Standard disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all such related things, © Mutant Enemy and many other people with big scary lawyers. We're borrowing them without permission, but you said you were done with 'em, so we're hoping you won't mind so much. Stories, images, characters you don't recognize, those are all by 4Paws. Yes, we'll take the blame.
Setting: The Chosen, our Buffy virtual continuation, is a 22 "episode" series that picks up where the real thing left off. Logically speaking then, this story contains spoilers for not only every episode that aired on TV, but also all those that have come before it in the continuation. If you're interested and would like to not be spoiled, our advice is to head to episode #1 and start from there.
Notes: Episodes are posted to btvschosen-dot-com 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 ff-dot-net. So if you don't want to wait all that extra time (and really, how could you?), the site is the way to go.(13 December 2004)
Episode 21: "Duality"
Story by: Jet Wolf & Ultrace
Written by: Jet Wolf & Novareinna
The streets of downtown Trillium were packed with shoppers, each with an eager eye for a good bargain. The clothing stores were selling their winter merchandise at greatly reduced prices while offering the spring fashions at what was proclaimed to be pre-season discounts. The other proprietors had taken such a crowd-drawing opportunity to also display their merchandise in an arresting manner. The prospective purchasers were in a jovial mood, obviously anxious to spend the money in their pockets, faces beaming beneath the sunlight of a bright and satisfying day.
Within their midst, however, one lone figure failed to share the pervading atmosphere of pleasurable anticipation. Her step was purposeful and her face plainly betrayed the seething inner anger. Faith made no attempt to disguise her sullen mood and paid those around her not a single glance. She moved through the throng largely unnoticed, for these were individuals bent on happier pursuits and Faith had no part to play in such an activity.
Mirrored in the storefront windows, Faith's reflection was akin to that of a dark avenger, but she was unaware of the portrayal, eyes locked as they were upon some undeterminable point ahead. Occasionally, the reflected image would be obliterated by a shop door or section of brickwork, only to manifest itself again once the solid barriers has been passed, the image no less grim than it had been before. Faith's reflected expression was a fixed mask of cold and furious intensity, her determined stride seemingly set on an unalterable course.
The mirrored image continued its path and disappeared from sight, consumed by the wall that separated one store from its neighbor. Within seconds, another reflection appeared, obviously tracking the first. Buffy paused for a moment. Like Faith, she was oblivious to the impression created within the depths of the store window. Also like Faith, she exuded an aura of determination but it was coupled with concern. Buffy's image lingered for a brief moment, still and silent, as her eyes followed Faith's retreating figure. Then she too moved forward, her reflection soon swallowed by the masonry that had devoured the dark-haired Slayer's shadowy form.
Open reference books and notepads covered with hastily written scrawl littered one of the tables within Willow's sanctum. The windows had been thrown open wide, allowing sunlight and fresh air to invade the room. Moving with a sense of personal purpose, Willow and Tara each set about making spell preparations. The redhead was casting the circle while the blonde was busy cleansing the area, lighting incense and positioning candles with a precise hand. Each time Tara came within close proximity, Willow would shy away. The movement was slight but nonetheless perceptible, its motive clear – the redhead obviously remained fearful of making physical contact. This did not go unnoticed by Tara and her forehead furrowed in deep concern, eyes betraying the hurt such actions caused. Nonetheless, she refused to dwell upon the implications. There was far too much to be done.
Having poured the sand, Willow bowed her head and began to mutter. Her portion of the incantation complete, she glanced to Tara, who had taken position at the opposite side of the circle. The blonde echoed Willow's actions, dropping her head and reciting the required words. A muted glow gradually replaced the ring of sand until every grain had transformed into a delicate shimmer, which lingered only momentarily before also fading into oblivion. Moving toward the double windows, each woman pulled one shut, neither paying any attention to their prominent reflections before drawing the heavy drapes and enveloping the room in hushed darkness.
Standing before the open armoire in his office, Giles stared into the oval mirror that had been fitted inside the door. His profile was set and determined but otherwise betrayed no sign of emotion. With eyes transfixed upon his reflection, he seemed to be searching, as though trying to discern some important secret that doggedly persisted in eluding him.
The Watcher turned abruptly as the door opened and Xander's head appeared through the opening. For a moment, it appeared as if the younger man were about to make an announcement, but any such thought was quickly discarded at the sight of Giles' brief, almost weary nod of acknowledgment. Quietly slipping away, Xander closed the door behind him. In solitude once more, the Watcher's gaze drifted back to the mirror. The image that met his eyes was no less dour than before and equally as enigmatic.