Title: Fully Qualified
Disclaimer: Do I look like Joss? (Well, technically, none of you know what I look like, since I don't post my picture on the Internet, but, to clear up any confusion, I don't. Look like Joss, that is.) And I also don't look like gidgetgirl. She owns the plot and the characters of Zane, Lola, Thayer, and Sophie, none of whom are mentioned in this chapter.
Spoilers/Timeline: Post-Chosen. Obvious spoilers.
Summary: Ever notice that when you think you've got control, the past comes back to bite you in the butt? Poor Willow...
Author's Notes: I'm sleepy, and what better way to calm down than to write a climactic chapter? Tee hee…
A/N2: "Pario" means "bring forth" in Latin.The Big Finish
Willow glanced at Taylor, then at Carly. "Are you sure you want me to do this?" Willow asked.
Carly nodded. "If it will help Taylor."
"I hope it will," Willow said. "And it'll probably help me, too. In the long run."
"Come again?" Carly asked.
It had been two days since Taylor's "spell". She'd had minor episodes in the past couple days, but nothing like the one in which she'd switched personalities for two hours. The only thing Carly and Willow could do was wait it out and make sure Taylor didn't hurt herself. So they had ordered a pizza and had a movie ready for Taylor to watch when she "came back".
Carly had kept Taylor out of school, telling the principal that Taylor was being "psychologically evaluated" for personal reasons. Luckily, this explanation went over well. No one had any suspicions yet, but if Taylor stayed out for much longer, the administration would probably wonder exactly what kind of evaluations Taylor was undergoing.
The night after the Taylor drama, Willow phoned Giles in England for his help in researching. As much as Willow wished she could just sit and research Taylor's condition all day, she had other patients (not to mention Aimee) to attend to. And she had to figure out a time to squeeze in a visit to Thayer.
Willow had found out that Thayer had been the subway stabbing victim just after Taylor's "incident". Just one thing right after the other, she thought. Thayer's mother had called to cancel Thayer's session for the next few days, and apparently had gotten to talking with Aimee about Thayer's condition. Nobody was worried; Thayer was healing well, and the doctors were preparing to send her home. There were no signs of infection or resulting problems from the stabbing, but the man that had stabbed her had not been captured yet. No surprise there, Willow thought, remembering the newscaster's remarks about "strange facial distortion". It's probably a vamp.
But right now she needed to concentrate.
The spell Giles had found was very sketchy, but it was their only hope of ending Taylor's problem. It would bring forth the entities inside her, and hopefully Willow would be able to "face her fears", so to speak. Willow had pondered the meaning of that all last night as she lay in bed, trying to sleep. Okay, I get why Vamp Me is freaking me out. And Evil Me. But Shy Me? And Good Witch Me? Why should I have emotional baggage with them…or me, rather? They're not really negative.
She tried to convince herself it would be okay, that she'd rise to the occasion (once it happened) and beat down her…self.
Carly watched Willow carefully. "What should I do?" she asked.
"Sit with Taylor," Willow instructed. "Hold her, and don't let go, no matter what."
Carly gulped nervously. "Okay."
They sat down across from each other. Taylor looked frightened, understandably.
"It'll be okay, Taylor," Willow assured the little girl. "We're gonna help you."
Taylor gulped and nodded. Willow closed her eyes and began chanting: "Pario. Bring forth that which is concealed. Pario. Show that which is latent. Pario. In sleep, the being lies. Pario. In sleep, shall it be defeated. Pario. Awaken, sleep no more. Rise, leave the body of your keeper. Pario. Pario. Pario. Rise.
Taylor convulsed and gasped for air. Carly looked petrified, and tears rolled down her cheeks at the sight of her daughter.
"Fingers crossed" Willow mumbled.
Out of Taylor's choking mouth came a fog. It grew large before separating into four separate figures, which began to take the shape of…
"Me," Willow whispered. Well, here goes.
Taylor gasped for air, and this time the oxygen reached her lungs. She began to breathe again, but she wasn't having an easy time with it. Better make this quick, Rosenberg.
"Well, if it isn't me," the first misty figure said. It was beginning to fill with color and its features were becoming more pronounced. Okay, tackle the vampire first.
"Oooh, look," Willow's vampire double sneered. "I'm not fuzzy anymore."
"Gave up the fuzziness awhile ago," Willow returned conversationally, before her voice took on a colder tone. "Can't say the same about you. You're still the same skanky bloodsucker you were years ago."
Vamp Willow's form flickered. "Oh, ouch," she retorted. "That hurt my feelings. If I had a working heart, it would've broken. Really," she added, a sarcastic bite in her voice.
"If I wanted to hurt your feelings," Willow said, "I would've by now. But see, I'm not like you. I actually have friends. Real friends, not minions. People who respect me just because, not people who only respect me because they fear me."
"You aren't me. You'll never be me. You're a sad, skanky imitation. You don't exist here and you don't belong here. I do. This is my world. And I want you out!"
There was a flash of light, and Vamp Willow's form disappeared. Taylor gasped before her breathing became slightly easier.
Willow smiled. All those years of psych are finally paying off in a big way. Next? She turned to the next misty form, which by this time had taken the form of Willow, with long, straight hair and a plaid dress.
"You," Willow said. "I can't figure out what my problem with you is. You're a part of me."
The other Willow smiled. "It's like an algebra problem," she said, smiling. "It's really simple if you know the basics."
"I outgrow you. Me. That phase. Whatever. You're not who I am any more."
"Keep going," Other Willow said. "You're getting there."
"I mean, I left those days behind."
"That's the ticket," Other Willow remarked.
"What is? I feel guilty about outgrowing my shyness? Why should I?"
"Think," Other Willow commanded.
"I mean, I don't know what my problem with you is." Willow stopped, and then a look of realization came over her face. "I felt untrue to myself."
"Now you've got it."
"I felt like I'd strayed from my normal life and left it behind for something more exciting."
"So did other people."
"But you knew…"
"…they weren't all good changes." Willow thought. "I thought I'd changed for the worse."
Willow thought back to a day in preschool. She and Xander were sitting in the Block Area playing with building blocks, watching their friend Hannah play house with the other kids. Or, rather, watching their former friend Hannah play house with the other kids.
"Why doesn't Hannah like us any more?" Xander had asked.
"She changed," Willow had replied, using a term she heard her mother use all the time.
"Well, changing is bad," Xander had declared. "I don't ever want to change." He had turned to her and said as sincerely as was possible for a four-year-old, "Willow, don't ever change."
"But we did change," Willow remarked to her former self. "Not just me, Xander, too. We grew up and learned to read and watched PG-13 movies and stopped wearing footy pajamas. There's nothing to feel guilty about."
Her other self simply smiled and disappeared with a flicker of light.
Willow moved on to the third figure, a woman with pale skin and dark hair. "How did I know," Willow began, "that you would come back to haunt me?"
"Because I am you," her dark self replied. "You can't explain me away as the result of a freak dimension hop or of a childhood "trauma". I'm part of you."
"Not anymore," Willow snapped. "You haven't been a part of me for a long time. Not since those last couple years in Sunnydale."
"I'm always a part of you," Dark Willow told her. "Every time you do a spell, every time you think of Tara, every time you sleep and eat and wake up, I'm there. I'm in your soul. You can't get rid of me."
Willow stared at her for a moment, then looked her in the eye. "You're right. I won't ever get rid of you. You're always inside me. So is my appendix. Doesn't mean I depend on it. I don't need it. And I don't need you. I might not be able to surgically remove you, but hey, I don't have to. Because you're not a factor in my life any more. Leave me alone."
Dark Willow disappeared in a flash of light, and Willow was left staring the last figure in the face.
"Now you," she said, "puzzle me the most. You symbolize my greatest triumph. Why should I have baggage with you?"
The other Willow, awash in white light, pushed a few strands of white hair out of her face. "Because, in your triumph, you returned to the pain of defeat."
"I saved us," Willow insisted.
"But there were others," White Willow reminded her.
"I did all that I could," Willow said. "I couldn't have done anything different. Anya and the Potentials—the Slayers—their deaths weren't my fault. The magic saved them."
"And it was the undoing of others."
The White Willow nodded.
"The magic is what killed her."
Willow accepted this explanation, then frowned. "No," she said slowly. "The magic didn't kill Tara. Warren killed Tara. I didn't do anything. It was a horrible twist of fate, but magic wasn't a factor. And the magic I used for the Slayers was good and pure—it was not the magic that drove Tara away."
White Willow smiled. "Enjoy life, Willow," she said warmly, and disappeared.
Taylor took a final gasp of air, and then her breathing returned to normal. Carly breathed a sigh of relief and hugged Taylor. "It's over," she whispered, tears on her cheeks. "She kissed Taylor's head. "It's finally over."
"You know what?" Willow said thoughtfully. "I don't think it is."
Carly gave her a strange look before going back to fussing over Taylor. Willow watched contentedly.
All in a day's work.
Yay! It's done!
Thank you to all who reviewed—you're the best!
Keep your eyes peeled for ficlets involving Willow's other patients a sequel. (Hopefully, I'll remember to tie up any loose plot points then. There was a reason behind Taylor's situation, but I'm not telling right now…mwahahahaha!)
Until I get around to writing the sequel and posting (I'm gonna wait awhile to "build up the suspense"…), here's a teaser for those of you who wish to be somewhat spoiled:
Carly held the cell phone closer to her ear. "So, I'll see you Wednesday, right after I pick Taylor up. And thanks so much."
"No problem. Always a pleasure to babysit."
Carly frowned at the road as she switched into a lane with less traffic. "I feel like such a bad mother," she confessed. "I've been working late all the time. I barely see my little girl any more."
"You're not a bad mom," Willow assured her. "You're just busy, that's all. I'm sure Taylor understands."
"I don't know," Carly said. "She's usually so bubbly and eager to tell me about everything. Lately, she's just been withdrawn and kind of touchy."
"Is it because of—"
"Kids don't always like having to share their parents with someone else."
"It's only been a few dates. I don't even know if it's serious yet."
"Neither does she. But I'll bet it's what she's afraid of."
"Probably." Carly turned on her blinker and drove onto the exit ramp. "Well, maybe a day with you will cheer her up."
Willow smiled. "Here's hoping."
She could see them again. They were here. And they were mad. And the hands, the hands were coming, coming, coming, and they were grabbing her neck and squeezing hard. Tears streamed down her face and lights flashed in front of her eyes. The hands hit her. She fell and it hurt it hurt it hurt…
The bruises would never fade…
…if they were real.
Yeah, that little selection is subject to change…
Also, this section was written by an extremely tired me. THhe only reason I'm still awake is because I had WAY too much Mountain Dew, M&M's, cookies, and brownies at the party I was at tonight. I can already feel the cavaties coming...
So please forgive any bad writing. I tried to make for it with a good long chapter.