All reviews are good – opinions, ideas, thought – should I keep going?
It was only 22.00 when she slipped out of the bar again, the Ring securely pocketed and with Kalson’s regards to “Ripper” to pass on. It was far too early to go back to her hotel room, her body clock too used to being up at night after all these years to allow her to get any rest much before 03.00am. She wasn’t even in the need for munchies and as a point of principle she avoided bars when she was on her own. That way lay solitary drinking and a downward path. She paused looking up and down the moonlit street, indecisive. She could go patrolling but she had never been in Colorado Springs before and didn’t know what the local hotspots were. And anyway, it seemed like a pretty quiet town.
She was just considering going back to the hotel anyway and watching something on payperview when her spider sense abruptly tingled to life. Turning she saw two figures slip out of the bar entrance and pad off down the street, the rolled up sleeves and the bad hairstyles marking them as vampire rejects from the Miami Vice period even more than the tingly sense in her gut. With a resigned grimace she grasped Mr Pointy in one hand and padded after them. At this rate the evening was going to end up with dust all over her clothes. At least it was easier to get out than demon slime.
She followed them down the darkened street, slipping from shadow to shadow, keeping out of range, just waiting for them to pause somewhere inconspicuous so she could stake them without any passers by making a fuss. ‘Cause that always led to awkward explanations and really she just wanted to go to go back to the hotel, eat some nachos and perhaps watch a fluffy romantic comedy. So it was with a sigh of pure exasperation that she saw the two fashion rejects close in on the tall slim figure of a guy who had just unwittingly ambled around the corner into mortal danger.
Daniel hadn’t even noticed that he might be wandering into a situation, his normally well trained instincts momentarily subdued by the intensity of his train of thought. They had just got back from PX-578 this afternoon after five days of sun, sand and possible weapon grade artefacts that had had Sam drooling at the mouth, General Hammond looking avuncular and even Jack and Teal’c cracking a few smiles. But he had been far more interested in the hieroglyphics that had been emblazoned on the back wall of the storage chamber, which held a tantalising hint of another sub set or regional dialect of Goa'uld. The possibilities of a historical and cultural rift between system lords was too intriguing to ignore and squirrel like he had burrowed into his office, only leaving when Jack had ordered him off the mountain.
Of course when he got home the only thing in his fridge was a half used can of beans that probably qualified as a non-sentient life form by now and a quart of milk so high it was almost cheese. So it was yet another trip to his local Diner and an omelette and fries. Replete, he had decided to walk home, the diner only being a few blocks from his apartment, almost absently taking a short cut down Pierson Throughway. But it wasn’t until he turned into the darkened street and the two guys lunged that he really clicked back to the here and now.
The next few minutes were a blur. The two guys grabbed him, one punching him in the stomach, immediately bringing him to his knees to bring up most of whatever he’d eaten at dinner, while the other one landed a round house kick that knocked him down flat, his head ringing like a bell, the sour taste of vomit clear in his throat as he heaved his guts out helplessly while they closed in to finish him. His sight was blurry and all he could think was that Jack and Janet were going to be so pissed, Jack for getting himself in such a stupid situation in the first place and Janet because he had been working on his all time record of six months without a concussion. He tried to pull himself up; nothing left in his stomach to puke up but could only get as far as his elbows, his sight swimming alarmingly in and out of focus, the only thing that was clear the two ugly grins on the weirdly mutated? – faces of his two attackers.
But then just as he resigned himself to the fact that this was going to get really nasty something happened. It was all just a blur of movement but he thought he saw a small figure swoop in, graceful as a dancer, moving like silk, kicking the two guys off him, spinning and doing something, something that made them disappear as though they had never existed. But that was impossible wasn’t it? He must have an even worse concussion than he had thought. Everything was tinted with a greyed out haze and moving left streams of rainbow colour across his vision. He pulled himself up into a sitting position and put a hand up to his head, wincing at the sudden sharp pain, and grimacing at the blood on his fingertips. Shit, Janet was going to be pissed.
Buffy brushed the last of the dust off her shirt and gave herself a once over to check she hadn’t missed a spot. They might have had a few decades but those two guys had been little more than fledging’s nothing even as tough as the normal day to day calibre of baby vamp she took the baby slayers out to practice on at the Cleveland Hellmouth. For her they were hardly worth bothering about, but as she shrugged philosophically it was after all the Slayer motto – see vampire, slay vampire.
A groan from the ground distracted her attention and she turned to the vamps potential victim, now sitting up and gingerly feeling his scalp wound. He was a lovely shade of greenish grey that contrasted wonderfully with the red blood of his scalp wound and she winced in sympathy as he tentatively felt around his injuries. God that must have hurt. Swallowing the slight pang of guilt that told her she should have interrupted a little faster she crouched down in front of him, green eyes meeting dazed blue ones sympathetically.
“Hey buddy,” her voice was gentle, trying not to startle the already rattled man, “do you need a hand?”
Daniel was still trying to command his stomach not to rebel when he became aware of a slight blond figure crouching in front of him, one hand reaching out to steady him when his balance went AWOL. He could tell it was a woman, but he couldn’t make out the details of her features too clearly through his concussion, only the brightness of her hair and the piercing mint greenness of her eyes making any impression. But her voice was kind and her touch was gentle and just now he would have probably welcomed a helping hand from a Jaffa. God Jack was going to be pissed with him.
“Yeah. Ehmm, thanks – did you see those guys that hit me?”
Buffy bit her lip at the dazed expression on his face. He was really kind of cute and for a second he had an inexplicable urge to just blurt out that they had been vampires, and well - she’d killed them. But thankfully the cover up habit was too well engrained and she made a vague gesture down the alley in the opposite direction.
“They ran off that way when I came round the corner I think. Can I help you up, call a cab maybe?”
Daniel accepted her pull off the ground with a grunt of thanks, too distracted to notice how a little thing like her had pulled his 6.1 frame off the deck without any effort.
“I just live down the block, I’ll be okay.” He went to take a step on his own and wavered, nearly falling until she scooted under his arm to support him.
“Oh no you don’t.” Buffy frowned up at him, noticing his pallor with concern. He really didn’t look too good. “Maybe we should get you to a hospital – what you think?”
Daniel shook his head emphatically, wincing at the nausea and shimmering of vision that small motion caused. Maybe he did need a doctor, but if he went to a normal hospital Janet and Jack, as well as General Hammond would be even more pissed. No, he would go home and give Janet a ring, that’s what he’d do.
“No hospital – but if you could help me home, I’ve got a doctor friend I could call.”
Buffy frowned up at him, undecided, part of her tempted to just drag him to the nearest hospital despite his protestations, the other part swayed by the anxiety that showed in those bright blue eyes. God she was a sucker for cute slightly dishevelled men.
“Okay I can do that. Personally I think you should be heading to the hospital but if you’d don’t want to,“ he felt her shrug under his arm, “I won’t force you.” She wrinkled her nose in a little grimace. “I’m not exactly the biggest fan of hospitals myself.”
“Thanks.” His voice was breathy with pain but relieved and she smiled slightly at the gratitude in his tone.
“No biggy. Now where’s this apartment of yours?”
“It’s just down the street – this way.” Lolling slightly from side to side like a pair of drunks as Buffy attempted to compensate for the man’s greater height the two progressed slowly down the alley to his home.
“Eumphh.” Daniel grunted as she eased him down on his couch as gently as possible, closing his eyes and willing the world to stop spinning. His headache, had if it was possible got even worse over the last few minutes and the face of his rescuer was only a pale coloured blur and a brief impression of blond hair. But despite that he was getting a strange nagging feeling like he knew her and his aching brain had seized upon this presumption and was worrying at it ferociously, despite the fact that he could hardly sit upright without wanting to be sick. He groaned as another wave of nausea overtook him and he felt a cool weight as the girl gently pressed a wet washcloth to his forehead.
Buffy was worried. The guy seemed to be getting worse and her elementary medical skills weren’t up to providing a solution. Grabbing his phone from the side table she gently shook his shoulder.
“Ehhmm…” god she didn’t even know his name. “Guy? Buddy? – I really think we should get your doctor friend over here. I need the number.”
Daniel bit back another groan and managed to stammer out Janet’s number between gulps as he fought to keep his stomach where it belonged. Thankfully the phone was picked up on the second ring, a woman answering.
“Hi – I’ve got a friend of yours here who sort of needs your help.”
“Who is this?” The tone was brisk and reminded Buffy of her Mom, the no nonsense approach giving her heart a nostalgic twinge. She took a deep breath, banishing the memories.
“I’m here at 275 Forestview, Apartment B, and I’ve got a guy here that says you’re a Doctor. I found him beaten up on the street, and he doesn’t want to go to a hospital…”
She heard the intake of breath on the other end. “Daniel? Are you there?”
Buffy nudged the supine figure on the couch gently until the slits of blue eyes opened.
“Is your name Daniel?”
At his nod she turned her attention back to the woman on the phone. “Yeah, he says his name’s Daniel. He’s got a pretty bad concussion and a scalp wound and he keeps being sick – can you help?”
She could hear the flurry of movement on the other end of the phone as the doctor charged around her place, probably packing up supplies. “I’ll be there within fifteen minutes – can you stay until then?”
Her question was peremptory, the tone that of someone used to command and Buffy to her surprise found herself agreeing to stay until the doctor – Janet-turned up.
“Just keep him lying flat and put cool clothes on his head, oh and you might need a bucket nearby.”
Buffy grimaced as she peeked at the grey-green pallor of the semi conscious man lying beside her. “I think we’re past that point. Anything that could have come up already has.”
She could hear the sympathetic little clucking noise on the other end of the phone, followed by a sigh of resignation.
“Typical Daniel. I should have known that six months without a concussion was too much too ask.”
Buffy raised her eyebrows in surprise as she looked over at her casualty. God was this guy accident prone or what? Janet’s tone changed back to brisk and impersonal as she quickly rattled off her mobile number just in case of a change in Daniel’s condition in the next 15 minutes. Then with a terse, “Thanks” she was gone.
Buffy put the phone back turning around to see the guy – Daniel- trying vaguely to sit up. She immediately put a gentle hand out to push him back onto the couch.
“No, don’t get up. Janet says you’re to lie still. She’ll be here soon.”
This seemed to reassure him and he slumped back onto the couch with a groan, closing his eyes in relief when Buffy gently put another wet cloth on his forehead. For a few minutes the apartment was silent apart from the sounds of their breathing and she took a moment to look around. Wow - this guy was an even bigger pack rat than Giles and by the look of it was in something of the same line of work.
Rows of shelves covered the walls from floor to ceiling, crammed with books in the way of the compulsive horder, volumes piled on top of volumes, crammed in sideways when space ran out, in piles on the floor and on tables. The books were interspersed with strange statutes, old bowls, mysterious pieces of metal and pottery, like an alchemists junkshop, and on the little exposed wall a few photographs, mostly black and white and faded sepia shared the space with some drawings and a beautiful old map, which she thought might be of Egypt. It was crowded and comfortable although she noticed a thin layer of dust everywhere as though he didn’t spend much time here and she couldn’t help comparing it wistfully with the Spartan sterility of her room in Cleveland and her flat in London, both of which were more like hotel rooms than spaces that reflected her personality. After Sunnydale and then again after Angel had died and she had gone on retreat to Nepal she had lost the ability to personalise her space, finding comfort in the emptiness that so echoed the spaces within her. But now the sight of this crowded apartment gave her a heartbeat of something alarmingly like desire, a wistful pang at the ideas of comfort and familiarity it evoked. Thankfully at that moment Daniel groaned again and she hastily turned her attention back to him, not wanting to descend into the depths of introspection.
“Hey buddy – how do you feel?”
Daniel was slipping in and out of consciousness, one minute aware of being in his apartment on his couch and the next moment feeling as though he was on Abydos walking the sands, or in Egypt with his parents, or in the commissary with his team. But a soft voice was talking to him, the tone gently cajoling and he found himself focusing in on it, letting it bring him back to the here and now with the pain in his head and the cool feeling of a damp cloth against his skin.
“Daniel? Daniel…I don’t think you should fall asleep now. Janet said you should stay awake and I only talked to the woman for a minute but I don’t think you want her pissed at you.”
He couldn’t help but smile a little at that, the merest upwards twitch of lips and encouraged, Buffy chattered on, trying to use her voice as an anchor to hold him to consciousness. He really was kind of cute, even sick like this and she bet that when he was up and about those baby blue eyes were heartbreaking. But she didn’t let herself think like that anymore. It always caused too much pain as she knew from experience. She had learned over the last 10 years that in her line of work it was better to be detached. Attachment only led to love and that inevitably led to pain and then death. Better to remain in a bubble ‘cause then no one can get to you. However the fact that it also meant that she couldn’t reach out to anyone had occasionally crossed her mind as well but it was a thought she thoroughly squashed whenever it reared its ugly head.
He was mumbling to himself now and she leaned in closer to listen, his voice strangely hypnotic.
“Sand…in my boots. Jack – any pie? I’m not allowed to help……Sam will have coffee…Sha’re…”
The last was said in a tone of such sadness and she frowned as she saw the random tears leaking from the corners of his closed eyes, running down to pool in his temples. Strangely disturbed by this silent grief she put a gentle hand on his cheek, her skin cool against his that was already starting to burn with fever as his body ramped up its attempts to deal with the injury.
“Hey, hey, Daniel…it’s okay now, it’s okay.”
He turned his head a minuscule amount towards her and opened his eyes just a crack, Siamese blue peering out through the gaps.
“Do I know you?” His voice was rough and crusty but she was so relieved to see him in the here and now that she broke into a smile.
“No – I don’t think so. We just met remember? The alleyway? The two guys?”
He frowned, still staring at her, “Yeah…”
He sounded unconvinced and stared blearily at her for a few more minutes, obviously trying to place her. She smiled back, faintly bemused by his current focus but more than willing to be stared at if it kept him in the here and now until Janet got there. For a moment they simply inspected each other, Daniel trying in vain to see anything beyond a blur of blond hair, pale skin and those haunting mint green eyes, trying to place that feeling of aching familiarity that just wouldn’t go away despite his logical brain’s assertion that he really had never seen this woman before in his life, Buffy simply examining the clean lines of cheekbones and strong chin, the long golden lashes and the soft curve of his mouth. God – again – he was cute. And she had to get her mind out of the gutter. He was injured for Christ’s sake – he wouldn’t appreciate being gawped at like a piece of meat. Not to mention that his inevitable lady or gentleman friend certainly wouldn’t appreciate it either. Although by the looks of the dust in this place he certainly lived alone. Her mind was abruptly pulled back on track by a small noise of satisfaction from the couch, followed by a gasp.
“I do know you! I do!”
She smiled slightly, humouring the concussed man. “I doubt it. But if you want to think so…”
He overrode her denial, the memories suddenly spilling into his mind so sharp and bright that he struggled to sit up, lost in the power of them.
“Whoa, whoa, you just stay back down.” She put a hand on his chest to restrain him and he stopped transfixed, staring at her out of suddenly wide open blue eyes.
“You were there – in the light. When it was other – I remember, you were there!”
Buffy stopped her gentle shoving as though an off switch had been flicked, shocked to her core, but he didn’t stop talking, words pouring out of him in a tumbled rush so eager was he to get it out while the elusive memories of his Ascension were still present.
“It was quiet in that place and peaceful and there was someone else there, someone you loved, and you were laughing…you had flowers in your hair.”
Holding her green eyes wide Buffy fought to stop the tears that immediately threatened to and then did overflow, falling down her cheeks in a torrent as he with a few careless words ripped apart the carefully constructed barriers that had allowed her to go on living for the last five years after her friends had unintentionally ripped her from heaven. The aching desire that still lurked in a corner of her soul for the one place where everything had been perfect, the ultimate reward, poured into the rest of her, wracking her body as the sheer emptiness of her life in comparison to the bliss that her death had given her overwhelmed her and she pulled her hand back from his body like it was on fire, holding it to her mouth to stifle her sobs.
Daniel couldn’t see her face but he could hear her grief and overwhelmed with remorse at the pain he had inadvertently caused he reached out blindly to her face, wiping away the ceaseless tears with his fingers.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry, please don’t…”
He could hardly hear her through her sobs but somehow she managed to get it out.
“It’s so dark here…”
And somehow he knew she wasn’t talking just about the night sky that was encroaching on the windows of the apartment. She was still crying and he kept wiping away her tears, desperate to reassure her.
“I know, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s light here, and joy, we just have to find them.”
“But it’s not the same!” she almost wailed, the sound of a broken heart apparent in every waver in her voice. He closed his eyes again at the sheer weight of despair in her voice, acknowledging the truth in her words.
“No. It’s not. But it’s our duty to keep on going here until they let us go back. That’s just the way it is.”
He could feel her nodding between his palms, the salt of her tears cool against his hot skin and she opened her mouth as if to say something. But then the door bell rang and she wrenched herself away abruptly, leaving him careering dizzily back against the couch, strangely bereft.
He could hear the sound of voices, the girl’s and the familiar astringent tones of Stargate Command’s Chief Medical Officer as she bustled up to him. And then he was encompassed by the hurricane that was Janet Fraiser at work as she called Jack and tended to him simultaneously. And by the time he had breath enough to ask where his mysterious rescuer was he was told she had gone, vanished into thin air, leaving him with a strange aching sense of loss and a desperation to find out exactly how she could have been there when he was ascended.
For Buffy herself, from the moment she had let the dark haired Doctor in all she wanted to do was run. Run as far away as possible from this gentle man with his blue eyes that seemed to understand so much and who had ripped apart her carefully constructed armour like it was tissue paper leaving her bare and bleeding underneath. She couldn’t be here, not now. She was aware that the Medical Officer had given her a sharp eyed look, seeing the redness of her eyes and the blotchiness of her cheeks when she arrived but she hadn’t commented or questioned her at all apart from a few queries about Daniel’s injuries and then had left her alone, too focused on her patient to notice when Buffy quietly slipped out the front door and down the stairs. She just wanted to get away, away from this town, away from this man, and especially away from the feelings that were rising in her like a Phoenix, burning away the debris of detachment and isolation and making her feel in a way she had fought so hard to avoid ever since Sunnydale disappeared and then Angel died.