Scenes From An Aftermath
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 don't pretend that I do. I acknowledge all copyrights.
Whenever I write an AU fic, I like to quote or paraphrase bits of canon dialogue. Expect that to continue.
Scenes From An AftermathFriday Night:
Joyce sat still, wearing a look of fascinated horror.
"I…don't know what to say," she confessed.
"Me either," Buffy replied. "We really should have stayed home."
They were sitting at the dining room table. Buffy was back in dragon-half form. There was a half-finished mug of hot chocolate in front of her, though it was only lukewarm by now.
Joyce started to nod, but her expression became thoughtful. "If you had," she said, "from what you told me…the world might have ended."
"Oh, yeah," Buffy realized.
"Okay," Joyce said. "Now I know what to say."
"I am unutterably proud of you." She reached out and hugged Buffy with one arm. "And Mink would be too. There's no possible doubt about that."
Buffy gently hugged back.Saturday Morning
Jesse blinked awake. He was groggy as hell, but he could already tell that his heart was still beating.
"Hey, Xander," he said weakly.
"Jesse," Xander smiled. "Hey, girls, look who's awake!"
Everyone crowded around the bed, Willow and Buffy in front, Joyce hanging back.
"I am so, so sorry," Buffy gushed, her eyes moist. "I said I'd protect you. I let you down."
Jesse pondered for a moment. "Nah," he said. "You didn't."
"I wasn't there," Buffy protested. "When Cordelia --"
"I walked right into that," Jesse insisted.
"But I just flew out the window and left you!"
Jesse started to sit up. "Do you want me to get mad at you?" he asked. He dropped back down to the pillow. "Woo," he said, "still dizzy."
Buffy said nothing, but looked even more distressed.
"Okay, look," said Jesse, "you coulda done better. But you know what? I'm still here. Plus, I get to skip school for a few days, so it's all good."
Joyce put a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "I told you, dear."Saturday Afternoon
Kendra stood gazing at Sam Zabuto's open coffin. Giles had scrounged a charcoal-grey pantsuit for her at a local thrift store, and Zabuto had been attended to at the Sunnydale Funeral Home. After the viewing, he'd be cremated and his ashes sent to Council headquarters in England. But now, she stood and stared, wondering why she wasn't feeling anything.
She dug down as deep as she could. Nothing. Nothing but a vague sense of loss.
Beside her, Rupert Giles stood with his hands folded. He seemed lost in his own musings, and Kendra didn't want to interrupt. But if there was any place in Sunnydale where they wouldn't be disturbed, this was it.
"Have you heard from de Council?" she asked quietly, still looking at the body.
"Eh? Oh, yes. Er…we've stopped the Harvest and prevented the Master from rising, but that's not to say he won't try again. You're to remain here in Sunnydale until the matter is fully resolved. After that, you may be assigned here permanently, given the existence of the Hellmouth."
Kendra nodded. "And me new Watcher?"
"Um. I've been assigned to that role." He turned his full attention to Sam Zabuto's body for a moment. "I can only hope that I'm up to the task."
They stood silently for another long moment before Giles continued.
"You'll need a cover identity. The Council is sending a special courier with papers identifying you as Mr. Zabuto's niece, as well as a will naming me as your guardian in the event of his untimely…" He paused and contemplated the body once more.
"You'll have to attend school here," he finished. "The story will be that you were homeschooled until now, to account for the…unorthodox nature of your education."
Kendra nodded. She still hadn't taken her eyes off the corpse.
Giles sighed. "I suppose there are things I need to do," he said. "If you wish to stay here for a time, to come to terms with what's happened, or perhaps to, to grieve…"
Kendra said nothing at first. This man had trained her for years, guided her to her calling, been at her side every step of the way.
"No," she finally said. "Dere's no need." She turned and walked calmly out of the room, her head high.
Giles watched her go, concerned but uncertain why. He turned back to contemplation, but soon nodded to one of the attendants and left as well. The attendants closed the coffin, shifted it to a cart, and wheeled it to the crematorium, pausing at the door to turn out the lights. Saturday Evening
"Three hundred a month, take it or leave it," the landlord said. He was a portly, greasy man with a cigarette dangling from his lip.
Angel stepped into the basement apartment, nodding approval of the high, small windows. The concrete walls and floor were less attractive, but he could manage. There was also the complete lack of furniture to consider, but whatever. He loudly sniffed the air.
"What's that smell?" he asked.
"I don't smell nothing," the landlord replied. Angel turned and raised an eyebrow at him, letting a trace of his Angelus smirk show. Since his face was still heavily marked from his fight with Darla, he made an intimidating sight.
"Two seventy-five," the landlord said. Angel looked around the room, shook his head, and headed for the door.
"Two fifty, final offer."
Angel paused at the door, looking around. Finally he nodded. "I'll take it."Saturday Night, Past Midnight
The Master crouched on the rim of the now-empty blood pool where he'd rested for decades. He hadn't moved from that spot, once his incoherent rage had passed. None of his followers had dared approach him for more than a day. He was spent now, and unresponsive.
He didn't even look up at the sound of footsteps approaching the barrier that imprisoned him. They stopped just outside the area he could reach.
"Well," said Cordelia. "Look what the cat sicked up on the carpet."
He didn't move.
"You know," the former high school queen continued, "they told me you were this ultimate badass king of the night deal. I'll be honest, you're really not showing me much."
He slowly turned his head to look at her. She was wearing her human face, in his presence; something he'd forbidden long ago. In his current emotional state, he really didn't care all that much -- but he still found it vaguely irritating.
"Okay, so your Get Out Of Jail Free card crapped out. Cry me a river. Then do us all a favor: Build a bridge and get over it."
Slowly the Master rose to his feet.
"You dare?" he hissed.
"I'm Cordelia Chase…'Master.'" He could hear the scornful quotation marks around his title as she spoke them. "There isn't much I don't dare."
The Master lunged at her, coming up against the barrier that held him and stopping him only a foot or two from her.
"You think you can come in here and say such things to me?" he demanded. "You think you can come before me, wearing that face,
and I'll just accept it?"
"What I think," Cordelia replied, "is that you're finally up off your ass and not moping." She shifted to vampire face. "It's a start."
The Master gaped at her, at a loss for words for possibly the fist time in centuries.
"So tell me," Cordelia continued, stepping slightly closer, "was Friday night the one and only chance you're ever going to have to get out of this prison?"
"No," the Master growled. "There are other possibilities, and when I do --"
"Yeah, yeah." Cordelia said with a dismissive wave. "So what say we drop the bluster and get cracking on Plan B…Master?" This time, she said it respectfully -- at least, as respectfully as Cordelia could manage.
The Master blinked in astonishment. "You may well be the most irritating follower I've ever had," he told her.
"We take what we can get, Champ," Cordelia grinned back.Sunday Afternoon
Willow arrived home from her shopping trip. Her parents were still away, so she let herself in and retired to her room.
She sat on the bed and took out her prizes. A book of elementary witchcraft first. Of all the web resources she'd found that were right about vampires, two had also covered witchcraft, and one had recommended this book. The other book was magical theory, and the woman in the magic shop had agreed that she could have her money back if she brought both books back in the same condition within sixty days.
The other items -- the herbs, the garlic, the stubby candle and the blessed sea salt -- she couldn't return, but that was okay. She put them away in a drawer and picked up a brand new notebook and several different colored pens. She'd do nothing but study the books for a week, before she tried anything. After that, she'd have a better idea what kind of magic was available in a world where it all leaked in from outside.
Before cracking the theory book, she opened the drawer of her nightstand. Inside was the diagram of the Otherworld Mage ritual that she'd watched Joyce Summers perform. Using that would, she knew, make most of what the books could teach her useless, but she knew that it would work.
In a week, she'd have some idea how long it would take to be able to do anything useful if she went the traditional route. After that…she'd have a decision to make.Monday Morning
Buffy walked down the empty halls of Sunnydale High. She'd arrived early, entering the building as soon as they'd opened the doors. She wore open-toed sandals and patched jeans. Her ring-amulet was tucked under her white peasant blouse.
She paused outside the doors to the library. Peering in through the round windows, she saw Giles and the girl from Friday night going over some papers and forms. She knocked, letting them see her face in the window when they looked up. After they exchanged glances, Giles rose and crossed to the door, unlocking it to let Buffy in.
"Hi," Buffy said. "I was hoping to catch your friend before she did a Lone Ranger on us."
"I'm sorry?" Giles replied.
"You know. 'My work here is done, time to move on,' kinda thing?"
"Oh. Er, well, come in," he said.
He and Buffy walked back to the table.
"I must ask," Giles said, "how much you know about…things."
"I'm guessing you've read my file by now," Buffy replied. "You're faculty, you'd have access to it."
"We know that you transferred here from Hemery High School," Giles replied, "and that you probably recognized Kendra from the incident there."
Buffy smiled at the other girl. "Kendra? That's a pretty name."
Kendra shifted uncertainly in her chair. Some kind of response seemed called for, but…
"T'ank you," she finally said. "'Buffy' is…interestin'."
"Nice to meet you," Buffy said.
"So, er…what brings you here this morning?" Giles asked.
Buffy pressed her lips together and took a deep breath. Here goes.
"I've kinda figured out that you guys are part of some kind of secret Van Helsing squad," she said. "And by the way, I'm sorry for your loss."
"I won't give you away," Buffy continued, "and if there's anything I can do to help, just ask. My friends too, they insisted I tell you that."
"De Slayer works alone," Kendra said automatically.
Mentally filing the word away for Willow to research later, Buffy turned to face Kendra.
"And I wanted to thank you," she said. "You saved Jesse's life last night."
"I only did me duty," Kendra replied.
"Duty schmooty," Buffy said, "He's alive thanks to you, and I'm grateful. I won't forget."
"Forgetting might be the best thing you can do for us, under the circumstances," Giles cautioned her.
"Not gonna happen," Buffy replied. "Once you know, you can't ever not know. You know?"
Giles took a moment to decipher that, then nodded. "I take your point," he said. He folded his arms and considered.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I suppose I might as well tell you that Kendra will be going undercover as a student here. Her training up to this point has been highly specialized, and she may need a bit of help fitting in, or perhaps she might need you to cover for her from time to time if she has to miss a class."
"I can totally do that," Buffy said.
"And you may be able to help in other ways," Giles continued. "First aid, for instance. You did a very passable job on Kendra's leg injury."
"Thanks," Buffy said, seeing the trap just a moment too late. She winced.
Giles leveled his gaze at her, and Kendra rose from her seat and moved around the table to stand behind her.
"There are a number of mysteries about what happened that night," Giles said.
"Dere's also somet'in' strange about you," Kendra said. "I can feel it."
Buffy glanced nervously over her shoulder at Kendra, then turned to face Giles once more. She began to calm as she considered her options. Finally she nodded to herself and smiled up at the librarian.
"How's the leg, Kendra?" she asked without taking her eyes off of the Watcher.
Giles blinked as he realized that Buffy had just seen the Slayer walking without a trace of a limp, a mere two days after being shot.
"You're right," Buffy continued. "I've got secrets. So do you. Are you gonna trust me with yours?"
"Touché," Giles replied. "I suppose trust needs to be built on both sides. We've made a good start, but it's only a start."
"I promise you this, though," Buffy said. "I'm totally not one of the bad guys. Can we leave it at that for now?"
"I suppose we'll have to," Giles replied.
Buffy smiled again. "Till later, then," she said. She turned to face the Slayer, reaching out to touch her arm lightly. "See you in class," she said. She turned to walk out the door.A place unimaginably distant from Sunnydale, measured not in miles nor in centuries, but rather by angle of perspective or point of view
In a room of dressed gray stone, a woman sat upon an ornate iron throne. She was extremely shapely, and wore clothing that left little to the imagination. Her hair was a light purple, and her eyes betrayed just a hint of crow's feet.
The room was festooned with banners displaying her coat of arms, and a bejeweled tiara rested on her head. Armed soldiers in chainmail stood at attention and held spears in parade rest by the door. Iron sconces held floating balls of flame that burned without visible source of fuel.
The doors at the far end of the chamber opened, and a robed, shaven-headed man with pointed ears and a full beard nervously walked down the long carpet that led to the elevated throne.
The woman watched him approach, noting that he became more nervous with every step. He glanced surreptitiously at the huge iron sphere that was bolted to the ceiling, approaching a few steps more so that he wasn't standing directly under it.
"M-my queen," he said. He cleared his throat. "There is news."
Queen Vina favored him with a slow, sultry smile and crossed her shapely legs.
"Sir Shamalam," she said. "Do share it with us."
"The vigilants in the North Tower," he said. "The room on the sixth floor. They report that the enchanted candle has gone out."
Vina considered for a moment. North tower, sixth floor, that was -- ah.
"The daughter of Mink has transformed?" she asked. "Where?"
"Er -- there's a problem there, your Majesty," he replied. "But even that is informative."
"What problem?" she demanded. "There are maps of every known part of the world in that room. Every one that depicts the area where it happened should have a burned spot to mark the place. Even if she is in unknown lands, the unmarked portions of the globe I placed there should show it."
"Quite so, your Majesty, quite so. Ah ha ha. B-but the vigilants all insist that there's nothing."
Queen Vina leaned back in her seat, staring angrily into the distance.
"Th-they tell me, Majesty, that it can only mean that Mink's daughter has been taken to another realm of existence. One of the Shift Worlds. I don't actually know what that means, but that's what they said."
"So," Vina muttered, "they think they can cheat me of my revenge. But there are ways. There are ways. I am not pleased by this news, Sir Shamalam, but you brought it to me nevertheless. You shall have the reward you have earned."
She reached out to pull on a brocaded rope that hung from the ceiling next to her throne. Sir Shamalam yelped and held his arms over his head, but all that happened was that a distant bell rang.
"Why, Sir Shamalam, whatever are you doing?" the queen asked innocently.
Sir Shamalam cautiously lowered his arms and raised his head. He looked at the ceiling, but all the stone blocks were firmly in place.
"Er…well, your Majesty…" He chuckled nervously, beginning to sweat. "It's just that, when your father, may he rest in peace, received bad news, he would sometimes react…er…by, er…dropping a huge stone weight on the messenger."
"Ah, yes," Vina replied in a nostalgic tone. ”He used to call it the 'Crushing Press,' or sometimes 'Ye King's Anger.' But what has that to do with…" she turned to look at the bellrope. "Do you mean to say that you thought…? Oh, that's too ridiculous for words!" She covered her mouth with the fingertips of one hand and let loose a delicate, ladylike laugh.
Sir Shamalam began mopping his forehead with a polka-dotted handkerchief. "Ha ha," he said, "it is kind of ridiculous, when you put it like that."
"Oh ho ho ho ho," Vina laughed.
"Ah ha ha ha ha ha," Shamalam chortled.
Vina snapped her fingers, and a bolt of lightning shot down from the iron sphere, frying Sir Shamalam where he stood. His charred corpse slowly toppled to the floor, just as the seneschal entered the throne room by a side door.
After a pause as he blinked at the corpse, he turned to face his summoner.
"You rang, my Queen?"
"Yes. Give Sir Shamalam a lavish funeral, at Crown expense. Nothing above his station, but otherwise don't stint. He amused me."
"Very good, my Queen," said the seneschal with a bow. He gestured to his attendants, and they moved in to pick up the corpse.
"'A huge stone weight,'" Vina mused with a smile. "What a card."
She rose from her throne and strode into an alcove to one side. Beyond it was a balcony that looked out over the town. The sky was dark and overcast, and it rumbled faintly with the sounds of a building storm.
"Dick Saucer," she muttered, "you dared to spurn my love and marry that lowborn, tailed trollop. Now your daughter shall pay the price for your audacity."
She raised her hands over her head, and they flashed with purple light. The clouds responded with a crash of thunder, and sheets of rain started pelting down.
"I SWEAR IT!" Vina shouted, and began to laugh maniacally as the rain soaked everything in sight, herself included.
MORE TO COME
'Cause we still haven't satisfied all the terms of AkatsukiDaybreak's challenge yet. Never fear, it will come. Eventually.