Part 16 of 16
Rating : R for language, sexual situations and violence.
Disclaimer: Most, if not all of the characters depicted here are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Inc. and Fox. This is a work of fiction; any similarities to anyone living or dead are purely coincidental.
Summary: Third in a series of stories started with " Summer of faith" and continued in "Seasons of faith". In the last book, Buffy died fighting Glorificus, the Hell goddess. This book picks up where that book ended. How does Faith deal with the loss of Buffy? How does life change for the scoobies? Buffy will be with them always, but is there more to it than just memories? Stay tuned.
Spoilers: Possible season 6 and season 7 spoilers. Hope you've watched them by now.
Timeline: Season 6, maybe season 7 and beyond( don't know yet).
WARNING: There is always the possibility of major character death. Romance between members of the same gender(duh). Sexual situations between members of the same gender. This is an Alternate Universe (AU) story. The real(by the series 'coda' ) relationship between Buffy and Faith never happened here. So if you're looking for the dark, knife wielding, don't give a crap about nothing but me Faith, She's not here.(ok, bit of an exaggeration, as we all know by now that Faith redeemed herself, but the "dark, evil" Faith never got a chance to live here). Violence happens. Adult themes( someday, I plan on being one, too). Sexual situations. All the usual stuff.
Things are going just as she'd planned. Mostly, anyway.
She has the bratty little sister, she has the slutty lover. And soon, she'll have Buffy right here before her…where she'll be taken care of once and for all. Along with Dawn and Faith. Then Willow will be free to get to the main attraction. Destroying Sunnydale and opening the hellmouth.
The only thing not going according to plan is Tara. Willow can't understand why Tara betrayed her. it isn't right… Tara should've been changed. But somehow she threw it off. It was just by chance that Willow noticed it in time, and trapped her in a binding spell. Otherwise no telling the trouble she would've caused.
Willow walked over to the spot where Tara hangs suspended by the binding spell, and looks at her. Tara's eyes are open… she stares at Willow. Willow reaches out to touch her hair. Tara flinches, but can't move.
" I'm not going to hurt you, baby," Willow says, aggrieved. " Ok, I did hurt you… but that was only because you sided with THEM. Don't you see? They hate us… they laugh at us behind our backs. They spit on us… not literally, but figuratively. I'm only trying to get justice here. Don't you see that?"
Tara looks as if she wants to say something. She tries, but can't. Willow waves her hand, breaking the spell she put on her.
"Willow, please, you gotta stop this!" Tara pleads with her, hoping to reach whatever of Willow might still be here, " They don't hate you, they love you. They care about you. They… just want to help you."
"Yeah, help me. Help me be weak, help me die, " Willow says, impatiently, " They want to help me, alright!" Willow's eyes flash. " I don't get you, Tara. You know what it's like to be persecuted. Your own family tried to make you out as a demon. Yet you stick up for these bunch of freaks and bullies…"
" Because they stood up for me against my 'family', you did too… don't you remember?" Tara says, " Buffy and Faith, Xander and Giles… all of you, even Dawnie, stood up for me! You all made me part of your 'family'. That's what we are, isn't it? Family?" Tara asks.
For a brief moment, a look of doubt crosses Willow's face, but she… or whatever she is now, suppresses it. She waves her hand impatiently, silencing Tara once more.
" I don't even know why I bother, " Willow says, " it's pretty obvious you're in their camp. I can't make you see that was a trick, just something to make us all grateful and humble, to keep us down… family, my ass" She storms away from Tara, apparently disgusted with her. But despite her words and attitude, something shows on her face, a bit of uncertainty… as if she's not sure this is the right course.
Don't you get weak on me now! the voice inside her says. We're too close to our vengeance for you to go soft now!
" But… they're my friends!" Willow says, arguing with the voice
Right… and they've treated you so well. Kicking you out, making you crazy. They drove you to kill yourself…or have you forgotten that?
"No… that's not true. I couldn't deal with what I'd done!" Willow says, remorsefully.
What did you do? You brought her back, from death! You gave her back to that ungrateful slut, Faith. Do they thank you? NO! They treat you like dirt. They should be kissing your feet, worshipping you. But no, they make you feel guilty.
" But I did wrong. I … I brought about an apocalypse. I never should've…." Willow protests, but is cut off.
Says who? Giles? That weakling? That fool! He's as jealous as the rest of your power! You're the powerful one, and they can't stand it. They want to hold you down. They have to…or you'll be the one adored, not them! You deserve to be loved and feared and worshipped. They are nothing to you. NOTHING!
"This is wrong, so wrong… I can't do this!" Willow says, trying to escape the voice, " Vengeance… this is just murder, not vengeance… not justice!"
How can you say that? How can you even be so weak, after what I've showed you. What you can be. How this world will bow to you, kiss your feet, make you their Queen? You can have it all, if you want it. If you reach for it; but it won't be given to you. You've got to pay the price for glory. Stop being so weak. Be strong for once, Willow!
" I… I can't … I can't " Willow cries, covering her ears, trying to shut out the voice.
Faith appears before her, arms crossed over her chest. " C'mon, Red, go for it. You know you wanna!" She sneers, " or … are you just too much of a coward, Red? Too much of a loser? Yeah, that's what I figured. You're nothin' but a tight assed uptight loser!"
Buffy appears, smirking, " You pathetic wimp, " She says, caustically, " You think I could care about you? You're… beneath me! Get real, Will. You're nothing but a little geek who couldn't. You're nothing, you'll always be nothing!"
"No, no, stop… stop it" Willow cries out.
Giles appears, his expression stern. " You play with magicks like they're toys. You're reckless and foolish. Stop it! Stop it NOW!"
Tara appears before her, and turns her back, " You expect me to love you, to respect you. But you always are weak, a nothing. Always following in Buffy's shadow. You're pathetic, Willow. I despise you!"
"No…Tara, no …." Willow pleads, " Please baby."
But then another voice is heard. It's soft and calm, like a balm to a wound. It sounds like Dawn, but and yet different.
" No… Willow, don't listen. It's a trick, this thing is tricking you, trying to humiliate you. It wants to use you!"
But an incredible, gut wrenching, mind shattering pain erupts in Willow. She grabs her head, and sinks to the floor. The visions of Buffy, Faith, Giles and Tara surround her, taunting her.
You disgust me
I hate you
Nothing, you're nothing!
" No, stop, please stop!" Willow cries out in anguish and pain, " Stop ….stop!" . She rolls around on the floor, as wave after wave of searing pain rips through her
I can help you, Willow, the voice says to her, almost kindly, let me make the pain go away. Just do what you know you have to. I can make it better. Don't let them hurt you anymore. Get your justice. You deserve it. Look how they treat you!
The group of surrounds her, joining hands. They circle her and in sing song tones call out
" Loser, wimp, coward , Fool . Loser, wimp, coward, fool! Loser, wimp , coward, fool!" They keep circling her, taunting her.
" Stop it! Stop it ! STOP IT!" Willow erupts. She seems to fly off the floor, and hangs suspended above the ground. Her eyes are black and flashing . She throws black bolts of energy at the apparitions, the force causing the mansion to shake on its foundation.
That's my girlthe voice says, Hurt them. Make them hurt like they hurt you.
" Yes, like they hurt me" Willow says, her voice hard and hollow sounding
Don't be weak, be strong!
"Yes, be strong. Don't let them see me weak," Willow says, almost like a chant
Make them pay. Torture them, My darling, kill them. Make them suffer, like you've suffered,
"Yes, Kill them. Make them pay, make them all pay!"
BAM! Bam –Bam- Bam! BAM! BAM!
Buffy hits the punching bag over and over, working off her frustration. Her expression is set and grim. Her eyes are cold, flinty and have an angry gleam. She's sweating, having been at this for awhile.
BAM! Bam –Bam- Bam! BAM! BAM!
Giles walks into the training room, and watches his slayer work. He has a worried expression on his face. In all the years he's trained Buffy, in all the menaces she's faced, he's never seen her so… livid. He fears she's acting rashly; thinking with her heart and emotions, and not her head. What do you expect, Giles? He thinks to himself, She's had everyone she cares about hurt and /or stolen from her. Of course she's angry! Still, he's worried. If she doesn't calm down, she'll rush in without thinking… and get hurt. Or killed
" Buffy, " He says, mildly. When he gets no response, he says it louder, " Buffy! BUFFY!"
She continues to pound on the punching bag, not acknowledging him.
" Buffy, ENOUGH!" He says, coming around to hold the bag, trying to stop her. She lands one powerful punch, which, from the expression on his face, he feels, even through the bag. He staggers back, making a winded sound.
" What do you want, Giles?" Buffy says, shortly. She doesn't have time for this… she has to train. She starts punching on the bag again.
" I want you to stop hitting the bag long enough to listen to me, " Giles says, shouting to get her attention.
Buffy stops hitting the bag. She walks over to Giles, standing nearly toe to toe with him. She looks him in the eye.
" Listen to what, Giles?" Buffy says, her tone less than polite, " Listen to you to tell me to calm down again? To think again? Think about WHAT, Giles? Willow has Dawn and Faith. There's not telling what she'll do to them!"
" What about the fact that she obviously plans a little surprise for you when you arrive, Buffy?" Giles says," How do you plan to help them if you're injured… or worse?"
"What choice do I really have, Giles?", Buffy replies, turning back and starting to punch the bag again, " Think maybe I should just leave them to her tender mercies?"
"No, but we should go in with some kind of plan, Buffy, " Giles insists, " going in blindly isn't going to get it done".
" We? There's no 'we' , Giles. You saw the note, " Buffy said, " I've got no plans on burying you!"
" So instead you're just going in alone, " Giles retorts, " Yes, that's a marvelous plan. So, instead I'll have the pleasure of burying you … again! Along with Faith and Dawn."
"Giles, " Buffy's tone softens, knowing she's pushed him too far, " I don't mean to say you're not good in a fight. I can't put you in that kind of danger."
" Buffy, it's my choice. I would rather go with you, to back you up. But I'm going nonetheless" Giles says, " I know you feel it's your fight, but it's my fight also."
Buffy ran her hand through her hair. She knew she could try to argue Giles out of it, but it would just take time. Better she handle it later. For now, she'd have to give in.
"Ok, fine, come along, " Buffy says, not overly gracious, " But if you get killed, I'm so telling".
Giles smiles a tight smile, knowing Buffy's trying to lighten the situation. " I'll get the weapons ready, " He says, turning away.
"Giles?" Buffy calls out , stopping him." Yes?" He turns back.
" Do you have … I don't know… like anti-magic spells? Something we can use against her? Maybe slow her down a little?"
Giles looks thoughtful, " I might have something along those lines… I'll go check my volumes" He says, and turning, he leaves the training room.
Buffy turns back to the punching bag, and her frustration begins to rise again. She starts punching it again, each blow a killing blow. She's trying to get her emotions under control; she'll need every bit of concentration to defeat Willow. With each blow, she tries to narrow her focus, bring her mind onto the task at hand. Bam- Bam Gotta do this Bam-Bam Have to find a way to stop her Bam-Bam There's gotta be a way Bam-Bam But why now?
Why now when everything was just going right?
Bam-Bam Bam-Bam Bam-Bam Bam-Bam
Faith wakes up near sunset, to find herself chained to a wall in the main room of the mansion. She's gagged, and hurting.
Shit. Where the hell am I? She looks around the room. Something is real familiar about this place. She sees the French doors leading out into the garden, and the hall flanked by huge fireplaces. Well, hell, it's Angel's digs. Why'd the bitch bring me here, anyway? Faith struggles against the chains, but the strain just shoots pain through her. She grunts in pain, the sound muffled by her gag. She relaxes for a moment, letting her body go limp against the chains. Then she struggles again, but with the same result. Except she felt a small movement in her bonds… as if she loosened something. She goes limp, the sweat building on her brow. Damn that hurts, she growls to herself. But if I can just keep it up… maybe I can get myself outta this. But it feels as if her whole body's on fire, and she is breathing hard from her exertions. Still, she struggles gain.
" Oh, look… puppy's awake " Willow's voice floats down to her.
Faith looks up, seeing Willow descending the stairs. Two figures, seemingly wrapped in energy, are floating behind her. She reaches the bottom of the stairs, and the two figures float past her, to hang suspended in the middle of the room. Faith finally recognizes them.
"Dawn, Tara!" Faith says, hoarsely, " What've you done to them?" She looks at Willow with a hard stare.
" Nothing… yet" Willow says brightly, " Just keeping them wrapped up 'til the blonde bitch arrives." Willow walks over to Faith, and checks her chains, " I do so hope those aren't too tight… actually, I hope they are too tight… but thought I'd be polite. So, puppy, " Willow says, stroking Faith's hair, " Did we have a nice nap?" Willow sees Faith's malevolent stare, and smiles faintly. " Well, well… looks like puppy would bite if she weren't muzzled," She chuckles meanly. Faith lunges at her, but is brought up short by the chains. " Oh, that's not nice. Bad dog, " Willow says, slapping Faith, " Bad dog!"
Faith just glares at her, her cheek and pride stinging from the slap.
" Oh, does puppy think she could do better if I let her out of her chains?" Willow taunts her, " let's see, shall we?" Willow says a small spell, and the manacles fall away from Faith's wrists. Faith wriggles her wrists, not believing it. She lunges at Willow, her pain for the moment forgotten, her only desire is to knock over and beat down on the witch.
But she lunges through Willow, who disappears right before her eyes. With a grunt, she overbalances and falls to the floor, a pain shooting through her body. She lies there, panting, frustrated. She hears a laugh coming from behind her. She turns, and sees Willow standing by the French doors.
" Ahhh… puppy go boom," Willow chortles. " What's wrong, puppy? Come get me, I'm right over here."
Faith, despite her pain, lurches to her feet. Her chest is wracked with a dull throbbing, and her leg feels like it's on fire, but she launches herself at Willow… who at the last moment fades out in front of Faith's eyes. Faith just looks confused, and is in minor agony. Again, from behind her she hears Willow laugh.
" Poor puppy seems to be chasing her own tail. I'm over here, doggie" Willow taunts. Faith turns to see Willow standing by the stone arch leading into the dining room. Her face tightens up in frustration, but she's not playing anymore. She just stays where she's at.
" Ahhh… tired already? Poor puppy!" Willow sniggers, " Well, I guess if you don't want to play anymore…" Faith finds herself being dragged back to where she was chained. She fights against the spell, but it's a losing battle. The chains clank back down on her wrists, and she's chained back to the wall.
" Well, gotta give you points, Faith. I really expected you to try to 'catch' me a few more times, but then, I guess no one could be as dumb as you look" Willow says, reappearing close to her.
Faith, still gagged, can't speak, but she just gives Willow a witheringly contemptuous look. She turns her head away.
"What?" Willow asks, a little thrown. She comes over and unties the slayer's gag… or starts to. Faith turns quickly on her, does a head butt, and then a leg sweep. Hurt like hell, but so worth it! She watches as Willow tumbles onto her butt.
" Bitch!" Willow says, then shoots an energy bolt at Faith, who even with the gag screams. Willow just smiles. " We'll see how much you're precious Buffy wants you after I've had my fun with you" .
Faith closes her eyes, bracing herself for the blow. Fuck me, I went a bit too far this time. The bitch's gonna kill me! I'm sorry, B. I fucked up. Faith tenses for the blow, thinking of her beloved, hoping that'll make what she believes is going to be the end of her, less painful. She waits.
And waits. And nothing comes. She opens her eyes, and sees Willow on her knees, grasping her head. What the fuck? Willow looks up at her, and her face is confused… and her eyes are green, not black. Willow gets up, and goes to Faith… who backs up, expecting a trick.
" Faith! Goddess, what… is this?" Willow asks, sounding confused. " You're hurt!"
"Really on the ball, Red, considering" Faith snarls at her, " What's the joke, huh? Just trying to make it hurt more?"
" Joke?" Willow says, shaking her head, " I don't understand. Where… this is Angel's mansion…what're we doing here?"
" Get off it, Red. Not buying the act." Faith says, contemptuously. " I know you think I'm a moron, but even I'm not that stupid".
"Act?" Willow looks at Faith as if she's gone crazy, " hey… why're you chained to the wall?"
" Would you just kill me already?" Faith spits out, " God, do I have to put up with this torture, too?"
" I don't understand, " Willow says plaintively, " But we gotta do something about those chains" Unlike before, Willow doesn't seem to have it all together, magically. She goes to faith, and tries to loosen the chains, with no success. Her brow is furrowed, thinking of a spell to loosen the chains.
"Would you quit playing around?" Faith growls, " I told ya I'm not buying the " I don't remember" act. Either kill me, or get the hell away from me… but don't pretend you're concerned about me!".
" It…it's like a nightmare, Faith, " Willow says, still struggling with the chains, still thinking of a spell, " I… remember parts of it… oh, god… I set the house on Revello drive on fire… " Willow sounds shocked, " didn't I?"
"Fine, we'll play it you're way. You don't remember. Well, listen up, Witch. You destroyed the Magic Box, trying to kill Giles and Anya, " Faith says, her tone sarcastic, " Then, for giggles, you came to our house, burned it down, and kidnapped Dawn… you and Tara!" Faith growls, " never mind you've treated me like dog crap ever since raising Buffy back up, so please… cut the 'friends' act, and just do what ever the hell you're gonna do, ok?"
" I know I treated you like crap, Faith, " Willow says, her voice sounding remorseful, " I… I was jealous. Jealous of you and Buffy, what you had, who you were, that you got all the attention and stuff. I… felt useless, and I… took it out on you, accusing you of lots of stuff I know you wouldn't do" Willow finally gives up on the manacles, "But, the last thing I really remember clearly is … trying to kill myself. After that, it's all dark and distorted, like a dream. I remember in the dream I did bad things, awful things… and oh, goddess, it's all real, isn't it?" She looks fearful, " What the hell is wrong with me?"
Faith stares at Willow, feeling more scared of her now than before. God, she's a total nut job! I can handle evil… insanity… don't think so! She's bracing herself for anything, expecting Willow to go Psycho any minute on her, when a voice quietly speaks to her… in her head!Faith?
"Who…what the hell?" Faith says, realizing the voice is INSIDE her head. Who… Dawn?
And more, Faith. The voice says simply.
The glow thing? Faith asks, You? You're here?
Glow thing? Oh… humans have such colorful terms. Yes, it's the 'glow thing' as you put it, but I'm Dawn too.
Whatever! Faith replies, What the hell is going on? How come you haven't busted us outta here?
My power doesn't work that way, Faith, Dawn replies, I can't affect physical forms, only energies. I've managed to temporarily break the influence of the darkness that infects your friend, but it's only temporary. You need to get out of those chains while you can, get away.
That's just swell… But Red doesn't seem to remember how to bust me out! Faith protests
The magicks she's using aren't hers. But I've put it in her mind how to break the chains. Once free, get out! Find Buffy. I can't hold back the thing much longer. Dawn replies.
Ummm… not running fast here… broken foot, remember?… No, I guess you wouldn't…you were gone.
It's been taken care of, Dawn replies, test it.
Faith does, and finds her foot doesn't hurt… she doesn't hurt at all! What the hell is going on here?
No time. She's ready to release you. Just go….
What about you? Faith asks, I can't just leave you ….
I need to be here when you and Buffy return. Now go!
"Faith… I think I … " Willow stops, and grabs her head, crying out in pain." No…no….not now! " She turns quickly, her face pale, her eyes bloodshot…and turning darker. " Gotta be quick…. It hurts…oh goddess…" She mutters something, and Faith feels the chains holding her loosen. She shakes them off, and starts moving towards the French doors leading towards the Garden.
" Run… Faith…it's coming" Willow cries, sinking to her knees. Her voice is changing timbre. Faith, without further prompting… crashes through the French doors and runs. A fireball just misses her, flying over her shoulder. She dodges, running in an erratic pattern to make herself a harder target.
" COME BACK HERE, YOU BITCH!" Willow roars, her voice sounding alien. She throws another fireball at the fleeing Faith, but misses her. Faith runs up the stairs and out of sight, escaping, barely, another tossed fireball.
"WHAT THE HELL???!!!!!???? HOW DID SHE GET LOOSE? " Willow screams at no one in particular, " HOW DID SHE GET WELL??"
She hears a stirring behind her, and whirls around, seeing Tara moving within her binding spell.
"YOU!" Willow bellows. Then she lowers her voice, but it still sounds angry… and deadly." You've betrayed me for the last time, Tara. " Willow holds up her hand, and a huge fireball appears. She throws it, and looking satisfied, waits for it to hit, incinerating Tara. But it hits an invisible wall before it strikes, and bounces back. She jumps out of the way, barely in time. She looks surprised, off balance. " What the… " She says, her voice sounding a little uncertain…perhaps fearful. She looks around, but sees no one. " I don't know how you did that, but … I'll deal with you later" Willow says. She paces around, her
face uncertain. She doesn't know what the hell is happening here… and she doesn't like it one bit." Gotta think… didn't plan on this… gotta prepare… dammit… " She turns to Tara, her face spiteful and enraged, " You're going to pay for this, Tara… dearly".
She storms out of the room, leaving Tara and Dawn.
The sun begins to set over Sunnydale. At the mansion on Crawford street, the shadows lengthen, becoming deeper, more enveloping. The already ominous atmosphere grows even threatening. It's as if the mansion, like some great beast, is waiting for its prey to approach.
Buffy Summers standing off a ways from the mansion, stares into the gathering gloom. Up until now, her anger and her sense of betrayal have kept her going, pushed her forward. But now it's down to the crunch, and her own sense of unease comes to the fore. Can I even do this? God, I'm so fucking lost here, it's not funny. Faith's the one with the smarts about this stuff… God, I wish she were here with me! She'd know what to do .What the hell am I gonna do here? For a moment Buffy is lost in self pity, then she shakes herself out. No… there's way too much on the line to get all weepy now, Buffy. Just get yourself together. You can do this. You gotta do this!
She sets down her weapons bag, and takes out a crossbow. She loads it up, and contemplates whether to bring the quiver of arrows with. She decides it would just be in the way; she's only gonna get one, maybe two shots off before Willow does something to make the weapon useless. She reaches into the bag, and takes a short sword, putting it through her belt. Probably pointless, but I feel better having it. She stands, gathering courage for the assault.
Giles walks up to her, and she notes he's also carrying a cross bow… and a book.
" Any luck with the counter spell stuff, Giles?" Buffy asks, looking at the volume he's holding.
" I did manage to find some spells to help counter her magic, and afford you some protection, " Giles said, " But I'll need to be close to make them work effectively".
Buffy sighs. She would rather Giles were anywhere but here… preferably in Australia… somewhere safe. But she knows she needs help, and she has no choice. " Ok, Giles, but try to stay out of sight. Keep out of the line of fire… I'm gonna need all the help I can get, and if Willow catches you…" She doesn't finish, knowing Giles will get the uptake.
" Don't worry about me, Buffy. I'll be fine. Just concentrate on what you need to do" Giles reassures her.
" Yeah, and anyway, you know I'm the get-beat-up guy" A voice from behind Buffy says. She whirls, her crossbow at the ready, and sees Xander standing behind her, with a small smile on his face. Her fright is replaced by relief…and then anger.
"Xander! I could've killed you!" Buffy scolds. She grows suspicious, " What're you doing here, anyway?"
"That's my fault, actually," Giles speaks up, " He inquired as to where the battle was to be fought, and I … told him."
" I was kinda wondering if there was room for one more at this party, " Xander says, " And hopin' some of the way cool party favors were still being handed out."
"Xander, " Buffy says, " I know how you feel about this. You don't have to do this! I understand, really"
" No, Buff," Xander replies, " Actually, I do gotta do this. I know we've kinda stressed over this, and I'm still hopin' somehow we can save Willow. But we've fought too many times together not to be a part of this. I'm still freaked over Willow being the bad guy, but I'm here, if you want me."
Buffy stands quietly for a minute, then puts down her crossbow. Without a word, she takes Xander into a huge hug. Xander, a little surprised, returns the hug, smiling his trademark goofy smile. Buffy looks up at him, her eyes shiny with tears.
" Course I want you along, ya big dope, " She teases him, " Wouldn't be the same if I didn't have you to worry about" She grins, and hits him lightly on the arm.
" Ow… ow, ow, ow!" Xander says, rubbing his arm. It's more in fun than in pain… though Buffy's little taps can hurt.
" C'mon, you big baby, " Buffy says, turning towards her weapons bag. She reaches in and hands him a battle axe." Just don't cut your foot off, ok?"
" I'll try not to, " Xander says agreeably, " So, what's the plan?"
" Get in, bust out Faith and Dawn, try to stop her if we can. If not, run like hell!" Buffy says.
" Short and sweet, and too the point, " Xander says, " I like it!"
" Glad to hear. Cuz, there's no back-up plan", Buffy says.
" Giles, are you ready with that spell?" Buffy asks. Giles nods.
" Ok, then, lets go" Buffy says, leading the way towards the mansion.
They quietly approach the stairs leading down to the garden. Buffy puts up her hand to stop them.
" Giles, is this close enough for you to do your mojo?" Buffy asks, in a whisper.
" I suppose so, Buffy," Giles replies," Though I would like to be closer."
" No. I want you out of the way, where she doesn't have a chance to see you, " Buffy says. She's still afraid Giles is going to get hurt, or worse. Bad enough worrying about Xander. " Anyway, from here you can watch our backs, in case she has some trick up her sleeve."
" Very well, Buffy, " Giles says, knowing that pushing it would only make it worse, " just be careful. I'm not sure how effective these counter spells will be."
" Now he tells me, " Buffy says, with false bravado. She nods at Xander, " lets went".
Buffy and Xander sneak down the stairs, keeping as quiet as possible, hoping for the advantage of surprise. But as their feet hit the stone floor of the garden, a bright light seems to come on, magically. Xander fades back a little, on Buffy's wave of her hand.
"Damn," Buffy swears to herself. The French doors fly open, and Willow comes floating out." Hey Buffy, " Willow says, brightly, " Sorry if I spoiled your surprise, but hey? What kind of hostess would I be if I didn't prepare for my special guest?" Willow waves her hand, and a sword appears, and starts towards Buffy. She puts down her crossbow, and takes out her sword, ready to do battle.
Buffy and the floating sword circle around, Buffy trying to figure how to fight it, the floating sword looking for an opening. They keep circling around, the sword feinting, Buffy dodging its thrusts. Finally, Buffy takes the offensive, bring her sword up and hitting the other sword. She cries out in pain as her own sword begins to glow, and she drops it, shaking her hand. It felt like it was on fire.
" Oh, dear me! Did I forget to tell you? The enchanted sword is charged by mystic fire. Silly me!" Willow laughs. She watches as Buffy, now weaponless, ducks and runs from the sword pursuing her. She shakes her head and thinks This is almost too easy.
Just as the sword has Buffy backed into a corner, ready to strike, something happens. It begins to glow brighter and brighter, then, without warning, it flashes bright white, and dissolves. Willow, taken by surprise, looks dumbfounded.
"What the hell?" She says, her voice edged with the tiniest fear, " How? What?" But before she can say anything else, a crossbow bolt hits her in the shoulder, and she screams in pain. She whirls around, and sees Xander standing there with the crossbow.
"XANDER!" Willow rages, " What the hell? You're with her?" Willow, confused, backs off, muttering a spell. The bolt in her shoulder dissolves, and the wound heals itself, " Well, just a tip. You're puny little weapons can't really harm me!" Her face flushes red, and she turns towards Xander, " But this? Can really make you wish you'd never been born" She raises her arm to throw a bolt of energy, but suddenly finds herself flying into the closest wall. Buffy attacks her, throwing punches and kicks. Surprised, Willow is temporarily off balance, trying to fight off Buffy's attack. But she manages to send an energy blast, which knocks Buffy back, but doesn't harm her. Willow is perplexed. That blast should've hurt her a lot worse. Something's not right here! She quickly throws a fireball at Xander. It flies towards him, but then seems to bounce off a shield surrounding him. A light goes off in her head.
" Well… I get it now," Willow says, turning towards Buffy, " You cast a protection spell. Pretty sure Xander couldn't have done it. I've got to admit, I wasn't expecting it. Quite impressive, Buffy" Willow smirks, "But it really won't help you, you know. Just because I can't do magic on you, doesn't mean I can't do it on me". Willow brings her hands up, and starts muttering a small spell… energy starts to whirl around her, and she absorbs it into herself. She looks up, smiling. " That should do it. I believe I'm strong enough now to kick your ass into the ocean, Buffy. Wanna test it?" Without warning, Willow strides over to Buffy, and throws a punch, hitting the slayer and knocking her a few yards back into a waiting wall. Buffy , stunned, slides down the wall. " Yup, packs quite a punch, it does, " Willow mocks. Seeing Buffy stunned, she turns towards Xander.
"Well, I gotta admit, I didn't think I'd see you here, Xan" Willow says, advancing on him, " But hey, I guess I shoulda expected it. You always did have a jonesing for Buffy…or anyone that wasn't me, come to that, " Willow says, her voice having a mocking edge to it, " Why I expected you to act differently now is beyond me. Guess I thought we were friends, but hey, wrong again" She hits Xander, who goes flying. She starts to advance on him again, ready to finish the job, when she instead finds herself flying, the recipient of a kick. She quickly recovers, and turns, seeing Buffy placing herself between Xander and herself. She smirks.
" Well, well… shoulda known, " Willow says, acidly, " You can't take a hint, can you Buffy? Always riding to the rescue. Kinda annoying habit, you got. Well, just have to take you out first!" She rushes Buffy, and the fight is joined.
The two of them go all out to win. The fight moves around the garden, each one getting in a punch or kick occasionally, but neither one getting the upper hand. Every once in awhile, Xander gets up and tries to join the fight, but Willow just keeps knocking him back. Then it's back to the main event, each woman doing her best to knock the other out. Then Buffy seems to get a break, landing a series of kicks and blows. Willow is starting to weaken, but she doesn't give up. In a desperate move , she manages to fake Buffy out, getting her to throw a kick that misses, and leaving herself open. Willow grabs the slayer, and with near superhuman strength, tosses her through the French doors, and into the manor itself. Buffy, surprised, not prepared for the maneuver, doesn't have time to brace herself. She lies stunned, near unconscious in the main room of the mansion.
Willow, looking pleased with herself, starts to follow Buffy in, when suddenly a bottle breaks near her, shooting up fire. Startled, she whips around, and at the top of the stairs, she sees Faith, lighting another Molotov cocktail.
" You seem to like throwing fireballs, bitch" Faith calls down, sneering at her, " Let's see how you like 'em back". She tosses the bottle in hand, and reaches for another.
Willow, surprised, doesn't move quite fast enough, and though the bottle misses, some of the contents splash on her. All of a sudden she's on fire! Another bottle lands, closer, and again she's splashed by gasoline, which feeds the fire.
Faith, seeing the effects of her toss, throws the remaining two bottles without lighting them, aiming so again they hit close to Willow, splashing her with more fuel. Willow is encased in a pillar of flame.
" Burn, baby, burn," Faith says, trotting down the stair, a battle axe in hand. She plans on finishing this quickly.
Inside the manor, Buffy is recovering. She looks up, and sees the floating forms of Tara and Dawn. She goes to them. She touches the energy field around them, and it's like she's been kicked by a mule… she doubles over in pain.
Buffy looks up, trying to see who called her, but only sees Dawn and Tara.
Buffy. It's me, Dawn! Hurry… go outside. Things are coming to a head, and they need you
"Dawn? Where are you?" Buffy cries out, looking around.
Go, Buffy. Don't worry. I'm safe. Just go!
"Dawn, we gotta get out of here" Buffy says, moving further into the house. She can't accept that Dawn is ok, or that she's talking in her head. Then she feels a pressure against her, pushing her back.
Buffy tries, but can't move against the force hitting her. She's pushed out the door, into the Garden.
" You idiot" A voice comes out from the pillar of fire. Shortly after, Willow emerges. She's sneering, and looks at Faith with disgust, " Did you really think that little … match could harm me?"
" No, but it sure burns the house nicely, " Faith says, looking over Willow's shoulder. Willow turns, and sees the missed shots actually were aimed at the mansion. " So? The house burns, I care why?…." Willow says.
"Well, far as I can tell, Tara's still in there…" Faith says, grinning, " Just gonna let her burn?"
" Maybe I should, after she betrayed me!" Willow says. Then, a part of her that's still her gets worried, " But what the hell? I'll just bring her and the brat out here. Easier to kill close range!" Willow starts to mumble a spell, but at that moment Buffy attacks, knocking her off her feet. Willow turns to her, and smirks, " Well, I see the party girl's back. Take this, Slayer!" But as she raises her hand, a crossbow bolt goes through her hand, "What the hell?" She screams in pain, bringing her hand down.
Xander, recovered from his brief rendezvous with unconsciousness, is standing on the steps, crossbow in hand. His face is grim. " Don't make me shoot you again, Will, " Xander says quietly.
" This you mean?" Willow says, contemptuously. " You don't get it, do you Xan?" She starts to work the healing spell, but two Slayers attack her simultaneously. She wasn't expecting it, and is knocked down. Faith leaps on her and starts beating on her. Willow throws a punch, knocking Faith away… only to be replaced by Buffy. Buffy starts punching her.
" Two slayers, no waiting, Will, " Buffy mocks, punching away at her face.
" Get off me, bitch!" Willow says, trying to get a punch in, but Buffy's fists are flying fast, knocking her again and again. She seems to weaken, when suddenly a dark glow appears around her, and repels Buffy off her body.
What happens next shocks both of the slayers into a stunned silence. Willow seems to float up off the ground, spinning til her body is vertical. Then , while floating, she begins to change.
She grows larger… much larger. She grows to ten, then fifteen , the finally twenty feet tall. Any resemblance to Willow is lost as she grows larger. It's as if her body merges with the shadow glow around her, and changes. Her arms and legs become long and scaly, her hands becoming sharp claws. Her body stretches and grows large, bat-like wings Her face elongates, become sharp pointed at what once was the chin, but now has become an mouth… a mouth full of razor like fangs. Her eyes grow larger, the pupils elongating into vertical slits, resembling more like a lizard's eyes than human. Large, wicked sharp and curled horns grow out of her head… three, one to each temple, and one in the center of her forehead.
" I tire of this game, " the voice, no longer sounding remotely human, declares, "it's time you die, slayers, as will you world after you!" It starts to advance on the now retreating slayers.
" So not liking this, Faith" Buffy says, trying to find somewhere to get away from the … thing following them.
" I thought you were the impossible odds girl, B, " Faith says, sweating a little, " I mean, it's just and overgrown lizard!"
" Yeah, with teeth like a sharks, and … oh screw this!" Buffy says, pulling her sword. She stops retreating. Faith pulls on her
" B, have you gone NUTS?" Faith says, " You can't fight that thing… we can't… hell, a battalion can't".
" If we're gonna die, Faith, we might as well go out swinging," Buffy says, holding her sword up defiantly.
Faith looks at Buffy like she's mad. Then she sighs, and pulls out her trusty battle axe. " Oh well, guess I'm nuts too."
With a yell, both slayers charge the beast… who can't decide if it's amused, or insulted. It lashes out with one of its talons, and slaps both the slayers away like flies. They find themselves on the floor… about 15 feet away. Faith recovers first, helping Buffy to her feet.
" Ok, B… that didn't work… any other plans?" Faith asks, bemused.
" Ummm… run?" Buffy says.
But before they can do anything, the ground shakes, and a huge rumbling sound is heard coming from the Mansion. Both look, and see that an intensely bright green light emerges through the French doors, the windows, and any other portals it can slip through. They look at each other in surprise. They've seen that light before.
The light continues to spill out, coalescing and growing, It becomes larger and larger, dwarfing not only the slayers, but the creature threatening them. It continues to grow and spread, the eerie glow lighting up the surrounding area. The pure energy of the light seems to swirl and fill in any dark corner, any crack ; any place that is empty and dark.
"What the hell is this?" The thing so recently inhabiting Willow's body, roars.
" You're doom," A voice sounding a lot like Dawn says.
The earth tremors violently , and the energy begins to swirl around the creature. Where it makes contact with it, bright sparks fly off, seeming to tear at the creature's essence. The creature howls in something beyond pain, beyond despair. It seems to howl in a voice of it's own death.
The ground rumbles and shakes; the Mansion starts to rip apart. Still the energy attacks the creature, surrounding it and growing brighter. Rivulets of light start to slash through the creature. It fights back, trying to claw and bite the energy, but it's a losing battle.
Buffy, coming out of her daze first, turns towards the mansion. She sees it shaking, parts of it starting to shake loose. The ground shudders again, and the mansion starts to move on its foundations. Buffy starts to run towards the French doors.
" Buffy… what're you doing?" Faith calls, starting to run after her.
"Dawn's in there… and Tara!" Buffy says, " I gotta get them!"
" Wait… Buffy!" Faith calls, but the ground trembles violently, and Faith is knocked off her feet. Buffy disappears through the French doors.
Inside the mansion, everything has been thrown helter- skelter around the room. The furniture, such as it was, has been thrown against the walls, the statuary tossed and broken, vases and urns overturned and smashed. Parts of the ceiling have fallen, large chunks laying willy-nilly around the floor. In the middle of the front room Buffy finds Tara and Dawn. Dawn is lying motionless on the floor, seemingly unconscious. Tara, looking frightened, is over her, trying to protect her from falling debris.
"B-B-Buffy! W-What's going on?" Tara asks in a frightened voice. She looks shell-shocked. Buffy moves towards them.
"Never mind right now, Tara," Buffy says," Are you hurt?"
" N-N-No , I'm ok," Tara says." But I didn't want to leave Dawnie, and I can't lift her!"
"It's ok, it's going to be ok" Buffy says, trying to reassure the frightened woman, " Just help me lift her, and we'll get out of here".
Buffy lifts Dawn by the shoulders, and Tara her legs. They move towards the front door, the closest exit. They narrowly miss getting buried under another break in the ceiling. A beam from above effectively blocks that exit.
" Out through the garden, hurry, " Buffy barks, " We don't have much time". The walls shake and shudder, as if confirming her words. They make it to the garden exit, only to find the doorframe has shifted and broken, leaning against it's support beams leaving only a small exit… enough for one person at a time, but no more.
" Tara, crawl through, and I'll hand Dawn out to you, " Buffy says.
Tara crawls through and turns around, waiting for Dawn. Buffy slides Dawn out as gently, but as quickly as she can. Faith, seeing what's happening, runs over and assists Tara in pulling Dawn out to safety.
"C'mon, B. Dawn's out. Get out before… " but before Faith can finish, a huge implosion occurs behind them.
The green energy, absorbing the dark creature, has been turning brighter and brighter, until now it's almost white tinged with green. The creature, finally absorbed, sets off a chain reaction which causes the energy to implode upon itself. The resulting vacuum pulls Faith, Tara and Dawn away from the mansion, and causes the mansion, already critically weakened by the quakes, to collapse. The three women are thrown into the wall surround the garden forcefully, knocking them unconscious.
For the moment, all is silent
Giles kneels by the unconscious slayer, gently trying to rouse her. He watched the maelstrom from above, as he kept casting the protection spells, hoping it would protect the group. Well done, Giles ,he reproaches himself As always, staying on the outside, watching .Waiting, never doing. He checks Faith for injuries, but as with the others, he only finds some superficial cuts and bruises. He feels relief, but his expression is restrained.
Xander rounds the corner, his face bleak." I can't find them Giles, anywhere" he says.
" They have to be here somewhere, Xander" Giles rebuts, " Keep looking, please".
" I've looked over every inch of this garden, Giles… I can't find Buffy or Willow" Xander replies, defensively
" Look again, Xander" Giles says quietly, but firmly.
" Giles…." Xander starts.
" Just look, " Giles says, his tone harsh, not brooking argument. Xander, with a strange expression on his face, goes off to look.
Faith fights waking up.
She doesn't want to leave where she is. She's lying in a field, in the shade of a tree. Buffy is lying next to her, head on Faith's shoulder. It's quiet here, and peaceful. She feels Buffy's warm, soft breath tickling her neck, as the breeze blows lightly through her lover's golden hair. Faith feels a rare moment of peace and contentment. She strokes Buffy's silken strands, and wonders how she can make this moment last forever.
Even as that thought crosses Faith's mind, she can feel a tugging at her, as if someone were trying to pull her away. She fights it, not wanting, never wanting to leave this place. Buffy places a hand on Faith's chest, and leans in to kiss her. Faith feels Buffy's soft lips caress hers, and she sighs. It's all so perfect, if only that tugging would go away!
" It's all ok now, Faith, " Buffy murmurs, snuggling against her. " It's all going to be fine now"
Faith feels herself being pulled away. Buffy is growing more distant and indistinct. She struggles against the force pulling her, but she can't make headway. Everything is growing dim, and she's dragged upward….
Faith opens her eyes. Her head is throbbing, and her body feels like it's been through the wash cycle a few times too many. She groans, and lifts herself into a sitting position. She sees the concerned face of Giles over her.
" Giles? What happened?" Faith asks, looking around. She's still stunned and a little groggy. She starts to stand up.
" Take it easy, Faith, " Giles says gently, putting a hand on her shoulder to restrain her, " you took a nasty tumble against the garden wall when …" he pauses, " I'm not exactly sure what happened. All I saw was the energy absorb the creature and fold in on itself".
" It's over, then?" She asks, hopefully.
" it would appear so, " He replies affirmatively. He switches the subject, " How are you feeling?"
" Sore, wouldn't mind sleeping for a week, " Faith grins, " Been better, but not as bad as the last time. How are the others?"
"Dawn and Tara are still unconscious, but they appear relatively unscathed. Some bruising and cuts, much like you" Giles replies, trying to evade the coming question. He turns his face away.
Faith is coming more awake, and a small knot of fear insinuates itself into her stomach. She pulls on his arm.
"Giles… what about Willow?" She asks, her fear growing. She's afraid Willow escaped, is still out there somewhere, ready to attack them again.
" She's gone, " Giles says, simply.
" What do you mean, gone?" Faith asks, feeling her panic rising.
" We can't find any trace of her, " Giles says, his expression grim, " whatever that was that… possessed her, evidently absorbed her into itself. The energy absorbed it, and … Willow with it."
Faith looks mildly shocked, " Oh, " is all she manages to say. She can't help feeling some relief… but oddly, she feels sadness too. As much anger as she held for Willow, she didn't want her to die. Pay, yes; die, no. She knows this is going to be hard on Tara… and Buffy, too.
" How's B taking it, Giles?" Faith asks, figuring Buffy's around here somewhere. But something is nagging at the back of her memory… something she doesn't can't quite bring into focus.
Giles goes quiet. He looks at Faith, and can't say what he knows he has to say. He finds it hard to catch his breath.
" Giles… where's Buffy?" Faith asks, still feeling she should remember something. Something important.
Giles looks away, but not before Faith sees the look in his eyes.
It all comes back to her then. Buffy getting Dawn out, still inside the mansion… and then the implosion.
" No… Giles…" Faith chokes out, standing up. She feels as if steel bands are tightening around her lungs. She can't breathe… " No! It's not true… it can't be!" She starts towards the wreckage of the mansion, but Giles blocks her way.
" Faith… it's no good… she couldn't have survived…" Giles says, but Faith is not listening. She shoves him out of the way, and runs towards where the French doors used to be. She starts to toss debris left and right, trying to get to Buffy.
" Buffy… answer me baby," Faith calls out, digging into the wreckage, " Buffy!"
" Faith, stop" Giles calls out, running to her, " She's… gone". The realization that Buffy has died a second time hits him like a freight train, and he doubles over, as if someone punched him. He falls to his knees.
" No, I don't believe it. It's not true!" Faith turns on him, yelling, " She's alive! She HAS to be alive. Help me!" She screams at him.
He looks up, the tears streaming down his cheeks, " Faith… it's no good…" He says, choking on the words.
" No… NO … NO… NOOO!" Faith shouts at him. She can't believe. She won't believe. It's not true! She turns and starts digging again.
" Buffy… please… answer me!" She calls, her heart starting to pound in her chest, her head feeling like it will explode. " Please, baby … talk to me, tell me where you are! Buffy! …. Buffy!….. Buffy! PLEASE…. ANSWER ME!" She screams. Her body betrays her, her strength goes, and her knees buckle. She starts to pound on the stone and wood, her hands bleeding. She doesn't care, she doesn't feel anything. She only feels her heart bursting in her chest, her brain exploding.
" BUUUUUUUFFFFFFFFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE "
The late afternoon sunlight has a golden, almost celestial quality. A gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the tree, as if the wind is sighing, regretting the loss of another day. The sun dappled shade by the headstone lends a nostalgic, wistful quality to the scene. The sense of Déjà vu is strong here; this place is hauntingly familiar. We've been here before.
A young woman in her early twenties kneels by the grave, placing a single red rose in the vase by the marker. Her expression is marked by a longing and sense of loss we can only imagine. Her hand rubs over the stone, as if caressing its cold, rough surface. She leans in and kisses the stone, as if kissing someone dear. The strength seems to go out of her for a moment, and she leans against the stone, her eyes closed.
Stand a few yards off is a young girl, barely 16. She's watching the woman, and her expression is mournful. It's obvious she wishes to comfort the woman, but she holds back, fearing she'll be misunderstood. She holds a white rose in her hands. Gathering her courage, she walks to the grave, kneeling on the opposite side of the woman. She places the white rose in the vase. Tentatively, she reaches out and places her hand over the woman's. The woman opens her eyes.
" Hi, Dawnie," Faith smiles ruefully. She got lost in her thoughts again. It's been eight months since Buffy… was taken from her, and she still finds herself daydreaming about her lover." I'm sorry, honey, I was just saying goodbye".
" I know, " Dawn replies, quietly.
They never found either Buffy's or Willow's bodies. They searched through every square the ruins of the mansion, but neither body was turned up. It was if they'd never existed. For awhile, Faith held out the hope that Buffy somehow escaped, was wandering around… perhaps not remembering who she was. But after two months of fruitless search of Sunnydale and the surrounding area, Faith finally gave up. Faith finally accepted the inevitable; Buffy was gone, and not coming back.
Tara had left Sunnydale 6 months ago. Faith tried to persuade her to stay; Tara was, after all, her best friend. But Tara needed to make a clean break of it. Sunnydale had too many bad memories for her. She needed to get away before she would be able to get on with her life. Faith understood that, but still missed her gentle ways.
Soon after Buffy's death, despite her grief, Faith began a petition to the Courts to become Dawn's legal guardian. Despite his prior declarations, Hank Summers had lapsed into delinquent dadhood again. He went missing, and never bothered to show up for the hearing. No other relatives showed up, either, and Faith was awarded legal guardianship of Dawn, until such time as she reached the age of majority. Faith was determined to hang onto what little bit of her 'family' remained.
" So, we're really going to do this?" Dawn asks, " We're really leaving?"
Faith nods. " Xander talked to some of his buddies that live in Flagstaff. They're hiring construction workers. Seems their having a mini building boom. I've got a job waiting for me, " Faith looks at Dawn, " having second thoughts, P-nut?"
Dawn grimaces internally. God, I wish she'd stop calling me that! " No, just hard to believe that I'm leaving Sunnydale after all these years. Been here since I was ten… at least, that's how I remember it" She sighs, realizing that her early memories are false, but they feel real.
They stand up and start walking away from the grave. Faith stops, and takes one last look.
Good bye, love. I'm not leaving you, really, baby. You're with me in my heart.
She catches up with Dawn, who is waiting for her a few yards away. " Sorry… sorry" She says.
Dawn just nods and smiles. She knows Faith is still hurting. She'll be patient, and wait. She's never stopped loving Faith, and she's determined someday, she'll make her happy. But she has to let Faith heal, so she can see that she's not alone.
Faith and Dawn walk quietly for awhile, each lost in their own thoughts. They finally reach the U-haul moving van containing the furniture and other stuff they decided they wanted to keep. Their entire lives are packed in that truck. Attached to the back is a small trailer with Faith's bike.
They stand for a moment, taking one last look. They say goodbye one last time to the woman that meant so much to them, and in the end, brought them together.
" Are you ready, Dawnie?" Faith asks, turning towards the truck.
" I'm ready"