Setting: S2, pre-series
Rating: PG (for now, will change to R later)
Word Count: 1700
Summary: Early S2. Ethan Rayne opens his costume shop a few weeks earlier than in canon. This time, his cursed costume sends Buffy, who has yet to deal with Parent-Teacher night (and a certain vampire), on a journey through time.
Buffy groaned, wishing the voices circling about her head would give it a rest. Her head hurt, her ears hurt – her whole body hurt. Even the most brutal fights had never left her feeling this drained and nauseated. Or this desperate for quiet.
"You're certain she's… untouched?" a girl said.
A man spoke up, his voice deep and his accent Giles-ish. "I do not believe it is a concern, Sophronia. The only injury I can see is the gash on her head. I would venture the young lady was thrown from her carriage and somehow forgotten. Perhaps left for dead if robbers did indeed waylay her party."
Buffy squeezed her eyes more tightly shut against the nonsensical conversation, and swallowed back the urge to vomit all over the voices' owners. That would probably make them squawk even louder.
There was a gentle touch on her arm. "Êtes-vous d'accord?" said the girl. Sophronia? And why was she suddenly making even less sense than before?
"What..." She opened her eyes, and quickly shut them again against the too bright light. "Who…?" She had too many questions, and it hurt too much to put them into words.
"You speak English," Sophronia said in surprise. "Are you all right?"
Buffy blinked, peering through slitted eyes at the faces looking down at her in concern. "I don't know," she said. And she really didn't.
"Help her sit up," said the man whose voice had reminded her of Giles. "Sophronia, take her arm. Fidelia, take the other," he said to a younger girl standing off to the side.
The girls followed his orders, maneuvering Buffy to a sitting position. It took every bit of strength she had to remain upright, but she managed, swaying, dizzy, confused. She rolled her tongue in her mouth, trying to dispel the dryness, and slowly took in her surroundings. The sun was shining overhead. A long line of trees, branches swaying in a gentle breeze, marched along her left side. On her right was… a dirt road. Well, that was unexpected. Not that any of this was expected, but a dirt road definitely felt like somewhere she shouldn't be. Buffy frowned at the rutted, dusty surface, and then her eyes widened at what she saw a few feet down the road.
Horses. Horses, and a carriage. Was she in Amish country? Except she didn't think the Amish had carriages that ornate, or colorful. Buffy glanced up at the people surrounding her, noting their clothes – so very not California, 1997. More like… she glanced down at herself. More like… the old-fashioned clothing she was still wearing.
Okay, Buffy. Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't –
"Where am I?" she said, her voice coming out much higher than she would've liked. "Who are you people?"
"An American! Isn't she, Papa?" Sophronia said, accenting Papa in the French way as she looked over at the older man who must've been her father. They were both tall, with similar refined features, but whereas Sophronia was fair, her father shared the younger girl's darker complexion. Both also bore drawn expressions and a deep sadness in their eyes that spoke of tragic loss.
Sophronia turned to Buffy once more, and Buffy judged the girl to be about her own age. "How did you come to be here?"
"That's a really good question," Buffy muttered. "Where is here?"
The small family glanced uneasily at each other. "Do you know your name?" said Papa.
"Of course," Buffy began, then hesitated. She knew her name. She just didn't know much else, like where she was, or when she was. Was it the past? Another dimension? Maybe even nothing but a dream? Whichever the case, looking at the others' clothing and listening to their accents, she was sure calling herself Buffy would not do her any favors. So what to use instead? "Anne," she said, hoping she'd remember to answer to her middle name. "Anne Summers."
"And where do you hail from, Miss Summers?"
That was even trickier. If Buffy knew when she was and – just as importantly – was able to recall any kind of history from the time period, she'd know for sure whether California was a safe answer. But since she had no clue, she decided to stick with the theory that the more she kept to the truth, the easier it would be to remember her lies. "California."
Fidelia's eyes lit up. "California! How adventuresome!"
"I guess. And… where am I now?"
"Kah-lay." At her blank look, Fidelia added, "Port au Calais, in France?"
France! What the hell was she doing in France?
Outright panic was becoming a stronger and stronger possibility.
Fidelia placed a finger to her forehead, mimicking where Buffy's head hurt the most. She said in a tone that was a little too excited for Buffy's liking, "Do you have amnesia?"
Buffy didn't have to touch her own forehead to know she would find a lump there, sticky with blood. She had enough experience with injuries to guess that, while painful, it wasn't life threatening. On the other hand, it would certainly work to her advantage to claim the head injury as an excuse for missing memories. "Maybe?"
Before the little girl could question her further, another man in rougher clothing – the carriage driver, Buffy guessed – stepped through the semi-circle the others had created around her and passed her a tin cup filled to the brim with water.
"Thank you," she said, and sucked it down in a single, gulping swallow.
"Barnes, Miss," he said, touching two fingers to his cap. "I'll fetch another if ye like."
Buffy gave him a grateful smile. "Yes, please."
The others withdrew a few paces, and Barnes returned with another cup of water and a wetted cloth, explaining she could use it to clean the blood from her face. Buffy sipped the water more slowly this time, and dabbed at her forehead with the cloth, surreptitiously listening in on the family's low conversation.
"Miss Summers is obviously from a good family," Sophronia said to her father. "She's well turned out, and the needlework on her dress is of excellent quality."
"Her manners are rather uncouth."
What was wrong with her manners? Okay, sure, she'd been a little hog-at-the-trough with the water, but let dear Papa wake from a traumatic accident, dying of thirst, and see what happened to his manners.
"She has amnesia, Papa," Fidelia said, and Buffy could hear the eyeroll in her protestation. Voice lowering further, she added, "And she's from the American frontier. Manners might be different there, might they not?"
"As you say."
"We mustn't leave her to fend for herself, Papa," said Sophronia. "It would be most ungallant."
Papa chuckled, a small, tired sound. "Never let your father be accused of ungallantry. But of course we shall aid Miss Summers. As we would any young lady in need."
Sophronia marched back over to Buffy, her family trailing behind. "Miss Summers? I'm Sophie. Well, Sophronia, but only Papa calls me that. May I present my younger sister, Fidelia Covington." Fidelia appeared at her sister's side and curtsied. "And my father, Sir Edwin Covington."
He inclined his head with an attempt at a smile that couldn't erase the sorrow in his expression. "Miss Summers."
"A pleasure," said Buffy, doing her best to imitate the stuffiest tone of voice she'd heard out of Giles, or the haughty inflections of her father's business associates, as though there was nothing more regal than sitting battered and bloodied and hella confused in a ditch on the side of a dirt road. She'd been good at haughty once, a natural artifact of the moneyed life she'd lived in Los Angeles not that long ago, before the divorce. And if she couldn't pull off the attitude on her own any more, all she had to do was channel her inner Cordelia. She'd show this Edwin guy such good manners, he'd be treating her like the Queen of England.
Did England have a queen in the whenever she was?
"Do you at all recollect what led to your current circumstances?"
Buffy translated the Giles speak: Do you remember how you ended up alone in a ditch on the side of the road?
"No, I really don't."
"If I were to guess, I'd venture your carriage was waylaid by robbers. But what of your traveling companions? We searched the area for others, but didn't find anyone else. Nor any signs of what occurred."
Because she hadn't been in a carriage, or with anyone else; she'd popped into existence from another time and place and knocked herself out on a rock in a ditch. But the truth was the last thing she could tell these people. Buffy furrowed her brow, feigning an attempt at memory as she tried to come up with a reasonable story. "I was… traveling. With my... guardian." That sounded good, right? Guardian was a better choice than parents, because then her family could be dead. Dead and impossible to find – just like they really were, due to not yet being alive.
That is if she really was in the past, which seemed more and more likely with every passing minute.
"Your guardian's name?"
Okay, she should've expected that. Um… "Rupert Giles." It was the first name that sprang to mind. A good, British name.
"Perhaps we shall find Mr. Giles, or word of him, in Calais," said Edwin. "It is only a few miles up the road. May we escort you to town?"
"Yes, please," Buffy said fervently, realizing that she was going to need this family's help if she didn't want to be stranded on her own, out of time, and in a country that didn't even speak English.
Hopefully, the real Giles knew what had happened to her and was working hard at getting her back, but until then, Buffy was at the tender mercy of complete strangers – a position even she knew was less than ideal for a young, single woman in these less-than-good old days.
Please hurry, Giles.
Chapter Three here.