Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including (but not limited to) Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, Supernatural, and Twilight. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Buffy and Willow confided in each other about their fears about the upcoming spell. Buffy spent one last night with Chris before picking up Satsu, and discovered that Satsu's lips taste like cinnamon. Kennedy admitted her fears, and Faith admitted that she loved Kennedy (at least to herself). Tara and Willow had it out, and Tara stormed out, eventually returning around dinnertime.+++++
"We were always dreaming of how it was going to be." George Lucas
Willow and Tara were going to do the spell this time. “You two were witches in the dream-world,” he’d said; “maybe your power carried over here somehow. Hopefully you have enough mojo to pull it off.” Tara wasn’t pleased, but she sterilized a small scalpel and nicked her finger, dripping blood into a bowl. Then she sliced Willow’s with surgical precision. Xander mixed the blood with paint and directed Willow how to draw the runes on the floor. Once that was done, Fred placed a device at each point of the pentagram before walking around the perimeter of the room, putting everything on standby. The hum the machines made was like a very large beehive wrapped in cotton wool.
It put Xander’s teeth on edge.
“All right,” he said, handing the pouch of sand and herbs to Willow. “You and Tara know the words?”
“We do,” Tara said, her voice hoarse. “Let’s get this over with.”
Xander nodded and put his hand on Willow’s shoulder. “Whatever happens,” he said, “I’m with you.” Then he spoke more loudly. “I’m with all of you.”
“Fucking great,” Faith said. “Do what the lady said -- let’s get this over with.”
Another nod, and then Xander moved back. The dining room opened up on the living room, and the doorway was large enough for everyone to see what -- if anything -- might happen. “Remember,” Willow said, “if this works, or if it doesn’t, this is the end. No more. Right, Xander?”
“I promise,” he said. He didn’t know how he’d be able to go back to Ellen and Jo, how he’d be able to tell them he failed. But then he saw Willow’s resolve-face, and the raw pain etched on Tara’s, and as he looked at the other women -- the slayers -- he knew that all of them were hoping this would fail.
He scrubbed his hand over his face. They all had lives here -- friendships, lovers, husbands... God, Buffy even has a kid! How can I take that away from her?
In the dream-world, Buffy would never have a child; in the dream-world, she was already dead. Buffy, Satsu, Faith, and Kennedy would never have children, would never laugh or love or cry or fight. Maybe they were in heaven -- he wasn’t a religious man, but that morning he’d gotten down on his knees and prayed to a God he really didn’t believe in that, if this worked, the people who died had gone to heaven.
God hadn’t answered.
Willow took Tara’s hand and stepped close to her. His best friend kissed the love of her life -- for what might be the last time ever -- and then held out the bag of sand. Tara took a small handful. Willow released Tara to hold her own portion of the sand, and then tossed the bag to Xander, who caught it.
Once they were touching -- Xander had said they should be, that the magic would be more powerful that way -- they began to chant.
It wasn’t a long spell -- only about thirty seconds, really. Xander watched the pentagram, waiting for something -- wind, cold, heat, anything to show him that the spell was starting to work. Fred was watching too, her hand hovering over the keyboard of her laptop, ready to activate the machines.
Buffy and Satsu had their eyes on Willow and Tara. Faith had Kennedy in her arms; Kennedy’s face was against Faith’s shoulder, and Xander could tell how scared both of them were.
Willow and Tara spoke the final words and threw the sand into the pentagram.
Fred pressed the enter key on her laptop.
The machines lit up.
And something... happened.+
“Lord D’Hoffryn?” Xander asked, moving to stand just outside the pentagram. “Can you hear me?”
The lasers from Fred’s machines had hit a prism hanging from the ceiling above the direct center of the pentagram. The coruscating light formed a sort of rough portal, just large enough to see the king of vengeance.
And he looked really pissed off.
“Of course I can hear you, stupid human.” D’Hoffryn folded his arms and stared down at Xander. “What do you want from me now? I granted your wish -- I changed your entire world!”
“I...” He swallowed hard. He hadn’t imagined how difficult this would be. “I made a mistake.”
“A mistake?” D’Hoffryn barked out a laugh. “You call me up, you threaten me, you force me to use my power to create an entire reality just so you can get your vengeance, and you call it a mistake
Xander felt rather than saw Willow and Tara edging away from him. The demon’s eyes flashed bright red with anger, and in that moment Xander didn’t blame them for what they were doing. He saw the others staring at the portal, in shock. In fact, the only person besides him who wasn’t petrified was Fred, who was taking readings as fast as she could.Well. Good for her. At least someone’s getting something good out of this.
Xander finally found his voice again. “I shouldn’t have done it, my lord,” he said. “They... they deserve their real lives back. I shouldn’t have done this to them.”
D’Hoffryn took several slow breaths and uncrossed his arms. “What do you want from me?” he asked.
“Can you...” He fidgeted a little, shifting from foot to foot. “If I asked-- If I wished-- Could you undo it?”
The demon shook his head. Xander heard several sighs of relief, and Kennedy starting to cry.
“Why not? You’re Lord D’Hoffryn, king of vengeance. You can do or undo whatever you wish. Why won’t you help me?”
D’Hoffryn sighed. “This is your fault, you know.”
“I know!” Xander moaned. “God, I know, I did this. I made all of this happen. But why can’t it to go back to the way it was?”
“Xander,” D’Hoffryn said, “it’s not that I won’t -- oh, and don’t think for a second that I actually considered it.” Xander frowned. “It’s that I can’t.”
“Can’t?” Fred asked.
D’Hoffryn stared at her and she shrank back. “Who... oh! I know you.”
“You... you do?”
“Of course,” he said. “You are the girl who became a goddess.”
“I...” Fred put her hand to her chest. “I’m a goddess?”
“Well, you were, until this one intervened.” D’Hoffryn shrugged. “To answer your question: when his wish made this world you live in, the world was created with no magic.”
“Then how did the spell work?” Willow had grabbed Tara’s hand, was holding her like she was a lifeline. “If there’s no magic here--”
“My world still has magic,” D’Hoffryn said. “And your goddess’s machines and energies, while weak, were focused well enough to get my attention. I wanted to see what you were doing.” Another shrug. “Curiosity killed the cat, didn’t it?”
“I... I didn’t kill you, sir, did I?” Fred had gone pale.
D’Hoffryn chuckled. “No. Of course not. When you shut off your machines, the gateway will simply close. Now,” he said, “to answer all the questions put to me in hopes that I can go back to watching Smackdown!
Faith laughed. D’Hoffryn shot her a glare. “Sorry,” she said, still grinning. “You just don’t look like the type.”
The demon didn’t deign to respond to that. “In your world,” he said, “there is no magic. If I were to come through, I would cease to exist. Only the goddess’s equipment even lets me speak to you as I am doing now.”
“Then... then this is forever,” Xander said.
“It is.” D’Hoffryn regarded Xander, and when he spoke again, his voice was soft. “Isn’t it better here?”
“You have two eyes,” he said. “Your friend Willow has the love of her life. The women beyond are alive, well, and happy; they didn’t die in a terrorist bombing. The goddess is merely a scientist, and was not sent to a hell dimension for five years.” Fred gasped at that. “All the women who became slayers... they have had dreams, and they have done things, but they did not -- and will not -- spend their lives fighting evil on a nightly basis, not unless they choose to do so. And if they do, they will do it as humans, against other humans.” He sighed again. “Many of those who did not have love and happiness have it now. Even you have a place here, a home where people care about you. Why would you want to give that up?”+
Xander stared at D’Hoffryn, completely unable to speak, completely unable to believe how stupid he’d been. All the slayers he’d counseled after they were called, all the ones who wanted to live normal lives... Here, in this world that he had created for them, they were normal
. Even Buffy, who had once sung to all of them about being like other girls -- “to fit in in this glittering world,” she’d said. Well, he’d made her like all the other girls in the world.
He felt tears sting his eyes and opened his mouth to tell Fred to shut everything down.
But D’Hoffryn wasn’t done speaking. “I can’t undo this reality,” he said, “but I can stop the dreams.”
“How?” It was Buffy, her voice as strong and clear as he remembered from the real world -- the one in which she’d died a horrible death only weeks ago. “How can you do that?”
“They’re leaking through,” he said. “From my reality to yours. Now that I’ve seen the path to your world, I can stop the dreams from passing into a place where they never should have been.” He looked over at Xander. “It’s the least I can do, if you wish it.”
Xander was silent. After a moment, he saw Buffy started to speak. But then Faith put her hand on Buffy’s shoulder. There was a look that passed between them, something that, to Xander, looked like true friendship. Buffy nodded and stepped back.
“I wish,” Faith said in her soft, smoky voice. “I wish for the dreams to stop.”
D’Hoffryn nodded. “Done.” He looked out at all of them. “Now,” he said, not unkindly, “live your lives.”
Xander watched Willow nod to Fred; Fred touched the keyboard and the machines powered down.
The rift disappeared. The crystal fell to the floor.
A moment later, so did Xander.+
He felt Willow’s hand on his shoulder and he clutched it tight. She knelt behind him, hugged him, held him while he sobbed. He was a broken man, broken inside; he’d changed the entire universe to save his best friend from heartbreak, but when he’d found out, what was the first thing he tried to do?I tried to undo everything. I tried to break her.
He looked up through his tears at the others, who stared down at him with expressions he couldn’t read -- too blurry. “I’m sorry,” he managed to say. “I’m so sorry.”
Willow hugged him closer, cradled his head against her shoulder. “I understand, Xander,” she said, rubbing his back. “I understand. And I just want to say...” He felt her swallow hard. “I want to say thank you. I lost Tara, and you gave her back to me.”
“I lost the woman I loved,” Buffy said, moving closer, “but what you did... it brought her back to me.” She knelt behind Willow, reaching up to stroke Xander’s hair. “We’re not lovers, but we’re friends, and that’s all right.”
“You saved Buffy for me,” Satsu said. Xander sniffed hard; he was still crying, but the tears were slowly changing from the bad kind to the good kind. How can they be so nice to me? After what I tried to do, how can they want anything to do with me?
“You gave her a reality where she has a child she loves and a man she cares for, and you gave me a good marriage and a life full of friendship.”
“In the other world, I was a brat and a bitch,” Kennedy said. “I had everything given to me; my family had money, and we weren’t afraid to use it. Even as a slayer I wasn’t really a good person.” He heard her sigh. “But here I had to work for what I have. I’m still a brat, but I’m learning to be better. And if you hadn’t made this world, I wouldn’t have Faith.”
“Not like you do now, anyway,” Faith put in. She went over to Xander and punched him on the shoulder, and for just a moment it was like the old days, when they’d been friends. Why would she want to be my friend now?
“My life was shitty until after we killed the First,” she said. “I did things I’m not proud of. But over here, all the butterfly effect stuff you did gave me foster parents who care for me. Sure, my mom was a drunk, and sure, she beat on me, but I got out, and I got better, and I became a decent person.” Xander looked up at her, saw that she had her eyes on Kennedy. “If you hadn’t done this, I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with Kennedy.”
“I’m sorry,” Xander whispered.
“Don’t apologize,” Tara said. Now she was beside him, holding onto his upper arm. She pulled, and he took the hint, getting to his feet. Buffy and Willow did as well. “You sacrificed everything you had to save our lives, and in the process you made our lives better. Don’t apologize to us.”
Willow shook her head and smiled. “You did a good thing, Xander. Your motives may have been selfish, and your methods may have been crazy, but your heart was in the right place. It’s always been in the right place.” She reached up and brushed away his tears, and Xander saw that she was ignoring her own. “So what if we’re not powerful witches or ass-kicking supergirls? We’re happy.”
Buffy took his hands in hers. “Thank you, Xander. For everything.”
There was only one thing he could say.
+++++Your continued readership, support, and reviews are, as always, greatly appreciated.
Try not to think too hard about the science Fred used. I made it up pretty much all out of whole cloth.
Next time: the final chapter, the wholly-unexpected epilogue, and -- finally -- the Firefly musical episode!