Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; SyFy owns "Riverworld" and all related characters; I own nothing. Note:
Sequel to Strange New World
Buffy hated to admit it, but Whister was kinda right when he had told her that in the end, she only had herself. She could surround herself with other people, try to lessen both her burden and that pervading sense of isolation, but in the end, she was alone. She always had been, and she was getting the distinct impression that she always would be. That’s how it had been back when she was alive on Earth, and that’s how things were looking in her new un-, after-, whatever the hell kind of life she was now living here on Riverworld. She had no idea how long she had been here--she had stopped counting after the fourth year of not finding anybody made her so depressed that she briefly considered using the suicide express--but it was long enough for her to slowly start accepting this bitter truth.
She was alone.
She was by the river--again--, only this time, there was nobody dragging themselves ashore and looking around in wonder. She was a good ten miles away from the nearest grail stone, and whoever or whatever controlled this place apparently didn’t like sending people too far away from one of those stones.
Buffy tiredly set her pack down on the rocky riverbed next to her, but remained standing. There were times she loved how quiet Riverwold could be, giving it a sense of superficial peacefulness, but right now she hated it. She hated being the only living creature making noise, moving around in this otherwise beautiful space. Looking down at the ground, she bent over and carefully picked up several flat rocks. She paused a moment, her eyes on the distant shore, before beginning to expertly skip the rocks across the water. The quiet splashes that they made as they first skimmed the surface before sinking below broke up the silence, but not enough to erase the hollow emptiness in her chest.
Her world slowly focused in on the act of throwing the stones, from flicking them just right to get the correct angle and speed, to watching it touch the water, to observing the ripples slowly spread before fading into nothing. She became so absorbed by this that she gradually lost track of what was going on around her. That’s why she was genuinely surprised when a strong hand gripped her arm and a voice whispered into her ear:
“And here I was just thinking you were a figment of my imagination.” Jumping slightly despite her best efforts not to, Buffy turned around and found herself face to face with the man she had met over a year ago. The only other person that she had seen without a grail band. “I’ve never been so pleased to be proven wrong.”
“Well, bully for you,” Buffy muttered, trying to escape his grip. “Now that you’ve found me, you can let go and I can go on my merry way.” She stilled when she felt the unmistakable touch of a barrel of a gun press against her side.
“I would really hate to kill you just after remaking our acquaintance, but don’t think I won’t,” the man warned. Buffy glared at him, but remained silent. She was fast, but not fast enough to get out of his grasp while dodging a bullet aimed right at her chest.
“What do you want?” she finally asked, trying to keep her voice calm and not let her anger at herself take over. Sloppy. She had been sloppy, thinking herself to be totally alone out here when she knew as well as anybody that death could aways be waiting just around the corner. If she was lucky, she would get out of this alive. If not... well, maybe a change of scenery would do her good when she dragged her body out of the river again.
“There’s a long list of things that I want, my dear, but right now, all I want is a little chat,” he answered, a hint of grim amusement in his eyes. “I want the answers you refused to give last time we met.”
“I think I also distinctly remember telling you I don’t know anything,” Buffy shot back an annoyed tone. “And that answer really hasn’t changed all that much since we last met.”
“I think I’ll be the judge of that,” the man replied, a smirk just teasing the corners of his mouth. “We’ll just sit here and talk like two civilized individuals. Does that sound agreeable to you, or would you rather I shoot you first and get answers out of you that way?”
Buffy looked up at the sky, and silently cursed in what little Faryl she knew. The universe had it in for her. She took back everything she had been thinking about being alone. Alone-ness was much better than having to answer questions at gunpoint form a man of questionable sanity, no matter how good he looked. Whistler, I hope that somewhere out there you’re getting a kick out of this,
she seethed. And my threat about the ribcage hat still holds if I have the misfortune of seeing you again.
“So, what do you want to know?” she asked, looking back down and smiling at him with forced sweetness.
“Your name, for a start.”
“Anne,” Buffy lied, using her most frequent alias. There were probably tons of Anne’s here and very few Buffy’s. And it wasn’t really a lie. Anne was her middle name. “And what about yours? I can’t just keep calling you ‘bastard’.”
“And yet, you don’t seem like an Anne,” the man observed. “What’s your real name?”
“It’s not my fault you don’t believe me,” Buffy answered with a slight smirk. “It’s Anne. Get over it. And stop making with the question avoidance. Name, please.”
“You’re in no position to be giving orders, Anne
,” the man said, putting an extra emphasis on her name and adjusting the gun in his hand ever so slightly. Buffy crossed her arms and gave him her best impression of the famous Willow resolve-face. She wasn’t quite up to that caliber, but she gave it her best shot.
The man wavered for a moment before sighing audibly. “It’s Richard,” he answered shortly. “Satisfied?”
“Nope, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until this little session is over and done with, Rich,” she replied. “So let’s just get this finished with as quickly as possible.”
“I feel like I should be offended.”
“Don’t take it personally. I just have a thing against borderline crazy people with guns.”