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You Gotta Have A Gimmick

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Summary: During one of her Slayer exploits several years after the Sunnydale collapse, Faith meets a pair of nice old folks who have several secrets of their own.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Other(Current Donor)ManchesterFR1513,556151,44312 Oct 1012 Oct 10Yes
Disclaimer: I own nothing. To prevent spoilers, a further disclaimer is at the end of this story.



Ordinarily, at times like these, Faith would be cursing at the top of her lungs, spewing forth the vilest obscenities against Murphy and all others of his tormenting ilk, but at this exact moment, she had to save her breath, as the Slayer ran through the upstate New York forest at her fastest superhuman speed, crashing through the underbrush, jumping over fallen trees and boulders, and just barely keeping ahead of her pursuer. Faith didn’t bother looking behind herself, since the ongoing savage snarls from the whatever-it-is that was breathing down her neck gave clear proof of its intentions during this death race currently taking place in this uninhabited neck of the woods, full of plants and rocks and not a single goddamn phone!

Just another reason for her to hate the fuckin’ country, with all of its flowers and grass and nature shit.

Lowering her head to burst through a wall of foliage, Faith bitterly reflected that in any decent city block, you had some place -- a fast food joint, bodega, bar, whatever -- where you could find a proper telephone to call the IWC and maybe get a little witchy help from Red to turn what was gaining on her heels into a coupla hundred pounds of bloody demon chunks. Tightening her grip on the small object nestled in the crook of her left elbow, Faith kept on running as she heard her pursuer effortlessly rip through the rest of the vegetation she’d just passed through and then howl in bloodthirsty glee in once more catching sight of its prey.

Hurdling a small stream, Faith tore through the underbrush lining this watercourse, to then dash out into the open, finding herself in a small clearing basking in the noon daylight and containing a rest stop connected by a side road to the main highway a mile away, with this area having a small building with restroom facilities and several picnic tables next to that structure. One of those pieces of furniture used for outdoor dining was presently occupied, by two people whose car was parked nearby.

*SHIT! CIVVIES!*

As she mentally groaned to herself at this unexpected development, Faith ran right at the pair of people formerly peacefully sitting at the table during their lunch and now staring straight at the woman moving faster than humanly possible towards themselves. The Slayer also saw the faces of the elderly man and the younger woman next to him instantly exhibit absolute shock when they then noticed what was chasing Faith.

Skidding to a stop next to the occupied picnic table holding two people now frantically arising from their seats, Faith momentarily ignored those guys to instead hastily shove her right hand into her jeans pocket and yank out a small, metallic globe, to then equally swiftly hurl this tiny ball against the ground, where it promptly shattered. A moment later, the meaty smack! of flesh colliding very hard with something solid echoed throughout the rest stop, with a pained screech of total fury following right after that abrupt impact.

Breathing hard, Faith stood there, looking ahead through the shimmering air in front of her of the newly-created ethereal half-dome of force now present over the picnic table and a few feet further on. A flicker of motion on her left sent her head snapping over in that direction, as the combination lion-octopus-bear-crocodile thing that had been chasing her now scuttled on its lower limbs in a complete circle around the magical wards, bumping its muzzle filled with poison-dripping fangs against this protective, nearly-invisible, mystical wall while it made sure to its irate disappointment that that there was no way to get past this and devour all there inside.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” was roared directly into Faith’s right ear, causing her to wince at the volume while also finally examining her new acquaintances sharing the magical wards with the Slayer. The guy who’d just shouted at her had pretty good lungs for someone at least in their mid-seventies, judging from his pure white hair, a strong, lined face showing absolute disbelief, and a protective arm wrapped around the shoulders of the alarmed woman next to him that too had her own left arm clutching the waist of the man.

This lady was a couple of decades younger than her companion, maybe enough to be his daughter, though from the wedding rings on both of their hands, that exact familial relationship might not be accurate. Anyway, the look of anxiety on the blond woman’s beautiful face was starting to include thoughtful consideration, as she eyed the monster still hopefully scampering around the trio safely behind their protections. Speaking in a clear (if a bit shaky) voice, this woman announced, “Evan, that thing isn’t natural! There’s no way it’s some kind of mutation or freak of nature! It’s too different to be from here!”

*Oh, goody, this day just keeps gettin’ better and better. Well, fuck it.* At those acerbic thoughts, Faith then shrugged, both mentally and physically, and she told the other two humans standing next to herself, “It’s a demon. And before you say there’s no such thing as demons, just take a fuckin’ look at it, ’kay? Demons are real, so’s magic, and alla the resta stuff people told ya when you was growin’ up that wasn’t really real. Look, anytime else, I’d break it to ya a bit more gently, but we’re in deep shit now. If it helps any, I’m really sorry ’bout gettin’ ya into this, and I’ll do my best to get ya outta here to safety, but there’s no guarantee that there’ll be a happy endin’ for everybody.”

As the man now opened his mouth to undoubtedly expression his opinions at his full volume and length to a resigned Faith expecting a disbelieving lecture, he was interrupted before he could even get started by a firm voice coming from his side, “Evan, hush!”

Blinking at this as he bewilderedly remarked, “What, Minna?”, the confused oldster looked down at the determined feminine face gazing back at his expression, as this couple now held a silent discussion with each other for a long minute. Despite their current dangerous situation, Faith felt an actual pang of envy over something she’d never had the chance to experience, even during the few relationships she’d managed to have in the years since the Sunnydale collapse and her life as a Slayer working for the new International Watchers’ Council. The brunette woman’s momentary distraction was diverted by the pair now calmly looking at Faith, both of them having come to some kind of shared decision.

In a remarkably even voice, the man inquired, “Can’t you do anything about that?”, finishing his question by nodding at the monster patiently waiting in its ready crouch by the magical wards, balefully eyeing all three humans inside as if deciding in which order it’d eat them.

Now it was Faith’s turn to blink at the composure of the couple she’d just dragged into her troubles. It actually seemed that they, those guys evidently named Evan and Minna, were….used?….to things like, well, maybe not actually like this, but close. A twinge of wariness touched Faith’s mind, as she thought, *Him and her, they’ve been ‘round the block a coupla times, not goin’ to pieces at somethin’ nobody coulda planned on. Well, find out what’s the sitch later, if there’s a fuckin’ later anyways. Keep things simple, stupid, and lay it out on ‘em.*

All of the above flashed through her brain in less than a second, as Faith gruffly answered, “I goddamn tried, pal. See, me-- Um, my name’s Faith. Anyways, me and my….friends, we been lookin’ for this.” At those last words, the Slayer used her right hand to grasp and remove from the crook of her left elbow what she’d been carrying there for the last couple of minutes. Faith brandished into the faces of the mystified man and woman a small stone cube covered entirely with strange markings, which were able to be examined by the other adults only for a second or so, before the Slayer’s hand dropped to hold the object at her side, with the younger woman brusquely bringing back the couple’s attention to her further remarks.

“Ya don’t need to know what it is, just that it’s nasty, and ya really don’t want the wrong guys to get hold of it. Well, one of them assholes managed it anyways, just when I showed up, ’bout a couple miles away from here, and that’s the result.” Faith waved at the unearthly creature out past the protective wards, which evilly hissed at this motion, resulting in the Slayer glaring back at a true pain in the neck.

She grumpily continued her story: “At least Mr. Stupid made a li’l mistake when I was kickin’ his ass, and he let go of his new pet, which promptly gobbled him up. Problem is, just like I was told, ya gotta know the right way to kill it, ’cuz anythin’ else ya try just won’t work. Which I found out after breakin’ my favorite knife on it. There was nothin’ else to do but grab this” (Faith brandished the stone cube again) “and haul ass. ’Cept insteada gettin’ away to have my friends read this fuckin’ thing and use it to put that baddest doggie there down for once and all, it kept chasin’ me and I couldn’t lose it. Which is how I wound up here with ya, in this magic circle that’s keepin’ us safe, for now.”

As she finished, Faith eyed the others as they took her explanation in, much better than the Slayer had really expected. Once she was sure nobody was gonna freak out, Faith started to give her orders. “Okay, folks, I got a plan. First, is there a phone ’round here?”

The man’s blond wife answered for them both, “We’ve got our cell phone in our car--”

Faith firmly shook her head, informing Minna, “No good. Those kinda phones go on the fritz ‘round magic stuff like the souvenir I got here, plus this cube thing also keeps me from sendin’ a magic message to my friends. Only landlines keep workin’ -- somethin’ ‘bout connected to the earth, whatever the fuck that means.”

“Oh,” doubtfully commented Evan. “Well, there’s a small town about five minutes’ driving time back down the road. There’ll be a phone there.”

“Great. Now, here’s what ya gotta do.” Faith held up the stone cube. “Ya haveta take this with ya to the phone. I’ll give ya the number and what to say, and someone, probably Red herself, will magically pop over, right outta thin air. Try not to have a heart attack, ’kay? Anyways, tell her what happened, and give her this. She’ll be able to read it and find out what to do to finish off that thing. After that, it’ll be over for ya both, and it’s up to ya if ya wanna ’member it or not. It’s okay if you don’t wanna; most people prefer not to.”

It was Minna who spoke first, beating out her husband, as they both stared with concern at the beautiful woman who’d just upset their lives. “What are you going to do, Faith?”

Her features composed, Faith shrugged and jerked a thumb in the direction of the waiting demon. “Stay behind, and keep that thing busy.”

Now it was Evan who yelped, “But you just said you couldn’t kill it!”

“Yeah, well, them’s the breaks.” Faith gazed at the older pair staring at her in absolute horror, and the Slayer’s face softened, as she kindly told the couple, “Look, guys, we don’t got time to argue. First, the magic that’s now keepin’ us safe is gonna end in a coupla minutes anyways, ’cuz I ain’t got the mojo to keep it goin’. Second, any moment now, a school bus fulla kids might come drivin’ up, and that monster there will for sure go after ’em. And that’s my job, keepin’ bad things like that from happenin’. Always knew it’d end up like this someday. So….here.”

Faith strode forward and carefully lifted up Evan’s limp right hand to gently place upon the dazed man’s palm the stone cube, with his wrinkled fingers automatically curling up around the object to hold it in place. As she moved back, Faith blinked when Minna stepped closer, near enough for the older woman to then give the Slayer a quick, strong hug, and to whisper into the ear of someone who’d willingly chosen to sacrifice herself. “I’ll always remember, Faith, and I’ll speak of what you did, to your friends.”

Her eyes becoming moist, Faith husked, “Thanks, Minna. I’ll write a quick note for ‘em too--”

“WAIT!”

Jerked apart from their tight embrace by that unexpected masculine bellow, the pair of startled women stared at Evan now intently examining in his clasped hands the markings on the stone cube being held up at eye level. Muttering distractedly to himself, the man uttered the following: “Some kind of pre-Classical Sanskrit….a description, can’t be anything else but that….oh, God, do you really have to do this to summon it -- urgh -- here it is! Um, a blade coated with blood -- a kingly blade coated with blood -- no, that doesn’t work -- A BLADE COATED WITH ROYAL BLOOD!” Evan excitedly shouted those last few words as he looked at the gawking ladies.

Faith was the quickest to recover, to then sardonically say, “Yeah, I got in my back pocket a whole bucket of blood from one a’ them prince dudes at Buckingham Palace from the last time I went to have tea and biscuits there. Look, I gotta say that don’t really--”

The Slayer’s last comment, however it might have ended, was now abruptly drowned out by the uproarious gales of laughter coming from Evan and Minna that went on and on. Eventually, as a bemused Faith regarded them both, the couple quieted down, with Evan knuckling away with his free hand a tear of delight, as Minna solemnly turned to Faith and held out a steady hand. With total dignity, as benefiting an actual queen, the older woman intoned, “Take what you need from me, Faith.”

“Ya gotta be shittin’ me--” Faith abruptly shut up at the direct look of supreme disapproval she’d just received from Minna over her bad language. Hesitantly, Faith drew out a spare dagger from its sheath concealed in her clothing, and she held the knife ready, as the Slayer tentatively asked, “Ya really sure, Minna? I’m gonna haveta cover alla it, and it’s gonna hurt.”

Minna simply nodded, as Evan stepped over to the picnic table, snatching up several napkins from their meal, and then coming back to hold these square pieces of tissue paper ready. Still not quite convinced, Faith nonetheless made a quick slash upon the back of Minna’s hand, finishing the job of coating every inch of her dagger’s blade by rubbing this weapon against the oozing wound of the unflinching woman. Once this had been accomplished, without further ado, Faith blurred away from the couple at her fastest Slayer speed directly through the protective wards, at the opposite side from where the waiting demon then also propelled itself forward as quickly as it could. Though, by the time the monster had dodged around the magical circle, Faith was out in the clearing, standing there and facing the onrushing demon, her knife ready.

Clapping the napkins against Minna’s bleeding hand, both she and Evan watched with open mouths the ensuing savage battle between woman and monster, that could have only one ending now that the Slayer had an actually effective weapon. In a gory spray of greenish, not-of-this-world blood, Faith decapitated her enemy with a single, smooth slash, stepping back with a cold smile on her face as both pieces of the demon’s body now dissolved into goo on the ground of the rest stop.

Faith knelt down on the grass to plunge her knife once into the soil to clean off the blade, and then as she got up again, the Slayer slipped this weapon back into her clothing, to then stroll over at where Evan and Minna were frozen stock-still inside the protective half-dome of magical wards, gaping at what had just happened. Stopping a few steps away, a smirking Faith raised her voice in a gleeful call, “Just walk outta there, guys. It’ll turn off when ya do that.”

Glancing at each other in their sudden shared uncertainty, the older pair finally made up their minds, and stepping together, they edged their way out of the magical circle, which as Faith had prophesied, winked out of existence once the couple were clear of this. That left the duo warily regarding the now-solemn younger woman, who then seriously said to them, “Guys, ya done better than mosta everybody else I ever met, not losing your cool at all. I think there’s gotta be a story ’bout that from ya, so how’s ’bout a trade? Ya tell me ’bout yourselves, I’ll tell my own story, ‘kay?”

Evan and Minna traded their unspoken questions with each other, to then both look at where Faith was waiting, as the older couple now slowly nodded in agreement, leading the widest grin they’d ever seen being bestowed upon themselves by the heroine who’d suddenly come into their lives. “Great! ’Cuz when we’re finished, I wanna offer ya both a job with us. Now, lessee, Mr. Tweed’s delivery can’t be beat, but here goes: ‘The world is older than you know--’”



Further Disclaimer: All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Lawrence Block characters are the property of their original owners.

Author’s Note: This story surely joins the ranks of the most obscure crossovers ever. Anybody who knows the non-Buffyverse characters presented here will hopefully enjoy their appearance, and those at a loss will certainly need some kind of explanation. So, here goes:

In American popular culture, if the 1950’s were the decade of the Western and the cowboy, then the 1960’s was the decade of the spy. James Bond in his books and movies, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (plus Maxwell Smart) in their books and television series, and Evan Michael Tanner in his books and…. Well, just the books.

In the mid-to-late sixties, Lawrence Block wrote a series of lighthearted, absurdist suspense novels about an ordinary guy who leads a not-so-ordinary life, due to a gimmick that differed Evan Tanner from virtually every other spy/secret agent. Due to a Korean war wound that destroyed that man’s sleep center in his brain, he’s a permanent insomniac. He never again needs to sleep, and for fifteen years after being medically discharged from the Army, he sought to fill up his time of always being awake twenty-four hours a day by learning numerous languages and joining various domestic and foreign associations, organizations, groups, and societies, ranging from the totally innocuous to let-the-blood-of-the-bourgeoisie-flow-in-the-gutters type. It doesn’t bother Evan that the most of the groups he belongs to have utterly conflicting goals and purposes; this just makes life more interesting. Nor that he’s Number One on the CIA’s and FBI’s subversive lists. In any event, that man once got into serious trouble which wound up with him in prison and facing serious jail time, leading to a desperate Evan trying to talk his way out to freedom by claiming that he’s a member of a very secret spy agency, and no, he can’t tell anybody which one, who his boss is, or what his orders are.

Imagine that man’s surprise when he turned out to be absolutely right.

Evan spent the next few years (and half-a-dozen more novels) attempting to avoid being sent on various missions by whatever totally confidential government agency that thinks he works for them, but it usually ends in him reluctantly carrying out those assignments and in the end, quite successfully, too. During one such adventure, Evan rescued from her crazed guardian a little Lithuanian orphan girl named Minna, who may or may not be the direct lineal descendant of the last true king of that land, known to history as Mindaugas, who died seven hundred years ago, giving centuries later the Baltic country firmly behind the Iron Curtain at that occasion in the novel, a six-year-old as the heiress to the throne. Which, according to the Russians, will happen at the same time when the Kremlin becomes a bowling alley.

That kind of thing tends to happen to Evan Tanner. Anyway, he took Minna back to his home in New York City, and that adorable, truly beautiful child calmly announces she’ll stay with him forever.

From the story I wrote, this seems to have happened, with both overcoming the disparity of their ages to have a happy life together as a married couple, and with Evan learning even more languages. Though, in this AU tale, I’ve ignored the latest book that came out in 1998, which took up events nearly thirty years after the last one written in 1970.

Hope you enjoyed this!

The End

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