Awakening the Phoenix

Title: Awakening the Phoenix

Author: Centauri2002

Feedback: Pretty please. Good or bad, I welcome it all. Hugs all round to those who do. Email is centauri2002@environment21.fsnet.co.uk or just leave feedback here.

Spoiler Warning: Absolutely none.

Disclaimer: The characters of BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, ME, and co. I am only borrowing them, yada, yada, yada. However, if I did own them the fans would be a heck of a lot happier and maybe I should just sue you, Joss, for wrecking a damn good show. Ahem, anyway.

Couples: Ah, you'll have to find out.

Rating: PG-13. Though, no doubt, it will venture into NC-17 territory.

Summary: Tara ventures down into the tunnels with her new 'friends' whilst Buffy helps Willow with her work load.

Authors Notes: This story is completely AU. Willow and Tara have never met (a storyline which I like to write about) and the Slayer isn't the all feared person she was in the show. This idea just popped into my head one morning and I had to write about it.

Dedication: To all the kittens, who make writing such wonderful fan fiction possible. I have received much inspiration from many kitties and I want to thank you all. And to Yvonne, my girlfriend, who you all have to thank for this update. She certainly knows how to hassle. And also Shelly, who certainly knows how to hassle too.

Chapter 2

The constant thudding of metal on stone beat an aching rhythm into Willow's head. She fully expected that she would be stuck with this headache for life. It hadn't seemed to ease in months. She peered around at her companions in the confining tunnel and saw they were all hard at work, including Buffy. She watched as the blonde's defined muscles tensed as she raised the primitive pickaxe and then brought it down mercilessly on the unsuspecting rock. Splintered pieces of stone flew into the air and landed with a resounding clatter on the ground. Willow marvelled at her friend's strength and wished she could have even an ounce of her power. She tired far too easily and often had to allow Buffy to work on her patch of stone. Just so she could fill her quota for the day.

Today was no different. Her friend had finished her area quickly and was having no problem in demolishing Willow's designated rocks. At last, Buffy ceased her labour and turned to Willow whilst wiping her brow.

"See, Will. It isn't so hard." She said with a smirk.

Willow merely rolled her eyes and leant against the rock wall. Buffy glanced around at the three other workers in the tunnel and shrugged. "Guess we're the only ones who finished early." She commented.

A skinny, middle-aged man peered over his shoulder at them and Buffy glared back at him. He quickly returned to his work, obviously wanting to avoid a confrontation. Buffy didn't ever go looking for a fight but she was fiercely protective. Sometimes it would seem like the blonde was too caught up in her own little world to defend Willow but when she was alert, she would never let anyone hurt the redhead. They had former a bond a long time ago when the pair were in their early teens. They had met when Buffy had been captured and thrown into the warehouse where Willow had spent all of her days.

They didn't speak much of their past, or even about what had happened to them since. It was best not to linger on the days gone by. Each cycle was pretty much the same as the next anyway. Buffy and Willow relied on one another for friendship, which was an extremely hard thing to find in this hellhole. Buffy was now the only 'family' Willow had. Her parents had been killed when she was very young, or perhaps eaten. She didn't care to speculate. She had just woken up one morning to find them gone and they had never returned.

Buffy tapped her on the arm in an attempt to gain her drifting attention. "What d'ya say we get outta here?"

Willow nodded, her mind still hovering over her sombre memories. Buffy led the way out of the tunnel, making sure to drop her pickaxe into a metal trough. There were several tools in the container, all of them constructed out of metal. Wood was strictly prohibited from ever reaching the hands of the workers. Willow wondered why the vampires were so scared of wood. After all, the human prisoners were so used to this form of lifestyle that they would never think of revolting.

They walked down a long and winding tunnel, the walls so narrow that they made Willow feel claustrophobic. She hated this place even more than the warehouse. Many people had met their deaths here. She supposed that death would at least be a release from the existence they all led but she refused to believe that it was the answer. There had to be some way of making life easier, she just had to think of it yet.

When they reached the end of the tunnel, a dark haired vampire stopped them. He eyed them hungrily, causing Willow to shift nervously. "Where are you going?" He growled.

Buffy shrugged, seemingly unaffected by the demon's presence. "We finished our work for tonight, we're heading back."

The vampire considered her words for a few moments before eventually smirking. "Well, if you're such effective workers, you can help the humans in sector eight."

Buffy opened her mouth to protest but a low guttural growl from the vampire quickly silenced her. He pointed behind them and they both reluctantly turned. Every part of Willow's body was already protesting against the idea of more work as she and Buffy trudged up the long tunnel towards sector eight.

From what she had heard, sector eight was the epicentre of all the work the demons were doing. Or should she say the work the humans were doing for the demons. She had never been to that area before and her curiosity demanded to know what exactly the demons were up to. Were those monsters actually building a demonic community or were their plans more sinister? She guessed she was about to find out.

As they approached the metal gate that allowed entrance to sector eight, Willow's heart began to thump with increasing speed. The tunnels always had the ability to give her the creeps but the fact that the demons' plans were about to be unveiled to them, was playing havoc with her nerves. The two burly vampires standing guard might also have had something to do with it.

Buffy approached them first and informed them of their purpose there. One of the guards grunted and opened the gate for them. Willow shuffled quickly through, glancing sideways at the vampires. She focused her gaze forwards and took a sharp intake of breath.

Tall, steel constructions reached upwards to the rock ceiling where they joined the earth. The buildings were massive and overbearing, making Willow feel even more insignificant than she already did. There were far more vampires here, overlooking the humans who were working. Willow could sense the fear in the air and it made her shiver. A strong smell of metal hung in the air, making the petite redhead feel sick to the stomach. She now wished she hadn't seen this place, it could mean only bad things for the human race.

Buffy forged onwards, talking to the nearest vampire and asking what they should be doing. Willow had to admire her courage; there was no way she would have the bravery to talk to any form of demon. Buffy always managed to do it with some form of confidence that sometimes annoyed the vampiric guards. This time, however, the guard merely pointed them to a smaller construction.

Willow followed Buffy as they entered the half-built tower and she marvelled at the quality of the work. She had never put much effort into her work and wondered why the human workers who had helped build this place, had. More than likely, it was out of fear. As she now looked upwards, Willow could see several human workers concentrating on their tasks. She hoped that neither her nor Buffy would have to stay long here.

*

It seemed to Tara as though she had been working for days, but in fact, it had only been a few hours. Her body was most certainly not used to this kind of labour and muscles she wasn't even aware she had were protesting. It was bad enough she had to drill screws through metal for hours on end but doing that at an incredible height with no safety harness was beginning to make her head spin. She had been forced up the giant metal tower and told to get on with her job. She had been too scared to disagree and was thankful Kristen had been assigned to do the same job in the tower.

She looked to the opposite side of the tower, which was only several metres away, while trying to avoid gazing at the lethal drop to the ground below. Kristen knelt in an alcove, drilling into the metal frame and looking pretty relaxed in her surroundings. Tara couldn't comprehend how someone could get used to such a situation. There was no way she was going to stay here, be a slave, and become dinner to a host of demons. She had to free herself and find out what had become of her mother. Even if she only found the body of her mother. A shiver ran the length of her body as she thought about that.

Tara turned back to her task and picked a screw up between her thumb and forefinger. She gazed at it for several minutes, wondering if there was any way she could get out of this hellhole without losing a part of her body or most of her blood. It was unlikely she could do it alone yet there wasn't anyone who would help her. Kristen and her posse seemed content enough to stay here and bully the other human occupants into submission. Even if they weren't happy, they had become so used to it they wouldn't rebel. It was sickening.

Her thoughts drifted to the redhead called Willow. There was something about her that told Tara that she would be willing to at least try to get out of this prison yet Tara couldn't think of a way to approach her. She had pretty much alienated herself from the redhead. Even if she could find a way to talk to Willow, there was no way just the two of them could make it out alive. They would need an army for that. A very big army.

She sighed heavily and decided that it would be better, for now, to finish her work and then, when she had time to rest, she could think about how she could rally together enough people. The task seemed impossible yet it was something she had to do. She placed the screw against the designated hole and pressed the drill against it. The screw whizzed into the hole with ease and she moved onto the next one, almost mechanically.

"Almost done there kid?" Echoed Kristen's voice from behind her.

Tara peered over her shoulder at her new found ally, slightly irked at the epithet Kristen had used. She smiled weakly at the brunette before continuing with her work. The halt in the constant drilling noise told Tara that Kristen and not resumed her work and curiosity made her turn once again. Kristen sat in the alcove, legs dangling over the edge whilst she watched Tara.

"W-What's wrong?" Tara asked, her voice barely a whisper. She felt incredibly uncomfortable with the intense stare she was receiving.

"I was gonna ask you the same question." Came the familiar monotone voice.

Tara merely shook her head, unsure of what Kristen was getting at. "N- Nothing."

The brunette sat staring in silence at Tara for several long moments, her gaze unwavering. Then, all of a sudden, she lifted herself to her feet and pulled herself over to Tara's side of the tower. She crouched down in front of the blonde, a smirk tugging at one side of her mouth.

"Don't give me that, kid. I know there's something on your mind. I can see it in your eyes."

Tara instantly lowered her head, her hair flopping in front of her features. She studied the bottom of the metal alcove intently, so that Kristen couldn't see into her eyes. If the brunette was as perceptive as she proclaimed then Tara certainly didn't want her seeing how uncomfortable she felt around Kristen.

"N-No, I just want. I j-just want to get out of here." She took a deep breath and looked up at Kristen once more. "So I can get some s-sleep."

Kristen tilted her head to one side, as if considering this. Finally, she nodded her head. "I know the feeling. But don't go telling the others that. Might ruin my reputation." The words made it seem as though Kristen was making a joke but her face was expressionless. The fact that the brunette didn't really show much emotion was strange to Tara. She had always felt emotion was what made humans strong. Stronger than demons.

Just as she was about to say something in response, a commotion far below distracted her. Kristen was the first to look down and from her darkening eyes, Tara could tell whoever, or whatever was down there wasn't going to mean good things for them. Tara peered downwards and could make out a few figures at the bottom of the tower. However, she couldn't identify who was down there.

"Typical." Kristen almost growled.

"Who is it?" Tara asked, fear edging into her voice.

Kristen rolled her eyes and made her way to her own alcove without answering Tara. Flustered, Tara squinted her eyes to make out who was now making their way up the tower. Her heart missed a beat as she noticed one familiar feature of one of the figures. She could recognise that flamey hair anywhere.

The excited flutter in her chest changed to a sinking feeling as the memories of recent events flooded into her mind. Willow wasn't going to be happy to see her and now they were going to be stuck together in a cramped space for goddess knows how many hours. A bad situation was turning into a nightmare situation. Tara frowned as she turned back to her work, hoping the redhead wouldn't ascend to the height of her alcove or at least just not notice her.

Each screw suddenly held a decreasing amount of interest as Tara continued her task. Concentrating on something other than Willow was harder than Tara had hoped and soon she was looking at the nearing figures again.

Neither of the two newcomers peered upwards at her, which Tara was thankful for. They both settled in an alcove several levels below hers and begun their work immediately. Tara recognised the other figure as Buffy Summers and she watched the other woman work with ease and efficiency.

Tara sighed and looked over at Kristen whose attention was on Willow and Buffy still. A grim expression was set firmly on the brunettes face and Tara was sure she could see Kristen's eyes alight with distaste. She glanced up at Tara and smiled slyly.

Tara's heart thudded with dread as Kristen began to lower herself down onto the next level. "Where are you going?" She whispered.

Kristen froze and looked Tara in the eye. "Just paying our dear friends a little visit." She winked, placed a finger to her lips, and began moving downwards once again.

Tara said nothing more, out of fear that Kristen would, in stead, come after her. She looked down nervously at a head of red hair and hoped that Willow would glance upwards to see the threat approaching her.

What am I doing? She thought suddenly. All her life she had strived to help people and keep them from harm. Now here she was, allowing someone, who had risked herself to help Tara, to be stalked by a woman with a grudge. What would Mama think?

Set in the knowledge that her mother would approve this course of action, Tara took in a lungful of breath and shouted for all she was worth. "Willow!"

Three heads shot up simultaneously. Kristen's eyes burned with anger and betrayal, whilst Buffy's were immediately alert. Willow looked shocked but recognition soon dawned on the redhead's features and Tara was sure she could see something else there. Happiness? You're imagining it, Maclay. Who would ever be happy in a place like this?

"What's wrong with you!" Kristen hissed at Tara before glaring down at Buffy and Willow.

Tara shuffled backwards into her alcove and stayed out of sight. Even though she wanted to see Willow safe, she thought it better to stay out of the confrontation. She had done the right thing and now she had to keep herself safe. Besides, she had more important things to think about. Didn't she?

*

"Willow!" The voice cut through Willow's thoughts like a cleaver. Her eyes shot upwards and were met by familiar blonde hair and intense blue eyes. She caught her breath as she realised the voice had belonged to Tara. Why is she looking at me? Why did she say my name? Why did she sound so scared? With that thought, Willow looked away from Tara and immediately noticed Kristen glaring at her with hate.

Great! Just what I need, another ass kicking. She thought glumly. She looked back towards where Tara was. Towards where she had been. The dazzling blonde had disappeared and Willow's heart sunk. Even though Tara was on 'the other side' Willow still couldn't find it inside her to dislike her. How could she? She had helped her twice now. She wondered what Kristen was going to do with Tara now that she had so obviously betrayed her.

"Back for more?" Came Buffy's voice from beside Willow.

Willow looked at her friend who now stood with her feet planted wide apart and her hands on her hips in a confident stance. Willow truly admired how Buffy could influence how others felt. She was certainly feeling a little braver now and she was sure Kristen was crapping herself.

Kristen hesitated in her descent. She seemed to be considering her options. Eventually, she merely smiled and moved upwards again. "Not today, Summers. I have some business to attend to right now." Her gaze flickered upwards.

Willow lurched forwards and grabbed a rung of the ladder that ran the entire length of the tower. "You leave Tara alone!"

Kristen looked down at the redhead in surprise. Then she began to laugh, her brown hair dancing around her shoulders. "That is none of your concern." She became serious within a moment and climbed up the ladder again.

Willow moved to follow her but she felt a firm hand on her arm. She spun around to see Buffy shaking her head. "No Will, that is not our concern. If you get involved with their type, you'll get yourself killed and I'm not going to allow that to happen. Ever. Okay?"

Willow sighed with resignation and nodded. She allowed Buffy to lead her back to where they were working but she couldn't concentrate on her task. Tara overtook her thoughts and she was worried about what might happen to her. If anything does, it'll be all because of me.

END OF CHAPTER 2