Further up the shoreline of Lake Sunnydale, casual comments were traded back and forth among the Scooby Gang.
"So, G-man, I'm sure back when you were just a Watcher that you would have put something like this down in your journal as, 'The Slayer summoned the demon.' Keeping things totally dull and dry as dust, nothing interesting, sending all your readers to sleep---"
"Really, Xander, the whole point of maintaining a historical record is to ensure documentation of what exactly took place, not to provide entertaining literature."
"That's too bad. I bet if you wrote exactly what she's doing right now, your stuff would sell like hotcakes, Giles."
"Dawn, dear Lord…."
Down by the lake, Buffy had unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, slid her thumbs down between the skin of her hips and the sides of her jeans and panties, and shoved these items of clothing down to her knees while bending over, and still staying in that position, she started making twenty-foot length hops across the ground, all while mooning the entire area.
"Elizabeth Anne Summers! How dare you act in such an unladylike manner!"
Abruptly coming to a halt, Buffy calmly brought up her pants and underwear as she straightened, and then she refastened and adjusted all her clothing to correctness, before turning around to meet the gaze of the person standing before her.
An indignant Joyce Summers stared at her daughter.
"DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA JUST HOW UNIMAGINATIVE YOU ARE?! PLUS, BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT ANGEL, I JUST LOST A SHOE BET WITH MY SISTER!"
The signal of Buffy's venting was followed by Willow closing her eyes and finally casting the spell at the area where the Slayer was standing while yelling at something none of the other members of the Scooby Gang could perceive.
A solid metal sphere twenty feet in radius promptly appeared around Buffy, with the air and the ground surrounding the woman transmuting into steel and other materials with such care and skill that the Slayer's feet didn't move despite now standing on the glassy interior of the sphere, nor did the globe shift in the hollow in the ground it was now resting upon, as solid as rock.
In the total darkness inside the sphere, a mocking voice spoke, sounding exactly like her mother, but in a tone of total contempt that had never come from the woman Buffy Summers had loved more than anyone else in the entire world. "You do remember that I'm immaterial and can move anywhere? There's no cage, either of man or magic, that can hold me."
Buffy smiled toothily in the dark while replying, "It's not a cage, you idiot. It's a trap."
At that, the only living being inside the sphere vanished.
The First Evil froze, and then it began warily looking around the artifact it was currently inside. Its first thought was to leave at once, but suppose that set off the trap? Gingerly, it started examining with all the mystical power it possessed the strange object containing itself, and over the next few moments, it slowly began regaining its arrogance. While this….thing stank of the potent magic of the witch, the sphere seemed to be doing nothing at all. What, then, was the whole point of this?
Buffy appeared out of thin air an arm's-length in front of Willow, so deftly that there was no need to shift her feet or legs to keep her balance. The witch, along with the other three people by her, had her eyes closed, and an instant after the Slayer's arrival, Willow opened her eyes. As she met her friend's uncanny gaze, Buffy remembered what had happened months ago back in the Scottish castle.
"I could see you when I was a ghost."
Willow sighed, looking around at the blank faces of the others in the castle's sitting room when she began explaining her plan. She tried again. "Remember Halloween, Xander, Buffy? I turned into a spirit when Ethan's spell hit my ghost costume. Incorporeal, intangible, unable to be affected by anything in the material world --- but I could still see you both in your costumes and also everything else in Sunnydale during that night. Which was impossible. Light should have passed through me and my eyes, just as if I were invisible, with me becoming blind. But that didn't happen. I could see --- which meant an insubstantial being did interact with the material world in some way."
Buffy said the first thing she could think of. "But, but, Willow, that was….magic!"
Willow snuggled back into her easy chair and hummed a few bars of a specific Lovin' Spoonful tune, smirking at the blonde woman trying to stifle her giggles when she recognized the song. The redhead looked at the others in the room, her amusement subsiding, as she added, "Trust me, guys, I'm now more than capable of doing things Ethan could only dream about in his eagerness to create chaos."
A flicker of pain went over Giles' features at the mention of his former friend, though there was no sign of his regret in his calm statements. "We're going up against our most powerful enemy, Willow. Are you quite confident about this?"
With a grave expression, Willow gently rubbed her palm against her stomach's slight bulge, and nodded, saying, "Giles, everyone, back then, we just reacted to things --- we danced to its tune. But now, we have time to develop our plans, to use what we've learned. We can think things out, draw on our experiences --- Goddess, in Sunnydale, why didn't we ever remember I was a ghost once? If we'd just put our minds to it, I'm sure we could have come up with something, anything, to actually fight it! Instead of having to wait until years later when an idea came from someone who's a much bigger geek than I ever was, and let me tell you, it's pretty hard to be geekier than putting up posters on your bedroom wall of Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawking, and Albert Einstein!"
The witch then switched her attention to another's confused face, as Xander slowly said, "Uh, Wils, you got that from Andrew's five-minute riff about Sauron and Ringwraiths that caused everybody's eyes in the room to glaze over? He didn't stop talking until the closest Slayer to him, Jessica, grabbed the popcorn bowl out of his lap and overturned it on his head! I agreed with him back then 'cause it made a half-assed sense, and just so he wouldn't repeat it again!"
"Just one sentence he said, actually," smiled Willow at Xander. '"To paraphrase him, 'An immaterial foe must be met with an immaterial weapon.'"
The man muttered, "You gotta spray more saliva and also put on a true-dork expression to do a better impersonation of him, God help us."
"Actually….that's part of it."
"What?!" exclaimed the entire room.
"We're going to ask for help."
Dawn, like the others, stared at the witch in absolute incredulity, and just managed to blurt out, "Help --- what kind --- from who? You can't be talking about the Powers That Be!"
Xander snarled, "Damn straight! Back at Sunnydale, those assholes were probably taking bets on how many of us survived or died! We've done okay without them sticking in their noses since then, probably 'cause Buffy would tear out their ribcage and wear it as a hat, if they ever dared to show up again! If you didn't do something worse to 'em before she had a chance!" The angry man subsided back into the sofa as Faith by his side took his hand in her own and squeezed it in reassurance.
Everyone else in the room unconsciously nodded their heads at Xander's opinion. In all the years since the collapse of the California town, the Sunnydale survivors thankfully had no contact with those manipulative so-called higher beings, despite such events as the disappearance of Angel and his comrades later. Various opinions on the reasons for this included Xander's bloodthirsty suggestion, the unlikely possibility that the Scooby Gang had fulfilled their destinies, or that the PTB were just waiting for some other upcoming disaster to start treating the people in the room as puppets again.
Not even Willow, with all her immense mystic power, knew the correct answer to that, and the witch was more than content to leave it alone. Which was why she shook her head at the others' error. "I'm not talking about those jerks. Whatever they might think, they're not the be-all and end-all in this universe. No, I meant help from….elsewhere. Beyond. Higher."
"If you're talkin' 'bout who I'm thinkin', what makes ya think we're gonna get help?" quavered Faith, shivering a little. Without thinking about it, she squeezed again Xander's hand for comfort and relaxed a fraction as he squeezed back, and leaned against her. Faith put her head against Xander's shoulder and worriedly stared at the witch.
Willow gave them all a beatific smile and quietly said, "We've already had it." At their bewildered expressions, she continued, "Look at us all now, and think about what we all did to each other back then. All the pain and the tragedies….but we got past it, to become a family. We fought, sacrificed, and won. All by using emotions and feelings that couldn't be touched or seen. Love. Hope. Forgiveness. Friendship. Our enemy has his own weapons that are just as insubstantial: Fear. Dissension. Doubt. Suspicion. They can be fought against, and we've done it. Now, we're going to put up all we have, and use our powers to go up against something that has its own adversary, that I'm sure already helped us."
As she looked at her friends' faces with their looks of dawning wonder and expectation, Willow continued, "At the very least, we can ask. We have that right, as do all humans on this world. And even if nothing comes from it, well, it can't hurt, and it might help, when we start what Xander is gonna call a really KICK-ASS spell!"
At the end of Willow's speech that finished with a wild whoop, the Scooby Gang had their faces shining with the light of coming battle. As the redhead continued explaining her plan, they listened intently, though at the conclusion, Buffy and Faith, with their Slayer hearing, glanced curiously at each other at overhearing Dawn softly muttering something about the power of love and the power of arithmetic….
By Lake Sunnydale, staring straight at the Slayer, eyes of pure green, solid colored with no sign of human iris or pupil, eyes that bore the power of the entire planet examined the diminutive woman before her, and the Red Witch opened her mouth and murmured in the whisper of all growing life as manifested by her child in her womb, "Speak."
The man to the right of Buffy opened his right eye, now pure brown, and said in a voice holding the clash of weapons defending loved ones, "Protect."
Looking over Willow's head, the Watcher's pure gray eyes opened, and from his lips came the soft susurration of all the pages sweeping open of every book ever created that formed, "Know."
Smiling, Dawn bestowed on her sister both a look from her pure sea-green eyes and a single word chiming with the music of the cosmos, "Open."
Totally without fear, Buffy reached out to place her hands on Willow's shoulders, her thumbs touching the sides of Giles' hands, as Xander and Dawn brought their free hands around to place these on the Slayers' own shoulders. The hazel eyes of the California girl remained unchanged, as someone who had known heaven tilted back her head, casting her gaze upwards, to entreat, "Please."
The appeal was heard, and answered.
Inside the sphere, a puzzled First Evil ignored the faintest trace of magic that subtly changed the inner mirrored glass into….absolute perfection. The inside of the globe was now an exact round solid figure well past impossibility without even the tug of gravity distorting it, the surface of the interior's mirror was now smoother than humanity could polish it down to the atomic level and beyond, and all of its substance was now totally pure, with no traces of unwanted material to ruin things. Uncontaminated. Untainted.
Yet, the most powerful part of the spell was something as intangible as the monster inside it, and nothing would have come of the efforts of the Scooby Gang if they hadn't shown this in their work and dedication, in their lives and beliefs, in their love and devotion to each other.
Loyalty. Trust. Faith.
Instantly, the eyes of every human there blazed pure white, and from their throats came words of power that shuddered every molecule of their bodies.
Let there be light.
And this came to pass.
Next to the fiend inside Willow's spell construct, much faster than it could react, appeared a speck of the First Light, the Light of Creation.
Several months before this, all while he crammed popcorn into his mouth, Andrew had cheerfully burbled, "….immaterial, right? But what would happen (crunch) if you had a totally honkin' light inside a perfect mirror holding the First Evil? There's a really, really cool video on Youtube showing weird to the max when it was tried, and well (munch), I mean, that, um, guy's --- thing's connected to vampires, right?, and they can't been seen in mirrors, and, uh (gulp), they go right into ashes in the slightest sunlight, which can't be burning them all that much, maybe it's got to do with photons being both a wave and a particle, which is just as impossible as that Big Bad, and you know, I bet a Slayer could kick a Nazgul's butt 'cause like the book says, they're not a man or….HEY!" It all ended with the Scooby Gang coming back to what remained of Sunnydale after listening to a man who had casually tossed off a suggestion just before he was forced into wearing an item of cookery as a hat. Not that the group named after a cartoon dog hadn't before tried just as ridiculous strategies that, well, had worked. Leading an independent observer to contemplate the possibility of some other….being subtly on their side.
What now existed inside the interior of the sphere after the celestial illumination materialized, to be reflected to infinity, as it bounced off the whole of the globe, was well past the comprehension of humans, save for a simple fact: All was revealed. Nothing could be hidden, as the First Evil was shown exactly in a single moment of frozen time what the ungodly could not bear, the totality of its emptiness and non-being. An insubstantial creature met something just as non-material as itself, yet there was far more power in a truth brought to the monster than every bit of its evil.
It was nothing. A null, a nonentity, a void in creation, nil, something that didn't exist….and it now knew this.
With this understanding came….an ending. The First Evil no longer was, passing out of existence.
Without the slightest disturbance, the entire universe shifted to fill in the infinitesimal part of the cosmos that had once been occupied by a now-vanished foul entity.
The large metal sphere resting on the shoreline of a new lake now disappeared like a popped soap bubble, leaving behind just a concave depression in the ground that would be filled in during the next winter rains. It was the only memorial a quickly-forgotten monster would ever receive.
Right after the sphere vanished, the Scooby Gang shuddered and broke apart, staggering on their feet, as every one of them stared at each other with their now-normal eyes, and spoke in unison, "Gone!"
At that instant, every human on earth felt a moment's joy. Danger, iniquity, sorrow, wickedness, even the evil men could do still existed and must be dealt with, but a bit of humanity's soul was now cleansed.
Others were not pleased by this. At all.
From every one of the hell dimensions, and even from those calling themselves on the side of good that had plans for the First Evil, came screams of rage and wrath at those who had dared this. Vengeance and revenge was plotted, with all the exact minuscule beings causing such trouble about to undergo absolute torment beyond anyone's measure--
The calm certainty that rang around the whole of existence came from the One Above All, freezing beings of lesser power into immobility.
FAIRLY WON WAS THE CONFLICT. CHOICES WERE MADE, THE SUMMONS ANSWERED, AND THE WARNING UNHEEDED. FREE WILL, MY GIFT TO ALL, RULED, AND TO THE VICTORS MY PROTECTION.
There was now more than a hint of doom for those defying, and also….amusement.
LEAVE THE SCOOBY GANG ALONE.
Far below, on the material plane of existence, Xander felt an unexpected surge of elation, and he happily announced, "Well, we've won, and now it's time for the traditional post-Big Bad party." He grinned at his family, and held out his hands, while continuing.
"Wanna dance, pretty ladies?"
The bright moon looked down to the shores of Lake Sunnydale to observe the following:
Willow waddled around, shrieking with glee, as her Xander-shaped friend goofily danced in circles around her, stopping after every few absurd steps to drop down and dart towards his bestest bud in a crouching Groucho Marx lope to bestow tummy-smooches on her protruding belly.
Buffy bounced and strutted around her Sunnydale comrades in a highly risible cheerleader routine, shaking in her hands imaginary pom-poms and performing enthusiastic high kicks, flips, somersaults, and mid-air splits, all of which would have caused a total riot if presented to any stadium audience.
Giles and Dawn stalked past, their limbs flashing, as they performed a truly wicked tango that Gomez and Morticia Addams would have considered a trifle extreme.
Finally, all of the Scooby Gang, their laughter raising as high as the heavens, joined together under the light of the full moon, to do the Snoopy Dance.