Title: Disposable Heroes
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: Jenny Calendar is offered a new job after her death, one that brings her into contact with other heroes who never lived to see their efforts bear fruit. 1500 words.
Spoilers: Very, very post "Fellowship of the Ring". Set just after B:tVS 2.17, "Passion".
Notes: This is complete crack!fic, written for the TtH FFA pairing challenge of Jenny Calendar and Boromir. Also includes a brief reference to the SG-1 first-season episode "There But For the Grace of God", which aired four days before "Passion", though knowledge of that series isn't necessary.
Jenny followed the avatar of the Powers that Be up through the streets of the amazingly beautiful astral city she'd found herself in shortly after her encounter with Angelus. According to Whistler, many of the earliest humans who'd been killed in the Powers' service and continued to serve them after their deaths had lived in this city, or another very like it; none of those who'd joined them in the years since had felt any pressing need to change the scenery.
She could certainly understand why. There was a majesty in the solid, seven-tiered stonework of its layout, in the mountain rising above and the plain spread out beneath, in the pocket gardens spaced among graceful stone houses and the glittering beauty of the metalwork of the gates, that surpassed anything she'd ever seen in life. She forgot sometimes, caught between her Romany heritage and her job teaching teenagers to use the one of the most ubiquitous tools of modern technology, that some of the most inspiring feats of Man had nothing to do with either magic or computers.
If she'd still been alive, Jenny had no doubt she would have been exhausted by the time they finally neared the top level of the city, some seven hundred feet-- at a guess-- above the lowest level. The short, badly-dressed demon who'd served as her guide doffed his hat as they reached the entrance of a dark tunnel, lit by lamps, that led up to the seventh and supposedly final gate; he'd warned her down below that he'd have to leave her there, and that the other spirits within would fill her in on the details of her new job.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, then walked determinedly into the dim corridor. Jenny couldn't help but think that it was meant to be reversal of the classic tunnel of light people were supposed to see when they died; she wouldn't know herself, as she'd died almost instantly and had spent the next several hours trying desperately to communicate with Rupert instead of looking forward to the afterlife. It had been her tenacity, and the fact that she'd technically been a "Warrior of Light", that had led to her present circumstances; she wouldn't let a mere architectural quirk discourage her now.
She finally exited the shadows, only to find herself facing a pair of black-robed guards; they wore strange, winged silver helmets that gleamed in the sunlight, and on their surcoats a white tree blossomed under a silver crown surrounded by stars. They didn't speak, merely stepped aside to allow her passage; Jenny walked slowly past them, feeling strangely like a princess in a fairy tale. Maybe she'd made it out of the school that night, after all; maybe she'd gone to Rupert's apartment under her own power, bearing roses and wine, and they'd drifted off to sleep amidst sweaty sheets only to stray into overly-elaborate dreams.
Raucous laughter rang out from somewhere ahead, and Jenny shook her head, dismissing those fanciful thoughts. She was dead, and Rupert wasn't, and if Buffy knew what was good for her she'd keep her Watcher from showing up here for many years yet. In the meantime, Jenny would just have to make the best of her current circumstances.
She crossed the white paved stones of the courtyard at the top of the city, turning her face up into the warm rays of the sun as she took in the bulk of the Citadel and the graceful tower that rose above it. Then she glanced down again, distracted once more by the sound of laughter. There was a gathering of people seated on benches around a fountain set in the middle of the courtyard, with a small patch of well-kept lawn spread around its base and a flowering white tree growing overhead. It was an oasis of beauty in the midst of an already beautiful city, and she could see why it had been chosen for a gathering place.
As she approached further, she could hear some of the group's conversation. The loudest of them was a youngish man, somewhere between her age and Rupert's at a guess, with dark hair, broad shoulders, and a horn strapped to his hip; his clothes seemed to belong to the same era as the guards at the gate, which meant he had to have been here a very long time. "No, no," he was saying, laughing as he talked with the man next to him on his bench, "I grant you, death at the hands of-- of alien creatures-- and becoming stranded in an alternate timeline after trying to follow the man whose reality you had been attempting to save, is one of the more unusual death stories I have ever heard. But all of your loved ones had perished along with you; thus, you rank quite low on the scale of spectacle *after* death."
The man he was speaking with-- older, with silvering brown hair and dark eyes, rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah? And how did *you* rate?"
None of the smile faded from the first man's voice and expression as he answered; he must have told his story many times before. "I died trying to save two young ones from an army of evil Orc; I was pierced with many arrows, and died at the feet of the man who went on to save my country in my place. Afterward, my companions put me in a shallow boat, laid out in state, and sent me over a waterfall and down the river toward the sea. My brother saw me the next morning from his outpost along that river, drifting by in a cloud of mist; my father's men found my horn on the banks and sent it to him, where it served as a catalyst in finally unhinging his mind." He patted the horn at his hip absently as he spoke.
Jenny's eyebrows went up at the tale, and she could see that the silver-haired man's had, too. There was a lot of pain and bitterness behind that tale, eroded only by the passage of time; she wondered if she'd be able to tell her own story that gaily one day far from this, rating her experience against those of other spirits. Well, as the old saying went-- begin as you mean to go on. She'd failed to do that in Sunnydale, putting off the revelation of her past as Janna of the Kalderash until it was too late; what good would she be as a spiritual advisor to still-living humans if she didn't put her own lessons into practice?
"I was killed by a vampire," she said, her voice nearly echoing in the silence that had fallen after the dark-haired man's statement. "My clan had cursed him, a hundred years ago; he broke free of the curse, then came after me for revenge, and to keep me from repeating it. He broke my neck, then carried me to my lover's house, where he placed me in his bed. Then he bought roses and champagne and put them in the entryway where Rupert would see them, with a note that said 'Upstairs' and music playing in the background."
Both men-- and the others who'd been listening nearby-- turned toward her, some wearing knowing expressions, others shocked and surprised. The silver-haired man blurted "Vampires?" as he stared at her; the dark-haired one, whose eyes were an amazing silver-blue now that she could see them properly, looked impressed.
"That is quite the story," he said, rising from his bench and extending a hand toward her. "I am Boromir, son of Denethor, of the line of the Stewards of Gondor."
"Janna, of the Kalderash clan," she replied, smiling as he took the hand she extended in return and bowed over it. "Also known as Jenny Calendar. I was a technopagan, and an associate of the current Slayer and her Watcher."
"Well, Janna," he said, straightening back up and smiling at her. "You will make a refreshing addition to our company; I look forward to getting to know you better."
"Likewise," she said, and found that she meant it; this man had been serving the Powers since before the dawn of currently recorded history, and yet he was still here, and still smiling about it. More than that, he'd been a disposable hero, just like she was-- a casualty of the fight who hadn't lived to see his efforts bear fruit. She had a feeling his perspective on their job would be invaluable to her when the frustration of being forced to merely watch and occasionally advise without intervening inevitably began to drive her crazy.
"Jack here is also new to this form of service to the Valar," Boromir continued. "I was about to show him around and introduce him to the others who are taking their ease here, if you would care to accompany us?"
"Of course," Jenny said, and gave them both a welcoming smile.