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 Six
It took more than a week to reach Boston. She had moved quickly, and the boy –she couldn’t believe she had had sex with Mark, not after the Parker fiasco, but to her surprise didn’t really regret it—had come through by taking his sweet time about reporting his escape. She had been waiting for another bus in a small town in Arizona, watching the news on tv in the bus stop restaurant, when she realized they were showing CSI and FBI agents going over the car she had parked away from the hotel. The reporters were explaining that the car belonged to Mark Kessleton, kidnapped son of California congressman Dan Kessleton, when Mark had casually walked up to the police line, holding the ticket stub she had left on the hotel table, and tried to explain who he was.
The farce of the police trying to force him away from the crime scene barrier, captured on live tv, had made her smile, but it also set her clock to running. Once they questioned him, Mark would eventually have no chance but to explain how he got away from the kidnappers, and it wouldn’t take the torturers long to put two and two together. Once they had a starting point they would quickly figure out what she might do given her limited financial options.
In that, Buffy got lucky. Her original plan had been to return to LA, where she knew the lay of the land and could hide for awhile, but she was able to make a deal with a frustrated single mother she overheard while sitting in the restaurant. Approaching the frazzled woman, she offered to drive her vehicle to Phoenix, freeing up her to look after the kids. She promised she would obey all traffic laws, not go above the speed limit, and would even chip in for gas money since it would save her a pile on bus fare. If a man had made the offer there was no way it would have been accepted, but once again Buffy’s small size and essential ‘cuteness’ came to her rescue, and that easily her trail essentially vanished.
When the young woman turned out to be a fashion buyer for an up-scale chain Buffy had often frequented a quick friendship was founded on their common interest. Buffy knew a lot
about clothes. Some people had even gone so far as to accuse her of being obsessed with clothing. But the young woman, whose name was Bonita Sanchez –“Call me Bonnie!”—knew even more, and from a different perspective than Buffy had of the retail business. After verifying that Buffy could actually drive, Bonnie was freed up to establish discipline among the kids, and had a ready audience for her stories once they settled down. It was soon apparent that Bonnie loved to talk, and even more loved to talk shop with someone who was as interested in the topic as Buffy.
She soon realized the meager state of Buffy’s finances, and given how pleasant the drive had become once the children started behaving refused to let her pay for either the gas or the meals when they stopped. In gratitude Buffy tried to help out with the kids, twin three year old monsters and the baby who had just turned one. After just a few minutes of it, she would have preferred facing the Torak-han in combat. Them, at least, she could kill. Bonnie was good natured about the whole thing, and impressed enough to offer to help Buffy find a job if she intended to spend some time in Phoenix. A thankful Buffy had to regretfully decline, saying she had a job lined up and a place to stay in Houston, although she made it plain how sincerely gratified she was by the offer.
Leaving the nice family when they reached Phoenix, Buffy regretfully tossed the business card Bonnie had given her into the garbage. If she was found she didn’t want any of her problems to fall on them. But between Bonnie and Mark, some of the faith Buffy had lost in her fellow humans had been restored. Those in power might be dickheads; but the average person was still worth saving.
Phoenix was big enough that Buffy felt it worth the risk of spending two days there. It took some time to locate a couple of drug dealers and follow them back to their supplier, given the necessity of remaining hidden from view. The dealers would not have enough money on them for her needs; but the supplier would. But he also had armed guards, four of them, ready to protect him. Buffy was well aware that she wasn’t bulletproof, but she was also short on both time and options. She planned her attack as carefully as she had ever planned an assault on any vampire nest, and hit them with all the speed and strength a Slayer could bring to bear. Even so one of the guards got off a shot. Fortunately it only grazed her, but after getting shot by Warren, Buffy was a bit gun shy and overreacted to the danger. Luckily she didn’t kill anyone, but she hurt them worse than she had wanted to. Two of them would require hospitalization, which was something she had hoped to avoid under the assumption that if he could keep it quiet, the supplier probably would do so rather than let his competitors know he was weak enough to be taken down.
Whatever her intentions, the end result was two men with concussions, two with broken legs, and a furious supplier manhandled by someone considerably smaller than him. This had offended his machismo to the point where even if it hadn’t been her plan to leave town as quickly as possible afterwards, she would have done so after realizing his threats of revenge were so heartfelt her only other choice would have been to kill him. And she wasn’t ready for that. But she did come away with close to $5000 in cash, which meant her money situation was resolved, and that had been the purpose of the exercise.
She returned to the bus depot only after using some of the money to get new clothes and a new makeover, which were designed to better fit in with the style and culture of others who used the bus to travel the back roads of America. A preppy, but street-wise college student, with dark hair and glasses, who looked nothing like the picture of Elizabeth Anne Summers, which were now gracing Wanted posters at every bus stop. It helped that she was able to fit in with the real
preppy, street-wise college girls traveling with her, to the point where she was an accepted part of their group, and as part of that group dismissed by the security guards and police looking everywhere for her. They were more than happy to welcome her into their group because when a dirty old man or pimp trying to recruit or simply a young man on the prowl tried to sit down beside her, Buffy ‘dissuaded’ them through a discreet application of Slayer strength. And was willing to help out the other girls when they experienced similar problems. Having their own private bodyguard made her a popular figure among the other girls for a big chunk of the trip.
She made it to Albuquerque, then Denver, without once being questioned, and after that she was apparently beyond where they were concentrating their search, because she got to Minneapolis, then Chicago, and finally New York without the slightest indication that anyone was even looking for her. That left her plenty of time to think, to consider her position and options, and assess her actions. She was uncomfortably aware that she was increasingly acting contrary to the behavior and beliefs ingrained over a lifetime. To escape from the torturers she had killed
. Not just once, but multiple times. And now she was a thief, and a mugger; a wanted criminal in fact as well as through circumstance. This violated all the rules she had been cautioned a Slayer must abide, or face serious consequences. It frightened her that Faith had been driven insane over breaking only a fraction of the rules Buffy had broached over the past few days.
But more days passed, as did the country passing by her window, and she didn’t feel any different. Tired, bitter, frustrated perhaps… but those were normal for her. But she didn’t feel like she was losing her mind, or like she was about to go suicidally postal the way Faith had after accidentally killing a man. With plenty of time to think about it however, she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the act of killing Finch which had driven Faith over the edge; it was the fact that she didn’t care
that she had killed him. The Shadowmen who had created the spell binding the Slayer to the Chosen girl had been jealous of their power, and were likely careful who they bestowed it upon. They wouldn’t want to chance putting so much power in the hands of a psycho. But accidents happened, especially given the violent world of a Slayer, and it seemed damned unfair to Buffy, not to mention wasteful, to burn a Chosen One just because she got unlucky.
If she was right, the spell binding the Slayer to her would not trigger any response over the death of the torturers because she wasn’t dismissing it as unimportant. She also wasn’t regretting it, except in the abstract, which made her a bit nervous; but they had represented a threat to her very survival, and she had been so out of her mind at the time that it was the Slayer more than her who had taken them out. As for stealing, well, given the Prophetic Dream she had been sent she knew there wouldn’t be time to take a job at the local equivalent of Doublemeat Plaza where it would take the better part of eternity to save up $5000. She hoped that when lives were on the line she could cut corners… but would have to constantly remind herself that when they weren’t, she couldn’t. Because she was finding it increasingly easy to compromise her principles, justifying actions she knew were wrong by saying that she had no choice, by becoming harder and more cynical.
So given those restrictions she didn’t act like a vigilante during the long trip across country. She didn’t rob anyone else, or go hunting to save anyone from a mugging, didn’t do anything she wouldn’t have done back in Sunnydale. Problems which the cops were expected to solve were the cops’ problem. She could defend herself, and those around her, when attacked; but she couldn’t go around picking fights or exploiting her powers for personal gain. The decision seemed to be the right one, because as time passed, instead of growing more emotional, less stable, she gradually grew more accepting of her situation. Not happy, not content; but she couldn’t change the way things were, so she forced herself to accept it.
It was a mostly-recovered Slayer who arrived in New York. Physically she was back to normal; emotionally, she was dealing. Her weight was up to what she considered normal, although she understood others might think her a bit too thin. But after some of the worst weeks in her life, Buffy was in about as good a shape as she was likely to get. So without looking back she took a cab to Grand Central Station, gawking like the tourist she was for the entire trip. From there it was Amtrak up to Boston, where Willow unknowingly awaited her.
The MIT campus was pretty interesting to a California girl. Where she grew up almost every building had been relatively new. Back home she knew people who were older than pretty much every building she had ever seen. But here, there were buildings centuries old. Their age wouldn’t impress a European, but where Buffy came from ‘ancient history’ meant anything predating World War II. So she wasn’t interested in the modern buildings on the massive campus, but was fascinated by some of the older ones, the ones that had been standing there for centuries, and could imagine the changes they had witnessed, could put herself in the place of those walking their halls long before the internet, before hairdryers, before any of the other basics of civilization had been invented.
She attracted considerable attention. Girls who looked like Buffy were apparently not a routine presence on the MIT campus. Wherever she stopped to examine what she considered to be an architectural marvel she was watched by a veritable army of nerds, who suddenly popped out of every opening like prairie dogs. She secretly enjoyed the attention. It provided confirmation that she looked better than she felt. After what had happened, she needed the confidence boost. No longer needing to fit in as a bus-traveling vagabond, she was back up to fashion-plate Buffy standards. Leather pants, silk shirt, hair back to blonde, her once-horrible sunburn faded to give her skin a copper glow. Ten pounds of muscle added to her still-too-slim frame. Eyes back to hazel, now more green than brown. She walked with too much confidence, too much awareness of her own attractiveness to be bothered by an observing, but thoroughly cowed, nerd population.
The same couldn’t be said for Willow, who she finally spotted after a short search of the campus directory. She was being bothered by a couple of boys whose sophomoric efforts at flirtation were of a type abandoned by non-nerds after grade school. Willow’s shoulders were hunched forward defensively, her eyes locked on the sidewalk at her feet, her embarrassment and desperation evident at a glance to anyone more socially aware than the trio of would-be nerd lotharios making pathetically embarrassing attempts to display their figurative plumage in the nerd-equivalent of a courtship ritual. Overt displays of belt-mounted electronic equipment, mating calls of arcane cybernetic lore, and aromatically-challenged scents of cheap aftershave barely able to overwhelm the odor of sweat coming from chubby people being forced to waddle too quickly in order to keep up with the pace of the Female-type Person in their midst… this was soooooo beneath what her friend deserved.
Buffy descended on the flock with the imperiousness of a swan confronting the ugliest of ugly ducklings. First she paused to give the pathetic dweebs a chance to dream impossible dreams, to bask for what she was certain was the only time they would ever be in the presence of a tiny, blonde, stylishly-attired, socially confident, tautly toned, obviously ex-cheerleader-type girl, and then, channeling her inner Cordelia, she used her tongue with the surgical precision of a samurai from Hell, verbally eviscerating their deportment, physique, and very existence when confronted by her sartorial majesty. In truth, Buffy didn’t have anything against nerds… except when they were bothering her friends. And when that happened, she had found that a quick, ruthless display of her own vastly elevated social status, and absolute lack of interest in those things which conferred equivalent status within the nerd social hierarchy, was generally best to ensure that the social lepers never again subjected her friends to their unwanted attention. Or their very presence.
Although her social status in the Sunnydale High School hierarchy had been somewhat ambiguous, if not in the leper category herself, Buffy could still call upon the moves she had perfected at Hemery when the situation warranted it, where she had sat at or very near the top of the cultural food chain. Ergo, what followed was a slaughter; a rapid, vicious, and systematic verbal destruction of the offending nerds, a final disgusted dismissal sending them scurrying for the protection of a society where their unique talents were more appreciated, which meant nowhere connected to the external world except via fibre optic link. From start to finish it had taken less than three minutes; not a record, but Buffy was out of practice.
Turning to Willow, Buffy introduced herself, recognizing a look in her friends’ eyes that neither of them had understood when they first met back in Sunnydale. Buffy really, seriously
did not want to go there, and so with vastly more subtlety than she had used to discourage the Nerd Herd, made it clear that she was in need of Willow’s brain… and only
her brain. She pretended not to notice the look of disappointment she doubted Willow even realized was observable in her expression.
It took her about a pico-second to decide that before proceeding with her problem, however, Willow was in even more desperate need of some transformational magic. Ignoring the fact that as far as Willow was concerned they had just met, Buffy imperiously overruled any objections coming from her flattered but intimidated friend and summoned a taxi, which naturally almost ran over the nerds who had called for it in the driver’s rush to respond to her casual wave. Their first stop was a beautician, where her hair was cut, shaped, and highlighted; where subtle makeup was applied after an extensive facial, where her eyebrows were plucked and her nails shaped and polished. Throughout the entire process Willow’s frequent objections were blithely ignored, the small army of beauticians following Buffy’s orders like a well-oiled military machine. Willow would have been pretty upset about the whole thing had the results not been so… extraordinary.
The long, straight, rust-colored hair she had worn since she was in kindergarten was gone… and so was the girl who had looked about 12 years old when staring back at her in the mirror that morning. Her new hairstyle was subtle yet sophisticated, easy for her to maintain but conferring a mysterious maturity Willow had never even imagined could appear on her face. Even the light amount of makeup they had used had completely changed the look of that face, given her cheekbones and eyes a definition that was subtly exotic, mature without being overly sensual. When she met Buffy’s eyes in the mirror those eyes appeared gigantic, her shock evident to every one of the proudly observing beauticians, pleased as punch over the results of their expert handiwork.
Buffy made a big show out of trying not to look smug, knowing she was exploiting the fact that she knew which style Willow had loved the most out of the dozens they had experimented with over the years back in Sunnydale. But she needed Willow’s help, and needed to make it clear that in return for her assistance Buffy could help her too, in a way that didn’t offend her or make her uncomfortable. Change wasn’t easy, and Buffy would soon be asking Willow to take a lot on faith, so wanted to show her that she could be trusted. But also she was getting a real kick out of transforming her friend, bringing out the beautiful woman she truly was, allowing her to finally be free of the childish look she had long since outgrown.
Following the beauty parlor it was time for clothes… and Buffy made it clear that she intended to become violent if Willow even suggested shopping at Sears. Fortunately for Willow’s peace of mind, Buffy was far more willing to negotiate on the issue of clothing styles than she had been on the makeover. Of course, she was only willing to indulge in Willow’s eclectic tastes so long as the styles met her standard of sophistication, drawing a firm line against anything that made her look childish. It was a word she used with deliberate condemnation, since it was pretty much guaranteed to annoy Willow enough that she would set the garment aside without too much argument. She didn’t want to look like a child either. By the time they took a cab back to Willow’s small apartment just off campus nearly four hours had passed, and Buffy’s purse was lighter by well over $800.
Unsurprisingly, Willow almost had a coronary when she realized that what had seemed like almost playing dress up had done some serious financial damage. The small monthly stipend she received from her scholarship and any TA work she did marking undergraduate papers wouldn’t come close to providing such discretionary funding. Buffy just waved aside any idea of being reimbursed. “It isn’t every day I get to play fairy godmother. You must have noticed how much I enjoyed the whole thing. Besides, it was something that had to be done, the sort of challenge I was glad to take on. I just wanted to get it out of the way before I told you why I came here to see you. I figured you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it afterwards if you decide not to help me with my problem.”
Willow looked suddenly nervous at the reminder that this was not a spontaneous meeting. Somehow, despite the fact that never before in her entire life had one of the Beautiful People sought her out, she had forgotten that it hadn’t been just a day out with a friend. Buffy had made her so comfortable, had acted like they had known each other forever, that it came as a shock for her to realize that despite how much it seemed like they were the bestest of best buds, they had actually only met a few hours earlier.
Noticing her friend’s sudden nervousness, Buffy gently patted her arm in a comforting gesture, smiling wryly. “It’s not that bad, Wil. Seriously; if you tell me you can’t help, I’ll leave. No whining, no regrets over having spent a really good evening out shopping with a friend. The way I figure it, what I just paid would cover the consulting fee for a few hours of the time of a high-end computer genius such as yourself. So even if you can’t help me, I’m not out anything. But I should warn you right now that what I’m going to tell you is going to be pretty tough to swallow. There is a good chance you won’t be able to help me.”
Her words weren’t as reassuring as she’d hoped. Willow looked nervous as hell, fearful of having to disappoint her new friend. “Look Will, whatever happens, it’s already been a really good day, for both of us. Nothing will take that away. So take your new clothes up to your apartment, change into something more suitable for a walk around campus, and come back down when you’re ready. I’ll wait here.”
Not wanting to intimidate her old –and hopefully, new again—friend, Buffy didn’t want to invade her personal space by accompanying her up to her apartment. She was partly amused, and partly saddened, by the differences she could see in this incarnation of her friend compared to the one she remembered. Granted that Sunnydale Willow hadn’t had an easy time of it, especially since losing Tara. But even then, there had been a strength to her, a boundless reservoir of determination to at least try to do the right thing, a strength of character she didn’t see in this version. This Willow hadn’t been tempered by the supernatural fires of Sunnydale. She hadn’t had to face the bitter consequences of her failures either, and hadn’t learned character from the experience. Sunnydale had been a hell of a ride, and even knowing where the journey would end, Buffy believed her friend had been the better for having taken the trip.
She wasn’t surprised it took quite some time for Willow to reappear. It actually wouldn’t have surprised her had her friend never come back down. In that event Buffy had promised herself she would honor Willow’s decision and leave her alone. It would have made things difficult however, so she was genuinely relieved when the shy, nervous looking redhead finally came down the stairs, wearing new clothes, comfortable clothes which made her look far more mature than she had appeared that afternoon. It also made her seem more like the Willow Buffy remembered, and not the coddled, insulated, and naïve schoolgirl she truly was on this world. But even here she was still Willow, the brains of the Scooby gang, and Buffy desperately needed her expertise.
Announcing that she wanted to show off Willow’s amazing cosmetic transformation, Buffy lightly pushed her towards campus, hoping that some of her friends would see her and be suitably astonished. Unfortunately it was getting fairly late in the day, most people had left, and to Willow’s open disappointment they didn’t come across anyone she knew during their walk. That still left plenty of students about, virtually all of them male, who could not help but notice two pretty young women walking along the campus walkways. Seeing all the attention they were getting, Buffy teased Willow about showing a bit more cleavage next time, smiling as her friend blushed until her face was almost the same color as her now much-lighter hair. Nobody bothered them, but Buffy kept the conversation on general topics until they reached a small park area, deserted so late in the day.
With the moment of truth at hand, Buffy sighed, trying to remember how she had rehearsed this in her head before seeking out Willow. She had completely forgotten what she was supposed to say. “What I am going to tell you will be… difficult… to believe.”
Willow simply nodded, already bracing for something horrible. She had just had one of the best days of her life. She had never really had a best friend before –except for Xander, who didn’t count, being a guy and all—but she’d known all along that it wasn’t real, was a set-up for the disappointment to come. Girls like her simply did not attract the attentions of the Popular Crowd unless they wanted something from them, and given the extraordinary down payment she had just made, Willow figured that whatever Buffy wanted, it was going to be a doozie.
“I figure it will be easier if I just start with the part that you’ll have the least difficulty believing.” She waited until Willow nodded in agreement before continuing. “I am actually from an alternate universe, where, among other things, you’re my best friend.”
Willow abruptly paused in her slow walk, forcing Buffy to turn back to face her. There was silence for a few minutes while Willow tried to figure out how to respond. If nothing else, at least this was different than she had expected it would go. “Let me get this straight. You’re saying that the claim that you’re from an alternate universe is the easy part to believe?!”
Smiling happily, Buffy casually patted her friend’s arm. “No. I’m saying the part about you and me being best friends is the part that should be easy to believe.” She grinned again at the way the other girl’s eyes widened at that statement of fact, at the certainty in her voice. “The part you’ll probably have trouble believing is that in the other universe I’m kind of a superhero.”
“Uhhhh huh.” Willow wondered why she wasn’t simply running away from the obviously delusional girl. Perhaps because it had been such a nice day, but likely because Buffy wasn’t acting
crazy. If anything, she appeared amused, having known the reaction her statement was bound to receive and kind of enjoying it. “Ah, aside from the obvious, have you looked in the mirror lately? You don’t really fit the image of the superhero. Not being exactly Xena-esqe, if you get my meaning. You’re one of the few people I know who is actually shorter than I am.”
Her grin remained, but Buffy’s eyes got a bit of a hard glint in them at the reference to her height. They paused, having wandered to the deepening shadows under a large tree, and Willow caught the meaning of that glint. ‘Okay, the girl is a wee bit sensitive about being among the stature-challenged
.’ That was pretty much the last thought she would be capable of making for some time, because without another word, Buffy bent her knees, and… jumped
. Jumped up to reach a branch that had to be at least twenty-five feet above them. Catching the branch, she released one hand, casually waved at Willow down below, then using just one hand, lifted herself in a one-armed handstand, pushed up hard after holding the handstand for a few seconds, did a quintuple summersault in mid air on the way down, and landed on her feet in front of a stunned Willow, not even winded after the impossible display of athleticism.
Almost hyperventilating in shock, Willow’s normally quick-witted brain was locked up, unable to process what she had just witnessed. “How… you… I can’t believe… my god; how…?!?!?!”
Taking pity on her, Buffy gently grasped Willow’s arm and held it lightly as they resumed walking. “Comes with the package. Strength, dexterity, stamina, enhanced senses, rapid healing, the whole bit. Plays hell on my clothes, though. Normal fabrics are soooo not designed to accommodate Slayer tolerances.”
“That would be me.” And so it began. Buffy explained everything, holding nothing back. For the longest time Willow just let her speak, not interrupting unless absolutely necessary, letting her tell her story in her own way. It was an amazing tale, and would have been completely unbelievable had it not been for the incredible display Willow was still having a hard time believing she hadn’t just imagined. Eventually she had to reign in the girl, who was so much more than she appeared on the surface. But her mind wasn’t like Willow’s; she was temperamental, mercurial, easily side-tracked, and wandered down tangential avenues of thought as the mood struck her. It wasn’t that she lacked discipline; if even a fraction of her story were true she would have died long ago if she wasn’t able to focus on the problem at hand. But without a specific threat to focus on she lacked Willow’s ability to zone in exclusively on a single issue, to bring all of her formidable intelligence to bear on a single problem until it was resolved.
One thing Willow was able to figure out pretty quickly was the reason the Slayer would seek out someone like her. Although far from unintelligent, there was a barely-leashed energy to her every movement, a restless intensity which would prevent the girl from ever being able to sit down and perform all the research and investigation someone in her… profession… would need to do in order to survive. Buffy had recognized her own weakness and sought out someone who could handle the sort of work she wasn’t temperamentally suited to do herself.
Willow wondered if she should be upset, that someone of her academic stature was being asked to act as sidekick to, well, a glorified cheerleader. Buffy had described them as ‘best friends,’ but that didn’t seem to be an accurate reflection of their unequal relationship. The more Buffy spoke, however, the more Willow came to understand why her counterpart would be willing to do the grunt work for the Slayer. While the whole concept of fighting vampires seemed ludicrous, the pain in her eyes as Buffy told of battles won and friends lost was not. ‘Saving the world’ was not just an academic exercise to this girl; it was her life
. A life that was brutal, pain filled, to be fought day in and day out, without pause or rest, under the full understanding that sooner or later she was doomed to fail, to die an agonized, horrific, and lonely
death. It was no wonder that when confronted by someone facing such a terrible destiny, Willow’s counterpart had felt that she had no choice but to assist her in any way she could.
Willow felt she could do no less, if she wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror. But she was terrified. Because it didn’t take a leap of intellectual genius to figure out that Buffy had sought her out because she was back in a similar game in this reality, and needed similar help. So she had sought out her old buddy, not realizing that this
Willow was a frightened mouse, afraid of her own shadow, and not the battle-hardened sidekick she remembered. But unfortunately, she was all the Slayer had. If she was to be of any help at all she would need a lot more information, so she took a deep breath and started to question the girl, to go through her story point by point to pick up on the parts she hadn’t understood, to fill out the broad outlines with details Buffy had just assumed she already knew.
The interrogation took hours, continuing long after the sun finally set. When she noticed that Willow was looking about nervously at the encroaching darkness, Buffy paused and shrugged. “Don’t worry about what’s out there. I’m a lot more dangerous than anything that might be hiding in the shadows.”
By that point Willow didn’t doubt her for a minute.