Joss owns "Buffy," Lucas owns "Star Wars," I own my bottle of diet cream soda.AN:
I'm so sorry there was such a long break in between updates. Life happened, and I was incredibly busy, but now things have settled down, so I'll try to have regular updates in the near future. Thank you to all those who have reviewed this story, to GypsyWitch and mybrokenangel for the recs, and to RevDorothyL for being a phenomenal beta!
Banner by SkylarGraceChapter Four
Monday arrived way too soon for Buffy’s liking. Sunday had been rainy and uneventful, except for a call from Wesley telling her to expect him the next afternoon. That worked for Buffy, since she only had morning classes on Mondays. Grumbling under her breath at the injustice of the very idea of Mondays since they meant the end of the weekend and the coming of the notorious Tuesday, she gathered her books and grabbed her purse.
“Where are you going?” a sleepy and decidedly rumpled-looking Ben asked as she quietly sipped her coffee in the kitchen and munched on a banana.
“Class. I should be back by early afternoon, well before Wesley gets here,” she told him. “You might want to brush your hair,” she pointed out as she opened the door. “It’s sticking up in the back.” She closed the door before she could hear his reply.
Buffy was just about to head back home after an uneventful morning of classes when her phone rang. It was Faith. “Hey, Faith, what’s up?” she asked as she struggled to juggle her bag, phone and books while fishing for her keys in her bag.
“Just wanted to let you know I can’t come round as expected, B,” Faith growled in an annoyed voice. “Some of the minis got in more trouble than expected while I was gone and I need to go clean up after them.”
“Don’t beat them up too hard,” Buffy counseled as she finally found her keys, at the bottom of her bag of course, and unlocked her car. “Actually, if it’s Kennedy, feel welcome to. When do you think you’ll be back out here?”
“Not sure, B. Depends on how fast I can get the situation cleaned up, and if they need me to stay around afterwards to keep the minis in line.”
“Well, just keep me in the loop, and come out as soon as you can,” Buffy told her friend.
“Will do, B. Talk to ya later.” As she drove home, Buffy couldn’t help but wonder how the training of the minis was going. Through Faith, she knew that most of the Sunnydale Crew was now in Cleveland, with Xander trekking to parts unknown in an attempt to forget about Anya’s death. Wonder what mess they got into this time?
she though as she turned into her driveway. There was so much that could lead to general badness on a Hellmouth that Buffy couldn’t even think of all the possibilities. If they’re actually calling Faith in, instead of handling it in-house, there must be some major ugliness. That, or they just want to put some healthy fear into the newbies.
Buffy frowned when she noticed the sensible sedan parked in her normal spot. “Oh, loverly,” she muttered as she carefully pulled up beside the car. “The whole stealage of spots is always a great way to greet your host after a hard day slaving away over books.”
“So, no calling of the Slayer when her former Watcher comes to town?” Buffy said as she entered the living room to find Wesley and Ben in some weird sort of staring contest. “Um hello, trying to get attention here. You can stop with the staring now.”
“Here I was hoping that you would outgrow talking like a teenager once you were no longer--what’s that word again? Oh yes, a teenager,” Wesley replied as he stood up and walked towards Buffy.
“Har-de-har-har. When did you get here? And what happened to the plan of calling me when you did? It was a good plan. It didn’t involve ruining of clothes or physical harm.”
“Yes, because the clothes are clearly the important part,” Wesley deadpanned. Finally, Buffy gave in and smiled.
“Good to see you, Wesley.”
“Good to see you too, Buffy,” he replied, giving her a small smile. “Now, would you care to explain what exactly is going on? Angel was rather sparse on the details. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he mentioned something about ‘galactic refugees’ and getting documentation for them.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Buffy said, and she quickly outlined the situation to Wesley. He interrupted a few times to ask some pointed questions, but for the most part, he remained silent.
“Well, that’s certainly more complex than Angel originally let on,” Wesley said, sighing and rubbing his temples. “Let me call Angel briefly; then we can figure out what needs to be done.” Wesley walked outside, pulling out his cell phone as he did so.
“Ben, where’s Ahsoka?” Buffy asked. She had been meaning to try and talk with the alien girl for a few days now, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to do so.
“She’s in the back with one of your dogs,” Ben answered. “She’s been there all day.” Buffy nodded her thanks, and made her way to the tree that Ahsoka appeared to have claimed as her own.
“Care if I join you?” Buffy asked, standing slightly away from the girl. Ahsoka merely shrugged noncommittally, which Buffy optimistically interpreted as an invitation. Buffy slowly lowered herself to the ground, making sure that the area was relatively dry. Sitting on wet grass wasn’t high on her agenda for things to do for that
“Glad to see you’re enjoying the famous Cali weather,” Buffy commented after they had sat in an awkward silence for bit. “Of course, it’s not at its best right now, given the presence that little thing called rain, but we make do.” Ahsoka didn’t respond, continuing to stare at something in the distance only she could see. Buffy sighed, but remained silent for another moment.
“Ben told me what happened with your master,” Buffy said softly, seemingly looking at the same bit of nothing, but in reality covertly watching the girl. “Stop me if I’m wrong, but let me guess what you’re feeling: you’re feeling majorly guilty that you hadn’t noticed what was going on before he hopped on the crazy train; you’re confused and don’t know why this happened to you; you feel betrayed, because he was your parental-type figure; you feel lost, alone, hurt…the list goes on and on.” Buffy tried to keep her voice neutral and not let the bitterness and hurt from all the experiences she was drawing upon tinge it.
Ahsoka nodded silently, but now was looking at the ground directly in front of her, which Buffy took as a sign of improvement. “It wasn’t your fault, Ahsoka,” Buffy continued, wondering if Ben and Olee had tried to talk to Ahsoka about what had happened, instead of waiting for her to do it on her own initiative. “Even though it feels like it is, and you think that everyone blames you for it, it’s not true. Blame him, blame the circumstances that created this screwed up mess, but don’t blame yourself.” Oh, God, the irony of this whole situation wasn’t lost on Buffy.
Buffy wasn’t expecting Ahsoka to say anything, so Buffy started when she heard her speak. “I still should’ve noticed something,” she whispered in a voice hoarse from disuse. “I spent more time with him than anyone other than Master Qui-Gon, and I didn’t know!”
“Did Grand Master Q notice any changes in Anakin?” Buffy asked, already knowing what the answer would be. When Ahsoka shook her head, Buffy continued: “If his own master, who’s known him longer than you have, didn’t notice anything, why does that mean you should’ve?” Where was Cordy when you needed her to knock sense into people? On second thought, maybe Cordy’s blunt approach wouldn’t work well with Ahsoka.
“How do you know?” Ahsoka challenged, looking up for the first time to meet Buffy’s eyes. “How can you know when you weren’t even there?” The hurt and the guilt in those words and in her eyes nearly broke Buffy’s heart.
“You think you’re the only one who’s had someone close to them go all dark side and betray-y on you?” she asked quietly, letting a bit of everything she’d been through slip past her guard. “Trust me on this, Ahsoka: it wasn’t your fault that this happened.” Impulsively, she took the girl in her arms and gave her a hug. She didn’t know if it was this action, or if Buffy vocalizing what had been playing on repeat through her head since the attack on the Temple, but Ahsoka leaned into Buffy’s arms and began to sob softly. “It’s going to be OK, sweetie,” Buffy muttered, rocking back and forth gently and stroking Ahsoka’s head. “It’s going to be OK.”
Inside the house, Obi-Wan had just finished giving this Wesley person whom Buffy trusted the details of the group of younglings he had rescued. Getting up to stretch his legs, he was stunned by the sight just beyond the window. Ahsoka, in contrast to her still, silent pose earlier, was now crying into Buffy’s shoulder, with Buffy holding her tightly.
“How did she do that?” Obi-Wan asked the other man in an awed voice. Wesley took in the scene before him and weighed the possible answers before finally choosing one that would explain what was going on, but not give too much away before Buffy was ready to open up.
“Buffy’s been in similar situations where those close to her have been the ones who hurt her the most,” he answered in a measured voice, the Scoobies; betrayal in the final days of Sunnydale chief in his mind. “Nothing on the scale of committing mass slaughter, but on a more personal level. She may be able to relate to the girl in a way you simply can’t. That, and Buffy is nothing if not direct. Thank the Powers that she’s not as bad as Cordy is.”
Obi-Wan wanted to ask Wesley what he meant, but he quickly decided now wasn’t the time or the place. “I’m glad she was able to reach Ahsoka,” he finally said, watching Buffy continue to comfort the girl. “We were worried that she might withdraw entirely from us.”
“She’s in good hands,” Wesley said quietly. He didn’t say this aloud, but he was glad Buffy had taken these people in. More than once, he and Angel had expressed concern over Buffy’s relative isolation from people, and wondered if the damage that her former friends had inflicted had wounded her beyond repair. Seeing her not only take these people in, but also working to help them gave him hope that she was healing herself.
That night at dinner, Obi-Wan and the younglings ate quietly, while Buffy quizzed Wesley on what appeared to be a colorful group of associates. Obi-Wan found it strange that she complained about his name being weird, when she worked with people who had names like Cordy, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne. “We also had a visit from Andrew a couple of weeks ago,” Wesley added in a quiet voice. Buffy stilled her movements, and studied the plate in front of her.
“How’s the little geek doing?” she asked in a quiet voice. “It’s been weird not having him around, shoving a camera in my face at the worst possible times.”
“He’s training to be a Watcher,” Wesley said, putting down his cutlery. “There was a rogue Slayer, and Andrew came to get her.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were having Slayer-esque problems?” Buffy asked. “I could’ve helped, you know.”
“Angel…thought it best if we left you out of anything overtly dealing with the Council, given your history,” Wesley said softly. Buffy took a deep breath and gave him a shaky smile.
“It’s all good, Wes,” she said. “As long as you let me come play during apocalypse season, I’m content with my little corner of the universe, where my biggest problems are the occasional demon.
“You have an apocalypse season?” Obi-Wan asked, unsure of what he was hearing. Wesley and Buffy looked at him with surprised expressions on their faces. Apparently, they had forgotten he and the others were in the room. As far as he was aware—and this was only through dealing with some fanatical religious sects during his years as a Jedi—an apocalypse was only supposed to happen once and destroy the entire galaxy while it happened. How did this planet managed to have more than one and survive was beyond him.
“It’s kinda a thing,” Buffy explained. “Come May, a big bad tries to end the world, he—although it was a ‘she’ that one time—and I fight, I save the world, and then I get a few months of downtime before the next big bad starts making a move. Like I said,” she continued, tearing off a piece of bread, “it’s a thing.” Before Obi-Wan could ask another question, the phone rang.
“Hello?” Buffy said, picking up the phone. “What?” she exclaimed, causing everyone to look at her funny. “How many are there?” She listened for another moment, nodding her head. “Get out of the room now, and I’ll be there as soon as possible.” Hanging up the phone, she turned to face the group with a grim expression on her face.
“I’ll be back,” she said, picking up her plate and placing it by the sink. “That was the coroner of Monterey. They’ve had five people come in during the last 48 hours, all drained of blood. The real kicker is that they all have blood-breath. I’ll be back,” she said, going to the closet to grab her jacket.
“Might I make a suggestion, Buffy?” Wesley asked, putting down his napkin. “Seeing as Obi-Wan is unfamiliar with many of the threats you deal with on a daily basis, you should take him with you while you go deal with these new vampires.” Buffy thought about it for a moment before shrugging.
“Sure, why not. But he’ll have to leave the glow stick at home. I don’t want to deal with trying to explain that to anyone who might see it,” she said. “You want to come with, Wes, or are you going to stay here?”
“I think I’ll stay here and talk with the children,” Wesley said. “Just…don’t crash into anything while you’re driving. I’d hate to have to deal with your auto insurance company this late.”
“Ha-ha, very funny,” Buffy replied, going to the closet and grabbing her coat. “I’ll have you know that my driving’s gotten much better since Sunnydale.”
“Well, there’s no way it could get any worse.”
“If you aren’t careful, I might just take it out on you during training,” Buffy warned. Obi-Wan gave Wesley a small smile and followed Buffy outside to the vehicle she called a “car.”
“What did Wesley mean about your driving?” he asked hesitantly. After dealing with some near-death experiences due to bad piloting during his career as a Jedi, he didn’t want to end up dead due to Buffy’s inept driving.
“I was a little notorious during my high school days for my bad driving, but I’ve gotten better—I promise!” Buffy added, seeing Ben’s panicked face. “No worries, though: I haven’t killed anyone yet, and I doubt you’ll be the first.” She got in the driver’s side and waited for Ben to close his door. “You’re going to want to put your seat belt on,” she told him as she put the key into the ignition. Ben did as she said, and soon they were speeding up Highway One towards Monterey.
“How were you able to get through to Ahsoka?” Obi-Wan asked, finally voicing the question that had been running through his head all day. Buffy remained silent for a few moments, the only sound coming from the car as it continued its journey.
“I just was able to voice what was going through her head,” Buffy finally answered in a quiet voice. “I’ve seen a lot, and one thing I’m unfortunately familiar with is when someone close to you betrays you.” An awkward silence filled the car, and Obi-Wan resisted the urge to drum his fingers against his leg. “What was she like before all this happened?” Buffy asked, never taking her eyes off of the night-darkened road.
Obi-Wan thought about it for a moment before answering. “She was very impulsive,” he answered. “But she also wouldn’t hold anything back while fighting, and she would do anything to make sure that no innocents were hurt in the crossfire. There were times when I would question if she took her calling seriously, because she was always joking, even at the most inopportune times.” Buffy snorted.
“I’m liking this girl better already,” she commented dryly. “I can always use someone to pun with. Gets boring when no one plays with you.” Obi-Wan shook his head and noticed that they were starting to pass more and more buildings.
“Welcome to Monterey,” Buffy said, gesturing with one hand at the space outside her window. “I’ll take you all here sometime when there’s actually sun and you can see the buildings. It’s a nice town.” Before long, Buffy was pulling the Jeep into the parking lot of the Monterey city morgue. “Let the games begin,” she commented dryly, exiting the car. She waited until Ben was out before locking the Jeep and walking to the door.
“Have a stake,” she said, offering Obi-Wan a sharpened piece of wood. He examined it for a moment before looking at her in confusion.
“What is this for?” he asked, turning it around in his hands. Buffy smirked at him and shook her head.
“See vamp, insert stake in heart, job well done,” she explained, grabbing a well-worn piece of wood out of her purse and rubbing her fingers along the smooth grain. “It’s a pretty simple concept, as long as you remember the first rule.”
“Don’t die?” he guessed, remembering what she had said his first night on this strange world. Buffy flashed him a wide grin, knocking sharply on the glass door. A few seconds later, a harried looking woman in her late forties appeared, unlocking the door from the inside.
“Thank you so much for coming,” she said to them, opening the door to let them in. “I always feel so bad calling you in so late at night…”
“No problemo,” Buffy answered. “Better to get them now than when they’ve turned a couple of people and killed a dozen more.” The other woman grimaced as she led them further into the building. Buffy continued, “So, yeah, I’ll take care of it with my friend here, and I’ll knock on your office when I’m all finished up.” The woman gave Buffy’s hand a small squeeze before leaving Buffy and Obi-Wan alone in front of a door.
“So, what are we going to be doing?” he asked as Buffy opened the door and led them into a morgue. Although he was new to Earth culture, morgues tended to be the same no matter which planet he was one. They were almost always cold in order to preserve the bodies, as well as sterile and impersonal.
“Well, see those bodies right there?” Buffy asked, gesturing to the five people laid out on various tables. “All of them have been turned, which means they should be rising pretty soon. Ah, look, right on schedule.” One of the bodies started to sit up, its face distorted like the humanoids Obi-Wan had seen that first night on the way back from the ship. Buffy sauntered over to the thing and casually stuck the “stake” into the area where his heart would have been, causing the creature to turn into dust.
“One down, four more to go,” Buffy said, coughing at the sudden appearance of the dust. “Try to get them before they get on their feet. I’d rather not have the Doc mad at me for destroying any equipment in here.” She perched on the now empty table and scanned the other bodies. “Of course, it could be a night of major hurry-up-and-wait-age, so you might want to get comfortable.”
Obi-Wan followed her over to the table and leaned against it, keeping an eye on the currently still bodies. “How often do you do this?” he asked. Buffy shrugged.
“About once every couple of weeks or so,” she answered. “There’s not a huge vamp population here in Monterey, and vamp deaths are rare enough that they tend to go to the city morgue for investigation. Doc knows enough to check for bloodbreath on any of the bodies that come in, and she lets me know when it happens. Although for this many to be happening all at once means that there’s someone actively trying to convert people,” she added with a frown. “Damn. Means I need to go poking around to find a source of info.”
Obi-Wan was about to answer when they both spotted one of the bodies beginning to stir. “You’re up, Ben,” she instructed, pointing to the thing with her stake. “Remember: see vamp, insert stake.” Obi-Wan resisted the urge to roll his eyes and walked over to the creature. It was more repulsive than he remembered, but it might be because he was closer to it than he had been the last time he had seen one.
As soon as it sat up, he jabbed the piece of wood into roughly the same area he had seen Buffy aim for; the creature froze before turning into a cloud of dust. Coughing, his ears picked up the faint sound of applause coming from where Buffy was sitting.
“Congrats, Ben,” she said, a smile on her face. “You’ve just staked your first vamp. Feel any different?” Obi-Wan shook his head in response. “Oh, well. The first staking can’t always be a life-altering experience.” The rest of the vampires “rose” shortly thereafter, and he and Buffy took turns dispatching them, with Buffy graciously giving Obi-Wan the last one.
“Hold up for a sec while I check in with the Doc,” Buffy said, veering off the hallway into a smaller corridor. She knocked on a door and a strange gesture with her thumbs to the woman who had let them in. “They’ve all been taken care of,” Buffy told the woman. “If any others come in, don’t be afraid to call.” With a wave of her hand, Buffy led Obi-Wan out of the building and back to the car.
“Do you mind if we check out a few cemeteries before we head back?” Buffy asked, starting the car and carefully pulling out. “I want to see if I can get some info on who the new wannabe is before he does any more damage. Although, it could be a she,” she added thoughtfully.
“I have no objection,” Obi-Wan said, watching the streets that Buffy was navigating through. “How are you going to get the information you need?”
“I have my ways,” Buffy said with a little cackle. “Just watch and learn, Jedi-Boy.” Obi-Wan shook his head at her response and remained silent until they reached a large cemetery. “Let’s go and kick some vamp ass.”~*~*~
The evening turned out to be a bust, with Buffy only finding one “fledgling” who didn’t know anything about some new vampire trying to gain power. Buffy grumbled under her breath the entire ride home about missing a place called “Willy’s,” where she could go for information. When Buffy told Wesley about what they had faced, he rubbed his forehead in frustration.
“I don’t believe there are any prophecies coming due right now, but I could be wrong,” he told them the next morning, the sheets on the couch where he had slept neatly folded beside him. “I’m not privy to many of the most recent discoveries and translations. I could try to find out through some backdoor connections, if you’re interested,” he added, seeing Buffy’s pained expression.
“Can you try not to let them know I’m involved?” she asked him quietly. Obi-Wan wondered who the “they” were and why Buffy didn’t want them to know her interest. Wesley studied her for a moment before nodding. “Thanks,” she said. “’Preciate it. So, what are we going to feed the munchkins for breakfast today?” she asked with a sudden change of mood. Wesley and Obi-Wan exchanged a look before sharing a quiet laugh.~*~*~
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