December 3rd, 2001, second try
Buffy had rarely had her clock cleaned so efficiently, so thoroughly, or so quickly.
While the bad guys overmatched them, Buffy hadn’t thought it was by so much. She felt she was the equal of her counterpart and certainly everyone else combined could hold off Piper and Angel, right?
While she wasn’t horribly outclassed by the Buffy of 2009, that Buffy had had seven years to lose her ethics and develop into an efficient if oddly perky killer. The rest of the fight combined was barely a contest, and this was in spite of the Three’s stated desire not to injure any of them too badly.
“We’re not sure if those devices’ll work,” FutureBuff had said. “Better keep ‘em alive just in case. Piper, this means no blowing anyone up.”
“You are NO FUN,” Piper’d said.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t freeze them though,” Angel’d said. “Doesn’t mean we can’t do some pounding. Willow! Don’t you worry. We’re not going to hurt you. Her will be done.”
“Her will be done,” the other two Three had echoed.
And unfortunately where spells were concerned Willow’d been the only one who might have given the future Piper a run for her magic, but Willow hadn’t been having any of it. Her contributions to the fight had been limited to breaking a chair over the back of Angel’s head and getting almost gently knocked into a wall.
Piper’s first action had been to freeze Tara before she could open her mouth; then she’d narrowly missed Hood with the same maneuver.
Hood, though, had gotten off four or five blows to Angel – including one very cool Matrix-y level kick to the head – before Angel had decided he’d had enough and thrown her the length of the house. Meanwhile, Phoebe and Cole’s fight against Piper had been almost equally brief. Phoebe’d been blasted backwards by a demony-looking ball lightning thing, and Cole, after actually managing to catch Piper in a chokehold, had found himself flipped over and frozen. After she froze him, Piper’d muttered, “Do you think I spent the last eight years doing needlepoint?”
Which more or less left Buffy fighting all three of them. She could have beaten her future self, though she wouldn’t actually have laid odds on it. But against all three, she didn’t have a chance.
She’d lost consciousness for a minute.
Now, when she regained it, they’d stopped hitting her – though Angel was still standing there – and the other her was saying to three people she couldn’t quite see, “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,” before jumping in and slugging away.
Or trying to. Quickly, the other Buffy was frozen. Which meant one of the newcomers was the Piper Halliwell that damn well belonged here.
“You know,” Angel said, charging forward, “If your other devices work as well as this one her will is screwed.”
“Shut up,” Future Piper said, unfreezing FutureBuff with a wave of her hand.
Renewed slightly, Buffy staggered forward and slammed her future self in the back before she could move. Then she turned and hit the most dangerous member of the Three as hard as she could at the base of her skull.
The future Piper Halliwell staggered and went down. Buffy turned towards the two warriors of the group. Over against the wall, Willow woke up. The only one still fully down for the count was Cole.
Joined by Phoebe, who’d understandably taken a couple of minutes to recover being thrown twenty feet into a wall, Buffy started in on her duplicate. In the meantime, Angel was resisting all efforts by Piper to freeze him or explode him.
That meant that their only way of stopping him would be to forcibly remove the Gem of Amarra stuck in him somewhere, and Buffy doubted he’d hold still for any exploratory surgery.
While they were tag-teaming her older self as best they could, Buffy said to Phoebe, “Too bad Will’s given up on the teleportation business.” Hood staggered to her feet and came over to assist.
“She has,” Phoebe said. “But Paige hasn’t . . . Hood?”
“No you don’t,” FutureBuff said, reaching out for the scarred woman from the future.
Buffy grabbed her arm. “Yes she does.” For her troubles she got punched in the face.
Hood shoved Angel to one side and yelled to Paige, “Call the Gem of Amarra. It’s inside Angel’s body.”
Then Hood grabbed the vampire; Leo orbed over and did the same thing, and Piper dove for his legs.
They’d only be able to hold him for a very short time. But that was long enough. Paige concentrated and Angel started yelling. A white, sparkling light appeared in her hands, followed an instant later by a darkly glowing gemstone.
Angel threw off his human restraints and came at Paige as fast as he could. “STEP ON IT!” Buffy yelled.
Paige tossed the stone to the ground and stepped on it. A half-second later, Angel grabbed her around the neck and began choking her. “What good do you think that did?” he said.
“This,” Piper said, freezing him in place, then coming over and extricating Paige.
Meanwhile, Buffy, Phoebe and Hood were delivering the knockout blows to the Buffy of the future. When she went down, she and Phoebe did a handslap and then offered one to Hood, who reluctantly returned it.
Cole shouted, “Watch out!” and then Hood –
Vanished as the future Piper slapped something on her back.
Then she stepped towards the still-frozen Tara.
“What the hell did you just do?” Buffy asked.
“Removed her from history,” the witch said. “And as soon as I slap this –“ she help up another device – “on her, it’ll be like none of this ever happened.”
Willow’s breath caught. “I don’t WANT to be the ruler of the world,” she said.
The future Piper smiled. “You will. Your will be done.”
Phoebe caught Piper and Paige’s eyes and mouthed a phrase. Then, as the device was being slapped onto Tara, they chanted to the person most likely to still be able to alter the future,
“When time reboots
You will recall
Behind it all!”
And then there was nothing more to say.
Because there was nothing more, period.
* * * * *
Sometime in June, 2009
The ruler of the earth still floated above her throne.
Angel, Buffy and Piper teleported back in right in front of her.
They all kneeled. “Your will be done,” they said in unison.
“It worked,” Will said. “Any difficulties?”
“I lost my Gem,” Angel said. “Otherwise, bumps and bruises.”
Will giggled and clapped her hands. “Oh, pish tosh, bumps and bruises,” she said. “You guys get worse when you have sex.”
“We try,” Buffy said, putting an arm around Angel’s shoulder.
“And as for the Gem, worry not,” Will told Angel. “I’ll just make you a new one. Because I like you and you’re one of my favorite vampires.”
“Thanks,” Angel said. “You’re one of my favorite all-powerful rulers.”
“Only one of them?” Will asked. “You’re not gonna get a better offer and you know it, buster.”
“Of course we do,” Piper said nervously.
“Piper, after seven years you still haven’t learned to relax. I LIKE you guys. You can tease me.” Piper smiled at this, but Will could tell she still didn’t fully believe her. Oh well, she was obedient, powerful, and damn sexy in her witch getup. Will could live with the rest. “Still, bumps and bruises – better go get them looked at.”
Piper, Buffy and Angel bowed. “Your will be done.”
They walked out of the room and the doors were locked behind them and the ruler of the world floated ever higher.
Will was on her throne.
All was right with the w—
No. No, it wasn’t.
Angrily, she transported Buffy back. After a second of being startled, she said. “Your will be done, Will, but –“
“Not now, Buffy. Open your mind.”
Buffy bowed and Willow watched the last thirty seconds of the vanished timeline through her eyes and ears. She heard the Halliwells chant, “When time reboots you will recall the history behind it all!”
Someone still remembered the future.
She called first Angel – but he’d been frozen – and then Piper, but neither had seen who'd been told.
It wasn’t one of their own. Buffy’d been looking at the other Buffy, and Piper’d seen a couple of others . . .
They’d reminded the most potentially dangerous person in the past.
They’d reminded WILLOW.
She dropped to the throne, stood up, and prepared a spell of time travel, first telling Fiat Voluntas Tua to turn itself off while she was in the past. Wouldn’t do to have it start influencing people too soon, nosirree bob.
Then she traveled back to December 3, 2001.
If you wanted to do something right, apparently you had to do it yourself.
December 3rd, 2001, third try
As they finished up their assault on Kathleen O’Halloran, Willow staggered.
“You do good work,” Buffy said to Phoebe after Phoebe delivered the coup de grace to the redheaded sorceress.
Willow suddenly looked around the alleyway nervously.
“Back atcha,” Phoebe said, rubbing her knuckles, “Though I could do with some of your superstrength every once in a while.”
Willow said, “I –“
“Yeah, but I remember seeing you in Sunnydale,” Buffy said. “You’ve got the Xena thing going. Me, I’m more or less bound by the laws of physics.” Then she stopped. “When this is over maybe we could settle our differences in the ring?”
“I’ll think about that,” Phoebe said, apparently recognizing it for the friendly challenge it was.
“Cool,” Buffy answered. They prepared a binding spell but as they finished casting it on O’Halloran Willow yelled, “STOP!” She spun to look at Leo. “This means you too. Don’t orb out yet.”
“Okay,” the Whitelighter said. “But if someone looks into the alley and sees us standing around an unconscious woman we’re going to have to do some fast talking.”
“What’s wrong, Willow?” Buffy asked, clearly concerned.
Willow waved her arms. “This. All of it. We’re headed right for Armageddon –“
“Have you been possessed by Pat Robertson?” Piper asked.
Willow shook her head. “No. Listen.”
Then she explained what she’d suddenly remembered – all of it.
After a minute they were skeptical.
After five they were horrified.
Once Willow had finished her narrative, Buffy said, “I don’t believe it, Will. You wouldn’t –“
“I would,” Willow said. “I did. Apparently I’m supposed to. And don’t call me that for a while.”
Leo orbed out to take O’Halloran back to her hotel room.
Cole asked practically, “When do we catch up to Rebecca Koch – when did we, I mean?”
“About 6:15,” Willow said after a second. “Sorry. I’m trying to sort through two universes here and I don’t have an eidetic memory. I’m remembering what – Hood – told the rest of us the first time.” She’d decided not to reveal Hood’s true identity, or Tara’s either. There was no point in making the situation any more emotionally distressing than it already was. “But this time we know where she is – we don’t need to go back to the house so Piper can do her location spell.”
“Which means we can get there faster,” Paige said. “Which means we can what? Save the guardian beast?”
“Sheela – the blind witch, you know – she said that Fiat Voluntas Tua was supposed to come to me. So it might be harder than we think. It’s not like we’re fighting against prophecy, but it is five hundred years of magic coming home to roost.”
“Sounds like a pretty big chicken,” Phoebe said. “Where’s Colonel Sanders when you need him?”
Willow glared at her. Orbing back in, Leo held out his hands and said, “Okay. Let’s see if we can talk about this without killing each other.”
“Don’t touch the guardian beast,” Willow said. “Apparently it burns you.”
“Thanks,” Leo said.
Buffy said, “Look. You think if we say sent you to Alcatraz or dumped you onto the next flight at the airport it wouldn’t work ---“
“I can’t say that for sure,” Willow said.
Piper said, “I have an idea. Things are converging so that you get the necklace. So let’s follow what we did originally as closely as we can, so we don’t start worrying the magic or anything.”
“Magic doesn’t worry,” Phoebe said.
“It’s a metaphor,” Piper said irritably. “Run with it, okay? Anyway, then at the last minute or so, Willow doesn’t do what she did originally. She stays out of the alley; she doesn’t catch the necklace. Then we pick it up with our protection spells and we dump it back into a pocket dimension until the Elders can whistle up a new guardian beast.”
“I’m not sure I want to get that close to it,” Willow said.
Buffy shushed the objections Piper was about to raise and told her friend, “We need to do something.”
“I know,” she sighed. “Let’s do it this way. Just remember, do EVERYTHING to stop me from catching the necklace. Knock me out if you have to.”
“We will,” Buffy and Phoebe said simultaneously.
* * * * *
Because they didn’t need to stop off at the mansion, they got to the alley this time about five minutes earlier. Leo, of course, orbed out, waiting to be called, because he hadn’t been there the previous time either.
Fiat Voluntas Tua’s Guardian Beast was undergoing a magical acid bath, just as had been advertised. The group pulled back around the corner before Rebecca Koch saw them and Paige said, “Okay, now what? Do we let the creature suffer and die? Because something seems not right about that.”
“I think I could take her out with a crossbow shot from here,” Buffy said. “If I had a crossbow. But I don’t.”
“We could sneak around the other side, some of us, and take her out that way,” Cole said
Then a voice from behind them said, “What you’re all going to do is sit here for the next five minutes. Just in case one of you actually comes up with a way to change the future.” They spun in place and saw Willow standing there.
Only not. This Willow had longer hair, almost down to her waist; and her outfit was a sheer black robe with a big leather belt around the center and, oddly, sensible shoes.
“Will,” Paige said.
“That’s me,” the woman said cheerily.
Noticing Fiat Voluntas Tua wrapped around Will’s neck, Piper raised her hand said, “So how come we don’t all feel like doing everything you say?”
Will sighed theatrically. “I’m interested in preserving the future, not ruining it. So –“ she waved her hands and they all found themselves unable to move – “None of you are moving for five – no, four – minutes. This won’t hurt. Promise!”
And for three and a half minutes no one moved. Will didn’t bother entertaining them, either.
“Okay,” Will said, clapping her hands and unfreezing them. “There you go! And you’d better hurry.”
“And if we decide not to?” Buffy demanded. “You don’t want Rebecca Koch getting that necklace any more than we do.”
“You want to play a game of chicken,” Will said, “I can wait just as long as you can. Which is about, oh, another minute or so.”
Within seconds Piper grabbed Buffy by the arm. “We need to stop Koch,” she said. “We can worry about her later.” She winked, though not at Buffy.
And they ran around the corner into the alley, from which sounds of fighting could soon be heard.
Will smiled and began to extend her perceptions, before she figured out she wasn’t alone.
She figured this out when Willow smacked her in the face.
“What the hell was that for?” Will said. “I’m doing this for you, Will.”
Willow smacked her again. “Don’t call me that.”
Before Willow could hit her again, Will slapped her arms away and said, “If you don’t want to do this . . . I’m going to have to MAKE you want it.”
Then she took her hands, chanted, and stuck them into Willow’s head.
* * * * *
Things were playing out exactly as they had in the first timeline.
Rebecca Koch threw up the magical force field and just like before Buffy and Cole went sailing through while the sisters were stopped.
Just like before, Koch misjudged the more dangerous of her foes and blasted Cole into some garbage cans.
Just like before, Buffy tackled her before she could get off a second blow; just like before, this weakened the magical shield, and just like before, the Halliwells redoubled their efforts to bring it down.
Just like before, Cole recovered and tried to figure out what to do.
Unlike before, when Leo was called in he didn’t get his hands burned, because he didn’t try to heal the suffering of Fiat Voluntas Tua’s guardian beast.
But just like before, the guardian beast still died. Just like before, Koch blasted Buffy away, turned off the acid bath and ran to take off the collar as the shield came down. And just like before, Cole rammed into her, sending the necklace flying
And a hand shot out to catch it.
Just like before.
December 3rd, 2001, third try
Willow felt the hands enter her head and then –
It wasn’t painful at all.
Instead, she was getting a grand tour of the future through Will’s eyes.
Natural disasters on the way out.
People living in harmony – people, demons and vampires, all working together for the common good.
It was every dream she’d ever had come true.
And she was responsible.
Will Rosenberg, through the power of Fiat Voluntas Tua, was responsible for this paradise.
She was responsible for it.
“So you see,” Will’s voice said, “Why you have to catch Fiat Voluntas Tua. Without it – without it, the world will keep on going to hell. The four horsemen will continue to ride. And you have the power to prevent this, Will.”
It was an amazing vision.
It was utopia.
And as she was ready to succumb – to round that corner and pluck the necklace from the air – two more visions floated before her – Hood’s and Tara’s faces -- and she knew.
That wasn’t paradise. It couldn’t be.
“I. Am. NOT. Will,” Willow said. “I am not you. I will NEVER be you. I am Willow Rosenberg and you will get the HELL out of my head.”
She reached up and grabbed Will’s hands and forced them away from her temples.
Then, before Will could react, Willow hauled off and hit her as hard as she could, a solid right cross to the jaw. Will went down like a piano’d been dropped on her head. Almost smugly, Willow said to herself, “So who needs magic?” Then Willow kicked her until she rolled over, reached down, and plucked the for-the-moment nonfunctional duplicate necklace off Will’s neck. When she took it, she felt no urges to rule the world. It had been a calculated risk; but an even bigger risk would have been letting Will wake up still wearing it.
She shoved it in her pocket and went around the corner, just in time to see the guardian beast die and Rebecca Koch send Buffy flying.
She only had seconds. As she shield came down she ran forward, only to be wrestled to the ground by Phoebe Halliwell. “We’re not going to let you near the necklace,” she said.
“I don’t want to be near the necklace,” Willow said. “Keep me down, though, just in case.” Cole tackled Rebecca Koch and Willow kicked Leo. “Ow!” he said –
Then caught on.
The necklace flew free –
And a hand reached out to catch it, just like before.
Only this time the hand belonged to Leo.
And with that, the world as we know it continued to spin.
* * * * *
Rebecca Koch was no problem. As she struggled with Cole, Buffy came over and punched her in the face until she quit complaining. The Halliwells hustled over and bound her from doing magic.
As Leo held up the necklace, the Charmed Ones continued to hold Willow down, “just in case.”
Willow completely understood, although she did ask Phoebe to dig something out of her jacket pocket. When Phoebe realized that she was holding a copy of Fiat Voluntas Tua, she yelped, dropped it, and threw herself backwards. Then, glowering at Willow, she said, “How out of your mind have you gone?”
“I gave it up, didn’t I?” Willow said. “Leo –“
“On it,” the Whitelighter said, already reaching down.
With both necklaces safely in Leo’s grasp, Piper and Paige let Willow stand up. “I assume that was Will’s necklace?” Piper asked.
“I, I know what you’re thinking,” Willow said.
“I’m thinking you were being a moron,” Phoebe said.
Willow nodded “Like I said. I know what you’re thinking. But – I knocked her down, I had to come to help you, and I wasn’t going to leave her behind with a necklace that might suddenly decide to start working. We’d still get her utopia. And,” she said fiercely. “I WASN’T GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN.”
“Will – ow,” Buffy said. “It worked. That’s the important thing. Still, it was a big chance.”
“I had to take it,” Willow said. “It would have been a bigger one leaving her behind.”
“YOU HAVE THAT RIGHT,” came a voice from the head of the alley. They all turned and saw Will standing there once again.
“Leo, get out,” Piper said.
“Gone,” he said, and he and both necklaces orbed away.
Will chanted something and everyone except Willow froze.
“LEO!” She yelled. “Get back down here or I’ll kill them!” No answer. “I mean it!”
“I think he knows you’re bluffing,” Willow said. “You need them. ALL of them. It wouldn’t be your world without them.”
“And how do you know so much?” Will demanded.
“I’ve seen your future,” Willow said. “It doesn’t work.”
Shaking her head, Will said, “I don’t get you. That was your paradise. Everything was perfect.”
“No!” Willow shouted. “It wasn’t. Phoebe was burned and scarred. Tara – the woman you loved – was blind. That’s not perfection.”
“They wouldn’t go along with me,” Will said. “What was I supposed to do?”
“Let them,” Willow said. “What kind of paradise is it where you blind a woman you love?”
“My kind,” Will said.
Willow shook her head. “Not mine.”
“It will be once you put Fiat Voluntas Tua on.”
“What part of the necklaces are gone are you having trouble understanding?” Willow said. “It’s NEVER going to be your paradise. The time for me to grab it has come. And, and it’s gone. Your world is gone.”
“In that case,” Will said coldly, “There’s no reason for me to keep them alive.” With another gesture she raised them all into the air. They began choking.
“Yes there is,” Willow said.
“Really,” Will said. “And what’s that?”
“If you kill them, I’ll kill you.”
“Impotent threats from a woman who’s sworn off magic,” Will said, sneering. “You don’t scare me.”
Walking over until they were face to face, holding her older version’s undivided attention, Willow said, “Do you think after you’d killed them that that would stop me? Do you think I’d rest until I saw your bleeding body? Do you think there’s a part of the world I wouldn’t go to, a dimension I wouldn’t visit, a hell I wouldn’t dare, if you did that? Do you think any power on earth would stop me?” Then, she yelled, “DO YOU?”
Will said, “No, I don’t.”
“Good.” Then, once again, she swung and connected with a right cross to Will’s jaw.
This time, it didn’t knock her out, though, and she said irritably, “I’m getting tired of that.”
Then she felt a tap on the shoulder, turned, and was met by a similar right cross from Leo, who’d orbed in about thirty seconds previously. This, too, didn’t knock her out, but it shattered her concentration long enough for her spells to be broken.
Five seconds later the Charmed Ones chanted,
“From here on out
You cannot freeze
Those you call
And suddenly Will was facing three witches, a Slayer, a Whitelighter, an ex- demon, and a normal human who’d vowed to kill her.
But she knew who her most dangerous opponent was. Before Piper could freeze or explode her, before Buffy could stake her, Paige teleport her or Leo orb her to Switzerland, she looked directly into Willow’s eyes and said, “This isn’t over.”
“Yes it is,” Willow said.
Then Will chanted and blinked away.
* * * * *
In the Halliwell basement, on some padding, Buffy kicked Phoebe in the jaw.
Phoebe dodged the attack and punched Buffy in the stomach. Buffy blocked it and returned the blow.
They’d been going at it for half an hour or so. Both were tired, both sweaty, both bruised, and neither one wanted to stop.
“Ten bucks on Buffy,” Willow said.
Cole snorted. “I’ll take that action.”
On their way back from the alley, Leo had orbed Rebecca Koch back to her hotel room, then told everyone what had happened with the duplicate Fiat Voluntas Tuas. The Elders had been nonplussed (“translation,” Phoebe’d said. “They freaked.”) at the two necklaces, but had taken them more or less in stride. They were now under the protection of even more powerful guardian beasts in even more remote dimensions. This wasn’t a perfect solution, obviously, but it was the best they could do at the moment.
Add to that the fact that they had a thoroughly pissed-off and extremely powerful witch after them who felt cheated out of a world, and their victory had been a mixed one at best. “Still,” Cole had said. “At least this time, though we’ve made enemies, they’re not each other.”
“Amen to that,” Buffy’d said.
And they got back to the mansion and Phoebe’d taken Buffy up on her offer of a little one-on-one, to be settled after three knockdowns.
Piper, Paige, Cole and Willow stood there watching the combat. Buffy’d gone down once, Phoebe twice.
A few minutes after Willow and Cole made their bet, Piper nudged Willow. “You still want that binding spell?” she asked.
Willow shook her head. “I don’t think so. If I can get through today without casting – I can handle anything the world has to throw at me.” At Piper’s slightly worried look, she said, “Don’t worry. I haven’t suddenly swung into a major case of self-confidence. But now I think I can manage on my own.”
“Just so you know, if you ever do want it –“
“I’ll know who to ask.”
Buffy connected with a blow to the temple and Phoebe went down. “Here’s your money,” Cole said to Willow, taking out his wallet and peeling off ten dollars.
Buffy came over to see what was going on and said, “Willow! I can’t believe you!” Willow looked slightly chagrined. “Only ten bucks. Phoebe owes me fifty.”
Toweling herself off, Phoebe muttered, “Yeah, yeah, the check’s in the mail.”
Paige said, “Time travelers. All powerful necklaces. And two alternate universes. I thought I was used to the Halliwell life, but now –“
“You can’t go back,” Piper said.
“Not even to visit?” Paige asked wistfully. Piper shook her head with mock severity.
“You’re wrong,” Buffy said. “It wasn’t two universes. There was the timeline that produced Will, the one Hood and Sheela traveled back to, and this one.”
“Third time’s the charm,” Cole said.