Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, nor Doctor Who. They belong to their respective creators and I don’t make any profit at all. Large aspects of the mythology of this ‘verse do belong to me, though, so don’t go stealing those without permission.
A/N: This is a one-shot sequel to my story Lines
. Reading this without Lines
will make absolutely no sense to you, whatsoever. I think. Just… read the other one first. Please. Differences in some canon plot points (coughAlicecough) are due to Buffy’s presence, of course, so please don’t go telling me I’m being wonky. Major events stay the same. Also, you might need a Kleenex box next to you for this. Angst galore! Character death, too, even if it’s canon.
Big thanks and a lot of love go to GreySerenitatis for beta-ing this story, and to all the lovely people on lj, who listen to me whine about all the rabid plot bunnies.
They started spending more time together as a team after Toshiko and Owen and the whole mess with Grey, which they decidedly did not talk about.
At first they just hung out after hours at the Hub, talking, exchanging stories that had nothing to do with work. Later, when Buffy and Jack were fit for human company again(read: when they remembered to breathe and move at the speed of humans, not glaciers and speak with only one voice), they moved their get-togethers out of the Hub and into a nearby pub.
The time of choice for those meetings was the afternoons between nights of hunting aliens and mornings of cleaning up the messes. When Rhys had the time, he joined them, laughing every time John flirted with Simon, who had no idea how to deal with it and blushed and stuttered, amusing the second captain to no end.
Ianto, or sometimes Gwen, usually took pity on their new doctor and put him beside them, so he would be safe from John, who kept smirking in his direction. Buffy and Jack sat apart from each other on Ianto’s orders. He was the one that had to deal with them when they snapped back into the state of fugue they’d been in after sleeping for two thousand years and so no-one contradicted him.
Sometimes there were arguments when Gwen told Rhys more than Jack thought he ought to know, or when John called Ianto ‘eye-candy’ one time too many. Sometimes Simon’s refusal to forget about work for a few hours annoyed them until they all barked at him to shut up.
But because it was early afternoon they mostly had the pub to themselves and no fight ever ended in serious injury and sometimes, when everyone was talking all over each other, telling dirty stories about each other, Buffy caught Ianto’s eye and he smiled at her.
That smile wasn’t happy or brilliant or any other cliché and it couldn’t be, because Ianto had seen far too much to ever be truly young and free again. But it was a content smile, filled with warmth and satisfaction and the knowledge that he had a place in the world and people who loved him.
It was a good smile.
Later, after everything went so horribly wrong and afternoons in the pub stopped mattering to anyone, it was that smile that Buffy missed the most.
Because it had been good
Ianto was scandalized when he realized that the two world travelers he shared his bed with didn’t read. It started out as a joke about someone being a bookworm and ended up with a conversation about favorite books, to which both Buffy and Jack shrugged and said they didn’t have any. Well, Buffy said she didn’t have any favorite books. Jack said Kamasutra.
Somehow, no-one was surprised.
Except Ianto, who couldn’t understand how you could spend more than a century on Earth and not have read the classics, at the very least. Dickinson. Bronte. Hell, Stephen King would have been perfectly alright with him.
But neither Buffy nor Jack seemed to care so he started leaving books lying around. On coffee tables, next to the bed, on the kitchen counters. Some open, some closed, all of them posed attractively. Anything from Anne Rice to Salmon Rushdie.
Jack, as a firm believer in spending his time more productively (sex was theoretically very productive, FYI), didn’t bite. At all. Ianto caught him using Vonnegut as a coaster once.
Buffy picked up a few of the books to leaf through. Some of them (a few, really) she even read through to the end, even if they were boring and annoying and did she mention boring? It wasn’t really about the books anyway, she knew. It was about Ianto, trying to entrench himself deeper in her and Jack’s memories. Trying to tie himself up in their heads, a million tiny knots connecting him to other things. Enough to keep him there, when the flood of time and forgetting came rushing through.
He was trying to make them remember him and no amount of telling him they wouldn’t ever forget chased away that tiny glint of doubt deep in his eyes. Brilliant man that he was, he still thought himself utterly forgettable. Silly, silly man, Buffy thought. But she read the books. A few of them anyway. For him.
And in the years year 2524 she found a battered copy of Cat’s Cradle
on the table of a vendor on a spaceport near Saturn and laughed out loud at the memory of Ianto whacking Jack with his own copy for not respecting books they way they should be.
In the TARDIS there was a room full of clocks. Tall, short, big, little, metal, crystal, wood. Expensive and cheap and loved and uncared for, worn and new and working and broken.
Buffy caught the Doctor in that room once, during her first five years on the old girl. He’d been new to this whole god business still, new to his body, new to the silence at the back of his mind. New to this universe that had no Time Lords in it anymore.
He’d committed genocide and he’d died with them, with all his people, only to come back in fire and rage.
Death wasn’t a revolving door. You were never meant to come back. Just ask Buffy.
But he had and he was and now Time flowed through his veins and Buffy knew he was a bit left of sane most of the time.
“This is creepy,” she told him when she found him in that room, the room of time.
He shrugged and gave her a look that said go away
. She smiled and ignored the look, turning in a tight circle to take in the army of cogs and bolts and broken things.
“Do they have a purpose?” she asked after a minute of silence.
He stood in the middle of the debris and said, with his eyes closed and his jaw clenched too tightly, “Lost time. This is where all the lost time goes.”
She fed on death. She couldn’t help it, even if she often hated it. Hated even more the looks she got, from the Doctor chiefly, but sometimes also from Jack. Gwen, too, a few times. The looks that said how could you?
, how dare you?
, people are dead and you feed on them
. People are dead and you
No-one looked at Jack like he was something dirty when he brushed the back of his hand or an elbow or a shoulder against other people, against children or pregnant women, against those bursting with life.
No-one looked at the Doctor like he was a vile thing when he inhaled the scent of old people, that powdermothballssweatsalve smell that came with age and memories. With time.
It was only her they looked at like she was toxic, only her they were disgusted with. She hated that. She thought, though, that if they didn’t look at her like that, she might hate herself more for it. As it was, she was so defensive of others that she had no time to hate herself, too.
She was the death gobbler, the life eater, the corpse bride.
The last thief anyone had to suffer.
So, one day, she started stealing other things, too. Why not? Those she loved died and when they did, they filled her with giddy joy and energy. It couldn’t get worse, could it? Especially since it was her nature and she’d long since learned that fighting nature was useless.
They were small things she stole, tiny scraps of the dead.
Tiny scraps of their lives
There was a movie ticket in Owen’s pocket that she kept. She took one of Tosh’s earrings. Simon’s favorite fountain pen. A hair clip that had belonged to Rose, even though Rose was only gone, not dead. Not yet, in any case. Somewhere on the other side of the void, Rose Tyler lived. For now. There was Ianto’s diary, later. She had a bracelet that had once belonged to Jack, swiped back in the sixties in memory of a man that died on a gaming station in space.
She thought it started with Torchwood, all those beautiful and young people that died so senselessly, that needed to live on, somewhere, somehow. She was never going to die. Who better to remember?
So she stole tiny parts of people’s lives and all their deaths, let things accumulate in a suitcase hidden away in the Hub and thought, the entire time, that one day she’d need to settle down, would need to find a place to keep those things because they would fill rooms upon rooms one day.
She fed on death because that was what she was. That was her nature. But she kept those scraps because she had been human once, too, and that was also her nature.
For eternity. Always. Forever. People kept saying that. People kept promising eternity. I’ll love you forever. I’ll miss you forever. I’ll always remember you.
But they couldn’t and they never did because eternity was beyond them. Eternity was love’s impossible hope, memory’s impossible dream.
There was no forever because the concept, the very fact of forever, was beyond comprehension. Forever wasn’t until the end of time, it was beyond that. The end of the universe wasn’t the end of forever because forever had no end.
One universe could end and another be born and eternity would still be as far away as it always had been.
But Buffy was a fact and so were Jack and the Doctor. People talked of the end of time, but time never ended because even if there was nothing at all in the universe, that nothing was still something and time never ceased. And where there was time, there was life and where there was life, there was death.
Buffy hoped and dreamed and feared, that the end of this universe would be the end of her, or, if not that, then at least the end of her consciousness. The end of Buffy, if not the end of Death.
But maybe it wouldn’t be. Maybe the universe would end and there would be a billion ages of darkness and then a new universe would be born and she’d still be there.
People kept promising eternity.
It sounded like a threat.
The 456 came like a flood wave, sweeping them away. The children stopped and then the explosion, the Hub in pieces and Buffy and Jack and Simon blown up, only Buffy and Jack grew back all their parts and Simon didn’t
, was only twenty-four when he was blown sky high and never came down.
And then things got worse still until Thames House, where Jack held Ianto as he died, where Jack promised Ianto that they, he and Buffy, would remember him still in a thousand years and then Ianto died
and Jack came back to Buffy with empty hands and hollow eyes and she knew, she knew before he even spoke and Gwen cried for days.
Buffy had no tears.
They found a solution, eventually, of course they did, but it was too late and Buffy wondered, sometimes, why bother? Why try to end this when everything that mattered was already gone? But then Gwen put her hand on her belly and tried to be brave and John cracked a dirty joke and she knew why. They found a child. A boy that no-one would miss, an orphan, a victim of life and death and war.
It had to be him because none of them had children (not yet) and they needed a child but how could they justify taking one from a random family? Stealing a child from their mother? So they found a child without mother and pretended that would make everything better, killed that child, that nameless boy and saved the world.
They saved the world and Buffy puked all night, refusing to assimilate his death, to feed on it. She wouldn’t, gods, she wouldn’t. She kept the battered Pokemon card she found in his jeans pocket and the bitter taste of bile and guilt at the back of her throat.
In the morning John packed his things and started fiddling with his Vortex Manipulator and Jack was there, suddenly, at his side, asking for a ride. He kissed Gwenie on the forehead in goodbye but he didn’t touch Buffy because Ianto wasn’t there and they couldn’t… they couldn’t. Not without him.
They hadn’t touched since Thames House, keeping the space between them like Ianto would come back and fill it again, take it all up and connect them. But he never did.
There was a flash of blue and then Jack was gone and hours later another and then Buffy was gone too, off the planet, out of this time, just away.
The ghosts of Ianto Jones and a nameless, motherless boy followed her on silent feet.
Of all the ridiculous things she had missed while on Earth, the wildly fluctuating gravity of other planets was number one. Well, okay, no, not number one, exactly, but close to the top.
She loved the feeling of free floating she got on planets with low gravity, loved the pressure that surrounded her like a second skin, like a fist, on the ones with high gravity. One carried her away and the other made her feel solid, more solid than anything else, except maybe sex. She’d hung around Jack too long.
But whether she was floating or being flattened, both states always reminded her of the one most important thing, the one thing she must never forget: She had a body.
She was more than voices and memory, more than stolen deaths and psychic abilities. She was real
Six months after leaving Earth, when she could work around her grief and guilt and despair long enough to want
again, she went to one of her favorite planets. It was a planet as soft as down with almost no gravity at all. The natives were tall, well over ten feet, and willowy and slow, like branches in a soft breeze. They moved with languid grace in swirls and circles, dancing instead of walking.
They danced their whole lives, never once moving in a straight line.
They invited her to dance with them and she did, feeling lighter.
Ten years in linear time, twenty years with the Time Agency, half a century with the Doctor, one and a half with Jack back on Earth. Two thousand years in a deep grave and a million years in the loops in between, the side-trips and adventures, the before and afters and meanwhiles of timetravel.
The memory of heaven never dimmed.
Smell of aftershave and coffee.
Coffee. Oh, the coffee.
Silent tears and strong hands, holding on too tightly. Or just tight enough, really.
Sad eyes and slow smiles.
A loud family and a secret passion for hard rock.
Endless files and papers, scattered and read. Every single one of them read.
Keeper of secrets.
Sexier than James Bond with a gun in his hand and horribly bad with knives.
Kinky bugger. Up for anything at least twice.
So very lovely.
She hoped that one day that last one wouldn’t be the first thing that came to mind when she thought about him.
She didn’t know where Jack was, except in the vaguest sense of this way, not that
and thousands of years over there
. She didn’t want to know.
She lived with certainties (was one herself). She didn’t need to know where Jack was and what he was doing because one day he would turn up, just like the Doctor would. Bad pennies, all three of them. The only ones in the universe, come to think of it.
Just because they had taken off in opposite directions of the universe that didn’t mean they were over. Jack was Jack and she loved him like she loved her arms and legs, necessarily and devoutly and utterly automatically and involuntarily. And he loved her the same.
They simply couldn’t look each other in the eye right now.
There was a planet in the seventy-fourth century that had held on to its monarchy for the past thirty-odd thousand years. The inbreeding was amazing, bad enough, in fact, that she thought the royalty was an entirely different species when she first saw them.
Most of the planet’s population was mostly human, except for some scales here and there on their pale yellow skin. Actually pretty. The prince she was introduced to in a gibberish version of Standard was sickly yellow, almost green, with bigger scales that shimmered in sickening colors, like an oil film. He was shorter than his guards by three heads, bent over and curled into himself.
She put her foot in, of course, before figuring out that no, not a different species, just a very, very limited gene pool for thousands of generations. Whoops.
Of course, the prince then decided that with her yellow hair and big mouth she’d make a nice fresh piece of ass for aforementioned gene pool and didn’t she want to be his mistress? No? His sex slave maybe? She could bear him a couple dozen sprogs and die saving his bloodline or something along those lines.
She did the only smart thing to do: She whacked him over his inbred skull and ran.
Through the palace, out into the city, through narrow alleys and then into the tunnels that led past the city walls, into the woods beyond, all the time ducking, weaving and avoiding the stun blasts they guards sent after her, listening to the sound of the prince having an epic shit fit over loudspeaker, clearly audible to his entire people, who stood dumbstruck in the streets and stared at the speaker poles, utterly flabbergasted.
She would have bet her Vortex Manipulator that the good prince wouldn’t be in power much longer. Ha!
It wasn’t until she finally managed to escape her pursuers and crumbled into a panting heap at the base of a giant tree, heart racing and legs burning, that she realized she was laughing.
Had been laughing the whole time.
She put a hand to her chest, feeling her heartbeat race beneath her fingers, and smiled sadly to herself.
She told Ianto once that she loved too easily, that she was too cheap for her own good. She told him that the same night she told him that she wouldn’t be that girl for him and some days afterwards she thought all of those things were a lie.
She thought she didn’t love at all because if she did, how could she move on so easily? Okay, so maybe ‘easy’ was the wrong word, but she always moved on. Always. First Angel then Riley and Faith and Spike and Giles and Jack and Jack and Jack and the Doctor and Jack and Ianto.
She thought she loved them all, told them in the dark of night. It wasn’t about sex with some of them, but she loved them anyway. Or so she said. But then they died, or left or tried to end the world (worlds) and she moved on.
And that wasn’t right.
She’d seen Gwen in those few hours when she thought Rhys was gone, had seen Willow after Tara had died. She’d seen it in movies and in real life, so often. People didn’t just move on. They got stuck, glued to that one moment, that one ending, and it ruined them utterly.
Buffy hurt and she ached and she cried, but she always moved on.
The logical answer to that conundrum was that she didn’t love. Not really. If you really loved, moving on was unthinkable, was sacrilege, was like cutting your own throat, only worse.
She told the Doctor her theory once. In her defense, she was falling down drunk at the time and he appeared out of nowhere, coat swishing, forehead wrinkled in what she later learned was pain and frustration. He was dying at the time, meaning to say a quick goodbye. She cost him an hour of his farewell tour, but he said, in typical Doctor fashion, that he didn’t mind. But that was later, much later.
That night, she told him that she suspected she was a cold-hearted bitch who never loved anyone because she felt
like dying when they left her, but she never did
He laughed and laughed and laughed and told her she was a stupid ape (something he hadn’t done in a while) and that she wasn’t less than anyone else but more because she was stronger, so much stronger than anyone else.
She moved through the pain and came out the other side even more brilliant than before, he told her.
And because she was falling down drunk and he looked utterly constipated when he said it, she believed him, just for that one night. Believed him and thought, with relief, that maybe all her lost loves didn’t hate her after all.
It was a comforting thought.
Buffy lost herself in motion. Always had. First it had been ice-skating, then cheerleading, then fighting. Years and worlds later it had been running with a cool, solid hand in hers and then two other, hotter hands – Jack and Rose. Then the decades of perpetual motion with Jack, always traveling, looking for a man in a box that didn’t want to be found.
It was easy. Anything with a rhythm, anything with a beat would do. All she needed was space and her body and she was good. She fell into it, her mind and her worries, let it all fall into the chasm between one movement and the next until her mind was perfectly blank and serene.
And since there was no place in the universe that contained as much innate motion as a big city, she loved those with a passion. They worked the same way she did, rhythm and movement and everything ugly fell through the cracks, was swept away by the tide. Future cities especially were always clean because they moved too fast for anyone to see the dirt. It was there, of course it was. The homeless, the poor, the forgotten.
But if you kept moving you couldn’t see them and if you saved worlds and never stayed for the clean-up, you could move on with only the memory of happy faces.
She lived in New New Vegas for almost two years, walking the streets aimlessly whenever she had the time between a crummy job and another crummy job. She walked and walked and walked and the city moved with her, perpetual motion, endless loops of andthenandthenandthen
Every step another step toward serenity and peace and forgetting.
Maybe, one day, in a million years, she’d get there.
The Doctor explained timelines as the grain in wood, once, to Rose, who sat and listened and only caught about a quarter of what he said. He said timelines ran parallel, like the lines in wood and sometimes there were nodes, where the branches and twigs used to come out, and those were fixed events. He said the lines could bend and waver and sometimes, in very strange cases, cross each other, but ultimately, they were parallel and the universe went on existing.
But the nodes, he said, the nodes were special. The nodes couldn’t move and couldn’t change. They were fixed. Jack and Buffy and the Doctor were nodes in time and all the lines bent around them, never through them.
Some events were nodes, the Doctor said and Rose finally caught on, said her Dad’s death was a node and when she had saved him, the lines had gone wonky and the wood had fallen apart. The Doctor had nodded and told her that, maybe, he’d taken the whole metaphor a bit far, if she thought time was made of wood.
Ianto’s death was a node and Buffy’s and Jack’s timelines bent around it (even though they were nodes, too, at the same time; talk about a headache) and they couldn’t touch. No-one could touch it. Ianto had to die. He did die. Would die. Had died.
Most of time and space existed without Ianto Jones in it and always had.
But before he became a node he was a line (and also at the same time) and she could shift that, she could. Just a bit to the left. Only a fraction. Easy, really.
She stole a convenient Chula ship, time travel-able and all, and she hit Earth, twenty-first century, three days after Jack had come back from the year that never was and the three of them had done the nasty for the first time. She remembered that day because Ianto had worn a different suit in the evening than during the day and he’d smiled at her strangely and she’d never figured out why.
Now she knew.
She caught him on his way home after a long day at the Hub (which was still whole and not so much rubble), and she dragged him away, into the ship, across three centuries and several systems. The ride was a bit wobbly and he looked at her funny because she was wearing a bit too much leather and her hair was short, very short. Pixie cut. There’d been an… incident.
So he knew she wasn’t his
Buffy, but she told him she was still his Buffy and she had to because she already had. Paradox. He went along with it. She bought him dinner on a pleasure planet, showed him the crystal waterfalls, made him eat candy floss and wear a silly tourist hat. He laughed more than she’d ever seen him laugh in an entire week and if he kept giving her those looks still, she didn’t mind.
She was a bit manic, maybe, a bit nuts, but he took it in stride, kissing her and then they had sex in the ship, on the grating that left a pattern on her back that she didn’t care about at all. Afterwards, in the dark, she cried a little and he held her, whispering in her ear, “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
She shook her head hard, said, “Of course not. You’re old and grey and happy and I just missed the young you. Not as flexible as you used to be, you know. Letting Jack do all the work these days.”
She winked and had no idea if he bought the lie. She never asked.
She dropped him back when she’d found him, leaving him with a hickey and a lipstick mark and words of her love in his ear and went to the thirty-fifth century where a battered suitcase full of rubbish waited for her in a safety deposit box. She put a silly tourist hat and a restaurant napkin into it and locked it back up.
She’d? been on the planet for less than ten minutes when someone yelled something in a language she didn’t understand and everyone in the marketplace dropped to their knees before her.
Talk about awkward.
Eventually she managed to get someone to look her in the face and tell her what was going on. For a given value of ‘tell’, that was. He grabbed her hand in excitement, dropped it again immediately, apologized like mad and then waved for her to follow him to the temple.
They made their way through narrow streets, up, always up, to the sound of calls and more people kneeling and Buffy found herself blushing because really, that was a bit much attention, even for a girl like her.
Eventually they reached that temple and were waved inside by a man in robes, looking gob smacked. It was a theme.
And then she understood why they knelt in reverence because there were murals on the walls, more ancient than the city around them, depicting… well, her.
It was her, blonde and with a Vortex Manipulator strapped to her arm, her in jeans and a jacket, unlike anything these people wore. Her, coming from the sky. Her, fighting the monster that ate their children. Her, dying in the fight and rising again. Her, giving them peace.
She laughed until she was dizzy and out of breath because this was the planet where she’d decided to never go back to the Time Agency. They hadn’t sent her to kill the monster but to make a deal with it. She’d seen this planet, these people, and she’d told herself screw this and saved them.
Saved them all.
Two thousand years ago in this planet’s timeline. More than that in hers.
She was their god. More than that, she was their hero.
It’d been a long time since she’d been anyone’s hero.
Flat on her back, grass under her, a million stars above and no living soul on the entire planet. Apart from her.
It was peaceful. Quiet and peaceful and so very empty.
Ianto’d been dead for three months.
That was the first time she cried.
The first person she met that she knew was Martha, Mickey five steps behind, both of them decked out in black, looking dangerous and radiating happiness.
They smiled brightly at her and then she had an arm full of Martha. Or rather, Martha had an arm full of her, hugging the stuffing out of her like all their lives depended on it.
“I heard,” the younger woman finally whispered in her ear, “I heard what happened. I am so sorry.”
Buffy nodded into her shoulder and inhaled the scent of the familiar and said nothing until Martha pulled back. “Where’s Jack then?”
“I lost him.” She meant for it to sound flippant, like it had in the old days. Where’s Jack. Lost him. He ran off chasing tail again. He’ll be back. She was surprised to find that she was telling the truth.She’d lost him, too.
She tried to cover it with a brave smile and the eye roll said she fooled Mickey, but not Martha, who tucked a strand of Buffy’s hair behind her ear and said, “Would you like me to kick his arse?”
Buffy shook her head and this time, her voice was steady. “Nah. He’ll turn up. Tell me what you two have been up to? And what the hell are you doing in Africa?”
“I hate rain,” Buffy snarled as she stepped into the tourist office, finding Ianto behind the desk and Jack perched on top of it, both of them giving her amused looks. Six months until hell came raining down on them. She repeated her sentiment, pouted and wiped water out of her face. It wasn’t even technically raining. She knew that. English people didn’t even register the drizzle outside. But she was Californian, damn it.
“I kind of like it,” Jack admitted with a sly grin. “All those wet people.”
Ianto, who had been in the process of perking up, slumped again. Sometimes, Buffy was sure, he despaired of his two Americans. And then Jack had to go and give him hope.
Buffy simply rolled her eyes. “Wrong kind of wet, Jack.”
He leered and stood, closing the gap between them. “I can make it the right kind,” he breathed, smiling widely.
“You’re like an oversexed puppy.”
His expression never faltered. “And that is news how?”
“Alright,” Ianto suddenly interrupted before they started stripping each other in the middle of a more or less public place. “Come with me.”
He stood next to the door, which made Buffy pout at him, because, well, rain. When he saw he grabbed her hand with a long suffering sigh, snatched the lapel of Jack’s coat with his other and dragged them outside. In the rain.
Which had, sometime in the past two minutes, turned into actual rain
. Ianto walked them out into the center of the Plass. There he released Jack, who immediately turned up his collar, but stayed in place like a good doggie. Ianto smiled at him in silent praise and then reeled Buffy in until he could wrap an arm around her waist and start twirling her in a sloppy circle.
Ianto Jones, the epitome of control and restraint, was dancing in the rain with her.
“Is this so bad?” he asked after a minute.
She shook her head, noticing that Jack still stood where they’d left him, smiling softly. “No,” she said.
According to all the tech equipment she carried with her (which was more than she was really comfortable with), she was standing right on top of the Lost Temple of the Holy Zurugugarath, which contained the Holy Staff of Zurugugarath, which, according to legend, was what would cure the people of Zuru of the terrible sickness that had befallen them.
She thought it was all a bit wonky, personally, but people were dying and had been for a while. Since she was the only one with a way to travel around the planet and a body that could withstand the heat of the desert that had taken over this part of Zuru, she’d volunteered.
It wouldn’t cause any harm, at this point in time. Not anymore. Maybe magic would work where medicine hadn’t.
So, standing on top of the Lost Temple.
Only there was no temple under her feet.
Instead she was standing on top of a giant sand dune that seemed to slope downwards for at least half a mile in either direction. From there, the desert went right on until the horizon in all directions.
That was a hell of a lot of sand. She had no problems with sand, in general, and absolutely none with the sand inside her own desert. But this desert wasn’t her desert.
She sneezed and frowned at the little pad in her hand, telling her the Lost Temple was actually right under her
. About three hundred meters under
She sat down her pack, sneezed again, wiped some sand out of one eye and sighed. This was going to take a while.
A thousand years, Jack had promised Ianto in both their names.
A thousand years and they wouldn’t forget about him. Buffy herself had told Ianto once that they may forget details, may forget sight and sound, but never the idea of him. Never Ianto Jones and what he meant to them.
She had broken many promises in her lifetimes and never really considered herself bound to those made by proxy.
But this one she would keep.
The year 3009, on a quiet, ancient cemetery in the heart of the bustling metropolis called Cardiff. Buffy laughed when she realized how the city had grown, how old this once new cemetery had become. Ivy everywhere, angels weeping silently. Ianto was the only member of Torchwood to ever be buried properly. The Hub had already been gone when he died. No cryochamber for him, no eternity in a box underground, not allowed to even rot.
It was a nice day, sunny and a bit windy. The best days in Cardiff. Buffy meandered her way through the old graves, hands in her pockets, wearing sunglasses against the brightness and maybe the tears. She found a blonde woman standing at the grave that barely barely
read his name anymore and stopped next to her.
The woman smiled and turned to Buffy with her own face. “We promised,” she said.
“We did,” Buffy agreed, taking in her future self, almost a thousand years from where she was right now. For her, this was a visit. It was the other her that was keeping her thousand year promise. “Where’s Jack?”
Future Buffy rolled her eyes. “You know him and graves. He’s getting drunk on the Plass. I’ll have to scrape him off the pavement later.”
Buffy nodded and looked down at the dirt at their feet. So long and it was all that was left of a man they’d loved once. Loved still. “Do you still miss him?” she wanted to know.
Silly question. She missed them all, no matter how long they’d been gone. And when their faces blurred and their voices became tinny, she missed the ideas of them, the concepts. But she still missed
Future Buffy nodded. But she was smiling, too, so Buffy thought that was alright.
They stood in silence until Future Buffy requested, “Can you tell me about him?”
She ran into a version of Jack that didn’t coincide with her somewhere in the Vegas galaxy. He was older than her, way, way older. There was grey at his temples and laugh lines around his eyes.
She hoped they were laugh lines.
But he still twirled her like they were movie stars and he looked happy. He looked alright. The actual kind of alright, not the kind that he faked so well, with pieces rattling in his chest.
He took her out for dinner and then a walk along the beach, not trying to get into her pants even once. “I’m sorry I left the way I did,” he finally said, as they watched the fourth moon rise over a burnt orange ocean.
She shook her head, feeling as peaceful as she hadn’t in a long time. “It’s okay. We were both hurt.”
He’d started it, though, some small part of her said. He asked to leave with John first. He ran out on her first. If he hadn’t… She hadn’t even realized she held a grudge for that until this moment. Not a big grudge, not at all. But it was there. A tiny bit of resentment for his leaving her, too. Leaving her, when she had never left him. Not once. And he…
“We were, but I ran first. I was screwed up and the idea that you
might leave me if I wasn’t faster…” He shrugged. “I couldn’t stand to watch you walk away. So I left first. Forgive me?”
She turned to him, ran a hand through his hair, soft and still mostly dark. Still beautiful. “Of course,” she said, thinking how strange they were, time travelers, apologizing backwards, moving sideways, never once knowing when they’d be tomorrow. He was apologizing for something thousands of years in his past, only barely yesterday for her.
Sometimes she felt like, with all the crazy movement, they didn’t move at all.
He still tasted the same and this time he let her leave first, walking away with the first ray of sunlight on her pillow.
The trick to running was never stopping. When you lost velocity, you were dead.
So you just kept running.
As long as you kept running, nothing could touch you.
It was the middle of June, 1815, and Napoleon would forever fall from grace in less than twenty-four hours. Buffy hadn’t intended to land here, but had taken the change in plans with the grace the Doctor had taught her through countless botched excursions.
Wellington and his men were already here, Napoleon and the French under his command gathering across from the British. The Prussians were on their way, the massive, sluggish shape of an army on the move just visible on the flat horizon. They’d be here soon, but not before the French stated their attack.
And then… she knew how it ended. She’d never been a history buff, but living in a time traveling spaceship taught you things. Napoleon would lose everything and be exiled. Countless men would die and in the end… nothing much had changed. The French king back in power, Britain and the Germans as they were.
Nothing new and nothing different.
Knowing the ending always spoiled the journey.
Watching the first movements of what would amount to one of the most famous battles of history, Buffy thought that she was getting tired of knowing all the endings.
He was cute in a bookish way, barely twenty and so different from any man she’d ever loved that that alone was a turn on. He spoke seven different languages, six of which she’d never even heard of, and when she hired him to translate the seventh for her, what little she knew let her know that he wasn’t cheating her.
On top of that he blushed any time she caught him staring at her and was so obviously fascinated and utterly confused by her that it was almost sweet. She was a mystery and an enigma and utterly impossible to understand, which had to drive the linguist parts of him up the wall. And she was female
He reminded her of Andrew, post evil!days. She also suspected that he was a virgin and while she was still wondering how the hell she’d become the cliché of the experienced older woman, she took him to bed.
Because he was sweet and human, with all that implied, and he liked her and he wasn’t like anyone she’d ever known.
It lasted less than a month, only for as long as she needed him to translate for her, but she liked to think that he left her bed a bit surer of himself than he’d entered it.
And her? She got new swear words in five languages out of it, and a heady mix of guilt and relief that pooled in her stomach and made her feel more alive than she’d been in a long time.
The thing about time travel?
It erased the need for yearning. If you missed something, if you wanted it back, you could just go
back and take it. Anyone, anything, and damn the universe. What’s a few reapers if you can see the man you love again? Your father? Your sister? Your child?
You shouldn’t. But you could.
She’d already gone back once. She’d been careful then, so careful, and she’d come away unscathed. She could do it again. What was one more? What?
In the beginning, the temptation was almost too much to bear. In the beginning, the past beckoned like a siren.
But the siren’s call faded farther and farther away and eventually, yearning turned to craving, turned to wanting, turned to missing.
She didn’t give in.
She thought Ianto would have been proud of that.
She thought that was what people called healing
. Not just moving on. Healing. It scared her.
She was sitting on a slight hill that overlooked the elephant enclosure and that of the weird crossing between penguin and zebra that was only found on one planet in the entire universe. They had a name, but she could never pronounce it.
The zoo was a quiet place, the only sounds coming from the animals and this early in the morning, the occasional toddler out with their parents. She was planning to leave this planet later today, but so far, had no destination in mind. Her bag was sitting next to her, ready for the jump that would take her anywhere and anywhen.
As long as you don’t stop running…
Her feet hurt. Metaphorically speaking. They hurt from all the running.
But she wasn’t sure she could stop yet, wasn’t sure Ianto’s ghost wouldn’t dig its claws into her if she let it catch up.
There was a warm feeling, suddenly, in one of her pockets, followed by something that felt almost like a tiny bite. She jumped a bit and fumbled through her tight jeans for the folded piece of psychic paper tucked away in there. Gift from the Doctor, a million, million years ago.
She flipped open the soft leather case the paper lived in and looked down at the message displayed there.Might have done something stupid. Please help.
For a moment, she thought herf jaw would hit the ground because she knew exactly who that message was from, even if the handwriting was unfamiliar. But the Doctor asking for help? Admitting he’d messed up?
Wow. She looked up, expecting the sky to fall. When it didn’t, she read the rest of the message, scrawled concentric circles and lines that only three people in the universe could read, two of them just so. The Doctor had taught her and she’d taught Jack, much to the Doctor’s grumbling disapproval. They were coordinates, those circles. A time and a place to meet.
If he’d sent her that message, he’d sent it to Jack, too. And Jack could no more resist the Doctor’s siren call than she could. So… so.
Was she ready to see him again? Ready to let go of the past?
She didn’t know. Had no idea. Absolutely none. She didn’t know what she wanted. She never did. She loved too much or maybe not enough and she always moved on but that didn’t mean she liked it, didn’t mean she was okay.
Didn’t mean she’d ever be or had been okay.
This healing thing was still new and she had no idea if it was going to work out and…
Running. She knew that’s what she was doing, knew that was what Jack was doing, and understood the Doctor better for it. Life was easier when it passed in a blur of color on either side of you.
She understood, too, the Time Lord’s reluctance to let himself go and melt into them, to become what they would one day be.
The Doctor was asking for help. And Jack. She missed Jack. Missed the two men that would be her only company until this universe ended and a new one began.
She stood and grabbed her bag, tucking the psychic paper back into her pocket.
She wasn’t ready to stop running. Not nearly.
But no-one in the universe ran like the Doctor did and she thought… well, what she thought was simply, yes.
Sequel coming soon. Please review.