: #348 Papaya at LJ comm TamingthemuseDisclaimer
: I own none of these characters, settings, or fandoms. They are the property of their respective creators and companies.
Buffy’s brow furrowed as she looked around the familiar apartment. While it was a place of comfort and memory, it wasn’t what she had expected to wake up to when she had closed her eyes to sleep that evening. More time in the gym with Steve, watching over Bruce as he healed the sick in India, comforting Thor as he mourned for his brother, or an occasional glimpse of Tony as he finally shared his life with Pepper, that she had expected, not... This.
Her fingertips trailed over the back of the sofa as she quietly walked about Giles old apartment in Sunnydale. She was more than aware that this couldn’t be possible since the town and subsequently this apartment had been sunk into the ground two years ago as she took a moment to remember where they had all started.
A noise from the hallway set her on the defensive. She knew the change in locale was a setup for something and it wasn’t likely to be good. The tension in her shoulders immediately released as she recognized Faith, who was clearly just as confused as she.
The dark haired slayer paused for just a moment before fully entering the room. “No offense, but you weren’t exactly what I was expecting,” she said, looking around the small apartment.
“Me either,” Buffy conceded. “I take it you just went to sleep as well?”
“All tucked in,” Faith agreed. “Never thought I’d see this place again.”
A small, wistful smile pulled at Buffy’s lips. “Me either.”
They turned to the door at the same time as they heard the knob turn and the latch disengage. It swung open to reveal a man wearing a dark brown suit with a shirt that was sadly reminiscent of fresh papaya. The fedora was perched on his head at what Buffy knew he believed to be a rakish angle. He gave both of the ladies a smug smile before heading to the kitchen.
“Slayers,” he said with a nod.
“Whistler,” Buffy said with a resigned sigh.
Faith frowned at Buffy. “We supposed to know this guy?”
“I’ve met him once before, although that was far from a privilege.”
Whistler popped his head up from where he was perusing the cabinets. “I’m hurt. I was the one insulted and threatened despite the help I gave you and this is the thanks I get?”
Faith ignored him and focused on Buffy. “So who is the creep?”
“Some sort of balance demon the Powers send down if I remember correctly,” Buffy said, her tone dry as she watched him search the refrigerator. “Dreamscapes normally don’t have actual food to eat,” she pointed out.
“A demon can dream. But that ain’t the real reason I brought you here,” he said, his Brooklyn accent heavy with charm as he came out of the kitchen and into the living area. “You two crazy kids have outdone yourselves, seriously. No one expected either of you to do as much as you have over the years. You have managed to exceed any expectations for you and invalidate all sorts of prophecies for the future.”
“Yay us,” Buffy said with a roll of her eyes. “Do you have an actual point for us, or are you just going to stay all cryptic on us? ‘Cause really, I don’t have patience for that anymore.”
Whistler rubbed absently at his neck. “Not like you ever did before.”
Faith snorted. “He’s got you’re number, B.”
The blonde slayer sent her a wicked grin. “It’s a failing. So why bring us here, Whistler?”
“You’ve changed the world in a major way, kid. That activation spell of yours was sheer genius and set the supernatural community into a head spin that it’s still reeling from,” he said, twisting the top off the beer he managed to find. “All of these new slayers have set things in motion that weren’t supposed to happen for a couple of hundred years down the road. You’ve rewritten the rulebook.”
“I would say I’m sorry, but you’d know it was a lie,” Buffy said with an unapologetic shrug. “It saved the world.”
“Didn’t say I was blaming ya,” he said, putting his hands up in a defensive gesture. “Just laying the cards out on the table.”
“You’re takin’ too long,” Faith said irritably, moving to stand next to her sister-slayer. “Get to the point before I take drastic measures that will probably leave you in pieces, even if you are a good guy.”
“Gees, do the idle threats run in the slayer genetics?”
“Never said it was idle,” Faith said with a feral grin, her eyes dark.
He cleared his throat before continuing, “The point is you’ve altered destinies, fates, the ultimate paths, whatever you want to call it here on Earth along with yourselves. Shifted them so far out of whack that we are just now seeing what is to come, and the two of you have no place in it.”
Faith took a menacing step towards him causing him to take a few hasty steps back. “No! Wait a minute, kid, hear me out. That spell didn’t just change the potentials; it changed both of you as well.”
Buffy’s eyes widened as she caught on to what he was trying to say and she grabbed Faith’s arm to turn her around to look at her. “You lied!”
“About what?” Faith asked, jerking her arm out of Buffy’s grasp.
“I had asked you about your slayer dreams. If you were still having them and you told me yes.”
Faith frowned in confusion. “I am, only difference is, they’re every night instead of just crazy randomness.”
“Mine are every night, too, but it’s not about demons and slaying, but about gods and robots in some other version of Earth,” Buffy said, frustration mounting in her voice. “I haven’t had a real slayer dream since we left Sunnydale.”
“I don’t know what you’re goin’ on about, but there are demons and vampires in mine along with two brothers hunting them. I keep meaning to have Red do some research on them, but I always forget to bring it up when I see her.” Faith explained slowly, her eyes searching Buffy’s face for more clues as to what upset her. “Why didn’t you say anything more to me instead of just the one question? Or even something to Red or Giles?”
“Ladies,” Whistler interrupted them from his spot on the other side of the room. “We’re in a little bit of a time crunch here, can we focus?”
Buffy stared accusingly at Faith for a moment longer before turning back to the demon. “Fine, finish your little spiel.”
He set the beer bottle on the counter separating the living area with the kitchen and straightened his suit jacket. “Buffy’s right, you guys haven’t been experiencing true slayer dreams in the last two years since you sent the Hellmouth to its death. Those dreams could be your future, if you want them.”
“I’m confused,” Faith said, looking back and forth between Buffy and the demon.
“You are being given a choice. Stay here and while you may do some more good, it won’t affect the overall outcome of good versus evil here, or move on to these other worlds where you can make a difference. Your destinies are no longer tied to this world. The choice is yours.”
“What about Dawn?” Buffy asked. “Do you really expect me to leave my sister behind?”
“Her destiny is still tied to this Earth. She has things to do, but you’ll get to see her again.”
“What if we want to think about it?” Faith asked
“As long as you make your decision in the next five minutes, after that, offer is off the table. You’ll be stuck here and dreaming of there for the rest of your life,” he said simply, picking the beer bottle back up and taking a long pull from it.
Buffy glared at him before pulling Faith to the far side of the room to give them as much privacy as possible. “What do you think?”
“I think I have nothing here, so I’m going for it. I’ve been bored. I don’t think I’m built for this being one of the leaders thing,” Faith said after a moment. “If what he’s saying is true, then those brothers are gonna need me. They’re into some nasty shit and they need help before someone strays to the wrong side.”
The blonde took a moment and studied her sometimes sister-slayer and her other times adversary. She really had truly changed from the brash young woman who had first arrived in Sunnydale to a settled, mature woman who stood before her now. True, they still argued over who’s method was best, but they were always fighting for the same goal now.
Truthfully, Buffy had been restless ever since they had closed the Hellmouth, as well. The bureaucratic end of the slayer business was boring and when there wasn’t an enemy to fight she was finding it hard to fit in with the others. She loved her sister, but Dawn was eighteen now and ready to spread her own wings without her older sister hovering protectively over her. And she would. No matter how much she knew intellectually that her baby sister was growing up, that need to protect would always be there. Her sister deserved better.
If Whistler was telling her the truth, then this wouldn’t be the end. She would get to see her again and see how she blossomed into her own woman.
Faith grinned widely at her as Buffy’s decision registered on her face. “Come on, B. There are two worlds out there in need of a hot chick with super powers.”
Buffy’s grin matched hers as she nodded. “Let’s do this.”
“Thank you!” Whistler said, joining their private conversation. “Let’s get this show on the road. I’ve got more bumps in the metaphorical road to fix after this.”
“Wait! I need to say goodbye!” Buffy protested.
“No time, you’re needed now. But don’t worry, I’ll pass the word along, they’ll know what happened and that it was your choice.” he clapped his hands together and rubbed them furiously together. “But before you go, you get gifts!”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of gifts?”
“One’s you’ll need where you’re going,” he explained. He pulled his hands apart to reveal a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. “These are for Faith.”
Faith reached out with both hands to take the weapons. “Will these -”
“Take care of their particular brand of nasties, yes,” Whistler confirmed with a nod. “Careful with that gun. The bullets will be hard to come by.” He turned to Buffy and with a twirl of his hand an elegantly carved staff appeared. “For Buffy, the Staff of the Elder Gods.”
The wood of the staff was warm when Buffy grabbed it and she could feel power thrumming through it. Both ends were capped with silver with scrolling marks engraved in them.
“It’s got secrets even I don’t know about,” he confided in her. “So you’re going to have to discover how to use it on your own.”
“Will anyone be able to access the power?” She asked, running her hands over the smooth surface before giving it an assessing twirl.
“As a blunt weapon, yeah, everyone and their brother can do that. The special tricks it has up its sleeve, it’s going to be a very select few who are going to be able to suss it out. Still, don’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”
Buffy nodded her understanding as she brought it to rest with one silver tip on the floor.
“You’ll be graced with some working knowledge of your new world and identities so you don’t have to figure that out on your own. They will hold up even under the most extreme scrutiny.” He gave them both serious looks. “Remember who you are and your missions. These worlds will be counting on you just as much as this one did.”
The two slayers exchanged solemn looks before nodding their acceptance.
“Just one thing before we go,” Buffy said.
“Changed that hideous shirt before you visit the others. That color really is ridiculous on you.”