Chapter Seven: Rituals (part 2)
“Giles!” At Tara’s panicked cry, Giles dropped the notes he’d been making and rushed into the other room.
“What happened?” he asked, crouching down next to Tara as Dawn and Anya began to regain consciousness.
“It’s okay,” Dawn said. “We’re not hurt, just a little weak.”
“Speak for yourself,” Anya complained. “I’ve got a blinding headache.” Giles reached out to help the two of them to their feet. Dawn smiled slightly as she glanced over at Anya.
“Pretty intense, huh?”
“I’ll say! If it weren’t for the painful aftereffect I’d be doing that as often as possible.” Anya staggered slightly as they moved into the living room.
“What exactly happened?” Giles asked in concern.
“Did you find Willow?” Tara asked hopefully.
“Yeah, but-” Dawn was interrupted when the front door flew open banging against the wall.
“A little help here!” Spike shouted as he half dragged Xander inside.
“Oh my god! What happened to you two?” Tara asked in shock.
“Xander?” He looked up at the concern in Anya’s voice.
“I’m okay; it’s just a flesh wound.” He tried to smile, but he was in too much pain.
“I didn’t know she’d hurt him so badly. He was joking around, being a wiseass and then he almost passed out.” Spike hauled him over to the couch before glancing at Dawn. “Think you can heal him?”
“I don’t know; I’m pretty weak right now.” He suddenly realized that Dawn and Anya were barely able to stand as they clung to Giles and Tara.
“What the hell happened? Are you alright?” He moved to take hold of Dawn and Giles hurried over to check on Xander. “What did you do?”
“We found Willow. Who hurt Xander?”
“We ran into a little trouble,” he turned towards Giles, “in the shape of a new Slayer.”
“A Slayer?” Tara echoed in confusion.
“Yeah, thanks for the heads up on that one, Rupert.” Giles glanced up at Spike.
“I don’t know why you’re acting like I should’ve known.”
“Well, aren’t you all chummy with Council?”
“I’d hardly consider myself “chummy” with them. We’re civil, but they don’t keep me informed on anything Slayer related. Besides, we’ve only been in Sunnydale a few hours, and I’ve had other concerns on my mind. Forgive me if worrying about a new Slayer wasn’t exactly one of them.”
“There’s no need to get upset; I just thought-”
“Hey! Bleeding guy, here! Were we planning on fixing me anytime soon?” Xander interrupted. Dawn moved to sit beside him.
“I think I might be able to manage it; I’m starting to get some of my strength back.” She pulled his shirt down off his shoulder. “Why did she attack you?” Xander smiled at Spike.
“Can I tell them? I want to tell them?” Spike shook his head with a grin.
“Tell us what?” Anya asked, settling down on the couch on the other side of Xander.
“I’m never gonna hear the end of this, am I?” Spike crossed his arms, tipping his head back in mock frustration.
“The end of what?” Anya demanded impatiently.
“I rescued Spike,” Xander said with a smirk.
“Slayer almost got me, but Harris managed to knock me out of the way before she succeeded.” Dawn glanced at Giles in concern.
“Maybe you should contact the Council and let them know we’re here so something like this doesn’t happen again.”
“That’s probably a good idea.” Dawn nodded before turning back to Xander. Placing her hand over the wound, she began the healing process.
“They said they’d inform her Watcher.”
“That’s it?” Xander asked. “Those Council guys sure aren’t big on the small talk, huh?”
“Well, he did blather on for awhile about how we should have told them before we came and a lot of other nonsense, but I wasn’t really paying much attention.”
“Yeah, those British guys can be a little longwinded,” Xander said, shaking his head.
“Hey!” Giles and Spike spoke at the same time, and Dawn tried not to giggle at their identical expressions of affront. Then, remembering what was at stake here, she grew serious.
“I found Willow. She’s not far from here, but this isn’t going to be a simple extraction.” Everyone grew silent as Dawn continued, “I can’t just pop into where they’re holding her. They’re aware that I have that ability, and they’re well guarded against it.”
“So are we looking at a frontal assault here?” Spike asked, leaning forward.
“Not exactly. They don’t know the extent of my abilities, and that’s a weakness. I have other ways to get in, but we run a higher risk of being caught. That’s why I’m only taking Spike.” She held up a hand to halt the arguments she knew were coming. “Even if I can’t jump right inside where they’re keeping her, I’m still going to need to travel fast to get there, and Spike’s the only one who isn’t negatively affected by the trip. If we wind up doing battle once we’re inside that’ll be important. I can’t have you guys getting yourselves killed. Spike and I can handle ourselves; you guys need to stay here and work on the research.”
“No.” Everyone glanced in surprise to where Tara sat, her expression resolute.
“Tara-” Dawn began, shaking her head.
“I’m going. It’s not up for discussion; you know if it was Spike being held captive you wouldn’t let anyone stop you from going.” She crossed her arms, her gaze never leaving Dawn’s. “I’m going.” Dawn watched her for a moment in silence before nodding.
“Alright. You have that right, but I want you to stay close to Spike in case anything happens.” Tara nodded. Dawn stood and addressed the others. “Anya’s headache should go away fairly quickly; she’ll be weak for awhile, but there shouldn’t be any other side effects. We’ll be back soon.” As she turned away Giles reached out and caught her hand, and their eyes met.
“Be careful.” She leaned down and gave him a brief hug.
“I will.” Joining hands with Spike and Tara, she whispered, “Peragro,” and they were gone. Anya shook her head, her voice trembling as she spoke,
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Are you okay, Tara?”
“Yeah. Just…let me catch my breath.” Dawn shot Spike a nervous look before saying,
“The longer we stay out here, the more chance we’ll get caught. Are you sure you can do this?” Standing up straight, Tara nodded.
“I can do this. For Willow.”
“Okay, I have to check and make sure no one’s on the other side before we go in.”
“How?” Spike asked as Dawn put her cheek against the side of the building.
“Shh!” Dawn waved her hand for them to be quiet, and they waited while she finished what she was doing. “Okay. The coast is clear.” She glanced back at Spike. “Sorry, sweetie.”
“It’s okay. Let’s go.” Dawn put her hands against the wall, and they watched with interest as a green light spread out in a circle, then in amazement as part of the wall seemed to shift and disappear. Dawn stepped back with a flourish.
“Open sesame.” They slipped inside as quietly as possible, and Spike leaned over to whisper,
“They guarded against you entering through a trans-dimensional shift, but they didn’t guard against you coming right through the wall? Not too sharp, are they?” Dawn smiled.
“Yeah, well, if it works in our favor who are we to judge?” Spike smiled and gave her a quick kiss.
“Okay, where’s Willow.”
“Down this hallway.” She moved down the corridor several feet before stopping in front of a door. “It’s this one.”
“Can I go in to get her?” Tara asked quietly.
“I don’t know; it could be dangerous, Tara.”
“Please, she’d want to see me.” Dawn couldn’t meet Tara’s pleading gaze, and glanced over at Spike.
“What do you think?” He shrugged.
“I don’t really see the harm.” Dawn wavered for a moment before giving in.
“Okay, but be quick. We’ll keep a lookout; if they’ve got her chained to the wall or something, give me a call.” She put her hand over the lock on the door; it glowed for a moment and then they heard it click. “I’ll be right here.” Tara nodded, and Dawn watched her enter the room.
Tara moved into the shadows of the room nervously. She could barely make out a figure huddled in the corner. “Willow?” she whispered. There was a rustling and she could see the figure shift, there was silence again and then,
“Tara?” The figure moved closer and she could almost make out Willow’s features. “Tara, is that you?”
“It’s me sweetie,” Tara cried, rushing to her side. “We’re here to take you home; are you chained up or anything.”
“No, the crazy one unchained me earlier; she was going on and on about what good friends we were going to be.” Willow let out a slightly hysterical laugh. “God, I thought you guys were never gonna get here.”
“Come on; we have to hurry.” She helped Willow to her feet and started for the door. As they drew closer Spike leaned in.
“What’s the hold up? Is she okay?” Tara saw his eyes widen, and then he grabbed her arm and yanked her away from Willow.
“What are you d-” Tara demanded, but Spike interrupted her.
“Leave her, and get the hell out of here.”
“What! I’m not leaving her here!” She turned back towards Willow in time to see her features shift as her face transformed. “Oh my god!”
“What’s the matter, baby? Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“Oh my god,” Tara repeated in horror. Spike pushed her behind him and quickly backed up.
“Aw, isn’t that sweet! Always playing the hero, huh, Spike? Isn’t that starting to get just a little old?” Dawn stared in shock as Willow advanced on them. “And you,” she said, looking at Tara. “I thought we were going to have a touching reunion? Guess you didn’t miss me as much as you thought.” Her gaze switched suddenly to Dawn. “And don’t even try it, Dawnie. I know you’re just itching to get your hands on me and show me the ‘way’, but it ain’t gonna work sweetie. I’ve taken precautions; I know what you are, what you can do, and now they know too.”
“Willow, please,” Tara said, tears streaming down her face.
“Oooh! See, now the begging I like. Maybe we can have that touching reunion after all.”
“That’s it; we’re leaving,” Spike said suddenly. “Come on.”
“Don’t you think it was a little easy, the way you got in? Did you happen to think maybe we were ready for you?” Spike felt the air crackle slightly before Dawn’s hand shot up and a pulse of energy sent Willow flying. He didn’t miss a beat as he hauled Tara along and followed Dawn back out the way they came. As soon as they hit the yard Dawn spun around and grabbed hold of them.
“Peragro!” Suddenly they were back in the living room. For a moment everything was silent, and then,
“Where is she?” Xander demanded. “You didn’t get her; what happened?” Tara moved towards him slightly, her face deathly pale, and Spike followed in concern.
“What?” Xander asked in shock.
“They- they turned her. She’s dead. Willow’s dead.” Her voice bordering on hysteria, she turned to look at Spike, and he barely caught her as she collapsed.
Dawn was standing out back when she heard Spike come up behind her.
“Is she asleep?” she asked quietly.
“Giles did something, some sort of spell; she should be out for a while.”
“Is this really happening?” she whispered brokenly. “This has to be some sort of horrible nightmare, and pretty soon I’ll wake up and everyone will be safe in their own beds. This can’t be real, right?” He pulled her against him as she began to cry. “Spike, this can’t be real.”
“Shh,” he whispered, gently stroking her back. “We’ll get through this; we’ll figure it out.”
“This is all my fault; if I’d only gotten here sooner…” She clutched at his shirt, her hands shaking. “I can’t handle this again. I can’t… She’s dead, and it’s all my fault!” Spike grabbed her arms, pushing her back and shaking her slightly.
“Stop that! This isn’t your fault.”
“It is; if I had figured it out… If I’d been here…”
“No. I won’t let you do this to yourself. I’m as upset about Willow as you are, but this is not your fault.” He shook her again, harder this time, and she looked up and met his eyes. “Bad things happen, all the time, but you can’t be there to save everyone. And you can’t blame yourself every time something like this happens.”
“But… it’s Willow,” she whispered achingly.
“I know, sweet. I know.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He pulled her back into his arms, closing his eyes as she cried, painful sobs wracking her body. “I’m so sorry.”
“Now that was fun!” Sorcha said, stepping out of the shadows.
“Where the hell were you?” Willow demanded. “That hurt like hell, and they got away!”
“We never intended to capture them; we’d never be able to hold the girl. I just wanted to devastate them, throw them off guard a little. It worked too; did you see their faces? Priceless!”
“I thought I was gonna get to keep Tara,” Willow said, her expression sulky. “I don’t have anyone to play with.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Sorcha said, moving closer to put an arm around her. “You know what’s mine is yours.”
“Yes, but I’m tired of sharing your toys.” She crossed her arms. “I want something of my own.”
“Well, then we’ll have to find you a little friend.” Willow smiled, and they turned to walk down the hall, their arms around each other’s waist.
Author's Note: I agonized over the decision to kill Willow, and it wasn’t something I did lightly or without reason. It was very hard for me to write and I suspect it will continue to be difficult. BUT it was necessary to the story and was what I had intended from the beginning so I did it. I hope nobody hates me, and that you all continue to read the story.