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Soul Swap

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The once luscious prairie was a barren wasteland. Burned grass was littered with blood and body parts. For miles and miles, it was all that could be seen. The sole survivor sat in the shade her tent provided, protecting her from the summer heat.  Her hardened, green eyes watched the mosquitoes taking advantage of the devastation before her. Yet again, she had to endure tremendous loss. And, to her dismay, she again remained very much alive. What did being alive even mean anymore when everyone around her kept dying?

She wiped her face and was surprised to find tears. Huh. She didn’t know the last time she cried. She had cried when her watcher sacrificed himself for her years earlier. She sobbed when her sister used her very essence to stop a previous apocalypse, leaving only memories behind. But, by the time her oldest friends had died in battle, the survivor found her cheeks dry. She kept on surviving, and in return emptiness took up residence deep inside of her. When did the emptiness begin, really? Was it once none of the Scoobies remained? When Angel died a very human death? Perhaps it was when she found herself still alive after a bomb had shattered her body into pieces: undeniable proof that the activation of the Potentials activated something in herself as well. Or, maybe it really was like her sister had said: when Spike died, a part of her older sister died with him.

No. She wasn’t thinking about that. She turned away from the battlefield and entered her tent. It didn’t matter that it had been thirty years ago. She still avoided thinking about that day. About what she lost that day. Because, if she went down that line of thinking, she would start a cycle of what ifs and find herself in despair. At this point, feeling numb was better than feeling regret. With a sigh, she went to her medkit. She would heal without any interference, she knew this, but it was less painful to at least help her body out. She popped her dislocated shoulder back into its socket and looked at the deep laceration in her arm. Exposed bone and vasculature stared back at her. The survivor opened up a dressing kit and briefly considered if it would be a good idea to use packing or not. It helped the wound heal much faster, but if she forgot about it, then she would have gauze ribbons trapped under her skin until it eventually dissolved. And, it tended to be really uncomfortable when that happened. She took a saline syringe and began debridement of dead tissue and winced. Shit. She always forgot how painful that was. She turned her head to look for her bag of medications.

“Looking for this?”

The survivor looked up. Standing in her tent was a woman in a white dress. She had a soft, ethereal glow to her. Her dark hair was down and impeccable: not a single strand out of place.

“Cordelia,” the survivor said.

“Yes, hi Buffy. Been a while, hasn’t it?”

“You look the same as always. I like the dress,” she said with a neutral tone. Cordelia looked down and moved side to side.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?”

“What are you doing here, Cordy?” Buffy asked. Cordelia crossed her arms.

“Straight to business, huh?”

“Look, Cordelia. If you’re not here to deliver a quick message and flee, you could at least pass me some dilaudid.” The elegant woman sighed and opened the bag in front of her. She tossed a bottle of pills to the survivor. Buffy frowned.

“What’s wrong with it?” Cordelia asked.

“Pills. It’ll take too long to start working. I need an injection. Pass me one of the vials,” Buffy instructed. Cordelia looked through the bag for the correct vial. “So, why are you visiting, Cordy?”

“What, I can’t just come by and say hi to my favourite immortal Slayer?”

“It’s not like I have a lot of competition.”

“Yeah, but for a while Faith was a lot more fun to hang out with. Catch.” Having found the correct vial, Cordelia tossed it to Buffy. She caught it with ease and opened it, preparing the injection.

“Plus, I actually listen to your bosses.”

“That and you’re not psychotic.” Buffy winced. She didn’t enjoy her unwanted status of immortal, but she handled it a lot better than her counterpart. Faith had taken it in stride at first, but as the years passed she broke. She was a shadow of the woman she once was. One of the many victims from the activation of the Potentials. Buffy forcefully pushed the thought out of her head—a skill she was becoming very good at—and injected herself in the shoulder with the pain killer. Cordelia frowned.

“Aren’t you supposed to put that in your veins?”

“It lasts longer if it’s in the fatty tissue. My body absorbs it so quickly that it would only last a minute or two directly in the bloodstream.”

“Huh.”

With the analgesic beginning to numb the pain, Buffy resumed the debridement of her wound. She noticed the tissues beginning to reform already. In an hour, there probably wouldn’t be much tunneling. “So, I’m gonna ask for the last time,” the survivor said. “Why are you here?”

“The Powers want to give you another chance.”

“Chance at what?”

“A chance to change all of this. Everything. Preventing this future from occurring.”

Buffy stopped working immediately and turned to Cordelia. She stared into her eyes.

“You’re talking about time travel,” she said plainly.

“Duh.”

“Why?”

Buffy knew the Powers That Be didn’t do things just to be nice. They wouldn’t do this to make Buffy’s life better, not if there wasn’t an ulterior motive. Years of being their Champion taught her that pretty quickly.

“Oh, you know well enough why,” Cordelia said with an eye roll. And she did: the activation of the Potentials. It was what caused this entire hell. The wars between Slayer factions, the government coups, the massacres, her cursed immortality; all of it could be traced to that one action. At the time, it seemed like the only option. If only they knew the suffering that it would have caused.

“Preventing the activation of the Potentials.”

“No, you think?” replied Cordelia sarcastically. “Listen, Buffy. The Powers are really not happy with that stunt you guys pulled with the Potentials. Well, not happy is the understatement of the year. Anyway, they want you to go back and change it. You can change whatever else you want while you’re at it. They don’t care. But you can’t let them all be activated again.”

“It’s never that easy, Cordelia. I’m not an idiot. What’s the catch?”

Cordelia sighed and took a seat on the cot. She pushed back her long locks of hair.

“We can’t send you as a whole back. It would upset the balance to have 2 Buffys at once. And, although your body hasn’t aged since 2003, it has also changed. It would be pretty jarring to anyone seeing the difference. So, that leaves your mind and soul. We’re unable to mix both your current and past mind, so that leaves your soul.”

“Wait, why can’t you send my mind back?”

“Well we can’t just swap your younger mind with your current one. Do you remember what exactly you were doing 30 plus years ago? If you were out of milk or what homework is due?”

Buffy looked at her with a blank face.

“Exactly. But, at the same time, it’s too dangerous for you to have both minds at one time. It would cause too much mental and psychological damage to do that. Basically, it’s just not in your best interest, trust me. So, that leaves your soul. Since you’re the same person, it’s not much of a problem to change out your essence- your soul.”

“Cordy. How the fuck am I supposed change shit as a soul?”

“Well. We’ll just hope that your younger counterpart listens to her heart,” Cordelia said with a sly smile. Buffy groaned.

“The last piece of business is determining an anchor point. That is, a point in your past where we can swap out your soul.”

“Oh, oh! I know this one! It’s when I died, isn’t it? Do I get full marks?” Buffy asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“You know, you don’t have to give me the attitude. This is something you want too, isn’t it? Another chance to see him.” At this Buffy turned away. Cordelia was right. Her heart leapt as soon as she heard the phrase “give you another chance”. As much as she may try to state otherwise Buffy would do anything to see him again. In front of her was the ability to do so and maybe.

Maybe this time he would believe her.

“So, Buffy? Which death do you want to start from?” the brunette asked. Right, that first death as brief as it was still counted, didn’t it? If she chose her second death he would already love her. Her sister would be there. And damn, she didn’t want to do high school again. But she was still ashamed of her actions even before that awful year. She wasn’t there for her friends. She refused the love he gave her. And, of course, her mom would still be dead.

Her mother. She took a sharp inhale. Oh, why did that affect her so strongly? She was beyond emotion by this point, wasn’t she?

For the first time in years, her heart answered before her mind could catch up.

“The first one.”

“Done. And Buffy? I’m sorry for being such a bitch back then.”

Buffy smiled and the world fell apart around her into a blinding white.