Disclaimer: I own nothing: All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Ronald Searle characters are the property of their original owners.
Brenda Cholmondeley-Featheringstone-ffffolkes (regarding that, every single person in proper English high society knew how to correctly pronounce this last name as ‘Chumf’) woke up from a perfectly wonderful dream of strangling her bitterest rival at St. Trinian’s. At least, it had been wonderful right up to the moment when her purple-faced enemy had managed to pull out a dagger from under the skirt of her school outfit, and then stabbed Brenda to death with this weapon.
Her eyes flying open, Brenda abruptly clutched her fingers closed, only to grasp empty air, as she gasped for breath while staring up at the ceiling. Which, by the way, was naked stone instead of the normal plaster of the common room ceiling stained with blood, soot, and other souvenirs of the normal chaos occurring at her school, the most dangerous educational facility for girls in all England (and maybe the entire world). Performing the usual check for enemies in her vicinity, Brenda warily looked around without raising her head, to then find herself someplace that was completely unfamiliar. Instead of the common room where just a few seconds ago she’d been happily choking someone into unconsciousness, this young woman was lying upon her back on some sort of stone platform, with this material also entirely used throughout in the floor, walls, and as noted, the ceiling of the small, bare room. Dim, indirect lighting, whose source she couldn’t detect, also revealed that she was alone in the room.
Cautiously getting off the platform, Brenda stood by this, to then disbelievingly give herself an experimental prod at the center of her deep cleavage proudly presented as her uniform blouse gaped open where her foe’s knife had sunk to its hilt. However, instead of a fatal wound that should have been there, her smooth skin was totally unmarked, and her body felt perfectly normal.
Sending another, more searching glance around herself, Brenda now noticed for the first time the three doors set in a vertical row at the far wall. Blinking at this, the St. Trinian’s student also saw that these doors also seemed to be the only ways into or out of this strange room. Shrugging, Brenda then strolled over to these panels and stopped in front of them, suspiciously eyeing the doors numbered in sequence on their faces in a large ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’.
Frowning thoughtfully, Brenda wondered what to do next. The most obvious thing was to open Door Number One, but that might be exactly what whomever had mysteriously sent her here wanted to happen, for possibly nasty reasons of all kinds. So, pick one of the other doors….except the same objection applied to that, too. At last making up her mind, Brenda muttered, “Oh, the hell with it,” and without the slightest hesitation, she grabbed the doorknob of ‘1’, twisting this and then yanking the door open.
An unknown period of time later, Brenda finally uncurled from where she’d been huddled upon the stone floor, fearfully peeking through her fingers clasped over her eyes, to then sigh in utter relief at seeing that door had swung itself shut upon all those ghastly sights, sounds, and smells now permanently seared into her cringing mind.
Getting up on her trembling legs, Brenda hastily sidled away from that terrifying door on the far left, now finding herself in front of Door Number Two in the middle of the wall. Glumly regarding this seemingly innocent panel, the young woman knew she had no other choice, as she reached out to again use the doorknob. Only this time, Brenda opened the door by its merest crack before immediately shutting it. Pausing with her hand still upon the doorknob, the eighteen-year-old now looked puzzled, until she slowly opened the door fully ajar this time.
Standing there, Brenda dubiously examined what looked like a solid wall of….fog or some other grey vapor maintaining itself right at the doorway’s edge. Continuing to swirl and move as if affected by unseen forces, the fog looked as if it was pressing up against some kind of invisible window placed across the entire doorway, unable to pass through this to pour into the room. Reaching out to give an inquiring poke to see if this was indeed true, Brenda’s pointing index finger dipped right into the vertical surface of the fog. An immediate sense of absolute peace and calmness flashed through the young woman’s mind, affecting even her horrendous memories of what she’d just witnessed a minute ago through the other door and making them fade away, along with her other thoughts and anxieties, as the girl started to slowly sway upon her feet, beginning to lean forward….
Just before she would have fallen through the doorway, a last-second stab of absolute panic burst into Brenda’s brain, causing her to stagger back, as the young woman also yanked her finger out of the fog’s surface. Gasping at her narrow escape, Brenda gingerly reached out to grab the edge of the door and then she forcefully shoved this before letting go, taking another step back as the door smoothly closed, to hide once more an utterly innocuous trap.
Taking in a deep breath, Brenda now moved over to the right, at where the last door waited, ol’ ‘3’ itself. Giving herself a few more moments to work up her courage, the girl now carefully opened this door, and she found behind this panel another small room, with an ordinary, unoccupied chair in front of an equally prosaic wooden office desk, where behind this piece of furniture was seated a guy with an eyepatch, who now glanced up from reading the file in his hands and cheerfully called out, “Hiya, Brenda! C’mon in, have a seat, and we’ll get started!”
Brenda promptly slammed the door closed. Hard.
Standing there in front of the door, fists clenched at her sides and her eyes vexedly squeezed shut, the young woman ground her teeth together for several seconds, until she again opened her eyes, a truly evil expression now upon her flawless features. Reaching out for the door once more, Brenda flung this open to bang against the wall, as she then stalked into the room, dropped into the empty chair, sullenly folded her arms across her ample chest, and then this English aristocrat snarled at the grinning man across from herself, “All right, even if I’m some sort of stupid remake of ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’, why does it bloody have to be with a Yank angel?!”
“It’s just like being yelled at by Spike again, only with a more posh accent,” nostalgically drawled the man, all while beaming at a dumbfounded girl. Before she could actually explode, Brenda was then informed by that guy waggling his finger at her for emphasis, “Sorry, honey, but you only got one out of three. I’m originally from sunny California, so calling me a Yankee makes as much sense as referring to a Cockney as a Scouser. And lots of people back home would have gone into absolute hysterics at me being labeled some kind of angel, when I’m just a regular human. Like you were.”
Brenda opened her mouth, about to blisteringly tell this prat that nobody
called her ‘honey’ unless they actually wanted a beehive shoved up their-- Uh-oh.
“Were?” instead whispered the young woman, who again glanced down at a particular spot on the front of her body.
“’Fraid so. You’re dead, Miss….Chumf,” finished the man, bestowing at the file in his hands a rather incredulous look.
There was silence in the room for a long minute, until Brenda finally sighed, and muttered, “I knew that, I suppose, but I really didn’t believe it. So….what happens now?” As she finished that last sentence, the girl had an appealing look on her face that made her appear much younger than her true age. The waiting man in his own chair sent back a sympathetic gaze, along with a firm answer.
“That’s up to you, just like it’s always been. Look, just let me lay it out for you, all right? I can do it all in just a couple of minutes if I’m not interrupted, so here goes.” The man took a deep breath, causing his eyepatch to shift on his features, as he now steadily spoke to the intent girl.
“I’m Xander Harris, and I’m from an entirely different dimension from you. Think of it as an alternate universe, if you like. Now, back home, me and my friends, we cut a deal with, um, the powers of this dimension regarding people like you from Earth. To be specific, St. Trinian’s students. For their own reasons, those powers went along, and so this pocket dimension was created.”
The guy with the weird name absently waved his hand around the office, to then earnestly go on. “Now, because you wound up here after dying, that meant you could make a choice on where to go next.”
A quick finger was jabbed up in the air as a warning gesture, when Brenda began to open her mouth. “You’re in a state of balance at this exact moment, kiddo; what you’ve done before in your past life wasn’t all that nice, so you don’t get a ticket through the Pearly Gates. On the other hand, you weren’t so evil as to take a direct elevator express to the lower depths. You with me so far?”
Slumping back in her chair, a paling Brenda asked, “That last place, it was behind Door Number One?”
“Yup,” sadly nodded Xander.
Hastily searching for any other topic to get away from her awful recollections of what she’d momentarily witnessed through that panel, Brenda abruptly frowned at what had just occurred to herself. “What about Door Number Two?”
Xander instantly replied, “Oblivion,” and went on to further add, “Or, if you prefer, Limbo, Purgatory, Lethe, what have you. Go through that door, you totally forget who you were, your entire past existence -- all the good and all the bad of it.”
“Oh,” a taken-aback Brenda said, thinking this over. Still, she couldn’t resist asking, “For how long?”
Giving her an oddly compassionate glance, Xander gently answered, “For the rest of eternity, honey.”
Despite herself, Brenda shivered. She then had a quick look around the bare office, going on to inquire a bit skeptically, “And this
is choice number three?”
Xander shrugged and mildly replied, “It’s your best chance to go on to a better place in the fullness of time, Brenda. Unless you pick the final option, which is to head back into the other room and repent in there, for however long it takes until somebody’s satisfied that you mean it. Or, if you like, you can come back home with me, to live again in my dimension.”
Brenda abruptly sat upright in her chair, narrowing her eyes suspiciously at the man across from herself, as she demanded, “What’s the catch?”
“I want you to be a Watcher.”
That resulted in a lot more explanations from Xander after that bewildering statement from him regarding this option, until Brenda finally cut him off by shouting, “Are you insane?!
I wouldn’t trust me
with a discarded apple peeling now, and you
eventually want to put me in charge of some young lassie with superhuman powers? How do you know I won’t corrupt her, or abscond with the New Council’s funds, or do something even worse?!
Xander’s benevolent smile stretched from ear to ear, as he happily remarked to the furious woman, “I can tell that you and Faith will get along just fine, exactly like a house on fire.” There was a short pause, as the man then looked a bit thoughtful, only to reassure himself in a quick aside under his breath, “No, there wasn’t anything in the file about arson--”
Brenda Cholmondeley-Featheringstone-ffffolkes then shrieked at the top of her very healthy lungs the exact objection that would have made every inhabitant living within a hundred miles of her outrageous school nod their heads in shared agreement over the sheer absurdity of the former Sunnydale resident’s recent offer:
“I’M A ST. TRINIAN’S GIRL!
“Which makes you an ultimate survivor, who has enough darkness in her soul to recognize and refuse to yield to any further temptations, and will strive to their utmost to protect someone they allow themselves to actually care about,” quietly replied Xander.
Brenda stared at the man who’d just said those unbelievable words, all while clearly meaning them, and then she burst into tears.
As he reached for the tweed handkerchief in his pocket (one of a dozen from Giles at the Scoobies’ last Christmas party), Xander Harris mentally chalked up on his internal scoreboard yet another successful recruiting drive.