Title :: Shadowed Mind
Rating :: FR15
Disclaimer :: Stargate SG-1 and all related characters are copyright Brad Wright, Jonathan Glassner, Showtime and the SciFi Network. No infringement intended. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright Joss Whedon and ME. No infringement intended.
Synopsis :: If the destination matters just as much as the journey and if the past is but the beginning of a beginning. Is the real question: Who have you become? (Answer to Dusties’ Frozen Slaying Challenge)Prologue
The next blow brought with it a solid crack as the bone beneath gave under the force. Buffy Summers, the slayer, stumbled back and shook her head, causing a wave of nausea to threaten her reputation. She felt the blood begin to seep outward from her broken face as the abomination before her rose in the air.
A creature with delicate birdlike features opened its beak to reveal several layers of teeth as it hissed a warning at the blonde. She rolled her shoulders in answer to the threat and swung her axe forward and to the right as the coils of its body rolled over one another, as if vying for her attention. It towered over her slight frame to completely eclipse the moon as it traveled the night sky.
The slayer wasn’t sure what the hell she had run into while patrolling the sunken islands of the Mediterranean. She had ended up in the islands around Greece due to Dawn becoming increasingly bored with Rome. Her abrupt departure for England left her sister free to tour more of Europe. The oldest slayer was to be picked up by her sister in two days time at the London International Airport for the annual Scooby reunion. Buffy wasn’t thrilled with having to fly, but she was euphoric in the fact that she would be seeing Willow, Xander, and Giles again.
The creature gave a shrill howl and darted toward the slayer, breaking her train of thought. She rewarded it with a quick slice to its many coils for the trouble. It gave a small cry of pain, but the onyx colored scales melded together almost instantly, with only a faint scar marking where she had struck.
“Son-of-a-bitch.” Her voice was soft, but held all of her mounting frustration.
The snakebird pulled back on its spine and rested all its impressive weight on its back coil as golden eyes assessed Buffy. It thrummed with the energy of this Earth, of this dimension. The slayer shuddered with the rush of cool metallic air and the fact that the creature seemed to vibrate with the almost tangible wind. Buffy’s enhanced eyesight picked up the slight tremor of her—yes, it was definitely a her—form as she seemed to rise higher into the diamond-filled void.
Staring up at the magnificent creature, the slayer was humbled. The beak continued its upward rise, as if trying to tear a hole through the sky and escape. Buffy glanced at the exposed underbelly and she contemplated taking a final shot at the grey overlapping scales. They gave off a dull sheen in the waning moonlight as the creature’s essence filled the soft pocket of land around them.
The blonde winced at the sudden connection with sound and energy, form and reality. The Earth was a living-breathing thing, and everything that lived on it was placed there for a reason. Buffy was suddenly filled with the horrible knowledge that the being before her was not a demon, was no more evil than famine. She was void of the higher thought processes that made a creature good or evil. She had no control over her urges and merely wished to go on living while she, as the slayer, was standing in the way of that will.
The energy collected by the Earth through the oceans, trees, the breath of an animal, was there for this creature to bend to her will. A creation that was no more mentally advanced than a lioness. A sleek hunter whose only true focus was on her own survival. And the only time she pulled on her vast resources was when that survival was threatened.
When man had started to delve into the atom’s caustic power and electromagnetic energy as a source of apocalyptic weaponry, he had weakened the folds of time and space. He weakened the bond of energies between creations and thus, gave this creature a viable way to siphon the excess.
Buffy winced as the power of the Earth rolled over and through her, its life, its pain and, faintly, the creature’s utter desperation. She felt where the axe had bit into her side. The creature had healed herself hastily out of fear, and that act had come with a price; the use of power had weakened her.
In that frozen moment, Buffy felt this creation of man’s own excess, with more power than thirty Willows, effortlessly tear a hole in the fabric of time and space. She flung the slayer through that void and into the unknown, in the hopes of preserving her own life.
A soft cloth was draped across her brow and Buffy flinched as the edge brushed her lacerated cheek. Her green eyes opened slowly and she stared into the kind face of a stranger…dressed in layers of blue cloth? It hung over his form in varying lengths to form a robe. His gaze swept over her slight frame with concern as he slowly removed the cloth from her forehead. Was he a monk? His eyes warmed as he offered her a soft smile and the slayer gave a small prayer to all that was holy that he was not a monk.
She sat up slowly, eyes wary, as she flicked her gaze around the stone room. Hottie or not, he was a stranger, albeit a stranger that had gotten her away from that snake thing.
“Who are you?” He inclined his head at the question and a spark of confusion entered the clear hazel of his eyes.
Buffy winced, “Do you speak English?”
Again, he frowned at her and opened his mouth to allow free a beautiful vowel heavy language that was nothing like English or any other language Buffy had ever heard. He watched her eyes widen and he stopped his speech to stare into her frustrated face.
With a slight lowering of his brow, he touched his chest. “Orlin.”
The slayer bit her lip and wondered where the hell she was even as she answered his unasked question and mirrored his hand motions. “Buffy.”
His brow rose at her name but he said nothing and stood, offering her a hand. The slayer glanced around the sparse room, noticing that none of furniture could be used for weapons. They were all carved from the rock—or what she assumed was rock—that surrounded them. The far wall was multifaceted crystal that hummed along her psyche and took root in her mind. It calmed her frazzled nerves and she shunned the sudden peace. Buffy rolled off the small cot she was on to stand on the opposite side from Orlin.
“What the hell is going on?”
He blinked at her sudden aggravation and glanced back at the wall she had reacted so violently too. His eyes widened and he walked steadily around the cot, his hands held upward in the universal sign of peace.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and allowed her weight to fall evenly on her feet, flexing the muscles to bring blood to the dense tissue, in the event of an attack. Her face became devoid of emotion as the essence of the slayer came to the forefront, in preparation of battle. The circulated air brushed along the exposed skin of her arms and the first hint of cold chased its way down her spine. There was the pattern of heavy footsteps as others moved about the building she was located in. She counted twelve distinct footfalls and narrowed her eyes on the man before her.
Orlin stilled in his movement at the change in her demeanor and stared at the stranger in astonishment. Her abilities far surpassed those of the other races the Ancients had come in contact with in their exploration of this galaxy. Her speech pattern was becoming increasingly easier to decipher and her mind appeared to expand outward when she felt threatened.
Her senses bombarded his own as Orlin opened his will to hers in welcome. Buffy’s brows drew down as she felt a minute pull along the outer edge of her consciousness and she lifted her fists higher; even after the first tender caress infiltrated her carefully constructed walls.
It was the second time in the span of a few hours that the slayer’s mind was open to the infiniteness of the universe and what lay beyond. Orlin, like the creature before, meant her no harm and merely wished to understand where she came from. What she was.
His own feelings encompassed her with security and warmth as he took that final steps forward and grasped the fists that threatened him. He gently pried her fingers apart and pressed their palms together; their fingers splayed out and slowly intertwined. Their hands melded together as easily as their minds and Buffy stared up into Orlin’s face, awed.
Buffy watched the development of the night sky, clearer than any she had ever seen. Her head fell back and the thin twisted rows of her hair brushed the back of her brown dress. The thin cap covering the top of her head to hold in heat shifted with the movement and she reached up to readjust the cloth just as a meteor began its slow path through the sky. She wondered if it was Halley’s Comet, millions of years before it would be named.
She watched its steady progression as it flickered in and out of her enhanced sight. Buffy lowered her head to gaze around the chilled climate and frowned at the layer of snow that was steadily growing. An Ice Age.
Never thought she’d live to see that.
Of course, she really shouldn’t even be alive yet. Plus, there was the small factor of Buffy being positive this wasn’t her reality. Orlin had claimed that in all of the discoveries he and his people had made, demons were most definitely not on the list.
According to Giles, demons should be ruling the Earth right now or at the very least making their presence known to the few humanoid beings on the planet at the moment. So she was on Earth—just not ‘her’ Earth—some 8 million years in the past or Orlin’s assumption that this reality was far younger than her own and the time passing here was the same linear progression.
Her eyes narrowed at a particularly nasty shift in the air current around her. She closed her eyes and welcomed the peace of the meditation that Orlin had been teaching her for the last seven years. He was her teacher and confidant, her shadow. Orlin was the only constant in her carefully sheltered life; the only Ancient that would speak to her in English, but had forced her to learn his own language, and how to read and write it as well. She had never liked school.
It was especially difficult with the funny shapes being words that reminded her of astrology symbols, and then having to give these shapes sounds and meaning. Buffy shook her head and refocused on the vastness of her own psyche. She ignored the bitter taste of snow and allowed her mind to roll inward and ignore the sensory overload around her.
The essence of the slayer rebelled at such a blatant disregard of the dangers in her surroundings. Buffy repressed the urge to stretch her senses outward and test her more basic abilities. Instead, she focused on the health of her own body.
Recalling Orlin’s patient words with ease, she envisioned the calm settling over her form as she submerged herself into her subconscious and felt the chill of the outside world from her body, rather than her mind. Buffy refocused, directing her all concentration towards increasing her body’s internal temperature. The capillaries with in her arms and fingers stretched wider, allowing the blood to bring warmth to the dense tissue.
The steady chattering of her teeth faded and she allowed a sigh to escape her lips as her body redirected the spreading warmth to allow her the ability to be calm, focused. A pleasing tingle followed her use of the meditation and Buffy opened her eyes to stare into the white landscape.
The outpost was slowly packing themselves for their final years on Earth. A plague had been ravishing the small community that lived here and Orlin wished to leave with the others; Buffy didn’t. She couldn’t leave Earth and the only chance she had of seeing Dawn again.
She just couldn’t.
As her mind settled inward, her ability to the see the world—as it should be—grew. She remembered Willow trying to explain magic to her. It was as if she was connected to a battery that had no shelf life and was charged by the universe itself. A universe in which everything was connected on the most basic of levels by energy and space, two ideals that had no limits or boundaries. Orlin’s meditations, the Ancients’ abilities were, to her, just another form of magic, but their scientific minds rebelled at such a mystical label.
They understood her comparison and sometimes even honored her with a debate, but they still kept their heads under the metaphysical sand. They saw the universe through science and discovery and she saw it as magic and the unknown. They believed Buffy just possessed a closer relationship with the energies of the universe and were unfazed by the fact that she came from another reality, or possibly the future
The others, even being 8 million years in her ‘past’, understood the universe far better than the brilliant scientists of her age. The Ancients were just that, ancient. They had seen and knew more than she could ever hope to comprehend, not that that stopped Orlin from trying. He was a brilliant teacher, and being around the minds of people that could perhaps get her home, Buffy had been receptive to his lessons.
Though as the days turned into months, and then months into years, Buffy felt her hope waning just as the moon shifted her focus from the planet she orbited. The slayer was losing the last shred of hope that she would ever see her old life again.
A warmth was gradually making its way through the snow toward Buffy, pulling her from her meditation, and bringing her predatory urges to the forefront. A familiar hand rested on her shoulder and she turned to look into the softly mocking eyes of Orlin.
She smiled at his use of English. “Not yet.”
His hazel gaze traced the colored slope of her cheeks and he frowned at the prospect that she could be flush with fever. His hand rose upward to trace the heated line of her jaw. His chilled fingers warmed with the touch of her skin and he smiled at her subtle attempt to get him to stay with her beneath the night sky.
A pull of contentment lulled her closer to Orlin’s form and she flicked her gaze back toward the small dome that housed the upper city of the outpost. The lower levels were deep beneath the icy ground. She was living on Earth with the aliens that had brought life to this galaxy—but they were still human—sorta. And Buffy had thought her life was interesting before the tearing-holes-in-dimensions snake fight.
Recently, one of the others had begun to call her Axelia, after a particularly long discussion about her previous life. The name had seemed to fit because, soon, the entire compound had taken to it as well, even Orlin.
Tired of being ignorant and far from the others, she asked, “Why do they call me Axelia?”
Orlin raised a brow and offered her a smile. “It is an old name, meaning ‘protector of our kind’.”
“It does?” She frowned, pretty name for such a weird meaning.
Orlin pulled her forward, against his frame and he felt her wrap the impressive strength of her arms around his waist as she pressed the side of her face into his chest.
A slow warmth flowed over his body and chased the chill from his thoughts and form as he laughed at her manipulation. The burst of misty air settled over the crown of her head and she pressed her face deeper into his robes. Axelia was still unsteady when using her will with others, but she was mostly stable if he was the recipient of her abilities.
She mended several cuts and abrasion he had acquired over the years. Once, she had healed a broken ankle that had, in fact, been her fault. She wished to teach him the abilities she retained before his lessons and they had begun self-defense basics, as she called them. He and his people believed in a fit body, but the mind was held in higher regard. Therefore, he deemed her lessons held merit until she ‘accidentally’ threw him into one of the exceptionally hard walls of the compound.
Orlin remembered her horrified face with a frown as she had rushed to his side. Her eyes alight with unshed tears, she had knelt beside him and cautiously examined his leg. Through gritted teeth, he had asked her to heal the fractured bone. Her eyes had become wider and yet, the tears had not fallen.
His leg was healed and their bond cemented. Apparently, once pain was shared, then you had deemed yourself worthy in Axelia’s eyes. It had been nearly four of this planet’s revolutions around its star since the incident and the ankle still worked perfectly in all that time.
Most of the others were displeased with his attachment to the being that they considered on a lower plane than themselves. She was not nearly as intelligent as they were but what she lacked intellectually, she more than made up for intuitively. Her very nature thrived in the harshest of settings and Axelia’s ability to adapt to a situation had been the topic of several discussions over the years. Some even thought her closer to Ascension than they themselves, while others insisted she would never accomplish such an impossible task.
She was beneath them.
Orlin’s arms tightened around her shoulders and her face shifted against his chest as she leaned back to offer him a smile.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
His gaze never left her face. “Yes.”
Her eyes widened as she caught his meaning and another blush colored her cheeks. Buffy began to duck her head when Orlin slanted his mouth over hers and brought a hand up to cup the back of her neck.
Her eyes widened before Buffy’s lashes fell to brush her cheeks as she angled her head and opened her lips to a sweeping caress. The hand at the nape of her neck pressed lightly, massaging the muscles there as his mouth took delicate sips of hers.
A small muffled cry fell from her lips and she pressed her slight form closer until they melded from hip to chest. Her arms hooked the back of his shoulders as she pulled herself higher. Orlin deepened the kiss and opened his mind to hers as the air around them darkened and the night began to freeze.
Buffy felt the feather light caress of his mind as his tongue traced the inner seam of her mouth and she opened for him. The pleasure and happiness dancing through him spiraled into her mind and brought forth a burst of pure joy.
She felt the night around them shift and the darker half of her psyche, where the slayer essence thrived, growled in protest. It shunned away from her growing abilities and pressed itself into the shadows of her consciousness, far from Orlin’s presence.
A bitter chill chased its way up her spine and took root in Buffy’s mind as the rings behind her fell out of focus. The others had become panicked as the plague spiraled through the outpost and took several lives, while others had become nothing more than shimmering light. They had left her to care for the dormant colony, but after only a few short months, the outpost had begun to deteriorate and lose power. Consequently, she was now trapped on Earth with no one to aid her.
Orlin had fallen ill just a few short months before their departure. He melted into beautiful gossamer tendrils that swept upward and had caressed her face before he disappeared into the forever heaving snowfall. He had found the path that his meditation had been leading him to. He had left her, and Buffy had agreed to man the outpost so that the others could leave. Have a chance at survival on Atlantis.
Buffy shivered as the snow fell harder and felt the slayer essence pushing her to move from the dune of snow. It urged her to make her way to the Astria Porta and dial another address; it wouldn’t allow her to lie there and die. She had to fight, she had to survive.
Her logical side quelled the frantic essence; Buffy knew if she left her slight cover, even to run the few hundred meters to the Astria Porta, it would mean her death. Just as staying in the continuously freezing outpost would have been.
Frost was already forming along the exposed skin of her hand as she lay on her side, the long sleeves of her dress covering her face. With a delicate shudder, Buffy closed her eyes and calmed the frantic beat of her heart. As darkness descended around her, she delved deeper into her mind, far from the cold, far from the ache of Orlin’s departure and the others’ abandonment.
The slayer essence trembled with her thoughts, but recognized the necessity for survival and followed her down. She sank into her own mind and her consciousness was wrapped in the heat of the slayer’s demonic presence. Buffy focused all of her substantial will on living, surviving.
Her body’s organs stuttered and then stopped as her shortened breath eased out from blue lips. Her mind quieted as her subconscious absorbed her and the slayer essence. They intertwined, melded as she and Orlin had, so many times before. Her heart slowed to only a beat every few minutes, until the spark that had kept it going doused.
Her last peaceful breath was a sigh as her eyes opened, sightless. She sank deeper within herself than she had ever been. Darkness welled up around her and eased her into the comfort of its arms. Buffy’s mind stilled as the slayer essence became a barrier against the cold hand of death.