Hey everyone--this is the direct sequel to 22 Minutes, and the 2nd in an ongoing series called 22 Minutes.
The standard disclaimer applies.
And as a sidenote: I'm jewish, and there's a jewish tradition that says one should never write out the name of G-d, and if one does and the piece of paper needs to be thrown away, it needs to be thrown away in a special place so G-ds name doesn't get desecrated. That's why I spell G-d the way I do. = ]
The girl glanced at the slip of paper in her hand, then looked back at the building in front of her. Instead of the high-rise she expected, the building that would have had glittering metal arches and shimmering windows with views of nearby lakes and trees, instead of the daydream attached to “Watcher’s Council International (WCI)”, which sounded very important--instead, in front of her stood a ramshackle Victorian house, older, in serious need of repair. There were teenage girls lounging around the grounds--a few were even fighting one another. This was not the business address of a--she checked the paper once again--”Buffy Summers and Family”. Was it?
She thought for a second that she had written the address down incorrectly, or maybe that G-d had sent her to the personal home of Buffy Summers, instead of the corporation--but she knew she hadn’t. He had warned her that everything wasn’t as it appeared, and well, this was just the first sign.
Taking a deep breath, almost as if preparing for battle, Joan walked up the path towards the front door. Before she even had a chance to climb the steps, let alone knock on the door, a voice interrupted her daydreams. “Can I help you?”
Joan turned around, looking for the voice that had spoken. She quickly found it--her--the person who had spoken--laying off to the side of the porch on a swing that seemed to be fully functional (despite the general disrepair of the house). “Ah, yes. I’m looking for a Buffy Summers and family? I have an important message for her.”
The girl nodded and stood. “You aren’t from the council, are you?” she asked, suspiciously, “because we’re still taking it over, and well, we don’t really want to have to fight you guys for it. There’s more then enough slayers now, and well, you’re more then welcome to work with us if you’re willing to live with the new rules. I mean, well, you don’t have to live with them, per say, because you aren’t slayer, but you have to be willing to work within them...”
“I’m just a messenger.” Joan assured the nervous red-head. “I’m not here to try and take anything over. I just have a message that is pretty important, and well, is Buffy available?” This was going to be the last time she let G-d talk her into playing messenger, of all things. Having to drive to Cleveland from school, having to borrow a car, having to figure out which classes she could afford to miss and which she needed to attend so she would have a passing shot at actually, well, passing this quarter.
During this entire internalized monologue the red-headed girl disappeared inside the house, and Joan realized, she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to follow her. She settled for sitting on the previously occupied swing and waiting, however impatiently, for this Buffy Summers to appear.
Joan looked around the yard once more, startled by the number of young girls that appeared to be fighting. A couple were even pulling advanced karate type moves (well, she assumed, having seen the Matrix) and they were equally impressive. Maybe this Watchers Council International was a company that taught self-defense? Or maybe they trained stunt people for movies...that wouldn’t explain why all the teenagers were female, but it was a start.
Joan was lost in her thoughts when she suddenly heard a loud cough. She quickly stood up and turned towards the front door of the house, expecting to see the red-head. Instead, a petite blonde girl, scarcely older then herself, stood to the side and seemed to be staring at Joan. “Um, hi. Would you know where I could find Buffy Summers?” Joan asked nervously, the blonde girl upsetting her sense of calm.
“I suppose I do,” The blonde agreed, “given that I’m Buffy,”.
Joan nodded to herself and smiled. “I have a message for you, then. Well, you and your family. Are your parents around to join us?”
The blonde look slightly startled and shook her head. “My parents aren’t really available. How about you just give me the message, and then we can both get on with our days. I don’t mean to be rude, its just, we got a bit of news last night and we’re still trying to figure out how to organize the results.”
“Ah, yes.” Joan nodded, “I think that’s what my message is about, actually.”
“You’re with the powers? What, did they get tired of sending Whistler? Did he get tired of the death threats? Because really, i wasn’t going to kill him. I wasn’t even going to really wear his ribcage as a hat, I was just mad, you know?” Buffy began talking fast, obviously uncomfortable.
“Um--Whistler? Powers?” Joan shook her head, confused. “Maybe we should go somewhere private. What I have to say is kind of unbelievable, and well, maybe we should go somewhere private.”
Buffy sat on the porch swing instead, shaking her head. “Eh, spill. Most of the people around here won’t listen in, and I had Wills ward the front porch for secrecy when I was walking outside. Besides, its nice out, and I never get a chance to work on my tan anymore. You’d never guess I was a California girl once, huh? I mean look at this...”Buffy gestured to her body, “I have a farmers tan! A Farmers Tan! From wearing shirts that AREN’T cute and tank toppy”.
Joan watched this scene with amusement in her eyes, not even bothering to question what Buffy meant by privacy spells and Powers. G-d had warned her originally that everything Buffy said would be unbelievable, but true. This was obviously just an example of what G-d meant.
“So, make with the details.” Buffy commanded, calming down.
“Oh right, the message.” Joan nodded to herself. “I know this is going to sound strange, but please believe me, it’s true.” Buffy appeared to be calm thus far. “I...well...G-d talks to me. In person. And um, gives me jobs to do. He told me to find the headquarters for the Watcher’s Council International, specifically you, and um...pass along a message.”
Buffy didn’t react. Joan wasn’t sure what she wanted Buffy to do or say, but to sit there, completely still, was unnerving. “The message?” Buffy questioned, still emotionless.
“Right.” Joan braced herself. “He said to tell you guys thanks.”
“That’s all? That’s ALL G-d wants to say to me after everything?” Buffy asked, her voice cold as steel. Joan quickly shook her head.
“No, but he told me to tell you guys that first. Something about no one telling you thank you often enough, not when you keep on saving the world, over and over again. To tell you the truth, I just thought he was exaggerating about the saving the world part, but he wasn’t, was he?.” Joan questioned.
Buffy sat still and began a series of deep breaths. “What else did he say?”
Joan stood and began pacing. “You see, that’s where it gets weird. He said to tell you that the fights that were coming, the battles that were coming, they would be harder to win. That the First Evil would learn from his defeat and send foes that were both stronger and faster, ready to kick ass.”
This almost shocked Buffy enough into displaying emotion, but she quickly schooled her face to the almost bored tone of slightly earlier. “The First is coming back?” Buffy asked. Joan simply nodded.
“Yeah, but not for a long time. Years, in fact. You have plenty of time to prepare for that battle. Today isn’t about that, however. Today is about G-d not only saying thank you for saving the world, but rather saying that you guys, the scoobies, what he meant by that, I really don’t know--anyway, that it people like you and the scoobies that ensure he remembers that all of this...” Joan stood and gestured around, to the earth and the people, “well, its people like you who remind him exactly why he bothers with all of this anyways. He said that have exceeded his every expectation, and he’s glad there is a choice now, because he wants to keep having his expectations exceeded.” Joan stopped, took a breath.
“G-d is impressed with us, and says thank you.” Buffy intoned before sighing. “Did he, by chance, say anything useful? Like where there is a big pile of money that we can find, so we can train these girls for the fight, so we can keep exceeding his expectations? Did he say how my mom is doing, how Tara is doing, how Anya and the countless other people we’ve lost in the past 7 years? I mean, I was in heaven, I know what it like. He could have passed on word that everyone of them is there, at peace. That would have been helpful.” Buffy ranted, her voice getting louder and louder until finally it seemed like she was screaming.
Joan stood there and let her. She understood anger far better then most people. She’d had her fair share of it over the years, with Judith and Adam and now her family thinking she was insane (yet again). Buffy realized this slowly, turned around to face Joan, and sighed.
“You didn’t do any of this, so I shouldn’t yell at you. It’s just...this whole situation is getting more and more complicated, and I have to figure it out. Otherwise, those girls out there,” Buffy stopped at this point and gestured to the teenagers all around the house, “will die. And it’ll be on me. As it is, if one of them gets hurt, or something happens, its on me. It was my choice to bring them into this fight, and while it may be their choice to remain...it’s still on me.”
Joan nodded. “I have a couple more parts of the message, if you want to hear it now. If not, it can wait a bit. I can come back tomorrow or something.” Buffy nodded and gestured for Joan to continue. “Well, okay. It’s like this. G-d wants me to say that everything happens for a reason. There is a master plan, and everything, and well--you guys, all of you, are on it. Not in the ‘screw with you’ way, but rather, in the ‘these people are the salt of the earth and the last truly great champions’.
“It takes a lot of strength to fight, and you are the strongest of them all. G-d realizes this, and he thanks you again. Thanks you for stepping up, because if you hadn’t, he wasn’t sure what would have happened with Glory or The First. He says Dawn is doing nicely and will have a full, happy life, which is what you want her to do. She’ll give you nieces and nephews to spoil, and be happy.
“And, this is the most important part of the message--”Joan nodded, “Willow, she’s forgiven. G-d understands, and Tara understands. They both love her, and just want her to be strong. Ready. Because there’s a battle coming, not of this world, and she needs to be ready to help you kick ass.”
Buffy looked startled at this portion of the message. She’d teared up, thinking about Dawn and Dawn’s future, but this... “What battle is coming up? Is this the same one that Whistler warned me about last night? Can you give me any details, any details at all?” Buffy was frantic at this point--normally the powers didn’t send two mess angers in a matter of two days with the same warning about the same battle. This battle must of been of apocalyptic proportions.
“Sorry, no. I just know it’s not of this world, or this planet. And that you have a couple of months before you even really need to begin worrying about how to work with the military.” Joan turned and faced Buffy. “That’s all there is to the message, but, I know G-d, and I”m sure your mom is in a wonderful place. If she raised you, and you’re one of the champions, she has to be.”
Buffy smiled and held out her hand. “Hi, I don’t think we were officially introduced. I’m Buffy Summers.”
Joan laughed silently, “Joan Girardi.” She turned towards the stairway that had led up to the porch before stopping and looking back at Buffy once more. “You’re going to hear from me again, more then once probably, over the next couple months and years. G-ds chosen to try and communicate with you, and well, I’m his messenger. So, if you need to ask him a question, pass it on through me and I’ll try to get an answer. He’s kind of cryptic though, and snippy, so be warned.”
This caused Buffy to smile even more broadly. “Thanks Joan. I need to go pass this message on to the important people, but do you want to come with? Have some pie? Meet my friends?”
Joan shook her head. “Actually, I have a stats test tomorrow morning for school, and I really need to drive home and study a bit before I flunk out. My parents so don’t need to hear that I flunked out of school because I was too busy being G-ds messenger to pay attention to my school work, ya know? Thanks though.” And without another word Joan turned and walked off, leaving the blonde girl and the ramshackle house behind. G-d was right--there was something special about the blonde girl. Joan hadn’t understood most of the conversation, but she knew that whatever Buffy did, whoever she fought--well, Buffy was strong. And would win. She had to.
Buffy turned and walked into the house, calling for the scoobies. Two meetings in two days. This could get to be a little ridiculous, but hey, it was better then being unprepared. Silently, she thanked G-d for sending a messenger, and prayed, however briefly, for the people they had lost along the way.