beer_good_foamy: (Willow-death)
[personal profile] beer_good_foamy
Title: The Pieces That Prevailed
Author: Beer Good ([personal profile] beer_good_foamy)
Fandom: Buffy, mid-season 7
Rating: PG13
Word count: ~1200
Characters/Pairing: Willow, Xander, Giles, Buffy; nods to Willow/Tara and Willow/Jenny
Summary: As logic stands, you couldn’t meet yourself from the future. But logic broke and Willow bumped into her high school self.

The Pieces That Prevailed

"Ooops! Sorry."
"Ooops! Sorry."

Main Street was more crowded than usual, and Willow was in a hurry with an armful of shopping bags full of Potential food. And maybe she wasn't really paying attention but obviously the teenage girl she ran into wasn't either, and suddenly there were heads colliding and groceries and textbooks all over the sidewalk. They both hurried to pick up their stuff, the girl ducking her head as if mortally embarrassed by the whole thing. As soon as she had her books back, the girl apologized again and took off running down the sidewalk, leaving Willow to pile in the last of the groceries and... a high school science book? That couldn't be right. "Hey!" She called out. "You forgot your book!" The same one she’d had back in high school, too. Huh. The exact same... What the heck? She quickly flipped through the book, past the all-too-familiar notes and underlines to page 1, where the girl had dutifully written her name like she always had. "...Willow?"

She looked up and saw a flash of long, straight, dull reddish-brown hair disappear around the corner. She hurried to her feet and ran after her, but the crowd was already thinning out and the other girl was nowhere to be seen.

* * *


"I'm telling you, Giles, it was me! Fifteen-year-old me!" Willow paced back and forth in the living room, trying to explain it while waving the book around. "This is my book. And before you say that it's, well, my book, see?" She held it open. "She-slash-I is, or was, just halfway through it. And I did not flake out of tenth-grade physics."

"It's not that I don't believe you, Willow. This is Sunnydale, after all. I'm just not sure that it's a sign of any additional impending doom. I take it you've done a locator spell?" Seeing the look on her face, he quickly added, "I'm not saying you shouldn't have. If I ran into a teenaged version of myself, I'd want to know for sure too."

"Well, sure, but teenage you would be more of a threat than teenage me."

Giles cleared his throat. "Quite. Thank you."

"Sorry. But yeah, I did. And it said there was only one me here now, and no one else doing big portaly magic either. I mean, even I wouldn't know how to do that.”

“And you don’t remember this happening to you back then?”

“No. But maybe I, I mean present-day me, was the one who time-travelled for a few seconds, which I think I would have noticed, though I did see someone in a Rachel Green haircut but I sorta assumed they were being ironic, and..."

* * *


"...So now I'm thinking maybe it wasn't a spell," Willow said as Xander continued fixing the front porch from the latest demon attack. "More like a quantum event of some kind. Two timelines just happened to overlap somehow. You know, kind of like how every oxygen molecule is constantly moving randomly and theoretically every molecule in a room could spontaneously move into one corner and everyone in the room would akkch." She punctuated the sentence by wrapping her hands around her throat.

Xander blinked. "Wait, that can happen?"

"Theoretically. It's just very very very very unlikely. As in, it might happen once in the entire age of the universe."

"And it happened to you, just this afternoon. 1996 and 2003 just sort of blended together for a minute on a sidewalk in Sunnydale. A big cosmic freebie.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And the odds of it happening again are…?"

"...astronomical is probably a good word." Willow sat down. "Even with the First messing with the hellmouth and the nature of reality and the world about to end and so on, that was probably it."

"And now you're all hyper because..." Xander paused. "Yeah, I get it. But what would you even have told her? Uh, you? Because you know, in every single time travel story, the one thing you’re never supposed to do is mess with the past."

Willow shrugged. "What I’d tell me, right before Buffy came to town? Dunno. Haven't really had time to think about it. Y'know, trust tiny blondes, avoid cemeteries, stop freaking out about those dreams about Miss Calendar..."

"Dreams, huh?" Xander's grin implied he was still in touch with his inner 15-year-old. "Was Willow a bad girl? Did she get detention?"

Willow gave him an amused smirk. "If you must know, Willow was a very good girl who deserved a gold star. But - uh, Xander? Hello?" She snapped her fingers in front of his face.

"Oh. Right. Sorry. Where was I?"

* * *


"...and then Xander gave me this whole spiel about Ray Bradbury and butterflies and dinosaurs and how changing even the tiniest thing in the past can snowball and make huge changes to the future, or present, and possibly cancel out reality itself since if you change the past you won’t remember changing it so you can’t decide to change it, and..." Willow trailed off and took another sip of wine as she and Buffy watched the sun set. "And of course we wouldn't want that, because the present is so perfect, right?"

Buffy wrapped her arm a bit tighter around her friend's shoulder. "Well, think about it. Even if you'd managed to tell yourself every little thing that would happen, would you even have believed you?"

"Hey, I like to think I'm very gullible." Willow took another gulp. "O-or at least that if some weird old woman came running after me on the street screaming that I had to yell 'DUCK' to someone named Tara at a specific time and place a bunch of years later, y'know, I... I might at least remember that."

"Willow..."

"I know. Probably for the best that I didn’t. And it's too late anyway. I just sort of wish I'd had just five seconds to decide not to do it, y'know?"

* * *


Long story short, Willow got very drunk, and woke up with the theory that hangovers are nature's way of giving us something tangible to regret, and aspirin and Moulin Rouge! are society's way of making us think we can do something about it while we learn to accept the things we can't change. And she was getting a lot of practice at that. Once the hangover passed, it did almost start to seem like one of those. Life is a never-ending series of might-have-beens, paths untrodden, etc.

It's just...

It's three days later, and she's been looking through her collection of high school textbooks and notebooks (neatly sorted by year, alphabetized by subject) and can only find the one copy of Science Probe that she holds in her hand now, the half-read one some version of her dropped on the street in another reality. Of course there's a very simple explanation: At some point over the last six years, she must have lost her own copy. Because really, what sort of geek would keep every scrap of paper from 12 years of school?

She must have lost it. Because in her past, she’d finished it. She’s sure of it. She never ran into an older version of herself when she was 15. She’d remember that. Wouldn’t she?

Is this who she was supposed to be?

Date: 2015-01-13 08:54 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (BtVS: Willow scary; !angry)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
This is great and timey-whimey! It was a lot of fun to read, and you packed in some great character stuff to boot. Especially here:
Willow got very drunk, and woke up with the theory that hangovers are nature's way of giving us something tangible to regret, and aspirin and Moulin Rouge! are society's way of making us think we can do something about it while we learn to accept the things we can't change. And she was getting a lot of practice at that.

That is S7 Willow in a nutshell. Awesome.

Also now I want to go back and re-read your fic about Willow and the coven. (Which I loved and I don't think I ever commented on! /o\) This fic and that would go well together; I like how they explore a lot of the same character themes but with such a different tone.

Date: 2015-01-15 05:02 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Willow smiling enthusiastically (circa S3) (BtVS: Willow grinning)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Same here, though I do wish she got more attention in S7. (Though I don't know what I'd sacrifice to get more Willow! I guess I wish the season was longer? I like the potentials!) Still, that is where excellent fic like this comes in. :D

Date: 2016-03-31 07:10 pm (UTC)
brunettepet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brunettepet
This is a terrific, in voice story. It makes me wish that Willow had caught up with herself and had those five minutes. Screw Bradbury, Miss Calendar and Tara deserved better.

This exchange made me laugh out loud: "Well, think about it. Even if you'd managed to tell yourself every little thing that would happen, would you even have believed you?"

"Hey, I like to think I'm very gullible."
Willow would totally have believed herself.

Date: 2015-01-13 09:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ffutures.livejournal.com
This is an interesting idea - presumably the lack of effect on the timeline is the universe working very hard to prevent a paradox. Or maybe there's now another timeline where Willow had to buy another copy of a lost book, spent her allowance on that instead of something else, and as a result the universe is comprehensively different - maybe she never met Tara or something. Or is this the universe where she never met Tara, and not having the the book led to them meeting somehow?

Date: 2015-01-13 11:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I guess the bit that set this off was the question "How can you know if your timeline has been altered or not?" How do you know if what you remember happening is what actually happened? Did your memories change along with it, or not? Does it even make sense to think of one "correct" timeline?

Date: 2015-01-13 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragonyphoenix.livejournal.com
Okay, that's delightfully ambiguous.

Date: 2015-01-14 08:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot!

Date: 2015-01-13 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brutti-ma-buoni.livejournal.com
So that's sweet and interesting and rather fun, and then the last line gathers up your mildly cute feelings and goes THWAP! Because that could all be deeply wrong and sinister. Or, not.

Great stuff.

Date: 2015-01-13 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot!

Time travel always struck me as profoundly creepy.

Date: 2015-01-13 02:37 pm (UTC)
ext_1707915: (Default)
From: [identity profile] rbfvid.livejournal.com
Oh, the possibilities! =) I love how you made it possibly creepy.

Date: 2015-01-14 08:31 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-01-13 07:16 pm (UTC)
kikimay: (Buffy and Willow)
From: [personal profile] kikimay
I really like the open ending and generally your Willow's voice is very spot on. Good job!

Date: 2015-01-14 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot! The ending really is what started this - every time travel story I've ever read is about what happens when you try to change the time you end up in, what happens if you simply miss the opportunity and have to go on wondering what you might have done?

Date: 2015-01-13 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunclouds33.livejournal.com
Terrific Willow voice.

Date: 2015-01-14 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot! She's fun to write. :)

Date: 2015-01-14 03:22 am (UTC)
rahirah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rahirah
Oooh. I love it when time travel fics do something other than get A and B together!

Date: 2015-01-14 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot! I think this is the first fic I've ever written explicitly about time travel, so it was fun to give it a different angle...

Date: 2015-01-14 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
AAAHHH!!

I mean, would even fastidious Willow *definitely* remember losing and having to replace a book in grade ten? I don't know if this is my place to say, but I could imagine a sequel where young Willow goes desperately to see the new librarian in a panic over her missing book and then starts to find him fascinating and realizes she wants to impress him like no other grown upup at the school besides maybe Miss Calendar... And maybe that little crush started forming and made her breezily start to sweat and get dry mouth and she needed to start drinking more water all the time, and that's why she ran into a certain blonde at a water fountain.... :)

Date: 2015-01-14 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I mean, would even fastidious Willow *definitely* remember losing and having to replace a book in grade ten?

Probably not.

I don't know if this is my place to say, but I could imagine a sequel where...

Definitely. (Is it a sequel if it happens seven years earlier?) Or a prequel taking place 20 years later, where Willow finally figures out how to send her 23-year-old self back in time to fix everything - "Hmmm, 2 minutes in 1996, that should give her, uh, me enough time to figure out what's going on and warn 15-year-old me. I'm clever that way." :)

Date: 2015-01-14 07:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] velvetwhip.livejournal.com
Very intriguing. I like the way that ending changes the tone of what's gone before.


Gabrielle

Date: 2015-01-14 08:39 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-01-14 10:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rebcake.livejournal.com
Of course it was the physics textbook, you sly dog.

My two favorites bits were not especially mind-bending, though, just great character moments:

stop freaking out about those dreams about Miss Calendar...

Hey, I like to think I'm very gullible.


Also, the theory of hangovers.

Smartly done.

Date: 2015-01-14 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks!

Of course it was the physics textbook, you sly dog.

Heh. Hey, it's canon that magic is just applied (meta)physics in the Buffyverse. :)

Willow having a crush on Jenny Calendar is something that just makes sense, I always thought.
Edited Date: 2015-01-14 08:40 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-01-15 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slaymesoftly.livejournal.com
Only in Sunnydale.... Interesting idea to explore with Willow.

Date: 2015-01-17 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot!

Date: 2015-01-18 02:27 pm (UTC)
shapinglight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shapinglight
Very interesting (though creepy also). Prof Jim Al-Khalili would definitely approve.

Date: 2015-01-18 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Thanks! This may or may not have been influenced by, um, certain BBC series... :)

Date: 2015-01-21 07:44 pm (UTC)
shapinglight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shapinglight
Ooh, you mean the one about quantum physics, don't you?

I loved that!

The Pieces That Prevailed

Date: 2016-01-11 12:07 am (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (ScoobyXmasTop5-eyesthatslay)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
"Dreams, huh?" Xander's grin implied he was still in touch with his inner 15-year-old. "Was Willow a bad girl? Did she get detention?"

Hee! Apparently the answer to Buffy's question in Earshot was yes.
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