It’s the End of the World As We Know It
A/N: Thanks for the reviews, and thanks to AwesomeGeek for the rec! Chapter title is from an REM song.
And dammit! Kripke made a liar out of me. After watching the rest of Season 5 of SPN, there’s no way this fic won’t be AU. It won’t veer off canon right away, but I thought I’d give official warning now.
Buffy frowned as she took another good look at her surroundings. Where the heck was she? This definitely didn’t look like California. Then again, it didn’t look like any
place she knew. Was this an alternate reality? Or another dimension? Or-
“Welcome to the future.”
At the sound of the now familiar voice, Buffy whirled around, swinging the scythe through the air as she turned. She didn’t stop its momentum until the blade lightly rested against Zachariah’s neck. To her extreme annoyance, this didn’t faze him in the slightest.
“You know, most people would be bowing down in reverence at this awesome display of power,” he commented lightly. “But then you aren’t most people, are you, Miss Summers?”
Buffy just smirked, though she lowered the scythe down to her side, because really, it was an empty threat and they both knew it. He was her only way back home – for now anyway.
“The future, huh?” she coolly asked.
Zachariah nodded. “2013, to be exact. This is what the world will be like if nothing changes and no deals have been made,” he revealed. He walked over to a crumbling building. “Nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, a real fixer-upper,” Buffy sarcastically replied, though inwardly her mind was racing.
Would the world really look like this in just ten years? Why didn’t someone stop this? Where was she in the future? Where were the slayers and the Scoobies? And where was the PTB’s precious balance? Then again -
“Of course, this could just be some fantasy land you made up to get me to do what you want,” she pointed out.
Apparently angels didn’t like to be questioned, and they really
didn’t like to be called liars.
Zachariah pulled himself up to his full height and glowered at her. “Because otherwise I would not waste the precious time and tremendous energy it took to bring you here,” he snapped. “I am an angel of God on a mission to stop Lucifer, not some insignificant demon, indulging a mere whim.”
Unfortunately, Buffy got the uneasy feeling that he was telling the truth. Of course, it didn’t make her any less angry. In fact, she felt her own temper rear its ugly head. Seriously, she hadn’t even finished her battle with the First before he had hijacked her into the future for his own pet apocalypse?
A small voice inside her head reminded her that she needed to play nice if she wanted to get home. Too bad she couldn’t hear it very well over the battle roar of the Slayer.
“Well, if it took so much out of you, Zacky
, why show when you could just tell?” she asked belligerently.
For the briefest of seconds, Buffy could’ve sworn she saw something – inhuman – flash in the angel’s eyes. Then, as if it was as easy as flicking a switch, the look vanished and Zachariah regained his calm composure.
“Would you have believed me otherwise?” he countered.
Buffy opened her mouth to retort but quickly snapped it shut, scowling to herself. She had just walked right into that one, hadn’t she? Now the voice inside her head was clucking at her disapprovingly.
Knowing that he had won that mini-battle, Zachariah smiled at her, condescension back in full swing. “I know your type, Miss Summers,” he declared. Then, almost under his breath, he added, “Perhaps all too well.”
Buffy set her lips in a thin line. “Fine, so I came, I saw, I made copious notes. Future, bad. I get it. Now are we done here?” she demanded.
Zachariah shook his head. “Not yet. There’s more you have to see first.”
At this remark, Buffy was really tempted to see exactly
what the scythe could do against an angel – for all of two seconds. Then logic and reason and her desire not to get stuck here kicked in.
She still wasn’t anywhere near happy, but this was getting her nowhere. She would just have to play his game, as much as it pained her to do so. Then she could go back to Sunnydale and wash her hands of pushy angels once and for all. If this future was
for real, she’d gather the troops and work it out on her own terms. After all, she had an army now, didn’t she?
At this thought, however, a small seed of doubt entered Buffy’s mind. Though she, the Scoobies, and the slayers had all worked together to defeat the First, they hadn’t exactly been BFFs right before that. And then there was still the ‘consequences’ that both Zachariah and Whistler had hinted at if she didn’t pick Team Angels.
Buffy took a deep breath and let it out slowly, and with it her all her anger and uncertainty. This wasn’t the time for it.
“Fine, but if there are monkeys ruling the Earth now, I’m not going to be happy,” she warned.
Zachariah said nothing; he just smiled benevolently at her, apparently tickled pink that she was going to be the little obedient human.
Buffy rolled her eyes before turning to survey the wreckage around her.
“So, what? I wander around here, figure out how the world turned out like this, and then I go back and fix it, kill Lucifer or whatever?” she guessed.
Zachariah studied her for a moment before replying. “Not… exactly,” he finally said. “This may be shocking to hear, but this isn’t about you, not really. Sam and Dean Winchester are the key to this.”
Buffy refused to react to his little jab. Instead, she focused on what he was really saying in his oh so delightful way.
“Okay,” she said slowly. “So I’m supposed to help them then.”
“That is up to you,” Zachariah replied, giving her a very pointed look.
Buffy knew what he was getting at; if
she accepted his offer.
Wanting to avoid any further talk about this until she knew that he was really going to send her back to Sunnydale, she changed the subject. She turned back to the graffiti on the wall and gestured toward the word ‘Croatoan’.
Zachariah’s expression grew grim. “That’s Lucifer’s end game. The Croatoan virus infects humans and turns them into demons,” he explained.
“Everyone is a demon here?” she blurted out in shock.
The angel nodded. “Either that, or fighting against them.”
Buffy felt her stomach churn as she processed this information. Demons destroying the world? Sure, she could believe it; wasn’t it her yearly mission to stop that from happening? But people becoming demons and then
destroying the world? Nope, definitely didn’t see that one coming. Suddenly, the thought of fighting futuristic monkeys didn’t sound so bad.
Before she could ask more questions, she heard a faint scuffling noise in the distance; both Buffy and Zachariah turned toward the sound. Someone was approaching. Actually, it was more like a group of someones. Human, too, by the feel of it – or lack thereof.
“Ah, here comes the toy soldier now,” Zachariah announced. “This is where I take my leave. I’ll see you again when you’re ready.”
“Wait, what?” Buffy exclaimed in disbelief. “That’s it? You aren’t at least going to be my knowledgeable yet totally annoying guide?”
As much as she didn’t like the angel, she really wasn’t too keen on being left on her own here.
Zachariah just ignored her and turned to go. Before he took a step, however, he turned back to her, almost as an afterthought.
“Oh yes, one more thing. This group tends to be a little – touchy – about demons in humans. Understandable, of course. But you might not want to mention anything about being the Slayer. It’s going to be hard enough to explain that,” he said mildly, gesturing to her stomach.
Buffy frowned and looked down. Oh yeah. She had been run through during the battle with the First. She had been so busy dealing with Zachariah and Whistler, however, that she had forgotten all about it. Well, that, and the fact that it miraculously didn’t hurt anymore.
She quickly pulled her shirt up to inspect the wound. Considering the weirdness of this entire situation, she wasn’t too surprised to see that the potentially fatal gash had already started to heal, faster than even her Slayer healing could handle.
She had a hunch the angel had something to do with it, most likely when they were in the hospital. She knew she should be grateful, but she just couldn’t muster it. He probably only did it so she could focus on what he was saying instead of worrying about bleeding to death.
She looked up to ask Zachariah about it, but to her chagrin, the angel had disappeared.
Before she could even so much as look up at the sky to curse at him, she saw the group of people round the corner. There were five, maybe six of them, and they were heavily armed. And they didn’t know her from, well, a demonically infected human.
“Great,” she muttered, quickly taking cover in the closest alleyway.
This was so not good.+++
Dean’s senses were on high alert. He had just caught a slight movement up ahead before it disappeared into an alley. There was someone there, and it had to be a Croat. No living person would be here, not in the middle of this Croat-infested area.
At his signal, he and his team swiftly and stealthily moved closed in on the alley. Once they were within range, they all took cover behind a couple of burnt out cars. Dean motioned for Gutierrez and O’Connell to each take a side, while he, Ray, and Dylan stayed in the middle, effectively surrounding the Croat. He was about to signal for everyone to close in when something really unexpected happened.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” a female voice called out. “But if you shoot at me, I’m going to get cranky.”
Dean frowned. What the hell was this? Croats didn’t try to talk their way out of a fight; he didn’t even think they were capable of it. They were nothing but violent demons, hell bent on killing as many people as they could.
He had just assumed she was one of them because of where they were, but her strange behavior made him hesitate – apparently too long for her liking.
“Um, hello?” she called out again, this time with traces of annoyance in her voice. “Am I talking to myself here? Because this alley smells really bad and I’d like to get out of it – preferably without bullet holes.”
Shit, maybe she wasn’t a Croat after all. Could she really be a civilian, though? If she was, how the hell did she end up here?
“It’s a trap,” Dylan whispered. “She’s probably one of them
Dean didn’t say anything; he almost felt sorry for the kid. Dylan was itching for some action – had been ever since his girlfriend and baby died when Lucifer hit Detroit. And he was right; the Croats running this territory were different than the average ones – but only in that they were much stronger and more bloodthirsty. Tactics like this were a waste to them; they didn’t need them.
Yeah, if she were truly one of them, half his team would be dead already.
Dean looked to Ray, his second in command, who just shrugged. He didn’t immediately give the go ahead nod, though, which said something in itself. Obviously the older hunter didn’t know quite what to make of the situation, either.
After thinking for another moment, Dean decided to follow his gut. “Then don’t give us a reason to shoot. Drop any weapons you have and come out slowly,” he suggested.
“Uh, no,” came the immediate amused reply, and Dean could practically hear the eye roll behind the woman’s words.
“Dean,” Dylan hissed. “Let’s just waste the demon bitch and go.” He fell silent at Ray’s glare, however, and stared sullenly at the ground.
Dean peered over the car at the empty space of the alleyway. “Alright, How about this? We both come out into the open, no weapons,” he offered.
A snort of derision echoed through street. “Both?” she said dryly. “You mean, just you and me? So your friends can shoot me down?”
She was smart, Dean would give her that. It helped him feel a little better about the entire situation. Maybe she was still alive for a reason other than blind luck, which didn’t exist as far as he was concerned.
“They’ll put their guns down, too,” he conceded, looking directly at Dylan as he spoke.
“Including the two guys you have sneaking up on either side of me?”
Dean and Ray exchanged significant glances. This was getting more interesting by the second.
“Stand down,” Dean shouted to his men. Then he looked over to the alley again. “Alright, we’ll come out, just as soon as you do.”
“Why do I have to go first?” she said indignantly.
Dean gritted his teeth in frustration. This shouldn’t be so damned difficult. It was just one freaking person who was outmanned and outgunned.
“Because otherwise we’ll just shoot you down now,” he barked, finally losing his patience. “What’ll it be, princess?”
Silence. Dean kept his eyes trained on the alleyway. After another long moment, he saw a blonde head peek out around the corner. He watched as she carried a wicked looking axe with her. She leaned it against the alley wall, though it was still close enough for her to grab.
Fair enough. Dean stood and stepped out into the open. As he did, he dropped his gun down to his side so that it hung on the strap next to his hip, also within reach but not immediately a threat; he nodded to his men to do the same.
That’s when he finally got a good look at the woman. Dean couldn’t help but give an involuntary start. She was young, mid-twenties maybe… and tiny… and she had a silver cross hanging around her neck - obviously not a Croat.
He also noticed that she was assessing his group with a practiced eye. Her stance and her demeanor didn’t scream military, though. Maybe she was a hunter.
“What’s your name?” he asked brusquely.
“Anne,” the woman replied, completely nonplussed by the situation and not willing to offer any more information. “And you are?”
Dean ignored her question. “Are you by yourself?” he asked, quickly scanning the area for any more people.
Anne looked down. He saw a flash of sorrow enter her eyes, and it was real. Then she looked up at him with a steady gaze.
“Yes,” she said quietly but firmly.
He opened his mouth to question her further, but Ray beat him to it.
“Well, you’re not safe here. None of us are, not in the open like this. We have a base camp a few miles away. Why don’t you come with us?” his second suggested.
Dean gave him a sharp look but said nothing. The older hunter was a freakin’ awesome judge of character; it was one of the reasons why Dean relied on him so much. Ray also didn’t speak out of turn like this very often, and when he did, it was because he had a helluva good reason. This time, though, Dean knew why he spoke up, and he didn’t like it. Ray could be damned sure they would be having a talk later, though.
Anne, unaware or unconcerned about this undercurrent between the two men, nodded in thanks. She leaned down to pick up her axe. As she did, her jacket opened up slightly to reveal the white shirt underneath. That’s when Dean saw the blood on her shirt. He immediately raised his weapon at her, his men falling quickly in suit.
“Are you kidding me?” she snapped as she put her hands on her hips, the axe pressed non-threateningly against her side.
He noted with grudging respect that the woman didn’t look scared or angry. She just looked… annoyed. Still, he sure as hell wasn’t taking any chances, not about this.
“Listen, lady, you could be infected. So give me one reason not to shoot you down right here,” Dean growled.
Instead of ducking for cover – or trying to attack – the woman sucked in her cheeks. “Unless these crouton demons have magical swords that infect people, I’m safe,” she said snarkily, raising the hem of her shirt just high enough to show them the source of the blood. When he didn’t immediately respond, she frowned worriedly. “Wait, do
they have magical swords? Because that would totally suck… and make my case much harder to prove…”
Dean stared at her in disbelief, actually speechless for moment. She was serious.
Who the hell was this woman, who obviously had some kind of combat experience and yet was so freakin’ clueless about Croats?
Deciding to focus on one headache at a time, Dean inched closer, trying to get a better look at her injury. She had obviously gotten it recently, but it was at least a week old, maybe more. If she had been infected, she would’ve been exhibiting symptoms by now. She was clean.
Finally satisfied that she wasn’t a Croat, he lowered his weapon again; his men did the same, although Dean frowned when he noticed Dylan hanging onto his weapon for an extra beat.
Anne raised a delicate eyebrow. “Well, now that that’s
settled,” she said primly.
The effect was ruined, however, by the smirk that was currently creeping across her features - one that had a distinct ‘I told you so’ vibe to it. Well, that and she began effortlessly swinging the axe around as if it were a toy.
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. What the hell had he gotten himself into? +++
Review? Pretty please?7/16/11: I know it's been awhile (and then some) since my last update. I just wanted to let you know that I haven't abandoned this story! Unfortunately, I have more WIPs than I know what to do with. So, instead of trying to juggle all the stories at once, only posting an update every now and then, I've decided to have the majority of this written before I start posting again. This way, the chapters will come frequently and regularly, breaking up the flow as little as possible.
Thank you for bearing with me!