: And the end.
Hope you all enjoyed this story. The next one will be less weird and two-part-ish. I actually like the next story a lot. I think it's one of my favorites.
By the time Buffy, still in California with Seo and Alison, checked in with Torchwood, it was all over, anyways.
And Jack was dead.
"Seo was right," Buffy told Alison. "Torchwood opened the rift. A monster came out. And Jack… sacrificed himself to stop it."
Alison could see that Buffy was only holding herself together through sheer stubborn willpower. That there was a part of Buffy that was torn apart with grief over losing a close friend like Jack, and a part of Buffy that was still crying tears of utter relief that her little girl was alive.
"You… remember what it felt like," Alison said. "Thinking… Seo was dead."
Buffy looked up at Alison. "You remember dying."
Yes. Yes, she did.
Remembered dying. Remembered Bilis Manger. Remembered coming to California and having to save the day, and being scared to death because Seo was getting haunted by some revenge-seeking ghost that wanted to make her kill herself.
And she remembered… hearing… that Seo was 'the Key'.
"The Key," Alison repeated.
Buffy nodded, slowly. "So you figured it out."
Alison stared at her. "You… already knew?"
"My sister's the same way," said Buffy, her eyes falling on the ground. "She almost died for it, when she was fourteen. I had to save her life." She flicked her eyes back up to Alison. "Did you tell anyone?"
"No," said Alison.
A smile tugged at the corners of Buffy's face. "Thank you."
"Can… can Seo really…?" Alison hesitated. "She said… if she wanted to open the Cardiff rift, she could have done it any time she wanted. Just by thinking about it. Is that… true?"
"I honestly don't know," Buffy confessed. "Probably. She'd never be able to control it, though. Not by herself."
"I don't… keep many secrets from Torchwood," said Buffy. "But this one… should stay secret. My sister, Seo, they… can't help what they are. But it's who
they are that counts." Buffy took a long, slow breath. "Torchwood doesn't always remember that, when they get desperate."
Yes. Alison remembered. Remembered what Jack had said, back when he'd called, and Alison had been watching Buffy sob over a seemingly-lifeless Seo, and…
But now Jack was dead.
"Look, what happened… it can't really be Seo's fault," Alison insisted. "Can it?"
Buffy said nothing.
"It just… can't!" said Alison. "I can't believe it. I can't believe she'd just run away from someone without having any better reason than that he was an unstable point in space-time!"
"I can," Buffy said, in a voice barely above a whisper.
Dawn looked around herself. Confused. Bewildered.
Where was she?
Not in Cleveland, that was for sure. But how'd she gotten here? What had happened in the last twenty four hours? And why was she having such a hard time remembering?
She reached for her cell phone, but it was gone. Dropped, she guessed, when she was being… transported… here… somehow.
That made no sense.
"Excuse me!" Dawn called out to someone. "Excuse me. Do you know where I am?"
They ignored her.
Damn. Perception filter TARDIS key thing. Dawn had totally forgotten about that.
"You're in Roald Dahl Plass," said a voice to Dawn's left. "Cardiff."
Dawn spun around, and found herself facing a very handsome young man, about her own age, in a black pinstripe suit.
"Ianto Jones," he introduced, extending his hand. "Torchwood. You must be Dawn Summers."
Dawn didn't shake his hand. "How do you know my…?"
"Ah," Ianto reached into a pocket, then handed her a small, folded up note. "Someone… gave this to me."
Dawn opened it up. And read. Dear Ianto, The confused person on your invisible lift is Dawn Summers. Please take care of her — she doesn't know where she is or how she got here. But she's just saved the world. And will want to get back to Cleveland soon as possible. Thanks, Seo. PS. Please burn this letter when you're done.
Except that, in the post-script, the word 'burn' had been crossed out and… in Dawn's own handwriting… the word 'eat' had been written in, just above.
"Uh… it'll go good with ketchup?" Dawn volunteered, handing the letter back to Ianto.
Ianto folded the letter. And put it back into his pocket. "Let's see if we can't get you back to Cleveland."
Buffy had known that Seo wouldn't accept Jack's death.
Buffy had trouble accepting it, herself.
It was one of the reasons Buffy delayed taking them all back to England. Besides the hassle of needing to travel without passports or Seo showing up on machines or any apparent entry into the United States in the first place. Buffy… just kept feeling like maybe… if she never went back to England… she could pretend Jack had sprung back to life, again.
(And was this Buffy's fault? She'd slept with him, hadn't she? Thought he'd be safe, because he couldn't die. But what if… this was the legacy of the Powers that Be, killing off anyone she got intimate with? What if they'd finally managed to kill Jack for good?)
If Buffy could barely come to terms with Jack's demise, there was no way Seo ever would.
Jack had been the only person in Seo's life that she'd known — for a fact — would outlive her. The only speck of permanence in an ever-changing world. She could barely accept the idea that Jack might hate her forever.
She certainly wouldn't be able to accept that Jack had actually died for good.
"That doesn't make sense," Seo told Buffy, when she'd finally gotten up the courage to tell her daughter the truth.
"Abaddon sucked the life out of him," Buffy said. "He's dead, Seo. Really dead, this time. And he isn't coming back to life."
Seo thought this over. Processed it. Then dismissed it all as a lie.
"But what really
happened?" Seo asked.
Buffy, at some point, knew there was no point in trying to argue with Seo. She'd figure it out, some day. But until then… maybe it was better to live in denial about this.
Easier than living with the truth.
Buffy eventually worked out, with Ria, a way to arrange for the Slayer Institution's private jet to drop the three of them off in London.
Alison's parents gave her an earful when she arrived home, of course. All the way to California and back, without a passport? Yeah, Buffy had had a hell of a time smoothing that one over.
That was the easy part. Next… came the long, painful trip to Torchwood.
"Do you think… when we get there… Jack will forgive me?" Seo asked. "For… what I did? Do you think…?" Seo paused. Then, in a very low voice, "Do you think he'll ever forgive me?"
But he wouldn't. Would never be able to say anything to Seo, ever again. The immortal man, the one man Buffy could count on not to go permanently dying on her, in a fight… and he was gone. Gone forever. Never, ever coming back.
Buffy had to pull over to the side of the road. Bent her head down over the steering wheel.
And burst into tears.
In the Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff, a wind whipped up from nowhere, as a blue police box materialized on the Plass. Across the way, a man in a World War II military greatcoat sprinted across the Plass, rucksack on his back, as if running for his life.
"Doctor!" Jack shouted.
The TARDIS began to wheeze and groan, and Jack, in desperation, threw himself at the outside, clinging to the blue exterior as both he, and the TARDIS, faded back into the vortex.
For a few moments, the Plass was still. Quiet, save for the spectators who were all still mildly shocked at the mad man with the rucksack who'd disappeared.
Then they shrugged. And went on with their lives.
This was Cardiff.
They'd seen odder things.
Three minutes later, Buffy Summers arrived in Cardiff.
"Yeah, there, see?" said Owen. He pointed at Seo. "She said it, not me. Her bloody fault. All along. Opening the rift, the temporal shift back to 1941, Bilis Manger. All Seo's fault. Nothing to do with me and Diane."
Everyone gave Owen the same sharp glare. Buffy advanced on him, pure fiery rage inside her eyes. And Owen began to feel much like he had when he was facing down that weevil, in that cage.
"It wasn't your fault," Tosh told Seo. Trying to give the girl some comfort. "In fact, we could have used you, back when Jack and I were stuck in 1941."
"1941," Seo repeated, her voice expressionless.
"Yes, we fell through a crack in space-time," said Tosh. She smiled. "And I remembered you were the only one who understood those Rift Manipulator equations. But for some reason, neither Owen, Gwen, nor Ianto ever thought to call you."
Seo didn't answer.
Gwen and Ianto exchanged blank looks. Apparently, neither of them had known that Seo understood the rift equations. Then they both turned on Owen, who was looking a little guilty.
"All right," Owen admitted. "So… I might have… kept that from you. But, in all fairness, I only did it because I knew that if she
turned up," pointing at Buffy, "she'd have never let me open the rift."
Buffy just leveled the same livid stare at Owen.
"It wasn't just Owen," Gwen cut in. She sighed. "It was all of us, in the end. We… got visions. People we loved, lost. Telling us to open the rift."
"Yeah, yeah, I know all about that trick," said Buffy. She took in a sharp breath, trying to suppress her anger. Turned to the Torchwood team, looking almost exactly like the same Buffy that had led a group of Potential Slayers to battle against the First. "Just remember. What happened this time? This
was the good
scenario. You unleashed one single monster of unspeakable horror. Just one." She shook her head. "You guys have absolutely no idea how lucky you were."
The Torchwood team looked down at their feet, like chided school-kids.
"But… we have the equations!" Tosh insisted. "We know how to—"
"You know nothing
!" said Buffy. "Rifts, Hellmouths, trans-universal portals — do you have any idea how powerful they are? They can shatter a reality to pieces. Swallow entire worlds whole. Cause temporal and dimensional collapses you can't even begin to dream of. I
should know. I
grew up on one."
They all went quiet.
"You screwed around with stuff you didn't understand," said Buffy. "Even when Jack told you not to. And, in the end, he
was the one who paid the price. For all of you." She leveled a glare at them. "I hope you're all proud of yourselves."
Seo turned and raced out of the Hub.
Gwen hesitated, worry spreading across her face. Then darted after her, fast as she could.
Buffy rounded on Owen. Finger pointing right in his face, as she backed him against the far wall of the hub. "And, as for you, bud," said Buffy. She gave him a level glare, her anger barely held in check. "I've said it to my daughter. And I'll say it to you. You, Owen Harper, are officially grounded for the next three hundred years."
Seo sat on the step on Roald Dahl Plass. Her head in her hands.
Gwen came over, and sat down beside her.
"Jack's gone," Seo whispered. "And he's not coming back."
And Gwen realized that… Buffy wouldn't have known that Jack had woken up. Would just assume that he was still dead, as he'd been, before.
"But he did come back," Gwen told Seo. "I kissed him and he got better. He was just here, walking and talking, only moments before you arrived. He… got… taken. Somewhere."
Seo absorbed this. Then shook her head.
"He wasn't taken," she said. "He ran. Ran far, far away. Through time." She huddled in on herself. "Just to get away from me."
Gwen wasn't sure how to make sense of what Seo was telling her. Ran away? Through time? What…? Why…?
How did she even know?!
"It's my fault," said Seo, looking off into the distance. "All my fault. Everything. I tried so hard to do it right, and in the end, I mucked it up, again. Like I always do." She shrugged. "And now… there's no one left to forgive me."
Gwen put her arms around Seo. Remembering her own fight with Rhys, when she'd confessed that she'd been sleeping around, begged him to just please tell her that he forgave her. And never managing to get him to do so.
She'd had his blood on her hands. Felt the pain of his death.
And he'd still never forgiven her.
Together, they sat there. Gwen and Seo. Looking off into the distance.
Both wishing for a forgiveness they knew they'd never get.