Step in the Right Direction
AN: Yes, I am alive. Let's just say that a huge workload, writer's block,
and natural disaters all contributed to my absence. Me and mine are all
fine post hurricanes, but if you can avoid being part of the largest
evacuation ever, do so.
My continued thoughts and well wishes go out to those affected.
Please feel free to beat me with sticks next time I disappear for two
months. And on that note, I'll try to update in a few days now that I'm more
in the swing of things. After such a long absence, thoughts on this chapter
would be MOST appreciated via review, email, karma, whatever.
************** Trick Or Treat: Chapter Thirty-Five ********************
“So, the thing you were fighting when I called Mr. Giles was a…”
Buffy restrained a sigh. She remembered what it felt like when demons and
the forces of darkness were shiny and new, and actually interesting small
talk, she did. Actually, she didn’t. She had always been more of a point
and kill kind of girl, but Willow and Giles had always been ohhing and
awing whenever she was pointed at and killed something especially
Which was really exceptionally morbid, maybe even more so than the actual
act of slaying because geeze, due to the whole Chosen crapper, she was
supposed to get off on blood and death and mayhem. That just made Wills
and Giles weird. Really, really weird.
“It was a Toodle demon.” She paused and reflected before muttering, “Damn
Daniel Jackson blinked, disoriented at this interruption and Buffy’s own
lack of linearity, and Buffy allowed herself a small grin. He did the
intense concentration thing that Willow did, but intense concentration
couldn’t begin to deal with the reality that was Buffy Summers in all her
Valley Girl glory. Willow at least was born in the right generation.
Her Watcher snorted as he sent a half-hearted glare at the two of them,
settled down in the front corner of Dawn’s hospital room. The rest of
SG-1 lingered within hearing distance, and were obviously taking advantage
of this fact, though probably more out of boredom than anything else, and
the girls were dispersed throughout the small room.
Most of them were taking naps in small heaps, like little killing machine
puppies, all tuckered out from being bored out of their skulls. A group
of six were watching the end of Haley’s sudden death match with Andrew
over Go Fish. Buffy didn’t even want to consider how many brain cells
had been destroyed by that particular event.
She felt a flush of pride, both for the girl and for all that Xander had
done for her, when she noticed Lindsay standing quietly apart in the back,
so that she had a full view of the room, her narrow hands resting near the
weapons she had hidden beneath her clothes. She was very, very, clearly
on guard. The older girl’s gaze lingered on Lindsay for a moment, and the
younger Slayer, feeling the stare, met Buffy’s eyes.
Oh, poor child, child no longer. There was a pang for Buffy’s own loss of
childhood yes, but mostly for Lindsay’s. Growing up sucked when your
mistakes ended up with body bags.
“So there’s people, all over the world, who go around killing these kinds
of creatures, and keeping the bad ones in check?” Dr. Jackson’s eyes
shone with rapture at the idea, which was a good since he managed to miss
both the snorts and eye rolls of disgust that Colonel O’Neill and Giles
sent their way.
Buffy was quite aware that Xander had to spill the beans to Gray and Dumb,
and apparently trusted him enough to do so. That meant O’Neill knew about
the little Chosen One, or many, issue that Buffy had neatly been skirting
about. Giles was just annoyed Buffy had let someone else partially in on
the “I Know About Demons” club.
There was a reason behind the apparent carelessness though. Buffy knew
enough geeks to recognize a pit-bull when she saw one. Daniel “I’m So
Smart” Jackson was firmly committed to the idea of Vampires. If she
didn’t throw him some fake bones to gnaw on the Slayers were going to
end up featured in Better Worlds for Aliens, December Issue.
If letting him believe Buffy thought she was some noble solitary warrior,
okay she was but whatever, kept that from happening, she’d have story
time until the next Apocalypse. Though, granted, they were overdue for
one. At least in Guatemala.
The Teal’c guy seemed to be taking all that he’d overheard with all the
calm stoicism of every other alien Buffy had ever met, which, granted was
zip, nada, zilch. But still. Major Carter kept alternating between
annoyance, and sympathy that made Buffy annoyed because it reminded her
of her Mom’s, near the end. Accepting on a superficial level, but still
pitying about all the wrong things.
God, she missed her Mom, even now. Especially now.
She didn’t need to be a mind reader to know that Samantha Carter was
wondering how many awful things had gotten their claws in Buffy over the
years. If Buffy was missing an eye of her own somewhere.
Despite all this none of them, except for O’Neill, really, truly, in their
guts, were quite to the point of grasping the whole Hordes of Evil Thing.
Sometimes dangling the shiny idea in front of people was enough to keep
them distracted. Though seeing Wills float into their top-secret facility
probably brought the reality home a little more forcefully.
Buffy looked up, face carefully blank, as the guys filed in from their
neutralization mission. Haley tore herself away from the harrowing three
hour game of Go Fish she had been battling out with Andrew without a
second thought to throw herself at Riley. Buffy delayed looking at Xander,
afraid of what she’d see in the friend she had changed so much just by her
friendship over the years.
It was stupid of her, and wrong, because once you MET Xander you know how
much his own man he was, but some days… some days it was hard NOT to feel
responsible for the choices he’s made because of her. For her. What he’d
given up because once you had Xander as a friend, it was a friendship that
involved ALL of Xander.
He didn’t love in halves.
He didn’t live by halves.
And that scared the hell out of her some days because he got hurt so much
more easily than she did. It wasn’t that Xander didn’t have her emotional
strength. It was just that, in so many ways, he was braver than her. He
had loved Anya, in all her demony glory, more than she could have ever
hoped to imagine for herself and Spike.
After all their years of fighting the good fight, he understood death.
Hard to miss that lesson when his first staked Vamp had been his best friend,
but he cared about the girls in ways that she couldn’t fathom as well. Buffy
cared for them all, she did, but Xander loved them with the fierce devotion
of a Father who would protect them for eighteen years, not a temporary
guardian on their road to a messy end.
The girls swarmed Xander as he entered behind Riley, full of nervous energy
both from stress, and from the fact that they had all spent the better part
of two days crammed together in a small white room with only basic cable
and nothing to kill. Buffy wasn’t sure if it was sensitivity, or self
preservation that kept the Obnoxiously Official Ones, also known as SG1,
out of the fray of hormones.
Speaking of hormones…
“Can I get out of this damn bed yet?”
Buffy’s lips stretched thinly as she turned away from the reunions to give
her sister a wry look. “Bored yet Dawnie?” she asked sweetly.
It was a show of her increased maturity when she flipped Buffy the bird
instead of sticking her tongue out at her. Really.
Dawn didn’t do well with the whole inactivity thing well.
“Hey Xand, did you do the shish kabob thing?”
The blonde Slayer winced but went to help Dawn stand as her younger sister
blithely ignored what little social mores Buffy had TRIED to pound into her
little stubborn head over the years in order to go straight for the kill.
Dawn was wobbly, and conceded a hand on Buffy’s shoulder, but not much more
as she stumbled out of bed and grimaced as her little concussion reminded
her WHY she had been bed bound.
Beautiful, wonderfully assured, NORMAL brat, thank god, but brat
Buffy tensed as she sensed Xander walking up to them. Saw him smile wearily
at Dawn out of the corner of her eye before he reached out and ruffled her
little sister’s hair. “Yeah,” was the simple, quiet response.
Dawn snorted. “Good.”
Buffy resisted the urge to kick her little BRAT sister. Barely.
Xander hand reached out and clasped Buffy’s free shoulder. She took a moment
to examine it, before meeting his eyes. The hand was warm, clean, like it
had been scrubbed, work roughened, Xander shaped, as most of Xander was.
Buffy looked up, and met one of her best friend’s familiar gazes. He smiled
crookedly, that half broken Xander smile, and raised the hand to touch one
of her cheeks in a gesture that was mutually reassuring. “I’m okay Buff.”
She frowned. “Okay okay, or okay fine?” Because they both knew that okay
fine was like ‘okay I have a mortal wound but plan to go golfing because
I’m delusional’ fine.
And there was a moment when the Xander shaped façade slipped a bit, and she
could see some of the pain and uncertainty, and self satisfaction she knew
would be there. From taking his revenge, and serving justice with his
own hand. His hand withdrew from her cheek. “Let’s just say somewhere
Okay like a hammer to the head then. That sounded about right.
“Harris, I really hate to ruin the lovey dovey moment, but for those of
us who don’t speak Californian, could you please explain in small,
non-pop culture laden phrases, WHAT IN THE BLOODY BLUE BLAZES IS GOING ON?”
Buffy released a silent breath of relief as Xander turned to face SG-1.
He rocked back on his heels and eyeballed good ol’ Colonel “Pain in My
Ass” O’Neill speculatively. “Bloody blue blazes? We leave you locked
in a hospital room with nothing to do for two days and that’s the best
you can come up with?”
Jack grinned. “What can I say? Carter snores. I haven’t SLEPT in two days.”
The blonde woman’s head snapped up indignantly. “Sir!”
Her supposed superior sent her an unrepentant smirk. “Why do you think I
have you bunk with Teal’c offworld?” Samantha Carter spluttered as Jack
continued sagely. “Ask Daniel…”
The older woman whirled to face her teammate, who was studiously avoiding
all direct eye contact. Buffy watched, bemused, as he removed his
eyeglasses and began to clean them with a ferocity that would have matched
Giles at his most appalled and uncomfortable. Giles was, in fact, doing
his very best to smother his snickers. Buffy shot her Watcher a warm look
that he studiously avoided.
Daniel Jackson wasn’t a true Tweed Man, but Buffy would bet five kittens
he was all tweed at heart.
“Daniel?” Sam begged.
“Err…” the good doctor hedged with all the ease of a man facing the
encroaching hordes of hell. Or an extremely pissed woman. Same thing in
most cases, Buffy conceded upon reflection.
Teal’c broke into the action by awkwardly patting Samantha Carter’s arm
and sagely adding, “I have grown quite used to your nocturnal noises.”
Buffy snickered in time with Xander and for a moment, they were the Scooby
Gang of old. Okay, that put them at the mental maturity level of a three
year old but damn, it felt good. The Major blushed beet red, then white,
then red again when Daniel Jackson suddenly lost his own battle with
maturity and began to giggle.
Colonel O’Neill smiled, but despite his jibes, it didn’t touch his sharp
gaze. After Daniel’s mirth quieted, the older man leaned forward intently.
“Come on Harris, you asked for trust and I gave it; now give me something,
anything… Stop making us fly blind and give us some damn answers,
answers that make sense!”
Buffy blinked back sudden tears when Xander glanced at her, seeking silent
permission, permission he didn’t need damn him, but it warmed the place
inside that grew distant from her and Giles’ too frequent jaunts around
the world. It was hard not to feel adrift from her friends when she spent
so much time away from them.
Hard as hell to be an absent leader, as Xander was discovering.
Although randomly, for as hard as Xander hit, Jack O’Neill seemed to be
making remarkably obnoxious use of his mouth. His jaw was a lovely
shade of purple from the wallop Xand had delivered on their arrival, but
the older man was still all bitchy with the sarcasm and cynicism.
Buffy, despite herself, was growing to like it. No one had given her
proper sparring in a long, long time. Xander and Wills and Giles were
all too close.
Stupid, snarky, military man. It had to be something in the water at
The room door opened again, temporarily stalling all conversation, and
then effectively killing it, as a very tousled red-haired witch stuck
her head in. All of the mini-Slayers froze in precise, well-trained fear
at the sight of this seemingly harmless woman rubbing sleep from her
eyes. She yawned, and most of the Slayers backed up a step.
Then her out of focus eyes slowly settled on the members of SG-1, and
all of the Minis’ careful edgings didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Willow’s lips pursed as she regarded the strangers in their midst as
Buffy and Xander exchanged wary glances and, stupidly probably, took
identical steps forwards.
Towards a newly woken and soon to be oriented Willow Rosenberg.
“Wills…” Xand tried gently.
Their friend’s eyes narrowed suddenly as she shook off the last vestiges
of exhaustion induced sleep and took a step closer of her own, towards
SG-1. Poor snarky military man and friend. “Aren’t I supposed to be
killing bad people?”
SG-1 seemed to be getting the point in that they were all looking
“And why,” Willow added more firmly as she took another determined step
forward, “is there an alien here?”