Chapter 9: Are We There Yet?
Willow stood in the bathroom at the Magic Box, cleaning the dried blood from her nose. She wiped her sweaty face then stuck her hands under the running tap of ice-cold water. She was drained, sick, and she couldn't tell anyone. There was a tea that would unify her fraying energy, giving her some stability, and keep the room from spinning. But she couldn't leave the bathroom.
After Buffy, Dawn, Joyce and the little girl left for Spike's, Willow touched the demon and teleported it back to the Magic Box. There she began performing spells for protection and confinement over the unconscious body. An hour later, Anya arrived with Tara slung over her shoulder and Xander picking up the extra weight. They carried her back to training room, Anya returning soon later to prepare a potion to cure her burns.
Willow cleaned up the blood from her nose, then went for the blood from her mouth. It shouldn't be this hard. She raised someone from the dead, for heaven's sake. These were a couple of easy spells; spells for pain, for travel, for entrapment. So why could she barely stand?
If Giles were here, he'd make her that tea. He'd help her.
No, he'd probably just call you pathetic again—
Willow scowled into the mirror. They didn't understand. They had no chance of helping Joy without her. They judged her, stared at her like a freak, but let them— she was the one with the true power and everyone knew it. They were scared of her.
She grabbed one of the light bulbs. She absorbed the energy like smoke from a bong. It was false energy— she'd run out of it soon— but it would do for now. Willow breathed. She licked her lips. "Mhmm. Coconut."
They continued to walk, Joy back in Spike's arms. She hid under his duster, a dark little head poking out at his shoulder. She sucked her thumb, eyes alight and watching. Spike stroked her hair absentmindedly as it spilled out over the lapel of his coat. Both eyes were clear and bright even in the darkness. Neither had said a word since leaving the streetlight.
Spike walked differently. He had his swagger— that never went away— but it was softer, more alert. He was hiding, protecting, instead of welcoming any fight.
"I'm sorry." He said into the night. "For any part . . . I played with your mum. You don't need this."
Buffy nodded. "Cherish what I'm about to say because I don't think I'll ever say it again . . . but it's not your fault."
Joy perked her head up from Spike's shoulder, listening.
"But she blames you just the same, which isn't right. Clem will protect them, though it would be nice for your mum to see the trouble you go through to defend this bloody world every day. Besides, I don't think they— the demons— are really after Dear Ol' Mum and Little Bit."
"As usual, you're probably right." Buffy slowed her gait so she fell in line with Spike and Joy.
Joy watched her mother with soft eyes, hiding behind her dad's chest. Spike watched Buffy.
"However, in all of this, I'm not the one who needs reassuring. I think you owe somebody an apology."
"Mama," Joy said into the black t-shirt.
Buffy reached out and put a curl behind a tiny ear. "I am sorry, buggy. For what I said. I didn't mean it. Your grandmother, she's just a . . ."
"A bitch?" Spike muttered.
"Hey! You can't talk about my mother that way!" Buffy pushed Spike on his shoulder. "And you especially can't say that around her!"
Joy giggled and suddenly, the world for Buffy was a little less dark. "Bluedy hurl."
"See what I mean?" Buffy said, shaking her head. "I know I didn't teach her that one."
Spike was watching Joy. A small grin cracked his lips, but there was a slight frown to his forehead, as if he didn't understand. "Me neither . . ."
Suddenly, Spike stopped. Joy whimpered. He turned and threw her into Buffy's arms, pushing them apart, just as a skinny, sharp tail whipped into the air between them.
"Give her to me!" a nasty voice hissed.
Buffy rolled, Joy pressed into her chest. Spike was on his feet, running towards a green figure. He leaped and collided with it, kicking and punching until they rounded out under a streetlight. Spike was tussling with something far too boney and green to be human. A tail at least ten feet in length snapped in the air above them, striking down at a blonde head whenever it could find an opening. In a series of rolls and screams, Spike landed on its back, grabbed its head and snapped its neck. It collapsed and grinning, Spike stood and wiped blood from his cheek.
From her spot behind a park bench, Buffy breathed a sigh of relief.
Then, out of the woods, something howled.
"Bad men, mommy, bad men!" Joy whispered.
"Spike!" Buffy yelled and ran back out into the road. "Come on!"
"Right behind you, love!"
They bounded into the Magic Box, slamming the door behind them.
"Go, Spike, get the windows!" Buffy ordered. He turned and slammed the metal grating down, blocking the glass from access. Buffy locked the door behind her and grabbed a chair to prop up against the door. The second her hands left the chair, furious fists banged against the wood, scraping and roaring against metal.
"What is that?" Xander asked, his voice tight with worry. Anya, Xander and Willow stood up from their spot on the table. Willow was gaunt and pale.
"Demons. Hell's Army by the looks of the numbers." Spike said, staying out of the glass. Buffy held Joy to her, whispering words of comfort in her ear.
"What do they want?" Anya asked.
"A'n sorey, Auntie A'ne." Joy muttered from Buffy's arms.
"I've had about enough of these demons who think they're all high and mighty because of a little bounty hunter work." Willow said. Her hands were glittering again. "Let's give them a taste of real bad ass."
"Willow, I—," Buffy started.
"Fine, let them in here and kill all of us."
Spike looked at Buffy. She swallowed something sour. "Fine. Whatever. Do it."
Willow's face flashed through something, nearly like a grin, but then she started to shimmer. She began to float and through the window and wall she went, until the howls turned into ones of agony and a purple light filled the glass. They all looked away. Then the scrapping stopped and the screams died off.
Willow reappeared, grinning. Her eyes were black. "See, nothing to worry—,"
A white light hit Willow in her chest and she was thrown back, into a solid block of white casing. She was frozen.
Tara stood, shaking in the doorframe from the training room. "She needs to stop."
"Willow knows how to send her back. She's known for a while now."
Tara sat in a chair, a soothing tea on the table near her, a bandage around her head and hand. Xander held Anya off in a corner. Spike held Joy, the pair across from Tara at the table. Buffy stood, her foot tapping. Above them spun Willow, still trapped in the white case.
"If she's known then why hasn't she said anything?" Anya asked.
"She doesn't know she knows," Tara shrugged, then grimaced: the movement was quite painful. "I think she went to Rack's to get the juice to figure it out but the magics overpowered her, blocking memories and thoughts."
"Thoughts?" Buffy said, frowning. "As in using good judgment thoughts? As in not realizing what the magics are doing to you?"
Tara nodded sadly. "Yes. Willow may once have recognized the horrible effects of over-using, but as she is now, the magics are a part of her and they are the only solution to every problem. She can't stop now."
"What are you saying?" Xander asked, true terror written in his face. "She'll never be our Willow again?"
"Not while she's so entwined with the magics." Tara said quietly. Her eyes shimmered and her free hand wiped them clean.
Willow continued to spin, suspended by air. Her face was a sickly green pale.
"Well, I don't think you've done enough to save her." Anya said confidently.
"Anya!" Xander hissed.
"All I'm saying is I think there's other options. Have you tried a transference spell?"
"Channeling her powers won't do any good. We can't keep the rift going forever." Tara said.
"Not if you have closed terminal for the powers to enter."
"That sounds science-y," Buffy said, her arms crossed. "Tara, what is she talking about?"
"She suggesting we strip Willow of her powers." Anya and Tara were locked in gaze. "We take them and put them into another conduit that could handle the magics."
"Permanently?" Buffy gaped. "Could she survive that?"
"They wouldn't be gone forever." Tara shook her head. "It's impossible to really rip a magical being from its power source, but they would be in deep recession. This might give us enough time to rehabilitate her."
"Ok, so we . . . tele-swap her powers, she's back to the old Willow, then what? What do we do about Joy?" Buffy said, glancing over to the toddler. She was clearly trying desperately to stay awake, but the warm duster draped over her shoulders acted like a hypnotic tune. Her eyes fluttered up and down. Spike gently stroked the back of her neck, which didn't help the fight. She yawned. Buffy's heart clenched.
"She's our first priority," she said. "If we can weed down the demon attacks, we can focus completely on Willow. I can't think straight if Joy— the girl— is in danger."
Spike's eyes narrowed at Buffy's word choice.
"That's where this all fails." Tara said, her mouth turning upside down. "I can take her powers but I still couldn't get her memory. She'd be weak enough already. Adding a memory spell to the mix and we really would never get her back. We'd have Willow-brain-mush. Not Willow."
"So to send Joy back, we have to wake her up?" Xander asked. His eyes traveled apprehensively to the ceiling.
The lights were lit. The stage set. Everyone was on guard. Tara was already quietly chanting her protection spell with Joy in the other room. They were ready for anything.
Willow sat in the space where the chairs and table used to be and began her spell.
"Forces of nature, wind and rain, open the crack between worlds once again." A soft wind began to blow around the room. As the witch continued, the winds blew harder and harder. "Donec rerum natura ut abesse et fragmen. Vestibulum ut profero hic orbis."
The wind blew harder, and sharper. Things began to fly and tumble to the ground. Buffy, though crouching to get out of the way, was glad Joy was hidden.
Suddenly, Willow's head flew back, her eyes blacker than night. She screamed. And slowly, the scream turned into a throaty laugh. "Ah, that tickled. Go ahead, try and hurt me. I've got so much juice, I can—oh, what, little spirits too scared to face the Big Bad Willow? That's what I thought."
Willow's hands opened and blue light, exactly like the kind that opened the sky so many nights before, crackled before ricocheting around the room. It smashed pots and statues and candles.
Above the roar, Buffy was positive she heard Xander mutter, "Anya's definitely not gonna like this."
The lightening crackled and singed the walls. Willow screamed again. "No! You will be controlled! Make a goddamn portal already!"
Her fists shaking violently and still giving off electricity, Willow brought them close together. But all forces were trying to repel them apart. Willow shrieked in agony again. They were inches apart and suddenly caught fire.
"Willow!" Xander yelped.
"OPEN. UP. YOU BIG UGLY—"
There was a clap of giant thunder and Willow was thrown backward as the portal exploded into being. It grew in size and light. Buffy fell to the ground, shielding her eyes. It was hard to discern but there was a definite dark shape coming towards the portal. Running, fast and hard. The dark shape grew bigger as it approached. Blinking through watery eyes, Buffy climbed to her feet, ready to start a good fight. Then the figure leaped through the giant pool of light, rolled into this universe and stopped. The portal crackled. The air hummed with power. Then suddenly it faded away.
As the smoke cleared, Buffy saw the thing stand.
"Be ready for anything guys," Buffy said, already in fighting stance.
"Right there with ya, Buff," Xander had his axe at the ready. "Let's— holy guacamole!"
The smoke finally settled. Buffy's mouth dropped open, because, staring back at her was Buffy. The other Buffy looked around, carrying what looked to be a giant scarlet scythe. Her hair was longer and braided. Her skin was paler and in some bizarre sense, she seemed to be a hundred years older than the Buffy in this universe. She carried the weight of two worlds on her shoulders. Her arm was bandaged and on her wrist sat a strange device, almost like a watch but bigger and thicker. She wore refugee clothes and she looked in dire need of a good meal. She continued to stare at Buffy, until her head turned to Willow.
"You have sex hair."
Willow sat up from a pile of rubble, and put a weary hand to her head. "Oh, I do. I don't mean to— have— hair— sex hair. Buffy? When did you grow out yours?"
"Maybe when she was out universe hopping?" Xander stood and dusted himself off. Then sighed. "Hey, Buffy, the Slayer from other another player." He smiled at her like he smiled at any Buffy he knew: warm, welcoming and glad to see her.
"Hi, Xander." The other Buffy began to tear up. Then she sniffed. "I'm sorry— it's just— from where I come from, I haven't seen you guys in a long time."
"Yeah, I think so. Only superhumans survived the first wave. Which left me—"
"And vampires," said Spike from a corner. He was looking sadly at his duster; there was a giant rip up the side of one of the arms. "Don't I get a hell—,"
Quicker than this Buffy thought she could move, the other one leapt and tackled Spike— with kisses. She threw her arms around his neck and crushed his mouth with hers. He stumbled back and she grabbed him by the waist with her legs. She really couldn't get enough of ol' Spike. But when her hands snuck under his shirt and one of his slipped down her pants, Xander put a stop to it.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" He waved his arms as if that could pull apart the two. "Way, way too much TMI!"
"That's redundant, sweetie." Anya was watching the two carefully. When Spike groaned, Anya turned her head. "TMI means too much information. You don't have to repeat yourself."
She was watching them as if interested.
Xander's eyes grew wide.
"Okay, seriously, you guys, knock it off." Buffy began. Suddenly, she really hated herself. "Hello? Spike! Hello! Earth to somebody! BUFFY!"
The other Buffy finally pulled away. Spike's mouth followed her as if attached by a magnet. Other-Buffy turned slightly red and climbed down from his waist. Spike still stood slumped against the wall, looking as if he had been drugged. That duster didn't seem so important now.
"Sorry," she said and smoothed down her hair. "I just have seen—him— at all— not since— and I—"
"You love him, don't you?" Buffy asked. "In your universe, you loved each other."
Other-Buffy turned to her counterpart. Tears were falling down her face. "Yes, we did. More than anyone could possibly—"
She paused, her voice catching. She looked away, tears trickling. "We were so alone— and he was so good to me— he said he never stopped loving me— even after—"
She wiped her face. Willow came over and patted her shoulder. She let out on good sob before clearing her throat and really cleaning away the tears. Buffy looked at Spike. He was watching the Other-Buffy with pity and something else Buffy really couldn't name. Then his eyes met hers and she looked away.
"Ok," Other-Buffy sniffed. "So now that you think I'm a blubbering idiot—"
"Oh, we don't think you're an idiot for crying." Xander began. "We think you're an idiot for loving that!"
Buffy, Willow, and Anya spun on him. "XANDER!"
Other-Buffy stared, a little hurt. "I forgot how much you hated him."
"What!" He asked and threw up his hands. "You two are the last people on Earth and it's all sexy and romantic and so you do it! Fine— well not fine, it's still a little gross— but fine! But do you guys really have to invoke the higher powers to make a kid? I mean, I thought it'd be perfect. Free sex and no troublesome babies."
Buffy felt Spike's heated gaze on her, but she chose to ignore it.
"We didn't invoke them," Other-Buffy said, shaking her head. She finally stepped away from Spike, her hands finally off his chest. "They invoked us."
From everyone's confused stares, she continued: "We literally were one of the last people on Earth. We hadn't made contact with another living being in months. Like I said, mostly the supernatural survived after Glory broke through the dimensions."
"Wait, Glory?" Willow questioned. "That means—"
"Dawn," Other-Buffy nodded. She sighed, deep regret visible in her sad eyes. "She was one of the first to go. Glory just couldn't be stopped after that. So we hid. Humanity went underground and the demons took over. We tried to stay in packs, so it would be harder for them to pick us off, but somehow they found a way every time. After a year or so, there wasn't much left."
"That still doesn't explain how you become Ms. William the Bloody."
Other-Buffy laughed. "I remember, back in my freshmen year of college, a year before all of this, my Willow did a spell that made Spike and I think we were getting married. And we fought about what would go on the invitations. We still fought about it when the time came."
Buffy and Willow glanced at each other momentarily.
"But yeah— earlier that same year, he confessed to loving me. I thought he was crazy— maybe I should have seen that as a sign of Armageddon." Buffy laughed quietly to herself. "But it wasn't until I was truly alone and he never left me. He was there all the time— and sometimes there would be so much blood around, so many dying that he could have taken anyone in a heartbeat— but he didn't. Because he loved me." Other-Buffy sighed, closing her eyes to the memories. "Then there was that one night. We were being chased— and a demon got me— and he carried me home. And I— was so tired of fighting, of defending a world that was already dead. Of fighting what I really felt, what I really wanted, just because I thought it was wrong— And so we—"
"Had a hickey fest?" Anya asked with dark eyes. She smiled a little.
"In a matter of speaking."
"Don't you mean spanking?"
Other-Buffy grinned. Spike watched her over her shoulder. He was grinning too. Buffy really wanted to punch herself in the face.
"But that still doesn't explain some things," Willow said, frowning.
"Like dead things having kids," Xander said.
"We didn't really understand what was happening at first." Other-Buffy said, looking around the room. "Spike thought I cheated on him— which was definitely not the case—"
"Because she was born with fangs?" Buffy asked. She could tell the other one was itching to get her hands back on Spike.
"And we found out it was the Powers That Be." Other-Buffy shrugged. "As a Slayer and a vampire we could create one of the most powerful beings inexistence. The only reason a creature like that wasn't created before was—"
"Because it's physically impossible." Xander finished. Spike looked at him as though he had been personally offended.
"That's what we thought until—"
"Buffy got all big and round." Willow said gleefully. Off of everyone's looks, she frowned. "What? I think about our lives outside of Sunnydale and the demons sometimes. Can you blame a girl for thinking about our lives as normal people? I plan weddings too."
She grinned happily.
Other-Buffy smiled. "Yeah. Then they came to us and told us their plans for our daughter. That she could do what her mother couldn't."
"And that was?"
"Save the world." Other-Buffy smiled. "Our little girl, a real hero. One part vampire, one part Slayer. A whole lot of kick ass."
Buffy stole a glance at Spike. He was beaming.
"And she's here, isn't she?" Other-Buffy asked. "That's why you brought me here."
"Well it wasn't easy—" Willow began but Buffy cut her off.
"Yeah, she is." She smiled. "Would you like to see her?"
"Hey, Dawn, it's safe now!"
There was silence. Then Dawn poked her head around the door. "Are you sure? There was a lot of yelling. And I heard—"
Dawn's mouth dropped open at the sight of her alter-universe sister. "Buffy?"
Then, somewhere, in the other room, a little voice cried, "Mama!"
Joy came scampering in through the door, her face in a giant smile. Other-Buffy immediately lit up. She knelt down just as her daughter tackled her.
"Mommy, mommy, mommy!" She buried her head into her mother's neck. Other-Buffy was crying again as she held the child in her arms.
"Mommy missed you so much." The tears came harder.
Finally, the little girl looked up and giggled. She was staring at Spike. She put one hand in her mouth and reached the other one towards the vampire. "Mhmm, Daddy."
He smiled and gently rubbed her fat cheek with his thumb. "Hey, little tike. Dad's right here."
And Buffy stared. There it was; that family picture Buffy could only glimpse at in the dark recesses of night. In the other universe— in this universe— they made a perfect family. A dad and mom that loved each other more than it was humanly possible to comprehend, and the product of that love— a bundle of energy that loved both her parents with all she had, and in turn, they loved her even more they loved themselves.
Buffy let her gaze drop and a single tear hit the ground.
From beyond her gaze, Buffy heard Willow sniff.
"What?" Xander said. "You're not really getting emotional about this, Willow!"
"Oh, shut up, Xander." Anya said, her voice thick and watery. "It's sweet."
"Sweet? It's not sweet! It's not cute! It's—"
"Family." Buffy said. "One big happy family."
*A/N Yeah, so I understand if you all hate me. I just wanted to let you know that I understand and hate me too. I haven't forgotten about this fic at all, but I only have time to write what I feel like writing at the time. Which means other fics. I am so sorry for all the pain and trouble, but this will end and it will end soon. Love all the reviews and the followers and the favorites. You guys rock hard. Way harder than I do :) Night and see you soon!