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Summary: In 1928, the Watcher's Council discovered a strange ring in Giza. Now, Buffy's looking for a research project to keep her little sister busy and out of danger. Surely, looking into some ancient metal ring can't be that dangerous. Right?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > GeneralWaveletFR151153,583611725,9491 Apr 121 Jun 12No

Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Daniel had taken to eating his lunches in Watchers International's staff lounge.

The entire experience was something of a revelation for Daniel. Even in the hallowed halls of academic institutions, Daniel had never found it easy to socialize with his peers. He was just a bit too bright, a bit too eccentric and a bit too shy to fit in even among those who had devoted their lives to higher education.

At first, his inability to relate to others in social settings had troubled him, but over time Daniel had grown used to his increasingly voluntary isolation. He still had his work, which was where his true passion lay. If he spent less time socializing, then that left him even more time to devote to studying ancient languages and cultures. Departmental politics could not possibly compete for his attention with the local politics of chalcolithic or bronze age civilizations, so it was no real loss from his perspective. However, somehow, sharing meals with his peers at the Watcher's Council was different.

He had not noticed the difference until the day after his night-long discussion with Willow on the subject of the supernatural world. Now, even days later, he still occasionally found himself amazed by the breadth and scope of the world which had been unveiled to him. That next day, he had been determined to see even a little piece of the supernatural himself. Yes, of course he had experienced Willow's sorcery, but he had still seen nothing of vampires, monsters, gods, demons or any of the other myriad creatures which Willow had insisted existed. He had been skeptical. After all, how could he, who had always sought the truth even when faced with derision, have missed an entire world of inhuman creatures living beside his own?

Thus, at Willow's suggestion, Daniel had taken his lunch in the lounge that day. The red-haired wiccan had claimed that representatives from a summit of peaceful Lister and Bracken demons would be eating their lunches there around noon. These demons had apparently agreed to arbitration by the Watcher's Council in a territorial conflict in southern Scotland, and he had intended to see them for himself. Willow had considered it a landmark event, as, despite the Council's best efforts to forge ties with peaceful demon clans, this was the first time two demon clans had agreed to settle their grievances under the new Council's auspices.

The Watcher's Council's previous leadership had hunted all demons without distinction for centuries, and demons had long memories. Willow had hoped that the arbitration might be the first step towards the more peaceful resolution of supernatural conflicts. Daniel had just wanted to see some real live demons.

The two demon species had proved fascinating. Their appearances, which were unusual and inhuman, but close enough to human that sufficiently concealing clothing could likely hide them from notice, were not what caught his attention. No, it was their histories, organization and even languages which piqued his interest. These were two entire societies which had lived upon the Earth beside humans for millennia without any but a handful of people being the wiser. Moreover, as the old council had little interest in peaceful demons, nearly all the questions which an anthropologist might ask of historical human societies remained wholly unanswered for their communities. Such studies would be fascinating, and, if he were not already contracted to work on the even more interesting Stargate project, he might have seriously considering requesting permission to pursue them.

However, even more intriguing than the demons were the watchers and slayers. In the academic community, history, myths, legends and ancient languages were something to be studied, but they were primarily of academic interest. By contrast, the watchers and slayers lived in a world of myths and legends. An academic might study the evolution of the mythology of a demon in order to offer evidence for a theory regarding the transmission of oral traditions. A watcher would perform the same task, but with hopes of either negotiating a compromise with or finding a weakness in a living demon.

In some ways, Daniel found his new environment, with its emphasis on the practical, rather tiresome, stifling his interest in knowing for the sheer sake of knowing. At the same time, here everything was so very alive. Legends leaped out of the pages of storybooks, while champions and villains roamed the halls. It also helped that he had somehow acquired a local guide.

Vi seemed to know nearly everyone who regularly worked at the London branch of the Watcher's Council. As she had explained to him, this was a side-effect of both being one of the well-known 'Sunnydale Slayers,' who had played a role in founding the Council's latest incarnation, and having acted as Dawn's personal bodyguard for the past few months. As the younger sister to Buffy Summers, Dawn Summers had serious connections in the supernatural world. Vi did not share those connections, but, while ensuring Dawn's safety, she had at least been introduced to many of those to whom her charge was connected.

Vi seemed to know everyone's stories, and was able to seamlessly weave Daniel into conversations in which he would have been utterly lost without her. The archaeologist still wasn't sure quite why Vi had decided to take it upon herself to be his native guide through the Council's murky waters, but he truly appreciated the gesture. Curious as he was regarding her motivations, he didn't want to tempt fate by pressing her for answers. Vi was his friend and someone whom he was coming to increasingly trust.

“Hello, Daniel,” Vi greeted him with a smile, walking over to the love seat upon which he had seated himself. A bit shyly, she continued, “Do you mind if I join you?”

“No, no. Go ahead,” Daniel replied, waving her towards the seat beside him. “How goes the, uh, what did you call it? The Dawn Patrol?”

Vi giggled.

“The name's actually Xander's invention. Apparently, it's the term he always used for babysitting her. You haven't met him yet, have you?”

“No,” Daniel responded before taking a bite from his sandwich and taking a few seconds to chew. “He's in Africa, isn't he?”

“Yep. As far as I know. Anyway, you know Dawn. She's been practically bouncing off the walls ever since you figured out how to work the Stargate.”

Vi's smile warmed a fraction.

“It was really amazing how you were able to connect those symbols with the constellations like that. I mean, even Dawn and Giles never guessed it might be something like that, and they're both really good with languages.”

Daniel grinned bashfully.

“It was really just a coincidence,” he began self-deprecatingly. “If Willow's star chart hadn't been right there, I might not have realized it for months.”

Vi simply shook her head.

“Daniel, the fact that you made the connection at all is what's so amazing. Willow looks at both her star charts and the Stargate nearly every day, but she never even came close to seeing what you did. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. Sometimes you can be pretty wonderful, Daniel.”

The former academic blushed in embarrassment at the praise.

“I-I- thanks, Vi,” he finally replied, not seeming to know what else he could say in response. “Even so, the Stargate's not actually working. All I really figured out was the arrangement of symbols we probably need to input in order to activate it. Willow's the one in charge of the next step.”

Vi waved him off.

“Willow's a genius. She'll have that interfacing thing done in a snap.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow.

“Didn't she say that it would probably take months for her to get an interface working unless Catherine or Dawn could find her some additional specialists to help her?”

“Well, sure, but it's Willow. I'm sure she'll work out some way to cheat with magic in no time. D-do you have any plans in the meantime?”

For some reason, Vi appeared to blush as she stuttered out her question. Maybe he was just imagining things. After all, the question had been completely innocuous.

“Well, mostly I'm just reading some of what Dawn found in the remnants of the Council's archives about the goold. I really do think that they may be aliens instead of demons, but, regardless, I find the watcher's records fascinating. Most of the records we found are just written copies of what had been shared orally among the Council before the advent of writing, but the accounts still contain far more information than any of the mythological sources I've consulted.”

Vi nodded absently, chewing on a french fry before swallowing.

“Oh, yeah. Dawn did mention that you've been stealing her stuff.”


“Mm, yeah. That's what Dawn calls it whenever someone borrows her stuff without asking. Of course, she's always happy to steal other people's stuff if she can get away with it, but no matter how often it's pointed out to her, she can never seem to see the hypocrisy. Don't worry, her revenge shouldn't be too bad.”

Daniel nearly choked on a bite of his sandwich, as he abruptly straightened, startled.

“Revenge? Are you serious?”

“Yeah, but like I said, don't worry about it. She still likes you too much for figuring out the Stargate to do anything too terrible. Besides, you're way too oblivious and she's way too sneaky for you to ever see her coming.”

Daniel was not particularly reassured by Vi's blasé reply.

“Couldn't you warn me? Vi, you're her bodyguard. You could figure out what she's planning and tell me, couldn't you?”

Vi's eyes seemed to sparkle with mirth as she forced them to widen in feigned shock.

“Daniel, I'm surprised at you, asking me to spy on my trusted friend and employer. No, no. You'll just have to endure whatever humiliation Dawn deems an acceptable consequence for thievery.”

Daniel sighed, shoulders slumping. It just figured that his latest employer would prove to be some sort of vindictive practical joker.

“Well, could you at least see if she- Achoo!”

“Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!”

“Daniel, are you alright?”

Covering his nose with his hands, the archaeologist struggled to reassure his friend between sneezing fits.

“Yes. I'm alright. It's just my-achoo-achoo-allergies. They're not usually nearly this bad.”

“Allergies? I hadn't noticed before. What are you allergic to?”

“Oh, almost everything, but I've taken my pills this morning, so it shouldn't be this bad. The only times the reaction's this extreme are near a few rare breeds of hairless cats.”

“Cats? I don't see any- oh wait! Just a sec, Daniel. I think I see the problem.”

Between sneezes, Daniel watched as Vi ran over to a demon with large protruding ears whose skinned looked as if it were sloughing off. He certainly didn't look like a cat, but Daniel supposed that he could trust Vi's judgment. After a few words from the slayer, the demon gestured towards the sack he was carrying with him, which sort of looked like an oversized lunch bag, apologetically. The two talked for a few more moments before the the demon said his goodbyes and left the room.

Jogging back towards him, Vi asked how he was feeling.

“Is it any better now?”

In fact, he did feel better and his allergies seemed to be subsiding, so he nodded, indicating that the fit seemed to have passed.

“Oh good. I thought it was probably Clem. He's a loose-skinned demon who's been with the Council since right after it reformed. He's mostly harmless, but is in the habit of eating kittens. I'm guessing one of them caused your allergic reaction. Would you mind getting me a list of the species of cat which you're allergic to, so I can tell Clem what's okay to bring with him for lunch?”

“Sure, um, no problem. But, um, he's really a kitten-eating demon?”

Vi nodded, seemingly unconcerned.

“Yep. It weirded me out at first too, but he's otherwise pretty nice and Dawn says there are some human cultures which do the same thing.”

“Yes, they're rare, but in some parts of China, rural Switzerland, Cameroon and Australia cultures exist in which eating cats is the norm. I guess I just never thought there'd be a demon like that. Shows what I know.”

“Yeah, well, we can hardly look down on him for doing something some human cultures do, so most of us just ignore it. Does it bother you?”

“No, no. It's just surprising. Somehow, I guess that between all the strange creatures I've seen and what we're working on with the Stargate, I'd started to think I'd seen it all. Shows what I know.”

“Hey,” Vi said, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “Don't worry about it. Everyone's a little weirded out by this stuff at first, but it passes. I mean, I bet that by Christmas you won't even be shocked if Santa Claus shows up again to try and disembowel a few of the baby slayers.”

“Wait, what? Santa Claus? Disembowelment?”

Vi patted him lightly on the shoulder, standing up from her seat.

“Hey, Daniel, like I said, don't worry about it. Besides, with the way Buffy went after him with that flamethrower last Christmas, maybe he'll be smart enough to pick another chimney to climb down next winter. Anyway, I'm back on Dawn duty now, so I'll have to see you later.”

She waved.

Santa Claus? She couldn't have been serious, could she? Could she? Then again, Vi had been serious when she'd said that Dawn was once kidnapped by a demon who called himself the 'Lord of the Dance.' Staring at his half-eaten sandwich on the one hand and the lithe red-head who had just taunted him with a possible tale of the real Santa Claus on the other hand, Daniel's choice was easy enough to make.

Throwing out the sandwich, Daniel stood up and started quickly walking towards his friend.

“Hey, Vi, wait up!”

* * *

Rupert Giles was contemplating hiring a secretary again. He had not sought out a new secretary after his previous three assistants were eaten, possessed and turned into a vampire, respectively, but the paperwork involved in his position was becoming increasingly unmanageable without support. Perhaps he could try a robotic secretary next time. There would of course be some disadvantages, but he thought that he could work with something like the Buffybot if necessary. Moreover, if a robot was brutally attacked, the pangs of his conscience would be far less.

The trick would be finding someone trustworthy who possessed the expertise in robotics needed for such a complex construction. Even Willow had never endeavored to build a fully functional robot herself. She had just seen to necessary repairs.

Heaving a weary sigh, the watcher rubbed his eyes as he tried to force his exhausted mind to focus on the report he was reading. Apparently, Buffy had interpreted his instructions to seek out potentials in the southern United States as meaning that she should start up a war with a powerful clan of penanggalan demons. Giles supposed that he could not blame Buffy for the conflict, as her report stated that she had only started pursuing the penanggalan demons after she noticed that half the newborn infants in Miami had come down with a seemingly incurable wasting sickness.

Giles rubbed his temples as he continued through Buffy's report. Upon realizing that the city's children were being murdered by what she described as the 'creepy flying head things,' she had called in all six of the currently active slayers in the southern United States so that they could engage in a battle royale ranging all across the city. Buffy did not seem to understand that while that sort of thing was generally ignored in Sunnydale, much negotiating with the relevant authorities in Florida would be required on his part in order to deal with this sort of mess in downtown Miami. The demon clan had not even been wholly defeated, as Buffy estimated that at least half their number had escaped the conflict. Even if she had not seen them again, that was no guarantee that the penanggalan demons would leave the city, so now Giles would need to commit more resources to discovering the actual identities of the demons since they would likely have gone to ground.

That sort of operation was not really within Buffy's area of expertise. In fact, little as he liked relying upon them, for this sort of research and legwork in collaboration with United States authorities, it might be best to request that the Americans send in Riley's team. While dangerous, penanggalan demons were hardly an apocalyptic threat, and even ordinary humans could kill them with the proper preparations. Moreover, cooperating with America's team of government sanctioned demon hunters would do much to smooth over ruffled feathers in the government over Buffy's seven woman war on flying severed heads.

A quick phone call to the pentagon and a reply to Buffy's update later, Giles was finally feeling as if he might soon catch up on his work when two quiet knocks sounded against his door.

“Ah, yes. Please come in.”

Gently opening the door just far enough to stick her head in the room, Willow peered around the door a bit hesitantly, as if unsure of her welcome.

“Oh, Giles, I know we were supposed to meet today, but I've heard you're really busy, so, like, if you don't have time, or maybe don't just now then-”

“Come now, Willow,” Giles interrupted before the young woman's babbling could get out of control. He gestured invitingly towards the chair in front of his desk.

“You know that I always have time for my favourite young witch. Come in, come in.”

“Right, great,” the wiccan replied with a smile. “So, um, I guess I'm here to talk to you about the Stargate.”

“Yes, I'd heard from Dawn that she expected it would soon be activated and found myself rather curious. When Dawn first suggested this project, you told me that you doubted whether this portal could ever be activated.”

“Yeah,” Willow responded hesitantly, “well, I guess things have sort of changed. I mean, between Daniel working out a probable gate code and the progress I've recently made in creating an interface with the gate close enough that I can facilitate a magical translation from our machine language into whatever that things uses, we could be ready for a trip as soon as a few weeks from now. Of course, everything's all still pretty ad hoc, and we haven't quite worked out how to get back yet, but I think we're getting pretty close.”

Giles frowned.

“Willow. I'm sure you're aware that this presents something of a problem for us. Traveling through this gate could open up a portal to an entire dimension full of extraordinarily powerful demons who once subjugated much of the ancient world. While Dawn and Catherine were, of course, not informed of this, I know you are quite well aware that our true goal in understanding the Stargate was not to open a portal. The aim was to understand how the ancients had managed to seal away the goold demons in case they ever returned.”

Willow sighed gustily.

“I know that, Giles, but what exactly are we supposed to tell Dawn and Catherine, not to mention Daniel, Vi and everyone else who who has been working hard on understanding the Stargate? You know as well as I do that if we try to stop Catherine when she is this close to realizing her father's dream, then she will attempt to find someone else to help complete her work. We do not want some sort of national government trying to mess around with this thing. Dawn might be an even bigger issue. Buffy seems to have deluded herself into thinking that she can just trick Dawn into working on dud projects until she grows out of this 'doing something important' phase and goes to university, but, Giles, Dawn's not an idiot. I'm pretty sure she knew exactly what Buffy had planned for her, and only took on this project because she thought that she could make the gate work. She's not going to give up on this project, and if we try to force her then who knows what she'll do. Seriously, we do not need a girl with some sort of interdimensional key running through her veins playing around with dangerous magic or consorting with powerful demons. Not to mention that Dawn going off the rails like that would totally destroy Buffy.”

Giles sighed again, rubbing his brow with one hand, while the other tapped on his desk absentmindedly.

“Your point is well taken, Willow. So, do you have any suggestions?”

The witch's shoulders slumped.

“Not really. I can take some precautions, but Dawn's dead set on exploring whatever's on the other side of the Stargate. I really, really don't want to be the one telling Buffy that her little sister's taking a trip to some sort of Hell dimension. And, you know, if we don't do it in person and explain to her why she can't just run over here and kidnap Dawn, then she is so going to run over here and kidnap Dawn.”

“Well, she did know this sort of thing could happen.”

Willow simply stared at Giles, the expression on her face saying 'who are you trying to kid?'

“Yes, yes, well, hopefully we can both find someone else to send that particular message. Perhaps we can talk Faith into taking a trip away from the Cleveland Hellmouth in order to do it; she's always struck me as a rather durable sort.”

“Better her than me.”

* * *

Vi smirked, staring confidently at the remaining one of the two vamps who had been stupid enough to jump her. When it came to romance, technology or academics, she was a bit shaky, but, over the years, she'd outgrown her apprehension towards the supernatural. These days, this was her element.

The vampire looked torn between fight and flight. Nervously, it glanced between Vi and the exit to the alley in which the slayer had allowed the two vampires to corner her. The female vampire, a brunette at least half a foot taller and a good fifty pounds heavier than Vi, was closer than her to the alley's exit, and the slayer really did not want to have to try chasing down her prey on foot.

“Well, come on,” Vi taunted, holding out her empty hands. “Look. I don't even have a stake anymore. You'll never get better odds than this.”

That seemed to decide the issue for the vampire. Face shifting from mildly attractive to grotesque and inhuman, the nighttime predator charged her with far more speed and strength than skill or finesse. Vi found herself cockily grinning. Getting too overconfident could get her killed, but she was in the mood for some fun, and this vamp didn't exactly look like a top tier fighter, even for a fledgeling.

The first punch came in telegraphed from a mile away, allowing her to easily step aside before the blow could land.

“Oh, come on. That was no fun at all. Give it a bit more effort.”

Second, third and fourth blows came just as quickly, but were just as poorly executed. The first two were dodged again, while she blocked the last one with her left forearm. Then, deciding to try something a bit showy, Vi grabbed the vampire's fist as it tried to hit her for a fifth time.

“Honestly, even going back to shopping with Dawn would be better than this.”

Having said her piece, Vi twisted the arm she was holding until she heard the snap of broken bones. She then proceed to kick the howling vampire into a wall before going to retrieve her stake from the pile of dust where her injured opponent's companion had fallen.

“Alright then. I suppose it's time to finish this. You won't be much fun with a broken arm, after all.”

Walking back over to the vampire, which was still struggling to its feet, she immobilized its unbroken left arm with her left hand, before using the stake in her right hand to finish the fledgeling off. A second later, nothing remained in the alleyway but her and some dust.

From near the alley's entrance, Dawn's voice rang out.

“Hey, Vi, are you finished up yet? I'm getting a bit bored.”

“Just a second. I just need to get this dust out of my sweater.”

Considering her friend's words a sufficient guarantee of her safety, Dawn calmly strolled into the alley carrying five shopping bags.

“Finally got enough shoes, then? I was wondering if you'd bought out the entire mall.”

“Hey,” Dawn replied. “This is celebratory shopping. Splurging is like practically the order of the day.”

“Sure, whatever,” Vi replied easily.

Vi loved to shop, but Dawn took power shopping to a whole other level. For a little while she had even thought that Dawn might have some sort of secret shopping powers to make up her for her lack of slayer abilities, but that theory had died when she'd seen her friend with her older sister Buffy. Probably the only thing that could get that pair out of a mall was an apocalypse, and they might not even stop then. By the time they had finished, Vi doubted a single bargain remained undiscovered, and they had likely tried on more outfits than most metropolitan shopping districts sold in a year.

“So, anyways, I guess you must be really excited now that Willow's got the Stargate online.”

Dawn visibly lit up with glee, as she recalled the Stargate's first activation earlier that day.

“Of course. I mean, didn't you see it. The entire floor was shaking and then that blue wave crashed out towards us before settling into that beautiful glowing pool. It looked amazing. Now, if we stay on schedule, we could be heading out within the week. Can you imagine? Seeing some sort of ancient race of demons would be awesome, but, if Daniel's right, we might end up being the first interplanetary explorers in human history. I mean, can you imagine how cool that would be?”

Vi could not resist smiling in response to Dawn's enthusiasm. While she still felt a bit nervous about the prospect of visiting another dimension or planet, she had to admit that being Earth's first interplanetary explorers would be pretty awesome. Moreover, Dawn and Willow were really set on preparing properly for this trip, which eased some of her worries.

Willow had devised some sort of long range interdimensional and she thought (although Willow hadn't tested it yet) interplanetary teleporting grid. This magical transporter would hopefully allow them to teleport back to Earth from anywhere in the universe. Apparently, most of the Devon coven had spent two weeks working with Willow to empower the grid. Now any powerful witch who had been keyed into the system could activate what Willow called the 'Recall Grid' with a lengthy ritual in order to return to Earth. The wiccan had also apparently managed to whip up a simplistic robot which could test the Stargate and perform some preliminary reconnaissance before they began their trip.

Daniel had spent considerable time familiarizing himself with both Egyptian hieroglyphics and the symbols on the Stargate, so that, with any luck, he could get them home without even needing to use Willow's recall grid. At the same time, the linguist had been ordered to attend self-defense training designed to guarantee that, even if Daniel Jackson was never going to be a front line fighter, he at least would not be too much of a liability if they ended up in a running battle with some goold. There was only so much one could be taught in the month or so Daniel had been learning, but every effort was being made to ensure that he learned as much as possible in the month he had.

While all this was happening, Dawn had spent some time turning herself into the greatest goold expert since the creepy crawly parasite demons last walked the Earth. She had practically memorized all the legends and mythology surrounding the goold, as well as the watcher's accounts, and then synthesized all that material into what she had termed 'A Practical Guide to the Goold.' At the same time, she had dug up some sort of golden gauntlet out of an old Watcher's Council vault. Dawn wasn't quite sure what the device was called or how it worked, but she had linked the gauntlet to legends of goold having 'golden hands,' which could apparently be used to perform abilities akin to telekinesis, enthrallment, shielding and limited energy projection. That was pretty impressive, if not quite up to Willow's standards, so everyone on the team had received a thorough briefing on both what these devices looked like and their presumed capabilities.

The planned trip through the Stargate was probably the best planned mission in which Vi had ever participated, and that, more than anything else, reassured her. Even if everything went to Hell, this mission had enough contingencies built into it that they should all be able to make it out alive.

A hand waving in front of her face abruptly shocked Vi out of her reverie.

“Hello, spaz lady, where did you go? Oh, let me guess, could it be... Daniel?”

Vi blushed. She did not spend all of her time thinking about Daniel, just some of her time. Besides, she'd been having very professional thoughts about the Stargate project when Dawn interrupted her. She had nothing to be embarrassed about.

“No, I wasn't thinking about him at all. I was just thinking about the Stargate.”

Dawn peered at her sceptically.

“With that silly grin on your face? Sure, you were thinking about the Stargate.”

Vi pouted. It wasn't fair that Dawn got to mock her even when she was not guilty of the offense for which she was being mocked. She so wanted to fight fire with fire. Unfortunately, Dawn was not really crushing on anyone just now, so she doubted that she could manage anything more than a distraction.

“So, what's up with Buffy, anyway?” Vi awkwardly tried to change the subject. “I would have expected her to be kicking down the Stargate Project's door by now, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of her.”

Dawn grinned a little nervously.

“Well, I guess she's not here because no one's told her the gate's working yet.”

“What? Are you serious?”

Dawn continued smiling nervously.

“Er, yeah. I think that everyone's a bit afraid of what her reaction will be, so they're sort of waiting for the next apocalypse to tell her. That way she'll have something to take out her aggression on after she finds out.”

“You know, Dawn, she is going to kill you for not telling her.”

“Well, yeah, but maybe if we're still on the goold planet when she finds out, then she'll have taken out all her anger on someone else by the time we get back.”

Dawn smiled hopefully at this prediction, apparently having decided to delude herself.

“Dawn, she's going to kill us. I'll die, you'll die, Willow'll die, and then she will hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter everyone else who knew and did not tell her.”

This was, of course, something of an exaggeration, but Dawn understood Vi's point. Buffy was not just going to calm down about this after letting off some steam.

“We could always stay on the goold planet,” Dawn offered. “Sure, it's probably full of creepy evil parasite things, but I'm sure we could swing it, and since no one else can open the gate using Willow's improvised magical method yet, as long as we trapped her there with us, we would probably be safe from Buffy.”

Vi's reply was nearly instantaneous.

“She would either beat up an uber demon to get to whatever hell dimension the goold live in, or hitch a ride on some alien space ship. It's Buffy. One way or the other, she wouldn't let us escape.”

“We could get killed.”

“She'd just resurrect us so that she could kill us herself.”

Dawn bit her lip thoughtfully.

“What if we sold our souls to some totally badass Hell-god and then got killed. I bet that would keep us from getting resurrected.”

Dawn put down her shopping bags for a moment and held out both her hands palm up, as if comparing the relative weights of two objects.

“Eternity in a Hell-dimension. Buffy lecture. Eternity in a Hell dimension. Buffy lecture. Eternity in a Hell dimension. Hey Vi, which one would you pick?”

Vi nodded, feigning seriousness.

“Definitely the Hell-dimension. Do you think you can set things up with a Hell-god before we go?”

“Dunno. Maybe I could talk that dancing demon lord into taking us as his brides. I mean it would sort of be like two for the price of one, right? How could he refuse?”

The two girls both nodded seriously towards each other once more before dissolving into giggles. Walking out of the alleyway and back onto the streets of London, the two friends continued cheerfully conversing all the way back to the flat they were sharing. It had been a good night, and, hopefully, their first trip through the Stargate was little more than a week away.

AN: This chapter was maddening. I ended up rewriting it twice, and I still don't think it's particularly good. The whole thing still feels like a bit of an infodump. Oh well. Please don't give up on the story just because this chapter's a disaster. There's only one more boring chapter to go before things get interesting. At least I can take pride in the fact that this version of the chapter is way better than the truly awful versions which preceded it. If you have any thoughts on how I could make this chapter better or suggestions on improving my writing in general, please let me know. God knows that after this chapter I feel like I could use all the help I can get.
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