Author's Note: Okay, I'd like to start by apologising for taking so long: Real Life and too many projects have taken their toll, but I think I'm starting to get back into the swing of things (touch wood). I won't do a GRR Martin and promise to publish again in a specific time, but I hope it won't take so long for the next chapter ... again. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: Surprisingly, neither the characters of BtVS or the
themes of 'Scion' belong to me. Instead, they seem to belong to Joss
Wheadon and White Wolf, which seems very unfair to me.
Rating: MA15+(mostly for violence, language and occasional sex)
Spoilers: Beginning of Season Three for BtVS, just background info
The girl sat on the bus, leaning her head against the glass of the window, watching the sun go down. Her foot tapped a violent tattoo against the floor, and the rhythmic vibrations of the bus' engine did nothing to calm her.
Nightfall held a special terror for her: it meant that her enemy, the monster who hunted her, was getting closer. The fiend who had murdered the closest thing she had to a mother was now after her, and she didn't know if she was strong enough to survive another encounter with her foe. I just have to get to Sunnydale,
she thought fiercely, forcing herself to close her eyes, and get some rest. I just need to get to Sunnydale, and she'll help me.
I just need to survive that long ...
*** *** ***
It was early afternoon in London, and Quentin Travers was sitting in his comfortable leather chair while perusing the files in front of him. "Alright, so where do we stand?"
Around the conference table, twelve men and three women exchanged glances, before James Mallory, a balding Watcher in his mid sixties, spoke up. "Within a day of Slayer Kendra being killed by the Vampiress Drusilla, Watcher Diana Dormer reported that her Potential, a Faith ..." He glanced down at his notes. "Lehane, was displaying signs of being Chosen. Sudden increases in strength, reflexes, etcetera." Of course. Another Colonial guttersnipe,
grumbled Travers, although he kept his expression impassive. After all, it wouldn't do for a man of his station to display discomfort in the presence of his peers ... or inferiors. Why the Powers couldn't have chosen a proper English girl, even a commoner - they at least know how to follow instructions from their betters - is quite beyond me.
"Two weeks later, Potential Molly Rogers also displayed the signs, and our seers were able to confirm that she is now the Chosen One, confirming that Buffy Summers, had perished some time after deserting her post." Mallory paused for the assembled Watchers to make the appropriate murmurs regarding the selfishness and foolishness of the offending, if conveniently deceased, Slayer. "Since there were now two Slayers active, it seemed reasonable to suppose that the Line was now permanently split. A most convenient state of affairs: with two Chosen, the power of the Council to confront the enemies of humanity was effectively doubled."
Patricia Wells, a thin woman with her glasses perched in the end of her rather long nose, sniffed. "We already know all that, dear James. The important
thing, surely, is that with the disappearance of both Watcher Dormer and
her Slayer, our seers and mystics have not discovered another Potential being Chosen! It seems that Lehane was an aberration, a sport, if you will. The Line has restored itself, and the war continues as it ever has: with the Slayer as the foil wielded expertly by the Council, and especially by our Chairman," she finished smugly, nodding to Travers, who dutifully nodded in recognition. Odious woman,
he thought, suppressing a shudder. But a useful ally against Mallory's faction. Her insistence on tradition and 'the way things have always been' is a perfect counter to his distressingly radical ideas. Why, only last month he suggested in passing that a Slayer might be due some monetary compensation, as though she should be treated like a hireling or mercenary! Being Chosen is an
honor, a sacred duty, and to reduce it to a mere salaried position? What can that man be thinking?
Travers cleared his throat, drawing attention back to himself. "Well, what do we know about Slayer Rogers?"
Mallory blinked, then looked down at his notes again. "It seems she's a Londener ... Cockney, for that matter."
Curtis Vanner, the youngest member of the Council, at only fifty one, barked a harsh laugh. "Heh, might want to check what state she's in: with that stock, she might already be laden down with three brats already! The commoners start breeding young, you know."
But Mallory shook his head. "No children: the girl's sixteen. Single parent, a father ... a factory worker of some kind. Decent lower-middle class education -" He looked up. "Which means she can read, I suppose." Glancing back down, he lifted a page to examine the page below. "She's been in training for about three years ... took to martial training fairly well ... Watcher Mark Duggan reports an excellent attitude, takes instruction cheerfully."
Travers glanced at his own files. "Duggan ... a fairly new family to the Council, arn't they? Perhaps a Watcher from a more traditional family would be more appropriate?" Training and preparing a Potential is one thing. Guiding a Slayer is a task more suited to a Watcher of more ... refined background. Why, the Duggans had barely joined the Council before the Great War, and are Scottish, besides. Very unsuitable.
Xavier Fellows-Wright raised a hand. "I believe Reginald Smyth-Parks is available. Solid chap, decent scores at Eaton. Family's been in the Council since before that Cromwell business. Terrible bowler, but you can't have everything, what?"
Travers waved a hand dismissively. "Yes, yes, sounds like an excellent fellow. Let him know of his new duties, and have Duggan reassigned ... I believe the Singapore facilities need some new blood, give the fellow some seasoning." More importantly, it puts the entire Smyth-Parks family into my debt, which should come in handy when the next upstart tries to unseat me.
"Now, on to new business. I believe Marissa has a report on the recent were-cat outbreak in York ..."
*** *** ***
For what seemed like hours, both Summers women stood in the doorway, eyes fixed on each other. The tension was palpable ... Joyce was literally shocked into imobility. She wanted to scream, to weep, to snatch her girl into her arms and hold her, to run far, far away ... she literally didn't know how to react to her daughter suddenly appearing on her doorstep. The moment stretched out, and Buffy's smile faltered, her lip starting to quiver slightly.
"Buffy ..." breathed Joyce, her voice cracking.
"I ... didn't know if I should come ... if I was welcome -"
"Get inside, you goober!" squealed Dawn, thundering down the stairs to launch herself into her sister's arms with a cry of elation. Somewhat bemused by the sudden show of affection from her younger sibling, Buffy held the girl tight, pressing her head against her neck and glancing over Dawn's shoulder at their mother, whose eyes were starting to well up with tears of joy and relief.
"Of course you're welcome, silly girl," she said, stepping forward to wrap her arms around both of her daughters, holding her girls close. "I'm sorry ... I'm so sorry. I said such terrible things ... I didn't mean any of it!"
Tears started running down Buffy's cheeks as well, as weeks of suppressed fear started to melt away under a mother's love. "I'm sorry, mom," she whispered, working an arm out to embrace her mother, still holding Dawn between them. "I shouldn't have gone ... shouldn't have stayed away ... should have come back sooner ...."
The three Summers girls stood there for several long minutes, just reveling in the moment, enjoying the simple joy of holding one another, a family reunited after far too long. But eventually Joyce's practical nature asserted itself, and she pulled back slightly. "Come on, Buffy ... lets get you inside, and sit down. Is -" She broke off as the limousine across the road pulled away from the curb, and headed down the street. "Who ... did they drop you off?"
Buffy glanced over her shoulder, then back to her mother. "It's a looong
story, mom. But they're some good people, and helped me get my head straightened out. And yeah, they brought me back from LA."
"In a limo?" asked Dawn, elation turning to sisterly jealousy. "Luc-ky," she grumbled, her resentment turning to giggles as Buffy found the room to tickle Dawn's ribs.
"Come on, you ... lets get inside, and I can tell you ... both of you," she smiled at Joyce, "What my summer was like."
"Sounds good, honey," said Joyce, stroking Buffy's hair. "I'm just glad you're home.
*** *** ***
Rupert Giles pulled up outside the Summers residence, and noted that the downstairs lights were on. Blast! I must be late ... hardly the proper impression I wish to give Ms Summers ...
Despite her absence, Giles had every hope that Buffy would return to Sunnydale. When she did, he knew that he needed to be on at least polite terms with her mother. As the two closest adult influences in her life, they needed to work together towards their common goal: keeping Buffy alive.
Giles turned off the engine and exited his car. While Joyce's Jeep was far larger and more powerful, he had suggested that, being as they would be traveling across Sunnydale at night, it would be wiser for him to escort Joyce and Dawn in his own vehicle. Not only would he be better able to protect them if trouble occurred, his car, while modest, was heavily warded with protection spells he and Jenny had applied together. There wasn't a safer car in Sunnydale ... probably in California.
Striding across the lawn and up to the doorstep, he raised his hand to knock on the door, only to find it already open slightly, and he could hear voices inside. he thought, before his mind caught up with what his ears were hearing.
Throwing the door open all the way, he burst inside and took several long strides, to find himself in the house's living room, which contained Joyce, little Dawn Summers ...
... and, sitting on a chair across from the other two, was a surprised Buffy Summers, who was already rising from her seat at his somewhat violent entrance.
Joyce also stood up, startled by his arrival, and glanced from one to the other, trying to gauge just how they were going to react to one another. Dawn just clutched at her mother's hand wordlessly.
"Buffy," he whispered, and a slight smile graced her lips.
"Hello, Watcher mine," she said softly, before crossing the living room to wrap her arms around his waist and leant against his chest. Startled and taken aback by the sudden and unexpected gesture of affection, Giles stood there for a moment, his arms held awkwardly by his sides, looking over her head at her mother, who was just as surprised. After a moment, he gingerly lay one hand on her shoulder, and rested the other on her head, gently stroking her hair.
"Welcome back, dear girl," he said, a wave of relief washing over him, his knees suddenly feeling weak as months of stress and frustration and worry and fear started to finally dissolve. "Welcome home."
They stood there a few more moments, before Giles' British instincts and upbringing kicked in, and he gently extricated himself from her grasp. She didn't object: she clearly knew him too well to be surprised. "When ... when did you arrive?" he asked, removing his glasses to polish them (not to take attention away from the moisture forming in his eyes, no, certainly not).
"Half an hour ago," supplied Joyce, who had sat down again, her arm around Dawn, who was snuggling up against her side. "We were just sitting down to start, well, talking about what's happened while Buffy was ..." she hesitated, and exchanged meaningful glances with her eldest daughter, before shrugging. "Away."
"Mom, you can say it," said his Slayer with a wry smile. "I ran away." She looked up at Giles, before stepping back to sink back into her chair, pulling her feet up under herself. "When I had to go ... fight Angelus," there was a slight hitch in her voice when she said the vampire's name, one he understood completely, of for different reasons, "Mom and I ... we had a fight. We said ... some really, really bad stuff. And afterwards I ... I couldn't stay. I needed ... time."
Joyce's facade of calm crumbled as tears started to well up in her eyes again. "Oh, baby, it's not your fault, I shouldn't have said -"
"No, you shouldn't." This time, Buffy's voice was crystal clear and focused, and it wasn't a response Joyce had been expecting. The room was quiet for a moment, and Giles took the chance to sink into a spare chair.
"I spent some time in LA," said Buffy, clearly moving on from a painful topic. "Actually held down a job ... waitressing at some grungy diner. Not great pay, but it kept me fed. Then I had a ... I guess it was a wakeup call.
"Some people needed help, and I didn't want to. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself that I actually tried to ignore people, innocents, in trouble. But ... I guess you both taught me too well," she smiled slightly, nodding to both adults. "I couldn't leave well enough alone, and wound up helping anyway. Good thing was, it turned out to be a problem that I could solve with copious quantities of violence." Her smile grew, and Dawn giggled, her eyes bright with excitement.
Shaking her head, Buffy continued. "Then I wound up with ... well, some people in the same business in LA. Monster fighters. They helped clean up the left over's of the fight, helped the kids I rescued, and let me stay with them for a bit while I got myself back together. The fight was ..." she glanced over at Giles questioningly. "Made me realise something?"
"Right. That. I realised that I'm not a moping, brooding, hide-from-the-world kinda girl, you know? I like being able to help people. I like that I have the strength and skill and power to make the things in the dark feel afraid, instead of huddling in a corner being afraid myself." She turned to look at her mother. "I didn't choose to become the Slayer. It wasn't an option. But when I came back, I chose to take up this responsibility, this fight. I can't say it won't be hard, or that the time will never come that I falter or fail ... but I can't turn my back on it."
Joyce reached up and took Buffy's hand, and the girl knelt down next to her mother's chair. "This wasn't exactly the plan," she said, a smile tugging at her lips. "I figured you would graduate, go to college, have a brilliant career, get married and have children of your own ... having a superhero for a daughter wasn't exactly what I had in mind." But her smile broadened. "But now that I have one, I couldn't be prouder.
"Your friends, Mr Giles, even your sister," she nodded to Dawn, who was clutching a cushion to her chest, "have told me so much about what you've done, the people you've saved, the things you've faced, and how hard it was to keep it from me. I know why you didn't tell me, Buffy. And that's why I blew up that night: I wasn't angry at you, sweetie, I was angry at myself, at Hank, at the doctors and especially at the world for showing me that you were right all along. I was horrified at what you've been through, and the fact that you were going through it without me.
"Believe me, honey, that will never happen again. I might not be able to keep you from the fight, I can't protect you. But I can still be your mother, and that will never change. No matter what, I will love and support you: all I ask is that you talk to me: don't ever feel like you have to hide anything.
"I'm tired of not knowing my daughter. Please ... let me."
Buffy smiled, tears running down her cheeks as she nodded. "Deal."
She looked over her shoulder at Giles. "Hey ... there's stuff I need to say, to you, to Mom, to everyone. I know I can't exactly go to school tomorrow -"
"Don't you worry about that," said Joyce firmly. "Now that you're back, we can get that all straightened out. I don't know what that odious Schneider was thinking, but he had no right to expel you. I'm quite certain we can get you enrolled again and back to class fairly quickly."
Buffy's lips quirked. "Heh ... I knew there was a downside to coming home," she quipped.
"Oh, shush. And regarding your friends, we've all been invited to a party at Cordelia Chase's home, to celebrate the first day of school ... as well as several other matters regarding the 'Scooby Gang,' I think Xander calls it."
Buffy giggled. "I think he watches far too much television."
"Perhaps. Anyway, I can't imagine that anyone would object to three Summers women attending rather than two ..."
*** *** ***
The Chase mansion was unusually full that night, with the Scoobies and Cordettes amazingly managing to get along, with the music rocking loudly in the background as pizza boxes were plundered and bottles of soda were being emptied at a rate that would be alarming if it weren't for all the teenagers around.
Maria was in the living room, doing a handstand as she had been for the past twenty minutes while carrying on a conversation with Harmony and Aura. When Xander had first drawn the blade of his sword across his palm, more than one Cordette had turned away, wincing at the sight of blood, but the petite Korean girl had stepped forward, and with onky a little hesitation leaned down and tasted the offered blood, and Harmony and Aura had quickly followed.
The results were nothing short of amazing. Maria had been energized, running around the mansion, before settling into her current position, showing absolutely no sign of getting tired. Harmony's strength had been boosted to the limits of human capacity, and had proven it by lifting Charles Chase's restored Harley Davidson motorcycle over her head with very little effort. Aura had received a mix of the two, with a strong increase in stamina with a smaller increase in strength.
Ria was sitting on the lounge, discussing Norse mythology/history/politics with Willow and Xander, while Cordelia and Oz sat nearby, half listening while comparing music and nail-polish. Compared to revealing Willow and Xander's heritage, learning that Xander's new friend was a Valkyrie was not a huge deal to the group as a whole.
Nearby, Gwen, Aphrodesia and the other two cheerleaders who decided to attend, Amber and Tanya, were having a loud conversation that seemed to Xander's sensitive hearing to involve film stars, clothes, credit cards and a substantial amount of giggling. Some things, Xander-me-lad, even gods aren't meant to understand,
he thought to himself as he poured another plastic cup of Coke, trying to focus more on Ria's description of a recent feast in Asgard where a Scion of Loki caused a scene with one of Xander's half-sisters (still getting used to that concept), much to the Aesir's amusement. Something you can say for the Norse gods,
he thought, taking a sip, they don't sweat the little stuff. Practical jokes, tricks, fistfights and insults seem to be alright, as long as they're funny, or at least well meant. For a bunch of divinities, they're an earthy bunch.
"... so Freisa and Nichola were going at it hammer and tongs, with fists, tankards, plates and joints of meat, their clothing torn and their hair in disarray, covered in mead and grease," recounted Ria, "When Michael, son of Tyr stood up and shouted, 'Ladies! There's no need to fight over me! There's plenty of me to go around!' Both demigodesses looked at him, looked at each other, then launched themselves as one at him, screaming bloody murder and fiery vengeance!" The group laughed at the image. "Of course, the Allfather had us break up the fight before actual fire was employed: fighting is for fun, but arson is work!"
Before she could continue, the doorbell rang, and Cordelia groaned, moving to get up. Xander held up his hand. "No worries, I'll get it," he assured his girlfriend, who smiled gratefully at him: she was far too comfortable where she was to move. "It's probably the G-Man and the Summers girls."
"Don't invite them in," came a chorus from the Scoobies, and as the Cordettes giggled he waved his hand airily, nodding in mock annoyance at the unnecessary reminder of SOP in Sunnydale.
"What kinda idiot do they take me for? Rule two, never invite anyone in after dark: gotcha. Sheesh, give a guy some credit," he muttered to himself, but continued to smile: it was a good day. He managed to survive the first day of school, the homework would keep till the weekend, he and Cordelia were getting along great (especially during free periods, when they comandeered a janitor's closet to make out in), and after the party they were planning on hitting the cemetaries, giving Ria the grand tour while checking out some recent graves. Life, as they say, is good!
He really needed to learn not to taunt Murphy, even in his own head.
Crossing the entrance hall, he grabbed the door handle and swung the door inward. "Hey, Giles and co: welcome to Casa de Chase," he grinned, silently motioning for the visitors to enter. "Only the prettiest Chase is here at the moment, so we have the house to -" he broke off as one of the newcomers stepped forward into the porch light, the glare of the bright bulb flashing off her honey-blond locks and her hazel eyes. Xander's mind blanked for a moment as he struggled to comprehend the vision in front of him.
"Buffy ..." he said softly, taking a half step forward.
The Slayer stood there a moment, her expression unreadable, before she reared back and slammed her right fist into his jaw, the force of the small but powerful fist knocking him back into the hall, spinning him around and knocking him to the ground, leaving him on his hands and knees, his head hanging between his elbows as his ears were filled by the sound of ringing bells. The blow had come out of nowhere, striking with a force an order of magnitude greater than the Frost Giant he had fought, the sound of flesh striking flesh filling the house with concussive force.
"Get up you son of a bitch, I wanna hit you again!"
Vaguely, Xander was aware of Willow and Ria rushing to the sound of combat, with the others not too far behind, but he was distracted by the intense pain radiating from his jaw, which made it difficult to concentrate. "Ugh," he groaned, focusing some of his power into repairing what was probably a broken jaw, healing the bone and turning a terrible injury into a nasty bruise.
Xander flopped onto his back, his arms outstretched, and lifted his head slightly to look up at Buffy. "Um," he said experimentally, making sure his jaw worked, "No, I'm actually quite comfortable down here," he said before letting the back of his head drop back against the floorboards with a groan.
"Buffy?" came the incredulous voice of Willow, as she took in the sight of her lost friend standing over her best friend.
"Oh, hey Willow," said Buffy in a conversational tone, as though she hadn't just launched an unprovoked attack on Xander. "Gimme a minute, will you? Xan and me have to work something out." Then she reached down and grabbed Xander by the collar, and hoisted him to his feet.
"Willow! Ria! Do something!" cried Cordelia in a panic, seeing the Slayer attacking her boyfriend.
"Why?" drawled the Valkyrie, leaning against the wall, arms crossed under her breasts as she watched. "If she wanted him dead, he would be: looks like they need to work something out." Note to self: remind mother to dock Ria's pay!
He looked into Buffy's eyes, wondering what was going on: was she traumatised from her fight with Angelus? Did something happen while she was out of town? Sweet Sif, is she possessed? Because I know from experience that can
suck! "Hey, Buff," he wheezed, forcing a smile. "Um, what's up?"
Her eyes were like flint. "Willow. Says. Kick. His. Ass."
Xander closed his eyes. "Oh, crap."
"Oh crap is right." But Buffy's voice was softening, and when he opened his eyes again, he could see tears starting to well up in hers. "You didn't tell me Willow was trying the spell again. And it worked. But the portal was already open." The room was silent. "So I kissed him ... I told him I loved him ... and I sent Angel to hell."
"..." Xander opened his mouth, but for one of the few times in his life, he really had no idea what to say.
"I wish you had trusted me. I thought that after everything we've done, all we've been through, you could have trusted
me. It ... it hurt me, Xander. It hurt that you didn't think that I could balance the fate of the world against my boyfriend. But in the end, I had to make that choice anyway.
"And if I had to do it again, I'd make the same choice."
"I ... I'm sorry, Buffy," he said softly, as he realised just how much he had hurt his friend, the girl he had once had a massive crush on, and his hero. He reached up to where her fist was still clenched around the collar of his shirt, and covered her small hand with his. "I just ... Willow had just come out of a coma, the first try didn't work, and the whole world was on the line ... and yeah, I guess I didn't trust you as much as I should." He felt her shaking, fighting back sobs, and he felt his own eyes start to water. He considered making a joke about Cordy's housekeeper not dusting properly, but he decided it wasn't the time.
"All I can say is that I'm sorry, and I promise to try to be a better friend and sidekick in future," he said softly, wrapping his arms around her, and she nodded fiercely before embracing him, back. They held each other tightly, the tension of the last few minutes draining out of them, as they reassured themselves that the other was really there.
They were soon joined by Willow, who wrapped her arms around Buffy from behind, sparing Xander a glare that said 'We will
be discussing this later, mister!', followed by Oz, and then the daughter of Hephaestus reached out an arm and dragged Cordelia into the group hug over her loud protest, but her arms snaked around the rest of them and held just as tightly.
For just a few moments, the five of them stood in the entrance hall, surrounded by family and friends, reassuring each other that the Scoobies were back together.
*** *** ***
It wasn't until later that Buffy cornered him again, managing to disentangle herself from both mother, sister and best female friend. They met at the table, as Xander was piling some slices of cooling pizza onto a paper plate.
"Xand, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you. I just saw you and ..."
"Hey, don't worry about it," he said, handing her the plate, which she took gratefully. "I'm just glad you were pulling your punch there."
"But that's it," she hissed, pulling him aside. "I didn't!
Xander, I could have killed
you, hitting you like that! I'm strong: really strong! How did you ..."
Which was when he realised that Buffy smelled different. No, that wasn't right. She smelled of herbal body-soap, fruit-scented shampoo and the healthy sweat of an athlete, but underneath it all she also smelled of hot olives, and was surrounded by the echoing of a murmuring crowd, or a busy marketplace. He realised that he wasn't smelling, or hearing it ... it was his mind interpreting things that his new abilities were detecting, translating it into data he could comprehend. He also realised that he had been smelling and hearing the same scents and sounds from Willow the last few days, but hadn't consciously processed it.
"Buff, I -"
"Why do you smell like ozone," she asked, talking over him, and then she looked over at Willow where she sat talking to Dawn, her eyes widening. She looked back to Xander, and her eyes were filled with worry, but also a hint of hope. "Xan ... did ... did something happen while I was away? Something to do with, you know ..."
"Family? Specifically, parental-units having major
She nodded, her green eyes flickering with understanding. "My dad ... he's not really ... I'm the adopted neice of Artemis, of the Greek gods," she finished in a rush.
Xander held out a hand, which she took. "Son of Sif, of the Norse pantheon. Willow ... not my story to tell." he grinned., rubbing his jaw. "And can I say, you hit like a Jotun!"
She blinked. "A what?"