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Blue Shift

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  • Blue Shift

    Disclaimer: All characters in this fic property of Joss Whedon, who knows how to share his toys.

    Rating: PG. May give Tillow fans nightmares.

    Setting: Post-"Chosen". Reality-hopping AU.

    Willow emerged into the world and immediately wished she hadn't. The sun and moon hanging together under the purple sky didn't help, nor did the winged demons soaring overhead. The primary contributor to her attitude, though, was the one-eyed Cordelia with a gun pointed at her face.

    "Oh hell," snarled a blonde woman whose face and voice Willow could only vaguely remember. "Shoot her!" The child that the woman was holding shrank against her side, frightened.

    Cordelia did nothing of the kind. "Wait, Darla. Look at her hair."

    "Her hair?"

    "Look at her eyes. They're not black. Either she's gotten better, in which case why are we still in hell, or she's not our Willow." Cordelia lowered the gun slowly. "We're not going to hurt you, Willow, not that, um...I could."

    "The last I heard, I was still vulnerable to bullets," Willow said, and winced. A bullet was the reason she was here, in a way.

    "Oh, I know," Cordy said with a shrug. "But you'd have fried me with lightning or something first, just before Mr. Nabbit back there pumped you full of lead." She gestured; Willow turned to see a heavy, middle-aged man emerge carrying a shotgun.

    "I'm not sure I like this hero business after all," Nabbit whined.

    Darla grinned broadly. "It's a little too late for that now, David. You don't have to worry, though. I'm sure something will eat you alive if you'd rather."

    Willow didn't find any of this particularly disturbing. It was a grimy, unpleasant timeline, sure, but she'd seen worse.
    "You adopted him?" Willow was still struggling to put the pieces together about Connor. The boy was more variable than any element of reality she'd seen, except Dawn, naturally. She didn't recall him from her world at all. Sometimes he was a little boy, sometimes a man of twenty or so. Sometimes he called himself Stephen Holtz. Angel had called him son in several worlds, but he'd said nothing about the mother, and she'd assumed his real parents were dead.

    "Oh no," Darla said, winking, "he's my very own flesh and blood. More or less. Connor Holtz Angel. Fair is fair."

    Willow wrestled with that a moment, not understanding the last part. Or any of it, really. "You're a vampire. You can't give life." She'd seen stranger things, really, but this one was supposed to be impossible.

    "No, I can't." For the first time since Willow had seen her, Darla frowned and lowered her eyes. "But I can take it. Please...don't ask."

    Willow didn't. After dozens of worlds, the details were beginning to blur together anyway. "You were going to kill me. This...what's happened to this's your Willow's fault, isn't it?"

    "Yes," Cordelia piped up immediately. "Not exactly," David Nabbit said over her. "Maybe you'd rather not know," Darla put in.

    "You lost your Tara lady," said the little boy. "It made you really really mad."

    Not again. Willow's heart lurched. Not again.
    It was Tara that had brought her here, to save the world yet another time. The spell required two experienced witches, and true love. Should've been simple, really. Witches of the power level required didn't seem to be common enough, though. So here was Willow, bouncing through wormholes like the characters from Sliders, except that she was reasonably certain she knew how to get home.

    Tara had to be out here somewhere. A living Tara, one who had met a Willow and fallen for her. It had been so easy on her world, after all.

    Tragedy Willow expected. She'd found plenty of death, and worse than death. More gravestones than she could count, a few marked with her name as well. Three vampires, each of whom had whispered sweet nothings and tried to turn her. Cliffs along the sea where half of California had been. That world with nothing but six billion piles of clothes and a suspiciously high shrimp population; Willow still hadn't worked out quite what had happened there. The one that had doubled her over with grief--Tara in a hospital bed, mind wiped clean, babbling like an infant while her version of Willow sobbed. Surely no world was worse than that.

    "I always expected we'd grow old together," Willow murmured. "Two little old blue-haired ladies in a nursing home, maybe. I thought there had to be a world like that." Somewhere in the middle of that sentence, Cordelia had flinched. This Cordelia didn't seem to flinch for much. Willow knew better than to think she could stay in another world, or keep a Tara in hers; it would upset the balance of things. But just for a little while, just once....

    "You'd think so," Mr. Nabbit said. "I mean, there's a Prime Material Plane for every possible turn of events, right?"

    "Um." Willow had thought dealing with Andrew was bad enough. "Maybe. I don't understand what's happened here. When my Tara died, I tried to destroy the world, but not this way. I was already in hell. I wanted out. I wanted to see her again."

    Long pause. Lots of glancing back and forth. Finally Darla murmured, "As I might be best not to know."

    Now she had to. "Please. Just tell me, and I'll go. I have to keep looking."

    "Tell you what?"

    Willow spun towards the stairs. That had been... "They said you died." The face bore livid, unbandaged gouges, bruised red eyes, a burst and bleeding lip. But it was Tara's face. It was Tara's voice. It was good enough. "How...? Why...?"

    Tara tilted her head, a twitchy, mechanical motion that had nothing to do with any version of Tara Willow had ever seen. "I thought it prudent to assume this form," came an imperious monotone. "Your counterpart bore...affection towards the shell."

    Willow closed her eyes and fled across the boundary between worlds. Oh yes. There was always something worse.
    DeadWar: Burden of Proof
    Out Now.
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