfully before pulling out a pack of fags and shaking one out. “Bollocks. That complicates the situation.”
The other vampire shrugged. “Yes, well, I heard about the Slayer being there.”
Spike laughed bitterly. “That’s bloody out of date information for a start. There’s two Slayers there these days. When Buffy Summers fought the Master she died briefly and another one was called. When that one died, the one in Sunnydale was called in her place. Twice the possible pain. And-” he put the fag in his mouth and lit it with his lighter, “There’s also a Jedi there.”
This earned him a bemused look. “A what?”
“A Jedi bloody Knight.”
The smaller vampire’s accent thickened slightly. “Are you mad? A Jedi Knight from the fictional films?”
Spike shook his head. “Not so fictional. I was at the place a few years ago, when some wanker cast a spell on the costumes in a shop over Halloween. Never found out who did it. That night the people who hired the costumes became the sodding characters that the costumes belonged to. And one of them – one of the Summers’ girl’s mates – went as bloody Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lightsabre and all. And yes, the sodding lightsabre worked. Almost lost my head on that night.”
The bespectacled vampire considered this. “Didn’t the people go back to normal once the spell ended?”
“Yes but when I went back to Sunnydale earlier this year the bloke seemed to have remembered his mojo. Even built himself a lightsabre. Bastard.”
“Right,” said the other vampire, deflating slightly. “What a shame. The Gem of Amarra is in a place guarded by two Slayers and a Jedi Knight.” He paused to muse. “Still, just imagine what you could do with it… the things you could do. You could walk in the sunlight with it…”
“Yup,” said Spike, feeling at the shape up his sleeve, “Sounds pretty bloody nifty alright. Shame you won’t be there.” The stake dropped down out of his sleeve, into his waiting hand and then into the other vampire’s heart. He had just enough time to swear before crumbling to dust.
Spike smirked. “Thanks for the help, mate.” Then he pulled a face. He had to get to Sunnydale. Not a problem. But he also had to get out in one piece. That was more difficult. Sinking into a chair he pulled the book over and started to study it, blowing smoke out as he puffed at his fag. Tricky. But doable. Maybe some sort of… disguise? He shuddered. Come on, he was William the Bloody! He only did disguises when he had to. Then he thought about that blue shimmering energy blade. Right. Disguises it was. Perhaps a false moustache?
The café was getting quite full when Wesley entered, and he nabbed a table at the back that was reasonably private. Once he had ordered a large coffee with cream from the rather attractive waitress, he opened his briefcase and pulled out a writing pad and the fountain pen that his father had given him when he was 18.
Uncapping the pen he paused to get his thoughts in order and then bent over the paper.
“Dear Quentin,” he started and then paused again. He was still rather wary of appearing to be too informal to the head of the Watcher’s Council. Still, as a full Watcher, he was entitled to call Quentin Travers by his first name. He suspected that Mr Giles’ habit of occasionally muttering darkly and glaring at the very mention of Quentin’s name meant that the other Watcher had his own name for him, one that was, very likely, highly insulting.
He shrugged and kept writing. “Faith’s training continues apace, although her habit of being somewhat enthusiastic when it comes to using an axe does mean that we will soon require a new training dummy. I enclose a picture of the state of the latest one which is, I fear, on its last legs.” He looked at the photo in his briefcase and shuddered. Bits of the dummy were shredded in places and other parts sagged ominously.
Making sure that the briefcase was closed and that the picture was out of sight, he was about to start writing again when a thin blonde man in a black suit appeared to one side. “Excuse me, but is this seat taken?” he asked in a polite but fussy tone, indicating the seat opposite Wesley.
“Go ahead, please,” said Wesley, looking around at the now quite crowded café.
“Thank you,” said the man in a perfunctory manner.
Wesley picked up his pen again and was about to resume when he saw that the man had taken a handkerchief out of an inner jacket pocket and was wiping down the surface of the chair. Catching Wesley’s look he leant over. “It’s the flu season - you can’t be too careful,” he confided and then resumed wiping. The Watcher considered this for a moment and then nodded carefully, before looking up to find that the waitress had brought his coffee. He took a desperately needed swig before listening with some bemusement as the man ordered a “double cappuccino, half-caf, nonfat milk, with a burnish of foam and a tad of cinnamon,” along with a fruit muffin.
Americans and their coffee, he wondered and then bent over the paper again.
“Her other Slayer abilities are proceeding to manifest themselves, but I think that while some are advanced, others are rather slow in development. I rather agree that Prettejohn’s theory about the role that cultures play in affecting Slayers does hold sway here and I will take the time to note these for your attention for future training. In the meantime…”
He paused again for a moment. The man had taken out a cell phone and was calling someone called ‘Pumpkin’ about someone else called Yoshi. Something to do with the new Zen garden being an eighth of an inch too deep (apparently that was a severe problem) and of course he was stuck in some god-forsaken hellhole called Sunnydale for a seminar on Neuroses. Wesley thought of the earlier wiping of the chair and grinned internally. He looked back down at the letter.
“Faith’s training continues well and her interaction with Miss Summers has proved to create a valuable bond, especially given her family history.” That’s not saying the half of it, he reflected grimly. Faith had been a very angry young woman when she arrived. Well, she was still angry now, but it was a matter of degrees. Mr Giles’ advice had been quite valuable, along with the other advice from young Xander.
Wesley grimaced slightly as he looked at the letter. Then there was the matter of young Xander Harris and his lightsabre. This was something that was not going to be mentioned at all to Quentin, because frankly he had no idea what the reaction might be. Plus the fact that Xander had the memories of Obi-Wan Kenobi, plus the connection to the Force was not really the business of the Watcher’s Council. And therefore the fact that Oz was also a Jedi was not the business of the Watcher’s Council. Therefore this letter had to remain strictly Slayer-related.
He resumed. “Rumours of the possible continuance of the Darg’ Clan war have reached us here, but there is no credible or reliable information that I can pass on. The death of Mayor Wilkins has however had an effect on the contacts that I suspect he signed with a number of leading figures in the town. The death of the main judge has-” He stopped and looked up. The increasingly irritating man was performing keyhole surgery on his fruit muffin with a pair of tweezers. He looked up. “A slight case of the wrinkly things, I’m afraid,” he said smiling in an embarrassed manner.
Wesley nodded politely and then looked down at the letter again. “dealt quite a blow to the judiciary and-” He looked up again. The man was fielding a call from someone called Frasier about someone else called Eddie. Apparently Eddie had a fixation with Frasier. It all sounded rather odd. Looking around at the increasingly full room Wesley gave up. He drank the rest of his coffee, packed up his briefcase, nodded at the irritating man and walked out. He had to go to work.
The campus looked as if it was alive with people, as Xander Harris stood in the parking lot behind the library and looked over it. Interesting. It felt a bit odd, being on campus. It was the first time that he’d been on the grounds of an educational establishment as an employee, not as a student. Freaky.
He turned back to his car, pulled his bag out of the rear seat and locked the doors before walking off towards the main entrance. As he did he used the Force to probe around him. Interesting. Buffy was off to one side, westwards, about half a mile. Probably her dorm. He smiled slightly. How would the senior Slayer cope with dorm life? Well, at least she hadn’t joined a sorority. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like if the Slayer had that kind of close-knit social life.
As for Faith, she was about two miles north. Probably asleep. She’d been out Slaying the previous night and was now catching up on her sleep. She was ok. At rest. And perhaps even at peace. He remembered for a moment the angry and impulsive girl that Faith had once been and shook his head. She was still impulsive, but she had bonded with them all quite well. She was part of the family, he suspected the first family that she’d had for a long time. The fact that Mrs Summers always fussed over her was a big bonus as well. And as for Oz, his fellow Jedi, he could feel him, barely, off to the south. His presence could be hard to pin down sometimes, but the chances were that he was with Willow.
As he approached the doors to the library he paused. He was taking a big step in a new direction today. Something that had to be done. Something that would allow him to take his life off in the required direction. Straightening he walked through the doors and looked around at the desk, where Rupert Giles was standing. He seemed to be having a sotto voce argument with a woman who appeared to be 99 arch disapproval and 1 polite attention. As Xander approached the pair he could pick up bits of their conversation. She seemed to be deeply annoyed about some kind of filing system. Giles was indignant about the lack of the right type of filing system? He then mentioned the fact that the library contained half a million books. Half. A. Million. This was freaky. What the hell was he doing there? Then Xander closed his eyes for a second. Trust in the Force he thought. What else could a Jedi Knight do? He stepped forwards. “Hi Giles. Anything Ican help with?”
The Watcher looked up and smiled while the women looked him up and down with a sniff of disapproval. Given the fact that he was wearing a pair of brown trousers, with a white shirt, a dark brown jacket and brown boots, Xander felt that the look she was giving him was a tad severe. It wasn’t as if he was wearing ripped jeans and a nose stud, along with a t-shirt that said something anatomically impossible.
“Ah, Xander, very punctual I see,” said Giles whilst directing a death gaze at the woman. “Allow me to introduce Mrs Jenkins, the deputy librarian of the UCS library. Mrs Jenkins, this is Xander Harris, my assistant.”
Xander held out his hand and gave his best smile. Mrs Jenkins shook it for the minimum amount of time for basic civility, twitched her mouth into a nanosecond-long smile, muttered something about how pleased she was to meet him and turned back to Giles.
“We have never needed anything-” she said and was then cut off by Giles’s own glare.
“Mrs Jenkins, I am not accusing you of letting the students down in the past. All I am saying is that in the future a different system might be required. All I am asking for is for you to be open-minded and to accept new working practices. And now I really must be moving on. Good day to you. I’ll send a memo.”
Mrs Jenkins, still sniffing with disapproval, moved on and Xander found himself being escorted down the hallway with Giles.
“I thought she’d never bloody leave,” growled the Watcher. “Bloody woman with her outdated card filing system. Bugger, that means that I’m going to have to work out how to use the computer to send a memo now.”
“Please don’t tell me that life as a junior Watcher will also involve knowledge of library filing systems,” said Xander in a bemused tone.
“What? Oh. Yes. Don’t worry. You might pick up some residual knowledge though.” He paused. “The post of head librarian here is certainly a step up from my last position. Quite a challenge though. Yes, quite a challenge.”
They walked behind the desk, where Giles put down his file and looked absurdly pleased. “I must say that this place is a step up from the library at the High School.” He must have caught Xander’s wry look, because he then coughed and started to polish his glasses. “Not that the old library was deficient in any way. It’s just that this place is more of a challenge. Plus,” he smiled thinly, “I will never again find myself wishing for a large axe every time Principal Snyder enters the room.”
Xander thought for a moment about the late and very unlamented principal of Sunnydale High and then sighed. Annoying as the man had been, being eaten by the equally late and even more unlamented Mayor of Sunnydale when the latter had just transformed into a 60-foot long demon snake thing was a bit harsh.
“So,” said Xander, dragging his mind off the events of Graduation Day, “What’s on the agenda today, Giles?”
“I thought I’d start you off by showing you around the library. You’ll need to know where everything is if you’re going to blend in here. Working here should allow you to help Buffy as much as possible. Faith will be another matter, but the two like to fight together once in a while, so that should help. As for your training in being a Shadow Watcher, I think that won’t take long. Your… other training will cover that quite well, especially as you’re also helping Oz.” Giles smiled and lowered his voice. “Two Slayers and two Jedi Knights should give even the nastiest demon something to think about.”
“Mr Giles!” came a voice from the door. They both turned to look at the newest History lecturer as he hurried across the carpet towards them. Wesley Wyndham-Price was clutching a newspaper in one hand, whilst his face bore a look of peeved pomposity. He looked less pompous than he had when he first arrived in Sunnydale, true, and he had shown a lot of skill and bravery in the fight against the Mayor’s henchmen on Graduation Day, but the man was still a putz at times.
The younger Watcher came up to the desk and put the newspaper down. It was open on an inside page. At the bottom was a quarter page advert that had been circled in red ink. “I think that our opponents have made their move.” His finger stabbed down at the advert.
Xander and Giles both leant forwards to look at it. ‘Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys At Law,’ said the first line. ‘New office in Sunnydale. We handle every type of case.’ Below that was a telephone number.
“And so it begins,” sighed Xander. “They’re here.” He looked up. “What kind of effect will it have on Sunnydale?”
The two Watchers exchanged glances. “It’s difficult to say,” admitted Giles with a shrug. “Certainly, their office will attract some of the nastier cases in town. Some of the nastier demons as well. But we have to bear in mind the fact that some of their offices that have been based on past Hellmouths have not done very well at all. There’s always been something about the nature of Hellmouths that has had a bad effect on some of their people.”
“Like what?” frowned Xander.
“Well, based on past records,” said Wesley, “Paranoia, delusions of grandeur and even insanity. Although it is only sometimes. Not always.”
“Okay,” drawled Xander after a long moment. “So we have an office full of evil lawyers in town that might – or might not – go gnarly on us. Joy. Let’s be careful out there, right? And warn everyone.”
What a choice. What a major, major choice. The clothes had been a lot easier. Duh. Buffy Summers looked down at the books and winced. What to bring? Then she paused. What would Giles do? Duh 2. Simple answer. Go book crazy, that’s what. She pulled the bag open and started to fill it with books. Once she’d finished she paused and looked around her room with a certain wistfulness. Leaving for college meant leaving home. Home. They’d only been living there for about four years, but it was a place that seemed… safe. Welcoming. And, again, home.
Leaning over she picked up the bag and slung it effortlessly over one shoulder. Then she grabbed the other bag and lifted it onto the bed, where she opened it and had a quick rummage to make sure everything was there. Yup, stakes, crossbow, quarrels, crucifixes – or should that be crucifixi? She shrugged. Okay, what else? Aquila, the sword that she’d picked up from Xander, who had gotten it from Giles, was safe in its scabbard. That was a wicked cool sword. Ummm… there was a mace and a pair of battleaxes just in case of emergencies, and even a few vials of Holy Water. Closing the bag she looked around. What else? Mr Gordo was safe in his little travel bag, her award for being Class Protector was carefully packed away and she had enough clothes to last a few weeks. She had even remembered washing machine powder, even though her mother had offered to wash her clothes. But then she’d welcome the chance to see her little girl again. Okay, her little Slayer girl again.
Grabbing the other bag she walked to the door and then down the stairs. Mom was packing her other things into the car, before looking up with a cheery smile that held just a hint of teariness. “All set?” she called to Buffy, who nodded sombrely.
“Books, bags and clothes. All packed,” said Buffy as she placed the two bags into the boot of the car.
Mom watched this quietly and then nodded. “Okay. You ready?”
Buffy pulled a slight face. “Would you be freaked if I said yes and no?”
Her mother quirked her lips into a sad smile. “Honey, I’d be freaked if you hadn’t said yes and no. College is a big step. But you aren’t that far away and if you want to come and say share a plate of cookies with your old worn out mother, I don’t see why not.”
“You’re not worn out!” scolded Buffy. “Maybe a bit frayed around the edges… I take it back!” she laughed at her Mom’s fake scowl. Then she hugged her mother. “I’m going to miss you and you haven’t even dropped me off at college yet…”
“Oh hush,” came the response, “Or I’ll start to cry.” She stepped back without releasing her grip on Buffy’s shoulders. “I am so proud of you. Even after all the… problems we had, all the difficulties, you have worked so hard to get to this moment. When I think of all the times that Principal Snyder told me that you would never get to college… Well. Water under the bridge. Study hard. But don’t forget to enjoy yourself, Buffy.”
The Slayer laughed. “I’ll have Willow to remind me to work and Xander watching over me to keep me on the right course as well as Giles.”
“Even so, be careful.” Mom paused to look at her. “Okay. Lets get going!”
He puffed on the cigar and then frowned. Damn. It had gone out. True, it was just a stub, but it had been a good cigar. He turned in his chair, looked at the waste basket across the room and paused. Then he moved his lips the right way and spat the spent cigar fifteen feet across the room, so that it landed in exactly the middle of the basket.
“Yes!” he exulted quietly, before reaching down and opening his lower drawer, where he flipped open a wooden box where he kept his fresh cigars. He was running a tad low – time to put in a request to cousin Vorlag in Havana. The embargo was all very well, but magic was magic and he could always do with fresh cigars. Pulling one out he sniffed it carefully before clipping the end off with his teeth in one clean snap. Then he belched softly, sending a delicate jet of flame against one tip of the cigar. Putting the clipped end in his mouth quickly he puffed hard, sending up a small cloud of sweet smoke that framed his head like a small cloud. Yup, he thought contentedly, the old ways were good for something sometimes.
There was a step outside and then a knock on the door. “Come,” he said absent-mindedly. The door opened and a cloaked form hurried in to stand in front of his desk. Then it got down on its hands and knees and started to grovel.
“Oh get up you moron,” he growled irritably. The figure froze and then stood with a jerk. “And take that hood down. You look like an idiot.”
The figure pulled at the cloth and revealed itself to be Taagorn. He looked worried. This was not a surprise. He always looked worried. “Great and noble Lord,” he started and then flinched when a glare was directed at him. Then he started again. “Sorry sir. Habit sir. Something’s appeared in the paper that you should see.” He pulled a paper out from under his arm and spread it out on the desk carefully.
Royer Mobalitos, the self-proclaimed new head of the underworld of Sunnydale looked down at the advert that proclaimed that Wolfram & Hart was in town and sighed. He’d been expecting this. That damn law firm had its slimy tendrils everywhere. Rumour had it that they even had their own private world somewhere in another dimension. And now they were here on the Hellmouth. He sank back in his chair and puffed hard on his cigar. This would need some thinking about. After all, if their new offices suddenly exploded, they just might suspect that something underhand had happened to it. He needed to mull things over.