A/N: Thank you for your kind words and reviews. I've added a basic outline for the ficlets in chapter one, links included. Still unbeated.
When she wakes in the desert, her first thought is that she must have been out longer than she thought. The last thing she remembers is the quickening of the head hunter that challenged her and then…she died. Stab wound in the gut. And faithful as ever, her hated immortality brought her back. No matter how many times Willow apologizes, Buffy doesn’t think she will ever forgive her friend.
But the fact remains that she wakes not in the alley she died in but in the desert, far from civilization with the faint smell of ozone lingering around her. With a grimace she stands and starts walking in a straight line and random direction.
It’s the arrival of true dark that lets her know that something is very wrong. The stars above her head are too bright and too many, constellations too strange for this to be America. She must be on another continent entirely.
After a week of walking in a straight line she admits defeat. No roads. No city lights on the horizon. Nothing. Only the sand and the sun.
She is not sure who spots who first, but she has never felt as happy as she does at the sight of five men running down a sloping dune to meet her. Only there’s something wrong because they don’t slow as they come close and they don’t smile. Their faces are grimaces and the primitive knife slams into her before she has any chance to react.
She wakes once more with gritty sand in her mouth, dried blood on her shirt and nothing but the hot wind for company. Climbing back to her feet, she resumes walking.
It happens again. And again. She finds humans, walks up to them and gets killed. No questions. No hesitation. It doesn’t matter if she hides the scythe beforehand, if she covers her blonde hair or crawls to them half dead from thirst. They kill her.
This isn’t a question of where. It’s a question of when
Animals kill for food, their young, their territory and their survival. These humans are much the same, except for the fear in their eyes. Anything they don’t know, they fear and what they fear, the hate. What they hate, they kill.
If this is the beginning of time and these people are the foundation of mankind then she wonders how civilization was ever created because this total rejection of anything new, this ignorance and hate and violence is deadly.
Over time she comes to think of them not as humans but as homo sapiens. Smart animals. Dangerous animals.
She doesn’t walk up to them anymore but sneaks in at night, taking what she needs and leaving again before dawn. She doesn’t feel guilt. Not when half this infernal desert bears the dark stains of her blood. Not for creatures that kill their own children because they are different.
But neither does she pity them and so, after a decade or two, she simply survives day after day, not paying any more attention to the humans than to the beetles and birds.
She still kills any demon she finds in the hope of keeping this world alive long enough for it to become something worth saving.
Besides, demons in this time are a lot more civilized than humans and the things she loots from their corpses are worth the effort it takes to hunt them down.
Slowly, everything she was, everything she tried to be falls away, is distilled until only the most basic truths remains. Warrior. Fighter. Survivor.
And the slayer inside of her revels in it, in the freedom of this world, the world she was born into. Without the smells and sounds of civilization everything is sharper, clearer, simpler.
The girl that was once Buffy cherishes that simplicity because is many ways, it is a relief.
The first one is a girl, a child almost. She finds her half dead and sun burnt and gives her water and shelter for the night after saving her from a group of slaver demons. After that, the girl trails behind her, refusing to leave.
On the fifth night, she caves and waves the girl closer to the tiny fire she built from an unfortunate tree she came across the day before. The little one – her name an unpronounceable clacking of the tongue – teaches her the language of her people by telling her stories.
At one point, she confesses that the reason she was cast from her tribe was that she ‘looks in the dark’. It takes a whole month and a few curious incidents for Buffy to realize that the girl is a seer. Feeling humorous and bitter sweet, she names the girl Dru and decides to keep her around.
Over time, the two of them find more outcasts. Many of them are too far gone to save, mad with thirst or broken enough to welcome death but some of them they can fix.
Many of them are ‘god touched’, people with the sight or some inherent magic, with demonic blood in their veins. A lot are women accused of being barren, children that brought their people bad luck, men crippled in fights or accidents. In short, anyone that is useless or at least perceived as such by their people.
Buffy and Dru take them all.
And Warrior, Fighter and Survivor are joined by other things. Friend. Leader. Protector.
Many of those they saved truly are different. Those who are more than simply human also seem more…evolved, somehow. They are smart, flexible. They learn eagerly, their curiosity almost causing her a heart attack more than once.
But out of all of her mismatched children, there are four that are special. Immortal like her, they are far from the homo sapiens crawling in the dirt. They understand abstract concepts, they learn, they invent.
She teaches them to count. In English, because the various tribal dialects they speak have no words for numbers above thirty. They are like her, modern spirits stuck in a time that has nothing to offer to them. But where she is patient, waiting for the world she knows to come back, they are eager, desperate for something more.
They all take what they need, killing as they would be killed. It is necessary. Darwin spoke about survival of the fittest, but even he had no concept of the cruelty of existing before time.
But her four knights don’t just kill for survival. Over the centuries their memories blur and get confused but they never forget the hate they all experienced. They never forget the pain and desolation of being alone in the wild.
Her knights kill because they can, because they have power and others don’t. They take the hate that was given to them and fling it back at generations of man. And she lets them. Not because they are her best fighters. Not because her people need what they bring back from their raids. Not because she can’t stop them.
She lets them because she loves them, cherishes them. She lets them do as they will because they will never leave her and they are like her and they understand
Lover and Beloved join the collection and she will spare no thought for wrong or right. Morals and ethics have no place here.
Besides, she has lived here for much longer than there by now and the things she was once so certain about seem vague and distant now.
Her people call her Sun. No language she has come across has a concept of seasons and thus no word for summer. The closet approximation Dru ever came up with was Sun and long after the woman’s death, that is the name she kept.
She is the Sun.
Only four men know of the strange sequence of sounds that was once her name. The soft plosive b
followed by the rounding of lips and the friction of the f
, ending in another, drawn out vowel. Buffy. Her name.
They promise to keep it safe for her.
And so she stands at the edge of their camp one day, Kronos’s arm wrapped tightly around her waist and Silas nuzzling into her long dirty hair with a grin. Caspian watches with mild amusement from the back of his horse, occasionally kicking out at them when they stumble too close to him.
Then Methos comes galloping over the last dune, wicked grin on his painted face as he jumps off his horse with his sword drawn, chasing off Kronos and Silas and swooping in for a searing kiss that tastes of salt and sand and ozone.
As he pulls back he slings his own arm around her, pulling her close.
“How many?” she asks.
“Two for every one of us.”
Caspian laughs, eager for a fight and Silas joins him, merrily swinging his weapon of choice. Methos pulls a face at their antics but lets them get away with it. She just sighs.
By her estimation, she has several thousand years to go until she is back where she started and at first, she wanted nothing more than to get there as fast as possible.
A century later the memories have become faint and all that is left is a sense of duty and oppression, of loneliness and pain and weariness to the bone and she is in no hurry to get back to that.
This is not a question of when. It is a question of who
The answer is: Herself.