As usual I own nothing of the characters I'm using Joss and Marvel are the owners. Well finally a new chapter after all this time. The story is nearly finished one or two more chapters to go and this tale is done.
Xander groaned a bit as he nursed some of the wounds that he had received from Glory. Despite their best efforts the woman had really rung all of their bells. The young man that had spent the past few days as Captain America turned to look at one of his best friends with worry. It seemed that the monks hadn't been all that much nicer than their medieval cousins. When the Slayer failed her duty as protector of the Key, something happened to her that had shut her brain down and left her trapped inside of her own mind. This left the Slayer to prowl around the building in a feral manner. Her feline like mentality was currently the one in charge. Willow, Tara, and Giles were working on finding a cure for the spell as they were all going to be needed for the rescue operation that they were already planning. Xander hoped that they could free the blonde from the prison that her mind had become, because losing one of their big hitters right before the second round was really not good. Particularly when you considered how badly they had gotten smashed in the last round. Since they had already lost Dawn, they couldn't afford to have any of their other members gone now. It kind of made him wish that he had arranged for a telepath of some sort to be a part of the team he had constructed. Then again all of the various telepaths that he could think of were all so over charged that they probably would have burned themselves out in this reality. Although it would have been cool to see them dressed as characters like Jean Grey, Emma Frost, and Betsy Braddock. Yeah, his inner fan boy would have definitely died happy upon seeing that.
The carpenter/demon fighter turned super soldier adjusted the round metal shield that he had found in the back room. It wasn't balanced very well nor was it as tough as Captain America's shield, but then again beggars couldn't be choosers. The shield was actually something that Giles used when training with Buffy since the blonde rarely bothered with shields preferring to add an extra weapon to her hand or have the advantage of speed and agility. In the hands of Captain America, and now Xander though, a shield was the only weapon that was needed. The boy looked up as he saw the others come in. "Well?"
"We think we have a spell that will let us into Buffy's mind." Willow said. "Giles was just explaining something to us though."
"Yeah, and what was that Giles?" Xander asked curious as to what had Willow looking so downcast.
Giles shifted a bit uncomfortably under the expectant gaze of Xander. "I think you should be prepared for whoever or whatever they pull from the depths of her mind as something that you may not know." He warned him. "A mental assault that has trapped her within her mind after a long term possession is likely to have unwanted consequences." He warned the group. "Buffy may not even be there completely anymore. It is very likely it will be fragments of Buffy's mind may be all that is left."
Xander realized suddenly that Giles was actually feeling guilty about this and was on the verge of laming himself for Buffy's current condition and the likelihood of her surviving with her mind intact.
"So be prepared for the worst got you." Willow said with an affirmative nod. "We can deal with a Buffy with more TIgra memories though Giles. A cationic Kitty Slayer not so much with the helping though."
Giles nodded his head in agreement with the red head's assessment of the situation. "So long as you understand that the person that they bring back may not be the Buffy that we all know and love." He said as a final warning.
"Do it girls." Xander ordered the witches. "Bring Buffy or whoever is in there out, we got us a Hellgod to stomp on and the Buffster will kick our asses if we didn't try and get her out before we head out after Glory." Not to mention he really doubted that they would be able to hurt the Hell-God without all of them working together. So far it was Glory 3 Scoobies 0 and he wasn't sure if they were even going to get another chance as it was.
The two witches nodded their heads as they sat on either side of the tiger girl. They each grabbed one hand and then placed their other hand's against the side of Buffy's head and began chanting. A moment later a glowing light seemed to come from their hands.
"And what shall you be doing while they are doing that?" Giles wondered.
"Recon." Xander returned to the Watcher. "We need to know where Glory and her hobbits of Doom plan on using Dawn Patrols blood. While I'm doing that I reckon that you'll be looking through your books for something similar."
Giles nodded his head in agreement as he went to examine the few sources that they had on Glory while Xander adjusted the shield onto his back. He then headed out and grabbed Spike's motorcycle and zoomed off looking through the streets for some sign of where the youngest member of their little group might be. Glory was going to find out that it took a lot more than what she could manage to knock them out of a fight for good. When you messed with one Scooby you messed with all of them.
Dawn groaned as she came to. One of the demons unfortunately had a brain and had decided to knock her out to prevent her from escaping. She had vaguely recognized the demon she thought. The guy looked like the demon she had bought spell supplies from when she had attempted to raise her mom. Spike had told her that the demon's name was Doc. She couldn't believe that one of Spike's business associates was actually the enemy. Then again she supposed she shouldn't be too surprised since Spike liked to hang out with other demons that were questionable. After this was all over she was going to tear him a new one for introducing her to someone that wanted her dead.
Still she could complain to the vampire about his choices after she broke out of this mess. She tried phasing but it seemed that Doc had magiced the ropes to hold her. Not like that was really a problem though she thought as she quickly began twisting and turning and soon the ropes fell off of her. If she ever met Ororo she would have to thank her for teaching Kitty how to slip out of bindings like those.
Standing up Dawn began creeping away so that she could get gone. She had to phase into a few random bits and pieces of furniture and crates as Glory's minions patrolled the area. Not that she could see these guys as being real good as security. Then again if they made a lot of noise getting taken out there was a good chance that Glory would show up as well. Considering that the Hell-God had managed to beat them when they were all there she really didn't like her chances of beating her on her own. So for the time being that meant that she had to run away and hide from these guys. Maybe even bring the others back so that they could mess up with Glory's plans even more than they had already. That was sounding of the good actually.
She nearly made it to the door when Doc came strolling by. "My, my just where do you think you're going my dear? You can't leave now you have an important part to play in tonight's ceremony. "The old demon said as he shook his head at her as if she was a naughty school girl out to late.
"Thanks but no thanks, getting bled out all over the place really isn't my idea of a good time." Dawn said as she got into a fighters stance. "Besides being the victim really isn't my thing anymore. If you don't believe me then you're more than welcome to try me though." She offered as she ushered the demon warlock toward her.
"If you insist." Doc said as he lunged at her. Dawn yelped and barely managed to spin out of the way of the lunge. For an old guy he was pretty spry. Then again he was a demon and the usual rules for ageing rarely applied to them. She wondered if she had something like that if she was supposed to be some sort of super energy source in her. It would be fun to gloat at Buffy over when she had graying hair and wrinkles.
She could try running, but she needed to stop these guys from doing whatever it was that they were trying to do. With that in mind she watched Doc as he seemed to be deciding on what action it was that he wanted to use on her. He opened his mouth and Dawn barely phased in time as the tongue that would have hit her passed right through. It was only Kitty's experience in dealing with random attacks like that which allowed her to dodge as it was. "Alright that is just gross." Dawn noted in disgust as she looked at the demon. "I mean seriously, you were going to attack me with your tongue? Didn't anyone ever teach you any manners?" She demanded in annoyance.
"Impressive." Doc said as he stared at the girl with interest cocking his head to the side as he studied her. "You made yourself intangible from physical attacks. I wonder if there are other ways to hurt you though?" He questioned curiously as he drew a dagger from the folds of the robes that he wore.
"So you're going to try and stab me with a knife?" Dawn asked dubiously. "What makes you think that it's going to hurt me anymore than you trying to hit me with your tongue?"
"Let's find out." Doc returned as he began slashing at the girl who either ducked or moved out of the way at the last instant.
Dawn was pretty sure that his knife couldn't hurt her. However she really didn't want to chance it either. The fact that she remembered just how much a knife hurt when she had sliced herself open in an attempt to prove her existence gave her the much needed memory for that.
"Enough." Glory said as she walked into the room and glared at her rebellious ticket home. "And you Key, stop trying to escape." She ordered while giving a level glare at the costumed girl.
"What are you going to do if I don't?" Dawn asked curiously.
"Simple I do this." Glory said as she reached for something behind a crate and out of Dawn's sight and dragged a little girl out from behind the corner. "Now I'm betting the Slayer and her friends went and taught you all about the supposed value of human life. Why they believe that I'll never know since humans are only good for eating and a few other things. So you either be a good little key and do as you're told, or I break this brat's neck." Glory said with a smile on her face as she wrapped her hand around the kid's neck.
Dawn glared but finally nodded her head as she raised her hands in surrender. She was then forced to pull an ugly dress over her clothes and then angrily sat down and sulked. Glory had found her weakness in that she could threaten the lives of humans and she could get the mutant/Key/girl to do exactly as she wanted her to do. Which was why she was wearing the hideous dress. She really hoped that the others came up with a plan because at the moment she was out of ideas on what it was that she could do.
The pair of witches found themselves in an odd room it looked both like a house and a cave. There were pictures that the girls recognized as being the images from Buffy's mind, but there were also images that they had no idea where they came from. At the moment they were going to guess they were part of the TIgra mentality. The girls turned to see a little girl with a tiger at her side. "Hello Willow, Tara." The girl greeted calmly as if she had been expecting them. Then again it was Buffy's mind, so she had to have been aware of the new presences that were inside of her.
The girls gave relieved smiles at the little girl. "Hello Buffy." Willow said as she knelt down beside the child so that they were looking each other in the eyes.
"So," the little girl said, "what are you doing here?"
Willow looked momentarily lost at that, as if unsure as to what it was that she should say to the small child before her. She had come in here expecting to speak to the Buffy that she knew not this little girl in a pink princess dress. A part of her had actually been expecting teenage Buffy or maybe Hemry Buffy, but not child Buffy. It made what she was doing all the harder as far as she was concerned. Then there was the fact that she wasn't very good with kids. She shook her head she was babbling inside of her head while inside the head of Buffy and now her brain hurt or was its Buffy's head that hurt? The more questions the redhead asked herself the more confused she got as her mind ran in circles looking for answers that she didn't have. "Actually we're ah." She stammered in confusion hoping something would come to her.
"We're here for you." Tara said saving her girlfriend from trying to explain things to e rest friend. "You're pretty little Kitty can even listen with us." She added nodding towards the large Tiger that was looking at them through silted eyes. The girls then watched the first of many repetitions' of an old memory.
Xander and Spike were currently moving in to talk with the one known as Doc as they entered the shop. The two of them had tried several other places beforehand Glory's hotel, they had questioned the hospital staff, and had gone to some of the places where several of Glory's victims had been discovered. As they looked around the room they saw the figure of the demon working at a table filled with books and various papers.
The image of the demon working diligently over everything caused Xander to flash to Giles. It was like watching demon Giles making sure that they had all of their bases covered all the guy needed was a tweed suit and the image would be complete. He also knew if Giles were to hear he had thought that he would be regretting it for a long time. Since he was with Spike he knew that eventually that the vampire would have told Giles about the comparison. Probably at the worst or most humiliating time possible as well. It seemed Captain America had helped to clear up some of his foot in mouth syndrome.
"What can I do for you boys, want some Cocoa?" Doc questioned the pair.
"Another time perhaps." Xander said diplomatically as looked the figure over. "Spike here says that you've got your hands in just about all of the various pies in some way or other." He said casually jerking his head toward the vampire that was skulking on the edge of the shop.
"I do try and keep in business." Doc returned with a shrug.
Xander shook his head. So this was what the equivalent to a demon mom and pop store was like. There were some things that he hadn't really wanted the answer to. Then again he hadn't asked the question either. "Yeah, well then I'm sure in your business then that you may have heard rumors about where Glory may have gone. I'm sure Spike here can make it worth your while to tell us a few things." He offered with an easy going smile.
"Oi, why are you offering him my money." Spike grumbled.
"Because your money is of the stolen variety. Xander returned to him. "Now about that information."
Doc looked at the boy for a moment as he considered what to tell the boy. "Glory ... Glory. Oh!" He said as if coming to a sudden revelation. "You don't mean Glorificus. Gosh. What do you wanna get mixed up with her for? That's a sure way to get yourselves killed. I hear she's awfully unpleasant. When it comes to hellgods, my best advice is get out of the way and stay there."
"Love to can't." Spike returned.
"Not an option." Xander returned with conviction.
Doc began to stammer as he got up and began rifling through various cabinets. "Well, uh, other than that I'd like to help ... but I-I'm a small-town guy. This Glorificus, if it is her ... whoo, she's big city." The demon said sounding somewhat nervous.
"She's got the Slayer's kid sister." Spike returned stonily.
"That girl you brought here." Doc said in recognition. "Sweet little thing. How'd things work out with her mom? Changed her mind, didn't she?" He asked curiously as he tried to change the subject.
Yeah. You got any idea where Glory would take her? Spike asked in annoyance while ignoring the rather pointed glare that Xander was leveling at him.
"You brought Dawn here?" He demanded in anger and disbelief.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time." Spike returned with a shrug.
Doc nodded his head. "Right." He said pausing for a moment in thought. "Well, I may know a fella you know, who knows a fella in. China. He might-"
Spike cut the demon off. "How the hell are we supposed to get to China? Teleport?"
"I guess." Doc said looking unsure.
"Surely, there's got to be another way. Xander tried. If your scared of retaliation perhaps we can protect you.
"You can't even protect your own members." Doc reminded the carpenter dryly. "Now why should I believe that you can protect me?"
"Huh good question." Xander admitted. "Because win or lose it's all about to come down and either the world ends or we beat Glory." He informed the demon. "So either you get a win on the Slayer's notebook, or you die along with everyone else knowing that you could have done something to stop it." He tried.
Doc still didn't look convinced. "I really wish I could help you. Wish you luck." He said waving at them as if to hurry them out of the shop.
"You're lying. "Spike growled. "And what's more I believe you're standing right in front of the very thing we need."
Doc smirks at the vampire and suddenly leaps to his left. Suddenly he's behind Spike, who turns in surprise as Doc grabs a sword that's leaning against the wall. He puts the sword tip to Spike's throat. "Idiot." Doc said softly.
Spike smirks back at the figure as he slaps the sword away. "That pig sticker ain't gonna do it against me mate." He said as he glowered at the figure. Doc surprised them by hitting a nearby bookshelf causing an avalanche of books and shelves to fall on top of the vampire burying him beneath the books.
Doc opened his mouth and a long tongue spat out at Xander. Xander easily sidestepped the attack and rushed at the figure slamming his shoulder into the demon. Doc was thrown across the room in surprise. Xander unslung his shield and charged. The demon swung and Xander ducked before slam the edge of his shield into the side of the demon causing it to his in pain. Doc retaliated by attacking with a flurry of blows. Xander was only able to dodge about a quarter of the blows even with the shield as Doc moved faster than even his newly enhanced body could keep up with. He crouched and held the shield over his head though and weathered the storm of attacks.
The blows finally stop and he saw that Doc had moved away from him and grabbed a box that had been setting on the table and tossed it into the fireplace. "Why?" Xander asked curiously.
"You think only underworld bottom-feeders worship the Beast?" Doc questioned the boy before him. When this is all over I shall be risen above all other worshippers and be rewarded for my service."
"Not if I can help it." Xander returned as he threw the shield. It slammed into the fireplace knocking the box out even as the shield skittered to the other side of the room. Xander then tackled Doc and the two began rolling around. Xander was obviously the stronger of the two as he appeared on top and quickly grabbed the fallen sword and slammed it into the chest of the demon.
Spike groaned as he forced the bookshelf off of himself. He nodded to Xander as he climbed back to his feet. "I see ya still got it then." He noted as he looked at the demon that had been skewered. "I was kind of worried that soldier boy had overwritten ya so much that there wouldn't have been anything left of the old you."
"Yeah me to." Xander agreed. "It looks like the old me is still in here as well and is still willing to kill though."
"That's good to know, didn't need you trying to arrest them when we needed ya to kill them." Spike said in relief.
"Don't forget Cap was also a soldier during WWII, I'm pretty sure he has more than his fair share of kills." Xander reminded the vampire.
"Maybe, but a lot of his fights with people with powers or abilities has him arresting them these days." Spike said as he strolled over to the singed ox and picked it up.
"And you, how much of you is there and how much is Danny Rand?" Xander asked the demon curiously.
"Don't know." Spike admitted. "I'll need to get myself into a good old fashioned brawl to find out."
"So what do we got?" Xander questioned curiously looking at the box.
Spike shrugs. "Something worth dying for." He returned to the boy.
Xander rolls his eyes as he retrieves his shield and follows Spike out of the shop. "I figured that one out already." He complained.
"I never can tell with you Harris." Spike threw over his shoulder.
Within the confines of Buffy's mind the three girls walked down a hallway the tiger staying in the shadows but always there. "You know this is kind of weird I was expecting to see more of the First Slayer." Willow said as she looked around. "Not that I'm complaining or anything, the last time we met was real memorable and all and so not looking for the rerun of that."
Tara smiled at her girlfriend. "That's because we are in the conscious mind of Buffy. The Slayer exists within her soul. When you all combined that time you were connected to all parts of Buffy and the Slayer allowing her to follow you through all of the entryways."
"Huh, that's nice and kind of a relief to know that there won't be brain pulling or anything like that." Willow said with a smile.
"The Tigra Spirit is also keeping her away." The mental Buffy explained to her friends. They had long since left the child version of the blonde and were now dealing with one that was much like the Buffy that they knew. "As long as Tigra is protecting us then we don't have to worry about her coming for us. She also knows that I'm the boss." The blonde said with a smirk.
The humor of the moment was destroyed though as they saw Buffy lay a pillow over the head of Dawn. "Buffy you have to stop this." Willow pleaded.
"Stop what?" Buffy asked curiously.
"Killing Dawn." Willow said nodding towards the figure lying motionlessly on the bed. She had seen this same scene play out three or four times and she didn't think that there was any good coming from it.
"Why?" Buffy questioned.
"Because you didn't do this." Tara said soothingly. "Dawn is still alive, and out there in the real world."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Buffy said stubbornly as she walked out of the room.
"Buffy why are you doing this?" Willow tries hesitantly. They had to do this carefully or they could totally destroy their friend's mind.
They enter a new room and as Willow prepares to defend the dream version of Dawn she is shocked to see a headstone with Joyce's name on it. Next to it was another marker with the name Bill Nelson. "What is this?" Willow asked in shock.
Buffy just stared at the markers sadly the tiger leaned its head against the blonde. "This is what I do." Buffy said, as if it should explain everything to her friend.
"Who's Bill?" Tara asked worriedly.
"He was TIgra's important person." Buffy explained to the witches even as the Tiger laid its head down mournfully on the grave for a moment.
The group went through another door and found themselves in the Magic Shop of all places. "Why are we here Buffy?" Tara asked encouragingly. Buffy nodded towards another version of herself. "This is where it happened, this is where I realized that I couldn't win. Its when I finally accepted that Glory was too strong for me to beat. And in that second of understanding I just wanted."
"What is it that you wanted?" Tara asked.
"I just wanted it to be over." Buffy explained to the taller blonde. "I'm tired of doing all of this it's just one thing after another with us. If Glory wins."
"Dawn Dies." The other Buffy said mournfully.
"I think Xander and Spike might be right, there's some sort of spell involved in this and you need to snap out of it." Willow said. "I've seen Buffy deal with guilt before and this nothing like how she usually does it."
"So what now?"
"Now we shock her back into reality." Willow said as she drew her hand back and slapped Buffy as hard as possible. "Owchie." She said with a wince as she shook her hand. "Come on, we need to go and save Dawn now. You've carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school. And I, I know you didn't ask for this, but ... you do it every day. And so, you wanted out for one second. So what?"
"But what if I can't?" Buffy asked.
"Then Dawn dies for real." Willow said as she turned away from her friend. "Come on Tara, we have a world to save." Tara nodded and followed after the redhead.
Buffy looked confused and looked to the tiger. The large cat nodded and leaped at her.
Willow gasped in alarm only to watch the creature fade and leave a Buffy version of Tigra. "Tara what's happening?" She asked in alarm as her friend changed.
"They're merging," Tara said worriedly. "Her fear of not being strong enough forced the Tigra spirit in this plane to join with her."
"So they are one now?" Willow asked with interest.
Buffy nodded to the witches as she gripped their hands and they led her through the doors of the Magic Box. With a start all of the girls woke up as if they had been sleeping. Tara and Willow grasp the emotionally spent Slayer for a moment letting her have a good cry before the trio get up.
"Come on." Buffy said, wiping her tears away. "We've got to go and save Dawn." The girls nodded their heads in agreement. They quickly found themselves back at the magic box. Each of them had changed their clothes into a variation of their usual clothes and that of their costumed personalities. The Scoobies were many things but costumed vigilantes was not one of them. Buffy had gone from a bikini to wearing leather pants, no shoes, a tube top and leather jacket. Tara had left the bottom part of the costume, but changed into an easy to move in peasant top. Willow had left her costume on since she wasn't sure if her clothes would change if she were to change size or if they needed to be prepared before they tried that.
"Buffy." Giles said in relief as he saw the group enter. Xander and Spike looked up from where they had been checking the weapons. Xander was in some of his leftover clothes from the Initiative while Spike had left his martial arts pants on but had placed his heavy boots and duster on over the rest.
"Giles," Buffy greeted, "word is that you guys found something she said.
"That we did." The watcher said as he opened a book he had been paging through. "All of the rites and ceremonies that Glory will need to do in order to open the portal."
"Uh huh." Buffy said. "So Xander, what's the plan?
"Well as we've said before: You are the plan." Xander said with a grin. "The nose knows after all." He said as he held some shoes that Dawn had left behind one day.
"Right," Buffy said with a grimace. "I'm not using one of Dawn's dirty socks or shoes though no matter how stinky they are."
"Well there's no way I'm going through her dirty clothes." Xander returned quickly.
"Yeah, and if I did that ya'd try and stake me Slayer." Spike pointed out from where he was sitting.
Buffy pouted slightly. "Fine," she grumbled as she took the shoe and took a deep whiff. She grimaced as the scent of her sister filled her senses. "This is so disgusting. Why can't Spike be the one to do this?"
"Watcher is hoping that your connection to the Bit will make it easier for ya to track her." Spike informed her with a smirk. The Slayer glared at the Watcher who was doing his best to ignore her. "Got to say it's nice not having to be used as a glorified blood hound anymore." He added in mockingly.
"Alright let's go." Buffy said as they each gathered the weapons that they were going to need.
"Hang on, I have a little something extra to add to the fight." Willow said as she pressed a remote and Buffy's double came walking out.
"The sex-bot Will's?" Buffy said uncomfortably as she looked at the machine.
"We need everything we got." Willow said.
Can it fight though? Xander questioned.
"Shadowcat finished up the last of the repairs during her breaks. Just in case." Willow assured the others.
"Fine," Buffy reluctantly relented to her friend. "Anya Xander go find the Orb of Dagon it might be useful. The pair nodded as the headed down the stairs. A while later the pair reappeared with the glowing Orb of Dagon that Buffy had found with the monk so long ago.
Xander looked at the others as they were packing the last of their weapons up. Aalright people this one's for the world so let's move out and do this." He ordered as he unslung his shield. The rest of the group nodded as they left the store to once again save the world. Again.