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
“Whee. I found a door.” Xander tried to sound more enthusiastic about his discovery but after an hour of wandering around and poking the walls with his stick, he was only slightly interested that, when poked, one of the walls politely moved aside for him. For being so technologically advanced, these Ancestors were pretty damn boring. “The Hallway That Went Nowhere apparently goes SOMEWHERE now.”
“A door? Where?” Xander was nearly flattened against the wall as she hurried past. “Come!”
“Yes, dear.” Xander grumbled. The pain in his knee had doubled from a persistent ache to a burning pain. He was quite ready and willing to share his pain with the rest of the world. Didn’t kindergarten teach you that sharing is caring?
The room that was revealed was a bit larger than the original room. Far from empty, this room at least boasted furniture. Or, at least what LOOKED like furniture. There were four table-esque pieces of equipment that Sora was fawning over. The closer he got to them, the less they looked like desks and the more they looked like a command center in a space ship in a scifi movie. Things lit up and made noises. And there were buttons. Lots of buttons.
Sadly, no tempting red ones that said ‘Do Not Push’. Instead they were made out of a clear material and, in shape, they looked more like pedals in a car than a stereotypical button. No less fun to push though. He stayed away from the buttons. With his luck, he would press the ‘Self-Destruct’ button which, as anyone knows, is the first button someone pushes on accident.
“These are…” Sora trailed her fingers across the control panel console… thingy. Xander would have to come up with a name for it sooner or later. “I know these. I have seen them in Atlantis.” She looked up at him with a big beaming grin. “There must be library somewhere in here!” Xander looked around.
“I don’t see any books…”
“Within the technology!” Sora elaborated, pulling him towards the center console so forcefully that he dropped his stick. He didn’t mind. He was pretty sure he broke it already. “Look into it, Xander. Tell me what this bunker, this outpost of the Ancestors can do!”
“Sure, ask the injured guy to walk on water.” Xander hobbled up to it anyway. He was so whipped. He leaned against the console and closed his eyes for a moment before looking up at Sora with a frustrated glare. “I have NO freaking clue what I’m doing here, Sora.” She paced in front of him agitatedly.
“Are there any weapons systems? Shield technologies?” She spat this things out like they had a universal meaning. A meaning in REALITY. Xander wanted to tell her that he didn’t mean to be slow- he just didn’t know what she did. “I must know these things!”
“I don’t even know what I’m looking for!” Xander snapped. Sora deflated a little, looking like a kicked puppy. After radiating righteous indignation for three point five seconds, Xander folded like a cheap chair. “Just… just give me a minute. I have to feel for these things.”
He tapped his fingers against the console, looking desperately at the buttons and the display in front of him, like it was going to tell him what to say. Xander banged his fist against it after a moment, already frustrated. He just couldn’t focus. Maybe that was the problem? He tried to clear his mind, but it was harder than everyone made it out to be. He reached for it (whatever IT was), trying to make himself open to it.
Xander suddenly remembered the reaction he had when he had touched the Game Boy (“Life signs detector.” Sora told him), the sort of shiver of recognition beyond memory or self. The lack of surprise when it turned on… because it was SUPPOSED to turn on, it was supposed to react. And this was the same, right?
“Xander?” Sora asked softly, concerned. He waved a hand irritably, his eyes still shut.
“I can just… ugh, just let me try.” Because, for one second there, he thought he had something. He went back to it with surprising ease, shifting through what seemed like a porous mental barrier… It hurt, BLINDINGLY, for a moment, like forcing a piece of metal out of an old wound that had already healed over.
He opened his eyes, expecting to see what he saw and it was there. Holographic screens were flashing in front of him, each ‘page’ only visible for a second before it got replaced by another. Sora shifted closer to him, staring at the screens. It had the same language on it as the wall.
Xander found himself in the strange position of not knowing what the holographic screens said while knowing exactly what they were talking about. It was kind of like knowing and recognizing an apple without the conscious thought ‘hey, that’s an apple’. It was like he knew all of the details but none of the specifics. It was strange. He found himself trying to explain what he was looking at.
“This is just an outpost, not a base.” Xander told Sora slowly as the screens flashed and changed, revealing more mysterious text and various diagrams and squiggly things. “There’s… communication stuff and limited sensor technology. But no weapons.” He winced, know that weapons were the one thing they needed above all else. “I’m sorry.”
Sora was quiet for a long time. He couldn’t read her expression. No, he lied. He COULD read her expression. She had this closed off look on her face that was even worse than teary puppy eyes because you just knew she was trying to hold back her emotions. The fact that she felt the need to was more distressing than Xander was willing to admit. She looked up finally and gave him a brittle smile.
“I had hoped to find a way to protect these people, as they won’t protect themselves.” She explained softly. Sora waved a hand around the room, gesturing at nothing. “But this find… it was for nothing.” Her tone was bitter but there was a touch of the ‘I should have known’ in it that made Xander sad. He knew a thing or two about having your hopes crushed under the heel of that merciless bitch called Life. He tried to reassure her.
“Not for nothing! I mean… it’s defensible!” And it was. The outpost was mostly underground and the only entrance to it blended in easily with the wildlife. “It’s big enough to stick all of the village people in here! They’d be safe.”
“But they’d never come.” Sora said quietly. She turned away from him abruptly. “Let’s go back.”
Sora took great care in closing the door behind them. The entry of the outpost posed a serious threat to the unwary. There was no way to open the door from the inside once it was closed, save for people like Xander, who could probably tinker around with the controls long enough (apparently, with this kind of technology, intuition went a long way) to make it open on its own but for everyone else? Bad situation to be in.
She rolled a big rock right in front of it, not completely against but close enough so that opening it all the way would be impossible. The rock also hid the door mostly from view so, if you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t know it was there. Sora also set some strategically placed branches and dirt around the area so it looked more natural. She did this while covering up the more obvious tracks that showed that two people went in the direction of the hidden door.
What did Xander do? He hung around in the background, feeling and being useless. He attempted to help once but Sora let out this growly sigh, Xander eeped, and someone retreated. Considering the fact that he was the one hiding behind a tree, he was pretty sure the one who retreated was him.
No, no… LEANING, not hiding. He was, uh, aching. Feeling pain and whatnot. He wasn’t scared of her. Much.
Sora hadn’t spoken for a while, not since she sounded the retreat from the very unhelpful outpost. He decided not to tell her that the purpose of the outpost was to observe some apparently unique plants on the planet’s surface. It was better if she thought the outpost was built there to be some sort of communications relay for her precious Ancestors- you know, something more IMPORTANT. No need to rub salt in an open wound.
“Why do you try so hard to protect these people?” Xander asked finally, breaking the silence. His was a curiosity that could not be ignored. “Because it’s obvious to me that they’re not… YOUR people.” She had too much of a ‘us-and-them’ attitude towards the people of the village. Not exactly a condescending attitude, but it was a dismissive one, in a sense.
“They’re not. They were kind enough to take me in after…” She looked at him for a moment before she shook her head. “I must repay them.”
“After what, Sora?” He pressed gently. Sora seemed hesitant to elaborate but she seemed equally reluctant to keep Xander out of the loop. Which was a good thing. Xander HATED being out of the loop. Kind of like living on a Hellmouth your entire life and only clueing in that ‘Oh duh, it’s a HELLMOUTH’ after more than a decade of watching crazy shit happen all of the time. It was… irritating.
“My… people attempted to overtake a city of an enemy nation.” Sora admitted finally. She turned away from the rock, facing him with her arms crossed over her chest. She looked very serious but, then again, when didn’t she?
“Oh.” Xander said inadequately. “Was it a special city?”
“It wasn’t even their city to claim in the first place!” Sora said with some kind of fiery indignation that Xander felt he didn’t even know the half of. Who claimed what and, more importantly, why? There were pieces missing in the explanation. “We failed.” Could have guessed that. “I was captured and sent home as a gesture of good will.”
“So… that’s good.” Xander was trying to piece this together as best as he could. “I mean, they could have tortured you, left you in a cell to rot, and all that evil diabolical stuff.” He paused, something suddenly occurring to him. “Wait, are you one of the good guys?” These things always needed clarification.
Sora didn’t answer right away. That was a BAD sign. But not anything new. Xander always suspected she was slightly evil but he was biased. She could have WAITED until he was drugged up before she did that awful pushy thing with his knee!
“The natives of this galaxy say that my people and the people of that city are the two biggest hopes in the galaxy of ever getting rid of the Wraith.” She said, instead of answering his question. Xander supposed, in a way, that DID answer the question. Everyone was the good guy to the Wraith’s bad guy, no matter how they treated each other in the end.
“Then why don’t you guys just work together?”
“It’s complicated.” Sora said slowly. She crossed her arms over her chest and shifted from foot to foot. “My people are a proud people. And we fear that the people from Atlantis only seek to take over this entire galaxy once the Wraith are gone.”
“Atlantis?” Xander laughed. He thought she was kidding when she mentioned it before. Finally! Something in this weird dimension that he recognized! “Let me guess, Aquaman lives there!”
“I do not know of any Lanteans named Aquaman.” Sora said with a frown. “There is a Sheppard, a Weir, a McKay…” She was taking him too literally.
“I guess we’re talking about different Atlantises… Atlantisi?” He waved his hand, nonverbally brushing the topic aside as not important. “Go on. After you went home…?”
“I came back not as a hero but as a failure. I failed. Worse, I lived. I didn’t even avenge my father’s death.” Sora sighed, staring at the ground as her arms tightened in front of her ever so slightly. She looked up suddenly, making eye contact with him. “So I left.”
“Just like that. No big event to make you leave, no nothing?” Xander shrugged. “Very anti-climatic of you.” Just ONCE, he’d like to see her pitch a fit. Jumping up and down, red face indignation, and incoherent sputtering all included.
“My knowledge of my shame was enough!” Sora snapped. Then she softened. “Even if my betrothed said I was not a shame, that the orders themselves were bad… I did not believe him.” Xander belatedly realized other people, NORMAL people usually had the same pride he had said goodbye to long ago. He tried to put himself in her shoes for a moment, but knew on a personal level he wouldn’t have done as well as she did.
Sora was a survivor, a person who went out and DID things. Xander was a victim. Shit HAPPENED to him.
“I know a thing or two about guilt.” Xander waved his good arm as a reminder. Although the ugly marks were out of sight, they were not out of mind. NEVER out of mind. “Remember?” Sora nodded, reaching out with her hand. With light fingertips, she touched his arm. Through the gauze and the fabric of his sleeve, it was doubtful she could feel them but he imagined she was remembering looking at them before.
“I think… that’s the only reason why I could even imagine telling you.” Sora looked up at him and granted him one of her rare smiles. “Thank you. I needed to tell someone.”
“Uh… you’re welcome?” How do you respond to something like that anyway? Xander briefly cupped his hand over the small one on his arm, trying for a reassuring smile, before he shifted with a wince. “I really gotta…” He gestured wordlessly at a fallen log and sat down, immediately extending his leg out in front of him with an explosive sigh of relief. With the force he had been poking at stuff, he had snapped his stick and had been forced to hobble around free style for the last twenty or so minutes.
“Okay.” Sora said, agreeing to the break with a guilty laugh. She kneeled in front of him, feeling up his knee over the material of the pants. “It’s very swollen but that’s to be expected.” Xander thought of at least twenty dirty jokes that would go PERFECTLY with that observation and had to physically bite his lip to keep himself from uttering a single one. “It was dislocated.”
“My shoulder?” Xander said, tuning back in a little late.
“Your knee.” Sora corrected. Xander winced.
“Ow. Didn’t know it could do that.”
“It did.” She pushed herself up, brushing her hands off absently. “You will get better. I did all I could to help you heal faster.”
“Thank you.” He WAS grateful, as much as he messed around and generally tried to make Sora’s life a living hell. Xander just didn’t show it well. “Really. You didn’t have to.”
“I did.” Sora sat next to him on the log, crossing her legs. She very pointedly didn’t look at him, choosing to stare off into the distance. “If I had left you there with your signal device still within your body, the Wraith would have culled this planet by now.”
“Pragmatic.” He noted, half-admiring, half-hurt.
“And… you looked really pathetic lying there.” Sora admitted grudgingly. He forgave her for the tone because she was smiling again. “It wasn’t just for the device.” She turned to him, revealing a slightly teasing sparkle in her eyes. Then her focus shifted beyond him and her eyes widened. “Look!” He half-turned, his attention immediately captured by the thing coming through a gap between the trees.
“Holy crap.” Xander murmured, staring. “Those things were REAL?”