Unknown

By Sweetprincipale

This is set in my non-canon, but canon-esque series following Uncontrollable and Unmentionable. If you haven't read those first, please do, or this won't read nearly as well or make much sense. Unknown begins a few weeks after the end of Unmentionable, around the beginning of season five.

Dedicated to: ginar369, omslagspapper, Illusera, Sirius120, lil-leti, CavemenFTW, AKGMom, Caskett93, Red Reaper88, Kitakana, The-Darkness-Befalls, AGriffinWriter, Jedi SteelWolf, and DidiSummers. Thank you so much for struggling along with me and our heroes.

Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season five's dialogue will be used. All due to credit to Oasis, for use of lyrics to Wonderwall.

Disclaimer: Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part XLIII

"What are you doing up?" Xander put the coffee away- then got it back out, put an additional scoop of it in his mug and sat down on the counter.

"Can't sleep." Willow shrugged, and tried to smile. "Th-this is kinda cool. The great Scooby sleepover."

"Yeah- oh God." Xander gagged after the first swallow of his coffee. "This has more coffee than water. It's like drinking dirt."

"But finest Columbian grown dirt." Willow tried to joke as she watched him drain the mug and puff out his cheeks, trying to keep it down. "Wow. I think I actually just saw you blur."

"That would be the shuddering." Xander put the mug in the sink and groaned as he felt the caffeine slam into his barely awake system. "Carpentry and caffeine jitters. The words 'do not mix' spring to mind."

She smiled, an empty gesture. He returned it.

"Think we'd be more freaked by now, wouldn't you?" Willow laced and unlaced her fingers on top of a stack of papers, and it was then that Xander noticed the table wasn't bare, it was almost groaning under the weight of leather books and ancient looking parchments.

"I think we're getting used to the majorly bad and we're kind of numb. Plus, we're going to stop it." Xander came and sat across from her. "Then we're gonna party. I say Bronze, with a side of Christmas and Hanukkah presents. Sound good?"

"Sounds great. With one problem. I have no idea how I'm supposed to do what I'm supposed to do." Willow clutched her hair as her head drooped.

"Huh?" Xander blinked. "But- the last time you made that cavern in the parking lot thing- it was... um. An accident. You didn't even have to try." He pointed out helpfully.

Or not. "I know! An accident. Tara was right." Willow rubbed at her eyes furiously, preventing hot drops from hitting scarred leather covers.

"I will never, ever believe Tara called you an accident, Will." Xander gently caught her hand, voice low.

"Not me. My magic. It's not steady, it's explosive. It scared her. It impressed her. But... she was worried because I'm all-" Willow looked across at him helplessly. "I'm like big gusts of wind, Xander. I blow through, I do a lot of damage, but you don't see a lasting effect, and you never really know where I'm coming from. Out of control."

"No. Gusty maybe, and gutsy, definitely. See what I did there? With my words?" He made her crack a tiny smile. "You make an impression on everyone. You still think we're the nerds in high school, Willow, but... I've got a secret to tell you."

Willow was alarmed by how serious his voice suddenly became. "Oh no. This has something to do with what happened to the hamsters in the biology lab, doesn't it?"

Xander blinked. "Focus, Will. No. The secret is- you got noticed all the time. Everyone knew who you were. You were the smartest one in school, smarter than the teachers most of the time. People weren't ignoring you, people were probably scared to death to talk to you- and by the time they figured out you were really a sweetheart, you were hanging out with this goofy loser guy that you'd been best friends with since daycare. You were always the awesome one, and you're still the smart one."

Her eyes burned for a different reason this time. "Why are you-"

"It's been on my to do list. Then with the whole god-on-a-rampage thing, I forgot." He shrugged, and let her much more delicate hands sink into his grasp more firmly. "You're going to go level that place, and send them scurrying. No where to hide this time, 'cause we'll be watching them."

"Sweet as you just were- which was a lot- I still don't have focus and control. Unless I'm high on the dark stuff, and that lead to badness, so... no. Xander, there are people who live there! All over that street. Glory might stay hidden from them, they might even have missed the whole battle on her front lawn, but they are there. I need a steady hand today, so I don't accidentally kill her neighborhood." Willow winced.

Xander nodded slowly. "Your hands seem pretty good right now." He raised them up, still locked in his. "I'll go. I'll be the anchor- if you think you need someone with you to still have them balance you. Maybe this time you'll actually let me do my job, huh?"

Willow hesitated, then regretfully shook her head, biting her lip. "I know you want to, and I know I said yes the other night, but I was being stupid and risky- like Tara said-"

"Do not finish that sentence." Xander cut her off with an urgent tug on her wrist.

She changed the tactic, "Magic isn't like anything else. You have kept me going through stage fright and stomach viruses and school dances, break ups and messy demon vampire apocalypse stuff, but when I do magic- it's not something you can really 'hold me' through. I don't think you can-"

Another cut off, this time her hands fell from his, but he seized them back, eyes burning into her quizzically. "Okay. Fine. I'm not the boy witch. I'm not Tara, I'm not 'Earth' or 'balance'. But magic is something in you, right? And she's in you, too, Will. Do you think Tara would like knowing she only matters if she's right next to you?"

"It's not like that!"

"So- don't let everything she makes you feel, everything she taught you- go away just because she can't be right there. I never for one second thought Tara had to hold your hand to help you do a spell, Willow. You just had to think about her and you were... it was like you were found, or something."

"Found." She rubbed her eyes on her shoulder this time, hands trapped in his. "She's not going away. She's not going away, Xander, she's always with me, it's just so hard to -" The crying suddenly wasn't just a few drops, it was a steady stream.

Xander pulled her along the edge of the table, into his arms, head on top of hers as he hugged her tightly, feeling her making a damp patch over his breast.

"No, she's not, Wills. And don't you ever leave me, either, okay? Take me with you, right to the end." He blinked away the black eyes and the lightening flashes and saw her smile, heard her laughing in his head. "Always be my Willow. You're not the only one who needs an anchor."


"That's risky. I like it."

"Good." Buffy scrubbed at the floor, he carefully stacked things back on the shelf. "There's not a mess, Luv. I didn't miss any drops." Spike licked his lip and finished shelving the disheveled mugs that they'd rattled right out of place during their passionate encounter last night. Could still taste her. He hummed on her, she hummed inside him. And her scrubbing, on her knees... "Slayer, you better get up, or we're gonna need to reset the shelves again."

"Put your clothes on." Buffy blushed. Naked Spike. Naked Spike parts right in front of her face when she straightened up and he turned around and- "No! No, no, we cannot have more sex in Giles' apartment."

"Sweetheart, I'm pretty bloody certain he knew we'd do somethin' like this. He probably just figured we'd use the bed."

Buffy winced. "No bed! No bed of Giles."

"We need to get back to our own bed, that what you're sayin'?" He teased and tugged on her arm, pulling her up to press against him.

"Yes. Or no. No, we need to get over to Mom's, we need to tell them what I thought of, see if it'll even work."

"Parts of it will. Got a few suggestions." Spike kissed her neck.

"Tell me."

He looked at her, eyebrows arching. "How 'bout that. Gonna make a plan of action together, are we?"

"Giles says you're linear. Whatever the hell that means."

"It'll still be risky, too many ifs and buts." Spike let her shove him along into the dark living room. "Not to mention, if Red puts 'em on the run, where are they gonna run to? Big part of what you're suggesting involves actually knowing where the hellbitch is."


"Is it all right if I put the television on?" Joyce asked awkwardly. Early morning tea, she was getting used to it, and now more eagerly awaited it since the crippling nausea was passing. What she wasn't used to was coming downstairs to find her dining room table covered in books, papers, and things that looked like they ought to come out of some old fairytale about wizards, and downstairs already full of busy people.

"We were just keeping it down until everyone was up." Anya hastily said.

"Blue!" Tara yelled suddenly.

"Well, as down as we could." Willow said apologetically, quickly retrieving Tara as she bolted across the room.

"How is she?"

"Better than last night." Anya looked immensely relieved. "She's not pacing like she was."

"An-and she's eating. She seemed to get really calm as soon as daylight hit." Willow curtailed her glare at Anya. I should have been the one watching over her last night.

But I have to help kill the thing that hurt my Tara.

So I guess glaring is not really appropriate...

"Glad to hear it. Rupert is just coming. You all certainly get up early. I thought with a house full of teenagers- or twenty year olds," she amended, "that you'd all sleep until noon." Joyce laughed nervously.

"We'd love to, but the construction industry stops for no man. Except when I get my coffee and lunch breaks." He looked at Willow and she nodded. They were going to try it, try manipulating air and earth, making a sinkhole that would halfway level Glory's hide out. But they would try it mid-morning, when most people in the area would be at work, out of their houses, just in case her spell went wide.

"And apocalypses really don't even wait for that." Anya said perkily. "Here. PB and J." She passed him a sandwich in a plastic baggy. "Anyone else need a lunch packed?"

"Spoon?" Tara muttered.

"Or a spoon?" Anya offered uncertainly.

"If we continue to live in a large group, I insist we get a larger hot water heater." Giles came downstairs, buttoning his shirt as he went, hair wet and slicked back. "Being the last of six to take a shower- all I got was a-" He stopped. "Good morning. Not important."

"Tea?"

"Thank you." Giles smiled gratefully at Joyce. He sipped and turned to look more fully on the assembled group, scattered between living room, dining room, and kitchen. "Any word from Buffy?"

"Not yet, but it's early. And Spike. Night creature. Maybe she's tucking him in." Xander kidded and looked at the clock. "I gotta get running, I need to get to work early if I'm gonna take off in the middle of the-"

Xander stopped speaking as Tara let out a shrill shriek and pointed to the television. Her noise was different this time, not random, but seemed to have some sort of direct, if unknown purpose.

"What is it? What's the matter, Baby?" Willow got in front of her and tried to speak soothingly. Tara started pacing and whimpering, trying to go towards the door, the set, and back upstairs all at once.

Anya and Joyce joined Willow in her efforts. "This is what she did last night." Anya went towards the front door.

Joyce hurried to the television. "Maybe the noise upsets her, I'll turn it off, I'm so sorry, I didn't think..."

"No, wait." Willow followed Tara's frantic steps and gesticulations and saw a familiar hill, familiar construction site. Only not quite as familiar. "What the heck?"


Buffy snagged the phone on the second ring.

"Turn on my television set. You know where I keep it. Local news."

"Oh no. What's going on?" Buffy moaned and motioned to Spike to drag the small set from the corner. With his vampiric hearing, he'd already gotten the message and was searching for stations in a split second.

"- calling it a strange act of vandalism, while a local youth advocate calls it an expression of urban art. The site is not under surveillance at this time, though the crews who work on the site have said they've noticed occasional changes to the structure in the past few weeks, never anything significant. However, this time the police are involved. The crew estimates they'll be thrown off schedule for a week to dismantle this additional structure-"

"Is that the place the snake almost bit you, Luv?" Spike peered at the screen.

"Shhh." Buffy waved at him and crouched beside him to get a better look. A better look at this "structure", not the place. She already knew that hill, those metal beams.

"We're involved for public safety reasons this time." A uniformed officer was now speaking. "The structure is extremely unsound, clearly put together by amateurs in a rapid and unregulated way. Crews will be kept off site until we finish examining the area, and then we'll be making sure the utmost safety is used in dismantling what appears to be a- tower of some sort."

"Buffy?"

Buffy gasped. She had forgotten Giles was still on the other end of the phone cradled on her shoulder. "Hey."

"Does that place look significant to you?"

"Killed the big snake there." Buffy said tightly.

"Willow thought so as well. Tara also seems to be reacting very-" there was a wail and a crash, "strongly to it."

"I don't think snakes built that." Buffy locked eyes with Spike, who nodded.

"Nor do I. Based on Tara's reaction, and the calculations we made earlier, I would almost assume that Glory's followers, or perhaps even her victims, are attempting to create a structure that will get her into the night sky. Recall the charts we showed you? The dimensions layering over each other, and we said, almost as if Glory could reach out and 'unlock' the door?"

"I got it, but, it's not really a door. I mean, Spike isn't really a- you know what."

"There still may be some truth to the idea that this is a physical location to a metaphysical event. That's been the case in many mystical events."

"Big words. No breakfast. You lost me. Anyway, look, I have an idea. Spike and I have one, actually."

"We're all still here, but Xander has to leave shortly for work."

"Then we'll be over fast."

"It's daylight, and it's dangerous."

"We'll take the tunnels. And by the way, when my first Slaying paycheck comes in, I'm blowing it. All of it. On shoes."

He had to chuckle."Understood. Be careful."

"We will."


"Had a thought." Spike ran in perfect unison with her, the air actually blowing past them by power of the wind they created with their speed.

"About the plan?"

"Not exactly. Know how sometimes I look a bit 'shiny' to certain folks?"

They weren't using direct terms outside of the protected spaces. Too risky.

"Mhm."

"Know how Rupes said we were hidden from demons but not from anything more, and once what's her face saw Tara, she must've passed on the information somehow? Or broke the juju Red did?"

"Yep. If this is a thought, could you get out with it a little faster?"

"Wonder if Tara could tell us if the big boss was receivin' or transmittin' last night. Not through herself, I know..." He made his voice more brusque to hide the pain he felt, "I know she protected all of us and know she's a bit buggered up in the brainpan right now-"

"So help me if you say 'buggered up in the brainpan' in front of Willow, Spike..." Buffy found time to glare and threaten as she leapt over low standing water.

"Think we hop onto the right frequency and get through some information? Just like you want to do for the- other thing." He again avoided referring to elements of her plan directly.

"I don't want to hurt her. I don't want there to be a link to you, either."

"I never thought I'd say it an' really mean it, Luv, but I trust what she said when she was in hospital. Everything you told me, I believe. That girl's pure."

Buffy noticed the edge of admiration, almost open affection in his voice and smiled. "She's special, isn't she?"

"Not as special as my girl, but, she's alright." Spike said quickly, with a shrug, then grabbed her arm. "This'll lead to the grate back of your mum's place."


"Who goes there, friend or foe?" Xander opened the door. "Always wanted to do that."

"Answer is neither." Spike huffed at him, but managed a smile for Joyce and a half-smirk for the rest- with one notable exception. "Where's -"

"Upstairs. She seemed to feel safer up there. For now." Willow managed to lift the corners of her lips in an exhausted smile. "Why?"

"Sit down. Mom-" Buffy hesitated.

"What?" Joyce asked without budging from her place on the armchair.

"You look tired."

"I'm fine, Buffy."

"Well, perhaps, you should rest, o-or perhaps you could go sit with Tara for a moment, Darling?" Giles suggested haltingly.

"I do not need to be treated like a child, Rupert." Joyce stared daggers at him. "Or an invalid or an idiot, young lady. You think I can't handle-"

"Not treatin' you like that. Treatin' you like a liability, 'cause you are. Any information you get paints a bloody bull's eye on you. Bad enough we're here with you now, just tightenin' the noose around your pretty neck. Won't be here for long, and you're puttin' your girl at risk every second you make her wait before startin' the action." Spike ground out in his most bruising tones. He knew Joyce wouldn't take kindly to it. He also bet the hatred would come back onto him, not buffy and that was what he vastly preferred, though it pained him.

Everyone was silent. Even Joyce- for a second. "Say what you have to say, Spike. And then you can stay out." She turned with her spine stiff and her eyes steely, gliding up the stairs.


No one called after her. "Sorry." Spike muttered once she was out of earshot. "Thought - I'd draw her fire."

"Well you certainly have." Giles' eyes flashed, and then dimmed. "In the situation, I suppose there's no time for finesse." Buffy was silent, torn between sadness, seething, and gratitude that her mother was at least not in the thick of it right now, nor wasting precious time being convinced to leave.

Everyone waited in an awkward, uneasy silence for Buffy to start speaking. She finally shook herself and began. "I know you need to go quick and work on a plan to keep her and the goon squad busy." She looked at Willow.

"I'm coming with her." Xander said. "Hence, me rushing to work in about- twenty minutes ago?"

"You might want to call in sick his afternoon and tomorrow. I think you're going to be busy." Buffy smiled.

"If you lose your job, it's not really going to matter if we lose the entire world." Anya pointed out. "Besides- holiday sales have been really lucrative. We'll get by."

"Anya telling the boy not to worry about money. Must be the end of the world." Spike grinned at her and she grinned back.

"What exactly am I going to be busy doing? Aside from being my supportive little self?" Xander asked nervously.

"First things, first. Willow, I know you're majorly burnt out, but... do you think you can do a summoning spell? If we helped you?"

"Summoning? Summon what?"

"Um. Whatever it is that's inside Tara."


There was arguing. Hissing. Discussions of probability.

Sometime in that three minutes, Xander sighed and phoned his boss, only to receive the convenient news that they'd already left a message at his apartment asking him not to come in today.

"Why?"

"I guess you didn't see the news. Some kids went nuts on the new market site. Police asked all construction sites in the area to postpone work until they could send over a couple officers to take statements and photos if anything was out of place."

"And- is something out of place?"

"Hell yes something is out of place. We're missing a quarter shipment of lumber and someone trespassed last night. Smashed right through the security fence."

"Wow. Um. Well, that's- not good."

"It's not. You know we're gonna have to work Christmas Eve to get through this right? Maybe New Year's Day, too, we're gonna be behind schedule at least a day waiting for the cops in this town to get off their asses and do something."

"I'm with you on the cops around here." Xander muffled a groan. "These thieves. They drove right through the fence?"

"I didn't say drove. I said smashed through. Like there's an outline of a body. It's freaking me out, Harris. I'm seriously considering taking that foreman position in Racina after this."

"I don't blame you. And it's cool about working Christmas Eve and New Year's." I'll be so happy to make it to New Year's Day, you could ask me to pound in nails with my forehead wearing a tutu and I'd probably be okay with it. "Seriously. Just don't- fire me. Okay?"

"No plans to fire anyone because they can't come into work when we can't work anyway. I'm not paying a guy to sit on his ass and watch some uniforms take pictures."

"Right. Good plan. Sir. Boss. I'll- see you soon." I hope.


"I know you don't like it, but just listen!" Buffy grabbed Willow's arm finally. "The conduit-channel thingy in Tara-"

"It's part of her! And she's not a dead person, she's not a spirit, she's here Buffy!"

"I'm only using the word summon because I don't know what else to say! Contact. Can we contact it?"

"I tried that. Don't you think I tried that?" Willow confessed brokenly. All last night, whenever she had a free moment, she asked, she pleaded, she begged from any part of Tara to say something coherent. occasional glimpses of sweet calm behind those blue eyes wasn't enough, and it should have been. She felt impatient, she felt like she was pushing and selfish, but she just didn't care sometimes when she was missing her so much and so worried about what was happening in her mind where no one could see. "It isn't like transferring a phone call, guys. I can't just say, 'May I speak to the ancient power, please, Willow for ancient power, line two,'!"

"So that tracks, Red. You need a bit more firepower to get through." Spike had added to this part of the plan, and took over the explanation. "When the Slayer an' I got stuck in that little frat party that went wrong-" Spike coughed uncomfortably, "she told me you an' your girl, and you," he nodded to Giles, "called up the spirit folks and held 'em off. I figure if you get a lot of repressed spirits of the livin' and the dead so show up in your flat, might not be a stretch to contact one part of Tara and ask it a couple questions."

Thoughtful looks were exchanged. Willow shook her head. The idea of somehow using Tara, or "summoning" up part of her was repugnant. "Tara was part of that triad. Giles and I are strong, but Tara-"

"Wasn't around when you cast that spell to put Angel's soul back." Xander pointed out. "You did that on your magical lonesome."

"We still have a triad. I was a witch before I was a demon." Anya pointed out. "I'm rusty, but hey. I get some practice these days, right?"

"Tara is a benign and familiar- hrhm. Not spirit. But would be receptive to familiar magical markers, such as ours. We can only try."

"If it hurts her, we'd stop. We- no one here wants to hurt Tara." Buffy stated sincerely.

"And everyone here knows what she already did to help us." Spike touched the stinging spot where his soul expanded at the thought of her brave sacrifice. "I like to think she'd help us finish the job."

Willow nodded finally. "All we can do is ask. I guess."


They made it a comfy circle on Buffy's bed, as opposed to the rigidity of a formal magical triad. Joyce was in her own room in a huff, Spike paced downstairs, Xander watched him pacing, and Buffy waited in the corner of her room, ready to ask some questions. Anya held one of Tara's hands, Willow let her broken one rest in her lap, cradling it with her free hand. Giles' hands joined Anya and Willow's.

Willow gently intoned, "The Voice of the Voiceless. Channeler. Conduit." Tara seemed to become more still with each term Willow murmured. "We do not wish to bind or summon you."

"We issue invitation." Giles bowed.

"We ask assistance."

"We love you and need your help to speak to someone we love."

"Which is you, yourself, you are one being, with two voices." Giles inclined his head even more deeply.

"Guide us. Answer us... Please?" Anya concluded.

Tara's eyes closed. She seemed to sway and her mouth opened once, then shut in a grimace. Opened again and a voice, Tara's but richer and sweeter, drifted out. "She loves you. She knows of your love."

"Is she okay? Are you okay?" Willow faltered.

"Troubled."

Buffy stepped up. "What troubles you? Her?"

"Control. The goddess seeks control, and she would have it, if it were not for the Channel, and the protections made."

"Keep this quick." Anya muttered as Tara seemed to pale by the second as she strained to speak with this ancient, normally unconscious piece of herself.

"Control of what? Can you tell us what she wants Tara- you- to do?"

A struggle to speak, "She sends pictures to stop the pain. It is illusion. I see the thoughts, I understand what is said without words, voice of the voiceless, I. At night only is she in power, and her servants are active."

"Wait, what? At night?"

"Only at night. In day she sleeps, her pictures leave. At night she rules a kingdom of minds. She sends pictures. Pictures of the staircase to her heaven, our hell. They think it is only wood and steel, and so they build. But it's more. Much more." Tara gave a sudden violent roll, and Willow gasped as she broke the chain to keep her still. It didn't seem to matter. As Spike and Giles had suspected, Tara didn't need to be "bound", simply reached properly.

"I don't want to hurt you, but I have to know something- can Glory see through you? You said you built a wall and took part of your voice, Tara silenced herself so the Channel could speak, but-" Buffy stumbled over her complex question, delving into things no mortal should ever have to understand.

"The wall holds. She doesn't look through my eyes, though she sends pictures through hers. Even those I see through, as I'm different from her other victims. You are safe. She doesn't understand my energy, and you are safe."

"Good." Buffy let out a shaking breath, this whole risky exercise now much less risky. "I know that- this is weird, um- Tara isn't as calm when you're -she- when this part of Tara, isn't speaking."

"It can't be helped."

"But maybe you can help us. We need a deolathrian's arrow, not a blade, for part of my plan to work. Willow needs another witch as strong and steady as you to make this work. Can you still be her anchor? Can this Conduit-y side of you be in charge?"

A pause. A very prolonged effort. Willow was on the verge of demanding they all stop making demands and leave, when the whispering, tolling voice answered.

"The Conduit, the Channel- it is not what does magic. It is magic. The old, old ways."

"I know." Buffy twisted her hand. Well, they'd have to think of something else.

"I will try. When you call on me to help, I will come, and I will do all I can. Or you can find a different kind of balance. Three may anchor one such as my love."

Willow's voice tremulously cut Buffy off before she could ask anything else. "My love? Me?"

Eyes flickered, a small smile caressed the pale, trembling cheeks. "Always."

Willow couldn't restrain herself. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to Tara's, and a blast of white light bathed her for a split second.

When she pulled back, Tara blinked up at her sleepily, then nestled into her side and fell asleep with a deep sigh. The Conduit was gone.

"It still might work then." Buffy came over to Willow and gently lifted Tara back onto the bed.

"What is this exactly?" Giles asked. "I'm tired of being fed bits and pieces."

"Now you know what it was like all through high school." Buffy winked at him. "I didn't want to go into plot explaining mode until I knew if we could get some help from Tara. Sounds like we did, in one way or another. C'mon, let's get everyone downstairs and together and we'll go over this."


"Step one." Buffy explained, hands behind her back, circling.

"Ooh, there's steps." Willow managed to show a trickle of enthusiasm. "Kinda want a chalk board now."

"Here." Giles offered her a pen, but she shook her head.

"Step one." Buffy repeated more firmly. "Willow, you go bust a hole in that house where Glory was. I don't know if it will shatter the illusion, which would be good because they'd at least have to stop and create a new one, but it will at least keep them on the run for a little bit."

"We do have some idea where she'll be running to." Giles straightened his glasses. "Tara's words confirm the idea that Glory is building an actual platform to the sky, but also tell us we don't have as much to fear during the day. That cuts it down to tonight- and tomorrow night. Which is-"

"The big showdown." Spike grinned cockily to hide the worry in his eyes.

"Right." Collective breaths were drawn, shoulders straightened. "Here's what we need to do. Flush her out of that house, because that place was pretty badass protected, and you can't go uber witch on breaking it down, when I need you to go uber witch on something else."

"What else?"

"The arrow."

"I can't do that without a triad, Tara said so."

"You have one. And while it's not perfectly, balanced, it's at least evenly distributed." Anya pointed out. "Fire, fire, air, air. You, Giles, Xander, and me."

Remembering the conversation she and Xander had had earlier, Willow didn't argue about him being included, merely nodded. "I'll try. We're going to try to kill her tonight?"

"If we can. If not, we're going to try to hurt her really bad- but she has to think I'm the one who did it. That's why it has to be the arrows, not the blade. Sorry, Wills, I know that's more tricky, with the aiming and all."

"No, we'll figure it out, but- isn't Glory thinking it's you going to be a lot more dangerous. For, well- you?"

"That's the point. She has to come after me, and I have to keep her busy until midnight tomorrow night. I have the Dagon's Sphere, which repels her. I think it might actually be working, even now, because otherwise, maybe she would have already found us, I don't know. The point is, maybe it'll be something I can use, until midnight-"

"When she tosses it to me and I, with my new Key-like insides become the master of this whatsis, the weapon." Spike proclaimed proudly. He gave a cheeky grin. "Gonna call m'self the 'god-slayer'."

Groans. Giles pinched the bridge of the his nose and shook his head. "Oh yes. Because you don't already have enough testosterone soaked nicknames, Spike, William the Bloody."

"I like it." Anya said.

"I like it, too. The plan part." Xander decided. "Tiny flaw, maybe?"

"I figured." Buffy shrugged and gestured for him to share.

"How are you going to keep her after you without you getting killed, and after we mess up her hideout, how are you going to find her tonight to get a shot in? What if she doesn't go to the 'staircase' to supervise?".

"Track her." Spike said confidently.

"I can't do a tracking spell on a god!" Willow exclaimed. She was silently already worried about how she would do any of the magic asked of her, yet desperation meant she would have to find a way.

"You can do it on a demon. She's got lots of the scabby things."

"Less now." Xander added with a touch of pride, and he and the vampire actually shared a pleased grin in acknowledgement of their joint efforts to diminish her ranks.

"That's a reasonable assumption. Gods must have their priests and acolytes, hers are demonic in nature. There are spells to locate a particular demon. A marked one, however. Willow can't simply say, 'I wish to mark one of Glory's demons,' and have done."

"But when she takes down their nest, they'll come running out." Anya stated factually. "And we can see them. They can see us now, too, but most of them will be busy running and cursing our species. Just pick one who seems bossy and 'mark' him. Bossy ones are usually the right hand type of people." Anya paused. "That's probably why I work so great with Joyce?"

Nods and mutterings of agreement went around the circle.

"Not to throw a wrench in this, 'cause it is coming together and everything," Willow hesitated and then continued, looking anxiously at her friends, hoping they would not think she was just wimping out on them, "but does anyone remember the last time I made a sinkhole in a parking lot? I think I kinda passed out afterward. How am I supposed to put that much whammy on Glory's place- probably will have to fight some kind of protective barrier, even if I'm going underneath the house itself- and then mark someone?"

"While I'm driving like hell so we don't get caught and get a retaliation whammy?" Xander asked.

"Someone else will have to do it. I suggest it be me." Giles rose and headed to the dining room table, murmuring in concentration.

"You?"

"You recall my unfortunate incident with Eyghon." Giles grinned stonily. "Being marked by a demon makes one curious about returning the favor, especially after the incident with Buffy and Ethan, and, well, let's just say there are ways of marking a demonic entity. I haven't tried it, but I do seem to- ah. Here it is." Giles had shuffled through the stacks of books and papers until he found a thin little volume and held it up. "All I need is a this incantation, some ink, and a map."

"We have that stuff." Willow said.

"Then we can attempt to accomplish 'phase one', as it were." Everyone nodded.

"So." Buffy grinned nervously. "I guess there's nothing to it, but to do it."

"And not die." Anya reminded them.

"That's a given around here." Xander put his arm around her.

"I'll get the map." Willow rose unsteadily. And kiss Tara goodbye.

"I'll get the ink." Anya said, holding Xander's arm tightly. Is there time for a quickie?

"I'll go apologize to my mom, and then we should really go." Buffy paused in front of Giles.

"She'll understand in the end."

"Don't say 'the end'." Buffy quipped, and turned away to face her other half. "Spike, you-"

"Tunnel. Luck everyone. Give us a ring when you're done." He strode to the backdoor without more than a cursory nod at all of them, his tough vamp act in place.


"Mom." Buffy tapped lightly on Joyce's door.

There was a shuffling sound, then Joyce appeared, opening the door silently.

"Hi. I um, I came up to say goodbye for now." Maybe forever. Will I get a chance to come back before tomorrow night? Will it even be safe enough, if I do?

"You're leaving?"

"Yeah. We have stuff we have to do. Anya's staying here, Tara, too. If you need anything."

"Does that matter? What I need?" Joyce crossed her arms.

"Oh, Mom, don't do this. Not now." Buffy begged.

Joyce sighed. "Buffy, be careful."

"I have to fight, Mom, I have to-"

"Not just who you're fighting. Who you're friends with." Joyce hugged her tightly.

Buffy hugged her back, blinking. "You'll understand. Later."

"Will I? I don't know, Buffy. Maybe I'll always wonder what he's really like, that vampire you love. Sometimes I don't think you really know him. I don't think he let's us know him. Sometimes I think he's just acting."

He is. Only you can't tell which parts are real, and what's a front, you don't know why he does it. Maybe you won't care when this is over. Maybe you'll stop wondering when he saves all of us. "Maybe."


"Where is he?"

"Behind us."

"I can't see him."

"You don't have the rearview mirror angled right- no, don't touch it, geez, Will!" Xander batted her hand down. "Trust me, okay? Trust G-Man. He'll be there to do his marking thing."

"How can you be so calm?" Willow demanded.

"It's you." He shrugged, hit the radio and pushed the gas. "I've seen what you can do."

"I know you have. It's not always good."

Xander looked over at her. "Yeah. I know that, too."


Today is gonna be the day

That they're gonna throw it back to you

By now you should've somehow

Realized what you gotta do

I don't believe that anybody

Feels the way I do about you now


"I'm freaking. And this is only step one."

"I'm not freaked at all."

"I'm so tired. I can't tell anyone else, but-"

"Willow. This is the bitch that hurt Tara. This is the house where they took her. Do you really think you'll have trouble leveling that place? Swallowing it up in the ground, blowing it up in a twister, whatever? Think about who it's for."

Her eyes took on a slick black sheen, just for a minute.

Back beat, the word is on the street

That the fire in your heart is out

I'm sure you've heard it all before

But you never really had a doubt

I don't believe that anybody feels

The way I do about you now

"I could do a lot more if I had some of the other books." Willow whispered. "Some of the books I know Giles has, but won't show us..."

"Yeah, you could. But you won't."

"You don't know that." Willow looked over at him, eyes still glassy and opaque.

You kill me. You're insane lightning flinging goth girl with the spiderweb face. I never want you to know that I know you could go there. I don't want you to know it either. I wonder if you already know it, or is there some deep dark part of you the pain has to hit before you find out?

And all the roads we have to walk are winding

And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

There are many things that I would

Like to say to you

But I don't know how

"Hey, Black Eyes. I know one thing about you- no matter how dark-funky-crazy you get- you love people and you want to save them. Remember that. You- in the end- you save me."

Because maybe

You're gonna be the one that saves me

And after all

You're my wonderwall


The truck circled the neighborhood, and Giles' car circled after it. Eventually Giles picked a spot, a vantage point on a slight rise, pulling off along the street.

"Wills?"

"I'm working on it. You can't rush magic." I always try to, but Tara knows it better. After all, it is her.

"I'm here if you need me. What can I do?"

"Don't stop driving until I tell you, and- and don't leave."

"I am not going to leave you. Ever, no matter what."


Today was gonna be the day

But they'll never throw it back to you

By now you should've somehow

Realized what you're not to do

I don't believe that anybody

Feels the way I do

About you now


She could feel the wind behind her eyes, like she was standing in an open field inside her head, where only she could see it. It would be so easy to blow this street off the map.

It was easy to grab power right now. It was hard to handle it, gently, deftly, evenly.

That's why Tara is so important. That's why I need her.

"She's right there, Will. Right inside." Xander's voice came right at the crucial moment, though he disturbed her concentration. Maybe it was a good thing he did.

"I know."

"Remember all the stuff she told you."

"Xander, shhh."

"Okay, I'm shushed."


And all the roads that lead you there were winding

And all the lights that light the way are blinding

There are many things that I would like to say to you

But I don't know how


Earth, Air, Earth Air, balance us, make us one. Make us one. Make us one.

She in me and I in her, and I save her and she saves me.


I said maybe

You're gonna be the one that saves me

And after all

You're my wonderwall


I ride this wind and plow this earth. I break these bonds. I smash these walls. In her name.


"What is that?"

"What's what?"

A minion stopped scrubbing a blood soaked patch of carpet. "Didn't you feel that?"

"Did anyone else feel that?" Jinx scurried down the stairs.

"The ground shook! I told you the ground shook!" The scrubbing minion said smugly.

"We're in California. There are earthquakes all the time." Another minion passed by with a shrug.

"Someone is bothering the barriers!" Dreg screeched into their midst, leading a trio of mages and priests.

"What?"

"The shaking is getting worse! This is not an earthquake!"

"Where is Master Ben?" Jinx suddenly demanded.

"It's the Byzantium!" A frantic voice proclaimed from the stairs.

"It's that stupid witch!" A mage hissed angrily.

Jinx ignored them all. "Where is Master Ben? Where is GLORY?"


Xander's jaw fell and he stared. He had to shake himself to remember to keep driving, although now just in a tight block, as Willow murmured and gripped and tore invisible strings beside him. He saw her hair lifting, then darkening. His hand reached out and squeezed her knee.

Willow breathed, and made one final fierce gesture, as if crushing something in her hands. "Crumble."


A silent explosion, implosion, Giles couldn't describe it. There was no noise at first, just a sudden sinking. Then the cracking. Walls folding inward, nothing outward, the strike surgical yet huge. In moments, one house in a row of expensive manors simply seemed to fold in on itself and collapse as if being broken down by unseen hands.

"Come along you little bastards, come out, come out..."


"How bad is it?" She wouldn't look.

"See for yourself."

She could hear the grin in his voice, feel the truck speeding up. She dared open her eyes, once again green.

"Oh my God. It worked."

"You worked. I said you would."


I said maybe

You're gonna be the one that saves me

And after all

You're my wonderwall


"Got him." Giles saw several flee- all identical, no one standing out as god or goddess, or human in form. All clearly the small scabbed creatures he'd faced the other night. One did indeed seem to be gesticulating wildly, more than the others, herding the scatterers, shunting them quickly off the street, to find cover.

"Look upon thy cursed countenance, and my eyes mark it well, my hand trap your image." He whispered, eyes unblinking from the stringy haired figure. He let a drop of his own blood mix with a drop of ink, and fall to the map unfolded on the seat beside him. His vision blurred and the image transferred.

"Got him indeed."


"We didn't get her, but we've got one of them traced, and the nest is down. Willow's crashed upstairs, she and Tara are both sleeping off magical hangovers or whatever. I think they both need it, before tonight."

"Good. That's good."

"Where are you guys?"

"Laying low." Buffy looked anxiously from the pay phone to the blacked out car.

"Where do you want us to meet you?"

"We'll call back before sunset. If Giles finds out they settle into some new spot, we'll just head over there. Does Willow have everything she needs? What does she even need?" Bad friend. Bad "general", I don't know all this stuff...

"A butt load of concentration and mondo super focusing powers and then mega magic."

"She's got that."

Xander hesitated. "Yep, all good."

Buffy swallowed. "I like the theme. You know, this whole 'Chosen Posse', not 'Chosen One' thing. Everyone has to save the day."

"Yeah, wholesale cape and tights time." Xander laughed weakly. "Seriously though- I feel like I might hurl."

"Me, too."

"So it's not just the fact that I'm a regular guy without superpowers?"

"No, it's a death-facing thing, and it's pretty universal."

"I feel a little better now."

"Good. I need you tonight. I need everyone tonight."

"Don't worry. We'll be there."


I said maybe

You're gonna be the one that saves me

You're gonna be the one that saves me

You're gonna be the one that saves me


To be continued...