Taming the Telepathy

Summary: While in LA, Buffy meets the 'Earshot' demons. Fortunately, she gets some help before she's driven insane.

Warning: I don't know; maybe language and innuendo somewhere along the way.

Timeline: AU after the end of 'Anne' in season 3 of BtVS – which happened earlier in the summer. For the sake of this ficlet, Buffy ran across the 'Earshot' demons before she could leave LA.

Challenge: from MistressAshley's fanart 'Connections (BtVS/Hellboy)' – chapter 86 of 'Odds and Ends Part 2'.

This takes place during Earshot when Buffy gets the 'aspect of a demon'. When she's nearing the end, Buffy connects with someone with that telepathy - it's Abe. YAY! I'd love it if Abe was able to help Buffy control the power without her having to drink the heart juice stuff to strip her of them. The connection/link formed can be parental or something like a mate bond ... author's choice, though I'd like to see Buffy/Abe.'

Thanks to my betas: zigpal, AerynSpeedleCaine and AshDawnSoulmates.

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. Hellboy characters belong to Mike Mignola and Dark Horse Comics. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Los Angeles

Buffy Summers, the vampire Slayer, was having a very bad week. And given the last year of her life, that was really saying something. She just escaped Ken's hell with Lily and a bunch of other people, only to run into a couple creepy-ass demons who didn't have mouths. She was able to kill them, but something happened to her afterward that had Lily freaking out.

To be fair, so was Buffy. At first, being able to hear the thoughts of people around her was kinda cool – if a little TMI (too much information) in some cases. But then the thoughts began to overwhelm her. Instead of leaving to head back to Sunnydale like she intended, Buffy was confined to her bed as the thoughts were driving her insane.

Suddenly, through all the noise, Buffy felt something; it was like an oasis that could save her…if only she could get to it. Like a sleepwalker, she stood up and snuck past Lily/Anne's sleeping form. All that was important was following this thread of sanity back to the place or person who could help her. The fact that she was leaving her friend without any clue how to find her didn't even enter into her limited thought processes.

Her search led her to a quiet cove on a beach just outside Los Angeles. The only way she was able to withstand the thoughts of other people was because this thing or person was helping to shield her from them. It wasn't total silence; more like having earplugs to muffle the thoughts.

Imagine her surprise when the 'creature' waiting for her at the water's edge was something that looked somewhat similar to the creatures the swim team the year before had turned into.

"You aren't a mindless fishy monster who only cares about eating, swimming and mating, are you?" she demanded warily. "'Cause I'm not really up to fighting right now."

Bemused by her reaction to him, Abe decided to read her mind to find out why. He was startled to find out what she was talking about. "I assure you that I am not one of those creatures your classmates turned into. They were the result of an experiment based on the one that produced me. My guess is that the coach only had part of the documentation and attempted to make up for the parts he didn't have. Unfortunately, what he was missing was critical to the experiment's success."

The Slayer breathed a sigh of relief at his non-monster-ness. "Well, you sound less animal-like than they did. And you're not hideous like them," she added once she got a better look at him.

Even though it wasn't exactly the nicest thing he ever heard about his appearance, it also wasn't the cruelest. It still didn't stop Abe from teasing her a little, "Thank you for the attempt at a compliment."

"I'm sorry. My brain has been mush for the past day or so. It's making me sort of Cordelia-esque in my speech," Buffy apologized for not thinking first. As her mind cleared even more, something occurred to her. "Are you the one who's making things better?"

Abe nodded. "I am. May I inquire as to how this happened?" he asked, not wanting to invade her mind unnecessarily.

"What I remember from before I basically passed out was I killed a couple demons without mouths. A short time later, I could hear people's thoughts. It quickly went from very cool to very painful," she explained. Then she remembered that he must be able to read her mind and asked, "Wait… you heard/saw my memories of the swim team, so why couldn't you see what happened to me?"

He shrugged at being caught. "I could, but I wanted to hear you tell me. It's rather intrusive to continually read people's minds," Abe reminded her.

Buffy shuddered at the memories of the past day. "I got that. I haven't even been doing it for very long, and I can tell it gets tiring."

"Your mind is very strong," Abe commented with admiration. "The fact you've lasted this long indicates that you could learn to live with the ability – with the right help. Is it something you'd like to learn?"

Stifling her automatic response, Buffy thought for a few minutes about the pros and cons. Finally, she said, "I can see it having its benefits for my line of work. Unfortunately, I can see that it could cause a lot of problems, too," she said as a non-answer to his question.

Abe regarded her seriously, trying to sense her true feelings and motivations. "Most of those problems would stem from you abusing this ability for selfish reasons. Could you promise to try to avoid that?" he asked.

"I can't say that I'd always be able to resist the temptation," Buffy said with a small smile, then added with a maturity Abe didn't expect from someone so young, "but I know that there are certain things that are meant to be kept private."

He found himself liking her a great deal and hoped that she would be worthy of his help. "May I read your mind to see your line of work?"

Buffy hesitated for a moment, then realized who she was talking to. "Seeing as how you're a fish guy, I don't think my life should surprise you much. Go ahead."

When he was done searching her mind, Abe was relieved at what he learned. She had made some mistakes, but she was young, so it was to be expected. Probably her worst failing was that she didn't want to give up on those she cared about – even when she should. It was a hard lesson that she'd eventually learn…and that was too bad. "You fight the forces of evil, but are not part of the BPRD," he said with a bit of surprise.

"The what?" She had never heard of that group before. To be fair, the only demon-fighting group she knew about was the Watchers Council.

"The BPRD - Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. It's an international organization created to fight supernatural threats to humanity," he explained. "I've heard stories of the Slayer, but did not realize they were human girls. I wonder if any of the others know," Abe thought aloud to himself.

"It sure would have been nice to know there were other people fighting the baddies. Maybe I wouldn't have felt so alone sometimes," Buffy said bitterly.

"At least you had friends to help you," Abe reminded her. "Why did you leave them?"

Buffy glared at him for bringing up a sore topic. "You saw my thoughts; you know why."

He understood her pain…better than she knew. That was the reason he could try to console her, "But surely you realize now that you were wrong in your assumption that they'd be better off without you."

"Personally, I'm not sure," she said. Sighing, Buffy added, "But I do know they need the Slayer around if nothing else. And knowing that you guys are taking care of things away from the Hellmouth makes it easier to go back and protect it. It's nice to know that by my being in Sunnydale, it doesn't necessarily mean that people other places are going to die because I'm not someplace else," she explained her other reason for not returning right away. It was easy to get caught up in defending Sunnydale from the baddies that congregated there; she forgot the rest of the world didn't have a Slayer protecting it.

Recalling something he read once upon a time, Abe said, "There's a lesson to learn from the comic book hero, Superman."

Buffy stopped herself from snarking at him for being Xander-ish. "What's that?"

"Even Superman can't save everyone everywhere. You don't have near as much power as him, so don't go feeling guilty for circumstances beyond your control," he instructed her wisely.

"Thanks for the pep talk…" she broke off as she suddenly realized she didn't know what to call him. "Gee, I just realized I don't know your name. I'm guessing you already know mine."

"I do, Buffy Anne Summers. The name I go by is Abe Sapien. It was the name given to me when I woke up from my stasis," he explained as he introduced himself.

"Nice to meet you, Abe. So where do we go from here?" Buffy asked, shaking his hand/fin/claw. She'd have to find out how to describe him without offending him.

Abe sensed her discomfort and knew he'd have to tell her that he wasn't easily offended by honest confusion. Only deliberate attempts to hurt his feelings even came close to bothering him – and only then if it was by somebody he cared about. "First I would suggest getting you to our nearest BPRD safe-house; maybe get you something to eat. When was the last time you had anything?"

"Substantial? Probably before I went through the portal to Ken's sweatshop hell. That's been a few days." Even though she was eager to get this mind-reading taken care of, Buffy was still worried about her new LA friend. "Could we get a note back to my apartment so Lily doesn't worry about me? I know she was expecting me to leave anyway, but I want her to know that I'll be okay."

Considering the risks, Abe decided that he could handle them for a little while. It was better if people weren't looking for her during this training time. "I can shield your mind long enough for you to say goodbye. It takes an enormous amount of concentration on my part to shield somebody else, so please do not linger," he requested.

"Gotcha. I'll just say goodbye," Buffy promised.

"Very well. Meet me at this address when you're done," Abe said, handing her a card that was blank except for the address. Guess they didn't advertise their existence either.

BPRD LA Safehouse

Taking a quick look around, Buffy commented, "It ain't the Ritz, but it's still a lot better than where I've been living for the past couple months."

"We are the only ones here for the time being. It will make our training much easier," Abe explained when she looked like she was going to ask a question.

Once the front door closed, Buffy felt the sudden relief physically. "How come I can't hear any thoughts in here? Not even a little."

Even though he was better-equipped to deal with his telepathy, Abe understood what a relief it was to be in BPRD buildings. "Because all our safehouses are constructed to block all forms of telepathic energy from getting in. No point in letting our enemies have a free glance into our lives and plans."

"Wow. You guys seem to think of everything," she said with genuine respect.

Abe shrugged, not letting on that this feature was his idea. "Well, it helps that we've been doing this for a long time and have the help of humans, nonhumans and governments to assist us in getting set up."

"Huh. Wonder if the Watchers Council is part of this BPRD," Buffy said. It would be annoying to find out that they didn't tell her or the other Slayers they had help.

Abe had called some people once he got to the house. What he learned didn't fill him with much hope for the young lady in front of him. But he would do what he could to make her chances to get past her 20th birthday better. "From what I've found out about the Council, they don't want to share the Slayer with other groups. If they got help from the BPRD, they would be expected to help the BPRD as well."

"So basically what you're saying is they don't play well with others?" Buffy remembered how Kendra was and that she was the 'perfect Council Slayer'. "Guess it isn't a big surprise – not with how they think of Slayers."

Not wanting to get into a discussion about the Council, Abe changed the subject, "Why don't you get some rest once you've finished eating? I left a plate in your room. We'll start your training in the morning."

"Okay," she agreed, already starting to feel wiped out. "In case I haven't said it before, thanks for your help. I really wasn't enjoying going nuts."

"I'm just glad I could help." Abe knew that she must be wondering what he'd want in return for helping her, so he decided to be upfront about it. "Even if you can't work with the BPRD directly, a more powerful Slayer protecting the world is always good for everyone."

Buffy nodded her understanding and moved towards the room he pointed her to. "Then I'll see you in the morning. Night, Abe."

Later that summer…

Abe decided to break up Buffy's training into different levels to make it easier for her to gain control. The first part was pretty straight forward: talking to him using only telepathy. Since it was just the two of them, it only took a couple days to work that out. The hard part came after that: controlling thoughts around somebody who couldn't shield themselves. It took almost a month for her to learn enough control so that she wasn't overwhelmed by the others.

Finally it was time for her graduation test: facing the public again.

All was good…for the first hour. Fortunately, Abe expected her shields to fail so they weren't far from the safehouse when it happened. As Buffy's head started to feel like it would explode, the disguised Abe hurried her back to safety. Each successive attempt was a little better, but Buffy still had trouble drowning out all the thoughts. At her current rate of progress, it would take months to get full control.

Unfortunately, she didn't have months.

"Why do you need to leave?" Abe asked while he watched her pack. He was surprised to realize that he would miss her. They had grown close over the past couple months.

Buffy sighed, then sat down on her bed. She wasn't happy about leaving either, but knew she didn't have a choice. "I had a Slayer dream about Sunnydale. They're gonna be overrun by zombies in about a week. I need to get back there to help them."

"In that case, I have something for you." He pulled out a necklace that was similar to her silver cross. "I had a feeling that you would need to get back to your life before we finished, so I had this made; it helps mute the thoughts of people. It isn't as strong as the shielding around the house – or even my shielding – but it should be good enough to keep you from going insane."

"Sounds handy," she said softly, running her fingers over the metal. Abe just kept surprising her with his kindness.

"I would still like you to keep strengthening your own shield though. It isn't wise to rely on something that can be taken away from you," her mentor/friend warned.

What he said made a lot of sense, so she nodded, "I understand. Anything special I need to know about this?"

"Just that when you need to use it, put it on; otherwise, keep it in your pocket." Abe hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should make the offer the organization told him to make. His own concern for her made his choice clear. "Now I know that you have the Watchers Council to assist you, but if you ever need our help, please know that you can call us."

"I do. You guys have been so great these past couple months." Buffy looked down, biting her lip as she fought her emotions. "I hope that someday I can repay the favor somehow."

Abe laid a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "Just keep doing what you do best and that will be payment enough for us."

He was surprised when she threw her arms around him for a tight hug. It wasn't that she refused to touch him before, but she understood that he was reluctant because of his differences. "Thanks, Abe. You're like the fishy big brother I never had," she said, her voice suspiciously wet.

"And you're the 'humany' little sister I never had," he teased back, finding that he really meant it. He hoped that she would keep in touch once she got back to her life.

A/N: I loved the idea of Buffy having telepathy before she went back to Sunnydale in season 3. It would make things very different if she was willing to use it occasionally.