In relation to giant boxes...
Disclaimer: As per usual, none of the characters, settings, or base plot lines are mine in any way, shape, and/or form. This is a work of fiction that has been done completely without the intent of profit. AKA This is just for fun so please don't sue. You wouldn't get much anyway.
AN: Alright, first and foremost, it has to be said that the ideas in this ficlet collection are based off of BHRamsay's 'Zeppo Effect' universe and have been written with said author's express permission. So outside of the unique plotlines that my mind has cooked up in regards to BHR's original (Well, semi-original anyway. This is fanfiction after all.) work I claim nothing.
AN: To any fans of Doctor Who out there! If you don't recognize the scene that this first idea is based off of I'm going to be very disappointed in you lol!
AN: Also, to any returning or incoming readers, please don't expect perfection. While I try to make my writing as outright 'physically' correct as possible I know that there are still going to be things that I've missed. Regardless, I hope you all enjoy reading the oncoming ideas that my muse has prompted me to write for this collection. Enjoy!
Things were not going well, not at all. And for the life of her Commander Joan Shepard, the lone survivor of Mindoir, the Butcher of Torfan, and the Hero of the Citadel only had the one thought running through her mind as the very universe continued to collapse around her.
‘This isn’t how it’s supposed to be…’
“No, it really isn’t.” the Doctor said sadly as he quietly stepped up beside the shattered woman, both of them staring over at a preparing Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris.
“Huh,” Joan said as she was jolted out of her thoughts, “I didn’t think that I’d said that out loud…”
“Well, you did.” The Doctor replied as his eyes inspected his work while Xander finished strapping himself into the Pandorica. They were on Ilos, the ancient research world where the Protheans had made their final ditch effort to save their species from extinction. But that wasn’t all that Ilos represented, no, because it was also the final resting place of the Nightmare Child and the true form of the consciousness behind the Citadel, the Reapers, and the Mass Relays themselves. During the last handful of days every thinking member of the galactic war effort had thought that the final battle for the galaxy would be taking place on Earth, where the Reapers had hit first. They were wrong. They were so very, VERY wrong.
The fleet of Reapers that had been sent to Earth was only a diversion. A diversion that had been working perfectly until it was realized that instead of moving the Citadel to Earth like everyone had thought when the giant space station had disappeared from the Serpent Nebula, the Reapers were instead moving it to Ilos.
…And to their real master.
For eons beyond count the Nightmare Child had remained trapped in a perfect time-lock along with every other horror the Doctor had sealed away at the end of the last great Time War, when he was forced to watch his people burn to nothing but ash and echoes as he stood there, having been the one to seal their fates. But somehow the creature had managed to defy everything the Doctor knew about space and time and had slowly begun gaining more and more power through a tiny crack in its prison, and so, millions of years ago, it had started the Reapers’ ‘Cycle’ of death and destruction.
At the end of every 50,000 years the galaxy would be purged of every sentient space-faring race and a fraction of their collective life force would then go into creating a new Reaper for every fallen species that the enormous dreadnoughts had harvested, and the rest of this energy would be funneled through the tiny crack in the Time-Lock and straight into the Nightmare Child’s open and waiting jaws. And now, after a patient wait that had lasted through the ages and with so many trillions of lives sacrificed in the process, an ancient terror was about to be released back into the universe once more.
But with the Nightmare Child’s imminent release came the shattering of the time-lock and a release of temporal energy so massive that the universe, all of time and space itself, had warped before fracturing, and eventually actually cracking. And now as a result for all intents and purposes the universe was beginning to shut down, their reality was beginning to fade away.
Unfortunately by the time the Normandy had arrived on Ilos it had already been too late to stop the Nightmare Child’s last push back into the universe. In the end the fact that the beast seeking its freedom had actually ended up destroying itself was small solace in the face of what was now going to happen. And this was because now the impossible was about to happen for the second time in a mere matter of hours, Xander was going to die.
“It has to be me Doc, you know that. I mean yes, if you go the universe will mend properly, sure. But if I go this never has a chance of happening again. With my absorption the fabric of time and space will actually become stronger.” Xander said with his arms crossed over his chest in a resolute fashion.
“I know, I just…” the Doctor started as a nearby Commander Shepard was trying to wrap her mind around what was being said. More than a few of her crew were actually there with them including Jack, Garrus, Liara, Miranda, Ashley and Samara along with the Doctor’s own companions Amy, Rory, and River. Unfortunately Buffy was busy fighting for her life back on Earth and hadn’t been on the Normandy when they had made the jump to Ilos and Willow was still somewhat incorporeal at the moment so they couldn’t make it.
“I know... I know old friend.” Was all Xander said with a sad, if resigned, smile.
“Wait!” Garrus nearly shouted out as he took a step towards his friend. “Why does it have to be you!? Why not any of us?” At this question everyone present except the Doctor and River perk up considerably at what Xander was about to try and explain.
“Garrus… It has to be me because I’m a TRUE immortal, an actual constantly fixed point in time. If I’m the one who does this, something like this can NEVER happen again. Think of it like taking a small and sturdy, but unnecessary, part of a machine and reassigning that part to another more crucial area of that same machine and actually upgrading that new area in the process. Not even Buffy or Willow could do this, because no matter how slowly it’s happening they’re still ageing while I’m not.” Xander explained as he met the eyes of all his present friends while silently willing them to understand and not kick up a fuss at what was going to happen. Over what they couldn’t stop.
Then the ground beneath them shook and reality seemed to lose focus for a moment before snapping back into place and River Song called out hurriedly,
“Xander, if you’re going to do this it has to be now!”
“Tell me he comes back.” Joan Shepard practically demanded in a quiet voice as she looked over to the Doctor.
“I can’t…” the Doctor started to say before he was grabbed by his lapels and shook violently.
“Tell me he doesn’t die!” Shepard practically shouted as she tried to fight back the tears that were threatening to spill over. Xander was her best friend and she was just about at the end of her rope. She and her crew had fought bitterly to even land on the surface of Ilos, let alone get to where they were now, only to find out that her best friend, the one person in her entire life that she KNEW would never leave her, was going to die. Even though such a thing should be downright impossible…
So she didn’t care that this ‘Doctor’ was someone big and important, or that Xander trusted him above almost everyone else in existence, she just wanted to know what was going to happen to the only man that she had ever… She’d ever…
“He’s not really going to die.” The Doctor said calmly, even though his eyes were trying to betray his words.
“Then what the fuck’s going to happen?” Jack asked harshly as she stepped away from where most of the rest of the old Normandy squad from the Collector mission was keeping watch. Xander had been good to her ever since they’d first met during their escape from Purgatory and she, like everyone else there, didn’t want to see him go.
“When this is all over the cracks in the universe will be gone, repaired, along with the Reapers and we’ll all be waking up where we’re supposed to and remembering none of this.” River said, breaking into the conversation as she walked over from where she had been helping Xander into the Pandorica.
Xander was ready to go.
“But what happens to him? What happens to Xander? Why won’t he be waking up with rest of us?” Shepard asked, her voice now soft as a very real bit of helplessness started to sink in.
“Xander is going to be at the heart of the temporal explosion, practically inside the very belly of the Nightmare Child itself. When everything stabilizes he’ll be scattered throughout all of space and time. Everything he’s ever done will still have been done; it’s just that the people who did these things will have different names and pasts. As for Xander, it will be as if he’d never existed, he will never have been alive at all.” River explained gently.
“No…” More than a few of Xander’s friends croaked out at River’s words as they tried to wrap their minds around the concept of Xander having never been in their lives to begin with.
“I’m sorry, but it’s almost time and Xander would like to see you all before he goes.” River said while gesturing to where Xander was strapped into the most advanced piece of technology that the Normandy’s crew had ever heard of, let alone seen.
“Hey guys, why all the long faces?” Xander asked with a sad knowing smile as most of his present friends approached him.
“Shut up you idiot now isn’t the time for jokes.” Miranda Lawson retorted softly as she stood with the others and tried to keep her tears in check. At first she hadn’t known what to make of Alexander Harris even though he’d been someone of such great importance and interest to the Illusive Man, but over time he’d shown himself to be a reliable and intelligent man with a large heart and a near endless capacity for compassion. At the same time though she had also seen just how ruthless he could be when he was pushed far enough or when those he considered friends, or even family, were threatened.
Underneath his almost perpetually goofy grin was a man who’d seen so much more than even the most extraordinary of humans. Xander was a man that tended to live his life to the best of his ability every day, despite his lack of a mortal coil, and honestly didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’ when he cared enough about something. And it was traits like these that had initially drawn her to the man in question in a way outside of a purely professional manner. He had even been there, without needing to be asked, when she had gone to rescue her sister from her father’s depraved clutches, and as a result had earned enough of her trust that he had soon become a confidant with whom she felt was safe enough to let her ‘hair down’ around when it was just the them and maybe Shepard.
So was it any surprise when her confidence in Xander had eventually found its way to becoming something more, something deeper? Miranda didn’t really think so, and even though it had taken awhile for her to even admit such feelings to herself, let alone to the man in question or anyone else, she had eventually opened herself up to her then friend. So when he had returned her feelings after a few moments of silence she had been privately ecstatic. Though things had gotten pretty awkward several months later when one Ashley Williams had come back into the picture with her eyes once more firmly set upon Xander. Which had been a problem because Xander had become someone Miranda had clearly put into the ‘mine’ column inside her mind…
To say that the eventual solution she and Ashley had come up with between the two of them after Xander had made it clear that he couldn’t choose between them because of his love for them both, and that as a result he couldn’t be with either of her or Ashley due to it not being fair to them, had been unanticipated would be more than a mild understatement…
Though to be honest Jacob had been giving them some particularly funny looks when he’d found out about their little ‘arrangement’ before he’d gone off to assist with the Crucible at one Dr. Cole’s side. Granted he wasn’t the only one, just one of the most notable in her eyes.
Samara, for her part, just looked up at the man that had cured her very last daughter, Falere, of the curse of being an Ardat-Yakshi after the destruction of their sanctuary by servants of the Reapers. With such an act came a debt that Samara knew she could never repay. So fighting by his and Shepard’s sides to help save the galaxy was the very least she could do. And because of all he’d done for her and her remaining family even she could not completely fight off the sadness that pierced her heart at the thought of what essentially meant his death.
Despite how much she had changed over the last few years Liara couldn’t help how her eyes shined as tears began threatening to fall over onto her cheeks. Here was a man that had fought for her when Joan had disliked what she’d seen what her Asari lover had become when the two of them had met on Illium for the first time in two years. He had stood up to the force of nature that was his commander, unflinchingly, and had forced her to talk things out with the young Asari. To be honest Liara wasn’t really all that sure how he’d done it either, but all that mattered was that he did. And as a result things hadn’t been nearly as strained as they could have been when they had all gone after the fake Shadow Broker all those months ago.
Without Xander she wasn’t actually all that sure that she and Shepard would be together at all now. He had become a rather important part to all of their lives, including her own, and Liara wasn’t all that sure just how everything was going to work out for them without the immortal man around, subtly prodding them into thinking a little more and staying a little calmer from time to time. And no matter the assurances that this ‘Doctor’ and this ‘River Song’ made of how things weren’t going to change overly much, she found the thought of Xander not being in her life to be more than a tad frightening.
Ashley was lost. She could honestly say for the first time in her life that she didn’t know what to do. A man that she had come to love more completely than anyone outside of her own family was about to die and the worst part of the whole situation was that she wouldn’t even be able to remember him! When they had first met again after two years on Horizon she had kept him at a distance, spewing hurtful words at him in retaliation to him leaving her. It had hurt her when Xander had just up and disappeared right after Shepard’s supposed ‘death’ without any explanation, and due to this she had lashed out almost as soon as she’d laid eyes on him. It wouldn’t be until several hours later when she had the time to sit down and process the last couple of days that she would even comprehend the hurt that she had seen flash across Xander’s features at her words, and this in turn had only ended up tearing her heart up even more.
So when she had seen him again right after they’d gotten to Mars to try and find the blueprints to the Catalyst in the Prothean archives she had been conflicted to say the least. And finding out a few days later that he had found someone else while she had only had a few false starts here and there hadn’t helped matters either. But over time she had gotten over it, as soon as she realized that, yes, she was willing to fight for the immortal man’s affections. And fight she did, to the point where she and Miranda Lawson had almost come to blows over him in the middle of the Normandy’s ‘Rec Room’, after the whole ‘Sanctuary’ fiasco, before he’d stepped in and said quite plainly that he was sorry that he had made such a mess of things between the three of them. That even though he felt like a wretch for being so indecisive Xander couldn’t bring himself to decide between the two of them. That at the end of the day he loved both of them (And yes, he even cared for Aria in his own strange way, and unless he was very much mistaken she cared for him too.). And so he’d bowed out after another sincere apology while saying that he would try to keep what distance he could from the both of them from then on.
To say he was surprised when he’d been pulled back into their little ‘triangle’ a couple days later when she and Miranda had managed to ‘hash’ some things out between the two of them would be an understatement. Not that he had complained for long though. But still, the look he had on his face when they’d laid out just how things were going to be working for the three of them from then on had been one that she’d swore she would treasure for the rest of her life.
Well, so much for her being overly straight laced… Even now the memory of the night that had followed sent shivers up and down her spine. Ashley just hoped her sisters never found out about the mish mash that was her love life, they’d never let her live it down if they did. But now he was leaving again, and this time he wasn’t coming back. And the only thing that was helping her to hold back on showing her grief was that she knew that Xander wouldn’t want to see her cry.
“Xan…” Ash was barely able to croak out before she took a step forward so that the man in question could reach out and touch her.
“Hey… Hey now, don’t you be shedding those tears for me.” Xander said softly as he reached out to cup Ashley’s cheek. “It’ll be fine. Soon everything will be all better again.” As he spoke Miranda walked over to the two of them and took Ashley’s hand in her own and gave it a light squeeze as Xander gave her a small smile in thanks. “Ladies, I know it’s tough. Especially with how we’d just gotten everything worked out between us and all. To be honest I’m still not sure how this thing between the three of us actually ended up happening the way it did these last handful of days. Not that I’m complaining mind you, but still.” Xander said with a renewed smile as he looked at two of the most important women in his life. “And I just hope that when this is all over, even though you won’t be able to remember me, you two will still have each other.”
“We hope so too, Xan.” Miranda said; her tone of voice soft as she kept a steady grip on Ashley’s hand as they stood side by side.
“Now I’ve got something to say to Shepard.” Xander said and soon he found that his view of his lovers had been quickly replaced by a view of his best friend. For a moment the two of them just stared at each other before Shepard finally broke the silence with,
“Hey back Shepard…” Xander said in return, and then he continued with, “Shepard… Joan, did you ever wonder why I came with you? Why I risked exposing myself to the galaxy as a whole by taking up the mantle of your sidekick and eventually of your friend and partner?” At his questions Joan could only shake her head before he continued, “The woman who had lost so much, who had given so much in the name of ideals that she’d practically forgotten as time went by. And I could tell from the moment I laid eyes on you that that those ideals would just continue to ask more and more of you, and that you would just grit your teeth and bare the weight. But even the strongest backs eventually break…” Xander said with a sad smile, and for the life of her Joan knew that her friend was right with every one of his statements about her life.
“So?” Joan asked quietly. “I’ve had a hard life. Fighting’s the only thing I’ve ever really been good at anyway.”
“But you were fighting for no reason outside of the fact a room full of old men kept telling you to. The same old men that would have thrown you to the dogs at a moment’s notice… That’s no way to live Joan.” Xander said with a knowing smile that for a few moments made him look his true age. “So when you found me cleaning that latrine all those years ago and I sensed that something big was coming down the pipe for you no matter how much pain you’d already suffered through… Well, how could I resist?”
And Joan was just about to try and say something in response to Xander’s words when the ground shook even more violently than it had before and the Doctor shouted over,
“Xander! The decay is speeding up!”
“Alright Joan,” Xander said hurriedly as he gave a small nod towards where the Doctor was standing, “one last thing. While this is happening I need you to do something for me!”
“I need you to think of your family, of Mindoir, of everything you lost that day.” Xander said urgently as he cupped Joan’s face in his hands.
“Why?” Joan asked with a sob now clearly in her voice.
“Because… Something is about to happen when I do this, something unique. If you can keep your family in your mind while this is happening when it’s all over and everything is the way it should be again, they’ll be there. They’ll be waiting for you.” Xander said as he brought one of his friend’s tresses to his lips for a second in goodbye. “All you have to do is keep them in your mind and they’ll be there when you wake up again.”
“But you won’t.” Joan said with tears now rolling down her cheeks as she stepped back.
“My time’s come, just like everybody’s time eventually comes, and you’ll have your family again. You won’t be needing this silly old man anymore.” Was all Xander said in response as he leaned back into the Pandorica’s chair and a pair of shoulder pads locked into place. “Joan Shepard, crying over me yeah? Well, guess what?”
AN: So? What did you all think? Trust me, I would like to know ^^! Feedback is what helps us 'free-time' authors to write after all. So please, if you have a spare minute or two drop me a line with your thoughts. Here's to hoping I see you all next time! ~Semet
AN: And yes, I know that the 'relationship' bit that I threw in there is more than a wee bit unlikely but hey, the preverted little monkey in the back of my brain wouldn't leave me alone! =^.^=