I own nothing!
Buffy’s Point of View
“We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them, in ourselves and in others.”
I knew when Whistler hadn’t been the one to come and get me, he was explaining to the new group of people he had picked out for me to help who I was. He loved doing it that way. Sometimes, he would just have someone else fetch me so I could show up at a dramatic moment, but I had been with him enough times to know exactly what it was he was going to say.
“One hundred years ago, there was a warrior. This warrior fought for the people, for the good of the planet, until an evil arose that could not be defeated. The First Evil had been unleashed on that world. After realizing there was no way to win the battle, the warrior called upon the Powers that Be to make a deal. One hundred years of servitude in exchange for banishing the First. The Powers accepted the deal and the warrior has traveled to different worlds, helping people who need it ever since. You are now those people. So you have to ask yourself…do you need help?”
If they answered in the affirmative, they always did, I would be brought before them. When Whistler tells my story, he’s very careful never to give even a hint to my gender. We both know that when he says ‘the warrior,’ people are expecting a big burly man with an axe or something. That was generally good for a laugh, since I’m 5’3 and it looks like a strong wind could blow me over. One thing’s for sure. They’re never expecting me. But this time…this time everything was different.
I hit the cold metal floor face down. Fighter or not, with both your arms and legs bound, it’s hard to land on your feet and stay there. I rolled onto my back; chewing on my gag more out of irritation than thinking I could bite through it and get it out of my mouth and I was thankful the fall hadn’t broken my nose.
I heard some surprised gasps before my balance demon negotiator’s voice rang out. “Skip, why the hell is the kid tied up?”
“She attacked me!” the demon said in his defense.
Whistler’s face filled my field of vision as he pulled on my shoulders to help me sit up. “Did you attack him?” he asked sternly.
I nodded enthusiastically. Damn right I attacked him! If I’ve learned anything in my ridiculously long life, it’s that the truth is always better. That and over the years and after spending so much time together, I kinda figured Whistler had a soft spot for me…even if it was just a little.
One corner of his mouth twitched up with amusement. “And if I untie you, are you going to do it again?” he asked.
I shrugged one shoulder in an ‘eh’ gesture, but then decided to go with the truth again. I nodded.
This time Whistler broke into a full-fledged grin. He stared into my eyes for a moment and I winked. He choked back a laugh. “Okay, kid. You got a knife on ya?”
I gestured with my head down to my boot. The hilt of a butterfly knife was barely visible under the leather. He fished it out, flipped the blade, and began cutting the thick black cord that bound my ankles. I was in for a long wait. Skip hadn’t been stingy with the bondage. My arms were tied behind me from wrist to elbow; one and then the other like some huge perverse fishtail braid. At least he hadn’t tied me how he had originally wanted. He wanted to tie each wrist to its corresponding ankle. In my current attire, that would have been horribly embarrassing.
I closed my eyes and centered myself. As I felt the cords on my arms break, I launched myself at Skip. I grabbed him by the neck and slammed him into the ground with all my strength. He blinked in surprise, like he really hadn’t thought I’d do anything with Whistler there. Man, was he wrong, or what? I jumped onto his chest, pinning his arms down with my knees and glared down at him in what I hoped was a menacing manner, raising an eyebrow at him as I pressed down harder on his windpipe. With my free hand, I tore the gag from my mouth.
“And what exactly did you think you were doing, Skip?” I asked in a fake saccharine voice.
“Come on, Slayer,” he said nervously, his eyes darting from side to side, seeking out anyone to help him. He found no one. “You like demons, dontcha?”
My jaw dropped. So I should spread my legs for him because he was a demon? Unbelievable! “Okay, so I’ve been friends with four demons over the last hundred and twenty two years and that somehow means I have a yen for them?”
He had the audacity to raise an eyebrow and smirk at me. I blushed. “Ok, so I dated two of them, but that doesn’t mean I’m jonesin’ for a demon fix. And if I were, it wouldn’t be you. Angel and Spike were prettier. And don’t think you’re talking your way out of this, Skippy boy. I’ve killed things for less than what you tried to do to me.”
I could see a group of people out of my peripheral vision gathered to one side of us with Whistler at the forefront. At this point, I wasn’t sure if he was going to make them intervene, or if he was holding them back. One of them stood away from the others. He, I assumed because of the foot size as I wasn’t bothering to look up, stood about two feet beyond Skip’s head. The only reason this even merited noticing was because of the amazing footwear. They were brass plated and pointy.
“Great boots,” I breathed, imagining all the damage I could do in a set like them. Then I realized Skip had been talking the entire time I had been zoned out. “Hey,” I interrupted. “Your mouth is open and sound is coming out. This is never good.” I heard amused snorts and giggles from the faceless peanut gallery as I continued. “But in all fairness, I was distracted by some awesome footwear and wasn’t really listening to you. Care to repeat?”
He glared at me for a moment and then used that pathetic male line featured in countless after school specials. “Look at the way you’re dressed. It’s like you’re asking for it!”
I gaped at him in shock before I looked down at myself. Okay, so I wasn’t exactly dressed modestly in my orange and blue bikini and my short kaki skirt. But damn it, I had a good excuse. “And do you know where I was when you took me?” I asked him derisively.
He looked confused. “On an airship.”
I slapped him hard. “Not an airship. My airship. The Celsius was mine. Now,” I said, shaking him slightly to make sure he was still paying attention. “Where was I going?”
Skip looked at me like I was insane, so I soldiered on, hoping he would get it. “I was headed to Besaid Island. ETA of ten minutes when you took me. I had every intention of spending at least a week on the beach and I hadn’t seen Yuna and Tidus since their wedding six months ago. I earned that vacation.” I started punctuating every word with a punch to the huge black demon’s face. “I…helped…save…Spira…twice…damn…you!” I screamed my frustration. “I only have two days left of this god forsaken debt and you pull me from a dimension I’ve been in for the better part of four years and then, as if I wasn’t distraught enough, you tried to rape me, you demonic pervert!?”
I heard Whistler’s shocked gasp and I grinned what I knew to be a feral and disturbing smile. “But you’ll never grope another woman without her consent, will you?” He shook his head vehemently. “Never put your hands or anything else where it’s not wanted, right?” He kept doing that head-shaking thing. I narrowed my eyes at him. “Well, I can only think of one way to guarantee that.”
The ridiculous demon sunk back down, relief evident in his features until my words sunk in. His eyes flew wide as I grabbed his head in both my hands and twisted hard, reveling in the unmistakable sound, that familiar sickening crunch of a breaking neck.
“Did not know who he was fuckin’ with,” I muttered as I stood, brushing off my hands. The body shimmered and disappeared. Nothing better than self-cleaning demon carcasses.
“Did you really have to kill him, kid?” Whistler asked me, his arms folded across his chest.
“Uh…yeah! Yeah, I did!” I exclaimed. “Think about it. What would have happened if you had sent him to pick up a girl that couldn’t kick his ass even when tied up?”
Whistler stared at me incredulously. “So that’s the only reason you did it then? To save future women?”
“Might be. Or it might have been therapy because I’m slightly peeved about the whole last minute transporting thing and I was looking to put the big hurt on something.” I shrugged. “Take your pick. So, what’s the what here, Whistler? I mean, two days? You bring me here with two days left of my debt and expect me to save the world? I’m good, but I’m not that good,” I said with a wink.
“Cocky, ain’t ya?”
I turned to the helm of the airship. A blond severe looking man with goggles on his head and dog tags. I was going out on a limb and guessing he was the pilot. The captain. “Call it what you want, but you don’t fight for a hundred and eight years if you suck at it. My track record’s pretty damn good at this point.”
I was surprised when he actually looked pleased by my answer. I had kind of expected a derogatory remark.
“So,” I said, turning back to Whistler, “think I can have my trunk? ‘Cause, now that I’m not going to be spending two weeks on the beach, the outfit’s kinda silly.”
“Are you sure?” Whistler asked with a smirk. “You could fight the bad guy like that. It could work.”
“Men,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. He paused a moment more, as if considering whether or not to old my possessions hostage. I raised an eyebrow and he grinned at me. He waved his arm and through the same magic he used to toss me from dimension to dimension, he pulled my trunk through time and space and it appeared at my feet. I laid my hand atop the lid until I heard the click of it unlocking. It was one of my favorite belongings. A young witch I had met almost fifty years ago had charmed it to open just for me, no key required, and magically enhanced it so it held a ridiculous amount of stuff. After a hundred years…well, let’s just say that I had accumulated quite a bit.
My trunk was big, four feet across and three feet deep. There was a tray inside the top that held my clothes. I pulled out my favorite outfit. Knee high leather boots, tight red shirt with a stylized lighting bolt on the front, and a pair of loose fitting black leather pants that had been cut off right below my knees. Maybe a tad more goth than I had been when I had lived in Sunnydale, but a lot of time had passed. I wasn’t even the same girl anymore. I was darker. More jaded somehow.
“So,” I said as I shimmied into my pants, “you gonna tell me what I’m doing here?”
“I thought you might want to know what happened to your friends and family first, since this is the last time I’ll ever talk to you,” Whistler said quietly.
I paused a moment as I undid my skirt, preparing to pull it off over my pants. I had gone so long keeping them how I remembered them in my mind, I wasn’t sure how I could deal with knowing what really happened. But could I have the chance now to know and not take it?
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Giles moved to England with your sister. He became Head of the Watcher’s Council and was for fifteen years until he died of cancer. Your sister took over at that point. She was married at twenty-five to Andrew, had four children, and died an old woman in her bed. Xander and Anya married five years after you left and moved to New York where she became a successful trader and he owned a construction company. They had two children. They named their youngest child, their little girl, after you.”
I turned around to stare at the balance demon as I shrugged into my shirt. I was an aunt! My sister had married Andrew and must have been happy in that marriage to have four children. That was weird, but I could kinda see it. They had been friends when he had been our guestage. I had assumed he was gay, but clearly I had been wrong. And Xander and Anya had married after all. Good for them! I sat to start the long task of lacing up and tying up my boots.
“Faith continued on for a year before she was killed. Amanda was called. She did well. Almost beat your record. Willow and Kennedy dated for another two years before breaking up. Your witchy friend ran into Oz in London and they rekindled their romance. They never married, but they spent the rest of their lives together. Angel spent six years as the CEO of Wolfram and Hart, but he once again lost his soul and his friends were forced to kill him.”
Then he stopped. I looked up at him, waiting for him to go on, but he didn’t. I stood and moved in front of him. “Spike?” I prompted.
He sighed heavily and I knew what was coming. I steeled myself to hear it.
“William the Bloody fought beside everyone called after you. Four years ago, when Dawn’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth, was called, he fiercely protected her, more so than any of his previous charges. Perhaps because her friends and family called her Buffy. But not Spike, of course. For him, there was only one Buffy.”
I could feel myself tearing up and I tried desperately to blink it back.
“One night, a demon got her sword away from her and swung for the decapitation. She couldn’t get out of the way in time, so Spike shoved her to the ground but in the process…”
“He was killed,” I finished numbly.
Whistler nodded slowly, watching my face intently. “He always believed that you would come back. He never loved another woman.” He put his hand on my shoulder in what was probably supposed to be a gesture of comfort, but I felt nothing. “I’m sorry, Slayer. I know what he meant to you.”
“You don’t know anything,” I hissed at him. “He stood by me when everyone else turned their backs on me. And I was horrible to him, but he loved me anyway.” I had always been alright thinking that no matter what happened, he was out there, somewhere, in a different time and place, and it gave me strength. Intellectually, I knew that when the deal was up, almost everyone I had ever known would be dead, but I thought that if anyone had survived, it would be Spike. “He died and I never told him that I loved him. And I have to live with that, but don’t you dare pretend to know anything about what he meant to me.”
I turned and looked out the large floor to ceiling window of the bridge and sighed deeply, running a shaky hand through my hair. The sun was just setting over a cerulean sea and I was reminded of home. The times my parents took me and Dawn to the beaches in L.A. were playing over and over again in my mind and I found myself so homesick. “What exactly happens to me when this is over? I mean, I can’t go home, obviously. I’m guessing I’m not going back to Spira either, right?”
“Good call, kid. Nope, you’re staying here, provided that the world doesn’t end.”
Crap. “Do I get my mortality back?” I asked hopefully. He said nothing and wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Okay then…I get to live forever in a world I know nothing about. And this place isn’t like Arda, is it? There aren’t any immortals here.” It really wasn’t a question.
Whistler looked suitably chagrinned. “Currently? There’s one besides you.”
“Terrific,” I groaned. “And as for the Big Bad…let me guess. Some guy went nuts and now he’s either trying to take over the world or destroy it and this,” I said, gesturing to the assembled group, “is the rag tag bunch of makeshift heroes that are the planet’s only line of defense.”
Whistler chuckled. “What gave it away?”
I shrugged as I slammed my trunk lid. “Same story in every dimension, I swear to god.” I looked around the group that probably thought their story was so unique, so crucial, so important, but really it was a circumstance that I had seen so many times before.
There were nine of them. A blond man stood at the forefront, which lead me to believe he was the leader of the group. He had glowing blue eyes, spiky hair, a black sleeveless jumpsuit, and a sword that was at least four feet tall with a foot wide blade. One serious weapon.
Next to him was a buxom woman with ridiculously long brown hair. She wore a tight white tank top and a mini skirt with suspenders. Kinda trashy. Her wine colored eyes were trained on me and she smiled benignly. The smile of someone hiding a lot of inner pain.
Then there was a red lion type creature with feathers in it’s mane and tattoos on it’s body. It had one eye that shown with wisdom and intelligence while the other was nothing more than a scar. Even in all my travels, it wasn’t often that I came across on animal type thing as an ally.
A girl in tan shorts and a forest green tank top was edging towards my locked trunk. She covertly tried to examine how it was sealed as she ran a hand through her chin length black hair. She attempted to look nonchalant, but it wasn’t working. Pretty damn obvious she was going to try to steal my stuff at some point. She was in for disappointment though. Rikku had tried to get into it for years, and if she hadn’t been successful, this chick never would be.
In the corner was a kind of cat I recognized from a few of the other places I had been. A Cait Sith. And it was sitting atop a giant stuffed Moogle, another creature that had been in Spira. I didn’t quite know what to make of it.
Of course, not everyone was looking at me nicely or neutrally. A large black man with a crew cut was openly glaring at me. His right hand was missing and what appeared to be a large gun had taken its place. I met his glare coolly, thinking that I had so stared down scarier things than him. I did a mental happy dance as he looked away first. Petty? Yeah, probably, but I’d take my entertainment any way I could get at this point.
Then I remembered the dude with the spiffy shoes. He hadn’t moved from what I could tell. He had long black hair and the cowl from his red cape covered the bottom half of his face. The only parts I could see were his glowing crimson eyes and his nose, and even they were obscured by his long bangs and the red bandana around his forehead. He wore leather pants tucked into his brass-plated boots. On his left hand was a brass gauntlet. Each finger was fitted with a slightly curved talon. This man was like destruction personified. Even more so when I noticed the gun strapped to his hip. I looked back at his face and had I not been paying attention, I would have missed it. He quirked an eyebrow at me, completely hidden from the others by the angle of his head and his curtain of sable hair. I smiled at him, my first true smile since I got there.
Other than Whistler and the pilot, there was only one other person left. A strangely glowing woman in a pink dress. I had seen enough in my time to recognize a ghost when I saw one.
“Hi!” she said brightly. More brightly than I would have thought was normal for someone that’s deceased, but what did I know? I’d only been dead three times, but clearly none of them had taken.
“My name’s Aerith Gainsborough, and I’m dead. Tee hee!”
I’m not even kidding. She really laughed like that. And the way she introduced herself? Sounded a bit like a perverse AA meeting, didn’t it? And what was up with her name? It was like she was trying to say Aeris with a lisp.
“It’s really my fault that you’re here,” she was saying. “I died a few months ago and I thought my friends might need some help, so I asked for you.”
I wanted to say she didn’t look like she’d be all that much help to begin with, but I held my tongue. “And what am I fighting exactly? I hate going in blind.”
Aerith approached me and reflexively, I stepped back. She kept that irritating plastic smile in place.
“You’re going to have to trust me,” she said cheerily.
I stared at her for a moment. “Nah,” I replied. “I really don’t. Haven’t exactly lived this long being the trusting sort. To many people have tried to kill me over the years.”
She turned to Whistler with a pleading look on her face. I rolled my eyes at the back of her ribbon-adorned ponytail and turned back to the window. It was almost full dark now and I noticed something in the sky I hadn’t before. A meteor. And not just a ‘Gee, that’s going to leave a crater’ meteor. This was huge. It looked to be the size of Earth’s moon. “Tres Armageddon. How long before it hits?” I asked quietly.
“Hard to say,” the pilot said. “It’s been there a week and I swear the god damned thing ain’t moved.”
“Whistler, I can’t fight acts of nature,” I said, motionless, transfixed by the sight of this planet’s impending doom.
“Not askin’ you to, princess. What you’re here to fight is slightly more man shaped,” he answered and I could hear the smirk in his voice.
“Who?” I asked. The meteor shone a dark but vibrant pink in the last vestiges of light. I was just thinking it was kinda pretty in a cataclysmic sort of way when something ice cold touched both of my temples.