Chapter Thirty Four
: One more chapter, after this.--000--
Buffy could hear someone screaming and only realized, a few seconds later, that it was herself. As she watched the sudden fear creep into those now-brown eyes, as she watched him tumble into the Hellmouth, as she watched it close, and the ground stop shaking.
She put her hand up to her eyes, and realized she'd been crying.
No. Keep it together. She dropped her head, staring at the ground, determinedly. This was war. People died. Everyone died. That was just what happened.
The crackle of static, then an announcer's voice ringing through the air. "…twenty million dead, today, as the Slayer joined the fight."
"I just want to defend my galaxy!" came the female voice that accompanied it. "In the name of the Watchers Council, the Earth, and the Milky Way, we will destroy these forces of darkness, whatever the cost!"
Another crackle of static, and another announcer, this one's voice overlapping the first. "…Watchers Council has no comment on these proceedings…"
Buffy shot up her head, to find that the landscape around her had gone. That the entire world had faded into a black nothingness, an empty void, save for two patches of space, nearby, showing vignettes of people, reporters, news bulletins. No, not just that. Somehow, Buffy knew that these were just windows. Gateways. That these were showing her entire worlds.
Another crackle of static, as another scene popped into existence, a girl with an angry, determined expression on her face.
"You killed my Watcher!" the girl screamed, as she hacked the unarmed humanoid person apart. "You don't deserve to live!"
And another voice, somewhere else, as another scene appeared.
Until they surrounded Buffy, swirling in on her, pressing against her head as if overloading her, overwhelming her, making her unable to tell one from another from reality.
Then they stopped, froze in place.
"Maddening, isn't it?" came the voice of the Ninth Doctor.
Buffy got to her feet, her breath coming far too fast, her heart still racing from everything that had just happened. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"Went through time, me," said the not-Ninth-Doctor. "Saw the Slayer. From her origins…"
A scene popped up, of a struggling Sineya, screaming and chained up, as the Shadow Men banged their staffs against the ground and watched a black apparition consume her.
Then the scene shifted to show — Lily, that little baby Buffy had held — in the hands of the Shadow Men, as they recited an incantation over her. One raised up a dagger, just above the girl's hearts, and brought it down…
Buffy looked away.
"…to her end," said the Not-Ninth-Doctor.
The scenes of the Shadow Men faded, and the many images and newscasts Buffy had seen before sprung into life, again, all showing murder, bloodshed, death and destruction.
The Not-Ninth-Doctor waved a hand, and they all faded away.
"The enemy got their hands on the Oblivion Scythe, in the end," he said. "Used it against the Slayer. Trapped the Slayers, the Potentials, the Watchers — everyone — in Hell. Forever. The end of the Slayer Line."
He clapped his hands, once, and then Buffy could see other scenes, playing out before her eyes.
The Slayer, flying through the air of a futuristic landscape, Scythe in hand, then heading towards an incoming alien space ship.
The Slayer, on a planet that was obviously not Earth, fear in her eyes and terror in her voice, as she died alone, in pain, and having failed her mission.
The Slayer, her arms mechanized, her head part cybernetic, stomping through a warzone, her eyes filled with death.
"So many possibilities for the future," the Not-Ninth-Doctor said. "All tragic. Inevitable. Unchangeable. All necessary to the survival of the world, but with such terrible consequences." He turned to her, and gestured at the images, in turn. At the first one. "The 23rd century." At the second one. "The 54th century." At the third one. "The 39th century."
Buffy blinked. Then blinked again. "Wait, wait!" she said. "I've seen the 39th century! That's not what it looks like! That's not…"
The images disappeared, replaced by the IPSA ship that Buffy remembered, and a plethora of girls, determined expressions on their faces, chanting:
"The Chosen Ones!"
"And we fight…!"
"Against the forces of darkness!"
"Peace, Unity, and Harmony!"
The scene paused, and the Not-Ninth-Doctor looked back over at Buffy. "This is what you've seen?"
"Yeah," said Buffy.
The scene faded away, and the Not-Ninth-Doctor folded his arms. "The actions that took place, in the real world. Just before you came here. They changed the balance of futures."
Oh. Okay, then.
"The most likely future, right now, isn't
the future you've seen," said the entity. "Not the one with IPSA and hope and courage. Not anymore. The most likely future, right now, is the Oblivion Wars, the darkness, the desolation and despair and loneliness." He gave her a pointed look. "But you can change that."
"The future you've seen, with IPSA, with an army of Slayers, is now just a potential," the entity told her. "But it doesn't have to be. You can create the future with IPSA. Give back the hope. The strength. The determination. I've given you the tools you need — to change the future. But you
have to make it happen."
Buffy frowned. Confused.
"And… another thing," said the entity. "After you've worked that out. Worked out how to change the future. One other thing you have to do, to make sure the new future sticks."
"There is one thing that every other potential future for the Slayer had," said the entity, "which your IPSA future did not. One fundamental change, which altered the Slayer Institution permanently. Shifted it so that the training, the discipline, the students all followed your ideals — and not the old ideals."
A chorus of voices welled up, again — all the sound-bites from the scenes that had surrounded Buffy at first, the ones about the Oblivion War. And Buffy could hear, now, through the cacophony, two words that kept coming up. Over and over again.Watchers Council.
"They didn't know what a Watcher was," Buffy realized. "Jordan and Laura. From the 39th century. They'd never even heard of it."
"The future is in your hands," said the Not-Ninth-Doctor, as the sounds faded around them. "I've put it in your hands. Because I trust you. And you asked me for help." He met her eyes with his own. "The Watchers Council is the old ways. The old traditions. It is up to you to break the cycle. Break the pattern of the old ways."
Oh. Okay, then…
"You, Buffy Anne Summers," said the Entity. "You are a new way. A new hope in the darkness. A new inspiration to follow. After all this is over, make sure. Don't go back to the old ways. Do not re-found the Watchers Council. No matter what."
Buffy felt a flush of frustration run through her. "Look, who the hell are you?" she shouted. "You keep saying I asked you to do stuff, you keep saying you know me and you trust me, but I don't even know who you are!"
"You don't know me," the man agreed. "But you know my creator."
And then the man's image shifted, blurred, and burst with a glowing light nearly too bright for Buffy to look at. She shielded her eyes, and glimpsed through the brightness. At the image of the girl, who walked with golden eyes and the hint of tears streaming down her cheeks.
A girl Buffy recognized.
"Rose?" she asked.
"The Doctor sent her away," said the echoing voice of Rose Tyler. "When he was in his ninth body. He sent her away, so she'd be safe, while he faced the Daleks alone. But she could not bear to let him die. So she opened the heart of the TARDIS…"
An image flickered in front of Buffy's eyes, as she saw Rose pull open the front of the TARDIS console, a light encompassing her, surrounding her, fusing with her.
"…and saved his life."
The TARDIS spinning off into the vortex. The TARDIS arriving, its door bursting open, as a man, surrounded by Daleks, wearing a leather jacket — a man who really was
the Doctor — looked back, in utter horror.
"For a few minutes," the entity with no name explained to Buffy, "Rose Tyler was the Bad Wolf. For a few minutes, she gained ultimate power over everything — all of time and space and the universe. She couldn't control it. But she knew what was in her heart."
The projected scene dancing in front of Buffy showed Rose, her eyes shining, commanding, I bring life
. And Jack waking up, out of death, alive. Forever.
Then Rose, speaking to the Daleks, passion in her voice as she called out, the Time War ends
! And the Daleks crumbling to dust around her.
"And one more wish," the entity with no name said, to Buffy.
Rose, looking down at the Doctor, who was pleading with her to give the power up, because it was killing her, and she didn't know what she was doing. Telling him the words from her heart.I want you safe, my Doctor.
The scene faded away, leaving Buffy in the dark, with the entity that had no name, the one still wearing the guise of Rose Tyler.
"And with that wish," said the entity, "I was born."
"Rose created you," Buffy realized. "She didn't get what she was doing, but she knew she wanted the Doctor safe, and he's a super-duper trouble magnet, so… she accidentally created you."
"I have the heart of Rose Tyler," said the entity. "The soul of a human. But the abilities, vision, and knowledge of a higher-being."
"Who can screw around with time and space," Buffy muttered. She shrugged. "Yeah, that would pretty much be the only way you could keep the Doctor safe. I mean, as safe as he ever gets, considering."
The entity gave a long, sad smile.
"And Rose… when I met her, before, with Glory and stuff — she said she knew me," Buffy continued. "That's why you're all obsessed with me! That's why you can't say no to me. Because at some point in the future, I'm going to become friends with Rose. Before that whole… Bad Wolf thing happens. And you remember me!"
The entity shook its head. "I gained Rose's heart," the entity countered. "Her empathy. Her kindness. Her compassion. But not
Buffy frowned. "Okay, then why with the obsession?"
The image of Rose Tyler morphed, faded, and changed once more into the Ninth Doctor. Which just stood there. Refusing to explain to Buffy why he was obsessed with her.
"Okay, okay," said Buffy, her mind racing. "Explain this, then. If you're all wanting-to-help-me, why'd you stop my psychic paper messages from reaching the Doctor?"
"Didn't," said the man in the leather jacket.
Buffy frowned. "But you said…"
"Messages got sent to me, instead," said the man. "Wrong forwarding address. Would have sent them on, but someone's put a block on all psychic paper messages between you and the Doctor."
"Well… you could lift the block!" Buffy said. "Or just tell the Doctor I'm still around. Or…"
Buffy sagged, a little. "You can't do it, huh?"
"Can," the entity replied. "Won't."
The entity said nothing for a long time, a stony expression on his face, a sorrow deep within his eyes. "Would require a sacrifice," he confessed, eventually. "One I can never make."
Buffy wasn't sure what to say. Because she honestly had no idea what he was talking about.
The entity glanced over at her. "All comes down to decisions," he said. "Choices. Instances where the line between right and wrong — good and evil — is blurred. All of reality at stake. The First's goal is to wipe out the Watchers Council, erase the Slayer's training, methods, and procedures. My goal's the same — but my reasons different."
Buffy said nothing.It is up to you to break the cycle. Break the pattern of the old ways.
Up to Buffy to create a new and better Slayer.
The entity morphed into the Eleventh Doctor, with his bow tie and everything, his eyes meeting hers, as he took her hands in his. "You can save them, Elizabeth," he said. "Set right the wrongs of eons long-since passed. In the future, they won't remember what happened here — in 2003. Not the details. But they'll always remember your legacy."
Her… legacy? Not her, herself, but… her legacy. Yeah, that sounded about as depressing as everything in her life, right now.
Her hands melted through the entity's, as he lost his corporeal form, once more. He glanced around, then looked back at Buffy, as he took out a sonic screwdriver that didn't really exist, and was probably not really a sonic screwdriver at all.
"Save them all, Elizabeth," he said. "The Potential Slayers. The human race. The future. And… her
." In a quiet, thoroughly earnest voice, "Please, please
. Remember. Remember to save her." And then he buzzed the sonic at Buffy. "Good luck."
A surge of energy whipped around Buffy, tumbling her through a black, empty void, sweeping both past her and through her, making her head spin…
And she was back.
Back in the basement of her house, in Sunnydale. Unable to sleep. With Spike sprawled out on the cot behind her. And the moon flowing into the room through the basement windows.
In her mind, a part of her felt like she had never left. Every memory she'd had of the time leading up to that moment, in the real world — her finding the Scythe; her discovering the ancient guardian-lady, Alice (who had been trying to tell her something important about the Scythe, but had never gotten the chance, because Caleb had killed her, first); Buffy's killing Caleb; Angel's giving Buffy the Amulet — was all fresh inside her mind, as if she'd never gone anywhere.
But so were the memories of the other world — the quarantined timeline, inside the Axis — in which the First gained control of the Doctor, and the world ended. In which Buffy had held the baby Time Lord that would become the Slayer essence, and watched the child smile. In which Buffy had gone, and… learned.
(Just as she'd told the Shadow Men she'd wanted to do, even though they'd had no interest in teaching.)
She looked out into the moonlight, trying to gather her thoughts.
"Pretty, ain't it?" came a southern-accented voice to her right.
Buffy glanced over, to see the form of Caleb morph out of the shadows — an ethereal, non-corporeal ghost.
But not the right one.
"You're not him," Buffy said, looking away.
"No, you killed him, right and proper," said the First, thinking she was talking about Caleb. "Terrible loss." Gesturing at himself. "This man was my good right arm." He grinned. "Course, it don't pain me too much. Don't need an arm. Got an army." His voice lowered, and he whispered, "I will overrun this Earth. And when my army outnumbers the humans, scales will tip. And I will be made flesh."
"Talk on," said Buffy. "I'm not afraid of you."
"Then why aren't you asleep?" the First asked. "In your dead lover's arms?" He glanced back at Spike. "Because he can't help you. Nor Faith. And certainly" — with a laugh — "not your Wanna Slay Brigade."
Buffy didn't answer.
"None of those girlies will ever know real power until you're dead!" said the First, in Caleb's visage. "You know the drill."
The First morphed, and transformed into a perfect replica of Buffy herself. Leaning in closer to Buffy, the duplicate's eyes menacing and heartless.
"Into every generation," the First said, "a Slayer is born."Those words. Those same words, being chanted, over and over again, by four million Slayers, determined to defend the galaxy against the Daleks.
"One girl in all the world," the First continued.—Why are there millions of you? Buffy had asked Jordan, back in the 39th century.
—I don't know! Why's there only one of you?
"She, alone, will have the strength to…" the First paused, considering. "There's that word, again. What you are. How you'll die."Buffy Anne Summers. The Last Slayer.
"Alone."The First Slayer.
The First Evil — the Origin of Evil, the Secret of Krop-Tor, the one the Doctor called 'Toby' — looked back at Buffy, through her own eyes, challengingly. And gave a proud smile.
"Where's your snappy comeback?" the First asked.The future is in your hands. I've put it in your hands.
"You're right," said Buffy.
The First tilted her head. "Hm," she said. "Not your best."
From the cot, Spike jerked in his sleep. "I'm drowning in…!" He shot up, suddenly awake.
And when Buffy looked back at where the First had been, the apparition had gone.
"Bad dream," Spike muttered, getting up. He sat on the edge of the cot, looking at Buffy with concern in his eyes. "Something wrong?"
"No," Buffy said. Then stopped. "Yeah," she corrected. "I… just realized something. Something that… really never occurred to me before."You can save them, Elizabeth. Set right the wrongs of eons long-since passed.
She'd never believed anyone's words of encouragement. Knew they couldn't be possible. Knew, in her heart, that the First was right. Even if she defeated the First, even if she survived this, the Slayer would still be doomed. Because the Slayer — created for death, for darkness, for destruction, for solitude — was always doomed.
Until now.The Scythe gives you a power the First doesn't want you to have. Doesn't even want you to know about.
The power to change the future.
"We're going to win," Buffy told Spike.