Consequences IV - Blast From the Past
Elizabeth was working on opening the portal. She had informed them that if she did things correctly they would be taken back just seconds after they'd left. At first Buffy hadn't understood what the big deal was, but Elizabeth had explained that from their point of view Buffy, Xander, and Spike had been gone from their world for almost ten years. It shouldn't have surprised Buffy really, because all the clues had been there - when Buffy, Xander, and Spike had first visited this reality it hadn't been long since William had his one day on land, but when Elizabeth had shown up in the future William was having his second day on land.
Of course, Buffy had known for even longer that time between realities could be faster or slower, but she hadn't really thought about it until now.
As Buffy watched Elizabeth work, she suddenly wished she'd taken more time to say her goodbyes to everyone, but because of the guilt she was feeling for not telling Anita the truth back when she'd first learned it, Buffy had used the day following the battle to find someone to take her place on the Brethren Court. In the end she had chosen Capitaine Chevalle's first officer, and because of that she knew there was a good chance that she would never see any of these people, her friends, again.
Buffy almost laughed. She'd mostly avoided Captain Jack Sparrow, but now standing here knowing she was about to leave she actually wished she'd taken a moment or two to speak to even him. She knew that they'd never have sex again, and she wasn't certain she'd ever trust him, but she was starting to suspect that he might not be as bad as she'd first thought.
So, while she had spent the night saying her goodbyes she suddenly felt as though she hadn't taken enough time. For a moment, she thought about stopping Elizabeth from opening the portal, but she forced herself to remain silent, it just wouldn't be right to force Anita to remain here any longer than necessary.
What was surprising was that even though Anita was clearly angry with everyone, except oddly enough Vander, she still seemed more at peace with herself than she had in the whole time Buffy had known her.
Buffy fought a grin. She could tell from the looks Jean-Claude was giving Anita that he clearly wanted to speak with her, but was holding himself back. It was probably the smartest decision the vampire could make.
What was strange was that just before the vampires had to flee the day after the battle, Jean-Claude had seemed ready to punish Vander in some way. So, when they'd gotten up this evening she almost expected Vander to be missing from the group, or at least showing some signs of pain, but he was standing beside Asher, and didn't seem to be in any pain at all.
Xander grinned as the portal began to open. "He tried, you missed it. Just after sunset he cornered Vander, but Anita stepped in and informed him that if he so much as hurt one hair on Vander's head that she would kill him, JC, herself," Xander chuckled. "Asher wasn't looking very happy with ol' JC after that either."
That would explain why Jean-Claude seemed to be avoiding Asher and Vander as much as he could, considering that they were all here waiting for the portal to open. Xander went on to say that he'd overheard Vander telling Asher that he'd only told Anita the truth because he knew that Asher loved Jean-Claude.
Buffy barely managed not to laugh. Vander might be stronger than Xander, but there were times (like now) where he clearly wasn't as smart. Vander had clearly thought that by spilling the beans Anita would leave Jean-Claude, which might still happen, but it didn't look like Jean-Claude would come running to Vander or Asher for comfort. The sad thing, Buffy reasoned, is that Vander's plan might have worked if Vander hadn't been quite so public in telling Anita the truth.
According to Xander, Asher seemed as amused by the whole thing as she was.
"Well, if he'd allowed everyone to think Anita had figured it out herself it might have worked," Buffy couldn't resist pointing out. Since there was no doubt in anyone's mind how Anita had learned the truth Jean-Claude wouldn't be likely to forgive Vander for some time.
Buffy suspected Vander and Jean-Claude would eventually make peace if only for Asher's sake, but she was less certain that Jean-Claude and Anita would. Though Buffy couldn't deny that some of the looks she'd seen Anita giving Jean-Claude indicated that she wanted to talk to the vampire as much as he wanted to talk to her.
Finally, the portal opened, and by unspoken agreement, Buffy, Xander, and Spike allowed all the others to enter first. Then at last they stepped inside.
Buffy blinked. They were in a room, a very generic, and completely bare room.
They should be outside somewhere in the Circus. There should also be several other people with them, but Vander, Asher, Anita, Jean-Claude, and the others were not here.Had Elizabeth screwed up with the portal?
Buffy didn't think so, because as near as she could tell Elizabeth had opened the portal exactly the same as she had before.
"What the bloody hell?" Spike said, and Buffy was grateful that at least Spike and Xander were with her.
"Now that the battle is over," a voice said from behind them. "It is time we had a little chat."
Buffy spun around to see the most ordinary looking man she'd ever laid eyes on standing behind them. He had average length brown hair, brown eyes, average height. The only thing not ordinary or average about him was that he was wearing a white toga.
Buffy glanced at Xander and Spike then straightened her shoulders. Whatever was about to happen at least she wouldn't be facing it alone.
"Are we going home now?" Xander asked.
The man laughed. "You can never go home
again," he paused. "Well, actually you
could, but they can't."
"Why?" Buffy asked, and saw out of the corner of her eye that Spike seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack.
"Because our reality is not what it was when we left, right?" Spike asked, and Buffy realized there was a hint of anger.
The man smiled. "The Powers held up their end of the bargain, vampire. Your world is as it was, but not as it would be."
Buffy almost echoed Xander's huh.
"As long as you and the Slayer never return those who weren't fated to die, Wesley and Gunn, for example, will not die. The vampire with the soul won't foolishly challenge the Circle of the Blackthorn, and life will move forward as it was."
"Hey," Spike said. "The Slayer was never part of the agreement! I asked you to stop Peaches from causing Los Angeles and everyone in it to be cast into hell. There was nothing about booting the Slayer from her bloody world."
Buffy knew her mouth was hanging open, but she couldn't help it. Angel had done, or would have done something that would send Los Angeles into hell. She could hardly believe it. Spike had been willing to be cast out of his reality to save Los Angeles, which was even more unbelievable than Angel doing something that caused Los Angeles to end up in hell. The vampire with a soul would have ended up sending Los Angeles and everyone in it into hell if it hadn't been for the vampire without a soul.
Buffy wondered if he'd sacrificed anything else, because for some reason being forever cast out didn't seem like it would be enough. Her thoughts were confirmed moments later, when she learned that things had played out once with Spike getting his soul back after he'd tried to rape her.
Buffy couldn't help but feel touched. He'd tried to make things right, and he'd given that up along with his reality to do the right thing, because he hadn't known at the time that having two vampires in their world with souls had also upset a balance, so in making the deal he'd been forced to give up his soul as well. Suddenly she was even more glad than ever that she'd been willing to give the vampire and their relationship a chance.
The man smiled again. "And she was not, part of the bargain, that is," the man replied and his hands went behind his back.
Buffy tensed, but after a moment, decided he was just posing.
"The Slayer changed everything. The Slayer, even more than the vampire with a soul, upset the balance. Your bargain aside the Slayer was to be expelled, but when you came to us, we decided the Slayer didn't need to be expelled alone."
Buffy gasped, but before she could ask how she'd screwed things up, Xander was asking a question.
"So, our friends, our family, they're all okay?"
The man smiled. "That would be telling."
Xander looked almost as angry as Spike now.
"I told you things are as they were."
"The Slayers?" Buffy asked, starting to suspect that was what he meant when he said 'the Slayer upset the balance.'
"Are still active," the man replied, which shocked Buffy because she hadn't been expecting that. After saying she'd upset the balance, she'd expected that the new Slayers would have been deactivated.
"You see, none, save Faith, are as strong as you. The first time you came back you pulled more of the legacy to you. Kendra was hardly affected because she was called before you came back."
"But you said Faith is as strong as me, and she was chosen after Kendra."
"Well, that is the catch, isn't it?"
Questions flooded through Buffy's mind.
"You see, in that time the balance in your
reality was not upset by having two Slayers, so the Powers allowed her to access to the full powers of the Chosen One. Of course, she's not as strong as you are now, but that isn't the point, is it? The point is that since you've been banished from that reality Faith has become the Chosen One.
"The Slayer line, in that reality, will never again be what it was, unless Faith can restore the balance. The other Slayers
aren't any more or any less important than they were. You see, it was always their destiny to breed the line back to power after the First tried to destroy it, and despite your little stunt their destinies have not changed."
"Take heart, Slayer," the man replied, and sounded very sarcastic. "If Faith dies before the breeders do their part, then, and only then, will you and the vampire be allowed to return to that reality. Perhaps if that happens you'll even manage to do things right this time. However, the Powers feel sure Faith will live long enough for things to restore themselves without your assistance."
Buffy was angry, but realized she was mostly angry at herself. She'd only seen an immediate victory, she hadn't thought about the long-term consequences of her actions. Because of her decision the girls might believe it was their destiny to be Slayers, and would probably be very upset when or if they ever learned what their true destiny actually was. Of course, there was an upside, if the newbie Slayers didn't make with the babies then Buffy would find herself back home.
"What did the First Slayer do to me?"
The man smiled. "She acted rashly. She sought to protect you. For some reason she liked you. She gave you even more strength, but in doing so she took away several of the Slayer instincts that were a part of you from the moment you were born. You are now what you would have been if you hadn't been born a Potential."
"But I'm still a Slayer?"
The man laughed. "You still have power, but you are not a
mere Slayer anymore. You see, the First Slayer understood how your fate had changed, and she decided that unless she acted you would be rendered insane."
Buffy frowned. If that were true why had she felt a little insane after her experience with the First Slayer?
"Because mind and body had to adjust to the changes that were wrought," the man chuckled. "For just a little while she'd even stirred things up so much that you almost became a seer, but that was not to be allowed, and so that power was removed, which admittedly also slowed the healing process.
"The world to which you were born will
change, of course, but with a little time and effort things will restore themselves, especially since the other trouble maker has been expelled."
"Who?" Buffy demanded.
"The Witch is much to powerful to remain if balance is to be restored," the man replied. "Thankfully, the Witch willingly, though unknowingly, removed herself. You see, she hunts the realities looking for you, and eventually she will find you."
The man looked thoughtful.
"There is another, though he is more like your boy here," he waved his hand in Xander's direction. "He could have remained, but there are indications that his destiny has been or will be altered. And unlike your boy here, no one is sure why."
"Giles?" Xander asked, and Buffy realized he might be right.
The man nodded. "You and the Watcher should have remained behind," and Buffy thought the man really did seem confused. "You slipped through the cracks, and so apparently will the Watcher."
"So, what happens now?" Spike asked quickly, and Buffy realized Spike was trying to protect Xander, because she suspected that the man had been about to say that neither Giles or Xander were important enough to actually worry about.
"You wish to return to the second reality you visited. And so you shall," the man replied. "Eventually."
Buffy opened her mouth, but the man spoke again.
"More time will pass for you than will pass for them," the man said, then smiled. "You will actually miss very little, even they will not realize how long you've actually been gone when you do return. That is the beauty of time."
A powerful wind swept through the room, and Buffy felt as though she were being pulled toward the left side of the room.
"What exactly is expected of us?" Buffy asked, as the wind seemed to gain strength.
"You must do what you feel is right, of course," the man replied, causing Xander to chuckle.
"That's helpful, Obi-Wan."
"I thought so."
"And when will our travels end?" Buffy asked, because she knew they weren't headed back to Anita's reality. Though if what he said was true they would get back there one day, and if he was right hopefully it would be in time for her and Anita to make peace with each other. She could also admit that she was a bit worried about Vander, as well as being curious about whether or not Anita would forgive Jean-Claude.
"Actually," the man replied as a portal opened to her left. "If
things remain as they are, never. But after awhile there will come a point that when the shift happens you will be more than ready for it."
Buffy could no longer resist the pulling force.
"I am sorry, Slayer," the man whispered as Buffy felt herself coming apart. "But choices were made, not just by you, but by others as well that backed everyone into a corner."~ * ~ * ~
: Well, I admit that Part Four was much harder to write than I expected. Of course, before I started I thought I had a lot more of this part handwritten than I actually did, which is probably why this one took a bit longer because I wasn't expecting to have to write so much.
To be perfectly honest I always thought Part Seven would be the hardest, but I've actually gotten the rough draft for that one about half-way finished, which is good since it will be the longest one since Part Three. So, now watch me get tripped up by Part Six or Part Eight* - still I am ever hopeful that the rest of the story will be much easier to write, because I do know now exactly how much is written for each part and how much is still left for me to write.
Anyway, as I've said before the rough draft for Part Five is done and typed, though because a fanfic (much like the future) is always in motion certain things will need to be added/subtracted or tweaked during the proofing/editing of Part Five. However, if all goes well I hope to begin posting Part Five Sunday, Monday at the latest, but that'll only happen if all goes well.
* Part Six: Only the first chapter is complete, but I pretty much know how everything will (or should) play out in Part Six, so hopefully the writing of it will go smoothly.
* Part Eight: So far has been fun for me, but I don't have much written here either. Part of the reason is because I can't decide if I want to take my time and actually play around with the characters and reality of Part Eight instead of just hitting the plotty points and moving on.