A/N: Once again, thank you so much for any feedback. I'm very anxious to get the last of this story up because I'm super excited about Retributions (the sequel) and have been writing like a maniac. Just remember people, season 6 was a dark season for Buffy and I'm respecting Joss Whedon's wishes and keeping it that away. On a lighter note, some Spike/Buffy moments are coming up soon. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
Chapter 11: Buffy Has Chosen
Before Buffy opened her eyes, she felt all the muscles in her body burning in pain. Her head was throbbing and she tried to remember what the hell had happened. Spike had handed her the vial to get her powers back and then-
Her eyes flew open when she felt a body crouching over her. The sunlight was blinding and her hands came to cover her eyes on instinct. When they adjusted she recognized the desert and the curious grunting Slayer hovering over her.
"It's you," Buffy choked out and started to get up.
Sineya moved away from her but still circled Buffy as she took in the vast desert she was stuck in somehow. Sineya's lips didn't move but Buffy heard the words echoing off the cliffs and through her body.
"Slayer," it hissed.
Buffy tensed and had a small panicked sharp intake of breath. This was supposed to give her powers, not make her a Slayer again. She stood up and gave Sineya a pleading look. "No, this isn't what I wanted. I wasn't even sure yet. I-"
"Your witch upset a delicate balance. You are not meant for this realm."
Buffy felt the ground under her feet crumble and she fell forward into a pool of shallow water that had somehow appeared underneath her. The water shimmered and small ripples raced angrily over the surface.
Buffy was entranced at the water danced around her knees.
"Do I need to go back?" Buffy asked in a small voice. She couldn't help that Spike's face crossed her mind.
"The witch's dark magic allowed it to enter. The First is coming for your realm."
"Am I a Slayer?" Buffy asked impatiently. "I don't feel any different. How am I supposed to stop the First?"
"You will need the witch. And this."
The prowling Slayer tensed as three tribal looking men approached them. She was afraid, Buffy realized. One of the men was holding a wooden box and they stopped to stand behind Sineya. She took the box from him.
"The demons have weakened as time as gone on. As have we. Our demon is diluted and it will not be enough for what is coming. Shadow inside of me is pure strength and power. But Sultana is immortal and even stronger. You must take it."
Buffy froze. "No."
The men behind her started to rhymically hit the sand with large sticks they held in their hands. The ground began to shake and for a brief moment Buffy looked to the trembling water behind her. When her eyes rose again she was in a cave. Sineya was chained to the floor, her body twisting to escape the bonds. The men stood around her with a smaller box than before in their hands. Another Sineya appeared beside Buffy. This time she spoke for herself, her voice rough.
"Took Sineya. Made me strong."
The chained Sineya screamed as a dark smoke emerged from the now opened box. It curled into the shape of a claw and grabbed the captive girl's ankle. Buffy tried not to feel sick as the screams grew more and more frantic.
"What is this?"
The girl was now completely covered in the dark shadow.
"I felt Shadow. Crawl inside. Destroy inside."
A loud roar shook the walls of the cave. The smoke was gone and Sineya broke the chains off of the floor as another inhuman roar escaped her small mouth. She approached Buffy the chains scraping on the ground. She turned but found it was only her and this Sineya in the cave.
"Sineya chosen," she growled.
Buffy felt as though her heart had stopped. "This is how they made you. They put that thing inside of you. Forced you-"
"Inside you!" Sineya yelled, pointing a dirty finger at Buffy's chest. "Part of you. Why feel so empty now."
Buffy felt nauseous as the implication hit her full force. She had come back wrong after all. She was missing a crucial part of herself. "When I died, the demon died."
Sineya nodded and appeared happy that Buffy understood.
"This is all wrong," Buffy spat out. "They just choose girls to die. Those men made you fight for them."
"Different," Sineya tried to explain. She pointed to herself. "Shadow."
Then she pointed to Buffy. "Sultana. If take Buffy can stop pain. Will change. Will stop. Only way to fix is to take."
Sineya was growing impatient. She bared her teeth and dropped her shoulders, preparing to attack Buffy if she had to. "They violated you. They took-"
"No! They give-"
"They took away your choice, Sineya."
"Need power. Or die."
Buffy felt as if her head was spinning. She was so angry at what she had just seen and so afraid to accept all the facts presented to her. "I don't want to be a demon," Buffy whispered.
"Sultana no destroy. Just make strong. Live forever. Soul in Buffy is heavy. Anchor."
Buffy tried to piece together what she was trying to say. "What happened to your soul?" she asked Sineya sadly.
"Not heavy. Float away."
Buffy felt a wave of sadness almost crush her. "I still don't want to end up...like you."
Sineya growled in frustration and paced as she tried to explain. "No! Magic in Buffy. Witch make Buffy alive. Magic made soul stuck inside."
Buffy nodded and tried to calm her down. "I get it. But is this the only way? Spike said the potion would just give me my powers back! They might even come back on their own! This is permanent."
"No more powers. No more demon. Need demon."
Sineya was growing agitated by Buffy's reluctance. She knew this to be the truth. Two extremes were the only two options: absolute strength or weakness. Buffy closed her eyes and tried to will her way out of this place. She thought it was worked when she found herself no longer in the cave. Instead she was in the desert and Tara was looking back at her. Her smile was gentle and sad.
"Are you really here?"
"The Powers That Be intercepted my soul. They offered me a choice. Move on or stay to guide you in what's to come."
"Like an angel?" Buffy breathed. Tara seemed calm and ethereal. Whatever the title was Buffy knew it to be true.
"You will need Willow. She's more powerful than you can imagine. A goddess if she can stay away from dark magic."
When Buffy gave her an indignant look, Tara amended her statement. "I'm not asking you to forgive her."
Good, Buffy thought to herself. She wasn't sure if that was a possibility yet.
"And what about me?"
"The potion Angel got was not correctly translated to him. It is an unveiling potion. Your powers are gone."
"This isn't fair," Buffy whispered.
"These are dark times and there is an end of days coming. None of this is fair and you have to choose."
Buffy sighed. Neither would make her happy. Was happy so far out of reach? Was it even possible? Could she really stand by and watch Faith take on this battle without fighting herself?
"Without me will they lose?" Buffy asked softly.
"I don't know but with you they will have a chance," she answered honestly. "As you know the Hellmouth is a very thin intersection of this realm and any others. The spell Willow used to bring you back weakened all barriers of all realms temporarily. The natural order was disrupted and the most important one of those was the Slayer line."
"I saw what that is. How it started," Buffy spat. "I don't want any part of that."
"Sineya told you can change it. The power you would wield with Sultana will be sufficient to maintain the balance. You will be the end of the Slayer line. With Faith and the other Slayer pass, no more will be called. This is what we are hoping for."
"The Council won't like that. They couldn't stand me before," Buffy groaned.
Tara smiled at her. "The Powers That Be and anyone of real power knows that the Council are nothing but a bunch of mortal men. Foolish men are even now do not understand what is happening to the Slayer line."
"And what is happening?"
"The Slayer line is directly connected to the natural balance of good and evil. When the First tipped its hand into this realm-the second that evil was detected-the Slayer line was prematurely activated. A Slayer is not randomly chosen. There are candidates-potential Slayers in the event that a new one must be called. The Council only facilitate the process. They hardly control the origins or the magic of the line. These potentials are growing stronger, on the verge of being called because this new threat. The demon those men used on Sineya is just the power. A Slayer is more than that. Slayers are born, just their power is made."
"I can't stop being a Slayer," Buffy realized. "But I feel like...I'm missing pieces of myself."
"You are sad and conflicted and ,with time, that will right itself. This particular power comes with the price of immorality. You cannot return to your Heaven if you make this choice."
"This is Willow's mess," Buffy growled. "A consequence of her actions! And she-"
"Willow is on her own path. This is your own and now you must choose. Things are progressing quickly and preparations must be made."
Buffy bit her lip and her eyes shimmered with tears. If this threat was as epic as she was being told, she couldn't leave her family unprotected. Be a bystander when the balance of good and evil was teetering because of her presence? While it was a devastating choice, hadn't this been what she wanted? To have a choice in being a Slayer instead of it being thrust upon her by some unseen destiny?
Sineya came up behind Tara, the Sultana Box clenched in her hands. Her long dreadlocks covered her eyes and she bent to place the box in front of Buffy. When her eyes met Buffy's they were wide with reverence and pride. She looked hopeful and Tara gave her small satisfied smile.
Sineya opened the box with mud stained fingers. "Buffy has chosen. Buffy Sultana."