The Reflecting Pool
By: The Deadly Hook
Disclaimer: BtVS and AtS characters not mine. I play with them, whisper to them, move them around. They don’t seem to mind.
Rating: PG, I think.
Summary: Post-series, Buffy revisits the Slayer guide figure from “Intervention,” only in the Brave New World of multiple Slayers, the spiritual forces have… changed.
Thanks: To itmustbetuesday for the superb community.
Notes: I’m going to go out on a limb and utterly lock myself into two parts for this story. The second, concluding part should be up later today.
She walks, she talks, she shops, she sneezes. Her whole life’s been nothing but floods.
But she still wants to be a fireman. Someday.
For the first couple of years after the Sunnydale Hellmouth fell in, Buffy could honestly say she was happy. Not perfectly happy, of course, but that would’ve been something else altogether, and she doesn’t even dare to think about those kinds of questions anymore. Doubts and misgivings, might-have-beens, and should-have-dones.
She’s never been short on courage, but trying to imagine alternate futures? No. She hasn’t got enough courage for that.
She tells herself that this means she’s grown up.
“Spirit Guide?” Giles looks up from his desk.
“Sure, you remember, don’t you, Giles? Shake a gourd, do the hokey-pokey, turn yourself around?”
“Of course I remember, but–Buffy, what brought this on?”
“Do I need to have a reason? I thought that the new order of things was more of the ‘Slayer need, Slayer get’ variety.”
He sighs. Takes off his glasses, tosses them aside. “Buffy.”
“Don’t ‘Buffy’ me, Giles. I need to do this. I need answers.”
“Answers about what?”
“About things to do with being a Slayer. About–” She looks down for the first time, and then out of the window. The new Council offices were in the new developments on the London docklands, with a nice view of the Thames. “About… dreams.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yes, Giles, Slayer dreams. Bigtime Slayer dreams. And no, before you ask, not prophetic.” She pauses, unsure how much she wants to reveal.
“Lives of other Slayers.” Giles draws the conclusion for her. He retrieves his glasses, returns his attention back to his desk. “Some of the other girls have mentioned… intense experiences.”
Intense. “Yeah, I guess you could call it that.”
He purses his lips. He’s probably guessed anyway. Her first Watcher, the one before Giles, had told her that it was common for new Slayers to relive certain experiences from the lives that came before theirs. Sort of like pyschic preparation.
But these dreams… the ones she began having not long after the new Slayers were chosen… they weren’t just certain experiences. They were specific.
“Traumatic?” he asks delicately.
Smelly subway car, flashing lights and screaming metal, and her back is pressed into the dirt and steel. Leather of her coat slithering against the rolling cigarette butts and sticky gum spatters, and she’s kicking out her legs, trying to break free, but she can already feel the strength draining out of her. Leaching away into those two cold hands, tight around her throat, and he’s–
He’s going to win.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” Buffy’s face gives nothing away. “I want that spell, Giles.”
“Have you tried talking to the other girls?”
“I really don’t think that would help.”
“Because you believe they’ve been having the same dreams.”
“Maybe.” She fidgets with the pen cup on his desk. “Probably.”
“And you believe that means–”
“Giles! I don’t want to guess what it means, I want to find out. Ergo, quest.”
Realizing defeat, he sighs, sits back. “All right, then. I’ll clear my schedule, and perhaps this weekend we can–”
“I want to do this alone.”
He’s momentarily speechless. “Buffy… the spell requires a transfer of guardianship from Watcher to–”
“Earth to Giles? Slayer spell, lots more new Slayers, not all of them have Watchers. You really think all those old rules still apply?”
He takes his glasses off again, begins to polish them. “Actually, magic, unlike many things in life, is rather insistent on rules.”
“I’m quite aware.”
“No, you’re not aware. All these new Slayers, they’re–” She stares off into the distance. “They’re my responsiblity. If anyone’s their guardian now, it’s me.” She pauses, for effect. She’s more aware of such things, now. “I have to do this. Alone.”
He studies her, glasses hanging from one hand. Then he stands up, fetches a battered book from a locked case, and flips through it, searching for the right page.
“You’ll need some supplies.” Still standing, he draws a pad of paper toward him from the desk, makes notes. “Various herbs, a gourd…”
“Can I use the maracas I bought in Spain?” Relief can’t help but lighten her mood.
“No.” He tears off a sheet and hands it to her, along with the book. “You do realize that the spell may not work.”
“I can still try.”
“Yes. Of course. Still, the spirit world isn’t exactly famous for making… allowances.” She winces. She knows he’s just restating his point, but it feels like a jab. Like he’s setting her up for failure before she’s even begun.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she mutters, and gathers in the book and paper, her purse.
“Buffy?” She turns back, halfway out the door, at the sound of his voice. He looks very small to her, somehow, behind the cluttered desk. Older and more fragile. She wonders when she started thinking of Giles not just as old, but old, as in someone she might not see that many more times. Someone whose life might not intersect with hers much more.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” he says.
She draws a deep breath, holds it in.
What she’s looking for is one of those questions she doesn’t really want to ask.
“Yeah,” she says quietly, letting the air out of her lungs in a long sigh. “Me too.”
At first, she worries that she’ll have to journey all the way back to California to do the spell. The orginal quest, back in her sophmore year of college, had involved a visit to the desert, to what Giles called a “sacred space,” but the actual spell turned out to be a little more vague. “A consecrated place, all of nature and none of man.” And then another wrinkle, one she’d actually sort of guessed at the time: “desolate, so if the quest be unsuccessful, the Slayer’s fate should not be known.”
She had to give Giles credit, in hindsight, for not overtly reacting to her joke about bleached bones. Then she stops thinking about it, because she doesn’t want to consider what else she should give Giles credit for.
She rents a car and drives North.
Sharp smell of gunpowder and flickering gold candlelight. The sound of screams. Her muscles are trembling and her fingers are numb, stinging as if she’s had a weapon knocked out of them, and she’s shaking because although she was faster and more skilled than the demon she faced, she is in his arms now because she made a mistake. And there is sweat rolling down her face and her back and her legs, staining her silks, and his breath is cold…
She spends a few days on the drive. A few nights spent in small towns with names ending in “-bury” and “-ham.” A few dinners of bad Chinese food and surprisingly good Indian, and hotel rooms that all look different and yet somehow still the same. Tea services and packets of biscuits and tiny wall-mounted TVs that she leaves blaring in the night, anything to distract her from the dreams.
She reads the spellbook cover to cover.
Another surprise. The quest turns out to be an invocation. To summon the dead.
His grip shifts then, and the heel of his hand is suddenly hard under her jaw. She can’t stop looking at him, up at the ceiling of the car with the electric lights a bright halo around his head, and she notices everything. Sticky gum and greasy soot and screaming sound of metal-on-metal, and the feel of his dirty jeans pressing diamond patterns into her thighs (god, she’s gonna die in her cutout slacks, the ones she’d found in that cheap shop, she’d been so jazzed at that find), and the safety pins and torn cotton and no smell of sweat except for hers. Tobacco and chlorine, like he’s been swimming in a pool.
His eyes. Black eyeliner. His eyes are blue. Blue and dead.
It made sense, now that she was thinking about it. Given that Slayers would be, after all, dead by default, whenever a new girl was around. Really, who else but the dead would have answers to her questions?
Death is your gift.
She shivers, puts the memories out her head, and puts the book aside.
She’d gone on the quest the first time because she’d been worried about losing her ability to love.
She’d asked the dead to explain her heart.
Death is your art.
Not that she hadn’t done it before.
His teeth dig into her then, and there’s pain, so much pain, but even more, she feels a scream in her soul. Feels his arm like iron around her breasts, and the press of his body into her back, and her whole life is escaping from her, heat seeping out of her body along with her blood.
But when he pulls back to look at her, she speaks. To the demon eyes, to the face that has killed her.
His breath is no longer cold.
They are as one, now.
She returns the car in some Northern town so old that it still has castle walls and proceeds out into the surrounding wilderness on foot. Onto rolling hills that might actually be moors, nothing but grass and wildflowers, hills heaving up and down like waves in the ocean. Close enough to sand dunes, maybe, to fill the requirements for the spell. Certainly desolate enough. She walks for miles without seeing anything manmade, just the occasional fragments of an old stone wall. No animals either, except for a few birds, and once or twice, possibly, a fox.
The “consecrated” requirement in the spellbook, she decides not to worry about. England had been inhabited for a long time. Probably any part of it she could stand on had been consecrated at some time by someone.
She heaves her pack off her shoulder just before the sun dips below the horizon. Begins to arrange the materials for the spell.
And it’s as stupid as she remembers. She scatters the herbs and the other trinkets, shakes the gourd and jumps around. Chants, and jumps some more.
Apparently, the dead get off on seeing people perform tricks. Like a job interview.
She doesn’t even know how long she’s been shaking and jumping when a voice finally interrupts. “Alright, alright, I get it, we haven’t got all night. Are you ready to go?”
Buffy gasps, the gourd falling out of her hand. On the ridge top above her, a human figure. Suddenly. Backlit by shifting clouds and a newly risen moon.
She makes the indentification almost before she has a chance to digest it. “Anya?”
The apparition waves a hand. “Hi, Buffy.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/172015.html