CHAPTER 9: The Wolves Gather Round

CHAPTER RATING: T

CHAPTER PAIRING: n/a

TIMELINE/SPOILERS: Post-TV Series AU; takes place immediately after my story "A Midwest Monster of the Highest Grade"

DISCLAIMERS: All BtVS characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions.

CHAPTER CREDITS: n/a

CHAPTER NOTES: This short one is filled with a lot of quick back-and-forth scenes that I hope will relay the sense of urgency in everyone's actions. Things are happening very quickly right now as our gang finally reconvenes!


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Tara was hovering outside Madame Polina's window when the old witch got the call.

She had been missing Willow but didn't want to intrude in case she was a distraction. Willow was there for help. The kind of help that Tara couldn't provide. But she was so torn. She wanted to be supportive. She wanted to be near her lover. She wanted to protect her just in case…

So it was fortunate, then, that Tara had been there just at that moment. Because time was clearly NOT on their side now.

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"Are you serious?" Buffy asked when Tara gave them the news.

Spike had been pacing the kitchen, but stopped suddenly. "No, that can't be. That doesn't even make sense."

Tara had tried to tell them that she heard the conversation. It was definitely Giles and definitely Dru and they were definitely on their way to Madame Polina's house.

"Okay, well even if that's true, it's not like they can go there now. Not unless Giles wants Dru to dust…" Dawn threw in.

They all looked at each other with varying levels of horror, though none of them knew if the others were worried about the same thing. They just knew they needed to find a way to stop whatever was about to happen.

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Even though they had left in a hurry, Giles hadn't forgotten about such things as flight lengths or time differences. It's just that flights from London into Cleveland didn't happen at all hours of the day. So they would be trapped there during daylight hours. That didn't worry him. Or, rather, that didn't worry Ripper, who had managed to hide some spell ingredients in their carry-on luggage. He whipped up a magicked cloak for Dru that would protect her from the sunlight, at least for as long as it took them to reach Polina's place. The cab driver estimated the trip to be about a half hour. Yeah, it would do.

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The stressful-sounding commotion on her front porch was enough to undo all the time and effort she had spent on Willow, the old witch thought as she rushed to see what was going on. She anticipated a bunch of kids wanting tarot readings, which is what most of her business tended to be this time of year. But it was a bit early in the day for that, and she didn't remember flipping on the neon "open" sign yet.

Polina had left Willow in the kitchen to finish tending to the dishes and hoped that would keep her busy enough to ignore whatever was happening outside. When she peeked out the window she found a trio of girls frantically trying to smother the flames coming from someone covered in a blanket. The old witch had been expecting Rupert Giles today, not this.

Tara was the first to notice that the door had opened. "We're sorry to intrude, but…"

"I told you we needed to go to the airport first!" Spike yelled from beneath the smoking material as Buffy and Dawn tried to keep him from igniting along with it.

Madame Polina was not pleased. "What on earth is going on here?"

"H-has Mr. Giles been by? W-we were looking for him," Tara asked carefully. Really what they were doing was chasing after Spike in order to prevent a potentially worse scenario. None of the women knew exactly what his reaction to Giles' return meant, but they were each pretty sure it wasn't positive. The airport was too far away for them to reach in daylight, but the old witch's place was doable. Kinda.

"No, he hasn't," Polina replied coldly. Then she pointed to Spike with a crooked finger. "And I thought I told you to stay away until I said Willow was ready."

"Please, lady," Dawn pleaded. All of this was getting to be too much already. She tried to hold back tears, but her eyes stung. "Something's happening, and we need…"

Her words were cut off by the movement of Madame Polina's eyes towards the street, and the sound of a car door slamming.

Tara put her hand to her mouth as she saw Drusilla flanking Giles, the sunlight beaming down around them.

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Anyone passing by Papa Jean on the street would think he was just a homeless person wandering about. His ragged vestments masked the power and prestige he held. Just a shriveled old man, hunched over and concentrating on the pavement before him. He had his bag of spell ingredients wrapped in a white cloth bundle, clutched tightly in his gnarled hands. Any number of his followers would have gladly driven him to the hellmouth's opening, but he didn't want anyone to know of what he was about to do. There was a chance that he'd perish in this attempt, and he didn't want the vampire to have another body to inhabit if that were the case. There was also the chance that what he was about to conjure would want more of a sacrifice than he was willing to give; he'd rather not have any of his followers become such fodder. So he walked on, not minding how long it would take. It was still daylight, and he had until the moon fell away to finish his task.

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