Working Vacation

Summary: Buffy receives a request from a stranger while all of her friends are busy elsewhere, and decides to give it a shot on her own. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Summer, post fourth season BTVS.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Anne-Sophie, on the occasion of her birthday.


WORKING VACATION


Buffy relaxed, nestling in the comfort of the living room couch. She was alone, and though she cherished the company of her friends, she needed a moment to herself every now and again, just like anyone else. Willow and Tara were off apartment hunting: the three of them had decided to share a two-bedroom apartment for economy's sake, and Buffy had gladly delegated the responsibility to them. Xander, between jobs again, had taken a few days to drive with Anya down the coast. Giles was off seeking some rare occult books for his always-growing collection, and her mother was off on one of her all too frequent business trips. As for Riley, he was visiting home and trying to tie down what he would be doing once the rapidly approaching school year began. A perfect opportunity for her to relax, and she had not so much as picked up a newspaper or watched television in the last three days. . .she had read, exercised, and simply done nothing much of anything during that time, though she had patrolled nightly, spotting nothing. Buffy sighed in contentment and was about to doze off when the doorbell rang. Buffy sighed again, this time in annoyance, and got up to answer the door.

The visitor turned out to be a pale, bland man of nondescript height, weight, and dress, who smiled when he saw Buffy and asked, "Excuse me, but are you Buffy Summers?"

Buffy nodded, and the man continued, "Miss Summers, my name is Malcolm Johnson. . .I have come to speak with you about a matter of great importance. . .regarding a problem that falls under your professional duties."

Buffy looked at the visitor suspiciously, but she sensed no malice from him, and his determined expression suggested to her that he would not be put off by a display of ignorance on her part. . .still, she would let him do the talking. She stepped back from the door, pointedly not verbally inviting him in even though the sun still shone in the sky. The man looked puzzled for a moment, then nodded in comprehension and walked in without explicit invitation. Buffy relaxed somewhat and led him into the living room, where he sat and declined her offer of a drink. Buffy sat down across from him and stated bluntly, "All right, Mr. Johnson, it's your dime. . .talk."

Johnson nodded, then began, "I am here on behalf of a foreign government, one friendly to your country, that is having a small problem with a creature that is wreaking havoc among their population. Through various sources, they have become aware of your. . .talents in dealing with such creatures, and they have sent me to request your help, if you are willing to give it." He handed her a folder, which she opened. It contained a general description of the creature and its abilities, and Buffy read for a moment before looking up.

"Big lizard, claws, teeth, breathes fire. . .sounds like a Talor demon. . .ran into one of those last summer. . .they're tough, all right. . .did they try to send soldiers against it?"

Mr. Johnson winced, then replied, "They were ineffective."

Buffy nodded, then replied, "Never send a soldier to do a Slayer's work. . .they've finally learned that here, I think. . .but I can't talk about that, so I'll just ask. . .how soon do you need me there?"

"As soon as possible, Miss Summers. . .the situation is dire indeed." Mr. Johnson's voice was polite, but he was obviously under a great deal of strain.

Buffy frowned and considered the situation. Giles would not be thrilled at her if she went off alone to deal with any demon without taking along backup, but there didn't seem to be time to waste; besides, she had dealt with demons of this type before. . .she could handle it alone, couldn't she? There was also the attraction of making it a working vacation. . .she hadn't had much time to travel over the years, and it sounded fun. She turned back to Mr. Johnson and asked pointedly, "My accommodations will be provided for, of course?"

Johnson caught her meaning immediately and smiled as he replied, "I can guarantee that you will receive the red carpet treatment, Miss Summers."

Buffy smiled broadly, then went upstairs to pack after arranging to meet Mr. Johnson at the airport in two hours. *This should be fun *


* * * * *


Twenty-four hours later, Buffy was finding the whole thing rather less fun. Jet lag generally sucked, and even after sleeping on the plane and for a few hours in the admittedly luxurious hotel room they had provided for her, she was feeling more than a little cranky. The fact that she was being taken on a four-hour drive on what appeared to be the middle of nowhere wasn't helping. Mr. Johnson had handed her off to two other men after their arrival, and they apparently spoke very little English. The taller one seemed to get the gist of what she was asking, and kept replying, "Soon, soon," to her demands as to when they would get to where they were going.

At length, they pulled to a stop in a valley between a number of beautifully terraced hills. Buffy could see the care with which they had been developed to provide space for homes and gardens, and she was looking at them with genuine appreciation as she stepped out of the car along with her two guides. Buffy frowned and asked, "So this is where the demon comes out to play?"

The taller man nodded and replied, "Yes. . .it comes here when the sun goes down. . .will be here soon."

Buffy nodded and asked, "Anywhere in particular?" The area they were standing in the middle of was rather large: Sunnydale probably would have easily fit in the valley, if the land were flattened out a bit.

The taller man considered her question, then responded, "You will know when it comes."

Buffy nodded and commented, "Yeah. . .Talor demons aren't exactly subtle." She began unpacking her equipment, turning away from the men as she did so, then continued, "You two should probably take off now. . .it isn't really-" She was interrupted by the sound of car doors slamming, and turned to see the Toyota Land Cruiser spinning its wheels as its driver made haste to clear out of the valley. After the dust had cleared, Buffy concluded, "-safe.", then shrugged and went to work.


* * * * *

The sun had set, and only the dim light of the stars spared Buffy the effects of total darkness. * Easier to spot the damned thing this way anyway * mused Buffy. She had donned what looked like an ordinary hooded sweatsuit, but appearances were deceiving: the fabric was extremely heat resistant, and had come courtesy of Riley, who had used his authority with the Initiative to obtain certain useful items for her before everything blew up on them. The sword looked ordinary also, but Buffy knew that it was enchanted to deal extra damage to reptilian demons: she had used it to great effect to slay the Talor demon that had shown up in Sunnydale. She checked everything once more, then sat down to wait.

She had started to become restless when she felt the ground start to shake under her feet. * Damn it, I heard that this place was earthquake prone, but the timing sucks. . .it might even scare the damned thing off * The shaking seemed to vary in intensity, but it definitely was getting stronger, and it was accompanied by loud "thumps". . .this wasn't good at all. * Wait a minute. . ."thumps"? *

Buffy stood up, carefully allowing for the shaking, and looked for signs of anything approaching her. She saw nothing, which was hardly surprising given the lighting conditions, and frowned in consternation. The shaking got worse, and the thumps kept getting louder. . .then stopped. Obeying an instinct, Buffy whirled and her acute night vision spotted starlight glinting from scales. "Gotcha!" Buffy called out as she brought out her sword and stalked towards the scales. . .only to notice that the object she was looking at was not a Talor demon, but what appeared to be a toe, five feet high and rather longer than that, ending in a nail larger than the sword she was wielding. Worse yet, the toe seemed to be attached to something. Buffy looked up. . . and up. . .and up, taking several steps back as she did so.

Buffy's eyes had adjusted more thoroughly to the light, and her new perspective allowed her to spot the head of the creature against the starlight. . .about where the top of a thirty-story building should be. Eyes twice the size of hubcaps looked down at her, and Buffy would have sworn that there was a glint of humor in them as the massive creature turned to face her. Buffy did not intellectualize: she dropped the sword and ran like hell.

Admittedly, a four hundred-foot tall creature of any kind will tend to move ponderously, and this one was no exception. Unfortunately, when it only needs one step for every seventy-five you take, this is not very helpful when trying to escape it. Buffy opened up an early lead, but it slowly gained on her, and going sideways occasionally didn't seem to help. Buffy ran harder until her lungs burned and her heart hammered in her chest, but the behemoth was soon right behind her, and a ill-placed rock settled the question as she stumbled and fell, stunned.

The massive foot descended, and Buffy only had time for one last thought: * Next time someone offers you a free trip to Tokyo, look at the fine print. * She screamed-

--and her eyes snapped open as she frantically looked around her. She was on the living room couch, but she wasn't alone. Willow and Tara were dozing nearby, though Willow had opened one eye, apparently disturbed by Buffy's sudden awakening. Giles had apparently dropped off with a book in his lap, and Xander and Anya were in sleeping bags on the floor.

Buffy was momentarily panicked: * Was that a Slayer's dream? There's no way I could have been THAT gullible, is there? * After a moment, her eyes fell on a pile of objects near the television, and she growled in irritation as she turned to glare at Xander.

"What's wrong, Buffy?" Willow had fully awakened, and could see that her best friend was more than a little peeved with Xander.

Buffy glared for a moment longer, then subsided as she realized she was being silly. She turned back to Willow and replied, "Nothing, Will. . .but do me a favor?" She gestured at the piles of empty Japanese takeout food containers and monster movie videos and concluded, "Next time. . .you pick the food and entertainment, O.K.?"



Author's Closing Note: Obviously, this owes a lot to the animated short, "Bambi meets Godzilla," and the fact that the Big Guy has a new film out this summer brought it to mind. . .:-)



As always, comments are welcomed and desired