Buffy gripped the armrests of her chair. Elizabeth was sitting right across from her, and it was taking all of her willpower not to leap of table and spread her like a feast. Everything in her was screaming for her mate.
“Buffy, do I need to bind you to that chair?” Willow asked cautiously, obviously seeing her struggle.
“You might.” Buffy answered through gritted teeth, as another spike of need roared through her. She could feel something deep inside reaching out for Elizabeth. “Explain this quickly so I can get out of here.”
“You can’t.” Willow shook her head. “You can't be separated for long from her until you’ve decided to mate or not.”
“What are you talking about, Willow?” Buffy growled.
“You asked me to check Dr. Weir because you thought there was something weird going on about your need to mate.” Willow began to explain. “Well, it’s not what you think. You are
mated. In fact, you are the rarest form of mates. I wouldn’t even know about it if I hadn’t stumbled across the references when I was with the Coven. The every essence of who you are, are reaching out for each other and merging. Goddess, it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Willow!” Buffy interrupted sharply.
The witch started visibly. “Oh, sorry, Buffy. You’re not just mates, you’re Bond-mates. According to the legends, three pairs of Bond-mates were created at the beginning of the Universe. One of the pair would be a Guardian, a being possessing great power but always on the thin edge of losing themselves to the duty of the Guardianship. Their mate grounds them to their humanity that could be sacrificed to that duty. The Bonding often evolves into a romantic relationship, but not always.” Willow moved to stand behind Elizabeth. “Dr. Weir, will you please pull back your hair?”
Glancing over her shoulder curiously, Elizabeth did as she was asked. Directly over her jugular vein, Buffy could see a faint mark that she knew had not been there before. The moment she saw it, she had the nearly overwhelming urge to sink her teeth into it. Willow touched the skin, making Elizabeth flinch involuntarily, and Buffy growled in warning before she could stop herself.
“This is the mark of a Bond Pair. It appears on the throat of one of the Bond Pair, and over the heart of the other, during the first significant merging of essences. Buffy?”
Raising an eyebrow at her friend, remembering that teacher-mode voice well from their high school days, Buffy slowing unfastened her top to open it enough to reveal a faint mark identical to Elizabeth's appearing over her heart. Out of the corner of her eye, Willow saw Elizabeth's fingers twitch when the mark was revealed, and she nodded in satisfaction at their reactions.
“The marks are reactive to physical touch.” Willow informed them. “If either of you were to touch the other's mark, it reacts depending on your relationship. If it is a romantic relationship, it acts like an erogenous zone. If not, it reacted with the warmth of a beloved friend. By anyone other than the mate, the touch is irritating, depending on intent. Someone just brushing the mark in an innocent hug, for instance, would just irritate the mark just enough to be noticeable. Any further intent, especially harmful, would actually cause pain, and it was would call out to your mate. Kind of like a mystical distress call.”
“So it doesn't have to be sexual if she doesn't want it to be?” Buffy asked.
Willow's brows rose at the question. From the way she worded it, it was apparent that Buffy was willing. “No, it doesn't. According to the records, you have about a month to decide. You can either accept the mating with the full-fledged relationship, sex and all. Accept the mating without the relationship, merging your essences enough to keep Buffy grounded, but you would still each be giving a part of yourself to your mate, and you would never be able to fully love another. Or you can choose to reject the mating completely. Once you make the decision, though, you can't change your mind.”
“What would be the result of rejecting the mating?” Elizabeth asked, alerted by something in Willow's voice.
Willow took a deep breath and finally sat down. “We would eventually loose Buffy to her duty as a Guardian. I think it's already happening, and that's why the mating effects are hitting her so hard. During the fight with The First, she had already started withdrawing from us. The time she spent here resting and recuperating has restored and grounded her for the most part, but it will start to happen again and we won't be able to stop it. She will slowly loose touch with her humanity and exist only for the hunt and the kill.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to ask another question, when an announcement came across the city comm. system. “Unscheduled Offworld Activation.”
The announcement cut off any further contemplation as they hurried to the Control Room. They saw the shields activate moments before the gate finished dialing and the gate opened, but nothing came through. After a minute, the gate shut down.
“What happened?” Dawn asked.
“I'm not sure.” Peter Grodin answered. His fingers were moving rapidly over his keyboard as he tried to figure it out.
“Rodney, Willow, check to make sure nothing was downloaded into the systems.” Elizabeth ordered. The scientist and the witch immediately moved off to different stations.
“Hold on a minute.” Buffy said suddenly, her finger moving to her temple. “A message was sent to my ship. I'm converting and setting it to decrypt, but it'll take a few minutes.” Before anyone could respond, a holographic eyepiece appeared over her left eye.
“Hey, I saw that before.” Dawn exclaimed. “What is that?”
“Neural interface.” Buffy answered absently. “It keeps me connected to the Machine
“You have got
to let me look at that.” Rodney demanded.
Buffy ignored him as she watched the message reform. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she looked shell-shocked.
“What's wrong?” Elizabeth asked.
“It's from a friend who I helped train a resistance against the Wraith. His world has been destroyed and culled by the Wraith. They've made him a Runner.”
“A resistance?” Elizabeth questioned.
“What's a Runner?” Rodney asked at the same time.
“Yeah, the Satedans decided that they didn't want to be cattle for the Wraith. Ronan befriended me like Teyla's mother did, without question. He asked me to train his squad in hand-to-hand and bladed weapons.”
“What did you get out of it?” Xander asked.
“A place that I could call home when I needed it.” Buffy told him sadly. “Ronan, his betrothed Melena, and his mother took me in and treated me like family. They gave me an open invite to stay with them any time I needed company.”
She finally turned to Rodney. “A Runner is someone whom the Wraith are impressed with as a Warrior. They implant a tracking device, then toss him on some uninhabited planet, sending foot soldiers after him to see how long he can last until they can kill him. I've got to go find him.”
She was gone before anyone could respond. Willow, Xander and Dawn glanced at each for a moment, then took off after her.
Elizabeth sighed and touched her commlink. “Buffy, you can't go without back-up. You don't know what you're going to find.” “I don't need back-up. The Wraith chase Runners for sport. There won't be more than a half dozen foot soldiers on that planet. Maybe one of the Higher Ups, but that's about it. Willow, Dawn and Xander will be more than enough.”
“Well, will you at least take Carson? If your friend has a tracking devise in this body, it has to come out before you return to Atlantis.” “Fine. Have him meet us in the Gateroom. We'll pick him up on the way out.”
Elizabeth nodded to her assistant, and Grodin contacted Carson with his new assignment. “How do you know where he is?” “He put the Gate address in the message. He'll stay there for a few days before moving on. Before you ask, no, I'm still not waiting.”
Since she had her back to the Control Room staff, and no one could see it, Elizabeth rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Very well. We'll see you when you get back.”
The Mystery Machine
lowered from the roof and beamed Carson aboard with his supplies. The Stargate dialed and opened before Buffy responded. “We'll talk.”
Then the ship vanished in stealth mode and was gone with a ripple of the wormhole.
~~ BtVS ~~ SG: Atlantis ~~
They exited the Stargate to endless blue skies and green forest that looked like it had never been inhabited by anything other than the native animals. Buffy immediately directed the Machine
over the treetops directly away from the Stargate in a straight path.
“Surface Scan, all directions at maximum range.” Buffy commanded the ship. “3D display, only Humanoid and Wraith life signs.”
The results of the scan flickered into image. The others gasped and Buffy's eyes narrowed as they watched the 3D image of a man running through the forest, shooting down one Wraith after another as they attacked. There were three times the usual number of hunters here, and Buffy suspected that he had done considerable damage since they first released him. “I hope he's still got his communicator. Open channel to Satedan channel.” They heard a chime.
“Hey Razor, having fun?” Buffy said brightly.
“Is that you, Slayer?” A deep voice said, slightly winded. “Damn, it's good to hear your voice. Where are you?”
“About a hundred feet over the treetops.” She told him. “I'd beam you up, but the forest is too thick and there are no clearings in the vicinity. You want some help, or should we just wait for you to finish?”
“You know you can't take me anywhere with the tracker in my back.” He said.
“Brought a doctor to take it out.” She responded off-handedly. “Can you circle around and head back towards the gate? You know they're boxing you in.”
“I can’t. I’ve been trying for the last two days, but they keep cutting me off.”
Buffy thought quickly. “All right, I'm coming down. I'm dropping into the trees above you.”
“Buffy, what are you about to do?” Willow asked warily.
Buffy had a wild, reckless look in her eyes when she grinned at her friend. “I'm going to brush off those old gymnastic skills.” She set the ship on a course to intercept with the Runner. She flew low enough to brush the treetops with the underbelly of the Machine,
then ran over to where the door was opening. “The ship is going to go back to the gate. You can get off there and head for us, or you can wait for us. We'll be there in a couple of hours.”
“Wait a minute, Buffy.” Xander began, but she had already jumped out.