The World Will End In Fire
Disclaimer: The Charmed Ones belong to Aaron Spelling; the Buffy and Angel characters belong to Joss Whedon. The poems are the property of their respective authors, credited throughout the text. The plot and the Only Ones are mine.
X X X X X
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-- Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"
Lying on the floor of the ruined Magic Box, Giles said, "Something's wrong."
Anya - nervous, alert - said, "What?"
More resignation in his voice then he'd ever thought possible, Giles said, "No one's going to be able to stop her."
"The magic isn't working fast enough," Giles said. "There's no one to stop her."
"What? Then, then, make it work! We didn't come this far so the world could end!" She looked over at Giles; his eyes were closed. Anya slapped him. "Don't die."
"Not yet," Giles said. "But soon." He frowned. "It should not be happening like this. The coven -" He broke off. "Leave me."
"Absolutely, Anya," Giles said. "The world is about to come to an end and I've chosen to start my career as a stand-up comedian. No, I mean, you're the only one who can escape this. S-somehow come back in time and prevent it."
"Make a wish," Anya said.
"It's -" he said, fading. "It's not powerful enough."
"The world's coming to an end," Anya said. "And you've chosen to start your career as a pessimist." She held out the necklace. "MAKE A FRIGGING WISH ALREADY!"
He coughed. "I wish you'd go find someone who could fix this." Then he closed his eyes again.
Anya leaned downed and kissed his forehead, and tears in her eyes, said "Done."
* * * * *
For once for the Halliwells, it was a slow night. Paige, Piper and Phoebe sat there watching a MASH rerun.
"I hate syndication," Piper complained. "I bet we're missing a lot of the good lines."
"Well," Phoebe said, "Maybe if someone would spring for a DVD player we could see what we're missing. But no -"
Paige just munched popcorn. Piper and Phoebe had been cheerfully bitching at each other all night, and she was happy to watch it.
They hadn't seen Cole since that night a week or so back with the FBI agent. Whatever had happened with him, apparently he wasn't ready to make another appearance. Paige figured that was good for Phoebe. She'd been on such a damn roller coaster recently.
On the screen, Hawkeye was cracking wise to Major Winchester. Paige reached for the remote to turn down the volume - and dropped the remote when someone suddenly teleported in right in front of them.
They yelped in unison and instinctively prepped themselves for an attack, but it was only Anya.
Piper said, "The next time you're going to drop in for a visit, knock. We don't respond to well to people popping into our living rooms. Makes us nervous."
"And since when can you teleport?" Phoebe asked.
"Since I became a vengeance demon again," Anya said. "Look. I don't have time. Don't ask any stupid questions. Don't ask any smart ones, either. The world's coming to an end."
"It couldn't be," Piper said. "We would have been - LEO!"
"Tara got killed, Willow went crazy with grief and right now she's ready to finish this world-destroyed-in-fire ritual. Buffy can't stop it. No one can. But you -"
Again Piper yelled, "LEO!"
The Whitelighter orbed in. Before Anya could say anything, he looked at her and said, "I know." Then he took a deep breath and said to the Charmed Ones, "She's right. We can't stop it. But we might be able to fix it later."
"How exactly if we're all dead?" Paige asked.
"We won't be. You can shield yourselves. But you only have a couple of minutes."
"We can do more than that," Piper said. "Remember, we have a giant pentagram centered here. Helps anchor our powers through the elements. I think we can save most of San Francisco." They all ran for the attic, where Piper began frantically paging through the Book of Shadows.
"Anything I can do?" Anya asked.
"Go back," Leo said. "Get Buffy - or Xander. Save them too."
"I can't," Anya said. "I can't take anyone with me. I'm lucky I don't show up naked." Then, "Don't you think I would have brought them with me if I could?"
"Yes," Leo said quietly.
"I'll be right back," Anya said as she teleported out. When she came back a few seconds later, she said, "It's starting." There was more agony in those two words than Paige ever could have imagined hearing.
"We're ready," Piper said.
Then, in unison: "Power of Three, direct us. Power of the elements, protect us. Power of Three, direct us. Power of the elements, protect us. Power of Three, direct us. Power of the elements, protect us." They kept chanting for as long as it took.
Around them, the world burned.
Power shot out from Halliwell Manor in five directions, in very visible bluish-purple rays. They hit the five corners of the pentagram and spread out to cover a circle.
People looked up and wondered what was going on. A few of them, being witches or warlocks themselves, knew; and a few of the ones who WEREN'T people also knew. The Halliwells were setting up some kind of shield.
When they saw the fire coat the sky overhead, every single power in the area, good, evil, or indifferent, dropped whatever they were doing and did their best to add their power to the Halliwells'. This was no time to worry about factions.
The rest of the world wasn't so fortunate.
The flames took Buffy, Dawn, and the rest of them almost immediately. Jonathan and Andrew it killed a half second later.
In Los Angeles, Lilah Morgan was being grilled about her experiences with Wesley when she saw the fire coming. She decked Linwood right before the fire consumed them both.
Fred and Gunn never saw it coming.
Neither did Faith, still serving out her sentence for manslaughter.
Ethan Rayne, still stuck in a top-secret military prison somewhere in the Arizona desert, survived slightly longer . . . although he wasn't very happy about it.
Within a minute it was crossing the world. Riley Finn and his wife, in the middle of an assignment to clear out a nest of O-O demons just off the coast of Maui, immediately jumped into the ocean and did their best to sink like stones.
Good idea. They just didn't have the time to make it work. The ocean around them boiled.
In a cave in Africa, a newly souled Spike was told, "It's a pity you won't be able to enjoy it . . ."
And he, too, burned.
Within five minutes the surface of the earth, pole to pole, Perth to Perth Amboy, had been charred.
The astronauts up in the international space station survived . . . as did everyone more than a mile deep in the ocean. A few witches and assorted other magic-users had enough time to shield themselves or dive into alternate dimensions, provided they weren't picky about where they landed.
The sum total of human survivors by that count was under two dozen. And they were too scattered to do any good.
And the Charmed Ones' voices couldn't hold out forever.
* * * * *
Anya popped in and out. Finally, a half hour after they started, she said, "It's over."
Phoebe spoke first. "Water . . ." Leo ran downstairs and came back up with three bottles of spring water.
"Go easy on it," he said. "The power's out." Of course it would be.
"I'd imagine," Piper said after draining her bottle. "Everything else will be too. Water, phones . . ."
"Did you guys get the impression someone else was helping us?" Paige asked. About thirty seconds in she'd felt an influx of power. Not much . . . but enough to make sure the shield didn't fall.
Phoebe nodded, saying. "Yeah. Not surprised. Any witch out there would have seen what was going on." Then, to Leo and Anya: "What did go on?"
Anya gave them more details, starting with the trio's exploits, running through Warren's murder of Tara and his subsequent skinning. "And Willow went to the hills on the outskirts of town and raised part of a temple to Proserpaxa - where she completed a ritual some of her worshipers had started to end the world."
Leo said, "Proserpaxa? Dear god, no wonder . . . "
"Who is Proserpaxa?" Paige asked.
"Fire demon," Anya said. "Nasty. Vicious. Evil as they come."
"Worse than that," Leo said. "Proserpaxa is the spirit of pure destruction. Evil doesn't begin to describe her. Most of the forces of evil would be helping us right now."
"I felt those people helping us too," Piper said. "I'd be surprised if some hadn't." They all went downstairs and sat down. "What do we do now?" she asked.
Fiercely, Anya said, "Fix it!”
"Great idea," Phoebe said. "Little short on the details."
"I don't do details," Anya said, nervousness evident in her voice. "I do vengeance." She wasn't mouthing off, Paige realized; she was desperately searching for something to do . . . and she wasn't at all confident she could do it herself.
"What about your necklace?" Paige asked. "Power of the wish. Maybe if -"
"It's not powerful enough against Proserpaxa," Leo said. "Even if all of the vengeance demons got together, they wouldn't be able to undo this. We're going to need something even bigger." He frowned.
"The last thing Giles did," Anya said, "Was wish that I would find people who could fix the world. I found you. You CAN make this better. I just don't know how."
"I think we need to go see what happened," Paige said. "Then we can figure out what to do."
"Leo?" Phoebe said.
"I'll go check with the Elders," he said. "This is new territory for them too."
He orbed away. Paige looked at Anya. "Can you follow me."
Anya nodded. "I think so."
Then they went out to view the devastation.
* * * * *
In the ashes of what had once been Santa Carolita, California, three women appeared in a burst of green energy.
The youngest, Katherine Severance, looked around and laughed disbelievingly. "Son of a bitch, Kendy. You were right."
Kendall Severance looked at her. "And you thought what, Kit? That mom and dad and granddad and grandma were lying to us about Proserpaxa all these years?" She smiled. "We just did it, sisters. We destroyed the world."
Kalista Severance, the third and oldest said, "Proserpaxa destroyed the world. We just . . . cleared a few obstacles out of the way." She closed her eyes and frowned. "But not all."
"What do you have, Kali?" Kit asked.
Kendall laughed again. "Of course, San Francisco."
"The Charmed Ones?" Kit asked. "Never mind. Of course it's the Charmed Ones."
Kali shook her head. "Well, this is what we've been waiting our whole lives for. Ready?"
The Severances clasped hands. When they broke, Kendall said, "Okay then, now we know what we're going to do . . . how are we going to get there?"
* * * * *
On a blackened hilltop overlooking the scorched remnants of Sunnydale, California, a dark-haired Willow Rosenberg woke up.
As she saw the world in ruins, she said only one thing:
"This is weird."