I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me. Heart of the Dragon
“Okay, let's be serious girls,” Buffy said. “Remember: focus. We won't get another shot at this.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Mary agreed, her face determined.
“What are you doing?” Willow asked incredulously as she came into the burned out area. The rest of the forest was strongly ablaze, although the direction of the wind was keeping the smoke away from the Slayers.
Buffy stood, holding her raised sword in by hand, her other on her hip, with one foot dramatically on the dragon's head. Mary had a small camera out and was taking pictures while the other Slayers eagerly discussed poses for the group. They all paused sheepishly as the witch glared at them.
“Um...” Buffy said uncertainly. “Pictures?”
“And why are you taking pictures?” Willow asked with exaggerated patience, her foot tapping on the glassy ground.
“Dragon,” Buffy said with a pout. “How can we not take pictures?”
Willow thought that through for a moment, before marching over to Buffy. She then turned to the camera and put her foot next to Buffy's on the dragon's head. “Well? What are you waiting for? I want some too!”
It took about fifteen minutes for them to finish taking pictures, but in the end they were all satisfied with their own individual and group shots. Finally, Buffy cleared her throat. “Okay, fun's fun, but we should get out of here. Who knows what my little puppy has been doing while we've been gone.”
“Aren't you forgetting something?” Willow asked.
Buffy frowned. “Got a shiny new sword, slew a dragon, took pictures.... nope. Can't think of a thing.”
“The heart,” Willow said. “Remember? I want to try that scrying thing, try and get a step a head of Twilight.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Do we have to? I don't even like digging the neck out of a turkey.”
Willow just glared sternly, her face resolved, until Buffy sighed and drew her sword again. It took several minutes to carefully cut away enough flesh to free the heart, which was hard, black, and the size of a bowling ball. Finally Buffy pulled it free, her face a grimace of distaste.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “One heart, extra smelly. Now can we get out of here?”
Willow pulled out a large leather sack, which Buffy dropped the heart into, before they all made their way through the forest. Everyone, even the injured Nia, was in good spirits, their recent triumph buoying them despite all of the bruises and scrapes that they had suffered during the difficult battle. By the time they reached their van, which was thankfully a good distance from the forest fire, the younger Slayers had all started loudly singing.
The huge black wolf pup had stayed in the van with two Slayers watching it, and they appeared quite harried as the creature ran past them to jump on Buffy as she emerged from the trees. “Hey, boy. We beat the mean ol' dragon!”
The trip to the airport started with excited talk, but by the time they reached their airplane and were in the air, all of the people that had fought in the battle found themselves crashing from the adrenaline. Buffy had to be awakened when they finally arrived in Scotland, where the group took another lengthy van trip to reach their headquarters. Dawn and Xander were waiting for them outside, Willow having texted ahead.
“Buffster!” Xander called. “Dragon Slayer!”
“She's a Troll Ridder too,” Willow added.
“What trolls did she get rid of?” Xander asked.
Dawn hugged Buffy, before looking warily at the huge wolf beast that loped up to them. “Um... what is that?”
“This is my new puppy,” Buffy said, petting it cheerfully. “Our
new puppy. The Summers' family dog. Isn't it the cutest?”
Dawn didn't look quite as enthused, the red eyes, black fur, mouth with far too many teeth, and sheer size of the 'puppy' making her understandably nervous. She trusted her sister with her safety, though, and so she carefully reached out a hand. The wolf sniffed her for a moment, before rubbing his head against her fingers, petting himself. She suddenly giggled and began to rub his head in earnest.
“What's his name?” she asked.
Buffy frowned. “I dunno. I've been trying to think of one, but...”
“Ooh! Can I name him?” Dawn asked.
Buffy hesitated for a moment, but the hopeful look on her sister's face caused her to sigh. “Fine. You can name him... but you'll need to do a lot of the taking care of him thing. Having a dog is a big responsibility...”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “First, I'm not twelve. Second, shouldn't we be telling you that? You're the one who got the thing!”
“Well, how could I say no to him? I mean, look at that face! They're called puppy dog eyes for a reason.”
“Buffy,” Willow said, getting her attention. “I'm gonna take this and go work some mojo on it. We'll do the spell to figure out about Twilight's plans soonish, okay?”
“Sure,” Buffy agreed, before grinning at Xander. “I hear the showers calling my name. Can you help Dawnie get this little guy settled?”
“Sure, Buff,” he agreed, eyeing the huge puppy warily. For some reason he suspected that he would be the one stuck taking care of the thing.
* * *
An hour later Buffy finally felt clean again, the dirt of days of hard work and combat having finally washed down the drain, taking her stress with it. With her hair pulled back into a pony tail, and wearing a cute sweatshirt and nice jeans, she finally felt ready to brave the rest of the castle. She soon ran into Xander, who had obviously been looking for her.
“Hey Buff!” he said cheerfully, although his eyes were serious. “I think it's time to do the talking thing.”
“Talking thing?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Xander said. “You've been avoidy since we got back from fairy land. I put up with it for a while, but enough's enough. We're gonna talk about Satsu.”
“Fine,” Buffy said grumpily as she led him to her room. Closing the door, she turned to face him, her arms crossed defensively over her chest. Giving him her best bored look, she waited for whatever he had to say.
"When did you get all undead and soul having?" Xander demanded.
"What?" Buffy replied, confused.
"Well, let me run this by you and see if you've heard this song before. Recently called slayer, falls in love with older, supernatural partner. Older supernatural partner leaves new slayer for her own good. Any of this ringing any bells?"
"Oh my god," Buffy whispered, shocked.
"Plus, you really have been getting a bit broody. I'm just saying, Buff. You're blonde hair, boobs, and a heartbeat away from being Dead Boy."
"No... I..." she stuttered, trying to deny what he was saying.
Xander inexorably cut her off. "Do you remember how you felt when he walked away? 'Cause that's how she feels right now. I know you're hurting. You've had a raw deal, 'specially in the romance department. I get that you're scared. And when you're scared, really scared, not just 'ah! hell demons' scared, or 'apocalypse scared', but real, ugly, personal scared, you run. Run far and fast and pretend like nothing is wrong. Sometimes that means Hiding-in-L.A.-Buffy, sometimes that means Coma-Time-Fun-Buffy, most of the time that means Distant-General-Buffy, but you always run when it hurts.”
She looked away, her eyes damp, although she didn't let the tears fall. Part of her wanted to deny what he was saying. More of her than she wanted to admit wanted to run away from his ugly truths.
Xander put his hands on her shoulders. "Look, Buff, mi amigo. You're my best friend, and I love you to tiny pieces, and then I love the tiny pieces. But you screwed this up. If you don't take a risk, you're never gonna be happy again. You have to tell her how you feel."
She looked up at him. All alone, with the person she trusted the most in the world, the only person who had never left her... she let him see, really see just how much she was hurting. The lost, lonely, damaged little girl inside, who didn't know how to connect. It broke his heart to see it, but he just smiled at her, and held her as she started to cry. "She just left! Everyone leaves... she didn't even try! I drove her off... I drove her off in two days!"
He stroked her back as she cried, and when she finally got herself back under control he started speaking again, in a gentle but firm voice. "I know. But the eye sees all Buff. She didn't just leave... you pushed her away. No one had a clue how you really felt, especially not her... maybe not even you."
Xander pushed her back so that he could look into her eyes. "This is gonna hurt Buff, but it has to be said. When it comes to saving lives, fighting the good fight, you're the most selfless person in the world. You've given up everything fighting against evil. But Buff... you can be completely self absorbed. And hey! I get it. I really do. You spend, ballpark, 18 hours a day, minimum, running the Slayers and doing your own slaying and generally being a super hero. Add sleep, and you have very little time to be Just-Buffy. Then take time to be Sister-Buffy, then Friend-Buffy? You get spread thin.
"But the thing about a relationship? It's not just about you. You can't just take and take, and never give. She didn't have a clue you loved her... and when she decided to leave, did you try to make her stay?"
Buffy looked down, her miserable expression telling him the answer. "Maybe she'd be better off without me. People who love me... it's bad. They die. Or worse."
Xander glared at her sternly. "Hey, I'm doing the beating up here, not you! No cutting in! 'Cause Buffy, that's total crap. Bad stuff happens. A lot. Way more than your share happens to you. But it isn't your fault. And don't you think she should get a chance to decide what risks she's willing to take? She's an adult, Buff. And a Slayer. She loves you. You love her. Stop being all broody and making this hard! Relationships are hard enough without bringing this kinda crap into it."
"I do love her," Buffy whispered, a lost expression on her face.
"I know,” he said gently. “But she's the one who needs to know."
"What if... what if she doesn't love me anymore?"
He gave her a patented Xander grin. "Come on, Buff. You hurt her, yeah, but she was completely in love with you, like, a month ago. No one's that fickle. Yeah, you screwed this one up. She'll probably give you the cold shoulder. You deserve some cold shouldering. But you have to show her you really love her. And build some of the trust, 'cause after letting her leave, you have just about none. Give her time, and keep at it a bit, and she'll trust you with her heart again."
"Thanks Xand," Buffy said, pulling away and composing herself. "You're right. About a lot." She leaned forward and kissed his cheek, and he flushed in response. "I don't tell you this enough, but you're my best friend. The brother I never had. I know I'm bad at showing it, but I do love you."
"Love you too Buff,” he answered gruffly. “Now come on, let's move on. I'm way past the legal limit for sappy moments. We keep this up, and they'll take my man card away."
She smirked as she cleaned her face. "Sorry, they took that away back in high school."
He rolled his eyes. "I knew being one of the girls would come back to haunt me."
"But the pink sparkly ID card goes with everything!" Buffy objected facetiously.
"See, the problem with being in the girl club: I know enough to know that it doesn't."
Buffy started to giggle, then laugh, a deep, soul cleansing laugh. "Yup. Not even your collar! Maybe the belled shoes, though."
"I'll bell your shoes!"
"What would that even mean?"
"I dunno. But seeing Bradan, I'm sorta wondering what you got up to while I was caged."
"No power on this earth!" Buffy said with a grin as she flopped down in a chair.
“Fine, fine,” Xander said. “That's weeks old gossip anyway. Come on, I know you did something fun on this trip. What's this I hear 'bout you getting rid of trolls?”
* * *
Willow took a shower and cleaned up, before taking her package containing a somewhat ripe dragon heart with her to her work area. Setting it down, she went to her room and grabbed her oversized blender. Normally she used it to make daiquiris and other adult beverages for parties, but she had a new purpose for it that evening.
Returning to her magic workshop, she referenced her books one more time before hooking up the blender. Opening the package containing the heart, she wrinkled her nose at the slimy black object, before putting on thick insulated gloves for protection as she handled it. Placing the entire heart in the blender, she then turned it to the highest setting.
Dragon hearts were incredibly tough, so it took some time before her blender had finally reduced it to a thick reddish black slurry. Grabbing a large glass, she filled it with the substance before carefully disposing of the rest. She then muttered a quick incantation over the drink, as well a prayer to the goddess that she didn't poison her friend, before going in search of Buffy.
She finally found her sitting in her room chatting with Xander. They both looked up when she came in, and she did her best to smile disarmingly at them. Buffy kept her suddenly wary gaze locked on the glass instead, however, ruining the effect.
“What is that?” Buffy asked, wrinkling her nose in distaste. “I can smell it from here.”
“What, you'll drink your weight in troll ale, but not a potion I make?” Willow objected.
“Troll ale?” Xander asked. “I seem to be missing some juicy gossip here. What, was Buffy ridding the trolls of alcohol?”
“With how much she drank... possibly,” Willow allowed. “She did get the title right after she partied with Olaf.”
“I'm right here,” Buffy complained. “And I didn't mention it 'cause there was nothing worth mentioning. Period.”
“I'll tell you all about it later,” Willow promised. “There was singing!”
Buffy pouted. “Fine. I know when I'm getting ganged up on.”
“Finely honed tactical mind,” Xander said with a sage nod. “I see why she's the general.”
“So... potion?” Buffy asked. “What's this potion thingy about?”
“Remember that idea I had,” Willow explained. “About getting some intel on Twilight? Well, this is part of it. You take this potion, and I can get us some answers. Let us get ahead of him for a change.”
“And you needed a dragon heart for this plan, why?” Buffy asked, dreading the answer.
“It was the-a, a
, major component of the potion,” Willow said with an innocent smile.
“Last time I had to drink a heart potion was 'cause of the No Mouth demons,” Buffy complained. “Not really looking forward to a repeat. Even out of my mind, it was way beyond gross.”
“Look, do you want to get ahead of Twilight or not?” Willow asked. “'Cause I thought you were the one that wanted to not just react to this guy anymore.”
“There's a big gap between not just being all reactiony, and eating a dragon heart,” Buffy said. “Huge gap.”
“Come on, Buffy,” Willow cajoled. “This will let you make use of the same scrying magics Odin uses. I mean, he's a god who's big with the knowing thing. How much better can you get?
“Why do you want me to drink it, then?” Buffy asked. “I mean, if its to help with the mojo, shouldn't you drink it?”
“No,” Willow said, shaking her head. “When I first read about it I kinda wanted to, but... I don't think I can. Only a true heroes ever manage to drink it.”
“Then you could!” Buffy objected. “You've saved the would tons of times!”
“Maybe,” Willow said with a shrug. “I don't really feel much like a hero, but maybe I could drink it. And maybe Xander could, or Giles, or Faith, or any of your Slayers. I dunno what a real hero would be to the people who thought up this bit of magic.”
“Then why-” Buffy started.
Willow cut her off. “'Cause there's a big gap between 'maybe can' and 'really can'. Maybe we can... but I know you can. I... I believe in you.”
Buffy swallowed hard, unable to think of anything to say for a long moment. “I... how can I say no after that?”
“You can't,” Willow said smugly. “So, well, bottoms up!”
Buffy frowned. “I just got tricked, didn't I? You preyed on my ego!”
“Big target,” Xander teased.
“I'm gonna get revenge someday,” Buffy promised as she took the glass. “I don't know how, but you're all gonna regret this.”
“Shouldn't that be followed with a crazed, maniacal laugh?” Xander asked. “I've heard they're very therapeutic.”
“Probably not a good idea,” Willow said thoughtfully. “Give people superpowers, make them into an army, rob banks, fight the government, and
cackle manically? I think we'd officially be the villains at that point.”
“Don't give Twilight any ideas,” Xander said. “We'd probably end up painted as the bad guys if he had his way.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, before taking a long drink from the glass. She stiffened as she did, her face screwing up in horror. It was the single most terrible thing that she had ever consumed. It was thick and slimy, and coated her teeth and tongue with a thick, vaseline-like film. Choking it down, she tried to ignore her taste buds, which rebelled against swallowing something that tasted like spoiled blood soaked in rotting vomit.
When she finished, Buffy tried to set her glass down, but forgot where her table was, causing her to drop it to the ground, shattering it. Xander reached out to steady her as she swayed, while Willow wrung her hands in concern. “Buffy?” she asked. “Are you... okay?”
“Agh,” Buffy choked, her stomach rebelling. Nothing could possibly have tasted, or felt, so vile.
“Oh, goddess!” Willow panicked. “I was sure she could drink it! I've poisoned her!”
“What?!” Xander yelped.
“Normally dragon blood is poisonous, and meat? Really poisonous. I'm gonna have to throw out my blender after this... and why am I worried about my blender! I fed Buffy pureed dragon heart and she's gonna die!”
“What did you feed me?” Buffy forced out between clenched teeth.
“You're not dying!” Willow said, relieved.
“Someone's dying,” Buffy muttered. “Pureed dragon heart? That was your fancy magic? You put the heart in a blender and made me drink it?”
“There were a few words, too,” Willow muttered, shifting uncomfortably under Buffy's withering glare.
“Vengeance,” Buffy croaked.
“So!” Xander said, changing the topic. “That wasn't at all completely gross just to think about, much less watch! What's step two? Hopefully something involving being sky clad?”
“Vengeance,” Buffy muttered again. Author's Notes
This story is almost complete, leaving only the epilog. It has been a wild ride through some of the less well known corners Norse Mythology, but I've enjoyed it immensely (even if few other people seemed to, based upon my hits and reviews!)
The conversation between Xander and Buffy in this chapter was actually written before Claiomh Solais was even finished – I knew what I wanted to say, and when I was in the zone writing Xander I put it to paper (well, recorded it with emacs) for when it was time. It was nice for it to finally be that time.
In the myth eating Fafnir's heart had some... specific effects. You'll see in the epilog. Nowhere in the myth does it require a hero to eat it, but in these sorts of myths fate always seems to conspire to make it that way anyway. I also made a reference to the way that the Slayer organization became the bad guys in the press during Season 8 for killing the lovable and popular vampires. That won't be happening in my divergence.