Chapter 3: The Battle
A/N: This chapter has time skips to cover from when Buffy left Sunnydale until the episode 'Revelations'.
Challenge: personal request from Harry, who has faithfully R&R a lot of my stories. Finally finishing this!
Warning: ehh, probably not for Willow fans. This chapter has the deaths.
Thanks to my betas: none this time.
Disclaimer: BtVS and AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. Don't own Camelot characters either, but don't have the slightest clue who does since I'm not using a particular book or movie about them. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
As Morgana assumed control of Willow's body after the ensouling spell, she discovered something she hadn't picked up on before – although when she thought about it, it wasn't entirely surprising. The nascent witch's body was too weak to sustain Morgana's level of power for long without burning itself out…literally. Unfortunately, that meant she would have to hold off on doing much magick until she found a way to counter that problem.
Maybe the Watcher's books held the solution.
Indeed, she did find the answer to why Willow's body wasn't working as it should. It was a side note to the event of Catherine Madison switching bodies with her daughter, both of whom were witches. Apparently the Council mages found out through trial and error over the past millennium that unless the two people involved in a body switch were blood-related, the new vessel had to be of similar power levels to the invading essence.
If the invading essence was too weak, the body would reject it and the invader would die; if the invader was too powerful and they would burn the vessel out…and die. Only if the levels were close to the same would the essence have the chance to defeat the vessel without killing it. Basically it came down to which side wanted the body more.
Unfortunately for Morgana, that meant there were very few human beings who could hold her powers. But she could think of at least one…
Damn the Slayer for leaving the town after she killed her lover!
Morgana was almost certain the girl was a match for her power-wise, and given the fragile emotional state she must be in at the moment, it would be easy to destroy her will to keep the body.
The good news was that guilt would eventually make the Slayer return to her 'duty' on the Hellmouth. Morgana hoped it wouldn't take too long for that to happen, though.
Until that day, she would set the scene to guarantee the right 'welcome' was waiting for the Slayer. Using Willow's combination of logic and resolve face, she convinced the other children to get involved in doing the Slayer's job.
If they did a good job somehow, then the Slayer would feel unnecessary, and the others probably would let her know that, too. If the others happened to die, then she would be crushed and feel responsible for their deaths. Either way, Morgana would win.
Her next target was the Slayer's mother. She needed to ensure the reconciliation between mother and daughter was shaky at best. It took using a little magick in her voice to persuade the woman to carry on with her life as if nothing were wrong. Morgana chuckled to herself when she heard the woman joined a book club.
When the Slayer found out that her mother was reading and discussing books instead of looking for her, the woman would have a hard time convincing her daughter that she actually had been grieving the whole summer. Only one to go…
Too bad the Watcher was another story.
Morgana couldn't be sure if it was because of his own magical background or if it had something to do with the bond between Watchers and Slayers, but the man refused to do anything but search continuously for the missing girl.
All was not lost on that front, however. Morgana could use the fact that he was tirelessly searching for the Slayer when he should have been recovering from the torture inflicted on him by her boyfriend to make the Slayer feel guilty.
After weeks of waiting, Morgana's patience finally was rewarded. The Slayer was back in town.
Time for phase two of her plan…
The boy Willow had been so hung up on was doing a wonderful job of handling the semi-overt hostility, and his bitch girlfriend – and that was a compliment, in Morgana's opinion – managed to do some damage with her thoughtless comments. 'Willow's' approach went a different direction.
To steal a phrase from her vessel's psychologist parents, she'd play the passive-aggressive with the Slayer. Starting with standing her up for coffee, missing phone calls…things of that nature.
Morgana had mixed feelings about their success in isolating the Slayer on the night of her 'welcome home' party. On the one hand, the Slayer knew that she had a lot of groveling to do before they would forgive her, but on the other hand, they almost took it so far that she was going to leave again. That simply wouldn't do.
Fortunately, the zombies attacked, which allowed them to work together and repress their feelings afterwards. These children were wonderful at burying their resentments and anger.
Before they started the isolation again, Morgana would have to risk a little more magick to keep the Slayer in town until she was sufficiently prepared to lose her body to Morgana. A compulsion potion in her mocha would do the job nicely and wouldn't take much effort on Morgana's part.
Once she tricked the Slayer into making a vow not to leave again, the potion would ensure she couldn't…at least for a year – which would be long enough for Morgana's purposes.
It was all working so good until the other Slayer showed up a couple weeks later…
The new girl had the most infuriating timing possible! The blonde Slayer had almost been to the breaking point when she showed up and gave her a sense of belonging again! Sure it was tainted by jealousy towards the 'new and improved Slayer' model, but if they continued to push Buffy away, she might just find a stronger friendship with the brunette girl. Now she would have to move her plans forward before she was ready.
Morgana still didn't think she was strong enough to overpower Buffy…by herself.
However, if she stole the power of a couple strong sorcerers, the blonde wouldn't stand a chance! She cast a spell to locate the strongest sorcerers and sorceresses in the town, and not surprisingly, the Watcher wasn't even among the top five. Since he no longer practiced, his levels had dropped.
Not that she would attempt to steal his powers anyway. Even if she succeeded, it would tip off the Slayer that something was wrong. Given her insane loyalty to people she cared about, the blonde might do something foolish to find out who hurt her Watcher.
No, it would be better to stick with non-innocents for this part.
The first 'victim' was a skeezy guy who got new users addicted to his brand of magick, then sucked them dry. It was a nice feeling to drain that loser of his stolen powers.
The only problem was that the increase in power also increased how fast her body was burning out from the overload. She'd have to trick the Slayer into being right there with her when she drained the Mayor of his powers so she could jump bodies immediately.
Yeah, the other powerful user in the area happened to be the Mayor; how weird was that?
Sunnydale High Library
Morgana rushed to the library, hoping to find the Slayer there so she could finish this.
Unfortunately, she found the boy ranting to the Watcher about something instead.
"Willow! You'll never guess what's happened!" the boy shouted when he saw her enter.
"Unless it has something to do with the Mayor, it doesn't matter right now!" Morgana shouted back.
"Deadboy's back and Buffy's making out with him!" the boy insisted on telling her.
Huh…that was interesting, and if she wasn't on such a time crunch, she might try to use that to her advantage. Unfortunately, she didn't have time. Maybe she'd mention it during the takeover. "Yeah, I don't care unless he's trying to open the Hellmouth tonight! Buffy has to stop the Mayor first, then we can yell at her for her poor decisions."
The Watcher interjected, clearly uncomfortable with the discussion about his Slayer hiding the creature who tortured him, "What's this about the Mayor?"
She had come up with what she hoped was a plausible story on the way to the school. "I was at City Hall earlier, looking up something for an extra credit project I'm working on and saw a vampire go into the Mayor's office. He passed by a mirror and didn't have a reflection," she explained in case they were wondering how she knew it was a vampire.
"Anyway, I went over to warn the Mayor or something, but then I heard them talking about opening the Hellmouth tonight. The strange thing is that he's not coming here for it; he's doing a ritual in his office," Morgana told them, crossing her fingers that they would believe her.
"Ha! That's funny!" the boy snorted, temporarily forgetting his anger at the Slayer. "Finally a bad guy who is smart enough not to be where we would expect him to be!"
"I suppose that does make for an odd sort of logic," the Watcher agreed warily, if not fully convinced. "Okay, you two start researching how we might be able to stop him, and I'll go look for Buffy. Maybe she can find Faith to help us. I suppose I should inform Mrs. Post as well. Not one word about Angel until after this is over!" he warned the boy.
Much to Morgana's relief, the female Watcher suggested that she and the new Slayer keep searching for the Glove of Myhnegon. Morgana knew better, but by the time the evil woman had the Glove, Morgana would be powerful enough to take it from her. The important thing was to gain the blonde Slayer's body tonight.
After the pair left them, Morgana 'found' a spell she could use to fight the Mayor's magick.
"That looks very dark, Willow," the Watcher cautioned. "I'm not sure it's such a good idea for you to try a spell like that. Where did you find that book, anyway?"
Thinking quickly, Morgana replied, "From Mrs. Post. She said something about inadequate ritual books?" In truth, she found it at Rack's place and it was close enough to what she wanted to do that she could pretend she was using it instead of her own spell. "I don't think I'll be able to actually do it, but maybe it can distract the Mayor long enough for Buffy to stop him," she offered meekly.
Stung over the barb flung at him by that insufferable woman, the Watcher still looked uncomfortable with the idea, but he finally nodded. "But only if you absolutely have to."
Despite her reputation for not being big on the research, the Slayer came over to look at the spell and had a peculiar reaction to it…almost as if she had seen it before somewhere. "Just be careful, Wills. This could be dangerous."
Only a harsh glare from the Watcher kept the boy from opening his mouth during their research session. The tension in the room was palatable though, so they were almost relieved when they had to leave for City Hall.
As luck would have it, the Mayor actually was performing a sacrifice that night when they arrived. It wasn't to open the Hellmouth, but the others didn't need to know that.
The Slayer and Watcher were fighting the demons and vampires while the boy helped Morgana set up her spell to drain the Mayor's magick. Unfortunately for her, the Mayor recognized what she was doing and fought back against her power. She needed some more life force energy to beat him, so she reached out for the nearest source…the boy.
When the Mayor was defeated and his minions gone or killed, Morgana turned to the Slayer to get ready for another body jump, not even caring about the second dead body behind her.
So she was quite surprised when the Slayer said, "I had hoped I was wrong about you; that it wasn't really you…Morgana," she spit the name out like it was poison. She told the Watcher to check to see if the boy was alive of not. When the Watcher shook his head sadly, the Slayer's eyes flashed angrily. "There cannot be any of Willow left inside if you were able to kill the boy she loved with her heart and soul. That makes two people that my vessel cared about that you killed."
The Watcher looked confused, but Morgana felt like she was hit with a two by four. "Merlin!" she hissed, certain that her old nemesis was the one speaking with the blonde's mouth.
The Slayer's head nodded, "It is I. On the night of Samhain, my vessel could only find a costume with my essence tied to it. Just as you did, I gained permission to stay. Only in my case, it was so she could call on my help to save the world if she had to."
"Then why didn't you re-ensoul the vampire?" Morgana snapped.
She could almost see Merlin's expression of disgust at the thought, despite the facial features being different.
"Because that is evil magick…which you know," he reminded her. "There were times when I came close to coming out, but I had promised her that I would only do so if the world was in imminent danger of ending. Even when the monster almost succeeded in opening Acathla, all I had to do was give her a little encouragement not to give up during the fight. As you are finding out, the more we force our presence on our hosts, the more it affects their bodies. The Slayer is far too important to the world to risk her life so I can spend a few more years here."
Morgana scoffed, "You always were so noble! Tell me, will she let you kill her friend?"
"She knows her friend is already dead, just as surely as being turned by a vampire. It was your killing of Xander that convinced her that Willow was gone," Merlin explained.
The pair of ancients hadn't been paying attention to Giles, so he was able to sneak up behind Morgana from where he had been cradling Xander's body, listening to them as he grieved for two of his children. He wouldn't force Buffy to kill another loved one. While he didn't understand why she hadn't told him about Angel being back, it paled in comparison to what they were facing at the moment.
With no warning to either Morgana or Merlin, Giles took one of his silver daggers and drove it into Morgana's – it helped not to think of her as Willow anymore – back and into her heart. Without even a single spell cast between the old enemies, Morgana died and went into oblivion again.
Merlin looked at the fallen body, then nodded his head in respect to the Watcher. "Thank you for sparing the Slayer more pain. Before I go back into the lockbox in her mind, I just want you to know that she didn't hide him to hurt you. She's scared and confused at why he's back. Please remember that for all her power, she's still a teenage girl who doesn't have all the answers."
"I think we've both lost too much today to let Angel drive us apart," Giles told both Merlin and Buffy. As soon as she got control of her body back, Buffy flew into Giles' arms and started crying…for her friends, for Angel, for Giles, for everything that had happened in the last year. Giles had to choke back his own tears as they comforted each other.
Their lives would not be the same without Willow and Xander.
A/N: Not a happy ending, so I'm sorry about that, Harry…unless you happened to like it. From the beginning, I intended for Buffy/Merlin to have to confront Willow/Morgana. I also had planned from fairly early on that Xander would die, proving that it was Morgana, which would make the fight easier on Buffy. Giles stepping in to kill Morgana was totally last minute as I finished this tonight.