Brave New World - Or You Know...
Beta: LolaAnn, MissE and RevDorothyL – the most wonderfull betas a girl could ask for!A/N2:
I’m planning to go over this story and revise some important details. So keep an eye out for new revised chapters (if you’re interested).~*~*~*~Chapter Nine: Brave New World
– Or, You Know, the Same one + Monsters~*~*~*~
After a week of not much happening Puck was healed and pretty much back to normal. He had been caught up with a few of the gang’s past adventures and was still trying to process the whole idea that monsters were real. So when Puck and Willow arrived at school that Monday, they met up with Buffy and Xander in the student lounge as usual before first period. The Vampyr
book was heavy in his backpack, but he was planning on giving it back to Giles when they went to the library at lunch. There was to be a Scooby meeting and his first official introduction to the world of Demon fighting. The chemistry book he had checked out as a cover was still in his locker, untouched – that would have to be returned soon, too, or he would have to pay the late fee. Puck heaved a sigh and slumped in his seat on the couch next to Willow.
“What’s with you, Puck-man? Usually, you’re not one for the deep sighs,” Xander said from across the coffee-table.
“He’s just anxious about that thing we’re gonna do at lunch,” Willow said helpfully, before Puck could draw breath to reply. Puck smiled at her, then he looked back to Xander and smirked for maximum effect.
“Nah, it’s Giles, man. I sort of stole a book from the library a few weeks ago.” He had not anticipated the reaction he got as three pairs of eyes pinned him to the couch cushions.
“Which book?” Buffy asked in a very scary tone of voice, and Puck knew that he wasn’t looking at Buffy Summers anymore – he was looking at the Slayer.
“Does it matter?” Puck asked carefully.
“Yes,” all three said together – and that was kind of scary too.
“Huh, it’s some weird old book, scary looking, says Vampyr
on the front cover. The dude who wrote it couldn’t spell worth a damn either, I spell better than that guy and sometimes even I have trouble guessing what I’ve written.” As Puck mentioned the title of the book Willow, Buffy and Xander seemed to relax and tense up at the same time.
“That was the one that didn’t fit,” Willow said after a few seconds of complete silence.
“At least we can cross insane vampires resurrecting the Master
off the list,” Xander said quietly, since students were starting to fill the halls.
“At least there is that,” Buffy agreed and slumped back against the couch. Puck looked from one to the other, but couldn’t quite figure out if they were relieved or terrified.
“So, what does that mean?” Puck asked after a few more minutes of tense silence.
“It means that apocalypse season is coming early this year,” Willow said and leaned against him. Puck looked at her in disbelief, not knowing if she was serious or if she was exaggerating.
“But, what about the books? Someone else robbed the library?”
did. We don’t even know who or what it could be. We thought it might be vamps since the Vampyr
book was missing too, but now we just don’t know anymore,” Buffy said, sounding kind of depressed over the fact.
“Sorry,” Puck offered, and he meant it. If he’d known that he would cause his friends so much trouble he would never have taken it.
“Don’t get me wrong; Giles will, without a doubt, glare at you and sigh disappointedly, but there is definite relief that it was you, and not the evil undead, who took that book,” Willow said from where she rested her head on his shoulder.
“Yes, definite happies about that. No one wants to face the Master again,” Xander glanced over at Buffy, who was looking decidedly green around the gills.
“Who’s this Master guy?” Puck wanted to know and felt Willow tense against him. Xander’s eyes snapped between him and Buffy nervously; it was obvious, to anyone who bothered to look, that Puck was clogdancing all over a raw nerve.
“He was a vampire – a very old, very powerful vampire. I died killing him,” Buffy said, and the topic was officially closed. A tense silence descended over the four friends.
“So, do you know who she was?” Willow wondered after a few strained seconds. Puck figured she was continuing a conversation from earlier, possibly from the very important phone call that morning that just couldn’t wait until the two girls saw one another at school.
“Her who? Oh! I’ve never seen her before; she had really dark hair and an old-fashioned dress, very pretty.” Buffy looked kind of sad, and when Willow asked her next question, Puck figured Buffy wasn’t far from tears.
“Do you think she was a… grrr?” Willow screwed up her face in an imitation of a vampire’s monster mask.
“Maybe. I don’t know. They looked pretty friendly from where I was lurking.”
“Rewind an hour… Who looked friendly?” Xander, always the oblivious one, asked.
“Angel and some girl,” Puck sneered at Xander in a keep up
kind of way.
“Sorry for having my mind somewhere that is not here,” Xander groused, but continued in a more upbeat tone “But it sounds to me like the Buffster needs some cheering up! Let’s all go to Bronze tonight, I’ll buy drinks.”
“I’d suggest Oreos dunked in apple juice, but maybe she’s over that phase.” Buffy twisted in her seat to get a look at who was speaking and as soon as she laid eyes on him, she jumped up with a squealed “Ford!”
“I’m assuming we know this guy, and are very
happy to see him,” Xander deadpanned while he watched Buffy and the new guy closely. Puck renewed his plans of talking to Xander about his jealous possessiveness towards the girls, but he kept an eye on the guy. There was something about that dude that didn’t sit right with him.
“Oreos and apple juice? That’s seriously nasty… not even Britt would eat that,” Puck muttered, but was ignored, or not heard, over Buffy’s newfound enthusiasm.
“Ford, meet my friends: Willow, Puck and Xander. Guys, this is Ford.” Willow gave Ford a little wave, Xander jerked his head in what was supposed to be a nod, and Puck greeted the new guy with a nod and a “sup.”
“We went to Hemery together, in L.A,” Buffy explained as she linked her arm with Ford’s, Puck smirked as Xander frowned.
“I’m sensing history,” Puck said, smiling, with his arm around Willow. “Tell the truth, Summers, are you two old sweethearts?” Xander’s frown got noticeably darker, and when Puck laughed at him he got pinched in the side by Willow. The nagging feeling that there was something more to Ford than met the eye, kept reminding him not to let his guard down in front of him. But he could play the cool relaxed badass if he had to, joking around and teasing with his friends.
“Don’t I wish,” Buffy said and glanced up at Ford. “I had the biggest crush in fifth grade, but he wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
“Please, I was a studly sixth grader; I couldn’t go for someone that young.” Ford smiled and put an arm around Buffy’s shoulders as if to say, ‘I was so stupid back then, but now I’ve seen the error of my ways.’ Puck snorted, wondering when the gangly half-dweeb had ever been studly.
“I need to find the admissions office, to get all those papers in order,” Ford said after they all shared a laugh over Buffy’s old humiliation. Puck just thought that he wanted to get away from Xander’s glare, or maybe he just wanted to get Buffy alone.
“I’ll take you there,” Buffy said and dragged Ford down the hall by his arm. Halfway out the door they could hear her ask if he wanted to come to the Bronze that night. She didn’t need to convince him – he accepted before she had even finished asking. That set Xander off again, grumbling about attractive guys from L.A ruining his chances. Willow pretended that she couldn’t hear him, but turned to Puck.
“He was nice; I liked him.”
“I don’t know,” Puck glanced down at her. “I thought he was kind of shifty.”
“Right! He was very shifty with his shiftiness all over our Buffy,” Xander exclaimed, almost falling out of his seat in his excitement. Xander’s shouting seemed to work like a summoning charm for principals, because – without them noticing – Principal Snyder was there, glaring at them.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” he asked with his creepy little voice, and squinting his rat-like eyes. It was like it physically hurt him to look at them. Willow jumped up immediately with a slightly panicked expression.
“French! I can’t be tardy. I’ve never been tardy, and if I’m tardy it’s gonna be on my permanent record! And teachers will look at me and say, ‘Willow, you are a tardy person who is tardy’. Come on, Xander, we need to hurry!” She grabbed hold of Xander and took off, dragging him behind her like a ragdoll. Puck remained where he was, looking up at Snyder calm as can be.
“Puckerman,” Snyder said in a warning tone, glaring at Puck as if he offended the law just by existing.
“Principal Snyder,” Puck said, as if he was greeting the man and not making fun of him.
“Get your pimply butt to class, boy, or I swear I will suspend you. And I hear you are already in considerable trouble. I wonder what a suspension would add to your punishment?” Snyder smirked as if he had won some kind of twisted game, but Puck had an answer ready for him.
“I don’t think it would do very much to add to it, sir. I would just have more time to practice on my guitar.” He heaved himself up from the couch and strutted down the hallway towards his Spanish class, feeling accomplished and more badass than he’d felt since long before Sectionals.~*~
Puck was out of his seat as soon as the bell rang to signal the end of the last class before lunch. He was first out of the classroom and was sprinting towards his locker before many students had even filled the halls. He met up with Willow and Xander on his way to the library, and he thought that it was strange that Buffy wasn’t with them. It wasn’t often you saw one without the other two, or two without the other one.
“Hey, Wills, Xander, where is Buffy?” Puck asked as he came up behind them.
“She’s at the library already. Giles wanted her help with...,” Willow started but was interrupted by Xander.
“Taxes!” he exclaimed, and looked almost as surprised, at what came out of his mouth as Puck and Willow felt.
“What? That doesn’t even make sense,” Willow chastised her friend as they pushed through the swinging doors of the library. They were greeted by the sight of Buffy, sitting at the big table surrounded by several tall stacks of books. She looked up as she heard the doors close and was out of her chair in no time at all.
“Yay! My friends are here!” she called out in a sing-song voice and went to pull them all into a group hug. As she held them she whispered, “Help me! He’s gone bonkers,” in an urgent tone. Willow’s eyes went round and she wanted to know what Giles was doing that was so crazy.
“He’s making me do research, Will, research!” Buffy continued in that same urgent whisper.
“Oh, Buffy, that is
madness,” Willow said with genuine sympathy.
“That’s what I said. You gotta help me,” Buffy pleaded and looked each of them in the eye, Puck was surprised to see that there was actual pain there. He patted her a little on the shoulder, but it was kind of awkward and he only got in a pat or two before he had to pull his hand back.
“Don’t sweat it, Buff, we’ve got your back.” Xander didn’t feel the awkwardness Puck felt in this situation, and he didn’t have any problem with putting his hand on Buffy’s shoulder, almost at her neck, and giving it a long squeeze.
“Oh, good, you’re here,” Giles said from where he had appeared from behind a bookcase, carrying even more books to add to the stacks.
“Please don’t let him make me do more research,” Buffy begged, “I’ve been reading for like 15 minutes and I can’t take any more.”
Puck nodded in understanding, because no one likes homework, right?
“Willow,” Giles sighed and took his glasses off to clean, “what is Noah doing here?” Willow looked from Giles to Puck and back again with a little frown, like she was trying to figure out why he shouldn’t
is standing right here, dude: you could just ask me,” Puck said, and he could feel that part of him rising again, the part that threw losers in dumpsters and locked geeks in port-a-potties. Puck could admit that Giles was kind of cool, in a stuffy British way, but he did not like being ignored, and he would not stand for it.
“That was rude of me, of course; I do apologize. Noah, what are
you doing here?” Giles turned to Puck, and he could feel that Giles wasn’t in the greatest mood for some reason, and that he was quickly losing his patience. This made Puck feel better, so he shrugged and said, “Willow invited me,” then he went and sat down in Buffy’s vacated chair.
“Willow! He is looking at the books, why
is he looking at the books?” Giles was pointing at Puck with his glasses as he was glaring at Willow.
“Calm down, Giles; you’ll give yourself an aneurism,” Buffy said as she walked past him to join Puck at the table. “He’s already read the Vampyr
book. I’d say it’s too late to hide anything, anyway.”
“He has what
? Noah, what is she talking about? How did you get that book? It was stolen several weeks ago.” Giles was rubbing his glasses again, looking from Xander to Buffy to Willow to Puck and then back again.
“Yeah, I stole it. Sorry about that.” Puck took the book, along with his lunch in its brown bag, from his backpack and put it on the table. The cover had hardly touched wood before Giles was there to pick it up and inspect every page for damage.
“This book is over three centuries old; if you’ve harmed it in any way I will have your hide,” Giles cautioned as he thumbed through the pages, carefully examining every edge and lining. “How he even found the private section is, of course, something I have to look into. Maybe the charms are failing,” Giles muttered to himself as he walked away from the main area of the library to, presumably, return the Vampyr
book to its rightful space.
“Do any of you have any idea what he’s talking about?” Puck asked as they all stared after their annoyed teacher.
“None whatsoever,” Buffy said as the other two just shook their heads. Willow sat down in a chair across the table from Puck, and Xander took the only seat open, to Willow’s left, and they each grabbed a book from two different piles. Puck stared at them for a few seconds before hesitantly picking up a book of his own.~*~
“So, what are we reading about?” Puck asked after a while, since he wasn’t getting a lot of what he was reading.
“We’re working off the assumption that the Anointed One is up to something, so we need to find out what. And now we’re reading books on prophecies to see if anything is foretold,” Willow answered from behind her book, not looking up but continuing to read and flip pages at a rapid pace.
“So, how much trouble can this ointment guy make? ‘Cause he doesn’t sound scary, like, at all.” Puck’s statement was met with incredulous silence, but he just kept flipping through the book. He looked up at the others and noticed them watching him as if he’d told them that he didn’t like jelly doughnuts.
“The Anointed One
is a lot of trouble, not just because he has more powers than the garden variety vamp, but because no one would suspect him to be that evil. I mean he looks like a sweet little kid,” Buffy explained, looking kind of sad as she absently looked at whatever pictures she could find in the thick book in front of her.
“It’s been pretty quiet for a while now, not even that many new vamps around. So we figure he’s planning something. I’m hoping it’s a party, but I don’t think that’s it.” Xander put down the first book and reached for a second, almost knocking a tower of books down over Willow’s head in the process.
“A kid Vampire? That’s just wrong in so many ways,” Puck muttered as he went back to his book and reached for his bagged lunch – he had an apple in there that was just screaming his name.
“No eating in the library!” Giles called from some dark corner of the library, where he couldn’t possibly see what they were doing at the table. Puck’s hand froze halfway inside the bag, his fingertips barely touching the apple, and with eyes wide in astonishment he looked up at his friends. The others just looked back with wide eyes of their own, shrugging to answer Puck’s unasked question. He quickly pulled his hand back; he really didn’t want to get Giles angry again. When he first met the librarian, Puck hadn’t thought that he could ever be afraid of the man. But when Giles threatened to skin him, he could tell that he meant it and that he could, and would
, do it if he wanted to.~*~
“So,” Puck said after putting his first book aside and picking up a new one, “what’s up with that gym teacher?”
“What?” Buffy asked from beside him, clearly confused by the abrupt change of subject.
“Last week you said something about a pattern and you wanted Willow to hack the school to check it out. Then Xander went all rambly with the explanation when I asked about the gym teacher. And then there was that ‘studying at the Bronze, catching a movie,’ lie. So I figure the gym teacher’s disappearance has something to do with something. Am I wrong?” Puck looked from Buffy to Willow, skipping Xander since he was very into the book in front of his face.
“Umm, no, you’re not wrong, but we took care of that already. I’m kind of amazed that you put that together, Noah.” There was no mistaking Willow’s shock over Puck’s ability to put seemingly unrelated pieces together and come to an accurate conclusion. Puck frowned at his cousin and huffed in annoyance.
“I might not be as smart as you, Will, but I’m not stupid.”
“I know you’re not, Noah – of course you’re not stupid!” She said, leaning towards him and staring him intently in the eye.
“Yeah, whatever… hey, what about this? ‘There will be a time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance. And in this time shall come the Anointed, the Master’s greatest Warrior. And the Slayer will not know him, will not stop him and he will lead her into…
’ oh, shit.” Puck quickly looked up from the page, staring wide-eyed at the girl next to him. She seemed a little pale but he didn’t know if it was because of what he had read or because of the thoughts running through her head. She had been a little subdued for a while.
“I distinctly remember a severe lack of that in the Master’s chamber; he was surprisingly clean for a guy trapped in a cave for over 70 years,” Buffy stated as the silence stretched out in the library.
“Are you serious?” Puck asked with raised eyebrows, but before anyone could say anything else the double doors to the library swung open. Puck, Willow and Buffy all turned their heads to see who it was. Xander, however, was still lost in his book and didn’t even flinch as the doors clattered closed again.
“There you are, Buffy, I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Ford smiled as he came closer, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Ford’s gaze flickered between the other three teenagers around the table, and then lingered on the books for just a second too long to be casual. Puck frowned at this and when Ford noticed he quickly looked away and focused his attention on Buffy, who had jumped out of her chair as soon as she saw him walk through the door. Puck noticed that his eyes didn’t look higher than her chest. Sure Buffy was hot, but you didn’t just ogle a girl’s boobs when she was looking right at you.
“Here I am,” Buffy smiled back at her old friend for a beat before letting it fall as she asked “What do you want?”
“I, umm…”Ford’s eyes went back to Buffy’s face as he fumbled for an answer, though his gaze strayed back to the table time and again. “I just wanted to ask if you’d have lunch with me.” He gave her a charming smile and looked deep into her eyes, making it very clear that the others were not invited.
“You have impeccable timing, seeing as it is lunch time, and all.” Buffy jumped up from her seat and started towards the doors with Ford in tow.
“What were you guys doing, anyway?” Ford wondered as he held the door while Buffy walked through, looking back towards the table with eyebrows raised in curiosity. The doors closed before they could hear Buffy’s answer, but they could hear the sound of two friends laughing, so it was probably okay. Puck looked over at Willow, she was watching the library doors with a pensive frown on her face, absently tapping her finger against the spine of the thick book she was holding.
“Hey, Will, how about we blow this joint and get some food?” Puck said as he tossed the book he’d been reading back on the table. The book slid across the polished surface and fell off the other side right into Xander’s lap. The unexpected disturbance seemed to wake the boy from his deep trance and he looked up with a little shake of his head.
“Did someone mention food? Hey! Where’d Buffy go?” Willow turned her frown on Xander but didn’t say anything. She just took the book from his limp fingers with a little shake of her head.
“Really, Xander?” Willow raised one eyebrow so high it almost disappeared in her hairline, Xander crossed his arms over his chest in a defensive gesture.
“What?” Xander squeaked and leaned back in his chair, away from Willow. She just shook her head and put Xander’s discarded book in a pile on her other side, as far away from Xander as she could.
“So, are we going to lunch or not?” Puck was getting a little impatient – not to mention hungry – while his friends were arguing, without really arguing, over a boring book.
“Definitely,” Xander answered as he stood from his chair and rushed out of the library without waiting for the others.
“What’s with him?” Puck wanted to know as he waited for Willow to get her stuff together.
“Nothing – he was just looking at woodcarvings of naked witches; I think he was a little embarrassed,” she sighed, and put another book in her bag. Puck didn’t know why he was surprised: if demons and vampires were real, why wouldn’t witches be too? But he had to ask, anyway, just to be sure.
“Witches are real too? Like Harry Potter?”
“No, not like Harry Potter! But yes, witches are real.”~*~*~*~End of Chapter Nine~*~*~*~