Chapter Six: Rituals (part 1)
“She’s not answering. Xander they’re not answering!” Xander let out a frustrated breath.
“I know, An. I was here when you knocked.”
“Don’t be a smartass. Why aren’t they answering? Their cars are here; it’s daylight so Spike should at least be here.” She stared at the door for a moment. “Something’s wrong; I’m going in.”
“Why are you so worked up? Them not being here doesn’t have to mean there’s some big disaster.” Anya shot him a look of disbelief.
“Are you new here?” She dug in her purse for the key. “You lived on the Hellmouth for how many years? Then all the craziness that’s happened lately, and you can still say there’s nothing hinky about this situation?” Unlocking the door, she stepped into the house. “Dawn! Spike! Are you guys here?” No answer. “See,” she said, glancing back at Xander.
“Just because they aren’t here…”
“They didn’t drive anywhere so what did they do – go for a walk in broad daylight? Yeah, that’d be real romantic what with Spike burning to a cinder.” She passed the kitchen and then backed up when she noticed the mess. Several drawers were open and things were strewn about the counter and the floor. Anya shook her head, her voice trembling, “Definitely hinky.”
* * * *
They weren’t home. What was with everyone being gone when she popped in? Maybe Spike was right and she should start calling ahead, but she’d always figured there was no point in racking up phone charges when it was quicker to just…appear. Now what? she wondered. Should she wait here or head back to Sunnydale? Her gaze came to rest on the phone, and she groaned at her stupidity. Xander’s cell phone. She could find out where they were and go to them.
She rushed over, snatching up the receiver and almost collapsed when a shock coursed through her body. What the hell? She glanced at her hand in amazement; it was glowing. She dropped the phone and closed her eyes as she leaned down to place both hands flat against the floor. Odd. She’d have to ask Anya and Xander about that when she found them. Opening her eyes, she retrieved the phone and punched in Xander’s number.
* * * *
“So now what do we do?” Xander asked. “I mean, do we just start looking around town? Do we need to call somebody?”
“Well, the address book was opened to Willow and Tara’s number; maybe they know something.” Anya heard a noise and looked over at Xander. “What is that?”
“Cell phone.” He pulled the phone out of his jacket pocket. “That’s probably them now.” Anya looked doubtful. “Hello? Dawn! We were just talking about- What? Your place; Anya’s got it into her head-” Suddenly, she was there in front of him and he jumped back with a yelp. “Dammit Dawn! You’re not supposed to do that.”
“Sorry but I’m in a hurry.”
“Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” Anya asked.
“Yeah, we’ve got another crisis. Happened last night, but we didn’t even think to call you guys.”
“What is it? What’s going on?”
“Somebody- somebody’s taken Willow.” She glanced over at Xander. “You guys need to come with me. We- we don’t have a lot of time.”
* * * *
“I just don’t understand how this happened. I mean, what happened to Dawn’s evil-is-afoot radar?” Xander glanced at Dawn in confusion. “Aren’t you supposed to have some sort of early warning system?”
“Now look here,” Spike said, leaning forward angrily. “This isn’t her fault!”
“No,” Xander shook his head in frustration. “That’s not what I meant. I just… I’m confused about how things went down.” He turned back to Dawn. “I’m not blaming anyone.”
“I know, Xander. I think Spike’s just a little on edge.” Spike took her hand in his, giving it a comforting squeeze. “These vampires that took her, they’re very powerful. They’re working to block me and they’re having a lot of luck.” She glanced toward the back room to make sure Tara was still out of earshot. “I- I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to find out where they’re keeping her.”
“What are we going to do?” Anya asked.
“Well, I’m going to work on finding out where they might be holding her. I was going to have you and Xander check out the papers to see what’s been going on, but I think you’d be more useful helping me.” Dawn glanced over at her friend in speculation as Xander’s head shot up in confusion.
“I was at your place earlier, and I picked up on some odd energy fluctuations.” She met Anya’s eyes. “Do you know anything about it?”
“Energy fluctuations? What do you mean?” Xander asked, but Dawn stayed focused on Anya.
“Xander said you knew something was wrong. How?”
“I- I’m not sure really. Sometimes I get a flash, like for a second I see something in my mind, but it’s very brief and then I’ll feel worried or nervous.” She shrugged. “Sometimes it’s flashes of happy stuff.”
“Wait a minute,” Xander interrupted. “I thought you said you just had a feeling something was wrong?”
“I did,” Anya said, looking at him with exasperation. “Weren’t you paying attention to what I just said? About the feelings?”
“Yeah but you said you get flashes of stuff. You didn’t tell me that this morning; I’d have taken your concern a little more seriously.” Anya snorted inelegantly.
“No you wouldn’t have. You’d have brushed it off as another crazy Anya moment like you always do. I’m not always talking out of my ass, you know. It might be nice if you’d take me seriously every now and then.” Xander looked embarrassed.
“I didn’t realize you felt that way. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Sometimes-” She broke off when she noticed everyone watching them. “Maybe we could save this conversation for later.” Xander looked reluctant but nodded in agreement. Anya turned to Dawn. “So what does that have to do with the…whatever it is that you felt at our place.”
“I’m not sure exactly what it all means, but it felt like…” she trailed off uncertainly.
“It felt like what?” Spike prompted.
“It felt like me,” Dawn said in astonishment.
“What?” Xander asked. “Felt like you? What the hell does that mean?”
“My…essence, the energy. Your apartment is practically buzzing with Key energy.”
“How is that possible?” Anya asked. Dawn shook her head.
“I have no idea, but I think it might be why you’re having these flashes of intuition. That’s also why I think you can help me find Willow.”
“But-” Xander said but Dawn interrupted,
“Look, we can get into that later. Right now we need to focus on the monotonous research portion of the battle.” She picked up the book lying on the table. “This book should give us the order and description of each ritual that the Jhidara must perform. I need the details of each and its specific purpose. We need to get our hands on as many national newspapers as we can, going back as far we can find. I need to know which rituals have been performed and if their intended result has come to pass.” She glanced at Giles. “That book you were studying when I picked you up; it’s important, yes?”
“I managed to get hold of a copy of the Uldarian text in its original language. I thought it might prove useful.”
“It will. Is it one of the languages you can read?”
“It’s similar to several known languages, but it could prove to be tricky.”
“If you need any help let me know. For now I need Anya and Tara to help me find Willow.” She leaned over to call down the hallway, “Tara?”
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Not yet, but I’m sure it’s here. Give me a few more minutes.”
“Okay. Let me know when you’re ready.” Dawn stood and everyone followed suit. “Okay. Let’s get to it. Anya, you’re with me. Spike?”
“You help Giles and Xander for now. And be careful.” They shared a brief kiss, and Spike brushed a strand of hair off her face.
“You too, sweet.”
* * * *
“Well, we’re definitely back in Sunnydale,” Xander said. Spike finished lighting his cigarette and took a long drag.
“Oh, come on. Poring over musty old books all afternoon? Then when the sun goes down here I am roaming the streets, getting ready for a little breaking and entering.” He shook his head slightly. “This is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, if you’re lucky.” Xander gave him a funny look.
“Well, it may be hell on the nerves, but how many people can say they help save the world on a daily basis?” Spike shrugged, blowing a puff of smoke in Xander’s direction. “Seems like a fairly decent existence. ‘Lot better than living every day wondering if your life even has a meaning, never contributing anything more than the bare minimum you have to offer.” Xander glanced at him in surprise.
“When did you get so philosophical?”
“’Bout the same time you stopped being such an insufferable ass, I’d imagine.” Xander smiled slightly.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“This about Anya?” Xander nodded. “Go ahead, but keep in mind that you’re talking to the same buggering idiot that couldn’t get it together to figure out Dawn still loved him.”
“You’re not inspiring a whole lot of confidence over here.” Spike shrugged.
“I’m just saying.”
“Well, aside from that glaring lack of insight you’ve always seemed to see right to the heart of things. I don’t know how you do it, and it used to really bug me, but I admire that, you know?”
“Just ask the bleedin’ question already!” Spike shook his head. “You don’t have to make it into some nancy boy heart to heart.” Xander shot him a dirty look but relaxed when he saw that Spike was joking around.
“I was just wondering, do you think I treat Anya badly? You know, like her opinion doesn’t matter?” Spike abruptly stopped walking and gave Xander a contemplative look.
“Is this a trick?”
“Are you trying to get me to say something to piss you off?”
“No, I’m serious.”
“Are you sure? Because usually when I tell you the truth it’s not something you really want to hear, and you act like a jackass.”
“Is this your roundabout way of saying yes?”
“Look mate, I know you love the girl, but sometimes…”
“What?” Xander pressed when Spike trailed off.
“Sometimes she says something to you, and she’s all excited because she thinks it’s interesting or important. Then you give her your famous eye roll and brush it off, and all the light drains right out of her eyes. It’s like you automatically consider anything she has to offer unimportant.”
“I do that?” Spike nodded. “Alot?”
“Does it really matter how often you do it? The fact that you do it at all…” he trailed off again. “Do you even listen to her, or do you just dismiss what she says out of hand?” Xander shook his head.
“I don’t know; I didn’t even realize I was doing that.” They started walking again.
“See, that’s the really sad part. The two of you have been together how many years now? And you’re just now realizing this.” He shook his head. “Your sensitivity leaves a lot to be desired, Harris.” He saw Xander’s miserable expression. “But, hey, she’s stuck with you all this time. There must be something about you that keeps her coming around, right? I guess you can’t be all bad.”
“Yeah. Thanks,” Xander said sarcastically.
“You said you wanted the truth.”
“I did; I do. I just feel like a complete jerk.”
“Well, at least now you can work on fixing it.” Spike stopped walking again. “What’s this now?” Xander followed his gaze to a shadowy figure in the trees.
“More than likely. Stay here; I’ll check it out.” Before he could protest Spike was gone.
“Yeah, great. I’ll stay here, out in the open, all by myself. That’s a great plan.”
* * * *
“So how does this work?” Dawn glanced up at Anya’s question.
“Well, it’s kind of like meditating, but with the intensity cranked up to about a hundred. We’re going to be focusing our combined energies.” She gestured to the jar Tara was holding. “Tara will spread that around us in a circle and then we’ll all join hands. Sort of. I told you about that part.” She turned to Tara. “Remember that you have to stay outside the circle, no matter what happens. You’re our anchor.”
“No matter what happens?” Anya asked. “Is this dangerous?”
“Not really. It’s just…I might look like I’m in pain, but I’m not, and I don’t want anyone to worry.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Anya asked nervously.
“Clear your mind and focus on Willow. Try and get a clear picture of her in your head and let that be the only thing you think about.”
“What if my mind wanders? Will something awful happen?” Dawn smiled slightly.
“No, I just need you to try. I’ll be doing most of the work; you just do your best. It’ll be easier for you to focus once we begin.”
“Should I be focusing on Willow, too?” Tara asked.
“No. I mean, it’s not gonna hurt anything if you’re thinking about her, but I need you to keep most of your focus on this place, on being here. Okay?” Tara nodded. “Once we start there should be complete silence. I may say things, but don’t answer. It’ll interrupt my focus and this won’t work.”
“Is it okay if I let out a nervous giggle before we begin? Otherwise I might burst into a fit of hysterics at an inappropriate moment.” Anya gave a half-hearted smile. “I’m nervous, just trying to lighten the mood.”
“This really isn’t dangerous,” Dawn said, patting Anya’s knee comfortingly. “There’s no need to be nervous, I promise.” She took a deep breath and picked up the dagger lying next to her. “Are you sure you’re okay with this part?” Anya nodded and held her left hand out, palm up. Dawn held her hand next to Anya’s and slid the dagger along their palms producing a shallow cut on each of their hands. Their eyes met, and Dawn grasped Anya’s hand tightly in her own. “Miscé!” A gust of wind blew around them and a green light spread up along their arms.
Tara stood and removed the stopper from the bottle of herbs. Moving around them, she slowly spread the contents in a circle on the floor. Moving back next to them, but remaining outside the circle, she placed her hands over theirs. Dawn’s eyes closed and she began to mutter unintelligibly, convulsing slightly. Tara watched in amazement as Dawn flung her head back, eyes opening wide to emit an eerie green glow. As the glow became brighter and brighter Anya began to shudder. The wind kicked up again, picking the herbs up into the air to spin around them; making it harder and harder for Tara to hang onto their hands. As quickly as it had begun, the wind suddenly stopped, the herbs falling back to the floor as the two girls collapsed.
* * * *
It was way too quiet. Xander tried to see where Spike had gone, but it was impossible for him to pick out anything suspicious amongst the shadows of the trees. Moving quickly and quietly, he edged over to where Spike had spotted the figure earlier. Of all the bad ideas you’ve had, this is definitely the worst, he thought to himself as he moved further into the darkness. Where the hell had Spike gone? Turning slightly, he saw Spike standing a little ways away, staring off into the distance. What the… And then Xander saw the girl behind him, stake raised, preparing to strike. Moving faster than he ever thought he could, Xander tackled Spike, catching the stake in his shoulder as the girl brought it down for the kill.
“Bloody hell, Harris! What are you…” Spike glanced up to see the girl coming at him again and jumped to his feet. “Wait. Wait a minute!” He backed up slightly. “Let’s talk about this.”
“I don’t talk to vampires!” She lunged at him again, but he easily dodged her.
“He’s not a regular vampire,” Xander said, wincing as he tried to get up. “He won’t hurt you.”
“I know he won’t, because I’m going to kill him!” She ran at Spike, but he stepped to the side, throwing a hard right and catching her in the nose. Xander watched as she dropped to the ground.
“What the hell!” Xander complained. “Don’t you think you hit her kinda hard; she’s just a kid.” Spike shook his head.
“No, she’s not; she’s a Slayer. Not a very experienced one, but she’s young. She’ll get better with time.” Xander looked at him in shock.
“You didn’t think they’d leave the Hellmouth defenseless did you? She’s too young to be the first since Buffy…” He trailed off. “I’m thinking there’s probably been a few.”
“Should we…take her somewhere?”
“We don’t really have time to try to explain everything to her, and you need to get that shoulder to Dawn so she can heal it.” He glanced back at the girl “She’ll wake up soon, and I think it’d be best if we aren’t here when she does. Thanks, by the way; she really snuck up on me.”
“Yeah, well. What would I do without you around to irritate me?” Spike smiled slightly, helping Xander to his feet.
“Die of boredom, more than likely.” He shook his head. “Smartass.”
“A smartass that just saved your life.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Big bad vampire had to be saved by a weak little human.”
“Alright, that’s enough.”
“Xander Harris, rescuing vampires since 2012.”
“How long am I gonna have to hear about this?” Spike demanded.
“Oh, probably until forever!”
* * * *
“They know she’s here; they’ll be coming soon.” Sorcha smiled happily at her pronouncement, and Lucius pulled her into his lap.
“Is everything set?” She nodded, leaning down to bite his shoulder. “Then I guess we just sit back and enjoy the show. They’re in for a hell of a surprise.”
“I can’t wait to see the look on that bitch’s face when she realizes what we’ve done.” Lucius laughed at her excitement. “This is going to be so much fun!”
“It always is.”