Hammond blinked. “I’m sorry, could you say that again?”
“I’d like to resign.” Willow repeated simply.
Hammond nodded once. That was what he had thought Willow had said. In fact, she’d blurted it out as soon as she had come into his office. The problem was, he couldn’t quite figure out why. “Why?
“Daniel’s ascended, sir. I don’t know for sure that he’ll ever be back. My magic hasn’t exactly been as useful as either of us would like, and Sam can take care of the science department blindfolded and with one hand tied behind her back. She doesn’t need me. I'm… I don’t really want to stick around.” Willow finished weakly, not quite able to bring herself to admit that one of the primary reasons she had decided to work at the SGC at all was because of Daniel.
Hammond, to his credit, did listen to the entirety of what Willow said. However, he couldn’t help but come back to the first thing Willow had said “How do you know that Jackson’s ascended?”
Caelus walked through the wall. Willow had asked him to wait elsewhere, because having a disembodied Goa'uld around could lead to a whole lot of panic that Willow didn’t really need.
“I told her.” Caelus announced. Willow wondered if he had meant to be dramatic, or whether it was just a Goa’uld thing. They all loved their dramatic entrances. Then she wondered how exactly he had known to come in at exactly the right time.
Hammond looked at Caelus, and then back at Willow. “What’s going on?”
Willow explained quickly. She found that Hammond couldn’t see the cube either. She wasn’t really surprised by that.
Hammond didn’t say anything after she’d finished. The silence stretched on for an uncomfortably long time. Just when Willow began to think about breaking it, he said “I see.”
“And?” Willow prompted, once it became clear that Hammond wasn’t going to say anything else.
“I can’t prevent you from resigning, Ms Rosenberg, although I must admit that I don’t think a Goa'uld is the most reliable source of information. Even, perhaps especially, this one.” Hammond said.
Caelus didn’t seem particularly bothered by this. “I have no reason to lie, General.”
“None that you’ve admitted to, in any case.” Hammond said. “Ms Rosenberg, if you insist on resigning, then I’m afraid you’ll have to leave the base. You’ll have to-“
Willow suddenly bolted upright. “I haven’t called them! I meant to call Sunnydale, but I didn’t, and they’re worried and –“
“I will tell them.” Caelus interrupted. Then he vanished.
When Willow had vanished, Dawn had been fairly sure that an Ancient had whisked her away. She thought this for two reasons. Firstly, she knew that Willow wasn’t capable of doing magic like that before.
Secondly, when Willow had vanished, Dawn had felt something. It was difficult to explain exactly what, even to herself. It had been like a tugging sensation in the pit of her stomach. It hadn't been like when she had lost control under the effects of the Ferula Gemini, but it was similar. Given that Dawn had never felt anything whatsoever when Willow had done magic in the past, she could only assume that she had been teleported away in some fashion similar to what Arcturus had done in the memory Caelus had shown her.
So, when Caelus had suddenly appeared out of thin air, she wasn’t really that surprised. The Ancients had descended him before, when she was in danger of ending the universe. It was understandable that they would do so again.
She was, however, somewhat surprised when Spike stood up. Dawn hadn't thought he was capable of that, after Glory had hit him. Judging by Spike’s surprised expression when he looked down at himself, Dawn guessed that he hadn't thought he could either.
“Oh, it’s you.” Buffy said flatly. “What have you done with Willow?”
“Nothing. She is at Stargate Command. She opened a portal there when Daniel contacted her to say goodbye after he ascended.”
Jack never remembered getting to his feet. On second he was sitting down, the next he was upright and standing right in front of Caelus. “What do you mean, Daniel’s ascended?”
Caelus explained. He left out the time travel, mainly because English didn’t really have the right tenses to explain the situation.
When he’d finished, Spike said “Why am I healed?”
Unlike Willow or Jack, Spike still retained the genetic code that linked him to this aspect of Caelus. He was still a vampire. As a result, Caelus didn’t have to bother with verbalising his answer. He merely projected it directly into Spike’s brain. “Oh.”
“I get the feeling I missed something there.” Xander said.
Spike thought about explaining that, because he was a vampire, Caelus could exert complete control over him. Including his healing process, which explained why he suddenly felt completely ravenous. The last time he’d felt like this, he’d eaten three people, one after the other. But then he realised that it was Xander, and he didn’t care even a little if he knew what had happened or not. Judging by Caelus’ lack of response, he didn’t care either. Spike couldn’t help but wonder whether Caelus was basing his reaction of his own.
“Never mind that.” Buffy said. “When’s Will getting back?”
“As soon as she can.” Caelus said.
“And you? Are you going to do some crazy high-tech thing to take out Glory?”
Buffy waited for an expansion on that, but once it became clear that Caelus considered that to be answer enough, she asked in an exasperated voice “Why? Can’t you at least heal my mom?”
Dawn wasn’t interested in hearing Caelus and her sister having an argument. She’d heard them do that often enough the last time that he had been around. She was more concerned with something that Caelus had said.
Willow had opened a portal. Putting aside the issue that Willow couldn’t do that, at least not as far as she knew, that meant that there hadn't been any Ancients involved in her disappearance. It had been purely magical. Dawn couldn’t understand why she had felt it.
She thought about, thought about how it had felt, how she had felt immediate after, how she had…
It happened again. It was different this time, though. Before, it had been a tug, a distinct tug. This time, it was like a pull in the opposite direction. She couldn’t quite articulate why, or even understand how such a sensation was possible, but that was what had happened.
Dawn looked up. Willow was in the room, looking rather surprised, and Caelus was gone.
Dawn couldn’t help but wonder if she had done that.
Glory had decided that it would be a good idea to arrive at the Crawford Mansion early. Not just because Seers were hardly the most punctual of creatures, and because she didn’t want the Seer to turn up while Ben was in control, but because she wanted to spend some time setting up some wards. Seers were frustrating enough when they couldn’t teleport. She wanted to make sure that this one would stick around to answer any question she might have.
Even so, she was surprised when someone appeared in the room with her. He didn’t waver like a heat mirage before coalescing. He was just there.
“You’re not my Seer.” Glory pointed out.
Caelus frowned. He didn’t remember this. He shouldn’t be meeting Glory, at least not now. This hadn't happened before, not in the timelines he knew. He tried to vanish again, and reappear next to Spike. It should’ve been easy – Spike was a vampire, after all. A mere extension of his body. He should have been able to move the bulk of his consciousness next to him.
Nothing happened. This was something of a surprise. He hadn't thought that there was anyone on this planet who could stop him from doing something he wanted to do. It was then that he noticed the sigils carved into the walls. “Oh.” Caelus said, in a condescending tone. “Magic.”
“Yes. Magic. You're not going anywhere. Not until you answer my questions, anyway.” Glory said. She didn’t add that she might not let him go even then.
“You want to know who your Key is, I suppose.” Caelus asked.
That was, of course, the question that was topmost in Glory’s thoughts. However, it wasn’t what she was going to ask.
She’d managed to track the Key to Sunnydale because, a few months earlier, she had detected a few sporadic bursts of energy that felt like her Key coming from this area. She’d found out that this was because he Key had been around here. But the energy bursts had been too sporadic for her to pinpoint the Key’s location, and there hadn’t been any since then.
That is, until a few moments earlier, when Caelus had appeared in the room.
He wasn’t her Key. She could tell that just by looking at him. However, she couldn’t tell what he was. She had never seen anything like him before. So Glory asked “What are you?”
“That is a very complicated question. I’m not your Key, though.” Caelus replied. “I also know what would happen if I were to tell you who the Key is. So, feel free to ask questions, but you cannot induce me to answer them.”
“So, you know who it is.” Glory said. It wasn’t a question. “You’re not one the Slayer’s groupies. You’re not doing this just to be mean. So why are you doing this? Why not just be generous and hand the Key over?”
“I have lived in this universe for more than 20 million years. I’m quite fond of it. I would rather not see you destroy it.” Caelus said. Given that this timeline had many things that he didn’t remember in it, he knew that the end of the universe was a very real possibility.
“Oh, that.” Glory waved a hand, as though to say that this was a silly reason. “There’s plenty of better universes out there.”
“I’m attached to this one.” Caelus said. “Now, if you’ve finished asking me to hand over the Key, I think it’s about time that I left.”
Arcturus, the person who had created the Key, had been an Ancient. Whether by accident or design, she had moulded the barrier that prevented the Key from destroying the universe into her own image. As a result, Dawn not only looked like Arcturus, but had the same genetic code as her, for all that she shared her sister’s blood. Dawn had the Ancient gene.
Dawn might not know what she had done in order to reverse Willow’s portal and bring her back, but that was irrelevant. She could do it, and through her genes Caelus could force her to do it again. He correctly assumed that Glory’s wards couldn’t prevent him from leaving if he used the power of the Key.
Caelus knew many things. He didn’t, however, know everything. He was completely unaware that Glory could sense the Key being used. He didn’t know that, after Dawn had accidentally tapped into her power, Glory had been straining that sense so that, if the Key was used again, she would be able to find it. He didn’t know that he had just helped her to pinpoint its location.
However, he began to suspect it when, a handful of seconds after he reappeared in the Summers’ living room, a fast moving blur streaked through the room and left as soon as it had appeared, taking Dawn with it.