Yep, it's a time travel fic. Rated NC-17 for character death and descriptions of torture.
Buffy gets a do-over, but will she be able to change things for the better, or will things just get worse?
A new story! Yay! This one is short, for me at least, only eleven chapters. And it's finished, so no long waits between updates. Yes, I plan to finish Bruises, but I'm pretty severely blocked on it at the moment, so I'm working on some other stuff, hoping to crack the wall.
Thanks for reading and please don't forget to let me know what you think! I love hearing from you.
Chapter One – Do It
She'd stayed up all night making lists – pros and cons – scribbling then scratching out and scribbling again… trying to find any reason to keep going, any way at all to dull the pain, and she just couldn't. The reasons to stay and keep fighting were far outweighed by the fact that she couldn't go on without her heart. It just wasn't possible. She'd tried. She had. Tried to find a way to exist without him, but it was hopeless, and now… now she was done. Done fighting, done hurting… just… done.
The letters were stacked up neatly on the counter by the sink. Once she'd made her decision, the words had flowed from the end of the pen, almost without any conscious thought on her part. There was a letter for each of her friends, one for her Watcher, and the topmost letter… the longest one… for her sister. She'd written down all her memories of him – the good and the bad – hoping that Dawn would understand why.
The knife handle was cool against her palm and it had a weight to it that it probably shouldn't. It felt like the end. And it would be. For her… it would be. Finally.
She sliced quickly and deeply into her flesh. No hesitation. No wondering if this was really the right thing to do. She knew it was. She'd decided. She started in the palm of her hand and sliced up her arm almost to her elbow, not across her wrist like they show in the movies. That wouldn't do it. She needed to open as many vessels as possible. She needed to make this fast. Checkout was in an hour and she could already hear the housekeeping staff rolling their heavy, noisy carts down to both ends of the hallway.
The water in the tub was hot, almost scalding. To make the blood flow faster. She'd read that somewhere. And it did. It exited her body in a torrent, spiraling in fat tendrils through the water. She watched it in fascination until it slowed and became sluggish then she laid her head back on the edge of the tub, the murky red water lapping gently at her shoulders as she let her arm drift down into the water to rest on her stomach. She was feeling… well, not content… not exactly, but… kind of light… like she was weightless.
She knew she probably wouldn't end up in Heaven this time out; suicides were forbidden entry as far as she knew, but she hoped that wherever she did end up wouldn't be too bad. As if anything could be worse than all these months without him. As if any torture devised could be worse than knowing he'd died not believing her. That he'd died thinking he was unloved.
Blackness was seeping into the edges of her vision and she couldn't really feel her body or the heat from the water anymore as she wondered, not for the first time, where the Powers had sent her Champion. The demon… no, the man who'd fought for his soul and had sacrificed himself to save the world… to save her. Surely not Hell. Even the Powers couldn't be that cruel, could they? Yeah, he was a vampire, but… he'd changed. He didn't deserve eternal torment anymore. Not after all the good he'd done. Not after all the torment she'd already put him through.
Her last thought was actually a fervent plea as her heart thumped weakly one more time then stilled. 'Wherever Spike is, please let him be safe and warm and happy… and loved.'
Something smelled bad. Really bad. Her nose squinched up and she rolled over, trying to get away from the scent, only to be startled fully awake when someone laid a hand on her shoulder and shook her hard. "Slayer? You need to wake up, we don't have much time."
She rolled back over and slowly opened her eyes, squinting against the bright light. The person standing next to her was blurry, but there was no mistaking that voice… or that smell. "Whistler?"
She blinked several times and he was somewhat clearer when he smiled and nodded. "Yeah."
"Where am I?"
"An in between place. Kind of like a waiting room."
She sat up, noticing that she was laying on a soft, comfy chaise lounge and was dressed in a flowing white robe. She lifted her arm and was completely unsurprised to see it whole and unmarked. She dropped it back to her lap with a sigh, "They wouldn't let me do it, would they? They're sending me back."
"Well… yes and maybe. You did manage to kill yourself and that's why we have to hurry. The housekeeper just started on the room next to yours and if she finds your body, it's all over."
"What's all over?"
"Your life. If she finds you bled out in the bathtub, this action will be set and the Powers won't let you do anything to change it."
"Why would I want to change it? Me being dead is kinda the whole point. There's nothing to change."
"Yes, there is. The Powers are giving you a choice."
She blinked stupidly at him. "A choice?"
"Yes. You can let this timeline continue as is or you can go back and try to fix things… change the timeline so there won't be a body for her to find."
Buffy sat up straight, her eyes wide and hopeful. "Fix things? How far back?"
"I don't know and you won't get to choose what point in the timeline you get returned to." Whistler glanced at something over Buffy's shoulder. "And you have to make the choice right now." Buffy started nodding vigorously and Whistler held up his hand. "There will be rules."
"Don't care. Do it."
Whistler snapped his fingers then took a relieved breath. "Ok. So you've made your choice. Your body is gone and the room has been returned to how it was before you checked in. Now we have time to go over the rules."
"Okay, but first, will I still have all my memories or will I go back and just make the same mistakes all over again?"
"You'll know everything you do now. Basically we'll plant this… consciousness… your essence… into a younger you… and that's where the rules come in."
"How many rules? And have the Powers noticed that I really don't like following rules? They have been paying attention, haven't they?"
Whistler smirked and chuckled quietly. "Yeah, they've noticed. That's why there's really only one rule… and it's non-negotiable. If you don't agree to it, then the deal's off and you go back to being dead in a bathtub."
Buffy took a deep breath and steeled herself. "Ok. Hit me. What is it?"
"Some things in the original timeline still have to happen, but the main thing… the one the Powers are adamant about… the one this whole deal hinges on is… one person is meant to die and you can't be allowed to change it."
Buffy's throat felt like it was closing up as she mentally catalogued all the people – friends and family – that she'd lost since she'd been called as the Slayer. "Who?"
"I don't know how far back they're going to send you so it might not even matter, but the gypsy still has to die."
"Yes. Her death was foretold eons ago and it's central to half a dozen prophecies, so it has to happen or you have no idea how screwed up a few other dimensions will get."
Buffy swallowed hard and blinked back her tears. "Um… okay… is there anybody else I have to let die?"
"No, she's the only one."
The tears spilled out of her eyes as she breathed out, "My Mom? I could save my Mom? And Tara? They wouldn't have to die?"
Whistler shook his head. "Nope. Both of their deaths were essentially natural, no supernatural elements involved at all, so they're both entirely preventable."
"What about sending Angel to Hell? Do I still have to do that?"
"Uh… well, you don't HAVE to. If Angelus isn't unleashed in the first place then…"
"But if he isn't, then Jenny…"
"Will still die, it just won't be Angelus that kills her. Like I said, her death is foretold. You have to promise not to interfere with that or the Powers won't let you go back."
Buffy swallowed hard and nodded. "I promise. I'll let her die." Whistler raised his hand and Buffy held hers up. "Hold on a sec." She shivered slightly and pulled the robe tighter around herself. "Is there anything else I should know? Can I stop Willow from getting addicted to magics? Keep Spike from being captured by the Initiative? But then he wouldn't start helping and he wouldn't f..fall… What about Dawn? If I get to Ben before he gets to Sunnydale, then will Dawn even show up? And if she does, will I still have to jump off the tower to save her? And if I do that, but Willow doesn't get into the magics, then she won't be able to bring me back…" She reached up and rubbed at her forehead. "God, all this is giving me a headache."
Whistler took off his hat and worried at it nervously with his fingers. "If I could, I'd give you a list of which things are fixed and which ones can be changed, but I can't. They won't let me. Some things will still happen, no matter what you do, so just change the things you can and accept the things you can't, I guess."
Buffy grumbled, "You're all large with the cryptic and not helping, as usual," then she stood up, placing her hands on her hips. "All right. Let's do this. Send me back."
Whistler snapped his fingers.