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StephenT [userpic]

(fic) Unstylish yet high-priced boots

25th November 2007 (03:34)

This is a story about Slayer fashion choices in Season 8, and the burdens of being Buffy...  


Rating 15 (off-camera violence, blood), 1521 words, Buffy plus cameos by Willow and Satsu. 
'Kevlar' is a trademark of Du Pont. 'Buffy' is a trademark of 20th Century Fox. Keen fashion sense and witty banter are, or at least were, trademarks of Buffy Summers.

ETA: Director's Commentary here.


Unstylish Yet High-Priced Boots

Buffy collapsed down onto her bed with a sigh. It wasn't getting any easier. Dull fingers tugged at the zip of her Kevlar jacket; she slipped it off and threw it rather more forcefully than she'd intended over her shoulder. Bad move, when you're a Slayer. The thud as it hit the wall raised dust and would have shaken all the ornaments off her shelves, if she'd had any. Mom had had ornaments. The house in Sunnydale had been full of pretty things. All gone now. Swallowed up in a crater, along with the house itself and everything she'd known, everything she'd been. It was a brave new world now.

She sighed again and leaned back to pick up the jacket. It'd fallen down between the bed and the wall, so she had to wriggle over and stretch. The texture of the cloth snagged against her fingers as she held it. Maybe she should buy some new knick-knacks for her room? Some vases with flowers, perhaps. Something pleasant to look at.  She suddenly hated the shapeless grey bundle in her arms, longing to tear it to shreds. She never wanted to have to look at it again; so lumpy and ugly and .. and... practical. Damn it. She knew why she had to wear it. Why she insisted the girls wear it, despite their moans and complaints. It had saved Jacqueline's life tonight, for one thing. Though Buffy wasn't entirely sure if Jacqui would thank her or curse her for that, when she finally recovered consciousness. If she recovered... No. Don't think like that.

The demon's claws had sliced straight through her arm into her torso. Without the armour, she'd have been cut in half. With it, she only suffered half her ribs caved in, a punctured lung and perforated intestines. She'd been coughing bright red blood as she lay there, crumpled and broken. After that, killing the demon had been easy; it had shrivelled and burned in the white-hot wild rage of four infuriated Slayers. Killing it had been easy.

Carrying Jacqui out of there had been one of the hardest things she'd ever done.

It wasn't that she was heavy. She'd felt light as a silk scarf as Buffy had cradled her head in her arms, one of the other Slayers taking her feet. Only the convulsive periodic heaving of her chest and the blood still bubbling slowly from her mouth to show she was still alive. A normal human would probably have died right there, of shock and blood loss and pain; but Jacqueline was a Slayer. Slayers were tough. Slayers never gave up, even when every breath was an agony.

Damn it all, she'd probably recover from the injuries to her torso, given time. Not a scar to be seen - at least, not on the outside where people could see it. Slayer healing was a wonderful thing. It could heal almost any wound.

But it couldn't regrow her arm.

Neither could magic. As soon the helicopter touched down on the castle roof a tiny red-haired tornado had rushed towards them, already trailing magic in her wake as she drew the energy into herself for a healing spell. She'd stabilised Jacqueline's condition, eased her breathing, and mended the holes in her intestines with a special added charm to prevent peritonitis. But not even Willow could repair severed limbs.

She'd drawn Buffy aside to explain that privately, her eyes haunted and miserable and full of self-blame. She'd explained how the power could restore health, knit bones, seal wounds; how it could fight off infection and disease. But it couldn't replace an organ that had been completely destroyed - or well, it could, in theory, but the new replacement would be a thing of enchantments; it would be completely permeated by magic, and it might, you know, develop a will of its own and become an evil hand that attacked its owner, or it might turn into an icky tentacle or something overnight, and she didn't want to take the risk, even though she knew there ought to be a way to make the spell work, but she wasn't good enough yet, and -

Buffy had cut Willow's increasingly frantic babbling short with a kind but firm "Will! Will!" and when that failed, had shaken her by the shoulder. She'd thanked her for her help, reassured her that she'd done more than anybody else could have done already, told her not to worry, then swiftly changed the subject by handing over the magic whosit they'd been fighting the demon for in the first place. Willow's eyes had lit up, and Buffy felt vaguely guilty as the witch ran off to start studying it.

She loved her friend dearly, and in most things she knew she could trust Willow with her life... but she also knew that there were some temptations it just wasn't fair to put in her way. Magic being exhibit A. She might be all goddess-y and enlightened and one with the universe now, but the old Willow was still in there too. And a Willow worried that her powers weren't yet good enough to cast a spell that could help people, but was incredibly dangerous... Buffy shuddered. Best to keep her distracted, and well away from all thoughts of experimentation.

So. Sponsoring a witch. Yet another responsibility to pile onto Buffy's attractively slender and not at all broad shoulders. Along with nursemaiding five hundred Slayers, managing an international organisation, preventing apocalypses every other week, and - oh yeah. Fighting a war against humanity.

Couldn't she just go home now? But home was a mile-wide crater in the ground. This was her home now, or as much of one as she'd ever have again.

She knelt to unfasten her combat boots, and tugged futilely at the laces. They were matted and sticky and shrunk taut, and she hoped desperately that it was demon blood and not Jacqueline's blood that made the leather clammy and smeared red stains all over her hands as she struggled with them. The boots wouldn't come off. Hands that could bend steel bars in half scrabbled helplessly over bindings that wouldn't come undone, knots she couldn't untie. Part of her yearned to rip the things in half with brute strength and fling them far away. Another part was ready to give up; ignore them, curl up in her bed and sleep with her boots on, maybe try again in the morning.  But she wasn't going to let the things beat her. Her vision grew blurry, tears of anger and exhaustion and grief sparkling in her eyes and slipping down her cheeks, her fingers turning red and numb as she pulled and tweaked and teased at the unyielding bonds.

"Is something the matter, ma'am? I heard - oh! Oh, I'm so sorry, I'll come back again later, I-"

Buffy looked up, blinking and rubbing to clear her eyes, angry at her own weakness. The dim silhouette in the doorway resolved itself into the anxious and embarrassed form of Satsu, looking as if she was about to bolt down the corridor. Buffy gave her a watery smile, wiped her nose, beckoned her into the room.

"Yes, e-even your fearless leader gets all weepy and silly sometimes. Now you know my secret, I'll have to kill you."

Satsu grinned, but her eyes were compassionate. "Sumimasen, sensei-sama, but in your present state I think I might even win that fight."

Buffy managed a sharp look up at that, but she had to concede that there was no way she'd be proving Satsu wrong tonight. She slumped back on the bed, massaging her fingers painfully. The younger Slayer noticed, concern filling her face.

"Are you injured, ma'am? Should I get help?"

"No! No." Buffy gestured weakly at her feet. "It's just.. stupid boots. Don't know why we wear them."

Satsu looked for a moment as if she was about to explain why - probably by quoting Buffy's own words back at her - but then clearly thought better of it. Which proved that she was a very wise young woman. Instead she sat on the end of the bed and reached out a tentative hand.

"Would you like me to help you take them off, ma'am?"

"That... that would be heavenly. Thank you." Buffy stretched out on the bed, lifting one leg obediently - and then raised her head up to look back at Satsu in curiosity.

"Not that I'm ungrateful, but - why?"

Satsu was suddenly busy with the fastenings of Buffy's footwear, so she couldn't see her face - but Buffy could almost swear she was blushing. But her voice was calm enough when she replied.

"Because I've watched you. You have to be strong always, so that the rest of us do not feel afraid. But there are some things you should not do alone: some things are easier if you have help."

There was a firm tug, then Satsu raised her head and looked back at Buffy with a dazzling smile, holding up her prize in triumph.

"Such as taking off boots, for example."
.
 

Comments

Posted by: Margareth (spankulert)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 11:00 (UTC)

Great story. I enjoyed it, especially the parts about the goings on in the castle. Those comics are keeping me constantly on the brink of starvation regarding castle life and all that.

I do think being called "ma'am" would make Buffy wince though ;)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 14:58 (UTC)

I do think being called "ma'am" would make Buffy wince though ;)

Probably. But Satsu never seems to call her anything else - she's by far the most formal of the Slayers we've seen. Of course, I suspect she's using the formality to shield her real feelings from Buffy (and possibly from herself). ;-)

Glad you enjoyed it!

Posted by: featherwizard (featherwizard)
Posted at: 2nd January 2008 17:08 (UTC)

Good fic! This seems very Buffy.

About the respect - Satsu is a Japanese name, isn't it? She's definitely Asian, at least. There's a lot more emphasis on respect in Asian cultures. Using titles, more formal language, etc. So I would attribute Satsu's seeming 'formality' to being from a different culture where she's expected to call her boss ma'am/sir, etc. It doesn't mean the same thing as it would if she had come from an American background. And Japan is a heavier on it than most of the other Asian countries, as far as I understand it. Social structure changes the grammar, vocabulary, etc,in Japanese.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd January 2008 17:36 (UTC)
satsu

Thanks! And I think you're right that Satsu is meant to come from a more formal culture - though I'm not sure that young streetwise Japanese girls are quite as formal as their parents' generation...

And yes, 'Satsu' is a Japanese name. See the comments further down between me and bishopcruz - her name has various meanings in Japanese, but one of them is 'Slayer'...

Posted by: counteragent (counteragent)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 13:37 (UTC)
Buffy lipgloss

Aw. That was lovely. Made me feel for Buffy without being totally depressing.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 15:02 (UTC)
buffy-S8

Thank you. :-) I was trying to go for that kind of bittersweet mood; things aren't totally rosy, but they're also not terrible, and Buffy isn't actually as isolated as it may appear.

And:
Slayers were tough. Slayers never gave up, even when every breath was an agony. [...] Not a scar to be seen - at least, not on the outside where people could see it.

...It's possible Buffy wasn't only thinking about the injured Slayer Jacqueline when she thought this. :-)

Posted by: counteragent (counteragent)
Posted at: 29th November 2007 13:00 (UTC)
Buffy lipgloss

Just possible. :)

Posted by: effulgency <3 (effulgency)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 15:41 (UTC)
{ dark } btvs

I really enjoyed this, not least because you've given Satsu a cameo. I think she's a very intruiging character, and is too frequently left out of fic.

This story's very real and believable and does a really nice job of getting inside Buffy's head in season 8. I also love the OMWF reference in the title. I always loved that line because it was so Buffy... and my, how's she's changed in season 8! Or, at least, her circumstances have changed. I like how your Buffy is still the same old Buffy underneath it all, but she has a new role and a new lot in life.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 17:56 (UTC)

Thanks ! You've summed up what I was trying to get across in the story, so I'm glad it worked.

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 19:26 (UTC)

Awww, it made my eyes tear up a bit. I really really really loved this one. It will probably be my #1 fave S8 fic so far and will rec it in the 2007 Buffyversetop5.

She'd drawn Buffy aside to explain that privately, her eyes haunted and miserable and full of self-blame. She'd explained how the power could restore health, knit bones, seal wounds; how it could fight off infection and disease. But it couldn't replace an organ that had been completely destroyed

That's a good answer to why Willow hadn't healed Xander's eye while she had healed herself and the army guys in #4.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 25th November 2007 20:04 (UTC)

Thank you!! And yes, I was very much thinking of Xander's eye when I wrote that paragraph.

It seems a logical limitation of Willow's power to me - and also something that would be nagging at her: the idea that if she were a more powerful or skilled witch she could heal Xander. Season 6 Willow would probably have tried anyway and damn the consequences; luckily for Xander, season 7/8 Willow is rather more cautious...

Posted by: Dio (diachrony)
Posted at: 26th November 2007 00:38 (UTC)
buffy - still fragile (omwf)

Loved this story - it connects us to the real Buffy under the S8 trappings!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th November 2007 02:00 (UTC)
buffy-S8

Thanks! I know a lot of people have said S8 Buffy is "out of character", but I wanted to take the approach that she's still exactly the same person (only a little older and more mature), but in a new place - and how would she feel about that? (And I wanted the answer to be neither entirely negative nor entirely positive.)

Posted by: simplefangirl (simplefangirl)
Posted at: 26th November 2007 18:47 (UTC)

I followed Petzi's rec to you and I'm glad I did. Lovely ficlet, you made me tear up a little for Buffy and her never-ending responsibilities.
If you wrote Season 8 comics I bet I'd like them more!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2007 20:55 (UTC)

Glad you liked it so much. :-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 27th November 2007 09:40 (UTC)

Excellent as always - in fact, I sort of wish s8 had more stuff like this. Still not sure how reattaching an arm is completely different to supposedly knitting together a brain and reseeding a hairline (sorry, that pun died in vitro), or how a thumb to the eye does far more damage than a scalpel, but... I really liked this. Especially the image of Buffy fumbling with the boots.

One thing that struck me:
Yet another responsibility to pile onto Buffy's attractively slender and not at all broad shoulders. Along with nursemaiding five hundred Slayers...

Wasn't the stated purpose of the spell in "Chosen" to share power, rather than make Buffy responsible for 50 times as many people as nearly crushed her in s7? Not that I couldn't buy that Buffy might take on too much - there's her superiority complex again - but with 500+ people on board, surely she should be able to trust her lieutenants to do something more than just wardrobe duty? ;-) Otherwise, how long before they demand that right?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2007 21:06 (UTC)
satsu

Thanks! I'm actually thinking of writing a commentary on this fic, since I did have a lot of background worked out that I left out of the final version.

For example, my original concept would explain how after the demon ripped off Jaqueline's arm it ate it, or dissolved it in slime, or something, so Buffy couldn't just pick it up and carry it out of there. But I decided that was TMI for the story... Still, the point is that Willow's magic probably could reattach a freshly severed arm. It can repair damage to something that's broken, but not recreate something that no longer exists. Or something like that.


Wasn't the stated purpose of the spell in "Chosen" to share power, rather than make Buffy responsible for 50 times as many people as nearly crushed her in s7?

That's kind of the point of the story's ending. :-) Buffy has a definite tendency to assume personal responsibility for everyone and everything - but she's not alone any more. She has people like Satsu to help her with things like taking off her boots - and yes, that's supposed to be highly symbolic, and no it's not meant to be a euphemism, though you can take it as one if you've got a dirty mind. :-)

Posted by: bishopcruz (bishopcruz)
Posted at: 27th November 2007 21:24 (UTC)
On sensei-sama.

Great read. Interesting ideas as to why things feel so different. I especially liked the description of the boots.

One thing that really took me out of the fic though was the "Sumimasen, sensei -sama", from Satsu. In the comic she has never uttered a word of Japanese that I can remember, so for all we know she could be Japanese-american and not speak Japanese at all (especially since she has no accent.)

Secondly it is also kinda incorrect. Sensei would be used on its own, as it is both a noun and an honorific. Buffy-sensi (more likely, Summers-sensei) would be correct, Buffy-sama would be correct as well, but Sensei-sama is really a no go.

I'd also probably recommend kaicho (chief, boss) or taicho (commanding officer) instead of sensei as it seems a bit more natural in the situation that they are in in S8.

OK, probably way too much info for one little niggle, and let me repeat, I really did enjoy the fic, that part just pulled me out of the story for a sec.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2007 22:54 (UTC)
Re: On sensei-sama.
satsu

Thanks for the input!

I actually chose 'sensei' deliberately in the sense of 'teacher' or 'instructor', because her next comment is to say that at that moment even she, the student, would be able to beat her master in a fight.

(I'm thinking back to the scene of them training together in #2 here).

I also assume that Satsu hasn't been shown speaking Japanese in the comics because too few readers would understand it (and probably nor does Joss) rather than because she's not actually Japanese herself...

Having said that, thanks for the correction on the use of honorifics; I'm thinking from what you say that Summers-sensei or Buffy-sensei (or just Sensei?)would better fit the meaning I wanted Satsu to convey here?

(The other words you suggest might be what she'd use in other situations).

If I can ask another question, since clearly you know Japanese better than I do - I looked up the word 'satsu' in a dictionary to see if it meant anything, and while the word itself just means 'note, bill', I found that apparently the kanji that conveys the root meaning 'slay, kill' (see icon) can also be pronounced 'satsu' - so her name can be interpreted as the Japanese for 'Slayer'. Does that sound reasonable, or am I going off at a completely wrong tangent?

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 28th November 2007 02:20 (UTC)
Re: On sensei-sama.

Your interpretation of Satsu is fair, it can really go either way at this point, I kinda like to think that she was the Japanese girl we saw in 'Chosen' (though I suppose she'd probably be too young). I just find it interesting that Rowena and Leah both have accents but Satsu doesn't, which makes me think she might be 2nd generation Japanese. But again, that's just me. Her clothing taste does kinda scream Japanese national, so who knows.

The use of honorifics is a tricky thing, even native japanese speakers very rarely use them when speaking english. So I'd stay away from them in general. I know it's a bit of a fanfic convention to toss them in fairly often, even in English speech, but it isn't very realistic. Best bet would be to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. If you need help figuring out if it is appropriate, I'd be happy to help.

Since you are looking to use sensei, then 'sensei' by itself is probably your best bet. Buffy-sensei is kinda informal, Summers-sensei is probably a little too formal for what we have seen in the comics. Trust me, honorifics can be a major pain in the rear in Japanese.

Satsu does mean to kill, but when used as a girl's name it usually means 'assistant' + 'haven'. It's a bit of wordplay that is probably intentional on Joss' part. It's extremely doubtful that Satsu's parents would have named her with the kanji that means "to kill". Japanese is full of homonyms and this fact is often used in Japanese stories to show puns or hints about the character.

Posted by: bishopcruz (bishopcruz)
Posted at: 28th November 2007 03:52 (UTC)
Re: On sensei-sama.

That last post was mine, I didn't realize LJ hadn't logged me in. Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2007 15:03 (UTC)
Re: On sensei-sama.
satsu

OK - thanks for the information! It's fascinating to learn this sort of thing.

Thinking about it, another reason why Satsu doesn't have a comedy foreign accent might be because she's intended to become a major character (like Renee)? I agree with you on her choice of clothing seeming more Japanese than American, though of course it's no proof either way.

when used as a girl's name it usually means 'assistant' + 'haven'.
Haven as in 'harbour, port'? The same word as in 'tsunami'? So, (after me using Google in almost complete igonorance of how to interpret Kanji), the 'official' way Satsu would write her name would be something like 佐津 ? But after becoming a Slayer, it's not impossible that she might sometimes use 殺 as a kind of pun, similar to, say, Willow drawing a little picture of a tree to represent her name?

Posted by: bishopcruz (bishopcruz)
Posted at: 28th November 2007 21:09 (UTC)
Re: On sensei-sama.

Not completely sure how she would write her name out to be honest. Names are a ridiculously hard affair sometimes. They even give the Japanese trouble sometimes. I've been trying to find the correct kanji for Satsu and failing so who knows. I don't THINK the name is all that common anymore, but don't quote me on that. I'll try to track down my sensei at school, or the Japanese teacher at my job and see what I can find out. You've got me curious.

She could use that kanji as a pun, as I said the Japanese have a historical love for wordplay, as to whether it would be in character? Well we don't know enough about her one way or the other.

As to the accents, you may be right, but realistically unless she has lived abroad for a good portion of time when she was younger the odds of her not having an accent and being a Japanese national are pretty slim. But again, they just might have wanted to avoid it for various reasons.

Posted by: lilred26x (lilred26x)
Posted at: 4th December 2007 02:06 (UTC)

I enjoyed this! I like your take on Buffy's thoughts here. You've managed to connect S7 and S8 very well. Thanks for sharing!

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