: When I posted "Don't Be", I had the problem that, every time I read over a section to post, I wound up getting drawn into the story and rereading the whole thing.
Looks like I have the same problem with this story.
Little note. When Seo explains how her kite actually works - does anyone else think that's basically how all science fiction writers justify future technology that they know can't possibly exist with the laws of physics? I think it is!
"You've seriously never had chocolate before?" Xander asked. "Like, really?"
Seo's eyes were lit up with happy glee, as she munched on the chocolate bar. She raised it up to Xander. "I've never had anything that tastes like this. It's brilliant!"
Xander thought a future without chocolate was a bleak future indeed.
(He made a mental note to stockpile the stuff, for when the Choc-pocalypse happened. Wouldn't do to go into something like that unprepared.)
Giles cleared his throat, a little awkwardly. "Perhaps… chocolate is not the best medicine, at the moment."
"Yeah," said Willow, as she walked through the door into the kitchen. "Ease up on the chocolate, Seo. You'll make yourself sick."
Seo stopped eating the chocolate. Pulled the rest of the chocolate bar away, and analyzed it, turning it over and over again in her hands. "Chocolate makes people sick?" She sniffed it, her forehead creasing. "It's… poisonous," she guessed.
"Not poisonous," Giles explained, going over to the refrigerator and trying to produce something more nutritional. "But a surfeit of chocolate might prove detrimental to your health."
Xander, realizing that most people didn't speak Giles-ese, translated for Seo, "Too much chocolate all at once is bad for you."
"Oh," said Seo. She looked a little relieved, but mostly crestfallen, as she wrapped up the chocolate bar in its silver foil wrapper, and put it aside. "But I liked it."
"Most people do," said Willow. "That's why we've got serious problems with childhood obesity."
Seo's eyes lit up. "Other people like chocolate, too?" She picked up the chocolate bar, the hints of inspiration splashing across her face like watercolors across a canvas. She then bounced over to Willow, and extended the chocolate bar. "Do you
want some chocolate?"
Willow looked over at Xander, as if she couldn't quite believe that Seo was enough of an idiot that she wouldn't have worked out a concept like 'sharing' before. Xander was a little surprised, himself. He'd assumed that 'sharing' was why people went to kindergarten.
What else didn't Seo understand? Nap-time?
"Thanks, Seo," Willow said, breaking off a piece of chocolate from the bar.
Seo gave the most radiant smile ever. As if that action — Willow's taking the chocolate — had just lit up some fire inside of her. A fire of hope she'd never thought could be ignited.
The sunlight trickled down through the streets, lingering upon the blond strands of Seo's hair, as she raced out into the open air. Her laughter echoing against the houses like the patter of light spring rain.
"Alive!" she shouted. She threw her arms up, and spun around, her eyes fixed on Xander — who still stood in the doorway of Giles' house. "Can't you feel it? The whole world, all around us! Six billion people, and they're living, on and on, day after day, bright and beautiful and able to do anything!"
Xander hesitated. Glanced back into the house, where the others were all discussing Seo in hushed voices. Then turned back to Seo.
He'd heard Willow say things like that. But he assumed that you could only feel the aliveness of the Earth when you were in the aftermath of a serious magical addiction problem — and also happened to be a witch powerful enough to be a minor deity.
"Yep, today's one of those mystical, magical days when the weatherman says it's sunny with no chance of rain in the middle of London," said Xander. "That's pretty special."
Seo's eyes sparkled, as she rushed back and grabbed Xander's hand, pulling him away from the house and onto the sidewalk. He opened his mouth to speak, but she shushed him. Gestured for him to listen.
So he waited. And listened to the not-so-distant London traffic. The rattle of the Tube beneath his feet. The wind as it whistled past the buildings.
"Just… feel it," Seo whispered, her hand squeezing around his. "The world. The Earth. Here, now — there's so much life, all around us. So much beauty. So many paths you could follow, so many options to choose! You could do anything. I could do anything! It's like…" She trailed off, her eyes wandering to a little boy across the street, who was running along the sidewalk, flying a kite. A sort of interested curiosity slid into her expression, as she fixed her eyes on the kite in the boy's hands.
Before Xander even knew what was happening, Seo was across the street, and leaning down, talking with the boy. Her every gesture animated, her every word a laugh and her every motion done with a sort of awkward grace.
"She seems like a nice kid," said Willow, approaching behind Xander. She stopped just beside him, analyzing Seo in the distance. "Too bad she's kind of an idiot."
Xander gave a small shrug. "Well, there's something to be said for keeping us idiots around," he said. Keeping his eyes fixed on Seo.
Across the street, the little boy was demonstrating to Seo how to get the kite to drift up in the air, and ride a current of wind. Seo clapped with joy as the boy managed to do it, her eyes drifting heavenwards to the soaring kite.
"Buffy's in the middle of a minor freak out," said Willow. "But I guess that's to be expected. With Seo showing up here and everything. A glimpse into Buffy's own future." She stared at Seo, curiously. "How old do you think Seo is?"
"Seventeen," said Xander. "She told us."
Willow shook her head. "There's no way she's seventeen," she said. "I mean, just look at her! I'd say she's fifteen, tops. And, with her maturity level what it is, fifteen might be pushing it."
Footsteps from behind them, and Buffy emerged, a stern expression on her face. Her eyes on Seo, her forehead creased, as if there was something big on her mind, and she couldn't get it off.
"Getting over the shock?" Willow asked.
Buffy blinked. Then glanced over at Willow. "Oh. Yeah. Just… thinking." She glanced down at her watch. Then back at Seo.
"About who her father might be?" asked Willow, with a growing grin.
"I said 'don't'," Buffy snapped. She glanced down at her watch, again. Tapped its surface. Frowned. "Huh. It's a little late, today."
"What's—" Xander started.
But at that moment, all around them, a myriad of ghost-like figures appeared, wandering around, their forms translucent and shimmering beneath the sunlight.
"Ghost shift," Buffy answered, her eyes fixing back on Seo.
Seo froze, the moment she saw the ghost-like figures. Her eyes following their every movement, her pupils darting from one ghost to the next, her expression clearly baffled. As if she were struggling to make sense of them.
"She hasn't seen the ghosts before?" Willow asked.
"Or she has," Buffy said, "and she knows something about them that we don't." She folded her arms, her eyes fixed on Seo. "I'm guessing those ghosts must have started showing up… right around when Seo did."
"And right around when Dawn started acting all ignorable," Xander put in.
Buffy continued to watch Seo.
Seo twirled around, looking every bit the lost, helpless girl she made herself out to be. But… there was something else, Buffy thought — something about Seo's eyes that seemed out-of-place with her actions. It was just the hint of a gleam in her eyes — the same kind of gleam that Willow had gotten back in high school, when she'd been trying to solve a tricky math problem, and was secretly enjoying the struggle of figuring it all out.
Then Seo's eyes rested on one of the ghosts. A ghost that stopped a few feet away from her. For a second, they both stood there, seemingly looking at one another — assessing each other, Buffy thought — Seo with a pensive frown.
Then, all color drained from her face. And she turned, and ran.
Buffy sprinted after her, but the girl was running full pelt, running as if her life depended on it, running as if she had seen something in the ghost that she'd recognized. Running past the end of the street, darting across the sidewalk and skidding to a stop, just in the middle of the road — where a handful more ghosts awaited her, on the other side.
Seo spun, looking from one side of the street to the other, seeing the ghosts everywhere. Her breath coming fast, panicky, as she stood stock still.
A car headed right towards her.
Buffy, without thinking, raced across the street and launched herself at Seo, arms extended, ready to push her out of the way. But before she got the chance…
Seo, one last glance at her surroundings, grabbed Buffy by the forearms and, waiting a half second, swung the both of them so that they rolled across an empty truck bed, bouncing off the hood of a slightly lower car, and collapsed, in a heap, on the sidewalk on the other end of the street.
"I… I saved you!" Seo said.
Buffy stared at her. Very, very hard.
"That's funny," Buffy replied, very quietly. "I thought I
was supposed to be saving you
Seo started back from Buffy abruptly, her breath catching in her throat.
Willow and Xander rushed over. "Are you guys all right?"
Seo jumped to her feet, trying to hide her expression under a mask of complete happy innocence. But Buffy could tell — something had very clearly startled her. As if… she'd said something wrong. Given the game away, in a weak instant. Revealed her hand when she shouldn't have.
Seo beamed, spinning around to face Willow and Xander. She reached into her pocket and took out the remains of her candy bar.
"Chocolate?" she offered them.
"She's not an idiot," Buffy told the others, that afternoon, when she'd finally managed to shake Seo off and get some alone time with her friends. "She just wants us to think she is."
"Buffy," said Willow, with a sigh, "I'm sorry, but… you've talked to her. You've seen her. The way she acts, it's obvious she's got some… developmental issues."
"She ran out in front of a car, and just stared blankly at it," Xander pointed out. "You had to push her out of the way."
out of the way!" Buffy said. She paced up and down the living room, trying to expel her nervous energy. "Look, just… think about it. If you were really smart, but wanted everyone to think you were a total idiot who knew nothing about this planet or anything having to do with it, what'd be the first thing you did? Run out into the street, and almost get run over by a car."
"Actually, if it were me, I'd try to eat a clarinet," Xander offered.
"Yeah, or something else way less dangerous," Willow agreed. "Definitely not running into the street and almost getting hit by a car. I mean, if it went wrong, you could get seriously hurt."
"Not if you knew you could get out of it," Buffy said. "Seo did. I saw it, just before she grabbed me. She knew exactly what she was doing the whole time."
Giles gave a small sigh, wiping off his glasses as he leaned against the coffee table in the center of the room. "Buffy," he said. "I suppose it's only natural, given Seo's identity, that you'd feel the need to justify her mental shortcomings, but… there's no use in denying the truth. Seo is not an intelligent person."
"It happens," Willow told Buffy. "I mean, it doesn't say anything about you! Smart parents don't always produce smart kids. Sometimes, the children wind up being… mentally stunted."
Buffy smacked her head with her hand. "Don't get started on that, again!" she complained.
Xander, feeling a little lost, looked between Willow and Giles, hoping for hints. Finding none, he opted for, "Okay... I'm hoping at some point I'll get an explanation for what you're talking about?"
"It does seem increasingly likely," Giles told him, slipping his glasses back on his face, "that Seo is Buffy's daughter. From the future. She's traveled back through time, presumably to find Buffy, and arrived here, at a point in time before she was born."
Xander blinked. Then blinked again. "Seo is Buffy's daughter
"No, she's not!" Buffy insisted. "She's some alien or demon or whatever that's pretending to be my daughter, so she can do some… I don't know. Bad, world-ending type stuff."
"Yeah, 'world ending'," Willow sighed. "Right now, she's down in the basement, trying to make a kite. Out of metal. That's some serious world-ending behavior right there."
Xander glanced off at the hallway, where Seo had disappeared. "Metal," he repeated. He shook his head, sadly. "She's going to be really disappointed, when her kite doesn't fly."
"Oh, come on!" said Buffy, throwing up her hands in exasperation. "Seo is not
stupid! If she was stupid, how'd she manage to time travel here in the first place? Because, in case you hadn't noticed, time travel isn't just something any idiot can do!"
"Well, maybe her father—" Willow started.
Buffy turned on her friend, eyes dark. "Will, I said, 'don't'!"
Willow gave an innocent shrug. "I'm not saying anything."
"Look, I'm not putting down idiots," said Xander to Buffy. "But Seo does always walk into walls. And she keeps picking up dangerous stuff just because it looks pretty or shiny."
"Yeah, and I bet the 'dangerous' stuff she picks up is all insanely powerful," Buffy said. "It's obvious. She keeps picking it up because she's planning something, and she's pretending she's stupid so we won't realize. That's why she's been stealing your magical gemstones!"
The others looked at Buffy, skeptically.
Buffy spun around, and marched towards the guest bedroom. "You want proof?" she called back. She gestured at them to follow her. "I'll give you proof!"
The door to the bedroom was locked, as it had been since that morning, but Buffy forced the door easily, and burst into the room.
"See?" Buffy asked, pointing at the night side table. "No one's been in here since this morning, and now Giles' yellow healing gem thing is gone. Seo walked into that wall to distract us while she stole it, and…"
"You mean the yellow healing gem thing that's lying on the night side table?" Willow asked.
Buffy blinked. And stared at the night side table.
Willow was right.
The yellow gemstone was back where it'd been, earlier that morning. Back where Giles had set it down. Buffy walked over to it, crouching down, analyzing it in detail. Same exact gemstone. Not a replacement or a plastic/glass replica or anything.
"She put it back," Buffy told the others. "She must have."
"Put what back?" asked a voice from behind them.
They turned, and found Seo standing nearby, her 'kite' in her hands. A kite that looked a lot more like a bunch of tin coffee cans, soup cans, and coke cans bolted together, covered with glued-on sparkles and decorations. The only thing to suggest it was supposed to be a kite was the long string attached to one end, and the tail attached to the other.
She looked at the crowd, an expression of pure innocence on her face.
Buffy charged at her. "You!" she shouted. "Why did you steal Giles' gemstone? What do you want?"
Seo glanced over at the gemstone, then caught herself, and snapped her eyes back to Buffy. "What gemstone?"
"The one you stole and then put back before anyone else noticed it was missing!" Buffy roared.
The others reached out to restrain Buffy, before she could grab up the poor, frightened girl and shove her against the wall of the room, threatening her to her face.
"Who are you?" Buffy demanded. "What are you doing, here? Why do you look like me?"
Seo seemed puzzled. "I look like you?" She grabbed the ends of her own blond hair, and examined them, carefully. Then examined Buffy's hair. "It does look kind of similar," she noted.
Trying to play the idiot. Again!
Buffy lunged out for Seo, who squeaked, and darted out of the way before Buffy could grab her. Seo tried to hide behind Xander, her eyes fixed on Buffy, clutching her kite tightly.
"Maybe… I should take Seo off, somewhere, to fly her kite," Xander proposed, to the others. "Get her out of the house, and give Buffy some time to cool off."
"Good idea," said Willow, still trying to drag Buffy away from Seo.
"There's a park several blocks that way," Giles told Xander, pointing. "And the wind is quite goo…" His eyes fell on Seo's kite, and he winced. "…I mean bad," he tried, instead, "so there's very little chance the kite will fly, anyways. No matter how it's constructed."
"Of course it'll fly," Seo informed Giles, terribly seriously. "That's why I built a kite. If I wanted something that wouldn't fly, I'd have built a rock."
Xander, seeing Buffy's rage flaring up, once more, grabbed Seo by the arm with an uneasy laugh, and tugged her towards the front door.
"Don't come back too soon!" Willow called after them, as they left.
Buffy calmed, the moment Seo was gone. Glaring at the spot where Seo had just been.
"Buffy—" Willow started.
Buffy didn't let her finish. She strode into the front room, and thunked open Giles' research books. "The ghosts," Buffy muttered. "She's got to have something to do with the ghosts. She's got
"So," said Xander, putting his hands in his pockets and trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. "You're Seosear… something…"
"Seosyrae," Seo corrected.
"Seosyrae," Xander amended. He glanced over at the girl with the almost Buffy-looking features. "Seosyrae Summers?" he guessed.
Seo swung her kite with every step. "Just Seosyrae."
"Seosyrae… Pratt?" Xander guessed, again. Oh, that would sting, if Buffy wound up marrying Spike.
"Just Seosyrae," Seo repeated.
"Don't tell me it's Seosyrae Harris," said Xander. That would be weird.
Seo looked over at him, curiously. "No, really. I'm not 'Seosyrae Anything'. I'm just 'Seosyrae'."
"Oh," said Xander. He scratched his head. "So… you don't have a last name at all."
Seo laughed, sunlight sparkling through her eyes. "Of course I have a last name!" she said. "I also have a first name. But neither begins with 'Seosyrae'."
Xander stumbled on the sidewalk. "What?"
"I told you," said Seo. "I'm from Earth. My real name's an Earth name. Seosyrae is just a substitute name."
Xander stared at her. Trying to work out everything in his head. Everything that this particular statement implied. That Seo was born on Earth, like there'd been some kind of choice about somewhere else she could have been born. That Seosyrae wasn't
an Earth name. That Seo had been lying to them all about her name since she showed up…
"So what's your real name?" Xander asked her.
Seo grinned at him. "Rumplestiltskin!" she replied. Then grabbed his arm, and tugged him towards the park, which had just come into view ahead of them. "Now come on! It's time to fly kites!"
Xander watched as Seo set down the 'kite' on a paved section of the park, unraveling the long string as she walked slowly away from it. Xander grimaced.
"Uh, I think you get it up in the air, before you unravel the string all the way," Xander said. Then realized that had been a stupid thing to say, since obviously, the 'kite' in question was never going to get
into the air.
"Not with my kite you don't!" Seo called back to him.
Xander had been trying to think through all the excuses he could use when Seo's kite completely failed to get off the ground. Anything he could say that wouldn't hurt this girl's feelings. But she seemed so completely certain that the kite would fly, he knew that there was nothing he could do to soften the blow.
"Maybe I should throw it up into the air," Xander proposed. "Let it catch the wind."
He leaned down to pick it up. Then buckled under its weight, as it thunked back to the ground with a loud bang.
"I wouldn't advise it!" Seo called back to him — quite a distance away, now.
Xander stared at the coffee-can creation. The cans were mostly sealed, true, but Xander had still assumed they'd be empty. What had Seo used to fill up…?
No, wait. Wrong question.
How the hell had Seo been able to lift this 'kite' as if it weighed nothing? Only someone really strong, like Buffy, would be able to…
"Buffy's kid," Xander muttered. "Right."
Xander didn't get how Slayer genetics worked, but Seo was starting to give him a basic idea. She'd clearly inherited her mom's super-strength. And who knew what else.
"Xander!" Seo called. "Can you clear the blast site, please?"
"Blast site?" asked Xander.
"It'll be about a meter and a half radius surrounding the kite," Seo clarified. She had knelt down, by the far end of the string, fiddling with something in her hands.
Xander looked around himself. A meter and a half? How was he supposed to know how far a meter and a half was? Damn metric system.
Then turned back to Seo. Hang on. How did she
know how far a meter and a half was?
"You're not Canadian or something?" he called back.
"What?" asked Seo. She glanced up at him, puzzled.
"Meters!" Xander called back to her.
Seo's face illuminated, as she realized what he meant. "Oh! It's about 5 feet. Okay, more like 4 feet, 11 inches. 4 feet, 11 inches, and 1/64th of an inch extra."
Xander slowly nodded. About. Not a-boot. So… not Canadian. Did Americans go metric at some point in the future? Xander shrugged it off, deciding to puzzle over all the various crazy implications of this, later. And just do what she said, now. Ushering people away from the area around the 'kite', and trying to ignore the funny looks they kept giving him.
Then there was a booming sound from behind him, and Xander turned, just in time to see the 'kite' in question blast off from the ground with tin-can rocket boosters, the fuel burning up the kite's tail (but not the long rope, which was weird), soaring into the sky towards the clouds and then, as the fuel cut off…
The kite hovered, in the air. Not moving. Like a cartoon coyote who'd run out past the edge of a canyon, and hadn't yet looked down to realize he was standing on thin air.
Seo, who had tied the end of the long, un-singed kite-rope to — what looked like — a remote controller, beamed at Xander. Her face showing almost a childlike wonder, at this completely impossible thing she'd built. Which had flown.
But wasn't a kite.
Xander ran over to her. "That's… that's not a kite!" he said. He pointed. "That's a rocket!"
"Of course it's a kite!" said Seo. She pressed a few buttons, then grabbed at the rope with both hands and ran, full pelt, through the park. The 'kite', behind her, floated lazily through the air, bobbing with her every step, twisting and turning in the wind as if it were actually… well… a kite
"See?" said Seo, as she looped around and arrived back at Xander. She tugged the rope, making the kite bob up and down in the air. "Kite."
Xander felt his jaw drop. And wasn't really sure when he'd get the chance to pick it up again.
The crowd that had gathered around the 5-foot radius area, watching, since the initial takeoff, all broke out into applause. Seo, noticing them for the first time, looked supremely proud of herself. She waved at them all, and gave a little bow.
"How'd you make it fly like that, then?" asked a man from the crowd, as he approached Seo, pointing at the kite.
"Oh, it's easy!" Seo said. "It's all a matter of prefixes."
"Prefixes?" asked a woman, also approaching Seo.
"The kite has all kinds of forces acting against it, making it unable to hover like this," Seo explained. "Gravity and heaviness and aerodynamics and things like that. But then I realized that all I had to do was to build a kite that would stick the prefix 'anti-' onto the front of those forces, and it'd cancel them out!"
Xander felt completely lost. "Huh?"
"It was heavy, so I stuck an 'anti-' on the beginning of the heavy, and turned it 'anti-heavy'," Seo told him, as if this explanation made perfect sense. "Gravity made it fall down, so I just turned it into 'anti-gravity', and it could hover."
Xander stared at the kite. Feeling he was missing something.
"And it wouldn't move in the wind, of course, because it was anti-aerodynamically designed," Seo continued, and Xander could hear a small tap of buttons being pressed. "So I stripped away the 'anti-', and it became aerodynamic."
Xander turned back to Seo, his next question on his lips, but it died, as he noticed what she was doing. That she'd quietly slipped a small section of casing off the back of the remote control, and was frantically pressing buttons and taking in the results as they flickered across a tiny built-in display — her expression suddenly deadly serious.
She realized he was looking at her, and shot him a small smile.
"What's that?" Xander asked, pointing at the secret control panel she'd just opened up. "The… prefix… putter-onner and taker-offer?"
Seo looked at him as if he were insane. "Don't be silly," she said, tapping at a few more controls. Then glancing around herself, a little nervously. "Prefix putter-onner and taker-offer? There's no such thing."
"But you just said…"
"This changes the color," Seo explained — taking another, more nervous and jumpy glance around herself. Then pressed a button on the hidden control panel.
Xander squinted up at the kite, trying to make out its color, despite the glare of the sun across its metal exterior. "It looks the same color to me."
"I never said it changed it very dramatically," Seo replied. Her voice had started to tremble, very slightly, now.
Xander looked back at her, and discovered she'd already replaced the section of casing she'd previously removed, and was now, once more, using the front side of the remote control. But there was something wrong with her, something very visibly wrong. She was breathing a little too heavily, her hands clutching the remote a little too tightly, and she kept looking around herself, uncomfortably.
A large crowd had surrounded them, many of the spectators shouting at Seo, others pushing to try to get closer to her and see what she was doing, a few still looking up into the sky and staring at the kite — bobbing merrily in the wind.
"Is this a publicity stunt?" someone shouted. "An advertising campaign?"
"If you're selling one of those, I'll buy twelve!" another offered.
"How does it work?" a few others shouted, over the first two.
Seo looked over at Xander, and he could see, in her eyes, the terrified look of someone who'd bitten off far more than she could chew, and had only just realized it.
Someone tried to grab the remote out of her hands, and Seo shrieked, trying to jump away and colliding with a middle-aged woman, both of them toppling to the ground. Xander tried to reach out to help Seo, but it seemed that others had already had the same idea, and were extending hands to assist her.
The hands seemed to make Seo even more nervous, her breath coming far too rapidly, her eyes truly terrified, now.
"Seo…" Xander started.
But Seo grabbed the remote, and slammed her fist down on a big red button at the top. In the sky, the 'kite' exploded into a beautiful, fireworks-esque display of twinkling lights and fast-fading images. Everyone's eyes turned back to the sky, as they all cheered and applauded.
Xander looked around for Seo. But she'd taken advantage of the distraction.