Chapter 1: Search and Rescue
Title: Finding Balance 1/?
Authors: BigHead / 3D Master / Joshua the Evil Guy
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: 15 (For violence)
Keywords: X-over Naruto/BtVS drama, angst, action.
Spoilers: Buffy/Angel up until finale, Naruto up until chapter 238.
Time frame: Post Buffyverse series finales, Naruto: just after Sasuke leaves.
Summary: Post S7: Faith is sent to investigate strange occurrences in Africa, surrounding Xander, and his Slayer training observation, along with mysterious rogue Slayers.
Characters: Xander, Faith, Oz, Dawn, Kurenai, and the rest.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its characters do not belong to any of us, but to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. Naruto and related concepts are owned and created by Masashi Kishimoto.
BigHead Notes: I can’t seem to refuse anything out of those guys. And I love Naruto as well.
3D Master’s Notes: Naruto X BtVS, it was only a matter of time!
by BigHead (email@example.com), 3D Master (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Joshua (email@example.com)
Chapter 1: Search and Rescue
Tanzania – Three years after the events depicted in Chosen
For those people who knew the stunning beauty driving the jeep over the African savannah, her current actions were not on par with her personality. The absolute lack of anything even remotely close to a road, the heat and the weird mission would be enough for her to be cursing since she turned the jeep on for the first time some hours ago. But the only sounds that came from her mouth were the occasional grunts when the jeep entered a larger hole or stumbled over a larger bump. And her eyes only paid occasional attention to the GPS screen attached to the dashboard, completely ignoring the beautiful landscape and wildlife.
The mind of Faith, the second oldest Vampire Slayer, was still stuck in a loop that started almost a month ago.
Cleveland – The recent past
She entered the room covered in demon goo, vampire dust and bruises. None of this mattered to her, since the goo and dust would be gone in a few minutes after her shower, and the bruises would be old history tomorrow morning. But what was bothering her was the man standing in the other side of said room, calmly browsing a book.
“Yo, G-Man! What brings you from the land of tweed?” she asked to Rupert Giles, head of the Watcher’s Council and a friend.
“I had hoped that when Xander went to Africa, that infernal nickname would have gone with him, but no. I should have thought to not have high hopes on anything,” he said, but grinned. “How are you, Faith?”
“I’m . . . going, G. . . iles,” she said, a bit nervously. “How’s B? And the Squirt? Is everything all right?”
“They are fine. And the last question is the reason why I’m here. How are you, Faith? Really?”
Faith knew exactly what he was talking about, the ‘Incident’. She instantly changed her body posture to one of defiance, her natural act of defense. Giles noticed it.
“Calm down, Faith. I’m not here to reprimand you or anything like it. I just want to hear what happened. As a friend.”
Faith relaxed a bit. “Mind if I sit?” she asked, eyeing the sofa on the other side of the room. Giles nodded, and accompanied her, sitting on the other side of it.
“So?” he asked, the tone reflecting more care and worry than she would have expected. She sighed.
“We, I mean, me and Woody, we aren’t in the best of moments. We have been arguing a lot, y’know?”
“About what?” he asked, albeit already knowing some facts from the other Slayers that lived in the same house.
“I guess everything. Small stuff. Big stuff. We don’t talk much more nowadays . . . I guess it’s been a while since we have a good talk, without shit hitting the fan.”
“I know this is none of my business, Faith, but if it is so bad, why do you still stay with him?”
Faith looked away for several moments. “I-I’m not really sure, G. Perhaps because of the past? He was . . . is a nice guy. Sometimes. I guess our time is coming to an end, just that.”
Giles looked at her slightly shaky hands. She was nervous. “Can you tell me what really happened?”
A longer moment of silence ensued, before she spoke again.
“Before I left for patrol, we argued, y’know? I can’t even remember what about. I was so pissed I almost broke our room’s door. Rhona went out with me, and while we were walking, I calmed down, but something kept nagging me. I still don’t know what. So, we were walking and we hit a group of seven vamps and two demons. We started fighting them, but something kept building inside of me. Anger, hatred, pain . . . I don’t know, but when a vamp scored a good hit, I snapped. I let my stake fall and started pummeling the bastards.”
Faith’s frame shook like a leaf in the wind, and she held her knees as if the world would end any moment now.
“I’ve never felt like this, Giles. Ever. Not even when I was evil. It was like Slaying, only . . . I don’t know . . . tripled. We get angry when we fight, I guess it’s like fuel to us, but this . . . Anyway, we were fighting, or better, Rhona was, while I was playing Mike Tyson with a demon’s face. The bastard was already out cold, and my knuckles were hurting, but I kept hitting him. Rhona tried to stop me, but when she held me, I almost struck her. I stopped inches from her nose, Giles,” she said, and broke out in tears.
The normally stoic Watcher approached her and held her strongly in his arms, while speaking calming words in her ear. She cried for several minutes more, until finally gaining some semblance of control.
“T-thanks, G,” she said, still sniffling.
“You’re welcome. Mind if I ask you some questions about it? It might help.”
“You said anger, hatred. Against Robin?”
“N-no, Giles. I thought that at first, but it wasn’t because of him. It wasn’t directed at him, it just . . . was.”
“You also said it felt like Slaying, correct?”
“More like Uber-Slaying,” she said, and at that precise moment her mind decided to remind her of something. “I felt this once, G.”
“Where?” he asked, curious.
“Fighting the Turok-Hans with B while Billy Idol was imitating a flashlight,” she said, and made a small smile over the comparison.
“W-well, I guess it should be. After all, those were unthinkable odds.”
“But that night wasn’t, Giles. It was normal stuff, go Slay, go Hungry, go Horny. Not go Nutcase-y.”
“C-certainly there must be some explanation somewhere. I will check some books in here and ask for HQ to check a few things for me. But now it’s late and I guess you want a shower quite badly.”
“Yeah. I can’t imagine how you can handle the smell. You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?” she spoke, the last part a murmur barely heard.
“Well, you are a woman, which in my opinion is a quite normal setting for craziness. And you are also a Slayer, which only adds to this factor. But no, dear, I don’t think you are insane, just over-stressed. Come on, show this old man the cot where he’s supposed to rest his wary frame.”
“Do you think we have cots? Those bastard Watchers don’t give us enough money to buy lipstick, and you want us to have /beds/?” she said all that smiling that thousand-watt grin of hers. This interplay was an old joke, reminding Giles from their travels in the old school bus, while searching for demonic activity in the States they passed. Said bus now was parked on the side of the Cleveland Slayer’s home, as some sort of trophy or something. “Come on, Laura left for a while to visit the parents, her room is free. Where are the bags?” she asked, standing up.
“Rhona has them,” he said, following her. “I also came for another reason, but we can discuss it in the morning.”
“Problems?” Faith asked, while knocking on the other Slayer’s door. The Cleveland Watcher’s HQ was an old school, which was converted into a training center slash hotel slash library and still school for the Slayers which took care of the Cleveland Hellmouth. So, every Slayer had her own room, with her own bathroom and some other amenities, like computers, telephones, TVs with cable and so on. The mentality of the new Watcher’s Council was that Slayers were people as well, so they deserved to be treated as such. This proved to be quite effective in the long run, since Slayers’ lives were measured in years now, instead of just a few months.
“Not exactly, or at least I don’t think so,” Giles said, while Rhona opened the door to her room. He thanked her and picked up his suitcase, and they walked to the room he was going to use. “You know Xander is still in Africa, right?”
“Yeah. I talked to him a coupla months ago. He sounded happy.”
“He is. From him come the best-trained Slayers, the most dedicated ones. They are specialists in teamwork, and they know some quite dirty tricks.”
Faith knew that as well. Zanna, the Zimbabwe-born Slayer, which lived in the third floor, was one of the top Slayers on her teams. An expert marksman, with anything from a pistol to a sniper rifle, who knew demolitions as well and gave Faith a run for her money on the mats. And one sweet little girl on top of it all. The Slayers had a saying among them that if a ‘Xander’s Girl’ was among them for a mission, they all would come back alive.
“So, what happened?”
“Some years ago, soon after he went to Africa, he called me one day to ask for a favor. He asked me to give him ‘carte blanche’ to run Watcher’s operations in Africa, no questions asked. I argued with him for some time, but he made a promise to, how you say it ‘deliver the goods’. And he did, we have amazing proof of that. And that’s how it went until now. He made a few reports over time, nothing too little, nothing too much, just enough to keep me and the rest of the Ruling Board happy.”
“Two months ago, he and the rest of the Slayers which were training with him disappeared. Or gone underground, I don’t know. The entire training compound was empty, not a speck of dust left behind. We sent a couple of Watchers to search for them, and that’s were things get interesting.”
They entered the teen’s empty room, and Giles looked around. Stakes, a battle axe and some other sharpened objects shared space with stuffed animals, make-up and posters from several young men from rock groups to actors. He shook his head. Slayers.
“You sure she won’t mind?” he asked, the gentleman in him always in the fore.
“Nah, I know Laura. If I tell her you stayed in her room, she’ll probably put the bed in an altar and pray for it, saying you slept in it,” Faith said with a grin.
Giles sat on the bed, and removed his glasses, the hands mechanically cleaning them.
“Anyway, the Watchers go to Tanzania, where the compound was, to try and find what happened. One night, while on patrol, they find a Slayer fighting some vampires. She killed them and then she ran away when the Watchers tried to talk to her.”
“That’s odd. They threatened her?” Faith asked, weary. She knew how some Watchers could be, sometimes.
“No, John and Karla are new school, and smart people, they didn’t do it. What was odd wasn’t even the running away, it was the fight in itself. She was fighting twenty vampires, Faith. Alone.”
Faith’s jaw fell. She was the second most experienced Slayer on the planet, and she certainly couldn’t face twenty vampires all by herself.
“John said that the vampires made a circle around her, and then she did something with her hands and some sort of light came out of her, paralyzing them. Then she calmly proceeded to stake them all.”
“She cast a /spell/? Slayers aren’t spell casters, our powers inhibit it.”
“She did not. Karla is a spell caster of some ability, and she said she didn’t feel a speck of magic being used. Whatever she did, came from another source.”
“That’s wicked weird. Another Slayer power?”
“We don’t know. They searched more and came back empty. Two days after they reported back to me, I received an e-mail from Xander, which said, and I quote ‘We’re ok. Don’t bother sending anyone. X.’”
“So, that’s exactly what you won’t do, right? Question is, why me? Why not Red, or B?”
Giles sighed. That was the hard part of him coming.
“Faith, there are several reasons. First, Willow is rather busy with our Witches’ Coven, and Buffy isn’t exactly suited for this mission. She’s rather adamant in her opinions nowadays, and I fear for her reactions if she finds Xander and doesn’t like what she finds out.”
“Again, why me? I’m not the top person in X’s trust list, even if we made peace with each other.”
“The other reasons. You are our most experienced Slayer, and you know Xander and how he thinks better than anyone now. You can hold you own in a fight, if it comes to it, and I know it won’t. And the last one, I guess you need a break.”
“Me? A break? Why?”
“I guess you are suffering from stress, Faith. Since Sunnydale, you have been fighting non-stop. I know you think you need to prove something to someone, but this is rather foolish. You are burning out. Take some time, go somewhere else.”
“A mission is not exactly ‘time out’, G-Man.”
“This one is. Finding him shouldn’t be such a problem for you. We have some clues on where he must be hiding. Talk to him, get some answers and come back, it’s all. No Slaying in sight, the African continent is rather calm in that front.”
“Twenty vampires is?”
“A fluke, I guess. It’s the largest group we ever had reported. And it was dealt with.”
Faith thought about if for a couple of minutes. “Can I take Woody with me?” she asked.
“You think it’s wise?”
“Should be a chance to patch things up. I have to try, at least,” she said, hopefully.
“I guess it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll send someone to overview things around here.”
“’k. When do we leave?”
“Let’s talk about that in the morning, ok? I need my jet-lagged sleep and you still need that shower,” Giles said.
“Yeah, ‘k. Have a nice night, G.”
Faith walked out of the door, and after she closed it, she murmured. “No, Giles, thank /you/.”
Faith was still remembering the events from the rest of that night, when the GPS started beeping, indicating she was arriving at the last known place where Xander had been seen. It was a small village, of a few huts made of clay and hay. Some children ran away when they saw the jeep approaching, and a single, tall man, came out of one hut. He was dressed in typical warrior fashion.
Faith stopped the jeep near the man, and climbed out.
“Jambo [Hello],” she said, one of the few words in Swahili she learned to try and talk to people.
“Jambo, mchipukizi. Mambo? [Hello, pretty lady. What do you want?],” the man said, showing Faith the whitest teeth she had ever seen. It was a big contrast with his dark skin.
“Upekuzi [Searching] . . . white guy . . . Xander,” she said, losing her vocabulary with the Masai’s answer.
“So, you must be Faith,” the man said, in an impeccable, Oxford-accented English. “You are prettier than Xander told me. Welcome, my name is Mboto, but you can call me Mike.”
Faith’s jaw fell all over again, and she got the stupidest face like, ever. The Masai, Mike, grinned like a maniac. Faith looked him in the eyes and saw the mirth in them. So, the face changed from stupefied to pissed off. “You knew who I was. Why the charade with the language?”
“Xander said you still owed him a couple, and I could collect one. I have something for you. Come with me, it’s cooler inside.”
The Slayer followed the tall man back to the hut from where he emerged. They entered, and Mike went in search of something.
“How did you learn my language?” Faith asked, while the man still looked inside some pots.
“Went to college in Dar-El-Sallam. I’m a geologist. Ah, found it,” he said, giving Faith a sealed envelope. Problem is, said envelope looked old, far older than a couple of months since he had disappeared.
“When did you see Xander last?” the Slayer asked, while opening the envelope with her name scribbled on the front.
Mike thought it over for a few minutes. “Almost a year ago. He brought my sister to visit.”
“Your sister is a Slayer?”
“Yes, she is.”
Inside the envelope, there was a single sheet of paper, with one single line of text on it. Coordinates for some place. Faith showed the Masai the paper.
“You know these coordinates?”
Mike studied them for a minute, before answering. “If I’m not mistaken, those are near the Kilimanjaro.”
Too many questions popped up in Faith’s mind. Time to have a few answers.
“Since when do you have this envelope?”
“Almost three years now.”
That caught the Slayer. How . . .?
“How did Xander know? And it’s addressed to me. You don’t have any other envelopes, do you?”
“No, just this one. And how he knew, I guess the vision quest showed him.”
“I guess I must explain it better. You see, three years ago . . .”
Tanzania – Three years ago
The man arrived in the village close to sundown. At his side a native guide, which spoke with him in rapid-fire English. From what Mboto could gather from that distance, the one-eyed white man was looking for someone special.
Mboto was smart enough to know that the special one was Kalinda, his baby sister. Since the day that she almost broke his back from hugging him, he knew something was terribly wrong. The nightmares, the inhuman strength, it was too weird. They had talked and decided to hide those things from the rest of the village. Mboto approached them, and introduced himself in Swahili. The guide introduced himself and the white man as one Xander Harris, coming from the United States.
He invited them to their hut, and the moment the white man looked at Kalinda, Mboto knew that the man had found what he was looking for. Surprisingly, he didn’t force the issue, nor demanded to talk to the girl. They sat on the ground, and Xander began to talk, while the guide translated it to them. Mboto wasn’t bothering with the translation, he was focusing on the American’s reactions. What he heard surprised even him, born in both the mysticism of his people and the knowledge of white civilization. Slayers, Vampires, Demons, Watchers, Hellmouths, it was all too much information and too weird to understand in one go, and he knew the American was speaking the truth. No one invented such a story and told it with such emotion reflected in it. So, he invited them to stay for the night and that they should talk again in the morning.
They accepted, and then they mounted a barrack outside the village. Mboto and his sister talked for a good part of that night, finally coming to a decision. She couldn’t stay out of it, the world needed her, and it would be a chance for her to learn new things. She was an avid seeker for information, much like her big brother. He didn’t like it, though, so he needed to talk to the American. He walked out of the hut, going in the direction of the barracks.
Surprisingly, he found the man leaning against a tree, looking to the east. Mboto approached silently.
“She’s your sister, right?” Xander asked in an even tone, without turning.
“How do . . .” Mboto asked, surprised.
“I know she’s your sister? Or that you speak English?”
“Both, I guess.”
“You either learn a few things after seven years in this business or you die. Since I’m talking to you and like to watch the sun rise, you can guess what I picked.”
“Sorry about the charade, she’s my only sister.”
“I can understand. In your position I would probably do the same thing.”
“She said she wants to go.”
Xander finally turned around and looked at him.
“That’s good,” he said, smiling. Mboto noticed that the smile didn’t reach his eye.
“I thought you would be happy.”
Xander sighed and turned back to watch the sunrise. Problem was, sunrise would still be in a couple of hours.
“I guess I am, to a point. She will have a better chance of survival, by training and learning with us. On the other side, I guess I’m really sorry I have to do this job. She should have a normal life. Too many people have suffered already,” he said, hand involuntarily moving to his patch.
“You lost faith,” Mboto said, and it wasn’t a question.
Xander looked back at him, his face answering more than his mouth. “I guess I lost something different, I lost track of where I’m going. In this business you live one day at a time, but we always look to the future, you know?”
“I guess so. Otherwise, you lose track of what you are fighting for,” Mboto said.
“Yeah. I just can’t seem to look beyond today. We’ve fought so much, and we’ve lost so much that I’m beginning to think it’s not worth it.”
Mboto was surprised. The defeated man who was standing there looking to the east was so much different than the one that was speaking in the hut several hours ago. He could leave his sister with the man on the hut, but not the one he was talking to now. So, he had to do something, and he knew exactly what.
“I may have something that can help you. You ever heard of vision quests?”
Xander almost made a joke out of it, but refrained himself.
“Some things, yeah. I read somewhere that Native American cultures do it. Why?”
“This is not an exclusivity of the American Indians. Some African tribes do it as well.”
“Yours do?” he asked, understanding the way the conversation was going to.
“We did, but our holy man died some time ago, and no one knows the entire procedure. But there is another village a couple of hours north of here where you can do it. Want to give it a try? It could help you re-encounter your way.”
Xander thought it over for some minutes. “It can’t hurt. Can you give me directions?”
“So, he went?” Faith asked.
“Yes, he did. He came back a week later with a worried face, talked to me for a while, gave me the envelope, took my sister and left.”
“He looked worried? What happened? What he spoke about?”
“Yes, but I believe haunted is a better word for it. He said he saw some terrible things in his quest, and he had to take actions against it. He told me you would come looking for him in the future, and he gave me this envelope. When I asked what he saw, he said only one word.”
Faith muted. In their business, those ‘impending doom’ stuff were daily occurrences, but she never heard Xander speak like that. He was always the optimistic, even in the worst of times, which was his best characteristic. For him to be this apocalyptic, he surely had seen some serious shit.
“I gotta go. Can you get me some water?” she asked, already worried in finding her . . . friend?
“Sure. And he asked to tell you one more thing, if you were alone.”
“What is it?”
“Watch your soul.”
Faith froze. Two minutes passed before she could utter another word. “You serious?” she asked, trembling.
“I-I gotta go,” she said, still shaking. Mboto was wondering what could scare a Slayer so badly.
“I’ll fetch your water. Wait a minute.”
He brought a vase filled to the brim with water for her, and she filled her own canteens. She said some hasty goodbyes and left, promising to return at some later time. When the jeep was far away, a teenager appeared from another hut, calmly walking to his side. He looked at her face, and like so many times before, the shivering of looking into light gray, pupil-less eyes took him.
“::You looked in her?::”
“::Yes, I did. It’s worse than Xander thought.::”
“::You trust him with that?::”
“::I trust him with more than that, bro. I trust him with my soul.::”
“::So why all this cloak and dagger stuff?::”
“::Security. We aren’t fully prepared yet. She’ll be pissed, but we will all be safe if everything goes as planned.::”
The Slayer known as Kalinda smiled warmly at him. In that, he saw the little girl he would always love.
“::Someone will pick me up in a while. Until then, I want to spend some time with my big bro.::”
Mboto smiled, and gave one last look in the direction that Faith had left, offering a prayer of safety and well being for his gods in her name.