Shivers All Around Me
Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; George Lucas owns "Star Wars" and related characters; I own nothing.Summary:
Buffy had little interest in Naboo or it's politics. All she wanted was to do her job, go to sleep, and hope she was home in the morning. Unfortunately, since the blockade started, politics were all the customers wanted to talk about.Author's Note:
Response to the prompt, "exclamation" at TtH 100 over on LJ. Part of the Against the Wind
series and takes place during Episode I. Title comes from "Shivers" by Zola Jesus.~*~*~
“Would either of you like some more caf?” Buffy asked the couple in front of her, holding the pot in one hand.
“Some for me, thanks,” the Twi’lek female answered, her pointed teeth flashing in a grin.
“Anything else for you today?” Buffy continued while topping off the customer’s mug.
“Just the bill,” the human answered. Both he and his companion were dressed in the worn, durable clothing Buffy had learned to recognize as standard spacer fare. The diner that she worked at, right across the street from the spaceport, was frequently filled with folks just stopping over.
“Pay up front when you’re ready,” Buffy told them, laying the bill on the table and doing her best to keep her smile from slipping. “Have a good day.”
Walking back behind the counter, Buffy passed by several customers crowded around a HoloNet screen.
“…today marks the end of the first week of the blockade,” the presenter said, standing in front of the Theed spaceport. “Representatives from the palace aren’t talking, but…”
“This keeps up, we’re gonna be out of a job,” Buffy’s coworker, Tiena commented, pausing from refilling the condiments. Roughly Buffy’s age, she was about half a foot taller with brown skin and black hair pulled into a complicated looking knot at the back of her neck. Her dark eyes, normally slightly crinkled at the corners in laughter, were worried.
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, putting the pot back on the warmer. Scanning the mostly empty diner, she sighed.
“I’m going to take my break, if that’s ok,” she told the cook and owner, an older woman by the name of Minka.
“Go right ahead,” Minka replied, not looking up from the grill. “Doubt it’s going to get any busier than this.”
Buffy nodded and made her way to the small back patio that she and the other waitresses used for their breaks. Slumping down on an overturned crate, Buffy rubbed her forehead, doing her best to stave off the threatening headache. It was probably from all the excess energy she had. There were only so many times she could run through the same exercises over and over before they started losing their effectiveness in tiring her out. Even with the lengthy walks she had started taking over Keren’s rooftops and through its streets, she still felt like she was walking a fine line between being able to deal and falling over the edge to god knows where. She felt like she had lost her purpose and was just existing with no forward momentum. It was like how she had been feeling in Sunnydale, only worse.
She had been in Keren for six months at this point, and only for the last three had she been allowed by the doctors supervising her rehabilitation to work. The irony of working as a waitress again in a seedy diner wasn’t lost on her. It was like she had never left LA after her brief stint as “Anne”.
The problem with faking memory loss, it turned out, was that people wanted to study her and look at her brain to find out why she couldn’t remember. From comments she wasn’t supposed to overhear, the doctors suspected she was a refugee and had gotten lost when the accident occurred. She did nothing to correct that assumption, and in fact, tried to play it up as best she could. It was better than them getting closer to the actual truth. She had no desire to learn how a loony bin on Naboo compared to the ones on Earth.
During her first three months, first at the hospital and then at a halfway home type deal, she “remembered” bits and pieces from her former life. Not much, just a name or a face. She was sure that some of the doctors who were assigned to her case still didn’t buy her story, but they kept their suspicions to themselves.
Taking a deep breath, Buffy did her best to center herself and get her mask back into place. More than ever, despite all the new challenges facing her, she felt like she was going through the motions of being alive. Back in Sunnydale, even after Willow had dragged her out of Heaven, she couldn’t hate the Scoobies. They were her family. In her mind, at least, even when it felt like she was slipping away while everybody looked away, there was a chance they might notice and catch her before she lost herself.
Here she had nobody. And that scared her.
Getting to her feet, Buffy straightened her uniform before walking back towards the restaurant and quietly slipped through the door.
“Anything exciting happen?” she asked Tiena, adjusting her apron slightly.
“What do you think?” the other waitress replied with a shrug. The Twi’lek and her companion had left, leaving just the group of customers clustered around the HoloNet display.
“Kriffin’ blockade,” Minka spat, coming up to the order window. “That’s what we get for keeping Veruna around so long.”
Buffy nodded. She’d been given the bare bones of Naboo’s history as part of her acclimation to the planet, but the last week had increased her knowledge by a ton. She’d known that, until recently, Naboo had been ruled by King Veruna who resigned after a corruption scandal. This left the girl who’d been running against him to assume the throne. She’d known that. But now, ever since this Trade Federation blockaded the planet, all everybody wanted to talk about was how it might’ve happened. Something about taxes and the Republic.
“I’ll give it another hour, but if it doesn’t pick up, we’re closing early,” Minka told Tiena and Buffy. “We might have to sort out something if this goes on any longer.”
“’Mk,” Buffy muttered, drumming her fingers against the counter’s surface. Thank the goddess that diners were (mostly) the same in this dimension. Otherwise, she would’ve been screwed six ways from Sunday.
“Do you have plans for tonight, Buffy?” Tiena asked her later that evening. Business hadn’t picked up, and Minka told them to start cleaning but to hold off on closing in the vain hope that somebody would wander in.
“Just me and the HoloNet, really. Why?” Buffy answered with a shrug.
“I was just wondering if you wanted to go out tonight,” Tiena offered, leaning against her broom. “There’s a concert over at Wrenso’s that I’m going to. It should be good.”
“Thanks, but my head is starting to pound, so a concert would be among the poor life choices,” Buffy said, doing her best to sound apologetic. Tiena was nice, she really was, but Buffy was in no mood to be around people. She just wanted to go back to her cramped apartment and sleep and hope that she’d be back home when she woke up. She never thought she’d miss Sunnydale as much as she did now.
Tiena frowned, looking at Buffy. “Are you certain? I have some medicine for migraines if you want them. Is it because…”
“It’s fine, Tiena. I’m fine,” Buffy interrupted before her coworker could gather too much steam. The problem was, Tiena was nosy and wouldn’t let go of something unless she was forced to. “I just want to go home.”
“Fine. Just let me know if you change your mind.”
Buffy stared at the counter glumly as Tiena walked away. She knew her coworker was just being nice and friendly, but she couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm.
Finally, Minka gave into the inevitable and closed the diner, but not before telling Tiena and Buffy she expected them to be on time for their shifts tomorrow.
Nodding, Buffy gave her coworker a halfhearted wave before starting the walk back to her apartment.
The setting sun set everything in a rosy glow, the light reflecting off the marble-like stone that the Naboo seemed to use for all of their buildings. Staying towards the edges avoid any landspeeders that might come racing down the narrow streets, Buffy was once again struck by how Naboo was both old and new at the same time. Architecture that reminded her of the pictures of Europe in those travel books her mother kept stashed in her room when she was younger, but with technology that made her head hurt. It all combined to make her know she didn’t belong here and miss home even more.
Buffy’s apartment was in a more rundown area of the city from what her explorations had shown her. It wasn’t like where she had been living while she had been hiding as Anne, but from what she had seen, it was definitely lower class for Naboo. Here, you could see stains on the buildings, traces of old graffiti she would occasionally try to read.
“Hello, dear,” her landlady, Arana Korden, greeted her as Buffy entered the dim hallway on the ground level.
Buffy nodded in return and began climbing the stairs that lead to her new place. There were three other tenants renting in this old house turned apartment, but Buffy rarely ever saw them outside of occasionally passing in the stairwell.
Buffy’s apartment was on the fourth floor, and she had it to herself. The high ceilings and large-ish windows made the rooms seem larger than they actually were. A battered rug covered the worn stone floor in the center of the main room underneath a metal table. A small hallway lead off to where her bedroom and her bathroom where, and an alcove off the main room served as a kitchenette. Not that she actually really used it for cooking. Most of the time, she just ate leftovers at the diner.
Not even bothering to change out of her uniform, Buffy curled up on her bed and stared listlessly out the window. One more day down. One more day she’d been trapped here without any sign of rescue from the Scoobies. One more day of diminishing hopes that something might change and the dawning realization that she was stuck here.
Closing her eyes, Buffy drifted into an uneasy sleep, praying that she wouldn’t be here when she woke up.~*~*~
Buffy’s week dragged on. Business at the diner continued to be slow, what with the blockade and all, although locals started gathering to gossip and exchange news over cups of caf.
“Kriffing politicians,” a patron swore loudly, his voice echoing in the mostly empty diner. “They’re sitting high and mighty in Coruscant while we’re here starving! Valorum is too useless and nobody gives a gundark’s arse about us but Palpatine, and what can he really do?”
“Here, here,” Tiena muttered under her breath as she topped off his cup of caf.
“Quiet down, the news is starting,” another customer shushed her companion, gesturing impatiently at the HoloNet display, which currently had a broadcast from Coruscant. “Buffy, can you turn it up a bit?”
“Sure,” Buffy answered, moving over to the display and adjusting the volume. Keeping an eye on the order window, she slowly began filling the condiment bottles, if only to look busy for Minka.
“Probably just more of the same,” the first client, a regular named Ric, grumbled into his mug. “Just them talkin’ about taxes and trade and nonsense like that.”
“Isn’t the Queen supposed to make a speech today?” Tiena asked, leaning against the counter.
“That’s the word on the street,” Ric’s companion, a woman a few years older than Buffy, replied with a half-hearted shrug. “Not sure what more the poor girl can say. Awful way to start her term as queen.”
Buffy half-listened as the conversation turned into a discussion regarding Naboo’s new ruler, a girl around Dawn’s age by the name of Amidala. Her election (yeah, that was odd saying the least) had only been a few months earlier, and everybody’d been looking forward to moving on from Veruna’s reign. Or at least, that’s what it sounded like with all the conversations she’d overheard at the hospital and the diner. Expert on Naboo politics, she certainly wasn’t.
“Later to-zzz-day-zzz we-zzz,” the broadcaster said, static suddenly intercutting her voice. “Zzz-Senate…” With one last burst of noise, the HoloNet display suddenly went blank, leaving only white noise filling the dinner.
“Buffy, what was that?” Minka shouted from the back of the kitchen.
“I don’t know!” Buffy called back, moving over to check the display. She flipped the switch a few times, but nothing changed.
“Maybe it finally gave out,” Tiena remarked, a frown crossing her face.
Minka snorted from the kitchen, giving the offending device a dark look. “Can’t be, unless Lorné stiffed me when she looked at it last month.” Just then, the HoloNet glowed back to life, only to display a steady stream of words.
“Service disruption?” Buffy asked, curious in spite of herself, the strangeness of the situation breaking through her listlessness. “This type of thing happen often?”
“No, it doesn’t.” Minka frowned before turning her attention to the customers. “Last call. We’re closing early today.”
“That’s odd,” Tiena muttered to Buffy later as they cleared the counter. “Minka never closes unless she has to.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, frowning slightly. Minka reminded her of Anya, in a way, both businesswomen trying to earn as much as they could, although Minka had a little more in the way of tact. Buffy’s chest tightened at the thought of the former vengeance demon, like it always did when she thought of her friends from home. “I wonder why?” she continued, pushing the thoughts to the side.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
They closed out the diner in record time. Minka kept throwing worried glances outside, as if she was expecting somebody to come and blow down the door. Finally, when the diner was cleaned to her satisfaction, she gestured for Buffy and Tiena to follow her into the back.
“I want you two to go straight home,” she told them seriously. “Find someplace outta the way to stay for a while, alright?”
“Why?” Tiena demanded, exchanging a glance with Buffy. “What’s going on?”
“I did some traveling when I was younger, and ended up in some not so nice places. This type of thing with the HoloNet with the blockade…” Minka shook her head. “It means trouble’s coming. Those Nemoidians are up to something and it’s not going to be good for any of us planetside. I’ll rest better knowing you two are safe.”
“What about you?” Buffy replied, feeling the back of her neck prickle. Minka’s reaction almost seemed familiar. Like a veteran who’d seen enough to know the signs of an impending apocalypse.
Minka gave the two a grim smile. “I’ve got my ways if it comes to that. Now go, while the streets are still clear.”
“If that was supposed to be reassuring, it kinda failed,” Buffy muttered to Tiena as they exited the diner onto the deserted street.
“What do you think she meant by trouble?” Tiena asked, crossing her arms to hug herself slightly.
Both of them looked around warily, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary enough to cause any alarm. And yet, Buffy couldn’t shake the feeling that something big was about to happen. It wasn’t her Slayer sense, though. Instead, it was all the years she’d spent on the Hellmouth, fighting in life or death scenarios that gave her the eerie sensation that the storm was about to break over them and destroy everything in its path.
“Buffy? What do you think she meant?” Tiena repeated when Buffy didn’t answer.
Buffy gave her fellow waitress a shrug. “I have no idea.”