Offering Two… part 1 of 5, more of a teaser for four longer parts to come. An AU season 4, styled a la the AUs on the show– canon world, one big difference with for-want-of-a-nail impact. Hopefully will be fun! Expect the rest on free-for-all-day?
Era/Season/Setting: AU season 4
Rating: this part all ages, eventually T for Teen
So, anyone else remember Celia, Buffy’s cousin from Killed by Death? Barely? Well, this would probably be the Celiaverse… created pretty much just for the Spuffy dynamic thereof. But the whole cast should show.
The Vampire Slayer phoned Buffy Summers, late in October and in the cold of night.
“For you,” Buffy’s roommate Trish mumbled, shoving at Buffy’s shoulder and dropping the receiver into her outstretched hand. Trish staggered back to her own dorm bed as Buffy cuddled against her pillow, cupping the phone to her ear.
A choking noise, maybe a laugh, maybe a sob, came from the other end. “Remember when we were kids and every game of pretend we played ended with you saving me?”
Buffy sat up immediately as she recognized the voice. “What’s wrong?” She waited a moment, combing her hair back from her face with her fingers, but her only answer was a shaky exhaled breath. “Celia,” Buffy said to her only cousin, who she thought of more as a sister. “Just tell me how I can help.”
“I knew that’d be the first thing you’d say,” Celia said. “Or—almost first. God. I really, really wish you could. I wish all the bad things really were make-believe. Or that it had come to you—that’s an awful thing to say, I don’t mean that. But you always made a better Power Girl than me, Buffy. You probably still would.”
“And now you’re officially wigging me out,” Buffy said, her arms feeling chilly and goose-bumpy even though she was snuggled up in her blankets and long-sleeved Yummy Sushi pajamas. “What’s the what?” she said, trying for an upbeat tone.
“Is this going to go on for a while?” Trish said grumpily from the other bed, pulling a pillow over her head. Buffy ignored her, intent on the call and also not really caring if she interrupted Trish’s rigid sleep schedule. She’d been making faces at Buffy from the day they moved into the Northwestern dorm, along with little sounds of disbelief when Buffy unpacked all of her shoes and every time she went out on a school night. Buffy was used to all kinds of snobs from four years at Hemery High, and sometimes had even been one of them, but Trish and her intelligentsia friends, they were a new breed of evil.
“Tell me,” Buffy pressed. She’d always had to work gossip and secrets out of Celia over the years. Celia couldn’t keep them, but she tried to, teetering on the edge, hemming before releasing it all in one gush, the same way she had after her eventual Watcher, Merrick, pulled her away from Buffy after school freshman year to tell her about her calling. That was before, of course, the Council had identified Buffy as a Potential, before they arranged for the bank Uncle Tom worked for to transfer him from L.A. to supposedly-humdrum Sunnydale, sending the Slayer to the Hellmouth and Celia too far away from Buffy.
For that reason alone Buffy was not the Council’s biggest fan.
“I’m supposed to be eighteen next week,” Celia said in a small voice.
“‘Supposed’?” Buffy repeated edgily. “Really not a happy word. You’re going to be eighteen.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Celia said, the pitch of her voice lifting frenetically. In the background, Buffy could hear the lifted voices of arguing men, though she couldn’t make out a word. “I won’t pass, Buffy.”
That sounded to Buffy like a cross between a crucifix and a menthol and not remotely pleasant. “The huh? Could you cut the cryptic and make with the explain-y?”
“I’m dead serious. Emphasis on ‘dead’ and on the ‘final’ part of the exam. It’s a Council test, when we’re eighteen—”
“I turned eighteen in January and Giles didn’t so much as test me on the Dewey Decimal system at Hemery—” They’d just had him give her the ‘you’re unlikely to be called at this late stage’ spiel, which both she and Giles met with more relief than disappointment, since the possibility of super-strength was overshadowed by the early expiration date that came with it. The only harsh side of not being considered an active Potential anymore was that as of this fall, Giles was back in London. He’d only left in August, but Buffy missed him already, even more than her Hemery High friends.
“No, real Slayers. To make sure we’re fit for the job. Or, y’know, else.”
“What, there’s not enough things out to kill you already?” Celia’s Rogues Gallery was relatively large by this point and while she and her friends had beaten them back, from the sound of it they never actually took any of the big fish out. Like comic villains but without the bwahaha.
“Don’t you get it? It’s made for Slayers like me, who suck.”
Buffy felt panic fluttering in her stomach. She got out of bed. “You do not suck! You reverse-suck!”
“Great, I blow, so much better,” Celia moaned.
“Look, you can do this. I know you can. We’ll do the study-buddy thing, over phone, or I can catch an emergency flight on my debit card—” The deep reservoir of guilt money her dad had given her for college was the only plus of Buffy’s parent’s divorce.
“No.” Celia made her laugh-sob choking noise again. “The thing is, the English muffin-heads have a point. They need somebody who can carry out the mission.”
“Celia, this is your life you’re talking about,” Buffy said, through gritted teeth.
“I know, and I’ve been all about the staying alive. That’s just about all I’ve done. But now I’m going to do something good. I could have died when I was sick and eight years old, I could have been a hero and died two years ago like I was supposed to.” That stupid word again, thought Buffy. “And so now, I’m gonna go actually make a dent, for once, instead of just dying a failure.”
The phone was shaking in her hand. “What is this?” Buffy demanded.
“No, really. Do you want me to talk you out of this?” she said, fists clenching, paying no attention as Trish started yammering through the pillow for her to keep it down. “Give you the A-ok, hey, I’m so proud you’re gonna die speech I just know that bitch Diana’s spoon-feeding you?”
“Diana’s a good Watcher—”
“What is this, Celia? Is this my goodbye call? You gonna tell me you love me next?”
One of the voices in the background got a little nearer, sharper. Someone British. Probably another Council lackey, though he sounded to Buffy more like Bert from Mary Poppins than Giles.
“Who’s with you?” Buffy said sharply, as she distinctly caught the words ‘Slayer’ and ‘time’.
“The usual band,” Celia said tiredly.
“Nobody you’d like,” Celia said, then, “What? No, even you would. Buffy… you can’t not love her.”
A tingle ran up Buffy’s spine as a full-throated, unpleasant laugh came through loud and clear from Celia’s nobody. “Celia!”
“I just had to say sorry,” Celia said, her voice sounding far away. “In case, y’know… it’s ever you.”
Buffy’s mouth moved uselessly, unable to form words. She’d inevitably imagined and dreaded the possibility of Celia’s death and what might or might not happen then since she was fifteen. The whole phone call felt like a dream. She blinked rapidly, waiting to wake up. “Look, I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she said tightly.
“Don’t,” Celia said, definitely sobbing now. “Just…be Buffy, okay?”
“I don’t even—” Buffy started, before realizing she was speaking to a dead line. She stared at the phone in her hand and slammed it down. Trish left out a huff of relief.
Buffy hit redial.
Celia picked up on the third ring.
“Listen to me, stupid,” Buffy hissed. “You’re going to wait for me to come before moving a muscle—”
“Oh, I am?” a deep, very-much-not-Celia voice said, stretching out each syllable in a way that made it sound like his tongue was caressing his teeth. Wasn’t one of Celia’s bad guys British? He managed to make three entirely innocent words sound… wrong. “That’s all very interesting, but some other time—”
“Shut up,” Buffy ordered, pushing all stray thoughts out of her head and fisting her hair anxiously with her free hand. “Get Celia.”
“Sorry, sweetheart. Slayer’s got to go.”
“Put my cousin on the line, or I swear to God, first thing when I get to Sunnydale I will find that phone and shove it so far down your throat you’ll be scraped raw and bleeding in places you wouldn’t believe.”
“Sounds like a laugh. Betty, right?”
“I’ll be counting on it,” the voice said, and it seemed like she could hear the receiver being lowered. She ground her fist against the night table.
“Oh, and right,” the voice added, offhand, “my condolences.”
The phone clicked. “Why?” Buffy gritted into the dead line. If anything happened to Celia… “It’s going to be your funeral.”
Trish threw down her covers from the other bed. “Can we not do this at four in the freaking morning on the room phone? Really? I mean, really? Some people have eight am classes and bio midterms.”
“Some people have lives, Trish,” Buffy said absently, remembering Celia saying the same, at almost-fifteen to Buffy’s just-turned, sitting on Buffy’s bed with their legs folded up. Discussing life and death instead of braiding each other’s hair. Some people have lives, some have sacred callings—guess you got the long straw this time, Buffy.
Time to draw again.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/458086.html