For those of you interested in the writing process, here’s my original outline for “Dreaming of How It Was Going to Be”. You can compare it with the story and see how things differed. I’ll also annotate it a bit as I go along.
Notes: Takes place in 2012; Tara was shot, but only in the shoulder; everything else was pretty much the same with the exception of W/K (and Warren was killed when one of his spells backfired; Willow didn’t try to destroy the world).
Prologue: Willow is home sick while the slayers are off saving the world in the Middle East, where a new Hellmouth has appeared. A bombing at the private airport kills Buffy, Tara, Satsu, Faith, and several other slayers and watchers. Willow goes into a deep fit of depression for several weeks. Xander tries to take care of her, but can’t pull it off. Despite knowing that he shouldn’t, he makes a wish: that Willow lived in a world where she was happy and there was nothing supernatural. He has about a second to reflect on what he just did before his world comes to an end.
I removed the reflective moment at the end; I figured it would be less effective than having it all slam into him later on. At this point I didn’t know just how much Xander would or wouldn’t appear in the rest of the story.
Chapter 1: Willow is in her old office at TechnoPagan — the successful company she founded — and she’s saying goodbye to her protege, Dawn Summers, who she’s leaving in charge (Willow is still on the Board). Willow has been asked to become CTO of a major media company and is moving from LA to Atlanta. She goes to the hotel she and her partner, Tara (a veterinarian), are staying in. They leave tomorrow for a cross-country drive. They’re happy together, although Tara’s a little leery about moving to the south, where there’s less acceptance of their kind of relationship. Willow reassures her that the company is very gay-friendly, and so is the city of Atlanta. They go out to dinner with a couple of friends of theirs, Fred and Charles Gunn (who just celebrated their 5th anniversary) — Fred is a physicist whose work with high-energy physics Willow’s company has been supporting with grants, and Charles is a martial arts teacher. After dinner, they go home and have sex in LA for the last time.
I gave less info on Fred & Charles, and they didn’t go home, but otherwise very few changes.
Chapter 2: Three months later, Willow and Tara have settled into their routine in Atlanta. They have a nice house in the Northside area, Tara is working at a local veterinary hospital, and Willow is very successful at the company so far. Willow gets a call from Dawn, who asks her for a favor: her older sister (who Willow has never met, but Dawn has spoken of kind of sadly, like her potential was wasted) has gotten divorced from her crappy husband and needs a job. They moved to Atlanta years ago for his job but it hasn’t worked out and she doesn’t have much of a support system, and she also has a five-year-old kid that she’s going to be raising herself. Willow says her secretary actually just quit and gives Dawn the name of the temp agency the company uses. Then she goes off to a meeting. Later, at home, over dinner, Tara and Willow talk about the call Willow got from Dawn. This is where it’s revealed that they met at UCLA, where Dawn was in a pre-college program and Willow was her “mentor”. Even then, Willow remembered Dawn’s sister Buffy as being like that bitch Cordelia that used to pick on her — at Willow’s 10-year Sunnydale HS reunion in 2009, with Tara on her arm, Willow had successfully cut down the B-movie actress with the sheer scope of her success. Willow says she’ll try to get Buffy to work out as her secretary, at least temporarily, but she doesn’t remember Dawn ever saying Buffy could really hold down a job.
No major changes.
Chapter 3: It takes a week, but the next Monday Buffy shows up, bright eyed and bushy tailed and a little haggard around the edges. She has mochas, though, and while Willow says she doesn’t have to kiss up, she doesn’t say no. Willow introduces her around to the people she works with closest, and explains that while she’s in the office, Buffy has to stay with her, take notes, respond to e-mails, etc. She’ll have a laptop for this. They spend a couple of hours getting their ducks in a row — Buffy is trying really hard to keep up, and Willow is trying to give her the benefit of the doubt — and finally Willow says she has the weekly E-Board lunch and will be back at two. Buffy decides to go down to the cafeteria, which is pretty busy, and is eating a sandwich when someone asks if he can sit at her table. His name is Chris, he works in the art department, and he seems nice enough. He’s impressed that she’s the CTO’s new secretary. After they eat, he invites Buffy up to his area anytime, if she wants to take a break — he knows what it’s like to be the new guy — and he gets off at 7 while she continues up to 8. Willow isn’t back yet, so Buffy gets to work organizing e-mails and stuff. She sees the picture of her daughter on her desk and smiles sadly, then has a pang for her ex-husband and how pissed off she is at him, and then Willow returns and they get back to work. That night, Willow tells Tara that Buffy is a little overwhelmed by all of this, but she’s trying her best so far, and it is only day one.
No major changes.
Chapter 4: Friday. Tara calls to say she’s stuck in an emergency surgery and won’t be home until really late. Buffy takes the message because Willow is in a meeting. She passes it on; Willow isn’t thrilled, as she had plans to take Tara out to a nice dinner, but she shrugs — doctors. This isn’t the first Buffy knows of their relationship, and Willow can tell she’s trying to accept it for what it is, but the other woman is having a bit of difficulty. Willow tells her that it’s okay if she’s uncomfortable, but it is how it is. Buffy actually says no, that it’s not that they’re two women — maybe on Monday that was weird, but she put it past her. It’s that they’re so good together, and Buffy never really had that with her ex-husband. Willow fires off an e-mail to Dawn (on her phone) and then bids Buffy good night. Buffy goes down to the lobby, where she sees that Chris guy. He’s waiting for some of his co-workers — they’re going out for drinks, since it’s payday. He invites her along. The others are Jeremy, Satsu, Amber, Matt, and Leo. Since her daughter is with her father for the weekend and she was just facing an empty apartment, she agrees. She kind of sticks close to Chris — she doesn’t make friends easily — but she’s intrigued by the elegant, precise beauty of Satsu’s face and figure. She shakes it off (she experimented a few times in college, but that’s it) and they have a good time. After, she’s a little too drunk to drive home, so Chris takes her home and gives her his number so they can pick up her car the next day from the work lot. Buffy briefly considers inviting him in, but she’s not THAT drunk. Not that she hasn’t been in the past… but she’s not doing that. Yet.
I moved a few things around near the beginning, but left the rest alone.
Chapter 5: Saturday morning. Willow is in the solarium doing yoga. Tara, bleary-eyed and carrying a mug of tea, watches her. “I can feel you standing there.” They kiss. The dog made it and should pull through. They do yoga together for a little while, then go in to clean up. Tara is in the bath, relaxing, while Willow is in the shower. She sees Tara’s just on the edge of dozing off, so she joins her in the bath. Sexytimes occur. Meanwhile, around lunchtime Chris picks Buffy up and they go get her car. Chris invites Buffy to “go out sometime”, and admits he’s no good at this — relatively recent divorcee with a kid (Amanda). Buffy admits that she’s in the same boat, but even more recent. Their kids are the same age. Buffy’s daughter, Joy (named for her mother, Joyce, who died several years ago of a brain aneurysm), is with her dad this weekend. They make plans to get the kids together. The rest of the weekend is pretty good, and in the morning on Monday Willow and Buffy get together to go over e-mails and the week’s tasks and stuff. Buffy rather ashamedly thanks Willow for giving her a chance, she knows there were probably better candidates, etc. Willow is a little stammery, but shrug okay whatever. Buffy is at her desk when Chris walks by, on his way to somewhere else. They stop and talk, and Chris invites her to GTFO on Friday, if it’s okay with her boss. Willow, whose door was open, says it’s fine and introduces herself to Chris, who is awed. I mean, it’s the CTO. She mentions to Buffy to put a note on her calendar for a Friday night event with a vendor who’ll be in town, and asks if Buffy can be there. She says she’ll have to get a babysitter, and Willow says she’ll pay for it, no problem. After Willow’s gone, Chris says he and Amanda can watch Joy — it’ll be his weekend with her, and she’d probably appreciate the company.
I made Chris less “recent” of a divorcee, but again, few changes. I’m discovering as I annotate this that there was far less change early in the story, I think because I knew more of how I wanted this one to go as I wrote it than any of the others.
Chapter 6: Throughout the week, Chris and Buffy have talked and exchanged e-mails. On Thursday, Buffy and Joy came to Chris’s house just to meet him and it seemed to go well. Friday is GTFO, which turns out to be nothing more than just going out to lunch, which they do every Friday. Core group plus a couple of others, and also Buffy. While waiting in line to pay for lunch, Buffy overhears Matt quietly ask if she’s seeing anyone. Chris shakes his head, says he thinks she just got out of a tough marriage, but they don’t talk about it. Matt asks him to tell him when he thinks she might be open to the idea, and he shrugs and kind of shrinks back from it a little. Buffy finds this endearing. They all have lunch, and Matt contrives to sit near Buffy, but Chris and Satsu are right by her too, and again she’s distracted by Satsu (who is married to a guy named Cal and therefore off the market even if Buffy swung that way, which she doesn’t, or so she tells herself). After lunch she tells Chris she’ll see him in a few hours, and just barely hears Matt make a rude remark. That evening, Tara is still not feeling well (hasn’t been since Wednesday) and begs off the vendor event. Willow dresses up nice and goes — she has to, it’s work — and she and Buffy stick together (Buffy has a little notebook that she keeps obsessively). One of the vendor people, a technical director or something, is kind of forward with Willow — Kennedy Richardson, who’s a little younger and sharply pretty. Eventually Willow escapes from her “clutches” and goes to Buffy, complaining about Kennedy, but not wanting to screw up the deal because the vendor has something they need. Buffy swallows hard and offers herself in Willow’s place, and suddenly Willow realizes just how desperate Buffy is. She says no, steels herself, and tells Kennedy she’s not interested.
When I said “desparate” above, I meant work-wise, not personal-life-wise.
Chapter 7: Buffy is on Chris’s couch with a glass of wine, dishing the gossip about the CTO. Everyone knows she’s gay already, and it’s funny to Chris that someone was hitting on her during a business event. They go through a few more glasses of wine and when Buffy gets up she’s too drunk to drive again. She says she swears this isn’t a habit. Since Joy’s already asleep in Amanda’s bunk bed, he offers her the guest room for the night. She falls asleep and has a slayer dream. Back at Willow’s house, Tara is asleep. Willow takes a very long shower to get the scent of Kennedy off her, then goes to bed and snuggles with Tara. In the morning, Tara feels a little better and Willow dishes on Kennedy being so forward. Tara thinks it’s amusing; Willow does not. Back at Chris’s house, Buffy is really hung over, barely remembers her crazy dream, but she powers through it because she has to take Amanda to dance class. She’s also really embarrassed. Chris waves it off. He makes some sort of joke about how she’s already slept over, so how about they have a regular date. He’s not as attractive, objectively, as her husband, but he’s nice, and she needs nice right now. She impulsively kisses him before she leaves. Meanwhile, in Boston, a dark-haired woman wakes with a start. She had the craziest dream, where she was killing vampires and other crazy stuff alongside this blond chick. She collects her stuff, making sure she has the money in an envelope, and gets the hell out of there. Her e-mail on her phone has a message from “Marilyn”, saying she’ll be out of town for the next week, but can’t wait to see her again. Faith hopes so, because Marilyn pays REALLY well.
I completely dropped the “Marilyn” storyline from Faith/Kennedy; it was getting too confusing, and I decided the “intrigue” of it was a waste of time. I was going to reveal that Marilyn was Kennedy, but it just wasn’t worth it to me.
Chapter 8: Buffy comes down to Chris’s cube, which seems to impress a lot of people. I mean, why would the CTO’s secretary be there? She says Kennedy’s here for at least a week, and Willow’s really pissy about it, and making her life more difficult. Chris says she can come down any time. Buffy debates whether or not to kiss him again, and is probably going to, when someone walks up and asks him if he has a minute. She goes back upstairs and sees Kennedy and Willow arguing behind a closed office door. Kennedy leaves the office and saunters away; Willow is fuming. Buffy brings her a cup of tea; Willow snarls at her, but then is immediately contrite. Turns out that Kennedy got a little “fresh” and even if Willow wasn’t basically married she still wouldn’t kiss that woman, let alone sleep with her. She sees kind of a dreamy expression on Buffy’s face and tells her to spill. Buffy says she’s kind of got a thing for someone, and Willow, being perceptive, knows it’s Chris. Later, Willow calls Dawn to say hi, and to see how Buffy is on the rebound — she falls hard every time. Willow doesn’t want to lose her — she’s getting into the swing of things and Willow is considering bringing her on full-time when her contract is up, if she remains this good. Dawn is appreciative of this. Later, as a meeting is ending, Kennedy gets a call and Willow overhears her arguing, something about dreams, and no of course not, and don’t call me I’ll call you, and this isn’t how this works. Willow barbs Kennedy about the whole thing, and Kennedy gets really flustered and angry. Willow is happy to score one on Kennedy.
Some minor changes here, but not many.
Chapter 9: Tuesday morning Buffy is in the cafeteria looking really haggard as she eats breakfast. Satsu comes in to get coffee and looks almost as bad. Again Buffy is drawn to her, but again she resists. She says she’s been having trouble sleeping — crazy dreams — and Satsu has too. Buffy realizes with a start that Satsu was actually in her last dream, that they were fighting side by side, and afterward they kissed, and Buffy flushes and doesn’t tell Satsu about the dream — ANY of it. Willow notices too, once Buffy starts missing stuff, and they talk about it. Willow offers Buffy to take the day off if she needs it, to recover, but Buffy’s still on contract and can’t afford it (Willow realizes) so she declines. In a meeting later, Willow noticed Kennedy is moving kind of stiffly, like she sprained something or worked out really hard. That night Willow mentions this stuff to Tara, who says it’s probably nothing, maybe they all ate at the cafeteria at work — Willow never, EVER does — and something didn’t agree with them. Willow laments Kennedy’s behavior, and Tara starts joking around about role-playing. Willow gets really turned on, and sexytimes occur again.
I don’t think Chapter 9 ended quite like this, but close enough.
Chapter 10: It’s been a tough week for Buffy, and she wants to cancel her date with Chris on Saturday, but at GTFO he seemed so into the idea that she just can’t bear to. So here they are, in a quiet little bar with a jazz trio, just talking. Buffy admits she’s been having trouble sleeping, but also it’s hard doing the divorce thing, what with Joy at her father’s (remember it’s been two weeks since happy hour). The story comes out that her husband cheated on her multiple times, and she was too dense to notice. When she finally caught him, she threw him out. Chris talks about how his ex-wife Violet was jealous all the time of every one of Chris’s female friends, and kept putting restrictions on what he could and couldn’t do/who he could and couldn’t see, just to cover her own insecurities. When he and Amber went out for a drink, she went ballistic and left. They stay for a little while longer, and when Buffy starts to look tired, Chris offers to take her home. They leave. Willow and Tara are cuddled on the couch, watching a movie, and Willow’s phone buzzes. She checks it — it’s a news break about “Atl girl claims man is vampire, kills with wooden stake”. She reads it to Tara. Neither of them believe in the supernatural, although it does come out that Tara (who is a year older than Willow) fell in with the Wicca group at college. Nothing ever happened — no real spells — just a lot of girls who had dreams of being powerful. Shortly after, that’s when Tara met Willow in a class and that’s all she wrote. They’re just about to turn in for the night when someone knocks on their door. Tara goes to answer it, and Willow is just out of frame, a taser in her hand. Tara opens the door… and it’s Xander.
Vi’s behavior vis-a-vis Amber is based on a true story. However, I made Vi a little more levelheaded in this story — she’s a hothead in the Onverse, though.
Chapter 11: Xander looks crazy-eyed. They invite him in, bring him to the kitchen, give him tea. He’s looking rough — hunted, too thin, and unhealthy. He and Jesse were Willow’s best friends growing up, but after high school they went on a road trip and kind of fell off the map for a while. Occasionally he’ll send a letter, but when she moved he couldn’t find her. He asks her if she heard about the girl who stabbed a guy with a wooden stake. That’s how Jesse died a few years ago. He’s been following up on this stuff, having dreams, thinking he’s going crazy, and when he heard about Willow becoming CTO he started making his way here from Vancouver — took a while to get a passport though. The dreams have gotten more intense the closer he got to Atlanta. Tara and Willow aren’t really clear on all this, but Xander is her oldest friend and Willow won’t turn him out late at night. They put him up in the guest room and go to bed. Willow is really worried. Back at Buffy’s apartment, she and Chris kiss on the step, and it’s one of THOSE kisses. They go inside and stuff starts to happen, but Chris says he didn’t plan for it, and doesn’t have protection — which warms Buffy’s heart that he’d stop her before that point. But then he does something her husband NEVER did to her, and the resulting orgasm nearly makes her pass out. At the height of it, she flashes “back” on seeing someone else do this to her, and when Chris looks up, for a moment she sees Satsu’s face superimposed on his. She blinks it away and invites him to her bedroom.
When I outlined Chapter 11, I really didn’t know how I was going to address Xander showing up and getting into the story, so I think this is where some things start to change, at least on the writing side. I ended up going with Xander just telling the story in first-person, and I think it worked. Also, I moved up Jesse’s death to be much more recent.
I do think I crammed a bit too much into the chapter, what with Xander’s big revelations and Buffy and Chris finally getting intimate. And what he did, in case I wasn’t obvious, was perform oral sex on Buffy.
Chapter 12: Middle of the night. Buffy is having a slayer dream. She jerks awake to find Chris there and clutches him tight. He urges her to tell him her dream — she and several other girls were fighting some sort of demonic creature. They defeated it, and were on the way back home when a bomb exploded and she died horribly, on fire. She admits she’s been having dreams like this for a while now, and that they’re getting more frequent. She wonders why. Chris soothes her, holds her, and eventually she falls asleep with him. Back at Willow’s, Xander wakes and immediately runs through the house until he finds an office with a pad and paper. He begins scribbling down his dream, which is the clearest of all. Then, once he has his notes, he calms down, takes the pad in the kitchen, gets a glass of water, and starts writing them out correctly. That’s where Willow finds him early in the morning, passed out with his head on the table, when she gets up to do yoga. She reads his notebook and gets to the part where he describes what happened to her after Tara died. She drops the notebook, which wakes him up, and they have a confrontation — not a bad one, but one nonetheless. Willow throws the notebook at Xander and runs back upstairs to Tara, needing to be with her. She wakes her up and gives her kind of forceful sexytimes, which Tara enjoys, but when it’s over and Willow is in tears Tara gets her to open up about what happened.
I added a B/C sex scene to this chapter, but the main part was Xander’s revelation, which I was more interested in writing.
Chapter 13: Buffy and Chris have breakfast together, and Buffy is trying not to think about the dream because Chris actually cooked something decent in her kitchen. But he can see something’s up and asks her if she’s seen a doctor. She says no, but admits that Satsu said she wasn’t sleeping well either. Buffy gets kind of mad, says she never even did any of the stuff in the dream — but she was a cheerleader, which is a kind of athlete. And Chris knows that Satsu was a champion surfer when she was younger, so again with the athletics. So was Vi — junior olympics in archery and judo, almost made it to the summer games one year but just missed the cut. This is very strange. Chris calls Satsu and asks if she can come over for a few minutes, that Buffy is talking about some strange dreams too, and she agrees. Back at Willow’s, she calls Dawn (who met Xander once) and says Xander had a dream about Buffy (who he’s NEVER met). Dawn hasn’t had anything weird happen to her lately, although an old scar (from where she was stabbed in a robbery, in her stomach, more than ten years ago) has been aching strangely. Willow tells Xander, because Dawn was in the dream too. She sends an e-mail to Fred, asking if there’s any science behind this, and then they start getting ready. Xander needs some new clothes, and then they’re going to start tracking this down.
I didn’t mention out loud that Xander had a dream about Buffy when they made the call to Dawn, and I dropped the e-mail to Fred, but otherwise few changes.
Chapter 14: Work. Xander is there with a spiffy guest badge on; he doesn’t want to stay at the house. He had more dreams last night, a repeat of the death scene and Willow’s difficulties dealing. But just as he gets to the point where he feels most hopeless, he wakes up. If he could just get that one last thing… Anyway, Willow introduces him to Buffy, and Buffy has a “brother” feeling, which is weird because she never had one. Willow suggests everyone they can think of who’s had this happen get together for lunch in her office, which brings in Satsu (Chris is miffed that he can’t come). As they go in, Kennedy — who is still there, although today is supposed to be her last day — walks past, and she looks TERRIBLE. Buffy asks her if she’s been having dreams, and she says yes, and goes in. She also admits that a girl she “sees” back home in Boston has been having them too. The only thing really tying them together is Xander and his story, which has been typed up and passed out. They all start filling in parts of the dreams — Buffy, Satsu, Kennedy, and Xander (in this AU, Kennedy was very much a free spirit, but she and Faith had a friends-with-benefits thing going on). Problem is, in this reality magic and such doesn’t exist, so there’s no way to cast a memory spell or whatever. Buffy mentions that her therapist has a certification in hypnotherapy, and they wonder if they can use that to get into Xander’s mind and see what he’s not remembering. While this is happening, Kennedy gets a call from Faith, who says she needed to see her, she’s in Atlanta now. Kennedy gets really pissed off and slams her fist on the table… and the table cracks. She stares at her hand, which isn’t damaged. WTF?
I changed Xander’s motivation for being at the office just a little bit, because I needed him to be legitimately in the room with the others. Also, this was the first point in the outline where I put Faith and Kennedy together in the Buffyverse (though in Chapter 9 I put them together in the Dreamingverse).
Chapter 15: They all are out of the office for the rest of the day. Buffy’s got Chris watching Joy after school — Willow arranged it so that he could leave work without a penalty — and they’re all at Willow’s house. Buffy’s therapist arrives, pretty put out (usually doesn’t work Mondays), but he agrees to help out. He hypnotizes Xander and they all watch as Xander admits he made a wish of a tall, horned being called D’Hoffryn. He wished that Willow could live a happy life, with no magic or supernatural stuff — he made the wish on behalf of someone else. Willow sends this info to Fred in another e-mail, in case she needs it. The therapist is pretty blarg about all this, and Buffy convinces him that everything is okay, and Willow reminds him that this is all covered under dr/patient rules. He departs. So how are the heroes going to solve this? No one really knows yet, but it’s very strange. Willow invites them to stay for dinner, and orders in a crap-ton of Chinese; she allows Kennedy to have Faith come to the house too. They split into groups — Buffy calls Chris, Satsu goes to sit in the solarium, Xander and Willow set the dining room table talking about what’s going on. Someone knocks — it’s not the food, it’s Faith. When Kennedy and Willow show Faith into the living room, Buffy goes all hard and cold, and Faith gives her a grin and says to Kennedy something about not even charging extra because she really liked Buffy back when they were together that one time. Buffy swings at her, but Faith easily tosses her onto the couch. “Naughty, naughty…”
I dropped the actual hypnosis scene because I couldn’t write it fairly to hypnotherapists or people who engage in hypnosis. Instead I wrote around it, because really, Xander’s reaction is more important than the actual event. Again I dropped Fred because she didn’t fit, and I moved Faith up a little and made her appearance more important.
Chapter 16: It is revealed that Faith is a high-priced escort who Kennedy keeps on the payroll. Often. It also turns out that, back in college, Buffy met Faith while at a cheer competition in Boston and stuff happened. This was before Faith became an escort. Faith was a high-level martial artist, competing at a pro level, but that’s not really a marketable skill, and being a sensei doesn’t really pay the bills. Hence the escorting. Kennedy tells her to tell them about the dreams — Faith remembers fighting a lot of really evil stuff, remembers the fight where she died, and even remembers fighting Buffy. That never happened — they both know it — but it was so real in the dream. Now that Buffy is past the initial shame and anger, some weird feelings of friendship — almost sisterhood — are showing up. Like she and Faith are really close. Strange. Dinner arrives; they all eat; afterward, they work together to try and figure out how to call up D’Hoffryn. Xander has the most memories of trying to do it, so he puzzles it out as best he can with help from Willow on the computer front. They get a spell together but they just need equipment, so Tara and Xander go to the nearest wicca shop. Xander asks Tara if she’s happy with Willow, Tara is mad at Xander for this whole thing, which means if it’s true then she’ll die and she’ll lose Willow. Xander is truly sorry for that, because he’s getting the memories of how much Willow loved Tara — and how much he liked her as a friend. This mollifies her, and they get the magic stuff and go back to the house. The spell is put together, they cast it, and…
I changed Faith’s backstory a little, not mentioning any competitions she might have been in (I’m sure she was in at least one though). Also, I gave Tara a much harder edge in her confrontation with Xander, because I thought it was better for the story. Plus, foreshadowing.
Chapter 17: …nothing. It’s late, everyone is pissed, and they’re all scared of the dreams they’re going to have. Willow says they need to do more research, and they’ll all get together over the weekend and try again. Buffy goes to Chris’s. It’s late, and Joy is already asleep, but Buffy goes into the girls’ room and watches them sleep for a while before finding Chris in the living room. She snuggles with him on the couch and they talk about the memories Buffy is getting — that she thinks she’s in love with Satsu, that she has been for years. But the “real” her thinks she could be falling for Chris. Chris is very matter-of-fact about it — she has to do what she has to do, and if things do get changed back, he’ll never know. In the meantime, he wants to have as much time with Buffy as he can. This touches her heart and they have sexytimes. Kennedy and Faith go back to Kennedy’s hotel room. Faith tries to be all hardcore southie brat about things, but when Kennedy starts to break down, Faith admits she’s a little scared too — but a little hopeful, because she really likes the person she is in the dreams. Kennedy asks Faith to hold her in bed, and she does. Kennedy has a flash of memory of having been with Faith, but never being held like this. She likes it. That just leaves Xander, Willow, and Tara. Willow is frustrated, and scared, and she goes into the solarium and locks the door to stare at the stars. Xander and Tara talk, and Xander tells her everything he remembers about their life together in the dream world. Later, Willow joins Tara in bed, cold and shaking, crying her eyes out because she doesn’t want to lose Tara. When Tara was shot when they were in college — drive-by gone wrong — she was afraid she’d lose her then. “But I lived,” Tara says. “I lived for you.” Tara tells Willow everything Xander told her, tells her that no matter what happens she’ll love her forever, whether it’s in this world for another 70 years or in that one for another 7 seconds. They kiss, and the lights dim. That leaves Xander, alone in Willow’s home office, using her computer. He has an e-mail in an account he’s been checking in libraries and such — the man finally got back to him. Fr Rupert Giles To Xander Harris etc etc… Giles is a student of the mystic, and has been on a lot of those “true paranormal” TV shows as an “expert”, since people actually SAW him conjure up SOMETHING in 1980. Giles admits he’s heard of things like this, dreams that are reality, prophecies, etc. He’s sent Xander a scan of some pages of one of his books. Xander begins to read.
I made Faith and Kennedy’s scene a little less tender than I wrote it in the outline, because really, it didn’t fit the characters. I vagued up Giles a little too.
Chapter 18: The week progresses slowly. On Thursday, everyone involved is asked to take Friday off, relax, settle their affairs, because Xander has discovered something, and with a little help he thinks he can make magic happen even though it doesn’t exist here… using SCIENCE. He thinks. And, either they do it this weekend or they don’t do it at all, because there’s too much pain involved with the not knowing. If it doesn’t work, then they stop trying and they live their normal lives. Buffy asks her ex if she can trade weekends — she has something to do for work that she can’t get out of. It’s not Chris’s weekend for Amanda. On Thursday night, she goes to his house. Chris says Vi called, asked him to take Amanda anyway, she’s been having trouble sleeping — weird dreams. So, if the world is going to end, at least he’ll be with his daughter, the most important person in his life. Buffy starts to cry softly — she can’t be with Joy, doesn’t want her to see. Chris comforts her, holds her, and when she’s done crying she seduces him, and they have sex pretty much all night. Buffy is needy, needful, taking everything from him because she’s afraid she’s going to lose him if they pull this off. She picks up Satsu at home and Satsu is looking pretty ragged — she told her husband about this, and he’s completely disbelieving of it. They got into a hell of a fight. Buffy takes Satsu’s hand as she drives, and it feels so frighteningly natural. She wonders if Satsu has dreamed about what Buffy has — them together — and, when they get out of the car and Satsu presses her up against it and kisses her, she knows she has. Kennedy and Faith are late; Faith is doing something VERY explicit to Kennedy, whose personal kinks are pretty damn far out there. It hurts Kennedy, but she wants it — ever since Monday, she’s felt like she’s been in a fog, that she needs Faith to hurt her, and Faith has obliged. And Faith is keeping it together for Kennedy’s sake. They shower, dress, and Kennedy walks awkwardly to the car while Faith puts on her fake cockiness. Willow and Tara are already dressed and ready, as is Xander. W&T made love several times last night and once more in the morning, but Willow can see that even though Tara is putting on her strong face — she was always the strong one — she’s as scared as Willow, if not more. Xander keeps hugging both of them, and it’s nice (Willow thinks). But she’s also scared of him, because if this magic stuff is real, then there’s going to be trouble. Finally the last guest comes down from the other guest room — Fred, Willow’s friend from UCLA, who has spent the past couple of days working with Xander. Fred’s area of physics, alternate dimensions and quantum theory, is really coming in handy. Buffy and Satsu sit together on the couch; Faith and Kennedy arrive and Kennedy is pale while Faith is like a prowling tiger; Willow and Tara hold each other close; Xander just waits as Fred begins to explain what they have to do.
Only minor changes. I do know what Faith and Kennedy did that was so explicit, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spell it out. Use your imagination. I also had Xander stop hugging Tara — remember, she’s mad at him. This is when Fred returns, and I had a little fear of deus ex machina, but I think it worked out okay. People just love Fred, after all.
Chapter 19: This time, Tara and Willow do the spell to call up D’Hoffryn — Xander thinks because they are witches in the dream-world, they might have enough power to pull it off here too. Just as they hit the high point of the spell, Fred activates some scientific equipment she’s had placed around the runes on the floor (borrowed from the science department at GA Tech). The power flowing through it creates a rift or portal and D’Hoffryn is visible on the other side. He is NOT happy. Xander tells him it was a mistake, he shouldn’t have done it, they deserve their real lives back. But even D’Hoffryn can’t undo this wish, because in the world Xander created… there is no magic. D’Hoffryn can’t even come through because he would instantly cease to exist. Only Fred’s quantum science makes it possible to even TALK to him. “Besides,” he says, “it’s better for you here. Your friend is not threatening suicide. The slayers aren’t dead, and they’re not fighting for their lives on a nightly basis. Many of you have love and happiness. Why would you want to give that up?” But then D’Hoffryn says, “I can, however, stop the dreams. They’re leaking through from my reality to yours. It’s the least I can do, if you wish it.” Buffy stands up, about to speak… but then Faith says “I wish for the dreams to stop” in her soft, smoky voice. D’Hoffryn says “done. Now… live your lives.” Not unkindly. Willow, in tears, puts her hand on Fred’s and Fred closes the rift. Xander falls to the ground, a broken man — he basically killed every single slayer in existence just to save his best friend in the universe. She hugs him, tells him she understands, and thanks him — honestly, truly, from the bottom of her heart — that he sacrificed everything that made him special so that she wouldn’t have to lose what she had with Tara. He looks to the others — Buffy and Satsu, Faith and Kennedy — and apologizes for taking their lives away from them.
I definitely wrote a lot of this scene in the outline, but what you’ll notice is missing is the slayers (and Tara) thanking Xander for making their lives better. That was a game-time decision, one that I’m glad I made, because I think it helped to redeem Xander for basically destroying the world (even if he replaced it with another one).
Chapter 20: Monday morning. Willow and Tara say goodbye to Kennedy and Faith, who were staying in their house for the weekend. They get in a cab with their things and head to the airport. Kennedy, strangely, is afraid of flying. She has plenty of drugs to help her, but Faith tells her no, in the other reality, she was strong, fearless, and now she has to be strong. Kennedy is petrified, but Faith promises to keep her mind off things, and she has a big reward planned when they get home. “Home?” Faith shrugs. “Sure, baby. If you’ll have me.” In that moment, Kennedy realizes that Faith has just been hanging on, that she’s fallen for Kennedy and Kennedy has fallen for her. They head for the security line. Buffy and Chris drive in to work together — Buffy is going to pick Joy up from school this afternoon, with Willow’s blessing. She’s concerned Chris will be upset that Satsu kissed her — that she still thinks she has some lingering feelings for Satsu — but he isn’t. He’s happy that they’re still together, and refuses to apologize for that even though she had this other life where she didn’t make the mistakes she made in this one. He says he doesn’t care, he likes her for who she is now, and wants to see where they end up. Plus, the kids get along. He asks if they can be exclusive to each other, and she agrees. They get out of the car, kiss, and go inside. Buffy stops by Satsu’s desk to talk to her — her husband is still pretty leery, but she didn’t leave him, didn’t cheat, didn’t outright lie, and they’re still together. Buffy apologizes and says she and Chris are going to be exclusive now, and Satsu says that’s all right, she needs to get things patched up with him. Buffy can’t take her eyes off Satsu’s mouth, can’t stop remembering that it tasted sweet and spicy, like cinnamon… but she has to get to work. She goes upstairs and finds Willow already in her office. They meet, talk about work stuff, and finally Willow apologizes to Buffy. Xander filled in the details on how she was the Slayer, the oldest and best of them, the most respected… but Buffy says it had been a hard life, with a lot of heartache and pain, and right now things are looking hopeful, what with Chris in the picture. Willow nods, but she’s still not 100% okay with Xander having changed the world just for her. That night, while Tara is out at a professional event, Willow and Xander sit in the solarium and talk, drinking wine and beer (respecitvely). When D’Hoffryn left, and turned off the dreams, he gave Xander a little something extra — perfect memories of everything from the moment he met Buffy in 1997 (new kid at SD high) all the way through to the end of their world. He’s been writing them in prose form; maybe he can get a book deal. Willow jokes that maybe the guy who made Firefly (in this universe, it ran for seven seasons, with Cordelia as a recurring villain in S3-5) to turn them into a TV show or movie. Xander is still pretty down, but Willow tells him again that he gave her Tara after she lost her, and he sacrificed all his specialness just to make sure she was happy. She will always love him for that, always owe him everything. That night, she and Tara go to bed and decompress. They have sex — slow and gentle and sweet — and when it’s over, curl up like spoons. Willow decides that she’s okay with this world. She has the woman she loves, the best friend who would do anything for her, and a life that she wouldn’t give up for any amount of money or magic. Besides (snuggles deeper into Tara, who stirs and starts touching her again), she has all the magic she needs right here.
So, what’s different? I made Faith and Kennedy a little less saccharine, Buffy and Chris a little more so, Buffy a little less longing for Satsu (though that plot might come back up in a future story), and dumped Willow’s apology to Buffy — after all, that was already done back on Friday (more or less). I also pushed Cordy into Seasons 6 and 7 of Firefly, as well as 3-5. The ending is pretty much the same.
Epilogue: Somewhere in the Middle East, near an airport. A storm is brewing — lightning, thunder, high-powered wind. People evacuate the area. A series of lightning strikes hit the earth, almost in the same place, and when they disappear, they leave behind a woman in a dark-brown, dusty, scorched-in-places jilbaab, and around her head, a khimar. But her face is visible, and as the storm starts to clear and the lights flicker on, we see that she is pale, with soft but intense blue eyes and a wisp of blond hair escaping the khimar. She looks around, sees everything quiet, and nods, once. “It worked,” she whispers. Then she tucks her hair back in place and strides off purposefully toward the hangar. She has a world to save, and she’s not going to do it here.
I’m not sure why I didn’t explicitly say who that was in the epilogue. Some reviewers suggested Joy (from the future), Tara (from the Buffyverse), and Glory (again from the Buffyverse). Once I finish the sequel, you’ll know exactly who it was (because I reveal it right in the prologue), but for now, you’ll just have to guess.
If you have any questions about the outline or the writing process, please feel free to ask them using my Submit page. If you want a private response, just say so.