Not Quite The Same
Willow and Xander were walking the trainee slayers back to the compound when Xander heard the bad complaining start. He rolled his eye, adjusted his eyepatch, then looked around. "Girls, go ahead and run ahead," he said with a nod. "Let her vent." The three girls nodded and ran off. They had another slayer trainee group out here to compare notes with. They had went with Faith and Buffy.
Xander looked up at the continued complaining. "Then tell the girls how to get decent friends who'll step in like we did," he shot back finally. "If you're that concerned about other hunters being needed, help the girls make friends who might help them. Even if they only occasionally help like Oz and Cordy it's still some help during bigger things. It worked for us."
She glared. "It did not!"
"Yet, here we are. Normal people doing hunter things to help the slayers," he shot back. "And since we'll never have kids someone's got to follow in our stupid footsteps. So might as well mentor them when try to help instead of nagging about it like you have."
"I ...." She let out a shriek. "We need more hunters but not that way, Xander! We need real hunters with real skills. Hell, if I could I'd wish that a world with hunters merged with ours so the girls got some real backup with skills, unlike you."
"I've done plenty on my own, Willow. Much more than you have. And hey, I haven't tried to end humanity. So quit whining and hike it back to the house. We have to oversee mini kid bedtimes tonight." She huffed off still muttering. Xander sighed, looking up. "Why?" he asked the stars. Then he felt the magic.
"ROSENBURG! Stop it!" he shouted, running after her. She finished making the loaded wish as he got to her and hit her with the side of his axe, knocking her out. "Oh, shit. GIRLS, run for home!" he shouted, knowing they were nearby. "Please get out of the way," he said as the magic intensified and seemed to pop. And then there were strange demons in dark cloaks and a few vampires. He staked one but no go. That one just sneered.
"Behead the biter," the female up the cemetery called.
"Yup, I can do that." He used his axe to behead them and tried one of the things in a cloak but it just smirked. "Oh, great, you're *special*," he sneered, pulling his second choice weapon, a silver dagger. It batted it aside so Xander considered it and just kicked it around until it fell down. The woman rushed over to behead it with her sword. "Hey. Thanks. What's that made of so I can tell the younger slayers?"
"Oh, great. You came from the wish. Um... sword is...."
"Oooooh. Ooooooh," he moaned the second time. "Mythical. But okay! If anyone can find us elves to make us swords, maybe Andrew can. BUFFY!" he shouted. "VISITORS FROM A WISH!" He grinned at her. "Sorry. Um, the witch I knocked out just made a wish to get more hunters here and I'm assuming you are." She nodded with a smirk. "Cool. So am I. I work with the slayers here, who're our specially called huntresses of evil nastiness. Buffy's the head girl and around here somewhere." He spotted one. "Faith, get the trainees home! I sent our three to find yours."
"They're not here, they ran back. Do you have their GPS?"
Xander pulled out his phone to look. "What the hell is Myrna doing out here?" he complained, letting Faith see it. "The six pack are at Starbucks. Myrna's in the park. Alone."
"So probably her date." She called her, not getting an answer. "I'll get the minis home. Buffy's stomping this way. Why is Red out?"
He held up his axe. "I hit her with the side of it upside her pointy little skull because she made a wish for more hunters."
Faith blinked. "That's so damn stupid of her!"
"YUP!" He grinned. "I suggested she help the girls make friends so they could find friends for us to mentor when they stepped in like we did."
"Could've been handy and stopped her stupid earlier," Faith decided. "Okay, let me grab the girls, we'll go gather Myrna, then head home." She smiled at the other hunter. "Let me get the trainees out of the way? Then we'll hold a meeting?"
"Yeah, I'm good with that, ma'am."
"Great! I'll yell that at B on the way past." She ran off.
Xander sighed, leaning on his axe. "Yeah, it's gonna be a long night." He grinned. "But let me do something heroically stupid since I'm kinda known for it." He looked up. "I use the wish owed to me by D'Hoffryn from our game of blackjack to summon thee," he called loudly. "So he can answer this bullshit issue."
The head demon over vengeance and wish demons showed up. "What are you doing, Harris?"
"Well, first, I need to know a few things. Then I'll make a pointless wish to cancel that one. Did she fully merge us? Is it permanent? Is anyone harmed from it? Do we have new species?"
The tall, horned demon blinked at him then at the hunter. "He drives me nuts."
"Well, yeah." Xander grinned. "But I'm really good at it and I had to knock Willow out for making a wish for more hunters."
The head vengeance demon nodded. "She did." Xander nodded once. "It is, as you guessed, a full realm merge."
"Permanent or will it break in a few years?" the female hunter asked.
"No, it's permanent. There's new demons." He sensed around. "They're not pleasing to us."
"We'll talk about that in a bit and protect the peaceful ones as usual," Xander said dryly. "How many? World wide or just Cleveland?"
"Worldwide. They'll fit in well here. They have specially marked ones as well. What is that sword, young lady?"
"Mithrill. Us marked ones can use them."
"Huh. Like the slayer mole?" Xander guessed. She showed off the large, dark mark on her arm. "Ooh, much bigger."
"It spreads a bit as we hit puberty." She put her sleeve back down. "Who's that?" she asked Xander with a point at the demon.
"That's D'Hoffryn, he's over wish demons and vengeance demons." He grinned. "Which means he's probably got a minion to go paddle."
"They're getting worse than that," the demon sneered. "Can you make that wish so I can go do that sooner, Harris?"
"I need a new car, one fit for hunting. Buffy drove my last one into the mall." He grinned. "With weapons so I had to talk to *agents* too."
D'Hoffryn winced but nodded and created one. "Including hidden spots for those weapons." He disappeared. He was even nice enough to leave a gas card for the boy because now he knew why he had to beat a minion to death the long way.
Xander waved a hand. "Do you have helpers out here or can I take you to talk to our people?"
"You can take me to your people and I'll call mine on the way if we're walking."
"It's about six blocks but yeah, we were." He walked off with her. They ran into Buffy. "I knocked Willow out."
"Why?" she demanded. "And did I see D'Hoffryn?"
"Yeah. Willow was complaining we needed more hunters. I told her to help the girls make friends. Like we were." Buffy whined and winced, shaking her head. "Instead she made a wish so I knocked her the fuck out. And left her back there. The witches were heading for her anyway," he said at her opening mouth. "I saw Madeline running."
"Oh, great. Well, I'm sure she'll be sorry for the concussion. And who's this?"
"One of the hunters on her world that just got merged with ours. Permanently merged with ours. And she has a sword made of mithrill."
"What's that?" she asked.
"Mythical level metal forged by elves," Xander said dryly. "But it took out their type of demon in the cloaks."
"Oh." She nodded and sighed. "How long do we have them for?"
"For good. I asked and he said it's permanent."
"Oh, shit," she mumbled, looking down. Then at the hunter. "I'm really sorry about Willow. She had a magic addiction."
The female hunter grinned because this was absurd. Otherwise she'd be swearing. "We don't work with many magic users. But we'll handle it this time. We're all practical people. What's your name?"
"Buffy." She held out a hand.
"I'm called Elizabeth." They shook hands. "He wanted to bring me back to your people?"
"Faith has the six-pack of minis and was pausing to get Myrna from the park," Xander told her. "I figured we start with Giles and then go tell the locals?"
"Go tell the locals so they know to hide for the night. There's going to be some pissy people who'll try to take it out on 'em," Buffy ordered. He nodded, jogging off. "So, let's go talk to our watchers. They're the ones who train us slayers."
"We have training camps but we're trained by the older girls or if you're from a hunting family by the family itself." She walked off with Buffy, though she did send some text messages. No one was going to be happy with that witch. Ever again.
Xander walked into the main bar. "People," he shouted, getting instant attention. "I have knocked out Willow." A few people cheered. "Not yet, people. She made a wish to join our realms." They stared at him oddly. "She wanted more hunters so she joined their realm to ours permanently. I asked D'Hoffryn." That got a few others clapping but they were chaos people.
"They do have their own types of demons. Their vampires had to be beheaded. They had something with a cloak that the one hunter I ran into killed with mithrill." That got a few moans from someone. "She and Buffy are having a meet and greet at the Council house. Buffy wanted you guys to hunker down in case normals got pissy.
"They do have some marked ones so I'm guessing maybe like slayers. Not real sure. We have no idea; it's only been twenty minutes maybe since I hit Willow on the head with my axe. Fortunately the side." He looked at the ones there from the local Council. "You're probably going to have your own conference soon?"
"Yes, and we'd like to hear from the Watcher," one decided with a nod.
"If Giles isn't drunk," he said dryly then smiled. "But that hunter I ran into, she was wearing really practical clothes, just regular jeans and a t-shirt plus hiking boots. So if you guys hear about them, sorry? Willow was complaining we needed more hunters. My suggestion was to mentor the friends from the girls who wanted to jump in like we did.
"She thought that was stupid." The head of the council winced but nodded. "Yeah. Which is also why I concussed her. But Madeline was running to go stop her." He grinned. "I'll have someone show up tomorrow afternoon or the next morning to give over anything we need to share. By then even I should be awake and able to handle strange things. But they do use mithrill for those cloaked demons so I'm not sure if we might not need some?" he guessed, looking at one demon, who was a seer as well.
He nodded. "We may, Harris. I'll compare visions from before this with you tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I can do that. Let me get back there. Just be safe people. Please?" He went back to the Council house. Giles was not pleased. "I said we could come tell the local council what was going on tomorrow afternoon or the next morning. I'd compare visions from before this with Piata tomorrow sometime?"
"That's reasonable. You left her laying there, Xander?"
"I saw Madeline running towards her and if I had to carry her I'd have dropped her somewhere by accident. A few times probably. I thought they might want her less injured."
"Well, yes. I fear she's going to hate being paddled while she's got the concussion."
"I was too far away to stop it when she was muttering. She had stomped off to complain about my idea to mentor the friends. Sorry!"
"No. That's sensible and I like that suggestion, as we should have done you two." He patted him on the arm. "We're talking to that charming young woman."
"She used mithrill."
"Oh, bloody hell," Giles moaned. "I have no idea if we could find them."
"I asked at the bar. Just in case."
"That's fine. We may need to help them find someone to repair them at least." He went with him to the library where the others were. "Xander's talked to the locals."
"Hobart was in," Xander told Buffy. "I said someone would come tell how bad this is going to become tomorrow afternoon or the next morning. I'm on to go over visions with Piata tomorrow too."
"That's fine. We need to see if they've changed. Madeline is *way* pissed at you."
"Did she want me to pick Willow up and throw her instead?" he asked. "Because that urge still exists."
"No. The concussion is probably bad enough," Buffy decided. "Okay. So D'Hoffryn said it's permanent?" Xander and Elizabeth both nodded. "Great. Okay. I'm really sorry for her," she told her.
The girl smiled. "It happens sometimes with magic I guess. Our world knows about hunters. We're like a ..." She didn't quite know how to describe it.
"Pretty much like the Rom are seen to ours," Giles said. "Or so it sounded. Family clans, training centers of your own but most normals don't understand." Elizabeth nodded at that. "They probably made up horrid rumors too. We can handle that as well. We do have PR people."
"Well, not really. Ours are sometimes true, but mostly not in *good* hunter camps. A lot of them think that we marked ones are basically there to handle things for so long, because we started out as normals instead of from families, and then we'll go join hunter camps as spouses to breed the next generation. In some, the ratio of spouses is a bit...off."
"So you're looking at a pack wife situation," Xander decided. She nodded, grimacing some. "Huh. No, our girls are meant to be girls as long as they can, happy young women for their whole lives, and expected to someday retire to a real life that they choose. If they have kids, we make sure they're protected. We do not choose anything else for them.
"Though sometimes we will scare off an idiot boy or girlfriend and sometimes we'll talk them into a better college or degree program that they'd do better in because they wanted something they loved but wasn't good at. Plenty of them have retired to no battle status or just not went on patrol at all if they couldn't handle it. At least since our reformation." He looked at Buffy.
"The girls could probably like dating people who understand how sucky it is to be a slayer. And Briana's still mad at you about that."
"Yay, she can be mad. That other program was going to kill her. She'd hate it after a few months and then have to start over because it wouldn't transfer. At least she's happy and doing her jewelry making stuff on the side."
"True." She looked at Giles then at Elizabeth. "We need to compare demon manuals don't we?"
"I don't have my notes on me. I can call in some of the higher local camp heads who might be able to do that better."
"This is part one of a great many talks," Buffy said with a grin. "You guys gotta talk about all this, we gotta talk with ours, we have to compare, it'll take months but that's better than another apocalypse battle." She grinned and nodded. The other girls in there all nodded too.
Xander looked at his phone then at her. "It's June, we've already had this spring's apocalypse battle. Or did you forget having us all go to Japan to save it from the giant demon who stanned Godzilla movies?" She swatted him. "Ow, bitch!" She scowled at him. He stared back. "I'm going to bruise you the same way in training tomorrow."
She rolled her eyes. "Sorry. He's just ...a guy."
Elizabeth smiled and nodded. "Most of the hunters I know would do the same thing, Buffy. We're all like that."
"Oh, wow, a whole bunch of people like Xander." She looked at him then at Elizabeth. "So sorry," she mouthed. Elizabeth smiled but shook her head. "Okay, let's start with the vampires you guys have versus ours? I'm assuming you guys have blood sucking things that aren't in swamps like those bug things we learned in biology class."
"Biters? Sure. We can start there." They brought out a chart that they used to train the girls with. "You guys have more than three species? We have two and one mythical."
"We have a mythical one too but he showed up to try himself against me and I'm hoping he's still dead. I think." She sighed. "I tried and he smoked up, not sure if he's still smoke." Xander coughed "Romania" into his fist. Buffy stared at him. "Really?"
"I ran into him, he got that face cramp, then sighed and said he wouldn't make eat bugs. Then made sure you weren't there. I said I was checking on our local mini and handling an issue for her, he sighed and stomped off to handle that so I could go away and talked that mini's mom into moving farther away from him and his wives."
"Oh, great." She nodded. "Maria?" Xander grinned and nodded. "Charming!" She rubbed her forehead. "I won't go visiting." She looked at Elizabeth. "We deal with a lot of this type," she said with a point, sitting next to her. "There's six stakeable ones. We deal with those type a lot more often than anything else, but some are beheaders. We have a few odd ones from another realm that apparently take dead man's blood." She frowned. "Where did they come from, Watcher people?"
One sighed, taking off his glasses. "That show with the hunters with the car. I was hoping we weren't merged with them."
Xander looked at him. "I could really like knowing hunters like them and learn a lot from them."
"Which is why we'd rather not have them here, Harris. Especially not if they brought their angelic war."
"Oh, that thing. Yeah, I don't want that either." He shrugged when Elizabeth looked at him. "Can't be much worse than the strike we've got from our lower hell minions."
She shook her head quickly. "Like picket line and..." Buffy nodded with a sigh of displeasure. "Why?"
"Working conditions, too many abuses of minions," she said. "Everything that usually gets it but pay issues."
"Oh, great. They're going to love that."
"That brings up a point," Xander said, going to call someone. "How's my favorite head incubus?" he said in greeting, making himself smile to sound pleasant. "I got to do something fantastic and knock Willow out thanks to her making a heavy wish earlier to join our realms with one that has other hunters. Yeah, that thing. Please do. We'll be briefing the locals tomorrow afternoon or the next day. Buffy noted you guys being on strike. Thanks, dude."
He hung up and rubbed his forehead, going to get some soda. He came back sipping and handed Elizabeth some water and then Buffy some, getting a nod in thanks. "Our local head incubus will make sure one of their sorts is at the meeting with the local council. That way they're warned too." He walked off again. "It's bedtime!" he shouted. "If you don't have a training bra on but you're under twelve, it's well past your bedtimes, hit them so I can do nightly bed checks." The girls squealed, running up the stairs to go get into their rooms.
Buffy sighed. "There's an age divided bedtime but Xander puts it at training bras because two of ours are younger but have boobs. They get an extra half-hour to give the other girls time to do their nightly teeth cleaning and stuff. Then the twelve to fifteen group hits it an hour later, then the rest of us are not smart enough to hit beds until it's way too early." Elizabeth smiled at that. "It solved some of the nighttime congestion and fighting over the sinks." She shrugged. "It works for us." She sipped her water and went back to going over their vampires.
"I had a question. He called out to use a wish with that being to find out what was going on then wished for a new car?"
"Oh, that. Yeah, the wish meant that D'Hoffryn had to show up. He didn't have to answer the questions but it meant that he wasn't being annoyed, but he couldn't leave until Xander used the wish he called out. And he did need a new car. I kinda crashed his last one."
"Oh, okay, I guess that makes sense." She nodded. She had a lot to report later to her people. Thankfully the council house had a spare room she could bum to call from later. They seemed pretty nice, but very cheery and happy. The hunter camps were not going to be fully amused with all this. The Hunter Oversight Authority was going to freak out greatly.
Xander walked into the local demonic council's meeting room. "So," he said happily. They all stared at him. "Giles is still going over the information sharing stuff. But, I have a bit of news. That wish was *prompted*." A few spluttered. "I can only guess *why* but I'm pretty sure thanks to some nastier than normal visions recently." He glared at one former watcher in there. The guy had been vamped just after they had gotten to Cleveland.
"You know the Powers hate you, Harris," he said smugly.
"Now they've got a whole world's worth of people just like me." He smirked.
"What makes you think you're special enough for them to pay attention?" Whistler, the balance demon appeared, sneering him.
"Well, gee, let's talk about some of the latest visions. Like the one earlier that showed them destroying some of the slayers for having helpers who jump in," he said dryly. "I know damn well they hate me, Whistler. Always have. And I give about two percents worth of fuck about it most of the time. Until they threaten the orphans."
"We cut that source of visions off."
Xander laughed. "Sure you did. That's why I'm still getting them," he said dryly. He grinned. "Of course they did, because they didn't want the girls warned. Which is why they prompted Willow to wish for a realm merge with hunters, but she wanted competent ones so we merged with who we're merged with. Permanently."
"They've got slayers."
"Their marked ones aren't the same. That only gives them access to using mithrill for higher level nasties. The ones they call Dark Ones and Ancient Ones. Which are basically mid-level hell minions but changed over that way." He stared at him. "If you don't believe me, go to LA and see if there's a bar where Lucifer's playing piano. Ask him." He grinned.
"How long have we had that problem?" one of the local council complained.
"Sixteen months," Xander said. "Connor talked to him, he got displaced so he recreated his bar in his world and he's chilling but staying out of it unless it comes after him or near him. Then he'll smack someone down. He does allow the slayers out there to drink at his club if they're old enough. They're safe in there but there's no peaceful clause and nothing that would stop a fight from happening.
"That's where Mary got into it with her boyfriend. Then an angel stepped in and stabbed him for her." He looked at Whistler again, who was looking horrified. Xander grinned. "Dude, the PTB only cut off one source of visions, and they were the less painful ones so I'd like to kick someone for that, but I still get them. Less cloudy now though." Whistler shuddered but disappeared.
He looked at the Council. "Have you guys told others?" The head of the council nodded, looking less than amused. "Okay, well, we can share there's three main things they deal with, though they do have hell lords." That got a sigh of pleasure. "They don't have anything like your peaceful communities. Or even immigration there. They have *no* idea about any of you.
"We're spreading that information so you're not harmed. The hunter that was already in town's name is Elizabeth. She's a marked one. They're meant to take out the Dark and Ancient ones with mithrill, and they're the only one who can use it. Buffy tried and it didn't hurt her but it did feel creepy. Less than most normals feel it according to Elizabeth. And they do have use names."
"So Buffy and Rupert are sharing?"
"The one who teaches demonology showed up to help this morning. He was talking to a few friends overseas last night while blitzed while the rest happened so he just heard this morning when he came in for classes." He handed over notes. "On the Dark and Ancient ones. Plus they have three species of vampires, one mythical like Dracula is for us."
That got a nod. "They've had three sightings of them in the last century. One's a beheader, the mythical's a burning, they like thermite too." He grinned. "The last one is staking." He looked around. "They run on training camps and family camps. Bloodlined hunters are trained among the family camps, the marked girls come from normal families usually and are trained in their training camps.
"They do start at ten to protect them but they don't hurt them. They do give them honest information and then tell them that they'll help breed with the bloodlined families. There's some cases where full camps may share a spouse or two. Plural marriages aren't unheard of among their hunters." That got a nod. "Elizabeth and Buffy talked about boyfriends. Apparently gold bands are normal marriages and silver bands are for a special rite during it. They didn't go over that." He shrugged. "She warned about their Hunter Oversight Authority too, apparently they're assholes who do hunter paperwork."
"Has she talked to her people?"
"Of course. Apparently they have two major family clans that run about twenty of the seventy-something camps in the US." That got a nod. "She's talked to people in those two clans, and her own training camp. She's marked and out of the training compound in Dayton. She's trying to get someone from both of those families and maybe another from the less related camps to come meet with our girls and watchers to share."
That got another nod from the council. "We're sure it was prompted?"
Xander put something down in front of them with a grin. "An email from Sorcerer Rayne, whose god has a huge migraine over this." He smiled sweetly. "Janus is apparently not a happy being right now."
They read it and groaned. "Shit," one growled, staring at him. "So all this...."
"Prompting Willow? Yeah. She could have *not* wished and just kept it at complaining but...it's Willow. Which is why I knocked her out when I felt magic starting and heard her wishing. I was too far away to stop her during the wishing because she had stomped off complaining loudly about needing more hunters."
"Are you going to train with those new one?"
"Yeah, I probably will. It'll help the girls I work with." That got a nod. "Not sure when, how, whatever yet. Elizabeth would like to come in to meet you guys though?"
"Tomorrow is free," the head of the Council said. "Outside the wedding."
"Okay, I can let her know that." He looked to the side at that amused looking man standing there. "Are they from your uni?"
"No, they're not," he said in a smooth, British voice. He still looked amused. "They're probably going to consider you less than trained too."
"I've done what I could and look, even untrained, at what I've handled," he shot back, staring at him. "Someone wanted me to ask if I should call you Dad."
"You're not mine, Harris," he said, looking happy. "Though I'd claim you most of the time in a heartbeat if you offered." He looked at the head of the Council, who was a bit freaked out. "I heard myself mentioned by higher beings. It concerned me enough that the witch I have bartending sent me out temporarily. What's going on beyond the realm merge?"
"Just that," she breathed. "Are you...."
"Just hanging around until I can get home. The spell for that looks painful and I'm not sure of an appropriate energy source."
"The Sunnydale hellmouth still leaks," Xander said. "Use it. We're not. It won't reopen it."
Lucifer looked at him then smiled. "That's not a bad idea. I'm not sure if that would work or not."
"Grangrates' book has all the ways to travel using a hellmouth. We have a copy of the book in the library at the compound." He pointed. "Ask Giles and he may let you borrow. The girls out that way have reported how you've been fondly tolerant of their weirdness and Connor's."
"I can do that." He tipped his head. "You are such a normal mortal and yet...."
Xander grinned. "The hellmouth loves me. I was born next to it."
"Ah." He nodded. "That explains much but that weird feeling?"
"Mermaid taint maybe?"
"Yes, I believe so." He frowned. "How?"
"Sunnydale, dude. We were just weird that way. Look at our graduation and why the town was founded."
"Point." He nodded. "I'll go ask your head watcher if I can borrow that book." He disappeared, still shaking his head.
Xander grinned at the head of the Council. "Goreman out in Utah said I should ask if he was my real dad. I figured the hellmouth made me come into being though." He shrugged. "Any other news I can pass on before you guys meet with Elizabeth?"
"Let us know when some of their people get into the area so we can meet with them as well," the head of the council said.
"Sure." He grinned and left.
The end of the council table broke out in groans. "Goreman is a drunken idiot but he has weird ideas," one of them complained.
"It would explain much if he had been right for once," the head of the Council said dryly. "But Xander is very ballsy to even attempt to ask that question of that being." They all nodded. "And now we have many more who could be like him and practical but perhaps not as joking around." They sighed in pleasure. They might even teach Xander how to be a more calm man.
Elizabeth walked back inside after getting off the phone. "Okay, the Varna clan is going to send someone from the Nevada camps. The two closer camps are on for trainees this year so they're locked down at the moment. They're top level, and if it's Samia and Cyril, they run the training camp for the marked girls out there. If it's John and Sarzi, he's an experienced hunter and next in line to take that camp, and his wife is a marked huntress as well." She smiled when Buffy grinned and nodded.
"The VanDykle clan is sending one of their ancient uncles that doesn't run a camp but has taught half the ones who are currently running camps. He's got a bum leg and hip so he's mostly retired outside swatting at his young nephews and cousins. The non-related ones are sending someone who's a grumpy prick but he's one of their top people and demanded to come so ...." She winced. "No one likes working with him but not like your girls are any less destined than any of our marked boys and girls."
"You guys have specially marked guys?"
"Yeah. They train at different camps though because no one wants a teenage pregnancy thing going on."
"Wow. We might like male slayers." She looked around. "As long as it's not Xander. He'd be a bit...weird."
"He's very normal, like the hunters I know." She shrugged but smiled. "He and a few others have asked to train with ours."
"I'd rather Xander retired to be happy somewhere else."
"Is he bad to the girls?"
"No. He's great to the girls. But he's missing an eye and he's normal."
Elizabeth stared at her oddly. "So are most of our hunters, Buffy. They're just born into families that hunt."
"Oh. I guess. I just don't want to see him dead."
Elizabeth nodded. "Training makes that less likely to happen but we all die somehow."
"Point." She took her to look at the armory. There she found something weird. The UV flashlights shone on Elizabeth's mark showed a glow. They examined it in a darker room, finding it had stripes and whorls through it. "Huh." Elizabeth took pictures and sent it out to Samia. She had gotten her number from the call. They apparently tried it and found out she had different patterns. Everyone had a few different patterns. "That's neat," Buffy said. "Our mole is just hairy and gross." She showed her the slayer mole on the other girls. "I had mine removed because it was grody."
"I've seen some people who have shaved down their marks because scar tissue made it swell too much to comfortably wear shirts, but that's neat that you could have it removed." They went to get a snack and go back to the library.
Elizabeth met with the incoming hunters after meeting with the local Council. "They have full peacefully hiding communities of not demonic demons. Mostly other dimensional beings. Though some were bred down from the demons that used to inhabit this plane." She let them have the notes she had made. "The local community is telling the bigger one so they can talk to any hunters in the local area about anything they know to be a problem they've been handling or watching. Including the other hellmouths."
The non-related hunter, Reverend Burgess, frowned. "They have what?"
"Yeah. Some immigrated. Some were leftover and crossbred or whatever from the former demons who had been in charge of this plane before humans got out of caves. That's why they made the slayer essence, to take over on them. Apparently some elemental sorcerers way back when were fucked up and desperate so made a girl a weapon by giving her fighting skills and faster healing."
Samia, the only female, pushed her hair back. "Are they marked like us?"
"Small mole on one shoulder. Which is removable. Buffy had hers removed surgically for being a hairy, ugly mole she said. Back then she was a cheerleader though." She leaned against her car. "Back before an incident a few years back, the watchers, the guys who lord over and train the slayers, took in all the slayers as young as they could to train. Talked the parents in giving them over and stuff." Samia grimaced at that.
"Then there was an incident a few years back which let them reform the Council so it's now about what we have. The girls can train at home, show up at the main training center for a few years to get the big things, and some don't go to a patrol house or even fall into major battles. They focus on their own homes and towns or whatever.
"The ones who stay at home are supported, given training things, helped to find people to learn self defense from, all that. One of the younger watchers was the guy who did that for the girls in Africa. He actually started to hunt with Buffy when she showed up in his town and had a friend taken." The three male hunters nodded at that.
"He decided one little girl shouldn't have to do that on her own so she didn't. She considers him *normal*," she warned, staring at Samia. "It sounds like some past history there but it's been eight years this year since she met him. He's self trained a lot."
"We can work on that," Cyril said, hugging Samia to his side. "Not a problem there."
"They do not have Dark Ones or Ancient Ones. They have a whole lot of other dangerous species though. Plus they learn about the peaceful community in case someone's tainted by the hellmouth or something like a gang member being a young idiot. Buffy said it happens rarely and most of the time it's due to drugs of some kind or another." Cyril shook his head quickly but nodded afterward.
She grinned. "The girls are all happy. They're to remain happy young women who realize they have a destiny but they're to be like normal teenage girls." Hunter Burgess grimaced. "It's good for them. They're healthy emotionally and mentally. Buffy and them do a good job being a mom to the horde in the compound.
"A lot of those are orphans or they can't find their families since the old Council got blown up by that problem, which is how they reformed around Buffy's former team out in Sunnydale. They're expected to go to school, go to college if they want to or some vo-tech or something so they have a life outside all this, and to do the duty if they choose to and it's safe for them to do it, until they huff and walk off.
"A few girls who have the calling aren't physically able to hunt. Buffy and Faith introduced me to the ones they call weekly to check on. One's got Down's pretty bad. She's in a program up in New York somewhere that helps them learn life skills."
Cyril nodded. "So they're not called the same way."
"No, they're marked and called before birth like we are, but that's the only similarity. The girls get a download from the slayer essence that gives them fighting skills and ancient weapons knowledge, that gives them faster healing, and faster running apparently, plus gives them a piece of all the former girls called. Since Buffy died for a few seconds and someone did CPR to call a second one, they all have a piece of her too. She said that's why the girls like to shop."
Samia grinned. "Sometimes girls do like to shop."
"Buffy's fashionable and lives with the fashion mags."
"I've met a few," Hunter Burgess said. "Mostly not among hunters."
"She's the head slayer."
"They didn't find her and take her from her mom. She didn't know a thing about any of this until her calling activated. It had been one's called, fights, dies, another's called. That thing a few years back needed them all to be activated. So they're all activated and later ones born after that will be automatically activated at fifteen. Then train, choose to go on patrol or not, and all that."
"But they've given choices?" Samia asked.
"Yes. They're allowed to decide how and where their lives go. The Council will pay for college. They nag about homework getting done. They reward for good grades, all that." She smiled. "It's like family only there's about ten watchers and the other girls watching over you. They nag about dating boys who aren't good enough. I got to see Xander threaten a few.
"He met one at the door with a shotgun and grinned, waving him inside saying he was on his way to the range for practice but Stephanie would be right down in a few minutes if he wanted to wait." She grinned. "The boy decided he was going to be very respectful and Xander didn't have to do more than that." She shrugged. "The girls said he's like a big brother to them."
Samia looked up at Cyril then at her. "His cousins are too." Cyril nodded at that. The other related hunter, Hunter Timothy, nodded at that too.
"But that essence is tainted," Hunter Burgess said.
Elizabeth shrugged. "It changes them some before birth. They can control things. The girls learn how to do that from a pretty young age. They tell parents and help them subtly train the girls to control anything like the super strength. They learn martial arts for a lot of that apparently."
"Not a bad foundation," Hunter Timothy agreed. He shifted on his prosthetic leg. "You start the kids early so they understand."
"They're not told about being slayers until they're about eight and able to handle the knowledge. That way they grow up happy little girls. The parents know and if they have to admit it earlier they're helped with the kids so they get used to things before they go to the training center as late teens. You can't even take the beginning classes until you're sixteen for patrol stuff. You can take some training hunts with supervision at seventeen if you're deemed ready.
"At eighteen you can request to be put on the patrol rotation formally until you leave the house and either go to one of their houses wherever internationally or to college and then some of the girls have to handle things during that. Buffy said a lot of them retire after college to battles only status."
"That makes sense. You're not as young," Samia agreed with a nod. "So many of us do too." Cyril nodded at that. "I'm sure the girls have protections available."
"Yeah. Rune based mostly. Though they do work with herb witches. English ones."
Cyril nodded. "I've seen some that're fantastic and strict. We use some whenever one of us is in a hospital. We used extra when Elmira was in labor because of the demon lord showing up to congratulate her."
Hunter Timothy looked at him. "Elmira? Mouthy, pretty girl? Out of Samia's training camp?"
"She came up with me actually," Samia said with a smile for him. "She's Mike and Marcus' wife. Their kid's about seventeen-months-old."
"Huh." Timothy nodded. "She's not bad. I saw her handling something and she did smirk at the demon lord but he was there to grab his minion to handle it himself so she let him."
"They have more reason to beat their minions than we do," Samia quipped. "Let 'em."
"Good point." He looked at Elizabeth. "Anything else to warn us about?"
She smiled and nodded. "Buffy's a bit uptight. The girls are allowed to *date* and have relationships. Stress relieving fun isn't really usual for them. Some of the older slayers may but they keep that from the younger ones. Buffy's downright uptight about that. Xander told them to be careful, to make sure they use condoms, and he had some in his drawer beside his bed if they needed to bum, because he was *not* going to sit beside anyone in labor again for at least a few years."
Cyril snickered but nodded. "Xander's a lot like an uptight hunter in a non-related camp. He doesn't mind easy sex but in the past some of them have been to get the girls major weapons. Because they have apocalypse battles every spring. They keep trying not to mention those sort to me though."
Samia blinked then nodded. "Shit."
"Yeah." Elizabeth stared at the other two hunters; Hunter Timothy was shaking his head and Hunter Burgess was praying. "They're meant to take out bigger shit than we marked ones are. They handle everything but yeah, they have a huge thing every spring apparently. Two springs ago it was an invasion of LA by a demon realm."
Hunter Burgess stared at her. "Why in the hell would that happen?"
"The law firm for higher level demons was part of that reason. It was their plan to take over the earth. Bring a bunch of nibbly little demons to take out humanity and clean up after them. The girls, without Xander, he was in Africa and not recalled thanks to Buffy's orders, handled an invasion in downtown LA. With a few agents. Then everyone found out about demons and slayers. I'm sure you can imagine the shit they got for it."
Hunter Burgess cleared his throat. "We'd probably swear a lot."
"They don't have hunters like the non-bloodlined. The Council made sure of it. Which is why they hate Xander a whole lot. He jumped in." She shrugged. "They don't have native hunter camps, nothing like it. It was the slayer's duty and if she wasn't there, someone Council could step in if they had to. Generally without consequences in this last century."
"So like the old Church hunting squads," Samia asked.
"Yeah. Like them. They had the Council for that, which started soon after the first slayer was created." She grinned. "They helped write the rules that got them ignored."
Cyril nodded at that. "So absolute power corrupted absolutely and they were shitty to the girls then it got remade when they got blown up."
"Yup." She grinned. "Which is why they have so few left."
"Great. The girls get training from people with it?"
"Yeah. Buffy got them people with actual training and Xander does some of the tinier kid sparring stuff. Buffy spars but she chats. The girls on patrol gossip while going to stake biters just coming up. Some have brought dates." She grinned at Samia's moan at that idea. "Buffy hates that it might get their dates put into danger but that's how she dated too so she can't really say much."
"Shit," Cyril muttered, looking at the older hunter. He wasn't the experienced parent that Timothy was. He hadn't had to deal with a teenage hunter yet.
Hunter Timothy nodded at that. "That's messed up. Are the girls supported?"
"Yeah, they self support. The upper watchers support. The guy in charge is like a fond uncle. Xander's a nagging big brother. Who stopped three girls going to school in baiting outfits to make them go change. He was the only one up."
Samia blinked a few times. "Like baiting in a club?" Elizabeth showed her the picture from last night's patrol. "That's....I would not allow my girls to even buy that."
Cyril looked then nodded. "Skirt's too short. She's wearing heels. The shirt's probably rippable. It's cute."
"Which was their point. They wanted to be cute in case they ran into any of us out and about," Elizabeth said. Hunter Burgess shuddered. "Buffy's fashionable." She grinned at them. "Some of the girls are more practical but even then, Faith's got leather pants. Tighter than I'd wear but she's worn them to multiple battles. They let the girls pick their own clothes within a set limit. Like the skirts have to be at least so long limits for school rules. Otherwise, they're to be teenage girls."
Cyril nodded at that, looking at his wife, who hugged him. "It's good they get to be so happy," Hunter Timothy said. "We shouldn't take that. Plenty of us could use that level of happiness." He shifted his weight again. "I'm still going to probably remark at skirts on patrol."
"Buffy was a cheerleader," Samia said. "Or so you said?"
"Yeah. And she's kick oriented." That got a nod. "But the local community would like to meet and talk to you guys as well." That got a nod from everyone but Burgess. "They're insistent they're staying peaceful, Hunter Burgess. They police their own community and they're strict about it."
"I get that. Bit weird but I get that. We'll figure that out as we go along. Do they have beings the level of our Dark Ones or Ancient Ones?"
"Worse. A lot worse. They have actual hell lords who have whole hierarchies that can plot and cause trouble." He slumped at that, staring at her. "The ones in the peaceful community know there's rules. The girls won't attack anyone peaceful, rightfully so, but they will play kitten poker and work with the local peaceful community. A few of them tutor at their school and things." Hunter Burgess blinked a few times, then nodded once. "They work with the peaceful ones, and against the ones who aren't."
"I get that," he decided. He licked his lips. "How peaceful can they be?"
"Plenty. One of the best bakeries, according to Buffy and Faith, is run by one demon. Somehow he makes excellent flaky pastries with flippers. I had one and it was so damn good," she sighed. "No sign of it being tainted, they're just immigrants who look funny."
"I get that," he agreed. "Bit freaky but sure. I can pass that around too." They went back to the slayer compound, following Elizabeth's car.
Xander opened the door. "The library's free," he called, leaving it open as he walked off. He came back to stare at one. "We have an elevator too, sir. Just in case you're too tired for the stairs. The girls have been in the past. If someone nags you about the leg thing, snap back. I have to sometimes." He walked off again. "They're here, Faith!"
"Coming," she called back, bouncing down the stairs. "Hey. Sorry. Was picking up my room because one of the middle school aged horde stole my favorite t-shirt again." She grinned. "I'm Faith, the second senior slayer. The last one called individually."
"That's good," Cyril said with a smile. "I'm Cyril and this is my wife Samia." She smiled and shook her hand. "Samia runs one of our marked girls' training camps. This is Hunter Timothy. His family leads the bigger group of related hunter camps, my family is second in that. That's Hunter Burgess. He's not bloodlined but he handles some of the religious level of hunting."
"We have a few priests we work with," Faith said, smiling and shaking his hand. "The library's this way." She looked at Hunter Timothy. "Two stairs?"
"I'm fine, Faith. I hunted for years like this."
"You even sound like Xander when they nag him about his eye. Good!" She smiled. "There's a whole lotta nagging girls around here some days." She led them that way. Andrew floated in something. "Thanks, 'Drew."
"Welcome. Coffee, hot water if you want tea and some tea bags, cups, sugar, half and half." He put it onto the table and came back with stuff. "Chex mix, home made, and regular nuts." He grinned and left.
"That's Andrew, he's our housemom and lighter duty witch. He's got sense, unlike our head witch. Who still has a concussion so you probably won't see her for days." She made herself some coffee. "Let me get Giles in here." Giles walked in with a few others and Xander behind him. "Okay, or the girls."
"Buffy's confusing a principal so his brains dribble out again," Xander told her. "The middle school half the horde goes to had a lockdown and the girls had to break it to get the creature that snuck in. He was not pleased, and neither was she. He didn't even want to tell the police to call us. He wanted it to just go away. It was nesting. I've got to nag the main three there that drove it off, though they did remember to make sure it took the nest it was building."
"Demon dog?" Faith guessed.
"Oh, them. Damn I hate those." She sipped her coffee. "They all good?"
"Yeah, they drove it off by trying to pet it." Giles and another watcher both moaned. "They're girls, they pet things. Feel lucky it's animals instead of something like Groo's girlfriend. Because they helped her groom herself last weekend and needed to bathe badly. Her fur has oily stuff to protect it." He made himself coffee then went to get more cups. "Here, Andrew miscounted." He put them down on the tray with a grin. He heard a yelp and leaned out the doorway. "What's that I hear?" he called.
"Silly slipped and fell from the shelves," someone called. "She's not bleeding but she's definitely bent funny, Xander."
Xander went to check. "Yup, you get to go to the ER, young lady." He carefully picked her up and carried her back. "Giles, broken arm and leg on the right side." He made himself a note. "So we're hitting the ER." He walked off with her, taking her to his new car. She pouted but oh well. The nurses there smiled when he carried her in. "Climbing and fell from the top library shelves. Both broke on the right. They were at extreme angles so I straightened them. We're out of soft casts."
"That's fine, Mr. Harris. Which one are you?" she asked the girl.
"Silenesa or Silly," Xander said, handing her over. "Let her get you signed in and put the bracelet on. You can start your own jar of ID bracelets now." She huffed but let the nurse take her temperature and all that. Then he took her back. "There we go. You'll get advil soon." He cuddled the pouty one until the nurse came to get him for x-rays.
Faith looked at the other hunters, shrugging. "The girls like him to fuss. He's good at it."
Giles nodded. "He is and I do not know the first aid to be able to handle broken bones until you can get to an emergency room. I'd have to call paramedics."
"Most of us learned the more advanced levels of first aid to handle injuries on the hunt," Samia offered.
Faith shrugged. "We suggest, the girls can go 'eww' and forget about it until they see it's needed and then they tend to ask to take it." Samia smiled and nodded. "We let the girls have a lot of decisions about their lives. It's the right thing to do, especially with how rotten the old Council used to be with it. The girls can decide about things, within reason, outside of dinner. Andrew's word is law and we all just thank him for feeding us, because we damn sure can't cook." Giles swatted her. "It's the truth."
"Still not polite, Faith. They're important guests."
"We swear a lot too," Elizabeth assured him with a smile. "Did those three have to be driven to school this morning?"
"Nah. Xander won't. He'll make 'em hike it in the cold and the snow," Faith said dryly. "It stopped that hoochie shit when he's here most of the time." She grinned. "Even Buffy's. She wasn't used to snow. Sunnydale was a warm place near the desert." She smirked. "Xander had to remind her about clothes and snow being cold too. It took her a few times to realize it ruined her fancy shoes, but that's just Buffy and we all smile and nod at her for it." She grinned.
Samia laughed but nodded. "We've had girls who showed up who were fashionable at the training camp I run. They start that eww stuff about when they realize sometimes things spew blood and slime."
"Andrew is a wizard at getting stuff out of our clothes," Faith told her, looking serious. "Buffy's mom came up with a lot of formulas for getting goo out and Andrew's used his chemistry stuff a few other times. We only lose stuff every eighth or ninth laundry nastiness. Usually those you have to burn to get rid of before it spreads to the walls."
Giles nodded. "It's better to buy them a few new outfits a year than to have to rebuild the house due to slime and various poisons that could also be spread."
"Definitely," Cyril agreed with a nod. "We tend to just do jeans and shirts and boots most of the time. Though female hunters are taught how to learn their bodies by running around naked now and then." He looked at his wife. "The girls at the house are getting it while we're here?"
"Yeah. That way you don't have to hide from them being naked for the first time." She looked at Faith. "It teaches us to appreciate our bodies and what it can do. Also gets rid of all shame if we're injured or if our clothes rip during something. And sometimes you really just don't feel like wearing clothes."
Hunter Timothy smiled and nodded. "My wife was a marked one trained in Alberta and she did the same thing. Usually when she wanted attention."
"And when we're about four months along because the baby bump makes everything not fit," Samia agreed with a smile for him. "Thankfully he has an uncle and cousins who love to babysit."
Cyril nodded. "They did demand. Uncle Marl was very happy to babysit and not get picked for this talk. He's happiest at home training the young little shits that's our kids' cousins." He moved her hair back over her shoulder. She smiled at him. "Sarzi's little girl is the fussiest thing ever. John has no idea how to deal with that."
"Elmira taught him, dear. Now he just stares at her until she quits or he realizes she probably needs a new diaper."
"That's sweet of Mira." He grinned at Giles. "My cousin Marcus and Mike's wife. Another marked one. Has a kid who's just about a year-and-a-half."
Giles nodded. "We've had a few of the girls that had children, some before they were called, but we don't encourage them to grow up in this compound unless necessary. I'm not sure what sort of effect the hellmouth will have on them. I'd rather have them somewhere there's less chance of being attacked as well." The hunters all smiled and nodded at that.
"Most of them have retired to just protect their families and nearby areas. Which we appreciate and support greatly. They should be more concerned about their local towns or families than most things unless the world is about to end." He took off his glasses, looking at Faith. "What was his last vision?"
"Nasty," she said dryly. "The PTB wanted him to be killed while guarding the orphans' house and them with him." She smirked. "He's warned them, warned the Sargent, she who barks at the kids who fuss, and the local community. It will not happen without us hearing and going to help. The only one in that vision that wasn't seen was Emmy and she's apparently their favorite since in another one Willow summoned Xander and Buffy back to help Emmy handle a huge shit moment." Giles sighed but nodded. "Now, that one wasn't from his usual source he said." She smirked. "Not at all."
"Oh, dear. So someone's trying to create a future?"
"Yup, which Xander has solved. It won't happen." She looked at them. "Xander and a few others have visions. Mostly true visions. Xander's only ever been off-time due to someone trying to change things. A few others are nearly as right. The only problems we have are the PTB, the ones over the girls, sending things that they want that aren't really....practical or useful. Of the 'yay, there's a battle' sort but they wanted us to sacrifice a few and we solve it without that. They're not very pleased with Xander."
"The PTB?" Hunter Burgess asked.
"The Powers That Be," Giles said. "The higher beings who pick which girl gets chosen and basically plays chess with their lives. We don't enjoy them or their ways, but it's like a grandparent who hates you in many ways."
"B and I agreed. If we end up near them we're going to try to kick their asses," Faith told them. Samia and Elizabeth grinned at that and nodded in understanding. "Xander offered to bring weapons if he could."
"Swords could help," Hunter Timothy said.
Faith smirked at him. "No, we're talking artillery. It's rare we need it, but sometimes...." She grinned. "None of us like guns but most of us are down with artillery petting. Especially when you have to blow up something huge that can't be killed by anything else. B did that in a mall in high school."
Giles smiled, patting her on the hand. "Thankfully we do have a small bit for necessary things as most of the time the government won't donate without wanting into the armory."
"I thought they gave up when Xander handed over a holy water hand grenade," one of the other watchers said.
"They hopefully have," Faith agreed, grinning at him. "They're handy for nests."
"Like regular grenade?" Hunter Timothy asked.
"Yeah. Holy water's real helpful. If it's you against ten or twelve vampy vamps, a holy water hand grenade will blow their nest up and leave you with maybe three or four vamps to stake instead." She nodded a bit. "Damn handy when you're alone. Xander can share that recipe if you guys need it. He found it from somewhere, probably a date." She sipped her coffee.
Giles frowned. "I thought he found it online but perhaps." He shook his head and made himself some tea. "Please, nibble and drink. We'd never make you suffer and I know it's dry in here." They got food and drink and worked out the differences and how to share things.
Cyril looked at Samia then at Giles. "We'd be happy to run a training class with some of the older girls, see if we can help with that too. I do in our camp."
"I wouldn't be against that. The girls could use more unusual sparring partners. It makes them better," Giles agreed, smiling at him. "You can probably run one with our trainer as well. The others are still in the field but Xander's here."
"Africa decided they didn't want girls to protect them so they worked out how to handle it themselves and made some peace to do it," Faith explained. "Most of the senior girls he had are in Houston right now, near a large community of Egyptians he said. The tiny ones are up in New York with the elementary school age kids' house."
Samia nodded. "It's hard when they come so early."
Faith shrugged. "Plenty of us were in foster care."
Samia winced. "That's hard."
"The First Evil took out a lot of families and uncalled girls. It sucks but we saw them in slayer dreams each and every night until they decided to stop." She stared at her. "We want the girls to remain little girls. Happy, healthy little girls. Ones who skip and play and jump and play pranks on Andrew and all that stuff. Even if they do like clothes like B does.
"They know they're future slayers but they get *no* details until after puberty when we put them in harder core self defense that'll lead to staking and other necessary things as they get into more danger. The tiny ones never hear a thing. They may see us limping or complaining but they've got magical vision that they'll never have to do that."
Samia nodded. "That's important to all of us, Faith. The girls should stay girls. Well adjusted, healthy girls. Ours get told what being a huntress means but they're raised at home until they're about ten. Then they come to a camp to get guarded and trained for later on." Faith nodded at that. "Probably for about the same reason you girls do how you do it. Puberty brings on more dangers."
"Yes it does," Giles agreed with a nod. "They step up to a tougher version of self defense, which before then was more martial arts classes than self defense. It helps them learn how to use their strength and bodies."
"Some of our girls did the same thing," Samia agreed. "It does help a lot. Though we don't have the gifts like yours do. We might like faster healing. It'd be really nice." Giles smiled and nodded a bit. "How much stronger are you?"
Faith got up to get something and brought it back. "That's our test piece of rebar." She let Samia and the others look it over then took it to fold it in half. Which ended up snapping it. She grimaced. "Must've been weakened." She bent a piece that hadn't been bent.
"Wow," Cyril said, staring at it. "We cannot do that."
"There's days it'd be nice," Samia said.
Hunter Timothy took it to look at then nodded. "There's been days I might not have minded either." Hunter Burgess swallowed and nodded to agree. He looked at Faith. "We heard about the slayer essence." She nodded, sitting down to sip her coffee. He glanced at Burgess. "There's a few who're ...religious who'd worry that it tainted you girls."
"Nah," she said with a head shake. "Holy water doesn't bother us. If we're religious taking communion doesn't. Nothing like that. Though, Xander's blood will react to holy water sometimes. He got exposed to mermaid taint once and he's got a tiny bit still floating around." She shrugged. "That's usually darker colored to the point of sometimes being black. That usually happens if he's real sick."
"So nothing holy bothers you?" Burgess asked.
"No. A lot of us aren't religious. Especially after there was a huge fit thrown by various religions when we came out. I mean, the Pope stated he wanted us killed for being women and called to this duty." Burgess winced. "There's a few ministers who try the house and the girls now and then. Last time Xander walked out there with a bazooka sorta weapon and they ran for their souls before he found a way to sell them for them.
Faith smirked a tiny bit. "None of us would've minded if he could have. Some have tried to burn us down while the girls were in the house. The other houses are under spell so nothing harmful can cross the barrier and if you're hateful to us then you can't even find the house. It was practical."
Burgess nodded. "I can see that. Most of the ones I know wouldn't be hateful but they'd be worried you girls may be tainted and someday turn on the hunters."
"Nah. Only if they do it to us first. We're really happy to have some backup. About half of us were at least partially raised by the old Council. Told how great our duty was, how we'd die in a glorious moment of being a slayer, all that. It was originally one of us, one of them, and then we died or were taken out if we were too injured. Now there's more of us. We support each other, we have people who help us like Xander and the witches. We have people who hate our duties but won't say it to our faces. Still. But we do a lot of supporting each other. We see it like a sorority."
Hunter Burgess nodded. "I can see that. Does it give you other gifts?"
"Not really. With the memories of the former girls sometimes we get funky dreams of putting on corsets and having to fight in one." She grinned. "It can help some of them around prom time."
"The girls go to their proms?" Samia asked with a smile.
"Yeah, they're in high school," Faith assured her with a smile back. "Some of them are tacky, some really need to have some taste handed over. But yeah, if they want to go they can go. If we have an emergency that night we try to make sure they can still go. That's one of those things you're supposed to do as you grow up." She shrugged. "I didn't go to high school that way. I was a street kid before my former watcher found me. I did a GED. B did her prom, including handling the hellhounds that someone trained to attack formal clothes."
Hunter Burgess blinked a few times. "Why...."
"No clue," Faith admitted. "The guy who did it was a jackhole." She shrugged. Giles swatted her. "Sorry for the language."
"So the guy trained hellhounds to attack formal clothes?"
"Why didn't they leave?"
"Why would they? He fed 'em and did psych training stuff."
"Wow," Cyril said. "I thought Elmira's hellhound pretending to be a yorkie was a bit weird." Samia swatted him. "He's a great guardian and helper for her, and guards the kids in the camp really well too, but it's a bit weird."
"Toto's a nice dog," she said.
Hunter Burgess looked at her. "She has a what?"
"Toto. She saved him from some biters one night, treated his injuries, so the next day he showed up being a yorkie." She shrugged. "Toto's always protected the training camp when Elmira was there and anywhere else he was if he liked the girl he was with. But mostly he's Elmira's dog. They hunt together, they play, she trains him to cuddle the kids to protect them. Maryl is overprotected highly by Toto."
Hunter Timothy nodded at that. "It figures that one of you could do that." He looked at Burgess, who was shaking his head quickly.
"We have one in the back garden but he lives on the porch because he stinks," Faith said with a point. "The girls all adore him and no one wants to kill the dog to make us sad anymore." She shrugged but grinned. "He's a neat little guy. Bit of an asshole because he'll bite bikinis when the girls are trying to sunbathe, but otherwise he's just our housepet."
The front door slammed and Buffy leaned in a minute later with a smile. "Hey, all. Giles, that principal wants to never see me again. So can we send Willow next time? She does snotty mom sort easier."
"No, she's in Devon. We can send Xander."
"I want him to retire and leave the girls alone, not go insane and have to be hospitalized. Or try to file another restraining order for Xander just sitting there staring at him while he explained his stupid."
"He can still do such if I can't, Buffy. Are the girls fine?"
"Yeah. They're good. I reminded them they're to call us older girls for that but their lockdown apparently blocks cellphones. Which I think is a huge problem but you know there's idiots." She shrugged. "They're fine, still enrolled, and the principal is being screamed at because their board was in to see what happened and the girls told them. Including how the cellphones didn't work so they couldn't call us."
Giles nodded. "That's fine. I'll go talk to him the next time, dear. Go change?" He looked her outfit over. "Why did you wear yoga pants?"
"He expects wine moms and Karens, Giles. I had to look the part." She grinned, skipping off. "Andrew, do we have snacks?"
"If you go to the meeting they have homemade chex mix and nuts," he called from the pantry. "Otherwise, no."
He leaned out. "Bang. Get out of the dinner stuff." She huffed but went to help with the meeting instead. That way she could at least nibble. Giles sent her off to get into better clothes but he was uptight that way.
Xander faced off with Samia and Cyril. "I'm self trained but I'm not that bad. I've handled things on my own for years."
"We can work on the weak stuff," Samia promised. "I can get ten-year-old girls to like their swords." She grinned.
"Girls are all vicious little biters," he shot back with a smirk. He attacked Cyril with a sucked in breath. "Not my best weapon," he said at the frown.
"You're off balance."
"Is that like my eye's not letting me compensate?"
"Could be. Get your better sword, kid." Xander nodded, going to grab one and come back. Cyril nodded at how much better he was and it was nice. Still about midline. He stepped back toward the end. "You're about midline for hunters like us." Xander slumped, grimacing. "How many girls have you trained?"
"Sam!" he bellowed. She leaned in. He waved a hand. "He wanted to see how I trained you younger things." He got out of the way. She got her favorite sword and pounced him with a cackle of happiness, working against him. Xander grinned, smiling at Samia. "They're all vicious at that age."
"She looks like it. Bit overactive." She stepped in to tag him out. "Okay, try me since I'm the head trainer for my camp." Sam shrugged and jumped her instead, starting by tickling her, making her laugh and tickle her back but then Sam kicked her leg out and then cheered as she bounced around. She ran over to get hugs from Xander then came back to go back to sparring.
"She thinks well on her feet," Cyril said. Xander grinned and nodded. "That from the download?"
"I spend a lot of time getting them in touch with the slayer spirit. It helps them touch base with the former slayers they got downloaded as well as the skills."
"That's not a bad thing." He looked at Xander. "Is that your favorite sword?"
"It's the one I tend to pick up due to the length and weight. The girls find it too long and heavy."
Cyril nodded. "I've seen you with an axe in something Faith showed us." Xander sighed, shaking his head. "You didn't look bad."
"Thank you but I doubt it was a good incident." He looked at him. Then he pulled up a file to show him. "They haven't seen that one because they didn't want to. That's me with a sword when I'm not sore." Cyril took the phone to watch, frowning at that. Samia came over to watch over his arm. Xander shrugged at Sam's look. "Battle in Africa. He wanted to see how I handle a sword in more than practice."
"That's cool." She got another hug. "Can the new hunter lady run sparring tonight?"
"If she wants. Ask her, not me. I don't make her decisions for her."
Sam pouted at her. "Can you, Hunter Lady?"
"My name is Samia," she said with a grin, leaning down. "And yes, I can." Sam squealed, pouncing her to hug around the neck before running out to tell the other tiny girls. Samia rubbed her neck but grinned at Xander. "They're cute."
"They are. We try to make sure they stay cute. It's important to us and them that they stay happy little girls."
"It is a good thing," she said, patting him on the arm. "When was that?"
"Two years ago."
Cyril looked at him. "What did you do to weaken your left arm?"
"Broke my shoulder last year? Well, clavicle and cracked the ball on the joint. I got slammed between the boulder I was thrown into and the one it threw on top of me." He grimaced and shifted himself. "I know it's not as good. But then again I've been doing this since I was sixteen and I'm nearly twenty-five. And the other watchers don't really help with battles."
"Great." He handed the phone back then moved Xander to check his shoulder, feeling the cracking and popping. "Arthritis."
"I know. I take meds for it. Every morning, after every sparring class." He sighed, looking at him. "I know I'm not the best. The girls will always be better than I am, but someday it'll be me protecting them while they run as long as I can. I need to be able to do that."
"Well, you're not alone now," Samia said with a smile. "You've got a good few hundred hunters who'd do the same thing." Xander slumped, staring at her. "Not to take your place, Xander, but to help you. So you're not the only one."
"That could be nice. It's nice that every time I find a niche it gets taken over by someone able to do it. At least it's someone who can do it."
She hugged him then kissed him on the cheek. "We're not going to take your place. I'd have to talk to someone about the skirts." He grinned. "Now, go take something then come back to workout with us." He nodded, going to do that. She looked at her husband. "He's somewhat like Mikey but he's turning into John."
"He is," he agreed with a nod. "John went all the way to bastard until Sarzi pulled him back. If Xander could find someone it'd probably help him a lot. Maybe one of the hunters will catch his attention. We've got plenty of single ones." He cuddled her until Xander came back.
Another of the tiny girls snuck in and didn't look at them as she grabbed a dagger off the wall and tried to sneak out. She ran into Andrew, who glared and pointed. So she huffed but put it back. "I need it, Andrew!"
"No you don't. You do not have any need for a sharp knife, Annabelle."
Xander walked past and picked her up to take her to talk to her about why she wanted the knife. They got to hear one of the older girls yelp in pain and then start to cry. Annabelle ran back in and hid in a closet full of padded shirts, closing the door after her. Xander walked in. "Anna, room please." She whined.
"Now. Before I have to tell Giles you two are fighting that much. I know she's your aunt but *damn*." He opened the door and pointed. "Now please." She ran off sniffling. "Fake tears don't work," he called after her. "The teens do it better." He looked up then walked off to find Andrew.
"Her aunt and she are having huge fights and she was going to stab her aunt. Her aunt was picking hard and telling her she wasn't a good slayer so she'd be bait for some vampire who liked them young. Which is why that one's crying, because I soccer kicked her. Again." He walked off once he had a bottle of water. "Okay, let's get back to making me suck less," he said cheerfully.
"Xander, quit abusing my slayers," Buffy yelled.
"She told Annabelle she was such a poor slayer she'd be bait for a vampire who liked 'em young," he called back. "Anna nearly stabbed her. They both get it." That older slayer screamed in pain. "Thanks! I grounded them both for a month."
"I'm gonna beat her ass," Faith said as she walked past with that one's hair in her hand. Buffy came jogging a few minutes later with Annabelle so they could have a discussion in the back yard.
Xander grinned at them. "The girls drive me nuts."
"So do mine," Samia offered. "Often. I actually took a night off telling them I was trying to get pregnant again to get away from them. Then I went to hide at a hotel and soak in a tub. While he watched the house." Cyril poked her on the side, getting kissed back.
Xander grinned. "Don't tempt me. If I could, I'd go back to Africa to get out of the hell here. But they don't need me." He shrugged, sipping his water. "Okay, again?" He grabbed his axe and they got back to work. Cyril liked the axe better than his sword work but that was pretty normal to him too.
The hunters that night got to see the girls being girls. And bitchy girls for the teens. Buffy was sighing and shaking her head. Faith was groaning. Giles was clearing his throat. The older watchers were complaining.
Xander walked in and stared for a minute. "Ladies, we have important guests in and you're all being cunts. Stop it before *I* set a punishment schedule that has you not only digging up the garden to replant it, but doing it in the hellmouth's park too so you can dodge the tentacle plants." The bitching and fussing stopped. "Thank you," he said with a smile. "Very much appreciated."
Buffy looked at him. "Do you need midol, Xander? That's just mean."
He patted her on the head. "Which is why you get to lead them."
"I'm not a kid," she said with a smile.
He stared at her. "No but you set an example." She slumped with a grimace. "They'll need an example of how to weed and all that. You do good with that training." He got a plate and fed himself then sat down. He smiled at Giles, who was shaking his head with a sigh. "The park does need to be weeded in that area but the city's people refuse. Even the prison people they tried to make do it refused. Our girls can learn how to dodge tentacles and weed at the same time.
"It's a great skill for a young lady I'm told. Plus it'll make battles in that park easier." He glared at one of the witches, who shrank down too. He smiled at Giles again. Then he looked at them. "Tonight's patrol schedule is amended so we're bringing Huntress Samia and Hunter Timothy with us. There's six of you on the list for training and two of you older ones."
"He's injured," one of the senior girls noted.
Timothy stared at her. "So? I still do the same work you do, dear." She frowned, looking confused. "I just limp a bit while I do it. Same as your trainer Xander does."
"We don't listen to him. He's a guy," she said.
"Which is why you can help Buffy weed," Xander quipped with a grin, making her moan. He dug into his dinner, looking at the other hunters. "I can show you the hellmouth's park on the way to the cemetery nearest here for training patrol while Giles goes over the hellmouth stuff for the others?"
"That would be fine," Giles agreed patiently. "Though I believe that weeding is *mean*, Xander."
Xander grinned. "Ya think?" he shot back. "I think it'll stop the problems."
"It may do that," Giles agreed with a nod and eating some food.
"Giles, some of us wanted to do a fundraiser for a local demon emergency shelter," one of the tiny ones said, hopping up and down once she stood up. "Can we do that?"
"I don't see a problem with that," he admitted. "What method were you thinking about?"
"The older girls were thinking a car wash like the band does," she said, eyes wide.
Xander's eyes went wide and he stared at Kennedy, who was shaking her head. "Not my idea," she said with a point. "Hers."
Xander looked at her. "A clothed car wash, right, Hannah?"
"Yeah, not a bikini one, Xander. We were going to let the little ones help us so be in shorts and t-shirts."
Xander nodded slowly. "And overshirts so we don't look like a wet t-shirt contest for you older ones?" She blushed but nodded. "Make the signs very well seen from the road, make sure you're guarded by someone like Watcher Craig in case someone is stupid. Make sure the signs state that it's for the demon shelter so they don't think you're trying to get allowance. Unlike the ones that were taking out vamps in a strip club and got asked if they were making their shopping funds." He sighed and shook his head. "Check the weather ahead of time to make sure it won't be rainy."
"You could do a better fundraiser," Giles offered.
"Most of those take going door-to-door and that's not safe," Hannah said.
"True," Giles agreed with a nod. "We'll figure it out and if we can, perhaps set up a donation jar for daily pocket change for a few weeks?"
"I didn't think about that," Hannah said, looking at the other girls, who nodded that could work.
"IF," Xander started. "We can gather cans and the like, we can take them to the slayers up in New York where they give you five cents a can or bottle," he offered. The girls stared. One looked at her can of soda and squealed. "That would require one who drives and working out where to do that from the slayers up that way. New York has it, Michigan has it.
"Have the girls ask the locals that they'd turn them over to about rules for crushing and the like. It'd help with recycling too." They nodded at that, getting together to figure out who was where and who to ask. "Though that would mean someone taking a weekend trip. Which would probably help if one of the senior girls oversaw that fundraising effort."
"I know some of the girls do use that to get extra house funds," Kennedy said. "That would be easier and safer than doing a car wash that could get normals complaining at us."
"And we could ask the locals here around the house if we can have theirs," Hannah said with a grin. "It does help with recycling. We may be able to split the donation among a few things if we get enough."
"That'd work with the pocket change jar too," Xander said.
The girls made a better plan for all those things and how to work their donation for the month. Xander grinned at the hunters. "The girls do a donation thing every two months or so. A lot of them are food drives, some are toy drives at the holidays, some are more ...weird."
"That's actually a good idea," Samia said with a grin. "We could do that and it would help recycling more than a few cents per pound of cans. Plus more applicable things like soda bottles and glass bottles." Xander grinned and nodded. "It's great that they're socially responsible."
"It is," Xander agreed with a nod. "Kitten's in Michigan, girls. And Silema is in Connecticut so ask her who's in lower New York." They put that on the list. "Sophina's in London. She went last week to be with the boyfriend while he's at college." They sighed at that but came up to ask Giles who was where for their list.
Samia smiled at her husband Cyril, who grinned back. "I love that they're so good. Our girls could start something like that too."
"Could be nice but we've all but banned sodas in the house."
Hunter Timothy smiled at them. "The girls will find something if they want to." They nodded.
Hunter Burgess nodded at that too. "It's not a bad idea for the hunter camps either. They could use it to raise their own funds." He dug in again, smiling at the tiny girl who was staring at him. "I'm Hunter Burgess, little one."
She grinned. "I'm Silly."
"Hi." He shook her hand. "Have a question?"
"Are you like a minister?"
"Are you one of the mean ones?"
"No. I'm a hunter myself."
"Yeah, but some of them are still mean to the peaceful community and I don't want my friends hurt. It'd be mean to them and I hate mean things."
"I'd never harm anything that's peaceful, Silly. I've told the others like me about the peaceful community and some don't understand real well but all the hunters now here are having a lot of talking about it to make sure we don't hurt 'em."
"That's good. I like that." She grinned. "Do you guys have slayers like us?"
"We have some boys and girls who're born marked," he said, pointing his fork at Samia. "She's got it and so does Elizabeth. We're not exactly the same though. They don't get a download or anything."
She frowned. "Then how do they know about doing slayer things?"
"The marked ones all come to a training house," Samia told her. "We show up when we're about ten to learn all the stuff that the bloodline hunters have been raised with. We grow up with it and then we hunt until we retire. Pretty often we end up dating other hunters and end up with them in their camps."
"Oh." Silly stared at her then at Hunter Burgess. "Are we going to learn about how you guys do things?"
"Yes you are," he agreed with a nod. "We're working on that now."
"Is it a lot of the same stuff?"
"Our first day we learn about why we have use names," Samia said. "And the ones born into the hunters have a hidden real name and a name everyone uses. Like yours isn't really Silly."
She grinned. "Mine's just hard to spell. Each slayer is mythical in her own way and for her own reasons but mostly because of how we handled our lives and what we need to do to become adult women and be good women."
"That's true." She smiled. "We have a lot of reputation stuff we work out."
"That's cool." She grinned at Cyril. Then at her again. "Can you run more training? We like learning from bigger girls."
"I can definitely do that. I run my training camp with my husband Cyril. We both train the girls."
She beamed and nodded. "Can we have him for bedtime stories?"
"Sure," she agreed, looking at him, getting a nod. She grinned. "I don't think he'd mind."
"Cool! No princesses tonight!" she squealed, hugging them both then running back to her seat. Then she came back to hug Burgess. "Thank you for answering my questions." She ran back to her seat.
"Someone clearly took her pain meds as she doesn't need to be running on the healing leg," Xander ordered. She huffed but nodded and dug back in. He grinned at Cyril. "They like stories about peaceful clans of beings like werewolves and the like. We worked with one who went to Tibet to learn how to control his wolf at that temple. We use it to tell them about some of the peaceful clans' histories at times. And princesses because they're girls."
He nodded. "I don't know much about werewolves but I do know about how our clans started. That be good?"
"As long as it's PG," Xander agreed with a grin. "It could help them learn more."
"I can do that." He dug in, smiling at his wife. "Elizabeth will be back tomorrow morning."
"She will," she agreed. "She had to finish up that hunt." She dug in and the girls not on patrol went to workout with her. They were good, but young. Bouncy and young. But happy. They had practice swords that were mostly plastic and dull so they couldn't get hurt. They were sweet little girls. Someday her daughters would be that bouncy and tough.
Not Quite The Same