BtVS/The Dark Knight RisesCharacter(s):
John Blake, Oz, OC SlayerRating:
The final piece of the puzzle is in Tibet.Length:
Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.Notes:
If you had been reading the series as I had been posting, please note that I somehow missed this one! It follows "They Keep Calling" and comes before "Woven". I'm so sorry!§§§
John and Sarah argued almost the entire way to Tibet. It was a long flight—a long series of them, actually. They were two secrets traveling via international commercial airliners, after all. Sure it was first class all the way, so they actually had privacy for their running argument, but that didn’t mean the busybody in 4A wasn’t reading their lips instead of her in-flight magazine on their last full-sized airliner.
Although Sarah was, in fact, his gymnastics coach and a slayer to boot, John’s first instinct was still to ruffle her boyishly short hair instead of taking her seriously.
“You need to get over this need to protect me,” she hissed at some point during their last argument, in some plane, however over who knew where. “You wouldn’t act like this if it was Buffy.”
“You said yourself that you don’t have a lot of field experience,” had been John’s retort. “I wouldn’t have to worry about Buffy.”
Sarah had snorted. “That’s what you think.”
They’d settled into contentious silence—lulled by the dull roar and subtle vibrations of the plane in flight, and exhausted from months of non-stop training—still thoroughly at odds.
Looking past Sarah’s head, John watched cloud formations move lazily below them. He knew Buffy had ostensibly sent him to Tibet to learn something she couldn’t teach him: how to control his demons. When Sarah’s head rolled onto his shoulder, her sun-brown skin glowing against the blankets they were both wrapped in, he was convinced that the real lesson is in patience.***
They traveled the last leg of their flight in a plane that could generously be called a puddle-hopper. Since both he and Sarah survived the trip more intact than not, John was willing to be that generous. Still, there was a wry grin on his face as he held the stair-railing in an iron grip with one hand, while Sarah, following on his heels, seemed to be doing her best to crush the fingers of his other hand.
This time, the temptation was to wrap the young woman, who was shorter but stockier than Buffy, in a warm hug. Partly to make her feel better—she looked a little green around the gills—and partly to confirm that they have both made it onto solid ground alive. But after only a moment or two on the tarmac, she seemed to have made a full recovery: skipping ahead of him, hopping from foot to foot and bouncing her duffel off the back of her thighs as she searched the empty expanse of black asphalt and the bland landscape beyond.
“Looking for someone?” John asked.
John rolled his eyes. “Are you sure you’re here for me, or for Oz?”
Sarah’s head snapped around and she shot him a dirty, narrow-eyed look. “How do you know?”
“You doodle while you talk. You’ve been drawing little werewolves on napkins and in margins for months.”
Sarah’s jaw dropped, and when she picked it up her expression was still crestfallen. “You saw that?”
John smiled, thinking this quintessential moment between an adult and teenage girl (even if she was about 20) was the most civil conversation they’d had since she’d announced that he “needed her” on the way to Prague Ruzyně International Airport. He remembered Buffy’s parting words as she’d stood on tiptoe, out of her boots for the first time since he’d met her, to give him a rough hug: “Be nice…I think this is her first.”
It had taken him a while to figure out what the Slayer had meant. There was no way this had been Sarah’s first argument about going, and possibly staying, with John. But as the heat of their argument had cooled from hashing and rehashing, her excitement for Tibet had grown…which had seemed contradictory. Until the tarmac.
Sarah’s shoulders dropped. “I can’t believe how obvious I am.”
“Don’t feel so bad. I am a trained detective.”
“Are you?” Sarah asked, wandering back to his side.
“I know that after watching me take a pounding from Buffy for months on end, it must be hard to believe I’m competent at anything—“
“You said it not me.”
“—but I have in fact done all the GCPD courses. And I…” Homesickness and worry washed over him in a way that it hadn’t since he’d shed his preconceptions of what training with Buffy should mean. He cleared his throat. “I have some practical experience.”
Sarah didn’t seem to notice, as springs returned to her feet. “Nice. Then maybe it won’t be so hard to get you up to speed on the computer stuff.”
They both turned at the new voice, equally chagrined for having been caught off-guard.
“…sorry I’m late. I thought you’d be inside. So that’s kinda where I’ve been.”
Sarah sucked in a breath, going completely still in an instant. “Omigod,”
The first thing John noticed was how black the man’s hair was, and how it made him look paler than he probably was. Pale, short and small-boned for a man, longish face, an eclectic mix of the native dress Sarah’s research had pulled up and typical Americana…if not for the extreme contrast between his skin and hair, John might not have given this man a second look on the street in Gotham. He carried himself with confidence, however. In a different setting, in different clothes, that same outwardly unassuming presence could make bigger, lesser
, men take heed. John wondered if Oz was that sort of man.
"Uh, so I’m guessing you’re the ones Buffy told me about."
Sarah glanced between John and Oz. "Don’t you recognize John?"
If she’d said it differently, in a tone that was full of suspicion instead of disappointment, he would have been concerned. The urge to ruffle her hair or tuck her into his side came back, and he put it back where it belonged. Hopefully, if nothing else, they’d be in Tibet long enough to let Oz step off the pedestal Sarah had him on.
"It’s been a long time," John said to help them both. "We’ve both changed. I know I was someone else."
Oz chuffed. "That is an accurate statement. C’mon...the truck is this way."
John will offer to let Sarah ride shotgun. Sarah will be too struck to say yes.***
Sarah deflated a little, meeting Bayarmaa, but once they were all settled in and could sit down for dinner, Oz’s son had charmed her right back into non-verbal giddiness. Her eyes said it all: "I’m holding Oz’s kid. How cool!"
John smiled, refrained from ruffling Sarah’s hair, and wondered when he and Oz would get started.
After dinner, Oz asked him to take a walk. John grabbed a jacket at Bay’s urging, though it had been a beautifully comfortable day, and followed after Oz who was already outside. He turned to Sarah, playing with Kelden on the floor. "Be good."
"Blah blah blah. Go be deep."
Oz was only a few feet away when John closed the door behind himself. He waited for John to reach him before saying, "I’ve never really had my own groupie before. That used to be Devon’s territory."
Oz gestured vaguely back toward the house with his head as they started to move. "Sarah."
"Oh, yeah...Sarah. She’s that obvious, huh?"
Oz smiled, just a little. "I’ve seen it before. A lot. Devon was the one that did groupies."
"Who’s Devon? You never said."
"Ah. Lead vocals in Dingoes Ate My Baby."
Oz grinned. "Sure."
They kept walking, John with his hands stuffed in his pockets and Oz... John glanced up and found Oz tracking something with his eyes. "What do you see?"
John scanned the horizon. "I don’t see anything."
"Not surprising. Buffy tell you about me?"
He shrugged. "She and Sarah mentioned that you were a werewolf. Sarah used to make these cute little doodles during lunch." His tone spoke of his casual disbelief. "Actually," he said with a self-deprecating, and self-recriminating, smile, "Buffy presumed I knew." He looked at Oz again, meeting his eyes this time. "Sorry about that. For not being the person you were expecting. He’s um, uh..."
"Dead. Yeah, I heard."
"You didn’t tell Buffy."
Oz shook his head. "Didn’t see much point."
"What if I was one of the bad guys?"
Oz smiled, showing too many teeth. "Bay and I’ve got a pretty good track record with bad guys."
"So what hasn’t anyone told me?"
Oz stopped, and John stopped with him. "I’m a werewolf."
"I’m sorry, say that again?"
Oz’s smile widened for a moment, before dimming to something more personable. "I’m a werewolf. So’s my wife."
"What does that mean? For me and Sarah." John felt himself going on the defensive, though he tried keep his body language mild. Sarah had to know what Oz was, Buffy too, and they both trusted him. Sarah adored him.
"Watch out for hairballs and don’t let Kel bite you. I’m serious about Kel. He’s not a biter, but accidents happen."
John nodded. Oz turned and started walking again. John followed.
"So," Oz began, "how’d you hear the story?"***
When they returned, John softly warned Sarah about Kel. She rolled her eyes and kept playing.***
They went out walking through the countryside often, staying out for hours at a time. Though Sarah looked on with longing, she was never invited. John tried to keep his eyes open for interesting things to show her. Oz often quizzed him on what they saw, whether John could see what he did, and what about the flotsam and jetsam he brought back to Sarah interested him...or why he thought it would interest her.
They didn’t talk about demons. John considered texting Buffy to complain.
Sarah, though she seemed to have fallen in love with Oz and Bay’s son, had lost much of the humming glow John had witnessed on the tarmac only a few days ago. After dinner on the fifth night, Bay invited her out into the night.
"Where are they going?" John asked.
"Nowhere, probably. Bay wanted to go for a run and Sarah’s getting restless."
An insufficient answer for John, he went after them. Not that they were hiding, out in the middle of nowhere, but he found himself tracking them anyway. A season in hell had taught him many things. This was one.
Bay’s trail he lost quickly after finding her clothes. He would have expected them in a neat pile somewhere, but they seem to have been shed as she went along. Sarah’s trail kept going, moving across the land unnaturally, making her easy to follow.
She was lying on her back, looking at the stars when he found her. "Aren’t you afraid of something--"
She plunged a knife into the ground, next to his shoe.
"--sneaking up on you? No, I guess not. I keep forgetting that slayers are extra." He sat down cross-legged beside her, beside the knife.
Sighing, Sarah pushed up on her elbows. "You’re not the only one."***
The next morning, instead of heading out immediately with Oz, John asked Sarah to spar with him.
"I said I’d help Bay."
"Oh? Do what?"
She shrugged. "Stuff."
"Help me do stuff. I don’t have slayer stamina and endurance. If I stay out of practice like this, I’ll be useless when we get back."
She sighed—a long-suffering sound.
"Besides, aren’t you supposed to be convincing me that I need a sidekick?"
Sarah colored at the remind. "Oh yeah. That. Um, so, have you given it any thought?"
"We can talk while you help put me through my paces."
"And we should go through some of the tumbles and flips and other gymnastic stuff while we’re at it."
He wanted to complain that there were no mats to cushion his fall, but quickly jettisoned the thought. There were no soft places to fall in Gotham. "I’ll have to see about getting some apparatus in the cave when we get back."
Sarah’s eyes brightened for the first time in a week. "We?"
John frowned. "You know what I mean."
"No, I don’t. Tell me more," she said, following close on his heels as he turned and walked away.
Turning a corner, John thought he caught Bay’s eye but couldn’t be sure.***
With Sarah taking a renewed interest in his training, John and Oz didn’t go out walking nearly as often. Instead, the small man would watch them and make pithy comments. It wasn’t long before he and Sarah seemed to be bonding over John’s shortcomings and the hazards of training a non-super.
"I mean, I can’t just throw him across the room the way I would one of my sister-slayers. I’d break him."
John, who was curled up some feet away, having indeed been thrown, was grateful that she recognized the difference.
Oz, on the other hand, was nodding away. "Yeah, Buffy was always really careful with us, particularly Giles."
"Isn’t he adorable! He’s so old."
Oz chuckled, although John didn’t think it was because he agreed.
"Well I’m old," he said, slowly getting to his feet. "How about being careful with me?"
"No way. You’re going out into the field. Giles is strictly an indoor cat."
Oz grinned. "Don’t let him hear you say that."
"That’s something only the senior team can get away with." She shook her head. "I’d never dare."
Sarah shrugged. "I’m just a mini-slayer who messes with the computers and ends up on phone duty a lot."
"Those aren’t unimportant jobs, Sarah. I don’t think they’d keep you in them if they didn’t trust you."
"S’what I tell myself all the TIIIIIIIIIIME!
John, who had snuck up behind her, lifted her off her feet and tossed her over his shoulder, sure that her slayer reflexes would save her.
They didn’t. She landed hard on one side, whimpering. John swore, rushing to her. "Sarah, you okay?"
She lashed out with both feet, forcing him off his feet and onto his back. John let his momentum carry him into a roll, landing on his feet. Sarah was already standing. "Dude, don’t ever fall for that again. But nice recovery!" Then she launched herself at him.***
Sitting at dinner, Bay gestured to the enormous bruise, a sickly shade of green and yellow, gracing Sarah’s upper arm. She pointed at John. "He did it!"
"We were sparing..."
"He did it!"
"...and I took advantage of an opportune moment."
"He did it!"
John gave in, for once, and ruffled her hair.
Sitting across from them, John saw Oz and Bay exchange looks but couldn’t guess what they meant. Sarah was trying to attack him back.***
"So are you ready to go?" Bay asked them as she juggled her son on her hip.
John knew he was, though he’d enjoyed the two and half week stint in the mountains much more than he’d expected to. Sarah, however, was twisting on her feet. "I’m going to miss you."
Bay reached out and grasped Sarah’s hand. "You can always come back to visit."
Shaking her head, Sarah said, "I don’t think I will."
Sarah shrugged. "Something like that. It’s never dreams for me, but a sense of knowing." She glanced at John, who continued to pretend to be giving them privacy.
Bay dropped Sarah’s hand to smooth the girl’s hair, longer now, out of her eyes. "You’ll be all right. And you, Detective Blake."
"Take good care of her while she’s with you."
He nodded. "Of course."
"Come Sarah. You can say goodbye to Kel at the truck."
Oz appeared in the doorway as his wife and Sarah left. "What do you think?" he asked. "Will you come back to Tibet?"
John shook his head. "Probably not. I’ve already been gone from Gotham far too long."
Oz nodded, then started walking towards the truck.
Oz shrugged. "Sure."
"Why now? What made you decide I’m ready to leave? We never talked about demons or being strong or...or anything you tried to tell Bruce when you met him ten years ago."
"How do you know? Bruce needed to live and connect. So did you. Buffy thinks she doesn’t have the answer to this question because she’s living it every day. People aren’t meant to live, to fight, to flourish alone."
"I don’t understand."
Oz lips lifted in a small smile. "I’ll take you back to civilization. Maybe that’ll help."
Thanks to ShyBob for pointing out a serious plothole! All fixed now (I hope).