Decisions - Part Three
When Oz had finished singing it seemed as if there wasn’t a dry eye in the place and even the Host was wiping at least one eye.
“Kid,” he said, as Oz stepped down from the stage, “That was great. Sad as hell, but great. There’s a vampire over there who’s sobbing into his beer over how he never got to say goodbye to his mother. Terrific.” He paused and beckoned him to one side.
“Ok, here’s what I saw. You’ve come a long way. And you’re a Jedi who’d rather talk than fight sometimes. Consular is the right word? Ok. But you’re wondering about what else you want to do. Simple answer – teach. And heal, when you need to. I see medicine ahead, as well as lightsabres. There’s a lot out there that needs to be done. There’s a lot of fighting ahead, there’s no way around that, as you know. But yes, there’s a lot of good you can do. A lot of things that you can prevent. Kenobi-kins is the general, but you’re more the diplomat. Go to it, kid. There, that wasn’t too hard, was it? I need another Seabreeze though, as there goes Xanderoonie.”
Oz nodded slowly and then looked up. There was Xander, as he strode to the microphone. He paused to adjust it up to his height and then looked around the club. “Talk To Me,” he said, and then started to sing.
As the first notes hit, the Host closed his eyes and then flinched. Oz did some flinching of his own. He had a feeling that Xander’s viewing would be more stressful than his own.
The Host was waiting for him when Xander left the stage. He wasn’t pale, by his standards, but he did look a bit pinched around the eyes. “Nice song,” he said, clutching at his multi-coloured drink and taking a determined sip at it. “That’s better. Ok, kid, you want the full Monty? I don’t know why I keep saying that, some cockney guy said it the other day and now I use it all the time.”
“The low-down. The information you came here for?”
Xander paused. This was what he had came for after all. The question was, what was it? Did he really want to take that step to look into his future? He shook his head mentally. That was a foolish question. There could be no doubt on this point. He had to know. A Jedi faced the future without flinching, without turning away from his duty. He had to know what lay ahead.
“Yes. I need to know.”
“Ok. There are more of you out there, kid. More Jedi. More than you think. And yes, the tiny Texan is one of them. You’ve met Lindsey McDonald, right? I’ve seen it. He’s the second Padawan. He’ll come to you by the way. But there are more, like I said. And it’s going to be up to you to bring them together. I wouldn’t go as far to say Jedi Order, but certainly Jedi Council. Because there are things out there that need fighting. Enemies at home and, let’s say, further afield. A lot further away than you’ve dreamed of kid. Not quite in a galaxy far, far away, but closer to home than that. And you’re going to need help.”
Xander stood there, his mind racing. It was a lot to take in at once and he needed some time to think it all over. But he needed everything first.
“How much can you tell me?”
“Step into my office and I’ll tell you as much as I can kid,” said the Host grimly. “I need to. Remember my comment earlier? I want to remain unsmithereened.”
Judge Dansey sat there on his damn chair and looked over the papers that had been submitted with what Lilah thought was painful slowness. After a while he sat back and pondered visibly. Hurry up, you old bastard, she thought, hurry up. I’ll die of old age at this rate.
After a long moment he looked up at her. “You seem to be rather annoyed, Ms Morgan,” he said dryly. “Have I said something to cause offence?”
You’re an old fart who deserves to die for wasting my time, thought Lilah, but then shook her head. “Of course not, your honour. I was just admiring the view.” And wondering how you knew that I was annoyed, she added in the privacy of her own head. How odd.
Judge Dansey looked at her as if he knew that she was lying through her teeth and then smiled briefly. “Of course you were,” he said with a sarcastic edge to his voice, before going back to looking at the papers in front of him. Judging by the slowness that he was taking to get through the document, he was reading at five words a minute, she guessed.
At least she’d been able to get Sullivan off. Harkness had been shaken up by whatever had happened to him, and she’d been able to get the witnesses to admit that they had a few doubts about what they’d see. It was too dark, too rainy, too noisy, they’d been distracted by other things, the list was endless and had just gone to show that it was possible to blur the collective mid of a jury with a little care and attention to detail. She might even get a ‘well done’ from Holland.
Irritation started to give way to anger within her. Holland Manners had been talking about sending McDonald to Sunnydale. That little bastard. She deserved that post – she’d done most of the best work in the office whilst that short-assed Texan had been sunning himself in other places. Ok, so he’d been there to help take Wilkins down, but by his own account the Slayers had done the actual work.
She stared at the Judge and did her best not to pout. Why the hell had he called her in here? What was taking him so long to read what was a basic motion to dismiss for the Killick case? Was he actually slowing down? And he’d been sarcastic to her. She wanted to stand up and storm out, but that was something you didn’t do to Dansey. He was known as a tough judge who ruled a courtroom with a razor-sharp tongue.
As if he could read her feelings, Dansey looked up from the brief. “Tell your secretary to learn to spell. ‘Application’ has just one ‘l’ not two.” He bent his head again and slowly turned a page.
Outrage warred with fury with Lilah. How dare this son of a bitch? She stared at him, trying to imagine what it would be like if Dansey suddenly came down with whatever the hell Harkness had been hit by. Unfortunately Dansey just sat there.
And then he looked up, his eyes gleaming. Just for a second she could have sworn that there was a hint of red in his eyes. She must have imagined it. He seemed very amused by something.
“My, my,” he said softly, “You are a feisty one, aren’t you? A lot of anger there, my dear. A great deal of anger.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she protested, frowning slightly. How had he picked up on that? She’d been careful not to show anything, either in her voice, her face or in her body language.
“Don’t play games with me,” he said, leaning back in his chair and dropping the papers onto his desk. “By the way, motion to dismiss is denied. Tell Wolfram & Hart to stop whining and do a deal,” he said with a sneer. She looked at him carefully. He wasn’t acting like he normally did.
“Not that I’m surprised,” he went on, steepling his fingers. “Wolfram & Hart can be very blind at times. The belief of the Senior Partners that they know everything is rather… incorrect.”
Lilah kept her face smooth. How the hell did he know about the Senior Partners? What the hell was going on here?
“If the motion is rejected, then I’d better be going,” she said smoothly, standing up and tucking her purse under her arm. As she turned to go, the inner doors leading to the closed outer doors of the office slammed with a suddenness that made her jump despite herself. The thing was, she didn’t know how they had closed. No one was next to them. There were no wires or anything else that could be used.
Turning she looked back at Dansey, who was smiling at her coldly. “Sit down,” he said, gesturing with one hand as her chair turned to face her with a jerk.
“I see you know some magic,” she said with a brittle smile as she turned the chair back to face him and then sat down. “I’d advise against threatening me. That has been known to backfire. What do you want?”
“A chat,” purred Dansey, his eyes hooded as he looked at her. “But not about magic, which is a foolish waste of time and effort. Too many links to the earth, too much ritual and time-wasting chants. Too many appeals to insane or dying gods. No,” he said, waving his hand again and looking down as her motion to dismiss balled itself up and then flew through the air into the waste bin, “This isn’t anything as hit and miss as magic. This is something else. This is another power.”
She stared at him, assessing his attitude. He looked calm, collected and in control. Interesting. “I’m sure that the Senior Partners would disagree with you,” she said.
“The Senior Partners are a group of high-level demons with parallel or competing agendas and a taste for blood and complicated plans based around revenge that have diverted them for years,” said Dansey, smiling at her. The smile was confined to his mouth and did not reach his eyes. “They have no idea about this. They never have. They are tied to their own magicks and they are… blind.”
“Then why tell me? What’s the point of this talk?”
He looked at her. “What happened to that soft-minded idiot Harkness the other day? During the Sullivan case? I heard that he had trouble breathing?”
“He had some kind of seizure. Didn’t last long,” she said, looking at her nails. Then she looked up. “Why?”
This brought her another smile, as Dansey chuckled softly. “You really have no idea, do you?”
She was close to losing her temper again. “No idea of what?”
“You have potential, Morgan.”
“Potential for what?”
“This,” he said and lifted his right hand up in a pinching, claw-like gesture. She stared at him, about to repeat her question, when something invisible clamped itself around her throat and squeezed hard. Her hands went up to her throat, but there was nothing there, nothing to pull off her and she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t take a breath of air, she couldn’t… the clamp vanished and she took a deep, shuddering gulp of air, before rubbing her neck carefully. Then she glared at Dansey, who was actually smirking at her.
“What… what was that?”
“That, my dear Lilah, is what you did to Harkness. I said that you had potential. Anger management issues as well, but we can work on that.”
This was nuts. She froze in place. “I did what?”
“You did that to Harkness. I could feel your anger on the other side of the building. Almost stabbed my hand with my pen. Very impressive, by the way. Probably a good thing that you didn’t kill him, although the autopsy would have concluded that he had asthma or something, and smashed his own throat. People often come to the wrong conclusions. It can be amusing to watch them tie themselves in logical knots as they come to those wrong conclusions sometimes.”
Still rubbing her throat she leant back I her chair. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. You were angry, remember. Very angry. Just as you were angry a little while ago, when I was deliberately taking an age to read that motion to dismiss. I was trying to bait you. I succeeded. Your little attack on me was pathetic, but would have affected someone else.” He smiled again. “Like Harkness.”
Lilah froze in her chair. Dansey hadn’t been in that courtroom. How had he known? How had he obstructed her breathing? What was going on? “I did that?” she said, disbelievingly. “How, when I don’t know what I did?”
“Potential,” he said, drawing the word out. “You seem to have some. Stronger than the last person I found. Anger is the key. You got angry and triggered it without knowing. It was weak and rather formless, but it was there.” He stood up, a black figure in his robes, and walked to the window. “I was impressed. Now, if you can use it, you might be able to do something with it. I have.” He chuckled again. “I have plans of my own, and I’m strong in the power.”
“What… is the power?” she asked after a long moment.
He shrugged. “I’m not sure. It can make you move faster and hide sometimes. It can cloud the mind of those with weak brains. It’s not magic, it’s something else. It’s everywhere, if you can see it. I was briefly taught by my grandfather. He had some old book that mentioned a sect that was destroyed centuries ago, which knew a lot more about it. Most of its teachings were burnt or buried at about the same time that the Templars were being persecuted. No connection by the way.” He looked at her, shrewdly. “Very few people can use it. The last one I met was…. weak. Couldn’t see the best use for it.”
“Which is?” asked Lilah, a flicker of excitement sparking deep inside her.
“Why, the pursuit of power. What else is there? The ability to kill your enemies and use their bodies to build a platform to power.” He spat the last word with a hiss, and for a moment she thought that the red gleam returned to his eyes.
Dansey walked back to his desk and sat down. “For those who want the right things in life, it can offer everything. If they are ready to learn.”
Her head was whirling. “Are you offering to teach me?”
“Only if you’re willing to learn. I don’t teach spineless fools who won’t listen. Not that I think you’re one of those fools. I’ve been keeping an eye on you for some time now, Lilah. I think that you’re being held back by Wolfram & Hart. I think that you’re under-appreciated by them. Especially Manners. He always did like to play favourites.”
This brought up the thought of Manners and McDonald at her feet, clutching at their throats while she squeezed the life out them. “Why me?” she asked again, her mind racing.
“You’re the strongest one that I’ve found in years.”
“What about the last person you found?”
“He was weak. So I killed him.”
She looked at him. She felt as if something was opening up before her, something that glittered with power. She thought of the lightsabre and what she could do with it and this power. There was only one answer she could give.
For once the smog over LA had rolled back enough to see the mountains, but Xander wasn’t looking at them as the sun came up. He was standing on the beach looking out at the sea. It was going to be a beautiful day. It would be nice to hit the sights while they were here. Buffy needed a holiday and it would do them all good to unwind. Because at the moment he could see a lot ahead of them. A lot of work. A lot of danger. From what the Host had said there were perils aplenty on the horizon. Demons, monsters and snakes, oh my!
He sighed. A lot to do. And he had a decision to think over. He paused. Someone was approaching behind. He smiled. “Morning, Oz.”
“Hey.” His fellow Jedi Knight joined him. “Nice view.”
“Willow and Buffy are worried about you. So was Doyle. You were very quiet.”
“Had a lot to mull. Much mulling.”
“What to do next. You’re all off to College. I’m not. What next?”
“Good question. Any decision?”
“Yes.” He hesitated. “Two of them. I’m going to take up Giles’ offer to work for the Council. Or rather for him. Faith and Buffy need help, you know that.”
“I know,” sighed Oz. “So does Willow. I have to be there for her. Spiderman gig is a hard one.” He looked at Xander, squinting in the early morning sunlight. “What’s the other one?”
Oh boy. This was the hard part to explain. “Based on what the Host told me, we’ve got some hard times ahead. And there are others like us out there. Jedi.”
“And others. We’re going to be needed, Oz. We all are. The Jedi teachings I gave you protect you from wolf boy. I think that Lindsey McDonald can be pulled back from the Dark Side. Who knows what else is out there? We can make a difference. We can help people. Fight evil. Use the Force for good.”
He turned to face his old Padawan. “Oz, Earth needs the Jedi. We have a duty to help this planet. And I think that our task is to make sure that we fight the good fight, to make sure that people don’t go down into the night without a struggle, to fight against what is evil and corrupt and violent in this world. We both knew that anyway. But we need to spread the word. There are other Jedi out there and we have to find them, somehow. It might take ages, but we can do that and help keep the Hellmouth at bay.”
There was a pause while Oz did his own mulling. “You’re talking about building the Jedi Order on Earth.”
“Maybe just resurrecting the Jedi Council here. Who knows? But if we don’t I’m afraid that a long night will fall on all of us. The Host told me a few things that he’d seen. I think that we’re all going to have a lot to think about in the next few years.”
He looked back out to sea. “What we sensed in the sky the other day was a part of that. We dodged a bullet there I think. But the Force was with us. We have to decide to step forwards and build something here.”
Oz grinned. “More Jedi on the Hellmouth? How do you think the vampires are going to handle that?”
“Badly, I suspect. What do you think?”
“I think you knew how I’d answer that, Obi-Wan. I’m in.”
They shook on it as the sun rose. “The Force is with us.”