"Dr. Reid?" one of the nurses asked. She took his hand, a bright smile on her face. "Two visitors in the same afternoon! Diana will be so pleased!"
Spencer Reid shifted uncomfortably. He always tried to avoid this, avoid coming to this place, afraid that one day they wouldn't let him leave. "I—uh, that is, I don't... Did you say 'two visitors'?"
The nurse's smile didn't waver. "Yes. A Mr. Harris came by, oh, maybe an hour ago. He's still here, in fact." She led Spencer through a door to the common room where a number of patients were loitering. On the far side of the room, Diana Reid sat across from a young man with dark, messy hair and... an eye patch?
Xander Harris tried not to consider this assignment as 'having drawn the short straw'. It was just that Giles was busy setting up the new Council in England, and, well, ever since Tara and Glory, Willow had trouble with mental wards. So did Buffy, between Joyce's brain tumor, Glory, and that incident with the demon. And Dawnie, well, they weren't sure if crazy people, for lack of a better word, still saw Dawn's key-ness and they weren't quite willing to risk another Tuesday incident.
It just turned out that Xander was the only Scooby without a strong aversion to mental hospitals.
So, even though he was flying to Africa within the week to find newly-called Slayers, Xander was in Bennington Sanitarium, in Las Vegas, Nevada, interviewing one Diana Reid, former Watcher-in-Training. He'd spent nearly an hour making conversation and explaining the differences between the old Council and the new one. Now Xander could get down to the business at hand.
"Ms. Reid," he said, "why exactly did you leave the Watcher's Academy?" He resisted the urge to toss the stupid interview sheet Willow had put together into the trash. It was obvious why the woman never became a Watcher, wasn't it? And she wasn't exactly in a position to become one now. But he bit his tongue, stuck to the script, and watched Diana carefully.
She folded her hands carefully around her warm mug of tea. "My mother was a Watcher, you know," she said softly. "I assume you're one, too?"
"Not yet," Xander said. "I will be, though. And I've been fighting with the—a Slayer since high school."
"I see," Diana said, nodding. "I left the Academy because, because I was starting to show signs. You know." She waited for Xander's nod. "One of my professors saw. I couldn't put a girl's life at risk, which would have happened if I stayed."
"Right." Xander scribbled on his sheet, checked the 'no' box for the next question: Would X be interested/capable of working for the IWC? He cleared his throat and glanced further down the page, where someone—probably Willow—had written Dr. Spencer Reid – son. "Can you tell me about your son?"
"About Spencer?" Diana leaned forward.
"Ah, yes. Do you think he might be interested in joining our organization?"
"What organization?" a voice demanded from behind Xander. "Why are you asking my mother about me?"
Xander turned around to see a very angry young man—presumably Dr. Spencer Reid, though he hardly looked old enough—standing behind him.
"It's all right, Spencer," Diana said. That alone seemed to calm him a little, but confuse him more.
"Hi," Xander said, standing. "I'm Xander Harris. Are you Dr. Reid?"
"I am." He didn't take Xander's offered hand, eyes flicking suspiciously from him to Diana and back again.
"Your mom used to work for my, uh, company. We just had a change of ownership, you could say, and we're interviewing a lot of old employees."
"Why?" The word was clipped.
"Spencer!" Diana's sharp reprimand made both boys jump. "Sit down and be polite to Mr. Harris."
Spencer sat, his body language still hostile. "Why are you here?" he asked.
Xander retook his seat. "We need more employees. Our organization has had to expand exponentially in the last few months and we don't have anywhere near the number of employees we need."
"And...what organization is this?"
"The International Watcher's Council."
"I've never heard of it," Spencer said curtly.
"That's kind of the point." Xander played absently with his eyepatch, still not used to the damn thing. "Most people don't know we exist because we handle things that most people don't know exist."
"Like what?" Spencer asked.
"Do you remember the stories I used to tell you, Spencer?" Diana said seriously. "The ones about monsters, and girls who fought them? The Slayer?"
"Mother, those were just fantasy stories." Spencer's patience seemed to be wearing thin. Xander decided to cut to the chase.
"One girl in all the world charged to slay the vampires, the demons, the things that go bump in the night, prevent apocalypses, and keep it all secret from the rest of the world?" Xander said.
One girl in all the world charged to slay the vampires, Spencer thought, the words echoing through his head. Diana had used those exact words, that exact phrasing, in the bedtime stories she used to tell him. Bedtime stories about the Slayer. But how would this stranger know that? Unless...
"They're not just stories. I've fought alongside the Slayer, I've known her for seven years. But it's not just one girl anymore, not just one slayer. There are hundreds, all over the world, and we need people to train these girls, to teach them, direct them, protect them – and to treat them as human beings."
Spencer's mouth fell open. All those years, all those stories, they were true? Girls with superpowers, monsters stalking the night... he had attributed it all to Diana's schizophrenia. But if the stories were actually true...
"I know this is a lot to take in, Dr. Reid," Xander said. He pulled out one of the business cards Giles had printed up for all the Scoobies. "I'll be in town for two more days. Please, think it over and give me a call if you'd like to discuss our offer further." Spencer took the card mutely. Xander stood and turned to face Diana. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Reid. Thank you for your time."
"The pleasure was all mine, Mr. Harris," Diana replied. Xander shook her hand, nodded at Spencer and left.
The next afternoon, Dr. Spencer Reid and Xander Harris met in a local park. They strolled along, keeping their voices quiet as Xander explained what a Watcher's job entailed under the 'new regime' of the IWC.
"Are you a Watcher?" Reid asked.
"Not yet. And I have some other things to do for the Council before I can really get down to the actual training required," Xander replied, wincing a little at the thought of Watcher training.
"Are you a recruiter?" the genius pressed.
"No. Well. Not for Watchers, not usually."
"Then what precisely is it that you do?"
"I leave tomorrow for Africa. We have to find all of the Slayers that were called in May, explain the need for proper training. We're sending two or three people to each continent to try and find them all while Giles and everyone else sets up the academies we'll need."
Reid sniffed at that. "And how old are you?"
"Twenty-two." Xander stopped walking and looked Reid in the eye. "You're only twenty-three."
"Yes," Reid replied, "but I also work for the FBI and hold two PHDs."
"I've been fighting vampires and demons and averting apocalypses for the last seven years. Trust me, I'm qualified." Xander's body language softened and he stuck one hand into his pocket. "Look, part of the reason we're interviewing old employees is the age thing. Right now, most of us are my age or younger." He slipped a photograph out of the pocket and offered it to Reid.
It was a group photo, Xander and an older man surrounded by girls. They all looked tired. Most of the girls appeared to be under sixteen, but if Reid looked at their eyes they seemed much older. "Who's this?" he asked, pointing to one of the girls he guessed to be in her mid-teens.
"That's Dawnie. She's not a slayer—most of the girls are—but she's one of us. She's Buffy's little sister." Xander gave a sad smile. "This was right after our latest apocalypse. The news has been saying Sunnydale fell into a massive sinkhole, but it didn't. We were the last ones out. That's Giles. He's in charge." He moved beside Reid and started pointing people out in the photo. "He's been Buffy's Watcher from the start. We've got Watchers, we've got witches, like Willow, and then the slayers. That's Buffy, and that's Faith. The rest, they were all Called mid-apocalype..."
"How many people did you lose?" Reid asked gently.
Xander's smile fell away. "Too many," he replied.
Reid let the silence sit for a moment before handing the picture back. "I'm sorry, Mr. Harris. I don't think I'm the right fit for you. I have a job, one I've worked very hard for, one that challenges me, one I enjoy. And I have a team. They—I can't just leave that." It was hard to turn down the offer, especially after seeing the young girls, the young slayers, who needed Watchers, and Reid knew that was a calculated move on Xander's part. But he belonged at the BAU.
Xander nodded. "I understand," he said. "I know what it's like, having someplace you belong."