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 Four
The dinner had been wonderful, the company even better. Everyone had been on their very best behavior, and nobody had even mentioned the metaphorical elephant in the room. Appropriately enough there were real elephants however, wooden ones, carved from teak, which decorated the Thai restaurant. Ostensibly the dinner was to celebrate Elizabeth’s upcoming birthday, the moment she would be free of anyone else’s authority, her police record purged. While still a few days away, this day would be six months exactly since the day she ‘awoke,’ and that was reason enough to celebrate.
The elephant everyone was very careful not to bring up was the fact that it would almost certainly be the last time they would ever be together as a family. Elizabeth had already found an apartment she would be moving into once she was no longer required to live under parental supervision. Neither of her parents had made much of an effort to talk her out of leaving. Her mother constantly assured her that she was more than welcome to stay, but had accompanied her on her apartment-hunting expeditions, subtly but obviously making certain that not only would her daughter pick a place that was safe, and affordable, but it was also big enough that she herself would be able to move in temporarily if what she expected to happen once Elizabeth moved out, inevitably happened.
The two had grown close enough that Joyce had confided the obvious; that her marriage was in trouble. The best she could hope for was that once their daughter was away from home she and Hank might have a chance to work out their problems. She didn’t say it with any confidence, and her daughter didn’t offer platitudes of encouragement. Both strongly suspected that the relationship was beyond salvage. Hank’s recent cruelty to his daughter was only making an already-bad situation even worse.
What had seemed like a minor altercation at the company picnic had come to assume huge proportions in Hank’s eyes. Joyce hadn’t realized her husband and Denneck had become such good friends, or that his daughter not kowtowing to his boss would be considered such an enormous insult. In the two weeks since the picnic Hank had met with Denneck in private at least five times, often until late in the evening. He never talked about what they discussed… but he had begun to call his daughter ‘Buffy.’
Joyce could tell that her daughter was troubled by the change in address. At first she hadn’t thought much of it, as they had called their daughter Buffy when she was a toddler, until as an indignant five year old she demanded to be called by her ‘real’ name, since her best friend Mary had said ‘Buffy’ was a dumb name used by dumb girls. But Hank was using the name to cause pain, almost as an accusation, and for some reason her daughter was troubled by it. Joyce knew that Elizabeth had tried to talk to him about it, but wasn’t party to the discussion. All she knew was the result; the girl had cried that night, and had been distant from Hank ever since. Even more distant than she had been.
Joyce had tried to get both to talk about it, but Hank had been coldly dismissive, and Elizabeth had simply shrugged it off. The emotional barriers Elizabeth had been able to bring up since her return were almost frightening. She recalled her daughter turning into a basket case every time she broke up with a boyfriend, argued with a friend, or saw a hurt puppy. Somewhere along the line the girl had learned how to protect her vulnerable heart, and she was already building emotional distance from a father who, for whatever reason, now seemed to hate her.
Of all the stupid things Hank had done over the years, Joyce felt that what he had done to his daughter during the past few days was the worst. He had more or less implied that ‘Buffy’ was the cause of his marriage failing. He had blamed ‘Buffy’ for taking his daughter away from him. He had called her a monster, until a raging Joyce had screamed at him in a tirade which was almost certainly that final, proverbial straw. The only ‘good’ part of it –if such a horrible situation could have a ‘good’ side—was that her daughter seemed to be dealing with it. Dealing with it with a maturity, an adult understanding of the whole sorry situation, which awed her mother. She was once again filled with a sense of joy, of almost religious gratitude, at the return of her wonderful, mature, responsible, and most especially her sane
Buffy squirmed in her seat, the wonderful food tasting like ashes. She just knew she was going to get an ulcer for swallowing so much bile the past two weeks. Ever since Hank got a bug up his ass over her not sucking up to his boss, the guy had been acting like a complete dickhead. The only problem was, he was absolutely right in his accusations, and had every right to be pissed off about it.
She couldn’t kid herself with the ‘Bulizabeth’ crap anymore. She was Buffy Summers in her own mind, and technically she was an invader occupying Elizabeth’s body. Personally she felt that as an ‘alternate universe’ representative of the same person she did have some squatters rights, especially since Elizabeth had so obviously gone on Walkabout somewhere. But fundamentally she couldn’t argue with Hank’s angry accusation that she wasn’t really his daughter.
There were feelings of both gratitude and guilt that her mother wasn’t buying into any of Hank’s whining. She
accepted that the person currently occupying her daughter’s body, who answered to her daughter’s name, and who remembered growing up as her daughter was, in fact and in truth, her actual daughter. On the face of it, Hank’s claims of ‘possession’ were idiotic, when there were perfectly legitimate explanations for every accusation he brought up. The problem with that was Buffy
knew he was right, and she felt guilty as hell about it.
So she had swallowed her anger, accepted his snide comments, cracks, and accusations with a surface equanimity which belied her underlying rage, and wished like hell she knew what to do about the situation. She understood his anger, but the fact remained that in a manner of speaking she was
his daughter as well, and he didn’t have to be such a prick about it. Because she didn’t feel like she was ‘really’ an interloper, possessing someone else’s body like a ghoul. What had happened wasn’t like the time when she had traded bodies with Faith. From what she recalled of that experience, the physical differences between their bodies had been obvious, and awkward to the point of constant mid-level discomfort. It had never felt ‘right.’ This one did. The only difference between this body and her old one was the whole ‘Slayer’ factor.
In principle, if Elizabeth wanted the body back, then okay, Buffy had to agree that she pretty much had the right of first possession. But Buffy was fairly certain that Elizabeth was gone. Whatever had happened to her, whatever psychic talent had enabled her to tap into Buffy’s life, had in the end destroyed her. She was either dead, or had become so perfectly connected to Buffy that she had effectively ‘become’ Buffy once the real Buffy died. That was her working hypothesis anyway, and either way it meant that no matter what Hank wanted, he would have to deal with the fact that the daughter he remembered was not coming back. But Hank was not real good at ‘dealing’ with things he didn’t want to ‘deal’ with.
One thing which had become clear during the past two weeks was that Buffy herself hadn’t been ‘dealing’ with her lost Slayer powers as well as she had once thought either. It was her attitude, the whole ‘baddass Slayer’ vibe, that had triggered Hank onto the fact that someone new had moved into the previously-vacant body which had once housed his daughter. For years Buffy had always sort of considered the Slayer to be outside of herself, a demon power she called upon at need. But she was discovering, somewhat to her surprise, that in reality, she
was the Slayer, and the demon part was just the turbocharged battery which allowed her to do her thing. And one benefit of having that battery was the ability to vent her frustrations by going out and beating the living –well, undead
—crap out of someone who deserved it when she felt the need to let off a little steam. And gawd only knew, she desperately needed to let off some steam about now.
Even after six months, not a day passed when she didn’t regret not having her Slayer powers. Which was amusing, in a not-funny way, when she recalled how often she had bitterly regretted being Called, had blamed every crappy thing that went wrong in her crappy life on being the Slayer, and had wished she could return to the romanticized world of her childhood dreams. What she had discovered over the past six months was that childhood inevitably ended, even for those who weren’t Called, and Real Life sucked just as hard for those who weren’t Slayers.
And non-Slayers couldn’t even deal with their personal ‘issues’ by pounding the bones of their enemies into powder with a sledge hammer.
In a weird way, it was Hank calling her ‘Buffy’ which had brought everything together in her own mind. It had suddenly dawned on her that she really was the person she had become. No matter how much she hoped to ‘change,’ hoped to ‘grow,’ the sad reality was that she was who she was, just like everyone else. Maybe that discovery hadn’t been especially profound per se
, but it was very profound to her
. Somehow she had gotten it in her head that if circumstances had been different, then her life would have been different, somehow better, and she would somehow have been happier. If nothing else, the past six months had shown her pretty clearly this was not necessarily the case. She had never bothered to consider the fact that everyone
experienced disappointments in their life, and everyone had to deal with them according to their own strengths. And some people, such as Hank, weren’t able to deal with them all that well.
Buffy knew full well that some of the choices she had made back in Sunnydale hadn’t gone over well too with her friends. But those decisions had been hers to make, and it had been her right to make them for herself. Buffy knew that people had liked her better when she was younger, when she was naïve and cute and innocent, but she was no longer that person. It was a question of growing up, of evolving based on her life experiences, and it was a normal part of becoming an adult. Because of the way her life had gone in this world the change had been too dramatic, too startling, for most of the people she knew here to adjust. Even back in Sunnydale the changes she had undergone, especially during the two years after Willow brought her back from the dead, had been too much for some of her friends to accept. But if they wanted to remain her friends they had had to adjust, just as she had been forced to adapt to the way her friends had changed over the years. Because the choices they had made had been theirs
to make as well.
Although she felt a teensy bit guilty over taking his daughter’s place, Buffy refused to apologize to Hank for having grown up. It was kind of amusing, in a really
-not-funny way, how much more her mother liked her as an adult, while people who, like Hank, who hadn’t really grown up himself, resented the fact that she had. Buffy knew she was in danger of romanticizing her life as the Slayer, remembering the best parts and ignoring how much of it had majorly sucked; but if nothing else was true it could not be denied that her life as the Slayer had been interesting
, had provided such a mind-boggling abundance of experiences that she had truly lived
more in a year than most people did throughout their entire lives. Under those conditions change had been inevitable, and if she regretted some of the choices she had made, Buffy no longer regretted the experiences which had made such choices possible. She missed
being the toughest kid on the block. She missed
not having to take any crap from anybody. She missed being strong
. Because if the past six months had showed her anything, it had showed that the person she had become required the strength to back up her attitude.
In a strange way she was grateful to Hank for forcing her to look at herself, to examine her own life and history and accept herself for who she now was. It was him calling her ‘Buffy’ which had finally made her realize that she truly was Buffy, that she wanted
to be Buffy, that she didn’t want to be Elizabeth or Joan or anyone else. Even if she never regained the powers of a Slayer she would always be, in her own mind, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It had taken a long time, and dying three times, before she figured out who she was, but having come to that conclusion Buffy was comfortable with it. And nothing Hank could say during the dinner made her regret reaching that decision.
Fortunately the food had been wonderful, and her mother an expert at filling in the awkward silences, so the evening wasn’t a complete disaster. Even Hank hadn’t been as much an asshole as he had been recently, perhaps realizing that there was very little likelihood of them ever again holding a similar celebration as a family, the unmentioned but understood finality of the event holding his bitterness temporarily at bay. He didn’t even complain at the not-inconsiderable cost of the dinner, perhaps realizing how much his discretionary income was about to increase with the loss of not just his daughter’s medical expenses, but now her living costs as well.
When they left the restaurant they were all quiet, all of them affected by the sense of loss, of a door closing on one chapter of their lives. Perhaps their mood was affected by their surroundings, the darkness of the late evening, the obvious physical deterioration of the neighborhood. It was an almost post-apocalyptic scene of rampant graffiti and broken windows, garbage strewn about, broken street lights or naked incandescent bulbs casting long shadows. Buffy remembered going to that same restaurant only a few years before, and was astonished by the change. She felt sorrier for the hard-working couple trying to maintain their livelihood in the face of encroaching social decay than she did for the petty whininess of Hank’s subtle digs.
He hadn’t been willing to park his car, a fancy Chevy SUV he couldn’t really afford but felt was needed in order to meet the expectations of his clients, close to the restaurant. Which meant they had to walk through the troubled neighborhood back to the vehicle, risking their own safety over any possible hazard to the car. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Buffy, but it was just one other thing that wasn’t worth arguing about, so she swallowed her comments, as she had so many others, and walked with them back to the well-lit parking area.
The attack came without warning, Buffy’s only-human senses detecting nothing from the depths of the darkened alley before the muggers swept in, five of them, armed with clubs and chains and on top of them before anyone in the family could react. Even without her powers Buffy was far more prepared for violence than her parents, and was also aided by the fact that only the smallest of the attackers went for her, the others more interested in subduing the larger, and presumably more dangerous, adults.
He wasn’t conscious long enough to be surprised at her swift, devastatingly effective response. Since her awakening Buffy had gone to considerable efforts at training her body. At first it was difficult, seven years of martial arts training had to be ‘unlearned’ since her body could no longer perform actions which were possible only by a body enhanced with the power of the Slayer. The kata
she had performed every day since being Called had been perfected over the centuries, distilled from a hundred fighting techniques, calibrated to be able to tax even the strength, stamina, balance, and a hundred other physical advantages endowed to the Slayer. Since she no longer was
the Slayer it had taken Buffy considerable time and failed testing before she was able to come up with a modified training regime which was not only physically possible for her now merely-human body to perform, but was effective enough to be worth the effort.
The first test of her techniques in a real world situation was an unadulterated success. Fist to the throat, knee to the balls, a quick turn and swiftly-moving foot to the face, had her attacker down and out within the first few seconds of the attack. But then there was a sixth
attacker, larger even than the others, armed with a chain wrapped around his massive fist, and no amount of training was going to be able to overcome his size and strength advantages when he came in prepared to face her martial skills.
Buffy could hear the surprised grunts coming from her father as he was roughly shoved aside, could hear the frightened rage in the screams coming from her mother. But she had no time to come to their aid as the huge thug came after her, street-wise and tough enough to accept a bit of pain if that was what it took to subdue a recalcitrant victim. Despite her training and experience, Buffy was a tiny girl, standing less than three inches over five feet tall, and still weighing in at almost exactly a hundred pounds. Despite what television might suggest, no amount of skill was going to overcome such an overwhelming mass disadvantage when facing a prepared opponent.
Not that she didn’t give it her best shot. She went for his knee, and was fast enough and athletic enough to dodge the ham-sized, chain-wrapped fist that he brought down to protect himself. The blow which landed wasn’t even close to being disabling as she had to twist her body at the last possible instant to escape the counter attack. Breathing in huge amounts of air through her mouth, heart racing, Buffy had only a second to decide her next move before the huge attacker came after her, his eyes hard and unimpressed, his expression cold, promising violent reprisal.
She was fast enough that she could have escaped, probably should have run, but the continuing cries from her parents overcame thoughts of personal safety. It was foolish, their differences in size too much to be overcome by any amount of skill she brought to bear, by any stratagem she might devise. But it was her mother
crying out in fright and pain, so she had to try
. Accepting the fact that she was in for some serious pain, Buffy attacked, knowing she had no chance of reaching his vital organs so going for his eyes. And she almost made it. He hadn’t been expecting it, but reacted just in time, with just enough force, that the stiffened finger aiming for his left eye only gashed a deep cut into his cheek.
The counter punch was crippling. His fist was nearly the size of her head, and wrapped in a chain it drove down on her shoulder with the force of a battering ram. Knocked to the ground, Buffy was able to break the fall with her hands, which were scraped and cut by small stones and pieces of glass lying on the crumbling cement sidewalk. Knowing what was coming she tried to twist, but driven by rage at the knowledge that he had just come very close to losing his eye, the mugger kicked out, tough combat boots pounding into her hip with sufficient force to lift her entire body. The pain was excruciating, the physical damage so severe Buffy was barely able to roll out of the way of his follow up kick.
Somehow she was able to force herself to her feet, just barely able to push aside the pain given the certain knowledge that this attacker wasn’t going to behave like someone in the movies, who were always nice enough to give the hero time to get up, to recover their breath, to think. Not this bastard. He knew he had damaged her, knew she was still dangerous, and he wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in giving her another opportunity to attack him. Coming for her like a juggernaut, he was easily able to block the kick she sent towards his groin, and then he was in close, she had nowhere to run, and his fists started coming in jackhammer blows.
After the first punch she was barely conscious; after the third her face was a bloody mess, her ribs broken. Only then did he allow her to drop to the pavement, only dimly aware of her surroundings, her entire world reduced to an all-encompassing, overwhelming fog of pain. About the only thought able to penetrate the agony was astonishment, a shocked despair, that after everything she had been through, everything she had accomplished, it would end like this. That she, who had fought and defeated some of the most powerful supernatural entities ever known, would go down to her final defeat to a simple mugger. That she, who had saved so many people, would fail to save her mother. For a second time.
And then, just as the mugger caught his breath and reached down to haul her up by the front of her shirt, everything changed.
She felt strong
Instantly, like a switch being pressed, the pain disappeared. The broken ribs were suddenly whole. The cuts stopped bleeding.
Anyone else would have been shocked. Would have taken a moment to understand. Would have tried to figure out what had happened. Not Buffy.
To the astonishment of the mugger lifting her up like a sack of potatoes, her head, until then rolling about without conscious control, suddenly firmed, rock steady; her eyes suddenly opened, and what looked out of them wasn’t human.
On this world, he would be the first living being ever to see a Slayer. He would not enjoy the ‘honor.’ Before he knew it, before he even had the slightest inkling that the situation had just been radically altered, his wrists were grasped by small hands of inhuman strength. Suddenly the girl was standing on legs that were rock solid. His arms, massive, bulging with muscles capable of bench pressing 500 pounds, were drawn away from her, inexorably moved aside with incredible ease, every effort to oppose her effortlessly overcome.
And then it was his turn to feel the pain as she let one arm go, holding onto the other because otherwise the punches suddenly driving into his chest with the power of a pneumatic hammer would have been enough to knock him flying. Restrained, he was unable to escape the blows, one following another, each coming after an interval so short as to be physically impossible. Human arms simply could not move that fast. Human muscles simply could not hit that hard.
Human eyes couldn’t be that cold, that furious.
In seconds it was over. The mugger might live, but he would never be physically capable of hurting anyone else. It happened so fast his companions had no time to adjust, no time to come to his aid. And then suddenly his body, all 300 pounds of it, was flying though the air –physically impossible!!—and crashing into the two men restraining the older woman. One was holding her shoulders, the other never saw the approaching body because his back was to the action, his hands busy lowering his pants. He took the brunt of the thundering crash as the huge body landed, his body protecting the older woman from suffering serious injury herself.
It would take them at least a few seconds to work themselves to their feet, seconds the inhuman fighting machine which had only moments earlier been a tiny, savagely beaten young girl, used to good effect. The two men restraining her father –they had him on the ground, one securing his legs with duct tape, the other holding his arms in a restraining lock—were next. One was picked up by front of his shirt, and, using only one hand
, she tossed the body with terrifying force into the impenetrable darkness of the alley. Impenetrable to other people, perhaps, but the girl obviously knew something was there, and used the human missile to take out the seventh member of the gang, who had been hiding in reserve and was only then reaching for his gun. He would never draw it. The force of his thrown companion hitting him full-on was enough to knock both of them into the rubble at the back of the alley, broken wooden planks and pieces of metal causing even more damage to their out-of-control bodies.
Until then it had all happened so fast nobody had had a chance to say anything. The one restraining her father had enough time to whisper a disbelieving “No
…” before a fist drove into his face with enough force to smash though a brick wall. The sound of his cheek- and jaw-bones breaking was louder even than the crash his unconscious body made when it hit the wall six feet behind him.
And then it was the turn of the animals where were preparing to rape her mother. They were crawling backwards, desperately trying to escape the inhuman monster marching towards them, their eyes shocked and disbelieving at what had just happened, at how quickly the situation had changed, at how badly things were about to get. Because they could both see her eyes, the set of her mouth, and knew that as bad as it had already been, things were about to get a whole lot worse.
In that, they were correct.
Buffy could not recall ever being so furious. The time when she had found Riley prostituting himself to those vampires, willingly
permitting them to drink his blood, perhaps came closest. But even that wasn’t in the same ballpark. These dirtbags had tried to rape her mother
!! In her eyes, nothing except an attack on Dawn could be considered more unacceptable, more intolerable. More worthy of punishment. And so that was exactly what she did: impose punishment.
They would live. Even in her rage, Buffy knew she was forbidden to kill even such as these animals, no matter how much they might deserve it. But she could inflict pain
, the sort of pain no one would ever forget, no one would be able to
forget because it would never, ever, go away. And that was exactly what she proceeded to do.
It didn’t take long, unfortunately, because by the time it was over Buffy hadn’t even come close to assuaging her rage. Only the fact that they couldn’t handle anything more and survive made her stop. That, and the expressions of unabashed terror in her parents’ eyes. Fear which was not directed at their attackers, but was for her
Her father was the first to recover his voice. “What the hell are you?!”
Fifteen minutes later, Buffy was still pondering his question. She hadn’t answered him at the time, but instead helped her mother to her feet, her hands gentle, her demeanor as non-threatening as possible in the face of their fear. Promising to talk about it later, she saw he wanted to argue but gestured to her mom, who was looking like she might almost be in shock. His expression was furious, the lack of concern for his wife angering Buffy so much she was able to meet his eyes without flinching. She had escorted them to the car –to nobody’s surprise, there was not another attack—and left them there. Suggesting that he take Joyce to a hospital, she was barely able to hold on to her tenuous grip on her temper when he once again tried to argue. “She’s hurt
, dammit! You might have gotten away without a scratch but she needs a doctor!”
It hadn’t been meant as an accusation, merely an observation, but Hank had been indignant, seemingly offended that she might be accusing him of cowardice. But it did at least bring an end to his attempts at interrogating her, of ignoring the fact that his wife had just been though a traumatic experience and he was wasting time better spent getting her some help by asking questions that were irrelevant to her immediate need for medical attention. Even then, finally behind the wheel, he had tried to argue that she should accompany them to the hospital. “It’s dangerous out here!”
She had just looked at him steadily, not saying a word.
Finally, however, they left, hopefully going to a hospital where her mother might get some help. Leaving Buffy an opportunity to consider the question Hank had asked first: What was she?
The obvious answer was that she was once again a Slayer. But that answer didn’t make much sense. She now lived in a world which didn’t have vampires, that had never needed a Slayer, where virtually all supernatural creatures were only superstition. There was no mechanism for Calling a Slayer in this world, nor any reason why one should be Called. None the less, and however it had happened, there was no denying that she was, in fact, once again the Slayer.
The differences in her body and her senses were amazing, the feelings almost euphoric. Her vision was now so good she could see individual blades on a rotating fan in the darkened window of a building a block away. Her sense of smell was so sophisticated she could separate the stench of rat droppings under a garbage bin located across the street from the various pungent odors emanating from the bin itself. Her ribs, broken only a few minutes earlier, were now healed and strong enough to withstand the impact of the small car she could hear driving on a street a half mile for her present location, and discriminate from the sound of every other vehicle on that street.
The difference in sensory input was measured in orders of magnitude, the feelings of power it engendered almost orgasmic in its intensity. Buffy was physically incapable of standing still. The tingling sensation of every individual nerve ending on her entire body responding with such sensitivity that she could discern individual threads in the fabric of her pants, was so overwhelming she had to move before she came just from the feel of a gentle wind brushing her forearm. Energy filled her, power almost overwhelming her, until she had to run, run faster than an Olympic sprinter, jump higher than any athlete could dream of, climb the exterior of buildings with the ease of a mountain goat.
Her trek home was a revelation, an exuberant display of personal power, an object lesson on the depths of human misery. The things she saw and heard on her journey, the way people could treat each other worse than any demon could ever imagine, was horrifying to someone who had seen her own horrors all too often and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to treat another living being the way some people treated those they claimed to love. Growing up in a town like Sunnydale simply hadn’t prepared her for the reality of live in a poor, desperate ghetto like she was passing through in East LA.
Nobody saw her, nobody heard her, nobody would ever know she was there. By the time she reached her family’s home she had managed to temper her senses, to dampen the overwhelming sensory input which had been euphoric but occasionally horrifying. Morning was approaching, and she was distracted by the thoughts of what she had seen and heard. She wasn’t really surprised to see that her mother was looking out the window for her, and felt slightly guilty that she hadn’t taken a cell phone along with her to let her parents know she was alright.
For a second the change in expression in her mom’s face confused her. Relief, then anger, rapidly changing to horror, all in quick succession when she saw her walking along the path leading to their town house. Distracted by the events of the past few hours Buffy was too slow to understand to the hint, only realizing how stupid she had been when she felt the darts smash into her back.
By the time the third one hit, she was already unconscious.