Disclaimer: I do not own any characters relating to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not provide any financial compensation.Far Beyond NormalChapter Two
The ride home was joyous, exuberant, and fascinating. Buffy hadn’t lived in LA for years, but she remembered the main points of interest, and her parents took obvious delight in pointing out changes from those places she might remember. They had moved after their daughter took ill so soon reached a part of the city Buffy had never been to, and her mother kept up an excited, running commentary on the neighborhood, the people, and pointed out locations and shops of interest. Despite her tour-guide exuberance however, Buffy couldn’t help but notice that the area was far more decrepit than where she recalled living in the Valley, and began to feel increasing guilt over the cost they had been forced to pay for their daughters’ illness.
Intellectually she knew that she had no reason to feel guilty. It wasn’t her
after all who had become sick, and even if it were, even if everything she remembered of Sunnydale had been nothing but the fevered dreams of her own over-active imagination, there was no reason to feel guilt about a mental illness that was beyond her control. But her parents had fallen a loooong way down the socio-economic ladder in order to take care of their daughters’ medical bills, virtually bankrupting themselves, and it hurt her to be the cause. The price they had paid was far less than that her own parents, in her Sunnydale reality, had been forced to pay when she was Called, but seeing the reality of their lost dreams and ambitions was a bitter pill after the excitement of her triumph over the forces of medical bureaucracy.
She hadn’t told her parents what she had said to the Administrator to make him turn a quick 180 and authorize her immediate release to their custody. It would have bothered them far more than it bothered her –it wasn’t her
that it had happened to, after all—and she was satisfied with the terms of the deal she had struck. She knew they were curious about it, but were reluctant to question how it had come about when they were thrilled with the outcome. As they got closer to her parents new home she was doubly adamant about not bothering them with the details. It would only anger them more, and it was becoming increasingly obvious to her that they had more than enough things to be unhappy about already.
Her father had been a pretty decent architect. Not brilliant, but competent, the sort of steadfast individual more artistic types hired to ensure their pie-in-the-sky designs were actually workable in the real world. Before she was Called, they had lived in an expensive house in the Valley, had plenty of money, and he had been able to pay for their house in Sunnydale as part of the divorce decree. Not in this world, however. So much of their combined incomes had gone to providing the ruinous expenses of her hospitalization that they had been forced to sell the fancy house and move to Burbank, into a townhouse, one of six family dwelling units sharing a subdivided frame, with several dozen just-slightly-different units spaced at ‘random’ around landscaped walkways within a prefab gated community.
It had no character, no individuality, and Buffy was uncomfortably aware of how hard it would have been for artistic-types like her parents to live in such sterile surroundings. Now that she was out of the hospital, and once the medical expenses had been paid off, they would be able to move out, probably with considerable relief and not a backwards glance. Buffy immediately detested the place, so went overboard in complimenting it, until her mother stopped her with just a gentle smile, a look of understanding such as only a mother could give, a look that said she knew what her daughter was trying to do, and agreed with it, but things were the way they were and there was nothing they could do about it and they were dealing with it. The single glance, an almost psychic flash of understanding, was the most bonding moment they had shared since her awakening, and probably before that as well.
Hank Summers saw the look, and knew something had just passed between the two women, although he hadn’t the slightest idea as to what it had been. He tried not to feel resentful, although he always experienced a flash of anger every time he came home to what he called their ‘pod,’ as the domicile most certainly didn’t deserve the title of ‘home.’ By rights this should have been one of the greatest moments of his life, the almost-miraculous return of his beautiful daughter, recovering from a neurological disorder that was not her fault
. He tried not to feel resentment over the ruinous costs he had been forced to pay over the past five years, the enormous financial burden whichforced him to live here. This was his little girl
, alive and well and home
, and if it wasn’t the home she remembered, well, she wasn’t the girl he
That was the problem. The girl he remembered had never been able to communicate entire speeches with just a glance. Elizabeth had been a beautiful child, but she had been a typical Valley girl: pretty, blonde, vacuous, and definitely daddy’s girl. She had been all about fashionable clothes, fast cars, cute boys, and sulking prettily every time she didn’t get her way. Hank hadn’t realized how much his memories of her had been frozen in time. Frozen from a time when she was fifteen years old, and the most trivial issues were a matter of life and death, a time when she took up figure skating simply because the outfit made her look prettier than anything else she could wear once cheerleading season was over. But that had been almost six years ago, and the girl he remembered had long since faded into history. He had barely been able to visit the hospital and witness the remote, flesh-and-blood robot who had once been his daughter. That thing
hadn’t been his
Elizabeth; and the beautiful, quiet, controlled young woman accompanying his wife to their door… she wasn’t either.
He despised himself for thinking such horrible thoughts. The young lady was
Elizabeth, grown up and matured into a woman any father would be proud to acknowledge. She was more mature, more intelligent, more caring, more observant, more everything
than the child he remembered. There was a poise to her, a self-confidence unexpected from a girl who had been in a hospital for so long. He couldn’t help but notice the hard, quick glance she gave her surroundings, perhaps just checking out the neighborhood, but giving the impression of a soldier assessing locations of potential danger. She didn’t act like a little girl; and she especially didn’t act like his
little girl, the lovely child he remembered so vividly.
During the infrequent times he had been forced to visit her in the hospital, the doctors had tried to explain to him that Elizabeth had created a fantasy world, a world where magic existed and she was a hero, saving the local populace from the Forces of Evil. Somehow she had grown up in that world, created her own cast of friends and enemies, and interacted with them in a manner equivalent to the sort of social interaction which in the real world led to maturity. She had grown up there… and he hadn’t been there to witness it.
They had told him that he hadn’t been part of her pretend world. He had divorced Joyce in her imaginary world and rarely visited. One doctor had even suggested that the possibility of her parents getting a divorce in the real world might have been among the root causes of the trauma which had caused Elizabeth to turn her back on reality in the first place. Hank didn’t give much credence to that theory. In the unique environment of southern California in the early ‘90’s divorce wasn’t a trauma; it was practically an expected part of life. Most of her friends had been from ‘broken’ homes, and although the fights and raised voices which had already indicated that their marriage was in trouble would have bothered her in a general way, it wasn’t something Elizabeth would have considered anything but part of growing up in the Valley. It was a known commodity; unfortunate, but an accepted part of life. The problem, from his perspective, wasn’t that she thought her parents were about to get a divorce, but that in her fantasy world she had apparently put the blame for it squarely on his shoulders.
As he followed the two women into the pod, their closeness and obvious bonding… troubled him. He knew he was feeling jealous, knew he was being unfair, but he had always been the favored parent. It was him
that Elizabeth had come to whenever she wanted anything. There was nothing she couldn’t talk him into by sitting on his lap, looking at him with her huge, puppy-dog eyes. Whether it was new clothes, or expensive toys, or being allowed to stay out late for an important party, it was always daddy she came to for permission because she knew she had him wrapped around her finger, and had since she was a toddler. Mom was the disciplinarian, as much as either of them had been, but Elizabeth had been daddy’s little girl and he would have done anything for her.
Joining them for the tour of the house, he couldn’t help but notice the new-found closeness between his wife and daughter, the maturity of their conversation, and how little he was invited to participate in it. He had sacrificed everything for his little girl; his wealth, his career, his aspirations and dreams… and he felt that she was blaming him for a divorce that hadn’t even happened in the real world. Yet.
As the weeks following her release turned into months, the situation at home got better. She had her own room, the childish furnishings tossed out and replaced with less expensive but more sophisticated items they picked up during frequent shopping expeditions, the formidable bargain hunting skills demonstrated by their daughter a constant source of surprise to both parents. Their daughter Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, who was their daughter.
Staring at the name she had just written on the paper before her, Buf…. Elizabeth
reminded herself of her own name for the billionth time. It was a mantra she had started right after moving in. It made things easier for everyone. ‘Buffy’ was a reminder of things her parents didn’t want to think about. Things she
didn’t want to think about, truth be told. Elizabeth
hadn’t been a Slayer. Elizabeth
didn’t have a sister, or friends who were presently being jerked around by a monster who wore her face. On the other hand, Elizabeth didn’t have a calling that demanded she fight to the death each night, or have any responsibilities, or worry about having enough money to put food on the table. Elizabeth was loved, and pampered and protected, and…
“And was the single most boring person on the face of the earth.” Guiltily looking around to see if anyone had overheard the muttered comment, Buf… Elizabeth, dammit
!!!!—tried to suppress the evil thought. She knew she was being idiotic. Four months had passed since her release, and she hadn’t been able to find a shred of evidence that Sunnydale had ever been real, or come up with the slightest plan for getting back, or of being able to accomplish anything useful should she ever discover a way to do so. Pretty much everything about her present life was better than it had been back in Sunnydale. It would be smarter just to accept the situation, to make the best of things, to get on with her life. Or so she assured the doctors she was required to meet with every week. Elizabeth Summers was doing the smart thing: getting on with her life.
In many ways it was even true. She had never wanted
to be a Slayer, never wanted
the crushing responsibilities of saving the world from the Forces of Evil, never wanted
a sister who depended on her for protection from the powerful entities which sought to exploit her potential power. This new world was a chance to begin again, to live a normal life, and should have been a dream come true for someone who had never sought out power or had grandiose personal ambitions. This was everything she had been telling herself for years she truly wanted, but she was discovering that now that she had it…
“It sucks.” This time the muttered comment was overheard by people sitting at desks all around her, and heads popped up from behind dividers like groundhogs from their burrows to glare at her for creating the disturbance, or to agree with the sentiment. She was by far the youngest person in the room where they had been writing their high school equivalency tests for nearly three hours now. Given how young she looked, and her tiny stature, the few who cared to speculate probably wondered why she hadn’t simply returned to school to get her diploma the old fashioned way. Despite some claims to the contrary, most post-secondary institutions did not
consider a GED to be the equivalent of a high school diploma. The answer she might have given would have been emphatic. In this world, Elizabeth Summers hadn’t even graduated grade 10. There was no way she could stomach the thought of retaking three years of high school.
In principle it should have been easy. She had
graduated high school, after all, and did have the better part of a semester of university behind her. Her slightly smug recollection of scoring 1430 on the SAT’s back in Sunnydale made her confident that she could ace the test and skip on three years of otherwise necessary null time. But it turned out that her spectacular score on the SAT wasn’t a sign of her own hidden genius. Unfortunately she didn’t discover that until confidently insisting to her parents and her doctors that she could do it, and by then she felt compelled not to back down.
She had prepared hard for the test, and quickly figured out not only where her academic weaknesses lay, but how she had scored so well on the SAT. It turned out the Slayer part of her had some talents the Watchers either didn’t realize or didn’t tell her about. The Slayer was a low-level demon, mystically bound to the Chosen One in a symbiotic relationship. The Slayer provided the power, and the girl provided both physicality and intelligence. In its own realm the Slayer demon was an easy target for it’s far more powerful brethren; but when guided by human-level intelligence it was suddenly far more likely to have a shot at surviving. Humans were good at thinking ahead, at working together, and were able to defer satisfying immediate wants in order to meet long term goals. The demon provided the Chosen One with serious, supernatural muscle. The human provided a functioning brain. Both provided survival advantages to each other.
The demon wasn’t very bright, was in fact only barely self-aware. But its instinctive survival traits conferred special talents on the Slayer. The demons instincts were why she could handle almost any weapon with supernatural skill, even without training. Its instincts were the reason she could recognize evolving tactical situations without thinking them through consciously. And, of far less importance, when Buffy wrote the SAT she had simply ‘guessed’ on many of the math questions, but although she hadn’t been able to consciously work out the right answer, she had subconsciously absorbed the underlying rules, and the Slayer part of her had instinctively used that knowledge to come up with the right answer the same way it would know which of six attackers had to be taken out first in a combat situation.
Being able to ‘guess’ right on multiple choice SAT math questions would probably not go down as one of the better incentives for becoming a Slayer, and in the here-and-now it didn’t matter because she wasn’t one. She had to work out the problems by hand, the way everyone else did, this time around. Her parents had been astonished at how seriously she had prepared for the exam, how much time and effort she had been willing to dedicate to a project which involved academics. They remembered a young girl who never studied, never cared about her grades, never read a book or opened a newspaper. It was just one more of a long list of personality changes they had to adjust to. It was hard on all of them. Especially her father. Bu…Elizabeth
had tried to brush all the changes aside by reminding them all that she was no longer 15 years old, but would soon be 21.
Writing down the answer to the next question on the test, Bu… hell, she was going to rename herself ‘Bulizabeth’, it would be easier than invoking the guttural stop of ‘Bu..El’… frowned at the reminder of her age. She had been to demon dimensions before so understood that time could move at a different rate in a different universe, but the timeline in this one was even weirder than usual. She remembered awakening in the asylum in this dimension on a previous occasion, after she was poisoned by the Glarghk demon-thingie, but that had been more than two years earlier in the Sunnydale timeline. According to the history here it had happened less than a year ago. It was like the timelines had been proceeding equally until recently, when something had caused them to diverge radically. She hadn’t asked who had been President during her previous appearance in this reality, but presently it was a different guy than she remembered being in office back in Sunnydale. A lot of things were different here. Attitudes were different. People
She really, really
, wished there was someone she could talk to about these things. She had gone so far as to look up Giles and Willow online, although she hadn’t had the nerve to contact either. Neither were doing anything that might make them receptive to establishing contact with a stranger requesting a study-buddy to help prepare her for writing her GED, plus, oh, not to mention discussing the theory and practical application of diverging timelines within alternate dimensions. In this world Giles was still working at the British Museum as a senior curator, and Willow was already working on her PhD at MIT. Doing quite well at it too. The number of hits on citations for her work in Google had been pretty impressive, given her age.
Her biography had been intimidating. Willow had graduated high school in two years, completed her undergrad work at USC by the time she was 19, and received her Masters less than a year later. At first Bulizabeth had been horrified at what her presence in Willow’s life had meant; it appeared as if she had held her friend back from fulfilling what was almost certain to be an incredible destiny. But then she saw a recent picture: long, straight hair, deer-in-the-headlights eyes, looking shyer, nerdier, and more anti-social than even the girl Buffy met when she first arrived in Sunnydale all those years ago. Even knowing the trauma of her last few years leading up to the appearance of the First, Bulizabeth would have bet serious money that given a choice, Willow would have lived the life she had known in Sunnydale rather than the exclusively academic existence she was enduring in this reality. Whatever trauma she had endured, whatever losses she had just barely survived, at least that Willow had lived
Buffy had always known that she had taken advantage of Willow’s friendship, exploiting her friends' formidable intelligence. But it was in a good cause, and in return she had provided Willow with her own not-inconsiderable skills and guidance in social interaction. She had provided Willow with a reason to get out of the house, to put down the books and meet with people. With that had inevitably come pain. But she doubted that Willow would have ever traded the pain of losing Tara for the emotional emptiness of never having known her.
The next few questions were harder. She had answered all the easy ones first, and what was left made her increasingly regret not taking the chance at initiating contact with Willow just for the remembered voice of encouragement, the wise council of someone who had all the academic answers. There was no one in this world who could take the place of Willow in the other one, no close friend, no confidant, no one whose skills could be exploited because she was returning the favor in other areas.
A few acquaintances from her Hemery High School days had shown up to witness at her Lazarus-like return to the land of the living, but she barely even remembered them. Even a quick visit was enough to discover that whatever they might once have held in common, it had long since passed. Few bothered to return for a second time. The Elizabeth they remembered might as well be dead; seven hard, long years as a Slayer having transformed her into someone they barely recognized. The change was too much for her old friends, some of whom hadn’t changed at all, and none of whom found much in common with the stranger who wore a more-mature looking face of a friend they had lost a long time ago. Even if there had been any remaining emotional connection, none of them would have made a good study-buddy anyway. She had to face facts; until she went to Sunnydale, every friend she had ever had was a retard.
Studying for the GED had occupied spare time that was suddenly available due to a nonexistent social life. Wasting all that effort because she couldn’t keep her mind on the job would have been inexcusable. Disciplining her wandering mind, Bulizabeth returned to the paper before her, wishing she had the Slayer back to help her guess the right answers. And for many other reasons as well.