And here we are at the end. To everyone who read this magnum opus: I seriously can't thank you enough for sharing this with me.
A/N: Children of Earth and The Year That Never Was cast long shadows, as you will see. Hopefully this story will provide a certain amount of closure.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, especially not the quotes I am using from BtVS, AtS, Torchwood and Doctor Who at the start of every chapter.
Chapter 6Buffy: You're heard of me?
Dracula: Naturally. You're known throughout the world.
Tom Milligan: No need to ask who you are, the famous Martha Jones.
Jack: There’s a saying here on Earth, a very old, very wise friend of mine taught me it: an injury to one is an injury to all. And when people act according to that philosophy, the human race is the finest species in the Universe.
Jack: The end is where we start from.London, 17th of April 2010
When Martha Jones received a phone call from Buffy Summers out of the blue one Saturday morning, her first impulse - as Buffy haltingly tried to introduce herself - was to reply: "I know who you are".
As if she could ever forget....***The Year That Never Was, First Week
It’s been six days since the Master took over the world. Martha has found her way to Scotland, having gained temporary shelter with an elderly retired couple in a small farmhouse near the sea.
As they eat breakfast - a simple meal, eaten in haste with the curtains drawn - the TV in the corner of the room turns itself on.
They all freeze in their seats, before slowly turning to the flickering screen, watching as the Master’s maliciously smiling face appears.
“My dear subjects,” he begins, “Welcome to Morning Execution. But - first of all I want you to meet someone. I give you - Buffy Summers.”
The camera pans down to focus on a young woman, and Martha is transfixed. Everyone she has met - even those helping her - have been terrified.
No - whoever Buffy Summers is, she looks into the camera, and - despite bruises and shackles - her eyes are calm and cool and fearless. It is not just bravery, which Martha has seen plenty of, but something beyond - something she has so far only seen in the eyes of her Doctor. An innate strength or power, and a composure borne of having stared into hell itself. For an endless moment Martha gazes at the beautiful blonde on the screen, and wonders who and what she is.
Then the camera returns to the Master, and Martha shivers at the chill of his demeanour.
“Those of you who know her, pay attention. The Council is no more. You are all very, very alone. And I will find
you, and I will kill
you. Like so.”
The camera swoops as it follows the movement of the Master’s hand, the beam of the laser finding its mark with fluid surety, as the girl who was Buffy collapses.
Martha has seen far too much death in the last few days for another murder to get to her, yet she keeps staring at the screen for a long moment after it returns to fuzzy static.
The Master’s words are still echoing in her mind, even though she doesn’t understand them. Who was Buffy that she merited such a death? Because this wasn’t just an execution - it was a warning. For whatever reason the Master feared Buffy and her mysterious ‘Council’; feared her enough to deliver a special worldwide message.
“Who was she?” Martha asks, turning to her hosts, but they shake their heads. However they know someone who can help her move on that night, and for that she is grateful.
Not that she knows where to go - she has been moving north out of necessity, rather than design, and has spent all her resources and energy on hiding and fleeing. How she is going to accomplish the task the Doctor has given her she does not know, and nearly despairs.
But that evening, tuning the couple’s old battery powered radio, a message comes through (long wave, and almost lost in static) which makes her fight back tears.
“...We will be fighting for a long time. We are outnumbered by monsters. Working around the clock, without quit. But humans have a strength that cannot be measured. This is Connor. If you are listening to this, you are
After that, things get easier.
Not just because she feels less alone, but ‘Connor’ is clearly smart and good at organising, and once Martha manages to get in touch with the Resistance and explain her plan, most of the burden of the practical organisation is taken over by them.
They find her transport and hiding places and guides and suitable clothing, and she can concentrate on her actual work. But it is more than a week before anyone can answer the question she intermittently asks - ‘Who was Buffy Summers?’
She is in Sweden by then, and the woman who is keeping careful watch turns and shakes her head.
“Ask your guide tonight,” she says, and Martha feels a small stab of excitement. A feeling which is tinged with surprise when her guide arrives. The girl looks to be about 14 years old, her round, freckled face and long plaits reminding Martha of Pippi Longstocking, yet there is an almost preternatural composure to her as she shakes Martha’s hand.
“Martha Jones - I am Hanna,” she says in precise, but accented, English, “I will be your guide to Finland.”
“Thank you,” Martha says, and then can’t help adding, “Sorry but - how old are you? Surely there must be someone older, someone...”
She hesitates on the words ‘more qualified and experienced’, but Hanna smiles.
“I am 16, and I am a Slayer. Trust me, you will be more safe with me than with twenty men.”
“What’s a Slayer?” Martha asks, and Hanna’s face hardens, and before she answers Martha knows what she is going to say.
“Did you see the execution of Buffy Summers?”
Martha nods, and over the next several days hears the story of Buffy Summers of Sunnydale - The Girl Who Changed the World. Hanna’s English sometimes falters, as she struggles to tell all the tales, but Martha learns of the ancient Slayer line and the Watchers, of vampires and demons and all kinds of things she would previously have dismissed as nonsense. But seeing is believing, in oh so many ways...
In this new and deadly world that the Master is building, Slayers are like gold dust, and in many cases the backbone of the Resistance. They are spies, messengers, guides. They are strong, have endurance far beyond any normal human, are trained to be vigilant and alert - and most are already accustomed to the thought that their life will be short and brutal and end in violence. They all have that steel in their eyes that Martha first saw in Buffy’s, yet they shrug it off. ‘Imbued with the strength of the demon’ they call it, yet Martha knows that there’s more to it - most of these girls are still in their teens, and yet they carry a burden that many grown men would balk at. Because the Master didn’t issue an empty warning. Martha sees dead Slayers displayed as warnings in town centres, watches several more executed on TV, and often gets asked whether she, too, is a Slayer.
As her own fame begins to spread however, she starts to view the stories of Buffy in a different light. Who was this girl really? Was she, at times, as scared, and lonely, and tired, as Martha? How did she cope when everyone looked to her to save them? In the beginning Martha tried to think of the Doctor, but he’s too old, too alien, too clever, too... otherworldly
for Martha to relate to on a day-to-day basis. But Buffy had - despite everything - been just a girl, like Martha. One girl in all the world, a chosen one. And there was no way to be un-chosen, except death.
When the Master finally comes for her (as she knew he would, as she planned it), her courage nearly deserts her. But she closes her eyes and thinks of all the girls who have already given their life so that this moment might become reality and walks out onto the street to meet her own fate, whatever it might be. ***
In the now, the phone hot against her ear, Martha had to fight to realign her realities since, in her mind, Buffy had become part of that other world, the world that no one remembered - someone dead and mythical and inspirational, not someone who could actually call you up and talk to you.
She had just about managed this, when Buffy explained that she was calling because of Jack - and that she knew him, because they’d once dated...
At which point Martha could feel great parts of her mind collapse and had to ask Buffy to repeat what she’d just said.***London, 20th of April 2010
Buffy was just like Martha remembered. And yet nothing like she expected.
The task which Jack had apparently left her with overshadowed any excitement, because how was she going to find the words to tell someone like Buffy what he had done? She had read the reports on the 456 incident, and cried - and had not known what to say to him when he came to say goodbye.
But Buffy, after they had found each other in the cafe they had chosen for their meeting place, had slowly stirred her tea and then fixed Martha with that look which Martha had never forgotten.
“Let me guess - he saved the world by killing a child.”
Martha stared at her, stunned, unsure how much Jack had told Buffy about himself, but figured that there was no point in hiding anything.
“It was his grandson,” she said quietly, and Buffy absorbed the blow almost imperceptibly, as her eyes unfocused, watching something far, far away that Martha couldn’t begin to guess at.
“Oh Immortal,” she whispered, “I wish-”
Abruptly lowering her head, she was silent for a long moment, but when she looked back up Martha nearly froze. Whether Buffy had let her defences down, or whether Martha had until then been too preoccupied with her preconceptions, she suddenly saw Buffy as just a young woman like herself... A woman as deeply struck by the tragedy that had unfolded as she was herself.
“Were you there?” Buffy asked, and Martha shook her head.
“I was on my honeymoon when it all went down. If he just hadn’t been so worried about interrupting-”
She stopped, knowing full well the hopelessness of this avenue, but saw the understanding on Buffy’s face, and ventured a question. Buffy’s instinctive understanding spoke of a connection far deeper than Martha had anticipated.
“Sorry if I’m prying, but you and Jack... I think it was more than just straightforward ‘dating’?”
In return she received one of the saddest, yet most luminous, smiles she had ever seen, and the words that followed made her question her assessment of Buffy as ‘just a girl’.
“No, it wasn’t just dating. We were a fairy tale.”***Later that day, Buffy and Spike’s house
He found her in front of the portrait. Again
. Despite the Immortal’s instruction to destroy it Buffy had not only kept it, she’d brought it home
and hung it in one of their spare bedrooms where it took up an entire wall.
He almost said something cutting, before realising that she’d been crying. Walking up to her, he softly said “Buffy” and she closed her eyes briefly, before whispering:
“This is how the world ends...”
‘Not with a bang, but a whimper’, his mind filled in. T.S. Eliot of course - she’d been spending most of the Spring semester studying his poems, and it was... fitting, considering. Whatever Spike had ever thought about The Immortal, there was no denying that the man he’d once known had been... hollowed out
by whatever had happened to him.
“What did this Martha tell you then?” he asked, and slowly she turned to him.
“She... confirmed what I suspected. But-”
She swallowed, her face seemingly caught between anger, revulsion and determination.
“I now know what he meant, when he asked me to help children. Why it had to be me. What I have to do.”
“Care to explain, Love?” he asked after a moment, and she handed him a document with Top Secret stamped across it.
“Martha gave me this - mostly because I don’t think she could bear to tell me exactly how and why he had to murder his grandson. When you’re done, I’m taking it to Giles and calling a General Meeting.”
She stood, head held high and eyes shining, clearly ready for battle.
“Who’re we fighting - those aliens?” he asked, bewildered, and she shook her head.
“Worse. Politicians. Corporations. Anyone with power.”
With one long last look at The Immortal’s enigmatic portrait she walked out, leaving Spike to stare after her perplexed.
The man had committed an unspeakable crime (and Spike knew that pain far too well to even begin to judge), but apparently Buffy’s ire - and sympathy - had been swept aside by something more powerful. Sitting down with the document he figured he’d better read what had got her in a more warlike mood than anything he’d seen since The First - but as he slowly absorbed what his government had been doing in secret, he wasn’t sure whether he felt more nauseated or furious. Mostly he wanted to do a Guy Fawkes and raze the place to the ground - odd which times his blood lust returned full throttle.
Except it wasn’t just the UK - it was the whole world... What did Buffy have planned?***
Buffy became a small blonde whirlwind of organising and activity. As well as new-acquired wealth she had a world-wide organisation at her fingertips, one with ancient ties to all kinds of powerful institutions, and she began setting up meetings with old men in expensive suits. Meetings which she’d attend flanked by flawlessly tailored Watchers, always starting with the same opening line:
“The death of this child saved the world. This must never happen again. Or next time we’ll make sure it’s your
There followed discussions of the 456; protests that it had been an unusual situation; that something similar would never happen again; that they’d never heard of the deals to give away 10% of the children of every country... to which Buffy and her Watchers would smile stiffly, and bring out two documents: One detailing the near-endless list of known apocalypses; the other outlining in black-and-white how the global economy was in case after case built on the exploitation of children.
The response to this was usually a predictable catalogue of excuses, to which Buffy would cooly lay down her ultimatum:
Work to change the system, placing the welfare of children above profit - or the Council would withdraw their protection from the country in question (to begin with).
Against splutterings and fervent assurances that of course they wanted to help, but Buffy’s terms were quite simply ridiculous, she’d look them straight in the eye - unflinching, uncompromising.
“Every three seconds a child dies. I will not accept that. And neither will you. You have a year to get results.” ***She had always done it the only way she knew how: Day by day and demon by demon.
(Death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day.)
She had power - so much, she was overflowing. Enough for a world full of strong girls, purging evil: Day by day and demon by demon.
She had never thought to use that power for anything other than it was meant for.
Never thought to use it to change the world.
Still, she knew she was building on the work of others, people who made her work possible...
- Angel who broke the Circle of the Black Thorn and the power of W&H - their power now scattered and uncertain, their clients unable to ignore her demands.
- A mysterious alien, a Doctor of some kind, who had fought a war out of time and space and sealed the walls between dimensions, leaving Earth safe from endless hellions from endless dimensions.
- And her beautiful Immortal who had failed... Failed so terribly, and with such a heavy price, that the image of a dead boy seared itself into her mind with irrevocable finality and required an immediate response. And yet - The Immortal was the one who had taught her how to wield a different kind of power: The power that lay in name and reputation and implicit threats; the kind of power that required no weapons, just the ability to wait for your opponent to blink first. A power that did not leave her with blood on her hands.***London, 26th of June 2010
The date still wigged her out. She’d look at the circled numbers on the calendar and a quiet shiver would crawl up her spine. Not that she could explain it - she had tried, but even Spike had looked sceptical, as it wasn’t so much a feeling of doom as a feeling of nothingness; of... silence
. But despite keeping an ear close to the ground, and having every wicca on high alert, the day had dawned beautiful and sunny without the slightest hint of apocalypse anywhere.
Spike of course hadn’t been able to resist pointing out the backwards fortuitousness of the date:
“Even if it is
the end of the world, we’ll have plenty of experts in the house, so I’d say it’s win-win.”
The experts in question being 'Jack's' best friends. As she had begun to get the hang of her new mission she'd realised that she wanted to share her accomplishment with those who had known him best - they deserved to know what she was doing with the task he’d left her. Deserved to know that there had been a task, full stop.
And so she had invited Martha and Gwen and their respective spouses along for a dinner party. It could obviously not be as elaborate as The Immortal's lavish celebrations, but it would at the very least honour the spirit of those occasions. She was slightly worried that she'd not be able to create the right atmosphere, but at least she would have tried.
(And it couldn’t be worse than her meeting with Alice. Pale, drawn, lifeless - yet so much like her father that it had taken Buffy’s breath away. From the pale blue eyes (hard as flint), the thick black hair and the tilt of the chin, to the refusal to give even an inch. It wasn’t a meeting she’d wanted, but she felt an obligation to tell the woman about the work she was doing in her son’s name. Alice had not thanked her, but she had listened, and that had been more than Buffy had hoped for.)
Now however, as she opened the door for Martha and Mickey, she wondered if she’d miscalculated massively. Martha had been a great help when compiling her apocalypse list, but what if they had nothing else in common? What if...
(Stop it, she scolded herself. Whatever would The Immortal say?)
Also before possible awkwardness there were introductions and general small talk and Buffy managed to get everyone into the front room where the polite, if slightly stilted, conversation was cut short when Martha was suddenly captivated by the photo gallery on the mantle piece.
“Oh my god - Connor
,” she said, with equal parts surprise and recognition, as she picked up a picture of Connor and Angel, then frowned.
“Is that... his father with him?”
There was a pause as Buffy looked at Spike, flummoxed, then turned to Martha, who was now smiling nervously.
“Yes that’s Angel,” Buffy said slowly. “And... how do you know Connor?”
Martha’s eyes turned back to the photo in her hand and her eyes grew momentarily distant.
“Remember how I explained about the Year That Never Was? Connor was the leader of the resistance.”
Spike’s mouth fell open, and then a wide smile broke out on his face.
“Was he now? The boy done good, eh? Wait ‘till I tell his dad about this - we’ll never hear the end of it. Leader of the resistance, eh?”
“Why don’t we all sit down?” Buffy suggested, relieved at the introduction of a neutral subject, and also feeling very much like The Perfect Hostess as she handed round drinks and nibbles, as Martha began talking.
“It was all very Terminator - he joked about that. Although the things he could do, the way he moved - he was faster
than the Toclafane, so he was pretty much the only person on the planet apart from me who could walk around as he pleased. Plus, he had all these survival skills that were just incredible. Don’t get me wrong, all the Slayers I met were amazing fighters, but Connor... He’d set up camp in these caves, all perfectly camouflaged and kitted out with, like, animal furs and wood, and it was the nicest place I visited all year. Plus...”
She seemed thoughtful.
“He said he’d grown up in hell... ”
“That’s true,” Spike said. “You believed him?”
Martha shrugged. “I’ve met Shakespeare and been to the end of the universe, so believing him wasn’t a problem. But it was... it was good to talk to someone else who understood. He was so calm, saying that it could be much worse. No one else ever said anything like that...”
“Hey - should I be jealous here?” Mickey cut in, and Martha laughed.
Then there was a knock on the door, heralding the arrival of Gwen and Rhys, baby Anwen cradled in Gwen’s arms.
For a moment everything stopped for baby admiration, and Buffy and Martha found themselves looking at each other, feeling similar thoughts percolating. But then Buffy pulled herself together - time to explain why they were here.
“OK, so... I asked you to come along today because... I know what it’s like to lose everything you lived for. And I know you don’t really know me at all, and that Jack never told you anything about me and him, but trust me when I say that we...”
She looked at Martha and Gwen, and tried to find the correct words.
each other. So when he came to see me before he left, he gave me a task. It took me a while to work out what he meant, but with Martha’s input I worked it out...”
Heart in her throat, Buffy began explaining her new mission. Funny how she could stare down dictators without flinching, but this meeting had her nerves shot to hell...
She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but Gwen bursting into tears and hugging her, saying ‘Thank you’, probably counted as a success.
Mickey and Rhys also voiced their favourable opinion, but Martha was the one that threw her. She was watching Buffy with that look
- the one she couldn’t quantify - before smiling.
“Buffy Summers of Sunnydale - The Girl Who Changed the World”, she said, but Buffy didn’t have time to ask what she meant as her timer started ringing and she needed to go sort out the food.
A while later they were all at the table, Anwen asleep in a baby carrier, and the talk - much to Buffy’s relief - darted back and forth easily, initially centred around children and work.
“So you’ve really opted out completely?” Buffy asked, and Gwen nodded.
“Well there’s only me left...”
She faltered briefly.
“...And I just can’t do it. This is the first time we’ve been away from the house since Anwen was born. Mind you, we’ve still got plenty of guns... and other stuff. Just in case.”
“I’ve told you, we need to work something out!” Rhys cut in. “We can’t have weapons lying around. Anwen will be walking before we know it, and toddlers get in everything!”
“But what if something happens?” Gwen said. “I can’t... I can’t get rid of it! What if someone comes after us?”
“You have got to stop being so paranoid, love,” Rhys reassured, but Buffy shot Spike a look.
“Actually, that’s a good point. We’ve got weapons pretty much all over the house - there was a tragic incident with Willow’s cat back when we lived in Sunnydale, so we’ve tried to keep the crossbows stored more carefully, but I know there are plenty of creatures out there who’d like to come after us. And with kids around...”
“You not getting tired of it yet? The fighting I mean,” Mickey asked, and Buffy hesitated.
“I don’t know. I’ve cut way back, first because of my studies, and now because of all my travelling, but giving it up completely... Don’t know if I could do that. I was hoping Gwen could give me tips on combining motherhood and fighting. Since kids seem kinda inevitable...”
“Is that so?” Martha asked teasingly, and Buffy shrugged.
“Well it is according to Jack.”
For a second she froze, wondering if he could be spoken of, well, casually
, but then Gwen nodded.
“Oh yeah - I was there when they did the DNA testing. He was... very happy.”
Spike raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah he told us that his psycho boyfriend from the future is descended from us. Nice to know...”
“Well at least he’s got good taste.”
“Who?” Rhys asked.
“Either!” Buffy replied. “OK, so it’s a bit wiggy, but I figure three thousand years is probably a fairly big gap.”
“Martha said something about a fairy tale?” Mickey asked, voice carefully neutral, and Buffy couldn’t stop a smile spreading across her face.
“Well he was kinda tailor-made... Tall, dark-haired, gorgeous, hundred years plus and with a dark past - hello
“He’s cheesy though,” Mickey said, and Spike grinned from ear to ear.
Mickey shrugged. “Nice guy, but he was Jumpin Jack Flash when we first met, making eyes at my girlfriend...”
Spike leaped forward.
“Tell me all about it.”
“Oh come on!” Buffy sighed. “Stop being so jealous.”
“’M not jealous,” Spike said, reservedly. “I just don’t know what it is about broody guys with stupid hair that makes all the women go funny.”
“Jack doesn’t have stupid hair,” Gwen said defensively, and Buffy sighed.
“He was kinda talking about my first boyfriend, Angel.”
“Who spends more money on hair gel and fancy suits than is legal,” Spike added.
“Really?” Mickey said, shooting Martha a telling look. “I think you’re onto something there.”
“Oh don’t start on the Doctor,” she admonished, but he raised an eyebrow.
“Come on - hair gel and fancy suits? That’s him to a tee!”
“Let me guess,” Spike said drily, “Turned up, looking mysterious and brooding, and swept her off her feet before refusing to commit and took off into the night?”
“No,” Martha said pointedly, before immediately backtracking. “OK, there might have been a... bit of sweeping, but there were Judoon and... Anyway, I
. Ancient mysterious world-saving aliens are all well and good, but I prefer humans.”
“We stick around, don’t we love?” Rhys added, and Gwen smiled.
“That you do. Wouldn’t swap for the world.”
Somewhere underneath Buffy could feel the unsaid ‘and those too-good-to-be-true heroes are also too dangerous’ but no one was going to voice it. Which was good.
“And sometimes,” she added, watching Spike closely, “they turn human...”
He smiled back, happiness dancing in his eyes, and as if by magic all her end-of-the-world premonitions suddenly melted away into nothing. Everything was going well, and why had she been so worried?
But then someone mentioned football...
“Spirit of ‘66... now that was a game worth watching!”
There was a moment’s pause, then Rhys leaned forward.
“You mean you were there...”
“Damn straight I was there. Done up like the Stig, mind you, on account of the daylight and all. Although the European Cup Final in ‘68 was pretty brilliant too... You know, Man U was the first English team to ever win the European Cup! Which, having followed them for nigh on 80 years, was worth the wait!”
“Hang on,” Mickey said, “followed them for 80 years?”
“130 now! Man U was originally formed back in 1878-”
“OK, that’s it,” Buffy said, getting up. “I’ve spent enough time listening to football talk to last me three lifetimes. And actually I was thinking... Gwen, Martha - do you want to come with me? There’s something I wanted to show you...”
Their relief evident the two women excused themselves, and seconds later Buffy closed the door behind them.
“You have no idea
the amount of obstacles in the way of me and Spike getting together, but I think football might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back... Anyway, follow me.”
She led them up the stairs and then across the landing to the larger of the spare bedrooms, turning on the light as she opened the door, since it had almost gone dark now. Then she stood back and let the other two walk through, not saying a word, only watching them carefully - and they didn’t disappoint.
Gwen’s eyes grew to the size of saucers, and Martha actually brought a hand up to her mouth.
“Is it real?” Gwen asked, and Buffy nodded.
“Oh yeah. Got an expert in to check, just to be on the safe side, and it’s more than 400 years old. Touch it if you like.”
Slowly Gwen walked forward until she could touch the surface of the painting. It looked incongruous here, and half the time Buffy felt like an art thief.
“He asked me to get rid of it, but... But I just couldn’t.”
“I can see why...”
Tilting her head back, Buffy studied it once more. The extravagant, luxurious clothes, the swagger, the exquisite paint work. And the face... beautiful, smiling, remote - the real man as unchanging and eternal as the picture on her wall. But he was a time traveller...
She had wondered if the picture had been painted before or after they’d met - after, she suspected. There was a distance to the features that spoke of age and wisdom that she’d yet to see him develop. A peacefulness that she hoped he would some day find. (A peacefulness she was hopefully helping him reach.) One day he would not only be able to go to Italy once more, he would be able to create a name and a life for his younger self to indulge in. A lifeline during a century’s worth of waiting.
“I guess I wanted to show you because...”
She faltered a little, as the other two turned to her, then smiled softly, thinking of fairy tales and a shared flight from reality.
“Because you knew someone called Jack. But this
... this was my
Finally. I sincerely doubt that I'll ever write more in this 'verse - however I have two future fics, written before I started this series, that I always kept in mind as an end-point, and they still tie in very well, despite (obviously) never mentioning anything to do with the events in this story. But if you are curious to see how Spike and Buffy get on, here they are:A Picture is a Thousand Words... (or you know, a lot more.)
Spike and Buffy’s 10th wedding anniversary. Unadulterated schmoop.I didn’t know it’d feel like this.
The birth of Spike and Buffy's twins. Not schmoopy in the least, despite (technically) being baby fic.
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