Disclaimer - I still don't own anything, look at Joss, Clancy, and many others.
Chapter 1 – An Offer
Giles stood looking at the battered group slowly climbing off the school bus. They were at least three days outside of Cleveland, and that was if nothing else went wrong. The bus was not in the best of condition and drank gas faster than he drank tea. Which meant funds, tempers, and patience were all in short supply. Anya, Andrew, Rona, Miko, Spike, and Robin had all died in the last battle. A number of slayers had said that since the immediate threat was gone they were heading home to reassure their loved ones they were okay, and try to explain. Giles had not been in favor of that idea, but he did not have the resources to provide for them at the moment, so after getting sworn promises and contact information for all of them, he had let them go praying it was the right choice.
Giles watched what was left of the Scoobies. If he looked he fancied he could almost see the presence of Tara, Anya, and Joyce hovering near those they had loved.
Faith – full of bright anger, trying to pretend she was fine with losing Robin, and this whole thing was a lark, but if you caught her unawares, you could see tear tracks on her face.
Buffy – Torn and shattered in a way he had not seen since she had sent Angel to hell. He had not asked what happened to Spike, but he knew, and he knew she was carrying grief for all the people they had lost.
Dawn – Trying to be brave and not be a drain on others, but it was so hard for a 16 year old, who has just lost the only home she ever knew. She was trying so hard, but Buffy’s silence and withdrawal was like a hammer beating at her.
Willow – She was caught between elation at what she had accomplished and horror at what she had done. Power leaked out of her, but for the first time all she saw were consequences and how horribly she could misuse all of this. Kennedy was so caught up in the power that was Willow, not much else had registered, though she flaunted her new slayer given strength.
Xander – He was in many ways the worst off. The loss of his eye had still been new, and now Anya was gone, permanently this time. His humor was changed; darker and he was harder than he had been. He had an edge now, of one who has paid every price except giving up his life, and that price was no longer out of the question.
Giles turned his musing on himself, seeing a man overburdened by responsibility and no idea how to live up to it, much less take care of those now in his care. He looked at the young slayers and sighed. “I have no idea how to do this.” With a shake of his head he herded people into the three rooms they shared, all they had money for, and deep inside he hoped for a miracle.
Andrea looked at the notes, The President had required she read each of the files prior to talking to these people and now she understood why. She had watched them last night, seen the shellshock and shattered looks, and also noticed that a few of the slayers knew they were being watched but could not figure out how, and were too exhausted to really care.
Preparations had been made for tomorrow, breakfast had been ordered, she just hoped The President was ready to meet these people, who read like heroes on paper, in the flesh.
Morning came too early as always for the motley crew Giles had found himself in charge of. They all met at the bus, repacked, not that they had much between them, ready to find food. When all of them stopped and looked with varying degrees of worry and wariness at the woman and man who were standing in front of the bus waiting for them. The woman stepped forward smiling at them, a hint of warmth in her smile. “Hi, my name is Andrea Price, and I am with the government.” She noticed the instant tension in all of them, she raised her hands palms out. “We have nothing to do with the Initiative, my boss would simply like to talk to you. While he does that we have breakfast set up for the rest of the slayers.” She waved to a point down the road, and they could see a large white tent set up, and suddenly the smell of bacon, hash browns, and eggs hit their noses, and they were instantly hungrier than they already were.
Giles was worried and confused, but the choice was taken out of his hands when Xander stepped forward. “Sure.. I’ll talk to your boss, the worst he could do to me would be a blessing.”
A sad smile passed Andrea’s face. “He would also like to talk to Rupert Giles, Buffy Anne Summers, Dawn Summers, Faith Lehane, and Willow Rosenberg.” She noticed a bit of relaxation as the last name was said and she tightened up slightly. She had read the file on Willow and had no illusions as to her chances against her in a fight.
They all looked at each other and shrugged, what did they really have to lose? “Sure…” said Buffy, and everyone kind of fell in behind her, while the others were easily dragged away by the smell of lots of food, directed by the man who had come with Andrea.
Andrea smiled at them again, projecting friendliness as hard as she could, and lead them down the street and around a corner where a nicer hotel than they had been able to afford stood. They went into the lobby then headed for one of the conference rooms. All of them noticed the men and women everywhere with ear phones in their ears. Xander narrowed his eye a bit, facts and thoughts clicking through his head, and he was probably the only one not surprised as they were ushered into a room with a table, the exact number of chairs for them and only two people waiting in the room, a man sitting there watching all of them with dark eyes and Riley Finn, standing in the corner.
Buffy’s eyes lit up. “Riley!”
“Hey Buffy, sorry I couldn’t get here sooner.” A sad smile crossing his face, but he did not move, still standing next to the seated man.
Xander took a seat directly in front of the man, noticing the flicker of surprise and disapproval in Riley’s face and just smiled a dark sardonic grin. “So what does the President have to say to us?” His voice was mocking, with no respect in it.
Giles started as he recognized the man and glanced at Dawn who was nodding, she had been much more in tune with recent events in the rest of the world than the rest of them. They both took seats on either side of Xander, and Dawn reached out taking Xanders’ hand. His darkness had worried her lately, but he had reason to hurt, more than most of them, at least her mom had gotten a funeral.
Faith, Buffy, and Willow all paused, looking at each other, mouthing silently “the president?!” But they relaxed and sat down, though admittedly a bit closer to the door.
The man smiled at them, it was a warm smile, an honest smile, and a tin y bit of worry shed from them. “Yes, my name is John Ryan, currently doing time as President, much to the dismay of my wife and kids.” That drew a snort of laughter from Xander, though only confusion from the others.
“So exactly why are we here Mr. President?” Asked Giles warily, he was not a citizen and lord knew his visa had expired long ago.
“Well… I recently found out about the changes that have occurred with both the Slayers and the closing of the Hellmouth.” He watched faces pale and a touch of anger enter as people realized that the president of the US had known, and had not helped. “Prior to about a week ago, I personally had no knowledge of exactly where the Hellmouth was and the department that did know was not sure the Watchers Council had been destroyed. Once we realized that there would not be any resistance to us trying to help, we arranged to meet you here, and… well here we are.”
Everyone in the room sat quietly processing the information. Giles finally nodded “I can see where before the Council would have prevented any assistance from any quarter, especially governmental. But they were destroyed almost six months ago.”
Jack nodded “You know that, but it was not exactly common knowledge and up until a month ago we were not sure it had not been a hoax.”
Buffy shrugged “So fine.. you know the tweed guys are all dead.. so why are you here now?”
Jack blinked and grinned a bit at her nomenclature. “I am here… to offer you jobs, and support.”
Faith shook her head “Oh hell no, I heard all ‘bout the Initiative, and I ain’t getting involved in any o’that shit.”
Riley shook his head “Guys honestly listen, he called me up because I was involved with that mess, and that is not what this is, it is an honest offer, and a good one. Hear him out, he doesn’t play people.”
Six pairs of eyes turned back to him focusing waiting, accessing, Jack cleared his throat a bit uncertainly; they were more intimidating than Marko Raimus. “You all have skills that I could use, and in fact need desperately. What I am offering is training for each of you, that I think you would like, and funding for establishing a new organization for training and supporting of Slayers. Twenty-five million a year, to use as you see fit. I can promise there will be nothing that I ask you do that you would find immoral.. at least I don’t think so. But I need a team who can go places that regular agents can’t with the skills you have.”
“Training… what kind of training?” spoke up Faith now a little curious.
“I have folders here for each of you, detailing where you would go to be trained and then a headquarters for you as a team to work on issues that don’t fit into any other governmental entity. I hope the majority of the time, I won’t need your skills, but from what …. Various reports have said, I suspect that your world maybe interacting with mine more and more.”
Riley started handing out folders, and everyone tore into theirs reading, hearing whispers between Buffy and Willow, and Faith muttering to herself as she read the file. Xander sat looking at the President, his eye dark. “So I get why you want them, why me?”
Jack flinched, this kid... no young man had PTSD rolling off of him in waves, all he could do was hope that he was as strong as everyone said. “Actually Xander?” Arching a brow verifying the name, Xander nodded shortly. “You I almost want the most.” A snort of disbelief from Xander, but he kept listening. “You know how to see what is going on, you are human, you have chosen a fight I am sure most people would have run from, and you don’t know how to quit. You are the type of person I could only dream of having at my back.”
Something flashed across Xander’s face, but he just nodded and flipped the file open and started reading.
Giles spoke up “Are you serious, they agreed to this?” Shock and lust mingling on his face.
Jack nodded “Yes if you agree to help me and let me provide funding for your Slayers with you directing their efforts, I have… um.. obtained permission from the Vatican for you to have access to their library for one week, and you may take whatever notes you what. Though they will not allow pictures or photocopies to be made. You also get one assistant. Oh.. but Willow can not enter. The Pope was most…. Explicit about that.”
Willow snickered raising her head “The whole ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ stuff huh?”
Jack inclined his head a bit. “Well.. you have to admit you can be a bit scary at times.”
“True... but is this offer for real?” Holding up her folder, “There really is a school for Witches and Wizards, and I can go?”
“Indeed there is, they have offered to take you over the summer and teach you what they can.”
“Cool…. “ Willow smiled her whole face lighting up, and she looked like a normal young woman, not the witch of scarily impressive power she was.
Dawn raised, her hand, then flushed and pulled it down. “Um.. what about me.. this file simply says to be established.”
Jack smiled “Well there are a couple things, we know you did not actually exist until about 4 years ago, but no one here knows where or who you are…” he held up his hands at the united glares coming his way “And we are happy to leave it there. But until you are eighteen and have graduated high school I can’t really offer you anything. I understand your skill with languages is rather high, but… I don’t know what you want.” He leaned forward offering her the chance to talk.
A slow smile of surprise “I want to be a Watcher, a good one to help Slayers live long enough to see their grandchildren. But to do that I need an education and training, lots of access to languages that are no longer taught in schools.”
An idea formed in Jack’s head. “Okay I will make you a deal, you finish high school, with good grades, and I will send you to someone who will give you access to languages that you would never see in any school. Deal?”
Dawn’s face glowed with enthusiasm. “Deal. Contact me the day I graduate, but... “ She turned and looked at Giles “Can I go with you to the Vatican? I can help.”
Giles smiled down at her. “I would not want anyone else.”
Faith had finally looked up from the file in her lap. “This sounds fun.. I’m in.”
Willow was all but bouncing in her seat, the thought of getting training and support more than she could keep inside. “Oh yeah.. I am in like Flynn.. training, actual training.” She was grinning and bouncing slightly in excitement as she thought about it.
Buffy looked up a narrow look on her face “So who is this lady and why do you think she can train me?”
Jack grinned “She may not have your abilities, but she can think on her feet, and I think… you will get to like her… after you hate her.” Laughing softly at the thought of that meeting.
“Hmph… okay fine, could use a vacation anyhow, and I haven’t really had a chance to see England.” She turned and looked at everyone, acceptance and want was showing on everyone’s faces, except Xander, his face was blank showing nothing. “So we in Xander?” Buffy’s voice slightly softer suddenly.
Xander looked up at the President, face still shuttered. “If I do this... I get to quit at any time, I say the word and I am out, no questions, no threats.”
Jack nodded slowly “Okay… “ Not wanting to push but feeling, hoping this was a way to help heal this man. Faith would blossom where he was sending her, as he had no doubt that John’s wife would adopt her in a split second.
Giles looked around at everyone, then back at the President. “So what exactly do you get out of this, beside a team?”
A long pause then a half shrug “The team part is important, people with the ability to tell me no and use their own judgment as to if they will do something. But we are also hoping down the road that if there are slayers that might want a college education along with a slightly safer life and family that we might be able to get them to enter the Secret Service.”
Buffy glared at them. “And how would that be safer than being a slayer and why would you want us?”
Andrea was the one that responded to that. “A few reasons, women are often under estimated, and for the First Lady and children a female fits in better. And I have seen the average life expectancy for slayers, they averaged 9 months in the last 50 years. You are an exception. I have lost only 1 agent in two years, not including the plan crash into the rotunda. That was an…. Oddity.” She winced as she said that, still remembering all the friends she lost. “We provide health care and support, and being pregnant is just fine.”
A wistful look passed over Faith and Buffy’s faces and they slowly nodded. Faith spoke up “I can think of a few slayers who would prefer that life rather than the night life we deal with.”
“Yeah… I can see the attraction.. and now that we are so… plentiful.. maybe. Giles what do you think?” Asked Buffy still shocked by the average life span.
Giles nodded slowly “That might be a very viable alternative, some slayers are never going to be comfortable with the darker side, but might be very good at protecting the president.” He paused and looked around at everyone. “Do we want to do this?” There were slow and various nods from everyone, but they all agreed, yes. “Well then Mr. President, it would seem you have yourself a deal.”