Disclaimer: This is a derivative work using characters and intellectual property belonging to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, JK Rowling, and her publishers and probably others. The bandersnatch is from Lewis Carroll's poem "The Jabberwocky" which is in the public domain (though the description of it is mine) (See end for additional attributions).
When/Spoilers: Post BtVS Season 7/ Harry Potter - post OotP
Pairings: Buffy/Luna, other implied.
Warnings:This does not contain femslash. But there is subtext, implied adult situations, a little bit of violence, implied magic, and an implied relationship between two members of the same sex. If any of that offends you... you might want to skip this fic.
AN1: Feedback appreciated as always.
AN2: See end for additional notes.
Singing loudly to hear herself above the noise of the road, Buffy occasionally glanced down at the directions she'd been given and ignored her grumbling stomach. Driving on the M5 was an alien experience for the former Californian, used to the glacial pace of LA traffic. This trip was teaching her that England wasn't really as small as she'd originally thought. When she'd started out that morning, just after breakfast, she'd thought she would be there before lunch and not after, as her stomach seemed intent in reminding her.
She'd never really thought of England as more than just London, quaint Oxford, and the airports she spent so much time in on her way to somewhere else. And, although Willow and Dawn were always raving about something they'd discovered on some weekend trip into the countryside, she was always too busy to explore much of it herself. Ottery St. Catchpole had looked a lot closer than it was turning out to be when she'd searched for it on a map before leaving the office.
Even though it he hadn't given her the newest car for her trip, Buffy was glad she'd finally learned to drive well enough so that even Giles couldn't refuse to let her go on her own. She much preferred the freedom of driving herself instead of having one of the Council's drivers take her, though the name of the roads took some getting used. When she drove in the States everything just seemed to make the kind of sense it didn't here. Taking the M5 to the A30 sounded to her like something on a demonic crossword puzzle, not directions to a village in the English countryside.
Contrary to Giles' beliefs, she actually did some of her best thinking with pop music blaring in her ears. And this trip required some of that kind of thinking. The appeal for help had come into the London office late on a Tuesday evening from a retired Watcher. Living quietly and unobtrusively in the small village along the Otter River in Devon, she'd sent a message to the Council that in Buffy's mind was more of a demand than a request.
The brief message had gained a reaction from Giles that Buffy thought was all out of proportion to its content. Just because she believed that some dangerous, possibly mystical, creature was loose in the area and that the regular authorities were either unable or unwilling to deal with in the appropriate manner was no reason to insist that the Council send the Slayer to deal with it. Buffy was sure one of many the Watcher trainees that seemed to clutter up the office could take care of calming a senile old Watcher.
But Giles had sent Buffy to investigate the following morning, telling her in no uncertain terms that it was in the Council's best interest for an experienced slayer to check out the report in person, leaving her very puzzled. The old watcher, Lady Sarah Jane Smith, wasn't someone she recognized, even from any musty old Council documents she'd encountered in the last few years as they struggled to resurrect the Council from the ashes left from their battle with the First.
She wondered why he'd insisted on sending her alone on what was essentially a PR mission. As far as she could tell, this Watcher's only claim to fame was that she'd survived both the reign of Quentin Travers and the attacks of the First and that she used to have some very powerful government connections. But she hadn't been actively working with the Council for almost two decades and in Buffy's mind none of that justified the personal attention her message had generated.
With the annual post-Apocalypse season lull in full progress and a whole tribe of bored slayers currently in residence in London to pick from, she'd given Giles only token resistance to the idea of going. She was actually looking forward to a few days of relative peace and quiet away the office and the perpetual attempts by her sister and Willow to set her up with whichever unattached watcher had caught their attention that week. The inevitable battle with whatever creature had spooked the old watcher would be a small price to pay to get away from their scheming.
She arrived in the early afternoon, after the long boring drive up from London. Checking in with Lady Sarah, as she quickly found the old Watcher preferred to be called, hadn't provided any clues for why Giles had asked her to deal with the possible demon personally. Over tea she listened politely to the woman, who didn't appear to be even remotely senile and didn't come close to matching the image Buffy had built of her in her mind. And as they talked, Buffy felt that there was something eerily familiar about the older woman. She didn't know where but she was sure she'd seen her somewhere before.
Lady Sarah's frustration at being unable to interest the 'proper authorities' at some unnamed government Ministry in what she thought she'd seen or heard, before finally giving up and contacting the Council, was very evident and Buffy, in an unexpected burst of empathy, agreed to stay until the situation was resolved. She wasn't sure what Giles would say to that but he only had himself to blame for sending her in the first place.
So, after leaving Lady Sarah, Buffy focused on getting herself checked in to her hotel. It had already been a longer than normal day. She didn't consider herself old, even for a slayer, but if she were going to spend the night monster hunting she really needed to take a quick nap. Any questions about this Ministry that was supposed to deal with such issues could wait until she had a chance to talk with Giles. Hopefully she could take care of this quickly and be back in London before the end of the week. But first she really needed to explore the town in the daylight and check out the places Lady Sarah thought she'd seen the creature.
Rubbing her twitching nose, her eyes tightly closed against the morning sun, Buffy tried to make herself more comfortable in the small grassy depression at the base of a large tree. She'd discovered it just before dawn, on the upper edge of a small clearing near the top of the large hill north of the village. Its position gave her a clear view across the entire valley while enabling her to remain hidden from prying eyes.
She'd been looking for the unknown creature that matched Lady Sarah's description for the last two nights but hadn't found anything demonic in the parks and gardens surrounding the small village other than a stray vampire. If it weren't for the damage she'd seen to a number of trees and a few cars, indicating something large had obviously been in the neighborhood, she would have chalked it up to impending senility on the part of Lady Sarah, no matter how sane she seemed to be now.
There was certainly something in the neighborhood that tweaked her innate slayer ability to detect magic and the supernatural but in her professional opinion it wasn't truly evil. At least not in an apocalyptic sense. The watcher had been only partially mollified by this and had been only slightly amused by Buffy's grumbling about wasting her time with demonic pest control. Whatever it was, the creature was either keeping well away from her or had already left the area.
Buffy's next meeting with Lady Sarah wasn't until late afternoon. So, not in any hurry to get back to her lonely hotel room, she'd decided to take a break from her hunt and watch the sun as it rose over the small quaint village below her. She so rarely had an opportunity to just enjoy something as simple as the sunrise. Unable to resist the warm breeze and early morning sun she fell into a light sleep.
She woke several hours later to the sounds of voices approaching from somewhere down the hill. Not in any hurry to move from her comfortable spot, Buffy subtly shifted her weight just in case she needed to move quickly and continued basking in the warm sun. Keeping her eyes closed she listened to the voices, gradually beginning to pick out actual words as they came closer. She thought she could identify two distinct people, possibly female, engaged in an odd conversation.
"Why are we here, on Stoatshead Hill?" the first voice demanded in a firm, sharp tone. In her head Buffy imagined it belonging to someone like Cordelia. Someone who expected to take charge and didn't suffer fools gladly. Someone she didn't want to deal with so early in the morning. Maybe they wouldn't see her if she kept her eyes closed, she thought hopefully.
"There's a purple jobberknoll nest at the top of the hill." the second voice answered softly. "I promise my father a picture for the Quibbler." From behind her eyelids, pretending to ignore the approaching voices, Buffy sensed something slightly familiar about the airy way the second voice sounded but couldn't quite place it.
"Luna!" the original voice whined, shaking the image she'd attached to it. Cordelia would never have whined like that. "That isn't what you said yesterday when you asked if I wanted to go for a walk."
"No, it wasn't." Luna, apparently, told the first voice with no detectable guilt in her voice. "I had a dream last night."
"You had a dream." If this person had been anything like Cordelia, Buffy was sure this Luna would have been struck dead on the spot by her tone. "About what?"
"Her!" Luna announce happily. Buffy assumed she'd survived her companion's ill humor in one piece.
"Who's that?" the first voice asked, now in a whisper that Buffy had no trouble hearing.
"She's hunting the bandersnatch that has been scaring the muggles." Luna announced. Still pretending to be asleep, Buffy listened and wondered about the dream this Luna claimed to have had. The Council was always on the look-out for accurate seers. Not to mention sane ones.
"Shhh! You'll wake her up!" the other voice hissed. "And what's a bandersnatch?"
"It's a muggle monster. No one has ever seen one." Luna told her. "They're invisible except under the light of the moon. And only muggles can see them then." The sounds of someone walking on dried leaves stopped. "And she's not asleep. She heard us walking up the hill."
Not having a reason to continue keeping her eyes closed, Buffy opened them to see two young women, probably not much older than her sister, standing several yards away from her tree in the middle of the clearing. The taller of the two, a redhead, seemed to radiate some kind of energy that almost overshadowed the other, an almost ethereal looking woman with large silver-gray eyes and long dark blonde hair hanging almost to her waist. There wasn't anything special about the way they were dressed. They would have looked at home almost anywhere, though she wondered about the slim stick the blonde had stuck behind an ear.
Sitting up, she raised an eyebrow and waited for one of them to speak. From the dreamy expression on the blonde's face, she suspected the redhead was the one with the Cordelia-like voice.
"Oh!" The redhead squeaked again when she noticed Buffy looking at them, confirming Buffy's guess.
"Did you find it?" the other she assumed was Luna asked her calmly.
Giving her a piercing glance, Buffy ignored her question and continued to look at them, keeping her face blank.
"Luna, she's not just going to tell us something like that." the redhead protested. "And you don't know that she is really hunting that... that..."
"Bandersnatch?" Buffy supplied, winking at Luna in response to her bright smile.
"No, I haven't caught what I was hunting." Buffy told them, rising to her feet as gracefully as her position allowed. "Why do you think it's this bandersnatch?" she asked, looking at Luna.
"This is their migration path." Luna told them. "They pass through here every fifty years on their way to the ocean."
Buffy looked at the redhead for corroboration. "Is that true?"
"I don't know." she shrugged. "I've never heard of that creature before."
"Okay..." Buffy waited for more from Luna but she seemed to be busy looking around the clearing. "I didn't catch your names." she asked, when the silence had become awkward.
"I'm Ginny Weasley." the redhead told her, "and that's Luna Lovegood."
Buffy raised an eyebrow at Luna's last name, wondering when she'd fallen into a Bond movie. There didn't seem to be a good reason to not tell them her name. They already somehow knew what she was doing in the area and didn't seem surprised by it. "I'm..."
"Buffy Summers." Luna finished for her, her voice floating softly on the breeze that had just sprung up.
"Did your dream tell you that?" Buffy asked, surprised that she'd been recognized.
"Oh, no..." Luna answered breathlessly, her fingers nervously playing with an odd necklace around her neck. "We did an article about Sunnydale for the Quibbler last year. We had pictures of everyone there at the end after it disappeared."
"You did?" Ginny asked excitedly, looking back and forth between Buffy and Luna. "No one really knows what happened to it. Why weren't the pictures in the Quibbler or the Daily Prophet."
Luna just shrugged. "They were muggle pictures. We couldn't use them. The ones of the survivors disappeared before we could make copies. Father thinks it was the Ministry. They were trying to cover it up."
"Oh." Ginny mumbled. "That isn't fair."
"Some things never are." Buffy told them, shaking her head. She would have to tell Willow that her spell to hide their identities after Sunnydale collapsed really worked. "This area seems to be 'bandersnatch' free now. I'll leave you to your bird watching." She nodded to them and headed down the hill towards her hotel.
"Have you ever heard of something called a bandersnatch?" Buffy asked the old watcher that evening over dinner. "I met someone this morning who claimed there might one in the area causing problems. I was wondering if it was a local legend or if there was really such a thing? Could it be what you've been seeing?" Buffy wondered about the look of amusement that crossed her face at the question.
"Who told you it was a bandersnatch?" she asked Buffy.
"A Luna Lovegood. I ran across her and some friend with red hair out on the hill above the village." Buffy frowned. "She seemed to recognize me."
"Ah..." Lady Sarah looked at her curiously. "So you've met two of our local witches."
"Witches?" Buffy echoed. "We have a few wiccans working for the Council. It's not a big deal."
"Oh, these aren't the same." Lady Sarah paused in thought, tea cup in hand. "There is a fairly large magical community in Britain that keeps to itself. They call themselves wizards and witches." She shook her head. "They think that no one outside of their community is aware of their presence. The Council hasn't had a lot of direct contact with them over the years but a number of us learned to keep an eye out for them."
"Oh." Buffy muttered before continuing. "Does Giles know about them?"
"Possibly." She shrugged. "You'll have to ask him. Several of their families live nearby. Now that you've met several of them..." The older woman gave Buffy a look she couldn't decipher. "What did you think of them?""
Buffy shrugged. "Luna has that whole ethereal 'not quite there, elvish' thing going for her. Along with willowy good looks. Her friend? I didn't catch her name."
"Ginny Weasley, most likely." Lady Sarah supplied.
"I guess some would find her interesting." Buffy frowned. "Seemed a bit loud and bossy to me. I didn't spend much time with them."
"Ahhh..." was her only response.
"So... they know about demons and things?" Buffy asked.
"Partly. They don't seem to be aware of the scope of the things the Council has to deal with. For some reason the Council has never been able to explain, true demons tend to stay away from them."
"So..." Buffy mused. "If demons leave them alone these wizards must be dangerous? What do I really need to know about them?"
"As I said, the Council hasn't had much contact with them. They seem to have an inordinate amount of power but they keep mostly to themselves. But then, anyone who can perform magic can be dangerous."
Buffy nodded in agreement. "How do I recognize them?"
"It's actually fairly easy." She told her. "They tend to wear long robes, pointed hats, and use wands."
Buffy giggled at the image that came to her mind. "And ride brooms?"
"Yes. Very much like the stereotype." the old watcher admitted with a snort of laughter. "But for some reason, they seem to be invisible to most people."
"Sounds very Hellmouthy." Buffy told her. "People tend to forget things around a hellmouth that they don't understand. Maybe it's a magic thing? Sort of like tweed makes watchers invisible?"
From the twinkle in her eyes, Buffy could tell that Lady Sarah thought she'd said something amusing but she wasn't sure what it could possibly be. After years of exposure to Giles and even after living in London for the past two years, there was still something about the British sense of humor that she didn't quite get. No matter how hard Dawn and Willow tried to explain things to her.
"Does Luna know what she's talking about?" Buffy asked. "And what's a muggle?"
"She can be surprisingly astute at times." Lady Sarah told her. "And her father runs one of their newspapers so she's probably more aware of the world outside the wizarding community than most wizards and witches. A muggle is what they call the rest of us who can't do their type of magic."
"Oh. So, is it possible that this bandersnatch is what I'm looking for?" Buffy asked hopefully. "Luna claimed only muggles could see it."
"It's possible she's correct about there being something out there..." she admitted, "but it's probably not a real bandersnatch."
"Why not?" Buffy asked, slightly puzzled.
"It's a creature from a poem by Lewis Carol." at Buffy's blank look she added "He wrote 'Alice in Wonderland'"
"Oh." Buffy felt vaguely disappointed. Knowing what she was looking for would have made things much easier. This demon hunt might turn into actual work.
"I do think it might be useful for you to get to know her." she told Buffy. "It's about time the Watcher's Council took an active interest in them. And, unlike those hide-bound wizards in their Ministry, she has a very unique view of the world."
"So you know her?" Buffy asked hopefully.
"She drops in occasionally. She doesn't have too many friends." She nodded her head, obviously in thought. "I can invite her over tomorrow for tea if you would like to talk."
"That would be great!" Buffy grinned briefly before picking up her fork to finish her dinner.
The next morning found Buffy in the same spot under the tree, once more waiting for the sun to rise. Luna appeared shortly afterward.
"What brings you here this early?" Buffy asked her. Luna waved languidly at a patch of tall plants with purple flowers growing at the western edge of the small clearing.
"Flowers?" She'd completely missed seeing them the other day.
"Yes." Luna peered at her absently through a curtain of long hair. Buffy wondered why she was hiding her face when the day before she hadn't been. "The periwinkle."
"Periwinkle?" Buffy asked, sure that she was once again missing something very British.
"A renowned muggle philosopher claimed that answers could be found by lying in a patch of periwinkle." Luna told her.
Buffy looked back and forth between the flowers and Luna several times, not getting it. "Answers to what?"
"I'm not really sure." Luna admitted. "But it sounded like something I would like to try." She looked shyly at Buffy. "You can join me if you would like."
Buffy looked at her in amusement before shrugging. Rising fluidly to her feet, she crossed the small clearing, noting in passing that Luna was somewhere between Willow and Dawn in height. Standing in the middle of the small patch of flowers, she looked back at Luna, eyebrow raised in query. "Now what?"
Luna waived her hands vaguely, almost nervously, in the air before joining Buffy among the knee high flowers. "Dancing barefoot works best, I've found. I tried lying in them but it was too distracting for that kind of thinking."
"Why?" Buffy asked, hands on her hips.
Luna shrugged. "You're supposed to lie in them naked. But the ground is too hard, with too many stones and twigs to lie in this periwinkle patch."
"Couldn't you find another patch of flowers?" Buffy asked, the thought of a naked Luna covered in purple flowers inexplicably crossing her mind.
"No... these are the only periwinkles in Devon." She sat down in the flowers. If Buffy hadn't been standing next to her all she would have seen in the tall plants was her head. "They were planted by a wandering hag."
"Oh." Buffy muttered, watching Luna remove her shoes. "I have a friend, a wiccan, who claims going sky-clad is the best way for some major spells but I've never been too fond of the whole crowds and naked thing myself. Too embarrassing, no matter how enlightening it might turn out to be." She wasn't really looking at Luna while she said this so she missed the expression she was sure went with the snort of amusement she heard.
Standing back up, Luna laughed loudly. "I tried dancing naked in the periwinkle once but it felt too strange and caused too many problems."
"I wonder why." Buffy said, her eyes wandering involuntarily over Luna's slim figure and delicate features.
Luna gave her a slightly confused, curious look, causing Buffy to blush. "It attracted a bandersnatch."
"It what?" Buffy yelped in surprise. She'd already decided that there was no such creature.
"Yes, they are very fond of virgin sacrifices." Luna told her, as if discussing nothing more important than the height of the grass in a ditch. "Now I just take remove my shoes. It's much safer."
Leaving the obvious question unsaid, Buffy asked her "How did you get away from it?"
"I stupefied it and apparated away." Luna told her before she started wandering around the clearing, occasionally looking back at Buffy.
Having no idea what Luna meant by that, Buffy latched onto something she had heard Luna say the day before. "I thought you couldn't see it?"
Looking over her shoulder at Buffy, Luna frowned. "It smells and leaves large footprints."
Buffy sat down in the middle of the periwinkles and watched her for a few minutes. It suddenly occurred to Buffy why Luna seemed so familiar to her. She had that look of sheepish innocence that Andrew did so well but Luna also seemed to possess a hint of the random strangeness that she would occasionally see Illyria exhibit in her 'Fred Burkle' persona.
She continued watching her wander around, seemingly randomly. and then it occurred to her how she might be able to deal with this mythical creature she'd been sent to take care of.
"Would you be interested in helping me capture this bandersnatch?" She watched her become very still, almost like a doe before it bolted. "Do you have to be naked to attract it? And do you really need to be a virgin?"
Lady Sarah raised an eyebrow when she saw Buffy's companion but merely gestured for them to enter.
"You are just in time for lunch." She told them, leading them through the small house to a large kitchen.
When Buffy tried to explain Luna's presence she shook her head and pointed at a table off to one side. "Sit!" she told them firmly.
Buffy noticed Luna's curious looks around the kitchen as they seated themselves.
"That would be great."
"Yes, please." Luna answered.
"Soup? Or sandwiches?" she asked after placing large glasses in front of them. Removing a number of items from the refrigerator and neighboring cupboards, she turned to face her guests.
"Soup." Luna murmured, taking in everything.
"Both?" Buffy mumbled hopefully, squirming in her seat.
Lady Sarah laughed, her voice echoing in delight at her answer. "I see that hasn't changed."
Buffy looked at her, puzzled. "Huh?"
"Sorry. A momentary attack of nostalgia." She answered as she started slicing a loaf of bread.
She let them eat, only occasionally taking a small bite of her own sandwich as she quietly watched them. Her attention made Buffy nervous.
"How is your father doing?" she asked Luna when they'd finished.
"He's in Burma." Luna said. "Searching for a yellow horned yeti."
Buffy watched a number of emotions fly quickly across her face and wondered what had happened to cause the extreme sadness she briefly saw. Reaching over, she gave Luna's nearest arm a comforting squeeze.
"I'm sure he'll be back soon, child." Lady Sarah told her softly. Luna just nodded, her eyes continuing to wander randomly around the kitchen. Buffy noticed a low hum whenever Luna's eyes passed over her. She wondered if it was related to the magic Lady Sarah claimed she had.
"What are your plans?" she asked Buffy. "As generous as Rupert might be with your time, I'm sure he has better things for you to do than catering to the whims of an old watcher."
"Not really." Buffy admitted. "It's the post-apocalypse season lull right now. I'm glad to be here and out of the office. For a number of reasons." She glanced at Luna, who was now looking at her with an oddly endearing expression on her face. "As far as plans go..." she shrugged. "I haven't been able to catch so much as a glimpse of this thing. Just the mess it is leaving behind. Luna believes she knows of a way to catch it."
"Tonight." Luna told them breathlessly.
"Pardon?" Lady Sarah said.
"Moonlight." Luna told them, playing with her napkin. "That's the only way you can see it."
"What do you plan to do?"
"The aborigines of New Guinea have a special dance that attracts them." Luna answered.
"Yeah." Buffy added. "Luna does the dance, in the moonlight, the monster shows up, and I take care of it."
Luna nodded. "They wear a special costume. The hunters kill it when the sight of the maiden dancing stuns it."
"Maiden?" Lady Sarah looked at them. Buffy cringed at her expression. Here was someone who could probably have given even Ripper second thoughts.
"It's a whole virgin sacrifice kind of thing." Buffy admitted. "But perfectly safe. It won't get anywhere near her."
Shaking her head, Lady Sarah sighed. "Is there anything you need me to do?"
"No, we have it covered." Buffy told her. Luna nodded in agreement.
They met at the base of the hill just before dusk. In addition to her standard personal weapons, several razor sharp knives and slim stakes hidden in her clothes, Buffy carried a large duffle bag containing her favorite small sword, a small battle axe, a crossbow, and several large bottles of Holy Water. From the look of things, Luna didn't seem to be carrying anything substantial that she could use to defend herself, just a small bag slung over one shoulder.
Although Buffy had no intention of allowing the monster, whatever it was really called, to get close enough to Luna to even breath on her, she had at least expected her to be carrying something that looked like spell ingredients and something sharp like a knife.
"Don't you need anything for your spell?"
Smiling faintly, Luna waived a hand in a seemingly random fashion and patted her bag. "I have everything I need right here."
Buffy noticed the long, slim stick Luna had been wearing behind her ear again suddenly appear in her other hand. "Okay. If you say so." She assumed it was one of those magic wands that Lady Sarah had mentioned. "Are you sure you still want to do this? There's still time to stop. I can get someone down from London to do the spell." Buffy told her.
"No." Luna announced. "I would like to see what you do. I've never seen a real demon hunter working before." She looked shyly at Buffy. "And if you don't mind... I would like to write this up for my father. For the Quibbler."
"I don't know about that." Buffy told her hesitantly. "I don't normally advertise. Some people get upset at the whole demon thing."
"Please? I'll never have a chance like this again." Luna looked at her pleadingly. "You'll never come here again."
"Oh, I don't know about that." Buffy smiled at her. "I'm sure I can find a good reason to visit. If you want me to."
"Oh.." Luna answered quickly. "Yes, I do."
"Great." Buffy smiled at her. "We'll ask Lady Sarah in the morning. If she okays it, you can write it up."
"Thank you." Luna gave her a small delighted grin.
Looking up at the hill, Buffy took Luna's free hand in her own and started walking, pulling her behind her. They'd gone only a few feet in the dimming light when she heard a low murmur from Luna. Looking back, she could see Luna holding up her wand, the tip of which was now glowing faintly. "Won't that attract the bandersnatch?"
"No. I looked for it earlier." Luna told her confidently. "It's still asleep down by the river."
Buffy wondered how she'd looked for it. She had a steadily growing number of questions for Lady Sarah, and Luna, when this little adventure was over. "Asleep? Wouldn't it be easier to catch down there?"
Luna shook her head. "It's impossible to catch one sleeping. I have to dance for it. It won't be looking at anything else then so you can kill. And I didn't think you wanted an audience."
"Okay." Buffy replied. "You're right. Not having an audience while we get rid of a monster is a good thing."
They quickly reached the top of the hill and the clearing where they'd met the day before.
"Do you need any help setting up?" Buffy asked, watching Luna pulling several things out of the small bag. "Or I can find a place to hide until it shows up."
"In a tree?" Luna asked curiously.
"I hadn't planned to." Buffy said. "Why a tree?"
"They can't tilt their heads up. It won't be able to see you if you are above it." She answered from her position in the middle of the periwinkle patch.
"Oh. That's good to know." She looked around for a tree that would allow her to remain close enough to Luna to protect her but not have the demon see her too soon.
"Luna?" She turned back to her companion. She was sure her jaw must have hit the ground at her surprise.
"Yes?" In the few seconds Buffy's head was turned Luna had somehow changed into something Buffy couldn't even begin to describe. Whatever she was wearing looked like it was form fitting. Very form fitting. Almost like it was paint, not cloth.
"When this bandersnatch shows up..." Buffy looked around the clearing, trying not to stare too closely at Luna. "I need you to get to some place safe. Out of the way."
Luna nodded her head in vague agreement and continued arranging her costume. Buffy watched her for a moment longer, unsure that she'd actually heard the request before shrugging and heading towards the hiding place she'd spotted.
Buffy crouched down, lightly balancing on a branch high above the clearing. Her ears filtered out the unfamiliar music coming from the small radio Luna had pulled out of her bag as she listened for any sign that something large was approaching. Although she was adamant that it would come, Luna hadn't been too clear on how long it would take for the bandersnatch to show up in the clearing. She watched with interest as Luna slowly started to move. There didn't seem to be a strong connection between the music and her movements. She seemed to glide around the patch of flowers with an otherworldly gracefulness.
After watching her for several minutes, Buffy decided her movements could be called beautiful, in the way someone practicing t'ai chi could be called beautiful by an observer, but dancing? It wasn't any form of ceremonial dancing she'd ever seen. There was no visible pattern to it. Luna seemed to move randomly around the small periwinkle patch. And it didn't have the energy of the almost tribal dancing found in most of the clubs she and Faith frequented. When this was over she really needed to take Luna to a club for some real dancing. Though, on second thought, Buffy grumbled to herself, a real club might frighten her away.
It was probably a good thing Luna's dance wasn't that energetic, Buffy thought half an hour later. She was starting to get stiff from being still for so long. She could only imagine how Luna was feeling. And a cold breeze was beginning to blow through the darkening clearing. She hoped that Luna's outfit provided some sort of protection from the night air. Although Luna gave no signs of noticing the change in temperature Buffy couldn't see how she could stay warm unless her costume left her a lot less exposed than it appeared to.
Thinking wistfully about drinking cocoa back in her hotel room, Buffy was about to call it a night when she heard the faint echo of breaking branches somewhere off in the surrounding woods. Using the bird call Luna had taught her that morning, Buffy alerted her to the approach of the something. If it was some local, out for a stroll in the dark, Buffy planned to distract them long enough for Luna to get something less conspicuous on. If it was the bandersnatch, Luna just had to continue her dance long enough for Buffy to sneak up on it and then Luna could hide behind a convenient tree until it had been dealt with. At least that was the plan.
Buffy felt her breath catch in her throat as a strong odor wafted up to her position. It had to be the ugliest and smelliest creature she had seen in years she thought, as it wandered into the clearing. It stopped in apparent surprise when it spotted Luna dancing. Buffy knew Luna couldn't see it but she could tell when the smell reached her by the way her dance briefly stopped and a strange look crossed her face, the only part of her not covered by her costume.
Buffy had no overwhelming desire to engage in a close quarters battle with this thing, whatever it was really called. Four large, clawed feet threw up chunks of dirt as it passed. Its head was at least seven feet off the ground and it was as wide as she was tall. From the unintelligible grunts coming from it as it watched the seemingly oblivious Luna, her standard witty banter was not going to be enough to get its attention. Luna had claimed to be able to defend herself but if she couldn't see this thing she couldn't get out of its way.
Buffy waited for it to pass under her branch. Extending her small sword, she dropped from the tree, swinging at the creature's neck as she passed it on her way to the ground.
It must have heard her she thought, her sword just grazing its neck as she collided with its' hairy back, sending her tumbling into a bush. Climbing to her feet she quickly put herself between it and Luna before it could decide which of them to attack first.
It hadn't been a fair fight. The bandersnatch was large and smelly but she'd fought smarter hell-hounds. If it hadn't been so large the fight would have been over in less than a minute. In the end it was a little like beheading a vampire with an Xacto knife. Wiping the gore from her face, Buffy looked around for her bag. Who knew what the demon blood would do to her weapons if she didn't get it cleaned off quickly. And demon it certainly was, she thought, watching it turn into a large puddle of slime. She really liked it when evil creatures cleaned up after themselves.
Looking around, she saw Luna hesitantly approach the mess she and the demon had made in the clearing during their fight. The periwinkle patch had been completely trampled.
"That's an interesting costume." Buffy told her. She approached the wide-eyed witch slowly, the adrenaline from the fight still boiling through her veins. She circled Luna, examining her closely. "It looks painted on." She murmured, reaching out and running the tips of her fingers gently down her back and along her shoulders. "Naked. But not. Aren't you cold?" Buffy asked. She wondered what Luna would say if she offered to bundle her up in something warmer and take her back to her hotel room to warm up.
"No." Luna squeaked.
Buffy detected a slight hint of nervousness in her voice.
"So..." She looked Luna in her eyes. "I've rescued the virgin from the monster. Do I get a reward?"
"What sort of reward did you have in mind?" Luna asked her, blushing.
"I can think of several things. But first we should get cleaned up." Wrinkling her nose, Buffy pulled at her ichor covered blouse. "Demon guts? Not my favorite clothing accessory. I think a nice hot shower is in order."
"I can take care of that." Luna told her softly. Stepping back several paces, she waved her wand in Buffy's direction, saying something Buffy didn't understand which sounded sort of like Latin spoken with an English accent. She felt a faint tingling and looking down saw that her clothes no longer looked like demon road kill.
"That's an interesting trick." She looked up at Luna, noticing that she was once again dressed, her costume either gone or covered up. "But I think I liked the view better before." She said, winking at Luna. "Now, about that reward..."
Humming the tune of the strange song Luna had used the day before to attract the bandersnatch, Buffy sprawled out on the small couch Giles kept in his office. Willow had dragged her sister off to some wiccan retreat while she was gone, leaving just Giles to interrogate her about the past several days. Compared to her sister and her best friend, he was easy to deal with.
"How did the trip go?" he asked, look up from an ancient tome on his desk at the sound of her entrance.
"It was interesting..." She was sure she was grinning more than necessary but couldn't help herself, as she thought about the previous evening and a certain cute and talented witch who no longer had to worry about virgin sacrifices. "In a number of ways."
"Were you able to discover the problem?"
"Yup." Buffy told him. "It was a bandersnatch. A big one."
He stared at her in surprise. "Are you sure that is what it was?"
"I don't name them. I just kill them." She told him with a smirk. "I was told it was called a 'bandersnatch'. I fought it. It's now dead. The world is safe once more for puppies and witches and small children to romp in the periwinkle."
"Periwinkle?" Giles gave her a puzzled look.
"You had to be there, Giles. Lady Sarah has all of the details." And then some, she thought, not letting her annoyance at the lecture Lady Sarah had given her the next morning about controlling her post-slaying urges show. She wasn't Faith. Luna had been a willing, if slightly inexperienced, participant in the post-slayage activities. She hated to think what the report would say if Luna hadn't come to her defense. "You should get her report in a couple days."
She stood up, slowly stretching the muscles in her back with a practiced maneuver. "And Giles?"
"The next time you need someone to go to Devon?" She told him with a much practiced grimace, the one she normally used to discourage him from involving her in Council politics.
"Yes?" He winced in anticipation. She managed to keep her amusement from showing. She had him well trained.
"Let me know and I'll take care of it. It's a nice place for an old slayer like me to vacation. Lots of delectable scenery and activities." She winked at him before sauntering out of his office. She giggled at the confused look on his face as she headed across the Council campus towards the apartment she shared with Dawn. She would definitely need to find reasons to go back to Ottery St. Catchpole and visit a certain witch. Often.
1 There is no sequel planned. This story is a stand-alone fic I wrote to get around a writing block. And to experiment with writing a fic with Luna in it (before she makes an appearance in one of my other works in progress.)
2 The Periwinkle patch was borrowed from Burke Breathed. I hope he doesn't mind.
3 Sarah Jane Smith arrived via the BBC and Dr. Who.
4 This really didn't turn out the way I expected it to. And not just because it took me 2 weeks longer to write than I expected. It isn't a perfect fic. But I hope y'all liked it anyway.