“You ever think we’re mutants?” Dawn asked.
Buffy looked at her sister and sighed.
“I take you to get ice cream and this is what you ask?” she replied.
“No really. You ever think we’re mutants?” Dawn asked, licking the cone, “I mean, Scott and Alex are.”
“We settled this when we were kids. You’re a spider monkey. The gangly limbs and bewildered expression kind of sealed the deal.” Buffy explained.
Dawn hit Buffy’s arm.
“See? Simian strength.” Buffy said.
“I’m going to disappear again.” Dawn blurted out, “Got any advice?”
Buffy put her hand on her sister’s shoulder.
“Be brave. Live.” She said.
She then took Dawn’s ice cream cone and walked away….from thin air.
Taking a shortcut through the graveyard, Buffy walked towards the Bronze. When she got there, Principal Wood stood guarding the door, arms folded.
“Hey Robin.” Buffy greeted.
Wood unfolded his arms and waved, the growing red stain on his shirt now visible.
“Dawn disappear again?” Wood asked.
“Tuesday.” Buffy laughed.
Wood stood aside and ushered her in.
“Careful of the door—“he said.
Buffy looked at the steam rolling off of it.
Inside the Bronze, the band was tuning up. The music was nice, but Buffy thought perhaps the bear on bass was a bit off. She shrugged and went to the bar.
“Margarita.” Buffy ordered.
The bartender, a balding, bespectacled man, simply turned to look at her. He held a platter with various cheeses on it.
“Wouldn’t you like---“
“A margarita.” Buffy interrupted.
The man shrugged and threw down the cheese, “Suit yourself. I’m easy.”
“Lady knows what she likes.”
Buffy looked over. There was Spike, in a brown leather jacket, giving a thumbs up.
“Happy Days isn’t on till seven.” Buffy said.
“Exactamundo.” Spike replied, “But I’m not Fonzie pet….I’m a Leo.”
“Here’s your raisins.” The bartender said, handing Buffy her drink.
“This place is going way down hill.” Buffy replied.
“AAAAAAAAAY!” he said.
Buffy laughed and something else caught her eye. She walked away from Spike and towards the dance floor. There was some sort of commotion. A crowd was gathering.
“What’s going on?” Buffy asked.
“It’s a shootout. I know it is.” Anya said excitedly, “Maybe even karate.”
“Seems logical.” Buffy said.
On the dance floor, Giles was sitting on a throne holding Excalibur and pointing it at two people kneeling before him. Buffy could tell one of them was Xander. As if on cue, Xander turned and waved.
“Hey Buffy! Giles is gonna knight us!” he squealed.
“Isn’t it keen?!” Willow said, likewise turning.
Before she could reply, Buffy heard a roar. She turned and the crowd had vanished. All she saw were several masked figures stabbing away at a lion with spears. The lion roared defiance and swiped at a few, but only grew more wounded.
“Hey!” Buffy shouted.
The figures paid her no mind and kept attacking the dying lion.
“Hey! Stop it!” Buffy said, advancing.
One of the masked figures looked up and walked towards her with a spear. Buffy immediately grappled with it, knocking the mask off in the process. Tara stared back at her.
“You’re doing it wrong.” Tara told her.
Buffy shoved against her friend, but Tara didn’t move. Buffy looked over her shoulder. The figures stood by as spiders began to swarm over to the near dead lion.
“Tara! They’re going to kill him!” Buffy exclaimed.
“It’s nature.” Tara smiled, “Besides, the wolf has to eat too.”
Growling hit her ears, and Buffy turned, seeing an immense wolf with seemingly glowing eyes behind her. The howl chilled her heart. The huge creature padded around her, growling at the Slayer, before approaching the downed lion. Buffy didn’t want to see this. She didn’t want to see this. She had to close her eyes. But her eyes were already closed. She was--
Buffy looked up at the clock.
“Ugh. 6:30 on a Saturday.” She sighed, “Stupid biological clock.”
Beside her, she heard a sigh.
“Just got to sleep.” Spike growled into the pillow.
Buffy scowled and lay back down.
“Big baby.” She yawned, eyes heavy….watching as the clock changed to 6:31…then it went entirely blank.
“What?” Buffy said.
“I said I bloody well just got to sleep.” Spike growled again.
Buffy glared at him for a moment…then back at the clock. It read 6:31 again.
“Weird.” She murmured.
“Fine. I’ll let you sleep.” Buffy said, rolling her eyes and getting out of bed.
She padded out of the room as Spike rolled over, a smile on his face as he drifted back off. At least until Buffy slammed the door.
“Maybe I still hate her.” Spike grumbled.
Buffy walked downstairs and put some coffee on. She hated being up this early, but that was the price you pay. When you’re used to getting up and going to work five days a week, sometimes its hard to sleep in. Add in the logistics of human/vampire relationships involving bedtime and it can be a nightmare. Still, she was up now. Might as well stay up.
Buffy turned on the radio and sat down with a mug of coffee. As she woke up a bit more, she noticed the music was a bit strange. Not bad, but not her type. She changed the station. More of the same. She changed the station again and picked up what sounded like a radio show. Except she had no idea what language it was in.
She tried another station. The same. She sat down her coffee and walked into the living room, turning on the television. Buffy was a bit surprised by what she saw. Buffy walked back to the kitchen and picked up the phone.
Across town, Rupert Giles fumbled for the telephone beside his bed.
“H-hello?” he said, yawning.
“Giles, it’s me.” Buffy said.
“So I dreaded.”
Giles sat up immediately.
“What is it?” Giles replied, all action.
“It’s the TV.” Buffy explained.
“…You called me at a quarter till seven because of your television?” Giles asked, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
“It’s the TV, the radio, I don’t know what else.” Buffy replied, “Something’s wrong.”
“Perhaps a repairman then?”
“Alright Buffy, I’ll…see about the…ah…television.” Giles groaned, getting out of bed and heading downstairs to his living room.
He turned it on and stood back, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“Do you see what’s going on?” Buffy asked.
Giles sighed again. Then he squinted his eyes. Slowly, his glasses came to his face.
“What exactly am I looking at?” he asked.
“No idea. Every channel is like that. The radio too.” Buffy explained, “So…dire consequences?”
“In point of fact, yes.” Giles clucked.
“Well, the internet’s out too.” Xander said, coming down the stairs, “So it’s not just my place.”
“Or ours.” Willow added.
“See now this is evil. Some dastardly menace leaves the TV and the radio, but no internet? Monsters.” Xander stated.
“At least you have your Looney Tunes DVDs huh?” Faith scoffed.
Xander raised a finger, “The coyote will catch that bird one day.”
Tara poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table.
“Has Buffy got a hold of Dawnie yet?” Tara asked.
“No and she’s freaking out about it. Cell phones are useless. Landlines aren’t connecting to any of the numbers at Utopia or L.A.” Xander explained, “She can’t get a hold of Dawn, Scott, Angel, anybody.”
“Ditto on trying to reach Stephen.” Willow added, “I keep trying to get a hold of him telepathically and nothing. I’d ‘port to New York, but until we know what we’re up against here, it may be a bad idea.”
“You’re the smart one, Red.” Faith said, “Any ideas on what’s going on?”
Willow pondered the question.
“Something bad.” She answered.
“Something bad? Smarter than the rest of us in the room put together and all you have is ‘something bad’?” Xander asked.
“Something really bad?” Willow squeaked.
“Poe’s not sure about anything either.” Tara said of her crow.
“So the bird’s clueless too? Wow, now we’re really boned.” Faith snarked.
“Hey…he’s connected to the ether.” Tara snapped back, “He’s pretty wise when it comes to this stuff. But he’s stumped.”
Car doors slammed outside. Xander went to the window.
“It’s Robin and Connor.” He announced.
“I’ll go get Buffy and Mr. Giles.” Tara said, getting up.
The front door swung open. Wood and Connor walked inside, both looked nonplussed.
“What’s the what guys?” Xander asked.
Wood and Connor just looked straight ahead.
“Well, it’s uh…it’s…” Wood stammered.
“Bad.” Connor finished.
“Really bad?” Willow asked.
A few minutes later, the bulk of the Scoobies stood by the vineyard that Connor made his home. As usual, Xander was the first to voice what was being seen.
“Well…that’s….odd.” he said.
The very air seemed to be stretching, thickening, then twisted, the occasional spark of electricity arcing into the air.
“The sun was coming up and I was coming in from the hunt. That’s when it happened.” Connor explained, “It just came out of nowhere.”
“And it’s running down both ways as far as the eye can see.” Giles said, cupping his chin, “Unless I miss my guess I’d say we’re in a sort of a… bubble, for lack of a better term.”
“That’s not the worst part.” Connor said.
“Yeah. Tell them what you told me.” Wood said.
“It’s getting smaller.” Connor explained, “See that tree branch?
Connor pointed to a thick branch that seemed to jut out of the distortion.
“When it first started, it was behind that tree. Then I noticed it started to get closer and closer to the tree. When Principal Wood picked me up, it had started to consume the tree. When we got back here, it has consumed everything but the branch.” Connor explained.
“And you didn’t think to tell us?” Buffy asked.
“I figured it best I stay and watch what was happening. You’d come get me eventually.” Connor said.
A rock splashed through the distortion.
“Xander!” Buffy exclaimed.
“What? I’m just being scientific about it!” Xander shrugged.
Giles pondered the distortion and took off his glasses.
“Robin?” Giles asked.
“Do you have the keys to the school?” Giles asked again.
“We need to get there post haste.” Giles said, putting his glasses on, “I think I know what’s happening.”
“Wow.” Xander said, “Is it me or did they rebuild the library EXACTLY like it was before?”
“More computers.” Willow said, “But other than that….yeah.”
“Just like old times. Now if we just had Oz to say something terse and Cordy being a jerk, it’d be like we never left.” Xander said.
“No smoking.” Wood said, folding his arms.
Spike just smiled and puffed away, “Yeah, I can read ya know.”
Xander breathed in, “Nostalgia.”
“Okay, what’s going on Giles? Please…spill.” Buffy said.
Giles took off his glasses, “Yes…well….I think I know what’s going on.”
“Is it real bad?” Willow asked.
“…Yes to say the least.” Giles explained, “Now Buffy…you woke up this morning at 6:30 correct?”
“Yeah. And I told you, the clock flickered.” Buffy said.
“Yes, the clock flickered and then was normal. Then you went downstairs---“
“After slamming the door and keeping me from sleeping.” Spike interjected.
“---you went downstairs and turned on the radio. And everything was in a language you didn’t understand. You turned on the television and the programming was in that same language and there were sights and channels that didn’t exist before, correct?” Giles asked.
“On the nose.” Buffy said.
“But what does it all mean, Basil?” Spike asked.
“Giles.” Faith added with a conspiratory smile.
“Giles.” Spike corrected himself.
“It means that our way of life is about to end. Completely. Forever.” Giles said coldly to Spike.
Spike thought about it for a moment, then sat back smoking away.
“Go ahead then.” The vampire said.
“What do you mean our way of life is going to end?” Xander asked, “Because that’s not cool.”
“No, it most assuredly is not.” Giles explained, “What I think we’re dealing with here is some sort of temporal anomaly.”
“Time travel?” Willow asked.
“Exactly. Travelling to when and where, I’m not sure of, but something in our past has been irrevocably altered. The outside world has been changed by someone tampering with history.” Giles said.
“That’s a little hard to swallow.” Wood said.
“Admittedly, but it makes sense. Our timeline has been altered. The world as we know it no longer exists.” Giles said.
“So, wait….if that’s the case, how are we still here?” Tara asked.
“I imagine it’s the Hellmouth at work. Natural laws don’t operate here like they do elsewhere. I theorize that perhaps the vast mystical energy from the Hellmouth is acting as a sort of buffer against whatever’s changed the past. It’s protecting us, but only temporarily.” Giles said, “We’re in a bubble and that bubble is slowly contracting due to the…well….weight of everything outside, and as it contracts Sunnydale will gradually change as the rest of the world already has.”
“What can we do?” Willow asked.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do, Willow. These are forces that are far above us. We can’t fight natural laws like we can demons.” Giles sighed, “All we can do is wait for the end.”
“I’m going to the Magic Box.” Tara said, suddenly, “We have to get Miss Kitty and the puppets. We can’t leave them there.”
“Tara, you’re just putting off the inevitable.” Giles explained.
“So I’m putting it off.” Tara said, “Its nature, but I don’t have to like it.”
Bells rang out in Buffy’s head.
“Say that again.” Buffy said.
“What?” Tara asked.
“You said “Its nature”.” Buffy replied, “That’s like…whoa…I had a dream this morning right before I woke up. Maybe it was one of those prophetic ones. Maybe it can tell us what to do to stop this.”
“Can’t fault you for tryin’ Buff, but stopping alternate realities and everything is really more the Justice League’s forte.” Xander said.
“And they may not even exist. We do.” Buffy explained.
“Yes, but Buffy…there’s nothing we can do outside of travelling through time to undo what’s been done.” Giles said.
“I’ve travelled through time before, remember?” Buffy said, “Robin, you still have the stuff that let us do it last time?”
“Yeah.” Wood nodded, “In my office.”
“And Willow’s a lot more powerful and in control now. She could send me…us…back in time to fix whatever did this!” Buffy said.
“But Buffy…you wouldn’t even know where to begin!” Giles said exasperatedly.
“That’s why I need to remember my dream.” Buffy said, sitting down, “Okay….Dawn disappeared….alright, she was at Utopia visiting Scott, so she disappeared with the rest of the world. I walked to the Bronze, Robin was bouncing there—“
“I was a bouncer?” Wood asked.
“Yeah, with...uh….blood running down your shirt.” Buffy noted.
“Comforting.” Wood bristled.
“You told me that the door was hot. Then I walked in and….damn it….I can’t remember some of it….Spike was in there dressed like Fonzie.” Buffy said.
“No comment.” Spike said.
“He said he was a Leo….then you knighted Xander and Willow.” Buffy told Giles.
“I knighted them?” Giles asked.
“Yeah, Xander even yelled out “He’s gonna knight us”.” Buffy explained.
A light went off in Giles’ brain.
“Leo…knight us…..Leonidas?” Giles stammered.
Spike looked up and met Giles’s eyes.
“Oh…that’s good.” The vampire said, “That’s REAL good.”
“My God, that makes perfect sense. The radio and television programs had a distinctive middle eastern flavor to them. And the door in Buffy’s dream…it was hot.” Giles stammered.
“A hot gate. The Hot Gates. Damn, that’s good.” Spike chuckled.
Xander raised a hand.
Spike noted it, “I think wonder boy is about to ask something all confusedly. Ah the results of the American public school system.”
“Quite. Leonidas was the king of Sparta some twenty five hundred years ago. He led three hundred Spartan soldiers against the invading hordes of the Persian king Xerxes to hold a section of Greece known as the Hot Gates in Thermopylae.” Giles explained, “Leonidas and his men were killed but not before holding off a much larger army. Some would say the sacrifice of he and his men gave Greece the will to fight and win against their invaders. He may very well be one of the most important figures in human history. If not for him, history may have gone much differently.”
“So, somebody takes out Leonidas before he does what he can do….dominoes.” Spike noted, “We all fall down.”
Xander put his hand down.
“Maybe from now on I just put my hand up. It’ll get them to the point.” Xander whispered to Faith.
“It’s still not much to go on.” Giles explained, “We don’t know exactly what has happened. Leonidas may have died before he could gather his three hundred or he could have surrendered to Xerxes. We have no way or knowing what happened or when.”
“It’s all we have.” Buffy said, “Look, in my dream a lion was killed by a huge wolf. So I’ve got an idea at least of what’s going to happen. And the hot door part….Hot Gates, Giles. We know when and where we have to go…don’t we?”
Giles sighed, “I suppose it’s enough to go on. We need to do something. Before long the residents of Sunnydale, human and demon alike are going to start panicking. What time we have left could be terrible for the humans in this town. Now….get me a history book.”
“The battle of Thermopylae is believed to have taken place in late August or early September some twenty five hundred years ago.” Giles said, reading from a text, “Now, history as we know it says that the battle took place over the course of three days. It would probably be most expedient to place you in the general area as early as possible. Willow, can you manage?”
The little redhead bit her lip, “Yeah…of course. I can send multiple people almost three thousand years back in time, halfway across the planet. No big deal at. No big deal at all. I mean that’s easy…that’s cake….or pie. Or fruit pie…I can never remember….are there any Hostess Fruit Pies in the vending machines? I might need something to keep my strength up to keep my friends from being torn apart by the ravages of time and—“
“Sweetie….breathe.” Tara said.
“Breathing.” Willow said.
“Buffy?” Giles asked.
“Yeah?” the Slayer replied.
“I’m not sure if this is wise. We have virtually no idea what we’re doing.” Giles whispered.
“I know. But we’re going to be wiped from existence or changed in ways we can’t imagine pretty soon if we don’t do something.” Buffy explained, “Besides, if something goes wrong, I owe you a Coke.”
“I’ve always wondered….what’s it like to be so flippant in the face of certain death?” Giles asked.
“Breaks the tension.” Buffy said.
“Who wants weapons?” Xander said, walking into the library carrying a dufflebag.
“Did you bring it?” Buffy asked.
Xander flung the chakram at Buffy. The Slayer instinctively caught it.
“Oh yeah. I figured using this in Ancient Greece will feel right at home.” Buffy smirked.
“I also brought this.” Xander said, pulling the Slayer Scythe from the dufflebag.
“Ooooh, come to mama!” Buffy said as Xander tossed it.
Faith caught it.
“Sorry mama, but this is coming with Aunt Faith. You got your toy.” Faith smirked.
Buffy looked at the chakram then the scythe, and then sighed.
“I have the hammer.” Connor said, holding the Troll Hammer, “I always did like this thing. Heavy but fun.”
“I don’t suppose you have anything for me in that bag, wizard.” Spike said.
“Got an axe.” Xander said.
“Give.” Spike replied.
Xander handed Spike the axe.
“I thought you weren’t going.” Wood noted, “Given how most of the action would likely happen in the day.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not going. The Axe makes me feel better though.” Spike snarled.
“Yeah. In case you’d forgotten, mate….the last time we did this little runaround something came out when we sent Buffy back and I really don’t figure on being thrown through the ceiling again.” Spike explained.
“Fair point actually.” Wood admitted.
“Crap.” Willow said, “I forgot about that. Everyone that goes through has something switch places with it.”
“I guess that counts us out.” Tara replied, petting Poe.
“Yeah. It’d probably be better if there were fewer that went through. I’d say send you in alone baby, but we don’t know what separating you and Poe by twenty five hundred years would do to both of you.” Willow explained.
“We’re down one then.” Buffy said, “Damn. I really wanted to take four fighters. Willow’s got to work the spell, Spike’s handicapped—“
“Not a word, whelp.” Spike warned Xander.
“And you and Xander can’t really fight. No offense, Giles.” Buffy finished.
“None..ah…taken.” Giles said.
“Heck, I admit it.” Xander said.
“You got me.” Wood said.
“Oh…well Robin….you’re kind of….out of practice and…well, the whole bloodstain part of the dream.” Buffy said.
“You’re the boss, Buffy but this could mean the end of everything.” Wood said, “I’m in.”
“Welcome aboard then.” Buffy said, “Better get some weapons.”
Wood picked up a sword, “Think this will do?”
“Should.” Buffy smirked.
“One more thing, guys.” Willow said, “I’ll need you to stand together and hold hands.”
“Seriously?” Faith asked.
“Just do it.” Willow said.
Buffy, Faith, Connor, and Wood all sheepishly joined hands.
“So…uh…what are we doing besides being awkward?” Buffy asked.
“Kumbaya? Kumbaya.” Spike smirked.
“What I’m doing is a temporary language spell. Sort of making you able to understand and speak any language you need to for…say a week.” Willow explained, weaving the air, ripples flowing out over the foursome.
“Why not longer?” Wood asked.
“Any longer and it might give you a stroke.” Willow answered.
“Yeah….that would suck.” Faith said.
“Also, having you all joined together makes it easier to do….THIS!” Willow said.
Electricity arced through the group, making them convulse and shout out. Once it was over, Buffy, Faith, and Connor looked a bit groggy. Wood was kneeling on the ground.
“Did she go evil?” Wood gasped.
“Seriously, Wills what was that?!” Buffy demanded.
“…I had to sterilize you.” She explained, “What if one of you is coming down with the flu? You could cause a plague. Plus, it was just easier to when you’re all joining hands.”
“A little warning would be good.” Faith snarled.
“I thought I gave it.” Willow whispered.
Connor just pointed at her.
Moments later, the ritual was ready. Willow was breathing in and out, floating on the air Indian style. The room darkened as Willow’s hair slowly changed to white. Little bits of light began to dance in the air, as the image of the Shadow Men danced about on the walls.
“Alright, this is easier than I remember.” Willow smiled, “Should be no problem whatsoever to alter the spell and get you to the proper place and time. Retrieval should be a cinch too. Just gotta do the spell again only jump a few days ahead and pull out our guys and send back whatever replaces them. If nothing goes wrong, we can save the world in a few seconds.”
“I wish she’d say those things earlier.” Faith said.
“I want you to be careful, Slayer.” Spike said, hugging Buffy.
“Hey, don’t worry. I’ll be back, even if I gotta wait around for a few thousand years.” Buffy said.
Xander noted this and worked towards Faith.
“You know…if it works for them—“ he began before Faith cut him off with a bear hug and wet kiss.
She sat him down and smiled, “And if you even look at another woman while I’m gone I’ll break you in two.”
“Yes ma’am.” Xander said, looking at the others, before casting his gaze away from Willow and Tara.
“You ready?” Connor asked Wood.
“Yeah. More than.” Wood replied, “You?”
“I want it.” Connor smirked, gripping the Troll Hammer, “Should be fun.”
“Everyone ready?” Willow asked.
“Ready on our end.” Buffy said, looking over her team.
“Ready here.” Spike said, wielding his axe alongside Tara.
“Alright. Hold onto your butts, because here we go.” Willow said, unleashing her mystical energy.
The room lit up in a shower of light…..a huge white doorway appeared, bolts of lightning shooting out and striking Wood…then Connor….Faith….and finally Buffy. One last burst light and they were gone….or rather replaced.
As the Scoobies’ eyes cleared from the spell, they noticed four very confused looking soldiers standing in library. Three looked frightened, shaking and pointing their spears out to keep the Scoobies at bay. The fourth stood by impassive; a long red cape across his shoulders, one eye covered by a cloth bandage. He leaned on his spear. There was a look of puzzlement on his face, but not fear.
“This is….NOT….Sparta.” Dilios mused.
Buffy and the other recovered quickly enough, their eyes adjusting back to normal. The day was sunny, and hot. Gulls cried overhead and there was the smell of salt in the air. The sound of waves crashing upon rocks filled their ears. As did the sound of swords being drawn.
“Uh oh.” Faith said, holding the Slayer Scythe out.
“We’re surrounded.” Wood noted.
They WERE surrounded….by Persian soldiers.
“Well, well, well.” The Kurgan said folding his arms, “Right where the God-King said they would be.”
“Oh this is really---“
“----bad.” Willow winced.
Spike and Tara stood side by side, brandishing weapons. Giles and Xander moved back behind them. The Greek soldiers likewise brandished their arms….but not at the Scoobies. Rather at THEM.
Where they had come from, no one could say…nowhere perhaps…but here they were in the library, weapons drawn on the Scoobies and soldiers….spears…staves….energy lashes….flesh burners….slave spikes. Like elves from the darkest pit of your nightmares….clad in black armor….disfigured…degenerate.
The one out front spoke.
“Just as was calculated by our science sorcerers. The grandfather paradox holds true.” It said, voice dripping with malice, “Enslave them. Let them know the joys of a shattered will…..but kill the Spartan. As he dies, so may the Sheeda be reborn!”