|Dancing in the Dark
Author: Mediancat PM
Sequel to Dancing with Myself. Buffy the Vampire Queen has a plan, and it involves the Slayers of two universes. But even she doesn't know all its ramifications.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Cordelia C. & Buffy S. - Words: 19,955 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 3 - Published: 08-27-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3127011
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
My sequel to Dancing with Myself. If you didn't read that
story, you may have trouble with the backstory of the AU involved here.
The story is set in Buffy season four, shortly after "Who Are You?" but before Faith
got to Los Angeles for her encounter with the Fang Gang.
Whedon created Buffy and its characters. I claim the Silver,
the AUs present in this story, and the storyline.
X X X X X
the library. The place was a mess, an absolute mess. The place
looked like it had lost an argument with a flamethrower.
Nice to see that some things, somewhere, had gone right.
It didn't look
like there was anything left. When it had been cleared out
they'd done a pretty good job.
Okay, so that meant she had to go elsewhere.
Something drew her to the big hole in the floor.
This close to the Hellmouth
Buffy could practically feel its lure. She laughed, grateful that the
Hellmouth's power didn't draw people – and other things – into it helplessly,
to the gods only knew what was on the other side.
Otherwise she and a
whole lot of the other denizens of Sunnydale would be
Enough of that, it was time to get going and check out the town.
Buffy made her way towards the front of the burned-out wreck of a school she
ran across three military men.
The one in
front said, scornfully, "Oh. It's you. Look, we cover in here,
And we don't need the likes of you getting in our way. So why don't you leave
One of the two behind him
said, "Oh, knock it off, Forrest. We know you don't
like Buffy. I don't much like her either, no offense, but we're all on the same
"Thanks," Buffy said, surprised.
"Whatever. Just stay clear of me, okay?"
stepped to one side and let Forrest pass, giving him an exaggerated
She could practically feel the sneer beneath his mask.
the final one passed, she said, "Thanks for the back up." The
nodded. "So what I'm going to do to thank you," Buffy said, "is . . . kill you
Then Buffy the Vampire Queen put on her game face.
X X X X X
the Slayer entered the library. As usual, Giles had his nose buried
a musty old tome. But always for good reason.
"Well?" she asked. "What's the good word?"
"The good word,"
Giles answered tiredly, "is yes. We've studied the spell and
we think we can use it to send you where you need to go." Across the table, Ms.
Calendar nodded. Amy Madison just sat there with a neutral expression.
"Okay," Cordelia said, "What're you leaving out?"
Jenny grinned widely. "Not bad news –
good news, actually. You've been there
Amy looked at Jenny quizzically. "Really?"
knew what they were talking about. "The world where Buffy's
the Slayer. Right?"
Amy laughed sharply. "One of these days
you guys have to tell me your
backstory. A universe where Queen Buffy is the vampire slayer?"
Nodding, Cordelia said,
"Yup. Giles and Ms. Calendar met her longer than I did
though; I got the bus transfer from hell into her world at the same time she
"Right, then," Giles said. "We have
time for the history lesson later, after
you bring our Buffy back here. Or kill her, I don't care which."
"Where's Willow?" Ms. Calendar asked.
"Where do you think?"
"Ah yes," Giles said, "In the middle of a tete-a-tete with the love of her life?"
"Not any more," Willow said from the
doorway. Her auburn hair had grown a bit
from her crewcut days; now it was merely short. She was heavily armed enough to
tackle a platoon of vampires.
"You made it just in time, Will,"
Cordelia said. "We were about to leave
laughed. And her laughter contained genuine amusement, which
Cordelia was very happy to hear. Not much had made Willow happy over the last
two and half years since Xander and Angel had died. "Right," she said. "Leave
without your good right arm? I'll believe that the day you start shopping at
of K-Mart shoppers," Cordelia said, "Where is that significant
Willow stuck out her tongue.
then the love in question walked into the room, as heavily armed as
saying "So you call us and tell us to hotfoot it over her and we show and
you're all just standing around? Willow and I coulda had another five minutes
And Amy snapped, "Oh, calm down, Faith, we're almost ready.
X X X X X
reacted in startled shock to Buffy's vampire-face and
attack. Buffy had the first one's throat ripped out before he could blink, then
grabbed the second one and threw him into the burnt-out lockers headfirst.
He went down, twitched once, and lay still, his neck lying at an odd angle.
immediately went for his gun – a rifle-looking thingie – and
something attached to a wire. No matter, Buffy was already diving out of the
way. The wire hit the wall and immediately electricity shot through it.
Scorched hell out of the wall,
not like she could tell the difference or really
cared that much. She reached out for Forrest and was mildly surprised to find
him dodging her blow. "Oh, good," she said, "And here I thought you army boys
were going to be a disappointment." She looked pointedly at the floor. "Well,
two of you were, anyway."
Forrest refused to be baited. Good, solid stolid
military man. She hated the
type. As he reached for something on his belt – stake, gun, walkie-talkie,
Buffy didn't care to find out which – Buffy lunged forward and caught him with
a right to the jaw. A bit too traditional combat for her taste, but Buffy was
an adaptable vampire.
Her opponent staggered back
wildly but didn't go down. At least not until Buffy
jumped on him and ripped off his headgear. "Well, whaddaya know," Buffy told
him with an evil grin on her face. "Looks like you were right not to trust me."
She leant down to bite him.
then was abruptly picked up and thrown backwards. She landed on her
and faced this new foe --
And burst out laughing. It
was her counterpart! "Well, well, well," she said,
"Nice to see you again. Love what you've done with the place."
"What are you doing here?" Buffy-the-Slayer asked.
"The macarena. What is this, ask the vampire a stupid question day?"
it's kill-my-identical-twin day. And lucky me, here you are." The
moved forward, stake in hand. Behind her, Forrest was standing up, looking
mightily pissed off.
"No thanks. I
have plans right now and they don't involve getting
beheaded, or electrocuted. Gotta dash! Toodles!" Then she turned and ran.
X X X X X
Buffy – the Slayer this
time – lay off swearing and turned around and looked at
Forrest. "You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks for saving me,"
he said grumpily. Forrest didn't like Buffy,
Buffy knew it, but this was so far from being the right time to hash that out
it wasn't funny. "What the hell was that?"
got it wrong," Buffy said, "That's me from another universe
I went vampire very early. Dangerous as all hell."
ways to tell the two of you apart?" Forrest was trying to sound
business and failing.
"Well, if it's daylight and I'm outside, it's probably me."
Forrest laughed humorlessly. "Well, if you can't come up with anything useful--"
"Well, you Initiative boys don't do holy
water, so I honestly don't know. I
don't think either of us is gonna stand still long enough for you to try
sticking us with a stake."
"Might be worth a shot anyway." And the sad thing is, he wasn't kidding.
"If I told you she was out of your league you wouldn't pay attention –"
"Got that right," he interrupted.
"So I'll just say watch out. I
don't like seeing this –" she pointed to the
dead soldiers –"any more than you do."
"Doubt that." Reaching for
his belt, he pulled out a radio. "You mind? I need
to call this in."
"I know when I'm not wanted," Buffy said, walking away.
"Doubt that too," Forrest shot after her. Buffy
ignored the gibe and kept
going. This info had to be taken to Giles, and taken quickly.
X X X X X
"You finally ready with that thing?" Faith asked.
"We're ready," Giles sighed. "I wish you weren't so impatient."
"You know me, if it's not action I'm bored out of my mind."
Amy said sharply, "So that's how it happened."
frowned. Amy and Faith did not get along at all; Amy was regimented
and very highly disciplined – her witchy nature demanded it, to her way of thinking.
To call Faith a loose cannon was to badly underdescribe the situation. The two of them
got along as well as mongooses and cobras.
Watcher had been an incompetent buffoon who'd gotten herself killed
within three months of becoming Faith's guardian in a struggle with an ancient vampire;
since then Faith had had little to do with authority, though she seemed to listen to Giles
Cutting off a retort from Willow – who was as
fiercely protective of Faith as
she was of all of her friends – Cordelia said, "Okay, people, pull together
here! If it helps you, think of this as a surgical mall strike. We get in, we
get out, and we don't pay too much!"
Faith raised an eyebrow
but said nothing. Willow stuck out her tongue at Amy,
who frostily ignored it and picked up the spellbook containing their return
spell. All four women gathered and held hands as Ms. Calendar chanted the
Then the thunder took them.
They found themselves in a burned-out version of their own library –
With about five people in military garb pointing guns at them.
Buffy the Slayer
knocked on Giles' door, said, "It's me!", waited for
muffled "come in," and went inside. He hastily flipped off the television and
looked at her. "What is it?" he asked.
"First off," she said, "Next time don't invite me in."
A bit befuddled, Giles said, "And why would that be?"
"Remember two years ago, when I went to that
alternate universe and met the
vampire who looked like me?"
"Yes –" Then Giles caught on. "She's here?"
irritably. "Ran into her earlier tonight. She recognized me,
is how I know it's her and not some other random Buffy-vampire making like
reference, Giles said. "Thanks for the warning, then. I
you'll be telling Willow and Xander next?"
dead in that universe. Willow isn't." Buffy pursed her lips and
out. "Of course, I have no idea what the hell she's doing here either. We
didn't have the time to play twenty questions."
"I hadn't expected her to volunteer her nefarious plan."
Buffy shot him a look. Then she said,
"Worse news, the Initiative knows about
it. I didn't have a choice – when I ran into her she was doing a slice-and-dice
on three soldiers. And unfortunately, Forrest was the one who survived."
"Ah yes. The one who believes you're the antiChrist."
Snorting, Buffy said, "Think his opinion's
that high? Problem is, I don't even
know if I can trust him not to tell the other soldiers not to just shoot me on
sight. He seems to be a big proponent of the electrocute 'em all and let God
sort 'em out school of vampirehunting."
"But surely Riley –"
"Riley just went back to Iowa for the weekend. You
know, just once I'd like a
villain to come to town and not fuck up the rest of my life."
"At any rate," Giles said,
"Best we call around and inform everyone of your
counterpart's presence." He reached for his phone and was startled when it rang
right before he picked it up. "Hello?" he said bemusedly. "Wesley?"
Right then there was a knock on the door. Giles
being otherwise occupied, Buffy
opened it and found Tara standing there – a very anxious-looking Tara. "Willow
disappeared, right in, in front of me. I can't even track where she's gone"
"Breathe," Buffy said. "You're not going to do
Willow any good if you
collapse." Tara closed her eyes, took a couple of deep breaths, and then stared
straight into Buffy's eyes.
"Willow and I were, were doing a simple nature spell
when she suddenly vanished. Had
nothing to do with the spell we were doing, I'm sure of it. I, I looked around for
her – magically and physically – and I couldn't find any trace of her anywhere.
So maybe I thought you all could help me find her –"
"Of course," Buffy said distractedly. The Queen
coming to town had to be
connected to this. Damn. "Of course," she said more firmly. "Anything else?"
"Yes – Any the
rat vanished too. She always chitters happily whenever we, we do
spell near her. It's just, I was so upset when Willow vanished it, it took me a
while to realize she was gone."
Buffy was confused AND upset. Giles didn't make things any better
hung up the phone and said, "That was Wesley . . . he's been working with Angel
recently, apparently. In any event, he and Cordelia were researching a bit of
information when she–"
"Disappeared," Buffy and Tara said in unison.
"Yes," Giles said. "How did you know?" Tara
explained what had happened. When
she was done Giles immediately picked up the handset and dialed. "Is Xander
there? Good, can I talk with him? Xander! Good. Is Anya there? Good. Willow,
Cordelia and Amy have disappeared. Come over –" Then, blinking, Giles said,
"He hung up on me."
Of course, he showed up five minutes later.
X X X X X
Rupert Giles and Jenny
Calendar finished chanting the spell that sent Cordelia,
Amy, Faith and Willow to the alternate universe.
Then they sat down to catch their breaths.
"I," Giles said, "am getting far too old for this."
Giving an evil grin Jenny looked at him.
"Rupert, that's NOT why you're
tired." Then she went over to sit in his lap. "But you know, you're right. I
can see how the stress of all of the sex we have and your Watcher
"Good," Giles began.
"So you're just going to have to give up being a
Wacther." Then, to quell his
protests, she kissed him.
probably would have gone on a while longer but for the screaming.
Jenny pulled out of their embrace to see . . .
– but not their Willow, her hair was longer and she didn't look
– was sitting on the floor in bewilderment. Right next to her was Cordelia –
and Giles would have bet demons to diamonds it wasn't the Slayer from the way
she was acting. A rat lay between them on the floor; it immediately jumped into
the alternate Willow's lap.
They both stood up. Then they looked
at Giles and Jenny. Cordelia started
talking first. "Okay, hold it," she said. "What are you –" she pointed at Jenny
as she spoke, as Giles had guessed she would – "doing alive?"
"This isn't your universe –" Giles began.
came Faith's voice from in the stacks. "You got yourself a
babe and this place is still intact." Willow and Cordelia leapt backwards. "Oh,
relax," she said. "I've been through too much recently to start yanking
"You'll forgive me," Willow said, "If I don't jump at the chance to trust you."
"Excuse me," Giles said. "I think we need
to figure out how you came to this
from the doorway said, "Don't bother. I'll tell you. Won't do
good, though." A vampire stood there.
who it was from the voice. "Cordelia, Willow, Faith – Amy?"
nodded. "Permit me to introduce Queen Buffy's second-in-command –"
Willow interrupted, "Oz."
X X X X X
lead soldier – a young black male, cute but dead-eyed – said,
The library itself was a charred ruin. What the hell had happened? The man moved
forward. "Okay. Who are you people – wait. Willow?"
Obviously this man knew Willow's
counterpart. "Close," she said. "But not
nodded. "Okay. Yeah. I can see the differences now that I look
must be from the same place that that vampire came from, the one who looked like
Buffy Summers." A definite negativity to the tone, there. This guy really didn't
like Buffy. Cordelia nudged Amy, who started muttering the words to a spell.
Cordelia said, "Yeah, that's us."
All five guns pointed as one. "Then we have to assume you're vampires too."
Cordelia held out the cross she carried. "Hello! Not burning me here!"
The soldier said, "Not good enough. Fi-"
While simultaneously Amy completed her spell: "Isis,
patron, hear my call – put
them in the feline's paw!"
Immediately three of the five soldiers were turned to
rats, slithering out of
their gear. Cordelia had to give the other two credit, their guns only wavered
for a split second.
that was enough. Cordelia dove towards the spokesman, who fired
scorching the wall with a bolt of electricity that missed her by inches – and then
efficiently swung the rifle towards her head. Twisting, she made it bounce off
her shoulder and plowed into him, sending them both sprawling. The soldier
lashed out with a kick, again clipping her shoulder, but Cordelia ignored the pain.
Grabbing the leg, she yanked the man towards her and decked him with a solid
left to the jaw.
When she looked up Faith
and Willow had disposed of the other soldier, while Amy
was busily gathering rats. "Whatcha doin' that for?" Faith asked. "I got a
couple hungry cats would love a good meal."
glowered, knowing full well she was having her chain yanked, and
three rats in a bag. Willow collected the rifles and put them on the far side of
the room, and then Cordelia slapped the leader a few times. He sputtered and
"Point one," Cordelia said. "We could have killed you. We didn't."
"Three of my men are rats," he said.
were about to shoot at us," Willow said scornfully. "I think that
us to a little self-defense."
"In any event,
you're not dead – please, you're hardly even injured! – and
about to turn your three soldiers back into themselves."
At Cordelia's word Amy dumped the rats from
the sack and muttered, "Bast, oh
queen of cats, hear my plea; return the form of self to these three." And the
three rats at her feet instantly transformed into a pile of irritated soldiers.
Amy jumped backwards and Willow and Faith made a production of waving the
confiscated rifles in their general direction. They took the hint and didn't
"Now. Where did this Buffy
Summers vampire go?" Cordelia released the man and
stepped backwards, carefully making her tone as conversational as possible.
"I don't know," came his curt reply. "She
jumped my party, killed two of my men,
then ran off when the Slayer showed up." Cordelia hadn't laid a hand on him
since their scuffle, but his every word choked out as though drawn from him by painful
"Thanks. Was that so hard?"
look she got in response was a contemptuous as they come. "Yes. I'm
soldier, you're the enemy."
Willow said. "We could have flipped a coin and gotten
information than we just got from you. Are we done here, Cordy? The soldier-boys
obviously wanna go play with their phallic symbols."
Cordelia looked at the spokesman, whose face could
have been carved out of
stone. Their glare continued a few minutes, then she gave up and said, "Yeah, we're
done." The four gathered together and backed out of the room, Willow and Faith
holding the weapons on the soldiers until the last minute. Then they threw the
weapons towards the big hole in the floor and took off running. Cordelia didn't
think that they were going to get chased, but she couldn't be sure of that.
what do we do now, Slayer One?" Faith asked. "I mean, the Queen B
had at least an hour or two to get gone. She could be halfway to Vegas by now."
Willow gave Faith a squeeze on the
shoulder. "Not likely. Buffy's plans have
always included screwing Cordy and me over. Just because we routed her and she
went flying into another universe I don't think they've changed." Faith reached
over and squeezed back. Meanwhile, Amy averted her eyes in distaste. Not that
she was anti-gay; she just thought Willow could have done a lot better for herself.
people," Cordelia said, "I've been here before. And while it's
exactly like our world, it's not identical. I think we'll probably need help. So, here's what
we do, Slayer Two. Let's check out Giles' old place first. I mean, Jenny Calendar died on this
world, so he might still be living there."
"If he ever lived there at all," Amy said.
"As good a place as
any to start," Cordelia said. It wasn't a long walk; along
the way they didn't say much. Eventually they reached Giles' front door. His
name was still on it, so they assumed they had the right house. Cordelia reached up
Giles opened it and
stiffened slightly. "Well," he said, "Question asked,
question answered . . ."
X X X X X
Tara pulled out of her
meditation. With Giles' help they'd found a more suitable
ritual to use to try to locate their missing friends, and they all anxiously
awaited what she had to say. "I think . . . " she said breathlessly, "they were
all pulled into an alternate dimension."
"Ten gets you one it's whatever hell Queen
Buffy calls home," Xander said. No
one took his bet.
Tara said, "Okay, now we, we have to work on a way to get them back. Right?"
"First," Giles said, "We need to discover why
they were transferred in the first
place. It might help us figure out the right way of getting them home." Then
came a knock at the front door. Giles walked over to open it –
Cordelia, Willow, Faith, and Amy were standing there.
"Well," Giles said, "Question asked, question answered . . . "
X X X X X
"You know Oz?" Giles said, surprised.
"Not this version, that's for damn
sure," Faith said as she vaulted down from
the upper level. Willow eyed both her and the vampire warily, and Cordelia's
face alternated between confused and royally pissed. Faith moved in between Oz
and the rest of the humans, apparently being protective, although she seemed
more amused than anything else.
"Um, if you'll excuse me, I was trying to be threatening," Oz said.
Jenny grinned. "No offense, Oz, but you don't do it very well."
The vampire shrugged. "I
know. Buffy doesn't keep me for my sense of menace."
Willow's face was by this point a mask of shock, while Faith was two steps away
from collapsing in hysterical laughter.
to prevent us from killing you as soon as you're done
"Um, them." Oz took a step
forward – behind him stood three vampires who could
have doubled as professional wrestlers, such was their size. "Now I'm only here
to deliver the message, but we'll fight if we have to. Anyway. You may have
noticed these, well, semi-familiar faces. Queen set it up this way – any of you
followed her, it'd shift their equivalents here."
"Stuck on a world where I'm the
Slayer? Let me be the first to say ick!"
Cordelia said. No, nothing like their Cordelia at all.
"You're not stuck
anywhere, Miss Chase," Giles said. "All we need to do
determine the proper counterspell."
Oz gave a
half-smile. "Sorry, no. Counterspell, yeah, but I'd advise you
use it – at least, if you don't want these charming women to vanish sooner than
they have to. Any of you travels back – or they come here – boom. They'll meet
in the middle. Dunno what happens then, but from my reading it's very painful."
Then he shrugged. "Not my preference. I don't go in for the bloodthirsty stuff,
you know that."
every spell there's a way around it, Oz. You're a bright boy, you
these things." This Faith's confidence seemed bluster; if she'd seen the inside
of a spellbook in her life it had clearly been by accident.
"Maybe. Buffy's betting you won't
figure it out in six hours – especially with
these people –" he gestured briefly at his friends' counterparts – "in place of
your well-oiled machine."
"So why are you telling us this?" Jenny asked.
"So you can suffer." His vampire
came out and he grinned widely. "Said I wasn't
bloodthirsty, not that I wasn't a sadist." The he put his index finger to his
head and made a saluting motion. "Later."
here 'til I disintegrate? I don't fuckin' think so!" The
Faith charged, to Giles' horror.
Oz dove to one
side and let Faith tangle with the three well-muscled vampires.
Then he rolled to his feet and sprinted for the back exit of the room.
Swearing, Giles yanked out a hand-held crossbow and fired it at him as he fled.
It clattered off the shelves as Oz darted through the exit and took off.
No time to chase him, though.
This Faith was good, but it looked like she might
need help. Giles reloaded the crossbow and tried to get a clear shot. This did
mean, though, that none of the the vampires had been able to get past her to
the comparatively helpless Willow and Cordelia.
meanwhile, had taken out several bottles of holy water.
Cordelia! Come here."
said as she moved over towards the check-in desk. Willow
moved over in a daze, and finally Cordelia grabbed her arm and yanked her over.
"Snap out of it!" She said. "Faith's on our side and that wasn't our Oz. We
need witchcraft! Do that thing with the pencils you do."
Willow said, "I'll try." Slowly, a pencil on the nearby table began moving.
"If you can't
manage that, then throw some holy water," Cordy said, "But for
God's sake, make yourself useful."
And saying that,
Cordelia threw one of the bottles. It splattered five feet
short, but she quickly picked up and threw another one that splashed one
vampire in the back. It screamed, and Faith slammed a stake into its heart. The
pencil continued to hover in midair.
Meanwhile, Jenny's first throw hit Giles' legs,
and his crossbow bolt went
sailing five feet over the vampire's heads. He swore again and hastily
reloaded as Faith was grabbed from behind by the largest of the three vampires.
Jenny's second vial struck this one in the back of the head, causing it enough
pain that Faith was able to break free, spin and kick it backwards, where it
crashed into the table. Willow's pencil began spinning and shaking, and then
flew straight towards the prone vampire's heart. It became dust. Impressive.
Giles had the crossbow
aimed as Faith faced off against the final vampire. She
slowly began maneuvering him so that he was facing towards the book cage and
away from the watcher. Grabbing Cordelia's arm, she said, "No, wait."
Then Faith gave a quick nod of her head –
and Giles' final bolt hit home,
turning the third vampire into dust. "Whooo!" Faith shouted. "That felt good. I
haven't been involved in a good old-fashioned brawl in a long time."
"And," Giles said sharply, "We didn't need to be involved in one now."
"How was I supposed to know that Oz would take a
powder like that? I was hoping
to catch him and pound the info out of him – that is, if Willow could've stood
the strain." She was still grinning and happy with herself. Gods, this Faith
was even more of a loose cannon than their own.
Before he could
chastise her again, the alternate Cordelia spoke, "Listen
leathergirl: Before you started making like Batman you said you didn't want to,
quote, fuckin' disintegrate, unquote. Well, then stop taking potshots at us every
chance you get and either sit down and start helping or stay the hell out of the way.
Faith laughed. "You know you don't frighten me, right?"
"Well, you don't frighten me
either." And the words, preposterous as they
sounded, had the ring of truth.
"Fair enough." Then she asked Giles, "Any idea where their lair is?"
"Not any more," he said. "We
just took care of most of them not long ago and in
the process destroyed their hideout. I have no idea where they're secreting
themselves now. Why?"
"Because I'm no good
at research or spellcasting, and Cordy's right – I don't
want to be stuck here, and I sure as hell don't want to spend the rest of my
life on the astral plane trying to get my rocks off messing with Shirley
MacLaine. So we got six hours –"
she vanished an hour before our friends left, and it's been
"So, I got four and a half hours
on the outside. I'll be back before then – I'm
gonna go pound a few heads." Then she left before any of them could stop her,
not that any of them likely were physically capable of doing so.
"Now then," Jenny said, clapping her hands together
once. "Why don't we get
your stories, briefly? It'll help us keep you straight from your counterparts –
although it doesn't look like that's going to be a problem with Amy . . ." On
hearing her name, the rat squirmed – she'd spent the entire battle curled up in
Cordelia looked at Willow, then at
the door, and threw up her hands. "Whatever.
Well, since Amy's a rodent, Willow's catatonic, and Faith's decided to go take
the grand tour, I guess that leaves it up to me. First, in my world I'm not the
Slayer . . . ."
X X X X X
silence descended on Giles' house, as behind him Buffy, Xander
some girl Cordelia had never seen before crowded around to take a peek at who
was standing on his front porch.
broke the silence first. "Can we come in?" She said, not really
the vibe she was getting from inside the room. Not hostile, exactly, but way
less then welcoming.
"Cordy the Slayer,"
Buffy said, "I should have guessed." Giles stepped aside
and gestured for Cordelia and her gang to follow him inside.
should you have guessed?" Faith asked as they made their way to his
"Actually, you we wouldn't have," Giles
said. "Tell me something. How long have
you been here?" The young woman Cordelia didn't know checked her watch but said
"Um, about thirty-five minutes. Why?"
"That's when. when Willow disappeared," the
blonde woman said. "Amy the rat too."
Amy's head jerked up at the word rat, but it seemed like a description, not an
"In Los Angeles, Cordelia also vanished at
that time – and I'm betting Faith did as well,
wherever she is," Giles said, then turned to look at Buffy. Cordelia's head shot up at
the mention of LA. Why had her counterpart left town?
"Which leaves us with the question of why Buffy here
hasn't jaunted off on a
cruise to nowhere," Xander said.
Amy said, "Hmmm. Our counterparts vanished . . . but the Queen's didn't."
Looking at Faith grimly, Willow came out with.
"Are you pondering what I'm
sharply and replied, in an atrocious British accent, "I think
Will, but was it set by Wile-e Coyote or the A-Team?"
said, "Translation, please, for the benefit of the alternate
"This was a trap," Cordelia
answered curtly. "The Queen wanted us to follow her
here. The only question is, is it going to blow up in her face or are we
"We'll find that out soon enough, I
suspect. Now. I suspect introductions are in
order. We may all recognize each other to some extent but we can't let that be
the basis for a working relationship. I know Cordelia is the Slayer; where do
the rest of you fit in?"
And so introductions
were made. It turned out "Amy the rat" was a reference to
this world's Amy incarnation being trapped in rodent form for over a year. The
blonde was Tara, a friend and fellow witch to Willow. "Me a witch," Willow said.
Amy huffed. "I
keep telling you have the potential to be an excellent witch, but
you never listen."
Faith reached over and kissed Willow full on
the lips. "Quit trying to recruit
her," she said when she pulled away. "I happen to know ol' Willsy here likes her
magic a lot more physical." They looked up and saw expressions of mild horror,
shock and revulsion on Giles, Xander, Buffy and Tara. "What's the matter? Got
something against lesbians?"
"No," Tara said; half a second later everyone else joined in the chorus.
Buffy then explained, "It's just that, well, our
Faith and Willow get along like fire
and gasoline; they'd sooner go skydiving without a parachute than say something
nice about each other. It's just – bizarre for us. We'll deal."
more bizarre than seein' the Queen B as the Slayer, sweetcheeks,"
said. "Our world, you're trying to kill us right now."
"And Xander's dead," Willow said a little sadly.
Of course it still bothered
"Don't remind me, please," Xander said.
"Right then. So, what next?"
vote find her and pound her!" Buffy said, raising her hand.
Everyone else did
the same, except Giles.
"All well and
good, but we need to work on how you got here, how our
vanished – and how to bring them back."
work with you on that," Amy said. "Isis knows I'm no good in a
Tara nodded her head, indicating she'd also be joining in the research.
"Good – and, Xander?"
no," he began. "I'm going out in the field this time. I've
been stuck on
the sidelines way too much recently."
"Exactly what I was going to suggest – you've been awfully antsy of late."
"Xander with me, Buffy with you two?" Cordelia
said. She had reasons for
wanting to talk to Xander. This did leave the other group combat-heavy, but
Faith and Willow were still at that stage in their relationship when by
themselves they tended to notice only each other, and Buffy would serve as a
Nodding sharply, Willow said, "Done it before, can
do it again." Faith seemed a
little leery but didn't say anything.
"Well, then," Cordelia said, "Let's move,
people! We have no idea how long this
tap is going to stay open!"
And they scattered and the hunt was on.
X X X X X
Queen Buffy strolled through the streets of Sunnydale,
stares, nothing she wasn't used to, of course. She was smokin' in her leather
pants and cutoff sweater, and she knew it. Let 'em stare.
The only complication so far
had been those military types. Nothing like that
back in her world, at least not in Sunnydale -- none who knew about vampires and
how to ice 'em, anyway.
Still, she had four hours to
kill and a whole small town to get herself lost in.
Alternate u or not, it was largely the sane, and honestly she didn't give much
of a shot about the details. Her fun was in the plotting and the killing; for
the detail work, she had Oz.
So: Touristgirl in an alternate universe. Where should she go?
Check out the
local talent? Go on a spree? Try to kill Cordy and her wannabes
here? And then it hit her. Since everyone here knew Buffy as the Slayer – and
she almost threw up trying to get her head around that revolting concept – why
not play it that way? Make herself as visible as possible?
So she headed for the Silver. Only here,
it was called the Bronze. When she
walked in, people gave her respectful glances; a few glanced twice, and if she
hadn't had other things to do she might have been tempted to drag 'em off in an
alley for some good times. She maneuvered her way out to the dance floor and
started shaking it.
Buffy crashed into one
person, a short geeky type. When he said "Hey, watch it!"
she flashed her demon and laughed as the geek went tearing off out of the club.
After a couple of songs she thought she saw a familiar
face. So she bumped and
grinded her way off the floor and walked up to the balcony.
The familiar face glowered when it saw her. "Oh," he said, "You again."
"Me again, Spikey!"
Her own Spike had moodily gone off a year and a half ago,
ending a fairly successful partnership and some of the damnedest best sex she'd
ever had. Last she'd heard of him he'd come near to demolishing Prague – almost
started an international incident. She'd laughed for weeks at the news reports
of the escalating tensions between Great Britain and Czechoslovakia.
torture me again?" This wasn't her Spike, that was damn sure.
sounded depressed and . . . resigned? Why?
Spikey," she said playfully, "I could never torture you." In
she could hear a Springsteen song, and she began swaying to the rhythm.
"Knock it the fuck off, would you,
Slayer? I didn't much fancy this flirtation
gig two weeks ago and I damn sure don't like it any better now." He started to
walk away. The Queen grabbed his arm and started to say something. Roughly, he
jerked it free and said, "I don't bloody care how big a headache I get –" And he
backhanded her so hard she nearly went over the balcony. Now THAT was the Spike
she knew and loved, or at least a reasonable variant. Then he winced . . . . and
then stood up. "Nothing happened. Nothing happened." Then he walked up to her
and hit her again – she let him.
he raised his arm a third time she grabbed it and held it. "Fun's
but enough's also enough. One more time and I'm calling it foreplay."
"I can hit you. Why?"
"Let me show you." Then she went vampire. Spike blinked.
I can't say that's what I was expecting." He shrugged. "But
to go with it." He picked her up and threw her into the wall. Okay, time for
Then Spike pulled out the stake. Or not, she thought silently. Then he charged.
X X X X X
" . . . and
Willow and Faith can't stand each other," Cordelia finished.
alternate Willow had spent the five minutes or so since Cordelia started
apparently performing a calming ritual. As she was apparently the only innate
magical talent in the room, Giles was glad for the effort.
"Not entirely true, Cordy,"
Willow said, speaking at length for the first time.
"I just think she's an evil bitch who lives only to destroy us."
for the clarification," Giles said wryly. So – Jenny having
emendations to Cordelia's speech to show the way things were in this universe -- they now had
each others' life stories in thumbnail. The Watcher continued, "So how likely
is it that your Faith is going to come back?" Unconsciously he looked at Cordelia
for the answer.
But Willow was the one who spoke.
"Well -- she's wanted for murder in our
universe so she might see this as a way to stick someone else with her problems.
But she's not exactly an expert in disguising what she laughingly calls her
emotions either and she seemed to be telling the truth when she said she didn't
want to stay in this universe –"
Cordelia cut her off. "In other words, you have no idea."
Willow said earnestly, "Not as such."
The situation could have
been worse, Giles supposed. While they didn't have
their team together, this Willow was a witch in her own right. And Cordelia, while no
Slayer, had a sharp if tactless mind. It was just possible that they could
research their way out of their dilemma. "So," he started, "Where do we begin?"
Then they began studying.
X X X X X
Xander knocked the vampire over the
head with a crowbar, knocking it to the
ground. Cordelia finished staking the one she had pinned against the mausoleum
wall and then slew the one Xander had just stunned. Then she gave herself the
once-over. Damn. Another new outfit she had to buy. This one was just so filthy
by this point it wasn't funny.
killing vampires was nice – hell, it was what she was born to do,
couldn't leave them behind – but it wasn't getting them any closer to finding
the Queen. And somehow Cordelia knew that Buffy wasn't going to leave the area. It
wasn't her style. She turned to check on Xander – breathing heavily, but unhurt.
Thank God. The attraction – the love – she had for Xander, any Xander, was still
there. After almost three years it was easier to suppress, but it was there.
Well, that was
part of why she wanted to be with him, though she definitely
needed the guide. So, this was alt-Sunnydale. Cordelia hadn't exactly had time
for the grand tour last time and it was interesting to see what was different
from her own Sunnydale. Besides the school, of course! Anyway, so far the
changes had been trivial; a storefront here, a cemetery in a different location there,
and her Willy's bar had burned down with him inside a year ago – the Queen
didn't like snitches.
"Fun as it is to go a-vampire whuppin' with
you," Xander said, "It's not helping
us locate that big ol' fake Buffy we got roaming about this fair city. I think
we need a plan. Where would the Queen go? What do you think she's up to?"
"If I knew we'd go there."
was a trap, right? So she'd know you'd be following her to look
her. Kinda occurs to me that she wouldn't be going and hanging out with all the
vampires, she'd be going public. People here know Buffy, it wouldn't shock them
to see her."
had a point. He was always smarter than anyone, including himself,
him credit for. "Hide in plain sight?"
sense to me. And if we catch them –" She pulled out a cell phone
put it back.
"Why didn't we think of that?" Xander said.
"You weren't me, Xander, you didn't spend
half your life on the phone . . . I
"Where she might go. The Silver."
I say, huh what?" Cordelia repressed the urge to laugh. "The
only club in town –-"
"Ah. You mean the
Bronze." Hmmm. The guy who founded the club forty years ago
had been an Olympic medalist in track and field. Apparently he hadn't done
quite as well in this universe.
"Whatever. So let's go."
On the way over she finally gathered the courage to ask
the question she'd been
wanting to ask. "Why is your Cordelia in Los Angeles?"
Needless to say, she didn't like the answer she got.
X X X X X
Oz strolled back to the
abandoned mansion on Crawford Street that had served as
the Queen's temporary lair since their old one had been gutted. It helped that
the other three vampires had covered his exit. Hated to sacrifice them, good
muscle being hard to come by these days, but, hey, it was the plan.
The Queen's plan now had nothing
for him to do for the next four hours or so
beyond not getting staked. So, free time. He grabbed his guitar from his room at
the mansion and headed off to the Silver. Back when human he'd been in a band.
First thing he'd done when turned was convert his bandmates, but to his horror
they'd been staked not long after they woke up. Damn Cordelia and her gang,
human Oz had thought the redhead cute and depressed – his kind of
'course, after he turned he'd found out that she was depressed because a vampire
had killed her boyfriend. The attraction had vanished. Whiny bitch. Probably
listened to Sarah McLachlan.
Anyway. His vampire voice could belt a tune, no
lie. So every once in a while he
got the creative mojo flowing by going on stage as the Masked Musician. The name
appealed to his sense of whimsy.
Got a lot of girls that way. They giggled as
he led them to the mansion and
"played a special song" just for them. They liked his calm, laid-back,
unthreatening manner. They liked his voice, and the mystery of the mask.
all of it until the mask came off. Then their mood changed
He didn't know if he had the time to
do all that tonight before the deadline.
Hungry, sure, but not enough time to play and feed. Decisions, decisions.
Music. Music was on his mind. And he felt like doing some Springsteen.
he put on his mask – solid black fabric, matched his jacket and his
and went into the Silver. A few minutes later he was up on stage, his guitar
plugged in and ready to go. The crowd went silent as he strummed a few notes,
then launched into "Brilliant Disguise." It was kinda ironic.
Oh, we stood at the
The gypsy swore our future was bright
But come the wee wee hours
Well maybe baby the gypsy lied
Another little touch of irony. Oz had been doing a lot of lying recently.
when you look at me, you better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby or just a brilliant disguise?
As the final notes
died down and the crowd applauded Oz checked his watch. Three
hours and fifty minutes until the Queen came back.
At least until she thought she was coming back.
X X X X X
You cheated on me? Her?"
Xander smiled bitterly. "It's not something
I'm proud of, believe me. She
didn't deserve it. But we've made our peace with what happened, and anyway what
business is it of yours?"
"Hello, you fool, she loved you! Just like I
did." Cordelia was so angry, so
disappointed – although she should have known this was the answer to her
question. Yet part of her – a small part, but definitely there – was -- happy
at hearing this?
Because what? It meant the possibility of an
interuniversal relationship? Not
damn likely. But still there was that part of her saying it could happen.
"Yeah, I know,"
Xander sighed. "I guess I just didn't love her back, not the
way she – deserved. I think she's better off without me at this point." They
rounded the corner and started down the alleyway – the club from the outside
looked the same, anyway. "And by now," he continued, "I've got my life – and a
new girlfriend – and she has hers, helping Angel. Why does this bug you so
much?" Another girlfriend?
She stopped before they got near the
entrance. "Because it would have meant
that somewhere at least I was happy."
Then they went inside.
X X X X X
a few minutes Buffy just stood back and watched. She, Willow and
had been jumped by a small pack of demons as the three of them scoured the
cemeteries by the edge of town. Buffy killed one of them with a stake through
the neck and then turned around to help the other two –
But no need. This Faith's
streetfighter style had been honed to perfection, and
while she still fought wildly she'd gained that little bit of control that
their own Faith had never been able to attain. And Willow –
Well, if it wasn't for the face Buffy wouldn't have
known they were the same
women. What Willow lacked in Slayer strength she made up for in sheer fighting
skill. While not able to match the demons blow for blow she moved smoothly and
effortlessly from one to the other, getting a knife thrust here, a neck chop
there. Buffy dodged as Faith threw one towards her and said, "C'mon, join in,
"You're the boss,"
Buffy said wryly as she reached down and twisted this one's
neck so it stopped struggling. By this point Faith and Willow had dispatched
the other five and they could take stock of the situation.
"Wow!" Willow said, clearly reveling in
post-fight euphoria. "You were right,
Faith, fighting does peak the appetite."
"Yeah," Faith said, grinning back. "Too
bad we don't have the time to do
something about it."
Willow frowned. "Damn the Queen and her plans."
"I think we
could manage a bite to eat along the way," Buffy told them.
and Willow looked at each other, then at Buffy, and laughed. "What's so funny?"
'That wasn't the kind of appetite
we were thinking of," Faith said as she and
Willow walked off.
"Then what kind did you mean?" Faith and Willow
looked at her and laughed
again. "Wait, I don't get it, what's so funny?"
X X X X X
As the fight continued Queen
Buffy became aware of two things. One, this
version of Spike was thoroughly, gloriously pissed off at the damn Slayer, and
two, the fight hadn't done much more to the crowd here at the Bronze than clear
out the balcony. This meant no human shields either, dammit! What good was
fighting in a crowd if you couldn't throw an innocent victim or two in your
Spike slammed her into
the wall, and she ducked his follow-up punch. The stake
had been knocked aside five minutes ago, but Spike seemed perfectly content
with pounding the shit out of her until one or the both of them fell down.
Nothing Buffy loved more than a good wrestling
match with a hot blond stud, but
this wasn't the kind of wrestling she preferred.
She snuck a glance at the crowd below
– and to her horror saw the goddamn
Slayer come in, with Xander right behind her. Cordelia reached into her pocket
and pulled out a cell phone. Least in her world Xander'd had the good grace
to get himself killed early on, alongside that crybaby Angel. "Okay, Spike, "
she said, "You've had your fun. But now –" She jumped up onto the railing –
"It's time for me to get myself gone. My plans don't including your killing
you a bleedin' arrogant bitch," he said. "A vampire no more
than a day
and you've already got plans."
that right, Spikey. Toodles!" Then she jumped off and dove to the
Unfortunately, Cordelia vaulted the railing
and chased after her. The Queen
rolled to her feet and took off running .
X X X X X
"Any progress?" Giles asked.
"There are half a dozen different ways to transfer
from one universe to the
other," Amy said. "And the three of us would have no trouble casting any one of
them with half our magick tied behind our backs."
"The, the problem is,"
Tara said earnestly, "That we can't seem to find a
switching spell, and given the circumstances –"
"It might be unwise to try to switch everyone over one by one."
Amy nodded. "And unfortunately, while the Gods of Egypt are
powerful they tend to be sticklers for the forms. Any random invocation could
leave us worse off than we were in the first place. That's how I learned my
discipline, my magick, so quickly." And Giles had to say, this incarnation of
Amy Madison was far more controlled and personally conservative than her
counterpart, and possibly as a consequence was distinctly more powerful.
Unfortunately that was of little benefit in this, the short run.
"I guess all we can do is, is keep working at
it," Tara said. Giles didn't really
know the girl, but she seemed to know her witchcraft even if she wasn't very
powerful. And she was clearly desperate to see Willow returned.
again that earnestness would do them no good if they were unable to
the correct spell. Giles had the distinct feeling they were racing against a
deadline here. The Queen, from what he knew of her, might be capricious but she
was no fool.
They worked faster.
X X X X X
"Let me get this straight,"
Cordelia said. "We're working against deadline here
to try to switch us all back to our correct universes. Am I right so far?"
Jenny and Giles nodded at once.
"And you all
think it might be impossible to do on this short notice, right?
Which is why Oz tortured us by telling us?"
"You got it, Cordy," Willow said.
"Well, then, instead of knocking ourselves out
trying to achieve the impossible
why don't we just figure out how to talk to them? It's a lot faster to call
somewhere than go there."
Everyone's eyebrows raised. They had a plan.
X X X X X
And on the stage of the Silver –
We gotta get out while we're young
Cause vamps like us, baby we were born to run
Oz paused briefly at the chorus, hands on
automatic, and HEARD Cordelia Chase
make her suggestion.
He smiled and he kept playing.
X X X X X
So, what song
should he do next? Oz thought for a second as the crowd applauded
the end of Streets of Philadelphia. Ah, he had it . . .
get up in the evening
And I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby I could use a little help
You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark . . .
Damn, damn, damn.
Faith knew she shouldn't have thrown herself into searching
for the wolfboy vampire, but she couldn't have kept up that shit much longer. Far as
B and her friends were concerned she had to be the same bitch she always was.
Couldn't let them see how much
that little jaunt into B's body had changed her
around. So, she faked it until she could try to make up for what she'd done.
she couldn't do that in another universe, ya know? Even if her
counter here had a
better life, it wasn't hers. She hadn't earned it, and anyway if there was one
person Faith tried her damnedest never to screw over it was herself.
Funny how her
life hadn't worked out that way, but hey, most of her
could be summed up by the phrase, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anyway. Enough with the damn philosophizing.
Time enough to be her own shrink
later. Right now, she had to find and pound a vampire . . . because it was the right thing to do.
She didn't laugh at that phrase anymore.
Radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain't getting nowhere just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
Baby I just know that there is
"Got it!" Willow said, putting down
a spellbook. "But, damn, you both have to
have cast it to talk." Amy the rat, peering out of her pocket, chittered in
"And unfortunately in this case they're gonna
be concentrating on switching
everyone back, not on reinventing the telephone," Jenny said.
face firmly set, Cordelia told them, "And why is
this a problem?"
"Because, Miss Chase," Giles explained, "It
would be like trying to call one of
your friends by telephone when they don't have one."
"So send them the directions on how to build the phone."
Everyone's eyebrows raised. Jenny
managed a sheepish grin and said, "Why
didn't we think of that?"
Cordelia answered them, "Because you people all
love to overcomplicate things. I mean,
why bother untying the Gordian Knot when you can just hack it with a sword?"
Giles and Jenny started preparing the spell.
"I'm sorry, Cordy," Willow said. "Sometimes I forget how smart you really are."
"That's okay, Willow. I never do."
can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
"What was the call?" Buffy asked the sprinting Willow and Faith.
Queen B's been spotted. She's at the . . . Bronze? Is that the
"That's the place. Any idea what she's doing there?"
"The mambo. How the fuck would we
know? Will was on the phone for five seconds."
Faith spat out the words.
A bit surprised, Buffy said, "No need for hostility."
"That wasn't hostile. Trust me on that one.
But there's a time and a place for
stupid questions --:"
this isn't it. I got you." Sheesh, Buffy'd been the Slayer
these two had been hunting vamps. So why did she feel like the innocent here?
Answer: They had a team, and she wasn't part of it.
But Buffy did notice her twin first,
running towards them at top speed. The
Queen slammed to a stop when she saw the trio. Cordelia and Xander popped out of the
alley of the Bronze about then, followed not long after by a Spike who looked
like he'd just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson and had the time of his life
doing it. But thank god, he wandered off in the other direction, which only left them
the other ten million problems to deal with.
"Oh, shit," she said. "If it wasn't for bad luck I'd be having no luck at all."
about to get worse." Faith and Willow drew stakes and advanced . .
into Buffy's outstretched, blocking arms. "What the fuck?" Faith demanded.
"We can't kill her. At least not until she tells you what's going on."
Behind the Queen,
Cordelia wasted no time talking but instead came in with a
kick to the back of the head. Of course, the Queen heard her coming and ducked. Then
the fight began in earnest.
It wasn't as
short a fight as it should have been; Buffy, Cordelia, Xander,
(reluctantly) Willow and Faith were trying to subdue Queen Buffy. Queen Buffy
had no such restrictions in return.
amazingly, they escaped major injury in the process of beating her to
pulp, tying her up, and lugging her the half-mile to Giles' house.
Of course, once they got there –
sit around getting older
There's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders
Come on baby the laugh's on me
"Problem mostly solved," Buffy said
as she walked into Giles' apartment, Xander
right next to her. Cordelia and Faith carried the bound and thoroughly ticked
vampire Queen. Willow brought up the rear.
"You have a way to get us home yet?" Willow asked.
"Only if we do it one at a time," Amy said. "And that might have ramifications –
shmamifications. If it'll get us home I say we do it."
nodded her agreement to Faith's words.
me," Xander asked pleasantly, "If the two of you come to a hole
ground are you just going to jump in to find out how deep it is? Because sooner
or later there's going to be a reaaaal big splat."
"No," Willow said, "But if you don't jump
into any holes you'll never get
secret to a long and happy life," Xander answered, "Is to jump
into as few
holes as possible."
"And the secret to our
long and happy lives is to knock off the arguing,"
Cordelia said. She faced Giles. "Look, I'd rather go back the way we came. But
if you can't find that solution –"
that solution," Giles said. "But right now we're stuck, unless
answer just happens to materialize out of thin air."
loud pop, like a tiny thunderclap, echoed from the center of the
room, and a
sheet of paper floated down from nowhere.
turned to look at Giles, who was busy reading the paper. After
seconds he said, "It's not quite a solution, but it's the next best thing."
Xander said, "I wish I had a million
dollars." Nothing happened. "Oh sure," he
grumped, "you grant Giles' wish . . . "
Ignoring Xander, the rest of them, the Queen exempted, pressed forward. "Well?"
the directions to a ritual that enables communication between
universes. My counterpart says that had we tried to transfer them back – then
neither one would have gotten home." Amy and Tara looked at it and both nodded
their heads slowly.
"It should work," Amy said.
"I think so too, but this is way
over my head," Tara added. "I'll defer to your
better judgments here."
"Good." Giles clapped his hands.
"Cordelia, Faith, if you would keep an eye on
our reluctant guest –" The two otherworldly Slayers moved over by the trussed-up
vampire Queen. "Amy, Tara, we have a spell to prepare –"
Stay on the streets of this town
And they'll be carving you up all right
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey baby I'm just about starving tonight
I'm dying for some action
I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
Come on now baby gimme just one look
"Any way to know they got it?" Cordelia asked.
Patiently, Jenny said, "It's not here –"
"I cab see that. But not
here is not the same as there! I mean, for all we know
we could have just puzzled the hell out of Captain Picard. Or even worse caught
the attention of that Willowvampire again!"
Giles forbore from asking. He honestly didn't want to know.
it's okay," Willow said soothingly. 'We did the spell right,
concentrated on our home . . . all we can do now is wait."
Suddenly Giles staggered and said, "Yes, Mr. Giles? –"
You can't start a fire sitting 'round crying
over a broken heart
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark . . .
Faith entered the
Silver – and immediately spotted the disguised Oz on the
stage. She strode up to him, fully prepared to beat the answers out of him, when
suddenly he stood up and thrust the guitar aside.
made it," he told her. "But, you know, horseshoes, hand grenades,
this isn't either . . ."
"Yes, Mr. Giles?"
Their minds met.
And Oz's trap sprang shut.
stood on the stage of the Bronze, the lone island of stability in the
of a vast ocean of chaos. Five feet away from him, time began reversing itself .
. . in both universes. They played out like ghostly images at first, then as the
process accelerated the Silver's inhabitants grew fainter, the Bronze's,
stronger, until they reached equilibrium. Kinda nauseating to look at – Oz felt
like he'd just drained a junkie. But it had to be done.
Soon the process became too fast for the human eye to follow.
Only one problem remained – a thoroughly pissed-off
Faith standing three feet
"Whatever you just did,"
the Slayer said firmly, "Fix it. Now. Or I –" She took
a stake from her pocket and made a thrusting motion.
good idea," he told her, shaking his head. "See what's going on
"Yeah. They're going backwards. This is like time travel."
"No. Splicing tape. Right now the
Sunnydales are rewinding. But if you stop them
now – tangled tape. You know how those things are hard to play." This was going
faster than he thought it would. Another minute or so and, well, splicing time.
In many ways.
In disbelief, Faith
exclaimed, "So basically I get to stand here and watch you
create the world in your own image? You think you're fuckin' God now?"
"God? No. Stability, though. A nice quiet universe
where I can be in a band,
get my day's daily requirement of blood, and search for the E-flat diminished ninth
without having to worry about some scheme going wrong. I'm not a fighter, I'm
not interested in ruling the world, destroying it, or anything like that. And two –"
Oz looked behind her. It had stopped. He suddenly kicked out at her and sent her
stumbling into the chaos. "I never said you got to watch."
But right before she vanished
to wherever, Faith threw her stake. It was an
off-balance, hasty throw, but Oz wasn't prepared for it. As Sunnydale started
lurching its way forward again it clipped Oz in the temple. He lost his mental
control for a few seconds as the Sunnydales began lurching forward without him.
Regaining control, he began to guide it
as best he could, hoping that the few
seconds hadn't cost him much of anything. He wished the spell gave him total
control – to eliminate the Slayer from the environs entirely – but that would be
godlike power, and there was no way to achieve that. Short of being God himself,
of course, assuming there was one. Which Oz had always doubted.
Anyway. Had to concentrate.
Buffy Summers, the wannabe ex-Slayer, comes to
Sunnydale . . . Angel is revealed
as a vampire . . Cordelia breaks free right after Buffy and decks Marcie Ross .
. . Buffy dies in the caverns of the Master and in the brief time before Xander
revives her the next Slayer is called . . . Cordelia holds the door shut against
the vampires alone, amazed at her hysterical strength . . . Xander's neck is
broken by a vampire that Angel then kills . . …. The Master dies . . . Cordelia
stands revealed as the next Slayer . . Spike and Dru come to town . . . Buffy
and a reluctant Cordy battle him and his plans . . get away from Machida on
their own . . . Oz is turned and turns Dingoes . . . Devon immediately changes
the band's name to Vampires Drained me Dry . . . Amy the witch is bitten by a
wererat . . . then suddenly, the Judge! Spike and Dru capture Buffy and Angel .. they get away and make love . . . Angelus returns . . .and also turns Buffy
into a vampire . Jenny Calendar narrowly escapes death because Amy Madison
fends off Angel with a hastily constructed spell . . . Buffy, Angelus, Drusilla
and Spike test our heroes to the limits . . . Acathla is found . . Angelus
pulls the sword while Amy and Jenny cast the spell of soul restoration . . .
Cordelia and Willow battle Spike and Drusilla . . . Angelus is stabbed and sent
to hell . . . by the newly souled vampire Buffy . . . Cordy kills Dru; Spike
flees vowing revenge but has not since returned . . . Buffy vanishes for the
summer but comes back, determined to right the wrongs she committed while the
demon was in charge. And then Faith comes . . . but not quite of jealous of
Cordy as she was of Buffy . . . refrains from killing Deputy Mayor Finch . . . then
joins with the Mayor . . . and feeds information back to the good guys . . .
they find another way to kill him that doesn't involve wiring the school . . .
Willow and Faith have a Xander/Cordyesque relationship . . . Initiative, what
Initiative . . . and so it goes.
X X X X X
Xander, ghostly, watches the
universe go on without him. He knows there's
something wrong here.
But what? He can't talk to any of his friends, can't
communicate with them, but
he can't leave Sunnydale either, not that he wants to.
Two other spirits approach: An irritated
looking black man about his age, and a
wide-eyed blonde white woman, also his age.
"Xander!" the woman exclaims. "I'm
so glad to see you!" The man mutters
something similar. They seem to know him.
"Do I . . . know either of you?" he asks.
"Not well," the man mutters. "And honestly I would
have preferred keeping it
"I don't know if we
ever formally met, but I know who you are. Here," and she
extends her right hand. "Grab on."
Xander does so.
And he understands.
The man is Forrest, a member of the Initiative.
The woman is Tara, a friend of
Willow's. Whom he thinks he has met once or twice.
But introductions don't matter –
because there's something wrong with the
And Xander has no idea how they're going to fix it.
X X X X X
When time winked back in Oz found himself back on the stage
of -- the Alloy?
Yes, the club was called the Alloy here. Damn if he knew why, or cared.
And he hadn't changed, except that his mask was off.
But the band was next to him on the stage.
Vampires Drained Me Dry, they'd
decided to call themselves – Devon had thought it clever, and Oz hadn't thought
the point worth arguing. Vampirehood hadn't upped Devon's intelligence much, it
seemed, but his voice had never sounded better.
And – the shields were in place.
See, the contingency spell Oz
had cast wasn't nearly powerful enough to
completely meld two universes – just the two Sunnydales.
This meant that two
universes were sharing one Sunnydale, and had been for a
You'd think someone would've noticed this.
But Oz had taken that into account,
with an aversion spell. If anyone noticed that Sunnydale seemed to get twice as
many food delivery trucks as the rest of the country, or that certain letters kept
ending up at the wrong address, the spell would make them forget that as well.
work forever, of course. He'd have to figure out a longer-term
But this would do for now.
Besides. It was time for his solo.
The food deliveries aren't going to be a
problem, someone suddenly said
inside his head. Because this ethereal Sunnydale you've created isn't going
to exist long enough for you to be concerned about them.
unused to being threatened inside his own head, though his fingers
miss a chord. If that had been a threat, or even something he needed to be
the voice came back. You've done something so monstrous here
it couldn't help but escape my attention. You really didn't think your ploy
wouldgo unnoticed, did you?
solo ended and Devon began singing again; at the same time, the voice
his head went away.
But it was coming back. Somehow, Oz was sure of that.
X X X X X
walked into the Library. As usual, Giles was reading from a musty
"So, anything to report?" He asked.
"Nope, nada, not a thing, dead as Pauly Shore's acting career."
since we took care of the Mayor things have been extremely quiet. I'm
sure how much more of this relative prosperity we can take."
Cordelia snorted. "Whatever. I say we count our
blessings. Wasn't there an old
Chinese curse that went, may you live in interesting times? Well, I say thank
god no one's cursed us like that recently. I like it boring."
not getting antsy?" Willow's voice came from near the door.
was standing there with her. The other Slayer kissed Willow and said. "Gotta go. I'm
going crazy here. Catch you later?"
Willow nodded, waited for Faith to leave, and walked
in the room. "Well, I am.
It's been way too quiet recently. Something's gotta give, I know it. And I have
to say I won't be sorry to see it happen."
"Please! Willow, not that I
have any trouble fighting the forces of icky
darkness when I have to, but I don't think it's too selfish of me to be grateful for an
easy period." Cordelia Chase's basic personality hadn't changed since becoming
the Slayer, but she was by no means the shallow person she'd been during Buffy's
up, Giles closed his book and said, "No, it isn't, but Willow's
periods of quiet like this are usually followed by periods of frenetic
A voice from the library's
second level said, "Be careful what you wish for."
Buffy was standing there. "Something's got the local ghoulies wigging out big
Concern on his face, Giles asked, "Any idea what?"
"Ghosty things." Giles gave her a dirty look.
"What?" Buffy exclaimed. "If I
knew more I'd say more. Three people appear, blurt out something about things not
being right, and disappear."
"Why would this be freaking out
demons?" Cordelia asked. While she might possess
a veneer of uncooperativeness, and grumble about becoming the Slayer, once trouble
began she was all business.
"I don't do why,"
Buffy said. "I can do what, when, where and occasionally who,
but why's out of my league. That's why we have the experts." Her nose crinkled.
"Speaking of which, where is our local wererat?"
"In a cage in my dorm room," Willow said.
"Her period come around again? God, time flies when
you're undead. I thought her
time to change was at least a week away. And, um, speaking of blood . . . "
Buffy sounded so apologetic when she was hungry.
"In the refrigerator, in the
container marked "tomato-cranberry juice." Buffy
nodded and went into Giles' office. Buffy didn't keep blood at home – it upset
Joyce. So she stored a few containers here, a few at Giles' apartment, and a few
with Ms. Calendar. She gulped down some, very quickly, wiped off her mouth and
came back to the main room of the library. "Anyway, perhaps Ms. Calendar or one
of her technopagan friends has noticed something?"
"I'll check into it," Giles said. "Now, if there's nothing else . . . ?"
joy," Cordelia grumbled. "If there's anything I like more than
of a big ol' clash against evil, it's the tingly anticipation I get from waiting
to find out what evil it is."
Knowing that Cordelia's complaint didn't need an
answer, Giles walked over to
the rare books cage and was about to take out a book when Willow's cry, "Oh my god!"
drew him back out. He spun and raced back to the center of the library . . .
Three translucent figures were standing there. Giles didn't
recognize two of
them. But the third . . .
The third was Xander.
As one, as though they'd been rehearsing it, and
perhaps they had, they turned
to look at Giles and shouted – though it sounded to Giles like faint whispering –
"It shouldn't be like this! Alternate universes – The Bronze, the Silver. They
merged. Think! Try to remember the way it should have been –"
And then they vanished, seemingly exhausted.
you all get that?" Giles asked. Cordelia and Willow nodded, still a
shock at seeing Xander again. Buffy was frowning, though. "Buffy? What is it?"
Giles' ex-charge was examining the scene closely.
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "But something about it – doesn't feel ghostly."
Cordelia said, "Well, if it acts like a ghosts and freaks us out like a ghost –"
Shaking her head, Buffy said, "It's not a
ghost. Vampires – can sense these
things. There was no stench of death there."
Willow frowned. "So, you're saying they're alive?" Buffy nodded.
"Is that even possible?" Cordelia asked.
"With the right spell, a lot of things are possible.
They were saying that
universes merged. That is possible, though it requires an immensely powerful
spell. The only one I know of takes years to set up –"
"Giles, less talk, more research."
X X X X X
still coming, you know, the voice told Oz. For what seemed like
fortieth time. Over the last week things had actually been as quiet as he would
have hoped. He'd practiced his music, played on stage at the Alloy, and
otherwise kept a low profile. There hadn't been a vampire interested in power since
Mr. Trick had been killed a while back, and Oz and his group were careful only to
kill when they had to.
Not that Oz was afraid of
confrontations; he just preferred to avoid them if
possible. So when someone came along with big plans, he stayed out of their way
aslong as they stayed out of his. At least, those were his memories.
It's an interesting philosophical question,
actually, the voice said again.
Can you have memories of something that you didn't experience? Right now you're
like an amnesiac who's just regained his memory. Too bad for science that the
experiment will end before you can report on it.
could this . . . voice be able to read his mind, and Oz have no idea
who it was? Or be able to read his mind in return?
You're caught up in the spell effect. I'm not.
meant that whoever this was outside Sunnydale. Oz began to relax.
of Sunnydale, they couldn't come in.
You're wrong about that. I can come to Sunnydale. It's your fatal flaw.
Odd. Only fatal flaws Oz knew about involved stakes,
beheadings, fire, crosses
and holy water. Anything else would violate the rules.
Rules change, came the reply.
X X X X X
Manifestation took a great deal out of all of them. It had
taken a few days for them to be able to do anything more than panic the vampires with
a brief and ghostly appearance.
had caused this. Damn Buffy, damn the vampire who looked like
damn the situation, damn magic, damn vampires, damn alternate universes, and
damn the military of that alternate universe for not having the good sense to set up
another Initiative. With the Initiative on the case, this would have been solved
by now and everyone would be home.
No need to go grumbling over what
couldn't be changed. If his lot was to save
the world with a ditz who thought she could do magic and a goofball with a flair for
military jargon, then so be it.
"So," he said, "Now what?"
"Now," Tara said, breathing heavily, "We have,
um, two options. We could wait
and see if they can contact us – or we can try again and encourage them more."
Xander said. "They seemed to have the right idea. And if Ms.
can't figure it out, Willow, Giles or Amy certainly will."
"That's right!" Tara said insipidly. "Willow's really bright!"
Trying not to let the disgust enter his
voice, Forrest said, "Assuming there's
enough witch left in that Willow out there to do us much good." They hadn't
picked up much of the history of this unholy amalgam, and what they did know
didn't make them happy.
"If not her, then Giles,
or this Ms. Calendar, or Amy when she's not a . . .
wererat anymore," Xander said. "One thing about this combined universe, it has
magical talent coming out the wazoo."
A voice from
somewhere behind him said, "Magic is not what is going to
this." They spun around and saw . . .
Well, shit. It
was Adam. All three huddled together – Forrest in front, Xander
off to one side, Tara in the back. Not like this impromptu fighting formation
was going to do anything more than get them killed ten seconds slower if Adam
decided to attack.
"What the hell?" Xander said.
"You can relax," the patchwork demon
said. "I have no plans to kill you. It
would be an intriguing experiment to find out if your life would be restored after the
universes reset, but not one I care to carry out at this time." He clasped his
hands together carefully. "While I thrive on chaos chaos is not anarchy. And
anything I do to alter the situation . . . could cause anarchy. I have plans in
"So you just decided to get your jollies by
scaring us half to death?" Forrest
"I wanted to see your reaction to unexpected stress."
"Well," Tara said nervously, "You've seen it. Now –"
more courage than I thought. Your kind usually huddles in fear – or
my programs tell me."
"Wait a second," Forrest
said. "You said magic will not end this. Then what
"Why should I answer?" Adam asked bluntly.
"Well . . ."
Xander said. "You've tried killing, scaring, becoming a messiah
why not try being helpful? Consider it an experiment."
a second Forrest could have sworn he saw the multiparted demon smile.
is an uncommonly transparent psychological ploy."
"Did it work?" Xander asked hopefully.
"The universes will
collapse because of chaos. An unexpectedly thrown stake. A
loophole in the wording of a magical covenant. The instigator's fatal flaw. All
beings seem to have fatal flaws." He began moving away. "Except for me, of
They waited until they were
certain he was gone before once again collapsing in
relief. Even Forrest joined in.
X X X X X
They'd worked all night
– even Faith. Faith and Buffy canvassed the populace as
best they could before Buffy had to go home for the day. In reporting to Giles,
she'd said, "It's kind of odd having a vampire be the good cop."
In any event, they'd discovered a handful of
anomalies throughout Sunnydale, all
in peoples' memories. A street name different. The Alloy being called the
Bronze, or the Silver. The more mystically inclined – at least those NOT in Jenny's
group – reported feeling very uneasy, though they couldn't explain quite how.
Buffy'd summed it up by saying. "It was kinda like they found themselves playing
the lead role in the made-for-tv movie based on their lives, you know? Where
everything's similar but nothing's really the same?"
Giles understood full well. Jenny's contacts had
reported much the same thing,
albeit less colorfully. It was quite clear that something had occurred –
something that had conflated two universes into one.
What was a good deal less clear, of course, was what to do about it.
Assuming they could do
anything – and assuming that they wanted to. What if he
was dead in one of the two universes?
Worse, what if Jenny was? Or what if Buffy had never regained her soul?
This was not a
comfortable situation, and Giles could see it was getting
comfortable every minute . . .
X X X X X
Things were unravelling.
and Faith had been reported as asking a lot of questions. Questions
were too close to the truth for Oz's comfort.
told you you wouldn't be around long enough to be comfortable. Did
I was lying?
Actually, Oz had thought he
was going insane. These voices, his doubts.
Plausible. And he had been under a lot of strain lately.
Strain of your own
doing, of course. And you are one of the last people –
excuse me, vampires, don't want to offend the hemoglobically disadvantaged – who
would ever go insane.
Unfortunate but true. So this was all real.
As I said. Did you think I was lying?
Oz ignored it. His problem was how to deal with
the possibility of the
Slayerettes puzzling out the situation.
Ten to one they're already working on a solution….
Then why don't you not even bother coming?
ticked me off. A rare emotion for me. Trust me, on this. You
wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
So you get big and turn green and say bah puny humans?
Not quite, came the reply.
Not good. Not good at all.
X X X X X
gathered in the library, even Amy, whose wererat days were over for
next three and a half weeks or so. The argument wasn't over whether they could reseparate the
universes – that they knew they could do, given time.
Their argument was the
philosophical one Giles had posed. How many of them were
willing to – potentially – die in order to right this wrong? Might things not be
better kept as they were?
On the side of separation
were Faith, Cordelia, and Jenny. Opposed to it were
Willow and Amy. Buffy was undecided. For now Giles was content to let the debate run on
– it was a passionate but not angry discussion.
"Look, if I'm two other people combined, that means someone else
jerking us around, and you know, I fuckin' hate it when someone tries to tell me how to
run my life."
have a history here. Who knows how much of our lives this
erase? Xander's dead. It took a while for me to accept that. But it's the way my life
is now. I have Faith, I have you guys, I have magic, and every once in a while I
get to kick some vampire ass. I don't want to die. Is that wrong?"
"I have no clue what to do here. Some of those people who are
outside could die again – they might have been given a second chance at life. But who
knows? They might be better. I've just been having a hell of a time thinking of who had
to be combined to make me the wacky bloodloving girl I am today."
"I have no idea what this is doing to the cosmic balance. But it
good. Everyone I know with even the slightest magical sensitivity knows
something's wrong. And these are people who would argue whether to throw a drowning man a
life preserver or a rope. Something is horribly wrong here, and it has to be fixed."
Amy: "My problem here isn't a moral one, it's
a practical one. A spell like this
is enormously complex. It would have taken a very long time to set up and have
cast. I just don't know if there's an easy way to fix it – or even if we should. The
disease might be worse than the cure."
"It's simple, people! Is this universe real? No. Do we really
like we are? No. Is this part of a big spell? Yes. Don't these big spells usually
come crashing down around our ears, and do YOU want to be standing there when they
do? Well? Look, the way I see it we can pull it down ourselves and try to control
the crash, or we can just stand around and wait. You know the way I'm voting."
Solid points all of them, but the more Giles
listened the more he felt that his
primary objections were irrational or selfish. The only one that still made
sense was about the complexity of the spell and more than likely the complexity of the
But on that point Cordelia was right.
It was far better to try to control the
counterspell than to let it happen naturally.
Silence. Giles realized that everyone was looking at him.
"We have to do this," he said, then let
out a breath he didn't realize he'd been
holding. Willow looked disappointed, Amy dubious, and Buffy troubled, but
everyone else seemed happy. "We need to determine as closely as possible what spell was
used here. Willow, Jenny, you look on the computer. Amy, you and I can do book
Then he took
special note of the look on Willow's face. "Willow?" he said.
you willing to go along with this?"
"Yes," she answered. "I might not like it personally but I'm not going to bail."
"Good," Giles told her. "As for you three --
Whoever did this did so for a
reason. They're not likely to be happy at our trying to set things right. One of the
three of you should stay here."
"Well then, boss man, I volunteer.
Willow and I are spending little enough time
together as it is," Faith said.
"Fair enough," Giles said. "Buffy, Cordelia,
ears to the ground. If anyone's
coming, if anyone's worried, it would be most helpful if we knew who and why."
and Cordelia walked towards the library's main doors, Slayer
vampire, "And if he meant that ears to the ground stuff literally, that's your turf."
Buffy shook her head. "What? Cordelia demanded. "You're a vampire, don't you do that
kind of thing all the time? Besides, these are brand new earrings I've got on."
Giles chuckled, and they got to work.
X X X X X
And now Buffy and Cordelia were asking questions. Damn. This had to be stopped.
One of the ways Oz had
survived and even flourished was by not being a
take-charge guy. Hell, Devon was still in charge of the band. Oz was just the vampire who'd
made it all happen.
So it wasn't as if he had countless undead legions at his command.
Sure, he could
probably get Vampires Drained Me Dry to help him – but
wouldn't be enough. These guys weren't fighters, any of them. So he'd likely only be
getting them killed.
would kinda miss the point of him having brought this universe
Oz grimaced. It didn't look like he had a choice.
Of course you do, the voice in his
head said. You could give up now and
reverse the spell.
No, he couldn't. It wasn't that simple.
up a spell you can't stop? Not intelligent at all. But I think I
understand the reasoning behind it. I've had that temptation myself.
Comprehension. Not sympathy. I have no love for you or
situation, or what you've done.
Of course not.
Too much to expect. Oz called the band over and told them that
the Slayers and their friends were doing something that would cause them great
difficulty – to go out and tell all vampires – tell them what? That the Slayer
and her friends were about to set up a spell that would end all of their lives –
that they had to be stopped. Look for them patrolling, go over to the library and
stop them, whatever. Their choice.
It was the only thing he could think of.
Don't hurt them.
Oz didn't have a
choice. All he'd wanted was some peace and quiet. Was it his
fault if they didn't understand that? WAS it?
Why didn't the voice just shut up?
I'm almost there. I'm
at the border of Sunnydale right now. And I'm coming to
get you, you son of a bitch. That's why I'm not shutting up. I have no sympathy for
you. I don't like you. I don't like what's happened to you. And honestly, I want you
And he thought he was one of the good guys?
No. Just better than you, came the reply.
X X X X X
In limbo, the trio waited.
"I assume we don't believe him," Xander said.
Forrest snorted, "Got that right."
"Why not?" Tara asked.
"Because," Forrest explained
patiently, "He's what we in the military like to
call a Bad Guy."
Xander, though he agreed with Forrest on principle,
said, "You know, Forrest,
you put some work into it and you can be thoroughly unlikable."
"You disagree with me?"
"No, but –"
Forrest interrupted. "Well, that's it, then. I
don't especially want you people
to like me." By this point Tara had long since given up trying to get their
"You got yourself one hell of a head start going there, pal."
"See, that's what I don't get
about you," Xander said. "I've seen you with
Riley, with Graham, with other people, and you get along fine. And don't tell
me that's all an act, either. So what's different about us?"
"You're friends with that damn Slayer. Both of you.
And she's ruining Riley.
He's questioning orders. Questioning things. He never did that before she came
along. She's bad for him, and she's bad for the Initiative."
"You're jealous. Buffy's done better than all of you
together, and instead of thinking that maybe she knows something you don't all
you can do is whine about it. I tell you what. You prove to me you can do
things better than she can, you prove to me that you know more about magic, you
take down just one freaking badass demon out to end the world, and then you can
go ahead and bitch about Buffy's evil influence all you want, and you can be
nasty to me, and hell, you can even be nasty to Tara, who's never done you a
second's dirt to my knowledge. But until that time, shut the hell up about it
and start making nice or I will knock your teeth down your fucking throat."
but before he could answer Tara said, firmly, "Both of you,
power down the testosterone." They both looked at her. In a more normal tone of
voice, she continued, "I think I get what Adam was driving at."
She was looking at the edge of town. The limbo
they were in let them see the
outer world clearly, just not interact with it except through extreme exertion.
"I'm not sure if that's who I think it is or not . . ."
Xander looked where Tara was looking; after a second, Forrest did too.
both saw the same thing: A vehicle by the edge of town, with a
standing next to it. He pulled a couple of items out and began walking into
"I'm not sure," Tara said.
"But that is who I think it is, right?" Xander
nodded. "Well, then, Adam was telling the truth. Magick isn't going to solve
our problems. He is."
Cordelia and Buffy
fought furiously. They'd been fighting vampires off and on
for the better part of an hour, and the attacks were desperate, almost
suicidal. Finally, Cordelia flipped the last one into the side of a mausoleum,
and before it could get up to fight one Buffy had staked it.
Breathing heavily, Cordelia said, "What got
their panties all in a twist? I
don't usually run into this many spontaneous attacks in a week! I mean, do
these vampires know what this dress cost?"
"It's been my experience that most vampires tend to shop off the rack."
Cordelia snorted, and
then, more seriously, said, "So no idea, huh?" Buffy
shook her head no. "Well, I wish they'd tell us before they tried to rip our
Buffy had to agree with that, unrealistic
as it was. Then she had a horrid
thought. "Cordy – what if they're attacking everyone?"
The Slayer's eyes widened. "Oh god! The Library!"
"My thoughts exactly."
Before they got fifty feet, though, they were jumped by four more vampires.
Then a voice shouted, "Hold on."
vampires broke off the attack and backed away. One of them looked up
speaker, about thirty feet away and slowly stepping towards them. "Hey, man. I
"No. The information
was wrong. You're not about to die. There is no plot of
The vampire blinked. "You sure?"
"See ya." And all four beat a hasty retreat.
Buffy and Cordelia, tired, didn't
bother chasing after them. Instead they looked at the man.
"Oz did tell them to go to
the library, too," he said. "You might want to go
help them." Then he turned around and began to stride away.
"Wait!" Buffy called out after him. "Aren't you –"
stop to answer questions right now," the answer came. And then
vanished back into the night.
"Wasn't that --?" Cordelia began to ask.
"I think so. But why would – never
mind. Look, you hotfoot it back to the
library. I'm gonna follow our strange visitor over there and see if I can
figure out what's what."
"Got it." And the two women sprinted off in opposite directions.
X X X X X
The Alloy was closing
down, but the owners and bartenders knew better than to
toss Oz out. He sat on the stage on a stool, wishing he had his guitar with
For perhaps the first time in his unlife he
wished he were more of a vampire of
action. This of course screamed irony, as his whole point in setting up this
universe was to avoid conflict of any sort.
Eventually Devon drifted in.
"We got 'em in an uproar," he said. "No way the
Slayers and their friends are going to survive this."
doubted that. Devon was convinced, but then Devon had the IQ of
The place was empty now but for the two of
them and the owner, hiding in his
office. The rest of the band hadn't come back yet, and by this point Oz was
beginning to wonder if they ever would.
A noise by the front door. Oz asked
Devon to take a quick peek. Never knew who
might be coming.
could hear Devon's confused voice. "Hey, what –" and then a
"Devon?" he called out.
Devon, sorry," an eerily familiar voice came back. "Just me."
It was him.
The voice. "You still don't know me. Bizarre."
called out, "Well, you've come this far, you may as well show me
As the figure moved from the shadow of the
Alloy's entranceway, Oz's brain had
difficulty registering what he was seeing. But then it all made sense. Why
Devon had sounded so confused. Why this person was so offended by him. Why this
voice could enter Sunnydale despite the aversion spell.
It was indeed his fatal flaw. The one being he'd forgotten to account for.
The other Oz.
X X X X X
back to the High School at top speed. Thank God she'd remembered
to switch out her pumps for her tennies or this would have been a much more
What she saw when she got there confirmed
her and Buffy's worst fears. There
were five vampires walking up the pathway to the school – and that many outside
probably meant that many more inside. Quickly, she pulled out her crossbow and
began to fire.
When the first one died, the other four turned and
charged. Steeling herself,
she reloaded and fired the crossbow twice more, killing one and catching
another in the face.
two that jumped her had no sense of fighting style at all, not like
going to bitch in the middle of the battle. She killed them practically without
breaking stride. As an afterthought on her way into the school, she staked the
one she'd shot in the head; no sense leaving a live enemy behind, and besides,
what kind of life would he had with a crossbow bolt piercing his skull?
sprinting through the school Cordy took down at least two more
both from behind, and found the library under siege. There had to be a dozen
vampire all pushing to make it through the front door, and from the sounds of
fighting inside they hadn't been the first to get there.
She took a deep breath and did
her best Xena leap into the middle of the
vampires. She knocked them backwards long enough for her to hustle into the
Oh dear god.
Faith was holding off four vampires on her own and
Giles was doing okay, but
Ms. Calendar and Amy were down and Willow –
Well, she was badly injured.
Damn. She hoped Buffy was having better luck.
Then she had no time for hoping
or anything except fighting because the
vampires were on her.
X X X X X
Buffy tailed the looks-like-Oz-but-human – no, not
quite human, there was
something different there even if she couldn't quite peg just what – all the
way to the door of the Alloy. In amazement she watched him casually take down a
vampire standing by the door.
Okay, she obviously couldn't just walk
in after him, but he might need help. He
hadn't come here by accident; he'd come here on almost a straight shot from the
cemetery, and fast enough that Buffy'd had some trouble keeping up.
The Bronze had entries galore on the upper level,
though. Buffy jumped up to an
upper window and forcibly opened it. Then she crawled through and made her way
to the balcony. She got there just in time to hear oz-the-vampire say, "Well,
you've come this far, you may as well show me who you are."
human Oz knew how to make an entrance. He walked slowly into the
Buffy could almost see the vampire's jaw drop. Then the conversation began.
"Let me guess," the human said. "You should have known."
The vampire nodded. "Should have, yeah. It only made sense."
"But you didn't."
Well, they sure both sounded like Oz.
"Well, I tried not to make it obvious."
"You succeeded admirably." The human Oz had
walked towards the stage until he
and the vampire were no more than ten feet apart. "So, what do we do now?" The
"I kill you," the human said matter-of-factly.
"Then we figure out how to
separate the worlds and then everyone except you goes home."
"I'd sooner not do it that way."
"I'm sure you would. But how else do you suggest we settle this?"
"Dueling guitar solos?"
The human Oz gave a half-smile. "Sorry, no. I left mine in the van."
"For all those threats you made you're awfully casual about all of this."
"Blind rage solves nothing."
The vampire Oz seemed distracted; had he noticed
the same thing Buffy had?
Apparently so. "You're not human, either," the vampire said.
"No. I'm a werewolf. So?"
"So why are you concerned with all of these humans?"
"Because they're my friends and you screwed them over."
"But you're a monster, man. You're better than they are."
Oz barked out a humorless laugh. "That's so wrong a tack to take
unfunny. Beside, they helped me, they kept me safe from myself. Far as I'm
concerned that makes them better than me."
"No wonder you didn't amount to anything."
forget I read your mind. And given that that last insult came from
coward who desperately avoids fighting and threw his bandmates to the wolves –
literally – to save his own hide you'll forgive me if I don't take it
"So I guess now what? We fight it out?"
"That would be the logical denouement to the evening."
"And then you all live happily ever after?" The vampire's tone was derisive.
"No. But we all live."
"Well, then –" Oz said – "You'll
have to do it without me." And then he jumped
from the stage and ran for the door.
Buffy's eyes widened, but she didn't
hesitate for a second. Leaping from the
balcony, she jumped in the path of the fleeing vampire. Surprised, he braked so
suddenly he had to windmill his arms to keep from falling down.
"What are you doing?" He finally asked.
Buffy said, "Call me the
steel cage." He tried to force his way past her but
Buffy blocked his every move. "If I were you I'd turn and fight," she said.
"Unless you want to do the noble thing and just sacrifice yourself." In
response, the vampire wheeled and threw a punch at the slowly advancing
werewolf. "Call me crazy but I'm guessing that's a no."
The werewolf Oz stepped back quickly from
the attack. The vampire threw another
punch, a bit less clumsily. Oz dodged again.
"You're reading my mind," the vampire said.
"Right. Did you expect me to make this a fair fight?"
Oz pulled out a stake and
thrust it. The vampire grabbed the other's arm – almost not in time – and threw
him across one of the tables. He bounced to his feet faster than he had any
right to. The vampire's face must have shown the same bewilderment that Buffy
felt, as the wolf said, "Some benefits to being a werewolf."
The vampire growled, put on its game face, and
leapt to the attack. The wolf
jumped out of the way and socked his opponent in the back of the head with the
butt of the stake. Another leap, another dodge, another clout to the back.
minutes passed and if the vampire fot in more than three good blows
somehow slipped by Buffy. The vampire's strength and speed were superior, but
the werewolf's skills were greater. Plus, that mindreading – mindreading?
Vampires couldn't be mindread! Their minds didn't reflect!
But the vampire Oz
hadn't argued the point, and indeed was getting battered
about the bar like a cat toy. The werewolf had had several excellent
opportunities to finish his enemy off but had passed them by, instead opting to
continue the beating. Finally Buffy had had enough, and shouted out, "For God's
sake, stake him already! This is torture."
"Exactly," the wolf said grimly.
"But even –"
"This vampire," Oz said
while dodging the feeble blows of his vampiric double,
"Merged two universes, screwed up lives, and sent dozens of vampires out to
kill my friends. I'm not inclined to let him off with a friendly warning."
"So kill him already! This is sadistic."
"And it's what he deserves." He took a
breath. "But maybe it's time to end it."
He wheeled and socked the vampire in the jaw. He went down, but the werewolf
was on top of him.
Amazingly, the vampire couldn't break free,
but he did gasp out some last
words. "I really would have preferred dueling guitars."
Oz answered, plunging the stake downwards. "I still would have won."
And the vampire was dust and –
This time, there was no one to witness it.
And no one to explain why.
was kind of like unzipping a zipper: It all blends together up to a
but in order to unzip it you have to take it all the way back to where it started.
Which meant that time rolled
backwards all the way back to when the two
So all was undone.
And then came the fast forward, this time with time on two separate tracks.
Nothing changed, of course.
Three years ago, no one knew what the Oz vampire would do.
Or what spell he would set in motion.
So no one could change history
And all of that effort – all of that
time Oz spent on the spell – would have three
END FAST FORWARD
Finally, finally, Faith once
again entered the Silver and immediately spotted
the disguised Oz on the stage. She again strode up to him, fully prepared to beat
the answers out of him, when he suddenly stood up and thrust the guitar aside.
"Almost made it," he told her once more. "But,
you know, horseshoes, hand
grenades, and this isn't either . . . what the –"
And he exploded into dust.
shrieked, but Faith didn't care. "What the fuck?" She
unconsciously echoing Oz's last words.
around the room, and up the walls, but didn't see any
poking out of any dark holes, or anyone who looked like they were capable of bowling a
strike, much less staking a vamp at thirty paces. As she headed out the door –
oblivious to the people still panicking behind her, Faith said to herself, "I
wish vampires acted like that in my universe."
X X X X X
Meanwhile, the two Giles resumed their across-the-universes mental conversation.
If resumed is the right word for a
process that in some sense had never been
"Yes, Mr. Giles?"
The spell we sent you – no troubles with it, then?
"Apart from a spot of amusing coincidence when it actually showed up, no."
"Never mind. I'm sure one of your
friends will explain it once they return to
So is everyone there?
"To my knowledge. And on your end?"
Um – not quite.
Indeed. How did you --
"If your Faith is a bit of a
loose cannon, ours may best be described as an
unexploded nuclear bomb with a hair trigger. Almost anything she does wouldn't
surprise me. Um – what did she do?"
We were accosted in the
Sunnydale Library by Oz and three of his, um, more
musclebound vampire cohorts. After --
"Your Oz is a vampire?"
And a rather dangerous one at that.
"Ours is a werewolf."
So your Miss Chase informed me. In any
event, after we had defeated the three
combatants – Oz having long since fled the premises – Faith decided quite
against our wishes to go find him and, I quote, 'beat the answers out of him.' That was
over an hour ago.
"Well, we're together
out of convenience only. We might not need her to
Right. What progress have you made in switching us back?
"Hold on a moment. Buffy. No, the
vampire. What was the spell that sent you
"I'm waiting for her to stop laughing."
Not being cooperative, eh?
And now she's bargaining?
"No, she's still laughing."
Eventually she'll bargain. If she doesn't, bargain with her.
"And offer what, precisely?"
X X X X X
And of course eventually she told.
after all, of that – chasing Queen Buffy to hell and gone around
almost having her killed by Spike, all of it --
It all ended with a simple spell.
Even Faith proved to be no problem, unexploded atom bomb that she was.
She showed up not
long after the two Giles completed their bargain with the
Queen, muttering about something.
"Where were you?" Jenny asked.
"What do you mean?" Faith asked back. "I said I
was going to go find Oz. Found
him on stage at this club you got, the Silver. I was about to start pounding when
poof, cloud of dust. Do vampires ever do that around here?"
"Not to my knowledge," Jenny said.
"It was just freaky. So, do you
magic geniuses have a way of sending us home? I
have places to go, people to kill . . ."
"We're working on it," Jenny answered.
And soon after that the spell was completed.
one universe, Willow gathered up Amy and stuffed her in a pocket
Cordelia stood protectively between Willow and Faith.
the other, everyone shook hands; then Amy, Willow, Cordelia and
gathered together, while Buffy stood as far from them as she could and still be in the
spell's area of effect.
Giles coordinated their spells and as one performed the
A sound of thunder and everyone went home.
X X X X X
and Cordelia appeared as one in Giles' living room. Amy peered
of Willow's pocket; Tara shyly waved hello to Willow, who smiled back.
Buffy immediately adopted a fighting stance on
seeing Faith. "Relax, B," Faith
said. "I'm not here to do you dirty. This time, anyway. Willow, Cordy: Nice
battling the forces of evil with you, but I gotta book."
No one seemed
inclined to block her exit from the building, but Giles
resist a shot at the other Slayer as she left. "It was nice, for once, to be
dealing with a Faith who had a sense of honor."
Faith's face darkened for a moment, and for just a
second Buffy felt sorry for
her. Then Faith smiled. "Nice in return to have dealt with a Giles who was still
getting it on with Jenny Calendar."
And on that note she left, singing softly
to herself. " . . . this gun's for
hire . . . even if I'm just dancing the dark . . . "
X X X X X
The Queen of
the Vampires mockingly saluted everyone as soon as they appeared
back in the library. "Another day, another thrill-a-minute adventure with the
Slayers. Gotta admit this one had me worried for a second, but nope! In the end I get to
keep living and pissing you off." She had on her game face and was grinning widely.
agreement was that you get to live," Giles said. "It said nothing
long that state was to continue once we all returned to this universe. I'm
inclined right now towards thirty seconds."
Buffy was not easily intimidated but did realize
when a threat was to be taken
seriously. She bowed, said "Toodles!" and turned and ran out the front doors of
Looking at their watches as one, Willow and Faith
twenty-eight, twenty seven . . ."
you're waiting for me to interrupt you," Giles said, "I'm not
She's caused us trouble for over three years. Nail her to the fucking wall. But do
give her her thirty seconds."
. . eleven, ten . . . " and sure enough right at zero Willow and
sprinted after the renegade vampire Queen.
"Not going to join them in the slaughter, Cordelia?" Jenny asked.
I'm beat. Besides, Willow has an even greater grudge than I do.
deserves the kill."
"Ten to one she doesn't get
it tonight," Amy said without malice. "Buffy's
harder to kill than Horus."
"No bet," Cordelia sighed.
X X X X X
A day or so after the incursion from the mirror
universe, Forrest and Graham
were walking on the campus of UC-Sunnydale. "I tell you, man," Forrest told his fellow
soldier. "One of these days Buffy's gonna force Riley into a choice between his
duty and his hormones. And you and I both know what his choice will be, and what
that will do to us. And to the Initiative. Damn, I wish he'd never met that
bitch sometimes." Then he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around –
was greeted with a right cross that sent him tumbling to the sidewalk
feet away. Xander Harris stood there. "I told you the next time I heard you
badmouth Buffy I'd knock your teeth in. Don't do it again."
As Forrest sat up, rubbing his jaw, Xander
walked away. Forrest almost charged
after him but figured the goofball wasn't worth it.
And both he and Xander remembered that Xander had indeed made that threat.
Even if neither of them was quite sure where they remembered it from.
X X X X X
Somewhere a young man/wolf driving a van had a sudden flash
of . . .
something, and gave out one of the most Keanu-like "whoa"s it was possible to
Did all of that happen, Oz wondered?
Had there actually been a merging of two universes?
He knew he couldn't answer the question. But he knew someone who could.
And, besides, he had the herbs and he's been putting it off long enough
It was time for him to get back to Sunnydale anyway.