New Faces and New Places
NEW FACES AND NEW PLACES
“So we can see that a small error in translation early on can lead to a radical change in the text and in what is widely accepted as truth many years down the line.” Xander turned back to his ‘Esoteric Literature’ class, it still surprised him that he seemed to be a popular lecturer and that his students actually paid attention; “by looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls, we see the passage clearly states that the Israelites fled Egypt across the ‘Reed Sea’. Now the Reed Sea is an area at the north end of the Red Sea where the Jordan River flows in. It is an area that is swampy and treacherous and it would keep the chariot bound Egyptian army from being able to follow. It would be an obvious maneuver for someone like Moses that had a good knowledge of both the army’s capabilities and the topography of the country. This shouldn’t minimize his accomplishments as a leader, it just means that the really cool scene out of the ‘Ten Commandments’ isn’t quite accurate.” As his students chuckled at Xander’s little joke, the bell rang ending the period. “Alright folks, remember there’s a test next Wednesday, so get ready and we’ll review during Monday’s session.”
The class left the auditorium, with just one or two stragglers that wanted to ask questions, probably about the grades they received on the paper’s he had returned at the beginning of the hour. After they were dealt with Xander packed up his papers and headed back to his office. He stopped and looked at his door “Dr. Harris, Chair of Arcane Studies”, Xander didn’t know how long it would take until he stopped geeking out at seeing that, but he hoped it wouldn’t be any time soon.
“How was class there Boss Man?”
“Fine Faith, a couple of students bitching about their paper grades, but they really didn’t have much to stand on. Any answer from that archivist on the origins of the Order of Teraka?”
“Well I tried calling him up but I got this Terakan asshole instead, and he starts with this threatening crap, you know ‘we’ll hunt you down, you’ll never see us’ that kinda stuff.”
“So what happened?”
“I gave him our names and that we’re with Miskatonic.”
“The records should be here by Monday.”
“Excellent, thanks Faith; I’m glad you handled that with such tact and diplomacy,” Xander said; mentally filling in the parts of the conversation that Faith had left out.
Faith just glared and flipped Xander off.
“So,” Xander said, sitting down at his desk, “any plans for the weekend?”
Faith had been thinking about what her letter had said for some time now, she had even talked it over with Dawn; and realized that she had to get emotionally closer to Xander, the problem was she just wasn’t sure how. In the past she just grabbed a guy’s dick and asked if he wanted a roll, so actually dating someone was an experience that she’d never had. She had talked to Pip and even called B up, trying to figure out this whole dating crap; they’d had some good suggestions but it was uncharted territory for Faith and she just didn’t feel comfortable. Closing her eyes and muttering a prayer she dove in and asked, “well the Sox are in the playoffs and there’s a game at Fenway Saturday night, what ya say, you and me?”
“You know, I’ve never been to a baseball game; not exactly my thing,” then he looked over at Faith, “however I do know that the school happens to have box seats on the third base side. How about I give Carter a call and see if there’s room for two more?”
While it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t ‘NO’ either; figuring she should take what she could get Faith said, “sounds like a plan there stud, and if the Undertaker can’t come through, let me know and I’ll see if I can get a hold of a couple of old buds that should be able to hook us up.”
Xander had to laugh at her nickname for the President of the University; actually he had to work to keep from calling him that to his face but he wasn’t about to tell her to stop. Just then a brunette whirlwind came bursting into his office.
“Xander, you really need to talk to that Egypt guy before I hex him over the phone.”
“What’s the matter Dawn,” Xander asked already knowing the answer. Dawn Summers might be a lot of things, but at the core she was Buffy’s sister and like her sister, she didn’t take correction very well.
“That Jerkaholic keeps correcting my pronunciation. Can I please tell him we’ve got a phonetic translation of both high and low heiroglyphic alphabets so I can gloat a lot the next time I talk to him?” The fact that the council had employed, and still employed beings that had existed in ancient Thebes, Ur and Babylon; made them the foremost authorities on the actual pronunciation of languages. Unfortunately it was not something that they could readily share.
“No, and you know why; we traced him back to the Air Force, and you know what happens when the government gets involved with the dark side of things.”
“I know, but gloating would be a lot of fun.”
“I know it would, but just think about how much better it’ll be if those Goold.”
“Whatever, if those snakey aliens decide to invade and we show up with all that anti-snake technology that we’ve got in the storage area. Now I don’t know about you, but shocking the shit out of a bunch of government know it alls is pretty damn close to the top of my ‘really fun things to do’ list.”
“But if they need it, why haven’t ya given it to em X?”
“Because they could turn around and use it on other creatures, mutants, demons, weres, you name it and they could wipe it out. I don’t trust the government that much so the stuff is a save the world only kind of option.”
“And we’ll know if we need it?”
“Yeah, we’ve got a couple of pipelines into that mountain of theirs, so we’ll have some advanced warning if the fertilizer is about to hit the windmill.”
“What pipelines,” Dawn asked.
“A couple of half-demons that work in the maintenance areas and a nest of Vronta that live on the mountain.”
“Aren’t they those rock demons that are darned near indestructible but move slower than frozen molasses?”
“Yeah, but remember they hear through vibrations in the rock, so they know pretty much everything going on in there, we provide them a few luxuries, they alert us if anything’s in the wind.”
“I thought so, anyway I’m glad you’re here Dawn.”
“Are you doing anything Saturday night?”
“Excellent,” Xander said in an eerily exact imitation of Mr. Burns. “I’ve got a guest lecturer coming in for my folklore class and I need someone to pick him up.”
“And where will you be?”
“Faith and I will be at a Red Sox game, so neither of us can make it.”
“You and Faith on a date?”
“Hey, I’m right here Pip.”
“Sorry, it’s just . . . . . . a little wiggy is all.”
“It’s just a baseball game,” Faith shot back.
“No, it’s a date and that’s a huge step,” she looked at both Xander and Faith, “for both of you. Now back to this total stranger you’re sticking me with.”
“He’s not a total stranger, you’ve met him before; and treat him nice, he might be a good addition to the department. Just stand there with a sign that says ‘Miskatonic’ and he’ll find you.” Xander paused for a moment, “you might want to primp up a little before you pick him up, you know, give him another reason to stay.”
“So who is this mysterious man from my past, that you’re pimping me out to?”
“That’s a secret, I just hope I can pirate the security feed so I can see your face.”
“Xander, that’s mean.”
“Maybe, but if it was anyone else, you’d say it was fun.”
Dawn thought for a moment, “true,” she said. Then she got back up, “you both have fun Saturday, and I’ll see you on Monday.”
“We will, and thanks Pip,” Faith replied as Dawn whisked herself out of the room.
“There’s no way having that much energy is normal,” Xander muttered.
“Maybe she got some slayerness after all,” Faith said, then she looked at Xander as though she was thinking something over; finally she asked, “Do you have a problem being on a date with me?”
Xander looked up at his friend “of course not, it’s just . . . . . .”
“Well, honestly I’m kinda scared.”
“No, God no; of just the opposite in fact, of loosing you.”
“What you talkin’ bout X?”
“It’s just that you and Dawn have been my best friends since Sunnydale, and as much as I love you both I don’t want to screw that up and we can say it won’t affect our friendship, but we both know the truth. And it’s a big step risking one of the most precious things in my life.”
Faith had to grin at his answer; Xander might be a bad-ass demon hunter, or a college professor, but at the core he was still the same guy that led with his heart; the one she had met all those years ago.
“You think that’s funny,” Xander said with a bit of heat.
“Naw X, I was just thinkin’ about how little we change down where it counts; you’re all bad and booked up but in your heart you’re still the same sweet guy I met all those years ago. Listen, I know it’s a risk, but what good thing in life isn’t? I know that things might not work, and I know that if that happens our friendship will change but I’ll still be your friend, and Pip’s. The friendship will alter, but I’ll stick with ya, that’s a promise.”
Xander looked at the ground, embarrassed at his momentary flash of anger, “you’re right Faith, things will change; but who knows, they may change for the better. We won’t know till we try, and I for one am ready to try again; how about you?”
Now Faith looked embarrassed, “I gotta tell ya X, this is uncharted territory for me, I’ve never been much for dating, and except for Woody, never much for the whole girlfriend gig; so I’m kinda afraid I’ll wreck shit just cause I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“I’m not worried,” Xander said with a grin, “after all our time together I think we know each other pretty well, so as long as we talk we’ll be OK.”
“I dunno about that,” Faith said as she got up to leave, “you have a tendency to get into some pretty deep shit with just your mouth.”
Xander looked at the grinning slayer, “smartass,” he said then leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “See you tomorrow." And his eyes followed her down the hall till he couldn’t see her any more.
It turned out that there was plenty of room in the Miskatonic box at Fenway. Xander had never been much of a sports fan so Faith had to explain a lot of what was happening and why it was significant. Xander looked over at his date and thought she was beautiful in a white, long sleeved T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap, but what really took the prize was the smile on her face, it wasn’t her usual smirk or grin, but something simpler and genuine. He was having a great time as they watched the game and she regaled him with tales of her mis-spent childhood. Honestly neither of them wanted the night to end, but after the last out there was no reason to stay. They were driving back to Arkham in a prolonged but not uncomfortable silence when Faith spoke up, “can I ask you a totally off the wall question?”
“What was the fourth prophecy on that scroll you read?”
“Huh,” Xander said, sounding rather foolish.
“You told me there were four prophecies on that scroll, one about B, one about Red and one about me; but you’ve never said what the fourth one was, so what was it?”
Xander was silent for a moment, obviously thinking; finally he asked, “are you sure you want to know?”
The question surprised her, “sure, why wouldn’t I?”
“Because it hasn’t come to pass yet and it’s about you, at least I’m pretty sure it’s about you. So not to get all Back to the Future on you, but are you sure you want to know about your future?”
Faith thought about that, honestly she was more of a believer in the ‘Terminator’ theory, ‘there is no fate but what we make,' so she answered, “yeah, I do.”
“OK then, it said:
In this time he will come, an offspring of the White and the Dark. He will steer the course that they have charted and all will defer to him in the new world."
“So how’s that about me?”
“It’s not specifically about you, it’s about our son.”
“WHAT?!?!?!? How the hell do you figure that?”
“Well, it was included in a scroll of slayer prophecies, and you are commonly referred to as what?”
“The Dark Slayer.”
“And a lot of demons call me what?”
“The Slayer’s White Knight; OK I get that, Dark and White.”
“So according to this we’re supposed to have a son and he’ll finish the work that we start and have a huge amount of power.”
Faith was silent for a moment, then spoke in a voice that was soft and wistful, “that ain’t gonna happen Xander.”
He looked at her, surprised at the tone and asked, “why not?”
For an answer she pulled up her shirt and exposed the one scar on her body, “remember, I told Pip that when B stuck me that the docs removed some stuff?”
“Well, what I didn’t say is that other things were damaged. When it looked like me and Woody were in for the long haul, I went to a doc and asked about having kids. He said that with the damage and everything that it would be virtually impossible for me to ever have a kid. So it looks like number four ain’t gonna happen, at least not with me.”
“Virtually impossible,” Xander asked.
“That’s what the man said.”
There was silence for a moment, then Xander did the one thing that Faith would have never expected, he started to laugh. He was laughing so hard that he soon pulled off to the side of the road. Faith was confused, and starting to get really angry when Xander turned to her, “virtually impossible, huh. Faith, think about it for a second; think about where you are and what goes on in your life every day. We fight demons, you can bench press a Jeep, one of your best friends spent thousands of years as a glowing ball of energy, hell you know someone that’s come back from the dead twice and someone else that almost ended the world. We are surrounded by the impossible; heck, we do the impossible every day. So if some quack says that you having kids is ‘virtually impossible’, well, for us that means it’s a virtual certainty."
There was silence for a moment; “Shit,” was all Faith had to say.
“My thoughts exactly,” Xander said.
“So how accurate are these things anyway, is this like Codex stuff or one of those where one in fifty is close to right.”
“From what I can tell these things make the Codex sound vague. They are very precise chapter and verse about what is going to happen.” He looked over at his friend, “so what are you thinking?”
“No fate but what we make,” Faith responded. “We don’t know the why’s, or when’s of this thing; so as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t mean jack. Hey if something’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen, but it doesn’t dictate what happens between me and you.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Cool, and thanks for asking me out tonight Faith, I had a really good time.”
“No problem X.” she answered with a blush; maybe she could handle this whole dating thing after all.
She felt like an idiot just standing there with a sign that said Miskatonic on it, bit it was what she’d agreed to do, so she did it. Idly she wondered how Faith and Xander were doing on their date. That one hurt a bit, the idea that she and Xander would never be together like she’d hoped, but Faith was a good friend and Dawn figured that if she couldn’t have Xander that Faith would be her next choice. She knew the girl would make him happy. She remembered the rest of her letter as well and wondered who it was that Abner had written about, someone from her past, it was a puzzler. Suddenly she was aware of a figure that had swerved and was now coming towards her, she couldn’t see the face, but the hair was blue. As soon as she saw the hair she remembered that Xander’s Folklore class was covering Lycanthropes now, and who better to have as a guest lecturer.
He walked up to her, his eyes widening when he realized who it was. “You here for me?”
“Could be,” she replied. “You here to lecture?”
“Xander and Faith have a date tonight, wanna get something to eat?”
“Cool,” he said and they walked off together.
“Hey there Oz man, thanks for doing a guest spot,” Xander said as he shook the older man’s hand.
“It was cool,” the very zen werewolf replied.
“Well they’re good kids,” a pause; “do you have some time, I’ve got a proposition for you.”
“Sure,” he said sitting down next to Dawn.
“Now I know you’ve got the whole Philosophy biz going over in Chicago, and I know you’re on sabbatical, but I was wondering if you were interested in a side project.”
Xander pulled out a loose leaf binder. “I found this in my filing cabinet and it took me a while to figure out what it was.” He opened it up and showed the two the pages inside; each page had a diagram made up of a bunch of lines, odd lines that moved in angles that seemed to hurt your eyes, and a one word caption. “If this is accurate, then somehow this confluence of lines in a corner creates some sort of portal, or point to point transportation system. Now most of these diagrams are labeled with the names of star systems, but a couple of them are locations here on earth. What I’d like for the two of you to do is determine if this actually works, and if it does, create a set of diagrams so that we can travel instantly to wherever we need to be.”
“Because you two are the smartest people I know, and if anyone can figure this out it’s the pair of you.”
“You’re trying to recruit me, aren’t you?”
“Heck yes, you’d be an invaluable addition to the department; but even if I wasn’t I’d be asking for your help on this.”
Oz looked at Dawn, eyebrow quirked; Dawn just looked back at him with a glowing smile. Turning to Xander he said, “We’re in.”
“Good to hear it,” Xander replied and they all went to work.
It was soon obvious that the system worked, however it only worked one way, so Xander had become used to getting calls from all over asking for transportation back to Arkham. When Dawn fell out of the top corner of his ceiling one day it became clear that a way back had finally been discovered and work speeded up. Sooner than he would have expected they had a series of diagrams that could be copied into a corner in minutes and could take you instantly to most anywhere in the world. As best Oz and Dawn could figure, the odd angles actually bent a person’s perception, which in turn bent the quantum mechanical framework of the world creating a point to point traveling system. After all, as any veteran of the Hellmouth could tell you, perception can alter reality.
A couple other things came from all the research. One was that Faith became a lot more confident in her abilities. Despite having her BA in Anthropology, Faith had never felt comfortable with the academic side of her new job; but with Dawn either busy or gone (Faith thought it was funny as hell that Dawn had dropped right into the middle of an orgy in Beverly Hills) Faith had been forced to take a larger roll in lecturing and answering students questions and helping with research. To her surprise Faith found that she could handle these things, and actually handle them well. It had allowed her the confidence to start researching her own projects and helping Xander out even more than she had in the past.
Oz was another change. His presence had altered the group dynamic, for the better actually. Several times he had provided grounding and a clear head when it was needed. Honestly all three hoped he would stay on permanently after his sabbatical.
The final change was in Dawn. Working with Oz almost constantly for over a month had heightened her appreciation for the Philosopher/Guitarist, both as a scientist and a person. She loved his laid back nature; which was a huge contrast to her frantic flurry, and felt herself starting to fall seriously for him. He was smart and funny and cool under fire, in fact the only real problem she had was the fact that he was shorter than her. But he didn’t seem to mind so she just let it go. She was even happier than she had been in Cleveland and that was saying a lot. When she talked to her sister it was becoming obvious, even to her that she was thinking Oz and long term at the same time.
Buffy was furious. She was weaving her sword in a glittering web of death, and she was afraid it wouldn’t be enough. She had been out patrolling with Patrice and Cassie and Alistair, the new Head Watcher, when it seemed like an entire tribe of Lokshoth demons fell on them. They were fighting in a triangle, backs to each other with the Watcher in the middle when it happened. Patrice had altered her position without reason or warning, thus giving the demons a free shot at Cassie’s back and side; needless to say, they took it. The girl dropped unconscious with massive wounds to her side and right arm and a concussion. The Watcher eliminated the two demons with a sawed off shot gun that he had pulled from under his coat and was now standing guard over the fallen slayer, but she needed medical care and none of the three were free to give it to her right now. Finally due to some extraordinary efforts on Buffy’s part and Alistair’s excellent use of his shot gun there were only two demons left and he could start working on keeping Cassie alive.
Buffy finished her demon off and turned back to help Alistair; in an offhand way she noticed Patrice finish her demon off as well. “How is she?”
“Not good, she’s already lost a lot of blood, here bind up those on the arm and I’ll check her head.”
“So another trip to the body and fender shop,” Patrice noted casually.
Buffy finished binding up the arm wounds then stood in a fluid motion, “yes, entirely thanks to you."
“How is this my fault?”
“Because you opened her side up without any warning, and you did it for no reason other than spite.”
“Like you can prove that.”
“I don’t have to, your actions prove it.”
“So what are you gonna do, transfer me like you did Kennedy, send me to Timbuktu, put me behind a desk?”
“Ms. Summers, if you could help down here I’ll deal with that,” Alistair spoke, there was the sound of steel in his voice and Buffy immediately did what he asked, which would have really freaked anyone that had known her in the past. He stood up as Buffy knelt down and as they passed she whispered, “are you sure."
“Trust me,” he whispered back, and she did; trust him that is. She had ever since he’d arrived a month ago.
“Miss Summers, there’s an Englishman here to see you, says he’s the new Watcher."
“Thank you Stephanie, ask him to come in please.” Buffy heard the man walk into her office and when she looked up she got quite a shock, “you look just like . . . . . .”
“He was my cousin, I’m Alistair Wyndham-Pryce; I was always told that we rather looked like one another, I guess it’s true.”
“Yes it is; I wish I’d known your cousin better, but I was young and rather foolish at the time.”
“So was he, or so I was led to believe. Actually he was rather a hero for me as I was growing up, I’ve tried to be like he was and carry on the family name as a Watcher.”
“Please sit down,” and as he did. “I was just reading what Giles had to say about you, well except for your name; very impressive.”
“Not at all, and I see you were here under Xander for three months.”
“Yes, so I am familiar with the territory.”
“And I imagine you’re rather a fair shot.”
He blushed, “I try to avoid hitting my own foot, or anyone else’s for that matter.”
“Good to know, well unless you have any question, lets meet the girls.”
Since that time Alistair had proven himself to be an exceptional Watcher. He had Giles knowledge and Xander’s empathy, combined with both men’s ruthlessness when needed; he was as close to the perfect Watcher as Buffy had ever found. The fact that he was rather good looking didn’t hurt and as she found herself spending more time around him, she came to appreciate all of his qualities. In point of fact she found herself falling rather precipitously for the Watcher, something that she’d have to deal with soon enough, one way or another. So when he asked if she trusted him; there was only one answer, she did, implicitly.
“Ms. Clarke, in times past if a slayer allowed her Watcher to be killed out of some fit of anger then the slayer was executed. That changed over time, but now that there are so many slayers, we can indeed revive that old custom.” Saying this he pulled a silenced Glock out from under his coat and aimed it at the girl.
For her part, Patrice couldn’t believe this was happening, so she didn’t like the girl; she knew damned well the feeling was mutual. “You’re gonna kill me?”
“You allowed a slayer to be hurt, possibly killed for no reason. You cannot be trusted to not do it again. Since you cannot be trusted, we cannot use you. Goodbye.” His finger tightened on the trigger.
Patrice was trying to figure some way out of this and was coming up empty. She was too far away to go for the gun, and she couldn’t out maneuver a bullet. She closed her eyes, waiting for the impact of the bullet when she heard, “Mr. Wyndham-Pryce.”
“Yes Ms. Summers.”
“Perhaps this would be better carried out somewhere private?”
“How about we worry about getting Cassie to the hospital, and then we can deal with Patrice.”
“As you wish Ms. Summers,” Alistair said with a sigh, and he lowered the pistol.
As he moved away, Buffy reached up and jerked the junior slayer down next to her. “You put pressure on these wounds until the ambulance gets here, and if anything happens to her I won’t stop him the next time, understand?”
All the younger girl could do was nod her head. As soon as Buffy was sure everything was under control she stood up and walked over to where Alistair was watching for the ambulance. Buffy reached down and took his hand, when he looked down at the petite blond she mouthed, “Thank you,” and smiled.
He just smiled back. Buffy figured she was really gonna have to talk this one over with Dawn.
A/N The idea for the point to point travel came from Lovecraft’s story “Dreams in the Witch House”. I modified it a bit for the story but that was where the idea originated. The whole notion of perception shaping reality is from the “Marcie” episode in season one of BTVS.