Red Clashes with Pink
In another reality, Kat's Zeo quest took her into her future; now, Willow's takes her into a present she never thought she'd see again.Disclaimer
: Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own Buffy. Saban and Toei probably still own MMPR and such. Whatever the case, I am not any of the owners of these properties.Note
: I paraphrased the title from a review on Joe's fic Everything
, so credit to amusewithaview for that.
Aurico, the Red Ranger from Aquitar, gave Willow the parting advice that her strength lay within her. Though her memories and her year with the Coven let her know that he spoke the truth, her ten-year-old personality didn't find it too comforting. The Orb of Doom's evil spell had turned her and her friends into children, and she found the immaturity and feeling of inexperience almost overpowering. However, even those changes didn't stop part of her from remarking that somehow, there was virtually no age difference between her and Tommy now.
She stopped her mind from embarking on that train of thought, forcing herself to focus on the mission at hand: retrieving one of the five shards of the Zeo Crystal, which was the only object powerful enough to put time back on its proper track. Maybe she could have done it herself, once; but in her younger form, she could barely make a pencil wobble on a desk. Without another eight or so years of exposure to the Hellmouth, she wouldn't build up either her magical reserves or her affinity for connecting with darker sources of power, which she could admit she would have been sorely tempted to use, and damn the consequences.
Now, though, she had to play her part as a member of a team that she found to be much more a gathering of equals than the Scoobies had ever been. She felt herself pulled through the portal that would lead her to the Zeo subcrystal, and the scene around her suddenly altered.
She found herself standing outside the entrance to a bar. There was a tall man blocking the door, and as he turned to face her, she saw that his eyes were an uncanny shade of blue. "I believe that you are too young for me to allow you to enter," he said. "Unless I am mistaken and you are a changeling of some sort, and I apologize if it is so."
Willow really, really hated being stuck in a child's body. "I don't want a drink, and anyway I'm really 22 years old," she replied. "I'm here to look for a crystal. It'll probably be pink."
"A quest? Once, I too took part in such adventures." Willow noticed him assume a wistful expression for a moment. "You may enter, but you should inform the Host of your quest; he may not permit such activities, as he has had difficulties with them in the past."
Willow nodded, somewhat irritated by the man's peculiar way of speaking, and walked past him, through the door.
She first noticed that there was a stage off to one side, with a young blonde woman singing—surprisingly well, given that she was singing in a bar—into a microphone. Next to her, a man sat on a stool and played a guitar. He had blue hair, and looked a lot like Oz. In fact, he probably was Oz, Willow remarked to herself, unless he got split by a ferula gemina in which case he'd only be half of an Oz. And wow, apparently age was no barrier to babbling. Neither of them noticed her, though, continuing with their song.
A girl at the counter did, though. "Hey, Willow," Dawn greeted her, seemingly unphased by her young appearance. There were bags under her eyes, and her hair was cut much shorter than when Willow had seen her last, not quite reaching her shoulders now. She barely summoned a weak smile at the sight of her sister's one-time best friend.
"Dawn?" Willow asked, pulling herself up onto the stool next to her. "What are you doing here?"
"Not drinking anything with alcohol," she grumbled. "Apparently Lorne doesn't care that I'm actually thousands of years old. Or that I'm now a card-carrying member of the died-to-save-the-world club."
Willow was shocked at this last admission. "Are we all dead? Is this like Hell's waiting room?"
Dawn laughed, but it wasn't a mirthful sound. "I don't think Kat would appreciate the insult to her voice. And no, I had to die to stop the blood flowing, but it didn't have to stick."
This made Willow even more confused. Dawn obviously noticed her discomfort, but she didn't make any attempt to explain. "Why… why was the blood flowing?" she asked after an awkward few moments.
"You abandoned us." Her tone was flat, her eyes a mixture of loathing and disappointment. "The First was getting stronger because you pulled Buffy out of Heaven, and it wanted to end the Slayer by killing everything related to it. Potentials, Watchers, and, of course, us. We had no magic to fight back, and we needed it, so… we turned to Amy." Her eyes clouded for a moment, as she fought to keep her hands from clenching into fists. "She's not as strong as you are, or were, I guess. We found this weapon called the Scythe, and Buffy had a great plan to 'turn on' all of the potentials to fight against the First's army of ubervamps—but Amy couldn't pull it off. So she took the easy way out, and came up with a plan where all she had to do was chant and use a knife."
"No…" Willow whispered, her mind racing to the inevitable conclusion.
"She found an easy ritual that would use the Key to break down reality again. While she did it, the potentials had to fight off the ubervamps, with no more strength or speed than the average teenage girl. Amy and I were the only two who survived, and seeing as she killed me with a lightning bolt to stop the dimensions from collapsing, technically only she survived. That's what you left us to, Willow."
"I didn't… I couldn't have done anything," she said, but she couldn't even convince herself of that. Even if she started to become corrupted again, it would have been better than that atrocity
Dawn had just described.
"You still can do something." Dawn reached into the large purse on the stool next to her, and pulled out a pink crystal. "I know that you came for this. Well, I'll let you have it if you use it for me first."
"What? That won't do anything unless it's recombined with the other four." Willow was fairly certain about this; Zordon had been adamant that they needed all of the crystals to restore time.
"Or my blood," Dawn replied. "One drop, and we can go back as far as 10 years, as long as we stay in California. We could change everything." Her voice had adopted a tone of desperate hope; Willow thought that she must have been clinging to this ever since she found the crystal.
It was tempting, she admitted to herself. After all of the harm she had caused using magic — both directly and indirectly, as she now knew — she had the opportunity to make it all right. Buffy might not even have to die the first time, and Jesse… Jesse could live to graduate with them, a graduation free from dynamite and giant snakes. If they went back far enough, she could even contact Zordon in the past and stop Rita Repulsa from being released.
Thinking of this, she remembered Zordon's first words to her after she assumed the power of the Pink Ranger: "You must never use the Power for personal gain." It had especially resonated with her, probably more than it once had for any of the others except Tommy, and she suspected Zordon knew that. The wise alien had become a mentor to her in a way Giles had never quite managed to be, as much as she liked to remember him as a father figure. Though she almost couldn't stand to let Dawn down, she knew she would never be able to live with herself if she betrayed his trust.
"I can't, Dawn," she finally said. "It would be an abuse of the Power."
Dawn sighed, as though she had been expecting that response. "Your loss." She threw the crystal over her shoulder before Willow could stop her.
From her seat next to Dawn, Willow cringed as she watched the crystal hit the floor, expecting it to shatter, destroyed forever. She was quite surprised when she heard a hollow thud and watched the crystal bounce a few times.
"You passed, Willow. You can go get the real crystal from Kat now." Dawn grinned at her dumbfounded friend.
"So that was all a test?" Willow looked across the room to see a certain pink glimmer coming from the young blonde's purse.
"Yep. Sorry about that 'everyone died' bit; I don't think that was in the story originally, but my brain is totally fried from taking two years' worth of finals at once." Dawn shrugged and finished her soda.
"None of that actually happened?" Willow had been shocked that her quest would involve such a dark test, but had felt that maybe it was because of her own especially dark past. She was relieved to find out that the story hadn't been meant to be so harsh, and that she had passed anyway.
Dawn laughed. "Not even close," she replied. "Maybe you can come back here sometime and I'll tell you all about it. It actually turned out pretty well."
"Where's here?" Willow was starting to get that surreal feeling of being in a dream. The bartender came over to refill Dawn's glass, holding a plate of cheese in his other hand. She shook her head, trying to clear the fog, and pulled on Dawn's shirt to get her attention. She didn't seem to notice, and had taken out her cell phone and starting typing a text message.
She got off the stool and walked over to Kat, who noticed her right away. She picked up the crystal out of her bag and held it for a moment. "I think this is yours," she said. "It was supposed to be mine, once, but I think it's better off with you."
"He was mine once, but I think you're better off with him, too," Willow echoed, eyes glancing over at Oz for a moment. She wasn't entirely sure why she said it, but it felt right. He continued strumming on his guitar, oblivious. "Will he know I was here?"
"He knows. It's not his time to speak, though." She placed the crystal in Willow's hands. "Come back and visit us once time is back to normal." When Kat said this, she noticed the Stanford logo on her shirt. And as the portal reopened and pulled Willow through, she could have sworn that Oz winked at her.