Prologue and Part I: Before the Year
: I own no rights over any copyrighted material. All characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Sarah Jane Adventures are the property of their respective owners. But Seo, Alison, and Ria are mine.Prologue
The landed Valiant was still perched just behind them. But the moment it had landed, the moment the passengers had stepped out onto the tarmac, Jack had seen Seo. Standing there. Waiting for him. Just the way she'd looked, before the Year had ever started.
Jack rushed out, grabbed Seo up into a tight hug. Told her, over and over again, that he forgave her, that he was sorry, that he hadn't run away from her, that he loved her. That he was and will always be proud of her.
The things he'd longed, for a year, to say to her.
And when they'd gotten through all the regrets, all the pains, all the reunions and revelations and I-love-yous, Jack leaned down. Hands on Seo's shoulders. Looked into her eyes, double checking.
"You… don't remember?" Jack asked her, quietly. "Any of it?"
Seo seemed puzzled. "Don't remember what?" she asked.
"The Year that Never Was."
Seo quirked an eyebrow at him. "You're going to have to be a lot more specific than that," she told him. "I grew up in the Axis. In a land of years that never were."
Jack scrutinized her more closely. Trying to find any traces of darkness in her expression. Traces of haunted eyes. Traces of that Year that might have lingered, even deep down in her psyche.
"The first year of my life never technically existed," Seo offered, bouncing on her toes, eyes glowing, expression light and cheery. "Is that what you're talking about?"
Jack stepped back, straightening. A grin plastered across his face, as he shook his head.
She didn't remember. Any of it.
Thank the universe for small mercies.
"Two years that never were," the Doctor mused, strolling up to them, hands in his trouser pockets. "Two worlds that ended, but never ended. Two worlds where time reset, and gave another chance. Your world. And the Valiant."
"Each with their own villains, heroes," Martha added, by his side, "and unsung champions."
Seo looked between the three of them. Utterly perplexed. Then shook her head, and gave an uneasy laugh. "What are you…?"
"Jack!" shouted Buffy's voice. "You're alive!"
They all three looked up, to discover Buffy racing towards them, breathless, her eyes fixed on Jack, her face overwhelmed with joy and shock and a thousand emotions all at once, her hair flying out behind her.
She knocked Jack to the ground, with the force of the hug she tackled him into.
"Someone's popular," Martha noted.
Jack grinned at her. "Not complaining."
Buffy pulled out of the embrace, then grabbed him up by the shirt, staring deep into his eyes. "Do not go mega-dying on us — ever
again. You got that?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said Jack, giving her a mock salute.
Buffy grinned. Then jumped back to her feet, turning on Seo.
"And as for you, Miss Let's-Lock-Mom-Inside-A…" Buffy trailed off. Her voice faltering, as she saw the expression on Seo's face.
The hints of tears welling up inside her eyes. The tremble in her jaw.
Buffy went up to Seo, her face bent into a frown of concern. "Seo?"
"I'm fine," said Seo, turning away. Wiping at her eyes. "Fine."
Part I: Before the Year
... Martha's World: . . . . . . . . .The real universe. May, 2008.
"No, it's 'Toclafane'," the President of the Slayer Institute, Ria Hiskaloph, repeated over the phone, as she strolled past. "And they're not from the Hellmouth. The Tech Demons have no idea what they are. So they're—"
"Yeah, metal spheres," came Faith's voice, as she passed by. "So… not so much with the hand-to-hand."
"Magic?" Vi suggested.
"You know, they're probably not even hostile," said Faith, as they slipped off into the distance. "I wouldn't—"
"Flying spheres," said Willow, on the phone. "No, we're sure they don't have anything to do with the Demon Civil War… yeah, we'll keep looking for info on…"
Dawn jumped at the voice right beside her. Turned… to find Xander. Offering her a coffee.
"Meeting with the aliens takes place at 3 AM, our time," he said. "So no sleep for us Clevelanders."
"Yeah," said Dawn, taking the coffee. "Thanks."
She sipped it.
"Me?" said Xander, sitting down and leaning back in his chair. "I'm sure these Toclafane are just fine. Like G-man says." He grinned. "Gotta love knowing someone with inside connections to the English Prime Minister, huh?"
"Toclafane," Dawn repeated.
Thinking through the Harold Saxon broadcast she'd just watched, announcing the aliens.
Something about it had felt… off.
No. Not just something about the broadcast. Or something about the Toclafane.
Dawn spun around to face Xander. "This… Saxon guy. Who is he?"
Xander stared at her. "Wait, you're serious? Harold Saxon? Subject of a billion and one Willow fan-girl moments? Major celeb figure?"
"Yeah, yeah, got that," said Dawn. "But who is he? Where did he come from? Does he even have experience with this kind of thing?"
"Dawn," said Xander, with a laugh. "He's Harold Saxon!"
"But what does that mean?" Dawn asked. "We're putting all our lives into the hands of a newbie Prime Minister who's probably never seen an alien in his life! That sounds like a terrible idea!"
"He'll do fine," Xander said. He shrugged. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Dawn gave him a pointed look. "You mean besides the world ending and everyone dying?"
"You don't just rush into alien negotiations," said Dawn. "There's… research involved! Figuring out culture, dimension, reference points, language! I mean, how can you just…?" She stopped. Frowned, a little deeper. "Wait. The Toclafane… speak English."
Xander shook his head. "It was probably just dubbed over," he said.
But Dawn had already brought out the TARDIS key from around her neck. The one the Doctor had given her, years ago, that she still wore. It wasn't reacting the way it should, if the TARDIS were around.
So why were the aliens speaking English?
She brought up the recording of Saxon's broadcast on the computer, again. Watching Harold Saxon, on the screen, introduce the Toclafane.
Dawn leaned in closer. Squinted.
"You okay?" Xander asked.
"I've met him!" Dawn cried, pointing at the screen. "Harold Saxon! I'm sure I've met him somewhere before!"
Xander blinked. Then blinked again.
Dawn glanced back at Xander. "Isn't there something super familiar about him?" she asked. "It's like… I know him… but I can't place him."
"I dunno," said Xander. "Sorry."
Dawn sighed. Took out her cell phone. "Something's wrong, here," she said, dialing Buffy's number. "Mega-wrong. And I need to figure out what, before the Toclafane arrive."
Buffy laughed. "Dawn," she said, walking outside, just in front of her apartment building. "Relax. I talked to Giles. He says these Toddle Cane things—"
"Toclafane," Dawn corrected.
"Toclafane things," said Buffy, "are totally fine."
"I major don't like it, Buffy," said Dawn. "I mean… doesn't Harold Saxon seem familiar?"
"Like I've met him before," Dawn continued. "I don't know where, or when, but I'm sure I've—"
"Look, Dawn, just don't worry," Buffy interrupted, not wanting to talk about Mr. Politician anymore than she had to. She pushed through the gate to the small garden at the back of her apartment building. "Even if the Toclafane are bad, there's going to be a gazillion UNIT guys on the Valiant. And Giles. He's there as some behind-the-scenes mega advisor. Just don't freak out over this, k? The Toclafane are all with the good intentions, the Valiant is well guarded, and there's… absolutely… no way… this… could…"
Buffy trailed off. Stopped speaking, altogether, as she noticed what Seo was doing in the backyard.
"On second thought," Buffy told Dawn, "Code Red. Put the Institution on full alert."
And hung up.
Seo shot her head up, as she noticed Buffy standing right in front of her. Large brown eyes widened. She hid the gigantic drum of emergency water she'd been carrying across the yard behind her back. Then positioned herself to stand just in front of the large metal door, trying to block it from view.
"This… isn't what it looks like!" Seo assured Buffy.
Buffy crossed her arms. "No?" she asked. "Because it looks
like you're building a bomb shelter."
Seo's World: . . . . . . . .Axis Alternate Timeline. Sunnydale. September, 2000.
"I'm sure it was just… a joke!" Willow told Xander, as they piled into Giles' house, putting down the picnic beach stuff onto Giles' desk.
"Yeah, joke," Xander said, scraping alien goo off of him, with a disgusted face. "'Who cares if you're a complete waste of time and space?' That's really
still pull you out of that alien's mouth," Tara pointed out.
"'Waste of time and space'!" Xander said.
Anya was actually pretty happy that the Doctor had snubbed Xander, and not her. It meant Buffy had still not explained to the Doctor what a 'vengeance demon' actually was. And what Time Lords traditionally did to them.
Giles poked his head into the front room, frowning at the group that had just arrived back from the beach. "I thought you were—"
"So did we," said Xander. "Until Boyfriendish showed up, and the beach got overrun by aliens who tried to digest me."
"Xander finally saw the Doctor's jealous side," Willow explained to Giles.
Giles, noticing the goo dripping from Xander's body, grabbed up a towel and tossed it to him. "Jealous? Of Xander and Buffy?" He glanced at Anya.
"Don't ask me," Anya said, with a shrug. "I didn't see anything wrong. But that's Time Lord sexuality, for you. It makes no sense."
Giles shifted awkwardly. "I… see."
"Yeah, Time Lords have all kinds of weird fetishes," Anya continued, oblivious to the awkwardness that was spreading through the room. "I mean, have you seen their hats?"
"Uh… Anya…?" Tara tried to put in.
"And you know the Doctor's obsession with the size of his sonic screwdriver has to mean something," Anya continued. "After all, there's no way…"
"Anya," Willow cut in. "We get it."
Xander kept wiping off alien gunk. "He's got no right to be jealous, anyways," he said. "He and Buffy have been together for 9 months, now, and he still just calls her his 'friend'."
Willow and Tara exchanged a look. They had both figured, the moment they'd
come out in the open, Buffy and the Doctor would, too.
Still just 'Boyfriendish'.
Anya collapsed onto the couch. "Maybe the Doctor's the most amazing sex god ever," she said. "And that's
why Buffy's still with him."
"Can we stop talking about Buffy and alien sex things?" said Willow. She gave a small shudder. "It's making me uncomfortable."
She huddled in a little closer to Tara, who comforted and cuddled her.
"Well, if we're going to start gossiping about time in the bedroom between two humans
…" Xander said, with a hopeful eye on Willow and Tara.
Willow and Tara looked at one another. The look of two women who'd heard this a thousand times.
"Nice try, Xander," said Willow. "But no. We'll keep ourselves to ourselves."
Buffy leaned against the side of the threshold of the TARDIS, which had been moved, at the beginning of the summer, into her basement. Buffy's arms crossed. Stake in hand.
"…and you're not listening to a word I'm saying, huh?" she asked the pair of trainers sticking out from under the central console.
The only response she got was a loud sparking from beneath the console, and a shout from a slightly frazzled Time Lord who'd just singed his fingers.
Buffy sighed. Once upon a time, she'd gotten jealous of the way the Doctor would obsess with his ship instead of paying attention to her. Particularly when he started calling the TARDIS pet names and saying things that, in Buffy's opinion, should be reserved for her
, and even then only in private.
But at this point, she'd accepted it. This was just… what he did.
"Well, if you're going to obsess over your ship," she called out, very loudly, "I'm going to go stake some vampires."
No response from the Doctor. Which proved… he definitely wasn't listening to her.
"Yep," Buffy said, twiddling her stake in her hands. "In fact, I don't really feel like giving chances or warnings or anything, tonight. I think I'll just go down to the graveyard. Wait for them to show up. And then stake them through the heart."
The Doctor said something muffled back to her. Something that sounded like a vague affirmation.
Buffy shook her head, rolling her eyes. "Aliens and their time machines," she muttered, turning to leave him to it. Then stopped. Her smile hesitating a little on her lips. She glanced back over her shoulder, at the little blue box with the great big inside. "You know, if you ever do find a way to get this thing working, again… I'm going to really miss you."
Another spark and sizzle from the TARDIS console.
Buffy figured she should leave, now, before things heated up too much between her alien not-quite-boyfriend and his telepathic time ship.
She had Patrol, anyways.
And as she rushed through the cemetery, chasing a vampire, ducking and dodging and weaving through the tombstones, she felt that exhilaration. That rush of adrenaline and excitement. That feeling of eagerness, growing inside of her, as she zeroed in on the vamp, rushed at him with stake raised.
The Doctor had the TARDIS.
And Buffy had this.
The vamp cried out, as it turned to dust. And vanished into the night.
"An impressive hunt," said a sexy, smoking male voice with a vaguely Eastern European accent. "Such power."
Buffy spun around. To find a dark, attractive man behind her. Mystery about his every feature. Long, dark hair, dreamy eyes that seemed to melt anyone they peered at, his entire figure svelte, fit, and attractive.
"That was no hunt. Just another day on the job," said Buffy. She twirled her stake in the air, then caught it, immediately dropping into her ready-to-fight stance. "Care to step up for some overtime?"
"We are not going to fight," the man said. "Buffy Summers."
His voice lingered over the syllables of her name, tongue stroking every vowel, flicking across every consonant.
"You… know my name," said Buffy.
"Naturally," said the man. "You are known throughout the world. It is why I came here. To find you."
Buffy felt a smile pulling at her lips, despite herself. "Who are you?"
"Forgive me," said the man. "I thought you knew." He stepped forwards, his face pale yet handsomely carved, his eyes glimmering like ice beneath the moonlight. "I am Dracula."