The End Of The Beginning
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
was created by Joss Whedon. Dragon Half
was created by Ryūsuke Mita. Not sure who owns the rights to these properties, but I don't, and I don't pretend that I do. I acknowledge all copyrights.
The End of the Beginning
Buffy settled into the passenger seat of the Summers car with a sigh. Moving was still painful, but she wasn't seeing throbbing spots of light in front of her eyes any more. Not all the time, anyway. She closed her eyes, letting the darkness soothe her.
Outside, Willow and Joyce were lashing the former's bicycle to the luggage rack. Willow was back in her bib overalls and rainbow-striped pullover, and her hair was red again.
Giles and Amy approached the car just as they finished hooking the bungee cords into place.
"The police are on their way," the librarian said, "and anyone who can't justify their presence had best be on theirs."
"Okay," Willow said. "Amy? You gonna be okay?"
"Eventually," Amy replied.
"You don't have to, to go through this last bit right away," Giles told her. "You've just been through a terrible ordeal. I'm sure the police will be willing to give you a bit of time to recover."
Amy shook her head. "I just want to get it all over with," she said. "We've got our cover story; I just wanna tell it and then crawl into a hole and quietly go to pieces."
Willow hugged her again.
"You call me," she said.
Amy hugged back. "You bet," she replied.
Willow piled into the back seat of the SUV, where Mr. Wuffles was waiting for her. Giles circled the vehicle to speak with Joyce, who was just opening the driver's door.
"Well," he said. "This has been quite a night."
"That it has."
"Um, before you go, there's one matter…"
Giles glanced at the car. Willow was talking to Amy through the open window on the other side. He leaned in and lowered his voice.
"It, it might be best not to tell Miss Rosenberg about the curse she was under."
"What? Why not? She feels terrible about what she did, even though it worked out for the best. She'll be really relieved to find out --"
"W-well, that's rather the point. She might be entirely too
Joyce let her bafflement show, but waited for him to continue.
"I found a detailed description of that spell in Mrs. Madison's grimoire. It works with its victim's own character flaws, magnifying them, but not…creating
them. It might be just as well to let her go on thinking she needs to, to guard against such tendencies in the future. Because, in all honesty, she probably does."
Joyce pondered that for a moment. She didn't notice Mr. Wuffles, on the back seat just behind hers, listening intently.
"That's devious and manipulative," she said disapprovingly, "and I'm ashamed to say that I think you might be right."
"The world of the supernatural is full of such traps," Giles told her. "Those who fall into them are a danger to themselves and others."
The puppy glanced over to his right, where Willow was still talking to Amy.
"Well, I'm going to have to think about it," Joyce said. "In the meantime…goodnight, Giles."
Giles and Amy watched the taillights fade into the darkness as police sirens began to approach in the distance.
After putting her bike away in the garage, Willow carried Mr. Wuffles to her room. Once there, she suddenly spun around a few times, hugging the puppy close.
"We did it!" she said. "We saved her and beat the bad guy!"
She held him up and nuzzled his nose.
"Who's a little cutie? Who's a little cutie who helped me beat the big bad witch?"
"Would you please stop that?" Mr. Wuffles said. "I do have my dignity, you know."
"You're a puppy," Willow pointed out. "A puppy named Mr. Wuffles."
"And whose fault is that? You named me. And
you chose my three forms. I could have been an eagle, a saber-toothed tiger and a race car, but nooo…"
"Oh," said Willow. "Oops."
"Put me on the desk, we need to talk."
Willow carefully set the puppy down next to her computer and sat on the edge of her bed like an eager pupil. The puppy sat and began dispensing instruction.
"Okay. First, there's something you should have done as soon as the evil witch was defeated, only you didn't know how. Get out your spellbook and read the first spell in it."
"Do I need to…?" Willow asked as she started to reach for the heart-shaped locket.
"Not for this. You'll just need your wand."
Willow flicked her hand to summon her wand, then her wand to summon the book. A wave of her wand over the book caused it to flip open to the right page. She studied the symbols; once again, she couldn't read them, but their meaning slid into her brain with a single glance.
"This is sort of creepy," she said.
"Creepy? Those are Oracle Runes." The puppy shook his head. "Creepy?"
Willow studied the complex circles, using her wand as a pointer. "Oh," she said as their meaning became plain. "So, what's 'Victory Essence'?"
"Somehow I knew
you were going to ask. When you defeated the witch, it caused a momentary void in the area's background evil energy count. That in turn caused a brief surge of positive energy. That's Victory Essence."
Willow nodded and studied the book.
"So the idea is to collect it before it subsides?"
"Right. I knew you wouldn't know how at the time, so I tried to absorb as much of it as I could. That's what all the scampering around and barking was about. I'm going to release it now, so you can convert it to something usable. You can channel it in three ways --"
"Says here," Willow nodded. "Spell, item, or upgrade to my Guardian Familiar -- which I'm guessing is you."
"You're pretty quick on the uptake. So why don't you know more about this?"
"That's…a little involved."
"Tell me afterward, then. I've been storing the energy, so you won't be able to use it on me this time. Plus, Victory Essence isn't really potent unless it's fresh. I'd recommend converting it to a spell."
Willow knit her brow and studied the runes.
"I don't see any way to choose what kind of spell I get," she said.
"You can't. You pick which type of conversion to do, but the results will be outside your control. It'll be based on a number of factors, including the nature of the evil you defeated to gain it…what?"
Willow was watching Mr. Wuffles, a bemused smile on her face.
"Sorry," she said. "You're talking like a college professor, with this little ten-year-old's voice. It's kinda weird." She shook her head. "Like anything about this isn't."
"Again, that's your doing. Anyway, ready?"
Willow stood and waved her wand over the book again. Its pages riffled to a blank sheet as she raised her wand and waited.
Mr. Wuffles got up and began spinning around on the desktop, as if he were chasing his tail. A thin, colorless vortex of fog formed above him and rose to the ceiling, spreading out from there. Willow drew her wand back over her shoulder…and the world went away again.
"Silver Heart Essence Conversion!" Willow shouted as she snapped her wand forward. A thin beam of glittering light shot out of the tip and struck the cloud. Willow rotated her wrist to stir the wand in circles, and the cloud began to spin in the same direction. "Type One," she called out, "Transcription!"
A sudden stab of silver lightning shot from the cloud to her book, the bolt forking many times before it struck the empty page. Unlike true lightning, the energy lingered, the lightning tips dancing across the page to inscribe a new set of circular symbols. Within seconds, the page was full.
Willow stood in her bedroom, blinking at the newly inscribed page.
"I went to that place again, didn't I?" she asked.
Mr. Wuffles nodded gravely.
"'That place' is called Eternity's Edge," he said. "It exists outside of time, and it's the only place where certain types of transmutations can happen. Which you should
"I can't read this," Willow said. "For real this time. I'm getting that it's a telekinesis spell, but I can't see how to cast it."
"Of course not. You haven't learned the foundation techniques yet. Once you've learned them -- really learned them, not glanced at them long enough to use a few times and then forget -- you'll be able to absorb new spells."
Willow nodded slowly. She closed the book and tapped it with her wand; it vanished. A flick of her hand, and her wand was gone as well.
"Okay," Mr. Wuffles said. He sat down on the desktop again and looked so serious that Willow nearly burst out laughing.
"Now it's time to explain a few things to me. If you truly know so little about the Magic World and the Order of the Maho Shojo, why did you petition the Master of Magic for entry? And for that matter, we'd really like to know how you did it, too. You didn't use any of the normal channels."
Willow sat on the edge of her bed again. "Okay," she said, "I have a feeling that's pretty much my fault. See, it all started with my friend Buffy…"
Buffy winced and grunted in pain as the car passed over a small bump.
"Sorry, honey," Joyce said. "How do you feel?"
"The paralyzing, stabbing pain has stopped," Buffy said. "Now it's just a paralyzing dull
pain. Plus, my mouth tastes like clay. Mom? You put a piece of clay in my mouth."
"That was a coagulation amulet," said Joyce. "It stopped your bleeding."
She gently turned the corner onto Revello Drive.
"Once we get home," Buffy said, "you can magic up some quick healing, right?"
Joyce sighed. "If only." She slowed and pulled into the driveway at Number 1630.
"The fact is," she continued, "enchantments aren't cheap. We barely have the budget for the things I've been making; there's no way we could afford sapphire dust, or moon-forged iron, or…any of a number of things. We're dangerously close to living on mac and cheese as it is."
"I like mac and cheese," Buffy said.
"Four words, dear: Spam for Sunday dinner."
"…So, rest in bed and plenty of fluids?"
Joyce favored Buffy with a fond smile. "Let's get you inside," she said, "before the neighbors see you."
"I tried to shift back," Buffy said as Joyce helped her out of the passenger seat, "but it hurt. I mean, a lot."
"It hurts to move wounded flesh," Joyce explained. "Shifting its shape is even worse. Don't worry, honey. You should heal pretty fast -- and there shouldn't be any scarring, either. As long as I knew her, Mink never once had a scar, and she was in some pretty serious fights."
Joyce leaned Buffy against the wall by the door as she unlocked it.
"Mom?" asked the dragon girl.
"When we get inside, could you make me some mac and cheese?"
"I'd love to," Joyce smiled.
Insofar as it was possible for a puppy to frown, Mr. Wuffles did so.
"That was…very irresponsible of you."
"I know. I don't know what got into me. Buffy says she thinks I was under some kind of evil magic mojo…thingy, that made me do it."
Willow had moved from the edge of the mattress to the floor at the foot of her bed. It was more comfortable.
Mr. Wuffles carefully pondered a conversation he'd overheard in the back seat of a car.
"And what do you think?" he asked.
"I think I must have been. I mean, I just don't do
things like that."
"You're never tempted?"
"No. Not ever."
Mr. Wuffles sighed. That, of course, had been the wrong answer.
"Does Buffy know a lot about magic?" he finally asked.
"I…I guess not."
"Then I wouldn't be too quick to believe it if I were you."
Willow quietly nodded, looking troubled.
"Even if you never did anything of the kind before, you're still human. You can make mistakes, and you can
suffer temptation. Seen in that light, does it really matter what made you do it?"
The redhead bit her lip and pondered that, but didn't respond.
Mr. Wuffles hopped down from the desk to the chair, and from there to the floor. He crossed over to where Willow was sitting.
"Anyway," he said, "I can see what happened now. We were wondering how someone from a different mortal plane than the one we normally deal with had even learned of our existence, let alone learned enough to want to join us. We never dreamed we could be petitioned by accident."
"It's a first, huh?"
"Yes," the puppy replied. It was hard to tell, but he looked like he was smiling. "It's one for the annals. Becoming a Maho Shojo by accident. Incredible."
"Well," Willow said wistfully, "at least I'm unique."
"We've got our work cut out for us," the Guardian Familiar said. "We've got no contact with any of your colleagues, and we won't have their support network. We're pretty much on our own."
"We've got Buffy to help us," Willow replied. "And her Mom. And Jesse, and Xander. Maybe Mr. Giles and that Kendra girl. That's plenty of support right there."
"True," said Mr. Wuffles. "So right now, there's only one thing that needs doing."
The puppy crawled into Willow's lap and relaxed.
"Scritch behind my ears?"
"I'd be honored," Willow smiled.
"So, Kendra had to cut out at five, 'cause that's when we told her we usually broke up," Jesse said. "But we were really on a roll, and none of us had to be anywhere, so we decided to just play straight through the quest."
"Uh-huh," Xander said as he shifted the phone from his right ear to his left. He lay back on his bed and watched the credit crawl go by on his muted portable TV. Jesse had called just as the movie was ending; listening to him rave about the latest exploits of his game group was something Xander had gotten used to.
"Andrew was worse than usual right at first, but once we get going, he really gets into the role. He outdid himself tonight. Had his paladin make a noble sacrifice so Jonathan could get away with the Sceptre and fulfill the quest. Really earned the experience bonus -- for his next character."
"Sounds cool," Xander said. He noticed that the Ten O'Clock News was about to come on, and groped for the remote to change the channel. It slid off his mattress and fell to the floor. With a sigh, he rolled over and reached for it.
"So then Jonathan said he wouldn't mind starting a new character too, which is cool 'cause it means it'll be easy to work Kendra into the party."
Xander lay back with the remote in hand, ready to change the channel, but Jesse's words distracted him.
"You mean she's decided to play?"
"Well, you know…if she wants to. She did say it looked interesting."
"That's all she said? Interesting?"
"She said, 'an interesting exercise in tactical thinking,' or something."
"Right, 'cause that's what anybody would say. Nobody ever says 'that looks like fun' anymore."
"Well, it's a start. You know, Xand', I get the feeling she doesn't have many chances to have fun."
"Oh, I bet it only looks
that way, just 'cause slaying vampires is all she ever does, talks about or thinks about."
"I'm serious. She doesn't ever say so, but I think --"
Xander aimed the remote and turned the sound back on.
"Xander, what is it?"
"Ten O'Clock News on Channel Six. You got a TV? Turn it on now!"
" -- recovering from a terrifying ordeal tonight," said the newscaster, "after being kidnapped from her hospital room earlier this evening by what the police describe as 'gang members.' The abduction also resulted in thousands of dollars in damage to the hospital. Police are withholding the victim's identity at her request."
Behind him, the image of a teenage girl appeared, her face electronically blurred. There was no real way to tell who it was, but anyone who had reason to believe that it might be Amy Madison would probably have recognized her hair.
"For reasons that remain unclear, the gang members took the girl to Sunnydale High School and broke in. In an amazing stroke of good fortune, however, a faculty member who was working late startled the intruders, who immediately fled the scene, leaving their victim behind. There was extensive damage to school property."
Allan Finch and Richard Wilkins stood in the middle of the staff lounge at City Hall and watched the newscast. Finch nervously clutched the folder in his hands, ready to present its contents as soon as his boss called for them. Mayor Wilkins stood calmly, arms crossed, expression unreadable, his attention firmly focused on the TV.
"Police say the culprits, a street gang from Los Angeles, were fleeing the city after losing a territorial dispute. Reports that the incident resulted in one fatality at the hospital have not been confirmed. Meanwhile, the victim of the abduction is reportedly shaken, but physically unharmed."
"Thank you, Allan," said Wilkins. Finch turned off the TV as his boss went to the window and stood looking out at the darkened street, hands in pockets.
"Well," Wilkins said, "this is disturbing. I knew it would be tough to keep the lid on once the pot began to boil, but gosh, this much, this early is something I just wasn't prepared for."
He turned away from the window and chuckled wryly.
"Should have kept the Boy Scout motto in mind, eh, Allan?"
Finch smiled nervously. Wilkins stared into the distance, his expression serious and thoughtful, for a long moment.
"Were you ever a Boy Scout, Allan?"
"Uh, yes sir," Finch replied. "Tenderfoot."
Wilkins nodded thoughtfully.
"I never had the chance to join," he said. "I really feel like I missed out on something."
"It was, uh, a good experience," Finch replied.
"What didn't get on the air?" Wilkins asked.
Finch opened the folder.
"The damage at the hospital appeared random, but it took out all the surveillance cameras. We think that was deliberate. The dead woman was Miss Madison's mother; no apparent cause of death. One of our people was the first on the scene; he found this --" Finch handed the Mayor a photograph "-- and kept it out of the police report."
The photo showed two fashion dolls tied together, one piggybacking on the other.
"Well, what do you know?" Wilkins smiled. "I haven't seen anything like that for…a long time."
He handed the photo back, sniffed at his fingers, shrugged and put his hand back in his pocket.
"And the school?" he asked.
"Evidence of a running battle, including a number of patches of vampire dust. A few small splashes of blood near the ruined door, both inside and outside."
Wilkins shuddered. "I trust that'll be cleaned up right away."
"I'll be sure and stress that when I pass on your instructions."
Wilkins pondered the information for a minute or so.
"All right," he said. "The street gang fled the state, got into a shootout with the Arizona Highway Patrol, and was killed to the last man. Tell Bob to play it that way; nothing official, but plenty of low-key rumors. Meantime, we'll work on giving the public something else to pay attention to."
"Where is Miss Madison spending the night?"
"Oh, uh, she told the police she couldn't bear to go home tonight. She's staying at the Sunnydale Inn, with a patrolman on site. The Inn has agreed to defer the question of payment until her father can be contacted."
"Nonsense," Wilkins said. "We'll pay the bill ourselves, out of my discretionary fund. And clear my schedule for early tomorrow morning; I'd say until about ten. I'm going to pay her a visit, first thing. That girl deserves my personal promise that nothing like this will happen to her again."
"Yes, sir," Finch said as he jotted down notes.
"And if it turns out that it's not
Amy Madison behind those eyes, I'm going to make sure she understands that I take a very
dim view of vandalism. Especially on school property. Schools are a valuable institution; they deserve our respect."
Finch didn't reply to that.
"As for the school…things are beginning to happen there faster than I expected. I don't think we can wait for an opening. We need to create one."
Wilkins took out his appointment book and consulted it.
"I have a ten o'clock…you free at 11:30, Allan?"
"Nothing I can't move around."
"Perfect." He penciled in the appointment. "We'll brainstorm some ideas then. Meantime, go home and get some rest, Allan. You've got a busy day tomorrow."
Wilkins strode to the door and paused there.
"By the way," he said, "you'll let me know if the forensics team find out anything peculiar about that blood, won't you?"
"Outstanding. You're really working out well here, Allan. Much better than your predecessor."
Wilkins sauntered out of the room, smiling. As he always did when he and his boss parted company, Allan Finch sagged in relief. He tried hard not to imagine what might have happened to his predecessor.
Buffy and Willow ran into each other at the school entrance. Buffy's left arm was still in a sling, but she was walking normally.
"Hey! How's the arm?"
"Still pretty sore. It was tough transforming this morning, but I managed it. Mom says I should be fully recovered by the end of the week."
"Cool," Willow said as they made their way into the building. "And, you're walking already. That's some fast healing."
"Yeah. It's a little freaksome, especially when the skin grew back all red and scaly. But Mom said that's normal; my Mom -- I mean, you know, my real Mom -- always healed the same way, and it always faded pretty quick."
"You just keep coming up with cool super powers, don't you?" said Willow.
"Me? How 'bout you, with the witchy mojo? I thought you'd shot yourself in the foot with that random linkage."
"Oh, yeah, that." Willow sobered. "Turns out that world's magic has a built-in tutorial mode. I really lucked out, Buffy. Way more than I had any right to."
"Still, no harm, no foul, right?"
Willow looked dubious.
"That's kind of complicated. It feels
like there was foul. And there still might have been harm."
They passed through the lobby on the way to homeroom.
"What kind of harm?" Buffy asked.
For answer, Willow pointed ahead to where Xander and Jesse were talking. Looking up, Xander saw them approach and fell silent. Jesse glanced over and caught Buffy's eye; he jerked his head in the direction of homeroom. Buffy nodded, touched Willow's arm supportively, and moved on with Jesse, leaving the other two behind.
"Hey," said Xander.
"Hey," Willow replied.
"So, looks like we didn't save Amy nearly as much as we thought."
"Well, she's okay now. Or, she says she will be."
"I'm gonna want details."
Willow nodded, and they stood there awkwardly for a bit.
"Buffy thinks I might have been under some kind of spell or something, when I…"
"I thought so too," Xander replied. "You've never broken your word to me before, Will. Not over something that important."
He ran his fingers through his hair.
"Thing is," he said, "I know you better than anyone else, and if you were
gonna lie and break your word…it would definitely be over something like that."
"I'm sorry," Willow murmured, unsure what she was sorry about but knowing for certain that there was something.
"Yeah, you should be. I've known you for thirteen years, Will. Now I find out you're human and make mistakes sometimes. You're s'posed to be infallible; didn't you get the memo?"
Willow looked up from the floor and saw that Xander was grinning. The best-buddy grin that he'd always used for her and her alone. She grinned too, giddy with relief.
"Not to mention," Xander said as they headed for class together, "omniscient and all-powerful."
"Oh! And don't forget Master of the Universe."
"Eh, I'm pretty easygoing. You can stop at Master of Boise, Idaho."
"So," Xander added, "details. And if any of them are embarrassing or salacious, take extra time over those."
Kendra had a free period. She was in the library, wielding a wooden axe against a practice dummy. Behind her, the book cage and the cabinet within stood open, revealing a collection of weapons, both practice and real. Giles stood nearby, watching.
"All right," Giles said with a glance at his watch, "that's all for now."
"Your form is first-rate," he told her as they put away the practice tools, "but your motions are perhaps a bit repetitious. An astute foe might find them predictable, and learn to use them against you."
"Yes, sir," Kendra said. She hung the axe in its proper place.
"It's difficult to know how to overcome that problem, however. It might be best to train against a live opponent, but you'd need one whose strength was, was comparable to yours."
Kendra said nothing as Giles closed the cabinet. She had a feeling she knew where this was going.
"Fortunately, we know someone who, I'm told, has preternatural strength even in her fully-human form. I've no idea how the two of you compare, but…what would you think of training with Miss Summers?"
"Dat might be a good idea," Kendra said thoughtfully, "only it would mean trainin' her as well, would it not?"
"It would," Giles told her as he closed the book cage. "And there are still many unanswered questions about her. Still, she's shown herself willing to risk her life to protect others; I think we can provisionally place a bit more trust in her."
"And in de meantime," Kendra replied, "we can evaluate her powers an' tactics."
"Precisely what I was about to say."
"I'm sorry, sir," Kendra said, casting her eyes downward.
"Sorry? I thought it a very astute comment. Never be sorry about that."
Kendra tentatively raised her head again. "Yes, sir," she said.
Giles regarded her for a few moments. He covered his troubled expression by cleaning his glasses.
"Well," he said, "come back after your last class and we'll discuss tonight's patrol. Meanwhile, I'm going to see what reference material we have on dragons."
"Yes, sir," the Slayer said as she picked up her bookbag.
Giles turned to the occult section and started choosing books. He didn't know why it troubled him so, when Kendra displayed the deference he'd been taught to expect from a Slayer.
Then again, in one way it was a good thing. He doubted she'd ever ask him what he'd told the Council about Miss Summers, or about Miss Rosenberg, for that matter, once she found out.
And that was good, because he himself wasn't at all sure why he hadn't told them a thing.
"I'm goin' in," Xander said. He stepped forward and squeezed his way into the throng of students in the quad, aiming for the bulletin board.
Jesse noticed Kendra skirting the edge of the crowd on her way to the cafeteria and waved her over. She hesitated before changing direction to join him and his friends.
"They've just posted the results of the tryouts," Jesse explained to her. "Xander's taking a look. Good luck."
"I don't want t' make de team," the Slayer reminded him.
"Yeah, I mean good luck, you know, with that."
Kendra hesitated, started to speak, looked at the sidewalk, then looked back at Jesse.
"T'ank you," she said.
Xander came back out of the crowd, looking pensive.
"Well, there's good news for some, and bad news for others. What's an alternate?"
"That's the girls who didn't make the final cut," Willow explained. "But they're next in line if a vacancy opens."
"Oh…then it's all good news," Xander said. "Kendra, you're fifth alternate."
"Congratulations," Buffy said. "It wouldn’t raise any eyebrows at all if you withdrew your name from the pool, but even if you didn't, there's almost no chance you'd have to perform. Now, Xander. Tell me before I explode."
"You're on the team," Xander told her.
Buffy gasped and grinned. Willow squealed and hugged her, jumped up and down a bit.
"Okay, ow," Buffy said, adjusting her sling. "So I made it. That's…somehow not quite as thrilling as I thought it would be."
"You changing your mind?" Jesse asked her.
"No, no, it's good," Buffy said. "It's just…" She gave Kendra a look. "It turns out there are more important things to do than cheerleading."
Kendra nodded knowingly.
"But I can cheer, and lead others to cheer, and…do other stuff too, can't I?"
"Don't see why not," Xander shrugged.
"I just hope Mom can afford the uniform."
Cordelia sat at her improvised vanity table. A portable TV set was on a raised pedestal, flanked by two video cameras; it displayed a split-screen view of her face from two slightly different angles. By glancing back and forth between them, she was able to approximate the effect of a mirror. The video feed was even flipped vertically, to make it easier.
She carefully plied the applicator tip of a tube of lip gloss. Turning her head this way and that, she admired the effect.
"Perfect," she said. She put her makeup away and turned off the power strip that everything was plugged into.
A vampire cleared his throat at the entrance to Cordelia's cave.
"Colin!" she greeted him, rising to her feet. "How's life treating you?"
"Quite well, actually," Colin told her. "We had a prime kill, and --"
"Yeah, well, I really don't care. What's up?"
"The Master summons you."
She repressed the urge to roll her eyes. Instead she plastered on a warm, happy smile.
"I'm at his disposal."
Jesse sat at a card table in his room, entering information into his spiral-bound notebooks. If Andrew and Jonathan were starting over with new characters, he needed to prepare a new campaign for them. The recovery of the Scepter of the Ice Kings would have implications for the history of the game world; he needed to work out what they'd be before deciding on the flavor of their adventures. And if Kendra decided to play…
He stared off into the shadows, picturing the girl who'd saved his life. He allowed himself a small, fond smile. Just for a moment.
Joyce straightened up and closed the hood of the Summers family vehicle. It had taken a lot of work, but she'd scratched the proper symbols into the engine block without dismantling the car. She'd rather have used a proper diamond stylus, but in a pinch an electric engraving tool had been enough to get it done -- although she'd worn her old engagement ring on that hand, for the extra symbolism.
A twenty-dollar engraver had been a worthwhile investment, though…once she anointed the symbols with the proper mix of ingredients and recited the correct enchantments, the car's gas mileage would nearly triple. That would go a long way towards freeing up some of the household budget for more mundane necessities...like food.
But the sun was just going down; it wouldn't be safe to keep working on the car until the next day. She stripped off her work gloves and headed for the front door.
Kendra set out from her Watcher's apartment complex on her nightly patrol. Her thoughts were still whirling. The Slayer works alone; she knew that. The Slayer's Watcher knows best; she knew that too. Her Watcher was asking her to work…not
alone. And with a creature only partly human, at that.
When Sam Zabuto had been her Watcher, everything was simple. She did as she was told, and let him deal with the world. She'd never had to face anything unfamiliar; he'd point her toward something evil and she'd slay it. She'd never had to think
Rupert Giles made her think. He asked her opinion about things, and listened to her replies. He explained why
he wanted her to do things, instead of just giving orders. And instead of shielding her from the world, he tried to help her deal with it directly.
For a brief, wistful moment, she wished she weren't in this place, doing this task. She wished she were…well, for instance, a first-level rogue, clambering across the rooftops of a medieval city in search of gold and adventure.
She shook her head. It was all nonsense, of course. She dismissed the foolish questions and the absurd notions and moved on toward the first cemetery. She was the Slayer. It was time to slay.
Angel strolled through the back streets and alleys of Sunnydale. He was just out getting the lay of the land, as he'd been doing since moving to the town. Tonight, he was quartering a section of town that he hadn't been to before. He paused outside a bar called Willy's and noted its complete lack of windows. It seemed like a likely place.
Sure enough, when he went in, there were vampires and demons sitting at tables and booths. The bartender was human. Angel nodded to himself. This looked like a good place to pick up information. He stepped up to the bar and slid onto a stool.
Willow lay across her bed, wearing a football jersey as a nightshirt. A pair of huge fuzzy slippers adorned her feet. She was reading the spellbook while Mr. Wuffles dozed on her pillow. She let the meaning of the Oracle Runes slide across her mind while she tried to pin down their exact meaning.
Nodding to herself, she turned the page. She'd need to go over the runes again and study them some more, maybe cast the spells a few times, before she could really say she'd learned them. But in the meantime, on to the next…
She sat up, staring at the new page. A slight smile played across her lips as she read the runes. With a sudden, decisive movement, she grabbed her Power Amulet from its place on the nightstand.
Xander finished the latest issue of Spider-Man and carefully slipped it into its plastic envelope. He put it away in its proper place in his collection and slipped into bed.
He and Willow were friends again, and she was happy, because her lapse of judgment had worked out for the best. But with Amy's evil mother out of the picture, everything would be going back to normal.
As he turned out the light, the thought crossed his mind: For now.
Giles sat in his living room, poring over a text in Medieval Greek. It recounted a tale from further east, apparently about a dragon sighting somewhere in India. It was quite possibly the last verifiable dragon sighting in history, and it was some time in the Eighth Century. Far too long ago to account for a teenaged dragon-human hybrid in modern California.
He'd seen for himself that the girl had dragon traits; it was difficult to argue that it was impossible. But Joyce Summers hadn't told him everything, and in fact had hinted darkly that there were things he needed to know about Kendra.
He knew his duty. He opened his desk drawer and examined the pages within. It was a full report to the Council about Buffy Summers, giving everything that had happened, all his researches, and all his speculations. It was all ready to go. But he hadn't sent it.
He hadn't sent it, and he still wasn't at all sure why not.
Buffy was out for her evening flight. The sun had dipped below the horizon; the western sky still had a hint of glorious pink. Overhead, the stars had just started to appear, and the gibbous moon hung low in the east. She did a few barrel rolls and repressed the urge to shoot off a jet of flame just for fun.
"Nice night," said a voice right behind her.
Startled, she lost the air in her wings and tumbled groundward, but quickly regained control and circled around to get a look at whatever had spoken. Shimmering faintly in the moonlight, Willow was wearing her Satin Rose outfit, complete with witch hat, and she was seated sidesaddle on an antique broom made of pale wood.
"W-Will?" she smiled as her friend fell into formation beside her.
"Hey, Buffy. Isn't this a kick? As soon as I read it in the book, I had to try it out."
"It's…Willow, it's incredibly cool."
Willow leaned forward and gazed out over the town.
"It's beautiful," she said. "It's easy to see why you love flying so much."
"It was nearly perfect," Buffy replied. "The only thing missing was someone to share it with."
Willow smiled at her friend. "And now?"
"Now it is
perfect. Race you to Kingman's Bluff!"
She peeled off and dove to gain speed. Laughing, Willow wheeled around to chase her.
The halls of Sunnydale High School were silent and dark. Not a sound disturbed the classrooms; not a breeze disturbed the dust. But something was there.
Impotent and invisible, it writhed in frustrated rage as it eddied and circled through the building, often passing through walls and partitions without being aware of them.
It wasn't coherent enough to remember what it was, nor what it had been. It had no idea why the cheerleading trophy in the display case served it as an anchor, permitting it to remain in the world of the living. It didn’t know why it was angry, nor what had brought it to this place, this condition.
It knew one thing and one thing only. Someone would pay.The End -- For Now
A couple of shout-outs. Thanks to AkatsukiDaybreak for posting the challenge that got this started; thanks too to the TTH folks for their Summer Challenge that got me looking at the challenges until I found one I wanted to do.
Thanks to Ryūsuke Mita for creating Dragon-Half,
and always and eternally thanks to Joss Whedon for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
This was really two separate stories; I should have ended this one at Chapter Five and started a new story for the rest. But I wanted to answer the entire challenge in one story, and now that it's been nominated for Crossing Over awards as is, I don't feel right about breaking it in two.
This was just so damn much fun to write that I want to do more. But it may have to take a back seat to vital stuff like finding a job and playing computer games. I also have ideas for stories that aren't in this continuity; I'll want to do some of them as well.
There's also the problem of thinking of a name for the series. One dilemma after another!
As always, reviews are welcome, even unfavorable ones (as long as they are polite, and respect what I tried to do, even if you think I didn't succeed).