No One Here Gets Out Alive
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, its characters, stories, and settings are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and 20th Century Fox.
Sandman, and related titles, characters, settings, and stories are property of Neil Gaiman, DC Comics, and those other entities with legitimate ownership interests. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made. I promise to put them back when I'm done.
Author's Note: How do you beat a case of the existential blues and writing block? By pitching out the story you've been working on for over a month and writing something that has no place in your current story arc. It makes a nice change. I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's work since I discovered
Sandman during my college days. I very much agree with what one critic had to say regarding Dream's sister: “. . . and finally, a Death worth dying for.” The title is taken from a bit of graffiti seen in
Sandman #8.No One Here Gets Out Alive
”...gets me down, too. Mostly they aren't too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands. But they enter your realm each night without fear.”
- Death of the Endless to her brother, Dream, Sandman #8.
“You tried,” he crooned. “It was noble of you. You heard the prophesy that I was about to break free, and you came to stop me. But prophesies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything.”
He leaned in, pale as a worm, cold, and vicious. His hand held her neck with the firm gentleness of a victor who has completely vanquished his foe and fears no retribution. Fear like she'd never known choked her, kept her paralyzed.
“You're the one who sets me free,” the Master whispered to her. He laughed softly, gloating. “If you hadn't come, I couldn't go. Think about that.”
The bite hurt, but worse was knowing in that moment, he held her life like a flame at the end of a wick.
And then he snuffed it out.
She fell, and a pair of hands caught her.
Panicked, she reeled back.
“By the way,” the Master said, but not to her, “love the dress.”
He addressed a girl lying face down in a pool of water. Buffy glanced from the girl's body to the Master to the young woman who had steadied her, back to the Master, and then back to the body. The dress . . . that was the dress Mom had gotten her. The hair . . .
“Oh, shit . . .” Buffy breathed. “Oh, hell. He just . . . I'm . . . CRAP!”
The woman nodded, making a slightly impressed face.
“Gotta hand it to you Slayers,” she said, shifting to a wry smile. “You figure out the basics pretty quickly.”
Buffy glanced at her again. The woman looked older than her, but not by much. She was deep into goth territory, what with the black clothing and stark make up. Of course, most goth chicks didn't go for bare arms and skinny jeans. And the only jewelry she wore was a large silver ankh at the end of a chain around her neck. And she was missing out on the emotional constipation most goths reveled in.
“Yeah, he did just kill you, Buffy,” the woman said. “I wouldn't worry though. Anyone who thinks he's got a prophesy all figured out is going to get his ass bitten off by it as soon as he thinks he's safe.”
Buffy paused, feeling her brain clicking over and over as it butted up against something it just couldn't wrap itself around.
“Hang on,” she managed. “I . . . just died.”
“Yes,” the woman agreed.
“That was it? That's how I die?” Buffy asked. “I've had worse dentist appointments.”
“Funny how the anticipation can just kill you, isn't it?”
“And you know my name,” Buffy pointed out. “And you know what a Slayer is.”
“I have met them all,” the woman said, nodding her head. “Except for the one who was just called, but it won't be long.”
,” Buffy insisted. “Who the hell are you?”
The woman only gazed at her.
Two men ran down the tunnel, scrambled to her body and pulled it out of the water. Buffy ignored them while her brain ticked over the possibilities. When the realization hit, she felt quietly pleased at how well she kept her shit together. Giles would be proud.
“Wow,” she managed. “Who knew I got to die on Anthropomorphic Personification Day.”
The woman smiled, looked up, and tilted her head to the side a bit, as if admitting that yes, she had pulled a few strings.
“What happens now?” Buffy asked, fascinated.
“Well, in a couple of moments, your friend is going to revive you, and you won't remember this, but you'll be rarin' to go.”
“But I'm dead,” Buffy pointed out. “And you're here. Doesn't that make it official?”
“Your heart stopped,” the woman said. “So, yes, officially, you have died. But no prophesy ever said it was permanent.”
“Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated?” Buffy asked, delighted.
“Slightly exaggerated. Oh, hey, looks like it's time to go back.”
Buffy looked down at her body, where Xander was desperately performing CPR.
“Yeah, guess so.”
“I'll see you later, Buffy,” the woman said, smiling.
“But not tonight,” Buffy responded.
“No, not tonight.” The smile became a grin.
She felt her heart cramp, stutter, and then begin beating again.
“By the way,” the woman called. “I really like your dress.”
“Where are your gibes now?” he demanded.
The infant girl looked behind herself at something, totally unconcerned.
“Will you laugh when my Hell is on Earth?” he asked, his sangfroid extinguished.
“You're that amped about Hell,” she said, grabbing him by the throat, “go there.”
The world reversed itself, and a huge plate of glass shattered around him. He had just enough time to recognize that he was falling when-
He sat up, leaving his rapidly disintegrating body behind, impaled on a broken spar of wood. A few feet away, a woman stood, hands on her hips, tapping her foot.
“Typical,” she said. “All suave and dispassionate when it's going your way, but as soon as your grand scheme hits a snag, you revert to vulgarities.”
“She did not kill me!” he hissed.
“Heinrich,” the woman said, “you're dead. Actually, you've been dead for a really long time, and I might have missed you back in Nuremburg, but this is one appointment you have to keep.”
“My bones lie there,” the Master insisted. “So long as they exist, I am not dead.”
“You think other dead people don't leave behind bones?” she asked, completely deadpan. “Heinrich, you had a long run, but it's time.”
“My disciple will raise me,” the Master said, sounding a little frantic.
“The Anointed One?” she asked, checking her nails. “Yeah, not so much. I'll be seeing him in a few months. Rotten thing, Heinrich, turning a kid.”
“You judge me?” the Master demanded, puffing up.
“Not my job, thank you,” she answered. Then she held out her hand. “Come on.”
He stared at her hand, not moving.
“Heinrich,” she said, a little annoyed. “You delayed the inevitable, but now the inevitable is here, and it's time to cope. The Slayers you killed managed a lot more dignity than you're showing, so suck it up. It's time.”
He deflated and after a moment, took her hand.
“I would have have brought forth Hell on Earth,” he told her. “Really. I was so close.”
“Yep,” she agreed. “Like I said, it was a good run. You got a lot done.”
Frantic, she dashed up the stairs. Seconds, fractions of a second, God just give her enough time to-
She ran right into him. He giggled. With a delighted smile, he put one hand behind her head and with the other, touched a finger to her lips.
“Sorry, Jenny,” Angelus said, “this is where you get off.”
It was brutal and fast, and for a split second it hurt more than anything in her entire life had.
And then it was over.
“Are you okay, Jenny?”
She stumbled, got her balance, and stood back up. Her body lay at her feet. Angelus looked down at it, sighing happily to himself. Jenny looked up at the woman beside her. Realization didn't take long.
“Oh!” she gasped.
Then the implications sank in.
“Oh,” she breathed, crushed.
The woman watched her, a study in sympathy.
“Angelus, the spell-”
“Not your problem anymore, Jenny,” the woman told her.
“I told Rupert I'd see him,” she managed, “but I won't. And Willow. Poor Willow!”
She pressed her hands to her mouth, steadying her emotions.
“I'm sorry,” Jenny managed to say. “I wasn't ready. I didn't think it would be over so soon.”
“Most people don't,” the woman agreed.
“Is there any way I can still help them?” she pleaded.
The woman shook her head.
“I wish . . .” Jenny sighed. “At least I told Rupert how I felt. At least he knows.”
“He knows,” the woman answered. “And he won't forget.”
“I guess that's something.” Jenny stared at the floor for a moment, ignoring Angelus as he picked up her body and slung it over his shoulder like rug.
Then she looked back up and met Death's gaze.
“What happens now?” Jenny asked.
“Take my hands,” Death said.
And she did.
“Oh, that just sucked,” Buffy moaned.
She pulled herself out of the debris and got to her feet, and this time, she was not surprised to see a pretty young woman wearing all black strolling towards her.
“You are my gift,” Buffy told her.
“I am,” Death agreed, smiling.
Buffy looked around. “Dawn's safe. Walls of the Hell dimension are sealed. Glory is . . . ah, I guess you met Glory.”
“Yep. Sooner or later, I meet them all.”
Buffy frowned in considered thought. “So, if Glory was a Hell goddess, and now she's dead, does She go to Hell? Again? Seems kind of counter-productive.”
Death smiled. “I just open the door and hand them through. I'm not in charge of sorting them.”
“Sooner or later, you meet us all,” Buffy murmured. “I hadn't really thought of it that way. We fight you so hard, but it's just delaying tactics. Sooner or later, all of us meet you.”
Death watched her for a few moments.
“I'm glad it wasn't permanent last time,” Buffy finally said. “It was too early. There was too much for me to get done. But now . . . this is good. I accomplished what I needed to do. I feel all . . . tidy. In a good way.”
“Are you ready?” Death asked, holding out her hand.
“Yeah,” Buffy said, looking around one last time and nodded. “And thanks. Seriously. I couldn't have pulled this off without you.”
Buffy took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Hey, do I get to see my mom?”
“You're about to find out,” Death answered.
Death is before me today:
Like the recovery of a sick man,
Like going forth into a garden after sickness.
Death is before me today:
Like the odor of myrrh,
Like sitting under a sail in a good wind.
Death is before me today:
Like the course of a stream,
Like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.
Death is before me today:
Like the home that a man longs to see,
After years spent as a captive.
- Neil Gaiman, Sandman