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Posted November 24, 2007

Fan Fiction: Adventures in Rome

Adventures in Rome:
Chapter Five

"You did what?" Giles interrupted Buffy's explanation, shocked. "Buffy, this is--"

"Imhotep, I know," Buffy replied, tiredly. She almost wished she hadn't called him; she'd known he was going to react this way. "Evil mummy guy, Ten Plagues of Egypt, telekinetic powers, you told me, remember? Except he's not an evil mummy right now. He's human."

Giles sighed. "And of course, Slayers don't kill humans. I can't imagine why your companions didn't act, however; they certainly aren't restrained by that stricture."

"Giles!" Buffy hissed, glancing toward the door of her bedroom, where Imhotep slumped atop the covers with a throw pillow protecting his modesty and Dawn watching over him. Rick had dumped him there unceremoniously before disappearing with his wife into the bathroom. "Look. His girlfriend's not around, and the Book of Amun Ra won't work on him right now. Maybe we can talk him around to our side. I mean, Wolfram and Hart obviously raised him to do their dirty work. You don't think that might piss him off, just a little?"

"I think that he doesn't speak any modern languages," Giles replied tartly, "and your only fluent translator on site is a woman he positively hates. Buffy, I must protest to this course of action, most strenuously."

"Objection noted," she said. "Seriously, though. We stopped them from doing the curse on him again, but they still have the Book and the scroll, and the chest with the restoration half of the curse on it's going to arrive in the morning. Evy says if their main goal is to get rid of Rick so their own Champion can call Anubis' army and take over the world, then there's nothing to stop them from putting the whammy on someone else and sending him after us. Imhotep might be a good resource for us if that happens. But even if he isn't-- we've got to do something, Giles. This is going to get messy. Is there anyone else you can send me?"

"No one who can get there in the next few hours without straining Willow's abilities," he replied. "Xander is closest; it will be tomorrow evening before he can arrive. Buffy-- are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"Am I ever?" Buffy said, wryly. "Look-- Ilona saw me when we broke into Wolfram and Hart; we're going to have to leave my apartment in a few minutes if we don't want to get caught here by her minions, or Paolo's. And we have to take the naked priest guy with us unless we want them to get him back, so-- the point is kind of moot. Tell Xander that some of what's going on has to do with the tribesmen he met out in the desert, so it's totally up to him if he wants play cavalry this time. I'll take my cell phone with me if either of you need to contact me. In the meantime, we'll be getting in touch with Rick and Evy's people and asking them for help, too."

"All right," Giles said. "I trust you. Just-- be careful, all right? I know you feel a little blasť about this after defeating the likes of Glory and the First, but the threat is no less serious for its lack of originality."

"Love you too, Giles," she replied with an affectionate smile, and ended the call.

"Cavalry coming?" Willow asked hopefully as she turned back to the group.

"Just Xander, and however many guys in robes the O'Connells' great-grandson brings with him, it looks like," she said. "How's Dawn coming with the packing?"

"Done!" Buffy's sister said brightly, dragging two carry-on sized pieces of luggage out of Buffy's bedroom. "Basic necessities for both of us for a couple of days, weapons and hygiene included. You figured out where we're going yet?"

"Yeah; there's a Watcher safe-house on the other side of town," Willow replied. "Giles gave me the key to the wards, we'll be invisible there as long as we don't use any magic."

"That won't be a problem for us," Evy said, coming out of the bathroom, "but we will have to keep an eye on our guest. He was Pharoah's High Priest; he knew more incantations than any other individual in Egypt when he was alive, never mind what he might have picked up since."

Rick came out of the bathroom after her; Buffy raised her eyebrows at the slightly mussed state of their hair, but whatever else they'd been up to they'd also taken the opportunity to freshen up. Rick was wearing the same pair of jeans, but he'd changed shirts; the new one was a deep shade of blue that brought out his eyes. Evy had exchanged her layered brown shirts for a flowing black blouse; the hilts of her sais and the golden bangles on her wrists were more visible with the new ensemble.

Just looking at them made Buffy feel grimy. There wasn't time for her to do anything about that right now, though. "We need to get some kind of clothes on him before we go. I don't suppose you brought any spare boxers with you?" she asked, turning pleading eyes on Rick.

He twisted his face up in a really interesting expression at that. "Uh, sorry, no," he said. "I guess you don't exactly keep spare clothes around in his size--?"

She shook her head. "Just a bathrobe. I guess that'll have to do, though. Can you carry him again? We really need to get moving."

"Uh, Buffy?" Dawn interrupted, staring over Buffy's shoulder with wide eyes. "I don't think that's going to be necessary."

Buffy whirled to see the resurrected priest striding confidently out of her bedroom, apparently totally unconcerned about his clothesless state. All traces of the fear and confusion she'd seen earlier were gone from his eyes; every line of his body exuded confidence and power. With every stride across the carpeted floor of her apartment, he seemed to be declaring his dominance over all he surveyed.

Buffy had never been one to bow the knee, however, and especially not in her own space. She quickly moved to put herself between Imhotep and the rest of the people in the room and crossed her arms in front of her chest, projecting denial with her body language. "And just what do you think you're doing?" she asked him, sharply.

Evy made a choking sound behind her, but did not translate. That didn't matter, though; Buffy's challenge had been more about tone of voice, anyway, and a way to prompt him to say something in return.

Imhotep's lips curved in an amused smirk, and then--

--For just a moment, as he opened his mouth, the world shivered around her. The walls of her apartment melted away into painted stone and beaten gold; she was no longer Buffy, American college student and Slayer, she was a nameless, foreign slave in service to a temple in ancient Egypt, bowing her head by day and sneaking out to battle the nightwalkers while her masters slept. The resonant voice rolling over her belonged not to a freshly resurrected maybe-enemy; it was the voice of her masters' god, issuing from the throat of their high priest, echoing from a nearby audience chamber. She could almost understand what he was saying--

--and then the world shivered again, and she was back in her apartment, chilled to her bones. She drew a deep breath as he continued to speak, but the sense of the words had slipped away from her.

Merrick had told her, once, that Slayers fought an eternal battle; that the dreams she had each night of girls fighting and dying in all ages and all cultures were actual memories of her prior lives. She usually didn't put much thought into it; she'd never got a clear enough glimpse of any of them to feel like they were really part of her, and Giles hadn't put much emphasis on that part of the Slayer lore. Today, though-- today, she understood what Merrick had been talking about. She'd been there. She'd heard him.

He finished speaking, and she tore her gaze away from all that bronze skin and muscle to glance at Evy. "What did he say?" she asked, shaken.

"He wants to know why we have brought him back, and where Anck-su-namun is," the former librarian answered. Evy was holding her ground, refusing to back away from the man who'd twice nearly destroyed her and her family, but her eyes were a little wild. Rick stood just in front of her, one arm spread before her like a shield and a gun in his other hand, his expression fierce as he stared Imhotep down.

Evy spoke again, then, a rapid patter of unintelligible syllables as she warily answered the questions. "I've told him it wasn't us who brought him back, and that Anck-su-namun is dead," she said after a moment.

Imhotep's expression changed to a sneer of anger and disgust as he listened. He said something else rapid and harsh; Evy answered, quickly, without bothering to translate first. Imhotep narrowed his eyes at her, then nodded sharply and made another brief comment.

The world threatened to slip again as the ancient language beat against Buffy's ears; she swallowed and held the dizzying visions back by main force, using everything Willow and Giles had ever taught her about ordering her own mind. It was maddening, the way everything Evy and the priest were saying almost made sense-- but this was definitely not a good time for her to be losing control of herself.

"Honey?" Rick prompted, as the conversation finally came to a halt.

Evy sighed. "I told him about Wolfram and Hart, and why we think they called him back. He isn't happy about that. He's even less pleased about the idea of working with us, but I've promised that none of us will try to attack him while all of this is going on, and he's willing at least to come with us for the time being."

"Are we really sure this is a good idea?" Rick asked, still in his guarding stance.

"There's evil, and then there's evil," Buffy replied, softly, staring at the sour curve of Imhotep's mouth. "There's the insane, hates-all-things-living kind of evil, and if he was that kind of evil, it would definitely be a bad idea to keep him around. But the other kind, the kind that paves the road to hell with the best intentions-- you said everything he did was because of his girlfriend, right?"

She remembered the pain and betrayal she'd seen in his gaze, in those first few seconds after his resurrection. That kind of pain only lived in the hearts of those who'd loved unwisely; she'd seen it, to her shame, in Spike's eyes more than once during the worst months of their dysfunctional relationship.

"Right," Evy replied.

"Then unless they bring her up next, I think we're safer keeping him than killing him," Buffy said, decisively.

"All right, then," Rick replied, then slowly put his gun away. "If he kills us all, though, I swear I'm coming back to haunt you."

"Understood," Buffy said dryly, then ripped her attention away from Imhotep again to glance at her sister. "Dawnie, bathrobe?" she said pointedly, raising her eyebrows.

Dawn blushed; she was standing off to one side where she had a very good view of the resurrected priest's naked backside. "Sure, um-- just a second," she said, and edged over to the bathroom.

Willow took the robe from Dawn as the younger girl emerged with it, then visibly steeled her nerves and approached Imhotep with it. "Here," she said, thrusting it at the priest.

Imhotep gave the garment an incredulous look, then turned a querying expression to Evy. There was another brief exchange of words; then Imhotep took the robe from Willow's hands with a grimace and put it on.

With the robe wrapped around him-- an oversized, worn thing Buffy had borrowed from Giles the last time she'd been in London and had kept as a sort of security blanket-- he looked unexpectedly human, as though the power of plaid had somehow dampened his aura. Buffy smiled briefly at the thought, then moved to grab the suitcases Dawn had packed and gestured meaningfully toward the door of the apartment. "Time to go," she said.

Willow and Dawn moved first; Buffy watched them go, then jerked her chin at Imhotep. She didn't want to turn her back to him, and she was pretty sure the O'Connells wouldn't either.

He frowned at her, but any other response he might have given was cut off by Dawn's gasp from the open doorway. He turned immediately to stare in her direction; Buffy did, too, dropping the suitcases again as she hurried to her sister's side.

"They moved fast this time," she said sourly, staring at the crowd of suits approaching her front door. Night had fallen before they'd emerged from the tunnels; it was anybody's guess whether those minions were humans, demons, or vampires like the ones they'd destroyed at Wolfram and Hart's subterranean entrance. "Willow, you think you can zap us to the safehouse directly?"

"Not if you want me to be any use tomorrow," Willow replied, backing away from the door to give Buffy more room. "I used a lot of magic 'porting the three of us in this morning; moving twice as many people so soon will be a huge additional strain, unless I start pulling from sources I shouldn't."

Buffy thought about that for a moment, then slammed the door in the minions' faces, darted back across the living room, and threw open her weapons chest. There were several short swords amid that tangle of metal; she hefted a couple of them in her hand, then grabbed the one that felt most "right" to her and turned to Imhotep with a grim frown.

He stared at her, then the sword, with an absolutely blank expression; she locked gazes with him for a moment, trying to impress on him the seriousness of the moment, then reversed the sword and held it out to him, hilt-first.

"Buffy, what are you doing?" Rick asked, cautiously.

"Tell him the guys outside work for the people who brought him back," she said, ignoring the question. "Tell him he's not allowed to harm anyone else-- but anybody working for Wolfram and Hart is fair game. Tell him if he agrees to that, he can have this sword."

"And you think he'll pay any attention to your rules once he has the sword in hand?" Rick added, incredulously.

"I know I can take it away from him if he doesn't," Buffy replied, firmly.

Before Rick could continue his objections, Evy took a deep breath, then repeated the instructions Buffy had listed out in Ancient Egyptian.

Buffy knew the moment Imhotep understood by the fierce light that suddenly ignited in his eyes. He bared his teeth in a predatory grin, then took the hilt of the sword from her hand.

"We probably could take them without his help, you know," Evy hissed.

"I know," Buffy replied. "But I'm pretty sure he's not going to turn on us yet, and more is always better in fights like these."

"It's the yet that concerns me," Rick said, with a frown.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Buffy shook her head. "For now-- let's just make sure we get out of here in one piece."

The front door shattered open, and the battle began.


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