The Meaning of a Miracle
What? You need to ask? Very well, I freely declare that Buffy & Co. belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enermy, etc., and The Avengers belong to Canal+ and A&E.
"Just consider this a late Valentine. It's short, but-" Chunk!
Miss Peel stood watching impassively as Buffy emerged from the cloud of dust left by their third vampire of the night. "Buffy, you're supposed to slay vampires, not the English language. I'm surprised that poor vampire didn't just stake himself after your last pun." She gave the Slayer a small smile at the end to show that she was joking.
Buffy pretended to be insulted. "I'll have you know that my witty repartée is the talk of the Hellmouth . . . or, at least it would be, if any of the vamps I fought survived to tell anyone about it," she finished with a superior smile.
The Watcher gave a small roll of her eyes. "Seriously, Buffy, your form is excellent, but I'm beginning to think you rely too much on your Slayer strength." As Buffy started to protest, she held up one hand and added, "Yes, yes, I know. At your Cruciamentum, you demonstrated most effectively that you can outwit a stronger opponent -- when you need to. But your fighting style tends toward brute force, when a little finesse would do just as well -- and leave you less winded in case another opponent shows up." She suddenly stared over Buffy's shoulder. "Like that one."
Buffy whirled, coming face-to-face with another vamp, who immediately attacked with a roundhouse aimed at the Slayer's head. Buffy ducked it, but got caught by a follow-up kick to the midsection that sent her sprawling. She rolled over, ready to spring to her feet again, only to see her Watcher stepping in.
And then Buffy got a first-hand look of what the woman had meant by "a little finesse." Miss Peel's moves were purely defensive, deflecting the undead creature's blows away from her. She wasn't blocking
the blows -- she was brushing them away with casual-seeming waves of her hands, making the vamp waste his time and energy by punching and kicking at empty space.
Then the vampire over-extended with one of its punches, and she grabbed its wrist, twisted, and threw the creature over her shoulder. As it landed on the ground, Willow darted out from behind a headstone to plunge a stake into its heart, and it obligingly poof
The Watcher smiled at her. "Good timing, Willow." Then she turned back to Buffy, who was just getting to her feet.
"That was so cool," the Slayer said, eyes wide. "What was all that 'wax on, wax off,' stuff you were doing?" Buffy made little waving motions with her hands, to approximate the moves her Watcher had performed.
"Aikido," Miss Peel replied. She had raised her eyebrows at Buffy's pop culture reference, but didn't comment on it, so Buffy figured either she'd gotten it, or she didn't want to embarrass herself by asking.
She went on, "Typically, Watcher training -- and therefore, Slayer training -- concentrates on hard, offensive styles, like savate and tae kwan do. The thinking seems to be that since a Slayer is usually alone, and vampires and demons are often found in packs, her best chance at survival is in learning how to use her superior strength to take her opponents out quickly. As the average Slayer hasn't lived more than a year for over a millenium, you would think they would've tried something different by now," she commented wryly.
Then she rubbed her cheek with her finger, and gave the Slayer a calculating look, "Buffy, in the offensive disciplines at least, Giles has done his job thoroughly; I don't think I could teach you anything new that would be useful. Mind you, there's still plenty of room for improvement," she cautioned as Buffy let a smug little smirk show, "but it's the kind that will only come with time and practice. I think you would benefit more from adding a defensive style to your repetoire -- and I think we should invite all of your 'Scoobies' to the training sessions as well."
Willow perked up at that last comment. "Really? You think we could learn to do all that deflect-y stuff with our hands?"
As Miss Peel and the redhead discussed the various possibilities, Buffy was alternating between feeling happy and annoyed. Happy that Miss Peel was accepting the whole Scooby Gang as easily as Giles had . . . and annoyed that she wasn't going to have training sessions all to herself and Faith any more.Yeah, I can admit it -- I'm jealous. Ilik being special. Having Faith at the training sessions is one thing: she's a Slayer like me, and it makes sense to have the two of spar with each other; we can't really hurt each other as easily as we would Giles or Miss Peel. But having all the Scoobies together for the martial arts stuff . . .
But Miss Peel was right. Willow, Xander, and Oz could all benefit from a little formal training. Especially Xander. He'd told Buffy and Willow earlier that he was giving in to Miss Peel's and Giles' request that he not patrol for a while, but Buffy was sure that when Faith started patrolling again, Xander would be out there with her.
The whole Faith-and-Xander thing still got to Buffy. It wasn't so much that she was jealous of Faith's relationship with Xander -- whatever Willow seemed to think. She just didn't know what to make of it. Especially the way both of them had changed; Xander was acting . . . well, un-Xanderish. Mature. Serious. Protective. Well, maybe that wasn't so unusual. He just had never had anyone like Faith to be protective of
And the changes in Faith were even more drastic. A week ago, she'd been Miss 'Tude '99. Now, she was . . . well, broken. Buffy knew that feeling; she'd been there and done that, many times.
And more than once, it had been Xander that had gotten her through it.Jeez, no wonder he's acting all grown-up and stuff. He really does know what he's doing. He's had a lot of practice, after all.
It was only then that Buffy realized she was
jealous of Faith. Not romantically . . . just in the kind of way that left her wondering who would be there for her the next time her life fell to pieces.
She shook herself. Back to business, Slayer.
They'd done their circuit of the fresh graves; now it was time to try to track down the elusive Mr. Trick.* * *
Two hours later, though, there was still no sign of Trick, and Buffy was getting annoyed. "I hope Angel's having better luck than us," she growled.
"Angel?" her Watcher asked, one eyebrow arched.
"Yeah. He's checking out the demon community, and probably beating the heck outta Willy the Snitch too. If Trick's trying to set up shop as the new Master on the Hellmouth, Willy'll know."
"And why, may I ask, have we spent hours creeping through a vampire- and demon-infested town, in the middle of the night, instead of just going to see this Willy ourselves?"
"'Cause Willy doesn't react well to new faces . . . and you probably wouldn't approve of how you gotta get information out of him." Buffy shrugged. "Trail's cold for tonight. I'll see if Angel found anything, and we'll try again tomorrow night." She started walking away, but Miss Peel's voice stopped her.
"Miss Summers, we're not finished here."Oooh, so it's 'Miss Summers' now. Guess I ticked her off.
The Slayer turned around, crossed her arms, and stood waiting. She barely noticed Willow making a quick getaway, probably figuring that absence was the better part of valor at the moment.
"I told you several nights ago that we were going to have to talk about your relationship with this . . . Angel. I think it's time we did."Oh, great. I was wondering when we were gonna get to this.
"There's nothing to talk about. My relationship with Angel is my business. Not the Council's."
Miss Peel's expression softened -- just a little. "This has nothing to do with the Council. I just . . . I can't understand why you're willing to risk your life, and the lives of your friends, by associating with that . . . creature."
Buffy's vision began to go red, and she felt her pulse throb in her neck. "His name
! Just last week, while you were probably sipping Earl Gray on the QE 2 in the middle of the Atlantic, he was helping me save the world!"
"And just eight months ago, he was trying to destroy it. Miss . . . " The Watcher sighed. "Buffy, I didn't want to fight with you about this. I am willing to accept that Angel is capable of doing great good. But only
when he has his soul. Without it, he is a monster. A monster which you have already unleashed once, and which you could let loose again at any time, with just a moment's weakness."
Buffy blanched as Miss Peel's accusation hit home.
The Watcher pressed on. "Why? Why is it so important for you to go on like this, when it endangers the both of you, and everyone around you as well?"
Buffy could only whisper, "Because I love him."
Miss Peel's breath huffed out, and she looked up, as if appealing to a higher power for an answer.
Buffy's mind worked frantically. A higher power . . .
"Because it snowed for him," Buffy said suddenly.
Miss Peel looked down at Buffy again. "'It snowed
for him?' Buffy, would you mind clarifying that statement for me?"
As quickly as she could, Buffy explained about Angel's mysterious return from Hell, his haunting by the First Evil, their confrontation on the cliff overlooking Sunnydale, and the first snowfall in Sunnydale's hundred-year history.
Miss Peel looked alternately troubled, amazed, and confused. At one point, Buffy heard the woman mutter something that sounded vaguely obscene, although knowing Watchers it was probably in some thousand-year-old dead language.
Buffy finished her story by saying, "I don't know how Angel came back from the dimension I . . . sent him to. But I don't believe for a moment that it was the First that brought him back. And that snowfall -- I'd put Giles through enough, so I had Willow look into it. No demon on Earth has the power to change the weather like that. It was . . . something else. Something that wants Angel here, to make amends for what he's done."
Miss Peel was staring at her, stunned. "Buffy . . . this is . . . . momentous." She shook her head, and chuckled mirthlessly. "A genuine, right-out-of-Dickens Christmas miracle . . . on behalf of a vampire
She suddenly looked right at Buffy, her gaze hard and serious. "I know you had the best of intentions, but I wish you had told Giles the truth, instead of trying to spare his feelings. In fact, you had better tell him your story first thing tomorrow. If Angel really is important enough to merit that kind of direct intervention, there will be references to him in various books and prophecies. We must find them, and discover what role he is meant to play."
Her expression had become somewhat distant as she thought about the problem at hand, but she must have noticed Buffy starting to smile in triumph, because she added quickly, "If you think you've convinced me about your relationship with him, Buffy, you're wrong. In fact, I'm more determined than ever that it's a mistake. If Angel does have a higher purpose to fulfill, then you jeopardize that purpose with every second that you spend in his presence. It would be . . . better, for both of you, if you just let him go."
Buffy shook her head. Couldn't she understand
? "I've tried. Oh, God
, I've tried. But I can't." She could feel the beginnings of tears pricking at her eyes, and she blinked them away. "I lost him once, and it nearly killed me. I can't lose him again."
Miss Peel stood silently, arms crossed, for a minute or two that passed like an eternity. Then she said quietly, "We'll look for any references to Angel in the books. I'll even contact my father -- as a member of the Council, he has access to materials you couldn't even imagine. And . . . we'll see what we find." She shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe one of those books will say he's destined to fight at a Slayer's side.
"But for God's sake, Buffy, please be careful. Remember . . . if you were to just let him go, then yes, you would lose him, but you would know that he would be out there, doing good, and fulfilling whatever great destiny has been laid out for him. But if . . . if the curse is broken again, that destiny will almost certainly be lost. And one of you, perhaps both of you, will die."
"I know. I've always known that." And with that, Buffy just turned and walked away, toward the mansion where the love of her life would be waiting for her.