Title: Murphy's Law
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Just the canon ones for Season 6.
Disclaimer: Not mine. It all belongs to Joss.
Warnings: Character death. Really and seriously, this is not (and will not be) a happy or lighthearted fic. Note that this warning applies for the entire fic.
Summary: What if Giles hadn't killed Ben in The Gift? It is now mid-season 6, and the Scooby gang is falling apart when Ben awakens from his coma, letting loose an angry Glory. Buffy, dealing with post-death depression, bills, an "evil" Trio, and a faltering support system, now has to contend with a vengeful hellgod. Just when things couldn't get worse.
Chapter Six: Threats
"This is ridiculous!" Glory inspected her new outfit in the mirror. One measly mall in this town and only one decent clothing store in it. She hated this place so much. Shopping was necessary, though, as Ben kept destroying her clothes whenever he came out. She looked at Doc's reflection behind her. "How many places can that little band of freaks hide?"
"It is...unfortunate that we haven't been able to locate them, oh glorious one." He bowed slightly.
Glory smiled. He'd been getting better at the humility thing. Good. She hadn't been feeling properly worshiped at all. Especially since that little magic shopkeeper had refused to tell them anything.
Still, she'd been sure she would find them soon. But each day, Doc came back with no news about them. She'd been looking for more minions, but loyal ones were hard to find.
"Wherever they're hiding," Glory said as she rifled through her shopping bags. "They're gonna be getting tired of being cooped up. It's been nearly two weeks. Let's just hope someone gets some cabin fever soon."
Some might call the décor "rustic". They might say it had a certain warmth to it. But whatever they said, nobody could deny that it was very crisp.
Buffy contemplated the burnt wall in front of her. They'd been holed up in the cinder remains of Sunnydale High for near on two weeks. The panicked escape from the Summers house had been the soundest tactical option at that point, even though emotions had been running high since the discovery of Anya's death. Setting up base at the old school with Willow's protection spell had seemed like a feasible plan. Now, though, after this long, the siege was almost unbearable.
Buffy felt like they were just waiting for Glory to come for them. They'd had no luck finding Glory on their own. So each day passed with the heavy shadow of the hellgod hanging over their heads.
She never talked about the certain death that faced them. For some reason, the others seemed to take comfort somehow and fool themselves into believing that they'd be okay. She knew better, but she couldn't take that from them.
"Buffy," Dawn said, approaching her from behind. "Xander and Spike are back with supplies. Willow's going to heat up some food."
Buffy sighed. Supply runs. Microwaved dinners courtesy of Willow and Tara. Inadequate bathroom facilities. They took turns going to the local pool to take showers. At least she didn't have to worry about money running out. Not after the sizable amount Giles had left her.
She turned, joining Dawn and the others as they sat in what used to be a classroom. Spike lounged on the overturned teacher's desk in the corner, smoking, while Xander passed out paper plates and plastic utensils.
It was like camping. Just not as fun.
As her gaze wandered over the ragtag bunch as they passed out salisbury steak dinners, Buffy couldn't help but wonder: They pulled me out of Heaven for this?
Willow had to hold in the sigh she felt tempted to release. Everybody had a sigh in them right now. No point showing it off.
Buffy had reverted back to her "zombie" state. Well, that's what Willow called it. Where Buffy would zone out and be completely nonfunctional and not help with anything. Actually, it had made things easier. When they'd first arrived at the school, Buffy and Willow had had a large argument about a spell Willow wanted to try.
They were sitting on the Hellmouth. Why not try to put it to use?
But Buffy had explicitly forbade it, and you don't go against Buffy because she's such a leader! Willow rolled her eyes at that idea. As the days went past, though, Buffy drew further and further inward, relinquishing the tight hold she had on the group.
Good thing, too.
Willow had managed to bring a couple of her more interesting magic books with her when they had run from the Summers' house. Just a couple nights ago, she'd started trying to find some way to boost her power using the Hellmouth's energy. If she could do that, then she could find where Glory is, and maybe strike first.
Well, it was worth a try! It was better than sitting around waiting for Glory to find them.
Willow stirred her food around. She'd always hated microwave dinners. They all tasted like cardboard. Soggy cardboard. It didn't help that the dinners had been very quiet as of late. It seemed nobody had a lot to say.
Xander threw his tray onto the ground, abruptly standing up. Willow frowned as he walked out of the room. She glanced at the others.
"Maybe we should - " Tara said.
Willow put her food aside. "I'll go."
Xander was her best friend, after all.
She found him down the hallway, sitting against a row of lockers. His head was down and his shoulders were shaking slightly. Willow sat next to him, unsure of exactly what to say.
She didn't have to say anything. Xander raised his head as soon as her back met the lockers. His cheeks were streaked with tears. "The steak," he said, gesturing with his arm. "It's the steak. A few days before the plane crash, Anya had a craving for steak, and she was bugging me to take her out." He shook his head. "But I hadn't gotten my paycheck yet so I took her to McDonald's instead. She complained the entire time! 'Steak! I wanted steak! Not poorly processed pseudo-meat!' She was driving me nuts!" He paused, smiling softly. The moment only lasted a few seconds before he seemed to realize where he was again. He shrugged. "Damn TV dinners. Salisbury steak. Just…made me remember."
Willow put her arm around her shoulders, letting him sag against her. She sighed.
"Wish I could kill her," Xander said quietly.
She closed her eyes. Xander couldn't fight Glory right now. It would be suicide. He wouldn't stand a chance.
But maybe, with a little help, she would.
Tara slept in a different room from her. Willow glanced at the closed classroom door where Tara and Dawn had set up their sleeping bags. She supposed that staying in such a large hide-away had its advantages. She hadn't had to face Tara very often.
And yet, somehow, she still kept hoping that Tara would talk to her. Not about Glory or anything. But about them. She kept thinking that now, after everything that's happened, Tara would finally see that they should get back together.
Willow missed her. She saw her every day, but they might as well be in different countries. Willow spent her time alone or with Xander while Tara kept Dawn company.
Once or twice, Willow had considered trying to talk to Tara. However, it didn't seem appropriate. Not now.
She wanted to talk to her now. Despite her resolve, her nerves were going haywire at what she was going to try. She needed Tara's support more than ever. Tara had been her anchor for so long. She felt so unattached to the world now that they were apart.
There was no help for it, though. Tara wasn't willing to compromise on this.
Willow continued walking down the charred hallway. She heard the faint voices of Buffy and Spike coming from the burnt out cafeteria. Those two were usually together, of course. She couldn't tell what they were saying, but they were speaking in hushed voices. Willow didn't understand why Buffy felt the need to spend so much time with Spike since she came back.
She kept walking, though, hoping that Buffy and Spike wouldn't notice her exit. They had rules against leaving at night, but Willow didn't think the others would understand her reasoning for what she was doing. She had to just do it. Once she was done, then they'd understand.
"I'm glad you returned," Rack said, placing his palms together as the magic crackled between them.
Willow bit her lip. She wasn't entirely sure about this, but she had decided that it would be for the best for everyone. They had to be on the offensive. And to do that, Willow needed more magic. She didn't have time to work on the Hellmouth spell. This would have to do.
"I need your help," Willow said, trying to ignore the room around her. It spun with remembered excesses.
"No," Rack circled her. "You want my help." He touched her chest, allowing her a small sip of the power in his grasp.
Her eyes closed as she gasped. It was a jolt. "I…there's something I need to fight…"
"And you need more power?"
"Yes." She opened her eyes to see him standing directly in front of her, regarding her carefully.
"I think," he moved closer to her. Willow could feel it buzzing around the air. Dazzling and warm. It was victory. "I think you want more power."
His breath brushed her ear. His hands were almost against her again. He was almost touching her. Almost giving her what she needed. No. What she craved.
"Yes," her eyes closed again as she felt dizzy from sensation. "Yes, please."
Then he touched her.
Glory felt a burst of energy explode in her mind, bringing her to a complete stand-still. She'd been talking to Doc about shoes and then…blank. Then her mind erupted in light and fire, and she knew, clear as anything else, exactly where she needed to be.
She could smell it.
She opened her eyes, smiling at Doc, who was giving her a worried look.
"Forget about the shoes," she said, heading for the door. "I have someplace I gotta be."
Willow couldn't believe it. She'd almost forgotten what this had felt like. This bliss that settled over her, sparking and burning through her. She smiled, flexing her fingers. This was power beyond anything she'd had before. She looked at Rack through a magic haze. She could see his soul: black, murky, corrupted from years of black magic.
He was saying something to her, but the words didn't matter. They were only what he wanted her to hear. Instead, she heard what he meant. She was scaring him. He'd never seen a power like hers before, and it intimidated him.
It felt nice.
Then there was another power with them. A throbbing, red beacon of light so bright that it filled Willow's mind and seared her core. Willow shrieked, closing her mind. She stopped looking through the eyes of magic and looked through her own.
Rack was slumped against the wall, life force ebbing quickly. In front of her was Glory. The red beacon. Hellgod.
"Wow. All that power is just, like, blasting a signal everywhere." Glory said, shaking her head. Glory wasn't afraid of her. Why wasn't Glory afraid of her? "Hey," Glory said, leaning forward. "You do know your eyes are black, right?"
She'd make Glory afraid of her.
Willow's arm shot forward, hand wrapping around Glory's throat and crushing with all the force in her. Glory was taken by surprise, but she quickly recovered. She shoved Willow away.
Glory rubbed her neck. "Watch the neckline!"
Willow glanced at Rack who barely had any life left in him. Black soul. Red beacon. Worth a shot. She ran past Glory to crouch down beside Rack. The guy wasn't even conscious. Probably for the best.
Before Glory could react, Willow pressed a hand to Rack's chest, drawing his murky soul through her. Not into her. She didn't want that darkness in her. She acted as a funnel. Taking his soul and focusing it on Glory.
The lights in the room went out, but it didn't matter. The clash of magic and souls lit the air with crackling sparks. Glory screamed as the black wrapped around red, penetrating and enveloping. Fighting evil with evil.
Willow stayed in place, making sure to take everything Rack had. She felt him exhale his last breath as the roof caved in.
Buffy sighed in relief when she saw her house was untouched. She and Spike had left as soon as they realized Willow was missing, but they weren't sure of exactly where she would be. Not to mention why she'd be wandering around in the middle of the night.
"Light's off," Spike commented. "She's not in there." He looked around as if Willow might be hiding behind the bushes. "Bloody witch."
Buffy was inclined to agree with him in this case. She'd been agreeing with him way too much as of late. She wasn't sure why she kept finding herself in conversation with him. She didn't mean for it to keep happening. Something about him signaled to her. She couldn't stay away. And during every conversation they had, she had to resist every urge to touch him.
His hand reached out, gripping her shoulder as he held up one finger, listening to something.
"You hear that?" he asked.
She shook her head. "What?" His hand was on her body, cool through her shirt. She tried to ignore it.
"Explosion." He inhaled. "And some fire. That way."
Without hesitation, they were running in the direction he'd nodded. It was a cool night, but Buffy never got winded while running. It was part of being the Slayer. Of course, Spike didn't get winded while running, either. It was also part of being dead.
Not a good time for those thoughts. Focus on the mission: Finding Willow.
They turned the corner to an alley in the undeveloped residential district. Something had exploded there, though Buffy wasn't sure what. Her immediate attention was drawn to the two central figures facing off.
"Fuck," Spike muttered under his breath.
Glory looked a little worse for wear. Her dress was torn, her hair was a mess, and she was actually bleeding from some scrapes. It was more damage than the hellgod usually took.
But she was still standing. She was standing over a barely-fighting Willow, hands prepared to do her brain-suck.
There really was no thought on her part. Buffy sprinted the remaining distance, grabbing Glory around the waist and tossing her away from her friend. She knew Spike would take care of Willow as she put her hands on her hips to face Glory.
The other woman stood up on shaky legs but with a smile on her face. "The Slayer! Long time, no see, Buffy! Hey, I heard you died. What was that like?"
"Why don't I just show you?"
Buffy stepped forward, swinging hard with her fist. Glory was slower than usual. Whatever Willow had done to her had done a lot of damage. Good thing. Without a troll hammer, Buffy didn't stand much of a chance in a hand-to-hand fight with Glory.
There was a satisfying smack as Buffy punched her, sending Glory to impact against the wall of the alley. The hellgod came back quickly, though, throwing her own punch that Buffy managed to duck.
Buffy couldn't help but smile as the fight continued. She was holding her own. Against Glory. They had a chance, then. Maybe things weren't completely hopeless.
Thanks to Willow.
It had almost worked. Almost. But there wasn't enough of Rack's soul to fully cover Glory's beacon. Once Willow had run out of ammo, she had had little chance.
She watched through slitted eyes as Buffy and Glory fought. Her friend wasn't exactly winning, but she wasn't losing either. What's more, she seemed to be enjoying herself in a way she hadn't in a long time.
Spike's hand was on her shoulder. He was trying to get her attention. See if she was alright. She ignored him.
She would have lost. All that power she'd had, and she would have lost. She would have ended up a babbling idiot. It wasn't right. And now, Buffy was taking up her fight. The fight that should have been Willow's.
What's more, she was doing a sucky job at it.
Willow watched as Buffy crashed against the wall, pieces of brick breaking off and falling around her. This just wouldn't do. Willow had to fix things. She couldn't trust Buffy to take care of something like this. Not in the state she was.
She stood slowly, only half-aware of Spike helping her up. To her side, in the corner of the alley, was Rack's body. His place had vanished in a jumbled crash of magical energy, but the air was still filled with the aura of power. She still felt it buzzing around her. She breathed it in, letting it strengthen her. Years of dark magic tumbled inside her, residual from some of the most powerful witches. She fanned the embers, lighting them aflame again.
She felt her strength return to her. Close to her, there was a being. No soul. His aura a strange mixture of light and dark. He wasn't important.
No, it was the red beacon she wanted. It had blinded her before but not this time. She could look straight at it and see its fire. It did battle with another one. That one. Shining soul, darkened and weary. And yet...
Buffy wants to live now.
Finally. Maybe now, Buffy would thank her for the resurrection.
Well, after she thanked her for killing Glory.
Willow was more than just a funnel this time. She was the magic. She let it mix with her own power. And then she used it to attack the beacon. The beacon wasn't expecting it. It recoiled, and Willow clearly saw the light flicker. With her ears, she heard Glory's cry combined with Buffy and Spike yelling.
None of that matter. She continued her assault, focused only on defeating her opponent.
The beacon flickered again. More cries. Then it was gone.
Willow stopped. She thought time might have stopped as well. If she wished it so, she was sure that it would.
No, the beacon wasn't gone. It had just retreated. If she reached a bit further, she could find it. She stretched, feeling, sensing…
She plummeted as the magic started to dissipate from her. The remaining power from Rack's hideaway was leaving. Her own senses were returning to her. She panicked, trying to hold on to the power. She needed it. She'd been so close to fixing everything. She had to do it for her friends.
It was a voice. Her ears rang with the noise. She felt her body again. Disgusting flesh, creeping towards death with each second that passed.
Another piece of flesh touched her. She flinched, using the last of her power to lash out at it. She just wanted it away from her.
The haze cleared. She was on her knees in the alley. Spike was lying some distance away, bleeding heavily from various wounds on his body. He wasn't moving. Buffy remained standing but was at ready, looking at her like she was the enemy. She'd done that. She'd...why'd she do that?