Takes place post-Chosen for Buffy and no particular time for The Mediator (bearing in mind I haven’t read Haunted or Twilight). Oh, and Andrew lied to Angel and Spike. He and the other Sunnydale alum are nowhere near Italy! Crazy kid…
I don’t think you need to be familiar with the Mediator series (though it’s a nice YA read for anyone interested in paranormal adventure/romance) to get this story. Suffice it to say that Suze sees dead people as does Father Dominic. Suze, however, is not at all happy about it- a la Buffy Seasons 1 and 2.
Disclaimer: I don’t own it. Any of it. Wish I did.
Most Valuable Asset
Traveling down a road seen by only a handful of humans, was a Land Rover with two occupants. It followed the curves of the freshly paved road, past a grove of ripe orange trees and a stretch of grape vines.
After a few minutes, the vegetation ended and the SUV pulled up, into the middle of a construction area. The cement mixer and port-o-pot looked incredibly out of place in the middle of this wilderness. So did the twenty-something man in a hard hat, bent over a set of plans and shaking a nicely rounded butt to the song blaring from a boom box perched on the table next to the plans.
Xander looked up when he heard a car door closing over the blare of Willow’s latest mix CD. The girl that hopped out looked like a dark-haired version of Buffy. Young, but strong, with a certain world-weary look in her eyes. She crossed the grass, her high-heeled boots sinking in the soft ground a little.
“Hey, I’m looking for Xander Harris,” she paused and looked around the empty work site. “That must be you.”
“How did you find this place?” Xander tilted his good eye toward the newcomer and edged toward the cell phone he had left next to the radio.
“We had a great tour guide. Did you know that some Catholic mission used to own this place? After a very scandalous affair, the priest and one of his nuns were caught by the Monsignor, having ‘carnal relations’ around here, the future site of one of their churches. The nun got excommunicated, but she made sure he and the rest of the church never made it back here again. In fact, no one ever found this place again until a few years ago,” the girl smiled. “But I guess you already know that since Wolfram and Hart sold you the property for that very reason. A little slice of mystical wilderness in the middle of L.A.’s suburban sprawl?”
“Didn’t really need the history lesson,” Xander darted a glance at the person who remained in the car. A priest. Granted this particular priest looked about retirement age and much... softer than Caleb ever had.
Still, the collar made him a little wiggy. The priest sat in the car, tapping a pack of cigarettes and watching them warily. Could you blame him for edging a little closer to his toolbox where a stash of stakes and other armaments were hidden?
Plus, between the old magic that had hidden the site in the first place and Willow's new wards, it should be highly improbable to find this spot without exact directions. These two should not be in front of him right now. There had to be something weird about them.
"Look, did you know a chick named Anya?" the teen-ager standing in front of Xander actually had the nerve to looked annoyed when she wasn't casting pointed looks at something just to his right.
"Who are you?" Xander’s hand rested on the cell phone. Buffy was in L.A. gathering supplies- also known as shopping with the Council’s gold card- but Willow and Dawn were leading a group of potentials on a demon hunt in these woods, trying to route out all the undesirables who had moved in while humans had forgotten its existence.
"My name is Suze, but that doesn't matter," the girl shook her head. "Anya. Short hair, skinny, a little ex-demony?"
"How did you know Anya?" Xander’s suspicions grew. The girl wore a pendant of some sort around her neck, a locket? And the priest was scarily D’Hoffryn-like.
There were, unfortunately, many opportunities for beyond-the-grave vengeance in the construction area that was well on its way to being the new slayer training ground should Anya or one of her cohorts decide it was in order.
"I didn't," she paused. "I just have something of hers."
"If that’s a locket that seems to let you mess up the lives of poor schlubs like me, I'd suggest you just break it right now before you get sent to Cleveland," Xander answered.
"Hey, I drove all the way from Carmel with a very nice priest who only listens to church music and the oldies. Give me a break, okay?" Suze fingered the locket. “Other people who were supposed to be my road trip buddy wouldn’t come to this ‘maldito’ place.”
“It’s not ‘maldito,’“ Xander protested. “It’s coming right along. It’s not the Sunnydale Hilton, but I had to fit in eight full bathrooms. I defy you to find a better design for a crop of crazy teenage girls.”
"Kicking ghost butt is so much easier," Suze sighed. "Just listen, okay? Anya, uh, sent me a letter on accident. She meant it for you."
She fished in her pocket for a crumpled piece of paper and closed the distance. With little ceremony, Suze pressed it into his hand and stepped back.
“She did really love you. In her completely weird way.”
Xander gave a disbelieving look and unfolded the paper. It was Anya’s careful, sort of old-fashioned writing.
I apparently died when the Bringers attacked us. I blame Andrew. As you may be well aware, dying sucks. Money no longer has any value. And none of my demon friends can visit.
Fortunately, the D’Hoffryn did let me know about the presence of a mediator in Carmel when I returned to the fold last year. She should be delivering this information to you shortly.
To prove that this is not a demon trick or other spell, I have included the following information:
You have a elephant shaped birthmark near your ---
Xander stopped reading.
“Did you read this?” he asked, a look of sheer mortification on his face.
“No,” Suze answered. She looked like she might be guilty, but Xander chose to believe she hadn’t, if only for the sake of his pride. He moved past the incriminating paragraph and several illustrative doodles to the last paragraph of the letter.
… A list of my assets are enclosed. Use them to build a large, capitalist structure in my name. If you like, you can also build something for the little slayer girls. But I want my name on a large and prominent sign in front. And be sure to take the tax deduction for the investments. Or I’ll haunt your muscled ass for wasting my assets.
P.S. Despite your many shortcomings, you were my greatest asset.
A tear rolled from Xander’s eye. He folded the letter, placed it in his pocket and cleared his throat.
“Thanks. Is she here? And you can see her?”
“Yeah,” Suze looked less annoyed.
“Can you tell her-“
“She can hear you,” Suze corrected. She pointed to the empty space beside Xander where she’d been looking earlier.
“An, I love you and I’m sorry. We all miss you a lot, even Willow,” Xander said awkwardly to the empty space. Suze motioned for him to pause. She seemed to be listening intently, then blushed.
“I am not saying that.” Suze sighed deeply. “Anya wants you to know that she enjoyed the whole bodies smooshing together thing. And if you don’t mind, she’s going to hang around and watch you dig and ripple and,” Suze paused. “No, I draw the line there. Suffice it to say your girlfriend has, had a very dirty mind. Oh, and you should smack ‘that little geek’ upside the head for her.”
“We razzed Andrew for a long time. He’s hauling boards in penance right now. Maybe you could get Jonathan to haunt him for a while.”
“You know where Andrew Wells is?” Suze pulled another piece of paper from her pocket.
“Yeah, he had to run into L.A. on an errand for Buffy.”
“Oh, we might have a chance to do the touristy thing for real. Where can I find this Andrew guy?”
“He should be meeting up with Angel, the bigwig in charge of Wolfram and Hart,” Xander slipped his letter in his pocket. “Just check in with Harmony, Angel’s assistant. Tell them Xander sent you… actually, give them Willow’s name. That’s probably safer.”
“Cool. Thanks,” she headed back to the SUV and hopped in. It lurched forward, then stopped.
Suze rolled down the window and leaned out.
“She says to take your shirt off!” with that the Land Rover pulled away and back toward civilization.
Xander shook his head and slipped his T-shirt over his head. Picking up a hammer, he headed toward the wall frames and grinned.
“Anya Jenkins School for Girls, here we come.”