Notes: This takes place after Buffy dives off the tower at the end of season 5, and any time in late season 1 of Merlin.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Buffy or Merlin.
Buffy’s first thought upon waking was: Why is Giles wearing chainmail?
But what she said was: “Why aren’t I dead?”
She took stock of her situation. She was lying on a rather uncomfortable bed in a room with stone walls that seemed to be lit by torches. She smelled like sweat and dirt and blood. Oh, and Giles was standing over her wearing chainmail
The Giles-lookalike—because this man couldn’t be Giles; Giles had never looked at her with such coldness; Giles could be harsh but he was never hard—frowned and said, “Your injuries were severe, but my physician informs me that you may be expected to make a full recovery.”
Now that he mentioned it, every part of her ached, from her bones to her hair. She supposed that was only to be expected, after defeating a hell god and jumping off of a tower. The only surprise was, as she’d already mentioned, that she didn’t appear to be dead. Unless this was Heaven. In which case, why was Giles wearing chainmail? This wasn’t some kind of subconscious fantasy of hers that was playing out for her enjoyment now that she’d fulfilled her destiny and saved the world for a final time, was it?
(Yeah, right. As if her luck had ever
been that good.)
Uh-oh. The Giles-alike had stopped talking and was now staring at her expectantly. He’d asked her something. What was it?
“Sorry, I zoned out there for a sec. What did you say?”
His eyebrows drew together in an ominous frown that reminded her of the time she’d broken Giles’ Rolling Stones
record during an incident involving his blender and a finicky crossbow.
“I said that whether you recover from your injuries at all depends upon whether you can give an adequate explanation for your presence here. It is said that you appeared out of thin air. What magics did you use? Are you a sorcerer?” There was a low, menacing quality to his voice that put her on her guard. This was not a dude who liked magic.
(Which was, like, pretty ironic, considering Giles’s brushes with magic in his youth and the fact that he had tomes and grimoires piled ear-high in his office.)
“I don’t use magic,” Buffy snapped, struggling to sit up and frustrated to find herself held firmly captive by nothing more than a really thick comforter and her own weakness. “If I did, I wouldn’t be in this bed, would I? I got dropped here, mister—I wasn’t the one who did the dropping!”
“Your speech is very strange,” the Giles-alike said, crossing his arms over his chest. His sword clanked at his side. “What do you mean to say? Were you attacked by a sorcerer?”
Buffy sighed and slumped back against the bed. God, she hurt. She hurt like she’d never hurt before. This
was her repayment for defeating Glory?
“There was a…powerful woman attacking my city,” Buffy explained haltingly, forced to choose her words more carefully than she was usually wont to do. “I had to fight her. I defeated her, but she managed to open a portal, and if I hadn’t jumped through she could have destroyed the world. I thought I was going to die. Instead, I guess I ended up here. Wherever here is.”
She stared at him, waiting for him to answer her implicit question, but he merely said, “How can I trust what you say? It is possible you speak the truth. But it is equally possible that you are a sorcerer come to kill us all.”
(Who knew that Giles could sound so…confident? Commanding? If she ever saw him again, she’d just have to spar with him until he stopped stuttering. Stuttering Giles was fun, but stutter-free Giles was impressive
Spurred by necessity, she found the strength to fling her covers away and stagger to her feet. She was relieved to find that she was wearing her own clothes, not a hospital gown—that would have made this awkward.
“Look at me,” she told him.
Before she could think better of it, she pulled her shirt over her head, though her body protested the movement. She stood before him in just her sports bra and pants. He gaped at her (in much the same way, she suspected, Giles would if she ever did this to him
, like he wanted to start talking about propriety
but couldn't manage to get a word out) and couldn’t seem to take his eyes away from her bared torso.
“I’m a fighter, not a sorcerer,” Buffy pointed out. “I’ve got the years of scars to prove it.”
She touched her neck, where Angel and then Dracula had left their marks. His eyes followed her hand intently, mistrusting, wanting to trust. She lowered her hand slowly to the place where she’d once been impaled with her own stake. As the Slayer she had incredible healing abilities, but five years of battle had left their mark even on her. She examined his face for any sign that she was getting through to him and thought she saw a glimmer of dawning respect.
When she decided she’d made her point she tried to put her shirt back on, but apparently her newly-healed bones had decided to cease cooperating and she found herself stuck mid-motion with her arms above her head and the shirt dangling over her eyes.
(She would not
think about what kind of view this was presenting to the guy who looked just like Giles in chainmail
There was a moment of silence in which she imagined his expression—if he were Giles, it would say something along the lines of dear lord, the Earth is doomed and so am I
—before he cleared his throat, his chainmail clanked as he came closer, and then a gloved hand came up and gave her shirt a jerk that got it down past her head.
Flushing, she pulled the shirt into place and sat on the bed, exhausted by her exertions. She looked up at the Giles-alike, suddenly very conscious of both his proximity and the fact that he was, to all intents and purposes, her captor.
“I believe you speak the truth,” he said at last. “I cannot know for certain, however. You will remain at the castle where I can keep an eye on you until I am sure you may be trusted outside these guarded walls. I will arrange quarters for you near to my ward, Morgana—it would do her good to have female companionship outside of her servant, and you have an air of nobility about you.” Almost as if they moved of their own accord, his eyes strayed briefly from her face down to her (completely covered) torso and back up again. “I have never seen—” he coughed “—hair
like yours before. It is a regal hue.”
Okay, if she hadn’t already been warmly inclined towards him because he looked exactly like her favoritest British guy on the planet (in chainmail!), the fact that he’d complimented her hair even though it had to be just awful after the fight and the portal and who knew how long she’d been lying in that bed did.
never complimented her hair. What was up with that? Yet another thing she’d have to talk to him about when she got back. If she got back.)
She swung her legs up onto the bed and reached to pull the comforter up over herself again. The Giles-alike reached out to help, his warm hand brushing over hers for just a moment before she let go and allowed him to do it.
“I don’t even know your name,” she said, plaintively, because she really had thought she was going to die, and she’d been okay with it
, but now she was in some other time and place and maybe she would never be able to go home again.
His hazel eyes (so like Giles’s) flared with surprise. “I am Uther Pendragon,” he said, his voice carrying a note of pride.
The name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. She nodded. “And I’m where, exactly?”
He smiled. “My city. Camelot.”
She kept nodding for a moment. Then his words sank in. “To borrow a phrase from Giles: bollocks,” she said. Then, as he let out a startled laugh even as his face said I can’t believe she just said that
(note to self: find out what “bollocks” means), she conveniently passed out again.
Though not fast enough to avoid feeling the lightest brush against the side of her face, as of a finger tucking a strand of glorious golden hair behind her ear.
The next time she woke the pain was almost gone. An old man was holding a vial to her lips and trying to coax her to drink. Her tongue flicked out and caught a drop; at its foul taste she turned away, grimacing.
“What the hell is that?” she said.
He smiled and pulled the vial away. “It was meant to be a tincture to ease your troubled dreams. You have been tossing and turning for a full night and day. Now that you are awake it is unnecessary.”
She sat up and smiled to find that it was easy. “You’re a doctor?” she asked.
She was in a different room than before. This one was larger, with tapestries on the wall and a thick carpet.
“I am the court physician, Gaius. I’m afraid that when King Uther spoke to you he neglected to learn your
Her medieval history wasn’t all that great, but she had a feeling “Buffy” wasn’t the most common name back then. Or, more accurately, she supposed, now. Whatever.
“I’m…Summer,” she said.
He nodded. “You are a most lucky woman, Lady Summer. Most with injuries such as yours would be dead within hours. Yet you have healed at a most impressive rate.”
She shrugged. “I eat my Wheaties.” Before he could ask what Wheaties were, she said, “Speaking of food, I’m famished.”
“My apologies,” Gaius said, standing and walking to a table to retrieve a plate loaded with bread and cheese. “Please, eat.”
She set in with a Slayer’s appetite.
The door opened just as she was finishing off the food. In stepped a pale, beautiful woman with very dark hair. She wore a dark purple gown that swept the floor with each step. (Say what you like about the Middle Ages, Buffy thought, but they had a good fashion sense. Armor and dresses—what more could the Slayer want?) The woman smiled at her in evident relief. “You’re awake.”
“That she is, and doing very well,” Gaius said, patting Buffy’s knee through her blanket. “I’ve also discovered our guest’s name. She is called Summer. Summer, this is Morgana, King Uther’s ward.”
“It suits you,” Morgana said, reaching Buffy’s bedside. “Your coloring is quite extraordinary. You do remind me of that most beautiful of seasons.”
“I am finished here,” Gaius announced. “Summer, your wounds should heal without difficulty as long as you do not overexert yourself in the next few days. I’ll send Merlin by to check on you. Let him know if you need my assistance.”
“Sure,” Buffy said, quite used to disregarding instructions from doctors. “Healing well, take it easy, if I need help, tell…Merlin?
” she yelped.
Gaius and Morgana looked at her strangely. “Do you know Merlin?” Morgana asked.
“No,” Buffy said unconvincingly. “It’s just an unusual name, that’s all.”
Gaius nodded farewell to Buffy and then to Morgana and then left. Buffy sprung out of bed, delighting in being able to move painlessly. She walked to the door and back, then to the window. She peered out at the courtyard below. People moved about, most of them seeming quite busy. Morgana stayed by the bed, watching her.
“Now that we’re alone, won’t you tell me about yourself?” Morgana asked. “It is King Uther’s wish that we become friends.”
Buffy stretched her shoulders, testing for soreness. “What do you want to know?”
“Where do you come from? Do you have family there? Why have you come to Camelot?”
“I’m from a place called…Tatooine,” Buffy said, deciding to err on the side of caution. “It’s a long way from here, and it can be quite dangerous, but, well, it’s home. I have a younger sister who’s been my responsibility since my mother died, and I have friends. Good friends. And Giles.”
“My…mentor.” (Father. Best friend. Destiny.) “He’s been the male figure in my life since my father left my family, I guess.”
“Uther has done the same for me,” Morgana said softly, sitting in a chair beside the table and staring pensively into a goblet. “When my father died, he swore to look after me. Our relationship has been…complicated…at times, and yet I do not doubt that he cares for me.”
Buffy wanted to do a cartwheel but decided that might offend Morgana’s ladylike sensibilities. (Though she recognized the fire that glimmered in Morgana’s eyes and suspected her new friend’s sensibilities might not be as ladylike as all that.) She settled for plopping into a chair across from her.
“I’m sorry about your father,” Buffy offered, feeling the weight of Morgana’s grief as if it were her own.
“I’m sorry about your mother,” Morgana replied.
They shared a soft, sad smile.
“Tell me about Camelot,” Buffy said.
When the door opened to admit another woman an hour later, Buffy and Morgana were embroiled in a discussion about the foolishness of rules prohibiting women from fighting. The intruder, a dark-skinned young woman with a lovely but obviously homemade gown, seemed surprised by their camaraderie.
“Ah, Gwen!” Morgana said. “Please, join us. We were just agreeing that the fact that a woman has breasts does not preclude her from becoming a skilled archer, whatever the men might think.”
Gwen blinked. “My lady!” she exclaimed, shooting a significant look at Buffy. “Is such a subject really appropriate for discussion?”
Morgana waved a hand dismissively. “Summer is hardly going to tell Uther that I have engaged in unladylike behavior. Where are my manners? Summer, this is Guinevere. Gwen, our new neighbor, Summer.”
?” Buffy gasped. Oh, this whole blast to the past thing was getting better and better. Buffy didn’t know much about history, but she was pretty sure Guinevere’s only competitor for Most Famous Adulteress was Helen of Troy.
And if there was a Guinevere, and an Uther, and a Merlin, there was almost certainly an Arthur—as in, “I am Arthur, King of the Britons”—somewhere around here.
What was that rule about going to the past? When in Rome…no, that wasn’t it. Oh, right. Don’t change anything
Gwen and Morgana were both staring at her now.
“Sorry,” Buffy said. “That’s just—a really great name.”
Gwen seemed puzzled by her response, but said, “Thank you, I think.”
“So, Summer,” Morgana said, sensing Buffy’s discomfort, “what are your thoughts about whether a women may use a sword with any skill?”
Buffy got a mischievous look on her face. (Bad idea. Bad idea. Don’t do it. Don’t—) “I tell you what, Morgana. How about, instead of discussing it, we try a practical demonstration?”
The training court for the knights was surprisingly unimpressive. As were the knights themselves. Buffy kind of hoped they improved by the time Arthur was king, otherwise all of those myths would be just that—myth. In fact, the only person on the field who seemed to have any real skill was a rather good-looking, golden-haired man about her age in chainmail.
“That’s Arthur,” Morgana whispered to Buffy. They and Gwen stood leaning against a rail, watching the men at work. “He’s a royal pain.”
“A royal prat, actually,” a male voice said.
The three women turned as one to see the young man who’d joined them. He was somewhat short, pale, dark-haired (apparently the norm, which explained why everyone thought Buffy’s hair was so cool), and he watched the knights with a half-smile on his face, as if he knew something that no one else did.
“Only you can get away with calling him that,” Gwen said playfully, giving the boy a shove.
“Well, I am
his manservant. I suppose that gives me certain leeway.”
“Merlin, you’re not making a very good first impression,” Morgana rebuked, though the gleam in her eye belied her words.
Merlin—okay, seriously, that
was Merlin? He had a lot of growing up to do. King of cute, though—looked abashed, though his smile didn’t fade as he noticed Buffy for the first time. Like everyone else, he seemed a bit astonished by her outfit, which she’d left on for the purposes of this demonstration though she was really hoping Morgana would let her try out one of her dresses at some point.
“I’m sorry—that is, I didn’t mean to offend, my lady,” Merlin stuttered.
Buffy stifled a grin. “I’m Summer,” she said. “The King’s…guest.”
“Gaius told me about you,” Merlin said eagerly. “He said you were a miracle.”
“You’re Arthur’s manservant, you said?” Buffy asked. “Think you can arrange an introduction?”
“Uh, yeah. That is, I’m sure he’d like to meet you.” A quick glance up and down her body told her why
Merlin thought the prince would like to meet her.
Merlin stood there for a moment, apparently lost in thought, before Gwen said, “Well, go on then!” He grinned sheepishly and ducked under the railing, crossing the field to where Arthur was running his men through their paces.
Buffy watched, anticipation thrumming through her veins, as Merlin said something to Arthur. Arthur gestured at his own mud-spattered boots, said something, and cuffed Merlin on the back of the head, half-demanding, half-affectionate. Interesting. Then Merlin said something else and pointed in Buffy’s direction. Arthur followed his gesture and when his eyes landed on her a slow smile crossed his handsome face.
Smiling back, Buffy nodded at Gwen and Morgana—Step 1 of the plan was complete—and leapt lightly over the chest-high railing, walking over to Arthur and Merlin.
“My lady,” Arthur said, bowing. “Merlin said that you wanted to meet me.” His cocky grin said that he knew why she wanted an introduction.
(She was flirting with the guy who would invent the Round Table. This was Not Good.)
Buffy tried to smile demurely but didn’t think she quite managed it, so she looked at the ground instead. “I did. I admit, I’ve heard such tales of your skill in battle that I just had to see it myself.”
Arthur’s spine straightened with pride even as he shot a sneer at his men. “The tales are all true, I assure you, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to make an adequate demonstration with the men who are here today. They have only just started basic training.”
Buffy gave up on looking down to look him in the eye instead. Yeah, humility wasn’t her forte. “So if someone here were able to challenge you, you’d be up for it?”
She smirked and walked to the weapons rack, choosing a sword that looked sturdy. She swung it around, testing its heft, and turned to face the Once and Future King.
Who gaped back.
“You must be joking,” he said.
“You’re a woman,” he pointed out.
“I had noticed that,” Buffy said, putting her free hand on her hip. “I challenge you. You did say you were up for it.”
Arthur looked around as if hoping someone would come to his aid. “Yes,” he said, “but…”
“Come now, Arthur, you aren’t going to go back on your word, I hope!” Morgana’s mocking voice called out.
Arthur glared in annoyance at his father’s ward. Morgana must have known him pretty well, though, because her goading did the trick.
“Very well,” he ground out. “I will endeavor not to injure you, my lady. Merlin will assist you in donning some mail.”
Step 2 complete.
Buffy shot a disdainful glance at the chainmail the men wore. It was very
nice to look at, but she couldn’t imagine that it allowed for the range of motion she was used to.
“I’ll be fine without, thanks.”
Arthur hesitated and then stripped off his own chainmail, leaving on only a simple tunic. “Very well,” he said. “Our fight will be on even grounds—or at least,” he added condescendingly, “as even as I can make them.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Was that a short joke?” she said darkly. He opened his mouth to protest, but she just kept going. “Oh, no, buster—you asked for it. I was going to go easy on you, but now you’ve earned every inch of the pounding you’re gonna get.”
He glared at that, showing the first signs of anger. “We will fight until one of us is disarmed or first blood,” he said tightly. “Beginning…now.”
Buffy took a relaxed stance as Arthur moved into a crouch and began to circle her. When it became clear that he was unwilling to attack first, she launched herself into a slow, easy attack. He blocked easily, countering each stroke and turning her blade away. She could see that he was surprised by even this basic skill, though the arrogance in his eyes had yet to fade.
They parted and gave each other a bit of space, circling again. This time he did attack, though his motions were much slower than she knew he was capable of. She matched him at first, but then she abruptly sped up, knocked his blade aside, slid her sword up under the hilt of his, and twisted it out of his hands.
Arthur’s mouth hung open as he stared at his sword, which lay in the mud. Merlin was staring, too. As was, well, everyone.
“Sure you just want to fight until someone’s disarmed?” Buffy asked. “Because I haven’t even broken a sweat yet.”
Arthur snatched his sword out of the mud. “To first blood, then,” he growled, and swung into motion. He wasn’t holding back any longer, but came after her with all the skill and strength he’d gained from years of training.
Buffy raised her own strength and speed to match his. She wasn’t really looking to humiliate him—the first bout had done that just fine—she just wanted to prove that she could take care of herself. She felt herself grin as their bout began to develop a rhythm and saw that Arthur was grinning too.
This was just what she’d needed, to get her blood pumping and remind her body that it belonged to the Slayer.
She kept it up until she noticed that Arthur was beginning to grow tired. His movements were growing sloppy and he wasn’t reacting to her thrusts as well. She lured him into overextending himself and, with a bark of laughter, flicked the very tip of her sword along the side of his exposed throat, leaving the faintest of scratches there and causing just one drop of blood to well up.
Step 3 complete. There was nothing she liked better, Buffy thought, sharing a victorious grin with Morgana and Gwen as Arthur stumbled back in shock, clapping his hand to his neck, than a well-executed plan.
Of course, it was at that point that a guard seized her by each arm, apparently incensed by the fact that she had the gall to attack the prince even with his permission. Before they—or Arthur—could do anything, however, the sound of loud, slow clapping drew everyone’s attention.
Uther was standing on the edge of the field. Uther was clapping. Uther was looking utterly enchanted with Buffy.
“This cannot be happening,” Buffy muttered, fidgeting.
“Does the gown not fit?” Morgana asked from the other side of the screen. “Gwen is usually very skilled at hemming dresses.”
“It’s not the gown,” Buffy said. “The gown is beautiful.” It was. Floor length and gauzy, a pale shade of green that brought out her eyes. Morgana had let her have the pick of her wardrobe as thanks for knocking Arthur around on the field earlier in the day. “I just wasn’t expecting to have to go to a banquet on my first day out of bed.”
“You do not have to go to the banquet,” Morgana said. “I have missed my share of such dinners. However, since the banquet is in your honor, Uther would undoubtedly be displeased.”
“I really don’t want Uther to notice me at all. The plan was to fly under the radar until I find a way to go home. This…complicates things. And anyone can tell you that Buffy—I mean, Summer—and complicated don’t go well together.”
“You speak very strangely.”
“So I’m told.” Buffy took a deep breath, examining herself in the mirror again. “Okay, I’m coming out. Don’t laugh.”
She stepped out from behind the screen, strangely apprehensive. If she’d worn something like this in Sunnydale, she knew, Xander would be drooling all over the place and Giles would probably start cleaning his glasses obsessively. She had no idea what standards were in place in Camelot, though.
Morgana was waiting on the other side. Her eyebrows rose when she saw Buffy. “Well,” she said after a very long pause. “I must confess, Summer…the clothes you wore before truly did not do you justice. You look beautiful.”
“Shall we?” Buffy asked, relieved.
They made their way to the main hall together, drawing glances as they went. From the corridor they could hear a low murmur of voices in the hall, as if many people were in conversation.
“All will be well,” Morgana said, sensing Buffy’s apprehension.
The two women shared a smile, nodded for a servant to open the door, and stepped inside.
Conversation ceased. Buffy and Morgana walked through the aisle through the crowd that formed for them, towards Arthur and the Giles-alike (no, not Giles, Giles would never look at her that way, this was Uther
), who watched them come with expressions of amazement. When they were quite close both men performed deep bows—Buffy was glad to see that Arthur’s held no irony, so he didn’t seem to be holding the afternoon against her, despite the lingering redness on his neck from her winning blow. Morgana curtsied and Buffy followed suit, glad for once of the time she’d been turned into a simpering lady on Halloween since otherwise she’d probably have fallen all over herself.
Arthur held out his arm for Morgana. She placed her hand lightly on his elbow and allowed him to escort him to a seat beside him at the head table. Uther then held his own arm out for Buffy. Acutely aware of the eyes that followed her every move, Buffy put her hand on the surprisingly stiff fabric of his shirt and walked beside him to the table, where she sat to his left. Arthur was to his right.
“Let the banquet begin,” Uther said loudly, and just like that conversation resumed.
Servants rushed about, carrying trays of food, running errands for their masters. Buffy noticed that Merlin was present, standing behind Arthur in a truly ridiculous hat and holding a jug of wine.
“You look lovely, Lady Summer,” Uther told Buffy in an undertone. “That gown complements your natural beauty.”
“Thanks. You don’t look too shabby yourself.”
(I didn’t just say that. Did I?)
Fortunately, he seemed amused by her comment. “I greatly enjoyed your bout with Arthur this afternoon. I confess that I normally do not approve of women participating in combat, but it is clear that the place you come from is very different than Camelot. I am sure that your skills have been of great use to you.”
“I would have been dead a hundred times over if not for my ability to fight,” Buffy said, taking a bite of chicken. It was surprisingly good. It seemed that cooking, unlike plumbing, hadn’t actually changed all that much over the years. Although everything was extremely salty. “I’m glad you weren’t too upset about me beating Arthur. Those guards didn’t seem too happy.”
Uther took a swig of wine and chuckled. “Normally those who dare to attack the Crown Prince are thrown into jail, but you…you are a very unusual person, my lady.”
“That’s what they tell me. So, Uther," she said blithely, "tell me more about yourself.”
A part of her was genuinely interested. Another part was taking frantic notes so that when she got home she could dole out these little pieces of history to Giles, who would gobble them up and be so grateful that he’d overlook it the next time she accidentally made a comment about his age. (Because he wasn’t all that old, and definitely
not gross. He was just…Giles.)
Uther entertained her throughout the meal. He told her of great quests to hunt dragons, of taking a tiny, divided kingdom and forging it into the magnificent land it was now. He spoke briefly of his wife, Ygraine, who died upon giving birth to Arthur. He regaled her with tales of Arthur’s exploits as a small child and the warmth in his voice when he spoke of his son was counterbalanced only by his coldness when he turned to the subject of magic.
“Magic is the greatest evil that has touched Camelot,” he said. “Sorcerers nearly brought this country to ruin. They have caused great suffering to everyone in Camelot, and it is only by the extraordinary efforts of my son and myself that the city remains standing. I have made it my life’s work to hunt down those who possess magic and ensure that they can never hurt anyone again.”
Buffy wanted to speak out in defense of magic. She wanted to tell Uther about Willow and Giles, about the ways that magic had made the world a better place.
But there was a warning voice at the back of her mind—which sounded suspiciously like Giles—and it told her that she was only here at Uther’s sufferance, and it wasn’t worth jeopardizing the relationships she was beginning to form to defend something that really had nothing to do with her.
So she contented herself with simply saying, quietly, “I have seen evil. The only thing to do is fight it.”
“Who are you?” Uther breathed, his eyes latching onto her face as though it were impossible to look away. “Can you truly be all that you seem? Or are you an enchantress, here to ensnare me with your charms?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Buffy said. “I’ve got a lot of good qualities, but none of them have to do with charm
By now the food was all gone and the guests had begun to disperse.
“May I walk you to your room?” Uther asked.
Buffy hesitated, shooting a glance at Morgana and Arthur, who seemed to be deep in conversation. Definitely something going on there
, she thought.
“Okay,” she said.
They strolled through the halls of the castle in companionable silence. They walked for a long time—longer than it had taken to walk to the banquet from Morgana’s room.
“Not that I’m complaining, but I’m pretty sure we’re going the wrong way,” Buffy said.
Uther looked at her sidelong, the corners of his lips curving minutely. “You caught me, my lady. I was attempting to surprise you. There is something I would like to give you.”
They stopped outside of a door guarded by two men. Uther nodded at them and they stepped aside. Buffy knew the moment they stepped inside that it was Uther’s bedchambers. The bed was enormous, as was the stretch of open floor space. Weapons lined the walls.
She really, really
hoped he didn’t try something that was going to make her have to hit him. That could put a damper on the first vacation she’d had since becoming the Slayer.
Uther must have noticed her discomfort because he hastened to reassure her. “I assure you, my intentions are honorable. What I wish to give you is a very precious item which I keep in my rooms for its safety.”
Buffy’s curiosity overcame her. “What is it?”
His lips twitched at her eagerness. He walked to the wall where a thin, elegant sword was perched on a rack. He gripped the sword carefully by the hilt and pulled it away. Balancing the sword between his hands he carried it to her.
“When I was a very young man,” he said, “I was told that my father had arranged for me to marry the Lady Ygraine, whom I had never met. Knowing my preference for women with spirit, my father assured me that she had some martial skill. In my eagerness to impress her, I commissioned the forgery of a sword, one of suitable size and balance for a woman. This was the product.” He held the sword up to the light. The metal gleamed, as clear as the day it was forged, the torchlight seeming to run along the blade. “When I met Ygraine, I learned that she was an archer, not a swordswoman, and I realized that a sword was an inappropriate gift. I could not bring myself to discard it, however, and I have kept it ever since. Waiting for the right person to whom to give it. I would like you to have it.”
He held the sword out to her and she took it carefully, testing its heft. It was lighter than she would have preferred, but it was a beautiful weapon. The balance was perfect and the length—about the length of one of her arms—was ideal. She wanted it, badly. She had a feeling she shouldn’t accept it.
“Why?” she asked cautiously. “You don’t even know me.”
“When we met, I was not very cordial to you, and I wish to make up for my accusatory behavior,” Uther said. “Having seen you fight my son, I believe that you are a warrior, not a sorcerer. I am not asking anything in return for the sword. I expect nothing from you. It was simply a weapon that was made to be used, not displayed, and I believe that with you it will be in good hands.”
Buffy licked her lips, still hesitating. Was it right to take something from Uther? Was there the chance she could be changing history by accepting?
“Thank you,” she said at last. “I’ll cherish it.”
The look on his face—triumphant, relieved, fascinated—was reassurance enough that she’d made the right decision.
“I will have a sheath and belt delivered to you tomorrow,” was all he said. “Now, may I walk you to your room?”
Buffy’s eyes sparkled. “Is that actually where we’re going this time?”
“No more detours,” Uther said. “I promise.”
She linked her arm with his. He seemed surprised and pleased by the gesture.
He left her at the door to her chambers with a promise to see her the next day. Buffy set her new sword down inside and waited a good five minutes. Then she crept back outside, glanced up and down the hall, and began to make her way out of the castle.
It was quite late, the moon high in the sky, and few people were moving about outside. Still, she was able to ask an older man for directions to Gaius’ house and shortly she found herself standing outside the stout wooden door.
No one came.
She knocked louder.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Gaius said grouchily from the other side. “Do you know how late it is?” he was asking as he opened the door, only to stop in surprise when he saw who it was.
“Can I come in?” Buffy asked.
“Of course.” He opened the door wider, allowing her to slip inside. “Are you unwell, my lady? I heard about your sparring match with Prince Arthur. I did advise you to relax for a few days, if you recall.”
She waved away his concerns. “Trust me, Gaius, that was
me taking it easy. I’m fine. Actually, I really need to talk to Merlin. Is he here?”
Gaius blinked slowly. She could see the calculation in his eyes. This was a smart man, not someone to underestimate.
“May I ask why? He’s a growing lad and he needs his sleep.”
“Please, it’s urgent.”
He frowned. “Very well. I’ll summon him. Won’t you sit?”
Buffy sat and listened as Gaius tromped up a flight of stairs and pounded at the door at the top.
“Merlin!” he said. “Wake up! We have company.”
It took a few minutes and a lot more pounding, but eventually Merlin stumbled down the stairs, tousle-haired and yawning. He stopped mid-step when he saw her.
“What are you doing here?” he asked sleepily.
“I need your help,” Buffy said, standing again, too full of nervous energy to sit.
“What could I possibly do for you?”
She took a deep breath. “I need you to open a portal to a thousand years in the future.”
Gaius and Merlin spoke at the same time: “What!”
“I know that you can do magic, Merlin,” Buffy said. The alarm on the faces of both the men was evident. “I’m not going to turn you in, I promise. I don’t have anything against you or magic. I just need your help, that’s all.”
“How—how do you know about me?” Merlin asked, face ashen.
“I’ve heard of you. In my time, you’re known as a wizard. A magic user. Very powerful. I need you to use that power to help me get home.”
“Young lady, I don’t think you realize how dangerous this conversation is,” Gaius said. “If Uther learned that Merlin can do magic—”
“He’d have him killed, I know,” Buffy interrupted.
“Merlin has a destiny,” Gaius said. (Buffy hated
that word.) “He cannot afford to risk his life helping someone who is unrelated to that destiny.”
“I think I can speak for myself,” Merlin said, sounding offended.
Buffy ignored him, meeting Gaius’s direct gaze. “I have a destiny, too,” she said. She walked to the hearth and picked up a piece of firewood. Still not looking away from Gaius, she broke it in half as if it were a toothpick. They gaped. “I have a destiny,” she said, “and it’s not here. I can’t get back to my time by myself. Merlin’s the only magic user I know. Will you help me?”
“I don’t even know how to open a portal,” Merlin said. “I’ll have to do some research to find a way to help you. I have a book that might have the answer.”
She smiled wearily. “I’m just asking you to try. Promise me you will?”
Merlin hesitated, looking at Gaius as if for reassurance. The older man just looked back, his face blank. At last Merlin looked at Buffy, and for a moment he seemed to grow in size, for a moment she saw the man he would become, and he said, “Yes. I will try.”
The next morning Buffy woke to both very good news and very bad news. The good news was that Uther had kept his word and a very fine sheath and leather belt were waiting on the table in her room. After bathing (and boy, wasn’t that fun, having a servant haul buckets of heated water to her room?) and dressing in one of Morgana’s spare gowns, she wrapped the belt around her waist and sheathed the sword at her hip and for the first time since waking in Camelot she felt truly whole.
Seconds after she’d donned the sword her door burst open and Morgana swept inside, pale with anxiety.
“What is it?” Buffy said.
“Something terrible has happened. A fell beast has attacked a village.”
“What kind of beast?” Maybe Buffy could do some good while she was here, after all.
“It is said that it is an enormous winged serpent. The villagers claim that weapons could not harm it. Even steel simply bounced off of its scales. And, Buffy—” here Morgana looked away, as though ashamed “—I have dreamt of this creature. I dreamed that it killed Arthur.”
Buffy went very still. “Have you had this kind of dream before?” she asked, thinking of her own prophetic dreams. They were one of her least favorite parts of being the Slayer.
“Yes,” Morgana whispered.
Buffy nodded resolutely. “Well, we’ll just have to find a way to kill it before it can do that,” she decided. “Why don’t you find out what you can about this monster and where it’s heading, and I’ll get into practice with my new sword. I’ll want to be on top of my game when I fight the beastie.”
Morgana seemed reluctant to obey, but when Buffy remained firm, she went. Buffy headed down to the field. It was empty except for a few knights who seemed to be trying to catch up to the rest of the class through extra practice. Buffy took up position on an empty patch of grass and warmed up by going through some of the exercises Angel had taught her, focusing on her breathing, her body, releasing the stresses she didn’t even know she carried.
When she felt perfectly calm, she drew the sword. She began a complicated pattern of thrusts and parries, dancing across the field, her eyes closed, every sense attuned to the world around her. She could almost imagine that Giles was there, patiently coaching her, correcting the positioning of her elbows, her grip.
In fact, it almost felt
like Giles was there. She opened her eyes, faltering as she saw Uther.
(Giles. In chainmail.)
He was watching her with that intent look he seemed to get whenever she was around.
“You use the sword as if it is an extension of your body,” he said.
“It’s all that I’d hoped,” she replied.
Uther unsheathed his own sword, which was broader and longer than hers. “You defeated Arthur in single combat yesterday,” he said. “Will you try your hand against his father?”
“Am I gonna get carted off to jail if I beat you?” she asked with a grin.
He laughed. “Only if you beat me very
They sparred for a time, long enough to thoroughly exhaust Uther and give Buffy a decent workout. Uther was severely outclassed, of course, but Buffy was careful not to embarrass him. He was fully aware that she could have defeated him in seconds. Anyway, she was still figuring out how to fight in a floor-length gown; it took some getting used to.
(She’d beaten the Master in a Spring Formal dress, proving that she could really fight in anything, but that day still counted high among her list of Top Ten Least Favorite Days Ever. )
When they finished they retired to a bench together, sharing a leather bag of water, discussing the tricks and tactics they had used. Uther was a good conversationalist and well-versed in the art of swordplay. Buffy enjoyed talking to him.
They were interrupted after a while by a guard. “Sire,” he said in a low, urgent voice, “there is an emergency. You’re needed at the castle.”
Uther nodded gravely. “Excuse me, Lady Summer,” he said, and left her there.
Buffy took her time returning to the castle, where she ran into Morgana almost immediately. The other woman was agitated.
“Arthur and his band of knights tracked the beast to a village not far from here,” Morgana said. “They engaged it in battle. It killed three men and escaped unscathed. They say that their blades shattered against it.”
They were walking towards Buffy and Morgana’s rooms when Buffy spotted Merlin scurrying through the halls, looking as though he were trying not to be noticed.
“I just remembered that I forgot something on the field,” Buffy told Morgana. “You go ahead, and I’ll catch up to you.”
Morgana looked suspicious, but agreed. Buffy waited until her friend was out of sight, then slunk off after Merlin. He was easy to follow—he wasn’t very skilled at deception—and she caught up to him just as he was descending into a dark, down-sloping corridor.
“Where are we going?” she asked brightly.
He yelped and spun to face her. “What are you doing here?” he said.
“Following you,” she said, as if it were obvious.
“I have to find a way to defeat the creature,” Merlin said. “It might hurt Arthur otherwise.”
“And you, what? Have a thing for him and won’t let him get hurt? That’s so cute!”
“What?” Merlin squawked. “I do not
have a—a thing
! It’s my destiny to see that he ends up king of Camelot, that’s all!”
“Uh-huh,” Buffy said, enjoying the boy’s outrage. “So, how does going down some dank corridor help you defeat the creature?”
“I’m going to see someone who can help. A dragon. He…guides me sometimes. He’ll know how to defeat it.” He glanced at her. “I’m also planning to ask him about creating a portal to take you home.”
She didn’t have time to question him—he was going to ask a dragon for help? How crazy was that?—before they emerged onto a ledge that led to a rather steep drop. And sitting on a rocky crag just in front of them was a dragon.
“Wow,” Buffy said. “Now that—that is something even I don’t see every day.”
Merlin, on the other hand, seemed thoroughly unimpressed by the impressive creature. “I need your help,” he said imperiously. “There’s a creature that’s attacking the kingdom. A giant winged snake. I can’t find it in any of Gaius’s books, and I was hoping you know how to defeat it.”
“I gave you a weapon that could defeat such a creature, and you broke your promise to me about how you would use it.” Buffy jumped at the so-human voice coming from the dragon.
“The sword?” Merlin asked. “But you told me to get rid of it! I threw it away! There has to be another way to defeat the creature.”
“There is not.”
“What about the spell I used to kill the gryphon? I was able to make a lance penetrate its skin.”
“The creature that is currently terrorizing the land is much worse than the gryphon,” the dragon said. “It was created long ago by an evil sorcerer who sought to create a dragon of his own. He captured a basilisk—a fearsome creature—and created wings of magic for it. It is an unnatural creation and cannot be killed by simple magic.”
Merlin huffed in frustration. “Do you know anything about portals?”
The question seemed to peak the dragon’s interest. It leaned forward, stretching its long neck towards them. “Why do you ask?”
Merlin pointed at Buffy. “Summer is from another time. She’s asked me to help her get home.”
The dragon’s large eyes shifted to Buffy and it froze. “Buffy Summers?” it said.
“How did you know my name?” she asked, laying her hand on the hilt of her sword.
“I know much that is, and much that is to come, and your name carries great weight. You are not where you are supposed to be, Buffy Summers.”
“Tell me about it. That’s why I need Merlin’s help.”
“Yes. Merlin will help you. I can give you the words to the spell, Merlin, but you must find the strength within yourself to perform it. It will not be easy.”
Merlin’s face took on a determined expression. “I can do it,” he said. “I know I can.”
“Very well.” The dragon spoke a string of words in a language Buffy didn’t understand. Its task complete, it seemed on the verge of flying away before it caught sight of the sword on Buffy’s hip. “That is a well-wrought sword,” it said.
Buffy drew it and held it up so the dragon could get a good look at it. “It’s the finest weapon I’ve ever held,” she said. After a moment she reconsidered. “Well, the bazooka might have it beat, but it’s a close competition.”
“If I give you the means, Buffy Summers, will you defeat the monster that threatens Camelot?” the dragon asked.
“Of course,” she said without pause. She was the Slayer. Defeating monsters was what she did, no matter where or when she was.
“And will you swear—on all you hold dear—that you will allow no one but yourself to use the weapon I give you?” The dragon seemed to glare at Merlin as it spoke.
“Then hold up the sword.”
Buffy held up the sword. The dragon took a deep breath and then breathed out a thick sheet of flame. The fire engulfed the sword, but though it licked at Buffy’s skin it did not burn her. After the flames subsided the sword seemed to continue to shine with an internal fire before subsiding to its usual gleam.
“Incredible,” Merlin whispered. To the dragon, he said, “I didn’t think you’d ever burnish another sword for me.”
“I did not do it for you,” the dragon said. “Buffy Summers is one of the few beings in all of time who may be trusted with a dragon-burnished sword—unlike you,
Merlin—and it will, I think, come in very handy to her in the future.”
“Thank you,” Buffy said.
The dragon inclined its head in an unmistakable bow. “It is possible that we shall meet again in the future,” it said. “Whatever happens, know this: your destiny is only beginning.”
Buffy smiled a smile tinged with bitterness. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
That evening, Arthur and his knights formed a circle in Camelot’s courtyard, waiting for the beast. Buffy stood in the shadows and watched, listening for the beat of distant wings. She kept one hand on the pommel of her sword, ready to draw it at a moment’s notice.
(It weighed more now than it had the day before—just the weight Buffy would have liked, in fact. That dragon was quite the sword forger.)
She heard the beast long before any of the knights saw it. When it came into view the men drew back in fear; the creature was enormous, its wingspan easily twice that of the dragon’s, and already they suspected that it could not be killed.
Only Arthur stood tall, though his face shone with fear as he held his spear aloft.
(“I’ll watch over him,” Buffy had told Morgana. “I promise he won’t die tonight.”)
She’d give him one chance at the creature. Morgana had seen enough in her dream to know that Arthur would not die on the monster’s first swoop.
It tucked its wings to its sides and dove, mouth open wide and massive fangs extended and dripping with venom. Arthur dove to the side and stabbed it with the spear, which snapped harmlessly upon impact.
“I’m getting really tired of that happening,” he snarled, drawing his sword as the creature’s long body continued by. Before he could strike again, the tail struck him hard in the ribs, sending him flying halfway across the courtyard.
“That’s my cue,” Buffy quipped with an anticipatory grin.
She ran forward to stand over Arthur’s unconscious body as the creature prepared for a second attack. She drew the sword (it tingled in her hand, almost purring, and she knew that it was hers in a way that nothing
in her life had ever been hers before) and waited. Why the creature seemed so intent on going after Arthur, she didn’t know, though from what she’d heard he was a bit of a trouble magnet.
The creature dove. Buffy braced herself. When it was close enough, she leapt to meet it, dodging its first strike towards her. She stabbed up through the roof of its mouth and yanked her sword out again just as fast, spinning to slice deep into a scale just below its head. It was too large for her to behead it with one stroke.
The monster screamed, writhing in its death throes. She hacked at it again and again, her blade biting deep into its body with each swing. Finally it stopped moving except for some lingering spasms.
Buffy stood, alone, as the men began to clap and cheer. Arthur, at her feet, groaned and opened his eyes, staring up at her, at her sword dripping with black blood and her gore-soaked gown.
“What happened to your hair?” he asked blearily.
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Why? What’s wrong with it?” she demanded.
The castle doors banged open and Uther strode out, closely followed by Morgana and Gwen. When he reached them he pulled Arthur into a brief but tight embrace. Then he looked at Buffy and there was something uncomfortably like hero worship in his eyes.
(Giles got that look all the time, but it was always tinged with a hint of dismay or worry.)
“You saved my son,” Uther breathed, clasping her shoulders as firmly as he would clasp any man’s. “You slew a beast that everyone said could not be slain.” Then his grip softened and he cupped her cheek with one hand, as he would not
have done for any man.
She didn’t lean into the touch but she didn’t move away, either.
“It’s what I do,” she said simply.
Buffy cleaned and polished her sword before she bathed and bathed until she felt clean again. The dress was a total loss—no surprise there—but Morgana didn’t seem to mind. Apparently Arthur’s life was worth at least the cost of a nice piece of clothing.
There was going to be yet another banquet in Buffy’s honor that night. Buffy’d agreed to attend only after Gwen promised her that they would not, as Arthur had joked, be serving the flying snake thingy as the main course.
Buckling her sword belt around her waist, she opened her door to head down to dinner, only to nearly get knocked on the forehead by Uther. He stepped back, flushing faintly. “My apologies,” he said. “I was just coming to escort you to the main hall.”
The banquet passed much as the previous one had—except for the rather embarrassing ceremony in which she was presented with the head of the monster, carried on a platform by four strong men who still panted under the weight. This time, though, instead of Uther regaling her with tales of his own heroism, he coaxed her to tell some (heavily edited) stories of her own battles. So she told him a bit about Glory, and the Master, and she even touched on the subject of Angelus.
The more she told him, the more homesick she became. Sure, things hadn’t been great lately, what with Riley leaving and her Mom dying and Glory and Giles getting hurt (oh God, what if his wound had reopened? He never knew how to take care of himself!) and Dawn being a royal pain, but Sunnydale was home. It was where her family lived.
Plus, it had showers.
Uther didn’t wait for most of the guests to leave this time before inviting Buffy on a walk. And this time, she understood that going for a “walk” was Camelot-speak for “date.” Even though she had a feeling she shouldn’t, she accepted, and minutes later they were strolling along the slightly chilly battlements.
They stopped at a good viewpoint and leaned against the stone barrier, looking out and down at the city.
“I love this place,” Uther said softly. “It is the only home I have ever known, and it is a great one.”
“It is,” Buffy agreed. “You’re a lucky man.” She shivered slightly. Uther noticed and, in one smooth motion, untied his cape and draped it around her slender shoulders. She drew it around herself. His hand stayed on her shoulder, not intrusive, just comfortable.
“Camelot has not had a queen in twenty years, and it has flourished nevertheless,” Uther went on. “But I have wondered how things would be different if Ygraine had lived. Would she have tempered my ruthlessness? Morgana has tried, but she does not always succeed. She has never lived outside these walls, as Ygraine had. As you have.”
Uh-oh. Buffy was starting to get worried about the direction the conversation was taking.
“Please,” he said, holding up his hand. “Let me finish.”
She bit her lip and nodded.
“Not long ago, I chastised Arthur because he believed that he had fallen in love with a woman in two days and wanted to marry her. Normally I would spend months courting you, showing you that I am a man of honor, someone who can be your equal. But I fear that I do not have months. If I do not tell you how I feel now, I think you will leave.” He turned to face her fully, staring down at her earnestly. “I care for you, Summer. You are everything that I desire in a woman: intelligent, passionate, strong, and just. If you allow me to, I will give you the world. Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife, and queen of my kingdom?”
When she was very young, if anyone had asked Buffy to describe her ideal marriage proposal, her response would have gone something like this: “A knight in shining armor on a night when the stars shone overhead. He’d offer me the world. He’d be gorgeous. Maybe he’d even be rich.”
“Uther,” she said again, but her throat was clogged with tears. Slowly she reached up to touch the side of his face, feeling the worn, lined skin there, the result of years of worry and battle. “Uther, I can’t stay in Camelot,” she said.
(Uther was a great guy. Well, except for his paranoia and total hatred for all things magical. But Buffy would never be able to look at him and not
see Giles wearing chainmail. Plus, she was pretty sure if Uther Pendragon had married a crazy sword-wielding girl named Summer that story would have made it into at least one
Arthurian legend. The fact that she’d never heard of herself was probably proof that she wasn’t meant to stay in this time.)
The look on his face was heartbreaking. He didn’t pull back into himself, as she’d expected. He simply looked sad.
“If I thought I could stay here and be happy, I would accept your proposal in a heartbeat,” she told him. “But my friends, my family, they’re all back home, and they need me. I can’t abandon them. I have too many more monsters to slay.”
He gazed at her for a long moment. She saw the objections that flickered through his eyes, words he wanted to say to change her mind. For a moment she allowed herself to imagine it, to imagine staying here and ruling with Uther, tempering his overly bloody impulses, guiding Camelot. But she knew the stories. That was Arthur and Merlin’s destiny, not hers. She had no place here.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“I know,” he said. He took a step back from her, but the distance between them was suddenly so much greater than that. “I want you to know that you will always be welcome in Camelot.” He hesitated. “When will you leave?”
He inclined his head. Together they walked back to her rooms. Buffy opened the door and slipped inside, then turned to face him. For a moment they just looked at each other.
“Your cloak,” she remembered suddenly, reaching up to untie it.
“Keep it,” Uther said. “It bears the crest of the house of Pendragon. If anyone in the borders of Albion—or outside of them—tries to assail you, the sight of that crest may be enough to make them reconsider.”
She nodded mutely. “Thank you. For everything.”
He lifted his hand as if to touch her cheek, caught himself mid-motion, and let it fall heavily to his side.
“Goodbye,” he said hoarsely, “Lady Summer.”
She was just leaving the castle when she ran into Morgana and Arthur, who were on their way to Morgana’s rooms, apparently just having left the banquet.
“Where are you going?” Arthur asked. “It’s past midnight!”
“I’m leaving Camelot,” Buffy said. She looked apologetically at Morgana. “I was going to say goodbye to you, but…I was afraid you’d try to stop me. I was afraid I’d let you.”
Morgana sighed. “I shall miss you, Summer. You have been most enjoyable to have around.” She glanced slyly at Arthur.
“Yes,” he said with mock-anger as he rubbed a hand over the scratch on his neck. “You certainly made an impression
on the citizens of Camelot.” He straightened his spine, and Buffy saw a hint of the regality that would make him the most famous king in history. “In all seriousness, you saved my life and the life of so many people. We owe you a debt.”
“You two take care of each other—and Gwen too,” Buffy said. “Try not to become mortal enemies or anything.”
Morgana laughed. “Arthur is most infuriating, but he’s hardly intelligent enough to be my
“And Morgana’s too weak and womanly to be mine,” Arthur put in with a laugh, though at Buffy’s return glare he cut himself off. “Er, not that all women are weak. That is to say, you’re not weak at all.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Quit while you’re ahead, Arthur. Goodbye, both of you. And thanks for the gowns.”
“Farewell,” Arthur said.
“I hope you find your way home,” Morgana said.
This time, when she knocked at Gaius’ door he answered promptly.
“We’ve been expecting you,” he said. He squinted at her through the gloom. “Are you wearing the king’s cape?”
She flushed. “No!” She pushed past him to get inside as he chuckled behind her.
Merlin was just finishing pushing a large table to one side of the room, leaving a large empty space in the center of the floor. “Are you sure you want to try this?” he asked. “I’ve never performed magic this powerful before.”
“Merlin,” Buffy said sternly. “You’re going to be the most famous wizard ever
.” She cocked her head. “Well, other than Harry Potter,” she amended. “Anyway, I’m sure you can do this. It’s just a little portal, that’s all.”
Merlin’s eyes were very wide. “Famous? I’m going to be famous?”
“Yes, but in the meantime you’ll clean Arthur’s armor, muck out his stables, and empty out my leech tank,” Gaius reminded him.
Merlin grinned and ducked his head.
“Okay,” he said. “Lady Summer, I’m going to need you to stand in the center of the floor. I will incant the spell, and you need to concentrate on a person near to whom you would like the portal to form.”
Buffy nodded. She unbuckled her sword belt and carefully wrapped the sword, sheath, and belt in Uther’s cloak. Considering how she’d come out of the last portal, she thought it best to pad any pointy weapons she was carrying.
“Thank you, Merlin,” she said, tucking the bundle under her arm. “And you, Gaius. I know the risks you’re taking.”
“Farewell,” Gaius said warmly.
“Good luck,” Merlin said.
He began to speak, his voice a low, constant murmur.Giles
, Buffy thought, concentrating on the memory of his warm smile, the delightful, pained sounds he made when they sparred, the comfort of his embrace.
Merlin recited the incantation again, his brow furrowing in concentration.Giles
, Buffy thought again.
He recited it again. Giles
A portal swirled into being just in front of her, sending a wind through Gaius’ quarters. She stared with some trepidation at the whirling purple vortex.
“Well,” she said. “Here goes nothing.”
She stepped through.
And materialized fifteen feet in the air. As she fell, she noted distantly that everyone she loved was standing in a semi-circle around a six-foot patch of grass, wearing black and looking rather surprised to see her. Then her head hit a tombstone and she knew no more.
Buffy’s first thought upon waking was: Why isn’t Giles wearing chainmail?
(And also: “She saved the world a lot?” That’s so sweet!
But what she said was: “Did you know that you look just like