On Movie Night, One Week Later
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House M.D., Private Practice, Rocky III, Scott Pilgrim, South Park, and The Craft. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Buffy talked to Giles and worked through her feelings about Faith's near-sacrifice. Faith passed on the message from Tara and Kennedy. Faith also told Chris that she's not ready for a relationship yet -- she wants to make sure all her feelings are real -- and he agreed to wait as long as it took. Allison accepted Giles's offer to replace Dr. Anthony as the head medical person at the slayer school.+++++TWENTY-FOUR: ON MOVIE NIGHT, ONE WEEK LATER
Allison set Amber’s chart in the ‘done’ pile. After almost a week of treatment -- with magic, which Allison had a sinking feeling she’d never understand -- she’d released Amber back to her apartment with orders to rest for a little while longer. Of course, Amber was a slayer, and in the week since she’d taken the job with the Council, Allison had learned that slayers, for the most part, didn’t obey her instructions.
One more chart for the day. Nancy Downs. Allison steeled herself and went to the private ward. Dawn -- the slayer, not the witch -- was on guard duty outside the door, and she gave Allison a nod as the doctor went in.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“Fine,” Nancy mumbled. She was paler than ever and looked totally defeated. That probably had something to do with the drugs in her system, and something else to do with the fact that, tonight, she was on her way to a secure facility for witches.
Allison checked Nancy’s medication, then did a quick physical exam. “You need to get out of bed more,” she said, folding her arms. “Just because you can’t do magic doesn’t mean you can’t walk around. Your muscles are going to atrophy.”
Nancy shrugged. “Don’t care. I’m going to magic prison for the rest of my life. Let them deal with me.”
Chris had already diagnosed Nancy with textbook depression -- without magic, the accompanying mania was gone completely. They were giving her escitalopram to deal with that, but it was too soon to tell if it was helping.
“Do you think you deserve to go there?” Allison asked as she made notes on the chart. “I mean, rather than regular prison?”
“Probably won’t get raped in magical prison.” Nancy chuckled, but there was no humor in it. “Can’t believe I’m worried about that.”
Allison pressed her lips together, trying to decide what to say. On the one hand, Nancy was a multiple murderer, torturer, and rapist-by-proxy. But on the other, she’d grown up in a home full of emotional and physical abuse and neglect, been given great power and had it taken away, spent more than ten years in an institution, and was about to be put away for the rest of her life.
Finally, she decided on something noncommittal. “I’m sure they’ll treat you well. As long as you follow the rules, you should have nothing to worry about.”
“I’m a witch,” Nancy said in a tone of low, ugly menace. “Maybe I can’t cast spells right now, but I am a witch and I’ll always be a witch. And now I’m going to be reminded every day of what I can’t do.”
“And whose fault is that?”
She slumped, chin on her chest. “I know,” Nancy said. “But I don’t have to like it.” She looked up at Allison with faded blue eyes. “Someday, maybe, I can convince them to let me have a little magic.”
“Maybe.” Allison put her hand on the door handle. “Is there anything you need?”
Nancy shook her head.
Allison put the chart away, hung up her lab coat, and headed upstairs to Chris’s office. “You ready?” she asked.
“Guess so.” He closed his laptop and unhooked his phone from the charger, then locked the door behind him as they went down the hall toward the exit. “You okay?”
She shrugged. “I know Nancy is dangerous, but I’m not really thrilled with the Council’s plan for her.”
“It’s for the best,” Chris said. He opened the door and they stepped out, walking in the direction of the green.
“I know. But I still don’t have to like it.”
“If you’ve got a better idea, talk to Giles. He’ll listen.”
“That’s just it,” Allison said. “I don’t have a better idea. I wish I did.”
He put his arm around her shoulders and half-hugged her. “You’ll think of something. I have faith in you.”
Allison smiled. “Yeah. Speaking of...” She looked out at the green, where several rows of chairs were set up in front of a large screen. The weather was nice enough for movie night to be held outside. A spell of some kind was casting shadow on the screen; otherwise, at this time of the evening, the projector wouldn’t be much good. “How’s it going with Faith?”
“In idle.” She saw him survey the small crowd. “She said she probably wouldn’t be here tonight, but I’m going to check anyway.”
“Go on. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Allison accepted greetings from the people she’d met over the past two weeks -- the slayers, the witches, the watchers, and even Chef, who handed her a paper cone filled with cinnamon-sugar-coated almonds. “How’d you know?”
Chef chuckled. “It’s my job, Doc. You have fun tonight, y’hear?”
Chef smiled at her and turned to a group of teenagers. “Hello there, slayers!”
Allison nibbled on one of the almonds -- it was warm, which made the taste even better -- as she took a seat at the far end of one of the rows. Buffy’s sister Dawn plopped down beside her. “Hi, Dr. Cameron.”
“Hi.” She offered the cone of almonds, but Dawn shook her head. “How are you?”
“Feeling good, thanks. Got all my mana back.”
Dawn smiled at her. “You’ll get used to it, Dr. Cameron. Trust me.” She waved to someone in the crowd, and Allison watched as Isabel and Xander walked sideways along the row. Xander sat beside Dawn and handed her a bag of popcorn. “Thanks.”
“Sure thing. Hey, Doc.”
“Hi.” She looked around. “I know she’s kind of short, but I don’t see your sister anywhere. Is she coming? I can move--”
Dawn shook her head. “She and Faith have plans tonight. Not even Satsu was invited, and I know she’s not happy about that.”
“What are they doing?”
Dawn gritted her teeth. Xander answered the question. “Have you ever seen Rocky III
“Uh... maybe?” Allison said. “Like, two decades ago, with my dad, on HBO or something. Why?”
Xander launched into an explanation of the film. Dawn gave Allison a long-suffering look and mouthed, “happens all the time.”
Allison smiled. Truthfully, she didn’t really mind. In all her years working with House, or at Princeton-Plainsboro, she’d never felt this level of camaraderie with her colleagues. But now, after only a week in the position and only a couple more even knowing about what they did, Allison found herself already accepted as a friend.
It felt nice.
At some point, Xander finished explaining Rocky III
, but Allison hadn’t really been paying attention. She wasn’t really a movie buff, but everyone at the school had been talking about Avatar
, so she figured it would be worth taking a look.
Chris put his hand on her shoulder. “Way to save me a spot, Allie.” He snatched one of her almonds.
She and Dawn both turned in their seats; he was behind them, sitting next to Ramona, whose hair had changed from pink to violet at some point over the past few days. “You snooze, you lose, Dr. Frost,” said Dawn. “And don’t be touching Dr. Cameron’s nuts without her permission.”
Xander snorted and grabbed his nose, but it was too late; soda dripped out of it.
Allison laughed and poured a few of her almonds into Chris’s cupped hand. “That’s all you get,” she said.
“That’s okay,” he said. “Ramona’s got plenty of popcorn.”
“Sitting right here,” Ramona said, but she was grinning. “You know your friend’s a compulsive food thief, right?”
Allison nodded. “Always been. You learn to ignore it after a while.”
The screen changed from the ICW logo to the Avatar
DVD’s main menu. People started to quiet down. Dawn and Allison turned back to the screen.
Chris leaned forward and whispered, “in case I didn’t say it before, Allie... welcome to the family.”
She felt a small smile touch her lips. She could definitely get used to this.+++++
“Buffy, are you sure about this?”
Buffy nodded. “You know what to do.”
“Of course I do!” Andrew said. “But, I mean, are you really sure?”
“Andrew,” she said, folding her arms, “I’m probably never going to let you do anything like this again. So enjoy it.”
“Oh, I will. And... thank you.”
Buffy punched him gently on the shoulder -- extra-gently, because he had a tendency to be whiny or complain about how easily he bruised. “Thank you,” she echoed, then went down into the main part of the gym.
Buffy had planned this out very carefully. For starters, she’d had an actual boxing ring brought in, and had sworn five of the baby slayers to secrecy to get them to help put it together. She’d even scoured stores until she’d found the right yellow boots.
It was just luck that Faith was wearing the right clothes; she was leaning against one of the corners in a pair of red shorts and a white tank-top. Buffy smiled. “We made a deal,” Buffy said.
“I know.” Faith shrugged. “This is extremely crazy.”
“But it makes sense. You owe me a favor.”
“I owe you a lot of favors. And you owe me some too.”
Buffy frowned. That wasn’t in the script. Oh well. Moving on.
“Faith, when I won that last fight, you weren’t just fighting me. You were fighting me and a demon inside you.”
“Yeah, well, learn to live with it,” Faith said. “You won.”
“But now I have to prove it to myself. No demons, no weapons. Just you and me.”
Faith shrugged again and bounced to her feet. “Anything you say.”
Now Buffy felt herself smile. “You ready?”
“You wanna ring the bell?”
Faith’s brow furrowed. “Huh?” Buffy stared at her expectantly. “Ding... ding?”
Buffy’s smile turned predatory. She and Faith began circling each other. “Come on, Faith,” she said. “Y’know, you move really good for an older girl.”
Faith kicked out at Buffy, who dodged. They were both grinning now. “You’re looking good,” Buffy said. “I taught you well.”
“I think you taught me too good.”
Buffy avoided a punch. She heard the CD start spinning, up in the balcony.
“Hey, B, what is that?”
“Just give it a sec.”
It took literally one second for Faith to recognize the song. She slowed... stopped... and laughed out loud. “Holy shit, B,” she said. “Did you just Rocky III
In response, Buffy leapt forward, all her momentum going toward the end of her right fist. Faith launched herself in a similar motion, aiming at Buffy’s chin.+++++
Andrew turned the music up.
“That’s my slayer.”+++++
Sarah lit the last candle and knelt across the circle from Willow. “For the record,” she said, “I really don’t think this is a good idea.”
“I know,” Willow said. “But I need your help for this.”
“Why my help?” Sarah began to slow her breathing, centering herself. “Why not Dawn? Isabel?”
“You’re stronger than both of them,” Willow said. “From a pure magic standpoint, you have more in you than they ever will.”
That took Sarah by surprise -- especially the matter-of-fact way Willow had said it. “Oh.”
Willow smiled, and Sarah couldn’t stop but think how adorable it made her look -- like she was years younger and much, much more innocent. Not at all like someone who could destroy the world. “I want you to know,” Willow said, “that I really, really appreciate you doing this with me. Especially after what we went through with Nancy.”
Sarah shook her head. “That won’t stop me from helping you. If anything, I thought it would make you less likely to work with me.”
“All it did was show me how strong you are,” Willow said. “You’ve been hiding a lot from us, haven’t you?”
“Not on purpose. I just like what I do.”
Willow nodded. “And you’re good at it.” She took a long, cleansing breath. “Okay, so, you ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“I’m going to do most of the work,” Willow said. “All I need is for you to be there if I need more power.”
“So I’m a battery?”
“No, I have enough mana to do this. This isn’t about mana; it’s about getting the message all the way through to the Powers.”
That was the part of all this that made Sarah nervous. She hadn’t known about the Powers until she’d joined with the Council, and the very idea of calling them up on the phone and hoping to get their voicemail instead of a hyperdimensional mostly-omniscient being was... well... worrisome wasn’t a strong enough word, but it would do until she could think of another.
Sarah watched Willow close her eyes. “Just out of curiosity,” she said, “what did Faith tell you?” It was common knowledge that Faith had, for a brief moment, died and gone to heaven. But only a select few knew she’d returned with a message for Willow. Sarah herself hadn’t known until Willow had approached her.
Willow smiled, and it was sweet and sad. “You know about Kennedy,” she said. “And you know about Tara.” Sarah nodded, not even thinking that Willow couldn’t see it. “Well, they’ve been watching, kind of, inasmuch as you can in a place where time doesn’t exist.”
“Time doesn’t exist in heaven?”
“Nope. Now hush.”
“Faith didn’t tell me a lot about what she saw, but she told me they were both there. I bet Oz -- he was my first love -- was there too, but maybe in a different part. I don’t know.” Willow took a breath. “Anyway, they told Faith to tell me this: ‘We love you. We miss you. Live your life, and we’ll see you when you get here.’ And then Tara added, ‘No rush, though.’”
Sarah chuckled. “You sure know how to pick ‘em.” She remembered Kennedy’s irrepressible sense of humor, and wished for a moment that she could have met Tara as well. “All right. Let’s do this. Let’s get your message up there.”
“Okay,” Willow said. She began to chant, and almost at once Sarah felt Willow’s power race around the circle, connecting the two of them. She let it flow through her, let Willow take what she needed, but Willow hadn’t been lying -- she definitely had enough energy.
Then Sarah heard the message in her head, and she couldn’t help the tears that welled behind her closed eyelids and trickled down her cheeks. Willow was risking a hell of a lot, using more mana than Sarah would’ve done, and for what? Not for power, not for personal gain, but simply to send a message to her loved ones.
Willow’s chanting stopped, but the magic didn’t. It shot up from the circle like a pillar of light -- no, like a pillar of love, pure and touchable and strong enough to make Sarah’s heart ache with joy -- and when it hit... well, whatever it hit... Sarah didn’t need to be told what to do. She opened her heart, and with everything she had to give, she pushed
And, in the last moments before the spell faded, Sarah could’ve sworn she saw two women standing on a beach, staring at the sunset.+++++Tara feels a hand on her shoulder. The hand spins her around -- spins Kennedy, too -- and they’re both staring at a heart-stoppingly-beautiful brunette wearing a black bikini and nothing else. “You brats,” she says. “Do you have any idea how pissed off the Powers are that you did that?”
“Did what?” Kennedy asks. “We didn’t do anything!”
“Bull,” the woman says. “You sent a message from heaven to earth. That’s not allowed!”
The woman holds up her index fingers. She scrapes the right one across the left in the universal gesture of ‘naughty, naughty, naughty’. Then she leans forward and lowers her voice. “Good job, by the way.”
Tara grins. “Thanks.”
“Yeah.” Kennedy shrugs. “Who are you?”
“Cordelia Chase. Emissary of the Powers, Seer of Visions, friend to vampires with souls everywhere. Except Spike, because he was an asshole.”
“So, Angel, then,” Tara says.
“Yep. Angel.” Cordelia looks around. “Nice heaven you’ve got here. Whose is it?”
“Mine,” Tara says.
“Huh.” Cordelia bends down, picks up a bit of sand, and lets it drift off in the light breeze. “Pretty, but boring. You guys should see what I go home to after a hard day of Powers-That-Be-ing.”
Tara decides she likes Cordelia. She has a refreshing outlook on things. She doesn’t know how long she and Kennedy have been here, not really, but Kennedy is pretty much focused on Willow to the exclusion of all else. Tara feels like she needs a little change.
“So,” Cordelia continues, “I have a message for you.”
“From the Powers?” Tara asks.
“Pft, no.” Cordelia smiles slyly. “From someone else.”
Kennedy’s hand comes up to cover her heart. “I can’t believe it,” she says. “She actually did it!”
“Not so much.” Cordelia stretches in the perpetually-setting sun, and Tara tries not to stare -- Willow had been a beautiful woman, but Cordelia is the female ideal that the media had forced on her for her entire life. Even in the afterlife, it’s hard to shake that stereotype. “Honestly, do you really think the Powers would allow someone down there to talk to someone up here? It could throw the whole system out of whack!” She grins, leans forward again. “Did I say ‘good job’ yet?”
“Yeah,” Kennedy says.
“Oh. Well, good job. Again.” Cordelia beckons; Tara and Kennedy start walking along the water’s edge with her. “Anyway, a message did come. Having been a Seer, and someone who gets visions from the Powers, I was... let’s say ‘uniquely qualified’... to intercept it before they stopped it. They know it’s here,” she cautions, “in my brain, or what passes for it in heaven, but now that I have it, they can’t stop me from passing it on.”
“Well, what did she say?” Kennedy asks. Her eyes are intense; Tara doesn’t think they’ve been in this timeless place long enough for Kennedy to get over Willow. Not fully.
Cordelia turns to face the two women. “‘I love you both. I’m all right. I’m ready to live my life again, and I can’t wait to see you. Someday.’”
Tara sees tears in Kennedy’s eyes and pulls her into a hug. “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry.”
“No!” Kennedy says, looking up at Tara. “Don’t be sorry. Happy tears, I swear.” She smiles, turns to Cordelia. “We were both worried; we kept seeing Willow in pain, or depressed, or withdrawn into herself. Sometimes we saw her okay, but it kept coming back to sad Willow.”
“Well, she ain’t sad anymore, is she?” Cordelia says. She glances out at the sunset, then at her wrist -- which does not have a watch on it. “Hey, look, I have to go. But stop in any time you’re passing.” She reaches up and touches Tara and Kennedy, one finger to each forehead, and Tara suddenly knows how to find Cordelia. The brunette grins, turns toward the sun, and runs into the waves. She dives over a small breaker and disappears.
“That was strange,” Tara says. She’s still hugging Kennedy. “But I’m glad she came.”
“Me too.” Kennedy pulls gently out of Tara’s arms and looks at the ocean. “Hey, are you getting bored of this yet?”
“Not really. I never got enough time to appreciate the ocean while I was alive.”
Kennedy shrugs. “We can always come back. But... y’know...”
“You want to go exploring?”
“Yeah.” Kennedy holds out a hand. “You want to come with?”
For the first time in what may or may not have been a long time, Tara smiles the smile that always made Willow shiver, the one that says ‘I can and will do things that will make your toes curl’. She takes Kennedy’s hand. “Sure. I mean, it’s heaven; we’re bound to find something good.”
Kennedy seems to realize what Tara’s smile means and she actually blushes and looks away. But after a moment -- or perhaps a day; who can tell? -- she smiles shyly up at Tara. “So, how do we do it?” she asks.
“Let’s try this.” With one hand, she unhooks her skirt and lets it fall to the sand. Her blouse follows. Heaven hasn't seen fit to provide her anything to wear under her clothes, but Tara finds that she doesn't care. The sun's warmth caresses her bare skin, and she takes a long moment, perhaps a day or a month or a year, to luxuriate in it. When she starts walking into the ocean. Kennedy is right behind her. They get to the place where Cordelia dove in, and Tara looks over at Kennedy. She sees the other woman's eyes, still wide, still staring, and smiles. “Ready?”
Kennedy bites her lip, then appears to make a decision. "Just a sec." Then she pushes her cutoffs down her legs, steps out of them, and tosses aside her top. She gives a quick nod, and Tara can see her trying not to cover up with her hands. "Okay. I'm ready."
Tara takes Kennedy’s hand and, together, they dive into the water.
Maybe Willow isn’t here -- not yet -- but Tara’s decided to wait for her, for as long as it takes. After all, she’s in heaven. Might as well enjoy it.++++++++++THE END++++++++++AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The very first idea for a Buffy fanfic I had is nothing like the two stories you’ve just read. I was thinking that Vi would be slingshotted forward in time, courtesy of a portal, and end up spending two years on the starship Excalibur
(from the Hidden Frontier
series). Vi would fall in love with the ship's new captain -- Chris Frost’s far-future descendant, as it happens. Then, on an away mission, a portal would appear and Vi would go through. So would Frost. It would turn out that the captain couldn’t get back -- something about temporal causality (I would’ve figured out the science later) -- and he would join the slayers. Something would happen, and he would end up cheating on Vi with Faith, eventually forming a relationship with the Dark Slayer.
Yeah. That clearly didn’t happen.
What did happen was a story about Ramona Flowers, who is an interesting character in her own right. I wanted to know how she became a slayer. I didn’t know who the Big Bad was going to be, or how Ramona was going to fit in. Fortunately, Scott got mad, and then he was working on the Hellmouth, and... well... stuff happened.
About 75 percent of the way through the first story, I had an idea for a sequel. I wanted to do something with Dr. Cameron from House
, but I couldn’t think of a way to make her the hero or the villain of the piece. I ruminated on the story for a while, until one day I was listening to Pandora and Jewel’s “Under the Water” came on. That song is from the soundtrack to The Craft.
Hmm. A movie about witchcraft, with a clearly-defined good guy and bad guy, both of whom survived the film.
Nancy became the Big Bad. Sarah became a witch who worked for the Council. Plot: obtained! From there it was just a matter of filling in the details.
So, what’s next for this series? How about a break? I have a novel that I really ought to finish writing, and plenty of short-story material. But I also have a set of interludes written out that cover various and sundry TV shows, including Full House
-- yes, really. And I’m kicking around the idea of another full-length story in this universe that somehow incorporates Calvin and Hobbes
. Plus, there’s always the chance that we’ll catch up with Anita again, or Nancy, or any of the other characters who might be tangentially-connected to any of these pieces.
I've also posted some bonus materials on my Supplemental Fanfic Blog for your enjoyment:
* The original outline for "On Ramona Flowers and How She Became a Slayer".
* The original outline for the story you just finished reading.
* Notes I took while re-watching The Craft in preparation for writing this story.
And now, I bid you adieu. Thanks for reading, and please don’t forget to review. I really love hearing what you think.Listener
July 16, 2012