The two Willows faced each other, both very, very confused.
“Who are you? What are you doing in my room?” cried the girl who looked like Willow.
“*Your* room? This is my room!” exclaimed Willow.
The girl started ranting about how the woman in front had sent her to this room, while Willow was ranting about how she’d been in there for two days, when Willow suddenly realized that this wasn’t getting them anywhere.
“Ok, STOP!” she cried, and the girl quieted down. “Arguing isn’t going to get us anywhere.” She pointed out.
“You’re right.” The strange girl admitted.
Willow took a deep breath. “Let’s start with the basics-who are you?”
The girl looked at her strangely, as though she was trying to decide something, then relented. “My name is Willimenia Anne Rosenburg.”
Willow looked at her, dumbfounded. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Of course not! I assure you, it is my name. Has been since the day I was born.”
“And when would that be, exactly.”
“On the rainy morning of April 4, 1760.”
“April 4?” repeated Willow incredulously. “But that’s my birthday.”
The girl, Willimenia, looked at her strangely. “Well, then perhaps there is an explanation. Perhaps we are twins, lost at birth or some other completely rational way of explaining why you have my face.”
Willow laughed. “Oh, there’s an explanation, alright. But not nearly so simple. We can’t be twins, I’m afraid.”
“Why not?” the girl asked curiously.
“Because I was born on April 4, 1981.”
The girl’s eyes widened. “But…but…but that’s…”
“In the future, I know.” Willow sat down on the bed and started rubbing the bridge of her nose, trying to ease the headache that had formed. When she looked over at her double, she was highly amused to see that she was doing the exact same thing.
“It doesn’t really work, does it?” she asked her, and the girl smiled.
“No, but it helps clear my head.”
They sat in silence, not knowing what to do or say next. Willow sighed and stood up, and the girl did the same. As a result, they bumped into each other.
“Ouch!” they cried simultaneously. Then they blinked. < Wait a second… > thought Willow. < I know… >
< Everything about you. > A thought finished inside her head, but it wasn’t her own. It was her doubles’.
With one brief moment
of contact, they had completely exchanged stories. Willow now knew
that Willimenia was indeed who she said she was, and, to make things even
weirder, her life had been exactly like the story that
Willow had made up to tell people. Willimenia knew everything that had happened to Willow within the last few days, all the events with Angelus, including all the emotions that had plagued her.
They were, in essence, the same person.
The same soul.
“Wow.” One of them said. Looking back, they would never be able to remember which one of them had actually said it, but it didn’t really matter anymore anyway.
“You’re me.” Said one of them, slightly dazed.
“And you’re me.” Said the other, just as confused.
With one breath, they sat down on the floor, facing each other. Neither had the energy to continue standing.
They sat like that for a very long time. Hours upon hours, just staring at each other, trying to absorb all the knowledge they had each just acquired. Then, at dawn, they seemed to reach a mutual decision, and stood, helping each other up. With a mutual sigh, they headed toward the library, and hopefully, toward answers.
The Watcher, Lionel, had just started his morning shift. He looked up, and almost passed out from surprise. There, standing in front of him, was the strange girl he had spoken with two days ago. What was even stranger was the fact that her double stood right next to her.
“Hello.” The first girl said. “Have you found the information I need?”
Lionel said nothing. He simply stared from one identical girl to the other.
“Oh, this is my twin sister, uh…”
“Anne.” The girl jumped in with a smile. “A pleasure to meet you, sir.”
Lionel had no choice but to accept and move on. He took each girl by the hand and led them into his office, where a stack of books cluttered his desk.
“This is everything I could find about Ancient Souls or Marios, writer of the timelines.”
The girls eyed the stacks of think books on the table. “Did you read all that?” asked one patiently.
“Well then perhaps you could kindly summarize for us? We’re sort of short on time.” Said the other.
Lionel winced and sat down. Looking at those two was enough to give anyone a raging headache.
“Very well.” He said. “Where shall I start?”
Both girls sat down. “With the Ancient Souls.” One said.
He sighed. “The Ancient Souls, as far as I can tell, are an old myth. Supposedly, there were twelve souls created at the beginning of time that were wiser, purer, and more…beautiful than any of the others. These souls were to be sent down to earth in twos-two for every lifetime, that is, to help humanity. As people, they could use their wisdom and goodness to do something significant for the human race. It is though that an Ancient Soul was behind the finding of fire, the written word, perhaps the wheel…”
“Get on with it!” said one of the young women impatiently.
“Yes, yes. Anyway, the theory goes that the souls were always sent down in the same pairs, because the twelve souls were really composed of six pairs of eternal lovers…soulmates is the cliched term, I believe. And the pair would make their contribution together. No matter how far apart the heavens placed them, they would find one another and join to help. Unless, of course, one of them died before they found each other. In that case, the soul that was left was destined to be alone, helping people but not making the great contribution it was meant to.”
“How sad.” Said one.
Lionel thought of another point. “Another interesting fact about the Ancient Souls was that they always seemed to find the Slayer, even if they didn’t know it. The legend says the souls of great power were drawn together like magnets, and that if a Slayer was near one or two of the present Ancient Souls, she would be stronger and live longer because of their support and friendship.”
The one called Willow turned to the one called Anne and said, “You wouldn’t happen to know a Marie Frangier, would you?”
The second girl nodded. “Yes, she’s a shepherd girl near my brother’s farm. Why?”
There was a moment of silent reflection. Then one girl-he thought it was Willow, not Anne said, “What about Marios?”
Lionel took a deep breath. “Marios is a very powerful being who writes the timelines.”
“We knew that already!” said one, exasperated.
“Yes, well, he is also the righter of the timelines.”
He was presented with two very confused faces and continued to explain. “Normally, Marios’ job is to simply write down the timelines of humanity. But every 500 years, he is allowed to send one who is pure of heart, normally an Ancient Soul, back in time to right something he considered in history to be a wrong. He would use the Pandora test-present himself as a chest with a magic book next to it to the soul he had chosen to go back in time. If the person opened it, he would send them back. If not, humanity would remain as the wrong had determined it.”
“So, curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.”
He grinned. “In a manner of speaking.”
Willow’s mind was spinning frantically. < I’m an Ancient Soul, I’m an Ancient Soul…Wow. >
“How was the soul supposed to return to her time after she had completed her task?” she asked suddenly.
“Oh, Marios would send the soul back through the righted timeline to it’s correct position.”
With that cleared up, Willow stood and thanked the watcher for his time. ‘Anne’ did the same, and the two proceeded out of the library and back to their inn to figure out what to do next.
“We have to go to the Slayer.” Said Willow.
“I suppose you’re right.” Agreed Willimenia. “She’s the only one who can help us with Darla. But it’s almost an entire day’s walk, and by the time we get back, it will be too late.”
Willow stood up, inspired. “No it won’t.”
“But…” Willimenia trailed off.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a whole day’s walk, we’re going to ride. Come on.”
Willow stood at the foot of Angelus’s family estate, waiting not so patiently for some one to answer the bell. It had been easy enough to find-everyone in town knew where the very wealthy family lived.
Suddenly the door opened and a surprised Angelus looked at her.
“Willow!” he exclaimed, a grin on his face. “What are you doing here?”
“I need a favor.”
“Anything.” He promised.
“I need to borrow Flash. Or your fastest horse, it doesn’t matter. And I need it now. Please?”
He studied her intently. “When will you have her back?” he asked, signaling his acceptance of her request.
He led her to the stables
and she watched as he saddles up the horse for her. She kept one eye on
him and one eye on the tree just down the dirt road behind which Willimenia
was hiding. If he saw her, there’d be a lot
of explaining to do.
He handed her the reins to his own horse. Willow’s eyes watered. She knew how much he loved that animal and was honored that he trusted her enough to let her borrow it. “Thank you.” She said, hugging him.
They hugged for one more moment, then Willow pulled away. “I’m afraid I have to break our date tomorrow.” She said.
His eyes darkened. “But you said…”
“I know, but please just…”
“Why?” he demanded.
“I can’t tell you.”
She saw the hurt in his eyes before she heard it in his voice. “I thought you trusted me, lass.” He said quietly.
“I do.” She said gently as she stroked his cheek, but he pulled away.
“No! Don’t touch me! Just go!” he yelled.
He turned away from her. “Angelus…” she started, but he interrupted her.
“Leave me! I thought
that we had a connection, that you trusted me and that I could do the same.
About anything. Evidently, I was wrong. Just take the horse. Bring it back
in two days time. Then I never want to see
you again. A love…”
“I mean, a life without trust, a relationship with it, is nothing at all.”
“GO!” he yelled.
She went, weeping. < Don’t give up, you still have to save him. > She mounted the horse and picked up Willimenia as they started on their journey.
Behind them, a man who’s heart was breaking stood in a barn as a solitary tear rolled down his cheek.
“So, he just made you leave?” asked Willimenia.
“Well, I don’t blame him. He was right. A love without trust isn’t worth much. Maybe, after all of this is over, you can explain to him.”
“Me? Why not you?”
“Because if everything works out, I won’t be here! I’ll be back in 1999. You get to stay here…with him.”
“But he loves you.” She pointed out.
Willow sighed. “He loves us.” If what the librarian said is true, we’re the same person. So it doesn’t matter to him, he’ll never know the difference, because there isn’t one.”
They were both silent.
Because Willimenia shared Willow’s emotions, they both knew that Willow
was in love with Angelus. And consequently, so was Willimenia. Willow thought
of a future without Angelus and hurt inside.
But then, her only consolation was that when she got to the future, she wouldn’t miss him because she never would have known him. None of her friends would.
< I’m robbing Buffy of the love of her life…How can I do that to my best friend? Of course, I fell in love with him too, so which is the greater of two evils? > thought Willow.
< Enough! > Her inner voice said. < Just concentrate on the now…or then…oh dear. >
Even her inner voice was confused about what verb tense to use. That was never a good sign. Willow sighed, then jumped when Willimenia cried, “There she is! In that field over there!”
With that, they jumped the fence and headed toward the girl in the distance.
“Marie! MARIE!” shouted Willimenia.
The shepherd girl looked up, saw them, and waved. She walked closer to them and met them at the top of the hill. When she saw Willow, her eyes widened and she glanced back at Willimenia.
“What…” she started to ask, but Willow interrupted her.
“There’s no time for explanations right now. We can explain on the way. Do you have a horse?”
“Yes, of course.” Replied the girl.
“Well, get it and come on.”
“To Dublin. We have to save a young man from a very powerful vampire.”
The girl’s eyes widened and she looked back and forth between the two identical young women. “Vampires? I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Willow groaned and turned to Willimenia. “You talk to her. We don’t have time for her little innocent act. It took Angel as a vampire and a Slayer to defeat Darla. She’s mean. If we try this alone, we die.”
Willimenia took Marie aside and spoke to her softly while Willow watched.
“Marie, we know you’re the Slayer. And we need your help.”
Marie looked at her old friend for a long time, then nodded. “Let me get my horse and send a replacement out here.” She said, turning away.
“Fine, but hurry!”
Willimenia climbed back onto the horse. “She’ll be right back.”
“I know.” Willow glanced at the sky. They had ridden through the afternoon and all night. The sun was just now rising. They had about twelve hours, give or take a couple minutes, as far as she could figure. It had taken them at least nine to get here, and once they got to Dublin, they still had to find Angelus and Darla, which wasn’t going to be easy. “Come on, come on…” she muttered under her breath.
Fifteen minutes later, the young slayer returned on horseback. Her saddlebags were filled with weapons. Stakes, crosses, holy water, and a crossbow. “Let’s go.” She said. “You can explain on the way.”
Willow nodded and turned
the horse around, patting its side. “I know you’re tired.” She whispered
to it. “But if you can just get us to him in time, I promise someone will
take you home and groom you and pamper
you and feed you three lumps of sugar.”
The horses’ drooping
ears perked up when he heard the word sugar. He knew a bribe when he heard
one. He stood for a moment, considering, then let out a small whinny and
started galloping across the field. Marie
followed, and they were on their way once again.
“Darla? My Watcher told me about her. She’s nasty.” Said Marie as they galloped down the dirt packed road.
“Which would be why we needed you.” Pointed out Willow.
“You don’t have to get like that! I understand, really. But how do you know that she’s going to attack this young man, Angelus?”
“It’s a really long story.”
They proceeded to tell her all about the events of the last couple of days as they rode into Dublin. She was highly skeptical, and Willow wasn’t sure that Marie believed them at all. But it didn’t matter, as long as she would help them stop Darla.
Willow looked at the sky. The sun was just setting as they rode into the large city.
“So, where is this going to happen?” asked Marie.
Willow grimaced. “That’s the problem. I don’t know for sure. Outside of a seedy bar somewhere, I think.”
Marie looked offended. “Well, if he’s that sort of man, I don’t see the point in rescuing him at all.”
Willow stopped her horse next to Marie’s and grabbed the front of her smock, fire in her eyes. “He’s not that sort of man. He’s kind and gentle and sweet and if you ever say anything degrading about him again, I don't care if you are the Slayer, I’ll kick your ass from here to hell and back again. Understand?"
Marie looked slightly taken aback. This normal girl was threatening her? The Slayer? How dare she! But silently, she nodded.
“Good.” Willow said, releasing her shirt. “Come on.”
They started searching
high and low, through every seedy tavern they could find. With every passing
moment, Willow was growing more and more anxious about Angelus. After an
hour, the search seemed hopeless. They
had searched dozens of taverns, and Goddess only knew how many there were left. It was hopeless.
Willow paused in the street, catching her breath. She didn’t realize that she was right in front of her inn until Mrs. Montgomery came rushing out at her.
“Oh, lass! That young
man you went out with two days ago-he stopped by a little earlier and said
that if you wanted to change your mind and trust him, you would find him
at the tavern across the way. He din’na look too
Willow’s face broke open with a huge smile. “Mrs. Montgomery, you have just saved my life. Thank you.”
She reached down and kissed the old woman on the cheek, then climbed off her horse and handed the reins to her. “Would you watch this horse for me?” The lady nodded.
Willow ran off and found Willimenia and Marie on the next street over, leading Marie’s horse into a small alley. “I found him!” she yelled, and they looked up and ran towards her.
“Where?” asked Marie.
She led them to the tavern across the street and looked around frantically. It was hard to see through the heavy fog, and the loud music from the tavern muted noises somewhat. < Where is he? > she thought frantically.
Suddenly, she saw a
lantern in an alleyway light up. She ran to it and hid herself behind a
wall, Marie and Willimenia following her. When she glanced into the alleyway,
she could see Angelus standing there, talking
to Darla. She could tell even at this distance that he was drunk. < I wonder why? He’s not the type to drink… > she thought, then realized, < Unless he had a fight with the woman he…cared for. Oh God. I could have
prevented this all by simply going out with him tonight? So much for the easy way. > she thought ruefully.
Suddenly, Darla was drinking from Angelus’ neck. Willow screamed and Darla looked up, seeing them. “Well, well, what have we here?” she asked, her eyes glowing. “A Slayer! And two twins. How sweet. Wanna play?” she asked.
With that, she launched herself into the air and landed next to them. Willow grabbed a cross and waved it at her, and Darla hissed with discomfort. She then used that opportunity to throw a whole bottle of holy water at her, then punch her with a backhand while she was still disoriented. “THAT’S for almost KILLING him!” she screamed.
Meanwhile, Willimenia had run over to the unconscious Angelus. “He’s going to be OK!” she yelled, and Willow nodded, turning back to Darla as Willimenia tenderly took Angel’s head in her lap and stroked his hair gently. < She loves him as much as I do…which I suppose makes sense. She’ll be good to him. >
Marie was busy kicking some Darla butt, and Willow joined in, using the few self-defense classes she remembered that Giles had taught. She got a good uppercut into the stomach, then burned Darla’s skin with the cross on the neck. She stepped back and admired her handiwork-a cross-shaped burn hissing on the pale skin.
“If that’s not poetic justice, I don’t know what is.” She remarked.
Marie kicked and punched, jumping around with a Slayer’s stamina. < Lord, she reminds me of Buffy. > thought Willow. Marie then grabbed the vamp by her arms and held her still. Darla was breathing heavily and glaring at all three of them as Marie asked, “Ye wish to do the honors?”
Willow smiled. “But of course.” She said, and waving a goodbye to Darla, plunged a stake deep into her heart.
Darla disintegrated before their eyes and Willow smiled. < I did it! I did it! > her mind swam with happiness.
There was a very loud, very familiar boom and a brilliant flash of light and Willow took one last look at Willimenia and Angelus, who had woken up. She helped him up and then they kissed tenderly. < Good. He’ll never know. >
Then she heard a loud voice. “Willow Anne Rosenburg!” It shouted. “You have completed your mission and fixed the timeline. I extend my congratulations and thanks to you, oh Ancient One. I now send you back…”
There was a flash of light, and then utter oblivion as the fabric of time from the last two hundred years unraveled...
Willow walked down
the street, rubbing her neck gently. < Aah, that feels good. > she thought.
It had been a long couple of weeks. Graduation was over, Buffy had
defeated the mayor, but it had taken it’s toll on all of them. Buffy was
haggard and bruised, Xander was all worked up, Cordelia was intent on going
to school as far from Sunnyhell as possible, Scott, Buffy’s boyfriend,
had finally found out about the whole Slayer thing and was not dealing
well, and Oz and Amy, ever the inseparable couple after Willow had finally
gotten Amy de-ratted, were
both uptight. And for those two to be uptight, you knew it had been a hard couple of weeks.
Willow unlocked her door and headed to her room. She wanted to change into something a little more…daring, a little more un-Willow-like for the Bronze tonight. She ended up with a green crop top and a jean skirt. She curled her hair, added a touch of make-up, and was out the door, lost in thought.
As she got nearer to the Bronze, she fell deeper into thought. Life was good. She had lots of great friends, she was becoming a really strong witch, she had gotten into every college imaginable, but there was still something missing…
“WATCH OUT!” someone yelled.
Willow looked up and gasped when she realized she was in the middle of the street. A truck came rushing at her, but suddenly a figure ran into her, pushing her out of the way.
When she regained her bearings, she looked up at her rescuer, who was smiling down at her. “Thanks.” She said. < Goddess, he is gorgeous! > she thought as she studied him.
“No problem.” He replied. < This girl must be a goddess or something-she’s a walking Aphrodite! > “You shouldn’t walk out in the street like that.”
She blushed. “I know. Normally I don’t, I just…”
He laughed. “It’s ok. Good thing I was around, though.”
“Yeah. I’m Willow.” She said, extending her hand.
“Angel.” He said, taking it. An electric shock ran all the way up her arm, and when she looked up, she could tell that he had felt it too. Their eyes locked, and they stared at each other for a moment. Then Willow cleared her throat.
“I…um…don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. Are you new?”
He grinned. “Yeah. I just transferred to Sunnydale college. They’ve got a great education program.”
“Is that your major?”
“Yeah. I love kids. I was supposed to start there three years ago, but my mom got sick, so I stayed close to home, in Boston.”
They smiled at each other. This time he cleared his throat. “Actually, I heard there was a pretty good club around here. Do you know where it is?”
She smiled. “Yeah! It’s not that great, but it’s the only thing we’ve got here…I was just heading there myself, to meet some friends…you could join me, if you like.” She added timidly.
He smiled. “I like. I like a lot.”
“Good. This way.” They started walking, and Angel slipped his hand into hers. It should have been weird, since she had just met him, but it felt so natural…and the electric shocks kept going up her arm. < Ooh, this is nice… > she thought.
Then she paused. “What? What is it?” he asked. “Did I overstep the line or something, with the hand? It just felt…so good to…touch you, that I really didn’t think about it.”
She stopped his flow of words with her hand. “No, it’s not that.” She said with a puzzled look on her face. She glanced back at the spot where he had saved her, then back at him, then at the spot again. “I liked that a lot. It’s just…”
“What?” he asked, puzzled.
“Well, just now…the way we met…with you pushing me out of the street, and then the electric thing when we touched…”
“You felt that too?”
“Yeah…but I just got…the strangest feeling of deja-vu.”
He looked at the spot, then frowned. “You’re right. I feel it, too.”
They looked at each other, puzzled, then shrugged, continuing to the Bronze, hand in hand.
And all was right with the world.