Chapter 36

The next morning found Willow in the kitchen, head cradled on the tops of her arms as she leaned on the bar counter.

"Here," Dawn said, placing a glass of orange juice next to the redhead, "Drink this."

Willow moaned without lifting her head. "Don't wanna move."

"Mom used to make chicken soup with stars for me when I didn't feel well. Do you want me to make you some?"

"It's nine in the morning," Willow said pitifully, "I don't want soup."

The witch lifted her head and glanced at the orange juice, right away feeling the bile rising in her throat. Holding back the gag she turned away; she didn't want any food right now. She just wanted to be left alone.

Unfortunately, in a house with over twenty teenage girls, being left alone was near impossible.

She had nearly passed out on the lawn the night before, letting her magic levels drop so low she could barely stand. She had been drained to the point of exhaustion, so weak it had been extremely difficult to fight back against the darkness inside her. Normally, her magic reserves, meditative control, and sheer force of will were how she fought back against losing herself like she had a year before. But without any of those it was nearly impossible to stop the dark magic inside her from turning her into a vein-y, black haired, black eyed she-bitch.

Thankfully, she had been so exhausted, mentally, physically, and magically that she had passed out right as she stepped through the doorway back into the house, still in the process of making the blackness over her eyes fade.

She woke up on a cot in Dawn's room hours later when the teen, stealthily trying to get dressed in the morning without waking her, had stubbed her toe on the dresser and then, while cursing, ended up stepping on and tripping over the redhead.

Not a nice way to wake up after you pass-out from shear magical fatigue.

Now the redhead was in the kitchen nursing a headache the size of a very grumpy elephant; the after-effects of using so much magic. She'd been awake only an hour and had already had two nose bleeds, a dizzy spell, and a lovely date with the toilet bowl.

The redhead was not in a very pleasant mood.

"Are you going to drink it?"

Willow blanched at the thought, "I'll pass."

Dawn frowned, but took the glass and drank it for herself. "Mmm, yellow, sunshine-y goodness. Perfect for a magical hangover."

"Dawnie, please. I'm going to be sick again."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Make everyone in the house leave the city so I can suffer through this headache in peace?"

"Yeah, I don't think I'm in a position to do that. Might get in trouble if I suddenly make everybody hit the road. My sister would probably get mad. She'd end up like, pissing rocks or something equally gross."

"Thank you so much for that imagery."

The sound of gentle padding feet, which sounded more like battle drums to Willow, made the redhead turn but not lift her head. Daniela happily skipped into the room, humming cheerfully. Her face fell when she saw Willow with her head down, "Not feeling good?"

"Just the magic, it will get better."

"Did you want breakfast, Dani?"

She nodded, "Grapes."

"That's it? Just… just grapes?"

"Yep."

Dawn looked sceptical but didn't argue, and instead began rooting in the bottom of the fridge for the bag of grapes. "I'm pretty sure they weren't eaten yet…"

"Remind me," Willow began, "To thank Anya the next time I see her for getting the Potentials outside so fast this morning."

Dawn giggled, "What's she even doing with them? It's not like she's an expert on fighting."

"I think she was just taking pity on me," the redhead let her eyes close. "They were so loud."

As Dani and Dawn munched on the grapes Willow enjoyed the near-silence of the house. There were still people inside making noise, and she could hear the girls in the backyard, but it was better than it had been before, for which she was grateful.

And then Xander, Andrew, and Giles stomped into the room and the redhead whimpered. She didn't bother to listen to what they were saying, instead trying to block them out as much as possible. She wasn't very successful.

"The front window is officially boarded up now, ladies. Meaning no more tossing Bringers through the glass."

"And scaring the living crap out of everyone inside! You put us in a panic!"

"Whatever, Andrew."

"Xander, I already informed you it was Spike's doing; go and argue with him. However, do you think its best we have the window sealed off?"

Xander sounded aggravated, "Why? It means I don't have to fix it anymore until all this is over."

"Yes, but that window is a primary…"

Dawn's voice was gentle next to her, "Why don't you try going back to sleep? Or meditate? Don't you do that when your magic is low?"

Willow considered the idea. She felt more like crawling into a dark corner and not leaving for a few months, but mediation sounded like a good plan; some nice, light, easy, non-magically-painful mediation. And maybe a bubble bath.

"Actually, I think tha-" The room spun violently around her and Willow had to grab the countertop to keep from falling over with dizziness.

Dawn griped her shoulder tightly to keep her from losing her seat, "Willow?"

Everything righted itself a moment later, only to start spinning again. The strong tugging inside her told Willow it wasn't her headache, it was her magic. The barrier to her bedroom had just been opened.

"They're awake," both she and Dani said at the same time.

"What?" Giles asked, looking over at the redhead.

"I felt the barrier open, from the inside out. Buffy and Faith are awake." She looked at Dani, "How did you know that?"

"Don't know. I just… did."

"Alright, the Buffster's awake. How about we all run upstairs and-"

"Xander, I think it'd be better if we let them come down themselves. They're probably feeling a little disoriented." Like me.

"Oh, come on. Hugs never hurt anyone."

I beg to differ. If you hugged me right now I'd probably lose whatever is left in my stomach.

"Hey guys," Buffy said from the doorway a few moments later. Faith appeared next to her. Willow sat up fully and turned in her seat to face them; they both looked a little tired and weakened from the physical drain the intense dreaming would have taken on their bodies. Dani immediately bounced over to hug her sister, but moved back afterwards; seeming to sense that Faith was worn-out.

"Hello Buffy, Faith, how was your dream sleep thing?" Andrew asked. "And… where did the axe come from."

Willow's focus moved to the shiny red weapon that was dangling loosely next to the blonde's leg. At Andrew's address she held it up for everyone in the room to see.

"Is that the weapon you mentioned earlier?" Giles asked, "The one the First Slayer was carrying?"

"Sure is. She called it the scythe."

"The First Slayer?"

"Uh… no. The lady in Faith's dream."

"And," Dawn raised her eyebrows, "How exactly did it go from inside your head to into your hands?"

"Not really sure. It was there when we woke up."

"That is quite interesting, displacing objects during astral projection. It must be of great significance to you if you were able to move it."

"We think it belongs to the Slayer, that might have made it easier for us to move," Buffy continued. "It feels… powerful. It's making a little humming in my head. And the Slayer in me is restless, like she recognizes it."

"It has a mystical power source?"

"I don't really know, Giles," Buffy insisted, "We didn't really get a whole lot of information about it. Just, 'take hold what is yours.' And 'it belongs to you.' And then the minute we both were touching it, poof, back in awake-land. It's definitely got some magical mojo though; think you're up for taking a look, Wills?"

Willow tried very hard not to flinch at the thought. Her eyes did squeeze shut a moment before she nodded, fighting another wave of dizziness.

"Red, are you okay?" This from Faith.

The witch nodded again, "Fine. I'm only tired."

Both Slayers studied her intently. Faith looked concerned, Buffy looked curious. The blonde then glanced around the room at everyone else, questioningly. "What happened?"

"Nothing, Buffy, everything is quite-"

"What happened while we were asleep?" Her voice was clipped.

"Just a bit of a magical battle," Xander offered, "No big deal."

"No big deal? The house gets attacked and you say no big deal?"

"No one got hurt. Well," Andrew tried to clarify, "bruises and cuts maybe, but we clearly came out victorious."

"Why didn't you wake us up?"

"Hey, don't look at me. I was all for waking the Slayers." Xander pointed a thumb at Willow, "She was the one who insisted we do it alone."

Willow wasn't even sure she had the energy to argue back.

"You guys, don't get mad at Willow," Dawn tried to stay calm. "She didn't want Buffy and Faith to wake up with scrambled eggs for brains."

"Which is appreciated," Faith said, now standing next to Willow. During the argument she had casually made her way over to the redhead, and was now standing beside, her leaning back on the bar counter. "You sure you're okay?" she whispered lowly.

The witch nodded. Her eyes fluttered closed in relief as the brunette Slayer's fingers lightly brushed against her back, offering comfort. The redhead forced her lids open again, not want to draw attention to herself, but she leaned back into the other girl's touch, basking in the feather-light caresses. Faith had a way of making whatever was wrong go away.

The core Scoobies were still at ends. "Look, I'm glad no one got hurt. But I'm just not sure I like the idea of you guys being without both Slayers in a fight."

"Need I remind you the dream-walk was your idea?"

"Giles-"

Willow spoke up, "It's not as bad as it sounds, Buffy. The barrier held as long as it could. And I'm the one that took most of the damage, keeping it up and holding them back as long as I did. I'm only out of it because my magic slipped so low." Buffy still looked tense. "Why don't we just leave it, okay?" the witch continued, "It all turned out alright here, and you and Faith had your dream and brought back some information, right?" Faith's fingers swirled on her back in encouragement.

Buffy launched into a recap of the dreams, "We went through mine first. First we were at The Bronze; Caleb was there. He was looking for something, but he wouldn't tell us what. But I got that it was pretty important, probably something powerful enough to tip the playing stakes."

"Your scythe, perhaps?"

"Maybe," the blonde addressed Faith, "What did he say, whatever he was looking for had everything to do with us, but he wanted to find it first?"

"Sounds right."

"And then after The Bronze we met with the First Slayer-"

"After walkin' through the orange trees."

Buffy looked un-amused at her sister Slayer, "Thank you for mentioning that."

"Buff," Xander smirked, "You dreamt about oranges?"

"Can we move on? The oranges weren't important. Anyway, we talked with her, we were able to see the whole dream; it didn't just end where I had woken up. She had a lot to say…"

Willow tuned Buffy out unintentionally, the room was starting to do lazy circles around her again. "Hey, you okay?" Faith asked quietly in her ear, low enough for no one else in the room to notice.

"Just weak. I haven't felt this drained for… a long, long time. Not since… not since right after Tara," Willow replied just as quietly without looking away from the group, knowing Faith could hear her with her enhanced hearing.

"You gonna be okay?"

"Mmm, just give me a few hours. I bounce back. Relatively. I'm glad you guys made it out okay, too."

Glancing around the room, she caught Dawn's eye. The little brunette was giving her a curious expression. She let her eyes drop to Willow's hip, where Faith's hand was currently resting. Dawn tilted her head to the side ever so slightly, analyzing. After a moment she looked away, focusing back on the conversation at hand.

Willow felt all the blood draining from her face. What exactly was going on inside Dawn's head and just how perceptive was she?

"She and the lady in Faith's dream talked an awful lot about power. We need to understand the true power we yield, which we can't be told, only discover. We need to focus the power given to us."

"Firstie said something about the power you changed," Faith said, addressing Buffy.

"Well, yeah. She told me death was my gift. So I died. Then I came back. Kinda defying how the power is supposed to work."

"And you're sure this is in relation to your scythe?"

Faith answered, "Both our ladies were holding it when they were talking about our power. I'm thinkin' we need to take a deeper look at this thing, find out exactly what it is."

"And why you were able to bring it back from your dream," Andrew added.

"What about Faith's dream," Xander asked. "Anything specific from there?"

The two Slayer shared an intense look; Faith broke the eye contact first, looking away to let the blonde do the talking. Buffy sighed, "We didn't get a whole lot out of it. Most… most of the things going on had already happened; her dream was more precognitive than informative like mine. Her sister in the mirror, the attack on the backyard."

"Settin' the tree on fire," Faith said, raising her eyebrows in amusement.

"And then the lady with the scythe. That was the only relation between our dreams."

"And that was all?" Giles pushed, "Nothing more happened after this strange woman?"

Buffy looked a little hesitant, "N-no, that was it."

Xander scoffed, "Because that was laced with confidence."

"Buffy, the point of this excursion was for you two to bring back as much information as possible. We need every detail you can manage."

Willow watched Buffy's eyes flick nervously to Faith, unsure if she should answer.

What happened that they… The witch remembered her conversation with Faith the day before, when Faith had asked if she could skip over part of the dream. Now there's something they both don't want to say?

Willow tipped her head back to look of at the brunette, "Faith?" she asked timidly.

"We… we met up with someone from my past," she answered loud enough for everyone else to hear. "It… I handled it."

"Faith," Giles pressed. The redhead felt a small tingle of dread crawl up her spine, Giles needed to stop pushing her.

"Come on, Faith," Xander encouraged, "We all have nasties in our closets. It might be relevant."

"Trust me, it isn't relevant." Her eyes moved to Dani, who was looking at her with a small frown.

"Faith-"

"Really don't want to talk about it."

"I must insist-"

"Giles," she warned again.

"The point of this excursion was to bring back informa-"

"Just spill, Faith."

"Fine, you want to know what happened?" Faith barked, "My dead mother came at me with the damn scythe and tried to kill me? Happy?" She stormed from the room.

An awkward silence descended, everyone a little taken back by Faith's outburst.

Willow wanted to get up from her seat to follow the Slayer but held herself back. If Dawn had noticed how close they were standing moments ago, how would it look if she were the one to follow Faith out? And if Dawn had noticed, had anyone else?

Too bad for them, she thought, deciding Faith's welfare was more important. She got up from the chair, only to be halted by none other than Dawn. The younger girl had sighed dramatically, "Fine. I'll be the one to go see if she's okay."

"Since when are you and Faith all buddy-buddy?" Buffy asked with scepticism.

"I have compassion," Dawn scoffed. "And I don't see any of you jumping to go after her," she gave Willow a quick but knowing wink and then left the room.

And then even more panic set in for Willow.