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In Another Life (the Research Assistants Remix)

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“Be . . . in my eyes. Be . . . in me,” 

The rush of the fight drained away, and Kendra drifted into the blue of Drusilla’s eyes. Music caressed her, the beauty of it so overwhelming that the rest of the room melted away. Her limbs swayed in time with the music, as she kept her eyes on Drusilla, the source of the melody. 

Something sliced into her neck, breaking the connection to the music, and she clutched her throat as she fell to the ground. The metallic smell of blood filled her nostrils.  

“Night-night,” the vampire sing-songed. 

The thrall lifted, but it was too late. Kendra shivered as her blood and life trickled away with one last thought, If I come back, I hope I will be a scholar.  

*** 

She awoke with a crick in her neck, face-down on the third Book of Pherion. She pushed back in her chair, grabbing at her neck. No blood, no cuts, not even a scar. “What happened?” 

“You fell asleep,” Mr. Zabuto said, pulling the book away. “But not before finding the prophecy we needed. Thank you.”  

“I was fighting a vampire, and I died. I was—a Slayer.” Kendra blurted out. But the words sounded ridiculous as soon as she said them, when her lifetime of memories as his research assistant (both before and after Tara was called as a Slayer) came flooding back.  

He sighed. “Kendra, it must have been difficult to learn that you were not a Potential, given your family’s history of service to the Council. But the work you do now is invaluable. Do not ruminate over life’s ‘might-have-beens'.” 

She stared down at the floor. There were a few planks of new wood lined up near darker, older planks, the only visible sign of the Master’s rise last year. She’d had a Slayer dream about it—no, wait, she couldn’t have. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “The dream was quite vivid.” 

He ignored the apology. “Tara and I will be heading out to Patagonia to fulfill the prophecy.  We’ll call if we need any research assistance.” 

When he was gone, she knelt down and touched the new wood. Dreaming that she was a Slayer was one thing; remembering a Slayer dream within the dream was quite another.  

But if she had been the Slayer, shouldn’t she remember other Slayer dreams, not just the one?  

*** 

Back at the library the next morning, Kendra flipped through the pages of index of Fassad’s Guide, looking for any references to spells, prophecies, or demons she hadn’t seen before.  

Mr. Giles and Buffy rushed in. Buffy headed straight for the weapons cabinet, and started packing crossbows, flails, and daggers into a large duffel bag.  

Willow jumped up, a look of excitement on her expressive face. “What’s going on? Do you need help?” 

“Another apocalypse, I’m afraid. Buffy and I are catching the next flight to Phoenix. There’s a rogue Watcher with a rather dangerous relic that the Council misplaced.” There was a subtle emphasis on the last word.   

Buffy grumbled, “Why can’t they end the world in someplace interesting, like New York or Los Angeles? Why are my field trips always to Cleveland or Phoenix or that hell dimension last week?” 

“They probably can’t afford the rent in a proper city.” Mr. Giles retrieved some papers from his desk and handed them to Willow. “Here’s a list of the Watchers on duty in Southern California. If there’s an emergency, call them.” 

Buffy zipped up the bag and surged out of the library. Mr. Giles took one more look at the weapons cabinet, grabbed a hatchet , and followed her out. 

Kendra returned to the Fassad’s Guide index 

Bunyips, demonic mutation theory. This could be interesting.  

Across the table, Willow was reading Hebron’s Almanac , her forehead creased in concentration. “ Ew!” she cried out, slamming the book shut. She met Kendra’s glare and a furious blush rose on her cheeks. “Oh, sorry. It’s just that this spell calls for some really— gross bits of a Chaos Demon, and they have to be bitten off, and even if I didn’t have to personally do the bitey part, I’d so be thinking about the bitey part, and now I wish I’d never seen it, because I can’t un-see it, you know? I didn’t mean to be Miss Shrieks-a-lot.” 

“I understand,” Kendra said, because it was the fastest way to end the conversation. Willow had a tendency to prattle on at even greater length when she thought someone was annoyed with her. There’s nothing really wrong with Willow, Kendra told herself. She’s a diligent researcher and problem-solver. She’s just a little excitable.  

That was probably attributable to Buffy’s influence. While Tara was thoughtful and respectful of tradition, Buffy was intuitive and utterly unconventional. It made sense that her Watcher was one with a years-long gap in his Watcher academic record and a habit of making veiled complaints about the Council. It also made sense that such a Watcher might look outside the traditional Watcher families for a research assistant. 

Willow picked up Suleman’s Compendium. Kendra flipped to the section on bunyips, and had barely finished the introductory paragraph before a loud crash made her jump out of her chair. 

“What was that?” Willow exclaimed. 

“I didn’t see.” Kendra answered. She headed towards the source of the noise, the audio-visual room. Was it a wise choice to head towards the disturbance? Was she overly influenced by the dream yesterday? But Willow was heading in the same direction, so perhaps it wasn’t an entirely reckless course of action. The door had swung open. Video tapes and film reels were careening through the air, as if flung by some unseen source. She slammed the door shut. 

“We need to block the door,” she told Willow. 

Willow scanned the room. “How about one of the filing cabinets?” 

The thought of losing even Sunnydale High School’s library records pained Kendra. “A table would be better.” 

They dragged the nearest table and rested it on its side against the door.  Kendra peeked through the window.  One of the shelves teetered as if something were shaking it.  

“So . . .something invisible. Again.” Willow panted. “Hang on, I know what to do this time. I’ll be right back.” She rushed out of the library. 

Well, at least someone had a plan. 

Willow returned wearing black goggles. She handed Kendra another pair of them. “Put them on,” she said. “They’re infrared goggles. We had an invisible girl last year, and one thing Buffy said was that she was warm. The goggles can detect body heat, but we’ll need to go inside the room to see it.” 

Kendra sighed. “I know you like new technology, but when we’re dealing with ancient supernatural forces, I’m not sure that this gadget--” 

Willow scowled. “You know, you and Mr. Zabuto keep slamming anything invented after the Bronze Age. But I didn’t see you guys getting complainy when Buffy blew away the Judge with a rocket launcher! If you think they’re worthless, then get out of my way, because I’m gonna try. If nothing else, we can figure out whether we need to call the Council or the FBI.” 

Kendra blinked, momentarily surprised by Willow's sudden assertiveness. She couldn't think of any downside to trying the googles, so she put them on. The world turned green.  She helped Willow move the table away from the door, and slowly stepped into the audio-visual room, looking from side to side.  

“There, in the corner, next to the boxes!” Willow whispered.  

A rat-headed creature was hunched over, snarling, but making no moves towards them. Kendra slowly stretched her arm out in front of her and pulled it down to her side. The creature followed the motion with its eyes. 

“I think I know what it is,” Kendra whispered. “Let’s get out of here.” 

They backed out of the room and shut the door, pushing the table back again. 

“It’s a Kizog demon. They have changeable skin coloration, like a chameleon. But they’ve been extinct for a thousand years.” 

Willow pulled her goggles off, untangling a lock of hair that had gotten caught in the elastic. “Wait, are you sure it’s a Kizog demon , and not some other rat-like demon?” 

“Absolutely,” Kendra said. “The angle of the jaw in profile is unique.” 

Willow’s eyes widened. “You’ve memorized the jawline of a demon that’s been extinct for a thousand years?” 

Kendra shrugged. “You never know when you’ll find a demonic living fossil. But I don’t know why it’s here.”  

“You know who we should talk to? Amy. She’s kind of an expert on rat transformations.”  

*** 

They waited at Amy’s locker until the bell for the next class rang.  

Amy didn’t show, but a dark-haired boy walked by. “Michael, have you seen Amy?” Willow asked. 

A look of panic flashed in his eyes. “N-no, I think she’s out today.” 

“She was in chemistry this morning.” 

He looked away from Willow, caught Kendra’s suspicious gaze, and looked down at the floor. “If she was here for chem, and I’m not saying she wasn’t, I’m guessing she left sometime later, you know, like people do.” 

Kendra caught the scent of rose oil and sage. “Michael, what did you do ?” she hissed.  

He grimaced. “It was just a glamour. It was supposed to make me look like whatever’s scariest to the person looking at me. It was just supposed to be funny, but she got really scared, and turned into a giant rat, and then she disappeared.” 

Willow gasped. “The glamour made you look like her mom. So she got really scared, and tried the rat transformation again, but something made it go kerflooey.” 

“Intense fear can destabilize magical energies,” Kendra explained. 

He slumped against the locker. “Oh, man, I really screwed up.” 

“You can be big with the contriteness later!” Willow snapped. “Amy’s in the audio-visual room, and we need you to undo her transformation.” 

“But I don’t know the spell!” Michael wailed. 

Kendra grabbed Michael by the shoulders. “What did she say when she cast the spell?” Kendra asked. 

“She invoked, um. Hecate. And said something about unclean things crawling.” 

“Let’s get back to the library. I know I’ve seen the de-transmogrification spell in one of Keough’s spellbooks.” 

*** 

After about ten minutes of searching, Kendra found it in the middle of Volume Four. She handed the book to Michael and they headed inside the audio-visual room. 

Michael read the Italian words. Though his voice shook, and his accent was atrocious, there was a flash of light, and Amy appeared in the corner completely nude.

With Amy's screams ringing in her ears, Kendra ran out of the room to find some clothes or a blanket so Amy could cover up. 

*** 

At the end of the school day, after Kendra and Willow had finished sorting and stacking the tapes and film reels, Willow said, “Hey, I’m heading for the Espresso Pump. Do you want me to bring you anything? Or you could come along. Or not, if you’re busy, ‘cause, hey, this day was kinda crazed.” 

Kendra rubbed an aching shoulder. She meant to politely decline and finally learn what the demonic bunyip theory was, but found herself saying, “Sure, I’ll come.” 

Whether this reality was a dying Slayer’s dream, or a scholar’s reality, she deserved to take a break and spend some time with a kindred spirit every now and then. The demonic bunyip theory could wait a few hours.