Disclaimer: Buffy and Angel characters Joss'; Charmed characters the property of Aaron Spelling. The plotline and certain versions of the characters are my ideas.
Author's Note: The second story in the "Allied Powers" series. This may be my favorite of the four of them. I've always loved writing . . . certain kinds of villains. You'll see what kind when you read the story.
X X X X X
December 3rd, 2001
The phone rang at the Halliwells’. Cole picked it up.
The voice he heard on the other end was a bit of a surprise. “You’re about to get a visit,” it said.
“Anya,” he said bemusedly. “What are you talking about?”
“Remember how when you guys left Phoebe and Piper tried to put that spell on Willow? Well, Buffy and Willow are coming up there now.”
“Not for revenge –“
Anya laughed. “No. Not revenge. If it were revenge, they’d kick your ass, but it’s not revenge.”
His fellow ex-demon’s loyalty couldn’t be questioned, even if her judgment could. “Then what?” Anya told him and he almost laughed. He would have if she’d thought she was being anything less than completely serious. Even so, he said, “You’re kidding.”
“I’m not. I’m just calling to let you know for when you open the front door so there’s not a big fight or anything. I mean, I’ve read some of Xander’s comics, that’s the way it always happens. The heroes meet and fight and then join forces. I just want to make sure no one, you know, starts bleeding or winds up exploding. Exploding would be bad.”
“So I’ve heard,” Cole said. “Any idea when Buffy and Willow are going to show?”
“Any minute now,” Anya said equitably. “They took the daily flight at about 9:30, and since the plane landed at 11:30 and it’s about 12:30 or so now –“
Cole interrupted. “Thanks, then. I think I’d better tell them before –“ he heard the doorbell – “they actually show . . .”
“I understand you gotta go,” Anya said. “Let me know if anyone kills each other. Bye.” Then Cole turned around and ran for the front door. Yeah, both the Slayer and her friends and the Charmed Ones and theirs were what might be called good guys, but when they’d met they’d parted on substantially less than good terms, mostly because of a binding spell Phoebe and Piper had tried to cast. So Cole figured he’d better be there in case things got hairy – though honestly, all he could do at the moment was throw himself in the line of fire and hope no one had an itchy trigger finger.
Phoebe opened the door as he swung into the foyer. Sure enough, Buffy and Willow were standing there. Willow looked –
Well, bluntly, she looked like hell. She looked like the fourth day of a three-day drunk. As Cole stepped forward, Phoebe said, “Um, yeah?”
Cole knew what was coming next. “You know that binding, that binding spell you and your sister tried to cast on Willow?”
“Yeah . . .” Phoebe said hesitantly.
“Cast it again.”
Phoebe blinked. “Say what?” After a few seconds, she said, “Excuse me, but the last time Piper and I tried that, she got socked in the jaw.” Not to mention the fact that Willow had picked Phoebe up telekinetically and spun her around a few times.
“I know,” Willow said. “I – I know. Can we come in?”
“Sure,” Cole said, even though it technically wasn’t his place to do so. As Willow and Buffy walked in, Phoebe shot him a look, to which he responded with a shrug.
Once everyone had grabbed a seat – except Cole, who preferred to stay standing – Willow explained what had happened over the last week.
“About a week ago,” she said, “I finally figured out a way to change Amy – she’d been trapped as a rat for a few years – anyway, I finally changed her back into a human. She’d been a witch until the whole rat thing, and it was nice having someone around to talk magic with. We went out and did magic until she took me to meet a guy named Wrack.”
Cole’s head shot up. “You’re kidding.”
“You’ve heard of this guy?” Phoebe asked.
“Warlock. Real slimeball. I wouldn’t even have anything to do with him when I was Belthazor. He takes magic and makes it into an addiction.”
“That’s what he did with me,” Willow said, “Well, anyway, long story short, under the influence of one of Wrack’s spells, I smashed a car into a wall. Which wouldn’t have been as bad if I’d been the only one in the car, but –“
“Who?” Cole asked.
“Dawn,” Buffy said. “Fractured her arm. She’s still barely talking to Will, not that I blame her.”
“I don’t blame her either,” Phoebe said. “Now do you see –“
“Yeah,” Willow interrupted. “Now I see why you and your sister tried to bind me not to do magic. And that’s why I’ve come back to ask you to try again.”
“It didn’t work last time,” Phoebe said, “Why do you think it would work this time?”
“Because we don’t know why it didn’t work last time,” Willow said. “Maybe it had to do with the Hellmouth, or, or something. Maybe if all three of you tried, it would work. But –“ she was on the verge of breaking down – “I don’t want the temptation anymore. I’ve gone cold turkey for the last few days – do, do you know how hard it is to do that?”
“I do it a lot,” Phoebe said. “It’s never been hard for me because I never got started on using it to solve all my problems –“
“I didn’t start out that way either,” Willow said a little irritably.
“You got there, though,” Phoebe said just as irritably.
Cole stepped in. “Okay,” he said, grabbing Phoebe by the arm. “Can I talk to you a second?” and without waiting for her to answer, he marched her into the kitchen and said, “What’s wrong with you? They’re asking for help, not attitude.”
“I’m just saying –“
“I told you so?” Cole said. “I think they’ve got that figured out by now. You were right, they were wrong, and the last thing they need right now is for you to go rubbing their noses in it.” At Phoebe’s sulky face, Cole said, “Let me reiterate that last part. You were right. They were wrong. But -- they caught it in time. She’s agreeing with you, and before any chance of her switching sides. You don’t need to gloat about it.”
“It’s no fun if I don’t get to gloat,” Phoebe said.
“But . . .” Cole prompted.
“Oh, alright,” she said.
“Good.” Then Cole smirked. “If it makes you feel any better you can gloat to me later.”
“I’m holding you to that, buster,” Phoebe said. They walked back out of the kitchen and she told Willow, “Sorry about that. You don’t need a lecture right now. You came to us for help.”
“Right,” Willow said eagerly. “So, so, will you?”
“I’ll give it my best shot,” Phoebe said. “We’ll need Piper and Paige, of course, but if you’re willing to give it a go, we really can’t say no.”
“Good to hear.”
“I can get Piper back here in about half an hour, but we’re going to have to wait until Paige gets off work – do you guys have a few hours to kill?”
“Yeah,” Buffy said, “It was a tight squeeze moneywise but we budgeted for an overnight trip.” She looked to be fishing for something – of course. “Save your money. You can stay here.”
“Yeah,” Phoebe said, wondering if it might not be one of the worst decisions she’d ever made in her life.
December 3rd, 2001
After they made sleeping arrangements, Phoebe asked, “So you do you mind waiting for Paige to get home?”
Willow said softly, “Not really.”
“Well then,” Phoebe said, clapping her hands, “Make yourself at home.”
An awkward silence followed, after which Buffy said, “So, you guys in the middle of something right now?”
“Around here it’s safe to assume we’re always in the middle of something,” Phoebe said. “Right now we’re looking for a necklace.”
“Let me guess. It’s not the kind of necklace you could find at Tiffany’s?”
“Make our jobs a lot easier if it were,” Cole said. “It’s called Fiat Voluntas Tua. You guys know the necklace Anyanka wore?” Buffy and Willow nodded. “This one’s a lot worse.”
“I wore a necklace once, turned me evil,” Phoebe said. “Combine mine with Anyanka’s and toss in almost unlimited power over the minds of humankind, and you’ll have some idea what we’re looking for. It’s got prophecies out the wazoo connected with it, but so far all we’ve figured out is that the Source didn’t have a damn thing to do with it, and that it has some kind of destined wearer. But we’re not sure who.”
“There’s apparently some kind of wordplay involved,” Cole added.
“Terrific,” Buffy muttered. “Nothing I like better than an evil necklace with a sense of humor.”
“It gets worse,” Phoebe said. “To even TOUCH the thing, we need to have the magical equivalent of a radiation suit. We’ve been working on finding a way to destroy it, but so far we’re not having any luck. Right now the best we can do is figure out how to get its guardian back to its little pocket dimension. It’s loose in San Francisco right now, waiting for someone to either send it home or kill it and take the necklace. The one bit of good news is, even your typical evil spellcaster doesn’t want anything to do with Fiat Voluntas Tua.”
“But there’s always someone,” Buffy said.
“Wrack,” Willow added.
Cole shook his head. “Wrack’s not that stupid. But someone around here is. A couple of someones, actually.”
“Well, you’re going to cast a binding spell on Willow,” Buffy said, “The least we can do is help you guys try to save the world.”
With that Willow smiled for the first time since Phoebe’d met her. “I can help,” she said, reaching into the bag she was carrying.
“Hey!” Phoebe said. “I thought you wanted . . .” she trailed off when she saw Willow pull out a laptop.
“Anywhere I can plug this in?” she asked.
“Um . . . over there,” Phoebe said, pointing to a plug near a telephone jack.
As they all got up to take a look, Buffy said, “Try not to choke on all that humble pie.”
Phoebe laughed humorlessly and they all waited for Willow to get hooked up.
Once she did, it was surprisingly easy. “You said a couple of other people were looking to track down this necklace?”
“Yeah, a pair of witches about your age,” Phoebe said. “Kathleen O’Halloran and Rebecca Koch, both out-of towners with an attitude. Last night we had to break up a brawl between them behind a bank building. They damn near set the place on fire. We were lucky to even get between them without getting killed. And they made it pretty clear when they were making with the fire spells that they fully intended to take over the world when they got it. Kinda like Doctor Doom, only without the charm.”
“I haven’t done this in a while,” she said, furiously typing. “It might – here we go.” And she hacked her way into hotel registries throughout the city, and inside of half an hour had where both Koch and O’Halloran were staying. The funny thing was they were less than half a mile from each other down by the bay. “There we are,” Willow said. “Two witches, no waiting.” She seemed inordinately pleased with herself.
Since she’d just done in thirty-four minutes what the Charmed Ones plus Leo and Cole hadn’t been able to do in the better part of two days, Phoebe didn’t blame her. “Nice going,” she said.
“Thanks,” Willow said, beaming. Phoebe made a mental note to give the girl as much positive reinforcement as she could; it seemed to help. Just doing the computer work had made her seem a lot happier, though the drained look wasn’t going anywhere.
“But if we’re going to go look for them I’m going to actually need to use the phone line.”
“Gotcha,” she said, disconnecting.
“Way to go, Will,” Buffy said as Phoebe started to make her calls.
“Thanks,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I could do it, what with having spent the last twelve months or so, you know, NOT using my hacking skills for reasons we don’t need to get into right now, but there you go. Just like riding a bicycle. Only without the pedals . . . or handlebars.”
First Phoebe called Piper, then she called Paige. It was easier for Piper to get clear than Paige – Piper had people she could hand P3 off to, but Paige actually had to make excuses.
Then Phoebe said, “Leo!”
The Whitelighter orbed in right behind her. “I’m here. What’s going on?” Buffy and Willow both took involuntary half-jumps back.
“Leo,” Phoebe said, “These are Buffy and Willow. Willow, Buffy, this is Leo . . . our Whitelighter.” Buffy shook his hand.
“That’s right, I talked with you a couple of weeks ago,” Leo said. “Sunnydale, right?”
“Right,” Willow said, shaking his hand. “I’d invite you down for a visit, but I’ve heard you’d kind of die.”
“I would,” he said. “Thanks, by the way. For saving their lives when I couldn’t.”
“No problem,” Willow said. “But, um, I don’t like to go into the details . . .”
Cole said, “They came to ask for another binding spell.”
“I hurt someone,” Willow said. “I don’t want to do it again.”
“Understandable,” Leo said.
Piper and Paige showed up and again introductions were made. “By the way,” Paige told Phoebe. “If you visit me at work, wear a sling.” At Phoebe’s puzzled look, she said, “I told them you broke your arm.”
“You told them what?” Phoebe said.
“I had to come up with something good,” Paige said. “I don’t exactly get phone calls and run home from work every day. I mean, I know this is a pretty important gig, but still.”
“Gotcha,” Phoebe said. Then they came up with a fairly simple game plan: Go, find the two evil witches and get them out of the picture, then find Fiat Voluntas Tua’s guardian and send him home.
It almost worked, but in not working . . .
December 3rd, 2001
The first part was ridiculously easy. They caught Kathleen O’Halloran off guard as she was leaving her hotel. She took one look up, saw the sisters approaching, and began to cuss as she ran into a nearby alleyway.
Which had been more or less how things had been planned. Like most witches, O’Halloran preferred to avoid slugging it out in the wide open spaces. When the witch entered the alley, she found Willow standing there. “Hi!” Willow said. “Look up.”
Almost involuntarily, O’Halloran looked up, and Buffy landed on her from the fire escape. After that, it wasn’t really a contest; the witch hadn’t had time to get off any spells, and wasn’t anywhere near Buffy’s league when it came to personal combat.
By the time the Halliwells made it around the corner, they were pretty much reduced to standing around and watching Buffy in action. At least Phoebe was able to deliver the coup de grace by knocking O’Halloran to the pavement when she tried to escape.
“You do good work,” Buffy told Phoebe.
“Back atcha,” she said, rubbing her knuckles, “Though I could do with some of your superstrength every once in a while.”
“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?”
She was proposing a formal combat, Phoebe realized, not Celebrity Deathmatch. Hmm. She’d have to give that some thought; Buffy was better than her, but their skills weren’t THAT far apart. And ever since he’d lost his powers Cole hadn’t been up to doing any combat training. “I’ll think about that.”
“Cool.” The Halliwells then officially bound Kathleen O’Halloran from doing any more magic – it worked on her where it hadn’t worked on Willow. Then Leo dumped her off back at her hotel room while the rest of them hustled on to find Rebecca Koch.
The first thing they did was stop off at home again so that Piper could do another location spell on the big map. Unfortunately, Koch had moved; she was now in an alleyway a couple of miles away from the hotel.
They got there as fast as they could. The good news was that Koch hadn’t gone much of anywhere. The bad news, unfortunately, was that the reason she was hanging around the alley is that she’d located Fiat Voluntas Tua’s guardian beast and was busy giving the thing the magical equivalent of an acid bath. This wouldn’t hurt the necklace, but eventually it would kill even something as indestructible as the guardian was.
They hadn’t been able to do too much reading on the Guardian Beast itself; its main qualifications were loyalty, incorruptibility, and near-invulnerability. It looked like a jumbo-size German Shepherd.
“You don’t want to do this,” Piper called out. “That necklace –“
“Do you realize,” Koch said, “How stupid you sound? I know exactly what that necklace does. That’s why I want it.”
“And that’s why you’re not going to get it,” Buffy said.
The evil witch blinked. “Who the hell are you?”
“Let me show you,” Buffy said, and led the charge towards Koch.
Unfortunately, Rebecca Koch was a couple of points more observant, and gutsy, than Kathleen O’Halloran had been. She turned and threw up some kind of magical force field. Willow, Paige, Piper and Phoebe slammed into it; Buffy and Cole sailed through it like it wasn’t there. While the witches dusted themselves off, Koch looked at the two people approaching and chose the wrong one as being the most dangerous – she blasted Cole and knocked him backward into a pile of garbage cans.
Then she aimed at Buffy, but Buffy tackled her before she could get off another blast. This weakened the force field, but the poor guardian was still being tortured to death; apparently Koch had set up that spell as a kind of ongoing thing.
And the guardian beast was clearly suffering under the strain. Phoebe would have expected the guardian beast for something as dangerous as Fiat Voluntas Tua to be a little tougher than that – of course, it was being soaked in a stream of acid that looked like it could have chewed a hole in Fort Knox, so maybe she wasn’t being fair. The Halliwells did their best to bring down the force field.
Cole got up and slowly began to edge his way around the alley; he wasn’t sure what he could do but he was going to make sure Rebecca Koch didn’t get her hands on Fiat Voluntas Tua. Buffy and the witch were still wrestling around on the pavement.
Piper had an inspiration. “Leo!” she called. The Whitelighter immediately appeared. “Can you get rid of this thing?” she asked her husband.
He experimentally probed it, then shook his head. “No. But I can get through it.”
“Well, then, heal the dog!” Paige said. Leo nodded in agreement and walked over to where the beast was still being immersed in acid. He gave it the once-over twice and then extended his hands –
And jerked them back again, yelping. He ran back through the barrier and showed the sisters his hands. They were dissolving, themselves, and there were less of them with every second. “I have to get up there,” he said. “They can fix this.” At Piper’s worried look, he said, “It can be healed. But I have to go.” He orbed out.
And then the Guardian beast died. As it howled its deathcry and fell to the ground, Koch blasted Buffy away and turned off the acid bath. Then, she hurried over to take off the poor guardian’s collar, right as the Halliwells finally brought the force field down.
As Koch opened the little box with the necklace inside, Cole slammed into her from behind and the necklace went flying.
Instinctively, a hand shot out and caught it.
And with that, the world as we knew it came to an end.