lost her ability to have children, to create the powerful creatures who fed on humans and thinned their numbers. Her alphas, children who
spawned dragons and vampires and werewolves, had been slaughtered by the demons of hell and human hunters. But God created her to be resourceful as the mother of all monsters. So she found a champion with his own power and his own moral gray, and she took him as her own. He would be her champion. Hopefully.
Xander just wanted to go home, preferably before the hunters Sam and Dean Winchester caught up with him.Chapter ONE
:: Chapter TWO
:: Chapter THREE
:: Chapters 4+5
Oh, this is not your average Giles.
Xander shifted on the hard bench, and the chain around his waist rattled. Yep, they’d searched, handcuffed and chained him, and Xander would take it as a compliment that they felt threatened by him, but he was too uncomfortable.
“Just these books,” the younger of the two goons said, tossing Xander’s Supernatural books on the floor of the van.
“Hey, that’s all my worldly possessions there,” Xander complained. Giles gave him a glare cold enough to make a shiver go through Xander’s spine. Yep, this Giles definitely had more of the badass going for him.
“Nothing else?” Giles demanded. Taking the bag, he turned it inside out and searched the stitching like he would find a spell book in the lining or something.
“He’s clean,” goon number two said. The van took a corner, and the others braced themselves on the sides while Xander was nearly bent double as his body tried to fly off the bench. Instead the chain holding him to the wall just dug into the flesh of his stomach.
“Hey, feel free to let me out and I will happily never bother you again,” Xander offered.
“How many people know about slayers?” Giles demanded.
Both goons and Giles all turned and eyed Xander like he was going to sprout horns or something. “Wait. I thought you people didn’t have slayers,” Xander said as he realized that Giles was definitely keeping the secrets.
“It could be a trap,” the younger goon warned.
Giles gave him one of those looks he usually reserved for Xander when Xander had done something particularly and spectacularly stupid. “Yes, thank you. I had considered it.” Even the older guy who seemed slightly less psychotic than this Giles gave a good eye roll at that bit of stupidity.
The young guy shrank back, and for a second, Xander actually felt sorry for him. Of course, he had chained Xander inside a van, so the sympathy was short-lived, but still, Giles sarcasm was sharp, sharp weapon.
A bright blue light flashed, and Xander pressed his eyes closed as spots danced on the insides of his lids. “We’re secure now.” The older thug clearly had some magical mojo going for him, and Xander could feel the fear and the need to roar out his anger like a living beast clawing at his ribs from the inside.
“So, tell us what you know about slayers.”
Xander didn’t open his eyes, but he could sense a body near him and smell the cold and oily scent of metal. Cracking an eye open, he looked to see Giles holding an ornately engraved knife so that the tip rested against Xander’s thigh.
“Um, that’s not really very comforting.”
“Comforting was not my first inclination,” Giles agreed. Giles was not actually all that nice to be around when he thought you were evil. Xander made a mental note to avoid Giles’ bad side in any and all dimensions. “Now, what do you know about slayers?”
“Um, they’re the one girl in all the world destined to fight the evil. A bunch of shadow men shoved the power of a demon in her and she became the perfect fighter, only maybe not so perfect because they do tend to die young.”
“That’s impossible,” the younger goon blurted out. “Slayers are myths, fairy tales.” The older goon made a shushing gesture.
“Nothing’s impossible,” Giles said. “So, how did the shadow men perform this spell?”
“You’re asking me?” Xander’s voice rose to girly levels. “How would I know? That was like a million years ago. Seriously, you have slayer myths? Why would someone make up myths about girls getting their lives hijacked? Not that fairy tales are normally happy. In general, fairy tales are pretty evil and definitely not for children.”
Giles tightened his fingers around his knife and got a determined expression that scared the pants off Xander. “The spell.”
“No, really,” Xander hurried to say, “I don’t know how any of the spell happened, and considering that the men were putting the power into a girl they’d chained up, I really am not interested in trying to figure out what they did. Who gave them the right to ruin some fifteen-year-old girl’s life? Many fifteen-year-old girls’ lives?”
Giles leaned back and angled the knife back and forth so that it caught the glimmers of light that leaked in around the curtain that separated the back from the driver. “Our slayer line was destroyed. Evil won that battle, but that doesn’t mean that what was lost can’t be found again. So tell me, how do you know the details of where the spell took place if you are so ignorant?” he asked in a so-superior tone of voice. Yep, he thought he’d caught Xander saying something stupid.
“One of the slayers I know got a visit from the first slayer in a dream. My friend shared. She probably overshared because I know the details of every crush she had from age fifteen to twenty-one, but she was much with the sharing about her personal indignation that men were enslaving a girl, and then Willow went on the misogyny warpath and I pretty much tuned out from there. Look, in my universe, you’re a Watcher. You come from a long line of stuffy English people to train the Slayers and help them use their powers when they come of age, only sometimes Watchers are more with the manipulating of young girls.” Giles’ eyes narrowed. “But not you,” Xander hurried to add. “You pretty much told your family to jump in a lake and you sided with your Slayer, which was good because you saved the world. Your family, however, was not amused.”
“My family was slaughtered by demons, their blood used the paint the drawing room of my ancestral home,” Giles said coldly.
Xander shrank back. “Oh.” Xander wondered if that was better or worse than having the First blow your family up, not that he would be winning over any friends if he gave that bit of history. “Things aren’t going so well here, are they?”
“Not that you would notice.” Giles brought the knife close to Xander’s chest. “Now, I need every detail you know about slayers, and if I have to carve the answers out of your flesh, I will.”
Xander swallowed as he looked down at the knife that rested against his chest. “And if I just pretty much already told you everything I know?”
“I would assume you were lying.”
Looking into Giles’ face, Xander studied the man, watching as shadow forms started to gather in the mists that rose from his body. Men and women in suits smoked pipes and sat at tables where they flipped the pages of massive books. These definitely weren’t murder victims, so Xander had another reason to mark ghost off the list of possibilities. Hallucinations and mental illness were moving up to the top of the list because this didn’t make sense. All these people looked at Giles, and Xander could feel the weight of expectations. In the corners of the van, more and more people started to form, their clothing older and older until the men appeared in fancy collars and huge rings. Still, they all carried those books, and they all looked to Giles. One after another, they started whispering “slayer, slayer, slayer,” until Xander’s head throbbed with the beat.
“Well?” Giles demanded harshly, pressing the tip of the knife into Xander’s chest.
With a hiss, Xander plastered himself to the side of the van, and all the mist people vanished. “I don’t know. We just have a slayer. I don’t know how the power passes or why a particular person is called. I don’t.”
“How many did you know?”
“Three,” Xander said, which was a bit of a lie. He knew a lot of the girls who became slayers after the spell to activate all of them, but he didn’t want to get into the details because he did know part of that spell. He hadn’t approved of the spell in his universe, and he wouldn’t be part of recreating it here. That much power was trouble on any planet, not that anyone ever listened to his perfectly reasonable concerns that they might blow up the world by accident.
Giles leaned back and considered Xander. “Who?”
“Buffy Winters and Faith Polniaczek,” Xander lied, pulling out the last name for Jo from the Facts of Life. Hopefully this Giles disliked television as much as the other one.
“You said three.”
Xander gave an awkward shrug. “The third came in to kill some master vampire. I really didn’t know her, partly because she was all about the slaying and the tracking and really not much about getting to know a teenage boy,” Xander said, blending together truth and lies. His friends had been forced into a battle when they were too young to understand it, and he wouldn’t drag them into this battle. Well, not unless Giles started using torture and truth spells, and then Xander didn’t give himself very good odds.
“Look,” Xander said wearily, “our worlds aren’t the same. I mean, unless I’m wrong about those Supernatural books being real, you have vampires that can walk around during the day without getting more than a case of sunburn, and mine explode in a fiery ball of self-immolation. My Giles is more the sort to sit around with books and drink tea, and you’re looking like someone who is more likely to stab someone in the guts. And I’m pretty much just the comic relief, which you seem a little in need of, to be honest. My world has slayers, but I don’t know any magic that’s going to change that here if you don’t.”
“Don’t let him fool you, kid, Rupert would rather drink tea than torture people,” the older goon said as he gave Giles a long look. Mist rose, and Xander watched a younger version of the man take a child-sized Giles by the hand and show him how to use a crossbow. Giles couldn’t have been more than four or five, and the damn crossbow was larger than him, but yet Xander just knew that had been Rupert Giles. Xander blinked and the vision vanished.
“Which doesn’t change the fact that I will torture if need be,” Giles said with an equally unhappy look.
“Hey, how about we just talk, no torture required. I mean, in my world, we’re pretty much on the same side,” Xander pointed out. “At least when I’m not spilling food on your favorite books.”
The older goon leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “If he’s from another dimension, it could explain the magical signature. You and I both know he didn’t read like a demon or a leviathan.”
“You thought I was a giant fish?” Xander knew that Giles wasn’t perfect or anything, but assuming Xander was a fish seemed odd.
Giles gave him a blank look and the older goon laughed. Hunter. The man was a hunter. The word crept into Xander’s brain like a caterpillar on little feet. Giles’ father hadn’t been a hunter, he’d been something else—something that thought of hunters as little more than beasts to be used in the field. Expendable. Yeah, some things never did change. Giles’ father hadn’t been big on the slayer respect either.
“Leviathan are monsters from Purgatory, designed to consume the world,” Giles said. “But unless you are from another universe, any hunter worth his salt would have known that. The supernatural universe has been flooded with these vicious monsters for over a year now.”
“Well then, I guess that’s proof I’m from another universe.”
“Or you’re a rather more clever ploy than we’ve seen before.”
That made Xander laugh. “Oh trust me. You have never called me clever, and I don’t care which universe we’re in, you’re not going to. Now daft, birdbrained, nit, pilchard and a half dozen other muttered-under-your-breath words which all required looking up on an English slang site, sure. But not clever.”
Giles jerked back, surprised, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. He looked over at the older hunter, with a confused expression. It was the hunter who leaned forward and put a hand on Xander’s knee. Considering Xander was handcuffed and chained, he wasn’t really comfortable with the invasion of his personal space, but no one had asked him.
The hunter snorted. “So, you have a slayer and Rupert was her Watcher. I guess the Giles family are supernatural specialists in any universe.”
“I’m not the sort to watch. I’m more the sort to get into the middle of a ruckus and settle it,” Giles pointed out, and that was definitely not the Giles of Xander’s universe. “If you know anything of this world, then you know how close we have come to losing the battle. A slayer could help immensely, so if you have any way of helping us recreate the spell that created the line, that could mean the difference between humanity surviving this ludicrous war or the entire species being crushed like so many insects.”
“We have a slayer, and we’re still nearly crushed on a pretty regular basis,” Xander pointed out. “And I still don’t know anything about the spell. You’re the one who’s all spell-knowing in my world, and you don’t know anything about the spell. I mean, my you doesn’t know anything. Trust me, if you can’t figure it out, I’m not going to have any chance at all.”
Giles started to say something, but the hunter leaned back and put his hand on Giles’ leg. “Let the boy rest, Rupert. I don’t think he’s lying.”
“And if he is?”
The hunter gave Xander a nasty smile. “Then we kill him. Haven’t I taught you anything, Rupert?”
“You taught me to not trust random strangers,” Giles said as he settled in next to the hunter. The mists rose, and Xander watched the hunter as he taught Giles how to stalk prey—demons and monsters and vampires and werewolves. Giles hadn’t been a watcher—he’d been a hunter.
“You’re a demon hunter,” Xander said. The shock made the words slip out, and the second Xander said it, he regretted it immediately because he didn’t want to tell these guys about Eve or Purgatory or the visions. Xander had the feeling that this Giles wasn’t big with the open-mindedness.
Giles stared at him.
“I mean, of course you are with the weapons and the threats and the offer of torture, but…” Xander stopped and made a face. It was wrong. It was as wrong as the magical runes everywhere and the gray sky.
The hunter answered. “In your universe, his father raised him, didn’t he?”
The hunter patted Giles on the leg, a paternal gesture from the man who had raised Giles. “That explains why you’re such a plonker in his world, doesn’t it?”
Giles gave the man a dirty look and the younger hunter snorted out a quick burst of laughter. Giles took a second to glare at him too. “You’re assuming he’s telling the truth.”
“Insulting people who work for him while making them feel like they still owe loyalty… that sounds a lot like Cornelius Giles, and if the man had lived to raise you, I don’t doubt you would have turned out equally as stuffy and just as likely to use insults to keep the world at arm’s length.”
“You’re assuming a lot,” Giles said.
“I’m not assuming anything. I’m just keeping an open mind.”
Xander leaned forward to take the pressure off his shoulders, and all three men looked at him, making him feel like he had to say something. “Um, my Giles is really awesome. He stood up against the council when they weren’t treating Buffy right, and he’s really good at keeping the world from sliding into hell.”
“This Rupert isn’t bad at that last one either,” the hunter said with undisguised pride. “So, this council of yours… do they keep track of supernatural comings and goings?”
Xander nodded. “Usually. They had a council house in England where they kept a lot of research, but after Giles refused to get treated like a puppet they could yank around by the strings, they cut him off from the good research. And the good research librarians, which is why I ended up spending so much time with my nose in a book when I’m clearly not good at it.”
“Had.” Giles said the word in a flat tone. “They had a house. They’re dead, aren’t they?”
Letting his gaze fall to the floor, Xander nodded. “The First evil… he started to break free of his cage and he blew the Watchers up. All their houses, all their libraries. Thousands of years of secret societying all went boom in one night.”
“Do you think their First could be our Lucifer?” the hunter asked.
“The angel Lucifer?” Xander asked. “And no. Lucifer is Lucifer, assuming he’s not a myth in my world. The First doesn’t even have a name or a body or an anything. He’s just this giant force. He’s like a big magnet of evil.”
“Then how do you kill him?” Giles asked, and trust him to go to the least happy of all Xander’s world-saving endings.
“We didn’t,” Xander admitted. “We closed a door, but he’s still out there. I’m still thinking he’s not Lucifer. So, did your council guys get killed off?”
“The Learnéd Men,” the hunter offered. “In the new world, the branch was called the Men of Letters. A demon came after the members, hoping to steal a key to a vault of supernatural weapons. Rupert’s father died.”
“And you raised him,” Xander finished. It was a little on the obvious side.
“He’s trying to build rapport with us,” Giles said, and from the tone of voice he was using, rapport was a truly terrible thing.
“He can say whatever he wants. We’re not going to unchain him,” the hunter assured Giles. It was weird seeing Giles so willing to follow someone else’s lead. That wasn’t Giles. Or it wasn’t Xander’s Giles anyway. This Giles seemed perfectly willing to listen to his adopted hunter father. “If he’s lying, we keep control and lock him away.”
“And if I’m telling the truth?” Xander asked, with a little squeak in his voice. Given the circumstances, he had a right to squeak a little. This was not good, especially not if Eve’s spell was demonifying him.
“Then you don’t know enough about this world to be safe,” the hunter said with a casual shrug. “We’re doing you a favor by giving you a safe place to stay and three meals a day.”
“Behind a locked door with lots of chains involved,” Xander guessed.
“The boy’s fairly bright,” the hunter said with a big grin.
Groaning, Xander let his head fall back against the side of the van. Well shit.