Concept: After Buffy’s death, the Scoobies face a new threat, and one of Glory’s minions devotes his life to the worship of his new goddess. Set during the summer between Seasons 5 and 6 of BtVS.
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Spoilers: Up to the “Bargaining,” Episode of Season 6.
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer” characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like. The title, chaper titles, and lines quoted are from T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.” Thanks to Estepheia for the plot bunny.
“Ugh! This is hopeless!”
Dawn threw her pen onto the table in disgust. She squinted down at the book she’d been reading, then glanced over at her notebook. The left hand page of the notebook contained her notes from the prior night’s reading. The page on the right was a chaotic collage of doodles, scribbles and cross-outs.
Dawn sighed. She’d already taken as many breaks as she could justify. She’d browsed through some of the spell books at the upper level of the Magic Box. She’d gone into the back room and thrown Chinese stars at the practice dummy. None of them had actually hit the dummy, but the last few had at least managed to travel in the right general direction.
Dawn had convinced Willow and Tara to let her do her summer reading at the Magic Box by arguing that it was free of distractions. Quite unintentionally, Dawn had been correct.
Dawn picked up the assignment sheet, and read to herself:
“SUMMER ASSIGNMENT FOR ENGLISH I: Read the attached list of poems and be prepared to discuss them at the first class. Make note of any literary devices employed (symbolism, metaphor, irony, etc.). Be prepared to discuss any common themes that run through the various works.”
She tossed aside the paper in disgust. She took a deep breath, prepared to dive back into the reading, but then was quite happy when the silence was broken by the clang of the bell at the Magic Box door.
“Try not to move it,” Anya said, holding open the door of the Magic Box. “I’ll get the ace bandages.”
“It’s fine,” Xander said, grasping his wrist and following her in. “It’s just a sprain. I’ve had worse.”
“Wouldn’t have been so bad if you hadn’t dropped the axe,” Spike called from the sidewalk, taking a final drag off his cigarette before flicking it to the street.
“Spike, I believe it was your exclamation that Xander was a ‘clumsy git’ that actually distracted him,” Giles replied as he entered behind Willow, Tara and the Buffybot.
“The damned thing missed my foot by a hair’s width,” Spike grumbled, walking in and closing the door behind him.
“Rough night?” Dawn asked, looking up from her textbook as the Scoobies entered the shop.
“Not so bad,” Willow responded, walking over to the table.
“We slayed vampires,” the Buffybot exclaimed. “And I made quips!”
“We got two vamps,” Tara chimed in. “One got away, but still, we got two.”
“Woulda been a hat trick,” Spike said, “if Paul Bunyon hadn’t....”
“Shut up, Spike,” Xander said, as Anya wrapped his wrist at the counter.
“How can you work with tools and have such a bloody awful grip?”
“Will the two of you cut it out!” Willow admonished. “It was both of you shouting at each other that tipped off the vamps in the first place.”
“Did you order a STAKE?” the Buffybot said, as she pantomimed a thrusting motion into the chest of an imaginary vampire. The Bot flashed a wide grin and glanced around the Magic Box, searching for looks of approval.
“Well, that’s better than the one about pie,” Dawn observed.
“Oh, she said that one, too,” Willow sighed as she walked to the front of the shop toward the magic ingredients. “The wisecracks are kind of a work in progress.”
“I guess it’s just important that she’s...I mean, that it’s seen on patrol,” Dawn said.
“Yeah,” Tara said. “You know, maybe it’s good that one of the vamps got away. He’ll tell everyone that he saw the Slayer.”
Tara paused as she felt the Scoobies’ stares.
“Just looking for a bright side,” Tara mumbled, and then walked over to join Willow.
“We’re doing quite well,” Giles said. “It’s expected that there would be some...adjustments. We simply need to keep at it.”
“And keep the sharp objects away from clumsy gits,” Spike added.
“Spike!” Xander shouted. “One more word and I’ll...ouch!”
“Quit moving,” Anya ordered, as she tightened the bandage.
“Uh, Spike?” Dawn said, trying to change the subject. “Do you think you could give me a hand with this?”
“What is it, Bit?” Spike asked.
“More poetry,” Dawn answered. “Summer reading sucks.”
“Spike’s been assisting you with your studies?” Giles asked.
“Yeah,” Dawn said. “Most of these guys were writing this stuff back in Spike’s day.”
“Spike,” Giles said. “I didn’t know you liked....”
“I didn’t,” Spike shot back. “I mean, I don’t. I didn’t and I don’t. All a bunch of bloody rot. Hated every minute of it when they’d force that poetry crap on us.”
“You and me both,” Dawn said. “Anyway, I’m up to this one by T.S. Eliot.”
“Sorry,” Spike said. “After my time.”
“That’s OK,” Dawn said. “The stuff you gave me on Byron really helped.”
“Ah, Lord Byron,” Giles said, walking up behind Dawn. “I always found that his works were somewhat....”
Giles’ voice trailed off as his eyes caught the writing in Dawn’s notebook. He picked up the notebook, skimmed Dawn’s writings, and said:
“Dawn, are these your notes on Lord Byron?”
“Yeah,” Dawn replied.
“And you based your notations on Spike’s...tutelage?”
“Dawn, perhaps I should assist you with your studies from now on.”
“What?” Spike exclaimed. “I laid it all out for her.”
“Spike,” Giles sighed. “I hardly think that ‘just imagine Angel moping like a sullen poof’ does justice to the Byronic hero.”
“I thought that pretty much nailed it,” Spike said.
Dawn bit her bottom lip to keep from giggling.
“Yes,” Giles said. “Well, Spike, if you wouldn’t mind, could you assist Willow and Tara?”
“What are they doing?” Spike asked.
“Nothing that will keep Dawn from graduating on schedule,” Giles answered. “Please.”
“Oh, fine,” Spike sighed. He turned toward the front of the store, then glanced back at Dawn, silently mouthing ‘we’ll talk.’ Dawn smiled and mouthed ‘got it.’ Spike winked at Dawn, and then walked over to Tara and Willow.
“What are you reading now?” Giles asked, turning his attention back to Dawn.
“This one,” Dawn said, lifting her textbook to show Giles.
“Ah,” Giles said after he’d caught the title. His eyes drifted upward, and he recited from memory:
“A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.”
“Whatever,” Dawn said. “I just don’t see what’s so great about this one. I mean, these guys make this journey, right? They whine all the way there, then they get back, and they whine about leaving. The whole poem is just whine, whine, whine. Who wants to listen to characters who whine all the time? I don’t believe I have to spend my summer reading poetry. This sucks. I hate my life.”
“They’re not ‘whining,’ they’re lamenting,” Giles explained.
“What’s the difference?”
“A good reason,” Giles said. “The journey is a metaphor for change. The narrator has found himself trapped between two worlds. He’s been exposed to both, but he belongs in neither. It’s about isolation, confusion, angst. It’s a rather large theme, actually. It’s quite difficult to exist with contradictory beliefs. The human psyche craves consistency, clarity. It can be incredibly difficulty to live in harmony with starkly different ideologies.”
“Giles,” Willow said, approaching the table. “Have you seen the concealing powder? I want to do an invisibility spell on my crucifix so I can have it on me at my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah.”
Dawn looked up at Giles, who said:
“Ahem....well, perhaps less difficult for some than for others.”
“Watcha doing?” Willow asked.
“Poetry,” Dawn said.
“Oh,” Willow said, glancing down at Dawn’s textbook. “Oh, I remember this one! It’s about the Three Wise Men.”
“But that’s just it,” Dawn argued. “It isn’t. I mean, this isn’t in the Bible. It never happened. It’s just made up.”
“It’s not ‘just made up.’ It’s...inspired.”
“But, it’s like this Eliot guy is just ripping off the story. I mean, why doesn’t he just make up his own story with his own characters? Hello! Be original!”
“That’s not the point,” Willow said. “It is original, because it tells a part of the story you didn’t get to see. It picks up where the other story left off, filling in the blanks. I mean, let’s say there was this TV show. And the guy who starred on the show was really cute, and you really like it, because the point of the show was, hey, it’s OK to be smart and not fit in. So you decide, why not write a story about the show? So you post the story on a couple of bulletin boards, and then the internet comes around, and years later you still get emails about how the redhead girl that Doogie fell in love with was just the best....”
Willow paused as she noticed the blank stares coming from Giles and Dawn.
“Um, anyway,” Willow muttered. “The poem’s like that.”
“Uh, guys?” Dawn said. “Not that I don’t appreciate all the help, but maybe you should all just concentrate on slaying demons.”
“You may have a point,” Giles said. “The vampires this evening were not newly risen. They were obviously in that graveyard with a purpose. We should start researching.”
“Yeah,” Tara agreed. “It’s been tough enough just trying to keep the vampire population down. The last thing we need are any surprises.”
Before Giles could respond, the jingle of the bell above the door sounded through the Magic Box. Everyone turned, and saw a wrinkled mess of a demon in a brown robe standing at the entrance.
“Christ!” Xander exclaimed, jumping backwards.
“You,” Spike growled, morphing into his vamp face.
Willow clenched her teeth, ready to make a quick incantation. Dawn trembled in her seat, petrified with fear.
“A good evening to you all,” the demon said, a wide smile crossing his face.
“You’ll understand if we don’t return your salutation,” Giles said, his eyes fixed on the demon.
“And you’ll also understand if we chop you up into little demon pieces,” Xander said, regaining his composure. “We gave Glory the beating she had coming, so we’re more than willing to take on any of her minions who thinks he can....”
“Oh, no, no, no, no!” the demon said, raising his open hands in the air. “You misunderstand me. I come to bury Glory, not to praise her.”
“Bury her?” Xander asked. “What are you talking about? There’s no body. Ben ran off, and Glory’s....”
“It’s Shakespeare, Xander,” Giles interrupted. “If I understand you...er...?”
“Jinx,” the demon replied. “I am called Jinx.”
“Ah, yes, Jinx,” Giles continued. “If I understand your meaning, you have a purpose here that does not involve trying to kill us?”
“Or torture us,” Spike snarled.
“Or rob us of our minds,” Tara spat, with a hint of tears in her voice.
“None of that,” Jinx replied, with a pleasant tone that showed no regard for the obvious hatred directed toward him.
“Then, what?” Giles asked.
“I am here to pledge my service, my loyalty, my very life to my new god. I humbly offer my pathetic self to whatever enterprise she might find worthy of her most splendid attention.”
“Your new god?” Xander said. “There...there’s a god here? Who?”
Jinx responded by crossing the room and dropping to his knees at the feet of the Buffybot.
“Oh, most powerful Buffy!” Jinx implored. “Please accept my most unworthy offer of allegiance!”
The Scoobies watched in stunned silence, until Anya finally said:
“Well, that’s different.”
Continued in Part I - And Arrived at Evening, Not a Moment Too Soon
Author’s Note: Big ‘thank yous’ to Estepheia and Abbylee for their imput and advice.