Title: Making a Difference

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Category: B:tVS/Star Trek 7

Summary: Buffy takes an unexpected detour on a magical journey and ends up on Viridian III. 1400 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Notes: Challenge fic. Kirk ran across the wrong Buffy by accident; now it's Buffy's chance to do the same. (There will be at least one more chapter to this series).

Buffy flexed her hand around the amulet Willow had given her and prepared to activate it.

"There's this-- this nexus," the witch had told her, "although really, it's more like a big energy ribbon, running through all times and all dimensions. We can't exactly reach it from Earth, but it's passed close enough to a few demon worlds before for them to figure out what it does and write books about it. Giles found one in that big estate auction a few weeks ago, and Dawn knows enough about portals now that she can open one right to it, or help me hook it into a spell. All of which means, voila-- we finally have a way of going anywhere, anywhen! Well, you do, anyway; it'll only work for someone who shares Dawn's blood. And you'll have to be careful not to let go of the amulet part-way through and get stuck in the nexus; they say most people that stop there never come back out again."

The temptation to ask her friend right then for an amulet that would go back to the place and time Willow had fetched her from the year before had been very tempting. She'd promised to go on the mission to retrieve the vital whatever-it-was Giles needed that Angel's son Connor was convinced he'd seen in Quartoth, though, and she wouldn't go back on her word.

Afterward, though, there'd be nothing stopping her. She still had her ensign's uniform rattling around somewhere; she'd suit up and make Willow send her back. She'd built a life there and moved on after the original incident that had stranded her more than two hundred years forward and a couple universes to the right; after six years, her friends had all moved on too, with successful lives of their own. None of them, including Buffy, had seemed to have any idea what to do with her once Will brought her back, and the situation hadn't improved over the last several months.

It had been nice to see them all again, and it would be nice to be able to properly say goodbye this time, but Buffy was more than ready to rejoin her friends on the Enterprise security team. Not to mention the attractive, interesting, enigmatic hunk of manflesh who served as the ship's Captain, whom she'd just started to really get to know before Willow yanked her back. No one expected anything of her there, other than that she do her job properly-- and even if her Slayer nature had been widely known, she still wouldn't have been that much of an oddity on the crew, given the variety of aliens and part-aliens aboard. It was a weird, eclectic society, but it was one she fit into, and it was one where nobody knew anything about her past that she hadn't told them; she missed it very much.

That was for later, though. In the here and now, she had a mission to do. She squeezed the amulet in her hand more tightly, and closed her eyes as it exploded in a wash of heat and green light.

When the light faded, Buffy found herself abruptly standing on a mountaintop. She looked around in confusion for a couple of moments, comparing the scenery to what she'd heard of Quartoth; it wasn't exactly paradise, but it wasn't exactly the land of fire and brimstone, either. There was some strange scaffolding set up a little ways away from her, and--

--a shining energy ribbon overhead?

--and three other people, one of whom had abruptly appeared out of nowhere as she watched?

Buffy groaned. Trust Willow to invent a foolproof new means of transportation that somehow still managed to get tangled in a metaphysical traffic jam of some kind. She expected major cookies for this when she got back.

She lifted her hand again, prepared to squeeze the amulet a second time to initiate the return journey-- fortunately, it was supposed to work no matter where exactly she ended up. Before she could activate it, however, she suddenly recognized one of the men in front of her, and her heart caught in her throat.

He looked so much-- older-- than he did in her memories. His waist had thickened considerably, and his hair had gone all wiry and iron gray with the passage of years; he was no longer the smooth-cheeked golden god she had known during her sojourn in the alternate future. And yet, there was no mistaking those hazel eyes, the determined set of that jaw, or the way he threw himself into physical battle against the guy up on the scaffolding.

Kirk. James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise. Or whatever other titles or ships he'd acquired in the years since she'd left him behind so suddenly.

He'd won his hand-to-hand battle while she stood there gawking, knocking out his opponent; the third guy, a tall, bald man with a similar uniform and the same kind of erect bearing, was trying to deactivate some kind of machine, though it had just gone invisible on him.

"Kirk!" the man called desperately. "There's a control pad in his right pocket!"

She didn't want to distract them, but there was no way she could leave now, not with him so close. Maybe he'd be able to tell her where her other self was? She'd have to ask him the stardate, too, so when she went back and then to the earlier future and lived out the however many years between that time and this, she could call him up and laugh about their history of temporal malfunctions. She smiled at the thought and started walking toward him, intending to offer whatever help he might need while he did whatever Captain-y thing he was here to do.

She was still walking when the disruptor blast surged up from the enemy's fallen form.

"No!" she screamed, running forward, her attention all for the collapsing Captain. She was dimly aware of the platform going visible again, of something firing off into the sky and arcing back to ground, and of more scuffling going on between the bad guy and the other Captain-type person, but she couldn't have cared less. She dropped to her knees at Kirk's side just in time to see his eyes flutter open, and pressed his hand in hers in an effort to offer comfort.

She already knew she could offer nothing else, not even if she were a healer. She'd been a security officer; she knew what disruptors did to the human body, and she'd seen where it hit.

He stared at her a long moment-- but there was no recognition in his eyes. Just puzzlement. Then he looked up at the other guy, his ally, and murmured, "Nice shot."

The bald guy shot an equally puzzled-- and warning-- look at her, too, then turned back to Kirk and replied, cradling the captain's head in his lap. "I'll find a way to contact the Enterprise," he said, in a resonant voice that reminded her a little of Giles. "You're going to be all right."

"Did we do it? Did we make a difference?" Kirk asked.

He had to ask? Buffy thought, numbly, remembering the events she'd lived through-- and heard about-- during her time on the Enterprise. The man was constitutionally incapable of failing to make a difference. He was Captain Kirk.

Just not her Kirk. Somehow.

"Yes," the second guy said, then paused. "Thank you."

"Least I could do," Kirk replied, coughing, "for a Captain of the Enterprise."

Buffy didn't hear whatever words passed between them after that; she was watching his face as it turned up to the sun-- the little smile that hovered on his lips, then slipped away as the life left him.

A Captain of the Enterprise. A Captain. Two of them, in fact. But neither of them the one she'd known.

Buffy finally let go of the Kirk's still hand and staggered back to her feet, glancing back at the still-living, unnamed Captain. "I'm sorry," she told him. "I shouldn't be here."

"Who are you?" he asked, in return. "Were you working with Soran?"

She shook her head, still half-choked with stymied grief. "I'm no one," she said, then reactivated her amulet at last.

So far, and yet so close. Next time, she'd do it on purpose-- and get it right.