Déjà Without a View
(the à la recherche du temps perdu remix)

by Gabrielle (Velvetwhip)

Fandom(s): Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 1,326 words
Rating: PG13
Original story:Dusk Over Pompeii”.

There are wheels within wheels (worlds within worlds) and the sound (no sound, always silent) sends mortals trembling (they don’t know, they never know … well, not many, but some, some know, some even resist, though it doesn’t matter).

The shift lines don’t think, they don’t feel, they simply are because that is as it must be. Swallowing memories and transforming them, taking the pieces that no longer fit into the puzzle of which they are no longer part. The rest? The rest is sculpture.

The Key is the world, and the world must contain The Key.

*               *               *

“Hey there.”

“Hey, yourself.” Willow smiles and sounds happy to see him. It’s a change from the slumped shoulders and eyes-this-close-to-tears Riley’s seen too often from her since that Oz jerk left town. Is that why he’s …?

No. He’s been wanting to do this since the first time he talked to her. It’s just that the jerk was in the way then.

“I was wondering … umm … you think maybe you’d like to go get some coffee with me?”

Her eyes go shadowed and soft and … damn it! Was coffee some special thing she shared with Oz? “Or we could get something else. I hear they serve all different kinds of beverages here in California.”

She giggles and it’s like music and there’s a twinkle in eyes no longer sad. “Coffee’s fine. But I have to warn you, I kind of have this … reaction to caffeine.”

Oh no. “Allergic reaction?”

More giggling. “No. More like uber-spazz. I get pretty hyper and …”

He smiles and she keeps on smiling. “I’d like to see that.”

And so he does.

And he likes it.

He likes it a lot.

*               *               *

The shift lines move and the moments vanish.

There is a why to all of this, and there are whys beneath the why (though the shift lines neither know nor care), but in the end there is only thing that matters, one purpose, one law:

The Key is the world, and the world must contain The Key.

*               *               *

Riley doesn’t know what he expected — yarmulkes, maybe? A menorah? Or … (he has to admit he’s never really known anyone Jewish before, let alone dated a Jewish girl and met her parents) — but no, here he is, sitting at a dinner table just like any dinner table in Iowa, eating a very bland roast and making perfectly ordinary chit-chat with the parents of his new girlfriend. Everything’s completely normal. Good even.

Until …

“So, Riley. What branch of psychology are you studying?”

“Well, I’m in Biopsychology right now, and I’m thinking of …” Willow’s eyes shoot wide to warn him, to remind him of what they had talked about for hours last night (tears — there had even been tears, because hypocrisy hurts), but …

No, he spoke out of turn, somehow forgetting that her parents are both fanatics on the subject of nurture versus nature.


He doesn’t back down, though, and an hour later he realizes that for the first time ever, the parents of a girl he’s dating don’t adore him.

In fact, the Rosenbergs don’t even like him.

Lucky for him, it doesn’t matter.

Willow still holds his hand as they walk back to the dorms.

When he kisses her good night, he knows.

She’s the one.

*               *               *

The shift lines are artists, in their way, and the only thing that matters is the creation — what must be because the only thing they know is this one thing: It. Must. Be. So.

The shift lines contain worlds: happier worlds, sadder worlds, but they are worlds which cannot be because they are not the world which must be.

The Key is the world, and the world must contain The Key.

*               *               *


“Uh huh?” Her voice is soft and husky, the way it always is after they’ve made love. She has many voices — her babbling, giddy, caffeine-buzz voice; her high, excited, hey-I-just-found-the-answer voice; her stern, resolute, Resolve-Face voice — and Riley loves them all. This one, though? Riley is sure this is his favorite Willow voice.

“Just wondering if you were awake, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh,” she says again, but now he can hear the slurry undertone of fatigue. Is it wrong that he feels a burst of masculine pride? Well, he does. He can wear out a witch and that’s no mean feat.

He stares down at her face; there’s the smattering of freckles that seem to be a different number every time he counts them — and isn’t that maddening to a precise, orderly guy like Riley Finn? — the green eyes that never, ever go cold or clouded, that soft, cute little mouth with the lips he’ll never get tired of kissing.

“I love you.” They both say it, though which one says it first — said it first — is unclear. It doesn’t matter. Because it’s the truth. It will always be the truth.

They are meant to be.

*               *               *

Running from the shift lines only delays the inevitable. Humans tire; humans stumble; humans look left when they should have looked right. Eventually they succumb. Sooner or later, they all succumb. If they only knew, would they resist? Or would they accept even if they are too small to understand?

None of that matters, of course, because the shift lines have their work and time — all the time in eternity — to do what must be done.

To create (to destroy, but it means the same thing).

And in time, the shift lines always win.

The memories, the bright and shining stuff of dreams (the what-once-was-but-never-was), are carved away and fall into nothingness.

What is left is what must be so.

The Key is the world, and the world must contain The Key.

*               *               *

He’s been psyching himself up for this for what seems like forever. Big, tough soldier Riley Finn who’s faced at least 40 species of demons — and Professor Walsh — and he’s scared of … he takes a deep breath and knocks on the dorm room door.

Willow’s voice, weak and sad, calls out, “Come in,” so he does.

What is that whiny garbage she’s listening to? “Hope I’m not interrupting anything really depressing.” As he says it, he knows that he is. Poor kid. Still knocked back by that dumb ex-boyfriend of hers, huh? Guess finding out this morning that he’s gone for good didn’t help.

For a second he feels a pang, thinks maybe this is an insensitive thing to do, but … he’s here, now, and he might never have the courage again, so when she asks, “What’s up?” … well, he bulldozes into it.

“Right to the point, okay. I was thinking of asking out Buffy.”

There is some awkwardness and for a few minutes it looks like she’s the enemy, but then…

“She has a stuffed pig named Mr. Gordo. She loves Ice Capades without the irony. Oh, and she’s dragging me to this party tonight at Lowell House.”

What do you know? She’s an ally and a damn useful one. With Willow’s help, he’s going to get the girl.

For a fleeting moment, compassion for Willow flares and he hopes she’ll find someone new of her own, but then it’s all lost in the giddiness of hope and desire. Buffy’s going to be at Lowell tonight.

The gorgeous golden blonde of his dreams is going to be at his House.

This must be meant to be.

By the time he makes it home, he isn’t thinking of Buffy’s friend at all.

What should he wear tonight?

*               *               *

There is more work to do, so the shift lines keep moving. They are the keepers (swallowers: carnivorous, ravenous, blank) of memories that no longer refer to events, but they remember nothing. The shift lines don’t feel and they don’t think. They simply are because they must be. They continue on; keep creating (destroying, obliterating).

The Key is the world, and the world must contain The Key.


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