Title: Twenty-five Trips Around the Sun, Part One
Author: Sandy S.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: It’s Buffy’s twenty-fifth birthday, and she’s still fighting the good fight. Only, this time, her job is interrupted by someone bearing a gift.
Part Two will come in one of the free for all slots at the end.
Without a sound, Buffy pushes up from the ground and scoops up her discarded weapon where it was abandoned mid-scuffle.
Her boots pound the wet pavement as she chases the well-dressed vamp through the cobblestone streets of some small city she can’t remember the name of. She grips the scythe with her damp hands because of course it has to also be raining so hard she can barely make anything out around her. At least, the rain makes the world nice, washes away the dirt and grime.
She sees a flash of a dark form in the dim streetlight, and a flash of lightning helps her glimpse the white of the vampire’s shirt collar as he rounds a distant corner. The downtown is winding and full of narrow streets and buildings so clustered together that they blend into one another at night unless the moon shines above.
Dawn declared that Buffy shouldn’t bother with this wild goose chase on this night of all nights, but the vampire in question has done some heinous things to the younger sister of one of the newly called Slayers.
Buffy can’t abide that.
Not when a little sister is hurt.
There are many things she’s abandoned in her journey as the Slayer – pieces of herself. . . parts of her heart and soul, but her protectiveness of those weaker and more vulnerable has never faded. Will never fade.
So, she runs, dredging up the last of her emotional energy to spur her onward. A giggle spills past her lips as the clouds tug back on their curtain of water for a moment, and the joy of splashing in the darkness bubbles up unexpectedly. And she rounds the corner with her Slayer senses singing in full melody that the vampire is closer.
As she catapults along, the water drops with an abruptness that stifles her hope, and she is drowning in rain again.
“Damn it,” she mutters under her breath as she swipes her hair out of her eyes.
Somehow, she keeps ahold of her scythe and rushes on only to abruptly slam into the vampire she is pursuing. He shoves her hard before she can swing her blade. She slips and slides back but manages to stay upright, the side of her foot serendipitously hitting the stone wall behind her and giving her a brace to steady herself. She uses this to her full advantage, crouching and leaping through the rain at the vampire who has started to run.
She slams into his back, the force of her strength sending him crashing to the ground. He growls at her and twists around in the slick wetness, and she glimpses his smooth forehead giving way to bumps and ridges as his hat rolls away into the shadows. She barely sees the golden glow of his eyes before he’s moving and taking her with him.
They wrestle on the wet ground for several excruciatingly slow seconds, and Buffy frets at the impreciseness of her attempts to stake him through the heart or chop off his head even though she stubbornly remains atop him. He’s strong and has long arms and legs, so she can’t get in the way she’s used to. Her hand blunders, and she cries out when he elbows her in the jaw and a flash of stars colors her vision. Her voice is silenced when he follows that with a blow to her ribcage, and she momentarily loses her breath.
And then, he is gone, racing down the street, and she is on her back, the stones pressing into her back as she tries to breathe like a fish out of water.
Lighting flashes and thunder crashes in quick succession, and Buffy discovers that she has lost her scythe again. Only this time, the vampire has it. She half-marvels that she hasn’t lost it before, and she wonders if it hums in his hands the way it does in hers. She always took it as a sign that they were vibrating together – that the weapon was somehow purring like a cat when he’s found his person.
She doesn’t have time to ponder long because she can’t let him get away with stealing the one thing that always makes her think of Spike. He inspired her to retrieve the weapon, and it needs to – has to stay with her.
With this resoluteness, her lungs recover, and her feet grip the street despite the rain, and she runs after the vampire, increasing her speed until she overcomes him with her sheer determination because he should have been faster than her.
She pulls up alongside him, and he smirks at her presence as if amused by her rather than afraid.
Anger soars through her, and in one motion, she pulls ahead and rounds on him, sweeping a leg beneath his feet as he tries to slow.
The sythe goes flying as he falls, and she catches the metal handle neatly against her palms, marveling at how easy it was.
But then, at the tail end of another thunderclap, she hears growling – growling from more than just her foe, growling all around her. She turns her head one way and the next, taking in the golden eyes and moving shadows melting away from the walls and out of darkened doorways.
She chooses snark in the face of possible doom. “Well, guys, I’m just gonna go back to my place and chill – ”
Strong legs kick up from beneath her, and her breath is almost but not quite knocked out of her a second time as she sails through the air, through the rain and the storm, through the sorrow of being in the middle of nowhere and tethered to little.
On reflex, she draws her arms and legs inward, and she drops to the ground and rolls.
Only, when she stands up, the ground isn’t wet, the rain has ceased; there are no cobblestones beneath her feet and no vampires anywhere. Instead, the sky above is bright and blue, the sun is warm on her wet skin, and green grass blades fold softly beneath her bare feet. Flowers dot the ground in random patterns, creating a colorful carpet of blue, purple, yellow, and white.
She’s completely out of place.
The only thing that grounds her in reality is the scythe. Rain drips off the smooth metal and the wood. Rain drips off the end of her nose. Her hands still grasp her weapon, and it still hums for her.
“What the. . . ?”
“Welcome, Buffy Summers.” The feminine voice is light and airy and right behind Buffy.
Buffy pivots, brandishing the weapon.
The woman before her is young – about Buffy’s age. Her skin is a deep chestnut color, and her long dark hair flows in loose waves past her waist. Her dress is a muted rainbow of colors, and her skirt looks light and breezy despite the amount of material. Her light grey eyes are bright with joy.
For some reason, the wariness in Buffy’s chest loosens just a smidge, and her weapon drops a fraction. “Who are you? Where am I?”
“It’s your birthday. Your twenty-fifth.”
“Tomorrow’s my birthday.” Buffy can hardly wrap her mind around what’s happening.
The woman smiles. “Look at your watch.”
Buffy glances down at her wrist. It’s after midnight in whatever time zone her watch is set to. She can’t keep track anymore with all the missions she finds herself on nowadays. With all the Slayers in the world, the work is nonstop. More Slayers means more evil. . . eviler things happening. Buffy still isn’t sure how that works. Something about balance in the universe or something according to Giles. “Oh.” She looks back up in confusion. “Where am I?”
“My little slice of paradise.”
“You don’t know who I am?” The woman frowns in seeming disappointment.
“Really don’t.” Buffy’s heart skips a beat. Who had the power to zap her between realities? Bend time and space and the laws of physics? “Are you like Glory?” Or maybe that ancient one that Angel told her about. “Or Illyria?”
The woman laughs, hugging her arms with both hands. “Heavens no.” Her mouth twists to one side while her eyes shift to the other as if she’s considering. “Well, sort of. But not in a nefarious sort of way.”
“Just because you live in. . . ,” Buffy’s eyes catch on the colors arcing across the sky, “Rainbow Land doesn’t mean that I believe that you have my best interest in mind, and I kinda have a mission.” She itches to get back to the fight. That many vampires roaming the streets can’t be good for the populace.
“You don’t have a mission on your birthday.”
“Well, happy birthday to me. I’ll just be going now.” Buffy angles a thumb over her shoulder as if that’s the direction she’s supposed to go. She really has no idea because there’s no visible portal.
The other woman lifts a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Back to the vampire horde?”
Buffy scoffs. “That’s no horde.” Compared to a million Turok Han in the Sunnydale hellmouth – the million they never would have been able to slay by themselves if not for. . . “Who are you again?”
“My name is Iris.”
“Like all the flowers here.” Buffy has a vague memory from childhood that her mother grew irises once. . . or tried to. Dawn was there, getting in the way, stepping on the sprouting plants and flowers, and picking up fistfuls of dirt in both hands.
Iris nods, tucking her arms into the colorful billowy sleeves of her flowing blouse. “I’m partial to them. And you’re right. I’m old. . . older than Illyria. I am not like either Glorificus or Illyria. I’m from this realm, but I move between dimensions, helping guide people to their resting place.”
Iris is telling Buffy far more than she expected, and her shoulders relax, her hands loosening a fraction on her weapon. “Let me guess. You ride a rainbow to heaven.”
Iris’s laughter is light and happy. “You’re righter than you know.” She pauses looking somber. “You won’t remember, but you walked with me after.”
A rush of emotions sweeps over Buffy, landing in the hollow place in her heart, and she takes a deep breath to regroup. “Oh.”
The empathy in Iris’s eyes is strong, and Buffy can’t help but gaze into them. “And I’m sometimes, on occasion, able to bring messages to the living from those who have passed on.”
The tears rise up unbidden, and Buffy allows them to cloud her vision. She’s grateful for the break in all of it because this can’t be real. Can’t be.
“And I have one from your mom. I helped her before. When you weren’t sleeping because of the First Evil – that pesky son of a bitch. Always meddling and thinking he’s so original. My dad hates it.”
The way Iris says “son of a bitch” makes Buffy laugh through her tears, which persist in cascading over her cheeks in warm rivers. She shivers and sniffs. “T-thank you.” Her mom was so gentle then, and Buffy feels that longing in her chest for a hug from her mom. “I needed that.”
Iris grins. “She has another message for you to honor your twenty-fifth time around the sun. A gift actually.”
One hand drops from the scythe, and Buffy half-plunges the wooden spike end into the soft earth. Her free hand swipes at the tears. “O-oh.” She can’t imagine anything more than this. . . this knowledge that her mother remains safe in heaven and still cares even across dimensions and without a sense of time.
“She wants you to be happy. She knows how much you’re hurting with. . . the aftermath of your home and the choices you and others made to defeat the First.”
“The hellmouth was not my home,” Buffy protests even as she realizes that it was. It was home because of the people she loves. Alive and dead. . . or dust.
Buffy bites her lip, to draw attention away from her aching heart. “T-tell her I don’t need gifts. The best gift is knowing she’s at peace.”
Iris tilts her head as if hearing something that Buffy couldn’t. Iris sighs. “My mom’s calling. The work never ends. As you know.” She smiles at Buffy. “I promise to tell your mom what you said. But now, you have to go. Happy birthday. And. . . sorry for this.”
In an echo of earlier, Iris shoves her so hard that Buffy flies back and suddenly, she is enveloped by darkness and rain. She blinks the water out of her eyes and tries to reorient herself.
Eyes glow golden from the shadows, and she hears the telltale growls of vampires all around her. Adrenaline rushes through her veins as her hands command the scythe, and she slips into the one dance that she knows by heart.
Lots of symbolism for 25 in here. Irises (25th anniversary flower) and Iris – a daughter of the gods and a messenger who traveled via a rainbow.
Originally posted at: https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/747399.html