AN: It’s that time of year again. Updates will continue to come, no worries, but not as quickly.
Disclaimer: Neither Stargates nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to me. I claim no ownership of them and recognize that they belong to the various people and companies who own them. I do this solely for my own enjoyment and, should our interests mesh, the enjoyment of others. I have made no money off of this and do not ever plan to. Anything that even looks vaguely familiar (such as brand names, culture references, etc) also does not belong to me.
Series: Return to the Blood Lands
Story: Welcome to the Keep
Over the next three days, Xander weaved in and out of consciousness. Whatever was in that tea really packed a wallop, but he never turned it down when she offered it in his few moments of lucidity. The pain was always a constant, but every time he woke up, he became aware of other, different things.
Stitches, hard things, herbs, smelly things. Gauze, bandages, a weird wreath of leaves that made him feel light headed. Creams too, especially the creams. Xander hadn’t seen so many herbs in one setting since… well, since he was home. He doubted half the crap she put on his wounds even worked but there was one cream that Xander coveted.
It smelt like a minty cinnamon coffee. If Sora hadn’t pointed out that it was poisonous if ingested, he would have ate it ALL, it smelt so good. The only purpose of the cream that he could guess at was to make him hungry. It seemed like a torture. All Sora would give him was broth and tea. She was mean sometimes.
Like just the other day. She did something horrible to his knee that made him scream and pass out from the pain. Whatever it was though, it made his knee feel a lot better in the long run, if not a little achy. He tested it by walking a bit, glad to know he wouldn’t limp quite as badly as before. If, you know, he decided he needed to ‘disappear’ from Sora’s clutches. He couldn’t run yet, but he could manage a brisk walk. With help. His leg was too damn shaky to hold up under his weight for long. But he was getting there.
Sora patched him up, replacing bandages and her funky herb stuff. Maybe it did work, just a little, because even though it had been only a week since he had fallen from the Keep, he was feeling pretty good, certainly a far cry from the half-delirious and horrendously in pain man he had been when he stumbled through the gate. He was starting to wonder if those energy creatures were real or a delusion. When Xander was younger, he had had nightmares of the hyena where she looked somewhat like them. Just bigger and meaner.
“I’m not injured there.” Sora looked up, as if she was surprised by his observation. He wiggled his arm under her grip, proving that his arm was fully functional. The same could not be said about his other one. “Why do you wrap gauze around it?”
“I thought… it is a disgusting thing to look at.” That was the first time he heard it called so. She was of course referring to the mark of the queen and his subsequent marks of victory that looped all the way down to and around his wrist. He couldn’t decide if he agreed wholeheartedly or disagreed because, hello, it WAS his arm they were talking about. “A symbol of the Wraith. I thought it better, for both you and the people here, if you were to hide it.” She frowned, as if something just occurred to her and she didn’t like it. “Unless it is a symbol of pride…?”
“No, not at all.” Xander said hastily. Just the opposite, in fact. Xander had never been more ashamed of anything else in his entire life. “Wrap it, paint over it, cut it off if you want. It’s not something I’m proud of.” All the marks meant to him was death. No, it DEFINITELY wasn’t something he was proud of.
“You speak strangely.” She said, backing away. She picked up a square device, shaking it a few times before sighing heavily. It looked like it was made out of some heavy plastic and it had some sort of graphics display. It reminded Xander of the older style Game Boys. She had been tinkering with it for a while, on and off, for the last few days. This was the first time Xander had gotten a good look at it.
“Well, to me, you’re the one who speaks weird.” Xander said honestly. He braced his weight against the table and made an ambitious hop forward, grinning ridiculously when he didn’t land gracelessly on the floor. “What are you looking at?” She tossed it towards him in irritation- at the device, not at Xander. It slid towards him across the table, just within the reach of his fingertips.
She was shaking her head. “It’s nothing, there’s no-” He picked it up and it glowed. “Power.”
“Cool.” He understated. There was a tingle of warmth that went down his arm. He couldn’t help but smile looking at it. It was heavier than he expected, but, disappointingly enough, it wasn’t a Game Boy. Unless ‘Count The Dots’ was all the rage nowadays. He handed it back to her.
“It is technology of the Ancestors.” Sora said quietly, finding the dots more interesting than he did. He sat down heavily on one of the wooden chairs scattered around the table and made with the listening face. He couldn’t promise comprehension. She looked up at him, something wary and cautious in her face. “Are you perhaps descended from them?”
“I don’t know.” Xander kind of thought just the word ‘ancestors’ would imply that, but there was a certain emphasis she put on it that made him uncertain. He gestured to the device. “Why would it affect that?”
“There is this thing, this particle, I guess, in the blood that allows the Ancestors and their descendants to handle this technology.” She stared down at the prehistoric Game Boy before looking back up at him, waving the device as emphasis. “But the bloodline for that ability in this galaxy is weak. They need much focus, concentration, and training to use it. You just TOUCHED it and it turned on.” Sora stared at him for a moment, making him squirm, before she seemed to come to a decision. She stood up suddenly. “Come with me.”
“What?” Xander was shocked. He just sat down too! “Now?” On his injuries? Was she insane?
“Yes, now.” Sora said sharply. Apparently she was. “I will get you something to brace yourself on.” And then she was gone, ducking out the room quickly. The click of the door shutting behind her echoed in the room.
“Thank you kindly.” Xander said sarcastically to the empty room. He shuffled slowly to his feet, aching everywhere. He looked longingly at his bed, tucked away in the corner. “Ooh… This is not going to be fun.”
She came back in with a stick only slightly smoother than it would have been when some deserving young chap had knocked it off of a tree. He felt like knocking it upside said chap’s head. Hello? Didn’t anyone know about splinters? Easy to go in, hell to get out.
“Here you go.”
“Clothes would be nice too.” Xander snarked, then turned red when Sora gave him an absent once-over. He wasn’t naked any more, but an oversized shirt that barely touched his knees (NOT a dress, dammit!) wasn’t going to protect anyone’s dignity, let alone his. He had STANDARDS.
Ten minutes outside of the village, she said. More like thirty for a man who has to hobble. She seemed nervous, impatient, and even a little excited. Xander was just achy and pissed. What was so wrong with spending the day in bed? He liked beds. He liked sleeping. He liked not being in pain. He liked not having to walk around like he was an old man while thirty other people pointed and watched.
Sora wasn’t impressed by his whining.
Finally, they made it. Apparently. Allegedly. He pivoted as well as he could, seeing nothing but trees, trees, and, oh what do you know, more trees! And just to spice it up a bit, bushes and shrubs and knee high grass. Xander didn’t like wading through that stuff. Creatures lived in there, creatures that bit and ripped and scratched. Fortunately, Sora had taken the path, so she was awarded one point.
He awarded it grudgingly, at least comforted by the thought that she needed to do a hell of a lot more ass kissing to make up for that knee thing before she could crawl out of the negatives.
Sora stopped wandering around aimlessly (or so he thought), braced her foot on something in the ground, leaned over, and YANKED. Grudgingly, whatever it was (kind of looked like a door) opened. She manhandled and forced it open wide enough so they could go through, then looked at him expectantly.
“Yes?” Xander said politely, hoping she wasn’t suggesting what he thought she was suggesting.
“Go in.” Sora said, impatiently gesturing.
“Don’t we need a…” He was about to say flashlight but he had gotten a good look at the village they were in during his humiliating hobble. They had what he judged to be eighties technology. Sixteen-eighties, to be exact. “…torch?” Maybe torch was giving them a little too much credit.
“Not if my theory is right.” Again, she gestured that he go in. With a grumble, he stepped in and down carefully, very aware of how vulnerable he was in the pitch dark of the bunker she was forcing him in.
“I can’t see a damn-” Lights suddenly started to flicker on in a domino-like fashion. Light came from strips on the ground and on the walls. “Motion detectors?” Not a rare thing, nowadays. Probably an apocalyptic event on Aromos, though. He turned around, but instead of seeing Sora freak out like any technologically starved peasant damn well should, he watched her almost bounce through the doorway with an awed look. Xander snorted. Amateur. These were just lights.
Wait until she saw the wonder that is refrigeration!
“I have been in here many times.” She revealed, touching the sources of light softly with the barest pressure of her fingertips. Xander had an unsettling feeling of nostalgia all of the sudden. The lighting in this place looked like the lighting in the Keep. His mood, not decent to start with, plummeted like a lead balloon. “The lights have never once turned on for me.”
“Maybe you just need to say please.” Xander said quietly. Besides the lighting, this place looked nothing like the Keep. Though empty, it was cheerier, bright, bloodless- he needed to focus on something else. “This theory? What is it?”
“You are a descendant of the Ancestors.” Sora said triumphantly, like it was obvious.
“Can you vague that up for the rest of the class?” He leaned heavily on his stick, peering down the hallway on one side. It ended abruptly. “I’m sure there are a few people in the back who are at least PRETENDING to know what you’re talking about.”
“It means you have access to technology that we need to fight the Wraith.” Sora waved her hand to encompass the entire bunker- the one open room they were in and the Hallway That Went Nowhere. Other than the lighting, Xander wasn’t seeing much technology. And if the lighting couldn’t become… well… lightening, Xander was pretty confident on his assessment that they were all screwed.
“That sounds good.” He said flatly. “I’m all for sticking it to the Wraith.” Surrender, fiend! Or you shall face the wrath of my light! Yeah, that would work real well. Like gasoline on a fire. It was a liquid, sure, but it was the WRONG liquid to use on a fire. “Where are we?”
“This world must have once been inhabited by the Ancestors.” Sora said, thinking out loud. She didn’t exactly answer his question. “This… all of it… it’s their technology.” She rushed up to him suddenly, all excitement and enthusiasm, and made him reflexively take a step back. “I need you to tell me what kinds of technology exist in this…”
“Bunker? Secret lair?” Xander shook his head and then pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and pointer finger. “Hm… I am seeing… I am seeing… absolutely nothing.” Sora apparently caught the sarcasm this time because she was glowering at him prettily. Pretty, yes, but SCARY. “What? I’m new to this crap!”
“I have heard stories where some descendents can intuitively figure out the technology of the Ancestors despite only being exposed to it once.” She looked up at him, all big eyes and faith. Xander squirmed. “I believe you can do it.”
“That sounds a little too much like magic to me and let me tell you, that mumbo jumbo never works around me.”
“Try.” She turned away from him, walking to a wall and running her hand across it. “I’ve been attempting to access the technology for weeks now.” He could tell. There were several piles of used wax in one of each of the corners of the little room. There was a thick layer of dirt over the shiny floor and it had clearly been disturbed many times, but the footprint of the disturber (the few times it could be made out) was small. Feminine. Sora.
Xander started to feel bad about deriding Sora’s progress, or lack thereof. It was apparent, not only in her words but also physically in the room, that she had put in a lot of effort and time into deciphering the secrets of whatever technology she was trying to find, for whatever reason why she was trying to find it.
Sora talked about the room like it WAS technology, but Xander only saw the room. A very geometrical, plain, and empty room. He thought it was sad that she would rest so much hope in something he knew, in his bones, was nothing at all. Not anything USEFUL, anyway. He sighed and looked at Sora, who, back turned to him, was investigating something on the wall.
He took a few steps forward and leaned over her shoulder, trying to show interest in this obsession that Sora was so obviously enamored with. Xander had dismissed it as wall art at first glance but Sora seemed to think it was important. It just looked like a bunch of boxes and lines to him.
“Can you read this?” she asked hopefully, noticing him. So not wall art. A language? It wasn’t any he recognized. He wasn’t a Giles but he had passed his English and French classes with fairly high (at least, for him) grades. He studied some mythology and history when he was younger, so he knew what Greek and hieroglyphics looked like. Several of his non-Scooby buddies at school were all into the Asian dramas, the mangas, and the what-have-yous, so he knew a bit about Asian languages too. He was of the impression that most languages, although having some major visual differences, at least LOOKED like languages. Like they MEANT something, if only you could translate the scribbles in front of you.
The strange groupings of symbols were completely unfamiliar to him. To him, it looked more like math than it looked like a language. And math, to him, was practically gibberish. Nonsense. Does not compute.
“I should be asking you that question.” When she kept on looking at him, Xander elaborated. “The answer was no.” He leaned heavily on his stick, bending his neck a little to look at her more at her level. “Sora, I don’t see ANYTHING here.” He gestured awkwardly with his injured arm, the trapped limb barely moving in the sling. “There’s nothing here.”
“We have to keep on looking.” She countered with soft dignity. Sora seemed so strong sometimes but now she looked desperate and lost. “We HAVE to.” Whatever Xander had wanted to say vanished when he got a good look at her face. His open mouth closed shut with a click. He straightened, putting more of his weight on his legs than on the stick.
“Okay.” He said, turning around to examine the other wall. He missed Sora’s grateful look. “We’ll keep looking."