Disclaimer: Sadly, not mine.
Summary: Buffy warns Book of the dangers to come.
Pairing: Buffy/Shepherd – non romantic
A/N: Takes place in the distant future that Buffy has had to make a home of.
I see you emerge from the night. You are exactly the same and yet not. I can see the years not in the alabaster smoothness of you skin but in the light of your eyes. It’s still there this light, but now it appears tempered and reserved. I wish I could put the effervescence back into them. You are too lovely, too lively to be so dimmed. But you are not here to listen to an old man’s fanciful rumble. As usual you show up unannounced and unnoticed, never-mind our defences. You glide into my house like a shadow and the way I know you’re there is because you let me, you lean and the light catches in the gold of your hair which reflects in my tin cup.
And every time you return I am unable to hide the surprise.
“Hello to you too, Shepherd.”
Your voice is wry and quiet. I can tell you bring ill news. Then again, that’s the only kind you usually bring. Seems illogical to be glad to see you then. And yet I know I am glad.
You pace the floor and I get to watch you. Seemingly in one piece. No new visible scars, no limp, not stiffness. I breathe a little easier. You rest in front of the hearth and look into the fire a moment. Stretching your hand you watch flames reflecting on your skin. I wander at the smallness of the hand.
“Still freezing…” You turn towards me clenching a fist and putting on a brilliant smile that I now know is unfelt.
“How’s the flock? Giving you any trouble?”
You’re always dancing away from the centre of the thing. You dance in conversation and in feelings and you dance the dance of death better than anyone I have ever seen. You’re too young for all these dances and yet I know you’re older than you appear.
“We’re fine. Haven has had a good crop year. Enough to feed us through the winter and to trade some for things we don’t have here. And we got some supplies from…a friend.”
You smirk knowingly.
“That Firefly that was here last month?”
I nod, you always know everything that happens on our rock. We never see you, you never come unless it is to bring a warning and yet you know all that happens here. Our little dance is begun, we both know our steps too well.
“What brings you to my humble abode in the middle of the night?”
Your smile slips a little and your eyes are little colder than they were a moment before.
“Your friend and his crew, they bring trouble here. They bring it to your doorstep. Which means they bring it to mine.”
It is your first admission that this rock is your home too. I know that you live somewhere in the caves on this rock and I know that there are others that live there with you. You never bring them up. Ever. I’m missing some turns now. The music’s got away with me.
“He’s trying to protect his own.” I don’t know what to tell you. “Everyman’s got a right to do that.”
You’re watching the fire again. You seem to melt into the shadows. I never can figure out how you can do that. I’ve known military men who would give up their good arm to be able to do that. Your eyes alight on me and I understand the legends they tell of you in this place. You are death, quick as lightning.
“That’s what I’m trying to do too. But if he brings his conflict here, they will kill you most likely. And god forbid they come looking for me.”
You’ve never come with threats before and I admit to being unsettled by the jagged edges of your tone. You lean against a wall and regard me with night filled eyes. I cannot help but look away.
“Have you come to threaten us?”
You are still staring at me. What do you wish to discover?
There’s a gentleness in your voice I do not think I have ever heard.
You sit across me then. You have never sat before. Just slid in with the night, said your peace and melted back into the night. You smile softly and I glimpse a softness in you.
“I’ve come to warn you. Something bad is coming. Not sure what. Not sure when. But it’s coming.”
You say it sounding so matter of fact.
“Are you a reader?”
I’ve always wanted to ask, you have known things before. And you have not been wrong. But you are not the sort of woman to listen long enough to answer. You smile coyly.
“No. But trust me on the imminent badness.”
I don’t have reason not to.
“Can your source get more details on this…whatever it is?”
“No. That’s why I came. If I knew what it was exactly I would have dealt. But…well, my source as you say…is a little vague.”
You mutter something under your breath about stupidity and powers.
“So what are you telling me exactly?”
You scan my face quickly as if not wishing to linger.
“You remind me of someone. He was earnest like you. And kind. And like a father to me. You make me think of him when you get worried and protective. You sound like him a bit then.”
It’s the longest thing I have ever heard you say and I have known you for several decades. It is also the most personal. You must be worried. You seem to be studying my face again and this time I cannot will my eyes away from your half lit face.
“Shepherd. This man that came here last month and his crew… Would you fight this war he’s gotten himself into?”
I won’t lie to you. Even if I wanted to, I do not think I could.
“Are you asking me if I believe in his cause? It’s a bit of a difficult question you see…”
Your hand asks for silence.
“I am asking if you believe in the man Shepherd.”
It takes less than a second for me.
You nod thoughtfully.
“Send someone to the mouth of the first cave on the north side.”
Your face is resigned now and sad.
“And what should they say?”
Your lips slip into a half smile.
“I imagine if they come running we’ll see them long before they get to the mouth of the cave. Also, I find yelling “help” a pretty telling sign.”
There’s something in your voice that make you sound unpleasant.
“You’re being flippant about the possibility of my people dying.”
There’s anger in me for that. Do you value human life at so little a price? All my thoughts are halted when I turn to look at you. You stand by the fire, taught as a bow string, long golden hair glowing amber, eyes the colour of the night. You make me smell death.
“Everybody dies, Shepherd. Some get better deaths than others.”
Chills run down my spine at the deadness of your voice. Should not every human being fear death? Perhaps you do not. You are not exactly like the rest of us…
Your gaze turns defiant.
I watch you pace for a moment. Your eyes are sad and you relax your shoulders a little and I understand that you are trusting me a little here. I want you to know I value that.
“Would you like something to drink? Tea? Water? I’m afraid I don’t have anything stronger.”
You smile sweetly and there’s a glimmer of a young woman you were once, the one you are supposed to be.
“Thank you, but no.” Your hands curl around yourself for comfort. You watch the fire as if trying to discover its secret language.
I am unable to resist.
“What is your name?”
You stiffen and I almost regret the question. But you shrug your shoulders.
“Names seem hardly important now. A name defines the thing, doesn’t it? There is not one word to define me.”
You’re always out of grasp.
“But someone must call you something.”
Emotions skim across the surface of your face, their presence clear, their meaning undecipherable.
“I’ve been called plenty of things…” You seem troubled and unsure. The eyes you rest on me are sad. “Buffy.”
I don’t know what that means and the words comes uncertain from your lips. From the humour in your eyes I see that this is your name.
“I am pleased to meet you Buffy.”
I learn your name more than thirty years after we meet. The knowledge bares the taste of a revelation. Your eyes humour me for a minute.
“Yes.” Your eyes are laughing a little now and you look more alive with the emotion. It’s startling that within a blink you shift back to the cold detachment of your usual comportment. “Try to get the children out of the village first. They tend to scramble faster through the rock. Send them.”
There is the deepest horror in my voice.
“You think they will come to slaughter us all?”
You just look at me patiently.
“I don’t think. I know. I just can’t say when. Come on Shepherd. You know what your friend in the Firefly is doing. You know who the fugitives are.”
I can only look at you with blankness. I don’t know this dance, haven’t a clue as to the tune of the song.
“Shepherd, just because I live here does not mean I do not leave. You know me a long time. I know how to get information. And right now it looks like the Alliance is hunting a crazy child and her devoted rescuer-brother.”
Your tone is flat and emotionless.
“She’s an innocent child.”
Your eyes are so cold, so dark.
“I don’t disagree. History is a long list of dead innocent little girls.” There is a sadness in your voice I have not heard before.
“How many of your people are here, planet side?”
Your eyes are curious on me. I suspect you are laughing at something.
“Are you concerned for me and mine?”
And we’re back to our dance.
“I am always concerned for human life.”
Your eyes seem contrite even if your mouth is hard set.
“Don’t worry, we can take care of ourselves. And them that would come to our home uninvited.”
I have no doubt that you can. I have seen you fight. I know that no man is a match to what you are. And what you are is a complete mystery.
“Thank you for bringing me warning.”
You nod solemnly from the darkness.
“Make sure they listen when you tell them. Run, hide. Call for our help. There’s always the one rule.”
You are already fading into shadows.
“What’s the one rule?”
You’re gone, only the memory of the fire reflected on you remains. Your voice reaches me then.