Godless Provenance: Chapter 22
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
Apophis was so
Well he would be, just as soon as Buffy found what she was looking for.
She was sure that she would have found it already, but for the very real fact that the world was alive around her, so beautiful and vibrant after the hell of Ne'tu, and she was unable to take an active part in it.
Talk about distracting.
They were on Vorash, the planet that she and SG-1 had gated to before hopping on the teltak, and Martouf and Jacob had already taken off on their Tok'ra-related business. She was in a desert wasteland with the stargate towering in the distance, and SG-1 and their weapons at her back. The light was harsh, the wind clean and brisk, and the sand shifted beneath her feet with every step that she took - and yes, there was stepping and moving for while she hated
Apophis, she did have to give the snake credit. Even though she wasn't completely healed, she was certainly up and mobile.
The sparse vegetation was a strange, alien scraggly brush that scratched at the stiff, blood-soaked material of her pants - itching her skin in a way that Apophis seemed much better at ignoring than she was. She was hot, too - the harsh alien suns beating upon her head and shoulders, causing thin trickles of sweat to pool at the base of her back and in the valley between her breasts. You'd think that Apophis would be able to control the sweating a little better. Then again, he did seem pretty preoccupied with patching up his own messy handiwork.
She wondered if her hair still looked pretty, or if she had bled all over it.
Buffy had been conscious, or aware, for the last several hours. The first few moments of her awakening had been... well, distressing would be putting it mildly. Disturbing would be more accurate. Disturbing and panic-ridden. She had tried to move, tried to cry out, tried to blink
, but her weakened body had betrayed her in a way that was all too painfully familiar, and so she had retreated into the furthest corners of her mind and she had waited and fretted and railed against the universe for once more placing her in this position.
There was a goa'uld symbiote in her body - Apophis'
symbiote - and she was powerless to prevent him from controlling her. He blinked for her when her eyes became dry. He spit out the blood when the coppery fluid coated her tongue. He coughed for her when her breathing became obstructed. He did all of this, and while he seemed too busy trying to keep her from dying, Buffy knew it wouldn't be long before he turned his attention inwards and began prying at her carefully shielded mind, digging for her secrets, her memories, and everything that made Buffy who she was. It would become an invasion not only of body, but mind as well.
With time she felt her strength return, and soon instinct and common sense were at war within her. Instinct said that there was an alien presence within her, and begged her to loosen the reigns on her Inner-Slayer so that vengeance could be had. Common sense dictated that she was still wounded - desperately so - and that to kill Apophis now would mean that he would stop fixing her, and she would only reclaim her mind and body in time to die on a teltak in the middle of nowhere - literally nowhere. Worse, that avenue led to her dying in Jack's arms. Again.
She couldn't do that to him. Not when the first goodbye had already been too hard.
She remembered unbearable pain.Unbearable
That was saying a lot, coming from a girl who had been drowned, stabbed, broken, and even torn asunder by the energies of an open portal - and that was before she began to consider the medical experimentation, the tortures, and the hells of living in Hell. Unbearable pain? That was a pretty big deal in her book.
With the pain came panic. She had been injured too many times before to not understand how seriously she was hurt. And then came Jack and the look in his eyes, and... Buffy knew. She knew she was dying - might as well already be dead - and that knowledge hurt worse than the pain itself. This was Jack
and she was dying
in his arms. There couldn't have been a crueler thing in all of the universe. Jack shouldn't have had to witness this, but in her final moments Buffy was grateful that he was there, because that meant he was there and that she wasn't dying alone.
She was dying and now they would never be able to have their conversation. They would never be able to figure out if that messy thing called love could have worked for them, geographic problems or not. Hell, they would never get to finish what they had started when Willow had so rudely interrupted them. All they had now were nevers.
Buffy had felt loved and cheated in her last few moments, and Jack's sad, terrified brown eyes were the last thing she saw before she had died.
At least, Buffy had thought
that she had died. Imagine her surprise when one moment death, the next life, with someone else
at the wheel - a mortal enemy, no less. What came then, aside from the pain and confusion and very real fear of finding someone else in control of her body, was a strange mix of elation and gratitude. She wasn't dead. She wasn't dead
. Yes, Apophis was in control of her body, but Buffy wasn't dead, which meant that she had a chance to save herself, to save her future, to have
a future. It was enough to make a girl feel positively giddy about having her body controlled by the Big Bad.
Aside from the whole not-dead aspect, there was one other bit of shining happiness: she had been very much with the unconscious and dying during the transition of ownership, and as a result, there hadn't been the usual bombardment of everything that she had never wanted to know about Apophis and his evil life. No picture reel of things she didn't want to see, and no immersion of the senses for every past horror that Apophis had committed. No mental rape - not unless she went digging for it. Nope, just herself and dying one moment, with the tearful and heartfelt goodbye to Jack, the man that she had just admitted to loving, and the next?BAM!
And so Buffy had hung back and commenced with the watching. She watched as Daniel checked her restraints and guarded her prostrate form - always a burning hatred shining from his gentle eyes. She watched as Sam and her father, Jacob, settled as far from her as they possibly could when limited to the storage area of the teltak. She watched as Martouf and Teal'c remained squirreled away in the cockpit, never venturing closer.
She watched as Jack avoided her.
At first, Buffy had been hurt and confused. Yes, she was not in control nor possession of her body, but this wasn't their first time on this freaky ride. Ass-Hat, too, had played driver for a time, and Jack had seemed to take great joy in lobbing insults and snide comments at the goa'uld. But then Buffy had begun to understand the reason for Jack's absence in every brief glance she was able to snatch and savor whenever Apophis happened to turn her head in his direction.
This possession was killing Jack.
Apophis sucked and she hated him, probably even more than she hated the Master, but she didn't hate him, didn't loathe
him in the way that she hated and loathed Angelus. If she allowed herself, even for the briefest of moments, to remember how she felt when Angelus had been in control of Angel... suddenly it all began to make a little more sense. Having Apophis running the show was killing Jack, and suddenly instinct began to win the war over common sense. This was reason enough to set the slayer free and then sit back and enjoy the show.
At least until Buffy began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, something really good could come from the lifetime of nightmares that this experience was going to bring - aside from actually getting to have
a lifetime in which to enjoy the not being of the dead, and the nightmares that came with that little joy ride, of course.
Maybe, just maybe Buffy could use this experience to her benefit. Maybe she could use this experience to do something wonderful for Jack - aside from rescuing him. Maybe she could use it to do something amazing for Daniel - aside from returning his best friend. Maybe she could even do something utterly fantastic
for the world - aside from continuously saving it. The possibilities were endless, and so Buffy began to dig.
And dig some more.
The going was slow - something akin to peeling back the layers of an onion, and like an onion, there were tears with each new layer she revealed. Yes, she had missed the Apophis Slideshow, but this peeling, digging, turning wasn't without cost as she continuously exposed her mind, her psyche, and her soul to the darkness that lived within the small symbiote that was curled around her spine. It was hard work, dark work, and so very dangerous. She had to remain hidden in the shadows of her mind, ever careful and vigilant, desperate to ensure that Apophis never learned of what she was doing.
It also didn't help that she was continuously getting distracted by whatever Apophis was doing with her body. Her
They had reached the stargate and Apophis had situated himself - herself
- so that she was gazing up at the towering structure.
"Dial it up, Danny," Jack ordered from behind her, and though she could tell that Apophis was surprised by Jack's words, Buffy certainly wasn't.
It was time for the final betrayal.
Apophis had been right when he said that they had been planning on double crossing him all along - the slimy bastard had just beaten them to the double-cross. It was a funny thought, because not too long ago Buffy would have been horrified at a plan that involved giving a monster their word without any intention of keeping it. She had thought that being the Good Guys meant something. It meant being strong, capable, and trustworthy, because what else separated them from those they fought? Hell, even Spike
had kept his word when they had worked together to stop Angelus, all those years ago. In an ideal world, that was the way life should be - the way that the Good Guys did their business. But such a world was
an ideal world - a naive world - and it wasn't the world in which she now found herself living.
Buffy had lost that innocence, that naiveté, when a hell goddess had come for her sister, and in doing so, condemned Buffy to six months in Hell. In that battle Buffy had learned an important lesson: it wasn't about Good Guys, Bad Guys, or Better Guys. Being the penultimate Good Guy could lose battles, and sometimes promises needed to be broken and trust shattered if you wanted to win. She didn't live in a world of black and white, but one draped in shades of gray. You made your promises and you did your best to keep them, but if it meant the fate of the world, or even the fate of your sister, then all bets were off.
Buffy now understood this lesson, but she was starting to doubt the same was true for Apophis. If he really believed that Jack was going to just let him gate away in Buffy's body, then he had been spending too much time in a sarcophagus - or not enough. Jack obviously planned on taking Apophis back to Earth, kicking and screaming if necessary, and they would keep him there until Buffy found what she was looking for and kicked his ass. She'd done it a hundred times before, and Jack seemed to have no doubt that she could do it again. The realization made her want to kiss him - though at the moment, Apophis was busy making her glare at him and Daniel, both.
"No," Apophis growled, that startling mix of her voice with those cold, modulated tones. "I will gate from this world, alone, as per our agreement," he rumbled as he moved towards the dialing device, but Buffy barely noticed the movement as she was caught up with how strange it was to feel her vocal cords strain with use, and yet not have any control over what was being said.
Sighing, Jack didn't even bother to look at her - or Apophis, as the case may be. "Daniel, dial the gate," he repeated, his voice firm.
Just like that, Buffy's body was once more on the move as Apophis stormed across the sands until she was standing directly before Jack, her head tilted back so that she could meet his beautiful, wonderful glare. It was the most she had managed to look at him since Apophis had taken over, and she found herself momentarily abandoning her search as she began memorizing every craggy line of his face. It hurt, this looking. It hurt a lot, and she almost thanked Apophis for making her vision glow with a golden light that distorted Jack's angry features - anything to ruin the familiarity and the pain that it caused.
"We had an agreement, Tau'ri
, and you will honor our agreement or else I will destroy this host."
Jack's derisive snort matched Buffy's own internal version, and she turned back to her search with renewed determination.
"In case you've failed to notice, you don't have a weapon," Jack pointed out with dry contempt.
Apophis answered with a smile that twisted Buffy's lips in a manner that felt strange and foreign - another distraction that she didn't need. "You forget," he replied, causing her voice to deepen in a way that made her vocal chords ache. "I am
a weapon. I control this host. I can make her heart stop beating, her lungs stop breathing, and her blood stop flowing. I can kill her with a thought."
Buffy's full attention became riveted upon the conversation as she unconsciously struggled for control. It was useless, of course, and only caused Apophis' attention to swivel in her direction when he proved his point by stopping her heart beating for just one moment.
It was enough.
Buffy felt as though she were a puppet whose strings had been cut. It was one moment that seemed to last an eternity as an impossible weight was suddenly pressing on her shoulders. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't move, and her body was a sudden frenzy of panic that couldn't be expressed.
It was hell.
And then it was over.
She felt Apophis' attention shift away from her, and she was suddenly looking upon Jack's solemn mask. There was no expression upon his face, and she knew that the snake-bastard was unable to read him, but Buffy could. His mind was in turmoil, and she just bet that he was missing his sunglasses more than ever. His sunglasses were another shield behind which he could hide, his baseball cap a tool to cast his face in shadows. She had forgotten both of those much missed items, and the pang she felt was the incentive she needed to hurry back to her search. She was close - so very close to finding what she needed, and she knew that now, more than ever, was when she needed to resume control.
This wasn't right. This wasn't the plan
. Hell, the plan had gone out the window the second that Apophis had shot her.Stupid plan!
"Please," Daniel mocked, every single ounce of his hatred for Apophis dripping from his voice. "If you kill Buffy, you kill yourself. Do you really expect us to believe that you'd be willing to kill yourself just to spite us?"
"And yet you expect me to believe that I will live if I go with you back to your planet?"
Well no, of course not. If Apophis fled from her body before Buffy had a chance to kill him, then Buffy knew that Jack had every intention of shooting the slimy snake until nothing but bloody pulp remained. After the last six months, she sincerely doubted that anyone would stop him. She knew that, the rest of the team knew that, but worse, apparently so did Apophis.
plan," Jack muttered, echoing her thoughts aloud before he followed it with a few select curses that Buffy didn't recognize.
Fun! If she lived through this, maybe Jack would teach them to her.
"Sir?" Carter asked, her eyes wide as she looked between her commander and Buffy, the enemy. "Sir, we can't actually let Apophis go," she stated in a soft undertone. "The moment that he arrives at his destination, you know that he'll gate out to someplace different, and someplace after that, and after that. It will be impossible for us to follow him, and then, even if Apophis does leave her for a new host, or Buffy manages to kill him, she'll have no way to contact us, and we'll have no way to contact her. Sir, she will have no way to return home. Wouldn't it be better.. more kind to-"
"Let her die?
" Jack hissed in return.
She couldn't help it! Had Sam already forgotten about Willow's witchy rescue? Her best friend may not be an Uber!Witch, but Willow had a group of scooby-friends that had helped and supported her in their efforts to find a way to save Buffy. Then again, maybe the Major was forgetting on purpose. Magic didn't seem to fit too well into her perfectly ordered world. Yet her friends had already snatched her from the far-reaches of space once before. What would make this time any different? So yes, going through the gate with Apophis would be bad, but it wouldn't be world-ending bad because Dawn would just have to do her bleeding, and Wills her witching, and then her friends would find her and pull her back. Again.
No, it wasn't rocket science.
It was better.
Still, Buffy really wasn't looking forward to spending another six months on some other alien planet. Her hair had looked so pretty...
"But Jack," Daniel spluttered, his large, beseeching eyes catching and pinning the colonel with their earnestness. "We can't just let Apophis... he... he's Apophis
"Ah hell," Jack muttered as he tore his gaze away, and Buffy took that opportunity to stop focusing on the melodrama and return to the search that needed to be done. Now.
Besides, she already knew how this would end. You didn't spend six months in hell with a guy without learning a thing or two about him and those to whom he's closest. This was SG-1 in its entirety, and as Jack had told her in a million different ways, every single one of them had an opinion on what needed to be done, and maybe in their own way every one of them was right, but there could only be one decision to make and Jack had to be the one to make that decision. His team, in turn, had to be the ones to live with that decision - and they would, because that's just what they were: a team.
Besides, when it came down to it, there really wasn't a decision to be made. The really difficult one had already been decided the minute that Jack, and she was certain that Jack had been the one to make this choice, had agreed to allow Apophis to slither down Buffy's throat in a last-ditch effort to save her. This decision? This one was just supporting that first choice and giving Buffy another chance to overcome Apophis. Jack knew her. He knew
her and as a result, he knew that she was a fighter. A survivor. He needed to give her this chance and...
" he whispered, and in that moment Buffy knew that Jack had come to the same conclusion that she had: this wasn't goodbye for forever, but just until Willow and the others did their own thing to bring her home.
"Let him go," Jack stated, his eyes clear, and Buffy approved of his decision even as she turned back to her search with a vengeance. While she could survive going through the gate, she really didn't want to wait another six months to see him or her friends again - to see her sister
again. They needed her - every single one of them, and all for their different reasons, but they needed her. And she needed them.
With a resigned sigh, Daniel stepped away from the dialing device and allowed Apophis to dial in an address that Buffy didn't recognize. Not that it would matter, because as the chevrons turned and locked into place, Buffy finally hit the jackpot. As the last symbol locked and the wormhole billowed out, Buffy was absorbing, memorizing, and consuming the information that she had been seeking. It was over in moments, and then she focused - Apophis had set her gaze on the stable, rippling blue waters of the open wormhole.
It was beautiful.
It was horrible.
"I'll be looking forward to having that conversation when you get back," Jack called out from behind her as Apophis began moving her towards the open gate. "We have a lot of things to talk about."
Yeah, that was a conversation that she had every intention of having, and with an internal, feral grin - Buffy let the slayer loose.