Setting: Set in the continuation-verse, which picks up about three months after the end of "Chosen". So, spoilers for pretty much everything, including any "episodes" in this series that have come before it.
Notes: Here we go with my most ambitious 'fic project ... well, ever, basically. A virtual continuation of a show with a whole heck of a lot more story to tell. Since deciding to do this project I've discovered that there are, in fact, many Season 8's ... but this is the only one with the Jet Wolf Seal of Involvement, so that guarantees freshness. Or something.
Episodes are posted to weekly, at 8pm EST on Tuesdays, all pretty and HTML'd with graphics and oo! Credits. We have credits, too. Eps will appear the following Friday or Saturday on So if you don't want to wait all that extra time (and really, how could you?), the site is the way to go.
(2 September 2004)
Episode 13: "The Inward Eye"
Story by: Jet Wolf & Ultrace
Written by: Jet Wolf & Novareinna
At Buffy's appearance, all heads turned toward the dining room entranceway. Tara was at the head of the table, directly in the Slayer's line of sight. On either side of Tara sat Willow and Dawn, with Xander and Giles seated closest to the kitchen. The Watcher was the first to regain his senses, and he opened his mouth to formulate some sort of explanation, however inadequate it may have been, given the circumstances.
He didn't get the chance. In the time it took Giles to even think about speaking, Buffy had seen enough. Like a veil falling into place, the surprise she felt at her unexpected visitor was replaced with grim determination, and the Slayer knew what must be done.
"Dawn, come away from there," she commanded in a calm voice, but with absolute authority. Never once did the blonde's eyes flicker from what she perceived as a threat.
Frowning, Dawn tried to calm her sister. "No, Buffy, it's okay. It's—"
"Get away from it!"
The teenager was already on her feet and had taken two steps before she realized she had moved. Smoothly, ensuring he made no sudden gestures, Giles rose and went to Buffy's side, where he nodded for Dawn to come closer. Glancing from Tara to Buffy, Xander left his seat next to Willow and also joined the Slayer. His brow was creased with concern, but Buffy paid it no mind. Instead, she watched Tara like a hawk, tense and prepared for anything.
Willow gawked at her best friend as if she'd never seen Buffy before. Tara, however, did not appear surprised at the Slayer's reaction. Muted but calm resolution was apparent on the blonde witch's features as she absorbed Buffy's fierce response, but that was all. No other emotions could be determined. By and large, Tara was utterly unreadable.
The stunned compliance had completely worn off for Dawn, and now the teenager was fuming at her sister. "What is your deal—Hey!"
Now that she was within reach, Buffy seized Dawn's arm and none too gently yanked her close. Deliberately, Buffy placed herself between Tara and Dawn, ignoring the spluttered protests behind her. Dawn jerked her arm out of the Slayer's grasp with an accusatory, "God!"
"Buffy ..." Giles tried to calm her, resting his hand on the blonde's rigid shoulder.
She ignored both of them, never allowing her gaze to waver from Tara for even a fraction of a second. "Willow, move away," Buffy ordered in the same calm tone she had first used with her sister.
"What? No." Willow shook her head for emphasis, frowning at the Slayer with confusion. "Buffy, it's Ta—"
"It's not," interrupted Buffy with certainty. "She's dead, Willow. I don't know what that is, but you need to get away from it. Now."
"No," the redhead repeated as she rose to her feet. Resting her hand on the back of Tara's chair, she tried her best to explain the complicated situation. "Look, I-I know this is a huge shock, but it's ..." Willow turned her gaze down to the blonde witch. "Tara, tell her—"
"Now, Will," Buffy barked, and the demand left absolutely no room whatsoever for questioning.
Unlike Dawn, however, Willow did not move. Quite the opposite, the spat command served no purpose other than to infuriate the witch. Her back became stiff and her eyes narrowed to thin, angry slits. The air around her almost seemed to crackle with energy, and in that moment, Willow was not a person to be crossed.
And neither was the Slayer. Buffy was every inch as unwavering, and the already thick tension in the room skyrocketed to nearly choking levels.
Entirely uncomfortable, Xander glanced nervously from Buffy to Willow. Swallowing hard, he took a brave step forward, not completely getting between them, but positioning himself so that both women would certainly see him, even as their glares were fixated elsewhere. He repeatedly tapped the palm of one hand onto the fingertips of the other, forming a "T". "Oooo-kaaay, I'm callin' time-out before these lovely dining room chairs get smashed into many less-functional pieces," he announced.
Nobody reacted. Buffy continued to glare at Tara, almost shooting out a challenge, daring the blonde to make a move. Tara met Buffy's eyes steadily, but her expression remained impassive. Willow was by far the most outwardly emotional of them all, her hands having balled themselves into fists that were shaking slightly at her sides.
"C'mon guys," Xander attempted to cajole, "there are plenty of crab puffs to go around, no need to degenerate into violence here."
Despite his valiant efforts, the carpenter was obviously being ignored, and Giles stepped in to try again. "Buffy. It's all right." Radiating calm, the Watcher addressed his Slayer in a low, soothing voice.
"Giles, what is it?" Buffy rasped back in a stage whisper, unable to spare him a glance.
"I'm not yet certain," he confessed. "For all intents and purposes, it appears to be Tara."
That finally did the trick, and Buffy swung her head around to gape at Giles. The deadlock broken, Xander took the opportunity to draw Dawn away from behind her sister, placing a comforting arm around the frazzled teenager's shoulders.
No longer bothering to even try and be discreet, an incredulous Buffy stated, "You can't seriously be telling me that ..." She flung her arm out at the blonde. "...whatever-the-hell is Tara."
"I'm telling you we don't yet know who or-or what that may be," the Watcher patiently explained, still keeping his voice soft and low. "But what I can tell you is that she's been alone with Willow and Dawn since early this afternoon and both are fine. If she wanted to hurt them, she had ample opportunity to do so. I know this is an ... extraordinary situation, and we'll find out what's going on. I promise you." He offered her a slight smile. "But let's do so without destroying the house, hm?"
Effort was necessary on Buffy's part, but she managed to compose herself, even if just a little. As token a gesture as it may have been, Xander and Dawn embraced it wholeheartedly, and they both sagged in relief. Willow, however was unmoved, and her fists remained tightly clenched.
Buffy returned her steely attentions to Tara. "I want answers," she insisted to Giles in a clear voice that very easily carried to everyone in the room.
"We'll get them," he promised. "Now come on, your sesame chicken is getting cold."
Steering her gently by the shoulders, Giles escorted Buffy to the nearest chair, but a digitized rendition of the theme song from "Cops" filled the air. The blonde pulled away and reached into her pants pocket, fishing out her cell phone and flipping it open.
"Yeah?" she snapped, then fell silent as she listened. Briefly, she glanced to Giles. "Yeah, he's here. ... Where? ... Okay, we'll be there in 15 minutes. Don't let him leave." Snapping the phone closed, she shoved it back into her pocket and addressed the Watcher. "That was Faith. They've tracked Jeffreys to a warehouse downtown but they're having some trouble getting to him. They need us."
Nodding his understanding, Giles turned to leave. Before he could take a step, however, Buffy grabbed his arm. Xander approached the pair to listen in.
In a harsh whisper, Buffy asked, "What about...?" She jerked her head toward Tara.
"We can't bring everyone with us, not without putting them at risk," Giles replied. "As I said before, if she wanted to hurt them, she could have. I don't believe they're in any danger from her. At least not right now."
"I'll keep my eye on her," volunteered Xander. "The good one, even." He smiled at his joke, but it was weak and faded quickly, his heart clearly not behind the effort. The carpenter gave Buffy an uncertain, worried look. "You really think Tara would hurt them?"
"Our Tara? No way. But I am far from convinced that this thing is anything more than some cheap made-in-Taiwan knockoff, and I will not stand by and watch it destroy Willow and Dawn all over again."
The Slayer watched as Dawn, having reclaimed her original seat, scooted closer to Tara. Very slowly, Willow sat down again as well, but not once did the redhead's angry, mistrustful eyes slip away from Buffy.
Outside the warehouse, the group of Junior Slayers turned as Giles' sports car came to a screeching stop. The gathering quickly parted to allow the Watcher and Buffy to enter the building. Once inside, Faith and Kennedy soon joined the pair.
"What's the sitch?" asked the blonde Slayer, her eyes swiftly adjusting to the relatively dim interior.
With a twitch of her head, Kennedy directed Buffy to the far end of the building. "Our boy here's being only slightly less entertaining than a Jim Carrey movie. He's barely moved a muscle since he tried to fry Melanie."
Buffy glanced at the injured Junior in question. Melanie appeared to be in good shape, except for the fact that a huge hunk of hair was missing and there were makeshift bandages wrapped around her arm. The girl was openly glaring at Jeffreys, her expression enraged but still wary. She made no move to venture beyond the point where she was standing. Jeffreys had now positioned himself atop a stack of crates. He somewhat resembled a presiding judge seated behind a lofty bench, all the better to peer down at those beneath him. His eyes, however, were closed.
"Is anyone else injured?" asked the concerned Watcher.
Kennedy shook her head. "No. After he Flamed On, I pulled everyone back."
Giles treated her to a small smile of approval. "Mm, best course of action. Wise decision." He moved further toward Kennedy in order to be brought up to speed on the current situation as Faith motioned Buffy to one side.
"So much for rest and relaxation at home, huh?" said the dark-haired Slayer with a grin.
Buffy puffed angrily. "You have no idea."
Faith blinked in surprise at the snipped response. "Dawn plaster your room with sparkly stickers again?"
"In comparison? That, I would welcome," stated the blonde.
"Even the 'Blue's Clues' ones?" Faith asked with a snicker. Buffy nodded just once, it was a sharply executed move. Faith whistled under her breath. "Damn, it must be serious. What's up?"
"Later," the blonde told Faith, noticing Giles and Kennedy coming toward them. She regarded the dark-haired Slayer seriously for a moment. "Actually, if this is as bad as I think it is, I may need your help."
Faith was equally serious. "I got your back," she said earnestly.
Buffy gave her a quick but sincere smile before turning to Giles and Kennedy. "Let's make this quick, Giles, I don't want to leave—" she stopped mid-sentence and glanced in Kennedy's direction, apparently reluctant to continue along that particular track of conversation. She hastily switched gears. "I want to get home quick."
"I understand," the Watcher nodded in agreement. "Unfortunately, additional research appears to have turned up precious little in the way of information. The Utsikt Skjønn is mentioned in only a small handful of texts, and those with any substantial information only point back to the translated rhyme. If we're to find an answer, I suspect it will be there."
"Since Giles was born without the ability to interact with any sort of mechanical device," stated Kennedy, blatantly ignoring Giles' wounded glare, "I got the Council to text message the poem." She waggled her Palm Pilot for all to see and then began to read, "'Two are shown, both sides—'"
Faith began to pace restlessly back and forth. "For real now, I had enough. He ain't moved in like an hour now an' I think he's catchin' some Z's." She narrowed her eyes and stared at Jeffreys. With a sudden movement, she started toward him.
Giles reached out and seized her arm. "Faith, wait!"
The dark-haired Slayer easily shook off the Watcher's grasp. "You can stick to Poetry 101," she told him. "Me, I always did better with contact sports."
Her stride was confident, brash and almost nonchalant as Faith made her way toward Jeffreys. He did indeed appear to be sleeping, but after she had taken a few paces, his eyes snapped open. Fixing her with vacant stare, his gaze was unfocused for a mere second before it visibly cleared.
"Crap," muttered Faith. She rapidly quickened her step, but Jeffreys was even speedier than the fast-approaching Slayer.
"You have been found guilty," he accused dispassionately.
His glasses flared, and the area around Faith ignited. With a nimble leap to the side, the dark-haired Slayer rolled to the ground, cursing profusely as her shoulder made contact with the bare concrete. Continuing to rotate, she returned to her feet, none the worse for wear save that her hair and clothes were smoking a little. The area where she had been mere seconds before blazed brightly for a moment and then died with a hissing splutter, leaving behind the same runic mark that already decorated the walls. As if in slow motion, Jeffreys head swiveled to where Faith was now standing. Quickly, she backed away and rejoined the others in what was presumably the "safe" zone beyond Jeffreys' range.
As casually as possible, she turned to Giles and her fellow Senior Slayers. "Okay, so 'Two are shown' ..."
Kennedy smirked but apparently decided to keep any remarks to herself. She turned her attention back to the Palm and opened her mouth to speak. But before she could utter a single word, Giles snatched at the device.
"Just a moment," he said with some excitement. "I think ..." He read quietly to himself as Faith kept a guarded eye on Jeffreys, who had now settled back into his inertia. "I think I have it!" the Watcher declared, continuing to inspect the small computer but saying nothing further. The three Slayers standing nearby looked at each other.
"Earth to Giles," prompted Buffy. "Remember us? Slayers, here to fight the bad guy? We'd like some info to fulfill our purpose now."
At the sound of his name, the Watcher was roused from his ostensible revelation. Somewhat absently, he regarded each of their faces. "Oh! Oh, yes, sorry," he apologized, straightening his glasses and taking a deep breath. "From the information I read earlier on the orb, it was a fascinating instrument. Though the Vikings were much less interested in its judiciary properties as compared to its supposed prowess on the battlefield, early leaders would use it to—"
Faith rolled her eyes as Kennedy tapped her foot impatiently. Sighing, Buffy gestured at Giles in manner that very obviously said "come on". With a frown, Giles handed the Palm back to Kennedy and tried again.
"I believe that when the wearer gazes upon an individual, they are shown both the best thing and the worst thing that person has done in their life. The wearer passes judgment on what they're shown. When found guilty ..." he paused and indicated the marking on the floor that had remained after the attack on Faith.
"And if they're not guilty?" asked Kennedy curiously.
The creases in Giles' forehead deepened. "Nothing happens, I'd expect."
"You'd expect?" Buffy questioned dubiously. "Not a ringing endorsement."
Giles removed his glasses and began to vigorously polish. "As with all theories," he told her, "it needs testing. Someone must get close enough to Mr. Jeffreys to remove the artifact. All we need do is find someone who has committed no evil in their lives."
Faith immediately retreated a step and held up her good arm. "That's me out."
"I'll do it," announced Buffy without hesitation.
Faith scoffed very loudly.
"What?! " snapped the blonde, whirling to face her jeering colleague. "I'm not evil. I've never been evil. I haven't even had an evil twin that might get it all confused. My twin was a vampire's overly perky sex toy - which, I'll grant you, is icky, but not evil."
Faith shrugged. "No evil. Huh. And here I seem to recall you tryin' t' feed me to your undead lover – who just happened to have a kill count in the triple digits – leadin' to eight months of the least amount of fun I've ever had on my back." She looked at Buffy and tilted her head expectantly.
The blonde turned to Giles, "Right," she said perkily. "So who else we got?"
"Me," proclaimed Kennedy, as all eyes focused on her. "No big. The most evil thing I've ever done was get a friend to print my half-sister's diaries in the school paper. And that wasn't evil so much as, you know ... funny."
The others seemed unconvinced.
"Look," Kennedy assured, "things get nasty, I'll jump out of the way. Worst case, I forcibly get a new hairstyle."
Buffy glanced incredulously at Giles who returned the glance and then said, "I'd feel better about Kennedy trying rather than one of the girls."
"Alright," the blonde reluctantly agreed with a heavy sigh. "But eyes open. Second you start to feel even a little warm, get clear."
With a sharp acknowledging nod, Kennedy began to walk toward Jeffreys. Giles swept all the Juniors back a few more feet, well out of harm's way, as Buffy and Faith watched Kennedy intently, both ready to provide assistance if need be. Though tense and cautious, Kennedy's stride was certain. As before, Jeffreys' lids snapped open as she came closer. The brunette momentarily froze, ready to dive to one side at any given moment if necessary. Behind the spectacles, Jeffreys' eyes glazed for a second. Then, he blinked. Kennedy crouched slightly, prepared to spring in a heartbeat if such were called for. Both Faith and Buffy visibly stiffened as Giles took a step forward, but it was obvious that Kennedy had no intention of being caught unawares.
Jeffreys' voice was laced with authority as he spoke. "You have been found innocent."
Kennedy straightened and smirked. "Tell that to my first girlfriend."
Still wary, but more confident now, Kennedy swiftly crossed the floor to where Jeffreys was perched upon his stack of crates. The youth's eyes had closed once more and his expression was one of almost total exhaustion. With agile movements, Kennedy quickly scaled the small mountain of wooden boxes. Then, fast as a bolt of lightning, she shot out her hand and snatched the spectacles from his nose. Almost immediately, Jeffreys toppled and slid down the crates. By the time he hit the floor, he was already unconscious.
Waving the glasses in the air, Kennedy executed a nifty victory dance. "Aww yeah," she crowed, "who's karmically superior?"
Turning their backs on the self-appointed champion, both Buffy and Faith rolled their eyes before shuffling out of the warehouse.
With a weary motion, Giles flipped the light switch as he and Buffy entered his office. The room was immediately illuminated with a soft yellow glow. The Slayer, exhaustion showing plainly on her face, limped to the nearest chair and sank into it with much gratitude, heaving a sigh of relief to be off her feet. The Watcher, a small brass box tucked under one arm and several books under the other, crossed to his desk and carefully placed the metal container on its surface. He then proceeded to return the volumes to their appropriate shelves.
"I'll only be a moment," he told her, lifting his glasses and rubbing his eyes, "then I'll drop you home."
"Good," muttered the blonde, obviously not in the best of moods but trying to be civil. "Thanks."
"It'll be all right you know," Giles told her over his shoulder.
"Will it?" queried Buffy doubtfully. Her tone was strained. "Crazy Ford-tough girls busting in and nearly killing everyone, something in my house wearing the face of a dead friend, and now ..." She waved her hand at the box on Giles' desk, "evil kids and their evil glasses."
Filing the last book in its rightful position, the Watcher turned. "They weren't evil. Neither the glasses nor Mr. Jeffreys."
The blonde regarded him with skepticism. "And yet, they managed to kill and destroy. See what can be accomplished when you work together?" She quirked an eyebrow.
"How sententious of you," replied the Watcher sarcastically. Buffy's face adopted a blank expression as she looked at him quizzically, but Giles declined to offer an explanation, instead perching on the edge of his desk. "Still, neither were evil, per se," he continued. "The- The artifact simply showed Mr. Jeffreys two sides of a person. The best that they had accomplished, and the worst. Then it ... compelled him to make a choice. To weigh in on- on the person's achievements, based upon two defining moments at opposite ends of the spectrum."
"It, or he ... Someone killed, Giles," the Slayer stated with all seriousness. "That makes it pretty evil in my book."
Considering this, Giles retrieved the brass box from the top of his desk and deposited it carefully into a cabinet at the rear of the room. Closing the door, he turned back to Buffy, his tone thoughtful. "I suppose it's all a matter of perspective."
The loud, continual splatter of water from the showerhead was cut back to a few thin trickles as knobs were twisted down and finally off completely. A fine mist hung in the air, clinging to every surface in tiny beads of moisture. The shower's lone occupant pulled the back curtain and reached for a towel, securing it in place and stepping out onto the bath mat.
Approaching the clouded mirror, a hand reached out and brushed a swath clear. Bracing her arms against the sink, Tara stood and stared herself in the eye. She paid no attention to the marking over her heart – an eye atop a key, only partially concealed by the towel wrapped around her. Her face stony and unreadable, she continued to regard her reflection without expression.