author: Lucinda

rating: pg 13

main characters: Buffy, Brooklyn

disclaimer: I do not own any characters or situations from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Disney's Gargoyles.

distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth, TNL, Paula - anyone else must ask first.

note: takes place after Buffy's rescue of the runaways at the start of season 3 but before she returns to Sunnydale.

Buffy felt as if everything in her body was aching now. She'd had the most horribly brutal feeling wake up to the fact that she couldn't ignore her destiny, couldn't run away from being the Slayer. She'd had to go into some alternate dimension, let's just call it hell, or a hell anyhow, and rescue a pack of runaways and homeless people that had been enslaved by a pack of ugly demons with leather masks. She'd let one of the girls, someone that she'd actually seen in Sunnydale talk her into it, but... it had been the right thing. And Chantarelle, or Lilly, or well, she said she wanted to be Anne now, she'd needed help.

But the months that she'd spent trying to hide had been hard on her. Not so much physically, just... long hours standing as a waitress, irregular meals, and poor sleep weren't good for anyone. She'd been to exhausted, too much in denial to train, so she'd lost some of her condition. Muscles had gone stiff and not quite flabby, but softer. She'd started patrolling again, hoping that with a bit of practice here first, returning to the Hellmouth wouldn't kill her. And it delayed going back to see everyone that she'd abandoned again...

She was walking along a dark street, part of her really wishing that she'd brought more weapons with her when she'd left. All she had was a dagger and a stake. There had been a single minion vampire that had tried to make her into dinner, but things were a bit more quiet. Then she heard... sounds, like people taunting something helpless, or someone. She moved closer, not even noticing that her movements had become smoother, more silent.

A trio of of what she could only call minions... no, thugs, these were humans, had cornered something up on the side of a building. She couldn't quite tell what it was in the darkness, but it had glowing eyes. And one of the men was prepared to shoot the cornered whatever was hiding in the shadows.

She gathered her courage, and moved, her weapons hidden. These were humans, she didn't want to kill them. They tried to put up a fight, and there were plenty of insults, but really, they were out-classed. She had just dropped the second into an unconscious heap, and turned, trying to find the third. He was being held in an arm lock by... a crimson skinned something with wings. There was a long tail twitching as the red thing held the man, and a beak like mouth was curled just a bit in what looked an awful lot like annoyance. Two long, sharp looking horns rose from a mane of white hair.

A glance proved that this red guy was the formerly cornered something. And apparently, he or it was a not so bad guy. She walked over and punched the thug, and he slumped down, no longer awake or struggling. "So... umm, what are you anyhow? And thanks for catching him, I think he was the one with a gun."

He answered in a normal sounding voice with a weird accent, like some bizarre combination of New York and Scottish. "I'm a gargoyle. My name's Brooklyn, and I owe you a thanks too. You helped me out there."

Buffy shook her head, feeling a bit confused. "A gargoyle? I thought those were, well, water spouts or something. You don't look like a water spout. Actually, you look like you maybe could have taken those guys down yourself..."

He grinned, and there was a definite chuckle. "No, I'm not a waterspout. But gargoyles, the real ones, not the water spouts, we protect. It's what we do, our purpose for being. Hudson... our eldest has this old saying... A gargoyle can no more stop protecting the castle than breathing the air. Sort of responsibility and destiny all in one. Which means we aren't supposed to hurt humans."

"You actually have a castle to protect?" Buffy couldn't help the question, even though she knew it wasn't the point. "And I'm Buffy Summers."

"Sort of... it got put up on the top of a very tall tower. But the clan... we sort of decided that all of Manhattan was our protectorate now. Not just a castle, but a city." He was trying not to laugh now.

Buffy frowned, thinking that his tradition sounded a lot like the whole Slayer deal. "What if your protecting means you get hurt? Or those you care about die?"

One red taloned hand reached out, resting on her arm briefly. When he spoke again, his eyes were filled with sympathy, and understanding. "It can be pretty harsh sometimes. We lost almost all of our clan. But it's what we are, what we do. If we don't protect, what purpose is there for us?"

"Without protecting... yeah, I guess I see that. It was... You've helped me get a few things settled. Now, the only thing is to go home, back to the place that I'm supposed to keep safe. If you ever want to take a nightmare vacation, come visit me? I have to go back to Sunnydale California, home of the hellmouth." Her voice probably gave away just how much she was looking forward to that.

"Maybe someday. But in the meantime... does it help to know you aren't alone?" Brooklyn looked like he was suddenly so sad.

She had the sudden feeling that he had his own story, one with every bit as much complexity and tragedy as her own. "I'm the Slayer... one girl in all the world destined and chosen to fight evil. There isn't anyone else like me... there won't be another Slayer until I die. Are there... you said a clan, are there very many gargoyles?"

"Not anymore. There's only a few of us left in all the world." There was so much pain and sorrow in his voice.

Suddenly, Buffy felt as if she'd been incredibly selfish in her concerns. "Ouch... I'm sorry to hear that. Here I was worried about me, and you're like, on the edge of extinction of something."

"Hey... we're a stubborn people. We won't give up that quickly. Maybe you'll happen to find a group of lonely female gargoyles out there in California... and if you do, I really hope you'll let us know." Brooklyn was trying to make a bit of a joke about it, suddenly and oddly reminding her of Xander.

She smiled, feeling the tears sting in her eyes as she thought of home. "It's possible I guess... I promise to keep an eye out for any other gargoyles that I might run into. Especially if they're cute."

"Cute would be a plus. Good luck with your protectorate, Buffy." Brooklyn grinned at her, an offer of encouragement against the despair of the endless battle.

She smiled back, feeling somehow less afraid. "Thanks Brooklyn. I can use all the luck I can get when I get home."

end We Live to Protect.