(no subject)

NO LONGER UNSPOKEN (OUT OF THE SILVER SEA: THE CARETAKER'S REMIX)


Author: M. Scott Eiland
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Star Trek 2009
Rating: PG-13, for themes
Time Frame: Post-”Into Darkness”
Original Story: “Out of the Silver Sea,”https://archiveofourown.org/works/308140 by Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or settings—I'm just taking them out for a spin.




NO LONGER UNSPOKEN (OUT OF THE SILVER SEA: THE CARETAKER'S REMIX)

Buffy's eyes snapped open, and it took her a moment to remember where she was. The little cottage that had just been there when she turned a corner on a path through lakeside woods on the shore leave planet, and which featured Leonard standing in its front yard with a vaguely puzzled expression on his face that matched the one on her own. The confusion was quickly replaced by simple surprise and pleasure, and they had exchanged greetings before Buffy spotted the key sitting on the unlabeled mat on the front porch. They had gone inside, and catching up had turned into a passionate embrace on the couch before they adjourned to resume matters in the bedroom.

Buffy had read Captain Kirk's lengthy report on the events during the Enterprise's initial visit to the Shore Leave planet, and—even with the perspective of centuries as a Slayer facing epic opponents—was awed at the level of power involved for instantaneously summoning into reality the very thoughts of the Enterprise landing party, then managing to undo some of the unpleasant consequences of those realities. Leonard had suffered a “mortal” wound, only to be whisked away and healed to full health, and the planet had produced what seemed to be perfectly real humans along with various creatures of varying levels of threat. The appearance of the mysterious “Caretaker” after the alien intelligence running the planet apparently finally noticed that the new arrivals didn't seem to fully understand what was going on had calmed things down, and after Kirk had forwarded the invitation of the Caretaker to Starfleet, it hadn't taken long for the higher ups to decide to accept the offer and to announce to the entire Federation that the Shore Leave planet would be an officially approved vacation destination for anyone who wished to make use of it. When an opening in her schedule had preceded what would be her new position on the Enterprise, she had decided to make the trip to see for herself.

She had decided to avoid any specific agenda in her thoughts when she arrived—to see what the apparently nearly omniscient place would summon from her thoughts unbidden. She wasn't completely surprised when Leonard had appeared instead of loved ones who had died centuries ago—Willow, Xander, or her mother—as she had said her final good-byes to them long ago: Leonard was still an open wound for her, and—between the bouts of passionate lovemaking—that wound had been aggravated even further as Leonard confirmed her worst suspicions as to what had made him join Starfleet.

Some shore leave this has been.

Not that it was all bad, she admitted to herself as she slipped out of bed to shower and slip away before the fantasy Leonard woke up. Leonard had been just as she remembered him during their better days together during their passionate moments. But isn't that what you'd expect? After almost three centuries of life where she was often exposed to the darkest aspects of the human condition, Buffy's cynical side was well-developed, and it nagged at her as she dressed and slipped out the door before the image of the man she still loved could “awaken” and confront her again. You remembered how he was in bed, and you feared what he thought of you and having to confront your guilt about what you did to him, and the magic omniscient aliens put it all out there for you to see in the flesh—more or less. She chuckled involuntarily at that last part: Oh, Spike—if you were here you'd be giving me so much crap as payback for what I said to you about the BuffyBot, and I'd have it coming.

Even knowing that he wasn't really there, Buffy closed the outer door quietly after leaving the key on the small table by the front door. It's a well-put together fantasy—might as well treat it as real as much as possible. She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed at the ridiculous sense of loss she was feeling before looking up and starting down the path she had come from. Time to beam back up and get ready to face the real Leonard in a couple of weeks.

“Ah—good morning, Lieutenant Summers. Have you been enjoying your stay here?”

Buffy turned and saw an elderly—human or apparently so—man standing nearby with a friendly smile on his face. She recognized him instantly from Kirk's report on the planet—which had included a audio recording of the landing party's encounter with the sole known living native on the planet and a picture—and replied, “It's definitely been memorable, Mr. Caretaker. Or will just Caretaker do?”

“Caretaker will suffice, Lieutenant Summers. My personal name is a bit hard for humans to pronounce—even a Vulcan might have trouble with it.” The Caretaker smiled again, then added “I gather that you don't have much time to rest in your line of work—I'm pleased that opening up our world to the Federation created an opportunity for you to treat yourself.”

Buffy laughed, though there was some discomfort visible on her face as she replied, “And I'm grateful for it. . .but you do know that it can be a bit creepy to have your thoughts put on display, right? I had telepathy once for a few days, and it almost drove me crazy and made all of my friends and family uncomfortable being around me. You do what you do really well, but I'm amazed if you don't have people freaking out here all the time.”

The Caretaker shrugged in a very human manner. “The ban on weapons other than what are produced here by the thoughts of the new arrivals helps keep visitors out of trouble, and the medical facilities take care of any. . .unfortunate accidents.” He paused, then changed the subject: “Did you find your visit with your young man rewarding?”

“He's not really my young man any more—at this point I'm not sure he ever was.” Buffy shook her head in frustration and added, “I'll be seeing him again soon—I wish I could know for sure if the things we said to each other inside the cottage last night are actually useful insights, or just stuff that will piss him off if I bring it up to him.”

“There is an old saying among your people, Lieutenant Summers: Who dares wins.” Buffy blinked at the unexpected observation from the older man, and the Caretaker chuckled slightly at the reaction and added, “As if you of all people need to be told that. You've already volunteered to serve on a ship knowing he would be there—unless you're planning to avoid him for months on end you've pretty well committed to risking 'pissing him off.'”

Buffy nodded reluctantly, then decided to end the conversation: “Thank you for your hospitality—I'm going to go back to my ship now.” She spoke into her communicator, then dispersed into rainbow light that vanished quickly.

The Caretaker nodded to himself, then turned back to the doorway and waited.

* * * *

McCoy's eyes snapped open, and it took only a moment to register that he was alone. The memories of the events of the prior evening were still fresh in his mind, and he took a moment to consider them, both the physical and verbal parts of them.

Buffy had never been far from his thoughts during the years following his enlistment in Starfleet, and in retrospect he wasn't surprised when she had shown up on the path to the cottage he had encountered not long after he beamed down to the Shore Leave world. After his own experiences on his prior visit to that planet, very little would surprise him—and the sudden arrival of a Buffy who was a perfect image of the woman he had left behind certainly wasn't on the list of things that would have done the trick.

He rolled out of bed and walked back to the shower, making a point to run the water a bit hotter than usual. After years of sonic showers being the order of the day on Starfleet vessels, that bit of luxury was welcome indeed. The fact that the pleasant sensation kept him from dwelling on some of the less desirable parts of his quasi-encounter with Buffy was just a bonus.

He had almost turned down the chance to go down to the planet after the Enterprise reached orbit: there was always plenty of paperwork to get done in Sickbay, and—as much as he had been awed by the medical facilities that had preserved his life--he had not been completely spared from the trauma of a near death experience.

Still, there were a number of positive memories he had of the place, and after the roller coaster of Jim literally coming back from the dead recently, he had decided that a bit of recreation had been called for and the planet had delivered, for better or worse.

He dressed quickly, then walked to the front door, noting that the key was sitting on the small table just inside. Amazing how they keep track of the little details like that. He locked the door on the way out and left the key under the mat, and was turning to walk back to the small visitor's center he had beamed down to when he saw a familiar face just down the path: “Caretaker! Good to see you—thanks for putting me up for the night.”

The Caretaker smiled in response. “After your last visit here, I assume that a quieter evening was to your liking?”

McCoy snorted. “Less violent, yes—but it was far from quiet.” He looked past The Caretaker down the path and muttered, “There are some things that even your miracle medicine can't heal.”

“True enough—but perhaps this matter is not lost beyond hope, Doctor McCoy. Have you considered contacting Lieutenant Summers now that this much time has passed?” The Caretaker's tone was optimistic, but McCoy still caught the out of place reference in the question.

McCoy blinked. “Lieutenant Summers? Buffy wasn't Starfleet when I knew her—and as far as I know she still isn't.”

The Caretaker shrugged. “A slip of the tongue—many Starfleet officers come to this place now, and it is easy for an elderly man to confuse them at times.”

McCoy gave The Caretaker a skeptical look. You're about as much a forgetful senior as Spock is literally an elf. He decided to let it go, and said, “Buffy and I haven't spoken in years—last night didn't change that. The things that ended us are still there, and would be there if she walked through the doors of Sickbay tomorrow.”

“Don't be too sure, Doctor—you've changed a great deal since you last saw her: what makes you think that the years haven't changed her as well?” The Caretaker met McCoy's gaze and added, “If that moment comes when she does walk through your doors, the boldness you have learned during your time with Captain Kirk may serve you well. Who dares wins, Leonard McCoy.” Without another word, The Caretaker nodded to McCoy and walked away.

McCoy watched him go, his expression puzzled. What in the hell was that all about? He shrugged and walked back towards the visitor center. It was time to see what Jim was up to, before they all had to leave for the Enterprise's next mission.


* * * *

McCoy stared at the petite woman standing outside Sickbay. “Buffy?” But the greater measure of his shock was devoted to the lieutenant's stripes on her sleeves.

“Yes it's me, Leonard.” Buffy's voice was quiet, missing the usual energy that was her birthright. She hesitated, then began: “I have so much to tell you--”

“Who dares wins.” McCoy interjected, and Buffy only had a moment to register shock at Leonard repeating the phrase that she had so recently heard from The Caretaker before his lips crashed into hers and his arms were around her.

An amused and familiar voice pulled them out of the moment: “I was planning on introducing our chief medical officer and our new logistics officer, but you seem to have taken care of introductions already.” McCoy glanced over and saw Jim grinning at him like a damned fool. Spock was standing a few steps behind his captain, an eyebrow raised in reaction.

Buffy coughed self-consciously, and McCoy looked over at his two best friends for a moment before sighing and looking down at Buffy as he commented, “I have a few stories to tell you, too.”

FINAL EXAM (LEARNING CURVE: THE HARD EARNED WISDOM REMIX) [Circle of Friends Remix 2018]

Title: Final Exam (Learning Curve: The Hard Earned Wisdom Remix)
Author: M. Scott Eiland
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: PG-13, for themes
Time Frame: AU, about four years after the destruction of Sunnydale.
Original Story: "Learning Curve,” by Aadler
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or settings—I'm just taking them out for a spin.


FINAL EXAM (LEARNING CURVE: THE HARD EARNED WISDOM REMIX)


Xander heard the doorbell ring, and took a moment to make one more brush stroke before walking over to his phone and looking at the screen. His right eyebrow went up in surprise, and he smiled slightly before walking to the front door and opening it. He smiled again before greeting the arrival: “Hi, Leigh.”

“Hi.” Leigh smiled at him, and walked over the threshold without hesitating—she knew that even in broad daylight on an open porch no invitation would be forthcoming. She looked around and commented, “The accommodations are a bit more comfy than what I remember from the last time I saw you.”

Xander smirked. “That's grading on a curve, but yeah—the accommodations are definitely twentieth century, at least.” They were standing in a medium sized house on what had once been a farm off of I-5 in Oregon. It was sparsely furnished and the only remaining large structure on the property—with nothing but a perimeter fence and flat dirt between the house and the highway and the neighboring properties. No one was going to sneak up on him there unless they were really good at it or Xander was busy. He looked at the Slayer and commented, “Still—you had to come a long way from Cleveland to find it. What's up?”

Leigh was silent for a moment, and Xander took the time to examine her minutely. She didn't look any older—two years and an odd number of months was trivial to the Slayer metabolism, if they managed to survive the other hazards of the interval—and the only physical sign of the passage of time was a faint scar trailing down from just above her right elbow to her wrist. He looked at her and commented, “How long did the poison lay you up for while the wound was healing?”

“Two months—but it was dead before I started healing.” Leigh's voice was rueful, yet proud—and it made Xander smile again to hear it as she finished, “And why does anything have to be up? Can't someone come by and visit their old teacher?”

Xander gave her a look, and Leigh shrugged and added, “I had an assignment in the area, and you were on the way. It's not like you're hiding out here.”

“True—trying to hide from Willow is like trying to hide sunrise from a rooster, and I actually know for a fact how hard that is now.” Xander wasn't buying the cover story, but he didn't see the point in forcing the issue. He looked at her again and noted, “You look a lot more comfortable than the last time I saw you.”

“I had a lot of questions I still needed answered when we last saw each other.” Leigh replied thoughtfully, looking back at Xander with a faint smile. “They've been answered.”

“Meaning you met those three people I was telling you about?” Xander asked, studying Leigh's expression as he did so. “Those answers wouldn't be in the Council's library no matter hard you looked for them.”

Leigh seemed to squirm a bit without moving, and hesitated before replying: “Yeah, I met them—though it took me quite a while to catch up to all of them. None of them were too talkative until I mentioned that you had described each of them without using their names—after that they were ready to talk up storms. They also mentioned some very interesting details about you.” She smirked and commented, “If you were still isolated from modern civilization I'd have brought a box of Twinkies to get your attention, but you're close enough to home now that I suspect you have a ten year supply stashed away in case civilization ends.”

“One year, and I had them in Scotland, too—before that it would have been a tad much to stash in the camping gear.” Xander laughed, then added, “But I doubt that was the most interesting thing you heard from those three.”

Leigh nodded reluctantly, and elaborated, “It gave me a lot of perspective about what the old Council must have been like—and made me feel a little bad about how frustrating I found the new order even after working with you.” Xander nodded encouragingly, and Leigh added, “It's amazing you all held together as well as you did—even Faith saw the light after going bad and tried to make amends on her own before having to tap back into the fight.”

“Faith was a tough case—and I'd be lying if I claimed that all of my issues with her were completely resolved.” Leigh could hear the sadness in Xander's voice, but he shrugged as he added, “Same's true for Buffy and Willow—and I'm sure all three of them have their own issues with me, even if they won't say so.”

“And Dawn?” Xander flinched, and Leigh grinned wickedly as she chuckled, “You didn't think they'd leave that part out, do you?”

“She tasered me while I was driving a car we were both in.” Xander mumbled, with a defensiveness in his voice that made Leigh grin, then look at him pointedly. Xander saw the look and sighed as he allowed, “Which might have been a not completely unreasonable reaction to my chloroforming her after Buffy asked me to get her away from the Hellmouth.”

Leigh nodded solemnly. “And you really expected that to work?”

Xander shrugged. “Deep down, I think Buffy knew that nothing was going to keep Dawn away. We had to try, you know? And if you're about to point out that makes me a big old hypocrite with all my complaints about being kept fray adjacent—which I'm sure they told you about—then guilty as charged.”

Leigh shook her head in amusement, then saw a half-open door with the smell of paint coming from it. “What do you have going in there, Xander?” she asked.

Xander turned and saw where she was looking, then replied, “Oh! My new hobby. Come and take a look.” He led her through the doorway and flipped on the light switch.

Leigh saw that the windows had been blocked with heavy curtains to keep all of the light out of the room except for the overhead lamps, and that there were several paintings on easels along the walls. She looked closely at them and was immediately fascinated. No one would mistake Xander's talent as being world-class, but all of his subjects were immediately recognizable—and portrayed in ways that captured each of their subjects well. Buffy Summers glaring intensely at an unseen enemy. Willow Rosenberg with her hands raised to cast a spell—her hair blown about by an unseen wind and a visible glow in her eyes. Faith Lehane in motion, a foot lashing out as a wicked smile crossed her face. Dawn Summers, sitting at a computer desk and smiling at the artist with a warmth that Leigh had a feeling was reserved for him alone. And. . .Leigh gasped as she saw the almost finished painting on the far wall: it portrayed her looking back at the artist in the waiting area outside the tiny structure in Scotland, her expression hopeful, yet with a touch of regret. She turned back to Xander with a questioning expression, and Xander looked embarrassed as he replied to the unstated question: “Hey, that's just where I happened to be right now.”

Leigh sighed and shook her head. “Xander, you ass—why don't you just come back in already? You're already gradually spiraling in closer and closer anyway, and we both know you're going to be there if anything really bad happens.”

Xander sank down into a nearby armchair, and Leigh walked over to stand next to him, waiting silently for his response. After a moment, Xander looked back up at her and whispered, “I'm not sure I can—it's been so long now, and they've moved on with their lives. I don't want to mess them up, and I don't want to be grabbed and bundled in cotton once they've got me back there.” He sighed, then added, “I'll think about it, OK? Now go off and get your mission done, and you can come back when you're done and we can talk about it some more.”

Leigh shook her head in annoyance and replied, “You are my mission, you big jerk.” She leaned down and kissed him gently on the lips before leaning back to observe the reaction.

Xander smiled slightly, then looked up at Leigh and commented, “You know, I'm pretty sure the last time we talked I mentioned that I had concerns about this sort of thing.”

Leigh smirked and replied, “Oh, that wasn't a pass—that was a reminder that there were a lot of different reasons people wanted you back. Also, if I tried to grab you up for myself without bringing you back to Cleveland first, Dawn would probably murder me.”

Xander laughed nervously. “Still?”

Leigh shook her head and pointed at the portrait of Dawn: “What do you think, genius?”

“I was hoping that she had the sense to find someone a lot better suited for her given a few years—and I was pretty much hoping the same for you, too.” Leigh chuckled and shook her head, and Xander sighed: “Figures. Well, we can't have the best up and coming Slayer we've seen in years go back to Cleveland a failure, can we? It would make my skills as a guru look rusty.” He looked at her with a pained expression and asked quietly, “Are you sure you really need me there? I still get reports monthly—Slayer Central has been doing better than ever since you arrived, and almost completely without my input.”

“If you died tomorrow, we could get by without you—no question about it.” Xander winced at the blunt reply, and Leigh added, “Thank goodness we won't have to. Plane tickets are ready out of PDX for the day after tomorrow, afternoon. We'll get everything packed up and let a shipping company get it back to Cleveland. We can spend the rest of the time hanging out and you can tell me where I went wrong with that demon that laid open my arm.”

Xander shook his head. “Nope. Not going to critique an experienced Slayer who obviously has her act together. You can spend the time telling me what's gone on there the last two years so I can look less clueless when you drag me back in by one ear.”

Leigh laughed, and Xander joined her for a moment before they left the room to start packing.

REMIX AUTHOR'S CLOSING NOTE: A bit short compared to the source material, but—as the geography and Leigh's lampshading indicated—Xander was talking himself into coming back gradually, and the paintings done from memory just provided illustrations for the state of his mind. Leigh (not to mention Buffy, Willow, Faith, and Dawn along with probably a few dozen miscellaneous Slayers and WC personnel) had simply decided that they were tired of him dithering about it.

AGE AND TREACHERY (WORLD AT HER FINGERTIPS: JENNY'S REMIX)

Jenny saw the determined expression on her favorite student's face, and was not surprised at all to hear Willow say: “You’re Janna of the Kalderash. I won’t tell Buffy. But you’re going to teach me how to use magic like you do.”

Jenny nodded, as if Willow had been talking about the weather, and gave ground, giving Willow room to enter. Willow stepped into Jenny's apartment, looking around to see if anyone else was visiting, then turned back to her teacher and commented: “You don't look surprised. I thought you would be surprised. I mean, you were surprised to see me, but you weren't surprised at what I told you. I mean--”

“Breathe, Willow.” Jenny was quite familiar with Willowbabble from their time in class together, and later from their time in the Scoobies together. She gestured towards the living room sofa. “Sit down. Would you like some tea?”

Willow smiled and replied, “Thank you.” Jenny disappeared into the kitchen, and Willow could hear the sounds of tea being prepared as she called out, “But you weren't surprised!”

Jenny walked back into the room and sat down, commenting “I already had a pot starting to boil, so it shouldn't be long.” Willow frowned at the apparent deflection, and Jenny continued, “The fact that you know what you know, and that you brought up magic in the same breath implies that you've been doing a bit of snooping, probably recently.” She smirked and added, “Let me guess: ahannigan1974 from Denver?”

Willow's eyes widened: “How? I chose a username that had nothing to do with me!”

Jenny nodded, “Yes, and you did a far better job of that than I did. But you still needed to ask some questions to get the information you needed, and they were very pointed and clearly the product of a very intelligent user, even for the standards of that forum—and among the recent arrivals you stood out for that reason. Once you confronted me just now, it was obvious what had been going on.”

Willow nodded, and she launched into an explanation of why she had started looking and what she had found. Jenny didn't interrupt, letting Willow give a torrent of details about where and how she had found the chat rooms after an unexpected amount of difficulty, and what she had learned there. After about five minutes, the whistle of the teakettle came from the kitchen, and Jenny got up to get the tea, commenting as she walked away: “That was some involved investigative work, Willow—but it wouldn't have been enough to give you that information, or to suggest that magic was involved. Have you been digging into my private files?” Willow was silent, and Jenny didn't press, staying silent herself until she walked out with the tea tray. She poured cups for both of them from the same pot, then sat back as Willow added lemon and a bit of sugar to hers before drinking—Jenny had already taken a couple of sips from hers, and she noted that Willow relaxed a bit as she did so. She raised an eyebrow and said quietly, “You haven't answered my question, Willow.”

Willow looked down at the floor as she whispered, “I just had to know. I'd never had any trouble finding out something I needed to know about someone in Sunnydale before—I know the systems in this town like the back of my hand. Checking on Giles was easy—but when I tried to check on you. . .”

“You ran into a firewall that shouldn't have been there, and you concluded it was magic.” Jenny's tone was matter of fact, and Willow relaxed subliminally before Jenny added, “So you decided to break right through it and succeeded—sounds like you don't need magic to do what you do. Magic is serious business, Willow—it can be physically dangerous and even endanger your immortal soul.” She smiled wistfully at her favorite student and added, “You know who I am, and you've decided not to tell Buffy, which I appreciate—can't you just let this go? You're the best at what you do that I've ever met, and you're only getting better—isn't that enough?”

Willow looked over at Jenny and closed her eyes for a moment before sighing and shaking her head. “It isn't—not any more. Buffy keeps having to do more and more to stop Hellmouthy things from killing everyone, and I can't fight like her or Giles or even Xander. I need to do more, and magic will help me do what I do better, and give me new things I can do to help. I know it's dangerous and scary, and it might make bad things happen to me—but Buffy and the others are counting on me to be the best Willow I can be. . .and I think that means magic now.” She locked eyes with Jenny, and the teacher could see the pleading in those eyes and hear it in Willow's voice as she concluded, “I need to know this, Miss Calendar, and I know you're the best person to teach me. Please help me.”

Jenny frowned, and took another sip of her tea, and Willow followed suit as she waited for Jenny to answer. After a few moments, Jenny sighed and said simply, “Willow, if we're going to do this, you need to know why I'm here. You remember how Angel was cursed with a soul by the family of a gypsy girl murdered by Angelus?” Willow nodded, and Jenny continued, “My family—their vengeance. I was sent here to monitor Angel—to make sure he still suffered. I don't know all the details, but I've been here for a year now, and Angel is my friend. I'm conflicted, to say the least.”

Willow frowned, and asked, “Maybe I can help? Angel is my friend too, but it sounds like we're going to have to figure out a plan that everyone can live with.”

Jenny sighed again and said simply, “I can't accept your help with this—I've already told you more than I should have, and I wouldn't have if. . .if I hadn't already decided that I can't allow you to know about my true identity. I just wanted you to know why I was doing this, before I made sure you couldn't tell anyone.”

Willow's eyes widened, and she glanced at the cup in front of her, then over at Jenny's cup before blurting out: “But you poured yours from the same teapot! You couldn't have poisoned--!”

Jenny smiled sadly, and replied, “But I could have tampered with the cup, or with the lemon or sugar, since I added neither to mine. However, the solution is simpler in this case—I took the antidote while I was in the kitchen.” Willow's eyes widened in outrage, and Jenny shrugged and added, “Age and treachery beats youth and skill every time, Willow.”

Willow glared at Jenny, but she could feel that her heart wasn't really in it. She felt relaxed, and not inclined to scream, or flee, or do any of the other things that someone who had just been told they had been poisoned would probably do. She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them before asking quietly, “So how long do I have to live?”

Jenny smiled, and it was warm and genuine. “A very long time, or at least I hope so, Willow. The tea I prepared has several properties—it can suppress or alter memories, or it can plant suggestions. In this case. . .” Jenny paused, then said quietly, “Willow—I want you to forget everything you have learned about my true identity, the firewall protecting my school records, and my mission here in Sunnydale—and to feel a subtle but absolute aversion to looking into those matters in the future.” Willow's expression went blank, and a flash of regret passed over Jenny's face before she added, “You came here tonight because you want to learn more about what technopagans do so that you can use it to help Buffy and the others. I said yes.”

Willow blinked, and her eyes widened in joy as she cried, “Oh thank you Miss Calendar—thank you!” She stood up and ran over to give Jenny an uninhibited hug, and—after a moment of internal hesitation and a fair amount of remorse—Jenny returned the hug with interest.

*

Remixer's Note: A few themes in this one, of course, and none that need much elaboration to anyone who watched BtVS from the beginning.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.

Memories Of A Fallen Technopagan (Weep Not For The Past: The Perceptive Buffy Remix): (Buffyverse)

Title: Memories Of A Fallen Technopagan (Weep Not For The Past: The Perceptive Buffy Remix)
Author: M. Scott Eiland
Fandom: Buffyverse
Rating: PG-13, for intensity and language.
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
Original story: Weep Not For The Past by jedibuttercup

Summary: Kennedy has a secret to share--or so she thinks.
Time Frame: Just after the events in "Chosen." Spoilers for the entire run of televised BtVS.
Thank you to jedibuttercup for providing a lovely story for me to Remix.

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Buffy sat quietly at her window seat, watching the scenery go back as the bus headed towards Los Angeles. They had dropped Principal Wood—the only one of the seriously injured survivors without Slayer healing—off at a hospital in Oxnard with Faith to keep him company, and they had decided to drive to LA to check in with Angel and his allies at the Hyperion. She was aware of the ache in her side from the dangerous stab wound she had received during the desperate battle at the Hellmouth, but it was fading at a speed that surprised her even given her past experiences with being wounded. Maybe I got a boost while everyone else was being empowered.

She shrugged inwardly, and had gone back to contemplating the scenery going by when she sensed someone approaching her. A now familiar scent tickled her nose—there was only one person there who would be wearing perfume that would have cost Buffy a month's salary from her most recent job: “What's up, Kennedy?”

The newly-minted Slayer blinked in mild surprise as Buffy turned to face her after the greeting. The senior Slayer nodded to the seat next to her, and Kennedy sat down, looking uncomfortable. Buffy watched her for a moment, then smiled reassuringly and commented, “I'm surprised to see you leaving Willow's side after everything that went down.”

Kennedy smiled, and Buffy was surprised at the warmth and affection in it. There's more there than just the brat she seems to be most of the time. Kennedy turned to look over her right shoulder a few rows back and replied, “She's sound asleep. Apparently, channeling enough raw magic to empower thousands of Slayers takes it out of a Wicca once the adrenaline goes away.” She turned back to Buffy and whispered, “I hope she doesn't have to do anything that intense again any time soon.”

“Me too.” Buffy agreed, feeling an affectionate impulse toward the younger Slayer. “Thanks for watching her back, Kennedy.” Kennedy nodded, acknowledging the thanks, and Buffy met her gaze as she added, “But I get the feeling you came over here to talk about something else.”

Kennedy swallowed hard, then whispered, “Yeah.” She looked at Buffy and continued, “I'm sure you noticed that I wasn't exactly a fan of yours when I first came to Sunnydale.”

Buffy shrugged. “You weren't the first to have that reaction, and I'd be willing to bet you won't be the last. Of course, given that the Watchers' Council has been almost completely wiped out, there'll probably be less gossip of the tweedy sort adding to that.” She saw Kennedy tense up and she shook her head in mild self-reproach, adding, “I'm sorry—I've lost a Watcher and I know it sucks. I didn't mean to be insensitive.”

“Thanks, but that's not why--” Kennedy paused, and was silent for a moment before continuing: “My Watcher never said anything bad about you—he admired the hell out of you, actually.” Buffy raised an eyebrow, and Kennedy took that as an invitation to get to the point: “I had heard things about you from other sources—ones I trusted. They said you weren't reliable. . .that I shouldn't depend on you to protect me if things got down to it.” Buffy's expression remained unchanged, and Kennedy sighed and began: “My name is Kennedy--”

“Calendar.” Buffy's tone was matter of fact, and she waited for the moment of bone deep shock to fade from Kennedy's face before she added, “Yeah—I had a feeling this subject would come up sooner or later, assuming we weren't all dead before then.”

“How did you know?” Kennedy whispered, staring at Buffy in confusion. “I never told any of the other girls--”

Buffy smiled sadly and shook her head. “Giles knew—he knew chapter and verse about all of the Potentials he rescued. . .and a lot he didn't make it to in time. Besides, with The First impersonating people and the dating history of my two best friends, did you really think I would voluntarily let people live in my home who I didn't have a pretty good idea of who they were? I know I've done some dumb things over the years, but come on now.”

Kennedy chuckled involuntarily and mumbled, “I suppose I had that coming.” Buffy inclined her head minutely in agreement, and Kennedy paused before asking, “Buffy. . .what happened with my aunt Jenny? What made it all go down the way it did?”

This time it was Buffy who swallowed hard, then looked back out the window as she whispered, “She was my friend—she was Willow's mentor. . .and Giles loved her. She helped us survive that place, and it got to the point where I couldn't imagine her not being part of it all.” She hesitated, then added, “She thought she was doing the right thing with Angel, and the people who gave her the mission didn't tell her the one thing that would have let her stop it all from happening. Damn them.”

Kennedy heard the raw pain in Buffy's voice, and was trying to come up with something comforting to say when the older Slayer continued, “And damn me. I pushed her away when she was doing her best to try to help, to make amends. I relented a bit when I saw what it was doing to Giles, but she was still isolated from most of us, and it left her exposed when Angelus found out what she was doing. Giles almost got himself killed that night, trying to avenge her. A few days later, we buried her—and I was ready to kill Angelus. All it took to get me there was a dead friend.”

Kennedy impulsively reached out and squeezed Buffy's hand. “She wouldn't have blamed you for it, Buffy. It was a bad situation for everyone.” She withdrew her hand and shook her head ruefully, adding, “It was easy to blame you when you were just a legend—pictures and words describing someone I never expected to meet.” She turned back to where Xander was sitting quietly, staring out the window with a drained expression, and whispered, “How do you stand being around people when you know your mistakes hurt them so badly?”

Buffy thought back to the night when Xander had lost his eye, and remembered who it was that he had saved at such a grim cost: “That wasn't your fault, Kennedy—and Xander knows it even if you won't admit it to yourself.” Kennedy shrugged, clearly not completely convinced, and Buffy added, “But the odds are you'll be there someday—we're Slayers, and when we fail people die—or worse. The thing you always need to remember is not being there means failing, too.”

Kennedy smiled gently and replied, “I know.” She glanced back at Willow—still deep in exhausted slumber—then turned back to Buffy and asked, “Buffy—could you do me a favor?”

Buffy shrugged. “I'll do my best.”

“Would you tell me what she was like when you knew her? I heard rumors about that part of her life. . .but I always wondered about the details.” Kennedy looked wistful, and it was audible in her voice as she concluded, “I don't want to bring up painful things, but. . .”

“I'd be glad to.” Buffy's tone was matter-of-fact, and Kennedy smiled as Buffy added, “If you tell me what 'Aunt Jenny' was like. Giles would probably want to hear it, too.”

Kennedy nodded. “Deal.” The two Slayers talked quietly as the light outside dimmed, as the bus carried its precious cargo to its new destiny.

Remixer's Closing Comments: The original story appealed to me on several levels, particularly the opportunity to add some depth to the much-maligned Kennedy, and riffing off of the relatively well-circulated observation that Kennedy bore at least a superficial resemblance to our favorite technopagan. I used the general outline of the original story (including borrowing Kennedy's summary quote directly), and used some of my own favorite Buffyverse fanfic tropes (Buffy perceives more than she lets on, Buffy's deep guilt about her contribution to Jenny's death) along with some allusions to my own "Slayer Central" series and related themes. Hope it all came together OK.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.

Regrouping (Sanctuary: Riley's Remix)

Regrouping (Sanctuary: Riley's Remix)

Written for the 2015 Circle of Friends Remix

Author: M. Scott Eiland

Summary: Riley sees an old friend in pain and decides he can't let it lie.

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Time Frame: “As You Were,” just after Sam's conversation with Willow. Spoilers through season six.

Rating: T, for themes

Disclaimer: Still not mine—all hail Joss and the other Powers That Own the Buffyverse.

Original Story: “Sanctuary,” by VelvetWhip: http://velvetwhip.livejournal.com/1393096.html

My thanks to VelvetWhip for writing a lovely story for me to Remix.

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Sam walks through the doorway and meets my questioning gaze. She inclines her head in the direction she was coming from before smiling gently at me and heading out in the direction that Buffy had gone a few minutes ago. I walk forward and look into the room and see Willow sitting there in silence, with a look of desolate failure on her face that hurt to see there.

Before I left Sunnydale, I had been Willow's friend for over a year, and I had seen plenty of emotions on her face. “Cheerful” was a big one—she'd looked that way on occasions as varied as her setting a campfire ablaze with a casual gesture, and equally casually threatening to beat me to death with a shovel if I hurt Buffy. I'd seen her sad and distracted: the time I saved her from a close encounter with a speeding car after Oz cheated on her certainly came to mind there. I'd seen her looking intense and focused more times than I can count, both while I was still in Sunnydale and when looking at the intel reports which had revealed that—while until now we had no idea Buffy was actually dead for those months—Willow was leading Sunnydale's demon killing forces without the aid of the Slayer (yes, we knew about the BuffyBot—was anyone dumb enough to think that was really Buffy?). But this look was a new one for her, and I wanted to make it go away.

She looks up at me, and I am a bit relieved to see a new emotion in her eyes, even if it is anger that is belied by her dispirited tone as she says, “Hey.”

I put on my most reassuring smile and decide to break the ice: “I wanted to apologize.” Willow looks unmoved, and I quickly add, “I didn't know.”

“How could you? You left.” The words are spiteful in tone, but at least she isn't ignoring me.

Pissed-off Willow is daunting, but I'm not that easily put off. “I'm sorry. I should have said goodbye.”

She sniffs at me, and manages a old school Willowglare as she mutters, “Yeah, well, I'm not the one you did wrong.”

For a moment, I don't know whether to be relieved or hurt. She's pissed off at me for hurting Buffy by leaving, not for her own sake. “Buffy.” I see a sarcastic remark that would have amounted to “Duh!” forming on her lips and cut her off with the continuation of the sentence: “--she and Sam are out looking for the nest. I'm heading out to Willie's to see if I can get some information.”

Willow's eyes narrow, and her reply is dismissive. “Good. Well, goodbye then.”

I ignore her and press on. “I wanted to talk to you first.” I move forward quickly and grasp her hand gently, giving it a comforting squeeze as I add: “I mean it, you know. I *am* sorry. I guess I never thought. . .not *you*.”

I see her eyes well up and almost glow with pain. Instinctively, I reach down and hug her—somewhat relieved on several levels that she doesn't instantly blast me through the nearest wall—and whisper into her ear: “I think it's amazing. That you can give it up. Something so big and powerful. I'm impressed.”

She tenses, but does not reject the embrace with words or gesture. I pause for a moment, then continue: “There were these two shamans with our squad. . .they weren't as strong as you. They're not. . .with us anymore.” I feel her start to shake, and a tear drips onto my shoulder as I continue to tell her what I believe to be the God's Honest Truth—she's one of the strongest, brilliant, and brave people I've ever known. . .and sum it up in the only way possible: “You're wonderful.”

She pulls back a little at those last two words and stares at me with tears rolling down her cheeks. I can't read the emotion in her eyes, but I feel a shock run through me, and I respond by leaning down and kissing her, my arms still around her.

Her arms stay down, but she does not push me away or otherwise react. I slide one hand back and close it gently over her right breast—this causes her to move her hands between us, but with no force. I break the kiss, pull away a bit, and look at her with a questioning expression as I whisper, “Willow.” She looks away from me, refusing to meet my eyes, and I still can't read her expression as--

“Hey, Will—you up for some Monopoly?” Xander's voice comes from the living room, and the tension is broken. I gently release Willow and take a couple of steps back from her, trying to regain my own composure. She looks at me and seems to perceive my inner balancing moment as she dries her eyes and waits.

“I'd better go.” Sources to beat up, and unsettling emotionally charged moment between two old friends to repress and never mention to anyone. Speaking of which-- I look at her with the most sincere expression I can muster and say simply: “Don't.”

She is still nodding in agreement with my intention to leave, and she responds simply, “I won't.” I smile, nod and leave, waving to Xander as I pass him in the living room.

When I see her later, after the demons are blown up and I have had a long-needed conversation with Buffy, there is nothing in her expression that reflects those few moments. Just two old friends crossing paths briefly before heading off their separate ways.

On the way out of town, Sam touches my arm and notes, “Willow seems to be doing a bit better—did you have anything to do with that?”

I shrug with a casualness that I do not truly feel as I reply, “Willow is as tough as they come—she just needs time to regroup, and reminding her that she has already accomplished amazing things is just part of the process.”

Sam nods, and leans against me as the transport helicopter continues on through the darkness. She does not see me look back in the direction of Sunnydale with concern and a touch of wistfulness.

Remixer's Closing Note: Except for minor tweaking due to POV change and the adding of the closing scene with Riley and Sam, the dialogue is from the original story.

IMPROVISING MODESTY (Modesty Blaise/MacGyver)

Improvising Modesty (The Post-Smooching Remix)

Written for the 2014 Circle of Friends Remix

Author: M. Scott Eiland

Summary: MacGyver wakes up after an improvised solution fails to produce results, and finds he has some explaining to do.

Fandom: MacGyver/Modesty Blaise

Time Frame: Sliding time frame: assume present day, late in the time frame for the Modesty Blaise novels, late in the TV series for MacGyver.

Rating: T, for themes

Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wouldn't have minded taking a serious run at writing in the Modestyverse if I had come across the novels in the last ten years rather than in the mid-1990s.

Original Story: “Untitled20061122” by sroni.

Remixer's Opening Note: Another case where I saw a drabble and decided I just couldn't let it lie there unexpanded. . .:-)

My thanks to SRoni for providing another lovely story for me to Remix.

IMPROVISING MODESTY

Mac was disturbingly familiar with emerging from unconsciousness after being struck by someone with serious intent. Given that, he had managed to develop a hard-wired routine when he found himself regaining consciousness without realizing how he had lost it: before opening his eyes, he would mentally recite his name, birthday, and state of birth, followed by what he had for breakfast the preceding morning and concluding with the last city he had flown into. As he became aware, he quickly ran through the drill: Angus MacGyver, March 23rd, Minnesota, ham and scrambled eggs, London—he was surprised at how little his head hurt as he did it.

The next step was tensing his muscles all over, checking for injury and restraints, along with the general state of his clothing. He felt relatively uninjured except for a slight soreness over a very familiar nerve cluster—someone had knocked him unconscious with a precise blow that did very little damage otherwise. He wasn't tied up or otherwise restrained—he was apparently lying on a relatively comfortable bed or cot--but he seemed to be wearing some sort of robe over his boxers and nothing else. Meaning that at most he had only a few of the emergency supplies that he was accustomed to have when needing to get out of a tight spot. Annoying to say the least.

The last step. . .he listened for breathing. He heard none, and continued to listen for thirty seconds. Abruptly, an amused voice broke the silence, “If you wait to hear me breathing, both of us are going to get very bored very quickly. How about we cut to the chase?”

Mac's eyes snapped open, and he received another bit of evidence that the blow to the head had done no significant damage to his memory or cognition—he instantly recognized the woman standing ten feet away as the one who had accosted him in the middle of his attempt to bypass the security around the device that Pete had sent him after.

She had changed out of the dark tunic that she had been wearing when she had slipped behind him and put that rather effective hold on him that had required, well, creative means to slip free even momentarily. She was now wearing a red cheongsam that hugged her five foot six frame with sinful efficiency—the lack of sleeves and the slit up the thighs openly displaying the lean, taut muscle that had clearly been the result of countless hours of training. Her medium length dark hair was up in a classic chignon that would have been equally stylish if worn by Mac's great-grandmother when attending FDR's first inaugural ball or by the prom queen next spring. Her eyes were midnight blue and they focused on Mac with unnerving intensity and humor as she spoke again, “You seem to have gotten yourself into a bit of a situation, Mr. MacGyver.”

Mac wasn't surprised that his captor had identified him, and decided to return the serve without pause, “It's hardly the first time, Ms. Blaise. My thanks for leaving me with less of a headache than most would have with that move.”

The woman raised a well-tailored eyebrow and noted, “Not much of one at all, if you have your wits about you enough to recognize me a minute out of your little nap.” She reached for a cup sitting on a nearby table and walked over to hand it to him, adding, “You certainly didn't have the two hours I did to jog my own memory.”

Mac took a sip—she'd had all the time she'd needed while he was out to dose him with something if she had been so inclined—then finished the water quickly. He saw a coaster sitting on the antique nightstand nearby and put the empty cup on it as he said quietly, “Thank you.” Modesty inclined her head and Mac took a moment to examine the room: wood paneled walls and high quality hardwood flooring, with a small kitchen area in one corner. There were no windows, and the single door looked to be sturdy, with a lock but no handle on the inside. Mac didn't think he'd need three guesses as to where the key was. He coughed self-consciously and asked quietly, “What now?”

Modesty shrugged elaborately and moved off to lean against a wall before looking back at him appraisingly and replying, “That's the question of the hour, isn't it? I ran across you breaking into a facility which you may reasonably infer that I have some connection with. You work for an organization that is not known for breaking and entering for profit, whether large or small scale. I've had indirect dealings with the Phoenix Foundation—they do good work. I had some dealings with one of their predecessor companies back when I was, ah, pursuing my former professional lifestyle.”

Mac nodded curtly, but he was remembering that this woman had run one of the most successful criminal organizations in the world from the age of twenty, and done so while eschewing both prostitution and the drug trades. Two of the entries in the file the Phoenix Foundation had on her referred to tips passed on by The Network to the DEA that had done a great deal of damage to the Colombian drug cartels. Pete is going to be seriously pissed-off at me if I don't try to get her as a contact, but I've got more immediate problems right now. “Your point, Ms. Blaise?”

Modesty smiled to acknowledge the not so subtle demand to get to the point, and continued, “So I know what they're about—and by reputation what you're about. If you cared deeply about money you'd have been a multimillionaire years ago and certainly wouldn't be involved in unorthodox hand to hand combat with retired businesswomen in the middle of the night in London.” Mac remained silent, and Modesty concluded, “So I need to find out what you were doing there, so I can decide what needs to be done about it. The easy way would be for you to just be a good boy and tell me why you were there and what you expected to find.” Modesty smiled disarmingly at Mac and added, “Any chance we could play it that way?”


Mac shrugged and replied, “I wouldn't be considered a very reliable man in my field if I spilled secrets every time a beautiful woman smiled at me and asked nicely—even if that smile is backed by world-class martial arts and firearms skills.”

Modesty nodded, her expression thoughtful, then suggested, “The next possibility would be to leave you in here, of course—since I've removed your little bag of tricks and put it in a box outside the door. There's plenty of food and water and a loo, but it might get a little boring after a while.” She grinned wickedly and added, “Of course you probably wouldn't stay put for long. Between your reputation and a few things that Willie Garvin has told me over the years about the mischief one can get up to with common household supplies, I'd say that you've already spotted half a dozen means to open that door without the key that would not otherwise damage the room.”

Mac smirked. “Fourteen—and at least twenty if the refrigerator has the usual contents for an English household.”

Modesty's eyes widened a little at the casual boast—and a little wider as she registered that he was not kidding—before she nodded absently and continued, “Of course, I have your cell phone and you'd have to go off to get help in an area unfamiliar to you—making it easy to follow you at a distance and gather information on whoever your local allies turn out to be. Since you're fully aware of this and probably know a thing or two about shaking a tail, we'd end up acting out some sort of badly written chase scene over half of southern England. Willie would never stop teasing me about it.”

Mac winced. “Yeah—wacky chase scene music isn't the thing for either of us.” Modesty chuckled, and Mac added, “And don't bother bringing up any scenarios where I attack you and try to get that key you have hidden in your hair. Even if I got lucky and knocked you out, there's probably a big guy with a fondness for pointy objects waiting on the other side of the door, ready to express his displeasure at my damaging his Princess.”

Modesty smiled a little, then replied, “Assuming you left me alive, he'd tease me about letting you get the drop on me. But you wouldn't get past him, that's true.” She carefully locked eyes with him and threw her shoulders back before suggesting, “Of course, you could always try to kiss me again and see where that gets you.”

“Right—because that worked so well the first time.” Mac was annoyed and a tad embarrassed and didn't bother to hide it. Modesty was silent, and Mac stewed for a moment before admitting, “I knew I was outclassed, and I've never really had it in me to try to kill before I was sure someone was trying to kill me. So I was thinking as fast as I could to improvise, to do something, anything, to get you to let go so I could have time to figure out how to get out. The pipe bought me a little space, then--”

“You made your move.” No accusation or mockery could be discerned in Modesty's voice, though there was the slightest hint of amusement. Mac nodded, and Modesty shrugged, “It did surprise me for a moment—so not the worst play you could have made. I've run across a few women in my line of work who would have made a point of playing 'Loves me, loves me not' with your bits and other extremities for a move like that, though. Might want to use it cautiously in the future.”

Mac shivered a bit at the mental picture Modesty had just provided for him. “Hope I don't run into any of them in the future.”
“Oh, you won't—at least not those particular ones,” Modesty assured him, leaning back with a suddenly cold expression on her face. “They worked for the wrong people, and sadists tend to make mistakes that work against them when they meet up with someone who is more interested in just winning.”

Mac remembered a few of his more. . .colorful adversaries and laughed, “Yeah, it doesn't help them think very well, does it?” He thought for a moment, then pointed out, “You could just turn me over to whoever your friend is who owns or is connected with that facility, I suppose. The fact that you deal with them and haven't just dumped my body in the Thames suggests that they wouldn't be inclined to be too rough on me.”

Modesty smirked. “Don't be too sure, Mr. MacGyver—even the good guys can play rough. Besides, I'm not sure my friends would thank me for giving you an engraved invitation into their domain. Heaven only knows what havoc you could wreak if someone carelessly left a gum wrapper and a spork in your cell.” Mac quirked a smile, and Modesty gave him a “you're not fooling anyone” look before adding, “I think we're on the right track, though. Does your organization have protocols for meetings between two organizations who aren't actively unfriendly to one another but are still inclined to be cautious?”

Mac had to think a moment after hearing the question before replying, “Yeah—it's been a while since I had a real refresher, but I know the protocols—and I think this is one of the kinds of situations they were designed to deal with. To do it, you or someone acting on your behalf will have to make the contact and deliver a message exactly as I dictate it to you. Any deviation will cause the contact to be broken and set the whole organization on high alert once they confirm I'm missing.”

Modesty raised an eyebrow and commented, “So, I'd have to trust you not to give me some sort of 'bring down the Wrath of God onto whoever makes that call' code to me on blind faith?”

Mac pretended to consider the question for a moment before replying with a grin: “Yeah—pretty much. Up for it?”

Modesty glared at Mac for a moment, then sighed and responded, “Remarkably—yes. I'll ring up my friend first and make sure he doesn't want to veto the whole bloody thing, but I've heard him say good things about the Phoenix Foundation, too—that should buy you enough trust to give this thing a go.” She reached into her chignon and extracted a key, then unlocked the door and opened it, calling over her shoulder as she did, “I'll be gone for a while sorting this out. Since you're probably not inclined to sleep any more for the time being, I'll leave you with someone to provide some interesting conversation.”

Modesty slipped out into the hallway and Mac could hear her speaking quickly and quietly to someone before the sound of conversation ceased and an unfamiliar figure entered the room. He was well over six feet tall, and resembled a rather insanely fit version of a young Michael Caine. He grinned as he laid eyes on Mac and called out, “The Princess asked me to keep an eye on you while she gets things ready. In the meantime, I'd like to talk useful gadgets with you. It's been a good long while since I was sure I was talking with someone who could teach me something new in that area.”

Mac smiled genuinely at Willie Garvin's invitation. While he was more than a little anxious to hear back from Modesty Blaise regarding the disposition of the inter-organizational meeting that would get him out of stir and start the process of identifying the real opponent in this scenario, he was always in the mood to discuss useful technological improvisation, and Willie Garvin was a worthy companion to discuss such matters. Mac grinned and replied, “All right, Mr. Garvin. Assuming the door is locked and you do not have the key—how many means to open the door without damaging any other objects within the room do you see? You have five minutes.”



“--shot caught him square in the kneecap and made a mess of his leg. Took the fight right out of him.” Modesty took another sip from her champagne and added, “The others decided that it might be best to find another mark that night.”

“I'll bet they did.” Mac took a sip from his own glass and had another quiet moment of gratitude that the woman sitting across from him had ended up as at least a temporary ally, a mere week after their unexpected encounter in the secret facility.

It hadn't gone completely smoothly, of course. Though Modesty had followed the instructions provided by Mac to the letter—producing a coded message that Modesty delivered back to Mac, who used the private cipher that had been given to him for that purpose to decode the designated location for the meet—the Phoenix Foundation contacts who attended the meeting were not inclined to look favorably on anyone who was holding their foremost field operative against his will, even if only partially so. Modesty's own background as the former head of a major criminal organization—even one prone to be helpful to law enforcement in certain areas as The Network had been—hadn't helped, either. Fortunately, the situation had been salvaged by the unexpected—to everyone but Modesty—arrival of Sir Gerald Tarrant, a high end British intelligence official who immediately vouched for Modesty and Willie Garvin without reservation. Since Tarrant was well known to the Phoenix Foundation and was regarded as a straight shooter, this helped bleed whatever tension remained out of the situation.

With that having been resolved, the discussion turned to what had led to the confrontation between Modesty and Mac. The Phoenix Foundation representatives stated that they had received word that dangerous biotechnology was being developed in the facility in violation of both British and international law. Tarrant denied this and offered to take everyone in the room on an immediate snap inspection of the premises. All present agreed, and the resulting field trip revealed a facility that was clearly devoted to surveillance, not bioterrorism.

Another element was that Modesty's presence there that night had apparently been a mere coincidence—Tarrant had asked her to consult on some of the data uncovered by the surveillance just that morning, and she had been departing when she noted a security breach and went to investigate of her own volition. Which meant that someone had apparently given the Phoenix Foundation bad intel about the activities in that building with the goal of creating a conflict between British Intelligence and the Phoenix Foundation, with possible secondary diplomatic consequences between the US and Great Britain (“Or maybe just someone trying to get Sir Gerald's boys to punch Mr. MacGyver's ticket for him,” Modesty had observed quietly).

The question had turned to “who?”, and that was as of yet undetermined. Both organizations were checking all available leads, and Modesty had offered to use her own contacts to follow up on anything they turned up. This would take some time, and Pete Thornton had told Mac to relax while they worked on it. Modesty had offered Mac a guest room at her home for the duration, and had snickered when Mac asked if this one unlocked from the inside.

Willie Garvin had been around on most days, and he and Mac spent time talking shop in their various fields of expertise, with Modesty an interested observer. They had also trained together, and while Mac knew he'd never be in the class of either Modesty or Willie in a scrap, he was always grateful to get a tip that could improve what he was capable of.

But it was with Modesty that Mac spent the most time, and he found the experience fascinating—it had been obvious all along that someone of her relative youth would have to have a first-rate intellect along with her remarkable athleticism and indomitable will to have accomplished even a fraction of what she had, but actually seeing it on display was another matter altogether. He was unsurprised to hear that she had been a voracious reader as a child once she was in an area where books were to be found, and each scrap of knowledge she gained fed her desire for more. He found himself wondering what she would have been if she had grown up in a “normal” environment and had been able to obtain the top-end education that her mind was clearly capable of exploiting—then decided that it was not worth wasting time wondering about, given the quality of the person who had resulted from the actual scenario.

Mac had been working on some notes from a prior case that Pete had sent for an evaluation when Modesty walked in with the champagne and sat down to chat without invitation—which Mac certainly didn't mind in the slightest. He noticed that Modesty was wearing the red cheongsam that she had worn the first night after their confrontation in the secret facility—she had chosen rather less colorful outfits for most of their time together, both in and out of the company of others.

Modesty stood up and called out, “I'll be right back.” She departed the room, and Mac turned back to his notes. After a few seconds, he called out, “So. . .what did you want to do for the rest of the evening?”

Mac felt a pair of slender arms slide around him—giving him an odd sense of deja vu—and he heard a rustle of silk slipping to the floor as Modesty whispered in his ear, “I was hoping I could persuade you to improvise again, Mac.”


Remixer's Comments: As I noted above, I read the Modesty Blaise novels back in the mid-1990s, long before I had starting writing fanfiction. While I was hardly unacquainted with strong heroines—having been an Aragorn/Eowyn 'shipper long before I ever heard the term “'shipper” because Eowyn impressed me a lot more than Arwen ever did—Modesty Blaise struck me as a protagonist who specialized in making the world bend to her will, and not the other way around: a self-made Galatea who then turned her chisel onto the elements of her world that did not live up to her expectations, with spectacular (and very entertaining) results. While she and Buffy Summers are two very different heroic figures, Buffy doesn't tend to give a crap about “how things are supposed to be” when it doesn't make sense to her, and she tends to behave accordingly (with mixed but broadly positive results). I don't think it's too surprising that I enjoyed the exploits of both and spent a lot of time writing about the latter.

I was more of a casual fan of “MacGyver,” only occasionally watching, but I certainly approved of the character concept and do think that he and Modesty would have found each other interesting and good company. This might have turned into something longer if I had watched enough of the show to get a broader read on MacGyver's personality and motivations.


As always, comments are welcomed and desired.

(no subject)

Blood And Chocolate (The Post-Staking Remix)

Written for the 2014 Circle of Friends Remix

Author: M. Scott Eiland

Summary: After a vivid nightmare, Spike discovers that he wasn't its only audience.

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Time Frame: late season seven—Willow and Kennedy are an item, Spike is chip-free. Occasional random spoilers for up to that point.

Rating: T, for themes

Disclaimer: Still not mine—all hail Joss and the other Powers That Own the Buffyverse.

Original Story: "Blood and Chocolate" by http://dragonyphoenix.livejournal.com/

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Spike snapped into a sitting position, gasping for breath he didn't need and looking wildly around him until he was able to orient himself to his surroundings. He was in Buffy's basement on the cot, the only light in the room coming from a small lamp in the opposite corner. He was alone, allowing him to gather his wits after what had been an unusually intense dream, even by the standards of his long association with Dru and his time with Buffy.

Where in the bloody hell had that come from? Oh, letting that idiot Andrew talk him into that silly role-playing game hadn't been a great idea, and he knew full well that blood and chocolate was a dangerous brew as far as hoping for a sound sleep went. . .but he hadn't directed that sort of thought at Red since-- He chuckled ruefully and shook his head.

“You seem rather pleased with yourself.” Spike's head snapped around toward the stairs and he saw Kennedy standing there, glaring at him with an intensity that wasn't quite Buffy-like but was impressive in its own right.

Spike felt a moment of primal fear, then remembered that Kennedy wasn't the Slayer who had effortlessly used superior strength to stake him in the nightmare, and that he was no longer suffering from the annoying little chip in his head. He cocked an eyebrow at the Potential and replied, “And what if I am? Don't see what business it is of yours—and shouldn't you be keeping Red's bed warm?”

Kennedy scowled and replied, “I was doing just that—until a dream woke me up. A dream involving you seducing my girlfriend and me introducing you to a pointy wooden object. Ring a bell?”

Spike had a first-rate poker face—good enough to let him hold his own against some of the best players in the world in cash games back before his obsession with Buffy had left him without funds or time for such pursuits—but Kennedy's matter of fact accusation made him flinch before he adopted a blank expression, and her glare intensified. Spike blinked, then muttered, “Bugger.” He looked over at the Potential and met her gaze without flinching again as he commented, “I'm not the expert Rupert is on Slayer-lore, but I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to be having Slayer dreams until you stop being a Potential.”

Kennedy shrugged, “Didn't start until a few months ago, when the bastards started trying to kill us. Giles thinks it's from The First throwing power around, or a hidden survival instinct that some Potentials have even before being called, maybe to stop something like what The First is trying to do.” She snorted and added, “And right now I don't really care why I'm getting dreams that are telling me that the vampire in the basement is having thoughts about screwing my girlfriend—I'm too preoccupied at being pissed off by it.”

Spike nodded, “Understandable,” He reached for a cigarette and lit it up while Kennedy stared at him in growing irritation, and took a long drag before commenting, “You know, it might occur to you that the dream in question was a nightmare for me and not take it so bloody personally. You never had a dream about shagging someone that horrified you when your eyes opened?”

“Plenty,” admitted Kennedy, walking down the stairs and going to lean against the wall opposite where Spike was sitting. “But none of those was a Slayer dream, much less one shared with a vampire. I'm still new to even the economy version of Slayer abilities, but I'm thinking I should pay attention—maybe I should talk to Giles or Buffy about this--”

Spike sighed. “Wait.” Kennedy paused on her way to the stairs, and Spike looked at her with the most earnest expression he could muster and added, “Look—there was a time when I might have had an interest in Red that way, and I think you caught an echo of it. How about I tell you about it, and set your mind to ease? Given that I don't think me saying 'I have no plans to try to shag your girlfriend' is going to impress you right now.”

Kennedy studied the vampire minutely. She had taken the time to read up on Spike's history once she was aware of his presence in the Summers home, and she had asked Giles and Buffy a substantial number of questions to fill in the gaps. She knew that he had a history of being a notoriously effective manipulator against anyone who dropped their guard against him. After a moment, she settled down into a chair that was next to her, leaning back and feeling the shape of the stake she kept on her belt. She nodded and replied, “All right then—I'm listening. If I get the feeling you're trying to sell me a bill of goods, I'm walking out and getting Giles—and if you come at me I won't bother to try to fight you. I'll just scream my head off while I still have a throat to do it with.”

Spike smiled and nodded in approval, “Smart girl. Then again, Red wouldn't have much interest in a dumb one.” Kennedy frowned at him, and he smirked, “Not flattery, luv. Even Droopy Boy is a lot brighter than most give him credit for, and Wolf Boy and Tara were both as sharp as tacks, though they both hid it in their own ways.”

Kennedy's expression went blank, and Spike shook his head and commented, “You're not going to last very long if you lose your composure every time one of her exes names comes up—it's not like she has much use for blokes these days.”

Kennedy scowled at him and snapped, “You got a problem with that?”

“It would be a bit inconvenient if I was still interested, but I'm a vampire, luv—most sexual hangups really aren't a problem for us.” He was grateful when Kennedy seemed to accept that answer and not follow up on the “most” caveat—some memories were still unpleasant after well over a century. He decided to cut to the chase: “You know the story of how I first came here after Buffy set up shop?”

Kennedy nodded. “A few months after she staked the Master. You showed up with Drusilla and ended up taking over from the existing boss.”

Spike snorted, “The Anointed One, they called him. More like The Ignited One when I threw him into a cage and hoisted him until he kissed sunlight. Good times.” He took another drag from his cigarette and continued, “Mostly saw Buffy during those early days, along with my nancy boy grandsire. Then my plan to save Dru got me laid up, and the whole thing with Angelus making a return appearance made a right mess of things.”

Kennedy shivered, “Yeah, I heard about that.”

Spike nodded, and continued, “That was actually when I first heard about Red—Angelus had plans for her. She seemed so harmless at the time, so helpless—just the sort of victim he loved. Lucky for her that he liked to mess with heads before going for the kill—bloody lunatic came in one night bragging about having killed all of Red's goldfish. I wonder if she was thinking about those goldfish when she cast that soul curse and sent big bad Angelus back into his cage.”

Kennedy was silent, and Spike took another drag before smirking and commenting, “I heard about a lot of this later, of course—I was too busy fleeing for my life and dragging Dru along with me. She didn't take that well and I wound up back in Sunnydale a few months later, single and drunk as hell. Found out Red was a witch and grabbed her and Droopy Boy trying to get a love spell out of her. Didn't work out, but I was impressed by what I saw—she kept her cool better than a lot of demon hunters twice her age and with five times her experience would have. If she'd been a little more experienced I probably would have been dust.” He smiled at a memory and added, “So after a couple of more visits to Sunnydale and liking what I saw of her, I showed up at her dorm room one night and decided to make her an offer she couldn't refuse—only to have my plans for the evening called off by that bloody chip in my head.” He shook his head ruefully and concluded, “That was a break—failing, not having a chip put in my head—turning Red would have been a big mistake.”

Kennedy frowned, puzzled at Spike's wording enough to distract her from the natural reaction to being told that by someone that they had plotted to murder her girlfriend and turn her into an undead monster. Spike noted the reaction and elaborated, “No, it's not the soul talking. It's just that it would have been a waste.”

“A waste?” Part of Kennedy knew that the reaction she was having was borderline crazy, but she was unable to avoid blurting out the next sentence: “You think she'd have been a weak vampire?”

Spike carefully put out the cigarette in the nearby ashtray, then started laughing. He continued long enough for Kennedy to start scowling again before suggesting, “Ask Rupert or Droopy Boy what kind of vampire they think Red would have been. You'll hear quite the tale.” Kennedy's eyes widened in dismay, and Spike continued, “No, it's just that being turned would have lost some of her better qualities, the ones that developed as she got older. Not long after that night she met Tara and started getting serious about the whole witch thing—it didn't take long for her to get dangerous. She became powerful and confident, and when that Glory bitch was bouncing Buffy around like a tetherball it was Willow who managed to hurt her first, then got her off-balance enough for Buffy to finish her before--”


“It's all right, Spike.” Kennedy saw the torment on the vampire's face, and while she didn't walk over to him, the compassion was naked in her tone as she added, “I know what happened next—you don't need to talk about it.” Willow had only discussed Buffy's death with her once, and her haunted expression as she told the tale was etched indelibly in Kennedy's memory, and she knew from the story that Spike had taken it as hard as any of them.

Spike managed a wistful smile, then replied, “Thanks, but I need to get through this, and you need to hear it to understand.” He stood up and walked over to the basement window, looking up at the dark glass as he continued, “We were all affected by what happened, but there was no time to mourn. Glory dying bought us some time, but not much—and we were looking at a Hellmouth that would keep drawing vampires and every other nasty around. Everyone there had their own ways to fight—hell, the little nibblet would have been there with us if we hadn't forbidden it, and that wouldn't have lasted forever if Buffy hadn't come back and we knew it. But Buffy had been the center that held things together and made them a team, and even adding a bit of muscle on my end wasn't going to solve that problem. Rupert would have tried, but the spirit had gone out of him—and they weren't about to follow me into the field and they'd have been damned fools if they did. Someone had to step into the role that Buffy had left open—and that's where Red came in.”

Kennedy smiled, and Spike nodded and continued, “She was a natural. She used her powers to coordinate attacks and keep an eye on things—and if things got really rough she was our ace in the hole: firepower that causes a hellgod pain tends to be overkill on most run of the mill demons.” He looked back at Kennedy and commented, “I've lived a long time, and seen a lot of leaders: human and demon. Red had the potential to be the best I'd ever seen. Which ended up being a problem.”

Kennedy felt a chill—she knew where this was going. “She talked them into helping to bring Buffy back.”

Spike nodded tersely. “She knew them well enough to know the ones who should be left out. Rupert would have tried to stop her, and I would have fought to the death to stop them from doing what needed to be done if things went wrong and they brought back a monster with Buffy's face.” Kennedy stared, and Spike snorted and commented, “Do you really think a soulless vampire is the nastiest thing that could be let loose on this world? Anya used to be a vengeance demon who had once been a human—they have souls, and those souls drive them to atrocities that would make Angelus shudder. Buffy soulless or with a corrupted soul would be far more dangerous than that, and I would have stood at her side and helped her burn the world to ashes, if that's what she had wanted. Red was sensible enough to know that even as she made reckless plans, and ruthless enough to be willing to put her best friend down if it was needed.”

“But it worked.” Kennedy struggled to push away the dread that Spike's harsh assessment of what had happened had instilled in her. “They brought Buffy back and no one died that night.”

“Yeah, they did.” Kennedy had never heard a voice sound like Spike's did in that moment—it was a mixture of regret and joy and utmost pain. “Problem was—Red learned the wrong lessons from it. Deep down, she's a control freak—oh, she means well by it. . .but you know the old saying about what the road to hell is paved with, right? She had just rolled the dice with the dark powers and brought her best friend back from what she thought was horrible torment as her reward—why in the hell would she doubt whether her instincts were right about anything after that? Rupert got back and scolded her for having taking such incredible risks, and she dismissed his concerns and directed veiled threats at him when he persisted.” He shook his head, as if to chase away the memories, and added, “When things started going wrong, she kept using magic to try to make the problems go away, and when that didn't help and Tara left her out of a sense of betrayal, she spiraled out of control. It took almost getting Dawn killed to snap her out of it, and give her credit, she did her damnedest to straighten up. She gave up magic completely for a while, even at times when some of us were begging her to use it to get us out of a mess.”

“Until Tara died.” Kennedy knew this story, too, though it had taken long hours with Dawn and a quiet evening with Xander on watch to get the full picture.

“Tara was. . .loved by everyone in their group.” Kennedy noted that Spike did not claim to share that feeling, but she also noted that there was a quiver in his own voice that did not suggest he viewed the matter impersonally as the vampire continued: “Any one of them could have snapped and gone after that bastard Warren with intent to kill—but Willow had already revisited her powers with a vengeance in trying to save Tara, and absorbing the dark magic at the shop was the last straw. She became an avatar of vengeance and death in that moment, and Warren was no more than a speed bump to her after that.”

Kennedy shook her head, remembering what the others had told her about the aftermath. “It's hard to believe that she came back from that, no matter how much help she had.”

“Never underestimate the power of a yellow crayon.” Willow's voice came from the stairs, and they turned to see her standing there, watching them with a thoughtful expression. “I woke up and you weren't there any more, so I followed the voices.”

Kennedy shrugged, and told a half-truth: “I couldn't sleep, and I felt like talking to someone—I had a feeling Spike would be awake.”

Willow nodded and replied, “That makes sense. Why don't you come back to bed? I'll be along as soon as I ask Spike about something.”

Spike tensed, though he noticed that Willow seemed calm. Kennedy nodded and headed upstairs and Spike called out, “Did that explanation work for you?”

Kennedy paused, then nodded once and replied, “Night, Spike.” She headed up the stairs without a further word, leaving Spike and Willow alone.

Spike began to open his mouth and was interrupted: “Gay now, Spike.” Spike blinked at that, and Willow smirked slightly and added, “But not immune to a compliment, even if it was a vaguely dark and disturbing one out of a vampire's nightmare.”

Spike stared and snapped, “Is there anyone in this house who doesn't have balcony seats to my bloody nightmares?”

“Since Buffy hasn't come storming down here to yell at you for your subconscious perving on me, I'm assuming that there aren't any others. I was probably only there due to being close to her while she had the dream and being an involved party.” Willow walked down the stairs and stood next to Spike as she added, “Thanks for setting her mind at ease, and for trying to give her some insights—there are some things she hadn't asked me yet.”

Spike shrugged and replied, “Couldn't have her running off and telling tales to Buffy or Rupert, could we? Besides, she has a right to know what she's getting into.”

Willow nodded, and turned to go. Spike's eyes fell on her as she left: she was wearing a dark green nightgown, made of very thin fabric that left very little to the imagination. . .

“Spike? Isn't this what woke us all up to begin with?” Spike blinked and noted that Willow was watching him with a playful, amused expression. He was opening his mouth to protest his innocence when she spoke again: “Shush.” He complied, and Willow shook her head briefly and whispered “Bored now,” before heading up the stairs.

Spike shivered a little at Willow's last words and muttered, “Better you than me, Kennedy.” He reached for his cigarettes again, hoping that a smoke or two would let him relax enough to sleep.


Remixer's Comments: A good drabble can be an excellent starting point for a longer story as either a sequel or a remix, and I was pleased to take the opportunity here, doubly so because I had never really used Kennedy as a character before.


As always, comments are welcomed and desired.

(no subject)

Little Marshmallows And A Warm Cup (Like A Stone—Joyce's Remix)

Written for the 2013 Circle of Friends Remix

Author: M. Scott Eiland

Summary: Spike mourns, and someone is listening.

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rating: T, for themes

Disclaimer: Still not mine—all hail Joss and the other Powers That Own the Buffyverse.

Original Story: “Like A Stone,” by Evil_Little_Dog


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Circle Of Friends Remix

We are pleased to announce the completion of the Circle of Friends Remix, Round 1, 2011.

This was a limited remix, and brand-new, with only four participants. We followed the basic principles of RemixRedux, except that this was a round-robin. The results are as follows:

aadler: remix of lwbush, with “Best Foot Forward
lwbush: remix of sroni, with “The Princess Diaries
sroni: remix of eilandesq, with “All That Glitters
eilandesq: remix of aadler, with “Grand Inquest

Read, comment, and consider joining in the next time we do this!