So, since I've had a fic languishing without my name on it for nearly a year now... I'm sharing it. Yes, mine is the two-parter (I have managed to write single part stories, honest!) whose second part was turned in late... It's been a while since I've read this myself and I may want to cringe rather than share it, but what the hell!
Matthew, by the way, is the guy at my work who I refer to as 'Monkey'. It was pure fluke that I ended up writing for someone who I not only knew in real life, but kept having to hide my notebooks from in case he read part of this!
Title: Tis the Season (Whatever That Means) - chapter 1 of 2
Written for: Matthew
Disclaimer: All familiar characters and locations remain the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy and anyone else who has a stake in them.
Spoilers: Post 'Chosen' (BtVS) & 'Not Fade Away' (Angel)
The last address written, the last envelope sealed, the last postage stamp stuck down, and suddenly it wasn’t enough. This ‘touching base’ once in a blue moon was but a pale imitation of friendship, of connecting.
Yes, they’d grown apart; it was only natural and the way of the world after all. They’d each left to live their lives, it was their right and no one – least of he – could begrudge them that. Somewhere along the way however, they’d lost the very thing that made them strong. Everyone knew they functioned best as a whole, not as a scattered mass of component parts flung to the far corners of the world.
A quick mental calculation revealed it had been over seven years since that day. Seven years since they had last been together as a group. The significance of that number was eerily ironic. They’d now been apart longer than they’d been together. Time to remedy that.
If truth were told, long past time.
Giles sat back in the comfortable leather chair, listening to the gentle pops and bangs of the small fire in the grate. It had taken a long time to get the house exactly the way he wanted it. The music room, the lounge, the kitchen – all of them containing the best money could buy. And yet this was still his favourite room, his study. Part of him rebelled against calling it his library although that was what it most closely resembled. The walls were covered in towering bookcases, all containing a vast array of books on every subject matter – from classics of literature to occult reference texts. There were no pictures, however. Nothing that gave any outward indication that was a home, no photographs, no tacky souvenirs from far-flung places – although god knows his friends – no, his family – didn’t get much further flung.
All that time spent in making the house perfect, getting everything he’d ever wanted, not stinting on a thing, and yet always missing that vital element that would make it a home. Family.
He reached for the address book all too recently discarded and flipped through the pages looking for the most up to date phone numbers, knowing that it was a mark of how long overdue this was that he actually to search for those numbers. Picking up the pen again, he jotted down them down. He briefly contemplated calling there and then, but what could he say? Besides, it was far too late to begin making international calls. They were no doubt out having fun; being the vibrant carefree youngsters they so richly deserved to be. Tomorrow would be soon enough.
“Alba! Andiamo!” There was a shout of laughter and the slam of a door, then silence. Buffy raised her head from the pillow and smiled sadly at the sound of the scooter’s engine struggling up the hill outside. Dawn had definitely found herself in Rome, she fitted in perfectly and had so many friends that Buffy wasn’t even sure if the voice she’d just heard was a new boyfriend or old. Plus, she’d been able to speak the language like a native after just a month. It just wasn’t fair. And why did everyone call her Alba now? What was that about? She wanted a nickname.
She sighed, was she actually jealous that her sister had a life? Buffy sat up to think and decided that yes, she probably was. How long had it been since she herself had gone on a date, or even out with a friend? Did she have any friends here? Sure there were people she saw on a regular basis but there was no one she looked forward to spending time with. There was no one in her life right now who she could spend an entire day with and still talk to on the phone for hours that night.
Truth be told there hadn’t been anyone she could put in that category for years. What had happened to her life? How did she get to this stage where all she did was work, sleep and watch her sister have fun? When she’d wanted a ‘normal’ life, this really wasn’t what she’d meant.
Grabbing the throw pillow from the luxurious sofa she glanced around the apartment, it had everything she ever thought she wanted – even a tea cosy – but it still seemed so empty, soulless. She smiled a little, not that soul always made that much difference in the long run. Funny how she could hear those thoughts in someone else’s voice, a voice she hadn’t heard for years.
Loneliness washed over her as she realised just how long it had been since she’d seen the people who were once so much a part of her that she hadn’t been able to see a future without them. How had this happened? How had they grown so far apart?
Buffy sat forward, suddenly energised for the first time in months. It was time to do something about that – time to make a difference. She reached for her laptop computer sitting on the marble topped coffee table and checked her contacts list. Should she email them? Nah, not personal enough and besides she had no idea how to put it down in writing. Better to call them she decided. That way she could hear their voices aloud and go with the flow. She scribbled down the numbers on the pad next to her and stared at it for a moment. It would be better to bite the bullet and call straight away before she chickened out. But she had no idea what time it was where they all were; in fact she wasn’t even exactly sure where they all were. Maybe she should wait until the morning to call. Yeah, she decided, that made sense.
So Apocalypse Now really is vastly overrated. It’d taken fifty viewings over the years before he finally agreed with that, shame there was no one around to acknowledge this critical moment of capitulation. Xander retrieved the DVD from the player, put it back in its case and looked around in vain for a waste bin. There wasn’t one handy and it seemed a really long walk to the kitchen, he shrugged and put it back on the shelf. One of these days he would actually get rid of the thing instead of fooling himself that it really did get better, or maybe it would be better watching it if he had other people around to laugh at it with.
Suddenly the room seemed far too big, the state of the art entertainment centre too ostentatious, the house too empty. When was the last time anyone else had sat in front of that huge TV? When had anyone but he appreciated the perfect balance of the speaker systems? When was the last time he had an actual conversation where he didn’t have to worry about censoring what he said?
He sighed, of all the things he thought he might be at 29 lonely had never made it to the list. Dead, eviscerated, married – possibly. Lonely? Nope. And yet here he was, lonely. How did that happen?
There was a bar just down the street, he could head down there and be surrounded with people in five minutes flat. Was that the answer though? Probably not. God he missed the times when all he had to do was feel down and one of his friends would instantly know and be there. He missed his friends.
He spent the next fifteen minutes wandering around the apartment, looking for something to distract him. When nothing presented itself he realised there was only going to be one thing that would shift the melancholy; he had to call them. Heading for the phone he checked the speed dial numbers and saw to his horror that none of them were listed in there, had they ever been? His desk was a mess, papers, books and comics strewn across the surface and no sign of the address book that was supposed to sit beside the phone. Sighing, he began to methodically sort the crap on the desk into bundles until eventually he found the offending book and scribbled the numbers down on a post-it note. It was too late to call right now, he decided, so he stuck the note to the side of the computer monitor and decided that maybe if he gave the film one more chance it might get better this time – well, it was either that or listen to country music.
Closing the door behind her, she leaned against it and breathed a sigh of relief. She loved the hustle and bustle of the city, being the centre of attention, but sometimes? Sometimes she just needed time to herself. That was when she came here, to her own room, no one else had ever been within these four walls and she wasn’t even sure herself that it was entirely within the normal four dimensions. It truly was her inner sanctum. All the sounds of the huge complex and the city outside were muffled by the heavy drapes and thick carpeting and a quick word of power casting a silence over the room.
She glanced across at the low table in the centre of the floor, it was covered which candles with would be so simple to bring to flame with a mere thought. Far too simple, that way lay veiny black-hairness. It wouldn’t hurt her to walk a few feet and light them with a match. In fact it would probably do her a lot of good – being the Wonder-Witch meant that she rarely had the chance to do anything for herself anymore, people were generally falling over themselves to do whatever she wanted. Most often before she even realised she wanted it done.
Once the candles were lit, she basked in the comforting glow – extra flamey. A small smile worked it’s way onto her face, not a sad one though, just one full of remembrance. The gaping hole left by Tara’s death would never truly be filled and if she were honest she was glad of that, but it no longer hurt to think of her. When she was working - when she was surrounded by colleagues and students - she barely noticed it. She felt complete. It was only at times like this, when she got her much needed times alone, that she felt a little hollow. As though parts of her had slipped away without her even noticing it.
A small frown creased her brow, parts of her? This wasn’t the normal Tara-missage, this was something more. She closed her eyes and let herself fall into a light trance, trying to find some clue as to the missing parts. Words swam across her thoughts: Sophus, Manus, Animus. Her eyes snapped open. How could she have let them slip from her life?
She was on her feet in an instant reaching for the laptop and scrolling through her contacts list. Her heart sank when she realised they weren’t even in there – how long had it been? They were supposed to be there, they had to be there dammit!
She rummaged around on the bureau in the corner of the room and finally found her address book. Scribbling down the numbers, she shoved the slip of paper into her pocket and turned to leave. Whilst she had nearly everything else in this room, she’d never let herself bring in a telephone. If she had, it would no longer be about her, this place would become about other people.
She silently spoke the word of power to lift the veil of silence and was instantly assaulted with the screeching of fire alarms and, as she threw open the door, was met by a thick cloud of sulphurous smoke. Anyone else would be panicking around about now, but this was just a normal day at the MacLay School of Magick. Willow rolled her eyes, duty called.
“So that’s it, right? We’re done?” The taller man didn’t look at his companion, his gaze was too focused on the four shimmering spheres of light before them which showed the actions of four people, each in a different continent, each thinking of the other three.
Whistler laughed, “Yeah right, it’s that easy – all you do is put a thought in their heads and you think you’ve made a difference? They’ll forget about making the calls, or something else will get in the way, or it won’t be the right time. Seen it happen a million…” he stopped to calculate, “Make that at least a billion times.”
“What else can I do though? All you said was they had to all be together for the end of the year – they all miss each other, playing on that has to work. Right?”
Whistler shook his head sadly, being a balance demon was a tough job but he guessed someone had to do it. Shame that someone was him really. “Look, missing someone and actually doing something about it are two different things. ‘Sides, this lot? Try to get them to do something and they’ll turn round and do the exact opposite. You’re proof of that. Nah, you have to take away their choices.”
His companion frowned; it was one thing he was good at. “How about if one of them were hurt? I could…”
“They all have to be hale and hearty. You cannot hurt Xander Harris.”
“Not even a little?”
“Damn. So what do you suggest?”
The balance demon sighed heavily, on top of everything else he gets saddled with a clueless apprentice? What had he done to deserve this? “Told you already, take away their choices.” The taller… man for want of a better word still looked puzzled – again, it was something he was good at. “For Pete’s sake man, you’re standing in a magickal arena looking through portals at the people you need to get together. Portals. Ring a bell?”
“You don’t remember portals? You’re having a laugh aren’t you? See, a portal will let you travel…” Whistler stopped mid-sentence; it was hard to continue with an elbow pressed painfully against his windpipe.
“No portals.” His voice was calm, and somehow that made it all the more threatening.
“Sure, sure, whatever,” Whistler croaked, making a mental note never to mention portals again. “Okay, so teleporting then – get them through a port… uh, a doorway and teleport them all to one place. They meet, job done.”
His companion backed off, looking contemplative for a moment, quite what he was contemplating Whistler had no clue; it could be his navel for all he cared. The fact of the matter was they really did have no choice. The Balance was off, odd how the capital letter fell into place in his own head like that. This group of unlikely heroes needed to save the world one more time, and none of them would ever know what they’d done.