Twist of Fate: Chapter 1
Legalese: The television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Pretender, and all related characters and material belong to a lot of important people. I am not one of these important people. I claim ownership solely of the story idea, and no profit will be made by this.
Author's Note: This story is set in the BtVS universe the summer after high school graduation (between the third and fourth season), and in the Pretender universe it is placed in the 4th season, after Jarod's second escape from the Centre and during Mr. Parker's absence. Also - head to my website to find a music video and artwork for this story: www dot equinoxium dot com / tof / images dot aspx
Brief Description: BtVS/Pretender Crossover: Brought to Sunnydale to help solve the mystery of the graduation day bombing of Sunnydale High, Jarod and the Scoobies are quickly entwined in a race to save the Chosen One.
Rating: R for Content
Twist of Fate
Sunnydale High School, Sunnydale, California
As the fierce noonday sunshine beat down on the town of Sunnydale, California, children rocketed up and down the residential streets, mothers pushed their heavy strollers down the cracked sidewalks, birds chattered in the gently swaying palms, and above all else, a sense of peace, tranquility, and normalcy radiated from the neighborhood that flanked the devastated ruins of Sunnydale High School - a black and towering mar on the beautiful scenery of southern California.
From a sea of primly cut green grass, the black, charred ruins of the once-beautiful high school rose up like a spindly thorn from a beautiful flower. The red clay so common to southern California had been baked with a heat so intense that it had cracked and shattered, leaving a mere husk in the school's place - an ugly scar that would always stain the soil there.
"Terrible sight, ain't it?" a matronly woman asked from beneath the shady fronds of a row of palm trees that faced the devastation.
"Yes, it is," came the solemn response of the stranger that stood beside her, his eyes fixed on the devastation. "Why don't they tear it down?"
Narrowing her gaze, the woman inspected the stranger. She had been watching him for awhile now as he stood sheltered under a swaying palm, staring up at the school. Always staring at the building as if the silent walls could speak to him and tell him what had happened on that fateful day just a short month ago - the day when the summer day turned black as night and when hell had reigned, even if momentarily, on her neighborhood. A day that ended in fire. "A reminder, I suppose," she finally answered, matching his level gaze. She saw intelligence in his large brown eyes - intelligence and compassion that she found reassuring.
He was tall, this man - this stranger - probably in his thirties, with spiked brown hair and a physique that spoke of the healthy California lifestyle her son had so freely embraced. With a crisply pressed white shirt, black tie and trousers, he looked ready to play the part of any number of professions that her imagination could supply. But in short, this handsome man was no threat to her neighborhood.
"A reminder of what?"
At this, the woman smiled slowly, almost painfully as she unconsciously reached up to finger the locket that hung around her wrinkled throat. Within the locket was a picture of her Harry - the son she had lost to a bizarre animal attack just a short while ago. Rabid hyenas. Who had ever heard of such a thing? "A reminder that sometimes, even the days aren't safe here in Sunnydale," she murmured as she turned away, lost in memories of her only son.
Nodding, Jarod watched the woman slowly wander back towards her home before turning his eyes once more to the ruins. "A reminder," he murmured, his thoughts far away as he reached down and withdrew a slim red notebook from a small satchel that he carried. With practiced ease, he flipped through the crisp white pages until he came to a newspaper clipping that had been glued onto one of the pages.
TWELVE MISSING, FIVE CONFIRMED DEAD IN HIGH SCHOOL BOMBING
The brazen headline screamed at him from the page as he compared the grainy black and white picture to the sight that lay before him. The picture didn't do it any justice at all. The horror was much more real in person.
Sighing, Jarod tore his eyes away from the high school ruins and flipped the page to yet another newspaper article, clipped with the same precision as the last. This one featured a headline much smaller, more personal, almost as if a side note: Mayor suspected in Graduation-day terror - wanted for questioning. Jarod quickly scanned the smiling picture of the man featured in the article: Mayor John Wilkins. MIA. Missing in action since the bombing.
Shaking his head, Jarod quickly snapped the notebook shut and returned it to the satchel. It was time to get to work. Grabbing the handles, Jarod quickly trotted back to his rented sedan as he smoothly flipped open a thin black wallet and inspected the silver shield within. "Special Agent Jarod Ness, reporting for duty," he murmured as he slipped into the car, tossing the satchel carelessly onto the passenger seat beside him. And with another quick glance at the ruins behind him, Jarod smoothly pulled away into the famous southern California sunshine. He had work to do.
Sighing, Buffy lazily lifted the bottle of lukewarm water to her lips as the images danced in front of her eyes, feeling her brain go numb and her eyes begin to glaze as she lounged on the long couch, her tanned legs dangling off the edge. It was only three weeks into summer vacation, June already slowly melting into July, and the boredom that accompanied those dreadful and much awaited summer months had already set in. Three weeks since Graduation Day - three weeks filled with countless days of mall hopping, movie-going, sun bathing, and the current past time: channel surfing.
"Ooh, wait go back!" Buffy cried quickly, snapping from her reverie and surprising everyone in the room as she snatched the remote from Xander's hand. "I've seen this one," she added as she quickly snapped the channel back to a rerun of I Dream of Genie.
"Aw, not this!" Xander whined as he briefly entertained thoughts of making a grab for the remote. Then, as common sense kicked in, he slowly settled back into the recliner and accepted his doom. When it came to the Slayer, a match of physical might wasn't even worth the effort of labeling it a contest. After all, as Giles often liked to quote, In every generation, there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer - or in this case, the queen of the remote control and he damned to eternal torment and suffering at the hands of some broad in pink satin and a fluffy blond pony tail. Grimacing, he quickly suppressed a shudder.
At first the group had hung tight, but the inevitable pull of summer had slowly broken them apart: Angel disappearing the day of Graduation, Cordelia taking off to L.A. soon after, Oz touring with the Dingoes, and Anya probably still running in terror from the now very-deceased Mayor. In the end, only the core-Scoobies were left to suffer through an interminable summer of boredom. But even that was bound to change if Xander ever did follow through with his threat to leave them all behind for his much-tooted road trip.
"When's your Mom coming back?" Willow asked, her voice a low monotone as her eyes remained fixed on the television in Buffy's living room, obviously asking more to fill the dead silence than actual curiosity.
"Whenever Grandma feels well enough again to be on her own," Buffy answered off-hand as she reached for a bag of chips. "A month, at the latest," she added in between mouthfuls of food, an occasional grin breaking through at the antics of the characters laid out before her.
"Which, let me say again," Xander threw in as he ran a hand through his shaggy brown hair, "is way cool." And then, as if the proverbial light bulb had suddenly flashed on, Xander bolted from his seat on the recliner to pace before the girls, each straining and twisting to see around his lean form. "Wait a minute here - getting an idea," he muttered, oblivious to the girls' dilemma. "Yep, definitely an idea," he added as a large grin caused dimples to form in each cheek. With a triumphant cry he quickly stopped and faced both girls, effectively and hopelessly blocking their view. "I'm thinking severe party potential here!"
Sighing, Buffy finally gave up on the television and narrowed her sharp green eyes on her friend. "And invite who?" she asked, arching one slim eyebrow as she crossed her tanned arms indignantly across her chest.
At this, Xander's smile faltered for a moment as he so obviously wracked his brain for an answer. "Well, there's..." he trailed off as his smile faltered once more before dimming into a hopeless scowl. "Damn! Foiled again!" he cursed as he reluctantly skulked back to the chair he had claimed as his own. "But I'm so bored!" he moaned.
Smiling sympathetically at her friend, Willow quickly brushed a wave of red from her shoulder as she reached for the remote and tossed it over. "Here Xander, you can pick," she offered, throwing Buffy a meaningful look in response to her glare.
Sighing, Buffy took the hint and relented control of the valued tool. Feeling her mind begin to buzz and grow numb once more, she gently began massaging her forehead with one hand as she aimlessly picked at the thin strap of her red cotton tank with the other.
"Ooh look, Three's Company," Xander crowed as he finally settled on a station.
Biting back her groan, Buffy quickly jumped to her feet, stretching stiff muscles. "That's it, I can't take anymore!" she declared as she gestured quickly to the television. "I'm going to Giles' house!" she cried over her shoulder as she turned for the door. "Maybe he's found a prophecy foretelling some great evil or something," she muttered as she stepped out in the baking midday heat.
"That'd be cool," she heard Xander quip as he came bounding out the door behind her.
"At least it'd be something!" Willow agreed as she shut the door behind them.