Part 4: Firing up the old Ford Exposition…

“I’m Joyce Summers.”

Giles’ eyes narrowed. “I happen to know that both of the current Slayer’s parents were killed shortly after she was called. Who are you?”

“I told you. Joyce Summers. Buffy’s mother. It’s complicated.”

“I’ll rephrase the question: what are you?” Joyce’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the gun in his hand aimed at her. “Some sort of shapechanger? A revenant?”

“She’s human,” Oz’s familiar voice said. “100%.” Giles seemed to accept his judgment. The gun disappeared.

“We need to go somewhere safe and talk,” she said in the calmest voice she could manage.

“Yes,” Giles looked at Oz. “Back to the library then.”

“Uh, Giles, maybe we’d better take Cordelia home first.” Larry sounded worried. Joyce saw that while Cordelia sounded fully recovered her face was pale and she winced every time the van went over a pothole.

“Yeah, my house is nicer than a dusty old library. And the quicker we figure out why everything’s gone all freakazoid, and get it fixed the better.”


He watched the van peel away and disappear into the night leaving the little bitch and her faithful hound standing in the street. Neither looked too upset: they were young and cocky, figured it was all a game and one that was rigged in their favor. Nothing had ever happened to teach them different. Yet.

“Those people need to get a hobby,” he drawled.

“I’m hungry,” she complained. He pulled her close and nuzzled her.

“Let’s hit the Bronze, we can get a bite there.”

He stayed outside while they went into the Bronze to report to old Batface. He thought about following them in to find out what was up, but he’d have to be civil to the bastard on his own ground and he didn’t feel up to it. At any rate they weren’t in there long, he’d barely made himself comfortable when they came rushing out and headed straight for the high school.

He followed along, undetected. It would be easy enough to take them. Do the boy first, then take his time with her but he saw no point in killing the nits while the king louse went free.

There was no-one home at the school and Madam wasn’t pleased. She screamed as she overturned a heavy table, then rounded on her boy.

“No fair! They’re supposed to be here! Where did they go?” She reminded him a bit of his princess, in the same way that sour milk resembled sweet cream.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find them babe,” he pulled her into his arms and distracted her with some clumsy mauling. He looked away, he’d seen enough of the two of them snogging to last him another 125 years. He wondered what could have provoked this sudden interest in going after the white hats. They could have easily wiped them out at any time, but up till now they’d regarded them more as amusement than a real threat. Interesting.

“We’ll check out Watcher-man’s apartment, then Cordelia’s,” Xander said. “We’ll put a stop to all this loose talk about Slayers and then maybe the Master will let you play with Puppy.”

“Oooh. Yes.”

“And I get to watch.”

It gave him an odd twinge to hear that Angelus was still around. He didn’t have to guess what she’d been doing to him; he’d sat in on the show himself a few times when they’d just arrived in town, before he found the DuLac manuscript. Angelus always was a tough bastard. But by now he was probably praying for release.

The brats were done trashing the library. He stepped back into the shadows as they ran out of the building, on the hunt. He didn’t follow them this time; had his own business to attend to.


“Just park here,” Cordelia said as they pulled up in front of her home.

Despite himself Giles was somewhat impressed by the Chase home. It was the largest in a neighborhood of large, obviously expensive houses. He would have thought that a girl from this sort of background would attend private school, but he wasn’t really familiar with the ins and outs of the American class system.

“Maria?” Cordelia looked doubtfully at the small, dark skinned woman who’d answered the door.

“It Luz, Miss Cordelia,” she said in a carefully affectless voice.

“Sure. Sorry, I just got hit on the head, things are a little fuzzy. Are my parents home?”

“No, Miss. Still in Santa Lucia.”

“Yeah. Of course.” Cordelia turned and waved the others in. “Luz, this is my study group. We’re going to use the rec room, can you get us some snacks before you go home?”

“Yes Miss Cordelia.”

“Thanks.” Luz left.

“Your parents go on holiday and leave you alone in the house?” Giles asked incredulously. Cordelia gave him a puzzle look.

“Sure. I’m seventeen; I’ve got my own bank account and credit cards. Maria – uh, Luz takes care of the house and stuff. What?”

“I just think that… never mind.” Cordelia shrugged and led the way to the rec room.

The rec room was in keeping with the rest of the house he’d seen so far: huge, gratingly expensive and decorated in perfect lock-step with current taste. There were no signs that anything in the room had ever been used. He noticed Oz and Larry casting a covetous eye on the pool table in passing. His own desire focused on the wet bar. He and the others settled on the pale leather sofas clustered in the center of the room. Nancy and Oz flopped down side by side with nearly identical sighs, and Nancy leaned her head onto Oz’s shoulder. Larry sat next to the woman who claimed to be Joyce Summers. Ready to act in case Oz was wrong about her. To Giles’ surprise Cordelia sat down next to him. They all looked at him expectantly.

“Well, Mrs. Summers. You promised us an explanation.”

She sat there for a long moment, by all appearances a woman in her mid-to-late-thirties, disheveled, exhausted, and on the edge of hysteria. She took a deep breath and visibly pulled herself together.

“I was dead,” she began.

No one said anything when she was done. It was a great deal to take in.

“So, let me restate what you’ve told us: When you died two years from now in your far more pleasant reality, Anyanka – who somehow or another had become your friend -- offered you a second chance at life, here. The reality we know is artificial; created because of a wish Cordelia made in the presence of a vengeance demon. If it weren’t for that wish your daughter Buffy, the Slayer, would have come to Sunnydale, defeated the Master and prevented this town from becoming the antechamber to hell it is today.”

“Yes.” He wished he could disbelieve her, but too much of it made an appalling sort of sense. He’d heard of Vengeance Demons of course, though the name Anyanka was unfamiliar, and was aware of the incredible amount of power they possessed, but the idea that they were able to twist the entire fabric of the universe…

“It’s like Sliders,” Larry said.

“Fuck!” Nancy exploded, jumping up from her seat to lean threateningly over Cordelia. “You made this shitty world! It figures a brain dead cheerleader like you would screw it up for everyone else!”

Cordelia flinched momentarily, but came back. “You’re blaming this all on me?” She sounded outraged.

“Who the hell else we gonna blame it on? It was your stupid fucking wish!”

“I didn’t know! I was just talking to a girl! It’s not my fault!”

“I don’t give a shit. My whole family and most of my friends are dead, because of your stupid wish.” She sagged as her anger evaporated. Oz put his arm around her and led her back to the sofa.

“There has to be some way to fix it,” Larry said hopefully.

“If we could summon Anyanka, it might be possible to compel it to reverse the spell,” Giles speculated.

“That’s how you fixed it before. The first time,” Joyce told him sadly. “You destroyed her amulet and the world went back to the way it had been. But it won’t work this time. She’s closed this branch universe off, and there’s no Anyanka here, never has been. For us, this is the real world for better or worse. There’s no way out.”

“You mean – I can’t go home. I’m stuck here? This is it?” Cordelia’s voice trembled.

“Yes. We’re both exiled.”

“But – that’s not fair.”

The girl was on the verge of tears. Giles patted her knee awkwardly. “No, it isn’t, but life never is.” She sniffled and he lent her his handkerchief.

“Personally, I find it comforting to know that somewhere things are better – and perhaps we can use her information to help defeat the Master. I think the first order of business is to contact the Slayer and ask her to come to Sunnydale.”

Posted 6 July 2003

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