I want to begin by warning you guys that I wrote this chapter while under the influence of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” – so you’re in for an adventure. Hope it keeps you, at the very least, entertained.Disclaimer:
BtVS and Highlander belong to their respective owners. I profit in terms of writing experience only.
Buffy walked into the Magic Box, bringing with her the faint scent of amber perfume. Xander looked up. He looked nervous.
“Hi,” he said, looking around for the others. “Er, Buf… Um, I’m sorry about last night.”
“Last night?” Buffy stared, brow knitting as she tried to remember what had happened the night before. Everything was so blurry! Xander looked as confused as she felt, and even more nervous than before.
“Er, you know…” He trailed off uncomfortably. Buffy continued to stare at him in bewilderment. “Never mind,” he muttered. He scratched the back of his neck and Buffy walked slowly toward the table.
“When we suggested sacrificing Dawn,” he blurted, voice a good octave higher than normal. Buffy froze as her memories of the night – apparently last
night – suddenly came into focus.
“Oh,” she said softly. Her mind churned with strange, conflicting thoughts. Part of her – the part uncorrupted by time, the part whose ideals and morals were products of the 20th century – that part still rebelled at the thought of loosing any human life unnecessarily, or her sister, period. Another part, an older part, understood sacrifice. That part of her understood that the one was far smaller than the whole.
But she rejected wholesale, with all her soul, the unnecessary death of her flesh and blood. While she may be able to bring herself to kill Dawn at the very end, when there were no options left and only a swirling vortex into hell… Then, perhaps, she could end it. But preemptive? No.
Buffy refocused on the present and was somewhat surprised to find that she had sat down at the study table. Xander was staring at her with a mix of trepidation and concern. To his credit, the back of her mind noted, the concern outweighed everything else.
“Well,” said Buffy, “I guess we’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t come to that.” And so saying, she grabbed a book and began scanning it for references to Glory.
“Mhm?” She kept reading.
“Er, Buffy, I understand that you’re distracted and all, but –”
“Hey Buffy! When did you get here?” asked Willow. “I brought donuts!”
There was a short scramble for donuts before the researchers settled back down to their books. Willow read over Xander’s shoulder for a moment, then came around to peer at Buffy’s book.
“Hey!” said Willow. “Since when did you read Phoenician?”
“Since my father permitted it,” she responded absently.
Willow and Xander exchanged a puzzled look.
“What was that?” asked Xander.
“What are you talking about?” asked Buffy, still distracted.
“That!” said Willow.
“Huh?” Buffy made to slam the book closed in order to express her profound exasperation, but thought better of it. She closed it gently as Willow and Xander exchanged a much longer look.
‘What on earth?’ mimed Willow.
‘Dunno,’ Xander mimed back.
They both turned their attention back to Buffy, who was watching them, bemused.
‘Like, wtf?’ mimed Buffy.
“Buffy, I understand if you’re upset with us--” began Willow.
“Why would I be upset with you?”
Willow opened her mouth to respond, paused, then closed it again. Xander coughed and fidgeted uncomfortably. Buffy looked between the two before realization dawned.
“Oh!” she smiled. “This is about last night again, right?”
Willow’s mouth opened, but nothing came out, while Xander looked embarrassed again. Buffy just shrugged.
“It’s ok, Willow. I understand. Sometimes sacrifices must be made.” She smiled encouragingly at her slack jawed friend. “So grab a book. I have a thing against needless sacrifice.”
Willow took the book that Buffy offered, sat down automatically, and began to absently page through the tome. Five minutes later, Willow broke the silence.
“I can’t read Sumerian,” she said.
“Neither can I,” said Xander. “So?”
“So, this book is in Sumerian,” said Willow.
“Uh,” said Buffy. “Just look for,” she scribbled something on a piece of scratch paper, then pushed it over to Willow, “these sets of symbols,” said Buffy.
Willow looked at the paper, then looked at Buffy, then looked back at the paper. “Sumerian too?” she asked weakly. “You read – AND you speak – Phoenician AND you know Sumerian… Buffy, are you alright?”
“Fine, thank you. How do you know I speak Phoenician?”
“I assumed…” Willow was looking somewhat out of sorts. “I assumed that’s what you were speaking a minute ago. Unless…?”
“Really, Buffy!” Xander burst out. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“He’s right,” said Willow. “Something seems… off about you.”
“Fishy,” said Xander.
“Demon?” asked Willow.
Buffy’s hand fluttered up to her breast.
“Not you!” Willow assured.
“Influence,” suggested Xander.
“Demonic,” agreed Willow.
“What?” Buffy’s eyes crossed.
“Morning,” called Anya as she came in the back door. Buffy stared. She rubbed her eyes and stared again. Anya made eye contact.
“YOU!” they cried at the same time. “Damn,” they said together. Buffy smiled. Anya grimaced.
“You remember,” grumbled the ex-demon.
“Everything,” Buffy agreed.
“And?” Anya sounded hesitant.
Buffy smiled and winked. Anya heaved a sigh, then hesitantly smiled back.
“What,” began Xander, “Is going on?!” exclaimed Willow.
This time the look that passed between Anya and Buffy was one of camaraderie and total understanding.
“They’ll never understand it,” Anya commented. “You might as well not bother.”
“But they deserve –” began Buffy.
“Truth?” Anya snorted.
“I was going to say an explanation,” said Buffy with a shrug.
“Oh. Ok,” Anya made a ‘go ahead’ motion with her hand and began going through her cash drawer. Buffy smiled at Willow and Xander, who had slightly glazed expressions on their faces.
“It was Whistler,” she confided. “He talked me around.”
“And taught you Phoenician,” said Xander, hesitantly.
“And Sumerian,” added Willow.
“Why not?” asked Buffy. “The Powers don’t want the world to end either, you know.”
“Right,” said Willow.
“And it was easier to teach you dead languages than it was to just TELL you how to kill Ms Hell Bitch?” asked Xander.
Buffy shrugged. “Don’t ask me to explain the way demons think. Or the Powers, for that matter. The whole lot of ‘em get their kicks by being vague and incomprehensible.”
“Incomprehensible?” asked Willow, frowning at Buffy.
“You know – big with the non-understandy and nonsense.”
“I know what it means,” snapped Willow.
“But its good to know that you can still speak Buffy-lingo,” said Xander. “I was getting worried, what with the tweedy languages and big Giles-type words.” There was a certain ironic twist to his lips that Buffy wondered about. Since when had Xander gotten so observant? She obviously hadn’t been paying attention since… Well, since That Damn Spell.
“I’m fine,” Buffy assured them. “Now! Research
“Yes ma’am!” Xander gave Buffy a slightly more sincere, though still rather bemused, smile as he returned to perusing his book.
Willow went back more slowly, but did begin the search for the symbols Buffy had suggested. The rest of the morning was quiet.
Giles heaved a heartfelt sigh as he finished cleaning his glasses. “Xander and Willow are worried about you,” he said. He said down next to his Slayer as she echoed his sigh. They were down in the training room for this talk. Privacy, Giles had decided, might help elicit the truth.
“Ever since you ran out last night…”
“I’m FINE,” said Buffy emphatically. “Look, Giles. I know you don’t want to kill Dawn either. You just want to save the multi-verse. Well and good. I understand sacrifice, really I do.” She took a deep breath. “Once upon a time,” she began.
Giles held his breath. Truth? Finally?
“There was a woman. A queen. She was asked to betray her husband and her people or violate her oath. Long story short, during a preparatory ritual, she threw herself into the bonfire in order to remain pure.”
Giles frowned, not seeing the connection.
“It was really rather selfish of her,” Buffy mused. She paused, then shrugged. “But I’m older now. I understand responsibility. Don’t worry, Giles. I will do everything in my power to kill Glory before she gets Dawn. If the worst happens, I will make the right choice. The world comes before me. Or Dawn.” Suddenly she grimaced. “Fuck Whistler,” she swore under her breath.
Giles still didn’t get it, but at least he could be certain that Buffy would do her duty in the end.
Buffy smiled across the diner table at Glory. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said, voice saccharine.
“The Key!” said Glory, leaning forward. “You said you had something to trade.”
“Yep. You can have the Key—”
Glory giggled and clapped.
“—IF you can best me three times out of three.”
Glory cocked her head to the side. “One on one, arranged combat?”
“Yep,” said Buffy.
“I’ll kill you the first round,” Glory pointed out with a sneer.
“Great,” beamed Buffy. “We have a deal?”
“Well, why not?” smiled Glory. “I
have nothing to lose.”
“I’ll meet you in the West Street Graveyard at 9pm,” said Buffy. “Nice doing business, Ms Hell Bitch.”
Glory glared at the Slayer’s retreating back, but limited as she was in her current form, she was unable to bore holes through the girl’s heart by sheer force of will. Oh well, thought Glory. By tomorrow morning, she would have the Key.