Disclaimer;
Joss Whedon created 'em, Mutant Enemy owns 'em, UPN'll be broadcasting 'em, the WB execs're kicking themselves for losing 'em.

Spoilers;
"Intervention", "Tough Love"

Archives;
Oh, what the hell? Go for it!

Feedback;
Oh please! Jim_D_Means@prodigy.net

Summary;
Willow makes a deal with Glory. But she has her fingers crossed...

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The Trade
By Kirayoshi
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She stood at the enterance of the mansion, praying to the Goddess that she will be forgiven for the betrayal she was about to commit. She knew that the Rule of Threefold Retribution would probably bite her in the ass for this stunt, but she had no choice.

Tara mattered more than anything right now.

The body next to her started to stir, but Willow glanced at her, and she stilled, as though under a spell. Summoning all of her courage, she stood in front of the door, and knocked.

The door opened slowly, as the goblin-faced doorman greeted her. "Ah, you're the one that Glory has been waiting for," he answered. "Enter, please. May I help you with the baggage?" He reached for the body, but Willow stopped him.

"No one touches her but me," she declared, her voice calm and icy. "Not until the deal's made." She followed the minion into the main room of the mansion, carrying the sleeping form of Dawn with her.

"Of course, of course," the minion declared, bowing and scraping before Willow. "I shall fetch her Gloriousness immediately." The minion departed quickly, leaving Willow alone with the girl lying on the couch next to her, still and unmoving in her druglike slumber.

"Forgive me, little one," Willow whispered to Dawn's body. "But this is for Tara." She looked again at the face of her best friend's sister, fighting back the tears as she thought of what the mad goddess had done to her beloved. Tara, back home, jibbering utter nonsense, unaware of the world around her, or the woman who loves her more than life itself. For that reason, Willow was prepared to do this thing, to finish this act of betrayal.

"So," the all-too familiar voice cooed behind her. Willow spun around in her seat, finding herself faced with the vile Glory. "Punctual, prompt, and you have the key. I like dealing with that sort of person." She reached for Dawn, for her Key, when Willow pulled out her atheme, and placed the edge of the knife at Dawn's throat. "Not until we seal the deal," she intoned.

Glory chuckled at Willow's courage. "You realize of course," she quipped, "that I could kill you with a thought. Or just suck out your mind, make you a perfect match for your little girlfriend."

"Keep your filthy mouth off Tara," Willow growled. "And I'm betting that you can't do anything to me before I slit her throat. She's no good to you dead, is she?"

Glory backed away from Willow, smiling. "Peace, little wiccan, peace. We don't need to go that far, just making an observation here. This is just a simple transaction here. You do for me, I'll do for you."

"You do for me first," Willow insisted. "Restore Tara's mind."

"I could remind you, Willow," the goddess commented, absently twirling a lock of her auburn hair around the tip of her finger, "that you're on my turf. But why be angry? After I have the Key, it doesn't matter, does it?"

She withdrew a small vial from the folds of her sleeve. "This vial," she explained, "contains the essence I've stolen from Tara." She threw the vial to the ground before Willow could react, shattering the glass into a dozen tiny shards. A small cloud of luminous pink gas drifted from the vial, and faded into the air. "Her mind is released, and will seek out its natural host. I figure within ten seconds, your Tara will be her bland, boring, gay self again." She took a step toward the couch where Dawn was still sleeping, saying, "Now you will leave my mansion. I have the Key now," she gestured her hand toward Dawn's cheek, "and you have about five hours before the Armegeddon starts. I suggest you spend them with your little smoochies partner. Go!" Glory raised her hand, and the door behind Willow burst open.

Willow, shuddering as Glory pointed to her, started to back her way toward the door. Up to the point where she stood again at the threshold, she kept her eyes on Dawn's face. She wanted to scream as she contemplated what Glory would do to Dawn, but it was too late to worry now. The action had been taken.

Willow fled the mansion grounds, and ran up the street. Stopping to catch her breath, she waited for ten seconds, until a familiar car drove up the street and pulled up in front of her.

Giles opened the passenger side door, and ordered Willow, "Get in."

Willow climbed into the car, as Giles pulled out a celular phone and handed it to Willow. Giles started the car again, and drove away. "How far do we have to be from the mansion, Willow?" he asked.

"About five miles should be enough," Willow answered simply. She dialed a number on the cel-phone, and waited for the answer.

"Hello," the voice of Willow's best friend answered. Willow's heart raced as she spoke. "How is she?" Willow asked.

"Whatever happened between you and Psycho-slut, it seems to have worked," Buffy answered, and Willow could hear the relief in her voice. "In fact, why not ask her yourself?" A second later, a different voice asked, "Willow?"

Willow's eyes lit up, and her breath caught. "Tara? Honey, is that you?"

"It's me, Willow," Tara assured her love. "I don't know what happened, but the last few days, I felt lost, like in a wilderness of mirrors, unable to find my way back. Buffy told me that you were trying to get me back. Thank you, Willow."

"Hey, it's nothing," Willow said, not caring about the tears of joy that were streaming down her face. "You'd do the same for me." Giles glanced at the red-haired Wiccan next to him, and smiled himself, glad that her spirits were restored by Tara's recovered sanity. Both he and the young hacker were amazed that Glory would keep her word. Now, Willow had to break hers.

"Willow," Giles informed his passenger, "we're at five miles."

"Good," Willow said somberly. "Time for step two." She pulled a small remote device out of her purse and pressed the button.

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Glory wanted to laugh maniacally as she prepared the body of Dawn for the act of sacrifice. Soon, the power of the Key would be hers, her way to her own world would be clear, and she would reduce this world to a charcoal briquette behind her.

As she tied Dawn to the sacrificial altar, Dawn stirred. She looked at Glory, and said, "So, you've got your key, right?"

Glory looked surprised at Dawn's rather calm statement, but laughed it off. "Yeah, I do. I guess those monks weren't as sharp as they thought."

"Uh," Dawn said softly, "there's something you should know."

"And that is?"

Her captive simply smiled. "I'm not Dawn." Glory's smile faded as the girl's face opened like a hatch, peeling away and revealing circuitboards and diodes. "I'm actually a sophisticated android, made by a friend of a friend of the Slayer's. Oh, I'm also a rather large bomb. Five pounds of plastique wired to enough napalm and nitro to create a large crater where your mansion used to be. And I'm set to go off in, oh, two seconds. Oh, and Glory, PSYCH!"

Glory just stood there. Angry.

"Son of a b--"

That was all she could say before the air around her superheated to a thousand degrees Fahrenheit, and the blast pounded her fifty feet into the ground.

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Giles stopped the car as a loud boom echoed across the city of Sunnydale. Willow heard the blast, and smiled a satisfied smile. She thought she could smell a faint aroma of napalm and nitro. She smiled again, satisfied that she had taken proper revenge against Glory. Betraying the goddess bothered her, but considering the suffering that Glory had already caused, it didn't bother her too much. She knew that the blast wouldn't kill Glory, but it would slow her up. Giles figured it would take the better part of a day for Glory to dig herself out of the crater, and two more days for her body to heal from being flash-fried by napalm. That would give them time.

Willow and Giles nodded to each other, and Giles started the car. They were on their way to the safehouse where Buffy was keeping Tara and Dawn. They would meet Xander and Anya there and start planning a counter-strike against Glory. Buffy had spent time in the desert a few days before preparing for her final battle, now that time had come. And Buffy was as prepared as she could be for what she had to do.

This time, the Slayer would be ready. She had to be.

The world's fate was hanging in the balance.

FINIS