: I hold the rights over no copyrighted material. All Buffy and Torchwood characters are the property of their own creators.
So this is going to be a weird story. Because it's a two-parter, told backwards. What we're seeing, now, is the repercussion of things that you'll see in a future story I'm going to write. Which I've only written part of.
I actually kind of like this one, though.
Up to you to figure out what happened, whether Bilis is lying or not, and what Seo's role in it actually was.
It all started because someone told Seo she shouldn't go into the building.
So she had
Easy lock to pick. And when she got inside — not much there. Not on the surface. Just an abandoned dance hall, 40's memorabilia scattered throughout. She glanced around, a smile lighting up her face, then raced up the stairs.
If Alison had been here, she'd have said to pack it in and get going. Just an old, useless, graffiti covered building. But Seo stood in the middle of the dance floor, beneath the dusty chandelier. Feeling the age of this place.
She closed her eyes. Trying to imagine… what it would be like. To enter this place when it was alive
. When it was full of people and laughter and happiness.
"To be able to step back through the past," Seo breathed. Taking a step forwards. "To somewhere else. Somewhen else."
It was a throb inside her hearts. To move. To run and never look back. Jump and never stop to think. To smell the air of a time not her own, to see the sky, feel the grass and foliage of another era…
"But you can," came the voice from behind her.
Seo jumped, her eyes snapping open. She spun on her feet and found herself facing a tall, slender man with white, sleeked-back hair, wearing a black suit and a cravat.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't hear you come…" Seo began.
"Of course you didn't," said the man. "There was nothing to hear. I simply appeared here. I can step through history's pages. And so can you."
Seo looked more closely at him. She could feel that brilliant something in the back of her mind, blossoming with curiosity and intrigue and a thousand questions. Who was he? What was he? How could he travel through time? Why did he trigger some… odd feeling, inside of her, like there was something about him her senses couldn't quite place?
But that wasn't what she said.
"I can travel through time?" she asked. Trying, desperately, to keep the raw need out of her voice.
"Can't you feel it?" asked the man. "The rift calls your name, longs for its mistress. Longs for a Lady of Time to guide its hand."
A smile crept up Seo's face, as her brain went light-speed, trying to work him out. "Who are you?"
The man walked towards her. His eyes boring into her own. "Bilis Manger," he said, handing her a business card. "A temporal being, like yourself. Except… I am not a master of time. Time is a master of me."
Seo's eyes lit up. "You're like Billy Pilgrim!" she cried, taking the card and shoving it in a pocket. "You've come unstuck in time!" Her mind whirled with possibilities, with longing and fantasy and reality all mixed together. She glanced around herself, with a longing sorrow. "You can go back. Actually go back. Be in the past."
"And so can you," said Bilis. He reached out to take her hands. "If you let yourself."
The smile dripped off her face. She snatched her hands away, a glumness settling over her. "I can't," she said. "Jack said—"
"But he's already there," said Bilis. "Waiting. Can't you feel him? Captain Jack Harkness, in the sands of time."
Seo stood still. Feeling… the brush of… something. She closed her eyes.
"That's it," said Bilis. "Imagine. Feel what it would be like to be in that moment of time. Walk through the mists of temporal flux and probabilities. Let it become real to you."
Yes. Yes! She could feel it. Could bring it closer to her, bit by bit, latching onto that one name — Captain Jack Harkness — sticking out through the mists of history. The room began to warm, around her, as she willed it warm. The distant sounds of laughter, as she willed those people to come back.
And it was beautiful. So beautiful to feel the pull of the vortex humming around her. So amazing to hear that comfortable, almost familiar song of the entire universe floating through her psyche.
The gust of time winds rushing through her hair.
"Just like that," Bilis soothed. "Step into it, Seo. Can you feel the interplay of forces around you? Can you feel the power of the rift, just at your fingertips?"
Seo could. Oh, yes, she could! Could feel the rift almost calling to her — like an old friend. It was so tangible, suddenly, here. So… present.
Seo reached out. Stroked a hand along its surface, feeling the different dimensional walls and forces and pressures swirling around her. Then, took a step forward. Not a big step, just… a small step. And felt herself almost tingle, as her every fantasy of traveling through time began to play through.
Music echoed across the dance hall.
She stopped. Her hand lingering on the barrier of the rift, separating her own time from the time she was stepping into. She could break it apart so easily. One push…
But there's something magical about the moment just before opening a locked door. The moment when possibility was infinite, and anything could lie just out of sight. Seo stayed. Lingered on it. That moment of hope. Of beauty.
It was almost enough. Just to know
she could do this, without having to actually take the last step. Almost enough to just walk away from it all, with just memories and mystery and…
The music got louder.
"Just a little more," Bilis urged her. "Don't be afraid of barriers — they will open for you. Any door will open for you, Seo. You are the master key that can open any lock. Pure potential. Pure power."
Seo stepped back, eyes opening, all apparitions of the 1940's fading around her, as she snapped her head over to Bilis. Eyes narrowed.
did you call me?" she demanded.
Bilis smiled, clasping his hands behind his back. "The Key, Seo. I called you the Key. Because that's what you are."
Seo turned on him, completely withdrawing from her near-walk through time. "You… but that's impossible. You know my name. You know I'm…" She stopped, her hands clenching into fists. As a sudden frisson of fear spread through her. "You're trying to get me to unlock something."
Bilis didn't answer, just kept smiling.
"You're an unstable point in space-time," Seo continued. "I can feel
that on you. See
it. You haven't just come unstuck in time — you're trapped in the rift, and need me to unlock you." She gave a sly smile. "But I'm not thick enough to fall for that. If you've been imprisoned in the rift, it's for a reason."
"To save you," said Bilis.
The smile fell, just a hair. "To… save…?"
Bilis shook his head, pacing slowly around Seo, in a circle. "Oh, Seo, Seo, Seo," he said. "You really don't have any idea who I am."
The smile dissolved entirely.
"Here I am," said Bilis, "so aged and withered and changed that even the older you would hardly recognize me. And you… look just the same. Two hundred years, in the outside world — thousands and thousands of years, for me — and you still haven't aged a day."
Seo's jaw fell open. "You're… from my future."
From a future version of herself that traveled through time.
"But… why are you like this?" said Seo. "How…?"
"Do you know how long I've waited for you?" Bilis demanded. "You said you'd come back for me. You said you'd release me. But you left, and you never came back. You never, ever came back."
Seo tried to step back, but Bilis stepped forward, advancing on her. "I… haven't done that, yet," she insisted. "Whoever you are, whatever happened to make you—"
"Two hundred years ago, you
, Seo, were the one trapped in here," said Bilis, his black eyes leveled at her. "Enslaved to the rift. Enslaved to time. But I
took your place. Because I cared about you — I trusted you! I loved
you! And I thought you loved me, too. The things I did for you… the things I was willing to give up…!"
Seo felt her hearts sink. Felt every single bit of her conscience ache, as she realized… what she must have done to him. Why? Why would she do something like that?
Why would she trap someone in a rift that made them practically immortal, in their own private hell and unable to die or free themselves from it, and then just… run away from them?! Just because they were temporally unstable? She wouldn't do things like that!
"You never came back for me," said Bilis. He stopped in his tracks. "So I found you, instead." His posture was calm, relaxed, serene, but his eyes were bitter, angry. "You made me into me. So I'll make you into you."
"But why…?" Seo began.
But before she could finish, Bilis Manger had marched up to her, grabbed her shoulders in his hands, the fingers boring down through her with an iron grip. "They are going to die," he said, his voice low, yet calm, even. "Your friends. Your family. Everyone you care about. Everyone you know. They will all die, Seo, and you will watch them. Unable to stop it. Because — here, now — you'll remember that you didn't."
An icy chill ran down Seo's spine. Who was this man that she would wrong, at some point in her own future? Who was this man she'd run away from, that would come back so changed?
For a few moments, Seo said nothing. Could say nothing. As she felt the thin edges of time that still lingered in this place. As she looked into the eyes of someone who had once trusted her so deeply, he'd do anything she asked. And was now willing to kill everyone and everything around her, just to make her suffer for it.
Her friends… her family…
Seo thrust herself out of his grasp, and shot him a hard stare. "No."
Bilis gave a grim smile. "No?"
"No!" Seo repeated, turning and heading towards the door. "Because I'm going to stop you." Her hand on the banister, trying not to clutch it too tightly as Bilis' laughter trailed down behind her.
"Just remember!" he shouted, as she left the building. "Everything that happens, everything you fail to stop — you
did it, Seo! You
killed them all!"
"Well, I'll give you one thing," said Jack, leaning back in his office chair behind his desk. "It's not what I was expecting you to ask."
Buffy just turned in her seat, across the desk from Jack, so she was facing Seo. "No."
"But… you don't understand!" Seo insisted. She kept darting her eyes over at the rift manipulator, bouncing on her toes, trying to resist the urge to go over there and just do it, anyways. "I have
to. It's really, really
"Why?" Buffy demanded.
Seo hesitated. Her eyes drifting back to the manipulator.
What could she tell them? What did she really know? That she'd screwed something up, in her own future, except maybe she didn't, and she needed to figure out some way to work out what was right and what was wrong, and why and how Bilis was actually stuck in the rift in the first place, so she could figure out whether or not she should unstick him, and…
"I don't know," Seo admitted.
Mom shook her head. "You're just trying to open the rift because we told you not to, huh?" she asked.
Now that she mentioned it… that actually seemed like a much better reason than the one Seo had come up with.
"I'm not… opening the rift," Seo insisted. "Not exactly. I just want to—"
"Completely dissect the rift manipulator and build an entirely different one in its place," Mom said. She crossed her arms. "One that would specifically complement your
energies. That would put you
in charge of deciding when the rift opened and when it closed. And how."
"It'd be better!" Seo insisted. "The one you have, right now, is… clunky. Awkward. I can fix that! I can make sure the manipulator weeds out the bulk of the temporal instabilities. Just give me a little time to experiment, and I know I can work it out!"
"No," said Mom.
Seo looked over at Jack.
"I'm gonna have to go with Buffy on this one," he told her. "Sorry, kid."
"But… but… why?!" Seo asked.
"Because the only reason I can imagine for you wanting to build that kind of thing is because you want to open the rift without our noticing," said Mom.
"It's too risky," Jack told Seo. "You could unbalance the forces inside the rift. Destroy the world. Maybe even open the rift, by accident, while you're changing around the equipment. I'm sorry, Seo. But I just can't take that risk."
"But what if someone… somewhere… did something really, really wrong," said Seo, "by accident, and I need to use the rift manipulator to figure out what happened, and know if I should be fixing it?"
Jack and Buffy looked at one another. Then back at Seo. It was clear that they both had worked out that the 'someone' in question was Seo herself.
"It's not me!" Seo said. Okay, so… maybe it was her… but a her that hadn't happened, yet. Which meant that other her was just as mysterious and confusing as a complete stranger. "That's why I need to work out the motivations."
"And this… 'accident'… entails what, exactly?" Jack asked.
"I don't know," Seo admitted. "That's why I need the rift manipulator to work it out."
Once again, Buffy and Jack exchanged a look. And Seo knew… she was rapidly losing her argument.
"Look, what if… some Time… Person… Type-Thingy out there," Seo began, "had this… friend. That they were really close to. And then this… Time Person… accidentally screwed up something, turning that friend into some immortal time traveler. And then, I don't know, maybe just because they sort of freaked or got distracted or just… felt that kind of messed uppedness of time around their friend… that Time Person ran away and never came back, and now the friend's all angry, but I think he's actually just confused, and if I could just—"
"Seo," Jack cut in, his face very dark. "Stop. Now."
Seo stopped talking.
Buffy looked over at Jack, biting her lower lip, a cringe planted on her face. Seo felt a wave of panic spreading over her. Did Buffy — Mom — and Jack already know about Bilis? Was this future screw-up of hers already public knowledge?
"I just think if I don't try to use the rift to fix things," Seo tried, "then maybe he'll—"
Jack got up from his desk. Marched over to Seo, all hints of lightness gone from his face.
"Don't," he said, in a very low voice, "and I mean don't
— touch the rift manipulator. Don't get close to it. Don't get within five hundred feet of it. Because I'm not letting anyone
use me as an excuse to end the world."
Then he passed by her, and left.
Seo stared after him, unsure what to even say to this.
"I think we should go home," said Mom, getting up and leading Seo out the door to Jack's office.
"But… but there's someone out there," Seo insisted, "who used to be a friend, but got left behind, and I don't know why, and if I don't find out, everyone could—"
"Home," Buffy said, more firmly, yanking Seo along with her. "Definitely home. Right now."
Deep down inside the Cardiff Rift, energies tingled. Shook. She had so nearly passed through, come so very near to the rift — the Key, the manipulator of energies. The rift responded. Its energies heightened. Calling for its Key.
But the Key had not unlocked it. Not done what the rift had expected. Just shaken up the temporal landscape, and then left. The rift still closed and sealed.
And so the pressures built up inside. More and more, higher and higher, internal locks and barriers and probabilities shattering under the interdimensional buildup. So much time distortion! So many trans-dimensional pressures! And nowhere to filter them, nowhere for them to go, nowhere but…
Down, right to the bottom. To locks that should never be unlocked. Prisons with chains that were never supposed to be open. They bucked. Pinprick holes emerging. Even Bilis' reigns growing looser, more anomalous. Chips and dents and scrapes appeared across every lock and pocket and multi-temporal, multi-dimensional barrier inside the rift.
But the locks did not give.
As the seal across the outside began to crack, once more. Peel away, revealing one intense patch of anomalous space-time. Right around…
And the name "Captain Jack Harkness."
"I'm free to go?" Ethan Rayne asked. "Just like that?" He eyed the woman in the business suit, carefully, trying to figure out why she was releasing him from prison.
"My employer arranged it," said the woman. She checked her mobile, then collapsed it, and turned back to Ethan. "Don't worry. We'll have all the technicalities dealt with on our end." She gave a small smile. "Just… one matter we need to discuss. Before you're released. The matter of… Rupert Giles."
Ethan Rayne tensed at the name. "Never heard of him," he lied.
"He's ours," said the woman. "Working for us. If you kill him, believe me, you'll
be the one who's sorry, at the end of it. Not us."
"So… you got Ripper, thought you might as well release me and collect yourselves the full set?" Ethan guessed.
The woman gave him a small smile. Checked around for anyone else nearby, that could spy on them. Then, leaned in closer, and whispered, "The most satisfying revenge can be causing emotional pain. Not tearing him
down. Tearing down someone close to him."
Ethan Rayne thought it over. Then gave the woman a little smile, as he realized where she was going.
Don't target Ripper. Not directly. Target the Slayer. The one Ripper loved like a daughter. Get rid of her, and Ripper would completely flip his lid.
Then go after him.
Ethan went through his magic book collection, later that day. Tore through books and spells and charms and everything he had access to. And… oh. "The Vision of Chaos", by B. Manger. Written in Cardiff, fifty years ago.
The book caught his eye.
He flipped through the pages, before he stumbled across… the perfect spell. The perfect scheme. The perfect strategy. The perfect revenge.
"Thank you, B. Manger," said Ethan, as he began to prepare.