Chapter 1: Welcome to Sunnyhell.
Chapter 1: Welcome to Sunnyhell.
With a gasp of shock his dazed eyes popped open in alarm as he took in his surroundings with a quick glance; he was lying on his back on what felt like soft earth staring up into a night sky.
Suddenly feeling the burning of his lungs Anakin coughed and gasped for breath as he rolled to his left side, his lungs filling with oxygen for what seemed like the first time as he absently noted the lack of the respirator. Breathing deeply to calm his racing heart Anakin tried to push himself to a sitting position only to fail miserably as his head bounced off the soft earth, eliciting a pained moan. Squinting his eyes as he took another deep breath, Anakin rubbed a hand across his face and froze. It was the first shock to pierce the diminishing fog that had been clouding his mind. His hand! Opening his eyes wide with astonishment, Anakin was astounded to see the soft flesh of both of his hands as he studied them intently. It was then that he realized he was no longer in the body suite that had become a defining aspect of his life and persona as the Sith Lord. Forcing himself into a seated position, Anakin rubbed his fatigued face again only to feel something he hadn't felt in years, his own hair!
How was this possible!? Anakin wondered with both joy and alarm.
How did this happen to me? He thought in wonder, as he probed his head with his hands and not finding the telltale scars from the battle of Mustafar. It was amazing, it was impossible, but somehow it seemed his body had been fully restored. How, he didn't know, although he had been studying to use the energies of the Dark Side to rejuvenate his body, something he had been increasingly sure was possible. Before he realized what was happening, before he could exert any control, his vision suddenly became blurry with tears and a soft whimper escaped his lips which fully degenerated into full blown sobs of pure transcendent Joy. For so long he had been trapped in his prison with no hope of true escape, the symbolic mask of the Sith that helped sustain his physical body had served another purpose; a mask to hide the pain and despair that had consumed his heart and his spirit, leaving nothing but darkness. But now, as the tears flowed freely and unashamed down his cheeks he truly felt something other than anger, hatred, and despair and its beauty could not, would not be denied. For just this once, he did not care who saw him this way or what they thought; he just knew that he was whole again!
There was no telling how long he had stayed there, near crazy with Joy but eventually he managed to settle down enough for rational thought. Pushing aside his amazement for the moment Anakin took a long calculating look around him; absorbing every detail he could as his mind took stock of his situation.
He was on a planet and not the Death Star which indicated some time must have passed since he died....or had he merely lost consciousness? No...he died; he was sure of that much. Death was unmistakable; he had extinguished enough lives to know it intimately. Looking around there was absolutely nothing to hint at how he had arrived here fully restored.
So what was this place?
Mentally pushing aside that thought Anakin continued his assessment of the situation in the here and now. Gravity was normal, atmosphere was breathable and it seemed this world was inhabited, but nothing around him seemed familiar. Wherever he was, he was apparently on a planet that still buried their deceased as indicated by the many gravestones and mausoleums around him. Odd, Anakin frowned. While the practice of burying one's dead wasn't so uncommon as to be unheard of, it was only practiced on a few worlds within the Empire that still held onto long held traditions and beliefs concerning the dead.
The outer rim perhaps?
Anakin furrowed his eyebrows in consideration trying to recount the number of worlds that still practiced this archaic tradition, but found he couldn't remember, it wasn't exactly a subject that had garnered much interest with him. Gingerly he rose to his feet on wobbly legs grasping a nearby headstone for support as he fought a sudden wave of dizziness. After a few moments the wave of dizziness passed and he felt some of his strength return. Inspecting his body, Anakin was amazed to see that he was wearing what appeared to be a Jedi starfighter uniform, such as he hadn't worn or set eyes on in decades. In shock, he ran his hands over the fabric, trying hard to control the wild surge of emotion that rose up inside him. As his fingers of his right hand traced the symbol of the republic embroidered on his left shoulder, he could not help but clench his eyes shut in momentary anguish. The last time he had worn such a uniform was on Mustafar, before his fall. Breathing deeply, Anakin took a few moments to calm his emotions and focus his mind before resuming the task at hand. After a quick inspection he was unsurprised to find nothing else in his possession with the exception of his utility belt. But no Lightsaber for defense.
Which meant until he could arm himself he was alone, unarmed and vulnerable. Just great.
He still didn't know where he was so he focused his attention on the night sky, hoping to identify familiar star constellations to get his bearings. What he saw nearly sapped his remaining strength. He didn't recognize a single star pattern! Naturally, having been a spacer for most of his life, Anakin knew that star patterns changed configuration depending on which planet you viewed them from. Yet having traveled most of his life in space, the stars were as familiar to him as the Force itself. But these star patterns were not familiar in any way. Feeling a wave of fear grip him, Anakin brutally suppressed it. He knew this was not a time to give into old habits. Instead he slowly lowered himself into the classic Jedi meditation position so he could reach out to the Force. That proved to be another shock to him. The Force felt different somehow...as if....it felt older, but no less strong; as if a great deal of time had passed and he was someplace altogether different, but still connected. Some place far, far away, and Anakin had a growing suspicion it was probably farther than any Jedi or Sith had ever been just by these two facts alone.
And there was something else; something he was just beginning to sense, something Anakin had never witnessed before...as if some dark energy was intermixed with the Force in some unholy and vile way; like dark waves of energy pulsing outward from within the pristine intricate web that was the Force. It reeked of the Dark Side and yet it...wasn't at the same time. Anakin instinctively pulled away from it, felt himself repelled by its malignant stain. It was unsettling to say the least, but Anakin focused on the Light side of the Force and stayed there as he slowly cleared his mind of all fear and doubt. Now, much calmer, he stood up on much sturdier legs and looked up at the night sky to note that the position of this world's only visible orbiting satellite had shifted, indicating a considerable amount of time had passed.
"Where am I?" Anakin spoke aloud for the first time as he once more took a long look around the cemetery.
Well, wherever he was, he had to move, his feelings told him that much. So picking a direction he moved off with a slow and cautious pace. As he moved he began to formulate his course of action for the foreseeable future. The first thing to do was to find a ship and get back to Imperial or Rebel controlled space and link up with his son. Clearly the Rebellion had been victorious at the Endor moon, a move that would have no doubt struck a crippling blow to the Empire now that its greatest weapon was destroyed and the Emperor dead. But what would he do when he got there? Somehow he doubted the Rebellion would accept him so willingly. After all he was Darth Vader, the scourge of the Jedi and the one man who carried out countless atrocities under the Emperor’s orders. Finding his mouth suddenly dry, Anakin swallowed painfully as he fought to maintain his balance with his emotions, but such a thing was difficult when considering the enormity of his crimes and the shame and guilt that came with it. So what to do? If necessary he would face the justice he knew he deserved. It was a surprisingly easy decision to come to. He'd help the Rebellion in any way he could before surrendering himself to their mercy, which he highly doubted he would get.
Fair enough. Although it wasn’t fair, was it? He had murdered untold millions, billions even. How could he move past that? What punishment could be fitting for the numerous atrocities he had committed? How could there every truly be justice for his crimes?
Nothing. There was no possible way he could ever truly get past it. His past deeds would always hang over him like a specter, tainting his every action, even his very soul.
But at least it was a plan, not one he liked, but it was a plan nonetheless. Picking up his pace ever so slightly, Anakin took another look at the graveyard and frowned. Something just didn't feel right with this place. Again Anakin could feel the dark energy that was somehow bound to the Force but he had never encountered anything like it…and yet, had he still been in the thrall of the Dark Side, Anakin had a feeling that he would have found it the sensation invigorating.
Approaching another small clump of trees in the cemetery, of which there seemed to be a little too many positioned almost a little too perfectly for ambushes, Anakin stretched out to the Force once more and felt his frown deepen. He could feel four individuals, all human, but they weren't alone.
Hunger. It stalked them like a living thing, tinged by the same dark energy seething through the Force, closing on the humans like the night closed in on day. Moving swiftly to a nearby mausoleum, Anakin decided that caution was needed while he analyzed the situation. The four humans seemed to be locked in a heated battle against four....Anakin couldn't tell what they were. Their presence in the Force felt as dark and twisted as the energy of this place....it was as if they were no longer a part of the living Force, as if their connection had been severed, allowing some dark energy to take root. Anakin shuddered slightly in disgust. Whoever or whatever they were, they were clearly winning the fight.
Their strength and speed was impressive, but it wasn't anything Anakin hadn't seen before - he'd seen Jedi padawans who moved faster. But it seemed the four individuals had not, and as Anakin watched he saw their numbers quickly reduced from four to two in under a minute. An older man who wore what appeared to be spectacled lenses swung a sword at the head of his attacker, but his intended target ducked under the blow before counterattacking with a hard left to the man's stomach. As he doubled over his attacker grabbed him by his coat and threw him into some nearby bushes. He didn't get up.
The second man to go down was a short young man with red hair. Anakin would have placed his age in his late teens at best, as well as the other young man and woman. The young man brought up some archaic looking weapon that vaguely reminded Anakin of a wookie crossbow, before he realized it was a crossbow! The young man hurriedly took aim and fired at a female attacker. The crossbow bolt slammed into her chest, just missing the heart, Anakin noted, which seemed to be where the boy was aiming. A weakness perhaps? Anakin considered thoughtfully. But as he watched, the female attacker snarled at the boy before ripping the crossbow bolt out and throwing it to the ground.
"You'll pay for that!" she hissed in rage, and Anakin rolled his eyes and snorted at how ineffective she was at inciting anything remotely close to fear. Pathetic. The female... whatever she was... moved with clearly unnatural speed as the young man appeared to be reloading his weapon, but just as he finished and brought the weapon up he was hit was a solid backhand that sent him flying over a nearby headstone and into an open grave. Two down, two to go.
"OZ!!!" a young redheaded woman screamed in anguish. Anakin took a moment to study her as she ran toward the open grave but was intercepted by her attacker, who grabbed her.
"Haha boys, I got a hot one!" he laughed in glee while showing his fangs. "Go easy with her!" another one shouted, "She's cute, we can have some fun with her!" He sneered suggestively. Anakin had to suppress his growing anger; he was not going to let them do anything of the sort. But before he could move a dark-haired young man jumped into the fray holding a large battle axe. His movements were slow and uncoordinated, yet he moved with a strength and determination that had Anakin raising his eyebrows in slight approval. Four against one and he was jumping into the fight…this one had courage.
His attack was successful enough, as the young woman's attacker threw her roughly to the ground and backed away from the axe-wielding young man.
"Willow!" the dark haired young man shouted, "Get Oz and Giles and get out of here now! I'll hold them off!" He swung the axe in a wild swing that forced his, now two, attackers to back off to a safe distance, but Anakin knew they were only biding their time to corner then disarm him.
Just as 'Willow' got up to move to the open grave she was grabbed about the neck by the female attacker who hissed into her ear, "Going somewhere deary? The party's just getting started." And with considerable strength she threw Willow next to the open grave.
"Xander, help me!" Willow screamed in fright before she landed with a resounding thump and went silent.
The young man identified as Xander, however, had his own fight on his hands, as fighting off now three of the unnaturally fast and strong opponents required a bit of skill the boy didn't appear to have. A master swordsman himself, Anakin couldn’t help but wince, with each wild swing of the axe he exposed himself just a little more for one of his attackers to...
Xander hit the ground hard as the axe was knocked from his grip, tackled from behind by one of his assailants. Kicking his right foot out, Xander connected with his attacker's face before rising to his feet to face off with the others. He pulled out some sort of odd looking weapon Anakin had never seen before and readied himself to attack.
Behind you! Anakin warned instinctively, and as if heeding his warning the young man spun and jabbed the weapon into his attacker's chest then pulled out and backed away. His attacker staggered backward for a second in shock before he exploded into dust with a scream. Anakin had never felt anything die so spectacularly with such a mundane strike. So the heart was a weakness after all.
"You killed Nathan!" The one in front of him raged, spittle flying in all directions.
"What you vampires deserve!" Xander shot back defiantly.
Vampires – good; now he had a name to his attackers.
"We're going to kill you slowly and painfully!" the one in front of Xander raged as his buddy got up. The two began to flank Xander, pure murder in their eyes as they forced the young man back away from his fallen friends as he tried to keep both of the vampires in sight.
Enough of this, Anakin thought darkly. Time to make his presence felt. Taking a moment to note where the fallen weapon was, Anakin stepped out from the shadows behind the Mausoleum. "Leave the boy alone," he stated in a firm voice.
The two vampires turned in startled surprise at the sound of his voice. Sloppy. But the boy kept his concentration on his opponents in front of him.
"Thanks for the warning back there," Xander said to him in a somewhat strained voice, which caused Anakin to frown slightly as he casually moved up next to the boy. He shouldn't have felt his warning unless he was somehow... Force sensitive.
None the less he shrugged slightly; it was something to consider for later - right now he needed to end this fight.
"I didn't think you were going to show yourself, which probably would have been the smart move on your part. Not many people get involved when it comes to fighting vampires. I don't suppose you have any weapons on you?" Xander asked hopefully.
"No, I'm afraid I don't." Anakin answered evenly, to which Xander gave a short laugh. While unarmed combat was something the Jedi trained in incase they were ever disarmed of their Lightsaber, it was not something they usually excelled at. Even Sith lords frowned upon learning unarmed combat techniques that didn't have any bearing on the Force. Anakin of course had been one of the few exceptions within the Order; having studied Hajitka and Echanie fighting arts, but he hadn't been able to really utilize them effectively while trapped in the sealed pressurized body suit he had been imprisoned in for decades, and he knew he was out of practice. Facing off against the confused vampires he didn't expect that was going to be a problem in this fight, considering the level of skill, or rather lack there of, he had observed in his opponents. All brute strength, no skill.
"Looky here!" The vampire to the left sneered as his companion licked his lips "The more the merrier!"
"What are their weaknesses?" Anakin asked. He'd already observed one, but that didn't mean there weren't others he could exploit.
Xander tossed him a disbelieving look. "Are you serious! You don't know?"
"Never fought one before." Anakin answered with an amused shrug as he watched the two vampires share a look then split up, hoping to divide their prey's attention.
Just makes it easier for me to deal with, Anakin thought with an inward smile.
"Well, a wooden stake through the heart is sure way to kill them, so is sunlight, fire and holy water, oh, and beheadings work really well, too," Xander responded quickly.
"I see," Anakin responded evenly with his back now turned to Xander, all the while never taking his eyes from his soon-to-be victim. Reaching out with the Force he gripped the fallen axe to get a feel for the weapon and patiently waited for the attack he knew was coming. The two vampires stopped their pacing and crept forward slowly, having determined they'd waited long enough.
Anakin could feel Xander tense and prepared for the attack.
"Be calm." Anakin said reassuringly, his eyes not leaving his opponent as he closed in.
"Easy for you to say, dude," Xander replied tersely.
"The Force is with us, just be mindful of your opponent and nothing else," Anakin responded.
"What about my friends? That other vampire is standing guard over them." Xander nodded in the direction of a motionless Oz and a moaning Willow with the female vampire now standing guard over them. But Giles was nowhere to be seen. Xander hoped that was good thing.
"I'll deal with that," Anakin replied confidently.
Xander meant to ask how he planned on dealing with that, but before he could the vampire charged him. Barely sidestepping in time, Xander ducked under a nasty haymaker that would have no doubt broken his jaw. Xander continued to dodge and move backwards, occasionally throwing a strike of his own to keep the vampire off balance, but he was seriously outmatched as his enemy possessed superior speed and strength, and with each move he was pushed further back onto the defensive and away from Anakin-.
And In that same instant Anakin exploded into action. Surrendering to the grip of the Force; the former Jedi Knight Force-leapt up and over his opponent in a blur summersault, whirling impossibly fast to strike out at his opponent with a vicious back spin-kick, knocking the vampire onto his stomach. As the surprised vampire scrambled to his feet he promptly had his world explode into light as Anakin's Force-enhanced right hook shattered his jaw, dropping him like a brick to the ground. Gripping the axe more firmly with the Force, Anakin summoned it. Never taking his eyes off his opponent, Anakin brought the axe up and around before severing the head of the vampire, who promptly exploded into dust.
Glancing to his left Anakin winced slightly as he observed Xander's fight. The boy's technique- if you could call it that- was sloppy, slow and unrefined, but he was managing to keep the vampire at bay, barely. He'd be fine for the moment, Anakin concluded, it was the others he was more worried about. Moving with a purpose he hadn't felt in a long time, Anakin closed the distance quickly to Xander's fallen friends before the female vampire hissed out a warning.
"I wouldn't sweetie!" she hissed menacingly, and Anakin suppressed his laughter. While he was increasingly confident in his ability to easily handle these vampires, he completely sure he could cross the distance in time before she killed the young man she was holding hostage, the young red haired man the girl Willow had called Oz.
"Drop it," the vampire barked referring to the axe in his hand, "Or I kill him!" She gripped his neck tighter. Anakin glanced down at the girl called Willow and frowned. She looked pitiful, almost as afraid of him as she was of the vampire, but she was even more afraid for the young man being held hostage. Her feelings of deep concern and longing for him were coming off in waves. Her lover, Anakin concluded. Giving her a reassuring smile, Anakin returned his attention to the vampire.
"I said drop it! You think I won't kill him!?"
Anakin slowly lowered the Ax to hang loosely at his side and probed with the Force to find anything he could use as a distraction, and was pleased as his eyes settled onto the fallen crossbow. The vampire followed his gaze and then broke out into a laugh. "That's not going to do you any good, sweetie. Now be a good boy and just wait right there while I eat, then I'll deal with you and I'll keep the girl for desert," she said with a wicked sneer. Clearly she thought she had already won, and was going to kill her hostage anyway. Not going to happen, Anakin swore. Acting on the whisperings of the Force Anakin tossed the Axe toward a nearby grave stone, a move the vampire instinctively followed giving Anakin the opening he was looking for. Stretching out to the Force, Anakin summoned the crossbow and in a flash it was in his hands. The female vampire had barely managed whirl around and let out a startled gasp before Anakin brought the crossbow up and fired. With Force assistance, the crossbow bolt flew straight and true just narrowly missing Oz's head and piercing the heart of the vampire. She dropped the boy and looked down at the bolt with dumbfounded confusion before she brought her startled eyes up to meet Anakin's. "Damn," she muttered before exploding into dust.
"Thanks," Oz gasped between deep breaths.
"My pleasure." Anakin gave a faint smile.
"Oz!" Willow cried happily as she struggled to her boyfriend and hugged him tightly. "I was so worried. Are you ok?"
"Yeah babe, I'm fine," he reassured her.
"Where are Giles and Xander?" Willow asked.
"Your older friend is over there in the bushes." Anakin pointed to a clump of bushes surrounding a tree a few feet away. "He appears dazed but otherwise unharmed. Xander is over there...and if you'll excuse me, it seems he may need my help." And moving with speed Willow only associated with a Slayer he was gone.
"Who was that?" Oz asked, gingerly rubbing his neck.
"I don't know."
Xander was having a real tough time in this fight; he'd managed to tag the fang face a few times and even managed to stab it once with the stake. Unfortunately he'd missed the heart, which wasn't good. Even worse, the vamp had managed to knock the stake from his hand. Definitely not good! Xander's forearms were already painfully numb from the numerous blows he had barely managed to block - the strength of each blow felt like getting hit by a baseball bat, which given the force involved wasn't far from the truth. His arms hurt and he was exhausted from the night's fight, but he was not going to give up.
Ok, so taking on one fledgling before he could kill someone had seemed like a good idea - they had done it before - but none of them expected that said fledgling would have some of his undead buddies show up to make sure he made it into his unlife without the Slayer to mess things up. They didn't get the Slayer, but they had managed to ambush her friends instead. As Xander staggered back from yet another powerful blow he wondered how much longer he could keep this up.
Frustrated with constantly being on the defensive, Xander lashed out with a quick jab that connected with the vampire's face, surprising him. Building on what little momentum he had, Xander lashed out with a kick to the back of the kneecap which brought the vamp down to one knee; a follow up kick to the vamp's face failed to connect, as the vampire ducked under it before spinning and rising to face Xander head-on. Xander pressed his attack with a series of hooks and jabs, all of which were easily blocked by the vampire, who grabbed Xander's last punch and pulled him in before unleashing a wicked uppercut into Xander's solar plexus. Xander felt the air explode from his lungs and he doubled over but the vampire was not done with him, as a hook connected with his face, finally putting him down. The vampire sat on his chest, using his legs to pin Xander's arms at his side and smiled wickedly into his face.
"I hate it when my dinner puts up a spirited fight," it said with mock disgust.
"I hope I give you indigestion!" Xander shot back. Ok, it was a little corny, but it was all he had on a dazed moment's notice, and besides he wasn't going to give this thing the satisfaction of watching him beg for his life. The vampire licked its lips and bared its fangs as it bent down to bite at Xander's neck, but just before he could, some unseen force picked up the vampire and slammed it into the mausoleum more than fifteen feet away. Rolling over onto his stomach, Xander glanced up and saw the mysterious guy who had saved him earlier. He had one hand extended, with a look of concentration on his face and Xander's cleaver in the other. Slowly rising to his feet, Xander could feel his right eye swelling shut from where the vamp had connected with his face, but he ignored it and watched as the vampire also staggered to his feet.
"Get behind me," the man said. Xander didn't even try to argue with him and did as instructed. The vampire slowly stalked over to them, shaking the cobwebs from his head before finally realizing he was alone.
"Your friends have been dealt with. Now unless you want to join them, I suggest you do something smart and leave while I'm feeling generous," Anakin stated in a cold voice. The fledgling looked to Anakin and Xander, then to the spot where his now dusted friends were scattering in the wind, then back to Anakin. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, he took off without another word. The fight was over.
"I almost wish he stayed." Xander quipped. Anakin gave a slight smile before turning and heading back towards the others while handing Xander the axe. "Let's go check on your friends."
"Yeah" Xander sighed, allowing himself to relax somewhat for the first time since the ambush began. Slowly he turned and followed his mysterious benefactor.
The two traveled in silence as they made their way back to Oz and Willow, and as Xander saw with relief, both were helping a rather flustered Rupert Giles extract himself from the bushes.
"Hey G-man, are you ok?" Xander asked as they came within earshot.
"I'd do better if you'd stop calling me by that insufferable nickname, Xander," Giles said, rubbing his sore ribs. "But y-yes, I think I'll be fine." Taking a moment to look around him he frowned. "Has anyone seen my glasses?"
"Here" Oz said, retrieving them from a nearby headstone.
"Thank you Oz."
"No problem," Oz said, still rubbing the side of his head where he got backhanded.
Re-donning his glasses, Giles inspected each and every member of the Scooby Gang for any signs of serious injury. Although a Watcher's job was to train and watch over his Slayer, Giles had long ago come to realize this group was special, in that they supported his Slayer in a way no previous Slayer had been privy too. The results spoke for themselves, as Buffy was one of the longest living Slayers in history and that was due in no small part to the group who stood with him now.
But it was more than that. With Buffy having been gone for the past week and no idea when she would return, the Scoobies had decided to carry on the fight until she got back...if she came back. After tonights near catastrophe, they would have to sit down and rethink their strategy.
"It's good to see you all are ok," Giles sighed with relief. Though battered, none appeared to be too injured. It was only then that Giles noticed the young man standing next to Xander. He was young; early twenties, with shoulder length blond hair and piercing blue eyes that spoke of experience beyond his years, and from the way he stood observing his surroundings, he gave an air of someone constantly on guard. By his build Giles suspected he was in great physical shape and could probably handle himself very well in a fight, but there seemed to be something odd about him, aside from his interesting taste of clothes.
"I don't believe we've met," Giles said cautiously. The young man seemed to become mildly uncomfortable before finally coming to a decision.
"Anakin. Anakin Skywalker," he said simply.
“I’m Xander Harris, This is Willow Rosenberg, Rupert Giles and Daniel Osbourne."
"Just call me Oz." Oz smiled.
"A pleasure to meet you all," Anakin bowed formally.
"Well Anakin, I think I can safely say for all of us that we appreciate your help." Giles said.
"I'll say, he saved our bacon tonight; guy moves like a Slayer," Xander said with a hint of disbelief in his voice. Oz and Willow cast startled glances at Anakin, who did nothing but return their gazes levelly.
"He what?" Giles sputtered.
"I'm telling you, the guy moved like Buffy on steroids," Xander said with a grin. "He jumped like fifteen feet in the air and took out a vamp in no time; it was unbelievable. I never heard of anyone who could move like that."
"You need to get out more," Oz remarked dryly.
"Hey Giles, I never heard of a He-Slayer before but if there is one how do I get on the list?" Xander joked.
"Oh, Xander," Willow groaned. "That was horrible."
"What?" Xander shrugged. "That line was pure genius, I tell you Wills, a genius is never appreciated in their own time."
"I believe the term you're looking for is Demon Hunter." Giles said rubbing his forehead but his eyes never wavered from Anakin.
Xander seemed to be a bit of a jokester, and right now a bad one, Anakin thought, but he was trying to do Anakin a favor by deflecting the growing alarm and unease over his displayed abilities, and instead direct their attention to himself with his blatantly bad jokes. Stretching out with the Force, Anakin could feel Willow's mind piecing together the events where Anakin summoned the crossbow with the Force. Sure enough, her eyes locked on to his and immediately grew cautious. These people don't trust easily. Sighing Anakin realized he needed to take control of the situation before he spooked his new...well, he wasn't exactly sure what to call them.
"Look, as much as I would love to stay here and discuss this, I believe we should move to a safer location. I don't want the vampire to bring back any more of his friends."
"Yes-yes you're quite right, Mr. Anakin," Giles agreed.
"Just Anakin will do fine," Anakin said reassuringly. "If you don't mind, however, I believe it would be wise to stick together for the time being, until we've all reached safety. Then, if you're feeling up to it, I believe an exchange of information would be prudent before we part ways."
Willow narrowed her eyes in slight suspicion. "While I am very much thankful to you for saving our lives, thank you very much, but how can we trust you? I've never heard of a guy who could move like a Slayer and use weird magic like that. I mean, no offense or anything, but how do we know you won't go all grrrr on us, or or or how do we know this isn't some elaborate plot by Spike and Drusilla or, or, or..."
"Wills, breathe," Xander cut in, as Oz moved to his girlfriend and put a comforting arm around her waist. It seemed to work as the girl calmed visibly. "I mean think about it for a second," Xander mused wistfully, "When have Spike or Drusilla ever done something that clever?"
"Well, there was the Judge and Alcathla," Willow countered.
"Point," Xander agreed in good humor. "But if there plan was to take us out, why send in someone to save us?"
"To earn our trust and then get to Buffy," Willow pointed out quickly.
"Doesn't fit their M. O," Oz mused with a shake of the head. "Very direct, those two."
"It's not my intent to harm you," Anakin assured them genuinely. "If that had been the case, I would have left you to your fate."
"And I, for one, am very glad you didn't," Giles spoke up.
"We could have taken them," Xander huffed a bit defensively. The three remaining Scoobies simply stared with a mix of amusement and annoyance. "Or not," he added sheepishly.
"Yes, well now that Xander has finished thumping his chest for the wounded pride of the Scoobies, I believe we should be off," Giles insisted.
"Where to?" Oz asked.
"What about your place, Giles? Or should we go back to the Library?" Willow considered.
"It's almost 1 AM, Wills, and the school is a bit far off on foot. I don't think we'd make it without running into more trouble," Xander countered.
"Why is that?" Anakin asked. They had been moving while talking and seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to leave the cemetery and they soon neared the entrance. Anakin couldn't really blame them, in fact he agreed completely, the place put out a disturbing feeling in the Force and he was still weak from....his rebirth? He didn't know how he had come to this strange world but his feelings told him to continue down this path.
"Vampire activity spikes just before midnight and stays that way until dawn I'm afraid. And we're in no condition to face another pack of fledglings," Giles explained. They exited the cemetery and slowly proceeded on foot down eerily quiet streets of the almost ghost-like town. Never before had Anakin seen so little activity at night on any world that had a thriving civilization. Stretching out to the Force Anakin was comforted to note that there was life here, it just seemed the people preferred to stay indoors.
"Is this natural?" Anakin asked gesturing to the practically empty street.
"Whether or not the unsuspecting population of Sunnydale believes in the existence of Vampires and Demons, they've long since learned that to venture out at night can be rather dangerous. Most people who you'll find out this late at night are either naive or new in town, and they typically don't last very long I'm afraid." Anakin nodded in thought as he absorbed Giles' words. The man seemed very wise, and he had already given Anakin more information then he'd previously had, but Anakin decided not to push the matter until they arrived at Giles' place. Then he would get his answers, hopefully.
"You’re obviously new here to Sunnydale as well," Giles observed. "How long have you been here?"
"I just arrived." Anakin answered truthfully.
"Wow, first night in town and he's already dustin' vamps, way to get your Sunnydale cherry popped," Xander enthused. Anakin shot him an amused smirk.
"And saving Scoobies in distress, can't forget that," Oz added.
"Yeah, that'll earn you some brownie points with the Slayer," Xander said. At this the group seemed to become a bit remorseful, as if something bad had recently happened. He could see it in their expressions without having to use the Force. There was a story there and Anakin didn't feel the need to push, but he wondered, could a Slayer be their version of a Jedi? A Force sensitive individual who could tap into that power? Possibly, Anakin thought to himself, he'd certainly been on a number of worlds that called Force sensitive individuals by other names than Jedi or Sith. But then he remembered something else the young man implied, something to the fact that Slayers appeared to be only female. Interesting.
Gauging his surroundings more intently, Anakin frowned at the rather primitive technology displayed. Using the Force, Anakin was disheartened to feel that the ground he walked on was some chemical synthetic that didn't appear any more advanced then wet mud, and glancing at the primitive-looking lights that provided poor illumination, Anakin could hardly hide his scowl. If the technology of this place is this primitive I'm not sure I want to know what they have for Star Travel technology. Anakin’s feelings told him he wasn't going to like the answer to this question when it came.
"Something wrong?" Oz asked, having noticed Anakin's scowl.
"Just more questions to consider," Anakin answered.
"Cool." Oz let the matter drop, and the group continued in silence for a time.
"Here we are," Giles spoke up when they arrived at a nearby building. They made their way to Giles' apartment, a rather small-looking place filled with books and assorted documents and relics. It suited his character, Anakin reflected. Upon entering the apartment itself the Scoobies gave small sighs of relief that he didn't fail to notice.
"Never invite people into your house at night," Xander said seriously. "Vampires can't come in unless they're invited." Anakin had never heard of anything like it, but decided not to press for the details as to why. Sitting down in a nearby chair, Anakin gave an amused grin. "And you thought I was one?"
"Well, no," Willow began. "It's just that...well we don't know what you are," Willow stated.
"I'm still going with He-Slayer." Xander insisted.
"Demon Hunter," Giles corrected with mild annoyance. "Unfortunately that line has long since been broken, unlike the Vampire Slayers." Taking a long look at Anakin, "Or maybe not."
"Huh?" Xander asked.
"Well, instead of one girl in all the world, at one point in time it was one girl and one boy in all the world, but some six hundred years ago or so, during the time of the Dark Ages the line of the Demon Hunter was broken. How remains a mystery, but it was a terrible blow in the battle against the darkness."
"Rough," Oz deadpanned.
"You have no idea, Oz. Instead of working together as they were fated to, the Slayers were force to operate alone. That just put more strain on the Slayers, and as a result their life expectancy, while already abysmal, plummeted.
Interesting theories, Anakin thought, but they were way off the mark.
"So what's a Slayer?"
"You...don't know?" Giles asked with clear astonishment. Anakin shook his head in the negative.
"My word, this is a bit unexpected." Giles frowned slightly before sitting on the couch. Taking a moment to remove his glasses and polish them, a tactic Anakin immediately recognized as a thinking stall, "I think this situation may be a bit more...complex then we had originally thought. I had believed that you were of the fallen line of the Demon Hunter. If that had been the case, you should have known instinctively what a Slayer was, even if you had never met one," he said as he re-donned his glasses, an expression of detached interest playing across his face although Anakin could sense his mind moving at incredible speeds. Anakin suspected that the man had a considerable reservoir of knowledge. He was just the kind of lucky find that could only be the will of the Force.
"But he doesn't seem to," Xander pointed out.
"And he uses funky magic I've never seen before," Willow added, with something resembling awe and eagerness. In Anakin's opinion she seemed to be working herself to some sort of conclusion about him, he just hoped it was a positive one. It didn't really matter to Anakin one way or the other, he had no plans to stay long anyway. But one word did capture his interest, something she mentioned that stirred a memory in him.
It was something the Jedi never really dealt with, instead preferring to focus on the living Force. The records on the subject were sketchy at best, mostly due to the Jedi discounting it, and the Sith never really bothered with it. But there were worlds in the outer rim that practiced it, though Anakin had never met someone face to face who did.
Narrowing his eyes and stretching out to the Force, Anakin probed the young girl discreetly. There was a strange considerable reservoir of energy about her, nothing dark that he could detect, but something different intermixed with her Force signature - Anakin couldn't begin to describe it. He could only assume she was a professed magic user by the way she seemed to assume that Anakin was one as well. Not the best of logic to use, but you could gain valuable insights from a person's mindset by how they saw the world, and she clearly saw Anakin as a practitioner of magic.
"If-if you're not a Demon Hunter then how did you do what the others claim you did back at the cemetery? I, for one, didn't witness anything other then an up close encounter with a large shrub. Are you using some form of magic?" Giles asked.
"No, I'm not one of these professed Demon Hunters, nor do I use magic. I've been trained in the ways of the Force," Anakin stated simply, which earned him some blank stares.
"The what?" Giles asked.
"The living Force; surely you know of it?" Anakin asked in confusion - who in the galaxy didn't know of the Force? But as he focused on the four individuals with him, Anakin could feel their confusion clearly. They didn’t know.
Clearly intrigued with this revelation, Giles asked. "Could you tell us a little about this force?
Shrugging slightly, Anakin didn't see the harm. "It's difficult to explain, but I'll try. The Force is an energy field created by all living things; it surrounds us, penetrates us, and connects us to the world and beyond." Looking to his audience he was surprised to receive some rather blank stares, except for Xander, who seemed to be considering his words. Looking more intently to Xander, Anakin again stretched out to the Force to get a feel for the young man, what he felt almost made him raise his eyebrows in surprise. The Force was strong in him, unrefined, unchanneled and untapped, but his potential was enormous, possibly rivaling his own. Xander, for his part, seemed to feel something because he raised his head and frowned, his eyes locking onto Anakin's. Regaining his composure, Anakin pressed on with his explanation but kept his eyes locked onto Xander. "If you're strong enough in the Force and learn to quiet your mind, you can even tap into that power. For the Force is a powerful ally, and with it at your side you are never truly alone."
"This Force...it's...sentient?" Giles hazarded, having missed Anakin's intent gaze.
"I don't know," Anakin answered truthfully." The Force is the Force and there are none who have been able to unlock all its mysteries, myself included."
"Cool," Oz said with something akin to awe in his voice. Anakin didn't suppress the smile that crept onto his face; he had never met anyone quite like the taciturn young man before him. Oz seemed to accept things as they were without much in the way of outward emotion. He was almost Jedi in that regard. Instinctively Anakin stretched out to the Force to get a better feel for the young man and was again surprised by what he found. Oz too seemed to be strong in the Force, not quite as strong as Xander was, but he had considerable potential in him all the same. But there was something else, something subtle that Anakin couldn't quite get a read on, as if something in the boy had been...infected? Again, it was something Anakin had a hard time grasping but it was enough to perk his curiosity. This world is just full of surprises, Anakin mused. Studying Oz's features closely, Anakin noted Oz seemed to be frowning slightly as if he felt something before turning his attention back to Anakin with a raised eyebrow. They both felt it. Anakin was certain of it, but neither of them spoke up, which he was glad for. This situation required discretion.
"Well that is indeed a mystery." Giles said "I'll have to do some more research to see if I can find any references to the Force, though it would probably have been called by another name."
Xander groaned. "Giles, it's almost two in the morning. My eye's swelling shut, my body feels as if it’s been hit by a freight train and my brain has gone to mush."
"It does that a lot, I've noticed." Oz smirked.
"And again with the snide comments," Xander joked. "But don't worry Oz, your day of retribution is coming! Oh yeah, it's coming soon!"
"I am pretty tired," Willow said, and as if to emphasize the point, she yawned.
"Perhaps we should pick this discussion up tomorrow," Giles offered. He, too, was showing signs of fatigue. "Do you have a place to stay Anakin?"
"No," Anakin answered.
"Well it may not be much, but I offer the spare room, at least until we can get you settled or something." On the surface Giles' offer seemed to be made out of gratitude for what the young man had done, and in truth it was. But there was more to it then that. Giles had a very strategic mind, and right now even in his fatigued state he was considering the new possibilities this potential ally brought to the table. With Buffy gone, they were going to need someone with similar capabilities to step in until she returned. And while the Scoobies were doing their best, it just wasn't enough without a Slayer.
"Thank you," Anakin accepted.
"Will you all have trouble getting home?" Giles asked the Scoobies as they began heading for the door.
"I got it covered," Oz said, referring to his van."They'll make it home ok."
"Yes, thank you, Oz," Giles said. "I'll see you all tomorrow at the Library and we'll see what we can do to rethink our approach to all this."
"Sure thing G-man," Xander quipped as they said their goodbyes and filed out the door.
"I must apologize, I know you had many questions that you would have liked answered." Giles said in a contrite tone.
"There is no need to apologize." Anakin said shaking his head. "I've learned long ago the need for patience. The answers I need will come in time."
Giles smiled in acceptance. "Will you join us at the Library tomorrow?"
"I see no reason not to, besides I still have some more questions about this place, as well. The Force feels...different here."
"Ah yes, of course. Well, I will bid you good night Anakin." Giles nodded then headed for his bedroom. Anakin moved off to the spare room but instead of sleeping moved into the classic Jedi mediation position to use Force healing. As he stretched out to the Force, a small part of Anakin's mind replayed the events that had transpired. He knew it was too much to expect to have all the answers he wanted so quickly, but as he replayed the events in his mind he realized he had yet even more questions. Well, given time he would get his answers. But something about this situation felt...well, right wasn't the exact word for it, rather he felt he was supposed to be here. To do what, he didn't know, but Anakin didn't intend to waste the opportunity afforded him. Force healing wouldn't take long to regenerate his strength which would give Anakin enough time to ponder his next moves. He had some nagging suspicions about this world, suspicions only the Force could truly answer to his satisfaction. Satisfied for the moment Anakin began to let his mind drift through the Force while he waited for the dawn.