Title: The Web of Our Life
Author: Gaeriel Mallory (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: Buffy and all related characters are the property of Josh Whedon and Mutant Enemy. X-men, Spider-man, and related characters are the property of Marvel Comics.
Summary: The Scoobies head off to New York for a vacation and trouble naturally finds them.
Continuity: Buffy - Everything up to Joyce's death. After that, it's AU. X-men - A weird blending of various elements from the first movie and the comics. Based mainly on the movie, however. The only real noticable change from the movies is that Jean and Scott are married. Spider-man - The cartoon, just because I know that better than the comics.
Note: Sequel to The Summers of Our Discontent. I recommend that you read that first or you many not understand this story.
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together." --Shakespeare, Twelfth-Night, IV, iii, 83
* * * * * * * * * *Sunnydale, California
Willow Rosenberg adjusted the phone so that it was wedged between her ear and her shoulder. "No," she said. "You mix the hemlock in after the lemon juice." Her hands were busy typing on her laptop computer. "Uh huh. Yeah. Then you say the spell. Has to be done in the light of the full moon though." She stopped typing and studied what was in front of her on the screen. "Yeah, that's about all there is. Hey, no problem. If you need more help just give me a call. Ok. Bye!"
She hung the phone back onto the wall of the Summers' kitchen and turned to Buffy. "You know," she said, "Ororo is really getting into this witchcraft stuff. This is the third time she�s called me this week."
Buffy Summers grinned at her friend. "Well you know what they say: magic is like potato chips. You can't have just one."
Willow frowned. "Who said that?"
Buffy shrugged. "Me, I guess. Who'd have thought that magic would have been so addictive? "
Willow shook her head. "I just hope that Ororo knows what she's doing."
"I wouldn't worry about it too much. The woman can control the weather; I'm sure that something as simple as magic should be no problem for her." She looked over at her friend. "So, what did you find out?"
Willow turned back to her computer and resumed typing. "Well, according to the prophecy, the Apocalypse is supposed to occur sometime tonight."
Buffy sighed. "Again? This is what? The fourth time this month?"
"Hey, I don�t make them. I just find them."
"Might as well break out the weapons then." Buffy got up and stretched. "Need anything before I go sharpen my axe?"
Willow shook her head. "Nah. I'm good. You go and save the world again."
* * *
Buffy climbed out of the sewer, covered in mud and slime. Two people who were walking by stopped and stared as she pulled her axe up after her. "That is the last time I take a shortcut through the sewers," she told them. "It's murder down there." She smiled to herself as they hurried away.
She placed the cover back into place and straightened. She studied her ruined clothing and scowled. "I so need to ask for a raise," she commented to herself. The demons who had tried to open the Hellmouth were so much goo on the walls of the sewer and once again, the end of the world was averted thanks to the might of the Slayer.
Buffy snorted to herself in amusement as she headed back to her house. Right. Yay me. Gonna be late to my ticker tape parade.
She unlocked the front door and pushed it open. Gotta admit, this is a pretty thankless job. Kill demons, save world, pull some innocents out of danger�and I still have to pass calculus.
"Dawn? You home?" She called out as she took off her sneakers and dumped them in the kitchen trashcan.
"Yeah. I'm in my room," her sister�s voice called back.
She stripped off her sweatshirt, glad that she had worn a t-shirt underneath it. Examining it, she shook her head and dropped it on top of her shoes. I need to get some new clothes. Slaying is hard on the wardrobe.
"Did you finish your homework?" she asked.
"Buffy! It's the weekend! No one does their homework Friday night."
"Just make sure you get it done." Her jeans followed the shirt and shoes and she headed upstairs. "I don't want to have to get another call from one of your teachers."
Buffy smiled as she walked into her bedroom. "Hey, if you don't get good grades, I may have to rethink this trip to New York."
"I mean it, Dawn. I don't want to give Dad an excuse to ship you off again."
There was a pause before Dawn answered. "Fine. I'll do my work," she called out a bit peevishly.
Buffy rummaged through her closet. Pulling on a pair of sweatpants, she sat down at her desk and reached for her calculus book. Math
, she sighed. Why did it have to be math?
* * *Salem Center, Westchester, New York
Charles Xavier rolled his wheelchair into the large room that housed Cerebro, the machine that enabled him to detect mutant activity throughout the country. He used it periodically to search for new mutants and hopefully recruit them to the Institute, where they would be safe and able to learn to grow into their powers, and hopefully learn that being a mutant does not make one evil.
He sighed as he picked up the headset. There were too many who believed that anyone who was different was someone to be feared. He had been working for years to change that attitude but it was hard to fight against human nature. Briefly, he wondered how humanity would react to the information that there were worse things in the world than a few people who exhibited special powers�things such as vampires, demons, and hell dimensions.
It was still rather hard for him to believe that those things existed. It had been several months since the incident with Glory and he had first learned that there was far more to the world than he had originally thought. As Hank would say, "There are more things in heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in your dreary philosophies. Hamlet." Too true.
He placed the headset over his head and activated Cerebro.
* * *
Dr. Jean Summers, nee Grey, stretched out a hand and several bull�s-eyes rose into the air. "Try and hit those," she directed her student, a tall teenage boy with scraggly brown hair.
Remy LeBeau smirked at her and shuffled the stack of playing cards in his hands. "Gambit will d' more than jus' try, cherie." His strange red and black eyes studied the targets. "Gambit nev'r miss."
He took several cards in his right hand and fanned them out. They started to glow and he threw them across the distance, his smirk growing as they streaked towards their marks. His grin faltered however when the bull's-eyes danced out of the way and the cards exploded harmless in the air. "Bu' dat's cheatin'!" he cried out.
Jean tried to hide the smug look on her face. "Expect the unexpected," she told the young Cajun. "Let's try this again." She directed the bulls-eyes back into their original positions.
* * *
Ororo Munroe sat in the library grading exams. She smiled as she reached the last one. A regal looking woman, her dark skin was accentuated with her white hair. She frowned as she came to a particular answer and shook her head. Correcting it, she moved on. Finally finishing, she set the test on the pile with the others and sat back with a sigh. Done. Done for the day and also done for the term.
It seemed that this year had been longer than any of the others before it, but it was finally over. She smiled as she realized that the trip to New York City was in a week. Charles Xavier had decided to mark the end of the school year by organizing a weekend in the city for the entire school, students and teachers alike. She was looking forward to it, not in small part because Scott�s cousins from Sunnydale were flying over and would be joining them. In her last phone call, Buffy had said something about the 'whole gang' coming along. She looked forward to seeing Willow and Tara again, the two young witches she had befriended.
Gathering up her stack of tests, Ororo left the library. Willow had sent her a spell that she was eager to try out and the sooner she got the grades entered into the computer, the sooner she could continue in her magical studies.
* * *Sunnydale, California
Buffy frowned as her suitcase refused to close. "Come on. Just a little more," she begged it as she pulled on the zipper. Pushing down on the top with her Slayer strength, she heard the sound of the suitcase zipping closed. "Yes!" she cried out. "Slayer, one. Suitcase zero. Ha!" She set the luggage on the floor and gave it a little kick.
Dawn bounded into her room, waving a piece of paper. "Look!"
Buffy grabbed the paper and smiled broadly as she saw what was on it. "Guess I don't have to cancel this trip after all. Which is good because it took me forever to get the suitcase shut." She handed the report card back to her sister. "Speaking of which, how goes the packing?"
Dawn beamed. "Done!" she announced. "All packed and ready to go."
"So you say now. Wait until I'm dragging you out of bed at four in the morning to go catch the plane tomorrow."
Dawn shrugged and flopped onto her sister�s bed, ignoring the clothes that were strewn all over it. "I can't believe it. We�re actually going to New York City. Think we'll see Spider-man?"
Buffy laughed. "I think I should be insulted. As if you don't have your very own superhero right here." She tapped her chest.
"Yeah, but you can't climb up walls. Plus you don't have a cool costume."
"No, I only just save the world about once a month." Buffy collapsed onto the bed next to Dawn. "I'm sure we can get Scott to send out the Bat-signal. Or Spider-signal. Or something."
Dawn giggled. "Yeah."
* * *
It was still dark out. The only lights were from the streetlamps and the porch lights of the Summers house. Giles and Xander were finishing loading the van while Buffy gave Spike some last-minute instructions.
The vampire scowled as Buffy continued talking. "Make sure to water the plants. And also, if there are any big demons that come into town while I'm gone, you are to give Angel a call. Don't�"
"Yeah, yeah. I get it, Slayer. You run off and go have fun."
She frowned. "I'm leaving you in charge, Spike. Don't make me regret this."
He took a long drag on his cigarette and blew the smoke in her direction. "Right. As if there was anyone else who could Hellmouth-sit for you."
Her lips twitched but she did not say anything. "You have the number of the Institute and the number of the hotel in New York. If there's any trouble give me a call."
He waved a hand. "You've told me this before. Now don't you think you should be going before you miss your plane?"
"I mean it, Spike. If I come back and this place is in shambles, I'm coming after you."
"I should be so lucky."
She headed towards the van where everyone was waiting. "Ready to go?" she asked them.
Xander nodded. "This is so cool. And I don't get left behind this time! And best of all, no Spike for a week. You gotta love that."
Buffy smiled. "Well, what are we waiting for? New York, here we come."
Giles shook his head as he got behind the wheel of the van. The Scoobies were laughing and talking far too loud for such an ungodly hour. Let�s hope that New York will survive us
, he thought.
* * *New York
Scott scanned the people coming off of the plane. "There they are," he cried out. "Buffy!" He waved an arm over his head.
His cousin spotted them and smiled, waving in return. She turned towards her traveling companions and pointed towards where Scott and Jean were standing. They headed over. Scott looked over the group, glad that they had brought two cars. Buffy hugged him. "Hey, stranger," she said. "How are things?"
"All right." He then hugged Dawn. "Let's get your luggage and head back to the mansion for an early lunch."
Xander groaned. "Scott, I love you man. Let me tell you, airplane food?" He shook his head. "It's an oxymoron. It's probably the reason they give you airsick bags."
* * *
Anya looked at the mansion with interest. "This place is huge." She turned towards Xander. "Why can't we get a house like this?"
Xander blanched. "Um � Anya, construction worker, remember? I can barely afford our apartment."
"Maybe you can get another job so we can get more money."
"Anya, I love you, but no."
She pouted a bit but dropped the subject. Scott stopped the car and Jean pulled in behind him. As they were unloading the luggage, the front door opened and Charles Xavier came out to greet them.
"Professor, how are you?" Dawn waved to him as she picked up her suitcase.
Xavier smiled. "Just fine, my dear. Welcome back. I know that there are several students who are quite eager to see you again. You might find them in the rec room."
Buffy looked over at her sister. "You go ahead. We can handle it from here."
Dawn grinned and hugged Buffy. "You are the best!" She ran up the stairs and inside.
Xavier watched as the pile of luggage on the ground grew. "Buffy, if I may have a word with you for a moment after you are done here?"
She picked up two suitcases and carried them up to him. "Sure. What do you need?"
"I know that this is your vacation, but would you mind helping the other teachers with the students? Just keep an eye out and make sure they don't get into trouble. As much as I would like otherwise, the world is not the most tolerant place and there are several students who would be marked as different simply because of their appearance."
She nodded. "Sure. It wouldn't be a problem. It's the least I can do since you're paying for this trip. And I can imagine that I would be handy in breaking up fights."
"Thank you, Buffy. You have no idea how much I appreciate this."
She nodded and picked up the luggage she had put down earlier.
He smiled. "You and your friends feel free to wander the grounds. I know you didn't get a chance to last time you were here."
Her own smile faltered. "Actually, I was wondering if you would mind if I visited the cemetery."
* * *
The gravestone stood among the others in the tiny cemetery on the Institute grounds. Buffy walked slowly towards it. You can do this
, she told herself. Sitting down in front of it, she gently traced the name carved into its front.
"Hey, Ben." She drew her legs up against her body, wrapping her arms around them and resting her chin on her knees. "I'm not really sure what to say; I've never really talked to anybody I killed before." She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Dammit, Ben. Why couldn't you have been evil? That would have made everything so much easier.
"I know you told me not to be sorry, but I am. You were just some guy who was working at a hospital, trying to do some good in the world. It wasn't your fault that you had some hell goddess using your body on a timeshare."
She sighed. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry. I wish you didn't have to die and I sure as hell wish I wasn't the one to kill you. But you did, and I was, and I'm sorry for that. I hope wherever you are, you're happy." She got up and brushed off the seat of her jeans. "At least Dawn's safe now," she remarked. "I think you would be glad for that. And hey, the world didn't end. That's always a plus."
Buffy laid a hand on the top of the headstone. "Rest in peace," she said softly. She then turned around and started walking back towards the mansion.
* * *
Remy studied the three women who had taken over the basketball courts. They were not playing ball, however, but sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed. "Wha' dey doin'?� he asked Bobby. In his hands, he held an orange ball that he bounced a few times. "An' why dey have to choose our court?"
Bobby flashed a grin. "Magic. Those two," he pointed out Willow and Tara, "are witches from California. Ororo is learning magic from them."
"So Stormy livin' up t' her name o' 'weather witch,' eh?"
"I guess so. Didn't you hear about the attack on the Institute right before you got here?"
Remy shook his head. "Bits an' pieces, bu' no one tol' me de full story."
Bobby flung an arm around the Cajun�s shoulders. "Gambit, let me tell you all about it. I was even on the front lines!" He started walking away, pulling Remy along with him.
The Cajun flung a mournful glance over his shoulder towards the occupied basketball court. "An' den can we play some ball?"
* * *
Buffy winced as the needle was inserted into her arm. "I cannot believe I'm agreeing to this," she commented.
"Oh, come on, Buffster. All in the name of science, right?" Xander grinned.
"You're not the one that feels like a pincushion." She watched as the vial filled with her blood. "So, how much are you going to need, Hank?" she asked.
"I think this last vial should do it," the blue furred doctor told her. "And then you are free to go."
Buffy sighed. "Vampire Slayer, college student, chaperone to mutant teenagers, and lab rat. What else is next?"
"You could adopt a child. Then you could be a mother." Anya looked up from where she was studying the various instruments.
Buffy glared. "Ooh, bite your tongue. I have my hands full with Dawn as it is. Not to mention the fate of an entire town rests in my hands."
The ex-demon shrugged. "It was just a suggestion. Maybe you can get a job and make some money." She brightened up. "Money is always good."
Xander sighed and rolled his eyes towards Buffy�s direction. "The more things change�" he murmured at her. The Slayer hid a grin.
Hank pulled the needle out of Buffy�s arm and held a cotton pad over the puncture site. "Done!" he announced.
Buffy waited as he put a band-aid and her arm and then jumped off the examining table. "Good. Then we�ll leave you to your microscopes." She pulled Xander and Anya away. "Let�s go find my sister."
* * *
They found Dawn in the gym with some other students playing dodge ball. Buffy noticed Logan leaning against the wall watching them. Heading over, she commented, "So, want a rematch, wolf-boy?"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "'Wolf-boy'? Listen, kid, I�m old enough to be your father, maybe even your grandfather, so watch who you�re calling 'boy.'"
Buffy grinned. "Sorry, gramps. So, want a rematch or what? You're the only decent challenge I've had who wasn't trying to take my head off."
He grunted. Pointing towards the band-aid on her arm, he said, "So, Beast finally got to you?"
"Blue-boy. Hank. We were taking bets on how long it would be after you walked in the door till he dragged you off to his lab."
"Really? So who won?"
"When did he get at you?"
"'Bout an hour ago." She leaned against the wall, watching as one girl flew up into the air to avoid being hit by the ball. The other students starting calling foul on her.
Logan glanced as his watch and grunted again. "Looks like Jeanie won. Though if Hank had waited ten more minutes, Chuck would have gotten the money."
Buffy smiled as she watched Dawn pull Xander and Anya into the game. "I notice that you are carefully avoiding answering my question. What's the matter? Afraid?"
He looked over at her and then back at the game. "Trembling," he said sarcastically.
"Good. I have a rep to keep, after all." Buffy grinned as she saw Dawn wave at her. Waving back, she muttered, "Scared to get your ass handed to you by a girl?"
He snorted in amusement. "I just wouldn't want to give Rogue or any of the others any ideas. They're too young to be thinking of serious fighting."
"You just keep telling yourself that, Wolvie." She stood up straight and headed over towards the dodgeball game. "Hey, can I join in?"
* * *
"This was fascinating to study," Hank commented. "I am deeply grateful that you gave me permission, Buffy."
The Slayer waved her hand to the side. "No prob. So, what's the verdict?"
The two stood in the middle of Hank's laboratory along with Professor Xavier and Giles.
Hank pressed a button on one of his machines and a projection of a DNA strand appeared in the air. "This is a normal strand of DNA." He pushed another button and a second strand appeared. "This is a strand of DNA that contains the X-factor, which causes one to become a mutant." He pointed towards a highlighted sequence of amino acids.
"Ok. So what does this have to do with me? I'm not a mutant." Buffy paused and frowned. "Am I?"
Hank shook his head. "No, you are not a mutant. However, your DNA is not what one could consider normal either." A third strand appeared next to the other two. "This is you. You have an anomaly in your genome which is different from that of the X-factor. There are similarities between the two, however. Both seem to have a dormancy period in which they are inactive. But whereas the X-factor becomes active around puberty during a time of heightened emotion, yours�which I suppose we can call the 'Slayer-factor'�is activated by some outside force. I cannot figure out what that is though."
"Most likely something magical. The death of one Slayer always calls on the next." Giles looked intrigued. "So it appears that the Slayer potential is actually genetically based."
"It does not look like it can be inherited or passed on. It seems to just be a random anomaly that shows up in Buffy's genome." Hank turned towards the Watcher. "How have you found Slayers in the past?"
Giles looked slightly embarrassed. "Um, well, I'm afraid that I cannot tell you that. It is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Council."
"Which you are no longer part of," Buffy pointed out. "So why don't you spill?"
Giles shook his head. "There are still my oaths to the Council. I cannot in good conscience or with good reason break them. Imagine what could happen if someone got their hands on that information. They could kill any potential Slayer before she is Called."
"Ouch." Buffy thought over that. "Yeah, I can see how that might put a dent in everything."
"To put it mildly."
Hank studied the three strands of DNA. "Well, that's about all. I�ll let you all go to get ready for your trip to New York."
Xavier rolled slightly forward. "I wish you could come, Hank."
The scientist shook his head. "It is fine, Charles. I am perfectly content to house-sit. It will give my time to catch up on my reading." He picked up a copy of War and Peace
that was resting on a nearby table.
* * *
The next morning saw two buses pulling out of the gates of the Xavier Institute for the Gifted. Buffy sat in her seat and studied the packet that the Professor had given her. Tour guide of the city, street map, brochures to museums, art galleries, and an observatory� Guide to Broadway? Huh. I guess we�re going to see a show.
Buffy had known that Xavier was wealthy, but she was just starting to get a picture of how wealthy he was.
She looked over the itinerary for the four days they were going to be in the city. Yup. There�s the show. Phantom of the Opera, Sunday afternoon matinee.
She was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. I'm not officially a chaperone, but I'm supposed to watch out for them. Who in their right minds would give me that responsibility�there are almost fifty kids! Ok, I take care of Dawn, but she's only one kid. I couldn't even keep my hamster alive when I was seven!Calm down, Buffy.
Jean�s voice came into her head. You�ll do fine.
The woman looked back to where Buffy was sitting and winked. She gave a weak smile in return and turned to the next page in the folder. After a few more minutes, she shut her folder and stuffed it into her backpack. She reclined her seat�thank God for coach buses�and shut her eyes.
It was a two-hour drive to the city and she had to get up at five that morning. Might as well make the most of the trip
, she rationalized right before she drifted off to sleep.
* * *New York, New York
"Ok, everybody stay together," Scott called out. The Xavier Institute stormed the doors to one of the many museums in New York. Well, maybe "stormed" was not the right word, but it sure seemed like it. Everywhere Buffy looked, there was someone from the school. The student body of the Institute was not very large but when they were all put together into one place, it was a little overwhelming even without the boy with the blue hair and the girl with the green skin.
The students were broken up into groups and headed off into different directions. Buffy decided to wander around on her own. Picking a route at random, she found herself in a long hall lined with glass cases. As she walked down it, she saw that the cases were filled with jewelry. "Wow," she breathed as she came to a particularly stunning necklace covered in blue sapphires. The small plaque on the case announced that it had once belonged to a French duchess.
"That's something, all right. Probably would cost more than a year's salary, but it's sure nice to look at."
Buffy jumped a bit in surprise. How did he sneak up on me?
She studied the man before her with suspicion. Brown hair and brown eyes, average height and the way his shirt fit hinted at a musculature that belied his studious air. A few years older than her, he seemed nice enough though Buffy had known too many people who had turned out to be homicidal robots or man-eating preying mantises to trust first impressions.
He smiled at her and stuck out his hand. "Peter Parker. I'm a photographer for The Daily Bugle
She took his hand, noticing for the first time the expensive looking camera around his neck and the press badge pinned to his shirt pocket. "Buffy Summers," she introduced herself, still a bit warily.
He held up his camera. "Mind if I take your picture with the necklace? It would make a good addition to the sidebar."
She chewed on her lower lip, her mind working furiously. As if sensing her indecision, he smiled. "I swear, I'm legit. This is a new exhibit�just opened today�and my editor sent me down to take some pictures of the jewelry. If you don't trust me, go out and buy a copy of the paper. You'll see my name in the credits."
She relaxed somewhat and nodded slowly. "Sure, I guess."
"Great." He smiled blindingly at her. Whoa, down girl
, she told herself. You didn't come here to pick up guys, no matter how cute they are.
She noticed the gold band on his left hand. Especially married guys.
He posed her next to the case and quickly snapped a few shots. "Thanks," he told her. "Pick up the paper tomorrow. You might see yourself in it." He walked off down the hall, taking pictures of the cases as he went.
Buffy smiled slightly and turned back to admiring the necklace. It really was very nice. Too bad she was a jobless college student who had student loans to pay off�not to mention the mortgage.
* * *
"And there was this huge dinosaur skeleton. It looked look a larger version of that thing that you killed last month in the park. You know, the thing that was carrying off babies and eating them?" Dawn's voice carried through the crowded museum cafeteria and several people gave the two sisters strange looks and edged farther away.
Buffy spotted Giles waving at them and nudged Dawn, cutting off the chatter. "There they are. Let's go." The two threaded their way through the crowd, finally reaching the table the Scooby Gang had claimed for lunch. "You don't have to sit with us," Buffy told her sister. "You can go sit with your friends." She nodded at the nearby table at which a frazzled looking Logan was trying to control a small group of teenagers.
Dawn smiled. "I'll eat with you guys. When I'm done, I'll go sit with them to talk."
The two girls set their trays down on the table and sat down. "So, Buffy, what did you think of the museum?" Xander asked before he took a bite of his hamburger.
"It was pretty neat. I got my picture taken by some photographer from the Daily Bugle
in the jewelry exhibit."
Anya sighed. "That was wonderful. There was a pair of emerald earrings that I absolutely loved." She glanced sideways at Xander but he shook his head. "Nope. I'm not buying you a pair of earrings, Anya. I can't afford them."
Buffy turned her attention away from the developing argument towards Giles. "So, how does this place compare to the London Museum?" She poured ketchup on her French fries.
He looked disapprovingly at her lunch. "Well, we had better food." He eyed his own tuna sandwich with distrust.
Willow chuckled. "Giles, you live in America. Learn to eat like an American!"
"Or at least dress like one." Dawn studied him. "Aren't you hot in all that tweed?"
They all laughed as he blushed.
* * *
Buffy was sitting on her bed flipping through the channels on the television when there was a knock on her door. She answered it, smiling when she saw Jean and Scott. "Well, all the kids are back safely in their rooms. They're not allowed out until the morning." Scott smiled. "So, want to check out the New York night life with us?"
"You mean go clubbing?"
Jean shrugged. "Sure. We're young, we're trendy, it's Friday night. Why not?" She mimed a few dance steps.
Buffy laughed. "What about the others?"
"Anya and Xander are holed up in their room. I'm not even going to try and bother them, what with the vibes that are coming from that place. Willow and Tara are talking with Ororo. And Giles is playing chess down in the lobby with Charles." Jean grinned. "So, what do you say?"
Buffy laughed. "Let me grab my jacket."
"Jacket? It's summer!"
Buffy shrugged. "Where else am I going to put my stake?"
* * *
The three of them walked back towards the hotel, laughing. "I haven't had that much fun in a while. Thanks." Buffy grinned happily. Sunnydale had only one club to speak of, the Bronze, but she and her friends had not gone there in a while. It had been their regular hangout during high school but once college started, their visits tapered off and eventually stopped altogether. She had forgotten how much fun it could be, dancing on the floor with the band playing or even just sitting down at a table with some friends.
Scott had his arm around Jean's waist and the two of them starting singing one of the songs the band had been playing. They were a bit off key but Buffy laughed and joined in.
She stopped suddenly when her gut twinged. The other two kept singing for a few seconds before noticing that she had stopped. "What's wrong?" Jean looked at the younger girl worriedly.
Buffy took out her wooden stake. "Vampires." She scanned the surrounding area, concentrating on the feeling of wrongness that that undead gave her. "There," she declared, pointing out a nearby alley. Pulling her stake from her jacket, she sprinted over.
There were four of them. They had cornered a young couple, not much older than Buffy herself. She took a stance in front of the alley. "You really don't want to do that," she told the vamps.
They looked at her in surprise, yellow eyes gleaming in the darkness. "Another snack," one grinned, revealing fangs.
"I'd rethink that." She took a running jump, slamming into his chest with her feet. Landing, she dusted him with a quick thrust of her stake. "Who's next?"
"Damn bitch. Who does she think she is?" one vamp muttered to the other two.
"Maybe you haven't heard of me, seeing as how you're in New York and all. I'm the Slayer." She kicked the one who had talked in the head, causing him to back up into the wall. "That means that it's my job to take care of you and your buddies," stake through the heart, "and the other things that go bump in the night." She turned towards the two remaining vampires as their companion turned to dust. She spread her arms, stake held loosely in one arm. "Bring it on."
The two vamps charged her, not expecting her to leap up and kick them both in the faces, somersaulting backwards. The two landed on the ground. Only one got up. Buffy did not wait to watch the dust settle to the ground before attack the last survivor. He swung a fist at her head which she easily blocked. She then punched him once in the stomach and then again in the face before bringing her other hand around and plunging the stake into him.
Buffy brushed her hair out of her face and turned towards the couple she just saved. "You two all right?" she asked.
They nodded, unable to speak.
"Good." She jerked her head towards the opening of the alley. "Get out of here and go home."
The two did not hesitate. Buffy watched them run out onto the sidewalk and around the corner. She sighed and put her stake back into her pocket.
"Bravo," a voice above her said.
She looked up to see a figure in blue and red perched on the wall. "Spider-man, I presume?"
The figure flipped onto the ground. "In the flesh."
Jean and Scott appeared at the mouth of the alley. "Buffy? Are you all right? We saw the people run out but you didn't�oh." Jean stopped talking at the sight of New York's most well-known�and sometimes hated�figure. "Spider-man."
The webcrawler nodded before turning his attention back towards Buffy. "Who are you?"
She cocked her head to the side, studying the man in the skintight costume. "Name's Buffy. I'm the Slayer."
"Slayer. And just what is that?"
"I kill vampires. It's my job."
She heard his sigh from where she stood. "Vampires," he said softly. "I had thought that I was done with that."
"You know about them?" She was surprised. With few exceptions, vampires tended to remain unobtrusive. Only those in the trade, such as herself, knew of their existence. Both parties preferred it that way.
"Someone I knew once became one, though a bit unconventionally." There was sadness in his voice. "And I knew someone else who was part vampire. They both hunt vampires themselves, now."
She nodded slightly. She knew what it was to have a friend be turned. It had happened to many people she had known in high school. Laying a hand on a spandex-covered arm, she said softly, "I'm sorry."
That shook him free from whatever he was thinking about. He shrugged. "It's been a while. I've gotten used to it. Anyway, I just wanted to say good job with the vamps. We don't usually get vampire trouble but in a city this big, sometimes it's unavoidable."
Buffy smiled a bit before turning back towards the street. "Well, it was nice meeting you."
"Take care. Maybe I'll see you at the superheroes union meeting." He waved jauntily before shooting a webline and slinging off.
* * *
Still in his Spider-man suit, Peter Parker followed the three from a safe distance. He remembered meeting Buffy Summers from earlier that day at the museum; had even gotten her picture. He was curious about her. Her accent was not that of a native New Yorker's but she seemed to have the street smarts for one.
He was also a bit worried. It was his experience that in the superhero trade, trouble followed no matter how hard you tried to avoid it. It had been true every time he had attempted a vacation. Even his marriage to Mary Jane had not gone smoothly.
He did not know if vampires would follow where the Slayer went, but he would keep an eye out.I know you're there. You can stop following us.
Peter paused a bit at hearing the voice in his head. Who are you?
he asked mentally.One of the people you are following.
He did not know how, but he instinctively knew that the owner of the voice was female. That left out the man with the red glasses. He had a feeling also that whatever powers the Slayer may have possessed, telepathy was not one of them. That meant that�You got it. Now why are you following us?
He felt a probe on his mind and tried to quickly block it.I see. Do not worry; your secret is safe with me. However, I can assure you that our intentions are purely peaceful. We do not mean to bring danger to your city.
You may not mean to, but that does not mean it won't come, lady. New York is large. Even I can't be everywhere.
We have our own ways of dealing with trouble. Do not worry about us.
He felt the connection close.
"It's not you I'm worried about," he muttered under his breath as he changed course for home. "It's the innocent bystanders."
* * *
Deep beneath the city, in the intricate sewer system, a large green egg lay in a nest made of old newspaper, string, and cardboard. A robed body knelt in front of the egg. "It is near time, and the Rising will begin."
Two figures approached, and man and woman. As they walked into the light, their faces were revealed to be human but if anyone had cared to check, it would have been discovered that they had no pulse. They knelt quickly in front of the egg before turning to the robed man.
"What news?" he asked.
"The Slayer is in the city. We saw her saving a couple from a bunch of vampires earlier." The woman frowned in annoyance.
"That could be a problem. The Rising is coming and having her here will not be good." The robed one turned towards the egg and studied it. "Any word on the witches?"
The man nodded. "Two are in the Slayer's company. There are others scattered throughout the city, but none were nearly as powerful as those two."
The robed figure sighed. "No, we need the strongest we can find. We'll just have to find a way to get to them without engaging the Slayer."
* * *
Dawn perched on the edge of Buffy's bed, watching her sister get ready for sleep. "So you really saw him? Costume and everything?"
Buffy yawned and nodded. "Yup. He said how he had dealt with vampires before. Didn't seem too surprised that the vamps I fought turned to dust."
"Was he walking up a wall?" Dawn's eyes glowed with excitement.
Buffy shook her head as she brushed her hair. "Nope. But he was kinda sitting on it before he jumped down to where I was." She turned and gently swatted her sister on the back. "Off my bed. You have your own."
Dawn obligingly got into the other bed in the room. "Do you think I'll see him sometime, before we leave?"
Buffy turned off the light and the room was bathed gently in the glow from the city that never sleeps. Crawling under her covers, she yawned again. "I don't know, Dawn. Maybe. Now get to sleep. We have a busy day tomorrow." Her head hit the pillow and she was asleep without knowing if her sister ever answered.