Chapter Nineteen – Miracles?
Chapter Nineteen – Miracles?
Olivia was still trying to process what Dawn had said when the younger woman looked down at her watch.
“Nuts,” Dawn said. “Four and half hours until the wedding and I still have a ton of stuff to get done. Stupid British Museum.”
“What?” Olivia said.
“Guardian is working with the British Museum to repatriate some the artifacts that were recovered from the San Cristo,” Dawn explained. “One of the curators there somehow managed to get a hold of an inventory of what was supposed to have been on board. Apparently the Captain sent a listing ahead of what he was planning on bringing back. In was in the archives of the Museo de América in Madrid. Now she wants to know why some of the items on that list were not recovered from the San Cristo or why they weren’t on the inventories we provided them. I wasted 90 minutes on the phone with her this morning.”
“Why does that matter?” Olivia asked.
“Because we did recover them,” Dawn said. “We’re just not going to turn them over. One of them is a binding object for a demon that had been killing people up and down the Central and South American coastline for almost seven months. Stopping that demon was why we hired the salvage crew to go looking for the San Cristo in the first place. The gold and other stuff was just a bonus. We’re going to secure that one in our own archives. A couple of other artifacts also have magical properties. Our Rio office is working to find who has proper claim to them now.”
“So you have to convince them that you don’t have to turn them over,” Olivia said.
“Which should have been easy,” Dawn said. “Because Guardian has a long history of holding unto artifacts we recover from the expeditions we fund. Mostly because they have some power connected to them that we need to secure. Usually it’s not a problem. We funded the salvage team and did all the research. The wreck was in international waters. Salvage rights are well established. But this lady really wants to know what happened.”
Giles perked up at that comment. “Is it possible she may be aware of their true significance?”
Dawn shrugged, “Background check on her came back negative. She comes across as just being overly officious and picky. I’ve worked with her on a couple of other things.”
“Nonetheless, we should look closely at this matter,” Giles said. “Guardian has a long history with the British Museum. They are well aware of the fact that we occasionally hold back finds for our own collection. They rarely raise objections.”
Dawn nodded. “I’ll give Linda a heads up and have research do a more thorough check on our curator. But before I do that, I really need to get on this wedding stuff. I’ve got to check on the preparations in the gym. Make sure Andrew didn’t have the caterer bring in Klingon food again. Review the security layout with Hiko. And let’s not forget getting my hair done.”
“Klingon food?” Olivia was puzzled.
“Last year he had a party catered with a Babylon 5 theme,” Dawn said. “Twenty different varieties of Swedish Meatballs. Xander thought it was hilarious. The rest of us had no idea what was going on. It’s our own fault for letting a geek be in charge of all the food.”
Olivia blinked. The way Dawn and the others just switched from serious matters to seemingly irrelevant subjects in an eye blink was disconcerting. They almost seemed to take a perverse pride in the ability. She glimpsed at Giles and saw that he was calmly polishing his glasses with the resigned look of a man who long ago accepted what he couldn’t change.
“So when are Buffy and Faith going to get back?” Olivia asked.
“Probably about a half hour or so,” Kennedy answered. “They made another sweep of the area to make sure they got all the vamps.”
“Come on,” Dawn said. “You can get your hair done with me. One of the Slayers is a hairdresser. She’s set up in one of the rec rooms upstairs. Just close your eyes if she decides you need a trim. She won’t hurt you. But scissors are not meant to move that fast. You do want to look your best for the wedding this afternoon?”
Olivia smiled. She’d almost forgotten she’d come here for a wedding.
“Fine,” Olivia said. “I suppose I should get ready.”
A short while later Olivia was back in the room she shared with Buffy and Dawn. She took a moment to really study the room. It was as sparse as Buffy’s office downstairs. Other than a few pictures of the Scoobies and some people she didn’t recognize there was no decoration on the walls. If anything the place looked like a hotel room. It didn’t have the feel that someone lived here as Buffy claimed she did. Even if she was on the road six or more months out of the year, this place should have a more lived in look.
She re-called how Kate had told her that Buffy sometimes came across as disconnected from the world. Her office and apartment both gave off that same vibe. Buffy didn’t ‘live’ here. She just inhabited the space.
Faith had to be on the road at least as often as Buffy was and she had her own house in Cleveland that she shared with Robin. All the Scoobies sounded like they had put together semi-normal lives. Dawn had commented on her London flat several times during their extended e-mail correspondence over the past year.
Olivia kept trying to figure out what could have happened to Buffy. She was certain Buffy had found a way out. A way not to be the Slayer. And then the Scoobies dragged her back. Somehow that led them to making every girl with the Potential to be a Slayer a Slayer. It just didn’t make sense.
She turned when she heard the door open. Buffy came in waving to someone in the hall.
“Hello Olivia,” Buffy said. “Give me a few minutes to change and then we can talk,” she said as she whipped past Olivia in a blur.
Good to her word Buffy came out of her room about 25 minutes later in her bridesmaid dress. Olivia had to blink at the transformation. “How the hell?”
“Years of practice going from demon goo and vampire dust to radiant,” Buffy said. “Unfortunately it’s a necessary skill in this line of work. The upside is I’m helping to put two of the drycleaner’s kids through college.”
Buffy sighed. “Have a seat Olivia,” she motioned to one of the chairs.
Olivia sat down and Buffy took the seat opposite her.
“Alright Olivia,” Buffy said. “What do you want to know?”
“How did you get out?”
“Everyone keeps saying there is no way not to be a Slayer,” Olivia said. “That all those girls just have to accept that fighting is what they’ll do for the rest of their lives. I don’t believe that. You found a way out. Whatever the price was it has to be better than putting those girls in the middle of a war.”
“I didn’t get out Olivia,” Buffy said. “I’ve always been the Slayer. And I always will be the Slayer.”
Olivia shook her head. “You’re trying to tell me the only way out for those girls is to die. No. Dawn said it was bringing you back that hurt you. Back to the Slayer. What did they do to you? I can see the pain.”
Buffy looked up at the window. She seemed to be composing her thoughts. She turned back to Olivia. “About eight years ago we faced a true god. We managed to stop her, but not before she set her plan in motion. The world was literally minutes away from going bye-bye. There was only one way to stop it. And that was blood. My blood. So I stopped it. God I was so tired. Mom, Angel … I had to give so much up for the world. There wasn’t another choice. So I did what I had to do. One last time. I saved the world.”
“What are you talking about,” Olivia said. “You’re still here. You sound like you died …” something began to click in back of Olivia’s mind. “You died?”
“Dead and buried for almost four months,” Buffy said.
“But, how can you be here?”
“Willow, Xander they … they brought me back.”
“That’s amazing,” Olivia said. “They brought you back to life. Back to your friends, your family. That’s a miracle.”
Buffy let out a bitter little laugh. She got up from her chair and walked over to the window. “Do you know what Hell is Olivia?”
“I don’t understand,” Olivia answered. “It’s supposed to be where the bad guys go. You were in Hell?”
“No,” Buffy said. “That’s not Hell. And it’s not any of the silly dimensions that call themselves Hell. I’ve been to a couple of those. They’re bad places but they’re not Hell.”
Buffy reached out and put her hand on the window. “The real Hell isn’t a place. It’s the absence of a place. Hell is any place that’s not Heaven. This is Hell.”
Olivia was trying to figure out what Buffy was saying. “You were in Heaven. And Xander, Willow the others they … they …”
“They brought me back here,” Buffy said. “Where I have to fight. Where everything is hard. Where it’s all separate and … and … there just aren’t words. I can remember it. But I can’t describe it. I don’t think I remember everything. I don’t think it’s possible to have all of that in my head.”
Olivia just stared at her. She was dead and somehow they brought her back. Part of her mind kept insisting that was a miracle. She thought about the people she had lost. The ones she couldn’t save. Was it possible to bring them back?
Another part of her couldn’t let go of the idea that Heaven existed. That Buffy had been there in some form. And now she was here. And she thought of this world as Hell.
Yet another part of her mind kept thinking about what Dawn and others had been drilling into her since the day she arrived. Magic had a price. They brought Buffy back.
“What did it cost to bring you back?” Olivia asked in almost a whisper.
“Willow’s spell needed blood,” Buffy said. “So she sacrificed a deer.”
“She killed an animal,” Olivia was shocked. “The others …”
“They didn’t know about that part,” Buffy said. “They should have. They’d been around magic long enough. But you’d be amazed how blind you can make yourself. I’ve done the same thing. Blinded myself to the consequences of my actions.”
“You really think of this world as Hell?”
Buffy turned around. Olivia could see the pain in her eyes.
“For a long time, I just wanted it all to stop,” Buffy said. “I wanted to die. Just looking at my ‘friends’ hurt. I did things just to feel something. It was months before I could accept the idea of living.”
Olivia could hear the pain in Buffy’s voice.
“How could they not know?” Olivia asked.
“I didn’t tell them at first,” Buffy answered.
“Just like you, they thought they did a miracle,” Buffy said. “They thought they saved me from some hell dimension. They had their friend back. I didn’t tell them what really happened.”
“Why not?” Olivia demanded.
“I don’t know,” Buffy said. “They were my friends. They didn’t understand what they did. I didn’t want to hurt them. That’s what I do. Maybe I should have told them from the beginning. Maybe things would have been different. But there was so much happening. Just getting life sorted out was … I don’t know. The Slayer is supposed to be strong. The Slayer is supposed to protect. So I thought I was protecting them. Being strong for them.”
“The past is the past Olivia,” Buffy said. “I can’t fix. We all screwed up.”
Olivia could feel anger rising in the back of her mind. To take that kind of peace away from someone. She began to rise from her chair.
“Where are you going Olivia?” Buffy asked.
Olivia shook her head. The part of Olivia that was a cop was moving her towards the door. What Willow and Xander did. That demanded justice.
“They have to pay Buffy,” Olivia said.
“And who said you’re the one to make them pay?” Buffy said.
“That’s my job Buffy,” Olivia answered. She didn’t know what she was going to do. But she had to do something. Without any warning Olivia found herself pinned to the wall. Buffy was staring directly into her eyes. The sadness was gone. In its place was the Slayer.
“Listen very carefully,” Buffy said in a controlled voice. “I don’t need someone else getting revenge for me. I am the Slayer. If I wanted Willow and Xander to suffer any more than they already have. I can do it myself,” Buffy pulled back. She closed her eyes and when she opened them she was herself again. “You don’t know what they’ve already been through. Tara, Anya. The town where they grew up. All any us had when Sunnydale fell were the clothes on our backs. You don’t even want to know how many banking and securities laws Willow broke getting access to our money.”
“They hurt you.”
“And I forgave them for it,” Buffy said. “As much I ever can. It’ll never be like it was before. There are things we don’t talk about anymore. Stuff we don’t share. But Willow and Xander have been family since the day I met them. They’ve been there from the start. They know how it works. I need them. This place needs them. No one else knows what they know and no one else can do the things they do.”
“So you just accept the pain?” Olivia said. “How can you stand to deal this world?”
“Because we changed things,” Buffy said. “I spent seven years as the Chosen One. Seven years defined by what I killed. That changed after Sunnydale.”
“I can build something now,” Buffy said. “Those girls out there. They’re my responsibility. I can build something for them. And they can build their own lives. I never had the chance to do anything like that before. I never had a chance to have a life beyond the next hunt. I can now. It can’t replace what I lost. Nothing can. But it’s enough. It gives me a purpose. And purpose is more than a lot of people get in this world.”
Olivia studied the woman in front of her. She could still see the pain in her eyes. But there was determination there as well. And wisdom. Age beyond her years. The world had beaten her down and she was still fighting to protect it.
“You could leave,” Olivia said. “There’s lots of Slayers now. Someone else could do your job. You could find a life.”
“And give up my purpose?” Buffy shook her head. “You know as well as I do it doesn’t work that way.”
“Quit your job on when you go back on Monday,” Buffy said. “There are other people who can do it. You have a choice.”
Olivia was dumbfounded by the comment. She shook her head. “I can’t do that. I…”
“You have a choice,” Buffy said. “But you’ve already made it. You can no more walk away from those responsibilities, from those people, than I can walk away from here.”
“And the other Slayers,” Olivia said. “What choice did they have?”
“Not much of one,” Buffy acknowledge. “At the time it was either accept the power. Or die. And you’re right; I made that choice for them. The First was murdering all the Potentials. From what we figured out, it was using the power of those kills to make itself stronger. Make it so it could affect more of the world. Draw up an army Turok-Han.”
“And bringing you back made that possible?”
“Magic has a price,” Buffy said. “Willow and Dawn can explain it better than I can. They figured it out. We can save that for later. What need to understand now is that if you want to change the world, the world has to pay a price. You want there to be no Slayers. You want so no fifteen year old girls have to fight a war. The only way to do that is to kill them. Every Slayer has to die. Then you have to kill every single Potential. All those girls under fifteen. Right down to the one born today. Then and only then will you be able to change the world. And that’s when you’ll find out what the real price will be.”
Olivia stepped back. She collapsed into her chair. “There has to be a better way.”
“The Slayer has existed in one form or another for millions of years,” Buffy said. “It is a primal being. It’s a part this world. Removing it means changing the world. And that carries a price tag. Think about the cost of removing an Adolf Hitler. Of the fall of the Soviet Union. Colonizing America. Running all our cars on oil. It’s not just magic. It’s the way world works. You want to do something there’s a price tag. Right or wrong, good or bad, someone somewhere is going to pay for it.”
“And those girls pay for it by being Slayers?”
“Or the world would have died,” Buffy said. “But it's different now. They have sisters, who teach them, protect them and who will do everything in our power to make damn sure what happened to me, to Faith, to Kendra, to all the Slayers that came before us, does not happen to them. They will not be alone.”