Characters: Whole Cast
Spoilers: Grave and Tomorrow
Disclaimer: Don’t own them. Not sure I want them anymore, not even for the money. But as you’ll see, I’m not ready to give up on them yet.
Summary: A mysterious visitor brings the characters a message of hope.
Scene: The Sunnydale contingent sits listlessly around Buffy’s living room. Tomorrow is playing on a TV in the background, but no one is paying attention. Willow, still dressed in black, is sobbing into Tara’s arms while Oz pats her back. Spike is still scorched, and he hasn’t even bothered to put a shirt on. He sits beside Dru, glaring. She tries to comfort him, but he doesn’t respond. Xander and Anya cling together like frightened children, while Buffy and Giles just look exhausted and emotionally dead.
Willow (Sobbing): I’m the Big Bad! I’m the Big Bad!
Tara (Soothing): It’s all right honey. Or…it will be. As long as you’re alive (tries to keep the bitterness out of her voice) there’s hope. You’ll be back in the fall.
Willow: But what will I come back as? Two years ago I didn’t want to slay the oppressed native american vengeance spirit. Last year I didn’t want to hurt the horsies. This year, I’m killing baby animals, abusing my girlfriend, and destroying the world. (Wails) I’m the Big Bad!
Spike (Disgusted): And I’m bloody well not. It’s finally happened. They got rid of the original Angel, found out that the series couldn’t work without him, so they’ve turned me into him. It wasn’t enough that they’ve turned me into an utter wanker. No! They had to give me a soul!
Giles: So. To sum up: one beloved character is dead, two are irrevocably damaged, and the Magic Box is destroyed. The only long-term lesbian couple on American television is gone, as is the only heterosexual relationship on either show that even approaches healthy. Buffy has spent a whole season being humiliated and degraded, to the point that she’s now a shadow of her former vivacious self, and I’ve been reduced to occasional visits. Did I miss anything?
Buffy (Dully): It could have been worse.
Everyone turns to stare at her in disbelief.
Tara: I’m dead!
Spike: I have a soul!
Willow: I’m the Big Bad!
Anya: How could it possibly be worse?
Buffy: The season had a couple of bright spots. Like "Once More With Feeling". The finale was exciting and visually gorgeous and the music at the end was almost a match for "Full of Grace," and Willow and Xander had a moment they’ve been building to since the series began. At least that was emotionally true. So it could have been worse.
The front door slams open.
Angel (Off-screen): You could have had our season, and our finale.
Angel, still dripping wet, stomps in the front door, followed by a still-glowing Cordelia, with the rest of the crew following behind. Wesley sports a three-day beard and a Ripper-esque bottle of gin, Gunn and Lorne just look depressed, Fred immediately scurries up the stairs.
Spike: Where is she off to?
Gunn: To talk boy bands with Dawn.
Angel: Buffy, do you still have that extra set of clothes I left here?
Buffy: Bottom drawer.
Angel: Good. I’ll be right back
Angel kicks his shoes off and starts up the stairs, already pulling his wet shirt off.
Oz (To Gunn): Boy bands?
Gunn sits down with a sigh.
Gunn: She’s a nice kid. But if they ever script a sex scene for us, I’m calling child services on Joss. You know all of those little signals and cues that a woman gives off, that say "It’s mating season"?
Oz (Cautiously): Yeah.
Gunn: She doesn’t give off any. I mean, there’s room in my libido for women that aren’t stacked like Dolly Parton, but she’s a kid! And a traumatized kid at that. I feel nasty every time I touch her. I really wish they’d let me have some kind of big brother thing with her instead—she needs taking care of, not lovin’.
Wesley (Very slowly and carefully): And yet, Gunn and I have spent all season pursuing this waif, ignoring a strong, clearly adult woman like Cordelia. To keep out of Angel’s way, I suppose.
Buffy (To Cordelia): "I’m in love with Angel"?
Cordelia spreads her hands helplessly. Her mouth moves, but no words come out, then she buries her face in her hands.
Angel comes back down the stairs, dressed in simple blue jeans and a sweater.
Angel: Good thing we had all of those people around to tell us we were in love, or else we never would have figured it out for ourselves. What kind of love story takes a whole season’s worth of people telling us we’re in love and events pushing us together before we figure it out? I’ve never even heard of a couple with so little chemistry.
Connor just came in Dawn’s window. Don’t worry, I don’t think he’s quite figured out what to do with a girl yet. He’s just not used to crowds.
Anya: Just what is the point of him, anyway?
Angel (sitting down beside Buffy): To bring in the early-teen audience, now that the primary cast is getting too old for them to identify with. Just like Dawn.
Buffy: Not that they should be watching, now that we’ve turned into soft porn.
Cordelia: Speaking of couples with no chemistry…
Buffy: We had chemistry. It’s just that all we made was poison.
A few moments of silence, broken by the occasional sigh.
Anya: Of course you all realize that we’re doomed.
Xander: Hey. That’s no kind of way to talk.
Willow (Bleakly): No, it’s true. I’ve been online. We’re losing fans—not just numbers, fans. Diehards, people who’ve been with us from the beginning, people who’ve written epic novels about us—we’re losing them. They’re turning the channel and closing their sites.
A moment of grim silence at this terrible, but unsurprising news.
Giles: Anya’s right. We’re doomed. (Holds out his hand to Wesley, who gives him the bottle of gin.)
Voice (OS): In a way you’re correct. But in a way, you couldn’t be more wrong.
All heads turn toward the voice. A new armchair has appeared at the end of the room, and a strange figure is seated in it: a tall, thin man with eyes too deep-set to be easily seen; skin, royal robes, and long, wild, spiky hair that are all absolutely white; and an amulet made of what looks to be a huge emerald.
Everyone jumps to their feet.
Buffy: Okay, who are you, where did you come from, and how did you get in here without us noticing?
Figure: I am everywhere, and so I had no need to "get in". As for who I am…I was Daniel once, but he is gone. I was Lord Morpheus once, but he is dead. You may call me Dream, if that suits you.
Wesley, Giles, Willow, Tara, and Anya all look stunned.
Tara: Lord Oneiros? Husband of the muse Calliope?
Dream: Lord Morpheus was Lord Oneiros, and I am neither. I am Dream. That is enough.
Buffy (to the gaping scholars, impatient): So are we dealing with trouble here, or not?
Dream: No trouble.
Giles (awed): Buffy this is…this is Dream of the Endless. He’s the King of Dreams…the Prince of Stories…
Dream: Which is where my interest in you lies.
The group returns to their seats.
Buffy: You’re a bit late, your majesty. The story is already dead.
Dream: Again, I say that you’re not entirely correct about that.
Cordelia: Oh, come on! What’s left? They’ve turned to demographic-targeted marketing with the two impossible children upstairs. They’re forcing totally unbuyable relationships on both shows just so they don’t have to do crossovers. And what they’re doing to us! They’ve turned Spike into Angel and me—I’m a blond sword-slinger, which makes me Buffy, only I glow, fly, have visions, kill demons, and heal souls. I’m Saint Corduffy of the Nightlights!
Wesley (takes the bottle back from Giles): I’ve become such an arsehole that I can kidnap my best friend’s son, leading to his further kidnap to Hell, and still be self-righteously angry that no one wants to have anything to do with me.
Gunn: And I’ve found more happiness working for Wesley and dating a mousy white girl than I ever did leading my own crew. And I sold my soul for a truck! A truck! I know every car thief and chop-shop in LA, but I sell my soul to get a truck. What the hell?
Angel (softly, ashamed): I’m a dork.
Xander: Well, you never were exactly the most socially skilled, were you?
Angel: Charlton Heston film festival.
Xander: Oh, yeah. I can’t believe they made you do that. Did you ever manage to get the film?
Angel: I didn’t bother. Once it showed on TV, it was already too late. It’s on VCR tapes all across America now.
Dream: All of this is true. And to a degree, you are correct. The series are doomed. It would take nothing short of a miracle to extend them beyond their current seasons. And yet, the stories aren’t over.
Intrigued, the characters all give him their full attention.
Dream: What you don’t understand is that you are all True Stories. Not true in the sense of having occurred in the world of fact, but true in that you touch something real and powerful in the human spirit. And believe me when I say that the truths that True Stories tell live on long after mere facts are dust and ashes and forgot.
Willow: That may have been true once, but look at us! They’re killing the story. The magic is almost gone. (Mutters) Which may be a good thing, since it’s now evil and addictive.
Dream: "They" have no power to kill you. True Stories don’t die just because incompetence or greed or even their creator’s negligence mars their "Official" form. True Stories take seed in people’s hearts. Nearly forty years later, despite a third season and several movies that even the fans deny ever happened, Star Trek still has the power to inspire people to near-worship. The legend of Star Wars has survived two weak movies. Lord of The Rings has outlasted sixty years and countless imitations. Even a simple children’s story like Scooby Doo has lasted twenty years, endured a late-added mistake of a character like you have, and returned stronger than ever.
Looking more excited and hopeful than they have in a long time, they take advantage of his pause to begin whispering among themselves:
Cordelia: Giles—does this guy really know what he’s talking about?
Giles: He does, Cordelia. He really does.
Dream: And what’s more, consider this: you are part of the Great Stories—the star-crossed lovers, the hero’s journey. And the Great Stories always return to their true forms, despite the efforts of the greedy and the foolish to force them into the forms they wish. Those true forms shall manifest in the novels, and the comics, and especially on the internet, where those in whom the seeds of your story have taken root write stories of their own.
Willow: He’s right. When I was on the web, I was so depressed that all I paid attention to was the people leaving. But that’s not all I saw. There are people who are still holding on. People who remember what we’re really like. People who remember that Cordy has sass—
Cordelia suddenly flashes into the fashionably-dressed, brunette self that she was until early A:TS S3.
Cordelia: Much better.
Willow: --that Angel has class, that I don’t kill cute things and Gunn doesn’t take orders.
Giles: That I would never abandon Buffy after she’d been through one trauma after another?
Giles (With a sigh): Well. That does give me some hope.
Dream: It should. Not long from now—a year, perhaps—the series will end, but the Story will continue, and you will pass on into the Story, as others have before you. Doyle, Jenny, Joyce…
(He actually grins for a moment)
Though I do fear that certain…late additions…who have failed to capture anyone’s heart or imagination may not.
(He pulls an old-fashioned pocket watch from his robes)
Ah. It seems I must leave you now. Fare well, until you join those who have gone before you into the Story.
Buffy: Wait! I still—
Buffy: Why do god-types always do that? I hate that.
Wesley (sets the bottle down on the table, puts the cork in it) (still very slow and precisely correct): I find that I don’t really care. His message comes as a great comfort. I believe I may be able to face one more year of the series, knowing that the true story is going on elsewhere.
Giles: Hear, hear.
The others all make noises of agreement, which are interrupted when Dawn, Connor, and Fred come down the stairs.
Dawn: Hey, everybody. Buffy, we’re hungry. Could we order a pizza?
Wesley (Uncorks the bottle again): Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.
Dream steps into what looks like an endless plain of fog with mirrors hanging in midair. He is greeted by a very short, very fat woman. She is naked, with ash-gray skin and straggly black hair.
Woman: You’re not supposed to interfere in my business like this, Dream.
Dream: Interfere, Despair? They are stories, which makes them my business.
Despair: I’ve worked long and hard on them. You had no right to go in there and give them hope.
Dream: I had every right. As I said, they are stories. They are mine. Besides, all I did was tell them the truth.
Despair: Which gave them hope. As you knew it would.
Dream: Don’t be greedy, sister. You already have their audience. You have no need for them as well. But if it will make you feel better, I will give you this in exchange: their creator has grown greedy. He works on too many things at once, neglecting the stories he has already created for some new project. If he continues to abuse his gifts in this way, I shall withdraw them. Then he shall be yours.
Despair ponders this for a moment, then grins a sharp-toothed grin.