Origin and Season One (Ch. 37)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 2200
Setting: Teacher's Pet
- Apple Strudel -
Another day, another earth-shattering catastrophe. Her birthday – her last day off – seemed like a million years ago already, even though it'd only been a week, and Buffy found herself longing for the warmth and comfort of her bed as she trudged down the gravel road. She'd left her room and her homework half-finished at a quarter past eleven, and though by now it was midnight at least, she had a sinking suspicion that she wouldn't be getting home until three or five or...daybreak.
It was cold out tonight. And she was kind of hungry.
She pulled her beanie a little further over her ears.
The only consolation she could take was that she wasn't trudging alone. Giles had been by her side since he'd picked her up a block from her house, rambling about the latest demonathing and some new book he'd gotten from a Watcher in Wales and the new training dummy he was having built for her. Though she was only half-listening to him, she was finding his presence oddly comforting. Merrick for the most part had never accompanied her on her patrols, and though she'd long since gotten used to being alone, she was almost a little glad for the company, especially since she still wasn't entirely clear on what she was facing tonight.
What she did know was that a couple saggy-skinned, spikey demons with a name that sounded vaguely like “apple strudel” had set up shop by the docks. A ship from up north had been attacked yesterday, leaving half the crew dead and, as it turned out, a few super secret crates missing. Some researcher in San Francisco had called this morning with the scoop. Though Giles had shared the details with her, Buffy had mostly glazed them over, focusing only on the main points: the demons had the goods, so the demons needed slaying and the goods needed recovery. What the goods were and what the apple strudels wanted with them...well, that she was less clear on.
Whatever it was, it was probably evil though. To be honest, the motives that drove the various forces of darkness were starting to blur together. A jar of magic dust and a Kmart candle were apparently all that was needed to jumpstart the career of any evil doer-to-be, upping them straight from ignorable to pain in her ass.
She readjusted the axe on her shoulder. She could feel the head of it bouncing lightly against her back with every step.
“Sure you don't want any tea?” Giles asked for the third time, holding up his jumbo thermos. “It's just, I— well, I made so much of it.”
“I'm sure,” she said. “Not big on the tea.”
Giles took another sip, then tucked the thermos into his tweedy pocket. For some reason, he was still wearing the suit. “Is this your first time facing a non-vampire?” he asked.
She looked over at him. “No,” she said. “No, I've slayed a few demons in my time.” She thought back to the first ones, the sludge-monsters with the tiny hands and the ooky, green blood. And then she thought about Hemery again, and about Merrick. “Fat ones, skinny ones,” she continued, to drag her thoughts away, “red ones, blue ones... a regular monster mash.”
He looked at her for a moment, as if trying to gauge her sobriety. “I, uh, see,” he said after a beat.
They stopped in front of a chain-link fence. Buffy could smell the ocean from where they stood, could just make out the forms of the boats moored along the dock. It seemed so still and peaceful, yet she knew that somewhere inside one of the dockside buildings, there was probably a group of apple strudels chanting in a circle around a bunch of colored rocks.
Great, now she was really hungry.
“What about you?” she asked as she reached for the padlock securing the gate and casually broke the claw apart. “Slayed any demons in your time?”
“I, uh...” he hesitated, glancing away from her, then just let it hang there.
“Giles,” she said in surprise. She'd assumed from the start that her new Watcher had all the street experience of the average toy poodle, yet his look – or lack thereof – told her otherwise. “Wow. Never would've thought you had it in you.”
His only response was to grunt and pull off his glasses. She watched him polish them for a second, then turned and swung open the gate, wondering as she did if she believed what she'd said. She didn't remember much of the day she'd spent dying under the bloodstone curse, and what she did was largely fragmented and confusing, but she could almost still hear him shouting something, smell his potion, feel the power – his power – smothering the room. And for everything she couldn't remember and didn't understand, she was certain that at that moment, as she'd been fading away on the table, gone had been the quavering, stuttering, stuffy, old librarian she'd been coming to know and like. He hadn't got stuck or confused, no nervous false starts, no hesitation. He'd known just what to do, and just how to do it.
She glanced at him again as they walked down the gravel path toward one of the warehouses. They hadn't talked about that day at all since it'd passed, and she'd been great with not revisiting it, but suddenly she found herself wondering if there wasn't something there that maybe they should discuss, beyond the whole near death thing. It wasn't too far out there to think that someone whose life was researching the occult had maybe done some dabbling, but she'd never gotten that read off Merrick, and less so Giles, if she was honest.
She wasn't even sure she believed her memory, as she watched him replace his glasses and pocket his hands in his ugly, tweed suit. It didn't seem like she was remembering the same guy.
“We're sure?” she asked before she could voice her thoughts. “About which warehouse?”
“O-Thirteen, yes, with any luck,” he replied, oblivious. “According to Willow's research, it's been largely unused the past few months. The Eiri'spuli needed their privacy, and I doubt they went far to get it.”
Right. They were spawning or something, needed the oceanside access.
She hoped they weren't in the water already. She wasn't exactly equipped with wet suit and fins, and, as far as she could tell, Slayer power hadn't done much to improve her dive time – and she definitely wasn't interested in putting that theory to the test anytime soon.
Buffy glanced up at the warehouse as they approached it, shifting her axe again. Giles said the number aloud as she read it, “Twelve.”
“Next one,” she said. “Wil's directions were spot on. Someone deserves a cookie.”
There was a pause. Then, “Indeed.”
They moved to pass the building on its road side, where the going was darker but potentially safer. They'd made it halfway down the length when she spotted the numbers they were looking for on the next building, and it was then that she decided to voice her offer for the third time. “You know, Giles,” she started, “it's really okay for you to stay here. I'll be fine alone.”
“I know,” he said again, and she heard the but before he said it. “But I feel haven't been accompanying you on your, uh, 'patrols' nearly enough, and tonight, when we face demons of unknown size and number, you should have your Watcher beside you.”
She studied him, still unable to decide if his attitude came from a place of genuine concern or guilt, or if he just didn't trust her yet. “Well, figured I'd ask one more time before you lost the option.” She stopped at the warehouse's edge, glancing back as he drew the sword he'd brought from the sheathe across his back. “You're absolutely positively sure you know what you're doing with that?” she asked, eying it.
“I'll have you know I was the best fencer at the Academy and the Council,” he sniffed. “Cedric Hawtrey, Graham Parfit... not even Quentin Travers could hold a candle.”
She didn't ask, instead hefting her axe from her shoulder to let it hang loosely at her side. “Just stay back.”
She moved forward without waiting for a response, falling already into slay mode. Though the things in Giles' book hadn't looked terribly threatening, she knew that on-paper didn't always translate well to in-the-fleshy-ness, and she was wary of the spines and the teeth.
A pile of boxes gave her relatively easy access to a window, and she headed for them. “I'll open the door for you from the inside,” she said to Giles, climbing up. “If I don't open the door, wait for my signal.”
She could feel him looking at her as she hopped onto the next box. “Your signal?” he repeated. “What would—”
“You'll know,” she said, far more grimly than necessary. Before he could reply, she gave the window a sharp shove. The latch securing it gave with a crack, and she opened it, trying to ignore the fishy smell as it washed over her in a sudden puff of air.
Somehow, she had a feeling they had the right place.
Sighing, she poked her head through to look for landing places and any sign of the apple strudels. Seeing neither, she retracted, then tossed her axe through. Not wanting to be separated from it for long, she moved immediately to follow, throwing out a simple “Wish me luck,” before taking the leap.
The ground was hard where she landed, and as she got up she spotted her axe a few feet away. Dusting herself off, she went to retrieve it. The warehouse lights were on, though the light they gave was dull at best, and the place reeked of fish, like what she'd always imagined a chum bucket at the Monterey Bay Aquarium would smell like, and as she crept around the towering steel shelves, she couldn't help but find that the image of a bunch of chanting German pastries was fading. Her blood was up, senses somewhere around yellow alert, her breaths going low and slow and long.
It only took about three minutes to find the things, and it wasn't hard. She just had to follow her nose and the strange click-clack sounds, which she could only assume was their language. There were five, four sitting and one lumbering, and they appeared to be passing around vials and bottles of what looked from her vantage like glowing, multi-colored sand. They were about dog-sized, with short, stumpy legs and long, clawed arms. Her main concern was the thing she'd spotted in Giles' book – the long spine along both fore and upper arm. Those particular lovelies looked a lot bigger and a lot pointier off the page.
After studying them a moment longer, she doubled back to get Giles, who she suspected was probably stationed outside the door, waiting to hear the sound of her scream or of her body crashing through a bunch of crates – which, to be honest, the latter probably wasn't too far outside the realm of possibilities for tonight.
Pushing away the thought, she flipped the lock and opened the door. As expected, Giles was standing just outside, and she filled him in on what she'd seen as he slipped inside, then proceeded to outline her plan: walk up, say hello, stab them to death, recover the vials, go to bed.
Giles wasn't completely cool with it, but, when pressed, he couldn't come up with anything better. Their skin was too thick and blubbery for projectiles – thus the axe and the lack of her shiny, new crossbow – and collapsing something on them would inevitable end up squashing the goods. So they went with her plan, or her lack of a plan, and when they approached the end of the shelf column where she'd done her reconnaissance before, she told him to stop and wait.
And then she stopped with him for a beat, steeling herself. She had more or less gotten used to walking up to vamps, but with demons she had a percentage the experience. When she stepped out, she felt like she was walking right within range of a bunch of rabid dogs on long, chain leashes, and her axe felt heavy and safe in her hand.
And then she was in the open, just walking right out. The lumbering one was the first to spot her, and then they all did, and she could hear a chorus of clacks as she approached. None of them moved, and she came to a stop just a few yards away. Slayer and Slayees stared at each other for a long, protracted second.
It was all just so ridiculous, her life, even now, after everything.
Exhaling, she called a smile to her face. “Hello, I'm Buffy. I'll be your Slayer this evening.”
While writing this chapter, I got bored and decided to do an extremely rough (and terrible) conceptual sketch of the apple strudels/Eiri'spuli/if-I-put-enough-vowe