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Disclaimer: Not mine. Not gonna be mine. Please don't hurt me.
Blathering: Post-'The Gift', pre-sixth season. Call it PG. If the Latin is wrong, I apologize. Feedback is cheerfully accepted at < jleitch@netcom.ca >, even if it's negative. How else will I ever learn? Thanks again to MaryKate; hope this one is as distracting as the last one. It's free to the Glass Onion Archive; anybody else, please ask.

Why *was* Willow so utterly convinced that Buffy was in hell?


Corpus Canonici by Jayne Leitch
Copyright 2002

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Prophesies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything." --The Master

"There's a certain dramatic irony attached to all this--a synchronicity that borders on predestination..." --Giles

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Xander is pulling a box of macaroni and cheese out of the cupboard for supper when the door starts to vibrate under the frantic pounding of fists. He freezes for an instant as his brain instinctively kicks into crisis mode; then, forcing himself not to jump to conclusions, he clamps down on the sense of impending doom, abandons the pasta, and goes to the door.

"Willow?"

She pushes past him as if he isn't there, and hurries into the apartment with dried tears on her cheeks and a quivering lip. "Xander, I need to talk to you. Is Anya--?"

He closes the door and tries not to catch the wave of barely-controlled panic she's sending through his home. "She's not home yet--she had a doctor's appointment. Will, what's up?"

He notices the book as she drops it on the table, and his breath catches in his throat. Old--ancient--bound in dark leather and creased all over; one of Giles's secret stash, and weirdly familiar...or maybe the feeling of familiarity is coming from the sudden gaping pit in his gut that he knows is about to be filled with terror at whatever that book says. Because ancient, leather-bound books from Giles's secret stash have never had anything positive to contribute...

Willow keeps one hand on its cover as she turns, fingers twitching and stroking over the creases like she's lost all muscle control, and now fresh tears spill over as Anya's absence makes it okay to share. "God, Xander, I was at the Magic Box cleaning up the inventory, and I think Giles has got his personal collection mixed up with everything else because there's this whole box of books, really powerful stuff, really important stuff, just in the basement of the shop in front of the wooden shelves, and I was alphabetizing all the stuff that wasn't on the shelves and I found this--" she gains control of her hand for a split second as she presses her palm to the cover "--just thrown in with everything else, and I didn't know what it was at first but it looked familiar, so I opened it and it's just, I mean, Giles has been distracted since Buffy--"

"Willow, breathe for a minute--"

"--and it hasn't been that long since she...so yeah, we've all been distracted, but he couldn't have *known* what it was, he couldn't have *remembered* and just--just thrown it away *anyway*--"

Xander has to step right up close to her and put his hands on her shoulders to get her attention, and the terror begins to seep into the void in his stomach when she continues to tremble under his touch. He swallows, deliberately, and forces his voice to stay light. "Willow. Hey. I need something coherent to work with, here. Tell me what's going on."

And Willow is looking at him now, really looking at him for the first time since she arrived. Behind the tears her eyes are huge and devastated, and two livid roses of colour stand feverish on her otherwise stark white face. She has to choke in a couple of breaths before she can answer; Xander takes the opportunity to pull out a chair and press her into it, then goes to the sink to get her some water.

By the time he returns--his hands only slightly damp from shaking while filling and carrying a full glass of water--she has controlled herself enough to move the book away from the dripping glass. "Xander, this is the Pergamum Codex," she says, tapping the book's spine. "Do you remember it?"

"The Pergamum--?" He doesn't at first. There have been so many dusty old volumes with weird names over the years, and he's never paid attention to titles and references the way Willow and Giles do. He is about to make a weak joke about that--study habits and how he just barely graduated high school--when a memory supplies the link; Xander freezes again as the scope of possible crises widens. "The Codex. Yeah, I remember." It's a book from what seems like a whole other life, now--the life in which he was capable of saving Buffy. He feels his mouth twist into something not very much like a smile. "Please tell me there's some new prophesy about the Slayer going down, because I could really get behind not being involved in it for once." It comes out angrier than he'd intended, and with not nearly enough humour, but Willow is apparently too intent on holding her tears at bay to notice.

"Not a new prophesy." Her voice quavers, and she pauses for another swallow of water. "Not a new prophesy, Xander. An old one."

He blinks at that. "An old prophesy." Willow nods; she pulls the book off the table and into her lap, and begins paging determinedly through it as he lets his mouth run while his brain catches up. "Okay, trying to be clear on the latest catastrophe, here--you don't just mean 'old' in terms of how all the really bad prophesies were written at the dawn of time, do you. You mean..."

"I mean, the Codex prophesy from the first time Buffy d-died--" Willow trips over the word, and her hands fumble the pages while she forces herself to pause "--wasn't meant for then. It was meant for now." Her movements still, and she raises the book back to the table so Xander can read the open page.

He isn't following what she's saying, but he turns his attention to the writing anyway. He can't read it; he can't even recognize it as a human language, even though he's sure he remembers Giles mentioning something about Old English and Latin, all those years ago. Xander is distracted for a moment by the memory of a tweed-clad Giles, a long-haired Willow, and an alive Miss Calendar--and Buffy--before his eyes catch the faint pencil scribblings in the blank spaces around various paragraphs; he leans closer, half-amazed that Giles actually *writes* in the *margins*. He has to squint, but he begins to trace an element of sense: "'The Master shall rise'...'portents of apocalypse'...'Isaiah'...'final days'...'Aurelius--Anointed--child?' Willow, this is stuff about the Anointed One and the prophesy about the rising of the Master. That happened five years ago!"

"I know, but just listen." And now that Willow has been sitting and drinking water and needing to explain the situation to someone else, she's managed to pull herself together. The calm but urgent tone of her voice is familiar, and Xander lets himself relax a fraction; explanations in this tone only happen when there is time for them, so whatever the crisis, it's not happening in the next half-hour. "The Codex is *specific*, Xander. That's why it's so important; its prophesies are complete, and completely accurate. And because of that, it's not very easy to translate--you have to consider everything the text says, because the smallest detail can cause--or clear up--misunderstandings." She clears her throat, and Xander has to fight a smile at the way she's settling into schoolmarm mode; it's been a while since he's seen that, after all. "Giles did a good job with translating it back then, but he was in kind of a hurry, what with Buffy knocking him out and the hellmouth opening, and...and he kinda missed an important detail." She produces another book--the small, spiral-bound notebook she carries everywhere in case of paper emergencies--from the inside pocket of her jacket, and flips it open. "He was using another prophesy--from the writings of Aurelius, about the Anointed One--as the basis for some of his translations..."

The way she trails off gives Xander a sinking feeling, and a flash of understanding. "But this Aurelius guy's prophesies weren't as accurate as the Codex's."

"Well, they weren't as clearly written." Willow sets her notebook beside the leather tome. The page she has flipped to is covered in her handwriting; it is precise and tiny at the top, but becomes progressively sprawling and messy as it nears the bottom. "After I realized what I was reading in the Codex, I took some time for follow-up research," she explains when she catches Xander's expression. "Some of the other books in the box were helpful, but there were a bunch of Giles's notes about the Brethren of Aurelius tucked into the Codex itself. I think he--" she stops, and the set of her face threatens to crumble against fresh pain. "I think he just wanted some of the older stuff out of his apartment. Some of the...reminders..."

Xander sucks in a breath and closes his eyes. It has been almost three weeks since Buffy died; of all of them, Giles is second only to Dawn in the amount of memories faced simply by coming home. "Yeah, well, they are his books. He knows which ones can be stashed out of sight until we need them again."

Willow nods, and her jaw tightens. "But the thing is, we *do* need them again. Or...we did, three weeks ago. Listen." Taking the Codex off the table, she turns it toward herself and starts to read. "'The portents align at day's end, being the sign that the wall has grown weak, and the night shall bring the armies of hell to walk the earth as the Master did command; known shall be the One risen from Five, and the Master shall rise, and the Slayer shall die, as was Forseen.'" She stops, and gives Xander a significant look.

He looks back, confused. "I remember that. Giles read it to us in the library before I went after Buffy." Willow stares at him, and as she begins to look annoyed, he leans away. "Hey, come on, Will. I remember all this stuff, but I don't understand why it's so important *now*. You're kind of ahead of me, here."

She sighs. "I know. I just--it's *important*, Xander. We need to--" Abruptly, she looks away, turning her gaze back to the books as she takes a deep breath. "Okay. You've heard the prophesy, and you know its background. Now *think* about it--not about what happened back in high school, but--but lately. The past few months, with Glory." She begins pointing to relevant paragraphs in both books as she speaks. "The 'Anointed One' as a child. The 'Master', stuck in a dimension and trying to get out. 'Worlds hanging in the balance.' The Slayer's death..." Willow looks up at him, her eyes filled with tears. "Do you remember what Buffy told us after the prom that night? About what the Master said before he--"

Xander feels the familiar icy freeze of possibility, and clenches his hands on his knees as he forces himself to think it through. "About what the prophesy didn't say...that it was Buffy who made it possible for the Master to break free, Buffy's--Buffy's blood." He can feel the pieces slotting into place, and gives a strangled chuckle.

Beside him, Willow is drawing her arms in tight across her stomach and pulling her legs in close to the chair; the part of Xander's brain that isn't absorbed by trying to deny the new information tells him that she's turtling exactly the way he used to when he was small and his parents were screaming at each other. He forces another laugh when he realizes that, of his current choices, *this* is the thought he wants to dwell on.

Willow flinches slightly at the sound, and her mouth twitches up at the corners. "You do get it, right?" she says, her voice pitching for wry but only managing weary. "It does make sense? I didn't get myself all upset over nothing? 'Cause you know how I can get wound up..."

"I get it, Will." He wishes, very much, that he didn't. But there are similarities, enough to make it hard to believe that they're coincidental, and besides, it is *Willow* who figured it out. Now, if Xander himself had stumbled across the books and come up with the links--his brain begins to sort through them from the beginning--there could be room for error, but Willow...

Wait a minute. It is his brain, but it just supplied an out, and Xander wants desperately to be able to take it. "Willow, no."

She blinks at him. "What?" And if Xander really did hear hope in her voice, she's more desperate to be disproved than can possibly be good for either of them.

He musters up as much confidence as he can, and hopes like hell it's enough to make it true. "It's not about Glory, it can't be. The Anointed One--"

"Dawn." Any hope that might've been disappears with that word; Willow speaks with the blankness of someone who has already thoroughly explored all avenues of optimism and found nothing, and Xander feels a brief flare of anger. "Giles's notes mention that Miss Calendar was emailed by a monk who kept going on about the Anointed, saying that it was a kid. We all just assumed that that meant the little boy who showed Buffy how to get to the Master, but--"

"No, listen." Pushing himself out of his chair, Xander begins to pace, moving in stuttered bursts of short steps between the table and the kitchen counter. "Aurelius wrote the prophesy about the Anointed One, right? And--and Giles had calculated the time for when he would rise, remember? The funeral home, and Buffy's date--"

"The thousandth day after the Advent of Septus." Willow points to a line in her notebook, and continues to speak with that calm, eerie blankness. "But Giles himself said that the prophesy was vague. Aurelius's writings aren't clear as to whether he was referring to the Advent as it fell in the Caglian calendar, or maybe even one of the older, more obscure--"

"Calendars? This is coming down to math?" Xander shakes his head. "No. He couldn't have been off by that much--" Something else strikes him, and he stops in his tracks. "And the Anointed One was supposed to have risen from the ashes of five, right? Who died to make Dawn? Willow, as much as I never thought I'd ever say this to you, you're wrong. Sure, there are a couple of parallels between the Master and Glory, but--"

"Monks."

Her tone still hasn't changed, and Willow looks at him unblinkingly. Xander is far too aware of the shrillness in his own voice when he answers, "What?"

"Monks died to make Dawn." One hand--now amazingly steady--reaches out and flips to another page in the notebook. "The Watcher's Council gave us the Book of Tarnis, which outlines the known history of the Key and its protectors--the Order of Dagon, founded in the twelfth century just outside of Alexandria, Egypt. Tarnis, one of the founding members of the Order, laid out the rites and rituals for various ways of hiding the Key in case future generations 'found necessity to do so'." The gaze Willow turns up from the book is somehow as emotionless as her voice, and Xander shudders. "The ritual for transforming the Key from living energy into matter can be done with as few as three and as many as five high-level monks of the Order. Considering how much they didn't want Glory getting her hands on it, I think it's safe to assume they used as much high-level power as they could. And since Glory *did* want it so badly, I think it's safe to assume..."

"That she killed everyone responsible for keeping it from her."

"And that's not all." Ignoring the strangled noise Xander makes at this assertion, Willow turns to another page in her notebook, points to a paragraph, and continues. "Tarnis mentions the Knights of Byzantium as 'uncivil parties to the North', but they don't really become a concern for the Order of Dagon until quite a few centuries later. At the time Tarnis was writing, he seemed a whole lot more worried about how a lot of natural energy fluxes were being forcibly channelled by 'a demonic presence in the heart of the Papacy'." Willow takes a deep breath, and Xander can see her struggling for control before she looks up at him once more. "The vampire cult calling itself the Brethren of Aurelius was formed in Cortona, Italy, near the end of the twelfth century."

Xander stares at her, shuffling his feet distractedly until his toes bump against a slipper of Anya's that has somehow escaped the bedroom and made its way to the middle of the kitchen floor. He kicks it out of his path--too suddenly and with too much force, making Willow jump--then moves to lean over her and read the passage she indicates in her notebook. "Okay," he says after a long moment, "it's not so crazy to think that Aurelius had a connection to the Key. But what about everything that happened with the Master and the Anoint--the kid we assumed was the Anointed One? All that stuff followed the prophesies too closely to have been, I don't know, a fluke."

"It did." And now the cracks reappear; the corners of Willow's mouth turn down, and her chin quivers as her lashes flutter against fresh tears. "All that stuff with the Master did follow the prophesies, in every way but one." She turns more pages in her notebook, and Xander is transfixed by the way her hands have started shaking again. "From the writings of Aurelius," she says as she folds open a new page. She clears her throat, then reads: "'And there will be a time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance. And in this time shall come the Anointed...and the Slayer will not know him...and he will lead her into hell.'"

Xander feels the words echo through the room, through his head, and down into the frozen pit in his stomach. He feels something press against his back, and realizes dimly that he's sitting down again; with an effort, he focuses on Willow, who is still turtled and now crying freely as she whispers.

"Into hell, Xander...when she fought the Master, she was in the hellmouth, between dimensions, not in one or the other...and she died, but you brought her back...she didn't go anywhere...but now she's really gone...really dead...and Xander, the prophesy..."

"No." He chokes out the denial, squeezes his eyes shut against the anguish in Willow's face. He wants to cover his ears, but his hands have gone cold--or numb, or maybe utterly boneless--and all he can do is wait for Willow to come to the only logical conclusion.

"The prophesy came to pass, Xander. Buffy died. And now she's in hell."


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"She's waiting, counting on us. On *me*. I can't leave her there anymore. I won't." --Willow
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I was happy. Wherever I was, I was happy. At peace....I was warm, and I was loved. And I was finished. Complete. I don't understand theology and dimensions...or any of it, really...but I think I was in heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there, pulled out by my friends. Everything here is hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch...this is hell." --Buffy
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
End.


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