[personal profile] sapotefiction
Title: Buffy of the Ki'O
Rating: PG
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ursula Le Guin's Hainish Cycle
Pairings: Buffy/Willow, Giles/Xander, Xander/Buffy, Giles/Willow

Author’s notes:

I did this for the fun of worldbuilding, and thinking about how Buffy would be different if it was set on Ursula Le Guin’s world O (the traditional summary is here). The only worldbuilding that I feel needs to be noted outside of the story itself is that I have a pet theory that high school wouldn’t be so bad we needed to burn it to the ground if it wasn’t a holding pen for teenagers. So I never burned it down. Um. That’s about it. Also, I don’t think a bisexual planet would be afraid of vampires for the same reasons we are. But they sure are afraid of moiety-cest!


Once after the time when there were kings and queens on O, there were monsters in the earth that came when what was living refused to die, and the deep dark soil of death resisted turning over to the day. And long before the story begins, a man of the Morning and a man of the Evening went to their daughter of the Morning and said:

"We can use the dark arts of the Evening, and the bright arts of the Morning, to make you strong, and powerful, and turn the dark soil over to the sun."

And she agreed, because of the tumult and fear in her household, but then they said -

"But there can only be one of you, in all the world, or else the light will win out over the darkness entirely, and Evening will give way forever."

And she agreed again, though now she was afraid, because the people of O believe and have believed that a person alone with power courts danger and madness. On O, even the little powers of love, parenthood, and family are carried on four shoulders, and even queens and emperors are married, and rule by quarters.

It may, therefore, be that what they did was wrong; it is certain that what they did was hard, and frightening. But the girl of the Morning was born into every generation, and returned the monsters that would not die into the soil, and when the dawn came the people thanked her, but only at first. As time went on, and people forgot their demons, they thought less and less of her, until finally her way went in secret.

All down these years men of the Morning and men of the Evening had charge of finding this girl, wherever she should be born, and both guarding and guiding her, and preserving the memory of each woman who fell in battle. The people of O think of themselves as peaceable, and for this reason the watching men built up the long tradition of silence. And so on the Evening coast of the broad, temperate continent, a girl came into her powers in a world that had forgotten that monsters still moved in the dark.


The little town of Sunnydale didn't have much to recommend it, especially to someone raised in the sprawling coastal farms and towns of the Topanga watershed. It would hardly have been a town at all - even by the fiercely ruralist standards of the ki'O - except that it had a museum where a woman whose sedoretu had broken could find work and lodging, and a study center where an adolescent girl with a strange history could hope to gain some respectability and distinction, despite having inherited no property or trade and having come to some disgrace over a matter of arson.

So Buffy Summers, daughter of the Morning, arrived at Sunnydale High School the child of no sedoretu, the heir of no property, and the apprentice of no trade except for the strange secret heritage of the Morning - the ability and duty to slay demons which no one else believed in.

Willow Rosenburg and Xander Harris were not children of the same sedoretu, but they may as well have been; their parents had married early, for pragmatic reasons, and while Xander's parents and their partners still shared a house just outside of town, unhappily, Willow's Evening mother had taken up work at the learning center quite early in Willow's childhood. She was a very respected teacher of literature there, and returned home to the sedoretu farmstead only for the most mandatory feasts and rituals; she kept her daughter with her, as the only person with whom her marriage had grown chillier than with her Morning wife was with her Morning husband, Willow's father, and she didn't care for her brother of the Evening with anything near true fraternal affection. Xander's family was more prosaic, featuring as it did the usual alternation of fights and silences, as well as the enlivening presence of a drunken Morning uncle of whom his Evening mother was quite fond and her spouses were not.

Unhappy marriages are familiar enough to any people in any time in human history, but Willow and Xander felt their differences acutely among the sprawling families of the Sunnydale watershed, and it may have been this early feeling of difference that formed their friendship, which was deep, and enduring.

Willow's mother sent her to school because as a teacher she valued intellectual distinction. Xander's parents sent him because their house was crowded and they had no trade they cared to teach him. They were both uneasy around the other students, who were the children of established and prosperous farmholds and families, or adults pursuing a calling. So when Buffy Summers walked into the school, dogged by exceptionalisms far more serious than theirs, they believed her, and they followed her.


When people were buried in Sunnydale - if they were buried instead of cremated - it was near their farms, or in the high fields around the valley. For this reason Buffy spent half her nights walking in search of vampires and half her nights walking home. Vampires were a hazard to solitary travelers, who walked out - the people of Sunnydale being trusting sorts - at all hours from the high homesteads and farmsteads. When she crept into her mother's apartment early in the morning she was dusty and footsore. She was bleary-eyed in the school discussion groups, at which she did not discuss, and sleepy in the reading groups for which she did not read.


"What makes a man become a vampire?" Xander asked Giles. They sat side by side in the school's library, among the rows and rows of dusty books that Giles tended as lovingly as a farmer at his field.

Giles sighed, and pushed his glasses up his nose.

"They have no moiety," he said finally. "Not as an alien doesn't-" for Giles, while old-fashioned, was no xenophobe. "An alien might come to have a moiety, if they become ki'O. While a vampire had one, and has lost - has lost, rather, that animating principle - that thing which tells Morning from Evening, right from wrong, the sacred from the blasphemous. That thing - whatever it is - has been... replaced."

Xander was shocked. "They -" he blushed "do things with their own moiety?"

"And subsist entirely on human blood, yes," Giles said, straightening the stack of books he was sorting. "Which one is more distressing I leave up to you."

They looked up as Willow entered; she dropped her satchel on the long table.

"I think it's some sort of water demon-" she said without preamble, and they were off on the hunt again.


Angel had been a man of the Evening, and now was neither man nor Evening; still, Buffy went with him to the fastness where he lived, and the ancient curse acted upon him, and he was lost. Xander swallowed his jealousy, and Willow swallowed her pride; Giles was calm, and then later vengeful. Terrible things happened to all of them; battles were fought to forfeits. There were casualties. There were victories.

Willow gained enough distinction to continue her studies. Xander successfully apprenticed himself to a carpenter, and began to learn how to maintain the beautiful old buildings of the valley. Buffy gained very little distinction and sought no trade at all; still, she followed Willow to school. They were allowed to live together, despite being Morning and Evening, though the stern woman who ran the housing office insisted that they were to change rooms immediately should either of them begin to feel, as she said, uncomfortable with the arrangement.

"I know young people," she said, fishing in the many-drawered desk in her office for the room key, "and when you're around a Morning person all the time like that, feelings come up," and Willow blushed and assured her older sister of the Evening - no direct relation - that she had never felt even the slightest passing flutter at the shape of her friend's shoulders in the morning light through the window, and was entirely caught up with a musician named Oz.

They all fell in love, variously, and with animation. They were young, sociable people - but they were also ki'O, and so commitment was a complex equation in which love was only one factor. The only sexual relationship the ki'O might recognize between two people is friendship, so though Xander and Cordelia might meet and have sex and spend time in each other's argumentative company, or Willow and Oz or Willow and Tara might make love or even talk about one day marrying, those discussions lacked seriousness. Such young people were not ready to be settled, yet, into a four-part marriage that existed for children and property as much as sex and love. And after all, Xander was Evening and Willow was Evening, and so their friendship could never be sexual - and yet it was fierce, and important, and defining. Cordelia and Xander stopped seeing each other, not because they didn't get along - which they didn't - and not because the sex was bad - though they were young enough that it wasn't good - but because it was increasingly clear to everyone that anyone who planned to marry Xander would have to marry Willow, too. That was too much for Cordelia, who moved to Topanga as soon as her studies were finished.

At the center of those years were the four of them in the library - Giles and Willow reading, Xander and Buffy making bad jokes, and the four of them wrapped up together in Buffy's secrets, which belonged to all of them now. Willow grew in her Evening powers - the old Evening powers that were called magic by people who had forgotten their demons - and through them she discovered the key to defeating Adam.

And that's when everything changed.


"Willow," Xander said, looking up from the pages of the spellbook, "this is a marriage ritual."

Willow frowned. "It shares some structural resemblance, sure - it calls on the duality of Morning and Evening and binds four people of opposing moieties - oh."

"It's a marriage ritual." Xander repeated. "A big old supernatural marriage ritual. With!" he tapped his finger on the page. "A magic gourd."

Willow pulled the book across the table. "It is," she said finally, in a small voice, and then "-it's the only thing that I think will work, though, and if we can't find a way to defeat Adam-"

"Will," he said, gently, and she looked at him and smiled, his best friend, his sister of the Evening - "If I have to get married to save us from evil Frankenstein, I'll get married."


"Fine," Giles said at last, after Willow had explained, and explained again, and Xander had nodded throughout. "A... spiritual marriage is not unheard of, and if it's unwitnessed and -" he paused. "Unconsummated, I see no reason why we couldn't dissolve it directly after -"

"Will it, though?" Xander asked. "Work, I mean. If we don't -" he blushed. "Mean it."

Willow's brow furrowed; she bit her lip, and pulled the book closer to her again. "I'm not sure if it will," she said finally. "These kind of spells are based on intention; if you don't intend to consent to be joined, you may as well not say the words."

Giles stood. "There must be another way, then. Besides this, I mean. It's a lot to ask, isn't it?" and then, at Willow's stricken look, "Not, I mean, clearly you both are fine-looking and intelligent young people. Well. Most of the time. But I'm a decade and a half older than you, you have your lives ahead of you, I have no property and neither have you, it's -" he petered out. "Ridiculous, really." he said, in a more measured tone. "I'm surprised we're even talking about it."

"Doesn't the end of the world trump the property thing?" Xander said, evenly. "We could figure out where to live after we saved civilization."

"I'd really prefer not to." Giles said, and then when Willow started to speak, repeated "I'd prefer not to even talk about it," and walked out.


Xander found Giles back behind the building, at the little drying rack he'd set up for the book bindings under the shade of the spreading trees. Outside, it was quiet in the brilliant heat of midday; in the distance, a dog barked, and some poultry let out the long sounds of egg-laying from the coop behind the teachers' apartments. Xander sat down quietly a little ways away from Giles, and watched his hands at the careful work of turning the bindings. After a while, Giles spoke.

"I was nearly married once, at home." he said.

Xander nodded. "What happened?" he asked after another long moment.

"Well," Giles said dryly, "Two of my betrothed were murdered by vengeful spirits, and the third devoted himself to the propagation of evil, so you might say it ended poorly."

Xander paused, and then said "Ethan Rayne," and Giles nodded.

"You're nineteen years old, and you think the world is ending," Giles said finally, "and it doesn't matter what you do. And then you have to wake up the next day and the world's still there."

Xander nodded, and thought of his own anxious household, his fathers' twin silences, his mothers' long grudges. He looked again at Giles' hands on the bindings of the books, at the tired lines under his eyes, at the stubborn set of his jaw.

"It is kind of ending, though," he said finally, and then when Giles half-smiled, said, "Giles, would you marry me?"

Giles looked up, startled, and for the first time a blush crept along his cheeks. He paused. "If you meant it," he said softly, "I very likely would. I am not - accustomed to thinking of you that way," he continued, breaking eye contact, "but you clearly care deeply for the people around you, and you are not -" he cleared his throat, "as foolish as I once thought, with the exception of this particular idea. A man could do far worse. Many men could do far worse, and you haven't met most of them yet."

Xander was quiet for a moment, and then said. "If we were married, we could look out for Buffy." Giles snorted. "Well, who else is going to? She's Buffy."

"My Morning relation can very well take care of herself." Giles said, "And that's another reason not to. Slayers never marry."

"Maybe they should," Xander said, and then shrieked when Willow put her hand on his shoulder. "God, Evening woman, you make no noise with your feet."

"Sorry." Willow said, "You guys were taking a while. Anyway -" she turned to Giles. "All superheroes are married."

Xander nodded. "The Fantastic Four are married," he said, "Or Batman and Robin and Catwoman and Batgirl. They were married."

"There's only one Slayer," Giles said gently, "This isn't a radio play."

"Or Luke and Leia and Han Solo and Mon Mothma," Xander said, "Though I always felt like Mon Mothma was too good for them."

"It's a foolish plan," Giles said, sharply.

"Yeah," Willow said, "but it's all I've got."


"Hi guys," Buffy called out, walking into the library, "Are we doomed?" Then she saw them sitting in a line on the other side of the table, and stopped in her tracks. "Oh," she said, "We’re actually doomed, aren’t we."

"Buff," Xander said, and then looked at Giles. "You tell her, Giles."

"Buffy," Giles said, taking off his glasses, "These young people wish for you to sacrifice your youth and future romantic prospects in order to save the world. Well. Try to save the world." He gestured weakly. "Give it the old Sunnydale try."

Buffy looked between them all. "What did you do to Giles?" she asked, brow furrowing.

"There's a spell," Willow said quickly, "That could help you - could help us defeat Adam. But -" her voice grew faint. "We have to get married."

There was a beat of silence, and then Buffy and Xander and Giles started talking all at once, and everything was very "What do you mean, married?" and "I told them you'd never agree to it," and "Let's not start smashing each other's heartfelt proposals or anything," from a defensive Xander.

"We can't get married," Buffy said, "We're nineteen and you're-"

"Thirty-five, but thanks for that," Giles said. "Though I note that the tragic sacrifice of marital relations would, in theory, fall to your friends. You and I would carry the less distressing appellation of family."

Buffy paused for a moment, and then said, "But I'm the Slayer-"

"We noticed," Xander said, and Willow said "We want to be your Fantastic Four. Or your Rebel Alliance. I'm Mon Mothma. You can be Luke." and at that Buffy bit her lip and started laughing, and Giles put his face in his hands.


"Do you really want to marry Giles?" Buffy asked Willow, and Willow said, "We can index all his books together, his collection at his house is twice as large as what's in the library, and all the really obscure works are there-" and Buffy laughed, and then sobered. "Are you sure you want to marry me?"

And Willow kissed her, all shy until Buffy put her hands on Willow's hips and kissed her carefully and then with enthusiasm until the teakettle whistled on the hotplate.


"Are you sure you want to marry me?" Giles asked Xander, and Xander looked at him, narrow-eyed, and then lifted Giles' hand and kissed the back of it.

"Everyone will wonder," Xander said, "how you finally succumbed to my youthful charms, and we can tell them it was the demons."

When Buffy and Willow came in with the tea, they were holding hands. It was strange, but not that strange. And they were young, and the world was ending, so everything was strange anyway.


They went down into the cellar full of demons and bad science, and spoke the words of the ancient ritual together, pouring the power of Morning and Evening, male and female, through the bond they had agreed to.

The world changed around them, and bullets became birds in midair.


"I have to tell Tara tomorrow," Willow said, sadly, and Buffy said, "I have to tell Riley. Wait, I have to tell my mother."

"Tomorrow," Xander said. "I'm covered with green monster blood. Let's go home."

By tradition and ritual the first night of a sedoretu belongs to the Morning and Evening marriages, and the second to the Day and Night marriages. But they went to Buffy's mother's apartment and slept on the floor of the living room, and had strange dreams together. And the next day they woke up, and the world was still there.


Stories are the way they are because of time and place. In this world, and in this place, Giles worked at the library, and Xander worked as an apprentice carpenter. Willow studied, and had the prospect of an inheritance, though Xander's would pass to a cousin. "I've had enough of that basement anyway," he said, when they sat down to work out what to do.

Buffy had a mother who worried and a job that paid nothing and took up all of her time. But in this time, and this place, on this world, she also had Giles' apartment, which Xander expanded to make a little space for them all and a little privacy for them each. She had spouses who loved her and put thought into the best way to get vampire dust out of her sweaters. People have gotten by on less. People have made do with worse.

There were plenty of ways, of course, in which it was a terrible plan. Constant mortal peril might add spice to an affair, but it's a strain on a marriage, and there were plenty of times when it might have been better to just walk away. And of course they had that right, even in the oldest and most tradition-bound of towns, which Sunnydale was not. But somehow the benefits seemed to outweigh the costs, at least for now, at least for a while. Willow and Giles read books together by the fireplace in the foggy valley winter; Xander and Giles bickered and kissed and made the strange bland food of Giles' homeland, which Willow ate while reading and with a bottle of hot sauce at the ready.

Xander and Willow were family together, and Giles and Buffy were family together, and that might have been the way in which their marriage gave them all what they wanted most.

Xander and Buffy were friendly and bumptious with each other. Willow and Buffy's old comfort and closeness grew, and became something that was very much love. If a marriage is made by the Day - by the women - then their marriage was close, and caring, and marked by a real and abiding friendship. And they lived happily, as best they could, for a while, which is the best that anyone can promise.


Slayers don’t marry. The power of a Slayer is dangerous and out of place, because it’s carried on one set of shoulders in a world where everything is carried on four. Being a Slayer became something different because of what the four of them did; it was because of that step that they had taken that they were able to change everything, to change what a Slayer was entirely. But that’s a long way off, and in another story.
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