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This story is No. 4 in the series "The Normal-verse Series". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy has been brought back to life in a world radically transformed. Powerful forces are attempting to force Humanity on the 'correct' path. Unfortunately for them, Buffy has her own ideas about destiny...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > Multiple SeriesjAkLFR1815108,6422021069,17821 Jul 091 Jun 11No

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

This is a crossover story between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Star Trek universe. There are also very limited appearances by some characters from the StarGate universe, although not enough to constitute a multiple crossover. All canon characters are the property of their respective copyright holders.

WARNING – this story has not been completely written!

Redefining Normal

Chapter Fourteen

“Micah Brack is dead.”

Willow’s statement was directed at the Marshall, but was meant for Buffy. She had been crying something about him not really being dead when Willow had arrived with what seemed to be most of the Enclave’s law enforcement people, and the Marshall had heard her. Along with said Marshall were the coroner and about a dozen men with really big guns who went around photographing the bodies where they were lying and arresting everyone in the attacking group who wasn’t actually dead. All were trying to figure out what had really happened. All were visibly shocked by the death of the Enclave’s most prominent citizen.

The Coroner had performed his due diligence, although he obviously saw little reason to do so. It was unlikely there would be a heartbeat when there was no heart and a giant gaping crater where the organ should have been. Willow was trying to get him to sign off on the required Death Certificate so she could remove the body, as Brack’s Will specified that his body was to be put in cryogenic suspension and time was of the essence. The Coroner was obviously prepared to do so, but the Marshall was in no hurry, confused by Buffy’s claim that the man wasn’t, in fact, dead.

That was little enough reason to delay Brack’s final instructions, and the only reason the Marshall was getting away with it so far was due to the fact that Willow wasn’t Brack’s executor. That was Dawn Summers-Jackson’s job, and she wasn’t there. She was still downstairs talking to yet more policemen about the abduction of her husband. She was understandably upset, and now that she had full control over Brack’s massive wealth the last thing the Marshall wanted to do was piss her off. But he didn’t trust this young woman claiming to be the dead slayer who had fought the aliens at the Colorado Springs airport decades ago. Someone who had just showed up one day, seduced Micah Brack, and somehow convinced his Executor --like her employer, a woman not exactly renowned for being easy to fool-- that she was her long-lost sister.

“What possible reason could you have for thinking he might not be dead, Miss... Summers?”

The delay before saying her last name clearly conveyed his doubt that it was her true identity, but Willow’s presence and implied instructions had allowed Buffy to get herself back under control. Something was obviously going on, and just as obviously Willow knew exactly what it was. Still, even if she was being kept in the dark Buffy trusted Willow enough to let her play out whatever she had in mind. “I was de-strawed.”

“You mean ‘distraught’” someone added helpfully.

“That too,” Buffy agreed, not quite as helpfully.

More than anything the Marshall wanted to question the young woman to find out what scam she was trying to pull, but just then the door opened and Dawn Summers-Jackson arrived, looking far more ‘de-strawed’ than her supposed sister. To his surprise she ignored her friends and the rather gruesome body of her long-time employer and rushed over to desperately hug that ‘sister,’ almost overcome by tears. The Marshall was astounded at how gentle the con-artist was with the old woman; holding her carefully, quietly promising she would do whatever it took to get her husband back from ‘that bitch,’ and vowing gruesome consequences should any harm befall him.

The elderly lady appeared to draw strength from either the words, the sentiment behind them, or just the physical comfort she hadn’t allowed anyone else to provide, because within a few minutes she stood straighter and glanced over at the body of her friend and employer, wincing noticeably. An embarrassed officer covered the corpse with a blanket, but when she turned her attention to the Marshall there was noticeable anger in her eyes. “Why hasn’t his body been removed?”

“This is a crime scene...”

“One he didn’t commit. So unless you have some specific need to arrest Micah’s corpse, we need to get the body to the processing facility as quickly as possible.”

In a time when most Americans were lucky to make $15,000 a year, Micah Brack was worth upwards of eighty billion dollars. Mrs. Summers-Jackson might or might not inherit part of it, but right now she controlled all of it, and the Marshall did not want to irritate her into throwing a tiny fraction of it around in order to squash him like a bug. With no excuse to delay further he nodded to the medical team waiting at the doorway and allowed them to take away the corpse. But he still had an investigation to conduct, because claims of aliens ‘beaming down’ from their spaceship to attack a billionaire just didn’t cut it. He just knew that the con-artist was somehow behind this elaborate scam. He spent the next few hours questioning her, which surprisingly enough seemed fine with Dawn Summers, her lawyers, and Brack’s security personnel.

For most of that time the Marshall thought he was being given plenty of latitude because they all thought she was a scam-artist as well, until it finally registered that she was sticking to her story, he wasn’t learning anything, and while he was being diverted by ‘Buffy’ everyone else was rushing around doing who-knows-what. Finally he realized that far from using him to trap a suspected con-artist, they were counting on her ability to baffle him with bullshit to occupy his attention while they did other things while he was distracted trying to figure out what the fuck the airhead was trying to say. It only then dawned on him that she wasn’t an ‘airhead,’ might not be a con-artist, and was completely trusted by everyone else in the room to do her part even though she, like him, didn’t have a clue as to what was actually going on.

He had just wasted three hours interrogating what appeared to be the only person on Brack’s staff who actually didn’t know what was really happening.

Unfortunately for the Marshall, by the time he figured that out, they’d completed whatever preparations they were working on while he was distracted. A small army of lawyers had arrived, the media had been informed, Micah Brack’s body would never be seen again, and Brack’s security team was making it abundantly clear that so far as they were concerned anything said by the Summers sisters --either of them-- was considered a direct order from Brack. At least, until the Heir arrived.

That qualifier got the attention of everyone else in the room, especially the media. There had long been rumors that Brack was training a successor who would inherit the bulk of his estate, but nobody outside of his closest confidants had ever met the mythical Heir. The Marshall doubted the subject had been brought up at random either, just as the legal team was there with the reporters who had finally been permitted to view the aftermath of the attack. Questions flew fast and furious, until finally Dawn agreed to make a statement. “Mr. Brack’s designated heir is a young man by the name of William Abramson. He will be arriving later tomorrow with Miss Rosenberg. We had hoped he would have more time to prepare for the duties he is about to assume, but I can assure you he is both capable of handling the job and fully up-to-date on all aspects of Mr. Brack’s diversified enterprises.

“Mr. Abramson also has the full confidence of not just me, but all members of Mr. Brack’s Board of Trustees. The transition of power will be seamless and without delay. Mr. Brack’s instructions will be followed to the letter. The head of his legal team will be releasing a statement within the hour with details on Mr. Abramson, his qualifications, and his likely first actions once he assumes full control over Mr. Brack’s business empire...”

Not being completely clueless, Buffy had a pretty strong suspicion as to the real identity of ‘William Abramson,’ but nobody would come right out and say it. It was however rather telling that those closest to Micah didn’t seem even slightly bothered by his ‘death’ while those beyond his inner circle were emotional basket-cases deep in mourning. It was telling that his guards, who had done everything humanly possible to protect him but who had in the end failed to do so, didn’t seem very broken up about it, and none appeared to be concerned that they would lose their job once the new guy showed up. Dawn, who had been his friend for decades and loved him so much she had tried to match him up with her sister, barely mentioned him, despite being disconsolate over the abduction of her husband.

Micah Brack hadn’t been a vampire. None of her slayer senses had pegged him for a monster, demon, or other denizen of the supernatural realm. But what else could survive having his entire chest being blown away? She knew with unshakable certainty that Dawn would never have tried to match them up had Micah been Evil, although she wasn’t quite certain what Dawn would do were he merely formerly-Evil. Dawn had liked both Angel and Spike, so didn’t tend to carry a grudge over what people did in the past, so long as they weren’t doing so in the present. But not even a vampire could have survived a wound like the one inflicted on Micah, and Buffy had no idea what sort of being could.

Buffy hadn’t told Dawn that her days of sleeping with monsters were behind her. She didn’t regret her past, but was finally mature enough to understand that no matter how awesome it might be at the start, such things always tended to end badly. In truth, she’d had it up to here with things ‘ending badly.’ With things ‘ending’ at all, in fact. Why did every relationship have to ‘end?’ She knew people whose parents had been married for decades and still seemed to love each other! Dawn herself had been married for more than fifty years. Just the thought of it boggled her mind. Fifty years! She couldn’t comprehend any relationship lasting that long... but she wanted to. Only she didn’t think it would be possible, at least for her, especially if the partner wasn’t even human.

Too many people were coming and going for them to even talk about it. The new guy wouldn’t be around for a whole 24 hours, which meant there were an unending stream of documents requiring Dawn’s signature, or a sharp word when it was something she refused to sign off on. Micah’s security people were observing the army of workers who had been brought in to fix the windows, floors, pipes, the roof, the wiring... everything that had been caught in the cross-fire had to be repaired and replaced. Despite the danger Cloe had been sent outside the Enclave to spy on the Optimum, just in case they planned to attack while Brack was out of the picture. Preliminary planning had to be enabled just to see if anyone could think of any way they might rescue Daniel.

Buffy had to be there to support her sister, who was old and scared and worried about her husband. In some ways she was grateful for the distraction the army of lawyers provided, as their constant demands for signatures or instructions prevented Dawn from obsessing about what might be happening to Daniel. The only good news was that he’d been through similar experiences many times in his life. Had this been back in his SGC days, Dawn mentioned that she might be jealous, as it usually ended up with the kidnappers wanting to seduce Daniel and have his children. Given that he was nearly a hundred years old, she thought it unlikely that Daniel would fall back on old habits this time.

The night passed. The next day did as well, frantic workers rushing about to get the damaged repaired before the new Lord of All He Surveyed arrived. Buffy found herself actually nervous, while Dawn seemed to calm down as the hour approached when William would arrive and she would no longer be responsible for running his business empire. Until finally Willow returned from wherever it was she had gone, smiling and almost hyper with excitement. She didn’t say anything, but neither did she take her eyes off of Buffy as the new Boss entered the huge, glittering, rebuilt apartment, strutting like he owned the place... which he did.

He’s just a kid!’ was her first thought. ‘My god is he a hunk’ was her second. The boy --he could not have been more than eighteen years old-- was gorgeous. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ brought to life. Blonde, curly hair, just a bit too long. Pouty lips, prevented from being effeminate by a square jaw and chiseled cheekbones. The cut, muscular physique of a decathlete. A powerful neck, and eyes grey as a storm-tossed sea.

Micah’s eyes.

Eyes that recognized her, and lit up the instant they saw her. Those passionate, pouty lips curved into a relieved smile. Brushing aside the small army of attendants scrambling for his attention, the young man --he’s just a boy, Buffy thought frantically, unable to move, unable to look away-- the young man approached her quickly, confidently, moving like a cat, the confident swagger of a lion stalking his lioness, casually tossing aside his coat to reveal a chest even more ripped than it had appeared under the coat. Without a word being said he took her in his arms, and kissed her like he had every intention of devouring her where she stood. There was passion, and attraction, and desire in that kiss, but mostly there was hunger, an almost primitive need to claim his mate and make that claim blatantly obvious to all observing so there could be no doubt as to who belonged to whom. Almost trembling with the passion unleashed by that kiss, Buffy absently noted that although he had ‘David’s’ face and chest, this man holding her so tightly was unmistakably larger than his stone counterpart in at least one area. And just as hard.

She had liked Micah. A lot. Liked his strength, his intensity, his commitment. But she’d wanted more. Wanted the passion that had attracted her so much to Angel and Spike and Faith. The fire that burned everything in its path, and made life worth living. The passion that this man had for her.

He was still Micah. Somehow she could tell, from the way he held her, the way he looked at her. This wasn’t a child ruled by his passions. This was a man who would try to think before he acted, who would never break his word or his faith. This was a man who believed what he believed and cared not a whit for any opinions to the contrary. But this was also a man who was young, bursting with life and vitality... and passion! This was William Abramson, and Buffy already wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything in her life.

And he had yet to say a single word to her.

He didn’t sound like Micah. It was a bit disappointing, as Micah’s voice had been deep and smooth like fine scotch. William spoke faster, the tone a bit higher, not even his formidable will capable of fully restraining the energies barely contained within his young body. But he was smart as hell, capable of handling multiple tasks on many issues while maintaining an otherwise normal conversation with his guests. Micah had been more modest, more reserved... but Micah hadn’t needed to impress anyone, and William did. He needed to show the people of the Enclave, the people who now worked for him --and the people who he now opposed-- that he was more than capable of filling his predecessors’ shoes. Virtually everyone he met came away from the encounter impressed with his intelligence, his intensity, his ability... and his desire for the woman whose hand he hadn’t released from the moment he entered Micah’s apartment.

Some of his guests looked at her strangely, having seen the media reports that she was shacking up with Brack, that he had thrown a mega-babe like Irina aside for her; yet one day after his death she was making a play for his replacement. Nobody actually called her a slut, however, because although William never came out and said anything directly, his body language made it emphatically clear that any insult sent her way would most definitely not be appreciated. A distinctly primitive look which suggested it might even be fatal.

It was an issue which would need addressing at some point, but for the moment Buffy was content to sit beside him, to hold his hand, to try understanding why nobody else could see what to her was so obvious. The way he moved his hands, the way his mouth twitched, the way he held his shoulders. They were subtle gestures, but all of them were mirrors to the way Micah Brack held himself. Granted that she was far more willing than most to consider the possibility that someone might come back from the dead, but she thought some of them might actually consider the idea of a brain transplant, or other mundane explanation for his similarities to Micah. But nobody did.

His inner circle, on the other hand, treated him so much like they would Micah that Buffy had to frown a few times at the casual acceptance of orders which would only come when the person receiving such orders had absolute confidence in the person issuing them. There should have been a breaking-in phase, an interval when William would have to ‘prove’ himself even to his closest followers, yet from their actions it was obvious all of the guards already had complete confidence in their new boss. Even the guests noted it, and a quick glance from Buffy was all it took for the guard commander to clamp down on interactions between William and the rank-and-file. In a few days it wouldn’t matter; right then, it looked just a bit ‘off,’ and they didn’t want anyone asking unnecessary questions.

His obsession with Buffy could be written off as her being the greatest courtesan since Mata Hari, but they needed to be careful that the others didn’t act too casually around him, which was why they didn’t let Cloe greet him until all the guests were gone. Nobody had ever told Cloe that her Watcher was immortal, but she’d mostly figured it out on her own, and when she returned she had a field day explaining things to Buffy and Lex.

“You’ve never seen it, but Mi... William has an entire art studio in one of the rooms here! He does sculpting and painting and photography and writes music and does photoshop creations on his computer that will blow you away! You’re not gonna believe this, but in one of his past lives, Micah used to be Leonardo da Vinci!!”

Willow sharply muttered “William!” and Cloe winced apologetically. Without a word being said, they all knew how important it was not to refer to their friend as ‘Micah’ ever again. Nobody knew what would happen were he to be ‘outed’ as an immortal, and none of them wanted to find out.

Lex, like Buffy, hadn’t been aware of his friends’ immortality --although they discussed everything else, Cloe hadn’t been willing to risk bringing up her suspicions during their chat sessions--so of course was excited by the discovery. Unfortunately he had received his entire education by watching television shows produced before the economy tanked. “So do you have a sword? Do you go around cutting off the heads of anyone like you? There can be only one!!” He almost knocked over a lamp wielding an imaginary sword.

Frowning at the boy who was now just as old, physically, as he was, William sighed as he was forced to explain one more time about his life. “There is only ‘one,’ Lex. I have never come across anyone like me. I was born nearly six thousand years ago in what is now Mesopotamia. My name, at birth, was Akharin. I can remember my mother’s face, and I think I may have had a sister, but mostly I recall being a drunk, a bully, and a fool. I was also a soldier, a profession which does not tend to reward those traits. The first time I ‘died’ it was due to my own stupidity, and in punishment I awoke a day after being buried according to the rites of my tribe. It was cold and dark and it took me a week to dig my way out of my own grave. Nearly six thousand years later it remains my clearest memory.”

He looked over at Buffy, squeezing her hand as hard as he could, and let her see the look in his eyes, a look of remembered horror that he would never have shown another living soul. Knowing that she, unfortunately, would understand it all too well. Even worse, she could return it, in full measure. One day they might even talk about it. Maybe. One day.

But not today.

“I do not recall much of my full history. As they grow old people tend to forget things, and I am no different. There are gaps of entire centuries in my mind; a normal lifetime spent performing tasks too menial or boring to bother recalling. What stands out are those things I learned that I should have thought of myself. I was more than three thousand years old before someone taught me about writing. I had never even considered the possibility of storing my memories in encoded symbols! Looking back it seems so obvious... but at the time, it never even crossed my mind. I started writing what would today be considered a diary back then... but now I cannot remember what language they were written in, or where I stored them once they were created.

“The same thing happened when someone showed me what is now called the Base-10 Arabic numeral system. And the concept of ‘zero.’ Things which in retrospect are obvious... but for untold generations, nobody ever thought of them.

“The secret of my immortality got out at various times. I was known as Lazarus, and Methuselah. I soon learned that it was best to keep my secret; to live a normal lifespan, and then move on. I age to the point where you saw me a few days ago, and do not age further... until I am somehow killed. Then my body regenerates, back to the age I appear now. From here I will begin to age normally, until the cycle repeats. This has given me much time to learn many things, and at one point I even thought I had learned wisdom. They called me Solomon back then.” He sighed, the look in his eyes one much older than his now youthful physique should convey.

“For the first four thousand years of my long life I mostly worked at my original profession. I was a soldier. I was fearless in battle, knowing I could not die. But I also learned enough to become a competent general. I was Alexander, and Cesar. I commanded vast armies and conquered vast territories. Millions were subject to my rule. Eventually I was worshiped as a God.

“Until... a time came when I believed that is exactly what I was.”

His voice faded out, and Buffy struggled not to feel awed. She was cuddling up with Alexander the Great! And Julius Cesar! And Solomon, and Lazarus, and who knows how many other great men of history! No wonder he had considered himself a God. The wonder was that he no longer did.

Brushing aside memories all those listening to him would have paid almost anything to be able to hear, William Abramson continued. “In many ways the Roman Empire was my creation. My greatest achievement; and my most dismal failure. I saw the mistakes I had made as Alexander, and thought I could create something that would have all the strengths of the Macedonian Empire with less of the excesses and imbalances which led to its fall. Instead I sowed the seeds for the destruction of what I sought to create, misled by delusions of my own divinity and omnipotence. The Roman Empire was great... but if I hadn’t been so... ahh, to this day I am filled with the bitter regret and despondent sorrow conveyed by four simple words; ‘what might have been!’

“After the Empire fell I turned my back on forcing change through military might and sought to bring beauty to the world through the various arts. As Cloe has already noted, I became a painter, a composer, an actor and a teller of tales.

“Eventually I learned that there are times when a single mental image can motivate men to change where the force of arms would invariably fail.

“The most famous of my artistic endeavors where done under the name of Leonardo da Vinci. However I take equal pride in the music I created, most notoriously under the names Johannes Brahms and Reginald Pollack. I can honestly say that I helped create some of the greatest music the world has ever heard.”

Okay, that was getting way too close to ‘I Am A God’ for Buffy’s taste, and she knew just what to do about it. “Really?! You were part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?!”

Not unexpectedly, that earned her a dirty look, which she returned with an innocent, if somewhat patronizing expression. None the less, it succeeded in deflating his ego for a second, although in her heart of hearts Buffy had to admit the guy deserved to be a bit conceited. Alexander the Great, Julius Cesar, Leonardo da Vinci... men who had shaped history. As the Slayer, Buffy had always felt that if nothing else her work was important, given that it affected the lives --if not the very survival-- of a great many people. What this man had done dwarfed her record into insignificance. Fortunately he even seemed to understand what she was doing, and gave her a quick smile to acknowledge the hit and started to gently rub his thumb over the back of her hand. “No. I never toured with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Okay; so my music was only slightly better than mediocre. But I bore witness to what would be called the Black Death. I spoke with Moses, and sailed with Captain Cook. I saw the Colossus of Rhodes when it stood tall and Troy when it was brought low.

“And in the end, I shaped history less than Gutenberg did working in his shop, or a fisherman whom I had casually dismissed as just another fool did teaching in Galilee.”

He fell silent, and so did his friends. They, at least, were thinking of the amazing things he must have seen, and grateful that the forbidden secret was finally out in the open. Willow had so many questions she had wanted to ask since he first told her his secret, and now desperately wanted to find the lost diaries he had so casually mentioned. Lex was imagining himself as a conquering lord, semi-clad babes adoringly grasping his feet. And Buffy...

“Uh... you know, several of those people were also famous for being homosexual... or at least bi.”

Both Willow and Dawn glared at her indignantly, and even Mi... William raised an eyebrow questioningly. “I was under the impression that you had experienced a same-six relationship yourself, Miss Summers.”

Feeling herself blush, Buffy wished she hadn’t said anything. It had just popped out! She could not be held responsible for words which appeared out of thin air! Explaining herself would only make it worse. For some reason she didn’t see anything wrong with two hot chicks making out, but felt uncomfortable at the thought of two men --no matter how sexy they were-- doing something similar. There had been a rumor she’d overheard about Angel and Spike having once done the nasty, but Buffy knew it was just slander. Neither Angel nor Spike would do such a thing, and definitely not with each other! The thought of this mega-hunk doing it with another guy was equally preposterous. Yet he wasn’t denying it, and there wasn’t anything Buffy could say now without sounding even more like a bigoted hypocrite.

Not frowning, but looking just slightly disappointed in her, William took the high road. “I have lived nearly six thousand years, Buffy. There isn’t anything I have not tried at least twice. I have learned that love is not something you choose. It chooses you. Then you make a choice. I chose love.”

No wonder he had seemed so emotionally detached. Everyone he'd ever loved had died. Everyone he ever might love would die. He alone would remain. Buffy still teared up when she thought of losing her mother and Giles. What might it be like for this man, who might remember a thousand people he'd loved but who had long since left him to exist alone in a world without their companionship? The wonder was that he had ever dared allow himself to love at all.

Knowing there wasn’t anything she could say that wouldn’t jam her foot even farther down her throat, Buffy was grateful beyond measure when Lex came to her rescue. “I agree. In fact, there was a time when even the Lex-inator Himself was tempted to investigate the possibility of pursuing a relationship with a person of the masculine-type persuasion.”

Instantly he was the center of attention. All of her friends had experienced Buffy saying something dumb. Nobody had ever heard of Lex having the slightest interest in a same-sex relationship. Naturally, once he had their complete attention, Lex milked it for all it was worth. “You need some background in order to understand how this event came to pass. I was a mere wee lad back then, barely fifteen, and unfamiliar with the ways of the flesh. Mom was having a gathering, for what I do not know, when one of her friends decided that the time had come to make me a Man. Alas, Anne Bancroft she was not. I won’t tell you her name --although her last name ends with ‘mith’ and her first name rhymes with ‘Wally’-- but she knew when I would be returning from school and decided to disrobe and lie on my bed when I inevitably tried to hide in my room rather than subject myself to the horrors of Mom’s coffee klatch.

“In an alternate universe this might have been sexy, but I was taken completely by surprise when I opened my door, and saw, lying there in the middle of my bed.... the Sarlacc pit from Revenge of the Jedi! Only, ah, bigger, and with more teeth and longer tentacles waving about trying to grab me and shove me head-first into that gaping, bottomless pit of Hell.”

There was dead silence, Willow vowing to have words with her daughter. Despite all the work she’d had done on herself, Holly Smith was still almost sixty years old, for Pete’s sake!

Unfortunately, Lex wasn’t finished. “I screamed in horror; everyone came running, and it was all very embarrassing. After a traumatic experience like that I came to doubt I would ever again be capable of having a relationship with a woman without experiencing flashbacks and nightmares and possibly gouging my eyes out. So, regretfully, I was forced to consider the possibility of looking to the male of the species for sexual relief. Alas, all of my friends and their friends were either ugly, straight, weird, or had some equivalent impediment making them collectively unacceptable for even being considered for an experimental test run.

“Eventually I was able to meet someone who promised to give me some guidance and information on the homosexual lifestyle. To be honest, he didn’t make it quite sound as tempting as I’d been led to imagine. Basically, he explained that I had to learn how to suck cock, learn how to take one the size of my forearm in the ass, learn how to enjoy taking combinations of E, Viagra, and meth in a bath-house with a dozen other guys I barely knew in order to relax enough for what would be little short of the gang-rape of my innocent rectum, learn how to partake in a Glory Hole, learn how to be the property of a hairy, sweaty, fat old bear who would be using me as his personal cub, learn how to listen to Oasis twenty four hours a day until finally I’d had enough and couldn’t take it anymore and I jumped up and shouted out in horror ‘I can’t stand Oasis!!!’”

There was dead silence, and many dropped jaws, as Lex concluded. “So, in the end, I concluded that the homosexual lifestyle wasn’t for me, and have been straight hetero ever since. Anyone else want a Coke?”

As he stood to get himself a carbonated beverage, he surreptitiously gave Buffy a quick wink. She owed him big for that one.

William cleared his throat and got the meeting back on track, to everyone’s noticeable relief. “I have lived long enough to know that things have been worse than they are now. Much worse. But it aggravates me that I cannot recall a time when things were this bad when they should be so much better than they are! We must stop the Optimum Movement, and to do so we must stop Her Majesty. We thought Buffy’s return meant that someone with the power to radically affect events saw what we saw and decided to lend us a hand. This was a mistake. They are not on ‘our’ side. They are on their own side, and have their own agenda. We also assumed that Buffy’s return implied that we would capture Pandora’s Box, and be able to use it against Her Majesty. Cleo’s dream certainly implied this. Unfortunately we did not consider the fact that Buffy possessing the Box eventually does not mean she is meant to have it now.

“For whatever reason, the beings who brought back Buffy wanted Her Majesty to have Pandora’s Box at this time. Fine. Realistically speaking, it was useless as a weapon anyway. It held utility only as blackmail material, and without knowing what is inside it I would never have allowed it to be opened, no matter what we said to Her Majesty. All she had to do was call our bluff, and we were effectively neutralized.

“Now, however, she has the urn. For the first time she has taken direct action against us, which in turn has finally forced the time-traveler who opposes her --Buffy overheard her troops refer to him as ‘Braxton’-- to also take a stand. I strongly suspect that having finally taken direct action neither of them will pull back in their horns afterwards. I would expect a visit from Mr. Braxton within the next few days. Because I doubt if he wants Her Majesty to have Pandora’s Box any more than we do... probably considerably less.”

His words made sense, and Buffy felt a sense of relief that she hadn’t screwed up as badly as she’d thought. It wasn’t only her who hadn’t anticipated the attack on Daniel. And if Alexander the frickin’ Great had been caught by surprise, there was no shame in her having been blindsided! Which brought up two thoughts; the powerful beings who had brought her back were sneaky and untrustworthy, and Daniel was going to go absolutely nuts when he learned how long his friend had been alive, and the many people whom William had been during all of recorded history.

Seeing her expression and guessing at least part of her thoughts, William shook his head. “Just because these beings aren’t on ‘our’ side doesn’t mean they are not, at worst, being ‘neutral’ in our favor. To be honest I should have thought through the implications when they did not simply give Pandora’s Box to you when they returned you to life. They wanted Her Majesty to attack us, and the urn was simply bait. Their objective all along might actually have been for her troops to abduct Daniel Jackson. Despite his age and infirmities, Daniel is an exceptionally dangerous man... I sincerely doubt Her Majesty realizes exactly how dangerous he can be. More importantly, Braxton has real weapons; weapons powerful enough to force Her Majesty to ‘raise shields’ and apparently hunker down to the point where she could not even support her troops attacking us.

“I want those weapons! I want them far, far more than i want an urn I do not dare open lest it blow up in our face.”

Buffy wasn’t the only one a bit skeptical of William’s final comment. Dawn wasn’t afraid to voice that opinion. “Braxton has weapons that can stop Her Majesty in her tracks, yet has been sitting on his fat ass for decades while she lobs nukes at us every time we try to get our economy going. He’s useless! Worse than that; I think he’s a coward! Even when he finally does something he won’t risk his precious skin. He’s not going to give us his weapons, and any ‘help’ he provides will be as useless as he is!”

That pretty much summarized Buffy’s thoughts as well, but William was shaking his head in disagreement. “No, he is not a coward. He might not have done much to help us, but he hasn’t abandoned us either. I suspect that either there is only so much he can do, or only so much he is allowed to do. It might be that his ship is badly damaged and he is not in a position to take on Her Majesty except under very favorable conditions. Or, perhaps, the rules and regulations he operates under state that he cannot interfere except under very specific circumstances.”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Lex spoke for all of them when he interjected. “Wonderful. Our ‘ally’ is a fucking bureaucrat!”

Acknowledging the point, William wasn’t as upset. “He is alone. He has a ship which can travel in both time and space. To put it in your terms, Lex; it is the Tardis and he is Dr. Who! Which means there are rules he must follow --some kind of ‘Temporal Prime Directive’ I would guess-- which he is following because he has seen enough of the consequences of not following it to accept that he must not interfere if it will only make things worse in the long run. Yes, he is a bureaucrat --perhaps even a fanatic-- but no matter how much we dislike it, he might have very good reasons for not helping us except under very specific circumstances. I am at least willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because I’m hoping that now with Her Majesty taking the gloves off, he might be able to as well.”

It was a valid point, and forced Buffy to reassess their potential ‘ally.’ More than anything, Braxton sounded to her like one of the useless drones on the Watcher’s Council. They also had access to staggering resources and could have done so much more to help the slayer, but for their own reasons chose not to most of the time. Giles had been just as disgusted with the Council as she was, but wasn’t as willing to tar them all with the same brush. His reasoning was that even if she didn’t agree with them, some on the Council had good reasons for making the choices they did.

Knowing that she wouldn’t listen if he tried to defend the Council, Giles had instead brought up an obscure ancient curb-stomp known as the Battle of the Metaurus River, where about eight Roman legions surprised Hasdrubal Barca’s reinforcements from Carthage during the Second Punic War and annihilated them. He had explained how the consul Claudius Nero had captured a messenger to Hannibal and was able to trap part of the invading army before they could combine and crush the legions opposing them. Had they been able to join forces, they might have gone on to conquer Rome itself. To Giles, however, the important part of the lesson wasn’t Nero’s choice to attack despite being ordered not to join up with the other legions opposing Hannibal. Giles knew that Buffy, like Nero, would always ignore any order she felt conflicted with her duty. His lessons were more subtle than that.

Instead he had talked about the fall of Rome, and the Dark Ages that succeeded it. The glory that was Rome would not be achieved again until the Renaissance, a thousand years later. During that thousand year period people lived in squalor and misery; a primitive, brutal existence where tribes fought and died for incremental changes that achieved nothing of historic significance. Untold numbers of people lived and died during that millennium, and although their lives weren’t ‘wasted,’ Giles could only imagine the opportunities they were denied because social conditions at the time prevented them from achieving anything history would later judge as ‘important.’ Entire nations and cultures rose and fell, forgotten by time, the hopes and dreams of their citizens lost because they lacked the opportunities to make lasting change.

Had Nero followed orders it is likely that at the very least Rome would have received a sound thrashing. One so humiliating they would have been forced to adapt to survive, but not so catastrophic they could not have eventually recovered. Had a vestige of Roman civilization survived, it is likely that the Dark Ages would have been significantly shortened, if not prevented entirely. What would it have been worth to prevent millions of people from having to live in squalid filth for a thousand years? What price would he be willing to pay to extend Roman civilization long enough to force the social changes which led to the Renaissance to occur centuries earlier? The Dark Ages extended for such a long period because society itself became rigid, ossified into an unchangeable pattern of master and serf, liege and vassal. For most people on the bottom of the social order their lives were perhaps slightly better than that of a Roman slave, but their opportunities to change things for themselves and their children were even less.

It had taken the Black Death to force a stagnant, brutal culture to finally change. What would he be willing to do to prevent the unparalleled horror that was the Black Death?

Knowing where he was going --or, at least, thinking she knew where he was going-- Buffy had gotten angry, and almost snarled that there was no way Nero could know the long-term implications of his victory, nor were they his concern even if he had. His job was to defend his country and his family, nothing more. Demanding he sacrifice not only his honor but his friends and family for some theoretical long-term ‘greater good’ was repugnant.

But that wasn’t the point Giles had been trying to make. He knew better than to ask a hero to be anything less than what they were. There were, however, people who occasionally did know the long-term negative consequences of seemingly ‘correct’ decisions. What if someone had known about the Dark Ages to come should Nero act as he had, and somehow prevented him from doing so? Would that choice have been justified? Many people felt that it would be acceptable to murder the baby Hitler had they the opportunity to go back in time before he unleashed the calamity of World War II. Would it be equally justified to assassinate a hero before he could unwittingly initiate events leading to something, in its own way, even worse?

Having given her plenty to think about, Giles had blind-sided her with his final remarks. “For all its faults, that is what the Watchers Council does. Yes, they are subject to the same petty jealousies and rivalries as any other group of imperfect human beings. However, for the most part, their intentions are good. The Dark Ages have never been repeated, in part because the Council took actions which at the time seemed unconscionable. Some of those decisions have been offensive. But just because you disagree with the choices they made doesn’t make those choices necessarily wrong. More importantly, while I would agree that Travers is a pillock and a contemptible swine, the decisions he has made don’t make him evil.”

It had been a hard lesson for her to take. Buffy wasn’t very good dealing with ambiguities. She preferred her evil-doers to be evil and for the good guys to wear white hats so they were easily identifiable. Unfortunately, as she got older things became increasingly blurry, the divisions between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ not so clear-cut. In terms of relative ‘evilness’ everyone seemed to be a shade of grey... including herself. A far cry from the simplicity of ‘see a vampire; stake a vampire.’

But the lesson had stuck. As most of Giles’ lessons somehow managed to do.

Interrupting the argument her trip though her memories had allowed her to ignore, Buffy spoke up, feeling that the debate was irrelevant. “Okay, we give Braxton a chance.” When Lex looked at her indignantly she simply shrugged. “It’s not like we have any other option, Lex. We need him.” Her expression hardened as she met everyone’s eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that we have to abide by his decisions. Following this ‘temporal prime directive’ thing might be so important to him that he’s willing to let us get nuked rather than violate it, but that doesn’t mean we have to as well. He doesn’t get a veto.” She scowled mulishly before reluctantly concluding. “But we, in turn, have to give him a chance to explain his reasons if he disagrees with a course of action we want to take. As William said, he might have a real good reason for following this ‘prime directive’ crap.”

She hadn’t liked saying it, because no matter the arguments to the contrary, Buffy would have defended Nero against a Council assassination squad with her dying breath. Murdering good people due to vague portents might be okay for the Council losers, but that wasn’t the way a slayer rolled. From their betrayed expressions both Lex and Cloe were of similar mind. But Dawn and Willow were nodding in agreement, and William was looking at her speculatively. She raised an eyebrow questioningly.

In return she received a slightly chagrined smile. “Oh, I agree with you! It has just been a long time since I got my marching orders from anyone else... even orders that made sense.” He smiled as Buffy’s eyes widened in horror as she realized that she wasn’t ‘in charge,’ she wasn’t even the only slayer in the room, everyone had more experience in this situation than she did, and one of them used to be Alexander the frickin’ Great! Talk about overstepping your bounds!

Except, honestly, nobody else seemed particularly upset. Things might have been different had she been demanding they attack the winery again, but this time even those who didn’t like her decision realized that they didn’t have a lot of options. She stood up to apologize, but all that came out was a squeak as she suddenly found herself being lifted and tossed over William’s shoulder, feeling his hand lightly smacking her ass. “In fact, I think it is about time I reasserted my manhood. Good night everyone.”

Buffy could easily have escaped the humiliating hold as he hauled her from the room like a sack of potatoes, but she was too busy giggling as he began singing ‘Champagne Supernova’ in a surprisingly Gallagher-esque voice.

How many special people change?
How many lives are living strange?
Where were you while we were getting high?
Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannon ball
Where were you while we were getting high?

The End?

You have reached the end of "Redefining Normal" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 1 Jun 11.

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