Visitors Day at Coven Central
June 8, 2005 11:55 Am
Buffy was going to visit the Coven today and she was nervous about it. She'd already changed twice, first from her clothes she'd worn while shopping, because she didn't think pink leather pants would make a good impression, and her sparring clothes seemed too... warrior like. So she donned a light summer dress, let her hair down, and was trying to calm herself so she didn't appear too nervous.
"Are you nervous?" Willow asked before they went through the gate at Irulan's cottage. "Because you don't have to be. Andromeda will be here, and Astoria. You know them. Well, Tori sort of. And Mac's grandma and her aunt Bran. And maybe Neville's grandma. And Rowan's mom. You kind of know some of the people."
She made a face. "They know me as the slayer, especially Mac's grandma. It's just... some people can't see past that, and I want them to be able to know me, just Buffy."
"Willow," Andromeda said as she walked up to them. "So glad you could join us. Hello, Buffy."
"Oh, we've never met," Astoria said, rushing up. "Not officially, but I've seen you all over Draco and Giles and Willow. I'm Astoria."
She yanked off one of her gloves and went to put a hand on Buffy. Irulan stopped her.
"Let's not be aggressive, Astoria. She's the one who's died twice, remember. We wouldn't want your brain to disconnect."
Buffy's eyes widened. She almost asked if Astoria could really disconnect her brain but thankfully the filter she sometimes had kicked in.
"I'm Irulan Purecraft. It's so nice to meet you, Buffy. We've heard so much about you. Please join us. Help yourself to refreshments."
Astoria hooked her arm through Willow's like she usually did. "She's prettier than my visions. And strong. I can smell her strength. And death. My gods, the death on her is amazing."
"Tori... can you not do the auras and what you smell stuff?" Willow said. "It's Buffy's first time."
"You know how much I love shocking the virgins," she said.
Astoria kissed Willow's cheek.
"Greengrass," Nessa MacDougal snapped. "Behave."
"It's nice to meet you," she said lamely. Astoria's words were rather strange for a first visit. Maybe she should have worn the leather pants after all.
Nessa snorted. "You dinna have to be so polite, lass. I'm Mac's Nana. Tis nice to meet you."
"I'm Irulan Purecraft," Irulan said again. "That's Augusta Longbottom. Branwyn MacAren, Lyra Blackwood, Margaret Edgecombe, Mafalda Hopkirk. My daughter Brindelle had plans today, and of course you know Andy."
"Finn and Esme?" Andromeda asked.
Buffy shook her head. "I will never remember those names. Ever. I'm crap with names." She looked over to Willow, a bit nervous. "Can I say crap?"
"She's so cute," Astoria said. "Can I keep her?"
Willow glared. "No."
"It's all right, Buffy," Lyra said. "You'll just have to keep coming back until you know us."
Buffy smiled. "I'd like that. Not the saying crap thing, but coming back. Willow knows me so well, I want to start knowing her just as well, especially since this whole Ethan thing started."
"How that coming along, Tori?"
Astoria glared. "He's being elusive, but the longer he hides, the worse it will hurt."
"You can say crap," Nessa added. "And you know your friend better than you think."
Irulan sighed. "In other news, the wizarding museum of London has gone against my wishes and will be displaying artifacts this summer. Protecting them will definitely be a hassle."
"Artifacts?" Willow asked.
"Weapons to be precise. Magical weapons, the great fools. White-hilt, Durendal, Clarent, a few pieces made by Hattori Hanzo, the sword of Leah, and most interestingly Caledfwlch. Or if you don't speak old Welsh, Excalibur. They play to display freaking Excalibur. Let us just take a moment ot consider the folly there. Every single piece in this display holds some sort of magic, whether it be latent or active. They also have the Sais of Sun there. Dangerous. Tempting to anyone who'd like to get them and harness their power. Oddly enough, I'd have never thought it possible until... recently."
She was looking at Willow. In fact, everyone turned and looked at Willow.
"I'm not planning to steal any weapons for their power."
"But someone could steal you and a weapon and make you do it," Lyra said softly.
That thought made Buffy tense. "What if we could guarantee no one would steal the artifacts? We wouldn't have to worry about someone stealing Willow, right?"
"Depends upon how desperate people get about power," Nessa said. "Someone could always figure out how to tap into the dark in our Willow themselves, but instruments of war have great power. It's tricky, but easier to wield than taking a person's power. Excalibur would be a prize, it being a war maker, but Clarent has its own dark history. It was wielded by Mordred to kill Arthur. It was bound to the stone by earth magic. Any of the Hanzo stuff will also be powerful, and don't even get me started on the dark energy in the Sais of Sun."
Buffy nodded to herself. "We'll cross that bridge if we come up to it. Until then, I can get some of my best girls and some girls excelling in training and make rounds. We've already got patrols in the alleys in London. We can just add onto it."
"Have the thief look at the set-up," Irulan said. "See where the holes are. In fact, I'd like her to look at the exhibit and see how she'd get in."
"Kasie?" Willow asked.
"That's the one."
Buffy grinned. "Oh she is going to love that. I'll make sure she helps us out. Is there anything else I can help with?"
"Oh," Astoria said. "You can-"
Andromeda pointed. "Whatever you are going to say is not appropriate, so no."
"I think what you do at the Council is fine," Branwyn added. "Having a big defense against darkness is an important step."
That made Buffy grin. It was nice to get recognition sometimes. "Thank you." She turned to Mac's grandmother. "Your daughter is pretty close to Kasie. She'd be perfect for the rotation. She's an excellent slayer."
Nessa smiled and preened a bit. "I heard about the hellhounds. Her brother was so proud, I thought his face was going to split from smiling."
"Isn't she seeing your grandson, Augusta?" Irulan asked.
Augusta chuckled. "Even as children they were inseparable. It makes sense they would be drawn together as adults."
"Well she sure talks about him a lot, and he treats her and the other slayers he works with well," Buffy said.
"Neville was always the most polite and kind boy," Nessa said. "Mac used to knock him down in the playpen. He'd give her this sad look and she'd haul him up and dust him off. Then when he'd leave, she'd cry and cry. Called him her Nibble. She could not say Neville to save her life."
Willow started chuckling. This was great. She did not think Mac or Neville realized or recalled any of this.
"Aw, that's so cute. Not that I'd tell her that because she might try to smack me down, but it's cute," Buffy giggled.
"If we're finished playing social circle," Margaret Edgecombe said in a nasty tone. "We still have the matter of the marks. I'd feel a lot better if we had more solid proof that this man Ethan Rayne was behind it. All we have is the word of a supposed Seer, who as far as I can tell, doesn't do much more than run around with her thug boyfriend."
Willow's eyes went wide. That was grounds for Astoria to get nasty.
"How are the scars on your daughter's face? Can we still see the word snitch there? How did she find her stint in Mungo's? Didn't she get addicted to potions and accidentally try to commit suicide?"
"Tori, that's enough," Andromeda said in a tone the would not tolerate any argument.
Margaret Edgecombe left with a glare. Hopkirk followed.
"Really nice, Tori," Irulan said.
"Oh they're both bitches anyhow," Nessa said. "Edgecombe made two mistakes I have already warned her about, aye. Questioning the Seeing and questioning Flint. I don't approve of him, but that's not my place. I've got a few grandsons who aren't exactly upstanding citizens. Doesn't mean I love them any less."
Buffy looked over at Astoria. "She's like a pre-Xander Cordelia, and I kind of like not being on the receiving end of that. It's amusing."
Willow leaned in. "That's why you shouldn't ever let her touch you if you think you might piss her off one day. She uses her Sight against people. The quickest way to get her to do that is to question her ability or talk bad about someone she cares for. She's the one that's been hexing the people badmouthing Blaise in Knockturn."
"Draco's ex? That one? I thought I heard him say Blaise and his ex didn't get along?"
"They don't. It's this weird Slytherin thing. I don't get it either. Well, maybe I do a little. It's sort of like Cordy. You know how sometimes we didn't like her, but if someone was trying to kill her, we'd help then wonder why we bothered later?"
A small smile came over Buffy's face. "More times than I'd like to admit. So they're all just a bunch of Cordelias in waiting until something comes against them?"
Willow considered it. That actually was a good way to explain the group.
"Any other business or shall we continue to let Astoria clear the garden?" Lyra asked.
"I could start talking about your son Rowan and where his interests lie, Lyra."
Lyra glared at Astoria.
Andromeda sighed in frustration. Astoria was so typically Slytherin that sometimes it was painful. "Aren't you glad you visited, Buffy? Don't you want to come again? All gatherings with Tori end in chaos."
She shrugged. "Can't be worse than my gatherings. I can't have a birthday party. Someone nearly dies, my sister has a meltdown, my boyfriend turns into an evil soul-less being that wants to kill me... it must be a Tuesday."
Astoria blinked and held out a bare hand for Buffy. Everyone shifted nervously. There was no telling what would happen.
"I want to see you."
"Are you blind?" she asked curiously.
"She's a Seer, Buffy," Willow whispered. "She can get your past and your future from direct contact with your skin. She wants to see your past."
"O-oh," she said in shock. "Are you sure? I know the whole dead-twice thing came up earlier. It's not a walk in the park."
The thought made her a bit nervous.
"I've seen everything Draco has ever done and everything that's been done to him. I saw Willow when she was dark." Astoria looked down. "I've seen into your Giles."
Andromeda's eyes widened. She was surprised Rupert had let Astoria touch him knowing what the young woman was.
"That's good enough for me." If Giles trusted her enough, and so did Willow and Draco, then she could trust you. With that, she held out her bare hand.
Astoria slid both hands over either side of Buffy's hand. She gasped and her eyes went wide. Her mouth fell open in shock and stayed that way. Astoria stayed in a silent scream until her eyes filled with tears. They spilled over and ran down her cheeks. She still made no sound.
She jerked back suddenly and threw herself onto the grass, shaking violently. Then she started screaming. Willow jumped to her feet. Irulan was already kneeling next to Astoria.
"Easy, easy. What is it?"
"He's dragging the bodies from the graves. I can't see his face. His face isn't there for me. He uses the parts. He can control the dead. The vampires... that's why there are so many... they're drawn to his energy. When he casts, they feel it. They're looking for him."
Astoria breathed out heavily and slumped on the ground.
Willow's mouth was hanging open.
"We should bring you for Tori to read more often," Nessa said. "That was exciting."
"Willow," Buffy said, still shaking a bit from the energy she'd felt. "The empty crypt, the disturbed graves--you were right. Someone's taking the bodies."
She was about to ask if Willow thought Ethan was behind it when a wave of dizziness came over her. "And I think I need to sit down."
"Buffy?" Willow was instantly concerned.
Andromeda was immediately on her other side. "Do you need water or something?"
She was nervous. This was as good as Rupert's daughter. She needed to make sure Buffy was all right. It would not do for something to have happened to her on Andromeda's watch.
"Just dizzy, but I wouldn't say no to water. Maybe a chair. That was kind of... intense."
Willow let her sit and Andromeda went for a glass of water.
"The things you've seen, done," Astoria said. "I felt your death... and after."
Willow swallowed nervously.
"I felt you rise.... like a phoenix."
Everyone was very quiet.
She took the glass Andromeda handed her with a frown. "That's the bird-y thing right? Is that good?"
"It was beautiful. Your soul is strong. It will not be denied. I can appreciate that very much, and again I find it a pity that Marcus will not share. I think he'd like you."
Everyone sighed and groaned.
"Why do all roads lead to your sex life, Astoria?" Lyra asked.
"If you've got it, flaunt it," Buffy muttered before draining the water. She felt a bit stronger and stood again. "So you pretty much saw... everything?"
Astoria grinned at her. "That blonde vampire... my goodness... I know slayer and all, but I'd have hit that with the fist of an angry god too."
"Oh," Willow said in horror. "No Spike sex talk. Please."
"Well at least she didn't get a graphic scene from sexcapades between me and Riley like Draco did," she said without thinking, and then she froze. "Oh god I said that out loud didn't I?"
"You let Draco see you have sex with Riley?" Willow whispered in horror.
"Not only that," Astoria said, rolling on her belly and propping herself on her arms. "I saw Draco training you to resist Legilimency and watching it too. His embarrassment was delicious. I didn't know Draco could even get embarrassed. He usually has no shame."
"That!" Buffy said loudly, pointing to Astoria. "The leg thing That's what we were doing, only I had a stray thought which led to another stray thought which led to Dracula, Riley, and the first slayer hacking us in our dreams. I couldn't help it!"
"I can't believe you've met Dracula. That's rather impressive. I'd have tried to have sex with him for the bragging rights alone, but biting is good. Dracula gave me a vampire hickey
. Very impressive, and evil that took your own face? Oh Mommy, this mortal wound is all itchy
. You are a fierce creature, Buffy Anne Summers. Let no one tell you any different."
Everyone was just watching in silence, including Willow. She knew Astoria could go deep, but it was as if she had gotten into every dark place within Buffy. The skill that must have took was a bit impressive in itself. She knew Astoria was powerful, but this was bordering on scary. She'd experienced a whole lifetime in a matter of minutes.
Buffy let out a dry laugh. "One, the vampire hickey isn't that fun. And two, mortal wounds do
itch. It was just the mommy comment that pissed me off more."
"I understand now. Your work is important. The Ministry doesn't see that. They want Abbott to spy, but she likes you. She can't do it. They'll fire her soon, and she will be one of you. Your Giles has already decided upon her."
Buffy shrugged. "It's their loss. She's the first decent person they've sent over. I just hope they're prepared to deal with other deaths like before."
"Are you two finished bonding?" Irulan asked. "Did you see the Ministry do something, Tori?"
"They do, but it's unclear. I just know it's bad. It makes Rupert Giles very angry. Very."
"It really must be a Tuesday then," she said, making a face. "As long as they don't arrest Willow again. I got cranky last time they did that."
"That's probably going to happen again," Astoria said. "You should prepare yourself to be cranky."
Willow covered her ears. "I don't want to know."
"I do," Buffy said promptly. "I didn't get to properly threaten the guys who did the arresting. All I got was an after-the-fact mention and Draco freezing me while he ran away."
Astoria started laughing. "He's fast. And don't tell him I said so, but sometimes when he's not distracted, his self preservation instincts are amazing."
"Well I kinda was carrying a wicked sharp blade and was threatening to rip people in half with it again. I got him back for it though."