Chapter Eight: Fallout
“What about the curse?” Xander suddenly asked. Tara was still sleeping while the rest of them sat around the living room in sad silence. “I mean, it worked for Angel, right?” Dawn shook her head as she leaned forward.
“First of all, the only person who’s performed that spell is Willow. And even if Giles or Tara were somehow able to do it, is that really the best option?”
“If it brings Willow back to us then I vote yes,” Xander said.
“But that’s just it. We don’t know what she’d be like; would she even still be Willow? And she could never experience perfect happiness or she’d lose her soul.” Dawn looked thoughtful. “That brings up a whole host of questions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, in theory it sounds great to give Willow her soul back before she’s done much damage. You think that way she won’t be too tormented by what she was. BUT if she doesn’t have a hundred some odd years of guilt to hold back the happiness like Angel did, does that mean it’ll be easier for her to lose the soul? And then what do we do? And do we even have the right to inflict that kind of tortured existence on her?” Her voice broke, and she leaned back against Spike in defeat.
“I just- I can’t even believe we’re talking about this. I mean, it’s Willow. How could this have happened?” He felt Anya’s arms tighten around him slightly as he stared at the floor. “I can’t even imagine what Tara must be going through.”
“I shouldn’t have let her come with us.” Dawn ran a weary hand over her face. “And I definitely shouldn’t have let her be the one to find her.” She glanced at Spike. “I should’ve gone in first. I don’t know what I was thinking letting her walk in there on her own.”
“You were thinking it would mean a lot to Tara to “rescue” Willow,” Spike said. “And you were right. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Then why do I feel so awful?” she whispered. “Every time I think about it I see Tara’s face. She was so devastated… I shouldn’t have let her go in.”
“You couldn’t have known.” Everyone looked up in surprise to where Tara stood in the hallway. “And I don’t blame you for anything, Dawn. I blame the monsters who killed her.” She moved further into the room and took a seat by Giles. “I don’t think we know enough about the curse to just go around handing out souls. Using that kind of magic without knowing all the consequences… I don’t think that should even be an option.” Giles nodded in reluctant agreement.
“We could talk to Angel about it; he could help,” Xander said.
“Angel didn’t even know he could lose the bloody thing until it actually happened; I doubt he’d be very helpful in working out all the bugs,” Spike replied.
“Um, this is going to sound really insensitive,” Anya said, leaning forward, “but we have more to worry about than how to fix Willow. You realize this wasn’t just a random vamping done for fun, right? I mean, this was a direct assault.”
“What do you mean?” Xander asked. Spike nodded in understanding and said,
“Destroy the troop’s morale; hit ‘em where it hurts. They’re trying to give us something else to focus on and worry about, a distraction while they carry out their plans.”
“Not only that,” Anya agreed, “but Willow is like their biggest and best weapon now.” She glanced around at the others. “Besides the fact that she’s one of the most powerful witches I’ve ever met, she was one of us. She knows us. She knows our secrets, our fears, our weaknesses, the way we think – it’s like having someone working on the inside. Whatever she knows, they know it now, too. Vamping Willow gives them a hell of an edge, and they already had one to begin with. This is,” Anya shook her head, “This is so very, very bad.”
“So not only do we have to fight these bad guys who are powerful enough to give Dawn a run for her money, we also have to try to outsmart Willow?” Xander asked. “Oh, goody, because I thought this was gonna be hard.” He pulled Anya against his side, and everyone was silent for a moment.
“You know,” Tara said, softly. “Ever since I met you guys I’ve been involved in one apocalyptic event after another. But whenever things seemed hopeless, whenever I’d be full of despair because none of us knew how we were going to win this time, Willow would say something sweet or funny and I’d feel a little better because I knew even if the world ended it would be alright because we were together, all of us, and that was what really mattered.” Giles smiled slightly.
“I think Willow had that effect on all of us at one time or another.” Xander nodded in agreement.
“Well, I could really use a little of that right now, except… except this time we’re not all together. And there’s this hole in my heart where Willow used to be, and I know I’ll never get that back. And I don’t know if I can go on with part of myself missing. I just… I don’t know if I can go on.” She stared blankly at the wall, and Giles reached to gently take her hand in his. “I know we’re going to have to fight her, and I don’t know if I can. Even knowing it’s not her… To me, she’s still Willow. How can I kill Willow?” She looked around at all of them, but no one had an answer so she got up and left the room. Dawn stood to go after her, but Giles gestured for her to stay.
“No, I’ll go.”
Dawn stared at the floor for a moment after Giles left the room. Sinking back down on the couch with a sigh, she glanced up at Xander and Anya.
“You guys should go get some rest.”
“But,” Xander looked back and forth between Dawn and Spike. “I thought we had stuff to do.” Dawn shook her head.
“Spike and I can handle most of it for now. You guys have been through a lot; you need your rest.” Anya leaned forward to take Dawn’s hand, concern lining her face.
“You’ve been through a lot too; don’t you think you should get some rest?” Dawn met her eyes for a moment before rising to her feet and tugging her hand away.
“I’ll be fine.” She moved towards the window. “This is my job, what I was made for, right? I…I’ll be fine.” Spike and Xander exchanged worried looks, but Spike nodded for them to leave. He watched them leave the room before moving to stand behind Dawn. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her back against his chest.
“What’s going on in that head of yours, sweet?”
“I think I finally understand.” He tilted his head slightly in confusion.
“Why she did it. Why she wanted to do it.”
“What are you talking about?” Spike asked, worried.
“Buffy.” She felt him flinch slightly. “She fought so hard for so long, watched everybody she loved leave or die, and I never knew…”
“Knew what?” Spike asked quietly when she trailed off.
“What a relief it must have been for her that day on the tower, to know that finally – finally – she was finished. Done. No more pain. She didn’t jump for me; she jumped to make the pain stop.” He spun her around angrily.
“That’s rot, and you know it! She died so that you, so that the whole sodding world, would survive! She jumped to save something, because she couldn’t bear the thought of you dying, not because she… not to, to end it all.” Dawn stroked her hand down his cheek, soothing away his anger.
“I know that was part of it; I know she was a hero, but I also understand what she must have gone through all those years, all the pain and loss. And you’re kidding yourself if you think it wasn’t a relief for her when she realized what she had to do that day. I was there; I saw her face. She was peaceful and almost…happy.” She wound her arms around him, holding him tightly. “Until now, that had always made me a little angry. That she was so damn eager to leave us all behind.” She shook her head. “But I get it now. She deserved to rest; she deserved that peace, and she didn’t want to leave us, she just didn’t want to lose us. She didn’t want to lose anyone else ever again. I get it. Finally.”
“You’re scaring me with this,” Spike whispered. “You’re telling me you understand wanting to die. Are you… do you want…”
“No!” She interrupted. “No, that’s not… God, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean that I want to die. I just… I understand what Buffy must have been feeling.” She pulled Spike close, her hands moving soothingly against his back. “God, I’m such an idiot. I’m sorry you thought…” She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want to lose you.” He pulled back to look into her eyes. “I know I will. Someday. Eventually. But I… Not because you’ve lost the will to live, to fight. I think, maybe, I could deal with it if I lost you in battle or to something natural, but…”
“Shh.” She put her hand against his mouth to stop the flow of words. “I haven’t given up; I won’t. This battle is far from over, and I would never voluntarily leave you.” She watched him for a moment to be sure she was getting through before sliding her hand around the back of his neck and pressing her lips to his. His arms tightened around her as he pulled her as close as possible. “I love you,” she whispered against his skin as her mouth trailed down his throat. Then she smiled. “I just hope you’ll still love me when I’m old and weak and ugly.”
“You could never be ugly,” he said, his fingers brushing her hair back from her face. “You’ll always be my beautiful, fiery Dawn. Forever.” He pulled her in for another kiss. He couldn’t help remembering the dream though, and he wondered how long their forever would last.
“Tara?” Giles knocked lightly on the door before opening it a bit. She didn’t answer, but he could hear her quiet crying. “May I come in?” He heard a sniffle, and then a muffled,
“Come in.” He opened the door slowly. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see her sitting up, her body stiff and rigid, clutching a pillow tightly to her chest. He was unsure of how to begin, but she saved him the trouble.
“It smells like her.” She glanced up, a slight smile on her tearstained face. “The pillow. If I close my eyes I can almost pretend she’s here next to me.” She motioned for him to sit with her, and he moved to perch awkwardly in the chair next to the bed. “It’s over, isn’t it? This is all I have left, her scent on a pillow and my memories.” Giles bowed his head for a moment, and then reached out to take her hand.
“You don’t have to be in on this fight. No one expects you to kill Wil… to kill her.” She nodded.
“I know. But I can’t just hide here and do nothing. It’ll be just as hard for any one of you; I don’t think it’s fair to spare myself while the rest of you suffer.” Giles patted her hand.
“I think we both know it’s not the same.” Tara nodded slightly in agreement.
“Still… Willow would want me to keep fighting, to be strong, and she wouldn’t want to stay this way.” They were silent, both lost in their thoughts, until Giles spoke,
“Well, be that as it may, it’s your decision. I… we’ll all support you, whatever choice you make.” She smiled, tears in her eyes once more.
“Thank you.” She reached out to give him a hug. His arms closed around her, and he held her as she sobbed.
“I wish we could have been friends,” Anya said suddenly as she unbuttoned her shirt.
“What?” Xander asked, turning to stare at her in confusion.
“Willow. Me and Willow. I just… we never even got to be friends. I wanted to be, I meant to make an effort, but I didn’t, and now… now it’s too late. We’ll never be friends.”
“What do you mean? You guys were friends.” Anya shook her head.
“No. We weren’t. I mean, sure, we got along and we talked, but it was only ever because of the people we had in common. We’d talk about you or Dawn or Spike, but we never just talked.”
“You might still have a chance. Dawn’ll come up with something; we’ll get Willow back.” He pulled her towards where he sat on the edge of the bed, but she jerked away angrily.
“Get real, Xander. She’s a vampire! Have you forgotten what that means?” She wiped angrily at her face as the tears began to fall. “Willow is gone; she’s dead! We can’t do the curse and this isn’t some wish that can be undone. I don’t know what the hell you think Dawn can do, but she’s not God; she can’t perform miracles.”
“I’ve seen her do some pretty miraculous things.”
“She can’t raise the dead, and she can’t turn back time.”
“We don’t know what she can do. This is all so new; you don’t know what kind of powers she might have.”
“Why are you doing this? You always do this. Why can’t you ever just accept the truth?” Xander turned away, his voice sad and quiet.
“I’m just trying to keep a little bit of hope alive. If I admit that we’re never gonna get her back then it’s real. I can’t deal with real right now. So instead I deny the truth, and I live in my world where the good guys don’t die senseless deaths and the bad guys get what they deserve and everything always works out in the end.” Anya watched as his head dropped in defeat; he looked so broken. She moved to wrap her arms around him and they held each other in silence for a few moments.
“I like your world,” Anya whispered.
“Yeah,” Xander agreed, tears in his eyes. “Too bad it never lasts.”
They stalked their prey with eager anticipation, turning it into a game. He was young, probably in his twenties, and they could smell the fear rolling off of him. Sorcha smiled at Willow before darting into the shadows. Willow watched as she closed in for the kill. As she grabbed the boy, her game face already in place, Willow stepped out of the alley.
“Hey!” Sorcha loosened her hold, and the boy turned slightly to plead for help. “Is she hurting you?” He nodded, and Willow strode forward, knocking Sorcha down. For a moment the young man looked relieved.
“Thank you,” he began, but Willow turned to look down at her friend.
“I thought we were gonna share?” The boy looked at her in confusion, and Sorcha swiftly stood back up.
“I thought you didn’t like boys.” Willow smirked.
“They have their uses.” She turned back to their dinner, her demon coming forward as she stroked a finger down his neck. “And I’m very, very hungry.” The screaming only lasted moments as they quickly drained him. He dropped to the ground, dead, and Willow wiped his blood off her mouth, her eyes still hungry. “Next.”