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Inheritence Tax: a post-Chosen fic

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  • Inheritence Tax: a post-Chosen fic

    London, 1973

    This is a bloody brilliant party, thought Ripper. Bloody best party...ever. S'the bloody centre of the bloody marvelous world.

    F'only said world would stop spinning. The world...yeah. Want to get off that. Stop it.

    But ... Good party. Bloody great.


    Ripper was leaning on a pile of cushions in a darkened room, with a huge joint in one hand and a murky looking glass of punch in the other. It contained rum, martini, orange juice, and possibly absinthe. His tongue certainly felt as though some of the skin was being stripped off each time he took a sip.

    On second thoughts, maybe it was meths.

    As he leaned back on the soft, soft cushions, he chatted to a woman with amazingly pert breasts. He was a little too out of it to really concentrate on seducing her though. As he turned his head to smile at her, the world wibbled, and her face shifted, as if a purple veil had passed across it.

    Maybe it wasn't meths.

    "Why are your eyes yellow?" he murmured.

    "Shh!" she said, hushing him with a finger on his lips. A light touch. Her hair hung in dark ringlets around her face, and her eyes seemed to shine with a light from the inside.

    "Lie back and enjoy the ride, Ripper," she said. She snuggled closer and he felt her hand on his chest, pushing up his t-shirt. He squirmed in pleasure.

    "A'right then," he said. He placed his drink clumsily on the floor, took a last drag on the spliff, chucking that too, and pulled her closer.

    "I'll give you a night to remember..." whispered the woman, then she put her lips to his and the world seemed to explode with pleasure.

    But the next morning, Ripper didn't remember a single thing.


    June 2003, the M6 motorway

    "We've gone on holiday by mistake!" said Andrew. He was gazing out the window at the drizzling rain, as the battered old 2CV puttered along the motorway towards the Scottish border.

    "Will somebody please stop him?" said Giles, wearily. Not only had he been driving for five hours straight, but Andrew was sitting in the passenger seat. The boy had been quoting Withnail and I ever since they passed Penrith. It was wearing to say the least. "I'm rather fond of that film and I'd rather not have it ruined forever."

    Andrew ignored him and pressed his face excitedly against the window, as they passed some youngish girls. "Scrubbers! They love it!"

    "Permission to use violence?" said Dawn with a bright smile. She leaned forward menacingly over the back of Andrew's seat.

    "I don't believe you have to ask my permission for anything," said Giles. "Though you will have my gratitude." He looked sideways at Andrew again, who was pressing his nose up against the glass like some overgrown child. Not so much like as identical to, he thought.

    Dawn clenched her fist and raised it. Andrew cowered down in his seat as she leant over him.

    "I have a heart condition! If you hit me, it's murder!"

    Dawn punched him on the arm. "No. Quoting. Withnai. And. Il!"

    "Owww!" Andrew squealed.

    She punched him again.

    "I wasn't quoting that time!"

    "What, no one says "ow" in the movie?" said Dawn.

    "Well," said Willow. She was studying the map in the back. "I know this might be hard to believe after the bladder-busting, soul-destroying last few hours...we are nearly there. I texted Xander and Buffy, they're in the chopper."

    "How come we don't get a chopper?" whined Andrew.

    "Because we could only afford the one, and it only holds two," said Willow.

    "Well, couldn't we get a better car? This one sucks. It sucked even before it was, like, a bazillion years old. And I think someone peed in the glove compartment."

    Giles thought to himself that he had got this car from his friend Bill, a sorceror from Cornwall who had some erratic toilet habits after a few pints of home brew, so that was not entirely unlikely.

    Andrew folded his arms and pouted. But at least he stopped talking.

    Giles had to admit that the second-hand citroen had seen better days. And those days had probably been before he was born. But, at least it hadn't broken down or - like that yellow school van did after a few hours' drive through the desert - caught on fire. The 2CV had carried them all the way from the coast, and around various places in England, clearing up demon hotspots as they went.

    He was growing fond it it and, as he sputtered along the motorways, he realised that his days as a shiny red car owner were an aberration. He was, by his nature, a man who belonged in a used car. Accepting that was, perhaps, a sign that his mid-life crisis was well and truly over. Though he had no idea where the retreating tide of that crisis had washed him up.

    Strange shores. Oh brave new world that has such people, innit? He smiled a little. But seriously, old man. Where are you going? Where is all this heading?

    On a literal level, he knew perfectly well where he was going, thanks to Willow's map-reading skills. It was soon time to turn off the motorway.

    As they crossed the border, Giles took them the last stretch towards their destination along narrower roads. The countryside was beautiful in the afternoon light. Rolling heathland gave way to bigger hills as they moved north.

    Everyone was exhausted. They still hadn't really had a chance to rest since the Hellmouth collapsed. There was much to do, and much to avoid talking about. They'd already met with many of the new slayers, and Vi and some of the others were organising squads at various points around the globe. But for the moment, most of the slayers were still with their parents, awaiting instructions. They couldn't exactly whisk hundreds of girls away if they had nowhere to whisk them to.

    They still lacked a centre of operations, not to mention the money to house and feed most of the young slayers. The slayer units in play so far were getting by on Giles's savings and what he and Willow could embezzle from various Council accounts. The enchantments on the majority of those accounts were powerful enough to keep Willow busy for the next century. Tight bastards.

    Scooby discussions on the topic of a permanant base had so far been fairly half-hearted. Buffy wasn't, she said, ready yet to commit to one place. Then Xander had made a joke about Buffy's relationships that Giles hadn't quite felt he was allowed to laugh at, given the shaky ground of his relationship with Buffy at present.

    Giles had been the one to suggest the trip to Scotland, after a tip-off from a contact in Glasgow about some trouble in the highlands. It wasn't the greatest threat to the world ? certainly nothing close to an apocalypse ? but the others were fairly easy to persuade. The next girl they were due to rendez-vous with was in Aberdeen, so they could go there after their mission (which was more like a holiday, compared with what they'd been through lately), once they'd cleaned up this little nest of evil.

    Giles suspected that the others, like him, craved the simplicity of a good old demon hunt. Since they were still working out their priorities, and how everything was going to work, and all the "what next" questions still seemed somewhat fuzzy, they might as well do some good.

    "Back to basics, as it were," he had told them. "Though without the unfortunate 1990s Tory Party implications."

    No one had got that. Sometimes the cultural barrier was insuperable.

    A craving for a simple fight wasn't all that was driving him. In the back of his mind, there was the niggling hope that fighting side by side might just bring about a rapprochement with Buffy. Perhaps, working as slayer and...whatever he was now...together, she might remember? That they were a good team, once upon a time.

    Perhaps. But, although the defeat of the First and the slayer spell gave a sense of "we're all in this together" once more, he would be a fool to believe that Buffy had forgiven him.

    Giles drove on, quietly wrapped up in his thoughts, through heather-clad hills.

    Suddenly, there it was, looming ahead of them from behind a hill: the castle.
    There were various oohs and ahs.

    "Dracula would have serious ancestral pile envy," said Dawn.

    "Dracula had piles? I didn't think vampires had that."

    "Andrew..." Giles began, then thought better. The more time he spent with Andrew, the more he realised that engaging him only encouraged his flights of pig-ignorance. And actually, the boy was turning out to have some useful, if scattergun, knowledge in that strange little head of his.

    Dawn peered through the window up at the battlements. "And... we definitely think it's demons, living here? Not ghosts? Cause, if I was a ghost, that would be prime real estate."

    "Not unless ghosts have become corporeal and started to flay local villagers alive with large machete-like weapons, no," said Giles.

    He shivered slightly in memory of the photographs his contact had shown him. He had seen many things in his life, and was inured to many horrors, but badly mutilated bodies still had the power to make his blood freeze. "No ghost I know of could do what was done to those people," he said.

    "Patrick Swayze totally could," objected Andrew. "Or...the stay-puft marshmallow man was BADASS!"

    "Oh, it's just behind that copse!" said Willow, cutting him off.

    "The Stay-puft Marshmallow man??"

    "That's where Buffy said she'd land."

    "Oh."

    Giles slowed the 2CV to a sputtering halt just behind the trees.

    Up above, Buffy and Xander were circling, looking for the very same spot. As Buffy saw the castle come into view, she couldn't help smiling. If you had to fight gruesome man-flaying demons, might as well do it in style. This was a castle you could imagine being a home for princesses, princes, kings, and those scullery maids who usually turned out to be the actual princesses, revealed by their small feet and pea allergies.

    "Princesses are lame," said Buffy, under her breath.

    Xander gave her a curious look. "Reckon we're almost good to go down here," he said, through the headset.

    They were sitting side by side in the cockpit of a helicopter on loan from some discreet sub-agency that Riley put them in touch with. They smiled at one another, both amused by their situation.

    Buffy had been hesitant at first to allow Xander to fly the helicopter, but, he'd pointed out, out of the two of them, he was better equipped. At least he could drive a motorised vehicle of some kind, even if his depth perception was not of the best. Luckily, the chopper had all kinds of radar bells and digital control whistles, so it was more like playing a computer game. 2-D-tastic.

    Buffy nodded in assent and Xander took them over the copse. They could see the car below them now. Buffy waved, though they were too high up for the others to see her. And she really hoped that wasn't a metaphor.

    "This whole...having equipment more sophisticated than a sword...thing. Still weird?" asked Xander, peering more closely at the slayer.

    Buffy shrugged. "Whatever gets the job done."

    "Simple answer, well put," said Xander.

    Simple... Unlike the situation between her and Giles, which she wasn't going to think about. Thinking led to anger, anger led to hate, hate led to suffering, and suffering led to...well, it was a bad in itself, no matter where it led. Things should be easy now. So, she'd make them easy, with the not thinking, and the not confronting.

    I am so emotionally healthy, she thought, with a bitter smile. But where could she start, really? Was there anything really to start with? Spike, the cause of their friction, was gone... maybe she could just put it all behind her.

    Yeah. Right. It was that simple. Spike was the only reason she was mad at Giles. Mm, hm. Nothing to do with the fear that burbled in her gut when she thought of how ruthless he could be. This is the way wars are won. Or the way he reminded her ? looking at her with those stern blue eyes - that she was equally capable of putting the mission before the people she loved.

    Oh yes. She and Giles could just forget it all and go back to being slayer and watcher, and the good guys would always be distinguishable by their white hats, and no one would ever grow old or die. Or other lies her watcher had told her.

    She caught Xander looking at her, somewhere between sympathy and curiosity. Like he knew what she was thinking. Jeez, did he have to be all sensitive and attuned to her like that? She knew he knew that she was troubled, and she'd rather not discuss Giles with Xander, because he might suggest some kind of talking about it, and that would be... but luckily, practical stuff intervened.

    "Oh, it's time," said Xander, peering at the monitor. "I'm taking us down," said Xander.

    "Go on then, Top Gun!"

    "You can be my wingman," Xander offered.

    "No-o-o," said Buffy, wagging her finger at him. "You can be mine."

    "That an offer?"

    Buffy blushed. "Just land us, willya?"

    A few moments later, the chopper landed at the agreed location. Agreed location, thought Buffy, as she hopped out of the helicopter when it touched down. I think this military helicopter's rubbing off on me.


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

  • #2
    Half an hour later, the gang were heading towards the castle on foot. Dawn was pacing up ahead, eager to get a closer look at the imposing structure. The others followed her at a more ambling pace.

    "Why didn't we bring more slayers?" grumbled Andrew. He looked up at the ominious castle and sighed. "I mean, what was the point of slayerising muchas chicas if we're not going to use them as Weapons of Monster Destruction?"

    "Hey! We do not need an army to fight a couple of monsters in some Scottish ruin," said Buffy.

    "Yeah," said Xander. "You may have missed our early days, busy being an evil nerd and all, but we got it done without an army and still passed our SATs." He scrunched his face. "Just."

    "It's not my fault I was evil back then," said Andrew. "I had abandonment issues."

    "Riiiight," said Buffy. "Anyway, how exactly were you thinking we'd transport an army of slayers?"

    "You could get off your cute little ass and find us some funding," said Andrew, sniffily. "We should get a jet. Only...we would totally carbon offset. Because we're the good guys."

    Buffy passed over the comment about her ass in stunned silence. The idea of Andrew thinking about her ass THAT unsettled her entire worldview, along the lines of, say, the sky turning black and time flowing backwards.

    But he had, in fact, touched on an important, delicate issue. One she had not discussed with anyone outside a small unit of slayers she'd hand picked as being girls she thought could keep their mouths shut. "Funding's in the works," she said, quietly.

    "Anyway, Andy, you didn't have to come," said Xander. "In fact, why did you come? I thought you had this plan to go find your brother and ? air quotes - help him find redemption, just like you did?"

    Andrew looked away, as if full of pain. "Because I don't want to be alone with my memories right now," he said. "I lost friends in our great battle, too, remember."

    Xander and Buffy both gave him incredulous looks.

    "Plus, Giles promised he was going to train me on this trip," he added, with a bitter look at Giles.

    "I bloody well said nothing of the sort," said Giles, over his shoulder. "But, if I were to offer you some hints, not screaming and running away quite so often would bring you closer to the warrior ideal."

    "I don't scream and run away!"

    "Do I need to remind you of what happened in Brighton?"

    Andrew sniffed and pointed towards the castle."Hmph. Well. I don't think it's a very good tactic to talk while we're sneaking up on the enemy." He quickened his pace and overtook the others. "It's unprofessional and anyway, Brighton was weeks ago and I've grown as a person since then," he added, as he passed them.

    Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles all erupted into giggles. Bonding over a shared idiot, thought Giles. Perhaps that's even more valuable than pulling together against a shared enemy?


    "There's a freakin' suit of armour over here!" whispered Dawn. Then, less quietly, "This place is the sh-!"

    "A young lady headed for Berkley should not be using that sort of language," said Buffy.

    "And we'll be affording Berkley how, exactly?" said Dawn. "Running around robbing banks all whacked off on Scooby snacks?"

    "NO!" said Buffy. Then, "It'll be ok, Dawnie, I promise. We'll work something out." She paused by an old painting of a knight. It looked like it might be worth quite a bit of money. Hmm...

    "Well, if you have any trouble," said Giles. He wondered why Buffy was suddenly taking an interest in art. Perhaps she was just bored? "I'm sure I could put in a word with the Dean of admissions and see what scholarships are available. We knew each other at Oxford."

    Buffy gave him a look, which Giles wasn't sure whether to interpret it as "You've overstepped your mark, back off," or "I'm secretly grateful but I'm not ready to show it."

    Buffy wasn't entirely sure how she meant it herself. There was a flicker of that old feeling of safety: Giles is here. Everything will be ok. And then it was gone.

    Xander jumped in to fill the uncertain silence. "Oxford? The place you dropped out of to become a magicks-snorting, demon-orgying bum on the streets of London?" He shook his head in mock disapproval. "Something tells me Mr admissions guy will be filing your letter of recommendation somewhere down the pile beneath the one from Johnny Rotten."

    "Don't pick on Giles," said Willow. She glanced around the dank corridor. "Anyway...speaking of rotten... looks like there's not much rotten in the state of Scotland. Not unless you count the skirting boards in the pantry."

    After fifteen minutes of exploration, they'd gone into all the rooms and even found some dungeons and inspected those, but they'd found nothing more threatening than a rat and some unhygenic wall mould. They were starting to relax and feel less spooked out by the possibility of demons leaping out at them.

    "Yeah," said Xander. He turned to Giles. "Definitely not much here in the way of resident evil. You sure your guy got the right castle?"

    "He's usually reliable," said Giles. "But the place does seem deserted."

    "Hey," said Willow. "Maybe they're tiny weeny flaying demons? Like that fear demon? Aww! Remember him?"

    "Ah, memory lane," said Xander. "Poor little guy."

    "I killed him with my shoe," said Buffy, wistfully "See, shoes aren't frivolous. They have a vital role to play in my sacred duty."

    She turned to Giles and smiled brightly. A peace offering, repeating their old roles of cheerful young flibbertygibbet and wise old miseryguts. But his responding tolerant smile felt false, and Buffy looked away.

    "But we should still be on our guard," she said. "Since there was flaying in the mix."

    "Maybe it was Willow!" said Xander. Everyone else looked at him. "Sorry, bad joke."

    "Wouldn't be your first, sweetie," said Willow.

    "Hey!"

    "Sorry," said a voice from behind them. Scottish accent, soft tones. "Are we butting in on a private family moment? Only, ye are sorta trespassing..."

    They all whipped round to see a motley crew of heavily armed armed warriors standing close to the wall of the passageway, smeared with blue stuff all over their faces and bodies.

    They looked almost entirely human, except for the fact that, even woaded up as they were, they were impossibly beautiful to the point of being otherworldly, and all of them had shining yellow eyes.

    At the head of the rabble stood an exquisitely beautiful woman ? even more radiant than the others. She was smiling at them in what would've seemed a friendly way, if she wasn't dressed for some sort of ancient Celtic battle, complete with furry dress and a spear in one hand.

    "Trespassing?" said Buffy. "I'm sorry, did we miss the invite to the Braveheart costume party?"

    The demon woman laughed. Not an evil laugh, more of a chuckle. "Oh, yeah, the outfit probably does need a bit of explanation." She gestured at her own costume and those of her fellow demony-humany-people. "It's ceremonial dress," she explained. "You know, for a ritual."

    "Ritual humilation maybe?" said Buffy.

    "Oh, don't take the piss. It's bad enough having to wear it." She put her hands on her hips. "So, are youse going to ask how we snuck up on you?"

    "Actually, yes, I was," said Willow. "I should've sensed them..." she added, to Buffy.

    The woman pointed behind her and her crew. There was an opening in the wall, where there'd been just plain old wall before. "Secret passageway with a mystical shield. I mean, this would be a pretty pish poor castle without a few of those, wouldn't it?"

    "So, do you use that passageway for sneaking up on innocent tourists and then flaying them?" said Willow. Her eyebrows drew together in disapproval. "That's just cheating."

    "Flaying?" the woman looked puzzled. "Och, we don't flay anyone. We're a peaceful tribe."

    "That's what they all say," said Xander. "Well, unless they are a peaceful tribe that got massacred and then...there's the colonial guilt and Thanksgiving gets awkward and I get syphillis."

    "You're odd. I like you," said the woman.

    "I have that effect on demons," Xander conceded.

    Giles cleared his throat,"Forgive me, but though you say you're a peaceful tribe...those weapons might seem to suggest otherwise. As does the fact that you're demons."


    The woman looked at him. "Mostly demon," she corrected.

    Her yellow eyes gave him that feeling of being burrowed into that reminded him just a little of Drusilla. Or something else he couldn't recall. Giles broke her gaze, feeling uncomfortable.

    "So, are they just ceremonial too?" asked Dawn.

    "Oh, no, they're real enough," said the woman. She hefted her spear in her hand. "But they're not for flaying people. They're for fighting ghosts who flay people."

    "Oh, GHOSTS did it?" said Xander, sarcastically. "Did the dog also eat your homework?"

    "Yeah.Sorry to break it to you," said Buffy. "But a), we don't believe you and b) if you're telling the truth, you're gonna lose. Spears plus ghosts = just some embarassing flailing around." She folded her arms. "But mostly a)."

    At that moment, there was a swirling, roaring sound, like reality being ripped apart, like lions drowning, like motorbikes exploding in a hurricane, like all the other strange noises that the scoobies came across on a daily basis.

    To Buffy's ears, it was comforting. Something unnatural and potentially violent was happening, and that was her element.

    But when the noise was followed by the appearance of a roaring swarm of angry ghosts, comfort was replaced by embarasment.

    "Oh," she said, as the ghosts swarmed around them, buffeting them and pulling at them with what appeared to be semi-solid claws that were growing more solid all the time. She looked to the demon woman with an apologetic shrug as if to say, my bad. The (mostly) demon woman shrugged.

    "Honest mistake," she said, ducking to avoid a ghost.

    "Thanks," said Buffy, ineffectually flailing ?as predicted ? at one of the ghosts with her sword.

    Xander, Andrew and Giles were swiping equally uselessly at the ghosts, trying to dodge their flaying claws. Willow was zapping at a couple of the spirits, but as they disappeared, they just reappeared elsewhere.

    Buffy threw herself in between one of the ghosts and Dawn. "How do we kill them?" she shouted to the demon woman.

    "You don't," said the woman. We do. Now!" She turned to her tribe. "Come on!" She screamed like a banshee and rushed into the throng of ghosts. Her tribe followed suit. As they hefted their weapons above their heads, a crackle of energy built around the metal of their swords, spears, axes and other poky implements. The crackle built to an electrifying light show that shot through the gang of ghosts like lightening.

    "What the fu..." cried Buffy.

    The ghosts screamed with a single voice. And then they zipped into oblivion, leaving only a faintly metallic tang to the air.

    The demon tribe's weapons stopped glowing and crackling, and they all seemed to relax. The leader lady high fived her nearest tribesmate.

    "Wow, what was THAT?" said Willow. "I felt something...old."

    "Pretty old, yeah," said the demon woman. "Sad to say, those are the ghosts of our ancestors. They rock up every century or so... we have some unquiet dead issues in our tribe." She shrugged, apologetically. "We have this tendency to come back from the dead. And when we do, we tend to be a leetle pissed off."

    "I hear you," said Buffy.

    "I SAID it was ghosts," muttered Andrew.

    "No, you said it was Patrick Swayze," Dawn corrected him. She picked herself up off the floor. "I said it was ghosts. Didn't I?"

    "You're the smart one, Berkley girl," said Xander. He patted her on the shoulder.

    "Maybe we could have a chat over a drink?" said the demon woman. "I'm bloody parched!"

    "Sure," said Buffy. "Drinking with demons isn't our usual thing...but you did just save our lives."

    Plus...do we have a "usual thing" any more?

    "C'mon then," said the woman. They all started to walk down the corridor. The celtic looking demons and the Scoobies exchanged slightly suspicious looks. But as Buffy and their leader walked ahead, the two tribes followed, suspicions changing to awkward smiles and "hey there"'s.

    "You never said," said Buffy. She and the demon woman were walking side by side now. "Who are you?"

    "My name's Sky," she said. She rolled her beautiful eyes. "Having a hippy acid-popping mum is a cross I bear."

    "And I'm Buffy," said Buffy. "And I can't blame what my mom was doing during the 60s. Hopefully nothing." She smiled. "So, you...live here? Or you just came to kill a bunch of family ghosts with that cool lightening trick?"

    "We live here," said Sky. She gestured behind them. "I'm the chief of this little clan ? we're Merloch demons...."

    "Oh," said Giles, suddenly excited. He caught up with the two women, once-smart battered shoes clacking on the stone floor. "That's fascinating. So little is known about your tribe's practices and group structure..."

    "Giles, they're not a sociology experiment," reproved Willow, from just behind them. "Don't go all demonthropoligical on us."

    She caught up too, leaving Xander walking in between too burly demons and looking a little uncomfortable about it. Dawn and Andrew, further behind, were chatting happily to a couple of the younger demons. Dawn, flirting shamelessly with a spectacularly hansome creature with auburn hair.

    "Heh," said Sky to Willow. "He does that a lot does he?"

    "Willow," Giles objected. "I'm not completely sure I trust these demons, but even if they prove humane, I'd rather appreciate not being mocked in front of people we've just met."

    Actually, that wasn't true. Slipping back into his role as stuffy librarian was like putting on his favourite slippers. Though sadly the slippers themselves were now sitting in a giant crater under tonnes of Sunnydale rubble.

    "Well, I hope your research shows we're a peaceful bunch?" said Sky.

    "Oh, yes, absolutely. In fact, from what I understand it, your people are known to protect the humans in their local area, in return for certain tributes." He grinned.

    Sky grinned back. "Yeah, I know, Scottish demons..."

    "What's so funny?" said Buffy.

    "The nature of the tribute," said Giles.

    "Huh?"

    "Whiskey," said Sky. "Merloch demons require a steady intake of alcohol of a specific composition to function. And whiskey's the best for us."

    "Gross," said Andrew. "I mean...delicious and manly."

    "I'm sure you did, wean." Sky smiled. "Well now, shall we have a wee dram? Or a beer, if you'd prefer? The local humans are fairly flexible about the tribute."

    "So....drinks on you then?" asked Buffy. That was a relief. Since their, ah, funding wasn't through yet, she was glad to get the odd freebie. Even if it was from a blue-smeared demon woman.


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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    • #3
      Buffy wasn't sure what she'd been expecting when Sky suggested a drink. Perhaps flagons of ale quaffed while sitting at long trestle tables in some drafty hall, served by local peasants with straws sticking out of their mouths and going "ooh arrr!" Except, that wasn't Scottish, was it?

      But instead, Sky and her tribe ? still in their woad and furs ? lead them out of the castle to a pub that stood just beyond the moat. As they entered ? all of them sweaty from the fight, and still carrying weapons ? the local human drinkers all turned around. But then the middle aged, ruddy-faced barman said, "Oh, it's you Lady Sky. Got guests?"

      "Yeah, they've been helping us with the ghost problem," Sky replied, giving a cheery wave to the men clustered at the tables. "But, it's all done. No more ghosts for...well, a while at least! Not til someone else of us dies."

      "Drinks all round then?" suggested the barman.

      "Can I have a campari and soda?" Andrew said. But as the barman glared at him, he smiled. "A pint of your finest foaming ale!" Then, after a pause. "I'm not from London you know."

      Dawn thumped him.

      "Good girl," said Giles, patting her on the shoulder.

      The barman lined up a selection of pints, whiskeys and - after Dawn ordered an orange juice - a campari and soda that Andrew mustered the courage to order.

      Drinks in hand, the remainder of Sky's warriors introduced themselves ? they all had fairly normal names apart from Sky, from Big Dave, who was the closest these gloriously beautiful demons came to chubby, to Sandy, a shy but still lumionously beautiful girl demon who blushed when she shook Xander's hand. Buffy noticed this and smiled. It was true. The demon chicks, always after the Xander. She pushed down the slight rush of jealousy when he blushed back.

      "Let's take a seat," suggested Sky.

      She and the Scoobies took a large, empty table in the corner of the pub, while the warriors mingled with the other patrons of the bar then split up into their own little drinking huddles, clearly leaving Sky alone to do chief-type business.


      Several hours, and more than several drinks later, Buffy, Giles and Sky were sitting at a table in the corner chatting ? about the history of the tribe, the local demon populations (apparently not many vampires, given the sparse human population, but rather a lot of trolls), and a little ? but not too much ? about the collapse of Sunnydale. Buffy and Giles were both aware that, though these demons seemed friendly enough, there's probably a limit to how much information you should give out the first time you meet someone with yellow glowing eyes.

      Dawn and Andrew had gone to sleep in some of the inn rooms upstairs ? that is, Dawn had had to carry Andrew upstairs after he started to wobble on his feet - while Xander and Willow were playing snooker with some of the demon tribe.

      "So, Big Dave," Xander was saying. He glanced towards Sandy, who was sitting in the corner. "This whole...part human thing. I assume that means you guys...date...with humans." He blushed.

      "Yup," said Big Dave. He grinned. "And, you're in luck, pal. As a rule, it's the females who sometimes favour a human mate. Us lads... we prefer to stick to our ain kind. Nae offense," he said, turning to Willow, "But Merloch women...well, they're a wee bit better looking than yer average human lassie."

      "None taken," muttered Willow. "By which I mean lots."

      "But aren't Merloch men...I mean, you're very..." Xander made a gesture to imply buff. "Not that I want to...but...why would a Merloch woman choose a human over one of you guys?"

      Big Dave laughed. "Oh, the Merloch ladies like us too, for the most part. But the thing with humans..." He skritched the stubble on his chin. "Well, it's sort of a tradition, like. Status symbol, you might say..."

      "So, if I was to ask Sandy out on a date, I'd actually be improving her social ranking?" said Xander. "Boy. Things really HAVE changed since high school."

      Over at Buffy's table, conversation was proving a little less flowing. Buffy was feeling uncomfortable to be making conversation with this luminously beautiful creature. It wasn't like chatting to Clem, who was just a big doofus who wouldn't harm a fly. There was something unsettling about being close to someone so otherwordly. Ok, otherworlds were pretty much her regular world, but still. Usually the demons she came across were more with the tentacles than with the stunning and charming Scottishness. She couldn't help liking Sky, but she still couldn't put her finger on what was so disconcerting about her. But my concert is definitely dissed, she thought. There was almost something familiar about the creature. Buffy hoped she hadn't, like, killed one of her relatives and then forgotten about it. That could prove awkward later.

      Plus, Sky kept shooting Giles looks which Buffy ? having overheard Big Dave's comments ? seriously hoped didn't mean they were going to snuggle. All in all, it was not the most relaxing evening.

      Suddenly, in the middle of some half-hearted chit chat about some local caves where fairies were supposed to live (at which Buffy started to get genuinely interested), Sky leant forward.

      "Look," she said, to both of them. "I've been trying to think of a way of saying this, but I didn't know how...that is, I want..." She turned to Giles.

      Oh God. Buffy prayed. Please don't ask to mate with him. Anything but that. No mating. Please?

      "What?" said Giles, keeping his expression neutral. He honestly had no idea what might be coming. He only knew that the sight of this woman unsettled him on some very profound level.

      "I wanted to say..." Sky looked down at her drink, as if summoning her courage, then back up at Giles. Yellow, piercing eyes. "You're my father."

      There was total silence in the pub, followed by a rousing Scooby chorus of:

      Willow: "What?"

      Xander:"What?"

      Giles (louder):"What?"

      And loudest of all, Buffy's:"WHAT???"

      "Perhaps we should talk about this outside?" suggested Sky. "You know, not in a fighting way. But...to talk? Privately?"

      Giles rose to his feet and nodded. Surely this was some kind of a joke? But he couldn't quite stand the stares from everyone in the pub ? and certainly couldn't think straight or discuss this with this audience. Not with Buffy watching with her great, shocked eyes. He started to follow Sky outside without really realising his feet were moving.

      "Wait, you're just going to believe what she says and follow her?" said Buffy. She put a hand on Giles's arm.

      "No," said Giles. "But I think that ? whatever the truth ? this is probably something I should discuss in private, don't you?" He hadn't meant to sound quite so harsh.

      "Fine. Ok. Yes." Buffy let go and watched him and Sky walk outside. Did he know, and he didn't tell me? she wondered. But she shook her head. That was stupid. He'd looked every bit as shocked as she was feeling.


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      • #4
        The night air outside the pub was cool, verging on chilly. It was welcomely so, Giles thought. He and Sky faced one another. "So," said Giles. He leaned against the pub wall. The stone was uncomfortable against his back, but it kept him feeling rather more grounded.

        "So." Sky smiled. She sat down on bench near the door.

        "I suppose the first question is... what makes you think I'm your...father?" Giles found himself examining her face for traces of his own features. Was she...like him?

        "My mother, she gave me a photograph of you, before she died," said Sky. "Told me I should look for you some day. But, seems you found me first."

        She reached into a pocket in her furry tunic-thing and pulled out a photograph of a young Giles, posing with guitars with Ethan, on stage in some bar or other that looked vaguely familiar. Sky pointed to Ethan, adding, "And she was very clear as to the fact that my father was not "the scrawny gadgie with the eyes like pissholes in the snow on the right"."

        Giles laughed, but then stared at the photograph, then at Sky. Maybe she was like him, a little. The cheekbones, and something of the line of the mouth. "And how did I meet your mother, exactly? When? Because I'm sure I'd remember...?"

        Sky shook her head. "Thing is...when one of my people...well...not to put too fine a point on it...shags...one of yours," she said. She laughed, a little nervously. "It can lead to memory loss ? it's the surge of...erm...actually, do you mind if I don't go into the details? Given it's about my mother and...?"

        "I shall look it up later," Giles agreed. "I believe I do remember something along those lines in one of my books."

        "But, as for the memory loss, I think maybe the industrial strength booze and hash that Ma said you must've consumed on the night you...met...might've had something to do with it."

        "And the night we met was...?" His mind was racing back through time, trying to piece together how and when this might've happened. But so many of the parties of his youth tended to blur together in a terrible, glorious haze of drugs, sex, and, of course, black magic.

        "At Keith Richards' house."

        "Bloody hell!" Giles adjusted his glasses, half taking them off to polish them, then feeling it too much of a cliche. But he found a smile forming on his face. I met Keith Richards? Bloody shame I don't remember.

        Giles examined the photo more closely. He didn't remember this one being taken. Except... oh.

        Now he remembered.

        "How did your mum come by this? This is one of the very few promo shots for..." he felt a sudden wave of excruciating embarassment. "Erm...The Death****ers. Quickly disbanded," he said, hurriedly. "Ethan never could find his way around a stratocaster."

        "Nor around my mother," said Sky. Her smile was sly. "He gave her that when he was trying it on. But she wasn't interested. But she told me she was drawn to you the moment she saw you."

        Sky shifted her position on the bench, drawing up her knees and hugging them. She put her head slightly to one side and smiled in a way that made Giles's stomach drop with recognition.

        Like Mum. She's family. Exactly like Mum. Those old photographs of her, on the beach, standing beside Grandma Edna, hugging her knees in that striped swimming costume. Sunburn visible even in the black and white photos. That smile. She's mine.

        She's my child. Is she? She is.


        "Bloody hell!"

        "What?"

        "I believe you," he said. "It just sunk in." Giles walked over slowly and sat down on the bench. He looked at her closely. "So, you're....how old are you...thirty? You look so..."

        "Ageless. I know. It's a demon thing. Pretty nifty, eh?" she said. "We live for hundreds of years. My mother was...well. Let's just say Dustin Hoffman's not the only wee laddie to fall for an older woman."

        "Ah," said Giles. "I won't inquire how old, exactly."

        "Gentlemanly of you. Dad."

        Dad The word seemed to grow inside him. Was this what Buffy felt when she found out about Dawn ? that she was part of her. That connection? Belonging. Part of the web of the universe.

        They lapsed into a silence that was not all discomfort. It was the strangest thing for Giles - to be sitting side by side with this perfect being, to think that she was his, and what that might mean.

        The moon was high in the sky ? full and bright ? and the clear Scottish night was spattered with stars. There had never been this many stars in Sunnydale. Perhaps the result of pollution, perhaps the effect of the Hellmouth.


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        • #5
          Inside the pub, Buffy, Xander and Willow were huddled around a table in the corner. The demons started to trickle out, nodding to the Scoobies and muttering goodbyes and goodnights to them and to the other pub patrons. Big Dave gave Xander an awkward wave. It was clearly not the time for mingling.

          "Are you ok, Buff?" Willow put a hand on Buffy's forearm. It didn't take a superwiccan genius to work out that the news had hit her hard.

          "Yeah. Fine." Buffy smiled. Her face felt tight.

          "That's the fine of in-denial, right?" said Willow.

          "No, it's the fine of "I don't believe it"," said Buffy. "Or...I don't know." She leaned on her elbows, staring at a spot on the opposite wall. "I really don't know what to believe."

          "Well, It's certainly knocked me for six. Possibly even seven. Pushing eight," said Xander.

          "Do you think it's true? Honestly?" said Buffy.

          The others shrugged. "Maybe," said Willow. "It's not like Giles doesn't have a past full of things that go bump in the night. So not surprising if he...bumped."

          "Gross, Willow." But it was true, thought Buffy. There was plenty he'd probably done that she never knew. Maybe that he didn't even remember. And, she had to remember herself: he didn't belong to her.

          And who is Giles to me now? Are we even friends anymore? She shuddered. Jeez, was she jealous of this demon girl?

          Buffy got to her feet, feeling suddenly decisive. "Right. I'm going to go and talk to him. Because...well, if he really does have demon spawn, I want to know more about it, you know? Because..."

          "You don't need a reason," said Xander, gently. "It's Giles."

          "Right." Buffy hovered for a moment, then walked to the door. She pushed it open, feeling a cool breeze on her face. "Giles?"

          But there was no-one outside.


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          • #6
            Giles's vision swam into clarity. Her face. Sky. Not smiling any more. Head...hurts...arms...tied. The air was damp. Giles blinked and looked around him. He was tied to a chair in a dungeon, and Sky was standing over him holding a dagger.

            "Oh...bugger."

            "Yeah." She toyed with the dagger. He couldn't read the look in her eyes.She looked almost sad.

            Giles sighed deeply. "I really don't see why you had to pretend I was your father merely to kidnap me. There are less emotionally draining routes you know."

            "That's the thing." Sky leaned forward, crouching so she was at eye level with him. "I wasn't pretending. You ARE my father. I only wish you weren't."

            "The feeling's quite mutual," snapped Giles. He was glad of the irritation. It allowed him to sit on top of the dark squall of feelings that filled his chest. "So... I assume you didn't take kindly to my conduct as a parent?"

            Sky laughed. A hollow sound. "Och, this isn't because you were an absentee father...some kind of ,"My daddy didn't love me so he must be punished" thingie."

            "Then what?"

            Sky acknowledged the question with a slight nod but didn't answer right away. She stood upright and took a few steps away from him, to the edge of the cell. There was a grate there and she hooked her fingers through it, looking out at the dank corridor that ran alongside. Giles wondered whether she was doing it for dramatic effect or because she didn't want to look at him.

            "As far back as anyone can remember, my tribe's chiefs ? all women, see - have chosen human mates. Then, when the time comes for their daughters to take over, it's their duty to kill their fathers. This is easier if they don't know them, obviously."

            "Obviously," Giles murmured. He was trying to work his bonds loose. He wasn't getting very far. Buffy, this would be rather a good time for you to rescue me, I feel, he thought. He had no idea how long it had been since he'd been brought here, or how long it might take Buffy to realise he was gone.


            "That's why we induce the memory loss. So the father knows nothing about it, and doesn't come until the appointed time. Fate guided you here, you see... Don't try and get free," said Sky. She turned back to look at him. "You won't escape the cell, and you won't be able to overpower me. And I'd rather do this painlessly."

            Giles snorted. "You're all heart."

            "I'm sorry. I wish there was another way."

            "There is. You can bloody well let me go."

            "No. I can't be chief with my father still living." A tear was nestling in the corner of the demon's eye. "You're my father. So you have to die. It's tradition."

            "Oh, if it's tradition, then DO go ahead," Giles growled.

            "I wish..." Sky broke off. She looked genuinely puzzled. "Our shamans foresaw your coming ? and it's why the ghosts arose. They're the ghosts of our dead human forefathers. They arise each time a new chief is about to fulfil her destiny."

            "All very Hamlet, I'm sure."

            "Well, I do look good in black," said Sky. She smiled for a second but then, off Giles's scowl, her face grew sad again. "But you're not what I expected. Fighting with the slayer...saving the world. From what Ma told me, you were... well. You weren't exactly one of the army of the righteous. I'm sorry I have to do this." Sky smiled sympathetically. "I am part human after all. I do feel... I don't want to destroy something good."

            Giles made a disgusted face. "You know, there's nothing more sodding irritating than a demon who thinks they have a conscience."

            "Look, you don't know everything." Sky began to pace, then stopped, pointing up at the ceiling. "The gods will punish us if I don't do it."

            "Oh, it's the gods now is it? I thought it was tradition?" Giles was genuinely exasperated. "I would've hoped that a daughter of mine could have learned to think through her motives a little more clearly by the age of 30!"

            "Like your slayer?" said Sky. Her yellow eyes narrowed into burning slits. It seemed that the sadness she felt at the prospect of killing him was just a thin layer of humanity over a more predictably demonic nature. Or was it just easier to tell himself that? "Oh, yes, she thinks things through. Our shaman saw some great things for her."

            Giles blinked, feeling a jolt of shock. Perhaps she was lying. But perhaps not. "What did they see?"

            "A liar," said Sky. Her lip curled. "And a tyrant. They saw her against a twilight sky, at the head of an army that she cannot control." Sky leaned closer. "She'll bring an end to this world of ours, they said."

            "I don't believe you." But part of him did. She saved and changed the world with a rash, heat of the moment decision in the field of battle. She could just as easily end it with another.


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            • #7
              "Where did they take him?" Buffy had the barman pinned up against the wall. The noise had roused Dawn and Andrew, who were standing staring at the commotion from the bottom of the stairs, still in their pjs.

              "The c-castle dungeons. Please don't hurt me. I didn't know..." stammered the barman.

              "I don't care. But if they hurt him, you will." Buffy let him go with a shove. She turned to Willow, eyes burning. "Get me to him. Now."

              "It might be risky, if the location is slightly off...dungeon walls, kinda thick..."

              Buffy's look of fury and anguish was enough to resolve any of Willow's doubts.


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              • #8
                "I don't believe you," said Giles. He grimaced, pulling against his bonds in a last-ditch attempt. It seemed help might be too late, and he no longer saw any point in hiding the fact that he was trying to get free.

                Did he believe her?

                "Well. I suppose it doesnae matter to you, where you're going." Sky held up the dagger. She muttered a few words in a celtic dialect that Giles didn't recognise, but they were clearly ritual words.

                This is the endgame, old man. I should really like a cup of tea.

                "I hope the gods do fair by you," said Sky. She walked slowly closer.

                Giles closed his eyes. "Oh piss off."

                "Those are some poor last words," came Sky's voice.

                But he kept his eyes closed. Watching his own daughter ritually sacrifice him did not come high on the list of things he wanted to watch flashing before his eyes just before he died. He heard her footsteps walk behind him.

                Giles tried to think of better memories. The first girl he kissed - Sophie Marchmont from the year above at the Academy. Her dark brown hair. Finding a first edition of the Grimwald Prophecies in a charity shop for fifty pence. Seeing Buffy back from the dead. Laughing with her over everything she'd done while he'd been away.

                There was a sound.A hissing-crackling pop, followed by a burnt smell, and a gasp. He couldn't see, behind him but then, with a groan, Sky slumped forward. She had a sword through her chest. Then, the sound of the sword being pulled out with a sickening shlurp.

                "Giles. Are you ok?." Buffy was standing beside him.

                "Yes." He didn't trust himself to say more than that.

                She dropped her sword then started undoing his bonds. The ropes fell to the ground and Buffy helpd him up.

                Giles looked down at Sky and at the sword. The blade was stained purple. Sky wasn't moving. Face down on the damp stones. The closest thing he'd had to a daughter had killed his actual daughter to stop her killing her father.

                What would Freud make of this peculiar variation on the primal scene. Tragedy becomes comedy. We all live happily ever after. It's absurd.

                He felt laughter bubble up, but tried to supress it. The result was an indecorous choking sound.

                "What? Giles... are you laughing?" Buffy wrinkled her nose. Not the reaction she was expecting.

                "I honestly can't quite explain why," said Giles. He winced. His head was still sore. "But... thank you."

                His eyes found Sky's body once more. "I imagine her tribe will be on the rampage, now?"

                "It's ok. Willow's dealing with them," said Buffy. "She said she wanted to try something out. She said she'll know if we succeed here. The tribe's all connected so...it's a witch thing. I don't really get it." Concern flickered in Buffy's mind. Was this the sort of "witch thing" that she should worry about? But, Willow was over that phase.

                All under control. Maybe I should worry about myself first. I'm the one who stabbed first, asked questions later. Didn't ask questions at all. Just stabbed. Buffy followed Giles's gaze to the dead creature on the floor. But he seems to think I did the right thing. So maybe it's a happy ending?

                "Then, if you don't mind," said Giles. He was still looking at Sky's body. "I think I'd like to..."

                Buffy nodded. "Let's get out of here."


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                • #9
                  "So, lassie," said Big Dave. He and the rest of the tribe were facing Willow at the castle entrance. All of them were heavily armed, while Willow stood wearing just a thin shirt and shivering slightly in the cold night air.

                  "You've come to try and stop our Lady Sky from fulfilling her destiny? On your own?" He laughed, and the rest of the tribe laughed with him.

                  "No," said Willow. She gestured inside the castle. "Buffy's stopping her. And I'm not alone." She closed her eyes and balled her hands. "I summon the power of Saga Vasuki," she muttered.

                  "I come." A whisper in the air. "I always come when you call. My Willow."

                  "Who said that?" said Big Dave.

                  "A new friend of mine," said Willow. A great wind whipped up. "And you're going with her."

                  Lightening shivered through the air ? a vast sheet of light, just for a moment. Then Big Dave and the remainder of the Merloch tribe were gone.


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                  • #10
                    Giles decided that the grave should be out in the woods. They'd found a spade in an outhouse ? no sign of the demons. Buffy dug while he rested ? he'd tried to help for a few moments but his head was still stinging and his balance was off. One of these days, I won't wake up from a blow to the head.

                    It didn't take Buffy long to dig down six feet. They lifted Sky's body down to the bottom and looked down for a moment in silence.

                    Giles then leant down and picked up a handful of earth, dropping it into the hole, onto the body.

                    "I don't think there is anything I can say, really." Giles brushed the crumbs of earth from his palms. "Let's just cover her, shall we?"


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                    • #11
                      They walked back to the pub in silence, until they were just short way away. They could see the lights in the windows. Buffy made out Willow in among the Scoobies. There was hugging. The barman was cowering in the background.

                      Giles stopped. He touched her arm. "I'm sorry."

                      "Aren't I supposed to say that to you?" Buffy replied. "I killed your daughter."

                      "You also saved my life. But I mean to say?I meant? I'm sorry? for how things have been between us."

                      "Me too."

                      It seemed the sort of moment to hug, but something stopped them. They stood awkwardly for a moment.

                      The way things have been?.perhaps that's the way they'll continue? thought Giles. Is this all still about Spike? No. We've moved apart and there's more to it than just one choice I made. Two paths in a wood and I chose? which path did I choose? And where is she going? Was there any truth in what Sky said?

                      Have I lost two daughters, not one?


                      "Let's go in," said Buffy.

                      She met his eyes and hoped that maybe he'd understand. I want to talk. I really do. But it's all too big. We changed the world, but more's changed than just big world stuff. Us. You. You're still important. But I need to figure things out. I hope we can talk some time soon. She smiled a warm but brittle smile. "And, hey, we can tell them the good news."

                      "What's that?"

                      "That we've found us an empty castle we can use for a home base. Cos, technically, you're the sole surviving member of the tribe. Inherity goodness."

                      "Sole survivor? I suppose I am," said Giles. "Well, that solves one problem, certainly."

                      But he realised as he said it that he could never live in that place. Which led to the further realisation: The gap between us continues to widen. I don't think that we can breach it. But I hope. I still hope.

                      Giles pushed open the door and smiled. "Let's get pissed, shall we?"

                      "In the British sense?"

                      "In the British sense."

                      "Sure," said Buffy. Drinking and not thinking. That will do for now.

                      They went in, to warm greetings and chatter from the Scoobies. And Andrew, who grabbed the barman by the lapels: "I want the finest wines known to humanity. I want them here, and I want them now!"

                      The End


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                      • #12
                        Casting postscript: Because I find that sort of thing fun, here’s my fantasy casting for the roles of Sky and Big Dave, given that they’re the new characters who get the most “screen time”:

                        Big Dave – Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo in Rome). Hot and burly and yummy.

                        http://www.hbo.com/rome/img/cast/cha...tituspullo.jpg

                        Sky – Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother and L-Word fame). I wanted someone with wit and character as well as being supremely hot.

                        http://images.aahceleb.com/poster/Co...ers/253664.jpg

                        http://lh6.ggpht.com/_k0ul965PKV8/Rq...cobie013me.jpg

                        http://cache.viewimages.com/xc/56843...0A659CEC4C8CB6


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