What a Witch Does
Xander looked down at the sleeping girl he had just placed in the bed. They would have to do something. She was, he didn't want to think ruined, it wasn't a Xander-shaped thought that should be applied to a Willow-shaped friend. She was bent, not broken. Giles could fix her, or... What was that? There was... something waiting in the corner of the room by the foot of the bed. Great, more hellmouthy goodness. He started to draw breath to call for Buffy, even as his feet started to back away to the door, when the something spoke.
"You noticed me boy. Nots many notice me when I don't wants to be noticed. You've got the looking at things you have. Shame you're a man. You could have made a fine Witch. Those daft wizards would just waste your potential."
There were suddenly two old woman dressed in black standing at the foot of Willows bed. On was short and round and looked like your favourite grandmother, or what you'd like her to look like anyway. Xander noticed the neck of a bottle poking out of one of the many pockets that adorned her clothing. Yep, just like his Grandma. The other was the one that had spoken. She was tall, he'd almost thought severe, if he thought that way about women. One of her hands was resting on the bedpost at the foot of the bed.
They were both wearing pointy hats. They were both wearing pointy hats!. "You're wearing pointy hats!"
"Be honest Esme, they'd just bugger him up"
"They would at that Gytha, but I'll not be using language like that"
Xander was feeling ignored. "You're witches!"
The tall one, Esme, looked away from her friend and back at him. "Yes, we are. And so is your friend in the bed here."
Willow was curled up, tight as a ball under the covers. There were frown lines marking her face now, even as she slept. Xander's heart ached for his friend.
"We've come for her. A long way."
Xander took a step forward "You can't have her, she needs help"
"Didn't you hear me boy? Yes, we are Witches. Do you know what Witches do?" Esme continued on, brushing past Xanders half started interjection. "Witches walk the edges. Witches know. And Witches" Xander could hear the capitals whenever she said Witch. " Witches help people. Even when they don't know they need helpin, and sometimes when they actively resist it. If there'd been another Witch around here, they might have noticed that she'd started to get the cackle. We would have been here earlier.
Xander had to ask "The cackle? Like the 'ah, ha ha ha hah'"
Esme nodded, a quick sharp movement. "That's a part of it. One of the hardest parts of Witching is knowing when not to Witch. We'll show her that."
Xander thought back over the past year. Willow had started to use the magic a little more every day. It had become like breathing to her.
"That she did boy. That's how it starts. That's how it always starts."
"Hey! How did you do that, was that magic? Are you reading my mind?"
The old woman fixed him with her blue-eyed gaze. He could feel her looking, right, through, him. She blinked, and it stopped. He gave a sigh of relief, and released tension he didn't know he was holding.
"What did I say boy? Magic isn't for the little things. That, that was headology. It's plain to see you care for her. Now, we'll be going. Gytha, get her ready. Rug her up well."
The short round witch started to bustle about with amazing efficiency. Willow was picked up from the bed, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, including the heavy winter one from the cupboard. A beanie was pulled from the bottom drawer, where Willow kept the winter clothes she never really wore in California, and popped on her head. All without waking her. He wondered if they'd put her under a sleep spell.
Gytha gave Xander a wink. "Thirteen children I had dearie. I knows how not to wake a sleepin babe."
Esme had opened the window while Gytha had been preparing Willow and was now pulling on gloves, and securing her hat with extra hat-pins. Xander felt he had definitely lost control of the situation. "Will you bring her back? How, how long?"
Esme fixed him with another stare. "She'll bring herself back when she's ready."
"Will we be able to call, or write? Email? She loves email."
"The post ain't to regular where we come from. Up in the mountains. We kinda just hand it to the next person heading in the rough direction the letter is addressed. Not to many people come this way from where we live". Gytha had handed Willow to Esme and patted him on the shoulder sympathetically. "We'll see what we can do" She raised her voice a bit "Won't we Esme Weatherwax?"
If Esme was irritated, it didn't really show, although her hard lines did seem... harder. "We'll see, Gytha Ogg. Now get on your broom, and no more making eyes at the young man."
Xander blanched. That was making eyes? Gytha chuckled. "If I was younger, you'd not be like that. You'd be begging for a sight of me ankles. I had beautiful ankles I did" she mused. "Well, we must be off"
Xander had felt steamrolled throughout this entire surreal experience, but there was no-way he was going to let two witches kidnap his best friend without doing something. "Wait" he said.
The witches were both straddling brooms now, aimed towards the open window. Willow was somehow balanced in front of Esme Weatherwax.
Xander moved forward, leaned over, and planted a small kiss on Willow's brow. "Help her"
Esme's hard lines seemed to soften as she told him "She needs to help herself. But we can show her how. Now, step back"
The two two Witches kicked off, Esme slightly in the lead, and trailed by a "Toodle-ooooo" from Gytha.
"I'm watching two witches fly, on broomsticks, away with my best friend. And I have no idea where they're going." Xander thought. "How do I explain this?" he said out loud.
"Explain what?" asked Buffy from behind him.
End (for now)
This is an idea I had directly after reading "A Hat Full of Sky". Esme has dealt with some scary Witches in her time. Is she ready for this one? Expect a few more chapters. Willow probably won't get to speak till chapter three...