: I hold no right over copyrighted characters. The Torchwood and Buffy characters are all the property of their respective owners.
Oops. I totally forgot to post this story, before "Daughter", which is where it's supposed to go. Sorry about that!
This story takes place right after the Torchwood Episode, "They Keep Killing Suzie", in which you discover that Suzie had a whole plan going, when she died, to use the resurrection glove to swap places with someone else (Gwen), so that Suzie lived, and Gwen was shot in the head.
A lot of things I love about "Reasons to Live" (Saxon or Lunch? LUNCH!), which I could go into in more detail, here. But won't. I'll just let this story speak for itself.
"—Ministry of Defense can take care of it on their own," said Buffy, as she scraped at the remains of the charred something she'd been frying up for lunch on the stove. "I mean, it's not like Giles actually needs my help. He's all with the apocalypse prevention. It's not a big deal, right?"
Seo was just studying the way that Buffy was racing across the kitchen. And the ever-growing pile of food that Buffy seemed to be preparing for lunch.
"You told Giles you'd drop by the Ministry after lunch?" Seo guessed.
Buffy turned on Seo, waving the spatula at her. "Lunch is very important!"
Seo nodded, slowly. Her eyes resting on the banquet set out before her, which had outgrown the kitchen, and was now starting to occupy surfaces in the living room, dining room, and possibly even Buffy's bedroom.
Her brow furrowed, a look of intense concentration spreading through her.
"What?" said Buffy.
"I was just thinking," Seo mused, "I should build a machine that compresses leftovers into conservable nutrition bars. To send to those starving kids, in Africa."
Buffy sighed. Seo had been like this ever since she'd learned that there were
starving kids in Africa, in the first place. It was probably good that she couldn't fly on planes very easily, otherwise she'd probably have packed up and gone there, right away.
"We have so much food here," Seo remarked, her eyes sad, drifting off. "So much everything. While they have nothing. It's not right." Her eyes focused, and she grinned. "That's what I should work on, next," she decided. "Creating things for deprived kids in third world countries."
Buffy turned back to her cooking. "Seo," she said, "you do realize that anything you invent automatically gets a 'Top Secret Do Not Use' sticker on the outside, right? I mean, Jack's got his own special category of Top Secretness for all the stuff you've built."
Seo's eyes went wide. "But… why?" she said. "Luke Rattigan invented Atmos! And that just encourages people to drive more and deplete the oil supply faster. Why can't I invent something that will actually do some good? Help starving kids?"
Damn. Seo was all with the good-pointyness, sometimes.
"Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't help starving kids, I'm just saying that introducing advanced technology before it's been invented by humans screws with time," Buffy said, glancing over at Seo. "And, if I've learned anything from your father, screwing around with time... is never… something…"
Buffy paused. Staring at Seo.
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked.
Seo had her hand up to her head, her eyes closed, a look of pain sweeping across her face. "I… I don't… what's…?"
Then she gripped her head, tightly, with both hands, a scream yanked from her mouth.
"Which would have put Seo's collapse at exactly the same time," Tosh concluded, "that we destroyed the resurrection glove."
Buffy said nothing. Her eyes still fixed on the unconscious Seo, lying in the medical bay of Torchwood Cardiff.
Seo had been out for over three hours.
That definitely wasn't a good sign.
Gwen grimaced. Still looking deeply shaken from everything that had occurred to her, just before Buffy and Seo arrived. "Seo used the glove?"
Owen, Ianto, and Tosh all shared the same knowing look.
Oh, boy, had Seo used that glove!
"She used it once," said Jack. He leaned against the railing. "Only once. And not in the traditional way."
"Suzie never stopped giving her hell about it, though," Owen muttered.
"But I thought we checked her out, after Suzie died," Ianto said. "And she was fine."
"No," Owen replied. Pointing at Ianto. "If you'll recall, we checked her out, and she gave us no readings." He turned his accusing finger to Tosh. "Tosh was the one who said she was fine."
"I thought she was!" Tosh protested.
Buffy grimaced. Couldn't help but remember that… Seo had pumped a lot
of energy through that glove. Really a lot. Way more than Suzie ever had. More than even Gwen had… when Gwen had resurrected…
If Gwen, using her own human-strength mental connection with the glove while using it on Suzie, had accidentally forged a link between herself and Suzie — what did that mean for Seo? Seo, who had used a far stronger mental connection with the glove on the Judge
"Jack," said Buffy, softly. "You don't think… all this time, Seo's still been psychically linked… to…?"
Jack looked out at Seo's unconscious form, not answering. Just watching, as Owen tried to get some piece of alien technology to actually read her, and give a diagnosis on her brain activity.
"I mean, if she was slowly turning into the Judge," Buffy continued, "she'd be turning evil, right? We would have seen that."
"She can be a little… vengeful, at times," Tosh admitted. "Towards people she judges to be evil."
"Yeah, but she's not evil herself!" Buffy exclaimed. "I mean… just before she collapsed, she was trying to figure out some way to feed starving kids in Africa. There's no way anyone turning into the Judge would propose something like that!"
"If there was any trace of a connection," said Owen, "it's over, now. Any link with the glove has been severed."
"Then why's she still unconscious?" Ianto asked.
Jack glanced at the rest of them. "Because this… was another part of Suzie's plan," he muttered.
Buffy was swiveling, around and around, on the swivel chairs, a lost, semi-desperate expression on her face. Gwen watched her. Feeling for her. The mother so terrified of losing her only child.
She came over, sat down beside Buffy. "She'll be all right. Owen thinks this could just be her body's way of handling the psychic shock of losing the glove."
"Yeah," said Buffy, in a voice that sounded thoroughly unconvinced. She pushed her chair around, again, her shoe nudging the ground.
Gwen hesitated. For a few moments, not really sure what to say. Not really sure what more she could say.
"It's just…" Buffy faltered, her chair coming to a stop, her hand gripping the desk beside her. "Jack's right. Suzie hated
Seo. Really hated. And this whole trap that you fell into — you know, with Suzie using the glove to drain your life force energy and switch places with you, so you
were the one shot in the head, and she
was the one alive — it really sounds like it was set up for Seo. After all, Suzie always said she wanted… Seo… shot in the…"
Buffy swallowed, hard, and tried to pull herself together.
Gwen was a little dumbstruck. Put her hand against the back of her own head, almost instinctively, feeling phantom pains from what had just happened.
"If this was all meant for Seo," Buffy said, meeting Gwen's eyes, "Suzie would never have chanced letting Seo go free. She'd have had a backup plan, in case the glove got destroyed. Made sure that… if she couldn't live… Seo couldn't, either."
"You really think this was all set up for her?" Gwen asked. "That I was an accident?"
"The only two people at Torchwood who could use the glove," said Buffy, "were Suzie and my daughter. I mean, yes, Seo hated that glove and would have refused to use it, but… if Torchwood was desperate enough… put in a bad enough position… Jack would have asked her. And if Jack asked her… she'd have done it." Buffy shook her head. "Seo hates disappointing Jack."
Gwen remembered the hatred in Suzie's eyes, when Suzie had killed her own father. The spite and malice and bitterness on her face, as Gwen had been dying in Suzie's place.
All that hatred… directed at a kid, like Seo…
"Why did Suzie hate Seo so much?" Gwen asked.
Buffy gave a dejected half shrug. "Suzie hated aliens," she explained. "Even before Seo was around, Suzie used to tell me alien life was all just… filth. Garbage. So when Seo showed up, it was all with the hate-fest. And it didn't help that Seo kind of… naturally… baits and antagonizes people like that."
Oh. No wonder.
"Then came the glove," Buffy sighed. She shook her head. "Seo hated that glove. She thought it was cruel and inhumane. She kept moralizing at Suzie about how using it was wrong, resurrecting people was wrong. And when that didn't work, she tried sabotaging it. Or getting rid of it."
That was a viewpoint that Gwen had never even considered. "Seo thought resurrecting people was wrong?"
"Yeah, well, Seo… heard about when it happened to me," said Buffy, a little uneasily. "You know. Resurrection." She fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. "And, I mean, she's grateful I'm alive. But she understands — sometimes the worst part of dying is coming back."
Gwen stared at her. For a few seconds, completely unable to speak.
"You've… come back to life?" she said. She felt herself shaking, just a little. "Are you… you're not like…?"
"Jack?" said Buffy. She shook her head. "No. I'm not all pop-back-to-life-no-matter-what-Buffy. I've just got this friend, Willow, who's super powerful with the witchcraft. For some reason, she just can't stop herself from bringing me back to life, when I die. She's done it a few times, now."
Gwen felt her mouth go dry. She remembered, in the car, when Suzie had described death to her. Described what it felt like to die. To be dead.
Buffy looked at Gwen, expectantly. "Go on," she said. "You're about to ask me… what it's like. To be dead. Everyone always asks that."
"Suzie said it was nothing," said Gwen. "That there was no afterlife. Just darkness. Despair. Desolation. Just—"
"Wait, you asked Suzie
?" Buffy asked.
Gwen didn't answer.
Buffy gave a short, sharp laugh. "Geeze. No wonder you look so shaken up. Next time you ask someone what it's like to be dead, don't ask Miss Crazy Homicidal Maniac."
Gwen felt a little of the tension draining from her. "So… when you die, you're not just surrounded by… desolation and despair? Nothingness and darkness, with no form or time or—"
"No, she's right about that," Buffy admitted. "When you die, it's… kind of… nothingness and darkness. You've got no physical form — nothing has any physical form — and time is meaningless. But it's not
despair and desolation, Gwen." She looked deep into Gwen's eyes. "I was there. I remember. I was still me, in the darkness. And I was happy
Gwen didn't know what to say.
"Jack won't know about this, either," said Buffy. "Because when he dies, it's never his time to go. He's kind of flailing in the middle, before he gets pulled back. But when people die and it's their time to go, and they've lived a good life — it's… beautiful. Wonderful. Heaven." She smiled a little, to herself, just thinking of it. "You know your friends are safe. You know everyone's safe. And you feel warm and loved and… finished. Complete."
Gwen absorbed this. Feeling a little more hopeful. "So Suzie… went to Hell? While you went to Heaven?"
"Maybe," Buffy said. "Maybe not. I kind of think… we both went to the same place. Suzie just chose to see it differently."
Just as Suzie had seen so many things differently.
A dying father…
A book of poetry…
"It's like that with the world, too," said Buffy, her eyes drifting back to the medical bay. "Here. This place. It feels like hell, sometimes. Full of monsters and evil people and the just-following-orders people." She shuddered. "It felt like that to me, when I was first resurrected. A cruel place. Bright and hard and violent."
Gwen cringed. Having seen so many moments of hell on Earth, herself, as a member of the police force, and a member of Torchwood.
"But then," Buffy continued, "when there's someone like Seo in your life, who's so completely fascinated and excited by everything, who thinks of every new monster as being a chance to celebrate the diversity of life, and every new alien as another person she can speak to, it just… makes the world so…" Buffy paused, trying to think of the word. "Happy
"Slayers… we've got so many things we're expected to die for," Buffy said. "The world. The universe. Innocent people. Friends and family and those we care about. But Seo…" Buffy's eyes shone with love. "She's who I live
Gwen felt that coming from Buffy. The love and caring and affection for a part-alien daughter she should never have been able to have.
It's why Buffy had gone to heaven, and Suzie had gone to hell. Even if it was — supposedly — the same place. From a different perspective.
Because they had that different perspective.
Their reasons for dying were so very different.
And so were their reasons to live.
"Seo's just… so much like her father, sometimes," Buffy said. "Always seeing hope in despair. Always trying to bring light to the darkness." The hints of tears formed in her eyes, as they rested on the still Seo, lying unconscious in the medical bay. "Some days, I still miss him more than anything."
"What happened to him?" asked Gwen.
Buffy's eyes snapped back to Gwen, and the emotions were stuffed behind a blank mask. "Nothing. As long as he stays away from me, he'll be fine. He… is
fine. Out there, somewhere. Wandering around, helping people and saving worlds and giving hope when there is none." She glanced down at the desk beside her. "I just wish… I could tell him. That I'm still alive. Just so he won't blame himself for my death."
Gwen frowned. "Who was — is — he?"
"Just… a man," Buffy said. "A wonderful man. A mutual friend of mine and Jack's."
Someone from Jack's past.
Gwen snuck a peek around herself. Then leaned in, a little closer to Buffy. "So… you know one of Jack's friends," Gwen confirmed. "From his past. Before Torchwood."
"Then… you know who Jack is," Gwen whispered. "Where he comes from. Why he's here. Why he's… the way he is."
Buffy said nothing for a long moment. Her brow furrowing in concentration. A small smile creeping onto the sides of her lips. "No," she said, at last. "Actually, I've got no idea where he's from. Where he was born. I never even thought to ask."
Gwen felt a little put out at the news.
"Sorry," Buffy said, getting up from her seat. "But I trust Jack, you know. I'll always trust him. Because I know who he dies for." Glancing at the hand bubbling away, nearby. "And I know who he lives for." Turning back to Gwen.
"Who?" asked Gwen.
Buffy grinned at Gwen and the rest of Torchwood, around them. Then turned. And headed back to the medical bay.
Seo finally woke up, an hour later.
She sat on the side of the gurney, her head drooped, her entire posture slumped over, her breath racing. She looked like she'd just spent the last five hours sprinting for her life, not lying comatose at Torchwood.
"Yes, it was Suzie," Seo confirmed. "Her backup plan. To make sure she could kill me, even if the glove were destroyed. We met in some nether-place. And… had a minor… altercation." She gave a small smile. "In the end, turns out, I was cleverer than her."
Buffy swept Seo up into a tight hug, every ounce of worry and relief showing on her face.
Seo's eyes fixed on Gwen. No, not Gwen. On her fingers. Tapping a subconscious rhythm against the banister of the stairway.
"And I had a better reason to live," Seo whispered, hugging Buffy to her a little tighter.