The Time of Choices
Thanks for sticking with me folks. New chapters, new costumes, new scenes, and now… we're moving forward again. Huzzah!
Willow and Harmony stared at each other for a long moment before looking around at the rest of the group. Amy was the one who voiced what they were all thinking. "Can… can we do that?"
Snorting, Harmony leaned back in her booth. "No, YOU can't. Willow and I on the other hand…" Xander and Amy began to protest loudly, but Harmony just gave them a theatrical yawn. "What? Do either of YOU have the power to take on a fully contracted Imagin, plus the strength and willpower to take out Buffy cleanly with one hit so the Imagin can't save her? Because last time I checked… you didn't."
"I think Amy meant the moral choice, Harmony. Do we kill one of our own to save the world?" Xander gestured at the occupants of the DenLiner. "I think we should all get a say in this."
"And I don't." Willow stood up and paced down the aisle. "Harmony's right. Buffy threw me out of the group and you helped her do it, Xander. Hell, you're the one who pulled the whole 'take a break' thing on me. We're not all bestest buddies anymore. This is a Rider problem, and the Riders will deal with it." Opening his mouth to protest further, Xander was cut off. "Fine. All in favor of whatever Harmony and I decide?" Ten hands, four human and six Imagin, went up. Evidently Hana trusted even Imagin-bonded humans over Xander. "All opposed?" Giles, Amy, Xander, and Oz. "I win."
Sliding out of his booth, Xander stalked after Willow. "So what, because I made a bad decision, you're going to condemn Buffy to death?"
Willow's hand whipped forward and delivered a blistering slap across Xander's cheek. "It's all about you, isn't it? You and what you want? You wanted Buffy and so instead of standing up for me, you help her get rid of me. And now that she might be destroying the world, it's still all about you in your head." Willow shook her head sadly. "I'm doing what Buffy couldn't with Angelus. I know that the needs of the many are more important than the needs of the few."
"I did not…" Xander was cut off as Willow delivered a hard slap to the other cheek. "Damnit! That hurts! Stop hitting me!"
"You did. And the worst part is that you won't even admit it. And you know what? This is more ironic than Alanis's not-ironic irony song. You're treating Buffy the same way Buffy treats Angel." The way Xander flinched made her certain that he'd never even thought of THAT comparison. Willow jerked her thumb toward the exit. "Killing Buffy may be our only choice to save the world. I'm not going to if we can figure out something else, but if you're not ready to take that step… Naomi, can you escort them to the lounge car? The rest of us have work to do."
Shooting Willow a glare that could peel paint, Xander stomped toward the door. After a minute, Amy and Oz followed. Giles was the only member of the Scoobies who remained, polishing his glasses lightly at a table. "I had rather hoped it wouldn't come to this… but possessed Slayers, the Council trains us to disassociate ourselves to do the necessary. Kendra is dead, Buffy is clearly possessed, and I am severely out of my element. If you tell me this is the best way to proceed, I will believe you."
Willow wobbled back over to Cordelia and slumped down in the booth, resting her head on her girlfriend's lap. "I don't know if there is. I don't think there is, though. What's been going on since Halloween? Cordelia can get a bit creative with details."
"What's that supposed to mean? I always tell you the truth about happens at meetings!"
"Yes, and while I'm sure that Buffy really DID look hideous in those pants, it's not going to help me right now sweetie."
Giles let out a chuckle that quickly morphed into a coughing fit. "I see. Well, needless to say researching took a bit of a hit with your absence. Buffy seemed to be relaxing a bit toward you, especially after Cordelia joined, and then she was physically intimate with Angel. Angelus was released, and he in turn helped assemble the Judge. Between her new distrust of demons and your showing her up…"
Humming softly, Willow stared up at the ceiling. "Yeah, well, me making her feel outclassed was better than the world ending in my book. So then what? And where does Kendra come into all this?"
"Ah yes, I forgot her first appearance was between when you left and when Cordelia first joined us. She's a second Slayer. Evidently Buffy's brief drowning caused her to be activated." Giles grimaced as Willow propped herself up to stare at him. "It's a mystical process; the Watchers Council didn't have anything to do with it. It's the nature of things. She brought information about Angelus trying to end the world and was going to help try to take him out, but Buffy was reluctant to kill him."
"And realizing that time is running out to be a hero AND have her boyfriend around… well, sorta… wore Buffy down and the Imagin got to her." Willow lay back down. It all made sense, at least except for the part with the Imagin even being there in the first place. Then again, the DenLiner was here. Maybe they had just destroyed the future and were coming back anyways? "So wait, Buffy's got an Imagin AND Angelus is about to destroy the world? When it rains, it pours, doesn't it?"
Harmony groaned and drained the rest of her coffee. Willow winced a bit at the sight, wondering how the blonde could stomach it at all. "Let's figure this stuff out fast. I'm not sure how many more times I can be late for dates with Devon."
Blink blink. Willow eyed the blonde. "Harm… you're on a time-traveling train. How can you possibly be late?"
"…oh, shut up."
Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Angelus stared at the frozen figure of Acathla. Did he really want to do this? Sure, hell on earth sounded fun… but vampires weren't exactly up there on the food chain. Hopefully, the demons would recognize his contribution to their freedom and he would get something out of it… but if wishes were nickels, he'd be a rich vampire with a dead Slayer.
There was a scream from somewhere in the mansion, and then another, and then another. Angelus grimaced and wrapped his hands around the hilt of the sword stuck in Acathla before pulling it free. Evidently, Buffy had finally grown a pair and was coming for him. Hell on earth, all power struggle problems aside, sure beat being dust in the wind.
Waiting in silence, Angelus winced as Buffy dusted the two vampires outside the room holding Acathla. Most of his minions were pretty lackluster anyway, but those two had been his best. This was going to come down to a fair fight between the two of them… and he hated fair fights.
The door groaned as someone kicked it and Angelus raised the sword. Another groan, and then he ducked as the door came flying inward. "Trying to destroy the world? What a bastard." A decided not-Buffy figure in red and silver armor stomped into the room, bringing a sword up to rest on their shoulder. "I'll give you a special on first strikes, but after that… it's completely a climax!"
"Really?" Angelus looked Willow up and down. Even though he hadn't witnessed… whatever this was… firsthand on Halloween, Buffy had ranted to his souled counterpart about the brunette's demonic companions and magical armor. The man voice was a bit off-putting, but it wouldn't be the first time. And the body… not fat, but not as freakishly thin as Buffy. "A climax, eh? I like the sound of that…"
Willow grimaced and pointed her sword at Angelus. "That sounds like something Turtle Boy would come up with. You're a pervert, vampire."
"Aww. So does that mean you're not interested?"
Cordelia sighed and closed another book, taking a moment to rub her eyes before moving on to the next. Giles was insistent that he'd seen the monster that killed Kendra in a book at one point, meaning the Imagin were taking on forms out of demonology instead of mythology, and so she was helping him research while Harmony stood guard and Xander, Amy, and Oz were… wherever.
"There!" Giles stood up triumphantly, holding a book. "I knew I'd seen something similar but… oh dear. I certainly hope this… Imagin… of yours only takes on the appearance and not the abilities, although I fear it may be both from how easily he dispatched Kendra."
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia hopped up and moved to read over his shoulder. A Turok-Han, some sort of prehistoric vampire. Stronger, faster, harder to kill. Sounded about right, and since Buffy was the Vampire Slayer it made sense that the Imagin pulled something vampire-ish out of her brain to use for a form. "Don't know how this works. Willow and Harmony are the ones who watch the show, I just do my best to remember a few things about Willow's Imagin so she doesn't get too annoyed. Harmony? Do you know how the whole form-taking thing works?"
No answer. Cordelia looked over to find the blonde standing at stiff attention in front of the door, head cocked to one side as she stared off into space. There was a streak of green in her hair and Cordelia was about to address Deneb instead when the hair returned to its normal blonde state. Suddenly, Harmony's arm came down and whipped her Zeronos Belt around her waist. "Deneb says Buffy's on her way. Looks like we're about to have some company."
When the 'attack' came, it was startlingly unspectacular. The library door opened and a figure stepped through. Cordelia sucked in a breath at the sight of Buffy. The Slayer was almost Willow's polar opposite now, her eyes solid masses of black and her blonde hair streaked with the same color. And like Willow when she was possessed, when her mouth opened, a masculine voice emerged. "Rider. I have come for Cordelia Chase. Leave now and I won't hurt you."
"You're kidding, right?" Harmony laughed and pulled out one of her Zeronos Cards. "If I did that, Willow would destroy you for killing her girlfriend, and then kill me too for letting you. And I'm very much pro-life, because being dead sounds boring."
Buffy's head inclined slightly. "Very well. Then you have your role to play, and I have mine." White sand began to pour from Buffy's clothing, quickly forming into a figure that was practically identical to the Turok-Han Cordelia had seen in Giles's book. "The hour of battle is at hand."
Sand poured from Harmony and quickly resolved into Deneb as the blonde spun the card in her hand to show the yellow side instead of the green. "Deneb. Don't mess this up." Taking a breath, she slammed the card into her belt.