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The Last Centurion

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Shadow and Light". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The Pandorica comes to Sunnydale, and little Dawn couldn't be dragged away by wild horses.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > Dawn-CenteredphoukaFR1318,72313324,43415 Aug 1215 Aug 12Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its characters, setting, and details are all property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. Doctor Who, Rory Williams, the Pandorica, and other related elements are all property of Steven Moffat, the BBC, and their distributor. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.

Author's Notes: This story never happened. Not just in the sense that “fiction is not true”, but that even in the universes of Buffyverse and Doctor Who, they never happened. For one thing, Dawn never existed as a ten year old girl. She came into being as a fourteen year old girl, and all memories of her were created at the same time, giving her a credible backstory to protect her from Glorificus.
Even then, there never was a Pandorica, Rory Williams was never resurrected by a host of the Doctor's most troublesome enemies, and there never was a world without stars, or a British Museum exhibit with a fossilized Dalek, and so on. Even so . . .

Translations of the Latin are posted after the end of the story.




“Don't fight angry!” Giles called, standing well back from the fight.

“I am not fighting angry!” Buffy yelled in response. “I'm fighting Ugly!”

“Hey!” the vampire protested, then tried to punch her in the face.

Buffy managed to dodge and use the vamp's momentum to trip and throw him against the brick wall of Sunnydale's favorite dive bar. It stunned the vamp just long enough for her to grab her stake and plunge it into his back.

OW!

He backhanded her and got to his feet, trying to reach behind himself and grab the stake.

“Buffy!” Giles yelled, clearly exasperated.

“So I missed his heart,” she answered, getting to her feet. “Backs are hard, okay?”

The vampire leaped for her, and she kicked him in the jaw hard enough to break it. When he stumbled, dazed, she grabbed him by his collar and the stake in his back and threw him against the wall. On the return bounce, she grabbed a spar of wood from a broken pallet, and rammed it into his chest just as he spun towards her.

The vampire froze for a minute in pained surprise and then shattered into dust. Buffy held her pose a moment longer, then dropped the spar, grabbed her stake, and dusted her hands off.

“So, Watcher, old man, I say, how about a spot of tea, eh? Pip pip and all that,” she said, strolling back to him, flipping her stake in the air.

Giles was staring intently at a stack of garbage bags piled against the wall.

“Tea?” she repeated. “Points for the Slayer? Hey, Giles, your tweed is on fire.”

“Hush,” he said. “This is serious, Buffy. It's not enough simply to slay a vampire you encounter during patrol.”

“Oh, boy,” Buffy sighed. “Here we go.”

“You must reconnoiter before and after the melee as best you can, or you will miss vital clues,” Giles continued.

“Like what? Trash day is tomorrow?” she asked. “Do all Watchers nag their Slayers as much as you do?”

“Like that,” he said, holding his hand out towards a pair of boots sticking out from the edge of the trash pile.

“Uh . . . Giles, I know our ways must seem strange and incomprehensible to you,” Buffy said, “but here in America, when we want a new pair of shoes, we go to a place called a shoe store, and hey, lace ups!”

She came around to look more closely.

“Um . . . how come the boots are all filled out like someone's still wearing them?” she asked.

“Because,” Giles said, his voice grating only a little, “someone is still wearing them. Now start shifting these trash bags.”

“I do not touch garbage,” Buffy said. “Especially not after I've had my nails done.”

Giles stopped, turned to face her, and glared. She shrank just a little.

“Buffy, there is a body under there. It is most likely a victim of the vampire you just slayed. I understand that it's difficult, even distasteful, but we do not leave the dead lying under a pile of rubbish!”

“Fine,” she sighed.

She reached down, grabbed the body by its ankles and hauled it out from under the piles of garbage bags. Then she stood back up and looked down at the dead person.

“Distasteful, huh?” she repeated, still looking down.

“Well . . .” Giles managed.

“Is it something about the Hellmouth?” Buffy asked, looking up at him. “Does it just make everything in this town really, really weird?”

“Well . . .”

He put his thumb and forefinger against his chin, clearly trying to come up with an explanation.

“Because, I can understand a guy wandering behind a bar for a bunch of reasons, and I get why a vampire would choose this as its hunting grounds, but this? This is a Savage Love column.”

“There might be a costume party,” Giles offered.

“Seriously?” Buffy asked him. “You think I wouldn't know if there was a costume party being held in a ten mile radius of this town? Plus it's Thursday, Giles. No one throws a costume part on Thursday.”

“Well . . .”

Now he took off his glasses.

“Halloween was ages ago, Giles!” Buffy complained.

“Well . . .”

He started cleaning his glasses.

“He's dressed like a Roman soldier, Giles!” Buffy yelled at him.

And, in fact, the victim of the vampire she'd just killed, no longer covered by trashbags, was wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier – tunic, belt, baldric, chest plate, leather skirt, and neck scarf. His helmet was off to the side of the pile of trash bags.



One of the newer fledglings crouched in obedience before the Master, trying not to shake in fear. After all, the others had told her, it wouldn't help.

“You found this where?”

“At the public library, Master,” the fledgling whispered.

“What on earth were you doing there? And when did they change their hours?”

The fledgling fumbled for a reason that would not get her incinerated or ripped apart, and finally gave up, sticking to the truth.

“Bookworms taste better,” she managed.

The Master considered this for a moment and shrugged. “De gustibus non disputatum, child. When was this posted?”

“Sometime today,” she answered, feeling her doom retreat just a little bit. “It wasn't there last night.”

The Master carefully smoothed out the paper and looked it over. There were pictures of the exhibit's centerpiece as well as the actor who portrayed the Roman centurion of legend.

“I've seen it before, of course,” he mused. “A puzzle then, but a prize now. And who knows? Perhaps its guardian has followed as he did all those many years before. They said he died, but I'm skeptical myself.”

“Master?” Darla asked, the only one of their group not terrified of stepping closer.

“Is this him?” the Master asked, holding the flyer out to her.

She considered it for a moment. “No. This one is blond. The one I remember had brown hair.”

“A pity,” he replied, lost in thought. “Pick your best thugs, my dear, and take them to the museum tonight. Even without the Last Centurion, the Pandorica is a still a prize for the ages.”

“Yes, sire,” she replied.



“Oy! Rory!” the manager called. “You seen Chester?”

“No,” Rory called.

The manager looked seriously harassed, enough to rub both his hands through his hair.

“Oh, for the love of . . . first they break the booking with the Getty, then they ship us off to this nowhere little town on the back end of nothing, and now Chester's missing. And he was in costume! Rory, have you got your own stuff?”

Rory shrugged and made a slight face. “Yeah. It's back in my room, but I've got it.”

“Look, get the docent to take you back, and get done up. We've got a school tour coming today, and we're contracted to do the whole thing, costumes, parts, and everything.”

“Can you just send them to get it?” Rory asked. “It's all in a case by my bedside. I just don't like leaving the exhibit unguarded.”

The manager rubbed his face. “Rory, the museum is filled with busy bodies and curators. Nothing is going to happen to the Pandorica, not in the thirty minutes it'll take you to get ready. I know you signed on as security, but you're also the only understudy I've ever met who's such an authenticity fiend you made your own costume. Just get out there and get back! I'll sit on the damn thing myself, okay?”

Rory sighed. He'd have been better off just keeping all his belongings here in the museum and just staying there around the clock, but the Sunnydale Museum of Natural History, Anthropology, and Modern Art was a little too crowded, and he also couldn't have the other members of the Pandorica's small entourage questioning why he never went to his hotel room.

“Okay,” he called. “Fine. Where's the docent?”

“Check the gift shop. Only be quick, will you?” the manager asked.



“Let me get this straight,” Xander said, breaking open his lunchtime package of Ho-Hos. “Dead guy dressed as a Roman soldier goes to a bar, goes out behind a bar, gets fanged, then gets buried under trash.”

“Pretty much,” Buffy agreed, sitting on the counter and swinging her legs.

“Off,” Giles said, coming out from his office with a stack of books in one arm and another held open to read in his off hand.

Buffy jumped down from the counter.

“Man, I have got to get a social life,” Xander said. “Crazy people are doing better than me. A lot better than me.”

“On the bright side, you don't die,” Buffy pointed out.

“Who doesn't die?” Willow asked, coming into the library.

“Hey, Will!” Buffy smiled. “I was just pointing out that lack of social life can have its benefits. Like not dying.”

“And what is our Willow reading today?” Xander asked, leaning over and snagging the flyer she held.

“Oh, I'm so excited!” Willow said, grinning. “This was in your box, Giles, and I told the secretary I'd bring it to you. The Pandorica's coming to Sunnydale!”

“The whozzawha?” Buffy asked.

“What?” Giles demanded, coming over.

“Oh, hey,” Xander said, looking over the flyer. “That can mean only one thing . . . field trip!

“To a museum?” Buffy asked, very doubtful. “Anyways, what's a Pandorica?”

“Ah, well,” Giles said, putting his glasses back on, “it's a relic left over from the Roman occupation of Britain, a cube three meters on each side inscribed with symbols no one's ever been able to decipher. Legend says that a man, apparently immortal, guarded the box for nearly two thousand years. He was a Roman, a centurion for that matter, and called the Last Centurion. He disappeared during the Blitz and is thought to have been killed by the bombardment.”

“It's like the Mona Lisa and Stonehenge and the Bermuda Triangle all in one,” Willow said, wiggling with glee. “And it's coming here. Actually it is here. The exhibit was supposed to go to the Getty, but at the last minute, they canceled, and so it's here, and they open today!”

“Oh, that's what that was about,” Giles said, rubbing his head. “Only I promised Mrs. Stanworth, the elementary school librarian, that I would take her place as chaperone for the school outing tomorrow.”

“Wait,” Xander said. “They moved the field trip to Saturday?”

“Yes, logistics, you know,” Giles said.

“That's so unfair,” Xander whispered.

“Also, it's only the elementary school, not the junior or senior high,” Giles added.

“Monsters,” Xander swore.

“I'm going!” Willow announced. “I read that they have a group of people from the British Museum traveling with the exhibit, and they even have an actor trained to play the role of the Last Centurion. He speaks Latin!”

Giles and Buffy traded a look.

“Yeah, about that, Will,” Buffy started.

“Little sis going?” Xander asked.

Buffy stopped and closed her eyes in pain. “Of course she is. She'd go to a museum exhibit on broccoli. And I'm going to have to go with her, since it's a Saturday and Mom has to be at the gallery. This is so wrong.”

“I don't like it,” Giles announced. “A change this drastic in the exhibit's schedule? And a major exhibit like that coming to Sunnydale of all places? The Master will have heard about this, and he's sure to take an interest.”

“Is it magic?” Willow asked, hopeful.

“No,” Giles said, and Willow deflated. “At least it's not magic by any means anyone's ever determined. There's a great deal of speculation – that it's from another dimension, that it's alien technology, even that it's sentient, but no real answer.”

“Too bad you can't ask the Last Centurion guy,” Xander said.

“Mmmm,” Giles agreed, chewing thoughtfully on the stem of his glasses.



“I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait!” Dawn squealed, dancing around her older sister.

“Well, you're going to have to,” Buffy told her, “because I am not going anywhere before I've fixed my hair, put my make up on, and gotten some Wheaties.”

“Well, hurry up!” Dawn demanded. “We're supposed to be there right when they open.”

“God, you're such a schoolgirl, Dawn!” Buffy muttered.

“Moooooooom! Buffy called me a schoolgirl!”

Joyce strode through the kitchen, picking up her things.

“Buffy, don't call your sister names,” her mother admonished.

“I wasn't,” Buffy protested. “I was describing her. Accurately, even. A girl who goes to school. A school girl. It could even be her superhero name.”

“Yeah? Well, you'd be Big Dumbo Head Girl!” Dawn answered, sticking her tongue out.

“Do you see what you're leaving me with?” Buffy asked her mother. “Can't I just leave her there? They could take her to Germany with them, and we'd be rid of her.”

“The Pandorica's from England, dummy,” Dawn said, scornfully.

“Don't call your sister names,” Joyce repeated.

“Can I at least have a few bucks to get a coke?” Buffy asked.

“How are you getting there?” Joyce asked.

“Oh, Giles is picking us up,” Buffy answered. “He's chaperoning the whole thing anyway, so he offered.”

Joyce looked about to veto the idea and leave them to either walk or ride bikes.

“Please, Mom?” Dawn pleaded. “Please? Mr. Giles is awesome!”

“Oh, all right. But pack lunches. Don't eat out of the vending machines.”

“Yippee!” Dawn cheered.

“Yeah, don't get too excited,” Buffy told her. “We do the exhibit, we leave. One hour, tops. I may not have much of a social life, but I am not spending it at a museum.”

Dawn glared at her.



He really wasn't fond of school outtings. They were always too loud. The adults were frantically trying to keep all the kids in eyesight. The kids were either too fast or too slow. Every now and then, you got a really ambitious one who tried to climb the Pandorica, which was bad enough. Worse, though, were the kids who tried to converse with him. Always the same bad jokes or the displaced hostility of those who wanted their free time back and blamed him for its loss.

He really just wanted to sit and watch the world go by.

A little girl in jeans, blouse, and ribbons in her braids came and stood in front of him. She had the museum guide in her left hand.

“Vale,” she greeted him.

“Vale,” he returned. It had been a while since a schoolkid had spoken to him in Latin. It was kind of cute, actually.

“Hic est carta bona,” the girl said, pointing to the map on her guide.

“Sic,” he agreed.

“Sed ut praesidium esse?” she asked.

“Suus jucundum opus si possit eam,” he replied, shrugging.

She tilted her head a little to the side. Usually, this was when they asked him if he knew what was in the box, or if he had met the Last Centurion. No one bothered asking him if he was the Last Centurion anymore. No one had since the Sixties.

“Sunt te solem?” the little girl asked. “Custodiet Pandorica omnes in tempore? Scio te nunquam vos.”

He glanced back at her and stopped. She looked about ten or eleven years old, still a little girl with a layer of baby fat. Lustrous brown hair in two braids, big blue eyes, and a field of freckles across her nose and cheeks. She watched him with grave intensity.

“Quid nomen tuum?” he asked her.

She broke into an instant dazzling grin. “Meum nomen est Aurora. Quid nomen tuum, Centurion?”

“Ego sum Rubrum Rex,” he told her.

“The Red King?” she said under her breath, trying to puzzle it out.

“Scotorum, Aurora.” He prodded her a little.

“Scotorum?” she repeated blinking. He could almost see the little gears and cog ticking away in her head. Scotorum, Scottish. Scottish, Gaelic. Gaelic . . . “Rory! Tuum nomen est Rory!”

“Sic,” he answered, smiling. His day had just gotten remarkably better.

“Interregationes non respondistis mihi,” she reminded him.

“Aliquando. Sed ego amicus sicut vos,” he told her.

“Erat umquam quid intus?”

“Sic. Quidam die.”

“Erit felix?” Now she looked worried.

“Sic,” he assured her. “Perquam felix.”

And now he was starting to wonder. Aside from a few bored Oxford dons on vacay, he hadn't chatted in Latin in ages. The last time he'd had anything resembling a conversation in Latin with a child, and it hadn't involved painful searches through a Latin/English dictionary and slow recitation of declinations, it had to have been before the Great War.

What was an eleven year old American girl doing speaking Latin like a Roman consule?

A man turned and joined them, speaking to the girl first.

“Dawn, this gentleman is supposed to interact with all the patrons,” he said gently. “It's not fair to monopolize him.”

“But no one else was talking to him, Mr. Giles,” the girl protested. “And he speaks Latin! I haven't gotten to try Latin with anyone but you.”

“Giles?” Rory asked, suddenly placing the man. “Rupert Giles?”

Giles looked up and stopped in astonishment. “Good Lord, Rory? What on Earth are you doing here?”

“I should ask you the same thing, except I have a better explanation, working for the Pandorica exhibit through the British Museum's program. How did you get to California? Last I saw, you were working on Mesopotamian Bronze Age religions.”

“Ah, yes, well,” Giles managed, trying to piece together a credible backstory. “I took a position with a private group, one my father had worked for – research and a bit of, well, teaching. Coaching, really. It led me here. Then I ended up taking a position as a librarian with the high school. Bit of a sinecure, really.”

“Good for you,” Rory commented. “And I see you're still keeping up with the tweed.”

“You know him?” Dawn asked, amazed.

“Ah, yes. Rory, I'd like to introduce one of my charges for this morning, Dawn Summers. Dawn, this is Rory Fidens.”

“He already told me his name,” Dawn said airily.

“We've had a whole conversation,” Rory agreed. “Have you been teaching her Latin?”

“Among other things,” Giles agreed. “She's one of the best students I've ever had, though actually, it's her older sister I'm contracted to teach.”

Giles reached over and put a hand on top of Dawn's head, smoothing down her hair. Dawn grinned back up at him.

“There's a lot of research,” Dawn said, looking back at Rory, “and since Mom's usually at the gallery, Buffy has to babysit me, so I go along. Sometimes, I get to look through the really old books, and-”

Giles cleared his throat, and Dawn glanced up at him, then smiled sheepishly.

“Sorry,” she added.

“It's really quite amazing the amount of Latin she's picked up in such a short time,” Giles told him.

“Well, I'm impressed,” Rory answered, making Dawn grin again. “Ut Romanum hominem loqui.”

“Gratias!” Dawn answered, bouncing up and down on her toes.

“Hey, monkey!” Buffy called, twisting through the strings of people. “Wrap it up. Mom said I could go to the mall if I dropped you off with her.”

“Buffy, no,” Dawn pleaded. “Can't I stay here?”

“She's welcome to stay with me, Buffy,” Giles offered. “I can drop her at the gallery when the field trip is over.”

Buffy reached them, shaking her head. “Sorry, Giles, but Mom's already getting paranoid with both her daughters talking about a librarian as much as we do. Dawn's either with me or she's with Mom, and I am not hanging around.”

She looked over at Rory, who stood patiently, a hand on the hilt of his gladius.

“No offense,” she added.

“None taken,” he replied.

And then Buffy stopped and looked him over, which was very odd. It wasn't a flirtatious look, which admittedly he had gotten while in uniform, and she wasn't dismissing him. Those were about the only two reactions he ever got from teenage girls. Instead, she was gauging him, considering just how much danger he might pose.

“Why do you have a sword?” she asked abruptly.

He made another quick face of disregard. “Just a prop, miss. Part of the costume.”

“No,” Buffy disagreed, turning to face him completely. “That's a real sword. That's a gladius. I've seen a few. Giles, why is he wearing a sword?”

“Well, Buffy, the British Museum is extremely particular about authenticity,” Giles started.

“Then why hasn't he got scurvy or the plague?” Buffy asked. “Besides which, this is southern California. People don't just go around with swords strapped to their waists. We have Nerf registry laws here.”

Giles started to talk, and Rory held up a hand.

“It's all right, Giles,” he said. “Yes, miss, it is an authentic gladius. I'm allowed to carry it because I'm both playing the part of the Last Centurion, and I'm also a member of the security team. I don't wear it outside the building, and I promise you, I'm trained in its use.”

Buffy considered this for a moment, weighing the possibility that there might be something more to it against the delights waiting for her at the mall. The mall won.

“Okay, whatever. Come on, Dawn, let's go.”

“But, I don't want to,” Dawn whined. “I haven't finished talking to him.”

“Send him a postcard.”

“You can, you know,” Rory added, not wanting to see little Dawn melt into tears or throw a screaming fit. “I'll leave my forwarding address with Giles. He'll give it to you.”

“You'll answer?” Dawn pleaded.

“Yes, I will,” he said.

“In Latin?” she begged.

“I'll even write it with a quill and ink,” he promised.

She threw an angry look at her sister, who waited impatiently, and gave in.

“Okay, but I'll be back,” Dawn said.

“The exhibit's here for two weeks,” Rory told her. “And I'll be here every day, even if Chester doesn't get himself fired for disappearing on us.”

“Come on,” Buffy insisted.



“I wanna go to the library,” Dawn whined.

“Darling, it's Saturday,” her mother told her. “The library is closed. And so is the public library, since it's after six. So, no.”

“I'm bored,” she whined some more.

“Have you finished your homework?” her mother asked, not looking up from her account books.

“I finished it hours ago, Mom.”

“You could clean the break room, if you felt like it,” Joyce offered.

“I don't want to clean,” Dawn answered. “I want to do something. I'm bored.”

“There are some art supplies on the table there. You can draw.”

Usually that worked. Dawn loved to draw, and this late on a Saturday night, her mom would probably feel guilty enough to let her use the fax machine to send her drawings to her dad. If she was really lucky, her dad would be in his home office and would fax something back to her.

Not tonight, though. The museum was open for another two hours, and all she wanted to do was go back and talk to the Last Centurion. It wasn't even that far away. Even if it was after dark and Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, and even Ms. Calendar all told her to never, ever go out after dark, she could run the whole way. She was fast.

She could probably even go there, spend the remaining two hours talking to Rory and looking at the rest of the exhibit, and then get back here before Mom even noticed she was gone. She thought about this for a minute and decided.

“Okay, fine,” she said. “I'm going to go draw all the sculptures out there, including the headless duck.”

“It's not a headless duck,” Joyce started and then stopped herself. If Dawn had decided on something that stood a chance of keeping her busy for the remainder of the evening, so much the better. “That sounds great, honey. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Okay.”

And Joyce didn't look up once, not even when Dawn used the back door to slip out of the gallery and into the alley behind the row of shops.



She did run most of the way there, keeping to the well lit sidewalks and crossing the streets as quickly as she could. Even downtown, Sunnydale tended to roll up its streets once the sun went down. There were only a few stores open – just an ice cream parlor and a coffee shop. She thought about it and stopped at the coffee shop for a hot chocolate. Even for southern California, March had cold nights. She went the rest of the way at a quick walk, not wanting to spill her drink.

She never noticed the pairs of eyes that watched her, or the figure that started to follow her, keeping to the shadows and moving soundlessly. Someone else did, as the vampire learned to its regret. Just as he came round a corner, a hand grabbed his collar and dragged him into even deeper shadow, where a snarling face waited for it.

“You don't touch her,” the man snarled, holding the vampire by his throat.

A passing car swept its headlights across the plate glass window across the street, and the reflection lit one side of the man's face.

“Angelus!” the vampire gasped.

“You don't touch the little girl,” Angel repeated, his hand tightening around the vampire's throat. “Not once. Not ever. Understand?”

“Sure! Sure! God, don't kill me!”

Angel threw the vampire to the ground and opened his fists.

“Spread the word,” he said. “Tell your buddies, tell all of them, even the Master. Anyone touches the little girl, they're in for a world of suffering before I dust them.”

Even the youngest fledgling had heard of the Master's favorite, Angelus, and of the pointed creativity he was so well known for. This particular vampire had no wish to view that spark up close.

“I will.”

“Then you live,” Angel told him. “For now.”

The vampire got to its feet, took to heels heels, and fled for his undead life. Unfortunately for him, not a quarter of a mile away, he ran into the Vampire Slayer, who was cranky because the cute top she'd wanted was gone by the time she'd gotten to the mall. He met its fate at the end of her stake.



“Ego reversus!” Dawn declared, stopping in front of Rory.

“Gaudeo te, puella,” Rory answered, tilting his head towards her.

“Scire,” Dawn started. “Quid quasi esse Ultimum Centurion.”

“Ego tibi,” Rory said, going into practiced storyteller mode.

Before he got three sentences into it, she stopped him.

“Non, non! Quid autem Celtae et Pictorum similes?”

He stopped and considered her for a moment. In the back of his head, all the practiced dissembling of the last fifty years gave way. There really was something about this little girl, about this town.



“Why aren't we waiting for the museum to close?” one of the fledglings asked Darla.

“Because it's almost deserted anyways,” she answered, “and besides I'm hungry.”

“There aren't any kids left,” the second complained.

“No,” Darla answered, glancing through the galleries, “but the docent is nice and plump. Remember what the Master said, though. He wants the Pandorica and any of the stuff related to it.”

She checked the guard's reflection and stopped, considering.

“I'll be damned,” she murmured. “That's him. The Last Centurion. The other one must have been a decoy.”

“I thought that guy died,” the history buff among them said. “Like sixty years ago almost.”

“No,” Darla answered, stepping from one exhibit to another without really paying attention to the contents. “Both the Master and I have seen him before. Ages ago, but it's definitely him.”

“Is he a vampire?” the second asked.

“Don't be ridiculous,” she snarled at him. “You think a vampire would dress up like a Roman soldier? We've got far better things to do.”

“Hey,” the fourth whispered, “he's got a kid with him.”

Darla glanced over, paused, and smiled with sudden glee.

“That's the Slayer's kid sister. Oh, tonight is going to be fun.”



Rory had already noticed the group that had come in late and was now pretending to study the exhibit. There'd been enough attempts on the Pandorica in the past that he knew the signs – assumed nonchalance, bulky clothes, an attitude of either desperation or calculating arrogance. He'd found it really wasn't worth the hassle of trying to stop them. Most of them had no idea just how big and heavy the Pandorica was to begin with and gave up when they tried to move it.

Of those few who'd actually succeeded, he'd just made it clear that they weren't to tamper with it, and then went along. Either the Pandorica had been recovered by the authorities before the week was out – after all, it was difficult to move any significant distance and fairly memorable – or it stayed in private hands for a few decades before returned to the museum.

A few times he'd had to kill the erstwhile thieves, and every single time, it was because they hurt the innocent bystanders. This crowd didn't look like the type to shoo everyone from the building before starting up.

What's more, he recognized the woman in charge of them. One of the advantages about being a Plasteen was that your memory was far more reliable. Not particularly safe around open flame, but definitely more reliable. She'd been to see the Pandorica while it was in private hands more than two hundred years previously, and she looked exactly the same.

Well, she was wearing a Catholic school uniform.



Buffy finished her patrol of the park nearest the museum, getting a little worried. There was a lot more vamp activity than usual, and almost all of it was the kind of fledglings so new they almost squeaked when they moved. She needed to check in with Giles, but he was back at the library reading up on the whozzawha he, Dawn, and Willow had been so stoked to see.

“You need to have another talk with your little sister.”

She nearly jumped out of her skin, turning and dropping into a fight stance before she'd even pinpointed where the voice had come from.

Angel.

He stood, still so deep in shadows a regular person would have completely missed him. Except to her, he stood out like a . . . big, glowy “look, I'm here” sort of thing. She stood straight, brushed her hair out of her face and adjusted her jacket.

“I have talks with my little sister all the time,” she told him. “Things like 'steal my hairbrush again and I'll break your arm,' or 'stop eating my popsicles'. You'd be surprised how often that comes up.”

“How about 'no running around by yourself after dark'?” Angel asked, a little harsh. “Because that's exactly what she was doing not twenty minutes ago.”

What?” Buffy demanded. “She's with my mom!”

“She was with your mom. Then, she was skipping towards the museum with no idea what kind of tasty appetizer the nocturnal population here think she is.”

“She went back to the museum?” Buffy asked. “I'm going to kill her! Mom's going to kill me!”



This was getting worrisome. Dawn was still chattering away happily with him, but his answers grew more and more distracted as he tried to keep an eye on the vampires now moving through the small museum. The museum was so small that the room the Pandorica was in had a retractable door leading directly to the loading dock outside. All the other things – the fossilized Dalek, the bits leftover from a destroyed Cyberman, some Beaker people artifacts, dioramas of a Roman-British fortified town, a multimedia presentation about the Last Centurion, and a very small display on the legends of stars in the nighttime sky – were shoehorned in.

He didn't recognize any of the other vampires, just the woman, but that was enough to make him extremely wary. The woman most likely spoke Latin, so he couldn't tell Dawn what to do without her understanding him. However, Dawn was Giles' student, which meant Latin was probably the first thing he'd started teaching her. It would have to be something scholarly, not one of the multitude of trading pidgins every Roman citizen learned to get by with in the marketplace. But then, Giles had been an expert in Middle East- he had it.

He switched to Aramaic.

“Dawn, I think bad things are here,” he said, rearranging his syntax and grammar to the simplest he could.

Dawn stopped mid-sentence at his interruption, tilted her head a little, and stared at him intently. Wheels turned in her head, and he could almost hear the little clicks they made. First, she twigged to the shift from Latin to Aramaic. Then she ran the sentence through her mind several times, her lips moving silently as she repeated the words. She grabbed onto phonemes, then “bad”, then “Dawn”, parsed the first person present active verb, and puzzled over the other words before they clicked into place.

She grinned with delight that she'd figured it out, and then she went wide-eyed when the meaning of the words hit her. For a ten year old, she wasn't even half bad at looking around the room nonchalantly. Her effort was spoiled, though, when she caught sight of the others wandering in the gallery. The closest wasn't fifteen feet from her.

What she did next made the hair on his neck raise up. Or would have if he were still human.

She checked the reflections in the glass cases.

With a gasp, she turned her head back to him.

“Rubrum Rex,” she whispered, panicked. “Sunt lamia!”

She knew they were vampires?

She knew the Latin word for vampire?!

And every bit of good will he'd had for the town of Sunnydale evaporated.

“Scio,” he told her. “Facies mea.”

She nodded, barely breathing.

“Okay,” Darla announced, “the gig is up, cover's blow. Might as well get down to fun.”

She stood in the doorway, ten goons ahead of her and another fifteen behind her.

“Centurion, we're here for the Pandorica,” she told him. “And dinner. First course!”

Two of the goons brought out the one remaining docent, a terrified woman with red hair, silver jewelry, and a long, swishy skirt.

“Dawn, don't look,” Rory ordered her and pulled her to him.

Dawn wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head against his stomach.

Darla strolled over to the woman, grabbed her by the hair, pulled her head back to expose her throat, and then attacked her throat. For a long, drawn out moment, Rory could hear the sucking and gobbling sounds the vampire made. Then the woman's knees buckled, she fell to the floor, and Darla looked back up.

Her mouth was smeared with blood, and her face had changed into a demon's visage.

“That's one,” Rory told her, “and I'll be taking it out of your hide, b-”

He stopped, aware that Dawn was now shaking.

“Watching your language in front of the kiddies, Centurion?” Darla drawled. “Don't worry. I don't have any plans to kill her or you. You're far too valuable. You get to come with us when we take the Pandorica.”

Dawn gasped and looked up at Rory.

“You can't let him have it, Rory,” she whispered. “He's completely evil. He's trapped, and all he wants to do is break out and eat people.”

“Unless, of course,” Darla continued, “you fight. Then I'll just have to present your corpse to the Master. After I make you watch me bleed the little piglet dry.”

He clenched his jaw.

If it had been twenty-five unarmed humans, he would have waded right in. If it had been five vampires, he'd have given it a shot. Twenty-five? It was the closest thing to a sure death since the London Blitz. He might not have blood to drink, but they could pull him apart well enough. It was clear he couldn't let whoever this Master was get his hands on the Pandorica. Even apart from the fact that it absolutely had to be there when the Doctor returned, if the Master learned the secret about opening it, little Amelia Pond would be in mortal danger as well.

“Dawn, remember what I said,” he told her.

She nodded.

“Up-si-daisy, then,” he said, grabbing her under the arms and tossed her up onto the top of the Pandorica. She caught on and pulled herself all the way up.

“You good?” he called, not taking his eyes off the lead vampire or her lackeys.

“I'm good,” she called. “I really wish I had a cell phone, though.”

“You and me both,” he commented.

He picked up his helmet and set it on his head, then he pulled his sword.

“Sentire fortitudine de Romam,” he said, glaring at them.



“They better not be closed,” Buffy growled, climbing the stairs.

“Got another half an hour,” Angel replied, clearly uncomfortable being out in the open. “Look, you're here, I'm going to fade back. I'll catch you later.”

Buffy was about to tell him goodbye when she caught a glimpse of something just as she pushed on the door handle.

“Angel, I think I'm going to need your help,” she said.

He sighed. “She's your kid sister, not a demon. You can handle it.”

“Her I can handle, but there's a dead body on the floor just inside the second room, and a bunch of vampires standing there looking in. And the door's locked.”

He turned around and came straight back, pulling two stakes from his coat.

“Have I mentioned that's a really cool coat?” she asked.

“Save it for later,” he told her. “Let's save your sister.

“I am so going to kill her.”

They kicked the doors in together and strode into the museum, stakes in hand. The wall between the gift shop and the exhibit room was glass, and it wasn't hard to see that Darla had brought a platoon of goons with her. Dawn was up on top of the big metal cube thingie-whozzawha, and the Roman centurion guard was in a fighting crouch, sword drawn, teeth bared. From the dust on the floor, Buffy made a quick calculation. He'd already killed at least three vampires.

“Holy cr-” Angel breathed, the very first time Buffy had ever heard him surprised by anything. “That's the Last Centurion.”

Dawn saw them. “BUFFY HELP!”

“And it's not even Tuesday,” Buffy muttered.

Darla looked over her shoulder, saw them, and whirled around.

“Slayer,” she hissed.

“Soon-to-be-dead-vamp,” Buffy answered.

“Let's do this,” Angel said.



Rory looked up from the last melee, unwinded but still very worried. Tactical points to him. Darla could have overwhelmed him if she'd just thrown all her fledglings at him. Instead, she prodded them forward a few at time. She was used to taking out humans.

He heard the front doors slam open but didn't look towards them.

“Holy cr-” a man's voice said. “That's the Last Centurion.”

He rolled his eyes in frustration. Sixty years down the drain.

“BUFFY, HELP!” Dawn screamed.

“Excuse me?” Rory asked looking up at her. “I think I'm doing fine.”

Dawn peered down at him from on top of the Pandorica.

“Sorry, Rory, but she's the Vampire Slayer.”

“She's . . . seriously?

Well, that explained a lot, including why the hell Giles had moved to America when before it had been impossible to shift him from the research library without a stick of dynamite.

“Great,” he said to himself. “Stay out of trouble, he says. You've got to last two thousand years, he says. You'd think he'd have told me vampires were real, and there are Hellmouths to worry about.”

“Who?” Dawn asked.

“Exactly,” he answered.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Darla the vampire had exchanged snarls, and battle was met, no quarter asked or given. The man with her charged in as well.

“I'm getting out of here,” one of the younger vampires squealed.

“Not tonight,” Rory told him.

His gladius was sharp enough to behead the vampire with one swing, and it shattered into dust before the body could topple.

Darla wasn't an idiot. She could tell a drastic change in tactics was needed. She shoved several of her minions at Buffy and her partner, ran towards the Pandorica, and jumped over Rory, catching the upper corner and pulling herself up.

“RORY!” Dawn screamed.

Rory twisted and stabbed Darla through the calf, pinning her to the side of the Pandorica. Then he released his gladius and jumped to catch the edge with one hand. Darla looked down, all horrific brow folds and glowing golden eyes. She wrapped her hand around the hilt of the gladius and yanked it free.

“Thanks for the sword, Centurion,” she lisped through her fangs.

He lifted his right hand, fingers now folded down from his palm like the lid of a box hanging open, and shot her in the eye. Stunned, she dropped the sword and lost her grip on the Pandorica. It wasn't a long fall, but it rattled her further, giving him time to drop and grab his sword.

He thought.

Darla screamed like a mountain lion, grabbed him from behind, yanked his head back, and just as Dawn screamed, buried her fangs in his throat. And stopped. And pulled back, disgusted and confused.

“What the hell?” she said, touching her bloodless lips. The right side of her face was blackened with gunpowder and very clearly without a proper eyeball.

“The handgun didn't give it away?” Rory asked, and then punched her with the hilt of his sword.

She stumbled back and fell hard. Just as Rory turned to decapitate the vampire that thought it was sneaking past him, a bundle of ten year old girl crashed into the vampire and brought it down. Horrified, Rory grabbed her with his free hand and swung her around behind him. Then he put his foot on the vampire's shoulder and swung his sword down on its neck, dusting it.

“Dawn, don't do that,” he managed, pushing her back against the Pandorica and scanning the room. There were five vampires left, and the Vampire Slayer and her friend had them in hand.

“But I want to help,” she said.

“Did you bring a sword?” he demanded.

This clearly wasn't the line of argument she was used to.

“Get back up there!” he ordered.

He hoisted her back, just as the Slayer's friend smashed a Darla to the floor and as she screamed at him, staked her through the heart. She didn't shatter. She crumbled. She'd been centuries old, after all. The Slayer's friend paused, not breathing hard but definitely shaken. Then he looked up, and Rory saw his face.

“YOU!”

He grabbed the man by the front of his shirt and smashed him into the Pandorica, then held him there and put the point of his gladius to the man's throat.

“HEY!” Buffy yelled. “He's not a vampire!”

“Rory, that's Angel!” Dawn yelled. “He's our friend!”

“No, he's not,” Rory answered. Then he lowered his voice so only the man in front of him could hear. “Caligula, Ghengis Khan, and Torquemada put together couldn't equal your crimes, Angelus. It may not be my job, but it'll be my pleasure to end you.”

“I said HEY!” Buffy yelled again, running toward him.

Angelus didn't fight him, didn't struggle, and didn't say a word. He only stood, his open hands raised a little, meeting his gaze. Silent. A little frightened. And so sunk in agonized guilt and pain, Rory actually paused.

“Go ahead,” the man whispered. “I deserve a lot worse.”

“Who are you?” Rory asked.

The man lifted a hand, signaling Buffy to wait.

“I was him,” the man said. “I go by Angel now. I'm doing what I can to make it up.”

“You're going to have to live a lot longer than I have,” Rory answered.

Angel didn't answer, only waited. Rory could kill him. ]Monarchs used to pray that Angelus would pass over their countries. The Jesuits had devoted two dozen of its best men to hunting him down. They'd died, of course. So had at least one of the monarchs.

But the Doctor had given Rosanna Calvieri a choice, he'd worked as hard as he could to keep the Silurians and the humans from going to war, and he'd never chosen vengeance when he could choose mercy. He'd put his faith in both Amy and Rory, and Amy had told him stories . . .

He took his sword down and let go of Angel. Dawn breathed a loud sigh of relief, and Buffy glared at him.

“Sorry,” Rory apologized. “Thought he was someone else.”

“I get that a lot,” Angel said.

There were no more vampires left. The floor of the room had piles and swaths of gritty dust all over it. The body of the librarian was still just inside the doorway, pitifully sprawled. And, Rory realized, it was his job to call the police and the exhibition manager and tell them there had been a murder at the museum while he was on duty.

“You're not exactly human,” Buffy pointed out.

“You noticed,” Rory said.

“So, what kind of demon are you?” she asked.

“What?”

“A: you're not human,” Buffy repeated. “Therefore, B: you're a demon.”

“There are a lot of other choices on that spectrum,” he told her.

“Ah, Buffy, not really the time to go into all of that,” Angel told her.

“Right,” she said, flatly. “Because you're here and that automatically makes it cryptic time. Seriously, are you anatomically incapable of giving me a straight answer?”

Angel didn't answer her. He was staring at the spot where he'd destroyed Darla.

“Whatever,” Buffy said, disgusted.

“Can I come down now?” Dawn asked.

“Sure, Dawn,” Rory answered, sheathing his sword.

He held up his hands, Dawn put her legs over the edge of the Pandorica's top, and leaned down to him without hesitation.

“Dawn Amelia Summers,” Buffy growled, “you are in so much trouble.”

The moment Dawn's shoes touched the floor, she leaned back against Rory, quailing at her sister's anger.

“Hey,” Rory interrupted. “Could you not do this? She was here when that woman was killed, and a whole bunch of vampires tried really hard to kill her as well. It's been a tough night.”

“Because she went out at night!” Buffy yelled, pointing her finger at Dawn. “How many times do we have to tell you?”

Rory grabbed Buffy's finger and pushed it right back at her, fast enough that she was startled.

“Cut it out,” he said, close to losing his temper. “I was here this morning, remember? When you couldn't wait to get rid of her so you could go shopping. She's a kid. Your father isn't here. Your mother apparently can't be bothered. Of course, she went out at night. Everyone in her life has made it clear that she doesn't matter.”

“Hey!” Buffy protested.

Dawn was silent but pressed closer to him.

“You're the Slayer,” he continued. “Congratulations. Really. You're a fantastic fighter, and with Giles helping you, you might actually stand a chance of seeing eighteen. That doesn't mean you're off the hook when it comes to being a decent sister. You know what Dawn's favorite word is? No? It's Buffy-says. You are the world to her, Buffy, and if you don't make a place in your team for her to help in a safe manner, she's going to find a way to help you in an unsafe manner.”

He looked down at Dawn. “I'm right, aren't I?”

Dawn looked embarrassed and scared. Buffy looked furious.

“He's right,” Angel said. “You haven't even been here three months, Buffy. Giles, the computer teacher, and I have all found her outside your house or at the school, after dark, stealing supplies or spying or whatever insane thing she thought she could do to help you.”

“Xander and Willow too,” Buffy finally admitted. “What am I supposed to do? I can't take her on patrol!”

“No,” Rory agreed, “but you can start treating her like an ally instead of an inconvenience.”

He got down on one knee so that he could look up at Dawn's face. He lifted her chin with a finger and his thumb.

“Aurora, scitis Romani. Misimus nostri filii in proelio?” he asked her.

“Non,” she admitted.

“Non,” he agreed. “Nos eos ad pugnam. Deinde cum praesto nobis commissum.”

He looked up at Buffy.

“Giles says she's been studying Latin while she's been here,” he said.

“You know Giles?” Buffy asked, completely confused.

“Small world,” Angel said.

Rory ignored him. “In three months, she's fluent enough to drop in on second century Rome and not be noticed. If I know Giles, half of what he's doing is searching through old books thick enough to kill an ox with, all of them in classical or archaic languages. Why don't you let Dawn help with research?”

“We don't need help,” Buffy said.

“Because you speak Latin so spectacularly well,” Rory answered. “Go ahead, say anything.”

She snarled silently.

“Excuse me? I didn't quite catch that.”

“Romanes eunt domus.”

Angel gave her a disgusted look. Dawn groaned. Rory gazed at her.

“I said,” Buffy clarified, “'Romans, go home.'”

“No, you didn't,” Rory answered.

“They who are called the Romans, they go the house?” Angel translated for her.

Dawn rolled her eyes and gave Rory a look of 'you see what I have to put up with?'

“Romani ite domum,” Dawn told her.

“Whatever,” Buffy answered.

Rory, Angel, and Dawn stared at her.

“Fine! Whatever! I'll tell Giles to start including her on research,” Buffy said, waving her arms around. “But we have got to go. Mom's going to miss you any moment.”

“I wouldn't count on it,” Dawn said.

“Yeah, well, I get to call the police and explain all this,” he told her.

“Don't worry,” Dawn said. “The police around here aren't . . . very policey.”

“Well, I feel loads safer,” he answered.

“Centurion, qui es intra Pandorica?” Dawn asked him.

Angel looked up at him, suddenly curious.

“Oh, quis putas est?” he asked her back.

She shrugged. “Quod si esses, non diu expectasset.”

“Te sunt rectam,” he told her. “Gratias.”

She waited for him to tell her, but when he only gazed back at her, shrugged and went over to Buffy. Then she turned back.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” she asked him.

“I think I can safely say yes,” he told her. “And two more weeks. After that, we go back to England.”

Buffy and Dawn turned to go, Buffy taking her sister's hand. Angel started after them.

“Can we stop and get mocha?” Dawn asked her. “The coffee shop is still open.”

“Right, because I need you even more wired when we get back to the gallery,” Buffy responded. “I don't think so.”

“Aw, come on,” Dawn said. “Please?”

“No.”

“Pleeeeeeaaaaase?”

“No.”

“I'll be your best friend.”

“Tempting, but no.”



Finis.


Conversations in Latin:

Dawn: Hello.
Rory: Hello.
Dawn: Here is a good map.
Rory: Yes
Dawn: Do you like being a guard?
Rory: It's nice work if you can get it.
Dawn: Do you get lonely? Guarding the Pandorica all the time? I know you never leave it.
Rory: What's your name?
Dawn: My name is Dawn. What's your name, Centurion?
Rory: I am Red King.
. . .
Rory: Scottish, Dawn.
Dawn: Scottish? Rory! Your name is Rory!
Rory: Yes.
Dawn: You still haven't answered my questions.
Rory: Sometimes. But I have friends like you.
Dawn: Will you ever open it?
Rory: Yes. Some day.
Dawn: Will you be happy?
Rory: Yes, very happy.



Rory: You speak like a Roman.
Dawn: Thank you!



Dawn: I'm back!
Rory: You make me happy, young lady.
Dawn: I want to know, what's it like being the Last Centurion?
Rory: I'll tell you.
Dawn: No, no! What were the Celts and Picts like?



Dawn: Red King, they're vampires!
Rory: I know. Do what I say.


Rory: Feel the might of Rome!



Rory: Dawn, you know Romans. Do we send our children into battle?
Dawn: No.
Rory: No. We teach them how to fight. Then, they join us.


Dawn: Centurion, who's in the Pandorica?
Rory: Oh, it's a who?
Dawn: Well, yes. If it was a thing, you wouldn't have waited this long.
Rory: Yes. Thank you.

The End

You have reached the end of "The Last Centurion". This story is complete.

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