Live in this World, Year Zero
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, no money made. I own neither the canon characters nor the universes.
Summary: Clone!Jack, Buffy and 25 kids have crash-landed on Yavin 4. Sequel to ‘Changing the Death Toll.’
Distribution: Wormhole Crossing, TtH
Spoilers: Fragile Balance and Season Eight for SG1, Season One for SGA, Chosen for Buffy and Episode III for SW. I’m playing with the timelines slightly. I’m saying that Dawn was a year younger in the show than mentioned. I highly recommend reading ‘Changing the Death Toll’ first.
Rating: for language, violence, death, and major angst-‘cause I’m not changing the big parts of Episode III or the rest of the SW movie cannon and how can you not have angst with Post-Chosen Buffy and Clone Jack?
AN: For David, who nagged at the appropriate intervals for getting this thing written.
Picking up where ‘Changing the Death Toll’ left off . . . In the confusion of the Purge, the PTB gave Buffy and Jack just enough information to sneak twenty-five younglings out of the Jedi Temple. After a long flight, the group landed on Yavin 4 where Whistler delivered a message that made no one happy.
Buffy ran away from the crashed spaceship full of little kids depending on her for survival.
She ran from the truth.What the hell are we supposed to do? Hang out here until the PTB decide that we’re needed?
She ran from the hurt.If you guys cross Vader the results will make what the little Witch did to you seem like playtime at the Kiddie Corral.
She ran from the pain.You know how the Balance is.
She ran in anger.
What the hell did the Powers think they were doing, taking her away from her friends and family and dropping her here with a bunch of babies? What did she know about babies? She had a better chance of hurting the little kids than any of the big nasties in the jungle.
Buffy wanted to hit, to kill. How come now, that she needed an enemy to beat to a pulp, nothing showed itself? Where was that tiger she had seen earlier? Or those snakes that usually popped up from behind every other tree? Buffy was unaware of the vibes radiating off her. She was the most dangerous predator in the woods at this time and everything that relied on its instincts was keeping their distance.
She needed to work through this. Buffy knew she did. She needed to grow up and accept where she was and what her duty was. The ship had crashed and was going nowhere anytime soon. She was stuck here and the babies were stuck here. The babies needed her to be levelheaded. The babies wouldn’t be alive if the Powers hadn’t dumped her here. And the babies wouldn’t all survive with just Jack to protect them. She had to go wash out the bucket in her hand and fill it up with the tree sap so that the babies could eat and not starve to death.
But she wanted to throw a tantrum to high heaven first.
So the Powers considered Buffy to be their ‘Break-glass-in-time-of-war’ weapon. They thought that they could stash her away, away from her family, until they needed her. But then, these babies needed her too; they needed her now, in the present. Damnit!
She was stuck and she knew it. Not that she was about to accept her lot in life without bloodshed. Buffy had not shed enough blood during the Messenger’s visit.
Whistler left much too soon. Much, much too soon.
Next time, Buffy grinned evilly, next time she was going to break both of Whistler’s arms . . . and his jaw . . . and maybe his legs too.
With such cheerful thoughts, she started whistling a jaunty little tune and swinging the sap bucket to the beat. She headed for the stream.
Anything that relied on its instincts was still staying far away from her.
The Great Hall of the Giles House resembled more of an archive than a welcoming parlor and a messy archive at that. Ancient maps and books were spread from one wall to the other. Maps were laid out on every flat surface, from the window seat out to the wooden pew in the corner. All the lights were turned on. It was raining outside. The steady, dreary precipitation outside seemed at odds with the frantic activity inside.
They were looking for the petite blonde Slayer missing from their presence.
Willow was poring over each map, Buffy’s silver cross in hand. Buffy had stopped wearing the gift from Angel not long before Spike had sacrificed himself for the world and had never touched it after. But the years of wearing it day after day and night after night had etched Buffy’s essence into the silver. Buffy had been buried with the cross and had been resurrected with the cross. If any piece of Buffy would lead the Scoobies to the lost Slayer, this cross would be it.
Willow and Xander had torn apart Buffy’s room looking for the silver cross necklace as soon as they had realized that she had disappeared. They found it in Dawn’s jewelry box. Buffy had given it to her sister. Too many emotions were tied up in the necklace to throw it away, or to wear it. Giles had had to shake Dawn to get her to remember where Buffy might have hidden the necklace. Until that time, Dawn had been wandering around looking-feeling lost. Where was her sister? No one in the house or around the world knew anything. No one had seen anything and there were no signs of a struggle. The demons on the street were being surprising quiet about the missing enemy. No one was bragging about bagging the Oldest One, or about the Oldest One being bagged. No one was planning more than the normal amount of mayhem while Buffy was un-find-able.
The young Slayers that had been on guard duty the previous night had not seen a thing. Nothing uninvited entered the wards. At first, when Buffy had not answered anyone knocking at her locked bedroom door or could not be found anywhere on the premises, the guarding pair had been embarrassed thinking that they had failed another test. They had assumed that Buffy had snuck out of the house to test the Slayers, to keep them on their toes. But as more time passed and Buffy hadn’t come strolling in with her coffee and a laugh, everyone grew worried. Maybe Buffy was just hiding in her room with her headphones on ignoring the rest of the world? Surely she wouldn’t be sleeping after everyone else had woken.
Sure, the last night had been a late one. Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies had stumbled into the Giles House just as the first rays of morning sun brightened the sky. They had been a little tipsy from alcohol and a lot tipsy from celebrating Dawn’s eighteenth birthday. The group had separated on the stairs and had fallen into their individual beds. Dawn had finally knocked on Buffy’s door to ask whether or not Buffy was joining everyone for dinner.
Buffy hadn’t answered.
Dawn knocked again, harder this time.
Buffy still hadn’t answered.
Dawn used her hairpin to pick the lock. She was Buffy’s sister and one of the few people who could force her presence on Buffy. She opened the door and found the room empty.
More than empty, the room was pristine. The room was cleaner than it had ever been since Buffy had moved in. All clothes were put away and her shoes were neatly lined up on the closet floor. The light jacket Buffy had been wearing the night before was also hanging in the closet. The bed was made and un-rumpled.
The sight was more frightening than if all the lamps had been shattered and every piece of furniture had been reduced to kindling. No one
entered Buffy’s room. She kept it locked from intruders. It was her sanctuary and the cleaning crew was not allowed. Even her friends had to respect the distance Buffy demanded.
Dawn screamed in the empty room, somehow knowing that it was too late.
Everyone came running.
Each of the Scoobies had known the seriousness of the situation with one look at the room. The search for the Oldest Slayer had begun in that instant. Now four days later, the search had yet to turn up any clues. It was as if Buffy had fallen off the face of the earth. No one stopped the search for more than cat-naps, meals were eaten on the run.
The Scoobies were frustrated and short-tempered. Willow’s eyes had turned black several times as she tried to force answers where there were none. The pair of Slayer guards were in the infirmary because Willow had gone into their minds searching for clues. She hadn’t been gentle. She hadn’t found answers.
Giles had walked in on the interrogation with great alarm. He quickly had distracted Willow, sent for Xander from one of the search parties around town and had Dawn collect every map the library contained for Willow to scry over.
Now Xander hovered close to Willow, coaxing her back to the light every time her mood darkened. Giles and Dawn watched from the doorway, trying to figure out how to make Willow stop without someone ending up dead. They needed a permanent solution to their Willow problem, especially if Buffy was not around to deal with Willow for an extended period of time.
Buffy was not dead.
That was one of the first things Willow had checked, and re-checked every time she got frustrated. It encouraged her to know that Buffy was alive.
Dawn had asked in a trembling voice if Buffy was hurt.
Willow and Giles had search for twenty-four hours straight to find a spell to check. They succeeded and gathered all needed ingredients so that Willow could cast. The result: Buffy was hurt but only slightly and it was healing fast. That too was encouraging. Willow had recast the spell an hour ago and Buffy had not been re-injured in the meantime.
So where was Buffy, now?
“Out of your reach.”
Every eye was suddenly trained on the slight man in the middle of the Great Hall. He perused a map of Italy and then threw it over his shoulder.
“What did you say?” asked Willow in a very low voice.
Xander took a step forward and gently touched Willow’s arm. Willow shook him off. Giles and Dawn exchanged a worried look.
The stranger was not worried, or he didn’t appear to be worried. “I said ‘out of your reach.’ The Slayer, she is, you know.”
Willow hissed. “Nothing is out of my reach.”
“The Slayer is. And she’s going to stay that way.”
Giles stepped in front of Willow and tilted his head. “May I ask who you are?”
The stranger smiled and bowed. “Certainly. I am Whistler, a Balance Demon for the Powers That Be.”
“You talked to Buffy,” Dawn spoke. “Right before she had to send Angel to Hell.”
“That was me,” the demon affirmed.
“Why are you here?” asked Giles.
“For a little warning to you major leaguers. You’re too good all bunched together. You’re tipping the Balance and they’ve got problem areas elsewhere. The Powers are going to spread you around.”
Kennedy stepped forward. Up to now she had been watching the search with a smug satisfaction. With Buffy out of the way, a true Slayer would be needed to lead. She said, “I would be honored to go wherever the Powers choose to send me.”
Whistler laughed, not nicely. “I said I was talking to the major leaguers, you don’t count.”
Kennedy’s face darkened dangerously.
Willow saw and stepped close. “It’s alright, honey. You’ll always be my Rookie of the Year.” She glared at the Demon. “Who says that the rest of us will do what the Powers want anyway?”
Xander stepped forward. “We will,” he said. Everyone stared at him in disbelief. Xander realized that he had spoken for the group. “I mean, I will if you give back Buffy,” he bargained.
“Not an option, Harris.”
Giles shook his head, hesitant to bargain with the Powers, but respecting Xander all the same. He was worried at how the dynamics of the Scoobies were changing. He didn’t think that the foreboding in his gut was just because he was getting old and hated change for the sake of it changing his world. Giles needed more information.
“Mr. Whistler . . .”
But the Messenger was gone.
The Messenger’s departure did nothing to relieve the tense atmosphere of the Giles House.