Chapter 1: May
A/N: Changes made August 1st 2012, note that there are no significant changes to the story itself. I updated some grammer and spelling errors and decided to split one very long chapter into two shorter chapters so the chapter lengths were more consistant. Since I had marked it as complete a long time ago I didn't realize the change would mark it as updated. Sorry about any confussion this caused.
A/N: When I started this I was intending to do a cross over with Harry Turtledove's World-war/Colonization series but the cross over never occurred, the story just went it's own direction.
Disclaimer 1: The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer do not belong to me. All I do is write about my imaginings for them.
Disclaimer 2: There is minor femslash toward the end of the story.
It was a cool morning as I walked through the orchard but I could feel the bite of the sun just clearing the hills to the east, it would be hot later in the day. I decided I would only prune the trees until mid-morning and then head in and do maintenance on some of the equipment in the barn during the heat of the day.
As I walked along I pondered what I was going to do. I was not going to be able to continue handling the entire ranch by myself; I would at least have to get some help for the summer. The local schools would be out soon; maybe I could get a couple of teenagers to help me through the summer for a share of the harvest. I was still coming to terms with the death of my parents in a car crash two months before, I didn’t know if I wanted to try to keep the ranch.
Financially I was okay for now, but I knew that wouldn't last for long if I couldn't make it working the ranch, over two hundred acres with most of it in prime orange groves and the rest in hay fields. Mom had always kept a small truck garden for veggies but I had never been interested in gardening and had abandoned it. I was working the remainder of the ranch, at this time of year it was mostly up-keep but was falling behind even on that and I knew it could chew up a lot of money very fast. The only way to replenish the money would be to get in a harvest, and for that I would have to hire a lot of help. What if I tried and I didn’t get in the harvest? Or the price of oranges crashed? Or any one of a dozen different things that could go wrong did? Then I’d be out of everything.
Then there was the issue of did I even want to remain a rancher? I had completed a year and a half, three semesters, up at Stanford before my parent’s death. But the emotional devastation that had caused combined with all the hassles of dealing with the funeral, the will, and all the other stuff had forced me to drop out. I wanted to go back to school but didn’t know how I could and still run the ranch, and hiring a ranch manager would take any potential profit right away from me. After estate taxes and probate I had the ranch and a little cash but the cash wasn’t nearly enough to pay for college. I could sell the ranch, but it was agonizing thinking of selling the ranch the home I had grown up in, the only home I could remember. And if I did sell, even with the improving economy the market for orange ranches was not the greatest, would I have enough to pay for college?
I continued to contemplate possible futures as I walked back to the far orchard, the one remaining area where I had yet to complete the spring pruning. I knew I was running late in the season, another reason to get some summer help, to catch up on the things that I was letting slide.
Something odd was intruding itself on my conscience and I came out of my thoughts and looked ahead of me, a lump was lying on the ground between the trees a hundred feet in front of me, what on earth was that? I approached slowly and saw the tan shape move slightly and realized it was a person lying curled on their side, facing away from me. What the hell was a tramp doing sleeping in my orchard? As I got closer I realized it wasn’t a tramp, or even a hobo, the clothes were too fine; then I realized it was a young woman. She moved again, raising herself slowly on her arms, she shook her head and then stopped and let out a low groan. Her back was to me but I could see was a slim woman with blond hair in tan slacks and a light top.
I stopped about ten feet from her, “Miss? Are you all right?”
She snapped around, her body contorting awkwardly and then she let out a louder groan, her eyes met mine briefly before she collapsed back to the ground. I ran over and squatted down next to her, I put down the pruning pole and rucksack I was carrying and gently took her shoulder and rolled her over onto her back. She was a pretty girl, about my age I would guess, although strain was starting to age her face. She opened her eyes and looked up at me.
“Are you okay?” She tried to say something and her voice just croaked, she nodded her head weakly, “Here, let me help you up.”
I took her shoulder and helped her up until she was upright; she drew her legs in until she was sitting cross legged and seemed stable, “Want some water?”
She nodded and a rasped out, “Yes, thanks.”
I dug into my rucksack and brought out one of the two mason jars I’d filled and brought with me, I knew it would be thirsty work out in the orchard. I unscrewed the cap and held the heavy jar out to her, she brought a hand up to grip it but I could see it shaking so I kept hold of the jar as she brought it to her lips and took several long drinks. I started to pull it away but she held it in place and took a third drink, she was becoming steadier by the second and was almost supporting the jar on her own when she released it back to me, her voice was much clearer and steadier, “Thanks, I needed that.”
“Are you hurt?”
She sat for a moment, evidently taking stock of herself, “Other than feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi I don’t think so.”
“Semi?” I asked, unsure of what she meant.
She looked at me quizzically for a moment, “Truck, really big truck.”
Strange term but I nodded in agreement; she looked around her, taking in her surroundings. Then she started looking around frantically and she exclaimed, “What the fuck?!”
I was shocked by her language but tried to overlook it, “Miss! What’s the matter?”
“Where the hell am I?”
I was startled and blurted out, “In my orange grove!”
“Outside Sunnydale, California. Miss, are you sure you’re okay?”
She looked around some more and seemed dazed, I suspected by thoughts running through her head, finally she shook her head, “I sure don’t recognize this.”
She struggled to her feet and continued looking around, “Miss, who are you?”
Distractedly she answered me, “Buffy Summers.”
I picked up the pruning pole and my rucksack and stood up and watched her as she looked carefully around and then circled around slowly as if checking for danger. She seemed to be loosening up quickly as she moved around, her movements lost the painful slowness they originally had. Finally she turned her attention back to me, “Who are you?”
“Barbara Thompson, owner of this land.”
“And where are we, exactly?”
“About two miles from Sunnydale, at least what there is of it, it’s not much of a town.”
She looked at me, her eyes showing distrust, “No fucking way!”
Again her language put me off but I kept my tongue, her reaction was starting to bother me, “Where are you from?”
I looked at her closely, I didn’t recognize her but then I’d spent most of the last couple of years at college or out on the ranch, “Moved here recently?”
“Not too, about five years ago.”
I was sure she was about my age and I knew she hadn’t been in high school with me or in any of the classes around mine, “Where did you go to school?”
“Sunnydale High, graduated two years ago and I got a year in the University before I had to drop out.”
I knew she wasn’t in my class - there were only forty-two of us. And what 'University' was she talking about? I stepped back, putting some distance between us. She was smaller than me, shorter by a couple of inches and at least twenty pounds lighter - I was in pretty good shape but she made me nervous. I brought the pruning pole down so I held it horizontally, the pole was an eight foot long wooden shaft with a foot long and very sharp saw blade attached to one end, I didn’t point it at her but kept it between us.
She looked at me, startled by my actions, and then her eyes grew wary, “What are you doing?”
“Why are you lying?”
“Lying? I’m not lying! What makes you think I’m lying?”
“I know you didn’t graduate from Sunnydale High two years ago!”
“What!?!? I sure as hell did!”
“I graduated from Sunnydale High two years ago, I know everyone that was in the class of ’39 and you certainly were not!”
Her eyes went round with shock and she stared at me, finally she spoke, her voice cracking, “Class of ’39?”
“Yes! So who are you?”
She didn’t answer, she just stared at me. Finally she asked, “What’s the date today?”
“May 23rd, why?”
I looked at her quizzically, “The year? It’s 1941, of course.”
Her head tilted back and she stared up at the sky for several moments before she started screaming at the top of her lungs, “MOTHER FUCKING SHIT EATING ASSHOLES! WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE TO ME NOW! SO HELP ME GOD I’LL RIP YOUR FUCKING HEADS OFF AND SHOVE THEM DOWN YOUR THROATS THE NEXT TIME I GET MY HANDS ON YOU!! GOD DAMN IT TO HELL! …”
The swearing and cursing continued as she hopped around, her rage increasing the more she swore. I backed off further, deciding this was someone that I wasn’t going to try to deal with by myself. I got clear of her and turned and started jogging back to the ranch house, I’d have to get the truck and go and find the sheriff but I didn’t figure she’d get too far. And if she did disappear, well it wasn’t my concern anyway. She must be a mental patient somewhere I thought, they’re probably looking for her already.
I realized the screaming had stopped but before I could turn around to see what she was doing I was slammed to the ground. I tried to turn over but she was holding me down, she was a lot stronger than she appeared to be, I was struggling as hard as I could and couldn’t throw her off of me. Then she twisted my arm strangely and pain shot through my body, freezing me in place.
“Stop fighting me!” Her voice came to my ear, softly and without a trace of the rage or madness I’d been hearing moments before, “I won’t hurt you!”
I relaxed and the pressure on my arm eased and the pain stopped, I gasped in relief, “If I let you go will you talk to me? Just for awhile, answer some questions?”
I spit the dirt from my mouth and managed to croak out, “You won’t kill me?”
“No!” The pressure eased off of me almost completely, “I’m sorry I freaked out, but I won’t hurt you! I just need some answers! Please?”
“Okay,” I said reluctantly, she got off of me and I slowly got to my feet. She was standing a couple feet from me with my rucksack in her hand and the half-full Mason jar in the other hand, she held it out to me, “Sorry.”
I took the jar and unscrewed the cap. I took a swig of water and rinsed out my mouth, spitting the water and dirt out and then took a drink. I handed the jar back to her and brushed some of the dirt and dust off of me. When I finished I looked back at her, she was watching me with an expression of embarrassment and almost shyness on her features, “What is with you?”
“I’m sorry! Please, can we just talk for a little? Then I’ll leave you, you can forget you ever met me.”
I thought for a moment, she seemed in control of herself now, “Why did you freak out?”
She looked at me for a moment and then shook her head no, instead she asked her own question, “This is really Sunnydale, California?”
I nodded, “Technically we’re outside of it, but it’s the closest town.”
“And it’s May 23rd, 1941?”
Her face seemed to crumple and tears formed in her eyes and then started spilling over and running down her cheeks. She slowly settled down to the ground until she was seated cross-legged, her head bowed, sobs racking her body. She didn’t look dangerous anymore; she looked like a young woman in the throes of grief. I came over and knelt beside her, cautiously I put a hand on her shoulder. After a few moments she collapsed against me, I took her in my arms as she sobbed her heart out.
After about five minutes she stopped crying; after another minute or so she pulled away from me and angrily rubbed her tear streaked face with her forearms. I pulled a bandanna out of the back pocket of my coveralls and handed it to her, “Here, use this.”
She took it and wiped her face, then looked up at me and grinned weakly, “I must be a dreadful mess.”
I looked at her; her face was dusty and tear streaked, her hair was a mess and her clothes, although nice, were covered in dust and smudged with dirt. “Well, not ready for going to town.”
“Oh, god! What the hell am I going to do?”
I thought back and came up with her name, “Buffy, what’s wrong?”
She looked at me for several minutes, she seemed to be evaluating me, “Promise you won’t freak?”
“Hey!” I tried giving her a grin, “I’m not the one that freaked! Remember?”
She continued to look at me and then her head gave a slight nod and she held out her hand to me, almost a fist but the fingers were not tightly clenched; I looked at it and saw there we as ring on the finger, a class ring similar to the one I had sitting back on my dresser. I looked back at her but she just looked at me steadily and kept her arm motionless, I looked back down at the ring. Then I took her hand in mine and brought it closer, it was similar to mine, the stone was different and the form slightly different but it still said ‘Sunnydale High School’ around it. And then I saw the year etched in the metal ring, ‘1999’. “What the hell!?!?”
“I did graduate from Sunnydale High, two years ago.”
“I wish to fuck it was!”
“What are you saying?!”
“Yesterday, when I woke up, it was May 22nd, 2001.”
I stared at her, she couldn’t be telling the truth! She just couldn’t! Could she? As the thoughts swirled around my head she reached into her back pocket and brought out a slim packet of papers, she held them out to me. I took them from her hand; there were a couple of bills wrapped around a glossy white card. I unwrapped them slowly, the bills were two twenty dollar bills, but strange, they didn’t look quite right. I examined them more closely, one was dated 1999, the other 2001.
I looked at the card; it was glossy white, covered by some strange clear material. A color picture of Buffy looked out at me from it. Across the top was ‘California Driver’s License’ along with some other printing. Beside her picture was ‘Buffy Anne Summers’, and then her address ‘1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale, Ca, 93129’
I stared at her, then back to the driver’s license and bills and then back to her, “How…”
“Fucking PTBs screwing me again!”
Despite her language I couldn’t help repeating it, “Fucking PTBs screwing you? What does that mean?”
“The ‘Powers That Be’, they’re the ones that try to keep the balance between good and evil, but they also seem to have a penchant for screwing me!”
I didn’t know what to make of this girl, as impossible as it seems I thought she really was from the future! Could she really be from the future? Suddenly I thought the biggest thing looming in the future could be answered, “Buffy! Do we get involved in the war in Europe? Who wins?”
She looked at me, startled, but before she could say anything a voice interrupted, “Ah, now, Buffy! There are a couple of rules!”
I looked up to see a strangely dressed man leaning against an orange tree not five feet from us; I knew he hadn’t been there sixty seconds before. Buffy sprang to her feet with a yell, “Whistler!”
He held up his hands, “Hold on Buffy! I’m just the messenger!”
I could see Buffy restrain herself, “Whistler – you better be quick!”
“Ah, okay, first, those were a mistake.” His hand pointed toward me and seemed to curl in on itself and I felt a slight tugging and looked down and the two bills and the driver’s license turned to dust and fell to the ground. I rubbed my fingers together but there was nothing there anymore.
I looked back up to see Buffy had taken a step closer and was glaring malevolently at the man she called Whistler. He looked calmly back at her, “You can’t change anything by telling people what you know, they won’t believe you and you’ll just end up locked away, you don’t want that do you?”
“So what the fuck am I supposed to do, save the world on my own again?”
“That’s up to you, your duty as the Slayer is complete. Live your life Buffy, you’ve earned it!”
Whistler shrugged, “Well, about that, you couldn’t stay in your world; this is far enough removed that nothing from it will affect you. But it’s close enough that you’re not a fish completely out of water. So, yeah, have a good life, Buffy.”
She stared at him for several minutes, I kept looking between the two of them, finally I decided to try a question of my own, “Who are you?”
Startled he looked over at me, he considered me for a moment, “I’m Whistler, I’m a balance demon but right now I’m acting more as a messenger for the PTBs.”
“Buffy’s from the future?”
I thought for a while, “And what did she do to deserve something like this?”
Again he contemplated me for several moments before replying, “She was the Slayer, she’s saved the world at least five times, and this last time she did it by sacrificing herself in place of her younger sister. She’s more than earned it.”
“Get her to explain it to you, if she will.”
Buffy seemed to be coming back to awareness, “I’m not the Slayer anymore?”
“You don’t have the duty, but they aren’t taking away your powers. You can use them as you feel fit.”
“What about the hell-mouth?”
“It’s not open here, at this time.”
“They’re around, but they’re keeping a pretty low profile now. Other evil is running rampant these days. Unless you go looking for them you probably won’t run into them.”
“Don’t mess with him, he has his own destiny.”
I thought of something, “How is she supposed to fit in? She wasn’t here five minutes and I knew something was wrong, what’s her history, who is she?”
Whistler reached in to his jacket and pulled out a thick manila envelope and tossed it to Buffy, “This will help you fit in to this world, don’t worry about it being checked, it will stand up to any check humans can do. It’s your history for this world but you’ll never actually meet anyone who would have known you. Read it and learn it and then destroy it, keep the documents and cash, they’ll help you get started in this world.”
Buffy stared at him in shock and then he disappeared.
I stared at the empty space where he had stood, I turned to Buffy, she was staring where Whistler had been standing. Finally I came to my senses, enough to realize that we had a lot of talking to do, “Buffy?”
Slowly she looked around to me, “Huh, what?”
“Come on, let’s go back to the house, we have a lot of talking to do.”