Epilogue: Universe Three
Author's note: And, finally, the long- (no freaking kidding)- awaited conclusion.
Also: I'm going back and fixing a few things from earlier in the story. Correcting a few typos, fixing a mistake or two. Nothing major. But if it's not quite exactly the way you may remember the first time around, that's why.
X X X X XTake One:
“The guy who created the show doesn't know everything?” Mac said.
“Not everything,” I said.
“You think you could've run it better?”
I said, “Knowing what I know now? Damn right I could. I bet I could. Stick me in at any point and I'd have things better like that.” I snapped my fingers.
Things blurred for a second.
When I got my bearings, Mac responded with “Sure. Of course you could. But that'd be easy. Hell, Wallace could do it.” Apparently she hadn't noticed anything.
“On the off chance you ladies forgot,” Wallace said, “I am still in the room.” Okay, neither had Wallace.
“No offense, but I meant that you know maybe one-tenth of what Veronica and I do about the Buffyverse, and even you could probably change things for the better. Not really much of a wager there.”
I said, “You really think so, huh?” Well, if neither Mac nor Wallace had noticed anything, then there probably wasn't anything to notice. Must've been a trick of the light, or lack of sleep.
I know what you're thinking: Veronica Mars? Lack of sleep? Surely she can't be serious!
Sorry to disillusion you, but the glamorous life of a detective? Not always conducive to a healthy eight hours.
Anyway, I was talking to Mac: “I'll tell you what, then. Next chance you or I get to run a fictional universe, we'll take it and then we'll see how easy it is. Deal?”
“You got yourself a deal, Mars.”
We got back to our marathon.
X X X X XTake Two:
Logan was bent over his father; Lynn walked tentatively in the house behind me. Seeing Aaron, she said, “Is he – dead?”
“As a doornail,” Logan said, in a flat tone.
Xander said, “Sorry about this.” And I'm sure he was, given that now it would be a lot harder to prove that Aaron had killed Lilly.
Lynn apparently didn't know what to feel; she said, “We need to call the police. Right?”
Sheila said, “In Sunnydale? Lamb'll show up, see me, Xander and the manhunter over there, and throw us all in jail till we're thirty. 'sabad idea.”
“Not with mother and me telling them what really happened,” Logan said.
“Logan --” I began.
“Not the truth, Veronica. You've known me long enough to know I would never dream of attempting to enlighten our poor sheriff. His brain would probably explode. Mother? Are you up for a convincing lie?”
Lynn nodded, somewhat distractedly. “Yes. Of course. No one's going to believe – what was that, Veronica?”
“That was a vampire.”
“Oh. Okay. Sure.” She didn't seem so much blasé as in shock, but the events of the last twenty minutes or so would've probably given Batman pause, so her being still upright and even halfway functional was pretty impressive, considering she knew none of this half an hour ago. Logan, at least, had known about vampires, which is why he was no doubt postponing any emotional moments until after the current crisis was past.
“Good. Story straight, then?” Everyone nodded. “Okay, Logan, you call the cops. I'll call Buffy to clue her in – and then we should probably try to track down Rae.”
The calls were made; Logan and Lynn spun convincing lies about a Drusilla-like madwoman, probably some deranged fan like the waitress at the Christmas party, who'd broken in, held us all hostage, killed Aaron and attacked some of the rest of us before going out the back door and disappearing.
Everything went perfectly.
At least until Dad showed up and wondered exactly what the hell I was doing there in the first place.
X X X X X
I know: What's going on? What reward did I get from the Adversary? Which one of the Veronicas above is the real me?
Patience, grasshopper. All will be revealed in time.
That time being now.
To start with, Epimetheus Unbound is a reference to an old Greek play called Prometheus Unbound – part of a trilogy by Aeschylus. Classical scholarship? Usually not my thing, but remember, I had two and a half months of high school and maybe three weeks' worth of actual work to do, and since my teachers? Not in the mood to let me just wander off during class time, I had to, in the immortal if slightly paraphrased words of Willow Rosenberg, “make my own fun.”
Now for the two mes.
The first me is the me that the Adversary duplicated back into my home universe. I rode along, if you can really ride along as a passenger in your own body, for about five minutes, and then, confident enough that things were going to be – well, not wonderful, this is my life we're talking about here – but good enough. Whatever wacky adventures she gets up to beyond that, I don't know, I won't know, and I don't want to know. Her life, not mine.
You know what I mean.
The second me is me, your occasionally humble narrator. The one part of whose request was to continue the altered Buffyverse with a few minor changes.
Note: The word minor there? Stressed to accentuate the irony. While I didn't exactly become Supergirl, nor did I change the world into a paradise, if I was going to stick around, some things were going to have to be changed. I'd worn myself out mentally trying to steer the universe for two and a half months, give or take the odd day or two, under the conditions of the bet.
First thing is, I got to restart the Buffyverse at my leisure. So, for the first time in what seemed like forever, I got to relax. Time remained frozen around me. Which killed taking in a movie or watching TV, but gave me a lot of time read, walk around, and sleep. When I was ready for things to begin again, they would.
I'm not entirely sure how long I took – no night, no watches – but eventually I got tired of the solitude and, after “breakfast,” walked back to the Echolls estate, in the same clothes I'd been wearing when the Adversary decided the bet was over, and began to step into the house.
“Time in,” I said quietly.
I took a deep breath. Things began moving again.
And that's where you came in.
Of course, if a vacation was all I'd asked for, then I would be a bigger idiot than the (hopefully, forever) hypothetical offspring of Don Lamb and Harmony Kendall.
For one thing, I can take more of these vacations when I need to. Not all the time, and not in the middle of a crisis, but when it's over? I can relax. If I want to.
(“Miss Mars,” the Adversary had said, “you are making a complicated request. I could simply tell you no, but I appreciate your imagination and am willing to work with you. If you desire the ability to stop time at will, then that will be the entirety of your reward.”)
So, I've got limits. Not the first time. But the limits are expanded. Enough that I can at least call myself Epimetheus unbound. And I'm not going to make you sit through every account of my negotiations with the Adversary. His part in my life, and this story, is over.
So, expansion. “Epimetheus” is no longer restricted just to telling people about their pasts; the future is now in play.
Also, I can tell people, if I want to, that I have this knowledge. Not sure if I'm going to do that, because the explanation would be long and complicated and would probably lead to more problems than it would solve.
I remain magic-null and nonpredictable.
Also – and this was the toughest “get” – every intruder in the timeline has a lifetime ban on getting killed by vampires. Yes, even Celeste Kane and Don Lamb, and if you're wondering why I added them too, well, none of them asked to be added to this timeline, so while I'm not going to particularly care if they get hit by a speeding bus, it seems a bit wrong to let the vampires have them.
(This does not equal invulnerability, incidentally, but if one of us is about to get slaughtered, something will happen to cause it to not happen. Fate will intervene. Somehow.)
Finally, I got my taser back.
And – one other thing. Well, technically, two. More about them in a second.
X X X X X
Buffy and I were sitting at the Espresso Pump. It was New Year's Eve.
“So, here's to a happy vampire-free new year,” I told Buffy.
She snorted. “Like I'd be that lucky.”
“Well, it's free of the two biggest pains in your ass, anyway.”
“Second and third.” At my look, she said, “Snyder.”
“Can we do to him what we did to Spike and Dru?” she asked innocently.
“Pleasant a thought as that might be, it's a mild overreaction. It'd probably get us all in trouble, and do either one of us really need to give Deputy Lamb any more ammo?”
Sighing, she said, “Yeah, you're right.” Then, with a grin, “Maybe we'll be lucky and it'll turn out he's a demon.”
“Live in hope,” I said.
“Where've you been the last week or so, anyway?”
“More or less grounded. Dad wasn't happy with what went on with Aaron – I couldn't exactly give him the whole story and pretty much kept me shuttling between work and home.”
“Still, totally worth it, right?”
“In so many ways.”
A familiar voice said, “Ladies. How're my two favorite blondes doing today?”
“And what order would you place us in, Mr. Fennel?” I asked. Wallace was in mock smooth mode.
Yup. I told you there were two other things. Wallace is one.
And another voice said, “Come on, Fennel. I'd like to hear the answer.”
“Thanks, Mac. So would I,” Buffy said.
And Cindy “Mac” MacKenzie would be the other.
They'd been inserted, along with their families and were equally protected by my intruder clause. Neither of them had changed anything that happened since School Hard, and Sheila and I were still friends, and just as close as we'd been. Neither of them knew anything about the supernatural, and I was planning to keep it that way as long as possible.
Meg Manning, a universe back, had told me that I had friends. I'd eventually come to accept that.
Now, I had more.
X X X X X
So, there you have it. Wallace, Mac, expanded abilities, a taser, and a future to try to improve on.
I made things better the second time. But there's more I can do. Faith died. Sheila's mother died. Pete died. Cordelia was made a paraplegic. It was never proved that Warren raped me. Aaron Echolls wasn't proven to have killed Lilly. And it doesn't have to happen that way again.
So. Universe one, the original Buffyverse. Universe two, the one where I intervened for around three months and let things take their course from there.
Let's see what this Martian Manhunter can do third time around.