Timeframe: Post ‘Chosen’
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of them – Buffy and the gang belong to Joss.
Notes: A glimpse into a possible future partially inspired by the current heat wave here in England (it’s been too hot to think for the past few days), and drawing brazenly on a tradition started by Arthur C Clarke in ‘The Hammer of God,’ added to by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ and shamelessly exploited by Hollywood in ‘Meteor,’ ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘Armageddon.’ This isn’t a cross over with any of them – although it could be.
The stone walls of the cellar were already hot to the touch as the head of the Watcher’s Council stumbled down the last but one flight of steps, the sword dragging in his hand and the blood of the demon which had sought to join him in his refuge dripping from its blade. He should have known there might be one or two left stalking the streets of London, caught – as many had been caught – by the ferocious descent of the fire from heaven, and the speed with which it had come upon the world. Not everyone had managed to get away, and some – like him – had made a decision to stay, grasping at the slenderest of hopes, choosing to remain so that others might be saved.
Giles suspected that many of those who’d stayed would be dead by now; the city was burning, succumbing to a bombardment far fiercer than any Hitler had ordered during the nightmare of the blitz. Those who’d sought refuge in the tunnels of the Underground might last a little longer, but it was unlikely any of them would survive.
A shudder ran through the ground as another of the leading splinters hit – a big one from the force of the tremor, which shook dust from the stones and nearly knocked him off his feet. He’d lingered too long in the upper offices, watching and listening as the world came to an end; murder and magic might have saved them in the past, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop the retribution of heaven, the merciless descent of the hammer of God.
The air was drenched in heat, a weight of fluid that drowned rather than suffocated. It took great effort to stagger down the stairs, and even more to tug open the door to the Council’s vault and then slam it shut behind him again. It should have been cooler, down in the bowels of the earth, but it seemed that nothing was out of reach of the heavenly fire that rained down from above. His senses were swimming, and he realised it wouldn’t be long before the heat overwhelmed him and he passed out. His hope of making a last stand here – in this repository of his life, the last bastion of all he’d ever fought for – had been a foolish thought right from the start, but he’d clung to it, stubborn and determined right up until the inevitable became obvious.
The faint and desperate chance that he might
survive seemed nothing more than the last ironic joke of his life. This place – this vault of the ages, the one thing he might have chosen to protect to his last breath – was about to become his tomb. Not that he’d stay buried for long. The searing fire of the meteor’s descent was going to gouge out the vale of London and scorch the land around it for hundreds of miles. He’d burn with his books; there’d be no chance of his waking to some demonic unlife - or of any heavenly resurrection either. There’d be nothing left of him but ashes.
And precious few of them.
It was a sense of whimsy that led him to sweep the central table clear of clutter, scattering books and papers and mystical artefacts across the heat stained stone. He used the last of his strength to lie down on the polished wood, placing himself there like some ancient warrior laid to rest on his funeral bier. He wasn’t exactly dressed in appropriate finery – his shirt was ripped and bloodied from his struggle with the demon and denim probably really didn’t count as formal dress wear – but it would have to do. He kicked off his shoes, tucked a book beneath his head, and brought the sword hilt to rest on his breastbone – clasping his hands over it in a final, futile gesture of defiance.All I lack,
he considered a little hysterically, is the dog at my feet …
Anya, he suspected, would approve. There was something noble
about a Viking funeral. Would there be a Valkyrie, waiting to carry him away to some distant Valhalla? He doubted it. He hadn’t exactly fallen in battle – and only a fool, or a suicidal manic would risk the fury of the asteroid’s fall to snatch one last soul from its grasp. But he liked to think that - wherever she was - the ex-vengeance demon would be watching his approaching demise with a wry smile and a nod of appreciation for his choice of final rites.
He lay back against the leather of Dunwin’s third edition 'Demonology' – a massive tome, fit to act as a pillow, since it had sent Xander to sleep many time over the years – and closed his eyes, conserving what little strength remained for his final, regretful thoughts. He was praying that Buffy and Dawn had made that final flight to reach Willow in the southern hemisphere; that Xander had found refuge on Kilimanjaro, and that the girls he had sent to join him had managed to do so in time. Andrew would be safe enough in Sidney, and his
girls would make sure he didn’t make too much of a fool of himself. They’d all be needed after the fall. Needed to keep the world safe, to stop the darkness from devouring what remained.
And he – the one who’d stayed behind to make sure they all got away – the girls, the young Watchers, the coven and the seers who’d seen it all coming – the one who’d chosen to remain at his post, organising flights, directing departures, bribing whoever and whatever he could to make sure his family were saved … He
could nothing but pray for their safe keeping, hoping that he’d made the right choices, clinging to a foolish faith that even this apocalypse was going to pass. He wouldn’t be there to help them this time. He wouldn’t live to see what was left of the world after the meteor had fallen on it.
give or take a few miles …
The heat was beyond oppressive by now; he was broiling in his own sweat, his lungs labouring and the blood beginning to curdle in his veins. There was even a soft smell of smoke in the air as the gathering of ancient parchments and modern papers began to spontaneously ignite. He’d considered trying to preserve it all, of using what little time remained to cast spells and summon demons to bargain with – but in the end there’d been no time to gather ingredients or research the necessary rites … and no demon with any power worth speaking of would have risked the fury of the fire, no matter what
they might have been tempted with.Maybe it’s better this way,
the Watcher thought, feeling darkness stealing over his senses, letting himself sink into the sweltering heat. He was hoping he’d be unconscious by the time the flames reached him. He really, really didn’t want his last moment on earth to be punctuated by a scream …
A wave of cold air suddenly washed over him, filled with the scent of herbs and incense smoke. The earth moved, violently – and then fell away altogether in a stomach lurching tumble. For a long disorientating moment he seemed to be being pulled into a thousand pieces, pummelled and savaged from the inside out … and then he was, once again, lying on a hard surface, stars dancing behind his closed lids and the heated steel of the sword hilt blistering his hands.
Voices assailed him, distant and blurred; they were followed by more tangible assault – the pressure of something against his face, fingers clutching at his pulse points. He drew in a gasping breath – and with it came a surge of air that chilled his scalded lungs and burned ice across his lips. His eyes jerked open in involuntary pain.
Only to find himself staring at a vision, her blond hair tugged back into a practical style, and her eyes considering him with a mix of irritation, anxiety and no little relief. For a bewildered moment he thought the Valkyries had come for him after all … and then recognition registered like a punch in his gut. Buffy?
It was his last conscious thought before events finally caught up with him; darkness swallowed his senses, and cradled him for a long, long time.
” Willow Rosenburg announced, letting herself collapse backwards into the pillows that waited for her, “was one hell of a rush. And then some. Did we … Is he ..?” Her head turned, her eyes focusing on the bustle of the medical team as they lifted their patient onto a trolley and charged in the direction of the infirmary. Buffy Summers, Prime Slayer and elected General of the unorthodox army that had gathered in the Brazilian jungles, was also staring at the team’s retreat, a blood spattered broad sword dangling from her hand.
“They’ll let us know,” she said, her voice cracking a little, revealing the weight of emotion that rested upon the outcome of that report. “Thanks, Will. You did good.”
“Hey!” Dawn Summers reacted indignantly, cradling her wounded arm against her as she reached to close the large tome whose contents had helped direct the spell. “We
did good, remember? Although, next time? Can we not cut it so close? The books had started to catch fire.”
Buffy threw her sister an indulgent glance before hefting the weapon in her hands and taking a closer look at the blade. “It was close,” she agreed, her nose wrinkling at the lingering scent of blood. “Not our fault Giles took so long to reach the vault. I guess this is why. Garthack demon,” she assessed. “I think.” Her head lifted again, her eyes staring after the now vanished medical team. “You think he’s gonna be okay?”
Willow sighed, too exhausted to be able to rise to her feet and give her friend the hug she needed. “It was
close – but he’s in the best of hands,” she reminded her instead. “The healers will work the miracles the doctors can’t. And once he gets his strength back he’ll tear a strip of all of us for taking risks just to save his life … “
“Yeah,” Dawn grinned. She turned to look at the rest of their bounty, at the tumbled piles snatched, like the man they’d surrounded, from the jaws of impending doom. Burial goods from a warrior’s grave; none of them had missed the significance of the way their mentor had chosen to face his final moments. “And I can’t wait to see the expression on his face when we tell him we saved all the books, too.”
“We’re gonna need ‘em,” Buffy said grimly. The Brazilian sky was still deceptively blue; somewhere, on the other side of the world, the meteor had already fallen. Dust and debris would be spiralling into the air, filling it with choking darkness. Soon the world would be smothered by it, plunged into a nightmarish twilight that would last for months. Maybe even years.
It would be under the cover of that darkness that the vampires and the demons would creep out to claim the world. Civilisation might fall, but the light would not fail; the Slayers would be waiting for them. They would hold back the tide.
However long it took.
“Giles is worth a thousand books,” Willow said and Buffy nodded.
“More.” Dawn carefully poured the contents of the chalice across the coals of the ceremonial brazier, making sure every drop sizzled away. Her blood was precious stuff, and it wouldn’t do to leave any of it lying around. “Wouldn’t be an apocalypse without him.”
“No,” Buffy agreed, finally allowing a smile to surface. “It’d just be the end of the world …”