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New-fic-with-no-name, Part 4a

Here goes! This is my revisit-Season-7-BtVS fic, where I try to come at the story fresh and do what I would've done, for lack of a better way of putting it. It's a bit rough yet, but I figure I should probably post while I have the inclination and the time instead of waiting until it's perfect. [Edited to add: this part is a bit short, so I'm calling it Chapter 4a, and the second half of this chapter, 4b, will follow in the very near future.] Suggestions and comments welcome!

Previous installments: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3.



4. ALL FOR ONE

Xander screwed a finger into his ear to block out the sound of the shrieking metal detector and fumbled with his phone. It took him a moment to figure out how to put Dawn on hold so he could dial out for Buffy, but eventually he got it.

And got Buffy's voicemail.

Cursing, he left a shouting-over-the-noise message, and switched back to Dawn. "No answer!" he yelled. "I'll keep trying! Where are you guys now?"

"Still at the door. There's---" A burst of static cut Dawn's voice off momentarily, and he could've sworn he heard a ghostly echo of his own voice yelling something incoherent in the background. "--staying right by the door. No one wants to move. It's really weird here, Xander."

"I know. Just... try to stay calm." Still holding the phone to his ear, he gripped the axe handle tighter with his left hand and raced from one end of the high school hallway to the other, peering through the windows in classroom doors as he went.

Nothing. No one. Only the siren, and the sound of his own boots hitting the floor.

"Do you see anything?" Dawn's voice sounded tinny and far away.

"Nothing!" he yelled back. "Just stay put, I'll keep looking!"

Would this be an alternate dimension or an alternate timeline? Anya would know, and wow, he was so done thinking about that. It was enough to say that he was out of his depth on this one. He made a loop through the hallways back to the front desk, and tried dialing Buffy again.

Same voicemail as before. He swore under his breath and started to leave another message, and then the shrieking alarm suddenly stopped.

Phone still at his ear, Xander looked up.

An African-American man in a gray suit was standing near the front door. Xander felt a weird moment of jealousy for the way this guy looked; cool and collected as James Bond, and if those weren't expensive shoes, he'd eat his hard hat.

The man removed a key from a control panel on the wall, pocketed it, and folded his arms, all without taking his eyes off Xander.

"You mind telling me what you're doing here?"

__________

Downtown Sunnydale was quiet. Or more properly, the short strip of commercial main street that locals referred to as "downtown" was quiet, as most nearly abandoned places are.

Long since deserted by most businesses for office parks and the shopping mail on the outskirts of town, Sunnydale's old small-town retail district had the feel of a movie studio backlot--picturesque, but empty. The ruins of the Magic Shop still occupied one blackened, midblock lot, and of the surviving business--the Sun theater, two thrift stores and the Espresso Pump--only the coffee house ever saw any business in the morning. There were no cars and few pedestrians to notice when Anya apparated directly in the middle of the road.

Her feet already moving when they touched ground, she walked into the Espresso Pump without the smallest pause, glance, or break in her stride.

"Anya!" Halfrek waved to her from a corner booth. Anya lifted her chin in acknowledgment, then wrinkled her nose at the musical duo strumming guitars in the corner.

"You're not being very subtle these days," Halfrek said disparagingly as Anya slid into the booth. "Flaunting your powers out in the open like some kind of lower demon."

Anya ignored the comment."It's far too early in the morning for warbling coffee house singers," she said, andd added a spoon of extra sugar to her extra-large foam-topped cappuccino. "Listen to them! Love, love, love, love. Ten to one she'll be calling on me for vengenance within a week."

Lips pressed together, Halfrek put some effort into adjusting the position of her coffee cup. "Anya. Listen. No one blames you for being bitter about the whole Xander thing--"

Anya let out a bark of laughter. "What are you talking about? Of course they do. Hallie, I was a vengeance demon for over a thousand years. I know better than anyone what happens now." She fixed her gaze on the singers. "First comes the part where everyone's sad and shocked, and they all say they're sorry. Then comes the split into 'his friends' and 'her friends.'"

"Right, that's why I'm--"

"His friends will say that she was a bitch anyway, and he deserves better. Her friends say that he's a bum, and she should've made a better choice. Or that she should've kept up her appearance, so he wouldn't have looked at other girls, and that she let him get away." She aimed a challenging stare at Halfrek. "One way or another, it'll all be her fault."

Halfrek held her gaze for a long moment, and then shrugged. "Okay, we'll skip that part then. It's not the main reason I'm here anyway."

Anya deflated a little. "Fine. What's on your mind?"

"You're not meeting quota. You say you're back in the demon fold, but as you and I well know, vengeance is a global business. Why, the calls I'm hearing from the Middle East alone--" She shuddered, then got back to business. "What are you doing still hanging around Sunnydale?"

"Why do you think? You think I'm here because Xander Harris is still here? Because I want to keep tabs on the guy who dumped me? That I'm stalking him so I'll know the exact moment when he regrets ever having turned his back on me?"

"Well, honestly I--"

"Well, you'd be right, but that's not the only reason." She stared out the window. "Something's coming. Here. Something big. I can feel it, and I know you can too. So don't try to tell me it's all about quotas."

"Fine. Have it your way. But you need to get out of here, Anya. All the lower levels are buzzing about this; whatever's coming, it's older than old. And if you stay, you'll wind up caught up in something you can't control." Halfrek heaved a melodramatic sigh, but then actually looked sincere for a moment. "Leave him, Anya."

"I can't." Anya gave her a faint smile. "Whatever happens, I'm going to be here." She picked up her cup. "Right here at Ground Zero."

__________


At the Doublemeat Palace, Buffy elbowed a escaping trail of sweaty hair from her forehead and continued filling order bags with french fries. The heat lamps over the prepared food painted her skin the molten gold of a devotional statue. Venus at the Fryer.

"Fifteen minutes to break, fifteen more minutes to break," she chanted under her breath.

She rearranged her face into a welcoming smile before spinning on her heel, food bags in hand.

"I'm in a hurry," one customer announced sharply without taking her eyes from her cell phone's text screen. The majority of the waiting line was likewise occupied, with phones pressed to their ears or busily typing with their thumbs.

"Uh..." Buffy held up the bags. One by one the customers snatched their respective bags from her hands and disappeared, with only a minor pileup at the glass doors as several people tried to pass through the same opening at once while still talking/texting.

"It's a bad morning," Gina said slowly. Stationed at the stainless steel coffeepot, she arranged cups for filling like rows of tin soliders. "I can feel it in the ground."

"Me too," Buffy said automatically, because it was always easier to agree with Gina than try to have a conversation. But the customers did seem extra agitated that morning, and there was a funny, charged feeling in the air. "Does it seem busier than usual this morning, or is it just me?"

"Excuse me?" A customer barrelled up to the counter. "Number 5 breakfast combo, to go?"

Buffy smiled robotically and went about gathering the order. It was creepy, how rushed and tense everyone seemed. She'd thought it was probably just her, with the first-day-of-school nerves, not to mention the quick puff on that cigarette. Which had just made her feel more nervous, by the way, and wasn't nicotine supposed to calm you down? Mood-altering substances, definitely not Buffy's friend.

"Gonna be a bad day," Gina said. Buffy found herself silently agreeing.

She took a breath and another glance at the clock. Fourteen minutes to break. I hope Dawn is alright.

The front door banged open as another group of customers all piled in--why did they always seem to arrive in groups?--and she put on a bright smile. "Welcome to the Hellmouth--I mean, uh, the Doublemeat. How may I help you?"

Meanwhile, the phone in her purse, tucked away in a locker in the breakroom, continued blinking its alert for new voicemail.

__________


The ground beneath the school rumbled yet again to a chorus of student screams. The eco-friendly glass curtain wall began to shake violently and the rows of tasteful track lightning began to swing back and forth, knocking against the glass. Bulbs began to shatter.

Dawn corkscrewed a finger into her ear to block out the noise and hollered into her cell phone. "Buffy! Pick up the phone!"

"No luck yet?" Carlos hovered over her shoulder, trying hard to maintain a semblance of cool, but clearly on the verge of losing his machismo in a big way.

She shook her head. "I lost my connection with Xander, and now I can't get through to anyone. Dammit!" She tried another number, only to be greeted with a sirening wail on the other end of the line. "I can't believe this is happening. I mean, I knew high school was going to be bad, but not this bad. I mean, not this bad this soon."

"It's like a monster movie." Carlos crouched down, careful to stay away from either the windows or the door. Since that first look outside, they'd all been nervous about looking again, afraid they'd see something even worse. "I keep expecting to see Dracula or something."

My sister's met Dracula. "I can't believe she's not picking up," Dawn fumed. "'You'll never be alone, Dawn.' Yeah, right!"

"Or that Wolfman guy," Carlos was still babbling. "You know, my cousin saw the Wolfman here at the old school. Covered with hair and howling and the whole deal. All of the adults just said he was on drugs."

"Adults say all sorts of things." Dawn let the phone drop into her lap. "I don't think they really lie on purpose. Or, at least, they don't think they're lying."

"That stuff's all real." Carlos's voice was so even and controlled, it made her look up. He was staring at the far wall with the calm expression of someone who's just had some kind of religious experience. "You said that before, but I'm getting it now. Really getting it. It's all real. Comic book stuff. Monster movies." He turned his head in her direction, locked eyes. "Heaven and hell?"

My sister's been to heaven. "Uh, yeah. It's all real."

"I didn't really believe... I never paid any attention in church. I'm going to hell, aren't I? If I die here?"

Dawn swallowed. "I don't know. I don't know how all that stuff works."

"My nana, she prays every day. I always thought she was crazy. 'You're gonna go to hell, Carlos, you'll go to hell.'" He rubbed his arms. "I'm going to hell."

"You're not gonna go to hell." I don't think. "My sister'll be here soon, and she'll fix it. She does this sort of stuff all the time."

"The sister you can't get on the phone?"

"Yeah, but... I'm still trying." She started punching buttons again. "It's cool. She's probably just busy and hasn't looked at her messages yet. Buffy's never been good with gadgets. Like, when we were little, she couldn't figure out how to make the VCR play because the buttons didn't have names, just little pictures."

"Buffy? Your sister's name is Buffy?" Suddenly he looked less worried about hell. "I've heard of her. I heard she's some kind of superhero." He laughed. "She's real too?"

Yeah, she's real alright. "Superhero?"

"Yeah, like she's part monster, or something. My cousin said she was like super strong, and there were other monsters who were her friends." He shook his head. "I just thought he was on drugs. She'll really save us?"

Dawn nodded. At this point, believing in Buffy was about all she had. "Yeah. Eventually."

"I'm going to school with Wonder Woman," Carlos said. This news seemed to have totally overshadowed his sudden fear of hell. He was almost cheerful now. "Or like... Lady Dracula. That's prety cool."

Dawn dropped her chin to her knees, eyes still on her phone. Some things never change. "Yeah. Pretty cool."

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Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
livejournal
Aug. 15th, 2013 12:14 am (UTC)
Squee!
User rahirah referenced to your post from Squee! saying: [...] TheDeadlyHook, one of my favorite Buffy/Spike writers ever, has posted a new chapter of her WIP! [...]
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
Wow! One of your favorites!?! (This is appearing on my journal, and it's some kind of LJ robot-responder, I think, so I don't know if this reply will appear here or over on your journal, rahirah, but either way...) Pretty sure I'm not worthy of that honor, haphazard a writer as I am, but thank you!
rahirah
Aug. 15th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
Aw, man, Dawn can't catch a break, can she?

(So glad to see this going again! says she of the perpetually stalled WIP of her own)
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
I really can't resist the Dawn character. Her storytelling potential is so clear to me that it makes me die a little inside to think how little has been done with her since Season 5. And now I'm very intrigued by that scene between her and Spike in the comics that you mentioned on your journal - which issue was it?

I can never think of any of your WIPs as stalled. Your 'verse is so well fleshed out. New chapters are like candy. (I was rereading some of your stories recently, and... wow. So impressive, the way you've interwoven the canon events with your own reality. Amazing.)
rebcake
Aug. 15th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
I adore the no-BS exchange between Anyanka and Hallfrek. Well, no-BS on Anya's side, anyway.

She aimed a challenging stare at Halfrek. "One way or another, it'll all be her fault."

Halfrek held her gaze for a long moment, and then shrugged. "Okay, we'll skip that part then."


And I may have mentioned before that I have always wanted a Carlos fic, or a fic wherein Carlos gets to have an actual character. And he's great here. Not Xander-lite, but an actual kid with some legitimate issues of his own. Yay!

I've got some hopes for Dawnie being her own savior at some point, if only through the awesome power of her networking. And James Bond-esque Wood is a worthy adversary for Carpenter Guy, dontcha think? I saw where Xander was wielding that axe, don't think I didn't!

Thanks for the addition!
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 01:06 am (UTC)
Thanks! There'll be more coming soon. I have about twice this length of the next part written, but I keep adjusting the transitions between scenes, because I'm trying for that episode-like feel, and one of the first things I noticed about the Jossverse was how the scene-to-scene transitions tended to work to add a counterpoint or extra irony, so that feels important to me. (Or it's just me being fiddly and fussy, I suppose.)

Yay, Carlos! Glad you liked him. There are a number of issues this fic was designed to address, and some point I'll come up with a commentary track that explains them all, but Dawn not having her own circle of well fleshed-out friends is definitely one of them. I love Dawn. She always needs more stuff to do and people to talk to, IMHO.

I'll be heading in a very different direction with Wood than the canon story, so I'll be especially intrigued to hear what you think!
rainkatt
Aug. 15th, 2013 04:01 am (UTC)
Loving this! (rahirah mentioned it on DW, and I zoomed over here to look.)
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I feel like I'm finally starting to get back in the writing groove.
seapealsh
Aug. 15th, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
This take on Season 7 is so interesting! I'm so glad you were able to put up another chapter.
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm really enjoying delving into these characters again. It's been awhile.
spikes_heart
Aug. 15th, 2013 04:31 am (UTC)
Just reread from the beginning. So glad to see you're continuing on with your version of season 7. Can't wait to see what else you have in store for our babies.

And because it's obligatory... Poor Spike!
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
Glad you like! As for Spike, yeah, he's not in a good place right now. (Can't promise that it'll get better too soon, either...)
treadingthedark
Aug. 15th, 2013 05:06 am (UTC)
Excellent, can't wait for more!
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, glad you liked!
shapinglight
Aug. 15th, 2013 11:08 am (UTC)
I'll be reading next week. Hope that's okay?
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 15th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
It's absolutely okay! Even better, actually, since this is only the first half of this chapter.
timeofchange
Aug. 16th, 2013 11:49 am (UTC)
The dialog is just so wonderful. I know you are trying to write this as television, and I think you are succeeding.
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 18th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I feel like I'm finally getting a handle on my "style," such as it is, and it does seem to be largely dialogue-based. I "hear" the voices first, and build around that.
red_satin_doll
Aug. 16th, 2013 02:45 pm (UTC)
Barb had mentioned you had new chapters and - WOW. I'm rereading from the beginning and this feels seamless with what came before (there's no sense of a time lag).

"One way or another, it'll all be her fault."

I don't know if this is an unpopular opinion but I always felt a lot of sympathy for Anya re: this scenario? Not just being dumped at the altar out of the blue and publicly humiliated and having to face the crowd on her own; but the loss of the home and income she'd shared with Xander, the loss of friends/surrogate family, etc. Not that I approve of her vengeance duties, but I can see how after that, D'Hoffryn's offer would have seemed inviting. He and Halfrek are her only family, are there for her, the way no one else is. (That actually parallels Buffy and Spike I little bit when I think about it. Or perhaps even more so, the Mayor and Faith in S3. *ponders*)

The heat lamps over the prepared food painted her skin the molten gold of a devotional statue. Venus at the Fryer.

This - leaves me nearly speechless. Fantastic metaphor. And I've never worked a fast food restaurant but I've done my share of soul-sucking, dead-end jobs (mostly retail) and you really capture the atmosphere of it, the sweat and grease, and the numbing, pointless focus on the clock as if that will make time move any faster (it never does) just to get through the next few minutes. (I think at times S6 actually did do a good job now and then of capturing that - the single image of Buffy walking around like an automaton in NA spoke volumes, or the sterile breakroom in DT.)

My sister's been to heaven. "Uh, yeah. It's all real."

"Buffy? Your sister's name is Buffy?"

This scene with Carlos is one of my favorites so far in the story. Really awesome characterization of what nearly amounts to an OC, basically. It's such a dark scene - all of Dawn's interior ruminations (how do you deal mentally for the kind of life the Summers girls have led, living in war zone that few people are even aware of?); and Carlos being aware of Buffy? Such a great touch. It never made sense to me that no one in town (besides the Trio?) knew of her the remainder of the series, that no one mentioned what happened at the school in GD in S4 and the whole thing might well as not ever happened. (Actually Jane Espenson's "Haunted" arc for the non-canon comics from ten years ago bridges the gap between S3 & 4 nicely.)

One question - what chapter did Xander pick up the axe and bring it to the school? Or is it a fireaxe from the emergency niche? (Classic choice). I don't recall him grabbing it but I may have skimmed over that.
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 18th, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the lovely long comment! I do love discussing these things. : )

I always felt a lot of sympathy for Anya re: this scenario

Me too, absolutely. It struck me that given her background, as a demon with a long history of exacting vengeance for women, there was a nice opportunity to talk about what typically happens after a breakup -- and who would know about all of that better than her? The metaphor was built right into her character, so I couldn't not use it.

I've never worked a fast food restaurant but I've done my share of soul-sucking, dead-end jobs (mostly retail) and you really capture the atmosphere of it

*grins* This is where I admit that I have worked those fast-food jobs, so that atmosphere is very familiar to me.

It never made sense to me that no one in town (besides the Trio?) knew of her the remainder of the series, that no one mentioned what happened at the school in GD in S4 and the whole thing might well as not ever happened.

Glad you like Carlos! (It's been long enough since I've talked extensively about the series that I had to think for a bit about the episode abbreviations - "Graduation Day," right?) The idea that the people in the monster-cursed town would actually know what's going on is, IMHO, built into the DNA of the show (it features in Lost Boys, which is, as best as I can tell, the outright template for Sunndayle, as well as American Werewolf in London, Dracula and most classic monster stories), so the idea that the people of Sunnydale were completely ignorant of the supernatural got increasingly implausible for me over time. So this story will probably be dealing with that issue. Quite a lot.

what chapter did Xander pick up the axe and bring it to the school?

Oops! You caught me - that's an editing error on my part. He was meant to have brought it with him into the school, thus the alarm going off. I'll make a note to fix that.
thisficklemob
Aug. 17th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
I really like the image of Wood stopping Xander -- like, whoa, Buffyworld meets Reality, where a grown man trying to bust into a high school with an axe is Bad News. I'm almost glad that the school was empty, because it means Xander has immediate proof that this is not the normal world anymore.

"His friends will say that she was a bitch anyway, and he deserves better. Her friends say that he's a bum, and she should've made a better choice. Or that she should've kept up her appearance, so he wouldn't have looked at other girls, and that she let him get away." She aimed a challenging stare at Halfrek. "One way or another, it'll all be her fault."


Ouch. Never thought of it that way.

My sister's met Dracula.

...

My sister's been to heaven.


I really like this parallel. From the ridiculous to the painful.
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 18th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
Ouch. Never thought of it that way.

Anya used to say more of this sort of thing in the show, noticing patterns that are hard to see when you're closer to it (the observation about Thanksgiving being a ritual sacrifice comes to mind), so I couldn't help but think that once she was a demon again, she should come back to this sort of thing. And what happens to women after a breakup should be the one thing she's more than an expert about.

I really like this parallel. From the ridiculous to the painful.

Thanks! This is one of the things I love about Dawn -- she can be both an insider and an outsider to the Scooby gang, and give that kind of point of view.
yourlibrarian
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
I love how Anya's determined to be at ground zero this time, just the flipside of how she was determined to be elsewhere when she was first in Sunnydale.
thedeadlyhook
Aug. 18th, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
That was exactly my thought. She's committed now. I wasn't really happy with her character becoming less resolute over time.
herself_nyc
Aug. 19th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
Poor Buffy. Poor Dawn. Poor allathem.
hts_wasrubbish
Sep. 6th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
That was a beautiful Anya and Halfreck scene.

Sigh... now I have to wait.

Its awesome though.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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