Chapter 3: One Soldier
Greetings from England. My flight arrived several hours ago, and I thought it best if I let you know that everything is fine.
Quentin Travers himself was at the airport to meet me, and we've had a brief chat. The Council has continued to look for any references to Glory, or any way we can defeat her. Unfortunately, however, they have not yet been able to find anything.
Quentin wasn't exactly happy that you left the Hellmouth unguarded, or that I left you without a watcher. But, while I continue to hold the Council in high regard, and respect them for the good works they usually achieve, I believe that they do not understand the nature of the supernatural war. Only I, and a couple of watchers who supervised slayers in the past, actually know what it is that we're doing.
While jet lag ensures that I cannot stay awake much longer, I plan to begin looking into Glory myself in the coming days. Perhaps I, with field experience unknown the most of the watchers, will be able to improve upon some of their work. We can only hope.
I wish you, and Dawn, luck. Perhaps, soon, we can find a solution to this problem, and you will be able to return to Sunnydale
One of those nifty benefits of being the slayer was the ability to survive on only a few hours of sleep. While it did make it difficult to sleep in, it did mean that Buffy was wide awake to watch the sunrise.
Of course, since numerous structures blocked any view of the horizon, it was quite an unsatisfying experience.
Situated upon the Eastern seaboard of the United States, Gotham City could have given Buffy a unique opportunity to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, if not for the aforementioned difficulty.
Buffy was bored. Again. She had just spent several hours watching the sky slowly brighten, because she had little else to do. She could wake her little sister, but it was unlikely that Dawn would appreciate such an action.
At times like this, when Buffy was alone, she couldn't help but remember her mother. Unlike their father, who had decided that Buffy wasn't worth the effort once she turned eighteen, Joyce Summers had always been a model parent. Words such as kind, caring, and loving fit her better than a tailored dress.
Oh, Buffy had no illusions. She was far from perfect. If nothing else, Mom's reaction once she learnt of Buffy's calling wasn't exactly magnificent, and Buffy preferred to forget the time when a demon had caused the city, spearheaded by Joyce, to attempt to burn Willow, Amy, and Buffy at the stake. But, overall, there wasn't anyone who Buffy would prefer to call her mother.
Joyce's sickness had scared Buffy tremendously. She fought nightmare-level creatures almost nightly, saving countless lives. But then, she had come face-to-face with an enemy she couldn't fight, outwit, and destroy.
Buffy had protected her mother from vampires, zombies, demons, and even an extraterrestrial. And yet, it was the perfectly natural, ordinary, and common cancer that had killed her mother. The mundane sickness had been far deadlier than large numbers of supernatural monsters.
Buffy had never been stupid enough to believe that she could always protect everyone. But, in some childish way, she had hoped that she would at least have the chance. That if her mother died, it would be because of a mistake Buffy had made, and not because of an unexpected brain aneurysm
Joyce's funeral had passed in flurries of sobs and tears, and Buffy would never forget the image of the casket lying in the grave. But the funeral had also provided the Summers girls with an opportunity to meet Bryan, their mother's mystery date.
What struck Buffy most about Bryan was how ordinary he was. He was certainly a nice man, somebody who Buffy would have been glad to know under different circumstances, but yet he wasn't anything special, either.
Buffy had often wished, and likely would continue to wish, for a normal life. A life not dominated by unfathomable horrors. And yet, Bryan had shown that, even for the ordinary people, death still came knocking.
While Buffy's duty of protecting Dawn had kept her from running to Los Angeles alone, or going catatonic with grief, Joyce's death had undoubtedly one of the most painful events of her life, rivaled only by the time when she was forced to send Angel to hell. It had forced Buffy to consider that perhaps the most fearsome terrors were not preserved for the unlucky few that stumbled upon the supernatural world.
In the end, even if Buffy had never been the slayer, Joyce Summers would still have died.
Of course, despite the fact that Mom's death was completely natural, Buffy went through the normal stages of grief, including guilt. But it didn't take long for Buffy to realize that it wasn't her fault.
But, funnily enough, she wished it was. She felt guilty, not that she hadn't done something to help, but that she hadn't been able to do something. It was easier to live in the simple world where everything wrong was her fault, and therefore, she could fix anything.
Rubbing her eyes, Dawn emerged from her bedroom. Standing, and yawning, in the doorway, she commented, "You're up early."
"Oh, hi," Buffy said, "You missed the sunrise."
"I prefer to sleep."
"Don't worry, I missed it too. Lots of overly tall structures were in the way."
"I see." Dawn said, "Well, actually I don't, which was the whole point of the conversation. I understand."
"Rapidly changing the topic, however," Dawn said, "What's for breakfast."
"There's this innovative food called cereal," Buffy said, "They reckon it's good with milk."
Dawn shook her head, "I don't know why I even asked."
"Well, there is some pancake mix, but if you want to use that, you're making it yourself. And doing the washing." Buffy said.
"Hey," Dawn protested, "You're the bright and chipper one. You know, early bird makes the pancakes."
"Yeah, but I'm responsible from saving you from indescribable hordes of evil nasties, so I should at least retain the right to not make pancakes. Besides, I'm your guardian, I make the rules."
"You do know that's cheating, right?" Dawn asked, rubbing her eyes again before plodding towards the kitchen.
Buffy just grinned. "So, what do you want to do today. I think I've run out of places to apply for a job, so I think I'll relax for a day or two, before I start looking again."
"Well, we could head back to the library. Since somebody decided I didn't need a laptop, we need to use the public computers to check our email. Besides, I've almost finished the book, so I want to get a couple more."
As Dawn began to pour milk onto her cereal, having decided to forgo pancakes, Buffy gave her an unbelieving look. "That book has what? Six hundred pages? And you're almost finished."
"Well, I did stay awake a while after you sent me to bed, reading under the covers." Dawn admitted.
"No wonder you're tired." Buffy said. "I guess, since I spent years sneaking out at night, to go kill vampires no less, I can't really complain."
With a bowl full of corn flakes, Dawn sat at the table, opposite where Buffy had been sitting since she had gotten up that morning. "So," Dawn asked, "What have you been thinking about this morning."
Dawn became silent. While the pain was not nearly as raw as it had been at first, they were far from healed. While troubles in their lives, and their sudden move to Gotham, had forced them to move on, on those occasions where Dawn thought about her mother, she still felt the hole in her heart.
And Dawn doubted she would ever get rid of the doubts over her attempt to resurrect their mother, and her subsequent sabotaging of that plan, when she ripped the photograph linked to their mother before Buffy could see her. She knew it had been the right thing to do, but she would never stop thinking about what could have happened.
Finally, Buffy quietly said, "I'm sure that, wherever she is, Mom is smiling down on us."
An hour later, Dawn was in a much happier mood. She was skipping down the street, humming snatches of various songs.
Buffy, walking behind her, and holding her library book, amused herself by attempting to mentally name every tune she heard. She hadn't been particularly successful.
"You know," Buffy called, loudly enough so that Dawn could hear, but quietly enough so that no nearby pedestrians could, "For somebody on the run from a deity of large power out of a literal hell, you sure are cheerful."
"What was that thing Pollyanna did? Think of a reason to be happy in every situation? Okay, that's not what I'm doing, and it's only tangently related, but you reminded me of her."
Buffy smiled at the rather pointless comment. "So, what complicated and confusing books will you be borrowing from the library today?"
"You know, Buffy, some people have trouble with judging a book by its cover. You, however, take the more radical approach of judging a book simply because it's a book."
"Hey, I read books. Sometimes."
"That sentence would be so much more convincing if you had an example to back it up."
"I read books for demon research." Buffy said victoriously. "Y'know, learning about Miktaharlawakadoozy demons and whatnot."
"Did you actually read those books, or just look at the pictures?"
"No comment." Buffy said, "And besides, what about the university and school stuff. I definitely read them."
"While concurrently thinking about how boring they were?"
"Something like that," Buffy shrugged. "Okay, I admit, I have an anti-literary bias."
Dawn grinned, "I know, maybe you should write a book about it."
Buffy glared at her sister. "Speaking of books, you still haven't answered my original question. What books will you be borrowing today?"
"To be honest, I'm not really sure." Dawn said, "I got the last book because it caught my eye. But it can be difficult to find good books, amongst the piles of ..."
"Boring stuff?" Buffy interjected.
"Boring stuff." Dawn agreed, "Although I'm sure I could have thought of a better description. Like 'unappealing literature,' or 'books that need to be torn into shreds and blasted into space.'"
As Dawn finished speaking, they approached the public library. It was not the only library in Gotham, and was far from being the largest, but it still had an impressive size. Behind the information and checkout desks, automatic book withdrawal and return areas, the amenities, and a small coffee shop, thousands of books sat on dozens of shelves, spread throughout the building. A spiral staircase led up to a mezzanine floor, which held even more books, along with newspapers and the majority of the computers.
The remaining computers were spread throughout the main library, most of them restricted to searching for books, and checking what was and wasn't in stock at any of the Gotham libraries
Several walls of the library were painted vibrant colours, especially in the children's section of the building, and many of the walls were decorated with community posters and news clippings. Large floor-to-ceiling windows covered the front of the library, and various objects, such as hand-sculpted rowing boats, with no particular significance, hung from the roof.
Entering the building, Buffy headed straight for the stairs, intent upon claiming one of the free computers to check their email, in order to receive any communication from the Scooby Gang, and to waste several hours while waiting for Dawn. Dawn headed straight for several large bookshelves, aiming to find a few something interesting to read.
Dawn was not above reading fiction. However, living inside the fantasy genre did tend to make such stories dull. Unless looking for something from the 'so bad its good' category, or reading classics such as The Lord of the Rings, Dawn tended to stick to science fiction.
However, Dawn had recently been scouting for eye-catching nonfiction books that she could read. Psychologically, she found it difficult to enjoy invented tales, after the serious event in her life such as her discover that she was the Key, her mother's death, and the fact that she had been a hairbreadth from being murdered by a psychotic Hell god.
Intellectually, of course, she had realized that books concerning spy equipment during the Cold War were not more applicable to her life than the novels she had been reading, but subconsciously, it hadn't made a difference. And the fact that the nonfiction books were quite interesting hadn't hurt.
Even so, Dawn scanned the shelves from the fantasy and science fiction section, looking for anything that could be intriguing. When her brief look failed to satisfy her, she headed towards the nonfiction area of the library, hoping to find something as enjoyable as her previous book.
Meanwhile, Buffy ascended the spiral staircase, and took a seat in front of one of the available computers. She opened the internet browser, and soon had logged into her email provider.
She found emails from both Willow and Giles. Giles had decided to go back to England, since he currently had no need to be in Sunnydale. He had met back up with the Watcher’s Council, and was attempting to do research to help with defeating Glory.
She received a rather moderately long message from Willow, detailing the happenings back in Sunnydale. Willow herself, however, was primarily concerned with finding a way to restore Tara’s sanity, with no luck so far.
At the end of Willow’s letter, she suggested that Dawn begin homeschooling, since it would be more adaptable, and able to deal with any unexpected moves they may have to make if Glory found them.
Buffy grinned, and made sure to remember this suggestion. It would be interesting to see Dawn’s reaction when she heard it.
Buffy then opened a new window—something Willow had recently shown her how to do—and opened the Gotham news. She began to check it for large numbers of recently insane people, or any other sign that Glory, or any other threatening demon presence.
This was one of the disadvantages of hiding amongst such a large city. While, if anyone were following them, the population would hide them, it would also hide anyone who was chasing them. It was entirely possible that Glory had been in Gotham for a week, but that the occasional crazy homeless person hadn’t attracted anybody’s attention.
Satisfied that, if there was a threat, it wasn’t to be found in the news, Buffy glanced around as Dawn came up the stairs, holding several books.
“What did you find?” Buffy asked.
“First, a book about chess strategy.” Dawn replied, “Maybe, when I get back to Sunnydale, I can give Willow a challenge.”
Dawn and Willow were probably the only two people Buffy knew who were interested in chess. And while Dawn wasn’t a bad player, she wasn’t near as good as Willow, who had spent vast hours studying the intricacies of various professional games.
Dawn had developed quite a friendship with Willow, since she was intelligent and crazy about school. While Willow spent most of her time studying, learning magic, helping Buffy, or, recently, being with Tara, she had taken the time to mentor Dawn in chess. While Dawn refused to follow Willow’s opening style—Dawn opened with her horse, rather than playing a King’s Pawn game—she had learnt quite a bit from Willow.
“Actually,” Dawn pondered aloud, “Maybe I should try and play Willow over the internet. We could play correspondence chess through email.”
“Anyway,” she continued, “I also got a book about Winton Churchill, since I remember Giles talking about what a great hero he was, or something. Also, if I get bored of those, I’ve got a book about ancient weapons.”
“Personally, all I need to know about weapons is whether they’re sharp enough to behead a vampire. Spare me the theory.”
“Still,” Dawn said “That’s some pretty interesting stuff in here. It even talks about weapons from places like Japan, which is all awesome because of ninjas and stuff. Apparently, there’s two types of shurikens, or throwing stars, one has blades, and the other simply has spikes.”
“Thanks, Dawn” Buffy said, “I am now so much more informed. Using this newfound information, I will proceed to destroy every vampire on Earth, and make every demon reform themselves in fear.”
“Did you know,” Dawn said, “Some people have a mental condition where they can’t understand sarcasm?”
Buffy thought for a second, then said, “Y’know, just reuse my last statement here. It fits this as well.”
Dawn just grinned. “So, what’s the what back in Sunnydale?”
Buffy turned back to the computer, and let Dawn read the emails, watching her face closely as she reached the end of Willow’s message.
“Homeschool?” Dawn asked, incredulously, “You want me to homeschool? I thought homeschooling was for weird people who couldn’t stand a normal school?”
“In that case, you’ll fit right in,” Buffy teased.
“But, seriously,” Buffy said, “I’m fairly certain there’s a distinction between home-schooling and distance education. But anyway, it’ll mean that, no matter what happens, your schooling won’t be disturbed.”
“You know that’s a disadvantage, right?” Dawn asked, “If I have to run from Hell gods, I should at least have the luxury of escaping school.”
“Also, as Willow said, you may be able to speed through distance education, since you won’t be stuck with a timetable. It may even make school better.”
“That could be good,” Dawn grudgingly admitted.
“We can discuss it with Willow later,” Buffy said, “In fact, I’ll email her for information.”
“Okay,” Dawn said, “Anything exciting in the news? Any more sightings of Batman?”
“There’s been a few.” Buffy said, “But nothing big.”
“So, any research you need to do before we leave?”
“Nah, we’re done. I guess we could head home.”
“Or we could go to the mall. I could really use some new shoes.”
“Dawn, we’re not rich. We can’t spend money on every fantasy.”
Buffy shut down the browser windows, and stood from her seat. As they descended the spiral staircase, Buffy asked, “So, how long do you think it will take to read those three books?”
“Well, I read the last book in a single day, although I did need to stay up late at night to do so. But considering how very little else there is to do, it will only take several days.”
“How do you read so fast. It takes me four hours to get through the title page.”
Dawn laughed, and began to sign out the books using a self-serve computer. “Well, they say that a picture tells a thousand words. You only need to watch television, and you’re reading at something like one-and-a-half million words per minute.”
Buffy scrunched up her nose, and thought about that statement. After a moment, she said, “You know, some people are paid to watch multiple security cameras at the same time. Multiply twenty or thirty camera feeds, by the number you just said, and you have the worldwide reading champions.”
“Or,” Dawn said, as they exited the front library entrance, “What about those spy agencies, or supervillains, in movies, who have huge walls filled with tiny screens.”
“You know what,” Buffy said, “All this reading is making me dizzy.”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said, “Now we have an excuse. Every time we watch a half-hour comedy, we are actually reading, well,” Dawn went silent for a moment, trying to add the numbers up in her head.
“Can I interrupt here and just say, ‘a whole damn lot?’”
“Well,” Dawn said, “If television played at twenty-five frames per second, it would be a forty-five million word paper. But most stuff is at twenty-four frames per second, so it would be a tiny bit slower.”
“See,” Buffy asked, “How do you even know that? What on earth made you decide to find out what speed television plays at?”
“School assignment. We had to make a presentation on an important invention of recent history.”
“And when you heard ‘important,’ the first thing you thought of was television?”
“Well, of course,” Dawn said.
They began walking down the street, Dawn walking with her three borrowed books. Buffy walked beside her, glancing at the pedestrians around them. Looking for threats in Gotham’s population had become habitual.
Buffy’s eyes fell upon a person standing at the other side of the street. He wore fairly standard clothes—jeans and a polo shirt, along with a leather jacket—but what drew Buffy’s gaze was the black tattoo upon his forehead.
Buffy had seen that symbol before, on the head of another man. He had been bearing medieval weapons, and had identified himself as a member of the military order called the Knights of Byzantium. Since he, and two others, had just attacked her, and had declared their intention to murder Dawn, to destroy the Key, Buffy was hoping that she would never see them again.
The man was evidently another member of the order, albeit one better dressed. But what made Buffy worry most was the fact that the Knight was staring straight back at her.
One problem with a multiple crossover is synchronizing the dates, and technology levels. For example, I'm not certain when they began bringing self-serve library checkouts into use, but I don't think it was before 2001. However, in other crossovers I will be using, such technology may be much more commonplace, since they were written in later years. So, for the sake of this story, technology is ahead a few years. That way, I am free to write about any technology, without limiting myself to things invented before the past few years.
Also, you may have noticed the emails at the start of each chapter. (If, by some chance, you didn't notice them, you really need glasses.) These are a method to show what the other Scoobies are doing, without needing to divert the narrative flow away from Buffy and Dawn. Note that, while the emails may have been sent around the time of the chapter start, Buffy may not actually receive the emails until much later, as shown in this chapter.
This chapter is being posted much later than I planned, but still done in a shorter time than the last chapter. I would like to take this time to officially state that writer's block is annoying. Oh, and distractions are distracting, even if they are a lot of fun.
I hope you enjoy this chapter. (yes, I realize it isn't exactly smart to say that at the end of the chapter. Too bad.)