Some You Lose
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate: SG-1. I am using these characters and concepts without the express permission of the owners, and ask them not to sue if they object to my homage to their creations.
Genre Stargate: Buffy – General
Spoilers: BtVS: Everything!
SG-1: Anything up to early Season 7 likely
Feedback: I’d love to hear anything you have to say, but please make it constructive. I’m sure many of you will be pleased to read that I’ve gone for a slightly simpler plot this time…
Note: This is a work in progress. The updates may not always be regular, but I promise that they'll always be long!
SOME YOU LOSE
23:53 OCTOBER 21
His brow creased in a slight frown as he read the file placed before him, running his right hand back and forth over the smooth, polished mahogany surface of his vast desk. With an expensive looking pen in his left hand, he carefully asterisked the margin by the paragraph nearest the bottom of the page; ruthlessly marking it out for criticism.
While obviously no longer in his youth, there was a certain vitality to him, a certain charisma that won over the majority of people he came into contact with almost immediately; a useful attribute in his profession. The man, known as ‘John’ to his closest friends and family, was a diligent and precise man who knew what he wanted, and if he couldn’t see himself how to achieve his aim, he invariably knew someone who could.
He was also a tired man. He had arrived at work before nine that morning, and had not had one single moment purely to himself all day. He looked at his watch, then glanced guiltily at the line of photographs that marked out the far perimeter of his workspace; his wife, Roseanne, laughing at him from the garden of their family home in California, squinting in the bright summer sun. She was quite small, but no less domineering because of her lack of stature. Her unusually dark, passionate eyes could command armies, he thought with a fond smile, remembering her as she had been years ago rather than how she was now, before the grey had found its way into her long black tresses.
She was probably upstairs in their living quarters, grander than the inadequate description implied, waiting patiently for him to return. Although she put up with his late nights, and the demands of his job that took him away from her side for weeks at a time, he knew she didn’t like the arrangement, and only a reckless man would needlessly fire up that second generation Italian temper of hers: blessedly hard to ignite, but even harder to douse once it had caught alight.
On either side of her picture stood photos of their two children; faces captured in a time that had long since fled, forcing their offspring into adulthood. Their son, a grown man with infant children of his own, and their daughter, deep in her studies at medical school, hopefully keeping herself out of trouble, or rather, John hoped, out of the papers. He sometimes wondered if the loss of freedom that he had imposed on his family over the past years had been worth it. They had walked into this with eyes open, he reminded himself. He was grateful that they never complained, not to him, or Ros.
Putting down the pen with a poorly disguised sigh, John reached down beside him and pulled open the desk drawer to his left, taking out a slim silver case and an even slimmer silver lighter. Savouring the feel of the cool, hard surface of the metal, he slipped the case into his shirt pocket as he pushed back his chair, and crossed to the closet to retrieve his jacket which was hung tidily out of sight.
The night air that flooded in through the tall French windows was crisp and icy cold after the relative warmth of the office, and he suppressed a shiver as he exchanged a familiar nod with the man standing guard outside, his suit carefully tailored to hide the presence of the gun holster that ran across his torso above his immaculate white shirt: but John knew it was there.
He walked along the paved veranda away from the guard, toying with the lighter in his right hand, turning it over and over between his fingers, pondering whether he had enough reserve energy to face Ros’ disapproval when she would know instantly that he had been smoking again from the distinctive fragrance on his clothes. He was trying to cut down, he really was, but sometimes at the end of a stupidly long day he still needed that one last cigarette to unwind, switch off.
On hearing a throat cleared politely behind him, John turned, and knew from the ashen, worried face of Colonel Johansson awaiting his response; his will power wasn’t going to be challenged anytime that evening.
“Yes, son?” said John, tucking the lighter away in his pocket with only the barest hint of regret.
“Your presence is required in the Situation Room, Mr President,” said the Colonel, his voice respectfully conveying strong urgency.
John had known Colonel Johansson for three years now, ever since his transfer from the Pentagon where he’d been flying a desk, and in all that time he had never appeared as shaken as he did now. All thoughts of retiring to bed with his wife before the night completely vanished.
Gesturing for the Colonel to precede him, John returned quickly to the Oval Office, drawing the doors tightly shut behind them for privacy before addressing him.
“There… Ten minutes ago we received news that the emergency protocol at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado was activated and allowed to complete.”
It took some moments for the full impact of what the Colonel had said to hit John, his fatigued brain not jumping as fast as normal to the conclusions that he should have drawn within seconds. Suddenly the room felt very warm and suffocating, and he steadied himself with a hand splayed on the edge of his desk while he gathered himself. Seconds seemed to pass as minutes, minutes as hours.
“The SGC?” he asked, knowing the answer already, but still voicing the question.
“Yes, Mr President,” confirmed the Colonel.
It felt like his brain had seized up, normal functions freezing as he tried to deal with the impact of what he had just been told. It didn’t seem real, it couldn’t be happening. John knew he should be reacting better than this, but then, it wasn’t every day that practically the biggest secret the American Government possessed went horribly wrong in what could only be a ‘very’ public way. The repercussions from this were going to be immense.
“How bad –”
“It’s gone, Sir.”
“Oh, God in heaven.” That meant not only the personnel at the SGC, but all those on night shifts in NORAD and the other Mountain based projects as well. Many hundreds of lives lost. The devastation of a large scale explosion on the lower levels of the Cheyenne Mountain complex could only mean the deaths of all those trapped inside. That was why the emergency protocol was a last and ‘only’ a last resort. John had been aware that there had been close calls in the past where the protocol had been initiated, but had thankfully not been allowed to progress to the final stage. Detonation. Those incidents had never seemed like a reality, the formally penned reports of barely averted ‘foothold’ situations, alien viruses nearly released into the population of Colorado Springs deadening the facts into carefully worded fiction.
“Has the Pentagon been informed?” John was surprised at how calm his voice sounded as it passed from his lips. He wondered what had happened down there that had finally tipped the balance in favour of chaos down in the bowels of the Mountain; wondered if anyone would ever know. The moment anything developed at the Mountain, the moment they activated their deathcon warning system, he was the first to be informed, usually informed directly by the Major General that oversaw the program. The fact that he’d heard nothing all evening told him that whatever had happened had to have been sudden and unexpected.
“Yes Mr President. Major Davis is flying out to Peterson Airbase immediately – he should be on the ground within several hours.”
While he spoke, his mind was racing, exploring all of the possibilities that were immediately apparent to him. The most important fact to ascertain was whether the blast had destroyed whatever had threatened the base, or if the SGC still presented a risk to the state?
John looked up to see the Colonel watching him. He stared back for a few seconds until he realised that Johansson was waiting to escort him downstairs. With a shake of his head, trying to awaken the practical functions of his mind, John strode purposefully across the deep piled carpet and moments later, the door to the lobby closing behind the two men, the room was plunged into a stillness only disturbed by the faint hum of the lights illuminating the emptiness.
08:49 OCTOBER 22
Turning the faucet hard, Buffy filled the tall glass with an enthusiastic burst of water that threatened to splash back over the rim. From the silence of the house around her, she concluded she was the only one home. Home. Buffy let the word roll around in her mind, trying it out as if for the first time. She thought it would have taken longer for Cleveland to start to feel remotely like it would ever be ‘home’, but to her surprise, after only a couple of weeks, she found herself settling into her new life with unprecedented ease.
Giles, who had been living in Cleveland for several months, had opened an antiquarian bookstore in the city which served as a very satisfactory front to the American branch of the brand spanking new, all singing, all dancing, Watchers’ Council, and Buffy was finding – with the exception of a few absent friends – that everything was beginning to feel incredibly familiar. Old routines from the past few years slipping back into place like they had never been gone. The patrolling of the local cemeteries and industrial estates the previous night had gone smoothly, Buffy hardly having to lift a carefully manicured finger as she watched the newly called Slayers take time out from their homework to display their skills to her critical eyes.
Not having Willow around was strange, Buffy had to admit. After transferring the Council’s funds into Giles’ name, Willow and Kennedy had left for England, first for a sorely needed break and to meet Kennedy’s family, then to start locating as many of the new Slayers in Europe that Willow could find. With the help of the internet and a few carefully chosen spells, Willow had already pinpointed a good portion of the Slayers in America, North and South, and they were being visited one by one by Faith, who could never stay in one place for a long time and relished the opportunity to travel, and Robin, who wasn’t quite ready to let the ‘second’ Slayer out of his sight yet.
Xander had stayed close to Giles after the destruction of Sunnydale. He’d had trouble adjusting to the fact that Anya was gone, permanently, from his life and needed the steadying guidance of the head of the Council until he found his feet. He was also having trouble finding a decent job with his new disability; one-eyed foremen not having a great employment potential in the construction industry.
Somehow though, through it all, he had still managed to keep his humour, even if it was darker in nature than it had been before. He was good for Dawn as well, thought Buffy, the two of them like brother and sister. There being someone as devoted to her younger sibling as she and Giles were made Buffy feel less guilty about sometimes focussing too hard on the Slaying.
Buffy snagged a banana out of the fruit bowl on the kitchen table and carried it and the drink with her out into the hallway, making for the lounge. At the door, she paused, hearing voices behind it. Pushing her way cautiously into the room, she realised that someone, most likely Xander, had left the television on that morning, the level low so as not to wake her. She leant over the settee to pick up the remote and turn it off, when the words running in a banner across the bottom inch of the screen, black against a red background, caught her eyes.
Devastation in Colorado Springs. Terrorist attack now denied by top governmental sources.
‘There is still no official word on what happened near the city of Colorado Springs,’ said the newsreader, staring into the camera with the expression of dramatic seriousness that all anchormen seemed to perfect. ‘All we can tell you at this point is that at approximately nine fifty last night, there was an explosion at Cheyenne Mountain, the home of the North American Aerospace Defence Command: NORAD. So far no news teams have managed to get near the site of the explosion, but eye witnesses say that portions of the mountain appeared to cave in following an earthquake that has damaged many homes and businesses within Colorado Springs, leaving many experts to believe that the earthquake was caused by shockwaves from a large explosion from deep within the mountain itself. The military are evacuating the overflow of people needing emergency medical treatment to nearby Denver.’
The screen was suddenly filled with jerky footage shot from a helicopter showing houses and buildings with sunken roofs, everything covered with a film of dust. Buffy closed her eyes as the camera panned inevitably up to the remains of the mountain itself. She didn’t want to see.
‘Many local residents,’ carried on the news reader, ‘claim that this is yet another cover up by the White House.’
The shot switched abruptly to a middle aged man, ranting angrily into eager television cameras; vultures to his carrion. ‘Everyone knows that the mountain used to be a missile test site – they’ve probably had hundreds of nuclear bombs down there waiting to go off for the past thirty years. They could have been doing anything down there, why, wasn’t it only a year ago that there was that chemical spill that made everyone round here hallucinate? This government owes us some answers – I mean, what about California, eh, and now that weird shit starts happening here less than six months later!’
‘The military,’ said the newscaster, glancing down briefly at the prompter beside him, ‘has just issued a statement claiming there is no evidence of any harmful radiation in the immediate area and there will be no further threat to the inhabitants of Colorado Springs, but we are still looking at a death toll which has already reached over a thousand, some of them civilians. I now go to our correspondent in Washington, Cha…’
The identity of the White House correspondent was obscured by the sound of glass striking the floor and splintering against the hardwood boards, shards spraying out in a seemingly random pattern, escaping water seeping outwards creating temporary islands of razor sharp glass. Buffy caught her breath in a sob, tears welling in her eyes, her mouth half open in shock. She took half a step backwards, turning her face away from the television that assaulted her with images and raising a hand to clamp shaking fingers over her lips to stifle the cry that threatened to emerge.
Then instantly, she knew she wasn’t alone anymore. She turned slowly to face the demon that had appeared behind her, fixing him with an angry glare, the intended effect ruined by the salty stream of tears running down her cheeks.
“Don’t you dare say it,” she snarled between clenched teeth.
“Say what?” shrugged the demon, Whistler. “That I told you so? Because, no, wait, I did, didn’t I!”
“If I hadn’t…” Buffy trailed off, forcing herself to look back at the television, now showing an official statement from the White House Press Secretary. “Would this still have happened?”
“If you hadn’t walked out on them?” replied Whistler. “Who can tell, kid, perhaps, perhaps not – all possibilities are uncertain except those that we choose.”
“How was I to know?” whispered Buffy, wrapping her arms protectively around herself.
“You were supposed to follow your instincts. You are the oldest living Slayer; this task was set before your door, no one else’s.”
The world floated away from her, slipping away into the distance, the television becoming only a distant burble. Her memory treacherously took her back to that one moment, the moment when she had made the decision. That self satisfied, smug bastard of an Air Force Colonel glaring across the table at her, pissed that he had been caught out. She’d stood up so fast that her chair had flown backwards to land with a loud clatter on the flagstones, everyone around them looking up from their tables in surprise, but she hadn’t cared about the staring faces in the cafe.
“You’re on your own,” she had hissed coldly at him, and then stalked away without a backwards glance.
Whistler was watching her intently, and she wished he’d stop. Never had she regretted something so much in her life as she did now.
“This is my fault,” said Buffy, reaching up to wipe a tear from the soft flesh of her right cheek.
Whistler didn’t deny it. He just regarded her silently, his expression indecipherable.
Buffy’s head was swimming.
“All those people,” she choked, her throat constricting as emotion bubbled within her.
“They were nothing,” replied Whistler, “there will be many more now, before it is all over.”
“What?” gasped Buffy, revolted by the candidness of his statement.
Whistler laughed. A sickening chuckle containing absolutely no mirth that struck fear in Buffy, fear that the future might hold something even worse than she had already witnessed or imagined.
“You thought that your calling was over, just because you’d beaten back the first?”
“No,” denied Buffy, half-heartedly.
“You considered it, I know you did – hell, I would have, but you of all people should have known that it’s never over: walking away is never an option. Those folks in Colorado, the ones you deserted? More rode on them than the deaths of a few demons, believe me.” Whistler’s face suddenly lost its twisted expression of irony and became deadly serious, his eyes growing deep with sadness. “You don’t want to be here when it all starts happening – I know I don’t,” he told her.
“Here? As in Cleveland?” asked Buffy, her confusion growing.
“No, as in ‘here’ on Earth,” Whistler replied, cryptically. “You doomed this whole planet, kiddo.”
“I had no choice,” argued Buffy, “I had a duty to protect Dawn.”
“You ‘have’ a duty as a Slayer. They were good people; you judged them too harshly.”
Buffy knew he was right, knew she had been too quick to tar them with the same brush as the Initiative, but then, what else was she supposed to have done? They had broken the deal she had made with them when it was still only a week old. They, or rather, he, had broken her trust in him – something that she hadn’t given lightly. She had warned them repeatedly of the consequences. What she hadn’t realised was the consequences of ‘her’ actions.
“Oh god,” she breathed, eyes wide. “What did I do?”
Whistler once again didn’t answer her question, but his dark eyes made Buffy crawl inside with guilt and shame.
“Help me,” she said impulsively, breaking the gulf of silence stretching incriminatingly between them. “Help me change this, help me undo it.”
“No one can change that which had already come to pass…”
“Please,” said Buffy. She walked towards the demon, reaching out her hand to touch tentatively at the sleeve of his jacket. “This is my fault. Let me fix it, I’m begging you.”
“…but,” said Whistler, holding up a finger and interrupting her stream of guilt, “that which has not yet happened can be undone,” he said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Buffy, biting down a surge of irritation.
“The Powers, they will turn the clock back as though the last three months had never happened. You will be given a second chance, but be warned, this is the only one you will get.”
Buffy nodded, relief flooding through her until it was stilled by a sobering thought that flashed into her mind.
“How will I know what to do this time? How will I not make the same mistakes all over again?”
“You’ll know,” Whistler said, “but Slayer, there will be a price for this.”
“There always is, isn’t there,” muttered Buffy. “When?”
For the first time Buffy saw the sympathy in the demon’s eyes that before she had always ignored, always interpreted as pity, scorn.
Buffy smiled weakly.