Series: Postcards from the Edge of the Hellmouth Part Six.
Episode Tie-In: Angel.
Summary: Angel ponders whether to be or not to be while Darla plots to reclaim her thankless Childe.
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, David Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, The Warner Brothers et al. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights. Julia Devereaux and original parts of the story are my own creation.
Member of The BtVS Writers' Guild: Because fan fiction makes anything possible.
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'How sharper than a serpent's
tooth it is to have a thankless Childe!'
Prologue – Dust To Dust
Diary entry, Sunnydale,
How did it all go wrong so quickly? A few weeks ago, there we were, congratulating ourselves on a successful campaign to halt the Harvest. Since then our little Slayer, who seemed so unsuited to the role at first, has not only fended off attacks by vampires but encountered witches, a virgin-eating insect-woman, hyena demons - things the Chosen One was never meant to deal with, rising magnificently to meet each new challenge.
Then this thing with Angel happened. Our one supposed ally here in Sunnydale turns out to be a vampire himself. Not that the revelation came as a huge surprise. Now there's remains that niggling little problem of having the scourge of vampires developing a crush on one of the undead, albeit a very cute one.
And having to kill him.
- Julia Devereaux
[A few days before …]
The last of the vampires collapsed against a granite headstone, exploding in a shower of red-brown particles that swirled around like a miniature dust storm for a few moments before settling in a fine powder on the grave, on the grass … and on the Slayer.
Julia had gone on patrol with Buffy that night hoping it would be quiet enough to get in some weapons practice but immediately they had arrived at Sunnydale Cemetery several vampires jumped them. Buffy dispatched the first one almost before the female Watcher had a chance to react. Slaying two more in as many minutes, Buffy seemed disappointed to see the others turn tail and disappear into the night.
'Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.' Julia read aloud the epitaph on the tombstone as the final residue of vampire particles were carried away on the breeze. 'How ironic,' she added archly.
'Damn! I just washed these!' Buffy realised she was covered in dust motes and began frantically brushing the stuff off her jeans and out of her hair, slapping at her clothes as if they were crawling with tiny spiders. 'Eww! What a mess!' She turned to Julia who was now gathering up the spare stakes that had spilled from the duffle bag that Buffy carried on patrol. 'So, what's with the exploding undead anyway? Why can't they just die in a normal, un-detonating way like any other self-respecting demon? Or at least dissolve into a nice compact pool of non-airborne gunge.'
'Well, besides the fact that they're already dead … ' Julia began. Buffy gave the older woman a withering look. '… I suspect it has something to do with the effect of the demon soul on the human body. The demon-part comes from another dimension, a different 'plane of existence' as the spiritualists would say.' Julia scowled a little. She hated reverting to 'mystical' terminology but science did not have the vocabulary to cover the situation. 'This changes the vibratory levels of the host body, which, by the way, is what you 'feel' with your Slayer sense when a vampire is near. When the demonic soul is released it's ripped back into that other dimension with such violent force that it loosens the body's molecular bonds sufficiently to turn the remains to dust.'
'Hmph … ' Buffy did not sound impressed. Ask a simple question, get a complicated answer. Julia was sounding more like Giles every day. British-school marm with a touch of the Twilight Zones. 'So how did you get to know all this stuff? About vampires I mean.' She hoisted the bag of weapons over her shoulder and they resumed patrolling the largest of Sunnydale's uncommonly numerous graveyards. 'I don't suppose there's a course or anything – 'Creatures of the Night 101'?'
'Years of study in the field,' Julia replied, 'and in public and private libraries across six continents. Of course,' she added, 'most of it is just theory.'
'It's not like you can turn people into vampires for the purpose of studying the physical process.'
Buffy thought Julia sounded faintly wistful.
'Well, you could, but I guess it would be frowned upon,' Buffy grinned. 'Especially by the Council of Watchers. I imagine they tend to do a lot of frowning on things – that is, if Giles is anything to go by.'
The tall brunette chuckled and threw an arm around Buffy's other shoulder. 'You're a strange child, Buffy,' Julia said, 'but you're not far wrong!'