You know the drill:
Up to Part 62 can be found here.
Parts 63 can be found here.
Willow leaned back against her pillows with a sigh as soon as the door shut behind Alexander. “J’Nal?”
“C’mere,” Willow indicated the chair Alexander had vacated, “we need to talk.”
J’Nal did as requested, not particularly pleased with this state of affairs. Willow had been passively-aggressively asking him questions off and on between naps and visitors, as if testing to see if she could get information out of him.
Willow watched as he took the seat next to her bed. Her jaw line was hardened and her expression was set in determined stone. “I’m guessing that you guessed I wasn’t exactly being entirely truthful. Well, not truthful at all. I mean, that I was lying. Completely and totally lying. Not because I’m a bad person. No sir. I mean, I was bad, but I’m trying not to be and, wow, guess I feel a little guilty. About lying. And being bad, too. But right now about the lying.”
“You were much more coherent when Alexander was here. Maybe I should get him to translate?” J’Nal made a move to get up, but Willow’s hand grabbed him by the wrist.
She studied J’Nal a moment, took a breath, and said, “I remember you know. Everything I saw. I remember it.”
J’Nal swallowed hard. Oh, hada. It’s bad enough that Alexander and Faith know as little as they do, but she knows more and that can only lead to… He didn’t even want to think about it.
It was times like this that he wished he could call on the various gods and goddesses for minor parlor tricks like spells to make people forget, because he suspected nothing less was going to wipe this woman’s memory.
“Thought that would get you all at attention-y,” Willow let go, looking mightily pleased with herself. “Don’t worry. I don’t know exactly what any of it means because it was like looking at all these little filmed bits like you see in those cheesy clip shows on sitcoms.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Right, maybe they outlawed cheesy clip shows. Or sitcoms. Or sitcoms and clip shows. Maybe it’s all reality TV all the time when you’re from because FOX owns all the media outlets.”
“Whoops. Sorry,” Willow grinned sheepishly. “Do you have plays?”
“Live actors performing on a stage,” J’Nal nodded quickly, relieved that he understood something.
“Okay,” Willow’s face screwed up in concentration, “have you ever walked into the middle of a play and not known what was going on?”
“Okay, now imagine that happening every ten seconds or so.” When Willow saw he understood her gist, she continued, “So, all I’ve got are these scenes, but I don’t know what’s going on, what happened before, what happened after, or even when it happened. Just these disjointed scenes that don’t make a lot of sense.”
J’Nal stiffened. “I’m not going to explain them to you.”
Willow looked a little hurt. “Not asking you to because I’m not sure I want to be all knowledge future girl.” She looked at the door and bit her lip. “Besides, I think I’ve got a taste of what Xander’s been going through and it’s making me a little nauseous. If I knew knew? I’d be yaking everything I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life.”
“I’m gonna ask you something and I want you to be honest,” Willow said, ignoring his question.
J’Nal raised an eyebrow. She didn’t want to know about the future, she told him she remembered her glimpses of the future, she all but promised she wouldn’t tell anyone that she had seen the future, so what could this woman possibly want with him?
“How sure are you that you didn’t mess up the timeline?” she asked.
“I won’t know until tomorrow,” J’Nal admitted.
“Oh. Unh. Wrong question, I guess. What I mean is, if you find out that your timeline is a-okay, does that mean that everything remains the same between our time and yours?” Willow asked.
“I am fairly certain that would be the case,” J’Nal replied dryly.
Willow nodded, not at all surprised or disappointed by the answer. “That’s what I think, too.”
“I really don’t see…”
“Now, you and me, we’re pretty sure, but would anyone else be sure? Say, Xander-shaped people, or say, any other past-shaped people? If, for example, you mentioned that just because you guys are all set doesn’t mean we’re set in stone, would anyone be able to say you’re wrong?”
“Well, my teammates might.”
Willow waved her hand. “Take them out of the equation.”
“No,” J’Nal said slowly. “A lot of the mystical and temporal mechanics are somewhat advanced…”
“Too advanced for primates like me?” Willow’s eyes twinkled in amusement. “You’re probably right.”
J’Nal swallowed nervously.
“But if you came up with a believable, techno-babbly explain-y story, everyone here, as in like now-here, would buy it hook, line, sinker, fish-in-the-skillet? Right?” Willow insisted.
“I wouldn’t even know how to…” J’Nal began. He shook his head. “Why are you even asking this?”
Willow’s eyes went to the door, mouth set in a firm line with that hardened expression back on her face. “You and me. We’re going to give Xander’s future back to him and put it in his hands right where it belongs.” She looked back at J’Nal, voice going flat. “We’re giving everyone their future back. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to them. And by the time you, Catherine, Charlie, Ruda, and Tikri leave, the ball is back in their court one way or the other.”
“But if the timeline is maintained it will be a…”
“Lie,” Willow finished for him quietly. “But if the truth comes out, every time something goes wrong between now and 2008 Xander’s going to blame himself for not knowing.”
“Xander in a nutshell,” Willow agreed. “C’mon, J’Nal. You saw him. He was blaming himself for me and Robin getting hurt when had no way of knowing it was going to happen.”
“Shouldn’t you be upset that he didn’t warn you?” J’Nal was curious.
“Hello! Clip show!” Willow reminded him as she pointed at her head. “Plus, I kinda blued myself with that spell on the journal, so since I was all help-y about blocking the journal, that probably means I’ll be talking him out of warning me about the temporary insanity with sound and lights.”
As J’Nal wavered, Willow pressed her point.
“We have to do this. We have to. I won’t watch Xander suffer over this or have anyone blaming him when things go wrong because he wasn’t in the know. Give him back his future and let him live his life on his own terms.”
“That will leave you alone, you know,” J’Nal pointed out. “You’ll never be able to tell anyone about your ‘clip show’ or the fact that the future will be what it was.”
Willow looked down at the pattern on her bedspread. “I know. It’ll be hard, but…someone has to and that someone has to be me.” She looked at J’Nal. “I owe it to Xander, to all of them really. It’s okay they’ll never know, but they’ll be safe from the future and that’s what counts.”
J’Nal could feel a smile full of wonder stretch across his face. This woman was going to protect her friends and family from the mystical forces that might destroy them without a thought of what it might mean for herself. Why he was surprised by this revelation, he had no idea. After all, this is what Primas did.
And make no mistake, Willow ca-Rosenberg is a Prima, even if there are no Prima to be had in the here and now.
“Tell me how I can help, ca-Rosenberg,” J’Nal said.
Willow’s eyebrows twitched a question, but that question remained unasked. Instead, a grin exploded across her face and she began to lay out her plan. “What do you know about the concept of ‘alternate realities’?”
“You can’t turn your own past into an alternative reality,” J’Nal pointed out.
“I know that. You know that,” Willow gave him a mischievous grin. “Think anyone else knows that?”
J’Nal hunched forward and listened as Willow began talking.
Faith leaned against the wall and stared at Giles’s door opposite from her.
How long had she been standing here? Felt like hours, but was probably more like minutes. She couldn’t tell.
She was exhausted to the point that she could practically feel the bags under her eyes growing to massive proportions. She wanted to knock on Giles’s door, but Christ she had no idea how. Well, she knew how. Take the two steps needed to cross the space, lift up fist, and knock. Easy.
Except not so much.
All she could do was just lean against the wall, clenching and unclenching her firsts because…
Admit it girlfriend. You’re scared shitless. This is too fucking big.
She’s afraid that Giles didn’t know about shimmy-shakes. She’s afraid he did know and didn’t tell anyone when Buffy came up with her crazy plan. She doubted Buffy knew, because then there would’ve been no way Buffy would’ve even proposed it. Probably. Maybe. B was running a bit on the weird side back in the SunnyD so there’s no telling what Buffy would’ve decided to do if she knew about the shimmy-shakes.
Just the same, Faith knew her in her gut that B didn’t know, but she didn’t know if Giles knew.
Awww, hell. She’s way too tired for this bullshit. She’s not making sense even to herself. And if she couldn’t sort it out, how the hell was she even going to talk to a smart guy like Tweedy?
What she needed after the fun and games of last night was sleep. What she got was a mess of nightmares. If there was any good thing in this, it was that the nightmares didn’t feel like Slayer dreams. God knows she was an expert at telling the difference.
They’re all over the house. She walks from room to room, stepping over the bodies of Slayers. Some of them are already dead. Some of them are bleeding from every orifice. She can’t stop. She has to find one (just one god please) Slayer still standing to help her deal with the dead and dying.
Their weak hands are crabbing at her ankles, but they can’t keep hold. She can see them shaking so hard that it’s no wonder she can shake them off.
She walks into the kitchen and sees Buffy in a corner. She’s vibrating so fast that (just like a cheesy horror movie special effect) her body’s a blur.
They moan through the house: Your fault…your fault…your fault…
Faith jerked her head upright. Shit. She drifted off. “Not my fucking fault,” she insisted quietly. Except if she were being honest with herself—and fuck, doesn’t she hate the fact she is—she’s just as much at fault as B. She may not have come up with the big plan to make ’em all Slayers, but she went right along with it and didn’t say a peep.
Christ, at least Xander pointed out that the idea was insane before we all ran with it and he ain’t even a Slayer.
She could hear the soft tread of footsteps climb the stairs. Too heavy to be one of the girls, too clumsy to be a Slayer.
Why speak of the devil.
The footsteps stopped and out of the corner of her left eye she saw Xander cross his arms and lean against the wall. She’s not surprised to see him here. She knew he’d cave and go running to Giles. What surprised her is that he didn’t seem at all surprised that she was here.
“Don’t fucking start,” she said.
“Not saying anything.”
She really wished Xander would stop looking at her. She wished even more he had something resembling an expression on his face.
She had nothing. She couldn’t read a thing off him. He’s a blank sheet.
“You’re bleeding,” he finally said.
He reached out and tapped her left arm hanging down by her side. “Your hands are bleeding.”
She lifted her fists and started when she saw that there was blood leaking out of them. She unclenched both her hands. Son of a bitch. Her nails had been digging into her palms and she was staring at one hell of a mess. You’d think that would hurt.
A large hand closed around her left wrist and tugged. “C’mon,” he said.
She let Xander lead her to the third floor bathroom by her wrist. He let go to close the door behind them and to start the water in the sink. About all she could do was stare dumbly at him.
When the water reached a temperature that Xander obviously thought was good, he said, “Give me your hands.”
And fuck her if she didn’t do just that.
She was somewhat surprised by his matter-of-fact gentleness while he cleaned her hands and inspected the damage. What the fuck are you doing? I can do that shit, she wanted to say. The words got stuck somewhere in her head and didn’t actually reach her lips.
Faith looked up at the mirror and winced. She looked like shit on a stick. Xander finished, looked up, and asked her reflection, “Want me to put something on the cuts?”
“What?” Jesus, she really was stuck on that word, wasn’t she?
Xander reached over, snagged a towel, and began drying his hands. “The cuts. On your palms. I’m sure they’ll heal in no time, but they’re still bleeding.”
“Leave it.” Halleluiah. New words. Any minute now she’ll graduate to full-on sentences.
“It’s your hands.” Xander was back to talking to her reflection again. He didn’t look all that hot either.
“It shouldn’t be us, you know,” she said.
Back to no expression again. “Nope. It really shouldn’t.”
“Should be Willow, or Robin, one of the real braniacs going to Giles with this shit.”
“Yup. It really should.”
“We’re the wrong people for the job.”
“I know I am, but you’re not.”
She shot his reflection a glare. “You bailin’ on me?”
That earned her reflection a tight smile. “No.”
Xander turned, opened the door, and let her through first. She took the lead down the hall. Without looking over her shoulder she said, “You know Cyclops, you could pretend to be surprised that I welshed on the not telling thing.”
“Can’t pretend because I’m not. Surprised I mean.”
Hunh. Apparently Xander thought she was a better person than she actually was.
She reached Giles’s door, lifted her hand, got ready to knock, and froze. She couldn’t do this. If she did this, everything would change. Well, more than they already had. Fucking Catherine. Fucking Charlie. Fucking all of them. She really didn’t need this shit. She could walk away right here and right now and leave this shit for Xander to deal with.
Except Xander’s standing right behind her and not at all fucking surprised that she was going to do this.
Xander leaned over her left shoulder to knock, but she stopped him. “No. I can do this,” she said. When he stepped back, she gave the door two sharp raps.
“Who is it?” Giles’s sounded somewhat distracted.
“Faith and Xander,” she said.
“Come in.” Giles sounded somewhat surprised.
Faith opened the door, let Xander through, and followed him.
“Oh, unh, we didn’t mean to interrupt,” she heard Xander say as she turned to shut the door.
“I’m merely recording what happened last night in my journal. Old habits you know. Although I suspect we’ll have to destroy all the evidence that our visitors’ were here to keep the narrative intact for the future. Speaking of which, you’re going to have start doing this yourself soon enough.”
“Hey, you didn’t tell me you were invited into the tweed-is-good club,” Faith said.
“No time.” Xander gave her a meaningful look.
“Right. Later,” Faith agreed.
Giles was sitting at his desk, hands folded under his chin. He had one of those blank books open on his desk and from where she stood, Faith could see that one of the pages was filled with Giles’s neat, close handwriting. The expression on his face was so pleased and amused by their presence that Faith wondered why the hell he thought they were there.
“Giles? We need to know…” Xander began.
There was something in Xander’s voice that Faith could hear but couldn’t quite put a name to that caused Giles’s expression to dim into worry.
“Know what?” Giles asked.
Faith dove in. “You ever heard of something called the shimmy-shakes?”
“Shimmy-shakes?” Giles asked.
“Polgar Syndrome?” Xander clarified.
“Polgar…what on earth are you two talking about?” Giles was obviously confused now.
“It’s a Slayer thing that we heard about from Charlie,” Faith explained. “And trust me when I tell you, it’s not good.”
Giles sat up and regarded them a moment with alarm. “How bad?”
“Ever hear of a disease that attacks only Slayers?” Xander asked.
There was no faking the look of shock on Giles’s face. “That’s impossible.”
Giles had no more fucking clue than they did. She could see Xander’s body language relax next to her, relieved because he wouldn’t have to deal with the idea that Giles knew it was possible and kept his trap shut while B laid out her plan. As for her, the spring in her gut wound tighter. If Giles had never even heard of such a thing, they were screwed beyond screwed.
“It’s possible. Think Parkinson’s for Slayers and that gives you the idea,” Xander said.
As Giles leaned back in his chair and fought to keep his expression under control, Faith wondered if they did the right thing by yanking Giles into their exclusive little club.
“Tell me everything,” Giles said. “Start from the beginning.”