Title: One Foot in Fairy Tale
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: B:tVS/Terra Nova. He was a man of concretes and absolutes, and it had been a long time since he'd listened to his grandmother's stories. 2800 words.
Fandom: Post-series for Buffy, no comics; Terra Nova circa 1.8 "Proof"
Notes: Directly follows "Paging Eryishon". Establishing a bit more foundation.
Nate crossed his arms over his chest, staring down at the red-haired woman lying unconscious on the bio bed. She was pale, unusually freckled for someone hailing from the heavily polluted twenty-second century, wearing very, very old-fashioned clothes- and absolutely unfamiliar to him.
"You'd better have a good explanation for this," he said, throwing a sharp glare at the woman he'd introduced to the colony as his niece Buffy- but remembered better from his childhood as Aunt Liz.
The slight blonde mirrored his posture, every inch of her body language defensive. "I do; I totally do. I just don't think you're going to believe me."
"Let me put it this way, then," he said, deeply displeased. "You can give me that explanation, or I can make one up that does make sense. Which one do you think will put you in a better light?"
He wanted to trust the girl; between her and Shannon, Nate had finally started to feel like he might have a chance at keeping Terra Nova out of the hands of the folks who'd sponsored the Sixers. She'd stopped the flow of information and materiel leaking out of the colony, and had no ties left to the world they'd left behind. But he'd been betrayed by blood before- and the circumstances were suspicious, to say the least. The last time a human being had appeared in Terra Nova off schedule, it had been General Philbrick, sent through the portal alone after the Second Pilgrimage to secretly relieve Nate of his command.
That incident, combined with the rebellion of half the Sixth Pilgrimage, had made him reevaluate everything he thought he knew about his mission and those who shared it with him. If the enemy had enough pull to access Hope Plaza under the noses of the government, then could they also have somehow arranged the 'anomaly' that jolted the portal and dropped Nate into the Cretaceous era more than three months before the rest of the First Pilgrimage? And if that were true, if they'd been angling to put one of their own in control from the start... then he had to suspect everyone in the tier of authority immediately beneath him, as well. Unfortunately, that group included both his old friend Lieutenant Washington and the colony's CSO, Dr. Wallace.
He'd hoped the new Sheriffs would provide a counterbalance for that inability to fully rely on his staff, as they were the only two people known to have arrived in Terra Nova without any other claims on their loyalty- be they to sponsor, military superior, or the lottery office. And prior to the incident in the Eye, Nate had believed they were living up to his somewhat optimistic expectations. But there was only one way from 2149 to Terra Nova- and the young woman on the bed, who'd been found with Buffy and Shannon's son in the Eye, had not come in on any of the official pilgrimages. He didn't know what sort of positive conclusion could possibly be drawn from that.
Buffy bit her lip, eyeing him warily. "I didn't exactly plan for this to happen."
He blinked at that, completely nonplused. "So what, you're saying this was an accident?" he repeated, volume rising with the force of his indignation. "How the hell can someone arrive through the portal accidentally? Even Shannon here had a little help along the way!"
She winced, then threw a glance over at Josh, who was huddled against the wall under his father's disapproving eye. "It was an accident; I was trying to rescue someone else."
"Rescue?" He shook his head, disgusted. "Laying aside the how for just a minute- and you'd better believe we'll get back to it- just who were you trying to rescue? And why?"
"And who the hell is this, if she wasn't someone you were expecting?" Shannon put in.
"She's not in any of the colony databases," Elisabeth spoke up, shaking her head. She'd done the requisite scans when the woman had been brought in. "Nor is her DNA closely related to any we have on record. And I can verify that she didn't come through in any of the known pilgrimages- her molecular signature actually shows no evidence of time displacement at all. It's as though she was born in this time period- though that's clearly impossible, as she also shows evidence of having been poisoned very recently with a toxin created in the late twenty-first century." She framed a red spot on the unconscious woman's neck with her gloved fingers.
Josh took a shaky breath, hunching his shoulders a little further. As well he might: he was still on scut work detail from being caught meeting with Mira. Being caught in questionable circumstances a second time was a considerable black mark in Nate's books, and the boy had to know that.
"She, uh. She was trying to find Kara for me," he spoke up, choosing to answer Nate's question first, though it seemed likely from his reaction that he knew something about the woman as well. "I thought she might be in trouble since I got caught- and the Sixers only know her name because of me. I didn't want her getting hurt for something I'd done." He tipped his chin up defiantly as he spoke.
That behavior might be cute in the father, who at least had the experience and instincts to back up the attitude, but it just made Nate want to pinch the bridge of his nose coming from the son.
"Josh..." the elder Shannon began, then sighed noisily. "Look, I know you're worried about Kara, but didn't you learn anything from sneaking out to meet with the Sixers? Why the hell didn't you talk to me before doing- whatever it was you were doing in there?"
Then he switched focus, narrowing his eyes at Buffy. "And you. Why didn't you say anything? I just saw you when you brought Maddy in. What am I supposed to think when you're saving my daughter one minute, then turning right around and getting my son in trouble the next?"
"It didn't seem like it was going to be trouble at the time," she objected, wincing.
"Well, it was," Shannon stared her down, the easy working relationship they'd settled into in recent weeks completely abandoned as he bristled at her.
"Jim," Elisabeth murmured, laying a hand on his arm, though the glance she shot at Buffy was equally displeased. "Let's not escalate this; I'm sure she meant well."
Josh ignored his mother, responding to his father's tone with a teenage self-defensiveness that reminded Nate of the few rocky vacations he'd managed to arrange with Lucas after Somalia. "Back off, okay, dad? It wasn't her fault. I blackmailed her into it."
"You blackmailed her?" Shannon's eyes went round with astonishment- and even more alarm, as he turned to stare at his deputy. "With what?"
"Oh, I have got to hear this," Nate rolled his eyes. He'd known there had to be more to his aunt's story than the carefully crafted tale she'd fed him about a privately run human augmentation program that self-destructed in the early 2000s. But he'd never have guessed that Josh Shannon would be the one to uncover it.
"Don't do me any favors, Josh," Buffy cast her eyes upward in what looked more like a petition for patience than shame. Then she took a step closer to the bed, reaching out to brush a fringe of red hair back from the woman's forehead before addressing the question. "It's nothing like what you're probably thinking. It's just- he found a picture of me from 2049."
Shannon shook his head as though he thought something had gone wrong with his hearing. "Excuse me, did you just say twenty-forty-nine? But that would make you a hundred years old."
"A hundred and sixty-eight, give or take a few months," she corrected, flashing him- and then Nate- a wry smile. She'd fed Nate the same story; and her DNA had backed up that claim on a relationship level, though Malcolm had also said she seemed to have the telomeres of a twenty-year-old, which didn't.
"There's no way," Elisabeth objected, echoing her own boss's words. "You don't show any of the signs of advanced aging, and no matter how good your surgeon was, it's impossible to repair everything."
"Under normal circumstances, you'd be right," Buffy nodded. "But I'm not exactly normal."
Shannon let that settle a moment, then crossed his arms and glared at Nate. "Did you know about this? Because you're awfully calm over there, Commander."
Trust the former cop to bring that detail up in the middle of a much more serious conversation. "About her age? Yes. About this...?" He gestured to the bed, frowning sourly. "Obviously not. Or I wouldn't have asked the question."
"Then she's not your niece after all," Shannon said, as though confirming a long-held suspicion.
"But- you are related to him, aren't you?" Elisabeth said, glancing back and forth between them in bafflement. "I remember Malcolm complaining about a rush DNA test."
"No, I'm not; and yes, I am," Buffy sighed. "Suffice to say, it's complicated. And I am sorry," she added, turning to Shannon. "It's not Josh's fault, though I appreciate him trying to take the blame. It's just- like I told Nate, I didn't think you'd believe me. And I wasn't even sure it would work; I was afraid you'd shut me down before I even tried. Kara seemed like the perfect test case, so I jumped on the excuse: someone who might need saving, but couldn't pose any real threat to the colony."
Elisabeth groaned at that. "Now why does that sound familiar?" she said, throwing her husband a dirty look. "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission?"
Shannon had the sense to back down a little at that. And seen in that light, Nate had to admit, Buffy's reasoning was understandable. He couldn't forget the example posed by little Leah and her brother Sam- anyone could be a Sixer plant with the right leverage- but the likelihood that an orphaned, working-caste sixteen year old whose boyfriend already lived in Terra Nova would be such a one would have seemed pretty low.
...If Kara had been the one she'd brought through. But she hadn't been. And his aunt still hadn't explained the situation to his satisfaction.
"I'm still not hearing a how. Or a who," he insisted.
"She's- the other girl from the picture," Josh offered reluctantly, with an apologetic glance in Buffy's direction. "Ms. Summers didn't say who she was."
"The picture from 2049?" Shannon repeated.
"Yes," Buffy admitted, meeting Nate's eyes and Shannon's in turn as she finally decided to fill in the blanks. "I was distracted. Which is an awful, no-good, terrible state of mind to start a ritual in, I know. But there isn't anyone else in Terra Nova who even believes magic exists, and as upset as Josh was, I didn't think it was a good idea to put it off."
"Magic?" Shannon sputtered again, eyebrows raised.
"But that's absurd," Elisabeth frowned. "I can accept that there are physical experiences that can't be fully explained by modern science- the portal, for one- but to just give up and label it 'magic' is inaccurate and irresponsible in the extreme."
Nate would ordinarily have echoed the both of them, blasting an offender for such an obvious fabrication: Arthur C. Clarke's famous Third Law made for a very weak excuse. But on the other hand, he had seen the miracle his aunt pulled with that vanishing axe of hers, dancing with a 'saur to defend the colony while its boundary defenses were down. And something else had started niggling at him, too: an old, old memory working its way loose from the depths of his childhood.
Red hair. Magic. It couldn't be. Could it?
"Her name," he demanded harshly, recalling Sunday afternoons spent at his grandmother's knee. Her grandmother's name had been Dawn Harris, and she'd had a fabulous wealth of stories about the famous linguist named after the sunrise and all her legendary family and friends. They'd been heavily stylized in fairy tale format to keep a young boy's attention, of course... but he'd wondered about them more than once since Buffy had shown up and claimed to be Dawn's sister.
The very idea that magic might be real was ridiculous. But on the other hand...
Commander Nathaniel Taylor was a man who'd walked through a time fracture, set up a colony in the age of dinosaurs, and watched his own proven flesh and blood perform impossible feats with fire and blade. Elisabeth could classify that with inexplicable physical experiences all she wanted, but there was a part of him that once believed whole-heartedly in the fairy tales of his childhood, and was raising the hairs on the back of his neck at the impossibility that just might be lying on a bio bed in front of him.
"Tell me her name," he insisted again.
Buffy stared back, searching his face for something- then straightened her spine at whatever she found there. "I should have known Dawn's kids would pass down the stories," she gasped. "You know who she is, don't you? This is Willow."
She spoke the name as though it were something precious. And it would be, if the woman really was the figure from all the stories; if even a tenth of what his grandmother had said about her was true.
"Willow Rosenberg?" Nate replied, shaking his head. "The Red Witch of Sunnydale? Unbelievable."
"Yes," Buffy said, attempting a smile at his reaction, though she fell a little short of the goal. "It was one of her spells I was trying to use."
He scrubbed hand over his beard, considering, still struggling with the dregs of the furious anger that had blindsided him at the initial intruder report. "It's- a compelling explanation, I'll give you that," he said, slowly. "I want to believe you; I've wanted to believe you ever since I spotted you in the crowd. But I'm a man of concretes and absolutes, Aunt Liz, and it's been a long time since I bought into Grandma's stories. I'm going to need more proof than just your word."
"You can't seriously be buying this?" Shannon objected, glancing between them.
"I'm not selling anything," Buffy replied, tartly, then sighed and patted Willow's hand. "He's seen me do magic before, he's just pretended it all had some other explanation. I may be made of fail when it comes to the flashy stuff, but I'm not exactly standard issue Valley Girl either, and crazier people than you have tried and failed to explain me before."
"Just last week, even," a sleepy voice murmured from the bed, followed by a groan as the guest of honor finally joined the proceedings. "What happened, Buffy? Last thing I remember, one of those government scientists was talking to me about something- they were fencing off the area around Dawn's memorial, and something felt all wrong about it. But then I felt this pinch, and I thought I heard Eryishon- which, hey! The magics feel purer, here. Where are we?" She paused, then continued warily. "You're not a vampire, are you?"
"Only in the sucked your life away sense," Buffy cringed, wrapping an arm around her friend and helping her sit up. "You've been gone eighty years, Wills. Kinda. It's a long story, and it's mostly my fault."
"Though whose fault it is, is less important than the method at the moment," Nate commented, breaking in on the conversation. "I hate to interrupt the reunion, Ms. Rosenberg-"
The woman started as she heard his voice, then gasped, green eyes widening at him in surprise. A wash of energy seemed to flow over him with her attention, lifting the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck. "Oh. Wow. You're one of Dawnie's, aren't you? Goddess, how many of you did I miss?"
It wasn't quite the reaction he'd been looking for... but that feeling went right to his gut, to the marrow of his bones, like an electric shock. He was still half-convinced that he was either losing his mind, or being carefully fooled... but he could feel his pulse picking up anyway. If magic was real, it could give him a way of reaching the world left behind that his enemies couldn't block or control; could let him off the back foot for once. Let him take the offensive.
Didn't work 'magic' into your calculations, did you, Lucas?
Forget just surviving; Terra Nova might actually have a chance to win.
"I believe you knew my great-grandfather," he replied with a careful nod. "It's an honor to meet you, ma'am. Now, about that proof?"