TitleLast to Ancient First (the Misidentified Antelope Remix)
Author Brutti ma buoni
Word count 2900
Characters Buffy, OC (the first Slayer)
A/N An invited remix of the original Last To Ancient First, by stormwreath
Buffy had never actually thought about Africa, now that she thought about it. Knew in a backgroundy way that the continent was huge, the cradle of humanity, filled with complex populations, exploited by many other cultures... but actually, when you said 'Africa', she didn't know pretty much anything. Pyramids at one end; post-apartheid society the other. In between, only a confused mishmash of very short news reports, wildlife documentaries and ER (famine, oil, refugees, corruption, lions, Victoria Falls, heroic medical staff risking their lives, exciting new tourist destinations in Ghana...).
Her knowledge, realistically, was crap. And now Willow was telling her she needed to go to Africa to save the world blah blah usual stuff. Except, Stone Age Africa: not Buffy's usual beat. Also, first time Buffy met the First Slayer, there was attempted murder. Nasty attempted murders, plural. Second time, there was the whole 'Death is your gift,' thing, followed by, yes, death. The temptation to ask 'Can't someone else do it?' was almost overwhelming.
But: Slayer duty to the max. So, here she was, about to be spellcast.
"And we're sure I'm coming back? I would hate not to come back. There are things I like very much about now. Friends, family, codeine, democracy, double mocha lattes... Okay, hellmouth opening, super vampires on the loose, not a huge incentive to come back, but I'm sentimental that way."
"Relax," said Willow. "Not only is the spell a nifty send-and-return deal, it leaves a trace we can follow if the 'return' bit goes screwy. I'm not leaving you in First Slayer-land long term."
"Cool, cuz Stone Age Nigeria or wherever, not my style."
"Okay. We talked about this," came the stern-Willow reply. "It's the Mesolithic, not just any old Stone Age. And it's the East Rift Valley, part of what we used to call the Great Rift, which is this vast fault line between the Asian and African tectonic plates. Very much not in Nigeria. Most probably you'll be roundabout Uganda or maybe Kenya, but I can't be more precise: the spell targets where the First is at one exact moment, and she moved around a lot, being part of a hunter-gatherer society, so her path is kinda fuzzy."
"Fuzzy? Great. I'm gonna be in a valley asking directions to a girl I don't know and can't describe. A thousand-mile valley..." Buffy paused, considered letting it go, and then, what the heck, bit back at the whole terminology issue. "Also, I'm not convinced saying 'Hi Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of the Rift Valley' is actually going to be a bonding experience. That's what we call it all. Do they know that? Come to that, how am I supposed to talk to her?"
Willow shrugged. "We understood her before, in our dreams. I guess it's a Slayer thing. If not, you can, y'know, mime."
Great. Charades, Stone Age-style.
Buffy briefly hid her face in her hands. But, job's there to be done. Always. "Okay, spell me."
It was pretty quick, considering 8000 years of time travel wasn't an average day, even for Buffy. She stepped forward into the past, which engulfed her.
"Whoa, deer!" Deer were running away. Deer were very multiple. And with the horns. Possibly not actually deer, but Buffy failed to pay attention to those nature documentaries and didn't have another word for them.
Also: girl. Girl with spear, heading Buffy's way.
Steady. Girl with spear possibly equals Slayer. Or random hunter, just as likely. Or possibly demon, because life's just like that – and of course they have demons, because: Slayer. Kinda pointless otherwise.
Buffy didn't seriously think it was a demon. Seemed like a girl; woman, maybe, she didn't look casual and childish in that stance. Kinda smelly, bad hair, and wearing something that obviously used to walk round the place wearing that skin in a more literal way. Clearly a stranger to mall shopping. More worryingly, there was a spearhead pointing straight at Buffy. Mesolithic, maybe, but hurled straight at short range by a Slayer, sharp things would be nothing to mess with.
She looked wary, but not frightened. Okay, going with the non-demon theory for now, Buffy decided. "Hi there... Sorry to drop in unannounced... I'm not dangerous, okay? You can put the spear down. Put it down now, please. See? Not dangerous at all." She held up her hands, non-threatening and weaponless.
The girl relaxed a little, pointed the weapon down. Phew. Better. Let's try conversation instead of the weapons. She didn't look exactly like Buffy's memory of the First Slayer, but what with the dream sequences, mysticism and murder attempts she had never got a truly clear view of what her predecessor actually looked like. So maybe...
"What's your name?"
The girl shook her head, and said... something. Something mumbly and non-comprehensible to ears of Buffy.
"Thanks Willow. Slayer connection mystical understanding my ass! Sorry," she added, to the girl, who didn't need 21st century bad language thrown at her for something not her fault. "But what the hell am I going to do now?"
The girl giggled at Buffy's sighing and bitching.
Giggled. That was a connection.
Okay, we both understand the 'Oh dammit, what a mess' concept. Buffy couldn't help but laugh back, a little. "So, you have bad days at the office too, huh?"
The girl had relaxed a fraction, but she was staring. Really, really staring at Buffy now. Not so much in a prepared-to-kill way, more analytical, detailed. Kinda intrusive, as it went on. She reached out a hand to Buffy's body. Buffy tensed, but it still didn't feel threatening. The girl rubbed Buffy's shirtsleeve between her fingers, looking fascinated. Then tugged upwards.
"Whoa. Not shirt-swapping time yet. You don't get to see the bra." The girl took Buffy's brush-off pretty calmly, like she'd expected it. Backed off a little. Was random nudity a Mesolithic thing? Something else she should have asked Willow, turned out.
She talked, to cover discomfort. "Yeah, sorry. The Gap's finest cotton, not for sharing. Yet another thing you don't have here." Time to get down to business. "Do you know where I can find a great warrior girl? You might call her the Slayer."
No response – evidently 'slayer' wasn't a magical password. Not that she'd expected it to be, but still, dammit.
The girl was talking again, asking questions, Buffy thought. But, obviously, wasn't certain. This could go on forever. Let's get to the basics.
"Bu-ffy," she said, pointing to her own chest. "Bu-ffy." You?, said her eyebrows.
"Hi-One," she said. (Haiwan, Hywun? Is there even an alphabet yet? Maybe spelling not such a big deal, now I think about it.) She'd got the message, anyway: Hi-One pointed at Buffy and said, "Bu-fi" which was close enough.
"Hi, Hi-One." Time to move on. Important questions to be asked, even if in mainly mime.
Buffy pointed at herself. "Buffy. Slayer." Pointed at Hi-One, "You, Slayer?"
But again, no magic breakthrough with the word. Hi-One shrugged, baffled. Then held up five fingers, gesturing widely.
"Five?" Five what? Slayers? Demons? Deer? Buffy cast a hasty glance round, but couldn't spot any danger, or a lurking gang of Slayers. Or Potentials, actually, maybe that was the problem. Maybe this was a Potential too, and a real Slayer might have the connection Buffy needed, to get beyond the charades stage into concrete world-saveage.
But apparently not; Hi-One was shaking her head, negating whatever she thought Buffy had just thought. Not apparently a Slayer gang in the offing. Or demons, considering Hi-One was pretty relaxed now.
"Fine, okay. We can't talk, you've no idea who I am... what in hell is the next thing we can do?" Buffy was almost tempted to sit waiting for the spellride home, this was so hopeless. But, again, world saveage demanded...
Hi-One at least seemed to have a plan. A plan involving walking, with Buffy, somewhere over there. Slaying? Eating? Meeting Watchers or a Slayer she could talk to? What the hell, can't sit here forever.
Definitely couldn't sit, in fact. She'd been focused enough not to think about much other than Hi-One and destiny. But actually there was more to notice. Like hot. Very, very hot sun, very little shade. Buffy going to be matching her coral long-sleeved tee if she wasn't careful. The surroundings were worth looking at too. Great grassy plains, mountains behind, a glint of water. So much space; no buildings, no roads. She had a sudden deep moment of vertigo: 8000 years from home. 7900 years away from roads and cars and railways and any way of getting round this place that wasn't your own feet or some other animal's feet. She was a hell of a long way from home.
Reinforced, a moment later, by Hi-One suddenly stopping, dropping into a wary, hunter's stance. Demons? Buffy dropped to the floor as Hi-One waved her to do, then wriggled up to ask what was going on. Except, no words, and Hi-One not in the mood for talking. They moved up towards the unseen threat, silent and Slayer-deadly.
Can't be a vampire. Way too much sun. Demon, probably.
Hi-One again waved Buffy to be still. Wanted to take the bad guy down herself, maybe. Hi-One, don't be a hero.
But it wasn't a demon, obviously. Nothing hiding among the deer. Hi-One was shopping for lunch.
This would be the hunter part of hunter-gatherer. Oh double-crap. Buffy hadn't come to the Stone Age to criticise its customs. Face it, without this kind of life, her kind of life, double mocha lattes and all, wouldn't have come into being.
But still, deer-slaughter not the most fun thing in the world to watch. The girl didn't even do it right, not killing it first off, just leaving it to run slower and slower, dripping blood everywhere, with Hi-One jogging along to collect it when it fell.
Buffy ran up to finish off the dying animal. Damn Stone Age incompetence. Snapped the neck, which she'd practised on many demons but never done to an innocent beast.
She felt sick, one arm covered in deer blood. When Hi-One caught up to them, she couldn't restrain herself. "I know you have to eat, but do you have to be so cruel? You can't even kill cleanly. You're no Slayer. I'm in the wrong damn place at the wrong damn time and you're just... disgusting."
It was only when Hi-One dropped into a wary crouch that Buffy realised she'd been waving the spear around, having taken it out of the dead deer's side. She threw it down, revolted.
Hi-One seemed a hell of a lot more worried about the spear than the deer. She grabbed it up, started checking it over in a way Buffy recognised. Weapons check post-fight.
Now Buffy came to look at it, the spear wasn't all that... kill-y. It was a stick, with a rock on the end. She tested the rock (flint, she knew that much), and it was sharp, but not exactly insta-lethal.
"Okay. I get it; I'm an idiot. Stone Age. Meaning age of stone. Meaning not that easy to kill stuff. Sorry. I was thinking it was like a big shiny knife. You did pretty well getting it in the neck, right?"
Buffy tightened the loose leather tie that had been worrying Hi-One. Who, clearly, said, "Thank you." Though not in those exact words, of course.
"You're welcome." Buffy was starting to feel more than a little fuzzy round the edges. Very, very hot, this place. Running that fast had maybe been a mistake. She wanted to be someplace cool and shady, with ice and running water. Soon, please.
But it wasn't going to be soon. Though this place was pretty liveable; grass, trees, water and all that. Not the blasted desert where she'd met the First before. Maybe that was another part of this girl's territory. Maybe it wasn't real at all, just some mystical location for Slayer communion. Somehow, when Buffy had heard about civilisation starting in Africa, she'd pictured those deserted, famine-struck areas that made the news. But, of course, if you're growing a culture, it's neater to start somewhere with the necessities of life. Killing deer with rocks was going to be struggle enough without opting to populate the desert.
Hi-One was messing with the dead deer. Marking its brow, which looked reverent. Or maybe post-mortem branding; Hi-One killed this one, much respect owed? Buffy was frustrated by the sheer amount she didn't understand. Much more than just the words.
But tying the deer's limbs together and hoisting it onto Hi-One's back was pretty clear. Time to get going, bring home the (almost) bacon. Towards some trees, for a start, that was clear too. Realising she was outpacing her guide, Buffy lifted the deer from the buckling Hi-One, and started for shelter.
One thing was pretty certain by now. This wasn't the First Slayer. Buffy could outrun her, and comfortably carry things that Hi-One struggled to lift. So where the hell was the First? Crap crappity crap what next? Damn, it's hot. I don't like
Africa the Mesolithic Rift Valley at all. Hi-One was fit, sure, but nothing inhumanly strong about her. She was like one of the Potentials; no question Buffy was stronger. No way like the First Slayer who had almost killed them all.
Shade helped. Buffy started to feel herself cooling to a paler shade of lobster. Even shrimp, maybe. Berry juice also very helpful in making her feel better about this place. Till Hi-One meaningfully held her eyes, waggled her eyebrows, and uncovered her own breasts.
Whoa. This is charades I never played before. Dirty charades. Am I supposed to show her mine? Or, y'know, nuzzle? Headshakes seemed the safest way to go. Buffy kept shaking, but Hi-One gave her a big smile, and gestured to look somewhere in the boob-region. Buffy looked away, highly determined not to find out what Mesolithic lesbian moves were like. Hi-One, sounding pissed, said, "Buffy" very loudly, and with other words of a short, sharp, non-seductive type.
Ah. Okay. Big chest scar. Boobies not the point. But Hi-One was still pointing at Buffy's chest, and making questioning sounds. Repeating some, as she pointed at her scar.
Big cross-shaped scar, now Buffy came to look at it.
Hi-One had obviously decided to go back to utter conversational basics. Point at self, point at scar/cross. "Hi-One din-wan-te." Point at Buffy boobs, "Buffy din-wan-te?"
Slayer? Was this din-wan-thingamajig the Slayer word? Was that a cross?
But way, way too Before Christ for crosses, right? And the Slayer's weakness was a major issue too, if she was the Slayer.
Still, there was a connection. Buffy said, experimentally, "Din-wan-te," and showed her own cross necklace.
Hi-One nodded. Paused. Then really, really did mime 'vampire'. With little fangs, biteyness, and being burned by crosses. Before Christ, maybe, but obviously not Before Crosses. Willow would so be wetting her pants over this one. If only they could share it with anthropologists worldwide... A new career path beckoned, briefly.
Um, back to the moment. Buffy reached for a makeshift stake, mimed vamp-slaying, and got excited nods and unfortunate hand gestures back. Slayer charades breakthrough! So satisfying. They just grinned for a moment, but then Buffy couldn't hold it in any longer. "You're a Slayer. I'm a Slayer, a din-wan-te! This is just incredible. So, do you have a Watcher? What do you call Watchers? Is there a Watchers' Council yet? How many vamps have you Slayed? Do you get demons here too, or just vampires? Is this where the whole last-true-demon thing happened? Giles would be so totally excited about now, I wish he was here. You seem a lot more balanced than the dream-First-Slayer, if you don't mind me saying – I wonder when that happened to you and why. Do you know where your power comes from, though actually you don't seem that powerful right now, do you grow into it later on? I guess you won't know exactly yet but it seems a little weird to me," and a whole lot more before Hi-One got annoyed and shut her up. In order to flood out a whole lot of words of her own. Equally incomprehensible, and so frustrating. Buffy could feel how close they were to connecting; maybe even talking about the same things, but all the will in the world couldn't make them understand each other.
"Man, I wish Giles was here. He'd understand you. I just know it. It's probably his fifteenth language, secretly. Whatever the hell language it is."
Hi-One said something tired and frustrated, then gestured towards whatever the place over there was, that they had been headed for before the deer-killing episode. Her Watcher, with any luck, and maybe someone with contacts among mystical time-travelling demon translators, which would be handy, though possibly evil.
Buffy hoisted the deer onto her shoulder once more, and set off to meet Hi-One's people.
Instant Remix: Last to Ancient First (the misidentified antelope remix)