Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, the Vampire Slayer nor Dr. Who. They belong to the bright people who invented them. I make no money off this.
A/N: I finished this story about a month ago and have been fretting about it ever since. Might be the worst thing I've written in ages or the best. I have no clue. I feel about as secure as a toddler on her first day of kindergarden. Please, pleaseplease, let me know what you think about the story and... gah, yeah, this is me not rambling anymore about whether or not this is any good. Just, concrit please.
Also, canon. I stuck with it as much as possible but since Dr. Who contradicts itself in some places, there are bound to be small discrepancies.
(Added art given to me by BuffyCharmed, who does amazing things with pictures.)
+Capacity for Wings
+My cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Degrades the dress I wear.
A power of butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly.
- Emily Dickinson
When she is twenty, she becomes unstuck in time.
A bit like the guy in that book they made her read in high school. A book about a war and a man that became unstuck in time. Well, this is the story of a war and a girl that became unstuck in time after jumping off a tower to save the world.
She was only twenty.
That sounds like an epitaph.
Maybe it is.
She comes to in a world with three suns and red grass and strange people – aliens – that walk on three legs but only have one eye. They are kind and their voices are like snarls and whips, but their words gentle.
They take her in and bind her wounds, feed her strange, gelatinous food that reminds her of jell-o but tastes like beef and carrots and chocolate. The dress they give her to wear falls strangely because it is made for creatures that are tripedal, but it’s warm and kind of nice.
Still, she notices the pitying looks they give her, strange, poor thing, only has two legs and can’t even run properly. And two eyes. She must be ugly to them.
At first she returns to the spot where she landed every day, in the hope that whatever brought her here might take her back there, but it never does.
Eventually she digs up something similar to a book and that tells her that she is in the thirty second century of Grshnm time and that she has not only become unstuck in time but also in space. Chances of going home? She doesn’t need one of the freakishly smart computers around here to calculate that.
In memory of Billy Pilgrim and her people – not the humans she just left behind - she calls herself Wanderer and leaves the planet Grshnmns X-24 with the next shuttle, thinking that the universe needs vowels and needing to get away from that spot in the red grass where she will otherwise keep waiting for the rest of her life.
She travels a while, here and there, leaves one system, lands in another. She is pretty sure she’s looking for something but she has no idea what. She waitresses a lot because, apparently, waitresses are needed throughout time and space and she can balance up to five plates at once.
For someone with only two hands, that’s a skill.
And then, three years after landing in the red grass on Grshnmms, she goes to sleep in the back room of the tavern she’s working in and wakes up elsewhere entirely.
She wakes on a world so hot it makes her skin blister within seconds. As she climbs to her feet, pats down her clothes, looks around, someone comes running toward her, grabbing her by the arm.
“Come on,” he calls, dragging her toward a distant shape on the horizon. “What are you doing out here?”
She shrugs and follows, trying to keep up with his insane speed as she looks over her shoulder and realizes that what is burning her is a sun. A sun so close she thinks she might be able to touch it, if she stretches a bit.
She reaches the ship with the humanoid by her side, tumbles inside, watches as someone slams the door shut and they take off. The last transport off a dying planet.
A planet that’s falling into the sun.
She watches and weeps for the beauty and terror of it and shrugs when they ask her anything. She has no answers, not really.
Her name? Wanderer.
Her home planet? She doesn’t remember.
How did she get here? She has no idea.
They look at her sideways, give her a blanket and a ration bar and point her toward an empty corner in the overcrowded transport. She falls asleep to the sound of their strange and alien singing.
A song of grief for a burnt planet.
She wakes elsewhere again, in a place as colourful and loud as an Eastern marketplace on Earth. Or at least, like she always imagined one to be like.
She finds yet another job, works long hours to pay for clothes and bed and board. The people in this place are beautiful and cold, like statues. They have genetically engineered the compassion out of themselves. Their spines are rigid, their faces smooth from lack of expression, their hands hard. Their eyes are slitted like reptiles’ and from the neck down, they have iridescent scales. It adds to the coldness of their appearance. She doesn’t like the place. These days, she’ll take ugly and warm over pretty and cold every time.
Her free evenings she spends scouring libraries and archives, much better with books and technology than she was before, now that she has no reason to hide anymore. She looks for an answer to her sleep travelling, tries to understand how she can go to sleep on a carrier ship two thousand years in the future and wake in a dark alley on the most beautiful and heartless place she has ever been to. Tries to understand why she didn’t just die when she jumped, but landed elsewhere. She is completely human, like this. She should have died as one. But she didn’t.
She finds many records of time travel, of a mysterious man who shows up out of nowhere and creates chaos wherever he goes. Death follows him, they say and spit to ward off his touch.
They have a name for this man, a title. They call him the Lonely God.
She carries the key on a chain around her neck, the way she always has. She can’t remember ever having been without it, in fact.
The social worker tells Joyce and Hank something about a security blanket, whatever that may be. Tells them to leave her with it because she is only a ten year-old-girl and remembers so little of her past. Not even her real age. They had to estimate how old she is.
She listens to the kind woman telling her new parents all that as if she can’t hear them, listens to them discuss her like she is a stupid piece of furniture. She is not stupid and she is no furniture. So she doesn’t remember how old she is. Or where she comes from. Things are a bit blurry. She knows that she’s not really a child, though, that this body is too small for her. Her memories are just…incomplete. That’s not her fault. The doctor she talked to said something about trauma.
She likes the word, trauma. She can use it like a shield and people stop asking questions.
She goes home that night with Joyce, who would like to be called Mom, and Hank, who doesn’t insist on being called Dad. They show her to her room and then around the house in a whirlwind of new things.
All the while, she clutches the key in her small hand, never letting go. If they would ask her she would tell them why it’s important. She would tell them that it’s not a security blanket but the key to home. It’s the one her parents gave her – her real parents – so she could let herself in.
The key to home.
She just doesn’t quite remember where that is at the moment. But she will.
The Lonely God.
The name sticks with her and she keeps an ear open for any stories about the mysterious deity that seems so famous in a godless world. Worlds. She still hasn’t gotten used to the plural of that again. Not after thinking small, singular, for so long.
The next world she wakes on is Earth, but not like anything she ever knew. It’s a world built in the sky. The ground, she is told, has become uninhabitable. After that it’s a moon orbiting a planet called Klom. After that she spends some time in the Boe system. It’s new and full of settlers with hope and dreams of the future in their eyes.
She likes it there.
She likes the endless lakes of Boetron, the high mountains of Boerayne. But she loves the sand and the ocean on Boeshane best. They remind her of going to the beach with Joyce and Hank, of days when she was still Buffy and life a simpler thing.
She finds a planet that is made of water. Miles and miles of ocean and the entire population lives in great, transparent domes at the bottom of the sea. They are blue skinned and oh, how they shine in the broken light of the sun above.
Here, every city has its own bubble and it’s a rare and hard trip to get from one bubble to the next. As a result, these people know no war, have no concept, no word for it.
She remembers someone saying once that it must be very peaceful at the bottom of the ocean.
Seventeen worlds after Boeshane she has half a dozen theories on how she travels. Or rather, why. The how is clear after all. She has become unstuck in time and space. She doesn’t need to understand the particulars of that. It just happens. But if she could control where she goes and when…
At first she thinks it depends on her moods. If she doesn’t like a place, she usually doesn’t stay long. But then sometimes she disappears in the middle of some wonderful and grand adventure so that’s not true. Maybe, she decides then, she goes where she is needed.
She was a saviour once and she doesn’t mind helping people. But no-one needed her on the beautiful and cold planet and there was certainly no-one to save on the burning planet that fell into the sun.
In the end she shrugs it off, like she does the how. She trusts in whatever moves her about, to care for her, to keep her alive at least. The rest she can do on her own. There are stories that she remembers in the vaguest of senses – told and retold a hundred, a thousand times. Stories of her people, of how they used to navigate the universe before they grew ships and flew them everywhere.
Before they learned to control time and space via technology, things worked differently. Maybe that’s what she’s doing. Maybe she has gone back to the roots. Or maybe she’s still the same freak of nature she has always been.
By her estimation she’s going on fifty when she meets him. Ephraim Black. His name on her tongue sounds like a prayer, but not. She loves him but she’s not in love with him. Or maybe that’s the other way round. Somewhere between all those planets and times, between all the wonder and horror, she forgot how to keep her facts straight. She’s all swirls and loops these days, unsure whether it’s breathing that keeps her alive or being alive that keeps her breathing.
Linear is not a word she uses anymore.
She simply is. Here, now. Now. Here. Nowhere. Funny, that.
She meets him in a tavern where he gets drunk and she has dinner and afterwards he follows her on a dare from his friends. He is a princeling in every sense of the word, young and naïve, spoiled and rich and without a throne. The throne belongs to his father and is controlled by the Senate and that is why he can spend his nights in a tavern, chasing wenches.
She tolerates his bad stalking for a while, then tells him to get lost and when he tells her that he will not because he is Ephraim Black, heir to the throne, she tells him to get lost or else.
He grabs her. She decks him. It’s the beginning of the most nerve wrecking romance ever lived.
He finds her again and she turns him down again and he follows her again and she hits him again and he threatens her again and she hits him again
and in the end she agrees to have dinner with him simply because she’s too worn down to put up a fight anymore.
One night he asks where she is from and she says, “Earth.”
He laughs and tells her that’s impossible because Earth is currently a barren wasteland, waiting for be re-terraformed. She smiles and tilts her head and becomes an even bigger mystery. He pushes her into a wall and kisses her and she shoves at him but does not close her mouth and he laughs and she thinks that she can love this man.
By then he is already hopelessly in love with her, needs her, craves her like air and water. Obsessed with her while she is obsessed with what he offers. Normalcy. Small worries. Small things. Not time and space and the madness of a yawning abyss.
They do crazy courtship that involves screaming matches, fist fights, two dead wyverns from one system over and a lot of chocolate and flowers and dancing and flirting and laughing. They fight more than they have sex, have more sex than sleep and generally do things backwards.
She pushes the memory of wicked and tragic loves out of her mind and loves a man that is beautiful and arrogant, smart and careless, hard and wild.
Then he proposes.
She says yes and suddenly their life becomes a whirlwind of preparations – both for the wedding and a revolution.
A palace revolt meant to overthrow the Senate and restore the King to his former glory. A wedding present from father to son, they say, and she finds herself in the middle of a war fought behind closed windows and door, where people die not from a sword through the heart but a drop of poison in the wine, a dagger in the back, a word whispered in the right ear at the right time.
And on their wedding night, Ephraim tells her one night as they star gaze, the Head of Senate will use his right to request the new Princess’s presence in order to make life hard for them. He will take her from her wedding bed in a demonstration of power and make her follow him to his own chambers. To degrade her and the Prince. To mark his power.
And she will go and she will let him lead her to his rooms and she will scream and tear her clothes and accuse him of rape and they will be rid of him. She will be his downfall, the instrument of his destruction. She will be his last mistake.
Beat the man at his own game, give him the naïve blonde he thinks he will dishonour on her wedding night, and then give him his own medicine. The man they will replace him with is a lifelong friend of the King, loyal, compliant.
“What do you think?” he asks, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side. They spent months planning and she barely sees him anymore because this is his realm and he wants it back
. Day and night he schemes and his wedding, his engagement, it all becomes a means to an end. His new obsession is his throne and the old one, good old her, has become second best. Somehow, there is always a cause to be put above her.
“I think,” she says, eyes fixed on the middle moon, “That I touched the stars. I’ve seen the whole of time and space. I’ve watched planets burn and be reborn. So much death, so much life. I’ve seen it all.” And she turns her head, rests it on her knees, looks at him through a veil of golden hair and tells him, “But I’m still only a tool.”
She pulls away from him, stands and strips of her luxurious gown and under things, strips until she is only skin and moonlight and moves to the wardrobe where she keeps a bundle of black cloth. She unwraps it, pulls on sleek pants and a tight shirt, ties boots and braids hair, straps weapons to her hips and forearms.
He stands, mute, watching her until she turns to go without another word. Then he calls, “What are you doing?”
She stops and turns, kisses him carefully, one hand on his jaw. “I am giving you the best wedding present I can offer, husband
.” Her voice is smooth and cool, free of accusation.
Things are as they are.
Then she slips into the shadows and is gone. In the morning someone finds the Head of Senate’s cold body in his bed, not a drop of blood on his body, lips blue and eyes wide. The Princess has gone missing; Prince Ephraim, last of the Black Dynasty, is inconsolable.
In a spaceport a few hundred miles away a man asks a blonde girl her name and she answers with a bitter, little smile, “Slayer.”
Wanderer was an idea, not who she is. She understands that now. Dragons and princes and weddings.
She should have known better.
For a while she jumps and jumps and jumps, her inner unrest rubbing off on her strange skill. She’s going on sixty and for the first time in all those years, she feels the loneliness of being unstuck in time. Everywhere she goes she only stays long enough to say hello and there are never any goodbyes. And the one place she wanted to stay has been turned sour by ambition and tradition, by a man who cared for his title, his right and inheritance more than he cared for her.
She was a tool once, for old men, safe and sound in their Scottish mansions, a tool in a war that was so old and dark and full of hate. Then she became unstuck and gave herself a new name and saw the wonders of the world.
She was free.
Now she’s not. Because worlds and worlds away she is still a tool and changing a name does not make what you are less true.
She feels old.
She feels old and still looks so young, barely older than she did the last time she looked into a mirror on Earth. Her people age slowly, with the speed of lazy glaciers. She knows that. Has known that. But it hits home now.
She is homeless, timeless, ageless and forever. The Lonely God, she thinks, and imagines that she knows what he feels like. So she goes back to hunting for him across time and space, hoping to find him. To talk to him.
She has so many questions to ask.
The dreams start after a few months with Mom and Hank. The doctor they are making her see says it’s normal. The stress of a new environment is wearing off and her repressed memories are coming back. They expect her to eventually remember all that was lost, including the tragedy that led to her being found in the streets of LA, wandering on her own.
They expect many things of her, but for some reason they do not expect her to understand what they are talking about when they speak of repressed memories and fractured psyche, of post traumatic stress and her ‘unhealthy fixation’ on stars. They don’t expect her to understand big words.
Maybe that’s because at school, she knows so little. She has no concept of money, no idea of literature, of music, of movies. She can’t remember ever having known the word Disney
before she came to be with Mom and Hank. But she understands big words and numbers and she sometimes answers the wrong questions at school. That’s awkward so she’s teaching herself not to answer at all anymore. Better to keep her head down, that’s what Mom told her.
She tries to tell them once that she isn’t really a child, that there’s something wrong, that the world used to be smaller and reaching the top shelves easier and that somehow, she lost something. They shake their heads, sad and worried and make her talk to the doctor more often.
But point is, she dreams.
She dreams of home.
Eventually she grows tired of hunting a ghost and decides it’s time for a comfort vacation. She has never had one of those in her whole life and so she joins the crew of a cargo ship and returns to the Boe system.
Core planet first and then she’s off to Boeshane, her wonderful planet of sand and sea. It’s been centuries in linear time since she was last here but the dunes and waves still look the same and they welcome her. She wanders along beaches, up and down, to and fro with the tides and the wind, until she is sure she had rounded half an ocean.
She is standing very still, watching the sea and the sand fight their endless battle for dominance, hand above her eyes to shield them from the sun. Beside her, someone speaks, “Hey, are you new here?”
She turns and finds a rascal of a boy, twelve, thirteen years at the most but already taller than she is. He grins the brightest grin she has seen in a while and his blue eyes sparkle like the water.
“Just passing through,” she says, vaguely recognizing the words leaving her mouth as the heavy twang of the local slang. All these years, and she still hasn’t gotten used to speaking all languages and understanding them, too.
His smile grows wider with anticipation of news and stories. This world is still a world of settlers and new comers are rare and valued. New blood and new tales, she thinks.
“I’m- “ he introduces himself, his name a warble of consonants that she understands to mean ‘Blue as the Sky in Spring’. She remembers that quirk from her last visit, a whole people that name their children after the colour of their eyes. They have a hundred words for blue, a hundred more for green and brown and any variation thereof. She has never met two people here with the same name, even if they had the same eye colour.
She finds herself smiling at his enthusiasm and says, “Buffy.”
She doesn’t know why she gives him that silly old name instead of ‘Slayer’, but she does. He seems so light and happy. It feels wrong to taint his childish joy at the world with words of death and slaughter.
He is thirteen, has a brother called Gray and a mother called Lilac and a father who’s eyes are also blue and he lives right over there, see that building over there? They call them sandcastles around here but he thinks they look more like beehives, chunky, crude beehives. And won’t she come have dinner with his family and tell them stories, please?
Before long, she finds herself being dragged along by one hand, listening to his happy chatter and hapless flirting.
She remembers the day she woke up and insisted that everyone call her Buffy. She still doesn’t know why it was so important. A sliver of home maybe. Perhaps that is her real name. But somehow, she doesn’t think so.
For a while.
She starts wearing the beige and cotton of the colonists, starts learning to cook their dishes, to sing their songs. It’s simple, life on Boeshane, and easy. Sex is fun and love is easy, and when the fishing is bad and the money runs out and the raiders pass them over just barely, they refuse to give up, refuse to lie down.
On Boeshane, there’s always laughter in the air. Not because life is easy there but because the people are. They enjoy what they have and let the rest go.
It’s something she tries to learn and mostly, she manages. Enjoy what you have and let the rest go. She had so many grand love affairs and they all turned sour. So why not stop loving and start falling in love. With the pretty guy over there, the cute girl right next to him.
A time for everything.
Blue sticks to her like glue and feathers, a case of puppy love if she’s ever seen one. But he is also fun and sunlight and he never bothers her, just goes a bit cross eyed every time she pecks him on the cheek. So she lets him hang around her, teaches him some basic self defence and generally gets to know him.
He’s smart. He’s brave. He has dreams. Not too big but just big enough to maybe make it on one of the more central planets.
And every now and then he drags her home at night and makes her sit with his extended family as they tell stories over the sound of the storms roaring across the oceans. Some stories are old, some new, some fairy tales, some anecdotes.
And then, one night, an old man starts telling the story of the end of the Black Dynasty and she realizes that this planet is made up of settlers from the last place she wants to remember – Ephraim’s planet.
But in their time line it has been centuries and they tell the story as an epic tragedy. They tell of the beautiful Princess who met the Prince and it was love at first sight. They tell of the King who was old and good but weak and how he wanted his son to have the kingdom back. They tell of how the evil Head of Senate tried to rob the Princess from her betrothed.
They tell how she sacrificed herself to save her love and lost her physical form for it, becoming a ghost that haunted the Prince for the rest of his natural life.
She listens until she can’t stand it anymore before grabbing her shawl and goggles and standing. She’s almost at the door when Blue, sweet, naïve, young Blue catches up with her, hand on her shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” he asks and she realizes that the room has fallen silent. They all wait for her answer.
“That’s not how it happened,” she says, voice tight, trying not to let her emotions show, refusing to look at them.
“Then how did it happen?” The old story teller wants to know.
And she considers telling them that the Prince and the Princess were an ill fit, but in love and crazy enough to try. Considers telling them that the King was not so good and the Senate not so evil, that both sides schemed and used people without care, that there was no black and white. She considers telling them that the Princess did not sacrifice herself but did what was expected of her – a tool, nothing more – and that she left because she had some dignity, some pride left. That she is alive and here and not a princess but a girl who’s become unstuck in time and space and really only wants to know what happened to her people so she can go home and find some peace.
She looks at Blue, at his little brother with the grey eyes, at the old man, looking eager and gentle and she shakes her head. These people have little and share it all, give freely and ask for nothing in return. They deserve happy stories, not the dark bitterness of truth.
She says, “Tell your version, old man. I like it better.”
Then she shakes off the hand resting on her shoulder and spends the rest of the night watching the storm.
The memories come back, just as predicted by the good doctor. They come in dreams, sneak in under the wire as visions seen from the corner of one eye. But they come.
One evening she sits in front of the fake fireplace in the living room, watching taped flames crackle merrily as Mom puts up Christmas decorations. As far as Buffy’s concerned, it’s her first Christmas.
She sits and stares into the flames and she sees
A world bathed in the glowing light of the second sun, tinged in shades of red and orange, bright as fire, the sky, the rocks, the citadel, it all glows like an endless beacon of the brightest fire.
And on the heels of that vision comes a thought - war. This will all burn
She gasps, jerks backwards and scrambles to her feet in an effort to escape the strange thought that is too big, too enormous for her child’s mind. Mom drops a twig of mistletoe and looks at her, wide eyed.
“Honey?” she asks and Buffy takes a deep breath, shakes her head, stays silent. There are no second suns in this system. Careful what you tell people, Dad always told her.
This time, already riding on the wave of shock, she merely blinks and absentmindedly walks out of the room. She had a Dad once. It explains why she can’t quite get herself to call Hank by anything but his given name.
She walks up the stairs, lip between her teeth, fingering the key on the chain around her neck, trying remember more.
She has almost a year on Boeshane before time spins her away and space pulls her sideways.
Dresden. Only days before the firestorms, before the Florence of the Elbe will fall. The sky will burn and the world will end and she is suddenly right in the middle of it.
She remembers that the man that became unstuck in time landed here, too, but she does not intent to let this end in tragedy. She can’t change this, she knows that. Dresden burning is a beacon in her mind, a fixed star. It can’t be stopped, can’t be avoided. Has to happen.
But there are always variables, small things, unimportant things. And those can mean the world. She sneaks into a barren backyard, intent on stealing clothes from the line and gets discovered by an old woman so frail and bent she can barely walk.
The crone yells and brandishes her walking stick and then takes a look at Slayer’s clothes - linen pants and a sleeveless shirt – and pulls her inside the house. Dresses her. Feeds her despite the fact that she has four grand children sitting in the kitchen, parentless and hungry.
The oldest is twelve, the youngest barely four. They don’t deserve to burn. A small decision can mean the world to those it saves. And so Slayer says, “You have to get out of this city.”
The old woman laughs, waves her stick about, says she can’t even manage up the stairs anymore. She’s not going anywhere. The parents? The children have none anymore.
“Alright,” she says, “Then I’ll take them. Out of the city. Somewhere safe.”
The children all scramble backward as Omama comes stumbling around the table and bends over even more to look the strange, blonde woman directly in the face. She must find something, some shard of an ugly truth, because after a long moment, she nods.
“I have a sister in the country,” she tells Slayer. “She can take the children for a while.”
Four days later they sit on a bench in front of an old farm house, watching the horizon burn. Hannes – the youngest boy – is sitting on her lap. Lena – the twelve-year-old – is holding on to her other two siblings as their world goes up in flames.
Their grandmother’s sister is standing in the doorway, watching, crying.
To make a sound, any other sound but the choking silence of a city burning in the distance, Slayer starts talking. “My home burned, too. A long time ago. It was the most beautiful place in the universe. The sky was endless and so bright.”
Lena wipes her face on her sleeve and, catching on to the game, asks over her brother’s head, “What happened?”
“There was war, too. My Dad was a soldier. I was very young and I don’t remember clearly. My father did something to me so I wouldn’t have to remember it. And then he sent me away, like your Omama did. He hugged me and told me that he loved me and then he brought me somewhere else. Where I would be safe. And there I met so many new people and a woman and a man, who took me in and raised me. We lived in California. Do you know where that is?”
“That’s where the sun always shines, isn’t it?” The second oldest.
“Yes, that’s exactly the place. And there were trees, palm trees, have you ever seen them?”
She talks all night and when dawn comes and the children are fast asleep, she smiles because a million people might have died, but four lived
Her father really did send her away.
The Time War rages and the Daleks are winning, she knows that much, remembers it.
Her Dad is a smart man. Not like all the others. He sees what is happening, he tells her. He sees that if they keep doing what they are doing, everything will fall apart. The whole universe.
He always tells her those things, even though she is little. But she is also smart and she is strong, he says. Not arrogant like the rest of her race, not foolish. He tells her stories of war and machines, tells her because she listens when his face crinkles with concern, old and tired.
He tells her what he must do. He must send her away. The rest of their kind, too proud, will not go. But she is smart. She will go.
He takes her away in his ship, a short trip he says, but she knows better. Then he helps her hide herself – inside a human mind, a human body, so young, younger than she ever remembers being - and she remembers the tears on his face as he hits the big red button – emergency teleport.
Next stop - everywhere.
She lands on Earth. 1991.
She keeps the watch with her at all times. Like the key, it’s a link to home, something she must hold on to at all costs. Especially since it contains part of herself.
She knows the watch is faulty somehow. Figures it has to do with the fact that she was only a child – in age, if not in body - when it was made. In all the years she has carried it, it has whispered to her, told her things she shouldn’t know. It has kept her from aging as she should in this human body.
It watches over her and the lines between watch and woman blur with every day that passes, with every day she carries it, in her hand, her pocket, around her neck. Always there, always close.
It’s funny. She’s her own security blanket.
But even while the memories bleed through and she understands more and more of what she is, she never disobeys her father’s last command.
“Darling,” he said in the lilting language of their people, “Don’t open that watch. Not until I come back for you. Understand?”
She promised and until now, she has kept her promise. That’s why she has to find the Lonely God. The stories, the tall tales, can only mean he is one of her people. And she needs answers. Needs to know where they went, where the beautiful, wild planet went and why she can’t find it.
She needs to know that her father is dead, so she can let go of that watch. Destroy it maybe and live life as a human, age and die. She doesn’t want to be the last of her kind.
Sure, there might be others like her, scattered across time, saved, alive. Others that have watches bleeding memories in to their heads, remembering. But she doubts it. Even when her father saw the end coming, the rest of their kind still believed in victory. They took no precautions. They saved no-one.
She is alone, probably. And she doesn’t think that’s what Dad wanted for her. So she needs certainty.
She leaves the children with their great aunt, handing all her jewellery, all the odds and ends she brought in her pockets to Lena. Gold earrings, silver coins, a knife, a set of good old fashioned lock picks. They can make money off those things, feed themselves.
They will survive. Of that she is sure. Lena is already so strong, so stubborn and the rest of the kids, too. They believe in miracles and stars. Nothing can go wrong.
She says her goodbyes under tears, promises to send money and food for as long as she is able and takes off into the dusk.
By now she has gotten pretty good at recognizing the building itch at the back of her mind. She has maybe three more months left in this world before she wakes elsewhere again.
Three months of war.
Three months of bringing hope.
Just enough time, she figures, to bring a bit of laughter back into the world.
There is a planet that froze over in less than a second. Waves, reaching for the sky, forever caught in the moment the sun went out and the cold came. There are tiny rocks on the ground everywhere, white like diamonds but not rocks at all, not gems or stones. Drops of water that froze in mid-air and fell.
It’s beautiful and graceful, this planet, solitary and hollow, like an empty room. She screams into the waves higher than her outstretched arms and the echo runs and runs and runs, until she is sure that if she waits long enough, it will come back from behind, travelled once around the entire world.
There are no words for the breath taking amazement that is this world.
It’s also freaking cold.
Humans talk about the weather when they have nothing else to talk about. It’s something no other race does, as she learned rather quickly. She tried, once or twice, to strike up a conversation by mentioning the weather. It always earned her funny looks.
Many races in the universe have no need for small talk like that. They prefer silence over nonsensical platitudes. They never talk about the weather. It amuses her endlessly that small talk seems to be genetic.
And then there are the humanoid races, those that have some genetic resemblance to humans. Those have their own ways of striking up a conversation. One of them is family. Everyone has family, it is assumed, or at least friends. So they ask about those.
“Do you have family?” That’s the galactic equivalent of ‘nice weather today, eh?’
The question always amuses and saddens her in equal measures.
She has friends she might consider family but those are scattered across time and space and she will never see any of them again. And family? The concept seems far fetched.
She remembers that her people’s language had no actual word for ‘parent’. The word they used instead translates as ‘gene donor’. Children were whipped up from batches of DNA freely given. Some mixed from different donors – people in relationships perhaps – some taking DNA from a solitary donor, scrambling it into new patterns.
She is one of the latter.
She was not born. She was woven on a loom, stepped from it fully formed in body, if not in mind. And then, once she was finished, she should have gone to the houses of learning, like all her ten thousand or so siblings. To finish her mind, more than a child’s, less than an adult’s. But her father didn’t let her. He picked her up and took her home and gave her the closest thing to a family any of their people had had since the loom had been invented.
Not womb born, but father raised. Taught not by tutors and teachers, but by the man she was made from. Emotion instead of cold facts, those were his lessons. The others used to look down on her for that and some small, vindictive part of her takes satisfaction from the fact that they are all dead because no-one loved them like her Dad loved her. The rest of her pities the cold people of her memories that would have grown up to be cold soldiers, fighting a cold war, dying cold deaths.
So when the question comes, and it always does, she smiles and says, “I had a father. I lost him.”
It’s the truth, in a way.
And every time she uses those words, every time she confesses that to a complete stranger, she looks up into the sky and wishes for the Lonely God, the Doctor, the man who makes people better.
Wishes for answers.
And then she finds the first one. In France, of all places. An eyewitness account of what must have been the strangest night in Versaille.
Madame De Pompadour, strange machine men and a knight in shining armour riding out of mirrors. The Lonely Angel, the Madame called him as she told the story to a friend late one night, who in turn, wrote it down in her diary which lies now before Slayer, open, a riddle.
Why did the machine men want Madame De Pompadour for their ‘carriage’? Why was she the only one compatible?
She does what the hero did not – she solves the riddle. Maybe she is cheating but she remembers another story, picked up in a spaceport somewhere far away. There is a ship, many years in the future, that disappears for decades and when it is found, the drones are all gone and parts of the crew built into the system. And that ship is called – Madame De Pompadour.
If the Lonely Angel came through the mirrors, he came from the ship the drones were from. That means she has a point and a time now. Well, almost.
Now, if she can just track the man, wait until one of her jaunts in time brings her close to where she knows he’s been – she can catch him. Insert herself into his time line.
But finding someone who jumps across the entirety of time with the ease normal people jump over puddles in the street is easier said than done. The fact that she literally must go where the tide carries her doesn’t help.
Still, when she’s not running from someone she pissed off, trying to save people, earning a living or learning something new and useful, libraries is where she can be found.
Giles would be so proud of her if he could see her now, voluntarily sitting still, reading book after book. She knows more archiving systems by heart than were invented in his time.
There is a world where gravity is almost nonexistent and a single leap can carry her a hundred, two hundred feet high before she slowly sinks back to the ground. It’s flying and falling rolled into one, the most primal temptation.
If she tried, she could probably find a way to spend the rest of forever floating above that world.
The people, though, are tall, taller than any other creatures she has ever seen. They are bound to this planet because no other gravity can sustain their giant bodies, can keep them upright.
But they are also beautiful and exotic and because they have never left their home they have never made war and because of that they have never learned to fight. So when slavers come to take the pretty fuchsia people to wherever they will bring the most money, it means certain death for them.
She may be a dwarf among giants here, but she knows war. She knows how to fight. And she has no sympathy for slavers.
Afterward, she floats for hours on thin air, watching the stars above.
For everything that she knows, there is something she doesn’t know. She knows the name of her people and her home planet, but she does not remember her father’s chosen title. She remembers how to build a homing beacon from scrap metal but not how to set it to a certain frequency.
She remembers her favourite place at home, but not her favourite food. Remembers screaming as her body shrunk and one of her hearts withered in her chest, but not the face of the man who held her afterward in one last embrace. Everything she knows is accompanied by a hole, a negative image where once memory lived. She doesn’t know why exactly that is but she can guess. The watch.
Somehow, it’s broken. It’s not doing its job properly, never has.
Sometimes she wonders what would happen if she opened it. What is inside? A child still? Or did the watch mature with her? If she opens it, will be become a child again, in mind or in body, too? But no, that won’t happen. She was woven into a grown up body. It was making the watch that turned her into a child, changed the way she thinks. Thought. The watch made her childish. Made her a child
. It made a mess of her, took her adult body, turned it into a child’s, stuffed her adult understanding into a mind made for Disney and Go Fish, and then, as she grew up and learned, it refused to grow with her.
Most of the time she pushes those thoughts aside. They aren’t important. What’s important is figuring out how to a, control her jumps, b, find the Doctor and c, get answers out of him.
Everything else can wait. One step after the other. She might never open that watch, might destroy it and forget everything she was before she became Buffy. That wouldn’t be too bad, would it? Being human? All or nothing, she thinks then and determines to not whine so much.
But she doesn’t remember her given name, and that cuts deep.
“Mom,” she says, standing in the living room doorway shortly after midnight, clutching her key in one hand, her watch in the other.
Joyce looks up from her book, quickly exchanges a glance with her husband and then stands. “What is it, honey?”
She’s had a bad dream. Fire again and rage. And falling through darkness, waiting to be caught. But Daddy wasn’t there. She knows why she dreamed. The children at school taunted her again, called her a freak because she has no parents. Nobody wants her. They didn’t say it out loud, though. They pushed her and when they touched her she heard it in their heads
She holds the key tighter, feels its teeth digging into her skin. Sometimes she’s amazed that her hand doesn’t have permanent grooves from the rough piece of metal.
Joyce is standing in front of her now, waiting for an answer, worried.
“I want to go home,” she says.
A hug. A kiss against her hair. Soft words. “Baby, you are home.”
“No,” she doesn’t stomp her foot because it’s a useless gesture but she jerks from the embrace. “Not here. Home with Daddy. He promised to come for me.”
It’s been almost two years now and neither Joyce nor Hank believe that her father will one day show up and take her home. They tell her to stop hoping. Daddy’s not coming back
But don’t they understand? He has
to come back.
She’s all he has.
A mauve alert from a deserted planet. She sighs. She doesn’t often get her hands on actual transport like the ship she currently travels in. But when she does, there’s always something else to keep her from getting where she wants to be. She was aiming for The Library but it looks like she’s taking a detour.
The planet is mostly a wasteland. Whatever was once there has long since left.
She sets down about a mile away from the origin of the signal – better safe than sorry – and gears up for a hike through dangerous, unknown territory. Knives, guns, first aid kit, food. It should cover all eventualities.
Hiking was never one of her favourite activities and hiking across a barren, dead planet isn’t very entertaining. The lack of sights speeds up her walk and after less than half an hour, she finds it.
The ship is badly damaged by the looks of it, probably crash landed. The design is unfamiliar and even if she knew it, a mechanic she is not. Looks like she’s going to play taxi to whoever sent the call for aid.
With a sigh she kicks the ship’s hatch, calling for someone to open. Then she takes a few steps back, unholstering a blaster. Might still be a trap.
A whirring sound warns her that her call was heard and the door slides open to reveal – they have a name. She remembers it. It’s right there, on the tip of her tongue. Creatures of steel, bulky, one eyed. She remembers a hundred stories, war stories, stories of the bogey man.
Eat your supper or they will come for you. Daleks. For just a moment, her heart stops and the planet under her feet lurches. She considers dropping to her knees, wide eyed, scared, disbelieving. But in the end the soldier in her, the Slayer, wins out and she straightens.
She calls them by their name.
Their voices, as they answer her, eye stalks fixed on her, sound like cold precision and programmed cruelty. “You know our name.”
“My people told stories about you. About the War. They hated you.”
Hated. Not feared. Never feared. They understand the distinction, their ‘arms’ rotating wildly in agitation. “Time Lord,” they snarl, “Time Lord. We will take your TARDIS and we will exterminate
“TARDIS?” she asks, “What’s a TARDIS?”
And then she blasts the first one’s eyestalk off, rolls, grabs another and bends it out of shape. She ducks under a blast of blue and watches as it fells a third Dalek. Only one left now and she gets it from behind, ripping off the cover of protective metal. Inside there is a sad thing that has never seen sunlight, has never known anything but the inside of a can and cold superiority.
She spares a moment for pity before bringing down the knife. Four less Daleks in the universe. Four less bogey men.
She rigs the ship to feed all energy reserves into the faulty engines and leaves the planet before the explosion tears a crater into the desolate landscape.
Her father sent her away to protect her from those creatures. It didn’t quite work out. But then he also promised to come for her, didn’t he?
For the first time in a long time, she tastes bitterness on her tongue. Why is she even looking for answers? She’s alone. Always has been. Answers won’t change that.
She falls asleep in The Library, hunched over a book, lines blurring under the dim lighting. And she dreams.
She wakes, still in The Library, sitting up, rubbing her eyes. Feeling the need to stretch her legs a bit, she stands and starts wandering through the stacks. Soon the table where she was reading is out of sight. Strange, she hasn’t walked that far, has she?
Nevermind. Something else catches her attention. Writing, on the walls. She steps closer, frowns, reads the words What am I?
Underneath the answer is scrawled in capital letters. Time Lord
It’s her question. Her answer. She keeps walking. Another question. Why do I understand every language?
This time there is no answer underneath.
Another empty wall, another question. Where did the planet go? Where are the people?
So many more, Why do I travel? What’s my name? How old am I? What happens if I open the watch? Who will I be? WHAT IS MY NAME? Where is Dad? Why hasn’t he come? Am I alone? Where is the Lonely God? Where is the Doctor?
None of these questions are answered. Some have notes scribbled next to them, theories, thoughts. Not answers. Not truth.
Even in the dreamscape of her head she feels disgusted with herself for all the blanks in her memories. Pathetic. She has been searching for close to seventy years now, and still knows as much as she did when she stepped off a tower into nothing.
For God’s sake, she doesn’t even remember her name.
“Now, that sort of negative thinking won’t get you anywhere, will it?” She spins around at the sound of a voice – her own voice – speaking to her. She finds herself leaning against a shelf, arms crossed loosely, expression amused.
“Who are you?”
“Trouble remembering your own face? Old age setting in?”
“You’re not me. I’m me. Who’re you?” This has the potential to get confusing really fast.
The other her laughs and shakes her head. “Okay, caught me. I’m not you. But it’s not important who I am. What’s important is who you are.”You don’t know who you are. What’s to come.
“And who am I?” Annoyed now, and defensive. It’s better than confused and scared. She doesn’t do scared.
“You’re the little Red Riding Hood, lost in the woods, looking for home. No, hold on,” the other Slayer’s nose scrunches up as she considers, then says, “That’s a bad metaphor. Makes me the bad guy. Which I am not. Either way, you’re looking for answers. It’s time you started finding them, don’t you think?”
And then she wakes.
On Calligo VII a storm is raging. Has been, for the past thousand years. It never lets up and it never weakens. The people have gone deep underground, forgetting what sunlight even looks like, much less how it feels on their skin.
She’s too curious again, digs around the archives, mostly for her own amusement. She likes knowing things. Always has. And now that she doesn’t have to dumb down anymore for anyone’s sake, she indulges. A lot.
What she finds is where the storm came from. An experiment gone wrong, a machine that was supposed to control the weather, make for better farming. Something went wrong. Whoops, apocalypse.
She determines where the thing is, above their heads and finds a few brave souls willing to help. They dig their way to the surface and blow the faulty machine sky high.
And there is sunshine.
Rebuilding a world is always a nice thing to do. All the hope and energy, the amazement, the love and joy it brings. So positive. She finds a woman, one of those that went upwards with her.
Her name is Fae and she is full of love and life and revolution. Full of curiosity. Her hair is red like fire and her curls bounce like springs. She kisses like honey and tastes like strawberries and Slayer takes her to see the stars.
They fall in love.
It’s easy and wonderful and simple, no demands, no fear, not worry. Just them and the universe.
For two years they travel together – this ship is a time ship and whenever she manages to get her hands on one of those, she doesn’t jump involuntarily, as if the part of her that is time is satisfied, stated – and she can’t remember ever laughing this much.
She’s going on hundred and seeing the world through new eyes, unspoiled and young and eager, is a treat. So much so, that she finds herself standing at the edge of a canyon that’s a hundred miles deep, weighing an old fob watch in her hand.
She could let it go, right here, right now. It would fall, shatter, never to be found. Never to be opened. She would be free. Human for good, a mortal. Maybe the fragments of memory that have haunted her for the past eighty years would disappear.
She could go wherever she wants with Fae, live one life to the fullest, and then die. Fade away. The last of her kind. Well, almost. There’s still that one ever elusive other. But does she really have to find him?
She could just let go. Forget the questions and she won’t need answers. She’s in love. She could be happy.
But could she be herself?
If she forgets where she came from and all that she is, will she still be herself or someone else entirely?
That night she makes love to her vibrant, red Fae and then kisses her goodbye as she sleeps. She walks away without a word because that would make things worse.
She leaves Fae the ship, takes off on foot, hitches a ride somewhere far, far away. By morning she’ll be out of the system. Easy, peasy.
The only things she carries with her are an old key and a silvery watch.
The next time she falls asleep, she’s waiting for herself in The Library with the writing on the walls.
The other her nods once and says, “Well then. Time to get started.”
Pompeii, volcano day.
France, the revolution.
Peru, scaring the natives and saving the world from moving rock.
On Raxos III, bringing down the Queen.
In Germany, meeting Hansel and Gretel.
On New Earth, bringing down the Sisterhood.
In England, meeting Shakespeare. Three times.
In London, running through the Blitz. Seven times. Bit risky, that.
On Klom, messing with the natives.
On Mezzalon, saving the planet from nuclear meltdown.
On Raxacoricofallapatorius, dropping off an egg. An egg?
Once she gets started, he keeps popping up everywhere. Wherever she turns, she finds him. Every dream is a new place to look, to find.
Most of all, he seems to spend his time in twentieth and twenty first century Great Britain. She’d rather stay away from that, thanks, because there is still a bunch of angry old men that think she stole something from them. Namely, the essence of the slayer.
She tries to avoid confrontation. It might mess with her timelines.
But there is one time, when she almost catches up with him. England again, 1913. But Torchwood has its grubby hands all over that one, so she stays away.
And by the time Torchwood gives up, he is long gone and she’s slipped into the far future, New New York.
There she meets a head in a jar who tells her that she’s getting closer. He tells her to believe in her dreams. Believe in your dreams.
Such simple words, so loaded. These days, dreaming seems to be all she does.
She falls asleep and finds the other her already pouring over books, looking for answers.
“Why are you helping me?”
The other her looks up and for the first time she notices that the not Slayer has more gold in her gaze than green. Strange. Her reflection opens her mouth, ready to feed her yet another flippant, cryptic answer, she can tell. But then she stops.
She stands, walks around the table, perches on the edge of it. She smiles, a smile so gentle and sweet it takes Slayer’s breath away. Then she offers, “I used to sing you to sleep. Do you remember that?”
The first thought that shoots through her mind is simple - mother
. But she has no mother, never had. She was woven on a loom, made from her father’s DNA. Besides, why would her mother look like a clone of herself and appear in her dreams?
No, she has no mother.
“In a way, you do.” The other her pushes away from the table and comes closer until they are eye to eye, toe to toe. It’s the closest they have come to touching yet, in all those dreams. “I am the mother of all your people. Was. They are gone now. All but you and one other.”
Her, the Slayer, and the other, the Doctor. Only two of them. Only two –
“You are Time.”
A grin, bright and cheery and the other her – Time – jumps backwards, all flippant youth and energy again. “Yep. Took you long enough to figure it out.”
“But what… why…” She doesn’t ask the questions because the answers are already falling into place, fitted from all the pieces in her mind. “You’re the one that sent me to all those places. It was you.”
A shrug, a little mhm
noise. “Not entirely. I had to use some long lost genetic quirk of your people to make it work. And since you’re one hundred per cent human in this incarnation, that was a hell of a job, let me tell you.”
” Why send her all those places, let her meet and lose all those people, make her fall in love and love and kill and live and leave and go on and on and on, endlessly. Why do that to her, to anyone?
The smile that spread over Time’s face is nothing like her own, alien and strange and achingly old. And gentle. Time loves her, feels her pain. Feels her sorrow. She knows that with more certainty than she has ever known anything else. “You had to understand. And now, you do. It’s time.”
Time steps closer again, the spring in her step becoming a soft slide, ethereal and endless and she muses, “You know, all these phrases, they totally amuse me. It’s time. No it’s not, I’m Time. Not whatever it is that it’s time for and anyway, language tends to abuse me in the worst ways, don’t you think? And…”
She keeps prattling as she lifts one hand to Slayer’s temple and taps it lighty, with just one finger. She’s still speaking as Slayer wakes and finds herself elsewhere yet again.
It’s a market. It’s loud and dirty and crowded and so very alive it makes her smile even as her teeth ache and her head throbs.
Right up to the moment where someone bumps into her hard enough to send her sprawling on the ground in a heap. She glowers at the man the ran her over even as his face turns into a grimace of apology and he holds out a hand to help her to her feet and –
He stops mid motion, staring at her, wide eyed and disbelieving. She stares back, wondering how the hell he knows her name and then she meets his eyes. Blue as the sky in spring. Or rather, Blue as the Sky in Spring. Little boy, all grown up.
She grins at him, widely, her strange dream and aimless wanderings forgotten for the moment. He pulls her to her feet and jerks her into a tight hug. “Man,” he crows, “I never thought I’d see you again. You just up and disappeared!”
“Yeah,” she says, “Sorry about that.”
Then she pushes him away a bit and inspects him. The last time she saw him he was a scrawny teenager, now, in his thirties, he looks damn good. All the promises of his child’s body have been more than fulfilled and judging from the glint in his eyes and his easy smile, he knows it. “Damn,” she whistles, “You sure grew up fine.”
“And you,” he returns in kind, “Haven’t changed a bit. Time traveller, right?”
She nods and spies the manipulator strapped to his wrist. She takes a cautionary step back suddenly, pointing at it. “Tell me you’re not a Time Agent? Cause me and them? Not on good terms.”
He follows her line of sight and then jumps, surprised and hurries to assure her, “What, no. Used to be. Quit a couple of years back. And anyway,” the flirty grin is back on, “I wouldn’t turn you
“Please tell me you’re not still crushing on me?” She scowls at him but it’s not real. It must have been at least twenty years for him, closer to twice as much for her. There is no way he is still crushing on her after all these years. But he’s familiar in a way nothing else has been since she left California and damn, that feels good.
He shakes his head, laughs and offers, “A drink for the lady? They make fantastic gusha’lil
in this place.”
She accepts the invitation and they sit, trading stories for hours. The places they’ve been, the trouble they’ve gotten into. He goes back Jack now and he’s travelling with two friends, a human and an alien, he says. Good people. She travels alone but tells him of Fae and that she’s been looking for someone for a long time. She needs answers, she says, for where her people have gone.
He looks at her funny asks, “That mean you’re not human?”
She shrugs, shakes her head, shrugs again, “Not quite.”
“You don’t turn into something purple and slimy, do you?” His tone is still teasing and if he minds that she’s not as human as the scans say she is, he doesn’t let on.
“Nope. But I do, technically, have two hearts.” And, remembering what her father always used to say, “And a big brain.”
Something in his gaze definitely changes then and he stands, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her up. She considers smacking him down and getting away, but the look on his face is not rage of anger. Rather, it’s worry. And disbelief.
“We better find those friends of mine,” he tells her and she lets herself be dragged along as he types something into his manipulator.
Five minutes later they are standing at the back of a nondescript alley, waiting for something – or someone. Her hand is still in his grasp, but he doesn’t hold her quite so tightly now.
A distracted smile in her direction and a soothing, “They’ll be along any minute now.”
Then he stands up a bit straighter suddenly and she follows his gaze toward a young woman, about her height and apparent age, blonde, cheerful. And next to her –
Something clicks and falls into place, something that was there at the back of her mind the whole time. Keys and watches, blue boxes and understanding strange languages. The Doctor and the Lonely God, her father and all the forgotten, half remembered things, they fall into place, become a pattern and the one connection she never made, maybe never allowed herself to make.
Her father, the eternal rebel, always outside the system, always doing things differently. Who better to survive the War than him? Who should the Lonely God be, if not her beloved, her lost and lonely father?
There’s a sound like singing and sunshine in her head suddenly, a vague memory of a million minds just out of reach, a connection between all of them and it shifts and rises from the dark, snaps into place as her gaze meets that of the last other of her kind.
As she looks into the eyes of the man she’s been looking for for so, so long. Becoming unstuck in time, falling, flying, gaining, losing, it was all for this, this one second. She understands now, oh Time, she understand and it’s okay.
Vaguely she notices shaking off Blue – Jack’s – hold and stepping forward as the other freezes in his tracks, his eyes wide in shock and fear and disbelief. And underneath, the soaring of hope that refuses to be killed, the drum beat of yes, yes, yes
and please, oh please
that even a thousand years can’t kill. She knows that because she can feel it, can hear
The empty spaces in her head are filling, filling with him, filling with the missing parts of herself.
And then she digs into the pocket of her jeans, notices the woman tense in weary distrust and ignores her as she brings out her hand.
Turning her palm up, she holds out her hand, opens her fingers, displaying a battered, silver fob watch and asking in a small voice, “Can I open the watch now, Daddy?”
When she was twenty, she became unstuck in time.
A bit like the guy in that book they made her read in high school. A book about a war and a man that became unstuck in time. Well, this was the story of a war and a girl that became unstuck in time after jumping off a tower to save the world.
She was only twenty.
That sounds like an epitaph.
But it’s not.
It’s the Beginning.
Sequel is here.