Beauty Effulgent

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Immortal Beloved


Chapter 1   Chapter 2    Chapter 3


Rated: PG-13 Characters: Buffy, Giles, Immortal.

Post-"Chosen." Life after Sunnydale gets more complicated when Buffy meets an ancient mysterious brooding creature who may or may not be evil. What are the chances he'd be her type?

Disclaimers: These things are not mine.  Except, in a sense, the Immortal.

Thanks: Betas from crazydiamondsue and Becca Girl.



Chapter 1: Giles has a Theory


January 2004, England, The World, The Universe


Buffy pushed the sketchpad across the table in Giles' private library. The Watcher frowned, removed his glasses, replaced them, and frowned again. No, Buffy thought, this time around he positively scowled.


"Buffy, are you absolutely certain this was the insignia on the man's ring?"


"Well, I kinda got a D in art, but that was mostly from the missing the exam to keep demon monkeys from attacking the school play. And I only got a glimpse of the ring. I was looking, but first it was there, then it wasn't, then it almost was again. Though sort of shimmery." She leaned over Giles' shoulder. "It definitely had that rose thing, do you see? And then like the head or snout. Do you think that's a pig, or what?"


"A fox. Yes, the rose and the fox, the symbols of -- you say he called himself Sergei?"


She nodded, confident. "Sergei Michelob." To Giles' puzzled expression. "Or maybe Mikhalov? Molotov?"


"Sergei Manilov," he murmured. "Yes, a well known persona -- Buffy, this is very important and I'm aware that it may sound, well, insane. But did he happen to call you an unusual name?"


"He called me Buffy. No, Summers. That was what was so weird about it. I never introduced myself. And he knew Faith was Faith. We were in a dance club - um, kind of a rave type thing? - and it was loud, but we both heard him say something about slayers. He was seriously the weirdest guy I ever met, since way back in Sunnydale, when Angel kept stopping in to drop hints about 'grave danger'. At this rate, I'll be dating him by March."

Giles cringed. "Don't even joke about that. Buffy, this is very important. He didn't call you anything besides Buffy Summers, or slayer? No other names?"


"Well," she hesitated. "Guys, when they're clubbing, they can get - Um - Familiar. So maybe -- babydoll, or -- something Russian. God knows what he called Faith before she slugged him, I'm sure it wasn't nice."


"No no," Giles said. "That's completely what you ought to expect when you patronize those horrid places. But he didn't call either of you anything like -- nothing like 'Ramona'?"


Buffy blinked and swallowed, not wanting to question Giles, but not sure how to process his question. "As in 'Ramona Quimby, Age 8'?" she finally ventured.


"I'm quite aware it's a ridiculous name, Buffy," he said, putting emphasis on her own name. "But this is very serious, in every possible way. It seems that you and Faith may have encountered the Immortal."


She tilted her head toward him, awaiting the rest of the sentence. None came. "Immortal what?" she finally ventured.


"Just the Immortal. His name has been lost to the ages." Giles gestured to Buffy as though she should be picking up on the story, but she still drew a blank. "An Italian prince --"


More gesture, more blank. "Or possibly Romanian. Devotee of the Lady Ramona. As a punishment for his arrogance -- or possibly a reward for his valor -- or because the goddess Hecate was jealous of his great beauty -- Buffy, I'm quite sure we covered this, and early in your training."


She frowned. "Was it in the same day as the art final?" Giles sighed, and Buffy said, "Cut to the chase. How do we kill him?"


"Well, you don't. Or rather, you can't. He has lived for at least a thousand years, appeared in over a hundred manifestations -- your Sergei is a bit of a chestnut from Cold War days, perhaps his idea of a joke. The Immortal has rather an odd sense of humor. What is it Buffy --?"


"Different manifestations. I've seen him before," she said. "Last month, at the train station in Oxford. He stood next to me on the platform, asked if I had a cigarette. Made a comment about how far I was from California. It was a weird conversation, serious 'Manchurian Candidate' stuff. But I didn't think of him being the same guy, because he was dressed so differently. He was so English. He didn't just speak it, Giles, he didn't just look it. Everything about being English, he just was. Almost too --"


"Too perfect," Giles said quietly.


"He called himself -- something really Monty Python. Sir Nigel, um . . ."


"Tatherton. From the War Office. Bloody hell. He's pulling out some old personae, feeling his way around, not letting us see the main face he's been showing the world. Getting close. Interested in slayers. I don't like this, Buffy, not one bit."


"He stood next to me on that platform in broad daylight. He's not a vampire, so - What is he?"


"Sui generis."


"I knew it was a pig!" In response to Giles' baffled look, she gave a call of "Soo-ey!" He rolled his eyes, and Buffy protested, "That's how you call pigs. In America. Or so I've seen in movies."


"Sui generis. It's a thing he used to say -- that is, I heard he used to say. It means that the Immortal is -- well, himself. There's nothing else like him. The closest we may have encountered is your old friend the Mayor."


"So, what, he's gonna turn into the snake that ate England? Giles, we so have to figure out how to kill him. We killed the Mayor and -- remember the judge? No weapon forged. We got around that puppy like -" She snapped her fingers.


"I was using the Mayor only as an example. The truth is that even if we could discover a way to kill the Immortal, I'm not at all certain that we should."


"Here's the part where I say, 'Excuse me?' Did you not hear yourself going, 'I don't like this, not one bit.'"


"He is human, after a fashion."


"But evil," Buffy prompted.


"No. Like most of us, he's done some evil. And he has powerful forces at his command. But over the centuries, he has also used those forces to do quite a bit of good. Even proven a valuable asset to the Watchers' Council from time to time."


"So he's back, he's getting interested in slayers again. Where's the bad here?"


"The, um, bad would occur on a more personal level. For you or Faith but -- for some reason, in this situation, it seems more likely a danger to you. You see, if the Immortal gets it into his head that you might happen to be the reincarnated spirit of his lover, Lady Ramona. . . "


"That I'm --" And then Buffy couldn't help it. The laughter started deep in her belly and moved up through her chest, shaking her entire body. "Oh, Giles," she gasped, wiping tears from her eyes. "Listen, Giles -" But then another spasm seized her.


"As you might put it, Buffy, I fail to see the funny."


"Giles," she managed. "I think it's sweet. I honestly do think it's sweet that you're looking after me. But do you really think I'm so vulnerable to broody immortal types that --" She had to stop and laugh some more. "I'd fall for some creep because he told me I was the reincarnation of his -- sorry, give me a minute -- of his dead lover? That is absolutely the worst line in the history of bad lines. Spike, rest his soul, would leap out of the grave and smack me around if I fell for that one, and I'd pretty much deserve it. If that's what he said to Faith, no wonder she decked him."


"Be that as it may. In some versions of the legend -- some versions which, I must say, I have certain reasons to believe -- the Immortal was cursed to meet the spirit of Ramona once in every generation. Meet her, and fall in love with her --."


"That doesn't sound like a curse. It sounds like a party."


"-- to fall in love with her, and lose her. Tragically."

"Oh." Buffy's jaw dropped, and the laughter seemed to leak out of her. "So, basically, with all the other slayers that have been called, I may have escaped the early death sentence of Slayerhood. Only to acquire the early death sentence of being some Eurotrash freak's goomar. Just peachy. Wait until I tell the gang."


"You mustn't think that way, Buffy. The chances of you being this Ramona are astronomically small. I only meant that if the Immortal comes to believe that you are she, the situation could become quite complicated."


"Well," said Buffy. "Things are looking up then. Because unless he believes that Faith, Dawn, and the twenty-seven other girls he was getting his freak on with at the rave are also his destiny."


"Right, then. Put a positive spin on it. Be cheerful but cautious and -- You took Dawn to that place?"


Buffy got her smile back. "Gotcha."


Giles sighed. "I do hope you girls manage to take care of yourselves in Rome."



Chapter 2: Eternal City


Rome was the worst place in the world to be miserable. So Buffy Summers thought, sitting in a sidewalk cafe, soaking up the sunshine, licking the foam off the top of a cappuccino. A lovey-dovey couple strolled by, crooning to each other in melodic Italian vowels. A violinist stood on the opposite corner, sending a frantic scherzo across the piazza. Even the pigeons that circled and cooed, circled and settled from one roof to another hummed along with the same message. Life is exciting, life is sweet, settle here and heal, settle here and be happy because the world is happy, the world lives with tragedy, but Rome shrugs and laughs it away, Rome turns it into a song.


She had never minded before, had barely noticed this current in the mood of the city, because it seemed to flow so well with her own. Yes, she was much too far from many of her friends. Yes, Angel was neck-deep in a conspiracy that was insane at best, if not out and out evil. Yes, the last living creature she had made up her mind to love, that she had felt compelled and sincere and certain about actually loving, had, seconds after denying her declaration of love, dissolved into a pillar of flame, and taken the only home she had known for seven years with it.


I love you, Spike.


No you don't, but thanks for saying it.


Taking with him all vestiges of her hard-won certainty. Because he had always known her better than she had known herself.


You're not a schoolgirl. You're not a shopgirl. You're a creature of the darkness. Like me.


And that he had been right about. That was the thing she needed to face, in the end, to prove to herself - face the darkness, and move beyond it. As Angel had. And the others -- Willow, Faith, Giles, Anya, Andrew. Even Xander, though he hid it better. And Spike himself, Spike who had clawed so hard to move into the light. And when Buffy could finally move to a point where she allowed herself to love it all, love all of herself, the dark and the light -- this was to know that she could love him.


So, no, she thought. He was wrong about her, that last time, and it was only his death and his sacrifice that had robbed her of the chance to prove it. And then came Andrew's news, dropped casually and klutzily into his report on the mad slayer. "And when we got to Spike, it was just in time, after she'd cut off his hands and all. . . ."


"After she did what to who??" Buffy had almost screamed into the phone. It was hard enough to sort the relevant details out of an Andrew-style report, and even though she knew she shouldn't believe her ears, she couldn't avoid the sick surge of hope and dread that seized her gut.


"Oh, I'm sure he's fine," Andrew said. "Vampires heal real quick from that kind of -- oh, crap, Buffy, just pretend you didn't hear that part."


"Pretend I didn't --"


"He really, I mean he really didn't want you to know. He said it was a lot easier this way and -- Buffy, you don't think he'd bite me over a tiny thing like that, do you? Could you tell him it was an accident only, please don't tell him, because if he finds out that I told you . . ."


And so on. Andrew tried to put a good spin on it -- Spike didn't know what to say to her, he was worried that she needed to get on with her life, he was on some kind of world-saving mission of his own. But Buffy knew. She had come to him in the basement the night before the last battle, and what she had meant as a new beginning, he had seen as a farewell. When Spike looked her in the eyes and said, or as good as said, "No, you don't love me," he meant every word. Because she had waited too long to make up her mind. Because this new chance had let him envision a life without her, and discover that he liked it that way. Liked it to be easier. Well, she thought, congratulations, Buffy. You've managed to scare away yet another man; you've managed even to thrash the love out of Spike.


And damn, she thought. Why does the breeze have to feel so good? Why does this coffee have to be so delicious? Why does the sun have to shine so bright? Except that part wasn't true anymore. There was a shadow standing in the way of her sunshine.


"You try to hide it," said a man's voice. "But I know what you are."


"Oh," Buffy answered, without looking up, "I highly doubt it."


"See, there, I was right. You dress like a local, you sip your coffee like you were born here. You sit at that table like it's the only thing you've ever done. But you're like me. A compatriot. A fellow American. A fellow Californian, I believe. Along about Sunnydale way? Sunnydale that was, of course. Hell of a tragedy."


Buffy finally, reluctantly, raised her eyes and saw the image of a young man, very California with over-blow-dried, highlighted dark hair, piercing green eyes, a white silk T-shirt and a linen sport coat. More California than California. Just a little too perfect.


"And you," Buffy said, "don't try to hide it at all. The clothes change, but you look exactly the same. The accent changes, but still you sound the same. You must be the worst master of disguise in the history of the world. You're like Euro-Fletch."


"If disguise were my goal, Miss Summers, I'd have to agree. But the truth is, I am Todd Campbell, and I do own a small but influential telecommunications concern based out of Palo Alto, California."


"And the fact that when I met you in London, you were Sergei Manilov and you did do favors for some guy named Boris --"


"Eta pravda." He shrugged, and slid into the chair across from her. "That is the truth." And it wasn't just the accent that changed. The man sitting across from her actually looked different - his hair longer and a little slicker, his eyes slightly hangdog, his jacket sharkskin over a wide showy collar. It certainly wasn't the first time Buffy had seen a glamour spell in action, but this one didn't seem to work the same way. She didn't see the change -- he was one thing, and then he was the other, and he just was. "Nobody saw that?" Buffy demanded.


"You didn't even see it," he answered. But now he was California Todd again, and again, she'd missed the change. "And you're one person out of a hundred who even bothers to see anything. Most people -- if Sergei they just met shows up and tells them he's Todd, if Sergei doesn't have any obvious reason to be Todd, if Sergei and Todd and Nigel live their various live so that they don't intersect. Who are they gonna believe, their new friend or their lying eyes?"


"Do you throw a line at every American woman you meet. Or just the ones who happen to be slayers?"


"Still sore about that thing with your girlfriend, huh?"


"I cannot even begin to number the ways in which Faith is not my girlfriend. And I must say I thought your nose would look worse than that after she was done with you."

"OK." The man that she couldn't help thinking of as Todd spread his hands in apparent surrender. "Here I thought you were looking for company, I was obviously wrong. I'll just --" As he rose, the sunlight caught a ring, which glimmered gold and red on his finger. Just as quickly, it was gone.


"Wait!" He turned. "I've been talking to Giles -- to my Watcher. Stop me if you've heard this one. A thousand years ago. A prince. Italian or maybe Romanian. Let's say Transylvanian, I'm not even sure that's an actual country but let's pretend it is. Loves a beautiful lady, goes on a quest. Somewhere along the way, drinks from a spring that bestows eternal life, or squashes a mutated bug, or eats an enchanted cookie or something. Giles was kinda vague on the details, and presto-chango no more mortality to deal with. How am I doing?"


"Sort of the Cliff's Notes, Disneyfied version, but not bad for a Watcher. How is young Ripper these days?"


Buffy forged ahead, refusing the distraction. "He rides back to his lady fair. but she's so arrogant -- or so pure -- or so beautiful? I forget. Maybe he's the arrogant one. Point is, she refuses him. She can't give her life to a man who will stay young and -- in her, I must stress, purely subjective opinion -- good looking while she gets all old and wrinkly. So he rides back and finds the spring, or the bug, or whatever, and begs the goddess Whattheheck to take away the gift but --"


"Just stop," said Todd. "I can't stand for this part to get mangled. The gifts of the goddess cannot be undone, and they should not be questioned. And, by the way, while our hero was riding, Lady Ramona has taken a fever and will soon be dead. After that -- well, this is the part where it ought to sound familiar. Into every generation, the lady is reborn. The prince and the lady meet, they fall in love. There's an earthquake, there's a plague, crucifixion, revolution . . . Better luck next generation. Nothing to go on but that little spark of hope, maybe this time I'll get it right. Break the cycle."


"So it's like 'Groundhog Day'?" Buffy asked. "Only, you know. Longer."


"Can't really talk about that film. Pending litigation. Though, honestly, my people tell me that if I never saw a cent from Lord Chamberlain's Men over the whole Verona balcony thing, there's no way we're squeezing a settlement out of TriStar."


"What?" Buffy stared. "You're saying that you're Romeo?" Her eyes narrowed at him.




A moment's silence hung between them, and then Todd erupted in a sharp laugh. "Yes. You're absolutely right. Eighty, maybe ninety percent of what comes out of my mouth is complete bullshit. Of course, the other ten percent will rock your world. Thing is, after a thousand years, I can't tell the difference myself. I can't even tell you what parts of my own story are true, or why it happened. And that's what I thought you might do for me, Summers. Lend an ear, help me sort through all the bullshit."


"As opposed to Faith, who's more of the break your jaw at the first scent of it. Which," she added. "Is what I promise I'll do as soon as you open your mouth and start telling me how I'm the reincarnation of your stupid princess."


"Oh." Todd's eyes fell to the table. "Wow, Summers. Buffy. Look, I'm really sorry. If I've made this awkward for you in any way. I didn't mean to give the impression -- maybe I just ought to go."


"Huh?" He was standing suddenly, Buffy looking up at him. "Well, that was easier than I thought. What gives?"


"Well, Buffy. I'm sorry if you've got the wrong idea about this. You're not my princess."



Chapter 3: Killing Time

"What do you mean?" Buffy stared up at the Immortal -- well, the man who had introduced himself as Todd -- who stood, silhouetted in the Roman sunlight.

"You're not my princess," he repeated.

"How --?" Buffy sputtered. "How do you? How could you?" She reared up to her full height, which only took her to his breastbone, and gave her best arm-crossed Slayer pose. "I could totally be your princess."

"No, Summers," he said gently. "You really, really couldn't."

"I --" Buffy spread her arms and fell back into the cafe chair. "What is it about me? I'm even scaring my undead stalkers away."

"Technically, I'm not undead. I've never actually been dead at all."

"Who said this was all about you, ego-boy?"

"Ah, how could I forget Ann-gelus."

"You mean, An-JEL-us," she corrected. "That's to say -- Angel."

"Summers, the guy can't even decide what to call himself, much less what he wants from a girl. You can't hold yourself responsible for his mood swings."

"Okay, first, about the names? You are not the one to talk. Second, who says I was talking about Ann-jel, um, Angel? At all."

"Because a girl's likely to have a tortured affair with more than one vampire before she's twenty-five."

"This just proves that you don't know a thing about me." Buffy let out a deep breath. "I could almost make peace with the Angel thing, if people would just stop coming along and picking at those wounds. But the last time I saw Spike, it was all 'I love you,' 'Buffy I can feel my soul' -- and now it turns out he's operating out of Heartworm and Wolf along with Angel and. . . "

"Do I --" he choked. "Do I get to say 'bullshit' this time?"

"Well, maybe it's Wormwood and Hart?"

"No, back up -- Spike? As in William-the-Bloody Spike?"

"Yeah. He's all soulful now."

"I knew that part. And I keep tabs on Wolfram & Hart, naturally, but -- You and him? There was a love thing?"

"It's not like it's common knowledge. By the time I figured it out, I thought he was dead. And now he's not, and he's doing his own thing, Buffy-be-damned."

"Well. Spike and Angelus. That explains a lot."


"They were voted cutest couple at Count Woland's Costume Ball in Moscow back in eighteen ninety-three." He shrugged. "Sure, I stuffed the ballot box. But a lot of people laughed. The best jokes always have a grain of truth."

"Besides raising about twenty-seven different subjects that I never want to think about," Buffy said, "that story just confirms that, the more I learn about the spooky, supernatural underworld, the more I feel like I'm back in high school."

"God," he answered. "High school? That's one form of torture I never did have to endure."

Buffy swallowed and a brief silence settled between them. "Is it because of them?" She asked quietly. "Is it because I've been with Angel and Spike that you don't want me for your princess?"

"Want?" He repeated. "Summers, have you heard a word I've said? Want doesn't come into it. Nineteen eighty-nine. The Romanian revolution. I was an anti-government agitator. Tatiana Andrescu was the daughter of a party hack. The father was a Stalinist hangover, total nutjob, vowed he would never let his family live in a post-Communist world. Tania and I were set to get away from all that. We had everything arranged. We'd get out together and live the rest of our supremely boring lives on a beet farm in Saskatchewan. She just wanted to wait and spend one last Christmas with her family. And that was the day they killed the President. Her father thought he was next, took a machine gun to his wife and daughters, then himself."

"That's -- Buffy stammered. "That's awful. That's maybe the saddest story --"

"Oh, but I've got forty-seven more just as fun and bloody. Tania was my last Ramona. And I really thought I was getting out that time. Maybe it was just an excuse to get slow and lazy. But I saw all this symbolism -- the walls were falling down, so I figured whoever's the monkey in charge of this crazy dance sent me one last cold war story to ring out the end of history. You probably don't remember all that garbage people were talking when the wall fell. You were, what, seven?"

"Eight," she said. "A little more with the Sesame Street than the All Things Considered."

"So you see? She died. You were eight."

"Oh," Buffy said. "Pretty much already carnated."

"Wherever Ramona is right now, she's no more than fourteen, probably closer to twelve. The turnaround on these things is longer than you might think. What with all the weighing souls in the balance, calculating karma, cutting a deal with one or the other of the ferrymen on the Styx or the Acheron. . . "

"But shouldn't you know where she is? Keep tabs on her from birth like they do with the Dalai Lama?"

"Waiting for the little girl to get all nubile? No thanks. Unlike some allegedly soulful immortals I could name, I prefer to keep it legal."


"I'm just saying. Besides, it's not really a matter of me looking for her. We just sort of find each other. No escaping, and believe me, I've tried. I've gone in a Tibetan monastery, hidden in a cave, attempted various and futile forms of suicide." He spread his hands. "Can't outrun destiny, Summers. I'd think you of all people should know."

"Is that what you want from me? Someone who understands destiny?"

"Let me put it this way. A few months worth of doomed, passionate love every twenty years or so still leaves an awful lot of eternity to contend with."

"So the rest of it is just what -- killing time?"

"Partly. That and, you know. World domination. But -- and I can't stress this enough -- not in an evil way."

"Wait, wait, don't tell me. A mission from the powers that be --"

"What I can tell you, Summers, is that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by the Watchers' Council."

"And if I, what? Kill some time with you, you just might show me."

"Well, yeah. Partly because I've got a sentimental attachment to slayers. And partly because it seems like you'd be fun to kill time with."

"Maybe I'm hearing you wrong," said Buffy. "But this sounds like the kind of offer that women are traditionally supposed to find insulting."

"I suppose you could take it that way. I wouldn't entirely blame you. You could also take it as a compliment. Ramona I'm stuck with. You I chose. You I'm actually starting to think that I like."

"Wait a minute. All this eternal torment is over a girl you don't even like?"

"So I should assume you hooked up with William the Bloody because of his charming personality?"

"Score one for ancient stalker guy." Buffy swirled the dregs of her coffee and stared into the cup. "Beet farm in Saskatchewan?"

"Tania saw the name on a map." He gave a thin smile. "She was one of the nicer Ramonas. I think it could have worked."

"So if it works," Buffy said quietly. "If you get the girl. What? You die?"

"Not right away," he said. "But sixty, seventy years? Yeah. At least that's the theory. Sui generis - I'm my own special case, so there's not exactly precedent."

"If you save her, then you die. Can you really be trying that hard?"

"After a thousand years and forty-eight dead girls? Dying of old age in Saskatchewan has a certain appeal."

"Forty-eight," Buffy said, still taking it in. "But it's really all the same girl - right?"

"To me? Yeah. She never looks quite the same, but there's an angle to her head. A light in her eyes. She thinks fart jokes are funny, goes nuts for yappy little dogs, and she can't stand the taste of peppermint. The first time we kiss, she lets out this little breath and moves back like she's going to pull out of it, maybe slaps me in the face or threatens to have me shot for my insolence. But then, whatever she threatened, she doesn't do it. Always a surprise to herself, never to me. And the same with the dying. Every time, she feels the dying just as much."

"And you? Do you feel it more each time? Or less?"

"You tell me, Summers. Which would be worse?"

A single cloud raced over the sun, playing with the long shadows of evening in the piazza. "Less," Buffy said. "Every time you feel it less. And that way is much, much worse."

His eyes focused somewhere far beyond her as he whispered. "Tell the lady what she's won."

Buffy inched a hand across the table until the fingers settled softly on his knuckles. "I've won enough already," she said. "I've been chosen. I've beaten death and eight or nine apocalypses. I beat the last one so good that I'm only about one percent as important as I used to be. And so it turns out, I've got some time to kill. "



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