Chapter One: No Place Like
Disclaimer and summary found with prologue.
AN: Wow, I didn't expect that big of a response. I'm glad so many of you seem to like this idea and I hope that you will continue to enjoy the story.
Also, to let you guys know, much of the dialogue in this chapter is taken directly from Episode One.
Thank You to my reviewers-
bluezero, Cristina, ueshiba, CharmingStar, WMB, Rachel, grd, Revello, abeliever, Count Marsters, jammiesMM, Anneliese, and to
SlayerandWereLeopard - If you still want to it, take it. I don't mind. :)
No Place Like
The first rays of the first sun were breaking on the horizon, shattering the blackness overhead. The brightest of the stars started to fade away into the cool morning blue sky. The sand in and around the city began to glow with early light, as the hut-like homes windows started to shine when the occupants began their morning routines. From somewhere in the city, a drunken song drifted through the alleys and streets. Off in the horizon, the faint outlines of mountains were starting to take shape, though they still were blending into the sky this time of day. By the time the second sun rose – which would be in an hour or so – the city and desert would be well lit and full of people.
In a way, she could see how this place could almost be considered beautiful at dawn. Or she could, if she didn’t know that this was the dry spot on hell’s ass.
Buffy scrunched her nose.
Did hell even have an ass? Well, it had a mouth back home, so maybe. Of course, back home, she was the guardian of that mouth.
She wondered who was guarding it now. The gang? Maybe. But what could they really do? They didn’t have her strength. Her destiny.
Well, she supposed she didn’t have that destiny any longer. Kind of hard to be a vampire slayer when you’re a slave on some backwater planet in a different dimension. Especially when – even after a year – you’re still forced to wear correctional cuffs and collar and are unable to even leave the city without your Master without being shocked so badly that it nearly kills you.
Stupid cuffs and collar.
She wished Ani would hurry up and figure out how to disarm them. When he did, well, Watto and all these losers from space would find out what a Slayer was.
Speaking of Ani…
“Any sign of him yet?”
Standing up from the wall she had been leaning against, Buffy turned to see Shmi Skywalker in the doorway of their small home. Her face bore a permanent look of worry, but this morning it appeared to be more deeply etched into her features. There was good reason, though. Anakin had not returned home all night.
The previous day, Watto – the little demon that owned all three of them – had sent Shmi’s nine-year-old son into the desert to deal with a group of Jawas and bring back a new batch of droids. They knew it would be an all day trip, but he was supposed be back before sundown. As of yet, there had been no sign of him or the droids. Watto had been in a state yesterday when he had let Buffy go home, but she was sure it wasn’t because he was worried about Ani’s safety as much as what had happened to his new merchandise.
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Buffy said. “You know Ani. He probably saw something shinny and just got stuck wherever he was.”
Shmi pressed her lips. “I hope you’re right.”
“About ADD boy? Of course I am,” Buffy said.
Shmi tilted her head, a sign as to that she had no idea what Buffy meant, but didn’t ask. She never did anymore. When she had first come to live with her and Anakin a year ago after Gardulla’s place, both Shmi and her son were always give Buffy odd looks when she spoke. Kind of like Giles did, only more clueless.
Buffy’s breath caught as she thought about her Watcher. Thinking about him led to her thinking about the others. Led to thoughts of home.
No, that wasn’t home anymore. She had left there and ended up here a year ago. This was home now. Here, with Shmi and Anakin.
“I’m just so worried about him,” Shmi said, drawing Buffy back from her musings. Wrapping her shawl tighter around her body, Shmi stared out over the city. “He’s been acting…odd lately.”
“You think he’s acting odd now, wait a few years,” Buffy said, sitting down on the small stone wall. Shmi frowned even more, if that were at all possible. Sighing, Buffy said, “Look, he’s a kid. They’re supposed to act all weird and stuff. It’s like normal or something.”
“Did you?” Shmi asked.
“Me? Please. By the time I was fifteen, I was the queen of the weird.” Comes with being the slayer, Buffy added silently. Shmi didn’t need to know that last part. No one did. She wasn’t the slayer anymore. Just a girl. A slave girl.
Shmi shook her head. “I just wish – Ani!”
A land speeder raced up the dirt path that lead to the Skywalker/Summers home. A small boy was driving, his head barely above the dash for him to see. At one time, Buffy would have found that an amusing – if not slightly disturbing – sight. Now, she hardly thought anything of it anymore. Besides, at least Anakin could drive; a skill which she had yet to master.
In the backseat was one of the boy’s as-of-yet unfinished projects, C-3PO. He had given a number to the annoying pile of parts a few days ago. Ani gave him the number three because of her, since she was always threatening that the droid had to the count of three to shut up or she was going to turn him back into the scrape pile that Anakin had built him from.
Behind the speeder, a new group of droids marched awkwardly along, looking stupidly about their new surroundings. Dumb things.
The speeder slowed to a stop in front of the small home and Anakin jumped out. He had already unloaded Threepio by the time his mother and Buffy reached them.
“Where have you been?” Shmi asked. “We’ve been worried sick about you.”
“Sorry, Mom,” Anakin said.
“Sorry? That’s all you have to say?” she asked.
Anakin dropped his head and kicked a small pile of dirt. It was at times like this that Buffy remembered how young he really was.
“We just kind of got…distracted,” Anakin said.
“You were talking with those pilots again?” Shmi asked. She let a breath of air, releasing some of her anger and worry. “Ani, how many times do I have to tell you to not go near those men? They could be dangerous. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”
Threepio shifted next to Anakin, reminding Buffy a small child who had a secret but couldn’t tell it to anyone. Raising an eyebrow, Buffy noted to ask Anakin about it later. For right now, she needed to help save her little brother from the wrath of ‘Mom’.
“Well, he’s in one piece, so no big, right?” Buffy said. Before giving Shmi a chance to reply, Buffy had her arm around Anakin’s shoulder and was leading him into the house. “Come on. Watto’s going to be PMSing all day, so you better eat up before we go into work.”
Anakin gave her a grateful smile and let her lead him.
As they walked inside, Buffy said, “Okay, so spill. What happened?”
Shifting, Ani dropped his head and placed his hands behind his back. “I found a Tuscan Raider.”
Buffy froze. “Please tell me that’s some kind of new ship.”
Anakin was careful not to look at her.
“He was hurt. He must off fallen off the cliff side in the canyon and got buried under some rocks. I had to help him. He would have died if I didn’t.”
Drawing a deep breath, Buffy shook her head and patted him on the shoulder. “I swear, Ani. Sometimes, you’re too good for your own good.”
Buffy stood at the counter, her head resting on her chin as she spun a curved piece of metal like a coin. Business was slow that day. Even with the new droids, no more than a handful of people had come into the little junk shop in the middle of Mos Espa. They were too small of a business for anyone to really notice. At least that was what Watto believed. He thought that if they were like some of the larger stores, business would be much better. Buffy just kept herself from snorting at that. The reason business was so lousy was because the owner was an overgrown hairless rat with a personality of a grapefruit and no one wanted to deal with him. If he wanted business to pick up, he should just leave the store for her and Ani to run. Not that that would happen.
“What are you doing?”
Watto hovering in the air before her. The controller to her cuffs and collar hung from his belt and he sneered nastily at her.
True to her prediction, Anakin’s lateness in delivering the droids had lead to a moody Watto. For the past two days, he had done everything in his power to make Ani’s life miserable, mostly by making him work over time to finish all his work related projects. Ani was holding his own pretty well, which just aggravated Watto even more. This afternoon, he had Anakin cleaning out the bins out back – which mostly had sharp, rusted metal parts inside – while he had her working in the store. Watto knew Buffy was stronger, so the job would take Anakin twice as long, but that was why they called it punishment.
Buffy was also good to keep up front because the human male population of Mos Espa found her attractive. Watto didn’t get what they found so appealing about her. He did, however, understand that pretty girl equals better sales. Of course, that only worked when there were customers, which there were none at the moment.
“Nothing,” Buffy said, stopping the metal from spinning.
She pulled at the long scarf that was wrapped around her neck and head, holding back her hair and covering the correctional collar. Watto made her wear it at all times in public, especially when she was working up front in the shop. Men did like to buy things from her, but not when they caught sight of the smooth metal band around her neck. It was a sign that she was dangerous and no one wanted to go near a dangerous girl.
It was also a sign of a poor slave who was disobedient and their master had no other choice than to constantly punish them, which looked bad for Watto. The fact that she was small and appeared as if she should be easy control didn’t help the matter any. It was true that he could take the collar and the bands around her wrists – which were carefully hidden beneath her tunic’s long sleeves – off but that would be even worse for her owner. Mainly, because he knew she’s probably kill him if they weren’t there.
“Well, get to doing something,” Watto said. “Business is slow enough without your laziness, girl.”
Buffy frowned and opened her mouth to retort, but stopped when she felt something tug at the back of her mind. Someone powerful was nearby. Not that that was anything new here, either. Since she had arrived on Tatooine a year ago, her slayer senses had gone nuts daily. It was so bad that it had taken Buffy several weeks to find out that it was actually Anakin who sending the strongest slayer tingles her way. He was powerful, she could tell, but it was wild and unfocused.
Whoever was heading for the shop, however, had his power focused. Whether he was good or bad, though, Buffy couldn’t tell.
Watto was still sneering at her when a group of people walked in. They were an odd assortment of travelers. One was a tall amphibian-like creature that looked like the lovechild of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on acid. Though she wasn’t there, Buffy could almost feel Willow shutter. Way to frog like for her friend to handle.
He moved awkwardly through the shop, looking at the different objects set about with a great deal of curiosity. As he reached to touch something, a tall, older man cleared his throat, a warning for the creature to stop. The man had on a poncho that reminded Buffy Clint Eastwood. The only thing missing was the hat. He was also the one she was getting the sense of power from. She’d have to remember to be careful around him.
The other human member of their party was a girl a few years younger than Buffy herself. She was dressed like a peasant, but the way she moved and regarded the things around her made it obvious that she was anything but. She held herself with such pride and grace…well, she would have made a great Cordette back home.
The final member of the party was droid that looked like a rolling trashcan. His top swirled and various lights flashed as he beeped.
The group didn’t appear out of place in Mos Espa, but they to Buffy. Something was up and Buffy was sure that it wasn’t just the sky.
Watto fluttered over to the group much quicker than his old body should have been able to move. But, then, money could be involved, and that made the Toydrarian move with the swiftness and grace of a leopard. Or a really fat housecat about to be feed.
Before Poncho Man could really look around, Watto was hovering in his face, speaking the most common language of Tatooine, Huttese. Even though Buffy didn’t speak the language – or at least not well enough to understand what her boss was saying all the time – she caught that gist of what he said. With his usual charm, he had demanded to know what they wanted from his shop.
“Just can’t learn ‘Can I help you?’ Can you?” Buffy muttered to herself.
Poncho Man, for his part, at least was able to keep his contempt and annoyance at the little alien well hidden behind a kind smile. A skill, Buffy noted long ago, most people around there lacked.
“I need parts for a J-type 327 Nubian,” the man said.
A tooth smile rose behind Watto’s trunk-like nose. Not a pleasant sight at all. “Ah, yes! Nubian! We have lots of that.”
Buffy searched her mind. Nubian. Nubian. She had heard that somewhere before…
Oh, yeah. That crate of parts that Watto had won during the last Podrace. He had made her and Ani spend the better part of a day sorting through that junk for stuff that was usable and parts that were worth more as extra pieces of scrap than put together. Not that Buffy knew what was usable and what wasn’t. She just trusted Anakin to tell her where to put what during that delightful little task.
But that they had loads?
“Hardly,” she said under her breath.
Watto glared at her as the customer gave her a curious look. Her owner’s hand was hovering close to the controller. Buffy dropped her head and was sure to keep her thoughts to herself for the rest of the conversation.
She could still feel the man’s eyes on her, but he wasn’t staring at her like most human men did. It was like he was trying to see through her, to something she kept locked tight within her. She didn’t like it, but what was she going to say? Stop it?
“Can you help us or not?” Poncho Man asked, turning his attention back to Watto.
“Can you pay me or not – that’s the question!” Watto said in a matter-of-fact way. “What kinda junk are you after, farmer?”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. This guy might be one of hundred of thousands of things, but a farmer? There was no way.
“My droid has a readout of what I need,” the man said.
Watto studied the droid for a moment, as if he were trying to decide whether to get the parts Poncho Man wanted, or tell him to take his business elsewhere. Not even Watto was that stupid, so he turned to the salvage yard door and yelled in Huttese for Anakin. Buffy knew the phrase well enough, or at least part of it. He told Ani to get inside, but he hadn’t called the boy by name. Instead, he had called him a name that would have made Shmi turn red.
A few seconds later, Ani ran into the store and came to an uneasy stop in front of Watto and the customer. Much like he had with Buffy, Poncho Man was giving Ani a strange look, though he was doing a much better job of hiding curiosity than he had with her.
Watto spun around and raised his hand slightly as if he were about to strike Anakin. The small piece of metal Buffy had bent like paper in her hands as she watched. If he did strike him, there would be nothing that she could do; but that didn’t mean she had to like it.
“What took you so long?” Watto asked, even though Ani had appeared nearly before the Toydarian had finished calling for him.
Anakin apologized in Huttese, then said, “I was cleaning out the bin like you-.”
Watto shouted at him to shut up, than said in Basic, “Never mind the bin! Watch the store! I’ve got selling to do!”
He then turned his angry stare at Buffy and used the same Hutt phrase to make her come to him. Placing the piece of bent metal back down, she came around the counter to stand by her owner. Buffy knew the reason he wanted her to come with him was because if it was something heavy, she could easily pick it up and he wouldn’t have to strain himself doing so. Well, Giles would be proud to know all that time they spent training were finally paying off.
Watto sneered at her, showing how yellow his teeth had become, then turned back to Poncho Man. “So, let me take you out back. You’ll soon find what you need.”
Going through the door Ani had come through, Watto barked at Buffy to follow. Rolling her eyes, she marched out after him and into the hot, twin suns. Poncho Man waited long enough to tell someone to not touch anything, then followed with the droid.
Buffy hated going into the scrape yard. It was to hot and the suns were always reflecting off something or another blinding her. Reaching up, Buffy shielded her squinting eyes, searching for Watto. He had disappeared somewhere and would be angry if she didn’t find him soon.
“He’s over there, I believe,” Poncho Man said from behind her, pointing towards a large scrap heap in the corner.
Buffy didn’t put down her hand as she turned towards the man. Some sunlight reflected off the metal on her wrist and shined in the man’s eyes, causing him to flinch. She released too late that one of her cuffs were exposed. She quickly put her hand down, but the damage had already been done.
He tilted his head. Buffy could see him preparing to ask what was on her wrist, so she cut him off. “Thank you,” she said, then hurried off in the direction that he had pointed.
Watto’s fat, round body could be seen bobbing in front of pile of junk, and Buffy swiftly went to join him. After a few seconds, the man and the droid joined them.
“Let’s have the list then, eh,” Watto said, holding out his three fingered hand towards Poncho Man.
He retrieved a chip or something like it from the droid and handed it over. Watto reached to his side for his for his portable memory bank, which was next to the controller. When Poncho Man saw the controller, it took him less than a second to figure out what it was for. He turned towards her, but Buffy kept her head down. She hated the looks people gave her when they realized that she had to wear those stupid things.
“Ah, here it is. A T-14 hyperdrive generator!” Watto said. “You’re in luck. I’m the only one hereabouts who has one.”
Buffy just stopped herself from snorting. She knew Watto knew very well and good that D’Arc had one as well – or he had last week. And Ani would be so proud of her for remembering that. If the man went to him, he could probably get for a whole hell of a lot cheaper than what the Toydarian would try to swindle out of him.
Watto waved his hand haphazardly in the air. “But you might as well buy a new ship. It would be cheaper.” See, Buffy thought. “Speaking of which,” Watto went on, “how’re you going to pay for all this, farmer?”
“I have twenty thousand Republic dataries to put towards-.”
“Republic credits? Republic credits are no good out here! How much are Republic credits worth here, girl?”
“Nothing,” she replied.
Buffy raised an eyebrow at the ‘farmer’. Even though she had no idea what the Republic was – except the bits and pieces that Ani and Shmi had told her – even she knew better than to take their credits. So why was this guy trying to pass them off on them?
“See. Even the girl knows that, and she knows nothing! I need something better than that, something of value…” Watto said, shutting off his portable memory bank.
Poncho Man shook his head. “I don’t have anything else.” Then, in the strangest barging act that Buffy had ever seen, the man raise his hand and pass it casually in front of Watto’s face. “But credits will do fine.”
“No, they won’t!” Watto snapped.
The man frowned, then tried again. “Credits will do fine.”
That Watto sneer was usually reserved for Buffy or Anakin whenever they did something that he didn’t like, like breathe in his direction. “No, they won’t! What do you think you’re doing, waving your hand around like that? You think you’re some kinda Jedi? Hah! I’m a Toydarian! Mind tricks don’t work on me – only money! No money, no parts, no deal! And no one else has a T-14 hyperdrive generator, I can promise you that!”
With a tight frown, Poncho Man turned and walked back into the shop, his little droid following close behind. As Buffy watched them go, she got the distinct feeling that this was not going to be the last time she saw him.
Once they had disappeared inside, she and Watto headed in as well. They could hear Ani tell one of the people that he was glad to meet them, but whoever it was was gone by the time they walked in.
“Outlanders!” Watto said. “They think because we live so far from everything, we know nothing!”
With a dreamy expression on his face, Anakin said, “They seemed nice enough to me.”
Buffy hid a smile. She knew that look. She had had it many times before in her life. Ani had a crush. Probably on that girl who had been with Poncho Man. At least, Buffy hoped it was on the girl, because as open-minded as she was, she would have to have a talk with Ani if it was on that amphibian thing.
Watto snorted. “Clean up this mess, the both of you! Then you can go home!”
Anakin cheered to himself, then quickly began to cleanup with Buffy’s help.