Chapter Thirty-Two: Conversations
Author's Note: *creeps out of hiding* Uh...hi! I apologize for the delay in getting this updated. Just like on "Lost and Found" my muse abandoned me and I had to track it down and corral it. I hope I didn't lose anyone during the unanticipated hiatus, and for once I'm pleased with this chapter. This chapter partially answers the last poll, which is now officially closed. So...read and don't forget to review!
Chapter Thirty-two: Conversations
“Willow?” Buffy spoke into the handset.“Buffy?! Oh how are you? How’s New York? Is Scott’s house really nice? I wish I could be there with you!”
her best friend babbled.
“Woah, Willow! Down girl!” Buffy laughed, reining her best friend’s babble down. “I’m fine, New York is amazing, and yes, the Professor’s mansion is amazing. I wish you were here too. It’s so nice to be away from the Hellmouth and to have a real vacation. Scott has been fantastic, and Jean and Ororo took me into Salem Center to go shopping one day.”
Willow’s laughter floated over the telephone line. “Just into Salem Center? You haven’t gone into the city yet?”
Buffy frowned, remembering how the previous evening had ended. “We were going to see a show on Broadway last night, but it didn’t work out.” Before her friend could ask why, she elaborated. “Vamps.”“Oh, Buffy…I’m sorry. What happened?”
“I had to kick their undead asses, but I wrecked my dress doing so. Scott is trying to get the theater company to let us change the tickets to another night later this week.”“Well, I hope you get to go. We all miss you out here, and we’re doing our best to keep the vamp population down,”
“You’re not taking any chances, are you?” Buffy responded, her tone taking on a sharp edge.“No, no. Xander and I are going on patrol with Angel every other night or so, and he’s going out every evening. But the population’s been low ever since the night of the dance. Angel says he’s never heard of anything like it. He thinks that the Master’s followers must have scattered, although he suspects they’ll be back to their old tricks as soon as one of them steps forward to unite the rest of them.”
“Wonderful,” Buffy groaned. “I’m sure that’ll be a nice welcome home present for me.”“Well, at least whichever vamp it is couldn’t possibly be as bad as the Master, right?”
Buffy frowned and thought about it. “I don’t think so…unless it’s the Anointed One who manages to unite them. We really don’t know anything about him.”“I think Giles is trying to research that for you. He mentioned something about it a few days ago.”
“Is Xander there, Wills?” Buffy asked, changing the subject.“No. We’re meeting at the library later tonight to patrol with Angel though. Do you want me to tell them you called?”
Buffy chewed her lip. She wanted to talk to her Watcher and Angel about what had been happening out here. “What time are you meeting? I’ll check with the Professor and see if he’ll care if I call again tonight when you’ll all be there.”“I think Angel said he wanted to meet at eleven, but won’t that be really late for you, Buffy? I mean, it’ll be something like two a.m. won’t it?”
Buffy sighed. “Yeah. I’ll probably still be awake, but that’s not a good hour to make a cross-country phone call.”“I could call everyone and ask them to meet just after sunset. That would be a better time. It would only be nine or so out there.”
“Would you, Wills?” Buffy asked, gratefully. She really needed to talk to Giles after the news that she’d received that morning after her sparring session with Scott. It wasn’t exactly disturbing, but it would change the way that she approached her Slaying, and she felt that Giles deserved to be the first one that she told.“Sure, Buffy. I’ll make sure that they’re all here so you can talk to everyone. Well, except for Cordelia that is, since she’s already left for Mexico or wherever her parents decided to go this year…”
“Willow, slow down!” Buffy laughed. “I don’t care to talk to Cordelia, so that’s fine. Just as long as I can talk to Xander, Giles, Angel, and you, I’ll be happy.”“Sorry,”
Willow apologized. “I’ll let you go then so I can start tracking everyone down. We’ll be in the library tonight, and I’m sure that Angel and Giles will be thrilled to hear from you.”
“Okay. ‘Bye, Willow. I’ll talk to you tonight,” Buffy promised.“ ‘Bye, Buffy,”
Willow replied, before hanging up the phone. Buffy hung the phone up on her end, before replacing the handset into the base and then wandering towards the library. She curled up on one of the over-stuffed sofas that were strategically positioned in the large room and hugged a pillow to her chest, thinking about how everything was going to be changing soon, even if she didn’t know all the details yet.“What did you find out, Professor?” Scott asked as he and Buffy answered the Professor’s summons to his lab in the sub-basement.
Xavier turned away from his computer and gestured for them to take a seat at the stools that were scattered around the room for anyone assisting him with his work. As they did so he typed several more things into the computer and then printed whatever he was working on.
“Well, as it turns out, I found several interesting things about your DNA, Buffy,” he replied to Scott’s question. “Most importantly, to you at any rate, is that you do have the mutant X gene.”
Buffy let out a breath that she hadn’t been aware that she was holding. “So I am a mutant?”
Xavier nodded. “Yes, you are.”
“If that’s the case, Professor, why hasn’t her power manifested itself yet?” Scott asked the question that Buffy was hesitant to.
“Buffy’s only sixteen, Scott. It’s not unusual for mutant powers to manifest late, given what we’ve seen thus far,” the Professor pointed out. “Your powers didn’t manifest until you were fifteen. And we know that powers tend to emerge only when the mutant is under a great deal of emotional stress.”
“Then they should have already,” Buffy pointed out. “My conflict with the Master was about as stressed as I’ve ever been.”
“True, but there’s something else to consider, Buffy. You are the Slayer. It is possible that because you are the Slayer, your Slayer abilities are suppressing your mutant powers in some fashion. I’m afraid that I don’t know enough about the Slayer legacy that Mr. Giles described to me to know how that would affect you.”
He picked up the papers from the printer and flipped through them until he found what he was looking for. Laying the papers out in front of the cousins, he pointed at something. “This is a comparison between you and Scott, Buffy. On the right here are the results of the last test I ran on Scott, and on the left are you results. Here is the mutant X gene, which as you can see, you both carry.” When they nodded, he continued. “Here, however,” he pointed to something on Buffy’s test results, “is another anomaly that I’ve never seen before. It’s quite possible that what ever this anomaly is, it is the factor in your genes that enabled you to be called as a Slayer.”
“But you’re not sure, sir?” Scott quickly deduced.
Xavier shook his head. “No, I’m not. It could be something that is simply unique to Buffy as well. Buffy is the first Slayer I’ve ever run these types of tests on, and without having another Slayer’s blood to compare her results to, I can only theorize based on what evidence I do have.”
Buffy sighed. “So, what do we do now?”
Xavier looked at Scott. “Well, as I see it, we have two options. The first would be that we can simply wait and see if your power manifests on its own. If being the Slayer is suppressing your mutation in some way, your mutation will likely never emerge, or it would take an extreme set of circumstances to force it past whatever is suppressing it.”
“And the second option?” Buffy asked.
“We can work with you in the Danger Room and try to discover what your power is and help you learn to control it. If it is just late in awakening, it could explode into full force with no warning, and that could be dangerous to you and to the people around you.”
Buffy hugged the pillow more tightly to her chest. She hadn’t given the Professor and Scott an answer about what she wanted to do yet. She had asked for time to think about it, and she desperately wanted to talk to Giles, to find out if he had any advice for her.
At the moment, she was leaning towards working to discover what her mutation was. She knew that the Professor had a point. If her mutation was something potentially dangerous and it suddenly emerged with no warning, she could easily hurt someone without intending to. It was also possible that whatever her power was, it was something that she could use to help her in her Slaying.Why did I agree to be tested? I know that I needed to know. I needed to be prepared for the possibility, given that Scott is a mutant, but I was happy not knowing. Now I have no idea when or if my new “gift” will manifest, and it could put Willow, Xander, or Giles in danger.
She looked up and saw Ororo standing in the entrance to the library, a soft smile of sympathy on her face. The weather witch moved into the room and sat down beside her on the couch. “Do you want to talk?” At Buffy’s raised eyebrow, Ororo’s smile brightened a little. “I talked to Scott.”
Buffy sighed. “I thought I had a grip on things. I was coming to accept, if not particularly enjoy my Slayer powers. Yeah, being the Chosen One sucks beyond words at times, but it was my life and I thought I had accepted it. Now I find out that I have yet another “gift” bestowed on me without my consent, and I have no idea what to expect from it, and no way of knowing if it will be a good thing or a bad thing.”
“You’re not alone, Buffy,” Ororo confided. Buffy looked curious and the weather witch continued. “I think every student who comes into this school feels the same way. I know I did. Has Scott told you my story?” When Buffy shook her head, Ororo leaned back into the couch and turned slightly to face Buffy.
“I was born in New York City, but I don’t remember much about that time. My father was a journalist for a major city newspaper, and he met and married my mother when he was on assignment in Egypt. She immigrated here and three years after I was born, they moved back to Egypt. It wasn’t my mother’s native home of Kenya, but it was Africa, and my mother was thrilled.” Ororo paused. “My mother was a princess in Kenya, but she didn’t care about her status, because she loved my father.”
“So that makes you a princess too?” Buffy asked.
Ororo paused. “I suppose so, yes, although I’ve never claimed the rights that my heritage granted me. My mother never treated it like it was a big deal, so I never thought twice about it. A few years later, there was a terrorist attack in Cairo, where we were living. An airplane was shot down and it crashed into the apartment building where we were living. The building collapsed and I was buried in the rubble. When I was finally dug out, I ran away. My parents had both died in the collapse, and there was no other family. I lived on the streets until I was thirteen, picking pockets and learning the ways of the street thief to survive. When I was thirteen, something was calling me back to Kenya, so I gathered my few possessions and made my way back to the plains of Kenya.”
Buffy was still listening, not sure where this story was going, although she did feel sorry for the elegant, exotic woman sitting next to her. She’d had a much harder life than Buffy had to this point.
“It wasn’t long after I returned to Kenya that my mutant powers emerged. I was confused at first, but I accepted it, because along with being a princess, my mother’s family had powerful priestesses in the bloodline, and I simply accepted that my newfound control of the weather was due to that legacy. A local tribe saw me working the weather and took me in, believing me to be a goddess, and they worshipped me as such for ten years. Then I met Charles and he revealed the truth to me, that I was a mutant and that my powers could benefit all of humanity. He convinced me to leave Kenya and come here, both for more training and to teach others the control that I had learned on my own, and to help further the cause of mutant rights.”
Buffy was silent as she digested the story that Ororo had told her. She could see some similarities between the two of them. Ororo had had a rough childhood, but her life had gotten a little easier as she grew older. Buffy had had a good childhood, and her life had gotten worse as she got older. Ororo had had to deal with loss and several important changes in her life already, and she wasn’t that much older than Buffy.
Finally she asked the question that she’d been chewing over since she’d heard the news that she was a mutant. “Ororo, what do you think I should do? Should I actively try to find out what my gift is, or should I just leave it alone and wait for it to manifest on its own?”
“I’m a little biased, unfortunately,” Ororo admitted, “but I think you should try to discover what it is. The more you know and the sooner you find out, the sooner you can start working to learn to control it.”
Buffy sighed. “That’s sort of what I was thinking too, but there’s also the factor of my Slayer powers. We don’t know if they’ll continue to suppress my mutation, or if I can force my new gift through my powers. My gift might even affect my Slaying in some way, and we don’t know how. I’m the Slayer, but I don’t know that much about the origin of my powers. My first Watcher never told me anything about it, and if Giles knows anything he’s keeping it to himself.”
“First Watcher?” Scott asked, entering the room in time to hear his cousin’s comment.
“Giles is my second Watcher,” Buffy answered him. “My first Watcher was a man named Merrick. He was the one who was sent to me when I was first Called. He died a few months later when Lothos took him out right in front of me. After that I sort of operated on my own until I moved to Sunnydale and met Giles.” She frowned. “Didn’t Giles tell you this?”
“I think he mentioned it when he first told me you were the Slayer, but since we were dealing with your coma at the time, it slipped my mind,” Scott admitted. “I wasn’t processing very much when we had that initial discussion.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ve given it some thought, Scott, and I think I’d like to go ahead and try to find out what my mutant power is, but I want to consult Giles before I make a final decision. He deserves to know since it could affect my Slaying in some way.”
“You also want to be careful about forcing your power into the open,” Ororo cautioned them. “Some mutations have side affects, like Toad, Mystique, and Sabretooth. Their mutations had physical effects as well as their own special abilities.”
Buffy looked horrified. “You mean I could end up looking like that Mystique person?”
Scott looked resigned. “It’s possible, Squirt, although it doesn’t seem to happen very often, at least not with the mutants we’ve seen. At this school, there’s only two or three students that had some type of physical change, and a lot of those were minor and not noticeable unless you know what you’re looking for. Mystique and the rest of the Brotherhood are on the extreme end of the spectrum.”
Buffy looked a little more relieved at that. While having a mutant gift could be useful to her Slaying, she also didn’t want to wake up with blue, scaly skin that would prevent her from being able to walk in public ever again. “That’s a relief. I think.”
Scott shrugged. “Even I had some physical change, although not as extreme. I'm forced to wear these glasses now, and I'm effectively color-blind. The Professor thinks that it’s entirely possible that if I hadn’t been in the plane accident when I was a child, I might be able to control my powers at will without the need for these glasses. But since I was in a coma after the accident, he thinks I must have sustained some minor brain damage that damaged my ability to control my powers.”
Buffy sighed. “Let me talk to Giles about it and then I’ll give you my decision.”
Scott nodded and changed the subject. “Interested in going outside and playing some tennis with me, Squirt? I haven’t had a good opponent in a while, and you used to like to play with me when I lived with you in L.A.”
Buffy smiled, appreciating his attempt to distract her from the news. “Sure, I’d love to Scott. I’ll go easy on you.”
Scott gave her a mock-offended look. “Go easy? If I recall, I used to beat you all the time.”
Buffy grinned at him as she rose to her feet. “Slayer strength, remember?”
Ororo smiled softly to herself as she watched the two cousins bicker as they left the room together, heading for the back lawn and the tennis court. Buffy was still adjusting to the news, but Scott had been there and gone through the same thing. He’d help Buffy get through whatever would happen next.
Several hours later…
“Buffy, is that you?”
a cultured British voice asked.
“Yeah, it’s me, Giles,” Buffy replied. “Are the others there yet?”“Not at the moment, but I expect them to arrive any minute. Did you want to talk to them?”
“When they get there, yes. Right now though, I want to talk to you. It’s important, and I need your advice about a decision. Well, a couple of decisions, actually.”“I’m listening, Buffy. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, really. It’s just that there might be some changes coming that would affect my Slaying and I need to know what you think,” Buffy hedged.“Buffy, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, I won’t be able to give you any advice,”
Giles told her gently.
“Okay.” Buffy took a deep breath. “You know that Scott and Professor Xavier and the others are mutants, right?”“Yes.”
“Well, last night when Scott and I were in the city, we were attacked by another group of mutants. Scott says they’re mutant terrorists, they call themselves the Brotherhood of Mutants. Apparently he’s had run-ins with them before. I sort of let slip to the leader that Scott and I were cousins and she assumed that I was a mutant too. She tried to recruit me to her cause.”
Giles sniffed in a way that told Buff that he was questioning Mystique’s sanity. “I take it that you told them no?”
“Of course. I kicked their asses pretty thoroughly too, and that might have fueled her impression that I was a mutant too. Anyway, when we got back to the Professor’s, I decided to find out if there was any merit to her idea that I was a mutant. Professor Xavier ran some tests on a sample of my blood, and it turns out…” Buffy trailed off.“Buffy? What did the tests show?”
Giles asked after several moments of silence.
Buffy sighed. “It turns out that I am a mutant, Giles. We’re not sure if it’s because Scott is a mutant and we're related, or if it’s just a coincidence. Professor Xavier says it’s not unusual that my mutation hasn’t emerged yet, and he thinks that it’s possible that my Slayer powers are masking or suppressing my mutant gift. Neither of us knows enough about the Slayer legacy to know if we’re right in thinking that.”
Giles was quiet for several long moments, and Buffy could imagine him polishing his glasses as he thought. When he didn’t say anything, she spoke again. “Giles? Stop polishing your glasses and talk to me. Your silence is bothering me.”“Oh, erm…yes.”
There was a sound of something rustling and then Giles cleared his throat. “I apologize, Buffy. You just caught me by surprise. But I don’t exactly understand what you need my advice about.”
“Professor Xavier and the others all think that I need to work with them and try to actively trigger my mutation,” Buffy said. “I can sort of see both sides of the issue though, and I’m not sure what the best choice would be. If I leave my mutation alone and trust that being the Slayer will continue to suppress it, I have nothing to worry about. But if it’s not being masked, it could emerge at full power at any time and if it happens around innocent people, someone could get hurt, and I’d be revealed as a mutant. Scott’s told me some stories about the persecution that mutants have gone through and I don’t want to go through that.”“That sounds logical. You don’t want to take a chance on hurting someone.”
“Yeah, but at the same time, if I actively try to force it awake, we have no idea how it might emerge or how powerful, or if it’s something that will even benefit me. It could be a gift I can use in my Slaying, but there’s also a chance that I might have some type of physical mutation that will make me readily identifiable as a mutant, and I don’t know how Mom and the others would take it if I come home…different.”
Giles sighed. “Buffy, I really don’t know how to advise you. I know almost nothing about mutants except for what little I learned from your cousin and Professor Xavier. I agree that there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, but I think you need to trust them. They’re the experts in this case. I’ll certainly support you and continue to be your Watcher, no matter what happens, because you’re still the Slayer. That won’t change.”
Buffy let out a slow breath as Giles relieved one of her fears. If she did change in some way, she really didn’t want to be cut-off from her friends and her Watcher. “Okay. I’ll tell the Professor and Scott that I want to try and find out what my power is, rather than waiting until it manifests on its own.”“I think that’s a wise decision, Buffy, and a very mature one,”
Giles replied before the background noise increased. A moment later Buffy heard his voice, muffled, as if he had out his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone to talk to someone. There was a brief conversation, and then Giles returned. “Buffy, Willow and Xander just arrived. Do you want to talk to them, or do you have anything else we need to talk about?”
“I think that’s all that I needed, Giles,” Buffy replied. “Let me talk to Xander, please? I talked to Willow earlier.”“Just a moment, Buffy,”
Giles replied before there was more noise in the background. A moment later, Buffy heard the phone being passed off to someone and then Xander’s voice filled her ear. “Hey, Buff. Having fun in New York?”
Buffy smiled. “Yeah, I am Xander. It’s been great getting to spend a lot of time with Scott and to get caught up on each others’ lives, but I wish you and Willow were here. You’d freak out at the size of Professor Xavier’s mansion.”“Well, we miss you out here. Hasn’t been much activity on the vamp side, so Will and I have been spending a lot of time at the Bronze. They’ve had some really good bands in the last couple of weeks.”
“Well, I should be back in a couple of weeks. I want to be back before school starts, just to make sure that everything’s still good on the supernatural side of things. I want to try to stay ahead of things rather than letting them build up like they did this year.”“Angel, Willow, and I are going out pretty regularly. We’ll let you know if anything that we can’t handle shows up, or if it seems like things are picking up again.”
Buffy wondered if she should tell her friends about her newfound mutation. Even though she didn’t know what her gift was yet, they deserved to know. She hesitated, trying to decide.“Buff?”
“Oh, sorry, Xand. I was just thinking about something. Listen, can I talk to Giles again for a second? I thought of something else I needed to tell him.”“Sure, Buffy. Hang on, let me flag him down.”
“Thanks, Xander. I’ll make sure I bring you home a souvenir from the City.”“Sounds good, Buffy. Here’s G-man.”
There was the sound of the phone being passed off again, and then Giles came back on the line. “Buffy? Is something wrong?”
“No, Giles. I just wanted to ask you not to mention anything about my new…gift to the others. Not right now anyway. I want to tell them myself, in person. Hopefully by the time I get home, I’ll have some idea what my gift is.”“If that’s what you want, Buffy.”
“It is, Giles. They deserve to hear it in person. The only reason I didn’t wait to tell you was because I needed your advice on how it would affect my Slaying to find out.”“I understand. I won’t say anything.”
There was a pause and Buffy heard another voice. “Angel just got here, Buffy. Would you like to speak to him?”
It was only a couple of seconds before Angel’s rich Irish-American accent was in her ears. “Buffy?”
“Hi, Angel. I’ve missed you.”“I miss you too. Are you having fun?”
“Yeah. There were a few rough patches when I first got here. Nightmares and all that. But it seems to have gotten a little bit better over the last couple of days.” That much at least was true. Whatever the downsides, it did seem like the Professor’s Danger Room had done something, although given what had happened, Buffy couldn’t quite figure out how. But at least she wasn’t dying ten times a night in her dreams anymore. It was just down to two or three, and that wasn’t much different than a regular night in Sunnyhell.“How much longer are you planning to stay out there?”
“School starts in a month and a half, so I was thinking another three weeks to a month, unless Scott and the Professor get tired of having me here or they need me to leave early. I think the Professor’s students come back in another two weeks or so. They don’t have as long a summer break because they go year-round. So if I’m in the way, I’ll probably come back early. Scott and I know each others’ secrets now, so there’s nothing to stop him from visiting me, or vice versa.”“I’ll be glad to have you back in Sunnydale.”
“I don’t know if it’ll be nice to be back, but it’ll be nice to see you and the rest of the gang,” Buffy replied. “Speaking of which, thank you for taking over the guarding of the Hellmouth. I needed this vacation.”“I’m glad to help.”
He hesitated for a moment. “I probably could have done more in the last year, but I wasn’t sure how much help you wanted me to give you, especially after you found out about me.”
“I’m always glad for more help, as long as you’re careful,” Buffy admitted. She paused for a moment, before saying, reluctantly, “I’d probably better go. I’m tying up the Professor’s phone on a long-distance call. Tell Willow I’ll email her tomorrow with details and pictures, since I already talked to her today.”“I will. Be safe, Buffy, and come home soon.”
“I will. ‘Bye.”“Good-bye,”
Angel replied before the line clicked and a dial tone greeted her. Buffy hung the phone up in the cradle and then rose from the chair she’d been sitting in and went to look for Scott and the Professor. She’d promised to give them a decision about her mutation after she had talked to Giles.
She found them in the Professor’s study, deep in conversation. She didn’t want to interrupt them, but the Professor waved her in without looking up. She edged into the room and waited while her cousin and the Professor finished their conversation. After a moment, Scott turned to her with a smile. “Is everything all right at home?”
“Yeah. They miss me and can’t wait for me to come home, but everything is quiet from what they said. I don’t expect it to last, but at the moment there’s no pressing need for me to go home.” She paused for a moment. “I talked to Giles to get his opinion, but he couldn’t tell me much more about how my mutation would affect my Slaying or vice versa. He said the decision was up to me.”
Scott rose to his feet and came over to her, resting a hand on her shoulder and looking down at her. “Have you decided what you want to do?”
Buffy nodded. “There’s no point in taking a chance on anyone’s safety. If it’s possible, I want to try to see if we can find out what my gift is and learn to control it.”
Scott nodded, his expression filled with sympathy as he squeezed her shoulder gently.
The Professor steepled his fingers and rested them against his chin as he studied her. “Then we’ll start in the morning, if that’s agreeable to you, and if you don’t mind working in the Danger Room.”
Buffy hesitated, but Scott saw her expression and quickly moved to reassure her. “No programs this time, Squirt. The only reason we need to use the Danger Room is because it’s out of sight, and without knowing what your powers are, we can’t take the chance that they might be detected by something. We have complete control in the Danger Room, and it can shield the rest of the school from just about anything.”
Buffy hesitated again, but finally nodded. “All right.” Don't forget to read and review!!!