Prologue - An Opportunity to Escape
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. Buffy and all characters you recognise from the Whedon world, belongs to Joss and the people at Mutant Enemy etc. As is the case with all characters you recognise from Laurell K Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series. Obviously they belong to Laurell. Not me. Damn it.
A/N: This story is set after Mistral’s Kiss, but before A Lick of Frost. It begins at the final scene of Season Seven of Buffy. All reviews are welcome. I confess that there is quite a bit of exposition in the prologue. It wouldn't be there if I didn't think I needed it. Chosen Companions
Prologue: An Opportunity To Escape
Dropping off the back of the school bus, she walked slowly towards the crater that was all that remained of the town that had been her home for the last seven years. The sinkhole that had claimed the lives of people that she had cared about and loved, and as she stared downwards into that vast expanse, Buffy made a decision. I’m done. Over. Completely and utterly finished with this life. Now I just need a way to escape.
And in the enormity of the universe, one omniscient being heard her and responded. I can give you that escape.
The voice whispered into Buffy’s mind, and the only reason she didn’t react physically was that her body had gone beyond battle fatigue, into debilitating exhaustion. Why would you do that? You deserve a chance to find some peace. The world in which you now exist will never provide you with that. I have watched. I have felt your strength, not only of body, but of will. Even when mortally wounded as you are now, you fight for those you love, and even those you do not, because it is the only choice for you. You love with your whole being, and it has only caused you pain. I wish to give you a chance to make your own path, a place where the red witch cannot call you back from, and those you trust never betray you.
Though it was a quiet whisper in her mind, Buffy could feel no compulsion to do as the voice suggested, that fact alone inspired trust. There is always a catch. You offer much and have not asked for anything in return. I have been in this business for too long to have faith in a faceless voice who speaks to me of lost dreams and new realities. What’s in it for you?
A ghost of a chuckle echoed in Buffy’s mind. Long have you let those around you believe you only a weapon. They have been fools. You mind is as honed as your body. My world does not need a champion, as it already has many. That is not the role I would have you fill. To my people I am Danu, their Goddess, and I truly love them. One of my champions needs a companion, for her loneliness beats at my heart, and it compromises her future. You would be her friend, much as Tara was to you, someone who can listen without judgement, and offer a hug when it is needed. That is all I would and will ask of you. Further than that, your decisions are your own.
Buffy hugged her waist, ignoring everything around her to focus on the voice. I actually believe you mean that. Can you give me a minute to talk to my people before you do whatever it is you need to do? Does this mean you accept my offer? Answer my question first.
Buffy demanded, not willing to be duped in any way.
A tinge of humour gave the voice more life. You will do well in my world I believe. You can have your minute; in fact I will give you five of your minutes before I will begin the transference. Though I must apologise, for the process will be painful. I will spare you as much as I can.
Regret for future pain to be caused echoed in Buffy’s mind, and in that moment she knew her decision had been the right one. Pain has been my constant companion. What is a little more? But thanks for apologising for it. I think you might be the first being to truly mean it. And I accept your offer.
As quickly as the words were thought, Buffy felt a full body rush of endorphins, like she did just before a fight, and couldn’t help but smile. Freedom was within her grasp. Your five minutes begins now Buffy Summers, Slayer, for now you have been Chosen by a Goddess who loves you.
Still with that half smile on her face, and tears shimmering in her eyes, she turned to the people she loved, the people who had betrayed her. Willow, Xander, Giles, Dawn. Her truest friend having died being the champion she knew he always could be.
“What did this?” Giles, her father figure, and now her former mentor spoke in a hushed tone.
Buffy glanced back at the broken earth.
“Spike. Spike saved us all.” Turning back to Giles and her people, she spoke without editing her words for the first time in a long while.
“Spike saved us all because he loved me, and he loved Dawn, his Little Bit, and he loved the world as it is. The vampire, who you tried to destroy, gave up everything he loved, so that we would survive.” Taking a deep breath, Buffy realised if she was going to say goodbye, it would have to be right now.
She unwrapped her arms from her waist, displaying the still bleeding would from where the Turok-Han had run her through. Willow rushed forward, Xander close behind her.
“I can heal this. I know I can.” Buffy held up a hand and said a single word.
Willow stopped as though she had run into a wall and Xander crashed into her back. “Buffy?”
Lips quirked in a semi-smile, Buffy spoke firmly. “There will be no healing Will. Not this time. Not ever.”
Stepping closer, Giles seemed perplexed. “Buffy, how are you doing this? You’ve never shown any aptitude for magic.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and winked at Faith, who was merely standing and watching the drama unfold.
“Giles, every Slayer has magical ability, we are created by magic. Did you really think that I was so oblivious to what you were teaching Willow, that I couldn’t sense what was happening? I can hear every heartbeat around me, and my gift is death, and in death there is always life."
"How could I not figure out how to use the power of the earth around me? But you never took the time to show me, to teach me, because Willow was always so much more raw power than me. Willow blinded you to the fact that The Slayer holds more untapped strength than any other human ever could.” As she said the last, she stared directly at Faith. Faith nodded, message received.
At last Dawn spoke, voice trembling and tears in her eyes. “What are you going to do now Buffy? What are we going to do?”
Buffy looked upwards, as a shaft of pain lanced through her, formed of both the emotional and physical kind. She looked at Dawn.
“You know I love you, but you have shown me and told me that you don’t need me anymore. Actions speak louder than words ever will. I died for you, for everyone, and now I am dying again. I’m okay with that, and I know that you aren’t. Strangely enough, I’m good with that too.” A touch of bitterness seeped through her words.
“I’m going to find my peace Dawn. What you do with your life, that’s up to you.” Suddenly, her entire body started to tingle. Time was almost up.
Looking at the faces of those she would miss the most, memorising them, Buffy spoke clearly to all of them.
“Giles, find the new slayers and train them like you trained me and that is the best gift they can ever receive. Willow, be true to your Goddess and the power of the earth. Xander, take care of them all for you are truly one who sees, and you are the heart. Faith you are my sister, and I know you had no part in kicking me out, and I am sorry to leave you the sole mantle of the Slayer but you are more than capable of handling it. Dawn, be everything you can be, everything you ever wanted to be. I love you all, but I can’t be here, not now. I really do love you all.” Finally finished with words, Buffy fell to the ground, but the invisible wall of power remained.
Dawn spun on Willow. “Do something, Willow!” Willow could only stare at her helplessly.
Xander however, spoke through Dawn’s panic. “Look at her, Dawn. Look.”
And like a person in slow motion, Dawn did as he said. She turned and looked. And gasped.
Buffy was glowing from the inside out, as if her golden tan had just become its own sun. Then she began to rise from the ground, looking for all the world as if some invisible person had reached down and lifted her to cradle her in their arms.
Giles, Willow, Xander, Dawn and even Faith watched with childlike awe, every one of them unaware of the tears rolling down their faces. The watched until the light surrounding Buffy grew so bright it was blinding, and when they could see again, Buffy was gone. The Slayer, his surrogate daughter, their friend, and their sister no longer existed as if she had never been.
The new slayers sat with tears in their eyes, watching through the windows of the bus as their mentors collapsed and wept into each other’s arms, until one by one, they stood, brushed away tears and made their way back to the bus. True grieving would have to wait.
Looking out the back window of the school bus as the Sunnydale sinkhole got further away, the new slayers thought they saw a flash of light, almost like lightning striking the earth. Then a voice, Buffy’s voice, whispered through the mind of every new slayer on earth. All power is responsibility. You may not want it. You may not need it. You may crave it. You may require it. It does not matter what it means to you, except that you use it to protect those that cannot protect themselves from creatures which pray on the weak, the innocent and the pure. My power, the power of the Slayer, is for the protection of all creatures, human or other, which are not able to protect themselves. All I ask of you, Slayer, is to respect the power you hold and remember that strength is not only in your body, but in your mind, and in your heart. It is never as simple as right and wrong, black and white. We hunt in the night, but we are beings of light, we make shadows in the day, and find truth and balance in shades of grey.
With this message, a new generation of Slayers began their duties with a sense of purpose and destiny. They had much to learn, yet they would learn with the knowledge that someone believed in them with absolute faith, and trusted them to become more than just the slayer.