Of Priya and her inner... fish
Disclaimer: none of the characters are mine, but belong to their respective owners.
Note: contains spoilers for previous stories in these series: you don't have to read them to follow the action here, but it helps.
The young woman that was approaching the new HQ of the Watchers’ Council in London, England was tall, slim and graceful – hardly an unusual combination since Buffy Summers had activated all of the potential Vampire Slayers across the world. She also Hindu, but at this moment in time this was hardly an unusual event even for the capital of England. Rather, it was her certain reticence to ring the doorbell that was unusual, and Genevieve, returning from her date with Draco, had noticed this.
“Excuse me,” she said in her normal voice, startling the young woman all the same, “but do you have any business here?”
The other young woman whirled around – and she did not resemble the Patil sisters at all, as Draco noticed with some relief, for he and the twins did not get along at all, not since the unsinkable Dolores Umbridge tried to help their horrid old maid of an aunt marry one of his cousins.
“Er, hello! I’m Priya... er, just Priya,” the young woman said quickly. “I’m looking for Mr. Giles – are you related to him?”
“No,” Draco shook his head. “This is Genevieve, she works for him, and I’m-“
“My boyfriend,” Genevieve said firmly (recently they had a run-in with one of Draco’s Slytherin exes, Astoria Greengrass, and Genevieve was feeling just a touch protective of him). “So what business do you have with Mr. Giles?”
Now Priya looked even more ill at ease. “I got letters,” she said quietly. “Both from my parents and Miss McDougal – she said that Mr. Giles should remember her-“
“Well, it’s worth coming in – if you can,” Genevieve said in a mysterious tone of voice as she opened the door. “You can, right?”
“Of course I can!” Priya said, sounding hopelessly confused. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, nothing.”* * *
The insides of the HQ building were rather bigger than one assumed when looking from the outside, and rather more confusing too.
“Giles isn’t at his office, is he?” Genevieve asked Draco even as Courtney jumped from around a corner and yelled –
There was a pause as apparently only a locked door prevented Priya from leaving the HQ building and never coming back.
“Sorry about this,” Draco apologized to Priya. “Genevieve and Courtney are friends, but they tend to annoy each other just for the fun of it. If it makes you feel better, I felt something similar when I first got in the middle of their interactions... Courtney, where’s Giles?”
“In the library, as usual, burning the midnight oil,” Courtney explained sheepishly, as Genevieve approached her with fires of murder in her eyes. “Oops, got to run!”
And she fled, with Genevieve in pursuit.* * *
Fortunately for Priya’s confidence, Mr. Giles actually proved to be a rather dignified middle-aged British gentleman...although the nightcap he wore half-cocked on his head lent him a rather eccentric air as well.
“Yes?” he asked rather peevishly, as he put down his book, “Draco, who’s your new friend?”
“Um, I’m Priya, Priya Koothrappali; Miss Betsy McDougal has sent you a letter, as have my parents.”
“Betsy McDougal. Baroness Elsa Fon Essenhause-McDougal? Daughter of baron Henry Fon Essenhause and lady Emily McDougal? That Betsy?”
“Yes,” Priya said in a small voice, seeing how Mr. Giles was getting decisively upset. “That one.”
“Right,” Mr. Giles had visibly calmed himself. “Well then, why don’t you start tell me your story – oh, hello, Faith. Genevieve and Courtney woke you up?”
“Something like that,” a slightly older brunette – Faith – said in a strange tone of voice. “Don’t mind me, right now – I’m just listening.”
Priya took a deep breath and began to narrate.* * *Why am I hiking through the mountains so far away from civilization?
Priya had thought several months earlier as she was indeed hiking through the foothills of the Himalayas. I am going to be a lawyer! Why do I need such experiences?
The answer to these questions was obvious, though not particularly pleasing: her parents thought it so, especially after Priya’s long-distance (and otherwise) dalliance with Leonard, and that was that. Priya, for all of her posturing, was no more prone to serious rebellion than her brother Raj was, and so here she was, hiking to get some closure and spiritual guidance.
What this translated in reality, however, was that she was getting lost. Well, ‘getting’ was a wrong word – it was rather that she was really lost... as she realized, when she arrived an unfamiliar temple with a pair of winged lions guarding the doorway.
Priya blinked. Normally, getting lost in the foothills of the tallest mountains in the world, standing before a strange temple, whose stone doorway guardians almost eyed her in an unfriendly way, would cause her to turn around and promptly leave the way she came. However, right now she was more irritated with her parents than scared of her temple, and so she went inside.
Inside, there was... nothing. Priya felt as if she was soaring through space, outside of her own body, wherever that stayed behind. “You have entered my temple,” a voice that was somehow male, but like no one she had ever heard, spoke to her. “Are you seeking to be a great beast of air, a great beast of water, or a great beast of land?”
“I would like the door number two,” Priya replied before she could think. “Open up!”
“Then a great beast of water you shall be!” the voice spoke...
...and a mighty sperm whale opened her eyes.* * *
Life as a sperm whale is both exciting and monotonous. Exciting because diving for giant – and even bigger - squid among the icy underwater caves; monotonous because that is all there is in the life of a sperm whale at the North Pole.
But all things change, and one day Priya the sperm whale heard the calls of her kin, telling her that it was time to migrate. But she liked the cooler waters just fine, and so she ignored them, swimming off in the other direction, not properly watching – or echolocating – where she was going...
...until she smashed into a ship. A hard, angular, ironbound ship.
Immediately, pain shook through her great bulk, and she literally felt her blood leak into the waters, coloring them red. Ignoring the weak voice that suggested forgiveness, she found herself thirsting for revenge instead...
...and a powerful and dangerous shark stared at a group of humans enclosed in their shark cage.
The large – to put it lightly – fish struck at the metal bars time and again, but it was frustrated long enough for Priya’s initial rage to cool off somewhat, and realization hit: somewhere inside Priya the shark, Priya the human still lived, and Priya the human had no intention of being a man-killer. So, she did the only thing she could do, and swam-off.* * *
Life as a shark was not that much different from life as a whale, or at least that is how it felt to Priya. Being a cold-blooded fish rather than a warm-blooded mammal did not affect her any, since she still was a loner, and she liked it! The only main difference in her second reincarnation (though funny, she could not quite remember how she died in the first place) was that she no longer had to come to the water’s surface to breathe – something that didn’t bother her at all.
But there was another difference in lives of whale and shark: the shark was quite a bit smaller, as Priya realized when suddenly she sensed some weird sounds in the water, and a pair of killer whales charged at her from behind.
Instinctively, Priya turned nose down and dived. But as she fled, her human brain slowly took over from her shark one, and she realized that one of the killer whales was actually coming at an angle to cut her off.
Immediately she shifted around, using her own bulk to pick up speed and zoom over the killer whale, slightly biting its’ dorsal fin in the process, before swimming away.
As she whirled around - in case the two killer whales continued to press on their attack – she saw that they were actually hesitant, clearly uncertain that they wanted to tackle this weird and dan-gerous (and possibly crazy) fish anymore.
For a brief moment Priya thought about charging them – to get revenge – but smashed this impulse completely: after all, they were just animals, and she was a person – and people were better than animals.
Decisively whirling around – turning away from the killer whales – she swam off. But not for long: once more she was seemingly enveloped by bodylessness and space.
“Priya Koothrappali! You have passed your trials and are free to go! Live long and use your powers wisely from now on!” the original voice spoke up...
...and Priya woke up back in her hotel room.* * *
“The next day it was time for me to go home, and so home I went,” Priya finished her tale. “I never really told my family about this – any of this, but they figured out that something was wrong, eventually.”
“And what is wrong?” Giles asked, speaking up for the first time since Priya began to narrate her adventures.
“When I came back from my...adventures, the shark came back with me,” Priya grimaced. “I’m – I’m not sure if I’m like a werewolf or something, but I can feel it inside me, lending me power – physically speaking, and...”
“And what?” Giles asked again, even as Priya became aware of someone else being here as well, just beyond her field of vision.
“And, um, my father is a gynaecologist, and he is my family doctor and it was he that figured out that something was wrong when he did my check up,” Priya confessed, blushing walnut brown. “That’s how the whole thing came out. My parents became very worried, and contacted Miss McDougal since temples and temple curses were her thing, and there was this incident with the yeti few years ago, and here I am.”
“Yes, here you are – what a fascinating tale!” Faith spoke up for her first time since Priya began to speak as well, finally moving within the radius of Giles’ table lamp, and Priya... no, Priya’s inner shark was hopping mad (if a fish can hop), for it saw, and passed on the information to Priya, since they shared a brain, that Faith had her inner thing too – a patchwork thing of darkness and light, not an animal.
“Fascinating,” Faith seemed rather fond of this word, though this time the intonation behind it implied that she had see Priya’s inner shark too and really wanted to face her in a fight. “Giles, that doesn’t sound quite like Oz, it’s more like Xander, I think... does it mean that we’ll have to go fishing?”
“No,” Giles said matter-of-factly, as he pulled down a heavy and ancient-looking volume. “Miss – Priya, did this temple look like this?”
“Well,” Priya said gratefully (unlike the shark, she was a lawyer, not a fighter). “Yes. Sort of. The winged lions are a direct match, actually.”
“That’s what I suspected,” Giles said, before adding without warning: “you found one of the wandering temples of Mother Earth and were blessed by her.”
“Her? I heard a man!”
“That’s because you’re a woman; if you were a man, you would hear a woman’s voice instead...”
“Wait! What do you mean, blessed?”
“Well, you said yourself that you were told that you were given new powers, ergo – you were blessed. How and why I’m not sure, and it may take us quite a bit of time figuring it out – such blessings are rare since the Industrial Revolution began...” Giles continued, but Priya interrupted him:
“And what I am supposed to do until then?” Priya exclaimed (though the question was rather rhetorical, actually).
“You can work for us – the Watchers’ Council could use a good lawyer,” Faith suggested jovially, her inner thing retreating back under her control, “and I promise we won’t make any lawyer jokes either. What do you say?”
Priya thought about this for... five or six minutes or so. Because of her sexual adventures she was not returning to the US any time soon and because of her supernatural adventures she did not want to return to India any time soon either. So...
“Okay, it’s a deal!” she said firmly. “But no jokes, remember!”
“There we are, Giles, got ourselves a lawyer, and you got a new topic to research about!” Faith said brightly. “Smile!”
Giles almost cracked a grin. Almost.
Priya too almost cracked a grin at Faith’s banter – a shark’s sharp-toothed grin – but she managed to keep it to herself. She actually got herself a job, and out of her parents (sometimes) too domineering grasp too.
...More than halfway across London, Hermione shivered in her nightcap, as her sleep, while dreamless, took a vaguely ominous turn.
...And yet in another part of London, in St. Mungo’s, Verte got a visit from Morgan le Fay.