*squishy hugs* to Megan for the wonderfu beta!
Chapter 14: Spectre.
When time is of no consequence to a being, it passes at a crawl. Minutes feel like hours; each and every second becomes torturously slow. It was during moments of importance that time bothered Persephone the most.
“Perhaps the Oracles could be contacted,” Persephone exclaimed. “They are timekeepers; surely they could just rewind time so we could ensure the witch’s spell does not eventuate?”
It was an interesting idea, but Dave knew it was not likely. The Oracles took their job as timekeepers very seriously and the fate of a fallen Chosen One was of no consequence to them. If anything, the aristocratic beings would probably mock the Guardians for ‘misplacing’ one of their charges.
“A lost slayer is not of their concern,” Dave answered.
“Not of their concern?” Persephone repeated, aghast. “How is this slayer not of their concern when time was folded and her life path distorted two human years ago!”
Dave understood Persephone’s exasperation, for it was true. The Oracles had intervened and altered the directional of their Slayer’s life once before. It was, however, a side effect; the true reason for the fold in time was not for her but for the souled vampire, her companion. The Oracles had seemed to take partiality with the demon.
“The intervention was for the vampire, you know that.”
Pursed lips in the human form Persephone currently presented clearly expressed the Guardian’s vexation.
“I am prepared.” The voice of Demetrius broke the silence that was stretching between his two contemporaries.
Renewed hope there was still chance for the missing slayer yet, Persephone once more fluttered around like a mother hen searching for a missing chick. “May providence guide you on your journey.”
A smile rose on the elected face Demetrius wore. “She will be returned.” The promise was determined and unwavering.
The other two Guardians observed as Demetrius disappeared through the dimensional gateway and slipped onto the ghost roads.
Dave returned to the looking place and gazed down upon the sleeping Slayer at the centre of their quest. “I truly hope so.”
As a slayer, life had been clear cut: black and white, good and evil. No between the lines, no varying shades of grey, no exceptions. Life had a purpose, a destiny. That reason was ripped away at the moment of death. Now the entirety of her existence was grey, grey, grey. A veritable kaleidoscope of the nothing shade. It wasn’t what she’d expected upon her demise.
Jenna Henderson was a slayer, past tense. Death had not been a painful experience for the then seventeen year old. It was quick, and sharp and sudden. One moment in the middle of battle, the next surrounded by grey. Fangs did not bring her end, the sharp piercing of vampiric teeth into the flesh of her neck, blood drained dry like many of her sisters before her. Nor was it a mortal wound from a blade or weapon.
Demon hands around her neck. Twist, crack, gone.
It had been that simple.
Frustration didn’t accurately enough describe the sensation of being torn from the world, from life, at such a pivotal instant.
Jenna was called as a slayer two months before her fifteenth birthday, quite a young age. Her watcher had expressed her immense pride on numerous occasions and constantly reminded her that sixteen was the normal age of selection. She was special. Like the girl before her, the Watchers Council had tracked Jenna down as soon as the predication of being one day selected was realised. They brought her to London to commence training immediately. At the time, she was seven years old.
For the next six and a half years, Jenna lived, breathed and devoured her training. Lucky, they said. Fortunate, they exclaimed. Found at such a young age, thanks to new scouring techniques, meant years of training would better prepare Jenna for her destiny. It was expected she would live longer, fight more battles than predecessors, and rid the world of more demon spawn because of the extra preparedness.
She imagined the Council were disappointed when she died barely a month after her seventeenth birthday. From that moment it was the ghost roads she travelled. Had so for the last thirty years.
It hadn’t felt that long, that’s for sure. As time had no meaning here, snippets of information gathered from others that passed was how she’d established a time frame. Identifying a new one was easy. The disbelief of their passing, the erratic movements as a non-existent return was sought, the fear in their eyes. Jenna befriended the few she could, learning some about the world during their time in passing. They always passed on and she always remained.
For a while she hadn’t understood why—then he’d come.
A handsome looking guy who had soulful eyes and a caring heart you could practically see. When he’d introduced himself as her saviour, Jenna had laughed him off. He’d persisted. At first the visits were an annoyance and she’d brush the stranger off; ignored him. When her time in the grey stretched on and no return to the important battle she’d been in the middle of fighting presented, she at last chose to listen.
That’s how she came to learn of Demetrius and the Guardians, of the resting place that awaited her when she was ready, a place solely for slayers. But she wasn’t ready. Jenna needed confirmation from the world of the living; needed to know she hadn’t disappointed her Watcher; wanted the knowledge the battle had not been lost because of her demise. It was this fear that she’d let her employers down that held her on the ghost roads. Demetrius explained why the dearly departed she came into contact with would vanish suddenly. Because of her assistance they came to terms with their passing. Jenna didn’t mind staying behind so much. She may no longer be able to fight demons or vampires, but she was helping. One day, when she saw her watcher again, she would be ready to pass on herself. Until then, Jenna’s existence had purpose. And that was something.
Since her Guardian friend Demetrius had confirmed her ghostly status, Jenna had become increasingly curious about the world she’d left behind. As a slayer, she’d never come into contact with a phantom, but she had been schooled on them. If this was the place between, and these ghost roads were limbo, then there had to be a way to return to the world in her sprite-like status. Of course, she knew she would be unable to effect the environment around her if she managed the journey, but just to see what had become of her home and of the world would have been enough. She would almost feel alive again.
For years she’d searched for a door, a gateway, a passage. Then one day she saw them, tiny tears in the fabric of reality, small openings to the world. Through the hole she could see colour. And it was exhilarating. There were dozens, possibly hundreds of these openings, and all of them presented a door to a different location. Mozambique, New York City, Perth, Venice, London. Wherever her heart desired, she could go. All she had to do was find the right opening, move close enough to squeeze through and BAM! Real life in living colour. She’d asked Demetrius one day about them. The Guardian had informed her that passage was not available to him—which is why his kind never contacted Slayers in life—but that it was possible for her to travel. This answer had only brought more questions. Jenna was aware there were other dimensions, other versions of her world. What happened if she stepped through a gap and it wasn’t the world she’d lived in? Demetrius had somewhat calmed her anxiety when he’d explained she could only traverse the world she’d existed in. It was a small relief. However, that final step had never been taken.
Jenna was afraid. What if her watcher rejected her? What if the Council tried to banish her? What if she couldn’t get back? The ghost roads weren’t exactly cosy, but Jenna was used to the neutral static of grey. In a way it was almost comforting. She’d spent more time in monochrome than in the vibrant multi-coloured existence beyond the opening. Until her fear of the unknown lessened, on the ghost roads she’d remain.
Well, that was the plan anyway.
As she’d come to expect from her Guardian friend during his many visits to the ghost roads, Demetrius suddenly appeared before her.
“Hello, Dem,” Jenna greeted warmly.
“Jenna,” Demetrius answered with just as much warmth. “I have come because--”
“You want me to pass on to the resting place,” Jenna interrupted with a playful roll of her eyes. “Dem, we’ve done this song and dance a hundred times already. Not ready yet.”
Puzzlement marred the Guardian’s handsome human face, causing Jenna herself to frown. For a long time she’d wondered if Demetrius chose the façade he wore when visiting her, or if it was an image her own mind projected. The romantic in her wanted to believe he presented this face to her on purpose, so the reason was inconsequential and she’d never asked. Right now a frown crossed his attractive features.
“You’re not here about my eternal rest, are you?” Jenna questioned curiously.
Demetrius looked somewhat admonished. “No, I am not.”
“Then the purpose of your surprise, although very welcome visit would be…” She trailed off. If her skin could exhibit colour she had no doubt a blush would be rising on her cheeks at that moment.
“I have a mission for you.”
Jenna visibly straightened. “Really?”
Demetrius smiled and nodded his human head in confirmation. Persephone had been worried about the selection. The other Guardian believed a more mature slayer; one closer to the age of the fallen would be more appropriate. Demetrius had argued it was not age that was of consequence, but the nature of the selected. Jenna’s enthusiasm confirmed the choice.
“What’s the mission? Someone need help passing through? A message you want delivered?” Jenna was babbling but she couldn’t help herself. This wasn’t the first time Demetrius had come to her requesting help, but it had been a while since the last. She was excited about having a duty to fulfil.
“A slayer, she needs help.”
Jenna frowned. “But I thought Slayer’s were your responsibility?” There was hint of teasing mixed in with her curiosity.
“They are. But I cannot reach her.” Demetrius ran fingers through his hair, a mannerism he’d picked up after a millennia of observation on the human world. It was a common trait of males when they sought the right words to explain something important.
Some of the grey left Jenna’s face. “O-out there?” She gestured in the general direction of a gateway between the ghost roads and the world.
“I can’t do that!”
Jenna paced a few feet away and then back again then repeated the action, a movement the Guardian recognised as agitation.
“She doesn’t belong there,” Demetrius explained, hoping to reason with Jenna. “She is not of your world. She was in the resting place, was stolen from her deserved peace. So you see, she must be returned.”
“How did this happen?” Jenna asked. If she understood Demetrius clearly, and she did, then the Slayer he needed to contact wasn’t supposed to be alive, and most certainly should not be in the world she was in. Jenna’s world.
“A spell by a witch who was in contact with the Chosen One.”
Jenna gasped. “They tried to bring her back!?”
“It didn’t work; she went to the wrong place.” The gravity of the situation hit home and Jenna understood the Guardian’s concern. She prayed she had the confidence to assist as she could. With a shaky un-needed breath, Jenna accepted the mission. “How do I contact her?”
The smile that lit up Demetrius’ face was worth the nervous energy she felt at that moment.
“The entrance you shall take is over there,” the Guardian informed, pointing off to the side. “You should see a courtyard and stacking of domiciles.”
Jenna frowned before she realised what he was trying to explain. The Guardian’s unusual choice of words was something she liked most about him. “Oh! You mean an apartment building.”
Demetrius nodded. “The… apartment you shall seek has a newly coloured door and shiny protrusion for opening. She will be found in a sleeping room.”
“Do I knock?” Jenna realised her mistake immediately. “Of course I don’t knock. I can’t knock; no hands.”
The Guardian smiled. “You will not be corporeal so cannot affect the environment. But you can pass through.”
“Like, walking through walls?” At his nod, Jenna grinned. “Neat.”
“As this will be your first visit, it will be difficult to maintain form. Your time will be limited.”
“So I’ll like what, fade away?”
Again Demetrius nodded. “This will require numerous returns, and each will make stronger the control of your ability to sustain shape.”
“Not an in and out job, got it.” Jenna wrung her fingers by her side. Reflexively, she inhaled a few deep breaths in an effort to settle her nerves. A pause and then she began moving toward the opening. She stopped after a few steps when it occurred to her she had no idea what she was supposed to say to this Slayer.
“What do I tell her?”
“Only that she will return to where she was in due time. She must not know of our presence.”
“No mention of Guardians, right.” Jenna smiled. “Anything else?”
“Be to her as you have for those on these roads.”
With a wave of farewell, Jenna made her way to the doorway. When she was in reaching distance—if she’d had solid form—a final question occurred to her. “Dem, what’s her name?”
“Her name is Buffy.”
Before Jenna’s eyes, Demetrius vanished.
She looked back toward the entrance to the world, saw the courtyard she’d been informed of, inhaled deeply and surged forward and…
…stepped into the world for the first time in over thirty years.
The first thing Jenna did was look down. The glance at her feet was the only confirmation she had of standing on the concrete path, not feeling the ground beneath her feet. She was both surprised and delighted to see she was no longer grey, but muted colours. The outfit she wore was the one she’d died in, though no traces of battle marred the clothing. The closer she examined herself, the more apparent her un-solidified status became—she could see the lines in the concrete beneath her shoes.
“Must move quickly,” she reminded herself when her feet faded from sight for a moment before they blinked back into existence.
Her gaze lifted from the ground beneath her un-feeling feet, and she did a 360° scan of her surroundings. Jenna’s first real look at the world in living colour in over thirty years—though somewhat muted by fading night—and it was breathtaking. She allowed herself a few moments to soak in the sights before she switched from observe mode to duty bound. She had a slayer to contact.
The correct apartment was identified immediately. It stood out from the rest because it was freshly painted and had an elaborate doorhandle in comparison to the others. “Just as Dem described.”
Jenna walked—well hovered—toward the door and lifted her hand, stretching it forward. She was a ghost and Demetrius had informed her she could pass through solid objects, but sensory memories from her life made her hesitant. A move forward and her fingers disappeared into the wood. Confirming her disembodied state settled her nerves and she pushed on. For a second all she saw was chip-wood—ooh, not a solid wood door—and then she was inside.
The apartment was impeccably furnished and it took a moment to snap her attention away from admiring the décor. When her fingers faded in front of her, Jenna realised time was of the issue. She pressed onward.
Noting stairs to her left, she climbed them silently. When she reached the top, she made out the shape of a bed and moved toward it for closer inspection. Not the slayer… she acknowledged, and turned around and descended the flight of stairs.
The large sitting room was empty, as was the kitchen, which left two doors. Craning her head forward, Jenna looked into the room on the left. Bathroom.
“Okay, Buffy. Please don’t be alarmed,” Jenna whispered beneath her breath.
She inhaled for courage and moved through the other door.
The room was much darker than the main living area; the large drapes covering the windows were tightly drawn so not a speck of natural light filtered through. The only light offered was from a strange device on the dresser beside the bed, brightly lit numbers dispersing a small amount of fluorescent luminosity.
As Jenna neared the large bed in the centre of the room she made out the shapes of not one, but two forms. A blush rose on her cheeks. For a slayer trapped in another world, she seemed to have acclimated quite nicely. A male with unnaturally bright hair was curled around the form of a girl who looked a little older than her.
Attractive… Jenna thought, before she brushed her appreciation away. How do I wake her?
Touch was out of the option; it would have to be with speech.
Jenna leaned in closer and whispered the name Demetrius had given her. “Buffy…”
The girl stirred and Jenna was encouraged. “Buffy…” she whispered again.
Once more the sleeping slayer moved. Jenna opened her mouth to repeat the call of the slayer’s name again but hesitated when she began to rouse from sleep. Her eyes fluttered a few times before wakefulness set in, her vision focussed and an alertness settled in her eyes.
Jenna straightened and waved nervously. “Hi.”
And Buffy screamed.
A/N: Yes, another new character! Hope you guys liked the chapter, would love to hear your thoughts.
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