Epilogue, Part I
POWER RANGERS:- Demon Wars
Cassie was jolted out of her thoughts as Faith put her feet up, the heavy boots rocking the table just enough not to spill everyones chocolate. "Well that's that I guess." The former Black Ranger said scooping up her mug.
"The Boss?" Connor asked about the phone call she had just taken.
"Yep." Faith took a massive gulp of chocolate. "She's moved to Minnesota. Wants me to push the keys though the letter box when we pack up."
Sari whistled, "Never expected that. Who's that leave?"
"I don't know, rumour is the College is closing too. It's like the whole town's going to be abandoned before long." Cassie told them.
"Wow, talk about a downer." Sari agreed. "Hey, whatever happened to your friends."
Cassie smiled sadly. "After I told them to hide? Well they did, when Uncle Jack came back in the Apollo…"
"We know that part."
She sighed. "They're staying with Marcus's family, just like he and Dawn arranged." Her admission lead to an uncomfortable silence. No one wanted to think about what they had lost.
"Know what really happened? Not all of it." The former Blue Ranger winced. '"Just that all four of them were trying to get out of there when they got caught in the crossfire. Dawn and Marcus weren't lucky enough to make it." There hadn't been any word about Marcus's bravery, or the sacrifice Dawn had made to get the killing blow saving the rest of them. As far as the world knew they were just a couple of stupid kids that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. "His, Marcus's, parents are good people, they'll take care of them until things are sorted out. We're all getting invites to the wedding by the way."
"Hope it works out for the two of them." Faith nodded, "But I'm not sure if I'm going to be around."
"Really? Why?" Cassie asked.
"That general, your uncle. He offed me a job. Want's me to train his special forces teams. He said there could be some travel involved, whatever that means."
"Slayer trained SG teams. That should be cool, but I think he's made that offer to all of us. Even that one eyed guy." Connor admitted.
"Xander." Faith corrected.
"Yeah him. Well the General also want's me to join one of the teams."
"Well I turned him down." Sari told them. "Alpha and me are going home. My home dimension. I got through to them just after the fight, all the demons are gone and they're rebuilding."
"Didn't offer me a job." Cassie complained. "Just told me he was sending me to the Air Force hospital in Washington for my internship. Guess he wants me close by."
Faith smirked. "Guess so. It's just a shame we lost all our abilities when we gave up our Power Coins though."
"Yeah, no more ancient powers here."
"But after Dawn, well the Coins didn't work anymore anyway." Connor shrugged with a casual wink.
"Kinda lucky, I mean we'd never hear the end of it otherwise right?" Sari reminded them.
Cassie put her cup down and flexed her fingers. The mug flew back into her hand easily. "You got that right." And the four of them shared their private joke. The truth was if any of them did still have Ranger powers Jack would be forced to detain them all. They'd never have a choice, the IOA would have insisted that they were studied. Right now they were nothing more than an oddity, they'd be kept a close eye on, but that was better than being a bunch of lab rats.
As she finished her chocolate Cassie looked to Connor; "You didn't say, you takng Jack up on his offer?"
"Not yet. Thought I'd take some time. This all started because I took a gap year, I'd still like to finish that. My father's picking me up tomorrow."
"Your father? You mean Angel?" Faith asked, Connor nodded. "He know what happened, all of it?"
The former Ranger nodded again. "He didn't take it well. I think what eats him up is that being dead, as far as Buffy knows, he can't be there for her."
"What about Spike?" Cassie asked, remembering the bleached blond vampire that was like a big brother to the Green Ranger.
That got a snort of laughter. "I heard him on the other end, super hearing as it's uses I guess. He got royally angry. Once Angel and I got the full story out there he got real quiet before saying; 'Ain't no bugger putting the Niblet in the ground with out me being there'." It was a pretty good impression. "No idea how he's going to do it though."
"What I've heard about him he'll probably show up in a crap suit and a fake beard." Faith suggested before looking at Sari. "What's up."
The techno-organic girl didn't meet their gaze. "She won't be there."
"Who won't?" Cassie asked.
"Dawn. There's nothing left to put in the ground."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Faith snapped.
"I think I better start at the beginning." Sari winced. "Tommy woke us, me and Alpha, last night."
"Why?" Connor asked.
"He said Dawn's body had just disappeared." That got Cassie's attention. "He was with her… her body most of the night. Standing guard or something. I think he feels guilty for not being there."
"There's nothing he could have done." Cassie reminded her. "He was trapped on the Apollo, along with more than a dozen injured Slayers…"
"…and the Apollo was badly damaged. I know. So does he, I don't think that matters. The point is she, her body, just vanished." The former Yellow Ranger explained. "Tommy had us scan for everything we could think of; transporter traces, dimensional shifts, something anything to explain how she could just disappear, but there was nothing. Just a pile of empty clothes."
"Empty clothes." Cassie repeated, trying to think hard about where she had heard it before.
"I know, weird." Sari shrugged. "We couldn't find anything. Eventually we called the witch, Willow, and she brought Mr Giles. They had an idea. They said that since Dawn was made from the Key and the Key was destroyed the magic that made her unravelled. It was the only explanation we could come up with."
"Unravelled?" Connor asked
Cassie got a sinking feeling. "Un-done. As if Dawn never existed." Sari explained before sighing. Whatever good humour they had vanished. Somehow the idea that Dawn was gone, totally and completely, was even worse. For a horrible moment Cassie wondered if her own memories would disappear too. Dawn was, had been, her best friend. The idea she could lose that scared her.
Faith threw what was left in her mug down her throat. "I'm done. Come on you guy's we're going to be late." Quietly the others finished up and stood up. Taking one last look Cassie followed them out. "So, after this we're all going our separate ways?"
"Looks like." Connor agreed.
"But we'll keep in touch, right?"
"Of course we will." Faith agreed before bringing up her watch one last time. "You guys ready."
They nodded, but just before they were picked up by the teleport Cassie caught something reflected on what was left of the window. Amongst the four beams of the former Rangers leaving there was something else, something green.
After all these years Willow still sucked at lying. That or Buffy just knew her far too well. The two of them were sat on a bench at Dawn's memorial when it came up. There wasn't a building left in Amethyst that could do it. The Church was under about a ton of crashed Pirate Ship and everything else was just as smashed from the giant robot fights. Eventually the grey haired General guy arranged to have it in the College grounds. Buffy had agreed along as her little sister didn't get some stupid military thing. All uniforms and salutes, she wouldn't want that.
It had taken all of five minutes for Buffy to tell that her best friend was trying to hide something from her and another minute to realise it was about Dawn.
She wished she had never asked.
The casket was empty and Dawn's body was gone.
Vanished without a trace.
The Slayer tried to wrap her head around that for a terrible moment, but it was too painful. Desperately Buffy tried to find something positive. "Even if her body's gone her soul is still out there, right? Still in heaven?" She turned and asked.
She had tried, really tried to see that whatever had happened to her Dawn would be in a better place. After all she knew heaven was real, she'd been there the second time she'd died until her friends had pulled her back. She had to believe that if there was nay justice in the world, after all she had done, Dawn's soul would be there too. Happy.
It was a long time before her best friend answered, every second felt like an hour. "I… I don't think so. Dawn's soul was part of the spell… If her body's gone…" Willow didn't finish. She didn't have to. The witch stood up "Buffy, I''m sorry. I wi… I want there to be something I could do, but I can't."
With that Buffy was alone, alone with her thoughts and an empty casket.
That was her curse after all, it was the curse of all those she met and especially loved. They all died far too soon. Dawn was a just the latest in a long list. Her mother, Tara, Angel, Spike, those lost in Sunnydale. She'd learnt all too often eventually everyone she loved was going to leave.
"Death is my gift." Buffy echoed. "Can't I return it for a pair of shoes?" She asked helplessly.
All Buffy wanted was a life, she didn't even really mind the Slaying part as long it didn't take over. After all, she'd saved the world. All she asked for was a little bit of it for herself. But whenever she tried all she ever ended up with was heartbreak. Whenever she thought, she hoped, that she could have some time to live her life something went wrong and each time it did things got worse.
This time it cost her a sister. Who next? Giles? Xander? Willow? She couldn't let that happen, but there was nothing she could do about it. Just like Dawn. Just like her mother.
She was going to lose them, all of them. In the end she was going to be alone. Just like now.
"May I sit?" Someone asked her. Buffy looked up to see an old man, clean shaven, but wouldn't have looked out of place in Lord of the Rings. He wore long rust red coloured robes with silver highlights. He was half lent on a plain silver staff and gave her a faint smile.
"Who?" she began to ask.
"I am Zedd. Formally, and perhaps better known as, Lord Zedd." He sat gently, cradling his staff on the other side. "I had the honour to know your sister. I was even able to help her on occasion. Her loss is a great source of sadness and her achievements a great foundation for joy."
Buffy looked at him. "Zedd, you're that space wizard she told me about?"
"I believe that would be how she would describe me." He nodded to the empty coffin. "It is somewhat accurate."
She looked at him carefully as an idea came to her. "You're a pretty powerful wizard, aren't you?"
He seemed to frown for a moment. "In my day you could have said so."
"Then… Then you could bring her back. You could…"
He shook his head. "You of all people should know that I cannot. Your own resurrection came at the cost of granting the first, original, Evil a foothold in this existence. You must know that opening that door invites nightmares even worse than your imagination."
But Buffy wasn't going to stop. Not now. She couldn't. "That was Will, she didn't know the cost. You do, you know better! You can do it."
Zedd shook his head. "For once it is not a case of knowledge, or skill. It is the act itself that causes the disaster. The Universal balance must be maintained. Your sister was a champion, a Power Ranger. Her actions effected the balance between good and evil on a multiversal scale. To tamper with that is tantamount to destroying existence itself. More so she was the Key to Dimensions made flesh. No wizard or warlock would dare tamper with such unfathomable energies. You simply do not understand..."
"No! It's you that doesn't understand. She's not just dead she's gone. There's nothing left, no body, no sprit nothing. Dawnie's gone and I have to get her back!" A few people were looking at her. Xander, Oliver and some tutor of Dawn's in a bad suit that hovered in the shadows. She didn't care.
The space wizard lent back, "How do you mean, gone?" He asked carefully. Painfully Buffy told him. When she had finished the old man paused. Eventually the old man scratched at the top of his head. "I see, then there is no chance of resurrection."
Buffy could feel herself beginning to cry. It was hopeless, but she had to try. She owed it to Dawn. "There has to be something. You know more about the Key than anyone else. Right."
"I wouldn't say that, I do know enough."
"So you know who made it? I mean these Guardian things, you know how to contact them."
"Contact?" Zedd rocked back in his seat. "You want to… You foolish child." He snapped in anger. "Ignorant. You have no idea what it is you are suggesting."
"I'm asking you to help my sister."
"You're asking me to help you contact the Guardians! Child, at the hight of my power I ruled Galaxies. My name was a curse, spoken on lips of creatures considered gods amongst men. Champions tested their might against me and were found wanting. Great fleets, that would blot out stars with their passing, were swatted out of the sky with a wave of my staff. Even then, even then I would never, never have contemplated your…" he sneered. "Your suggestion."
"They are to gods as you are to an amoeba. They forged the universe in their infancy and now you suggest that they would even acknowledge your existence."
"I don't care, if it means saving my sister I'd do anything and nothing you can say will change that." Buffy snarled. "Now can you help or not?"
Zedd took a deep, calming, breath. Quickly going from outraged to resigned. "Yes I can help, but only, only if you agree to my conditions."
Buffy was careful, she didn't trust this strange man. "What conditions?"
"Wait one month. It will take that long for me to research exactly what is needed." He said seriously. "Then I will return, when I do I will ask you, once again, to give up this insane, foolhardy idea."
"And if I say no, what then?" Buffy growled. "You'll ask again?"
The wizard shook his head. "That would be pointless. No, I'll give you the information you've asked for. I can only hope time, and common sense will change your mind where I can't." With that he stood up, calmly and walked away.
"No chance." Buffy whispered before looking at the coffin again. "I'm getting you back Dawn. I'm getting you back."
Zedd resisted cursing. Fools, lunatics and morons. This world was full of stubborn idiots, everywhere Zedd turned. Champions the lot of them. He quickly turned to young Tommy and an older man that had the air of a Watcher. "Tommy, and you must be Mr Giles, Buffy Summers's former Watcher and current head of the Council."
Pulling his glasses from his face the Watcher polished them with a deft and practiced twist of the wrist. "I am. I couldn't help but overhear, do you really intend to…"
Zedd interrupted. "I have little choice in the matter. If there is a way Miss Summers will find it, with or without my help. I can only hope that if you cannot convince her otherwise that my guidance will, at the very least, help to prevent an even greater disaster."
Tommy scratched at his small beard. "Can it be done, contacting the Guardians I mean?"
Zedd lent on his staff. "Impossible is not a word I am comfortable with. Lots of things are however highly unlikely."
"In other words, yes." A one eyed man announced as he came closer. "I think."
"It does, albeit with a great deal of effort, Mr?"
"This is Xander Harris, a good friend." Mr Giles introduced him.
"Then perhaps you too can be helpful. You, all of you, must convince Miss Summers to accept Dawn's death. Whatever that may truly mean."
"You really don't know the meaning of impossible do you." Harris said. "If there is the slimmest chance Buffy can get her sister back she's taking it and I'm right there with her."
Zedd sighed before straightening. "As you wish, yet you must know that I cannot over state the danger you all are courting with."
"He's right Xander." the Watcher told them. "Whatever could create a mystical object like the Key would be indescribably dangerous."
"Dangerous, smagerous" The young man waved his hand. "Getting Dawnie back is all that matters." With an attitude like that Zedd could understand how he lost an eye. Hopefully his warning to both the Watcher and Tommy would be more successful.
Any more words of caution were hopeless. With a slight bow Zedd left them and headed towards his wife. Rita was deep in talk with a powerful witch with read hair. It took him a moment to recognise her as Willow Rosenberg. Rita patted the young woman's hand, "Seriously my dear, give me a chant sometime. I'll have a pot of tea waiting. Ahh Zeddy, I was just inviting Willow here to come over. Whenever she might need a little help with a spell. After all, no conjuring is so perfect it can't do with a little polish, wouldn't you agree?"
"Oh of course my dear. Fantastic advice. Frequently I've had to revise spell after spell because I overlooked something." Zedd grinned. "I'm afraid we must be going. My brief time back in the world seems to demand more and more of my expertise."
"Yes, I could have told you as much." His wife gave him a smile.
He returned it, "That is unless you wish to stay, my love."
"No." Rita shook her head gently. "I have paid my respects and I am sure anything more would be presumptuous. Of course I wouldn't mind continuing our little talk Willow, but there are always things that need my attention back home."
"No, I mean yes. it's okay. I'll be fine, no problem here." Willow Rosenberg said distractedly. She looked a little shaken, probably from the advice Rita had given her.
Hand in hand the two spell casters left the small gathering. As he looked backed Zedd felt the presence of something not quite human. Their attention focused on him. Dismissing the advanced genetics of the former Blue Ranger he paused and noticed again the figure trying to keep to the shadows, on the outer edges of the gathering.
A vampire, it wore a ill fitting suit, had covered its high cheek bones with a false beard and unnatural platinum blond locks with a matching brown wig. Stretching out with his mystical senses Zedd detected something unusual. A soul.
"It's one of them my dear. No bother." With a nod Zedd took her hand again and they left.
After a few steps Rita stopped again. "I heard what you said. Will you really help that child contact the Guardians."
The former Emperor of Evil set his shoulder's knowing that an argument was about to begin. "I have no choice my love. You know the humans of this world as well as I. The one thing that defeated us so long ago and all the others that have come and gone since. That is why I will, I must keep my promise."
He found himself grinning. "It's their refusal to accept defeat. They fight, they claw, they argue, they bicker, they unite. When the odds are against them the people of this world shine brighter than the very stars. Miss Summers would have found a way. Scaring the heavens themselves with her goal."
"But why, you could have just told them?" Rita asked simply.
That confused him for a moment. "Told them? Told them what?"
She sighed as only Rita could. "The Key is energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only ever changed."
Zedd laughed quietly, "Tell them that? of course not. That would ruin the surprise."
Rita chuckled with him and hand in hand the pair of ancient sorcerers headed off home, to new adventures. Be they what they may.
End Epilogue Part I