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Unprecedented

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PROLOGUE

 

It’s daytime in Sunnydale, a tiny town in California. The weather is warm, coming off the high of Summer. At face value this is a lovely place; the good part of town is clean and normal and the bad part of town is relatively tame. Rupert Giles has been sent here by the Watcher’s Council in order to find and hopefully, ultimately train, the Slayer.

They know she’s here. Even if they hadn’t been following her trail, they would have guessed she’d be here anyways. For all Sunnydale’s quaint looks and innocent name, the place draws mystical beings like moths to a flame. The Slayer was, technically, one such being, and even if she wasn’t she’d be compelled to head towards the darker forces that filled Sunnydale anyways. Rupert had been selected as the one to train the Slayer, with one enormous blinding problem. For all that the Council knew the Slayer was in Sunnydale, they hadn’t the faintest idea who she was.

It shouldn’t have been so hard to find her. The last slayer had died barely a year ago, and the new girl activated should have been incredibly obvious. Many potential Slayers were under direct observation, or at least known of. It was possible to miss potentials, true, but a Slayer? They should have been able to find her.

And yet they could not. The only reason they even knew where she was in the first place was because there had been an unmistakable number of coincidences trailing down the West Coast towards Sunnydale. It was a chance, sending a Watcher here when they didn’t even know who to look for. But it was a chance that had to be taken.

For his part, Rupert has…. A feeling. It’s not a strong feeling, no, barely even an inkling. But still there nonetheless; he has the tiniest hint of an intuition as to why the Slayer has not been found. Still, inkling or no, he’s in Sunnydale now. There’s no way he could miss the Slayer when they’re in the same town.

---

In the bad part of town, a dumpster sits slightly away from the wall in an alley, it’s lid turned up and back to form a roof. Behind it, a small figure sleeps. It’s daytime, and Sunnydale does have a few bums around. No one disturbs them.


 

Thursday, Fourth of September, 1997

The first day of school for Sunnydale High 

Rupert Giles

 

Rupert sighs, taking off his glasses. The desk in front of him is littered with newspapers, the one on top displaying an article about missing boys, still unfound. Sunnydale is a small town, everyone knows. It shouldn’t be this hard to find some missing teenagers. And really, it isn’t. For Rupert has just gotten a call; a dead body turned up in the girl’s locker room of Sunnydale High.

There aren’t a lot of places to hide a body in a small town, he allows, but the locker room of a high school? How macabre. His informant said the body fell out onto some poor child as she opened her locker, Rupert can unfortunately imagine the shock. This tells him many things; that the killer was sloppy, that they have been targeting only students which likely means they have a way of meeting students, and that there is something going to happen very soon. This is the fourth boy to die in as may weeks, although he’s the first body found. Whatever is going to happen, it will be happening soon.

And in order to stop it Rupert needs the Slayer.

Whom he does not have.

“Damn it,” he whispers, tossing his glasses onto his desk.

This is all so complicated…. But, no, it doesn’t need to be. He rubs a hand over his face and takes a deep breath. Rupert Giles has faced much worse than a tardy Slayer, he can handle this.

The first order of business, then, reconnaissance. Where have the killers been picking up these high school students? Rupert reluctantly puts his glasses back on and shuffles through the newspapers, pulling one from near the bottom and flipping a few pages. Yes-- there. 'The Bronze,' some club popular with the children of Sunnydale. That’s where I would go, were I looking for young flesh.

He glances at his clock-- nearly evening. Rupert so despises fieldwork, and he’ll surely stick out like a sore thumb in a club; if not for his clothes than for his maturity. The height of irony, considering the places I used to haunt…. But he’ll go. He doesn’t have the Slayer’s ability to sense demonic entities, he won’t be able to see them the way she could. But he might see... something.

---

The bottom edge of the sun has just touched the horizon when the small figure sleeping behind the dumpster awakens. Pale green eyes stare into the dark and grime below the dumpster, flicking back and forth as their owner takes inventory.

It’s been a rough few days. The person rolls a bit onto their back, looking up at the dumpster lid. Every night for days, they’ve been having nightmares. Not the usual sort, either-- they’re no stranger to nightmares. No, recently they’ve been… closer to visions. Vivid, yet fragmented and disjointed, making little to no sense. The most prominent message was of death and danger.

No sense dwelling on it now, though. The person sits up and scoots their way out from behind the dumpster, swiping the grime from their clothes as they stand. They don’t have a bag, just the clothes on their back-- the old, baggy, thoroughly worn clothes on their back. They scruff a hand through short, light hair so it stands on end, and begin to walk.

The sun sets as the short figure makes their way through the back alleys of Sunnydale. They stick close to the wall, their gait rolling and trained. 'Mischievous,' someone had described it once. The walk of someone who causes trouble. No one stops the figure, or even sees them, for they walk exclusively in the dark shadows spreading between the walls.

And then they stop. They’re nowhere notable, and no one is near them, but they stop and turn and cast an unamused gaze behind them. When no one shows, they quirk an eyebrow.

A man melts out of the shadows, luminously pale and ruggedly good looking. The two stare at each other for a moment.

A knife drops out of the small figure’s sleeve into their waiting hand.

“I’m not here to hurt you.” The man holds up his hands, empty and palms forward, slowly. 

The figure snorts quietly.

“I’m not,” he insists. “I’m here to help.”

They snort again and their arm whips back, preparing to throw the knife.

“Wait!” Cries the man. “Please. Okay? Really. Look, something’s going on soon, I’m just makin’ sure you know. Because this isn’t something I can kill myself. I brought you a…. An olive branch, I guess.”

Very slowly, he pulls a black jewelry box out of his jacket pocket, and setting it on the ground, kicks it halfway between them.

“That’s all. I’m not gonna hurt you. Just know that the Harvest is coming, and I can’t be the one to stop it.”

How interesting…. The figure lets him melt away into the dark. A helpful vampire? Strange….. When they can no longer sense his presence, they approach the jewelry box and poke it open with their knife. A silver cross pendant on a chain glimmers in the low lighting.

The figure scoffs. Hilarious, a vampire giving someone a cross as a gift. Very cautiously, they reach down a fingertip to brush the edge of the cross….. And after a few seconds in unnatural stillness, they take the necklace from the box and slip it into their pocket. No contact poisons, no curses. Clean. A real olive branch, then.

It’s only a few more alleys before the small figure makes it to the Bronze. The bouncer somehow doesn’t notice the shorter figure among the gaggle of teenagers coming towards him, doesn’t notice there’s someone he missed.

---

Rupert stands in the upper floor of the Bronze, lip curled in discomfort. Loud music had been his scene at one point, true, but it had been good loud music. And he had been much closer in age to the pressing bodies around him. This is just…. Distasteful. He scans the crowd below, idly wondering what it would be like to be the Slayer, to be able to look at the roiling crowd and simple know which ones, if any, where vampires. To Rupert, they’re all the same. He can’t tell one from the other.

Until he feels his gaze skip. It’s like an itch on the surface of his eyes-- magic. Magic, telling him that someone down there is nothing interesting, nothing to look at, as dull as a pebble on the sidewalk, just move on. A witch? He blinks hard, trying to dispel the itch, and leans over the rail. Where is it coming from? Rupert draws his own magical skills to fight it, and suddenly finds himself staring into the upturned face of a small girl.

She looks around the same age as the high schoolers around her, maybe fourteen or fifteen, soft cheeks not quite hiding strong bone structure. Her hair is cut boyishly short, glowing orange in the light as it sticks up every which way, and he can see even from here that her eyes are the palest shade of green. The large leather jacket she wears obscures the vast majority of her outfit.

Her eyes narrow at him the longer he stares, and Rupert jerks himself out of observation mode. A witch, trying not to be noticed amongst a crowd of high schoolers. How curious. Is she a student at Sunnydale? Somehow, the girl’s eyes narrow even further, and Rupert is vaguely reminded of an extremely pissed off cat. She begins to make her way through the crowd, and although she lowers her chin to face forward, Rupert can feel her attention is still riveted on him.

In no time at all the girl-- and Rupert can now see she’s extremely diminutive, nearly two feet shorter than some of the young men she weaves through-- has made her way up to the second floor. She brushes past behind him, not even glancing his way, but he feels her fingers dance across the small of his back and senses her magic suggest that he follow. He does so, at a distance; at some points the only way he doesn’t lose her in the crowd is the pull of her magic. She leads him down the stairs, to the back halls of the Bronze that lead to the restrooms.

It’s darker here, quieter. The close walls muffle the sounds of the band and the gaggle of high school students. The girl doesn’t stop walking until they’re in a well out of the way dead end, and then she stops and steps back slightly, silently inviting Rupert to corner himself before her. He obligingly does so; it’s no trouble to him to put a young witch at ease, especially if she could give him information.

That is, he thought it was no trouble. The girl squares herself before him, posture steady and solid. Her expression is calm, eyes lidded as she tilts her chin up-- not because she has to in order to look at his face, but because she’s displaying dominance. She knows Rupert can’t hurt her-- and all of a sudden, as if being stabbed in the stomach, Rupert knows it too.

“You’re the Slayer,” He breathes out, and his world is spinning from the shock. He’s vaguely glad she put him in a corner for this; it means he has something to lean on.

“The what,” She demands, her voice considerably deeper than he’d have expected from such a small, sweetly-faced girl.

“The-- You’re-- the chosen one, one girl in all the world to stand up to the forces of evil, I--”

She scoffs, and Rupert is struck by the strange thought that she carries herself somewhat like a man… like a ruffian. Her head doesn’t even reach his chin and yet she gives off the impression of being much larger than she truly is.

“I’m the chosen one?” She mocks, her voice dripping with venom. “Really.”

Well that attitude is uncalled for. “Yes, really! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

“We,” She repeats. Rupert’s shock has settled enough for him to note the sudden change in her voice, no longer aggressive but soft and breathy.

“Well-- yes,” He offers. He can’t scare her off now, so he softens his own voice to match hers better. “I’m-- My name is Rupert Giles, I’m what is called a Watcher-- Someone trained to, well, train the Slayer. It is a sacred calling, for me and for you, miss-- what is your name?”

She stares at him, blinking slowly. Her face doesn’t betray a single thought. Rupert waits for her name…. Waits….. It crosses his mind that she should have no reason to be this calculating over a simple question. Eventually she heaves a sigh.

“Casey, I guess.”

“You guess? Is that not your real name?”

She stares some more, so Giles drops it for now. “Miss-- Casey, um. Are you a student at Sunnydale High?”

He needs to determine where she'll be most often, if he needs to apply for a poisiton at the school-- But she snorts, a little lopsided smile curling her lips, and Rupert wonders why that was funny.

“No,” she says, in a tone suggesting he couldn’t be further off.

“Y-you’re not?” Rupert wracks his brain for someplace else she could go to school, with no other high schools in Sunnydale. Homeschooled, maybe? He's not sure how he can train her if that's the case-- maybe a tutor...

She takes a deep breath, that half-smile still pulling one edge of her mouth into a little curl. Rupert can see her deciding to tell him the truth-- a truth which she apparently finds darkly amusing.

“I’m twenty.”

“Oh…”

Twenty. The punchline hits him like a freight train and Rupert finds himself blinking at denim-covered knees; he’s slid down the wall to sit on the floor. Twenty…. Years old. An adult, not a young girl like he first thought. Good Lord. The Slayer squats down in front of him, eyebrows raised in a James Dean-ish squint. Rupert can’t find the words to explain to her why he’s unable to stand.

Twenty.

“The--- The last Slayer died at nineteen,” he manages weakly. Casey, eyebrows still raised, sits cross legged on the floor in front of him. “Most Slayers rarely live even that long, it’s practically unheard of. But-- Twenty.”

Casey takes a deep breath and lets it out heavily, nodding at the floor. “Well, I don’t know about all this Slayer shit, but I got whatever these powers were at nineteen.”

“Oh, Lord,” Rupert groans, leaning his head back against the wall. Everything is all wrong.

Casey waits quietly for him to recover.

“Lord...” he repeats. “Casey, or whatever you name truly is, I cannot explain to you how incredibly-- Bamboozled I am, by all of this. Most Slayers are activated at a young age, often around fifteen, and they are found immediately and trained for their duty by a Watcher. The fact that you were activated at nineteen, and then survived with no Watcher at all? It’s-- completely unprecedented. I-I’m frankly shocked that you’re alive.”

She snorts, and Rupert gets the impression she agrees with him.

“I’m-- not sure how to handle this situation. An adult Slayer…. And you don’t seem surprised? To hear me mention the… forces of darkness, the…”

“I’m not surprised,” She whispers. “I’ve always known about this stuff. I was dealing with it long before I got these powers. I guess I just thought--” She stops short, swallows.

Rupert decides not to ask how she knew, or what she had thought. They're not in the most private place right now, and he’s too worn out-- too many shocks in one night.

“Casey,” He says instead. “Would you like to know more?”

She looks up at him so quickly Rupert misses the movement itself, and finds himself struck by pale green eyes. She nods, and the movement is tensely restrained to only a few head bobs. Rupert knows that restraint well-- so she’s a bookworm. His brain immediately begins ticking off titles to reccomend to her, his favorite compendiums of lore and myth-- perhaps some of his books on the occult? She may find them fascinating if she's already consciously using her magic... He'd never considered being assigned to a Slayer that actually wanted to learn, before. He'd always assumed it would be a struggle with a young, pigheaded girl, or else the dull instruction of a dutybound automaton.

“Where have you been staying?” He asks, beginning to push himself up from the floor. Casey matches his movements, although she stands much more gracefully while Rupert uses the wall to help. “I can lend you some of my books, I haven’t found a place to train you yet but I’m sure it can be arranged post-haste, now that I can inform the Council you’ve been located-- Casey?”

She’s looking at the floor, and her arms have wrapped across her middle. Protective posture-- directly at odds with her previous open and confident stance. Rupert isn't sure what he's said that she feels the need to hide from...

“I’ve um, I’ve been staying on the streets,” Casey admits quietly.

Oh. “The streets? At night? That’s incredibly dangerou--”

“I sleep during the day," She snaps. “I’m not stupid.”

I didn't mean to imply that you were...“But you don’t have a place to stay,” Rupert finishes for her, somewhat dumbly.

The Slayer, the Chosen One, a grown adult who was activated at an age most Slayers never live to see and who’s been living on the streets like common riffraff. She nods in response to his question, appearing ashamed of her homeless status.

Unacceptable.

“Then you’ll stay with me.”