What's My Line
Disclaimer: All Joss's and Paramount's. Most italicized text is from Buffy.
Jean-Luc Picard would never stop feeling the guilt from the actions that had placed him in the command chair of the Stargazer
. Jack was dead, Beverly was on Earth with their son, and he was in command of the ship that had claimed his Captain's life. It felt so... wrong.
But he carried out his duty as was necessary. For ten years he had commanded this ship and he had grown in those years. Grown more serious, grown more aware of his duty, grown more cautious. Forty-five years old and he felt every year of it. He did not grow weary of exploration though. He traveled the galaxy as though it were his own playground, his own backyard, the vineyards that had sprawled over his family's property. He never wanted to leave the stars.
The mission had been a routine one, a meet and greet that the Federation could have sent fumbling dunderhead to and not lost the treaty that had been negotiated. But Jean-Luc was tired. More tired than one his age should have been. He nearly stumbled into his quarters, catching himself on the door to keep upright before making his way to a mirror. His reflection showed exhaustion, but a certain degree of exhilaration as well. The conference had gone well, the treaty had been agreed upon, and for once Jean-Luc was not bracing himself and his ship for any kind of attack or double-cross. He changed into pajamas and gratefully got in to bed.
"Computer, extinguish lights," he called, eyes falling shut before he could even acknowledge that the computer had done so. He did not fall right to sleep but laid awake, eyes closed. It was, unfortunately, moments like these that made him recall arguments from his family. He had been absolutely adamant about joining Starfleet, about going to the stars. His father had scolded him, had impressed upon him the absolute import of their status and their name. Jean-Luc had never believed a word of it, as a man of science it was impossible. He drifted to sleep, the words of his father ringing in his ears though he tried to drown him out. He dreamed.
He was in a dark void. A vision began to evolve before his face and he was looking upon an upset young girl and an older man.I'm making it that simple!
The girl screamed. I quit! I resign, I-I'm fired, you can find someone else to stop the Master from taking over!
The man took over, his face the picture of devastation. So sad for the girl in front of him. Wanting to protect her. Needing her to be safe.I'm not sure that anyone else can,
he said so softly. All the... the signs indicate...
But the girl in front of him was distraught, was infuriated.The signs?
she questioned, before picking up a volume and throwing at the man. READ ME THE SIGNS!
she screamed, before throwing another book. TELL ME MY FORTUNE! YOU'RE SO USEFUL SITTING HERE WITH ALL YOUR BOOKS! YOU'RE REALLY A LOTTA HELP!
The scene faded, one last sentence ringing in his mind.I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die.
He awoke with a start, sitting up only slightly as the sweet, broken voice of that girl rang in his head. What did it mean? He recalled, with absolute clarity, the conversation he and his father had had so many years ago, but he didn't want to believe it.What? You think that just because things are so wonderful now they will be forever? You are so very naive, Jean-Luc, if you think that Starfleet has any idea about the menace that will await them in the future.
He rose from his bed and ordered tea from the replicator. He did not want to think. He did not want to acknowledge his father and his antiquated, embarrassing beliefs in the supernatural, even with his own... accomplishments in that area. He did not want to think about his strange dream, it's memory-like quality. What it might mean. And yet even as he sat at his desk, sipping idly at his tea, more words came to him unbidden.You can't leave me. I can't do this alone.
The sobbing, pained voice changed to a soft, sheepish voice.You okay?
Oh, um, uh, embarrassed, mostly. Ethan's wardrobe's not helping any. Uh, how did you know it was me?
Your eyes. You're the only person in the world that can looked *that* annoyed with me.
A soft male voice sang in his head.I wish I could say the right words, to lead you through this land. Wish I could play the father and take you by the hand.
His morning alarm went off and the voices faded from his head. As he pulled on his uniform he thought about everything he'd heard. He had a very bad feeling that his life was about to get immensely complicated.
The next three nights passed in much the same way. He would dream of the man and the girl. Every so often, other young people would appear as would all manner of creatures. Creatures that he had thought of as myth. Creatures that his father had warned him so adamantly about, so many years ago. And words, slayer
. He frowned and sat down in the Mess Hall, across from his executive officer a question at the tip of his tongue.
"Do you believe in the validity of certain mythologies?" he asked.
His XO frowned and his spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. He placed it back in his bowl and propped his elbows on the table, thinking about the question.
"I'm very doubtful about it. I was always taught that mythology was the ancients' way of explaining the unexplained. Or giving origins to things forgotten, like the ways of society."
"But what about things like... vampires, werewolves," Jean-Luc asked.
"As far as I know they've found reasonable explanations for all those things, Captain. Not spot-on ones to be sure, but every single aspect of vampirism can be explained by any number of diseases."
"Hmm," Jean-Luc said noncommittally. His first officer was right, of course, but he hadn't had an old man pounding the belief in their existence into him from the time of his birth. Birthright. The vineyards, the Picard name, and their true calling. All part of a birthright that he neither asked for nor wanted, but were forced on him. There was only one thing left to do. There was only one thing he could think to do to save his own sanity. And he really wasn't sure if even attempting it made him crazier.
They reached Earth for a routine inspection and debriefing two days afterward and Picard took the opportunity to beam down to San Francisco. He entered his temporary quarters and immediately headed to the replicator. The spell would not be as accurate, in theory, since he was not using purely natural ingredients, but they would do what he needed them to do. All he needed was confirmation. All he needed was the nauseous feeling that had been following him around all week to leave his stomach. Unfortunately, only one answer would produce that sensation.
He turned on the fireplace and turned his head away as it sprung to life. He pulled out a map of the world, on a large touchscreen, and unrolled it onto the floor next to it. He put his assembled ingredients in order and took a deep breath. He quickly, easily, enchanted the map so it would show her location. If she existed. He saw the fruits of the spell and closed his eyes. He had been able to forget, to focus on the science and tell himself that he had always imagined the things his father could do. His brother could never do them. But Jean-Luc could and he had been regarded from the on as the designated heir. Robert, so much like their father, so much wanting to be their father, had never forgiven Jean-Luc for having and hating that power.
He knelt before the fire. He began his incantation tossing in the tumbleweed, the snakeskin, and several other different ingredients.
"To light the aura of the new, skin of snake and chrysalis, too. To indicate the fresh reborn, tumbleweed and rose bush thorn. An egg that means the life to come, take this, o spirits, and my spell is done," he intoned throwing in the egg last and being assaulted by the awful stench then. He coughed and flapped his hand to dissipate the smoke as a glowing aura appeared. The ball seemed to hover a moment before moving to the map and lower to North America, specifically Indiana. He tapped the state, enlarging it and the ball hovered uncertainly before moving close to Bloomington. He outlined the area and tapped twice, blowing that up large. The ball moved down into farmland. A white farmhouse appeared when he enlarged again. He noted the address and nearest transport location and with a few words dissipated the spell. It was usually used to find potentials, but a few changes in ingredients had ensured it would find the one called.
And she had been found.
He wanted to put it off a few days. He did not want to face this, face her, and realize the death of the life he had struggled so hard to create. But Jean-Luc was no coward. And Jean-Luc was no stranger to duty. If a Slayer was being called after so many years without one that meant that something very troubling was stirring. And after all, for her... the change would be far more devastating. No, he had to leave now, before her life was put in danger because of her ignorance.
"Transport to Bloomington, Indiana, sir?" asked the ensign at the Starfleet Tranporter Platform.
"Yes." The ensign nodded and engaged the beam. The room disappeared and another, remarkably different, room appeared. It was made up like a train station, like the one in Paris, though less grand. He collected his baggage and caught a hovercraft out into farm country. He had not been around this country much, only to San Francisco and its surrounding area. He had seen the great Sunnydale sinkhole and flooded Los Angeles. He had seen the Grand Canyon. But all else was too far, too unimportant for him to bother with. As he watched corn fields, ramshackle farm houses and other trappings of the old world, race by he wondered why he had ever thought that exploring his own home world was unimportant.
The hovercraft left him at the edge of a very long lane, but he could see the house from the road. He had very little idea of how to approach this meeting. In the old days, contact with the family was forbidden, or strictly limited, because families were not generally allowed to know about their daughters'... extra-curriculars. He was flying blind, with only the old tenets to guide him. Tenets he had done a great deal to forget. He started down the dirt lane.
He was not even halfway down before something dropped in front of him from the very tall tree next to him. He stepped back and was not very surprised to see a girl of about sixteen stand from the crouch. She wasn't terribly tall, but not short. Thin, but not stringy. Grey-blue eyes, but not stormy. Eyes that looked very familiar.
"Can I help you?" she asked, a small smile.
"Um, actually yes. My name is Jean-Luc Picard. I'm looking for you," he said, not sounding terribly certain, he was sure.
"Um, well, here I am," she said, but was starting to look a little uncertain herself.
"That is, I have been looking for someone in particular and you fit the description." She looked even more tense at that and seemed to fall back into a defensive position. "Have you been having dreams about strange creatures? And of teenage girls fighting them?"
Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped very slightly.
"How could you know that?" she asked.
"Because I've been having similar ones. I'm here to tell you, well, what's happened to you. What's happened to both of us."
"You've been," he took a deep breath. "Chosen."