The Shining One

Summary: Willow is kidnapped, and is rescued by the one she has always counted on.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: Post-"Pangs" (alternate time line).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Note: Dedicated to victoria p., our beloved Miss July, on the occasion of her birthday.


THE SHINING ONE


Willow stirred uneasily, then opened her eyes with a feeling of dread. Her instinct that she was in serious trouble proved to be accurate. She was tied to a chair, and her hands were shackled by what looked like manacles from a medieval torture chamber. Her head was free, and a quick scan of the room revealed what was apparently the source of the foul odor that was assaulting her sensitive nostrils.

The demon was approximately man-sized, but was in no way human in appearance. Its head was flat, with huge, bulging eyes overseeing two nostril slits and a huge mouth. It had a reddish-brown, warty and slimy hide that covered a body that resembled nothing more than a bipedal toad. After a moment, it noticed her scrutiny and croaked, "Good. You be awake. Wouldn't do for you to miss this part of festivities."

Willow shivered inside, but her voice was imperious as she snapped, "Who are you. . .and why have you brought me here?"

The demon cackled and replied, "Bufon I am. . .and you be here to make me powerful. . .yes, very powerful! Ceremony use blood of witch to make me strong on night of new moon! Tonight, you die."

Willow glared at the demon and whispered, "You're making a big mistake, buddy. . .I am a powerful and dangerous witch. . .I could turn you into a rat, or a cockroach before you could blink those ugly eyes of yours."

Bufon cackled again and replied, "Do that if you can. . .but me think you will not succeed."

Willow flushed with anger and decided that playing nice was not an option. She locked eyes with the demon and began a nasty incantation that would have shocked Giles if he heard her using it: it should have turned Bufon into an earthworm, and a small one at that. Willow saw the energy of the spell leaving her hands. . .only to be sucked into the manacles, which glowed briefly before returning to normal.

Willow uttered a mild curse, and Bufon cackled, "Very impressive, yes? Powerful magic in chains. . .absorbs all of your magic. . .you be helpless. . .and soon, I will rule this place."

Nettled, and now more than a little worried, Willow snapped, "You may have blocked my powers. . .but I have friends who will rescue me."

"You mean the Slayer and her Watcher?" The toad-demon smiled as broadly as its face would allow, which was broadly indeed. It walked up to her and whispered, "I took you from school in broad daylight, using clever spell for disguise. Slayer will not know you be gone for some time yet. . .and by then she will be busy. . .yes, busy indeed!!" It cackled again, then elaborated, "Me hire many vampires to run about Sunnydale tonight. . .keep Slayer and Watcher very busy, yes! No one find you. . .until it be too late."

Willow's heart sank as she realized that the demon was probably right. Buffy and Giles would be needed to stop the vampires. Oz could have found her by scent alone. . .but he was gone. Xander would be frantic, but with no clues to tell him where to look. . . She sighed in despair as she watched the demon prepare a ritual circle around a table with leg manacles. . .perfect for a no-fuss sacrifice.

Then it was finished, and it untied her from the chair, lifting her effortlessly as she screamed and struggled. After it had fastened Willow to the table and retrieved a nasty looking knife, it laughed and commented, "We be out in middle of swampy area. . .no one live here. Scream all you want. . .who would look for you here?"

At that moment, the wood front door was kicked in, spraying shards of rotten wood everywhere. A lone figure stepped into the room and stated flatly, "I would."

Willow felt a feeling of overwhelming calm and relief come over her. . .and she realized that she was not surprised at the identity of the person who had arrived. He had always been there. . .in kindergarten where little Cordy and her flock had chosen to torment Willow. . .in fifth grade when she had broken her arm in a fall and he had carried her five blocks to the nearest phone. . .after Jesse had died and she had sobbed for hours in his arms after the crisis at the Bronze was over. . .she couldn't imagine what it would be like if he wasn't there. She looked at the doorway, and didn't see the bedraggled, bruised figure of Xander Harris. . .she saw a figure of shining light, and shook her head inwardly in lack of comprehension of how she ever could have seen him otherwise.

Bufon was less impressed: "You! You that clumsy human boy who hangs around the witch! I saw you in fight with that stupid female vampire. . .Ha ha ha! How you get past my guards?"

Xander shrugged and replied, "Never send a vampire to do a man's job, Toad-Boy." He looked over at the table and called out, "You OK, Willow?"

Willow forced a smile and replied, "I've been better. . .could we leave now?"

Bufon howled in anger and replied, "No!! You not leave. . .I kill foolish boy then you die!" The toad-demon looked at the boy appraisingly and laughed, "You bring no weapon, boy. . .how you kill me?"

Xander looked calmly at the demon and replied, "Well. . .I talked to Giles, and the traces you left when you grabbed Willow told him what kind of demon you were. . .so he looked you guys up. . .you're pretty impressive, you know?" In spite of itself, Bufon preened as Xander continued, "Yeah. . .you're immune to blades. . . fire, cold and acid are stopped by your hide. . .in fact, I could only find one thing that would give you any problem at all."

The demon felt a cold tingle down its spine as it contemplated Xander's words. . .then it looked again at the pathetic figure before it and relaxed again. . .how could such a creature be a threat? It puffed itself up and croaked back at Xander, "You no say? What be that that can hurt me?"

Xander reached behind his back and pulled out an Army Special .45 automatic pistol, which he immediately used to shoot the demon directly between its bulging eyes. The bullet went straight through, blowing a huge hole in the back of the demon's head and splattering goo in a wide area, including on the disgusted Willow. The demon, balanced by its huge feet, actually stayed erect until Xander, still wincing from the sound of the large pistol going off in an enclosed space, stepped forward and gave the corpse a shove. It fell into a squishy heap that soon began to dissolve. Xander looked at the rapidly vanishing body and answered its last question: "Hot lead." He put the safety on the pistol, whispering "Thanks for the backup, Grandpa," as he did so, then turned to Willow, commenting, "Sorry about that, Willow. . .no fun having toad guts all over you."

Willow was speechless, and Xander took her silence as an acceptance as he searched the small cabin, finding the keys to both sets of manacles. He released her, and she sat up, staring at him as he continued looking around the cabin, apparently looking for anything else of interest. He picked up the sacrificial knife and the hand manacles, then turned to see Willow still staring at him. He smiled sheepishly and asked, "What, Willow?. . .do I have toad guts somewhere embarrassing?"

Willow glared at her best friend and replied, "Xander. . .I remember struggling, so I get how you figured out what kind of demon got me. . .but how did you know where to look? I remember this place now. . .it's miles away from anything. . .how did you--?"

Xander smiled again, and for a moment it was like they were nine years old again, sharing secrets in some out of the way place on a lazy summer day. He replied, "If you want to find a toad, Willow. . .think like one. I remembered this place too. . .and I figured it would be a nice, comfortable place for a toad demon to wait while it did. . .whatever. We didn't know why it had taken you, so we had to hurry, and Giles and Buffy were tied up with a sudden swarm of vampires loose in Sunnydale. . .Toad Boy's doing?" Willow nodded, and Xander continued, "We knew how to kill it. . .and I can pull a trigger as well as Buffy can. . .so they sent me to get you. . .not that they needed to ask." He sighed and commented, "Oh well, at least with Anya having taken off over that 'all vengeance demons should be killed' comment, I don't have to listen to her complain about my almost getting killed again-mmph!"

Xander was interrupted by a warm pair of lips meeting his with substantial force. Automatically, his arms moved to embrace Willow, and somehow the toad demon residue didn't seem to be an issue as they continued kissing for a long moment. Willow slowly pulled away and looked up and saw the dazed look in Xander's eyes as he looked down at her and asked, "Uh. . .Willow? Where did that come from?"

Willow looked up at him, and Xander could see an unholy combination of "resolve face" and Buffy's death stare playing across his best friend's features as she replied, "I've had it, Xander. . .no more wandering demon hotties. . .no more Queen Bitches of Sunnydale High. . .and most of all, no more of you chasing after Slayers, damn it! I waited for YEARS for you to notice me and you pick when I'm right in the middle of my one and only relationship to do it. . .well, enough already! I love you, you suicidal jerk. . .and I can't think of one good reason why we shouldn't be together."

Xander raised an eyebrow, and Willow realized that he was slipping out of crisis mode and feeling like his normal sarcastic self, as odd as that was with them being in the middle of a swamp. He looked at her and replied, "Really? I seem to recall you being less than sympathetic about my little syphilis problem last week."

Willow flushed and mumbled, "Oh, come on, Xander! I wanted to help you. . .I just didn't want to. . .Oh, crap, I wasn't thinking clearly, all right? Between the Oz thing and those commandos trying to grab me, I was loonier than Drusilla. . .but I'm better, honest!" Her expression changed abruptly, and she nestled up against him, purring, "Surely we can come up with an appropriate method of apology, couldn't we?"

Xander looked at his best friend, and a feeling of great contentment filled him. . .though it in no way dissuaded him from seeking appropriate payback for the Thanksgiving incident. He sighed and met Willow's eyes, commenting, "Hmmm. . .well, my room is seriously needing some tidying up. . .and my car needs to be detailed. . ." Willow rolled her eyes in annoyance, then nodded in assent as Xander continued, "And when that's done. . .you can come back to my room and watch me do the Snoopy dance."

Willow frowned and pointed out, "But, Xander. . .'A Charlie Brown Christmas' won't be on for two more weeks."

Xander leaned down and kissed her softly on the forehead, causing her to look up at him as he replied, "The occasion seems appropriate." He walked to the doorway, calling out, "Coming, Willow?"

Before getting up to follow him out, she looked at him one more time. There was nearly absolute darkness in the swamp except for the bright starlight that was undimmed by the new moon. Xander was outlined in their silvery light. . .he was shining again. As she followed Xander out, three words echoed in her head, marking the transition from one phase of her life to the next:

"But of course."


As always, comments are welcomed and desired