Chapter 1: It came from beneath Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but belong to their respective owners.
To say that James Lester was in a foul mood was a frank understatement. He was stuck in a traffic jam, the clock was ticking, the ARC was appearing to be running without him, and his wife was apparently cheating on him again. Not that he minded, mind you, since his marriage was little more than an attempt – a successful attempt – to secure a stable source of income back in his youth, back when he was nowhere as politically important as in the present, and rich in-laws were quite useful to him – but that was then...
And now... now James Lester was the head of the Anomaly Research Center... or rather, the co-head. Lester wasn’t one to be given over to illusions, and thus he had no doubt that if Philip Burton were to throw money around to get rid of him, Lester would be the one to lose. Furthermore, Lester wasn’t so sure either that without him the ARC wouldn’t be functioning better, for both the field team or Burton’s men appeared to be working quite fine in their separate fields, not getting along but not competing either – and where that left him?
With a childless marriage and a cheating wife, that’s where – hardly a consolation prize. Like any politician slash bureaucrat, Lester was quite aware that everything in his life has a price, but it didn’t feel him any better, but-
Suddenly, an unexpected noise interrupted Lester’s musings. Sadly, before he could dwell on it, the driveway crumbled beneath the wheels of his car, and he fell.* * *
“Giles, why do we have to be visiting every book shop in London? No, belay that – every obscure
book shop in London,” Buffy said crossly. “How will, exactly, our descendents appreciate it, this course of action that we’re currently undertaking? And what about Dawn? We’ve left her home alone-“
“Dawn has the fairies looking for her – helpful fairies,” Giles replied wryly. “So don’t worry, she’ll be sufficiently protected both by them and by your reputation as the Vampire Slayer. Combined, this will deter most of our enemies.”
“And the rest of them? What if Dawn will be kidnapped?”
“Then we’ll go and rescue her, since that’s what we always do,” Giles said nonchalantly, before trailing off as he stared at the motorway, or more precisely at one of the cars that were standing there because of the traffic jam. (That was why Giles himself disliked both driving and riding in cars and often used either the public transportation or just went on foot.) “Buffy?”
“Yes, Giles?” Buffy responded, though she sounded more distracted than her usual. “What?”
“I know that man, I once went to a private school with him, and so could you please not attract any attention to us...” Giles trailed away as he saw Buffy on her knees, listening in to something apparently underground instead. “What are you doing?”
“Giles,” Buffy straightened up with a completely serious look on her face. “Step away from the driveway. Something bad is coming up from underneath-“
And then it came.* * *
Dawn was bored. Well, not bored-bored, ‘cause she did make new friends here, even if they were fairy friends, as opposed to human friends that she has left behind in the US, but, still, she did want to go shopping, even if it was with Giles.
But – no luck. The incident with the kelpie had left Buffy in her “big sister” mode, and Dawn knew better than to argue with her sister when the latter was in such a mood. Consequently, she was reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, since it was more than appropriate in such circumstances.
And so, she was busy, sitting down and reading the lines of Peter Quince to her fairy friends:
“...and so, every one according to their cue.”
“What hempen homespuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” spoke a well-cultured, masculine, completely unfamiliar voice.
Dawn whirled around and came face to face with a stranger.
“...you are that shrewd and knavish sprite called Robin Goodfellow?” she asked the first thing that came to her mind, which was yet another Shakespearean quote, fortunately or not.
“Yes,” the stranger grinned brightly, “and you’re the Vampire Slayer’s little sister, correct? Just so that you know, I’ve come in peace.”
Dawn just gulped.* * *
Later on Giles would never understand why he got spurred into action himself rather than let Buffy do her job: saving people and killing things. Probably because they were in England, and Giles was an Englishman; maybe because he did know that man (even if they never had been particularly friendly to each other); maybe it was something else altogether... But in any case, he abruptly found himself grabbing that man in question, desperately trying to pull him out of the newly-forming sinkhole, even as something sandy-brown and built like a living armoured car was coming to get them, probably as food stuff.
“Buffy!” he yelled desperately, painfully aware that not even a Slayer’s strength would be able to handle this sort of menace: a wooden stake was painfully inadequate for something like that.
Something whizzed past him, striking the armoured menace – not a stake, but possibly the biggest crossbow bolt that Giles had ever seen – and piercing its armoured shell. The latter froze, allowing Giles, no allowing Buffy to grab Giles and throw both of them out of the sinkhole, before it collapsed.* * *
“So,” Dawn managed to say, “are, uh, the fairy king and queen somewhere around here? Because we aren’t prepared to host them, I mean-“
“I know what you mean,” Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, sighed. “Mr. Shakespeare was a divinely inspired man, he knew – or foresaw – things that one couldn’t him to know. But don’t worry – this is my house call and mine alone. Can we talk?”
“Sure we can. Is it about Buffy?” Dawn asked, still timidly.
“Yes, it’s about her,” Puck nodded. “It’s been a while since our folk crossed paths with one of them. What to expect of her?”
“It’s about that kelpie, right?” Dawn muttered crossly. “Look, we didn’t slay him, even though he was trying to eat us. Show some common sense!”
“I am,” Puck replied calmly, though there was a certain look in his eye. “I know that he was in the wrong, but I must stand up for my people in all of fairness-“
“Well, if you want to be fair then Buffy never goes looking for a fight, unless it’s vampires, zombies, or other undead,” Dawn said hotly, intent on protecting Buffy’s good name. “Why, she has even saved the world several times, including from the First Evil!”
“I’ve heard something about that,” Puck nodded solemnly. “Too, I remember when the First’s foul Harbingers were running amok on British soil. Can you tell me something more about it?”
Dawn took a deep breath and began to narrate.* * *
Buffy, meanwhile, was in trouble. Not only she was in the sewers – she hated to be in the sewers, in Sunnydale sewers meant vampires and other monsters – but she was confronted by something that she has never seen before... and she was armed with just a stake and an oversized crossbow bolt. Normally, this was par for her course when fighting monsters, but this particular monster resembled a giant, oversized pill bug, covered in rather thick armour and apparently just as sensitive to pain: i.e. almost completely ignoring it. And Buffy heard more of them coming. She didn’t like such odds.
A concrete smasher smashed through the rubble blocking the top of the sewer and through the giant insect. “Buffy – can you get out of there?” Helen sounded much more concerned than her usual.
“Can I!” Buffy said gratefully, and with a series of Slayer-strength powered leaps she was out of there. Another leap or two, and she was away from the sinkhole, on the relative safety of the boardwalk, with Helen behind her.
“I’m getting too old for this,” the time-traveller gasped, even as the concrete smasher fell into the re-opened sinkhole.
“Tell me about it,” Lester muttered instinctively in reply.
It was then that the ARC’s field team arrived, and Lester’s bad mood got worse.* * *
“Hi, Becker. Where’s Connor?” Buffy asked cheerfully, as the head of the ARC’s security loomed over her and Helen.
“Back at the HQ, manning the technology alongside Jess,” Becker said wryly. “I really should have the two of you meet each other: you’ve got a lot in common, including a love of talking and a love for clothing.”
“Thanks,” Buffy muttered wryly. She couldn’t help but feel that that Jess might be someone rather Cordelia-like, and Buffy, honestly, didn’t miss Cordelia all that much, as opposed to some other people. “So what are you planning to do about the giant pill bugs from the future?”
“The future?” Becker inquired of Helen, as the chief expert on the past and future visitors.
“Correct,” Helen nodded wryly. “Only these aren’t pill bugs. They’re insects.”
“What’s the difference?” Buffy inquired, but was interrupted by Abby:
“Becker! Excuse me! What’s going? This is Helen! And, more importantly, who is this?”
“I’m Buffy,” Buffy said, glaring at other blonde. “And who’re you?”
“This is Abby,” Becker explained helpfully. “You remember Abby? Connor talked a lot about her. Abby – this is Buffy. Connor talked a lot about her also.”
“Really? You’re her?” both blondes said simultaneously and stared at each other. “Hah? I thought that you’d be taller,” they finished, also in stereo and continued to stare.
Helen barely held-in her laughter. Becker twitched, as he began to suspect that this meeting will end up in more headaches for him, and turned to face Matt.
But no help was coming to Becker from that quarter either.* * *
“Mr. Lester? You all right?” Matt asked his superior (at least nominally so) in concern.
“I’m fine,” Lester said in his usual manner. “Glad to see that Connor’s time anomaly detector is working out, at any rate!”
“That’s just that, sir,” Matt said, sheepishly. “There was no time anomaly; these insects must’ve been here before Connor’s device has been built to begin with.”
“Marvellous, bloody marvellous,” Lester muttered crossly. “I can just see myself explaining that to the minister,” he turned to his rescuer.
“Yes, I can see, Cricket, that your priorities have never changed one bit after all these years,” Rupert Giles said helpfully.
Lester goggled and stared, and so did Matt. “You know each other?”
“We went to the same school,” Giles explained helpfully before Lester could.
“You! What are you doing here?” he finally managed. “Didn’t you and the rest of your fan club get blown up?”
“I survived,” Giles said flatly, “and you’re welcome for saving your life too, Cricket.”
“Don’t mention it,” Lester said bitterly, before turning back to Matt. “And what are you waiting for? Go get them!”
“Eh,” Matt turned around for some manly support from Captain Becker.
But Becker was distracted, unfortunately.* * *
“So, what Connor was telling you about me?” Abby glared at Buffy.
“I think that he’s head over heels into you,” Buffy glared at Abby.
“Really?” Abby backed down a bit. “He is? Um, you don’t mind?”
“Eh,” Buffy began to understand the reason behind Abby’s hostility now. “No. I don’t like Connor like that – he’s just a friend, nothing more.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good,” Abby now looked rather sheepish. “So, uh, why did he exaggerate about your actions like that?”
“Before we that get into this, what about the giant bugs?” Buffy dodged the shaky question with a question of her own. “You are going to call pest control or what?”
“No, that’s our job,” Becker said crossly. “Ah, the glamour of being a member of the Centre’s team. You want to help?”
“Be glad to, but how? Helen had to use a concrete smasher to kill one,” Buffy explained easily. “What’s your plan?”
“Hmm,” Becker looked at the collapsed sink hole. “Let’s keep it for a plan b.”
It was then that Matt joined the conversation.* * *
“And that’s how we found Buffy and decided to re-establish the Watchers’ Council here, in England,” Dawn finished her narration and her toast.
“A fine tale indeed, and a fine goal too,” Puck nodded, finishing his own meal. The brownies were more than happy to suck up to their superior, or at least to please him. “I’m impressed to see that our fair land is once more visited by a Vampire Slayer who understands her destiny, and even more so that she hadn’t slayed one of our compatriots. He’ll have to move, though - possibly to Scandinavia.”
“Well, good luck with that,” Dawn nodded sagely, not really willing to defend a man-eating fairy unless it was necessary. “Was that the goal of your visit?”
“Not quite,” Puck shook, sobering up. “I know what company your sister keeps – good people, one and all.”
“Even Helen Cutter?” Dawn asked cunningly (for her).
“Even she,” Puck nodded, completely serious now. “She is friends with some distant kin of ours, and has proved a true friend – a rare occurrence between our kind and yours. Try to listen to her – she won’t advise you wrong.”
“Deal,” Dawn nodded. “Why are you telling me this, though?”
“Because I feel that an apocalypse of our own is coming upon us,” Puck said calmly. “Made not by the First, but by hands of mortals, humans and ettins. Remember that! And – I’ll see you around?”
“No problem from me,” Dawn nodded slowly, “but you’ll probably want to talk to Buffy as well, too. Just in case, you know?”
“Deal,” Puck smiled slightly and was gone.
“Well, that was unusual,” Dawn told her volume of Shakespeare. “I think I’ll shelve you for now, less Malvolio from the “Twelfth Night” decides to visit me next.”* * *
“You sure that that’s the spot from where they’re coming from?” Matt asked Jess via his communication piece.
“Yes!” the normally talkative brunette said curtly. “It is!”
Abby stifled a sigh. Unlike, say, Matt, she understood where Jess was coming from: Jess was finding little comfort in an appearance of a new girl on the block – kind of how Abby herself felt about a certain April Leonard. That said, Abby currently didn’t know how to help Jess, or if it was even possible, since Captain Becker had never expressed a particularly profound interest in Jess before or now, therefore he technically still was up for grabs, unlike Connor.
Connor... Just thinking about him made Abby miserable. Apparently, he really did love her, so why did have to be so difficult-
“You okay?” Buffy gently whispered to Abby.
“Yes. No. Maybe, I’m sorry about snapping at you earlier, it’s just that Connor has this new job,” Abby explained. “And he has this secretary too, who’s taller than we are, and smarter too.”
“Uh, I’m not Connor’s girlfriend, remember?” Buffy said delicately. “I’d be happy to help you somehow with him, but my previous relationships ended in disaster, so I may not be the best person to help you out here, sorry."
“I think I actually have glimmers of a plan myself,” Abby admitted, “on top of some other ideas that I need to figure out. Once I’ll flesh them out, will you help me?”
“Sure,” Buffy nodded. “I think it’ll be nice to make more friends of my own age and gender, you know?”
Abby nodded thoughtfully.
“I do.”* * *
“So, we flood the bugs’ chamber with gas, and then we set the gas afire, killing the insects?” Becker asked Matt. “Sounds like a plan.”
Matt looked askance at Helen. Unlike Mr. Giles, who left with Lester to some pub, apparently to drown their sorrows, both of the women tagged along the ARC, apparently invited by Becker. And while Matt didn’t have anything against the young American woman – yet – Helen Cutter is another story.
“Glad that you like it,” Matt said crossly to Becker, and turned to face Helen. “Shouldn’t you be dead?”
“Yup,” Helen agreed easily. “Danny Quinn has killed me. Or maybe it was a raptor. Or maybe it was a different chronological clone of me who has died,” Helen said easily. “I am very hard to kill, believe it!”
“We do!” Becker said wryly. “Me and Connor tried to do that in the Pliocene, remember? Well, technically it was to capture you, but Connor... well... he took Cutter’s loss really hard.”
“I know,” Helen said quietly. “I can relate...”
“Um,” Jess sounded far less curt or confident than before, “I hate to interrupt this trip down the memory lane, but are you going to get rid of the insects?”
“Jess,” Becker replied before Matt could. “We’re on it.”* * *
“And that’s my life in a nutshell,” Lester finished the story of his life to Giles. “At least you had the good luck to end up in a sect that prosecutes young girls, or something. I’m stuck herding bunch of mavericks on one hand, and politically wrestling a fat cat in a top hat with a supposed oedipal complex or something. I hate my life! Shoot me!”
“Ah, come on now, Jamie, that mustn’t be so bad,” Giles said thoughtfully. “There weren’t any deliberate attempts on your life, unlike mine, now were there?”
Before James Lester could reply, a smoke cloud from a gas explosion rose in the distance. “Want to bet that this was done by mine?” Lester said despondently. “They’re not trying to kill me directly per se, but when they’ll do it by accident it won’t be any consolation either! And I still don't have a knighthood!”
Giles felt like he needed to say something. “More booze, sir would-be knight?” was what came to his mind first.
“Thanks – I knew that you’d understand, Ripper.”* * *
When Giles and Buffy returned home, Dawn raised an eyebrow. On one hand, there was Buffy, smelling faintly of smoke, and on the other there was Giles, definitely drunk, so drunk, that Helen Cutter (who also smelled faintly of smoke) had to help Buffy get him inside.
“I see that you had an exciting day,” Dawn said slyly.
“Very!” Buffy agreed cheerfully. “I helped Becker and his friends blow up a swarm of giant bugs from the future! It was sort of like how we blew up the Judge in the mall, only without a rocket launcher. Also, I’ve met Connor’s girlfriend. She’s not that bad.”
“Cool,” Dawn said evenly. “I’ve met Robin Goodfellow. You know, he’s Puck from Shakespeare. He told me that an apocalypse is coming to England, and that you ought to help. Also, BTW, what’s an ettin?”
“An ettin?” Helen asked instead, even as Buffy mentally digested that Dawn has been visited by yet another fairy. “Oh, dear.”End chapter 1