hellowonderland: (buffy // fireman)
[personal profile] hellowonderland
Yeah, I can't believe it either, you guys.

Title: By the Rivers Dark (7/32)
Author: Trixen
Disclaimer: Joss. Trixen. They don’t sound anything alike.
Rating: R
Summary: While in search for more Potentials, Buffy stumbles upon a portal, buried inside the rubble of the Watcher’s Council Building. It hurtles her back in time, to a place she could never have imagined.
Timeline: Set after “Bring on the Night” in S7
Pairing: Buffy/Angel

Find the other chapters here


Here.

Buffy swallows, shakes her head a little bit, dislodging the taste of stale grainy tea and memories of Angel from her mouth. Hannah’s palm is cool and her fingers long. Buffy can feel the edges of her nails – smooth, manicured and she looks down. They are painted navy blue and buffed to a pristine shine. Who has the time?

Here turns out to be a nondescript and rotting building on the corner of Bayswater Road. Like everything else around it, it’s been bombed to bits, and copper piping is spilling from the walls like looping intestines. The roof slants in the centre, almost jauntily, coming to an upside down peak. Buffy can see the kitchen from the sidewalk. Glass glitters like diamonds on its tiled floors.

“Not quite as impressed as I thought I’d be, you guys,” she says.

“Wait for it,” Hannah says.

Sabina unlatches the rusting gate, and goes first. Unlike Buffy, she’s mastered the art of walking in a pencil skirt. She reminds Buffy of a cat, and she’s reminded of how she’s never liked cats. The gate clangs noisily back into place and Hannah sighs, opening it again and ushering Buffy through.

They pick their way through the detritus. A snagged pair of women's nylon stockings, broken plates, packages of tissue blackened by fire, molding rugs, a pair of child’s shoes with a bow on the left, but none on the right. Buffy almost trips in her heels, skidding on what appears to be a poker from the home’s fireplace, and she curses herself, the damn shoes, the damn asshole who lived here with the fireplace, the Giles person who got her into this mess.

“Would you hurry up?” Sabina asks mildly. Her brows snap together with irritation. So maybe not that meek and mild after all.

“Sure, I’ll get right on that,” Buffy says.

Sabina is leaning with one hip against the side of the house, or what’s left of it. Her hand balances delicately on a wrought iron railing, or what’s left of it. Although her brows once again register her displeasure at Buffy’s sarcasm, she says nothing, gliding down the stairs toward what must be the basement door. Taking her necklace off, she inserts whatever is on the end into the lock and it clicks faintly.

Buffy walks through the door with her usual sense of purpose, and stops short, running smack into Sabina, who takes the hit without moving a muscle.

“Impressed now?”

+

“What do you think of the Agency?”

Buffy hears the question, but takes a moment to answer. The woman asking it is staring at her with ferreting eyes, the kind that see everything and yet, Buffy thinks uncharitably, often miss what’s important. Evangeline Blackwood, the acting head of the Monster Watch (“apparently Imogen had an unfortunate run in with an Underground train,” Sabina said before they left) and as self-possessed as Giles, times, oh about a million.

She has the kind of hair that won’t accept static or frizz, and Buffy loathes her on sight. It sits perfectly in a French twist atop her perfect head, with its cheekbones that just won’t quit, and slightly pointed teeth in a wet red mouth. Her eyes are black as a starless night.

“Impressive,” Buffy says.

It is, actually. When Buffy stepped through the door, barreling along like she did everything else (damn herself for getting herself into this mess), she wasn’t just surprised. She was, well, captivated. She’d rather have gargled with Doublemeat Palace burger grease than admit it, but there it was. Her mouth emitted a soft, “Oh” and she spun around, gazing up at the soft light glimmering through the domed ceiling.

Gone was the ruined house with its leftover garbage of humanity. In its place was a multi-storied palace. The marble floors shone slate grey in the waning morning. A reception desk sat unmanned in front of the girls, a cup of coffee still letting off steam and a mess of papers perched precariously on the empty chair. One wall was covered entirely by polished stone, and engraved with hundreds of names. To Buffy’s left she glimpsed a long corridor with seemingly endless doors and passageways. To her right was a series of elevators, each blinking at the top with lights.

Stepping closer, she could see that the floors were named. Floor Fourteen: Aviary. Floor Eight: Books and Bob. Floor Thirteen: The War Room.

Here be witches, she thought, remembering the old maps of Sunnydale. A sudden clutch of homesickness, and she shook herself.

“Where are we headed?” she asked Sabina and Hannah, who stood watching her.

Wordlessly, they pointed to floor seven – ‘The Forest.’

“Interesting,” she says now, to Evangeline. “I didn’t expect there to be an actual forest.”

“Why not?” the woman asks. “How else would we make weapons or sustain ourselves?”

“The supermarket comes to mind,” Buffy says.

“Tell me about yourself.”

“What’s to tell? Born, raised, became a Slayer.” It occurs to Buffy that perhaps she should try to get this woman on her side, even if she does have perfect hair. “Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that… I mean. You know.”

“I don’t, actually,” she replies. “That’s why I’m asking you. We were never sent your file. Whistler is usually not quite so lax, but I suppose… desperate times.”

Oh Jesus. For once, Buffy wishes for her sister and her enormous capacity for spinning bullshit. Thoughts float above her head like bubbles, and she grasps one blindly, saying a silent apology to her grandmother, there in the snow belt, unaware. She borrows her life.

“I grew up in Michigan,” Buffy says, standing and walking over to the display cabinet in the corner of Evangeline’s office, which is shaped like a hexagon and is actually warm and charming, unlike its primary occupant. Although, it had used to be that Imogen’s office, so maybe she was the catalyst behind the gold walls and plush furniture. One full wall is taken up by a tapestry depicting unicorns and princesses, and the display case gives the impression of items lovingly collected over time.

“In Hillsdale, Michigan. Small town. Nothing ever happened there. I went to California because I wanted to be famous,” she continues, her thumb pressing into the glass, directly over the eye of a unicorn. The statue gazes at her. “Whistler found me in a bar in Los Angeles. I was working as a waitress, doing back shifts.” Anne, with her candy striped apron. “He told me who I was, why I was.”

She hears him now, as she has not for many years, his words echoing, reverberating through and finding her with bloody clarity. “Bottom line is even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are. You'll see what I mean."

Would she?

She thought she already had. But maybe not.

“So that’s the all. I traveled here to join up like a good soldier,” she chirps, turning suddenly and startling Evangeline, who has been examining her forehead in a compact mirror, scrunching up her face and letting it fall. It’s satisfying really, that someone so stunning could still worry about wrinkles. “I got lost – not really big on directions – and Ram found me and brought me to Hannah.”

“Not big on directions. I’ll remember that.”

Buffy shrugs. “It’s a Slayer thing, isn’t it?”

“No. Hannah is exemplary at taking direction and following orders. However, she is strange. You all are. That, you share. I’m sure people have told you in the past.”

“A time or two.”

Evangeline nods. “While you’re here, I expect you to join in on the necessary chores and training. We all pitch in – some more than most – and it keeps this place running smoothly. You’ll also be assigned an area of research—“

“Research?” Buffy echoes, not sure if the dread dripping off her voice is apparent but hoping fervently that it is. “Slayers are more about action, less about wordage. Just a tip.”

You are a Potential,” Evangeline says, but her voice is a whip.  “We all research areas that could help with potential battle. Do you have any particular areas of expertise? Demonology, perhaps? Plants useful for poison?”

“Killing vampires?” Buffy attempts. But her mind trips on a thought. She wonders what Giles would tell her to do.

“You really are quite diverting but…”

“I do – I suppose I have read a bit about, uh, time.”

“Time? My dear, I fail to see—“

“How it can be manipulated,” Buffy rushes on, Giles whispering in her ear. “How it can be used as a weapon.”

“When would you have read about that, given you were just called?”

“On the fl—ship over,” she shrugs. “I’m precocious.”

Evangeline’s red mouth thins into what might be described as a smile if you were drunk or high… or both. “I see. Well, by all means. I’m glad you’ll have something to occupy yourself with. I’ve asked our resident member of the dark side to give you a brief tour of the Agency. Ask him to show you the library on your travels. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, our next group meeting is tomorrow morning at eight sharp. I expect punctuality at all times.”

She walks out from behind her desk in one swift movement, like a striking snake. Buffy doesn’t waver. She’s seen enough snakes in her time.

Evangeline extends her hand, her syrup colored hair glinting almost white. “Welcome to the Monster Watch, Buffy. I’m sure we will be quite happy to have you here.”

+

“The resident member of the dark side?” Buffy asks, dubious. Her head tilts to the side. She’s still uncomfortable in her tight skirt and restrictive, sweaty blouse and this isn’t making it any better. She wishes for many things – leather pants, a stake, a drink.

Angel winces. “Did she really call me that?”

“Without even a hint of sarcasm.”

He hits the button for Floor fourteen. It only seems a moment until the door opens. She hadn’t even felt the elevator moving.

“After you,” Angel says. His voice is still shy. But it is different outside the hush of his small apartment. Different outside the bedroom, with the smell of him heavy in the air, the sheets he sleeps in underneath her body. She swallows, stepping out of the elevator, into the Aviary.

For a second, Buffy can’t see, and she feels her heart pulse in her throat. Angel’s hand brushes her bare elbow. He seems to know what she’s feeling because he murmurs, “It’s fine. Don’t worry.”

“Not comforting from a vampire,” Buffy says.

She blinks, once, twice and the world clears. Her breath catches again. “But – downstairs –“

“The lobby’s ceiling is charmed to look like this one,” he says, once again understanding her. “Imogen thought it was too beautiful just for the birds.”

“What happened to her?”

“Couldn’t take it, I suppose.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Who else am I going to ask?”

His lips curve into a half smile, like a ghost. “Point taken.”

Above her stretches gilded arches that form the dome of the Aviary. Buffy guesses they are at least one hundred feet in length, soaring to the clouds like the birds she can hear crying in their own private wilderness. Lush grass carpets the floor, and a river runs through the heart of the room. Buffy can’t see either side of it, or the ends. It seems to stretch on and on, an endless wood, full of trees and deer and winged things and roses. Like the dark wood of her dreams, spun into the daylight.

Her eyes sting and she looks away from Angel, unequipped to deal with any kind of tears around him of all people.

“Hannah saw a unicorn up here once,” he says.

Buffy smiles, remembering how random he can be. Her brain hurts at the thought. Wasn’t he supposed to be munching on rat carcasses right about now? Or had that been… a line? It stretches her version of the truth, the idea of Angel using a line. Spike, of course. But Angel? He could barely bring himself to kiss her on the mouth, let alone – but then she remembers, that first meeting in the alley, with her skinned palms and breathless heartbeat. He had been so impossibly gorgeous, so confident and cocksure, and she had thrilled at his words. I didn’t say I was yours.

Had he known then?

“How does one go about seeing a unicorn?” Buffy asks, partly because she would really like to see one herself, and partly because she remembers her passage through Time, and the unicorns seemed to be there so often she wonders if they are a symbol of something. Something. She mocks herself. Giles would be soooo proud.

“I wouldn’t know,” he says, without inflection. “They only come to the good of the world – the lonely. Those with virtuous hearts.”

“That doesn’t include you?”

“Not last I checked.”

His eyes fall on her, dark and hot. She thinks of their last meeting after Heaven (Heaven is always capitalized in her mind), of the first time they kissed by her window, the smell in the air, like burning. Of his large hands in her hair, his fingers cupping her skull, shaping it really, memorizing it. His body and his arms, and his thighs gathering in her legs so she would squeeze them together – because he knew, she knew he knew, what the pressure centered there would do to her. His belly, full of blood. His tongue left faint red smears on her nipples.

She looks away, her throat aching, her stomach so tight she could convulse. All of these memories, he can never share, never know.

“So, you’re supposed to show me the library. Evangeline’s orders.”

“Ah, the Agency edict,” he says, pressing the button for floor eight.

Buffy walks a few steps away, toward the river. She looks down into the water. Her reflection stares back at her, wriggling and wavering with the rushing depths. The upsweep of her hair, back from her face and styled neatly into a bun by Hannah (“Do you not have any pins with you?”), the blouse knotted at the neck with a prim bow, the slender skirt, nylons with a line up the back (“Quite sexy, really,” Sabina said, “if you like that sort of thing”), dove grey scalloped heels. Her face is blush with make-up, flushed with desire. She looks younger somehow. Younger, as if by going back, she has reversed the lines put on her face by Dawn, by Angelus, by friends’ stupidity and by the thousands she has killed. By Joyce.

Her fingers reach down, just skimming the surface, and her reflection distorts, vanishes.

“Buffy?”

It is a question, and she answers it, as she always does, turning to follow him, wherever he might take her.
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

December 2015

S M T W T F S
  12345
678 9101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 09:04 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios