Author’s Notes: This is the sequel to my fic World on Fire. It picks up right where the other one leaves off. World on Fire is short (nine chapters), so it would probably be for the best to read that one before this one; however, if you don’t, here’s what you need to know – The Powers That Be gave Buffy a series of dreams about a Slayer who was in love with a vampire in 1353. Then, the slayer (Isobel) and her vampire lover (Edmund) reveal themselves in 2001. Isobel, too, was resurrected from Heaven and has since been living with Edmund. Discovering that she isn’t alone in her vampire-loving tendencies, Buffy finally allows herself to accept a relationship with Spike. Oh, and there was smut… There, now you should be all caught up.
She gasped, clawed, struggled for freedom. She didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend what had happened. She had been somewhere else. She remembered…
She couldn’t remember anything at all…
But she didn’t know she had to escape. Wherever she was, she couldn’t stay. It was dark, too small…
She couldn’t breathe.
She fought, blind panic driving her to break free, her hand pushing out past the surface, letting her feel the night air. She grabbed at the earth, finding purchase to pull her body all the way up, crawling onto the ground as she took in deep, aching breaths.
Across the world, burning eyes snapped open…
*** *** ***
“There will be a price.”
Edmund stared the demon in the eyes, no sign of intimidation on his face. His body was bruised, bloodied, burned, and broken, but he would still fight on if he had to. Anything to return what had been taken from him…
“I will pay it.”
“It is a steep price,” the demon warned, his voice deep and foreboding. “You have proven yourself worthy of your reward, but I still cannot grant it to you without you agreeing to pay something in return. What you ask for is a thing that should not be done.”
“There is no price too steep. Not for her.”
“Then it shall be done.”
Thunder crackled through the caves, followed by a burst of light so bright that Edmund threw his arm up to shield his eyes, turning away from the painful glare. As it died down, he blinked, slowly lowering his arm to see the figure of a woman, kneeling on the floor, her head bowed. She was all pale skin and dark, flowing hair, and Edmund felt rooted to the spot, afraid she would disappear from him again.
Slowly, she raised her head, and blue eyes met green.
*** *** ***
Leaving Spike behind this morning had been more difficult than Buffy ever remembered it being before. She’d wanted to stay there with him in bed, basking in the glow of their redefined relationship, and instead, she’d had to force herself awake in order to sling artificial beef at the denizens of Sunnydale – all while wearing radioactive orange.
It hadn’t put her in the best of moods.
Spike had been all sleepy and rumbly when she’d woken him up to say good bye, doing his best to tempt her to stay, but she knew she’d been shirking her responsibilities too much recently. She couldn’t ignore the fact that Dawn needed a roof over her head just because she’d rather be shagging her delicious vampire boyfriend.
She’d promised Spike she’d come by to see him after work, and he’d reluctantly let her go then. He’d stayed in the bed, rolling over to bury his face against the pillow she’d slept on, and her heart had ached. She wanted to be with him…
“Stupid bills. Stupid Doublemeat Palace and its breakfast shift,” she muttered as she went towards the clock to punch in. “Stupid minimum wage making me work fifteen hours a day.”
She thumbed through the timecards, frowning when she saw they jumped right from Becky Sawyer to Mike Thompson. She flipped through them all, wondering what could’ve happened to hers before she heard someone clear their throat behind her.
She jumped, then turned quickly, gasping when she saw who it was. “Isobel? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Correcting another one of your crazy mistakes,” Isobel replied. She held up Buffy’s timecard. “This is not a fitting occupation for a Slayer.”
“Yeah, well, it’s the best I could get,” Buffy snapped, glancing around to make sure no one else had come in.
“That’s complete bullshit and we both know it,” Isobel replied. “Hell, you could’ve easily gotten an office job making twice this. Even if it was just answering phones.” She stepped closer to Buffy, lowering her voice to keep any of the other early-morning workers from hearing. “I’ve been in your head, Buffy. I know what you’re doing. You’re punishing yourself. But you know now there’s no reason to. You never did anything wrong. Neither of us did.”
Buffy sighed. Isobel was right, to a point. On some level, this job had been a self-punishment. But that didn’t change the fact she had bills to pay and couldn’t afford to quit and be unemployed during a job search. “This is all I have, Isobel. And I’ve got to take care of my sister.”
“Well, for starters, I’m completely appalled at the fact that your Watcher isn’t supporting you financially, since I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’ve kept an eye on the Council and the Slayers since I was one, and it’s always been that the Watcher is paid by the Council, and then in turn provides for the Slayer so she isn’t forced to say, flip burgers while trying to save the world. Do you have any idea how much the Council is probably paying him?”
Buffy looked down at the ground. This morning was going from bad to worse. She had to leave Spike, and now Isobel was here lecturing her for having a job? And making her late for said job in the process, too. “Look, he gave me money a few months back. Can I clock in now?”
“No. You’re not clocking in here ever again. This is a disgrace, and I’m not letting the Slayer line be reduced to this. And as for him giving you money a few months ago, that’s a joke. Something tells me it wasn’t even a fraction of what he was paid by the Council, which should’ve been at least partially allotted towards your care from the very beginning. But since I doubt you’re willing to take this up with him, especially given the fact that if my dreams were telling the truth, he’s completely shirked his responsibilities while leaving you here to continue to perform yours, then you’re going to have to find a new way to earn money.”
“Look, I don’t have time for this. I have to…”
Isobel plucked her cell phone from her jacket pocket and shoved it towards Buffy. “Call Anya.”
Buffy blinked. “What?”
Isobel shook the phone. “Call Anya. I didn’t think that was a hard request to follow.”
Tentatively, Buffy took the phone. “And tell her what?”
“Ask her what she’d pay someone for a Raighen claw.”
Buffy frowned, beyond confused, but too curious now to refuse. She dialed Xander’s number from heart, getting a tired, befuddled “Hello?” from her friend a few rings later.
“Hey, Xand, it’s Buffy. Sorry to call at five on a Saturday morning, but I need to talk to Anya.”
“Yeah, okay,” Xander mumbled, clearly nowhere near actual awakeness. Buffy heard him wake his fiancée, who grumbled about how this better be good before she answered gruffly.
“Hey, Anya, it’s Buffy. Uh…quick business-type question. How much would you pay someone for a, um, raygun claw?”
“Ray-gen,” Isobel whispered, correcting Buffy on the pronunciation.
“Rayghen claw,” Buffy corrected herself.
At the mention of business, Anya immediately perked up. “Oh, those are in high demand right now. They’re a delicacy and a trendy fashion statement. Plus, some people swear if you grind one up and put it over blackberries it’s a powerful aphrodisiac. I’ve been selling them at anywhere between five and eight thousand dollars depending on size, and I can’t seem to keep them in stock, especially on the website. Why, do you have one?”
Buffy’s eyes bulged. Five to eight thousand dollars for a demon claw? “I…uh…”
“Tell her you have ten from a full-grown demon,” Isobel whispered.
“I have ten from a full-grown demon,” Buffy parroted to Anya.
“I’ll meet you at the store in thirty minutes,” Anya said before the line went dead.
Confused, Buffy handed Isobel back her cell phone. “Um…can you tell me what exactly just happened?”
“See, this is what happens when you ignore all your research,” Isobel said with a teasing grin. “There’s so many ways out there for a woman with our particular skill set to make extra cash.”
Buffy shook her head. “Isobel, I don’t like this. I don’t want to dip into black magic, or change people for helping them, or…”
“Whoa, Buffy. Slow down. Neither do I – which is why I carefully choose what I want to sell. Raighen demons are nasty creatures which really, need to be taken out anyway. All they do is hiss and spit poisonous venom. And due to the venom-spitting issue, their claws are hard to get to. The claws hold little to no occult value, but are inexplicably sought as some sort of demon haute cuisine. And really, given the amount of money you can earn selling one, never mind the ten you can get from managing to kill one of the nasty buggers, I don’t see the harm in providing the upper crust of the demon world with some really fancy salt.”
Buffy worried her bottom lip with her teeth. “I don’t know. It all seems so…weird…”
Isobel sighed, fighting the urge to bang her own head against the wall. Instead, she grabbed Buffy by the arm and dragged the perplexed Slayer out of the restaurant. “Look, all of this, your obsession with being normal, it’s not getting you anywhere, Buffy – and it’s seriously pissing me off. We’re different, and there’s not a bloody thing wrong with that. We protect this world, protect the people who live in it, but we aren’t like them. We aren’t any better or worse, we’re just different. And trying to force yourself into a definition of normal that you were never destined to achieve, well, nothing good is going to come out of it. You’re a demon hunter, Buffy, and that makes you part of their world, whether you like it or not. And this is how you survive in that world.”
“I can’t make money off my slaying, Isobel. It seems wrong to me.”
Isobel closed her eyes for a moment, fighting to keep from yelling at Buffy. She’d been insanely frustrated from simply watching Buffy in her dreams, and now that she was face to face with her, she was on the verge of snapping. She opened her eyes and gestured angrily towards the Doublemeat Palace. “And this isn’t wrong? What’s going to happen when you finally reach burnout, Buffy? When someone dies because you’re too exhausted from pulling day after day of double shifts and you slip up and get someone killed? Because it’s going to happen. You’re going to push yourself over the edge – you’re straying too close already.”
“I just don’t think I should…”
“Look, you know how they tell you to find what you’re good at and make a career out of that?”
“Do your strengths stop at a customer-service smile and the ability to use a spatula?”
“Of course they don’t. You’re a Slayer, and that’s where your strengths are always going to be. Look, I don’t think you should milk your calling for unfair profit either. But if selling some harmless demon claws by killing something you would’ve killed anyway keeps a roof over your head, then why in the world are you standing here in a ridiculous hat?”
Buffy didn’t have an answer as she stared back at Isobel, but the older Slayer could see the play of emotions on her face. She softened towards the girl, reminding herself how young and confused she really was. “Buffy, I’ve been doing this for over six hundred years now. I know how to make it as a Slayer, outside the realm of the Council, and I also know that I was sent here to help you. Can you trust me enough to let me do that?”
“I do trust you, Isobel,” Buffy replied, the words coming out without a thought. How could she not? She’d been inside of Isobel’s mind, had experienced firsthand what sort of person she was.
“Then act like you do. I’m not Faith, Buffy.”
At the mention of the other dark-haired Slayer, Buffy looked at Isobel sharply, wondering just how much the Powers had shown her. Buffy had only gotten a glimpse at the beginning of Isobel and Edmund’s relationship, but she was beginning to think Isobel had seen just about everything.
It made her more than a little uncomfortable to think about.
However, she knew what Isobel had meant when she’d mentioned Faith, and Buffy realized the other Slayer had been able to adeptly identify the source of her hesitation where Buffy herself had not – another fact that made her a bit nervous. Why did people keep seeming to know her better than she knew herself? First Spike, and now Isobel…
But Isobel wasn’t Faith. Her appeal for Buffy to quit trying to fit some arbitrary definition of “normal” and embrace who she was as a Slayer wasn’t an attempt to bring her down a path of self destruction. It wasn’t about taking what she wanted and not worrying about who she hurt in the process.
It was about accepting who she was. Who she’d always been.
And Buffy knew it was high time she did just that…
She took off her hat and tossed it to the ground. Isobel smiled, and the two Slayers walked away from the Doublemeat Palace.
A/N: Well, the response for a sequel was overwhelming a yes, so here it is. I hope it’ll live up to your expectations!
Please review and let me know if you’re still on board…