DISCLAIMER: The characters of BtVS does not belong to me, which is quite obvious as I wouldn't have done certain things to them, but anyway, not mine and no profit made. You know, the basics.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is, as everything I write, lesbian themed, and would classify as F/B fiction, this particular part of the series also as W/T. It is set some time after the end of s6 and is the third and most likely final part of a series of short stories that I call "Secondary Characters". (The other two being "Secondary Characters" and "Secondary Characters 2: Halloween") Reading them in order is probably a good idea. This particular part is also considerably darker than the previous ones to my way of thinking, and unlike the previous two parts it is not entirely based on Faith and her perspective of things.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Secondary Characters 3
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
The day after Halloween Richard Wilkins walked into his adopted daughter's room, concerned when she had not shown up for breakfast. What he found was his daughter in bed, naked, and wrapped up in the arms of the young woman who had not only been their worst enemy, but been the one that hurt his little girl the most.
Buffy expected an outburst or perhaps even an attack. Faith knew better.
A fatherly talk later, including a lecture on health and cleanliness as he picked up their discarded soggy and dirty clothing, and a stern and very serious warning to Buffy not to hurt his little girl, and Richard Wilkins apparently would not object to the two of them dating.
Meeting the rest of the Goonies was more difficult.
They were all so protective of Faith and gave Buffy the impression that most of them would tear Buffy limb from limb if she ever hurt Faith in the slightest. It made the older Slayer utterly uncomfortable, until she realized that it was not so dissimilar to what Faith had to go through with the Scoobies once upon a time.
After that, Buffy accepted the awkwardness for what it was, and decided to try and make friends with her new lover's family. After all, she had a small advantage in that most of them had at one point or other been if not exactly friends, then at least acquaintances of hers.
Anya was Anya regardless of surroundings, and that made Buffy feel rather at home. What was a bit more curious, and a bit more difficult, was seeing Anya all over her own new lover, who was not only as far away from Xander as one could get but Amy was also Willow's old friend, and the last time Buffy had encountered the young witch, well, it had not been pleasant. Amy felt the awkwardness too, and avoided Buffy for most part. It was obvious though that Faith and Amy were close, and so Buffy hoped in time to make some progress with the witch-turned-shapeshifter.
Finally though, Buffy had to head on home.
And that was when the trouble started.
Faith was doing the best friends 'spill-all-the-details' girltalk sort of thing with Amy when her phone rang. Considering Buffy was the only one outside her little 'family' that knew Faith's personal phone number, Faith was only too happy to interrupt her little chat with a phone call.
She lifted the cordless receiver to her ear with a smile.
The smile faded almost immediately to be replaced by a frown, and Faith started walking towards the door.
"What? Wait, B, slow down, I'm not following uhuh." Faith answered and gestured for Amy to follow her as she grabbed her jacket and walked out of the room. "A what now?"
They met Anya in the hallway, carrying a plate of cookies presumably meant for them, when Faith came to a full stop.
"What?! The kid's missing?" Faith exclaimed with alarm. "OK OK, just hang on B, I'll be right there."
Anya set the plate down on a beautiful antique chair nearby just as Faith snapped the phone off and tossed it to the side. "Dawn? Dawnie's missing?" Anya asked with concern.
"I I gotta go " Faith said distractedly and started down the stairs. "B needs me."
Amy and Anya shared a look.
"Allright. Get to the car, I'll get the keys and tell Richard that we're leaving." Anya said simply and disappeared. By the time Faith and Amy had reached the car Anya was already there and starting it up.
Buffy threw herself in Faith's arms practically the very instant the younger Slayer opened her car door, rather effectively outing herself in the process to the worried and goggle-eyed Willow. Xander had been called and was scouring likely Sunnydale haunts together with the ever-helpful Clem, leaving Buffy and Willow the only ones at the house when Faith arrived.
Whatever shocked exclamation Willow might have made at the sight of her best friend sobbing rather intimately in the arms of her old nemesis never left her lips as Anya and Amy stepped out of the car to further shock the young witch. Amy cast one glance at Willow and froze like she had just looked Death itself full in the face and found it grinning back at her. Anya stepped in front of the pale shapeshifter, crossing her arms and glaring at Willow.
It was an extremely tense moment that was, ironically, broken by Faith's terse voice demanding to know what had happened.
Stammering slightly before she got herself under control, Willow told them that Dawn had been with her friend Janice the previous evening and that the two girls were going to some party that Buffy and Willow had been assured would not be too wild or risky for the teenager.
In fact, although Willow tended to be over-protective of Dawn, she and Buffy both found they could not and would not deny the girl since it was the first time since Tara's death that Dawn had shown any kind of interest in anything. The girl had withdrawn completely after the death of her second, if unofficial, mother, and gone into a kind of depression and apathy that neither Buffy nor Willow seemed able to snap her out of.
But now Dawn had wanted to go with Janice to this Halloween party, and with some general warnings and some required assurances, Willow and Buffy had given their blessing. Dawn would then spend the night with Janice, and come home early in the morning.
Morning came, but no Dawn.
Willow had waited for a few hours before calling Janice's house, and had just found out that Dawn had in fact not gone home with Janice the previous night when Buffy came home. Xander had been called to go look for Dawn while Willow and Janice had separately tried to call as many of Dawn's friends from the party as they could, to see if anyone knew where she had gone... but so far no-one had been able to help them.
Faith hugged Buffy closer and whispered assurances in her ear.
Amy, giving in to more animalistic urges as she was wont to do when agitated or emotional, crouched slightly behind Anya and glared at Willow from underneath slightly tousled hair. "You could find her easy, with magic."
Willow looked anguished. "I can't!"
Amy bared her teeth and snarled a little. "You mean you won't."
"No, I mean I _can't_!" Willow wringed her hands and looked so devastated that it was hard to remember just what kind of power and destruction this frail and brittle woman could bring about. "I mean... I mean... last night..."
She sighed and put her hands over her face. "Last night I drained myself out, I probably won't be able to cast even a tinkerbell light until tonight, at best."
Anya's eyes narrowed slightly. "I thought I felt something last night..." She mused out loud, then turned compassionate. "You tried to summon her again, didn't you?"
The absolute silence, filled as it was with raw pain and grief, was answer enough.
Faith made a small sympathetic noise despite herself, and tried to cover it up by clearing her throat. "Well." She began decisively. "Anya, can you locate the kid with your powers?"
Anya nodded. "Of course, I know Dawnie well enough to recognise her spirit anywhere. It'll just take a moment, if she's still, you know, alive and human." She added quickly to the collective glares directed her way. "As opposed to green and energy-ish."
"You get on that, and Ames and I can go over to where the party was and see what we can sniff out." Faith mused then glanced at the crouching shapeshifter. "You up to it, Ames?"
Amy nodded. "Just bring something with her scent on it and I should be able to pick something up."
Buffy left Faith's arms to dash inside the house, then came back with a baggy sweater and handed it to Amy. "This is Dawnie's." She turned worried eyes on Faith. "I'll come with you."
Willow blinked a little, alarmed, as the others started getting into the car. "Wait! I'll come with you too!"
About halfway to the place where Dawn's party had been Anya disappeared. Knowing that meant that the Vengeance demon had finally tracked down Dawn's spirit, Faith kept driving, waiting for Amy to give some sign that Anya would let them know where to go. She didn't have to wait long.
Through Amy Anya gave them an address, and within moments the group arrived there, just long enough for Willow to reach Xander on the phone and tell him what was going on. They parked the car, all of them aware that they were in the seedier part of Sunnydale, which in a town like Sunnydale was saying a lot. Anya appeared in the doorway to a small apartment, waving them on.
She was scowling.
As they entered, Anya turned to Willow with a hiss. "Just what kind of spell where you _doing_ last night?!"
Buffy barged right in, calling for Dawn as she passed a small kitchen on her way to the only room. She flung the door open... and froze.
Faith pushed Willow out of the way to rush to Buffy's side, expecting something gruesome to greet her.
Something gruesome and bloody, possibly with torn limbs and most importantly with a heartbroken girlfriend as a result. Certainly not a severely rumpled bed containing a tangle of naked limbs and two surprised and squinty-eyed bed-tousled heads.
For a moment there was absolute silence. Then Dawn dived for something to cover herself with while shrieking in outrage. "BUFFY!"
A few confused moments later the group, save Dawn and her friend who were thrashing around behind the closed door in their efforts to locate their clothes and put them on, were standing awkwardly in the tiny kitchen, trying not to look at one another. Finally Anya spoke up.
"This spell you cast last night, Willow... what exactly was it about?" Anya shifted uncomfortably and seemed genuinely discomforted, which was a rare sight indeed for the frank demon. "Because if I've gotten this right, it had a heck of a fallout... since it seems just about everyone ended up having rather unexpected sex last night."
A hesitant pause. "With other women."
Everyone snapped their attention to first Anya then the gasping and wide-eyed Willow.
"What?" Faith was getting rather angry as realisation dawned. "Are you saying that... everything... that happened last night..." A sweeping arm gesture illustrated her point as Faith felt her stomach churn and her heart drop to about the level of her shoes. "...was because of some wacked lesbian love spell?"
Willow gasped and took a step back until she was pressed against a worn cupboard. "N-no!"
Anya tilted her head in consideration. "Yes. More or less."
To her left Amy started shaking and clenching her hands until they were white. "Willow... and magic." She ground out painfully. "Ruining everything, again... Willow and magic..."
Anya turned to reach out towards the trembling woman, but Amy was faster. With a strangled sob the tall form blurred and refocused into a large black wolf, then dashed between the people in the small kitchen and disappeared out the door.
"Amy!" Anya yelped and made as if to go after her, but Faith's hand shot out and grasped Anya's arm rather hard.
"Stay." Faith growled. "Explain this to me." The words were directed at Anya but Faith's eyes never left Willow's shocked features.
"Will?" Buffy interrupted with a surprisingly soft voice. "What happened?"
"I-I..." Willow was teary-eyed and pale. "I can't have caused... I didn't mean to... I was trying to..."
Anya shook off Faith's grasp and went over to Willow, putting an awkward hand on the redhead's shoulder. Willow took a deep, shuddering breath and seemed to calm down. In a low voice she began to explain.
"Since I was alone last night I performed a kind of 'my will be done' ritual. Not like the other one, I wasn't going to do anything reckless that might hurt anyone, but I've tried everything I can think of to... summon Tara, and nothing works."
She swallowed hard and wiped at her eyes.
"It took everything I had and I blacked out, didn't wake up until early this morning... but it still didn't work. The key words that I used to try and summon Tara was 'may true love come and hearts find home'. That's it."
"When all that power you released didn't find the intended target, it looked for other outlets." Anya mused out loud. "And found it in those closest to you, like Dawn, Buffy and me."
Buffy looked at Faith, who found she couldn't meet the other slayer's eyes.
"Well Will, I have to say that as much as I'd want you to succeed with what you're trying to do, I wish you'd stop experimenting with magic." Buffy flashed Willow an impish smile. "And thanks."
"Thanks?" Willow asked blankly.
"Thanks?" Faith echoed, thinking she heard wrong.
"Yeah..." Buffy grinned and wrapped an arm around Faith's waist. "...thanks, 'cause I wouldn't have figured things out on my own. Thanks to that little backfire thingy I'm with the person I was supposed to be with all along, and just never realised it."
A slight creaking noise revealed that Dawn and her young friend were finally coming out of the bedroom, and Buffy's happy grin faded to a rather stern look of concern directed at Dawns furiously blushing face, and the tall spiky-haired young girl whose hand Dawn was still holding.
"_That_, however, is another story." Buffy said crisply, then turned narrow eyes on her younger sister.
Hours later Buffy, Faith, Willow, Xander and Clem were at the Summers' house, with Dawn locked in her room alternately talking to Janice on the phone and just plain brooding over the fact that her sister had walked in on her. Willow was sitting silently to one side, looking as she had done all day, drawn and pale, while Buffy and Faith occupied the couch. Clem sat on a chair next to the fireplace nursing a mug of hot chocolate while Xander paced back and forth staring at the couple in the couch.
Faith stared right back and smirked a little.
Xander shook his head as if trying to shake something loose. He kept muttering "no" under his breath and stopping every once in a while to glare at Faith, who responded by squeezing Buffy a little tighter.
"You... and you?" He shook his head again. "No, no, no, absolutely not. No way, no how." Suddenly he stopped and almost yelled at Buffy. "No! Don't you think you've punished us enough?"
"I think they're rather cute together." Clem offered good-naturedly.
Xander didn't hear him. "Wasn't _one_ murdering psycho backstabbing rapist killer freak enough for you? You had to go see if you could find someone worse still?"
With every word Faith flinched and dropped back as if shrinking into herself. She didn't move until Buffy snarled and lunged at the surprised Xander, then Faith found herself having to hold her lover back from rashly using her superior strength to hurt one of her oldest and dearest friends.
As Buffy and Xander yelled at one another they barely noticed Willow until she was standing right there between them.
With one small move the slender redhead calmed the woman who had been her best friend and soul-sister since the day they met, and then she turned towards the man whom she had known and loved all her life.
Xander flinched at the bottomless sorrow and guilt in her eyes, and found himself wishing that he had been struck mute.
A fine-boned hand came up to gently grasp Xander's chin, making him look only at Willow as she spoke to him. Xander could have broken the grasp, but denying Willow often seemed so unthinkable, especially when she looked so frail.
"Murderer, Xander? I am a murderer too, remember? And worse, a threat to everything living... it can't get much worse than this." Sad, self-loathing eyes looked at him. "If you are looking for someone to blame, then start with me."
"I'm not worthy of being here, not deserving of this home, these friends. Should I leave?" It seemed an honest question, and it made his heart clench. "Do you want me to go away?"
A tear escaped Xander's eye as he felt the dark despair in his oldest and dearest friend, the one person he could always count on. He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing.
"...Anya baby mmMMmm you know I want ooohhh but mmmm not here aaahhh later baby..." Amy's voice and the sound of enthusiastic kissing reached the people in the room moments before Amy staggered through the doorway with Anya glued to one side and both the amorous demon's hands at work inside Amy's clothing.
Xander blinked, then pushed away from Willow. "I don't wanna know!" He barked angrily and stormed out, followed shortly by the sound of his car starting up and the screech of tires clawing at asphalt.
"Well," Clem said cheerfully into the silence. "I think they're cute together too."
That night a very tired Faith crawled into bed wishing she had stayed with her new girlfriend instead of being responsible and gone home to talk to her father, so that he and her friends would not worry. She had too much buzzing in her head to be able to sleep, yet was too tired to go slaying... not to mention that slaying would inevitably lead Faith to Buffy's door and another night of non-slaying activities.
Faith was just asking herself why this would be a bad thing, after all Amy and Anya had been only to happy to go to bed together as early as possible so why couldn't Faith and Buffy do the same, when the phone started ringing. As Faith threw herself over to the receiver she realized that it wasn't just _her_ phone that was ringing, in fact the phones all over the house seemed to be going off like there was no tomorrow.
Something about it chilled Faith to the bone even before she lifted the phone to her ear to listen.
The sound of wind blowing through something large and empty. Someone's heavy breathing nearly drenched the very faint, distant sound of a woman screaming. Abruptly, the sound was cut off and the dialling tone droned on in Faith's ear as she clutched the phone.
Distantly aware of footsteps as the others scurried around in the house around her, Faith stared at nothing and squeezed her phone nearly to breaking.
Was it her imagination, or had that woman screamed 'Willow'?
"You know, I think you've all gone insane. And I must have gone insane too since I actually came with you."
Xander made his displeasure known as he paced nervously by the windows of Richard Wilkins favourite family room in his mansion. Morning had just broken outside, but no-one really noticed it inside the building.
Goonies and Scoobies alike sat scattered around the room, pale and shaken and a few of them still a bit sleep-tousled, trying to make sense of what had happened during the night. The phones at the Summers' residence as well as the phone in Xander's apartment had all gone off at the same time as the phones in the mansion, with the same eerie sound and the faint scream. Years of Sunnydale training had the Scoobies come together at once in the face of this new mystery, and when Buffy found out that the same thing had happened at the mansion, she was quite determined to be with her lover. The other Scoobies, with varying degrees of reluctance, felt they had no choice but to come with her.
Xander had been shocked to see Larry lurching around, and after a bone-crushing hug from the reanimated boy, Xander and Harmony had been taking turns at sniping at one another. Jonathan was, simply put, terrified when he saw Willow walk in through the door, and he cowered at the other end of the room. Willow had stopped as she saw him, closed her eyes for a moment as they began to flash red for just an instant, then held up one tired hand at him in a placating gesture, and sat down in the furthest solitary seat she could find.
It took just a few moments before Dawn, upset and tired, came over and more or less tried to climb into Willow's lap, so the sad wiccan relocated herself and her young charge to a nearby couch where Dawn could all but lie down while leaning on Willow. It had been a frightening experience for Dawn, since she had answered her cell-phone and heard the eerie screaming. Buffy had answered the other phone, but years as a Slayer had hardened her quite a bit, not to mention what being dead had done to her, so it would take a bit more than a spooky phone call to shake her up.
After a long silence interrupted only by the faint sounds of drinking cocoa and eating the occasional cookie provided by Richard, Buffy finally spoke. "What do we have?"
"All the phones went off at once." Anya sounded unshaken. "Possibly all over town."
"Wind. Lots and lots of wind." Xander stared distrustfully into his untouched cup. "And panting."
"What caused it?" Dawn sounded very small and frail, causing Willow to rub her arm in absentminded comfort.
"It could be a spell." Anya offered and took another cookie. "Not a vengeance spell, but a spell."
"A poltergeist?" Willow mused. "Or a haunting... though I've never heard of anything like this before, have any of you?"
Just as several in the room began to speak up in the negative, Faith slammed her mug down on the coffee table. "Didn't you all hear her? The woman?" Faith looked grim as she turned to face the slightly startled redhead where she sat. "The woman that screamed Willow."
The room grew absolutely still as all colour left Willow's already pale face with shocking speed. No-one spoke until Buffy all but whispered, frozen in her seat and staring at her hands. "I recognised her voice... how could I forget?"
"It was Tara."
The stillness was broken by the loud crack as the cup in Willow's hand shattered. Then the lights went out.
Following the blackout the unconscious Willow was placed in one of the guest beds at the mansion with Dawn nervously watching over her, while the others were all involved in research of different kinds. Jonathan was pouring over the computer and phone lines while Anya and Richard tried their contacts to find anything out. Faith and Buffy had briefly been to Willy's in an attempt to shake some information from him but came up empty, leading to them returning to join the others in scouring through all available books at the mansion. Hours passed and it was becoming obvious that they were getting nowhere.
Then Willow woke up.
She strode into the room with an icy calm air and eyes as black as pitch, causing several people to back away at the sight. Even Buffy was guarded when she approached, quietly going over what had been done while Willow was asleep. Willow gave no sign of having heard her. Instead she stared at Anya.
Anya sighed. "You're going to do it, aren't you?"
She looked at Willow critically. "Are you sure you're up to it? No offence but you were all magicked out yesterday and this sort of spell takes a lot out of you."
"There is no other way." Willow looked around.
Anya nodded. "I'll help in any way I can."
"What are you talking about? What are..." Buffy didn't like the idea of Willow trying any big and potentially dangerous magics, and she liked being left in the dark about what was going on even less.
Faith quietened her with a hand on her shoulder. "Allright, spell time. What do you need us to do?"
"Clear enough space for a large circle in here." Anya directed, pointing at the area in question. "Get me two, no make that three, white candles, a bag of purified sand from storage, the box marked 'crystals' in my room, the third tome on the top shelf of the..."
Willow tuned out Anya calling out orders for the others and the frantic activity that followed. She was focused inwards, fighting to control herself and regain some calm.
Tara. Tara's voice, screaming her name.
Willow felt the darkness surge within and knew how easy it would be to give in to it. But she wouldn't, she couldn't, not now... not when Tara needed her.
When she opened her eyes again the space had been cleared and Anya was pouring sand on the floor to make a large circle, while Faith and Harmony were lighting candles and placing them where Anya directed them to. It was time.
Without further ceremony Willow entered the circle and closed her eyes.
"Wait! You need these..." Anya began, startled.
Willow took a deep breath and started to glow. Then she opened her eyes and spoke a single word, whose power echoed frighteningly through the air and drove everyone around her back a step.
"Huh." Xander exhaled, sitting down heavily in the couch.
"You said it." Amy muttered from her spot on the floor, wincing as Harmony stepped on her hand as she paced uncertainly back and forth.
"I don't get it." Harmony muttered as she casually stepped on Amy's leg, earning an evil glare and a low-pitched growl in her direction.
When Willow had cast her spell, completely ignoring the supposed ritual to instead use the massive power slumbering inside her, the others had been caught slightly off guard, still in various stages of preparation. The result had immediate and overwhelming.
The circle around Willow burst out into green flame, obscuring the wiccan entirely before lifting to the ceiling and taking shape there. The images shifted and blurred into one another, confusing and vague at first.
A ring of fire burning in a barren desert landscape. Dead bodies rotting under a harsh sun. The eyes of a predator, burning. Blood spurting out in a cloud against the background of a full moon. The same moon filling with blood until it was covered completely. A doorway in the sky leading nowhere.
The last images was the hardest to take, although they were easier to identify.
A small child crying. A woman with long hair, crucified. The long hair blew back as if the wind lifted it, and revealed Tara's face. Superimposed over the image of Tara, the image of Glory laughing, then screaming.
With a roar the green flames returned to the circle around Willow and burned themselves out, leaving only a charred circle in the floor.
"Glory? How can it be Glory? Glory is dead, Giles said so!" Dawn took a step closer to Anya as if looking for protection.
Richard snorted. "A goddess can't be killed by mere mortal means... what was destroyed was just her human coil, the prison for her power. Glorificus was reborn into her new prison directly after the old one died, it has always been so." He looked at the gathered youngsters. "What, did you think that Glorificus had only been imprisoned for 25 years? Those imbecile knights have been around for as long as I've been alive at the very least, and they were formed after Glorificus was imprisoned in human flesh."
"Aw man... if Glory is back around that means she'll be coming after us next." Xander threw his hands in the air. "And with that don't-remember-that-Ben's-Glory mojo we might already have met her and just forgot about her. That's just great! And may I add how unfair it is that the bad guys have spells like that and we don't?"
"We haven't met her yet." Willow spoke almost in a whisper. "Dawn and I would know it if we did."
"Good and evil are all just a matter of perspective." Willow continued softly, sounding and looking as if her thoughts were far away. "One creature's good is another's evil. Glory for example would not have seen her actions on earth as evil... It was not her that involved humans into the conflict by sealing her into a mortal form, that was the doings of humans that received rewards from her hellgod enemies. To her mind it was also the work of man that gave the Key human form, and doing thus gave her the ability to feel fear and pain. All Glory wanted was to get home."
"And as for myself, for the good of the world I nearly destroyed it. I won't pretend I know the lines between good and evil anymore."
Willow's eyes focused. "But be that as it may, I won't let Glory or any other creature threaten those I love." Everyone took an involuntary step back from the dark resolution in Willow's eyes. "I'm thinking I recognized that place in the desert and the circle of fire, but I can't place it."
"Me too..." Faith agreed. "It's like I've been there before, only I haven't."
"Death is your gift..." Buffy whispered, then looked up sharply. "I know where they are!"
By the time the Scoobies and the Goonies, with the exception of Richard, Dawn and Harmony, stepped out of the cars to begin the long trek through a landscape only Buffy had visited before, the first pale tendrils of daylight was creeping across the sky. They weren't sure of what they expected to find there, only that it was nothing like what awaited them.
The desert looked as it always had... until they crossed the point where Giles once had performed the ritual that had led Buffy to a meeting with the First Slayer. After that point the scenery changed and what had before appeared to be an empty desert landscape filled up with rotting corpses of all manner of creatures, slowly baking under a relentless sun.
Jonathan was the first to cry out and stumble to his knees in the sand. Xander joined him before anyone realised what was happening, and even Amy and Larry staggered down into the sand's deadly embrace before Willow and Anya jointly countered the life-draining spell with one of their own.
Willow set off for a pair of dark cliffs on the horizon, not waiting for the others to get to their feet and leaving them to hurry to catch up to her. By the time the group reached the dark rocks the sun had risen and the new day had been born in Sunnydale, but here it was not sunlight that lit the strangely darkened skies surrounding that area. Stepping through a gap between the boulders it was revealed what cast off the eerie green glow that illuminated this bizarre place.
Cries of shock and a few of sympathetic pain rose around her, but Willow Rosenberg was quiet. Silent and unwavering in her focused stare, even though she if anyone had reason to cry in anguish.
Before them stood a platform of black rock, forming a large altar of polished stone, weather-worn human skulls and sun-bleached bone. Upon that platform was two large slabs, one reaching towards the sky and the other slanting down towards them. It was from there the green glow emanated.
On the slanting rock a cocoon of strong green light nearly completely drowned out the body of a small child lying there. The light surrounding the figure on the upright rock however was just transparent enough to reveal the form of Tara hanging there as if crucified.
Buffy and Faith were both about to throw themselves up on the platform when Anya managed to grab them both and stop them. The Vengeance demon didn't say anything, but she didn't need to... a gut-deep sense of danger and wrongness enveloped both slayers and had them scanning the area for the origin of that malevolent presence that they could feel.
Sliding out from the shadow of the rock Tara's form was sealed to she almost crept sideways, with the same predatory and deadly simian grace as those that had encountered her spirit before well remembered. But where she once had appeared mostly human despite being a primitive creature of dark power, she now exuded something far more... demonic and animalistic. She was Death. She was Evil.
And she was the First Slayer.
"Don't cross the circle." Anya whispered to Buffy and Faith, drawing everyone's attention to the wide circle of small white stone markers with faded mystic symbols that divided the stone altar from the surrounding cliffs. Many stones lay shattered in the sand, and through those gaps pale tendrils of green light entered to join the light atop the altar itself.
The First slithered around the altar to crouch slightly to the side of where the group was standing, staring hard at Faith and Buffy and clutching her stone dagger hungrily.
Buffy took a small step forward, minding not to come too close to one of the stone markers. "What are you doing here?"
Buffy tried again. "What is this place? Why is our friend here? What is going on?"
The First began pacing.
"She can't understand you, and even if she could she still couldn't answer you." Anya whispered.
"She understands alright." Buffy sounded angry. "And she can talk."
"Speak up! I know you can!" She yelled suddenly at the menacing figure who shifted the dagger in her hands as she stared at the two slayers unblinkingly.
More silence, then...
The voice came from Tara's lips, though sounding as if it travelled a great distance through the wind and echoed strangely. All gathered there cringed at the sound, even those that had not known Tara while she lived... all except Willow who still remained motionless.
"Trapped... want... freedom."
"So this is the First Slayer, huh?" Faith sounded unimpressed. "Guess this explains quite a bit about those days of the month on my part."
"You're trapped here." Buffy ignored Faith's flippant remark, knowing it was just the younger slayer's way of dealing with things. "Fine, we'll discuss the who, why and how later, but first we want our friend."
"You're what is holding Tara here." Anya spoke slowly. "But why?"
"Need power. Powerr... break frrree."
Suddenly the First Slayer stood upright. Her eyes flashed once, causing green energy to shoot out through the cracks in the barrier and out through the gap behind the group.
The wind rose to a roar for a long moment on the other side of the rocks, and Larry leaned out to look at what was happening. He gasped.
"Holy... shit." He said slowly, making Amy and Jonathan look as well.
"We've got trouble." Amy snapped, transforming into her near-werewolf form.
The desert they had crossed was swirling, and bleached bone and rotting bodies were rising, mingling with the sand and walking towards them. More and more shapes, wrought from the remains from animals, humans and demons alike, and all of them marching towards the opening in the rocks.
For a brief moment there was complete silence.
Amy shared a look with Larry. "We'll need to hold them off. If they enter here..."
Larry nodded once and stepped through the gap. Amy and Jonathan followed just as with a loud crack the several stone markers in front of them shattered.
The First Slayer threw herself across the broken circle, slamming into Buffy and sinking her teeth deeply into the blonde's shoulder. Both women tumbled over in the sand, and a wild fight began.
Anya looked between the scene in front of her and the one she saw on the other side of the rocks for a moment, indecisive. But seeing her lover fighting hard against indestructible creatures of sand and bone without much hope of winning, there was no choice to make. With a small grimace Anya disappeared, reappearing by Amy's side and joining her battle. With a sigh Xander followed as well, hefting the axe he had brought with him.
Faith hurled herself into Buffy's fight with the First, using all of her considerable strength just to pull the ancient creature away from Buffy's bleeding flesh. Hissing, the First threw both young slayers away from her and against the rocks, then she spun around and crushed another marker with her superhuman strength.
Willow remained motionless.
The First crushed another marker and was aiming for a third when Buffy rammed into her for another round of exchanged blows. But the First was too strong.
Within a moment Buffy was on her back in the dirt with the First sitting on her and holding her down. If Willow had looked she would have recognised the manner in which the First opened her mouth over Buffy's and began to absorb her life-force from her own first meeting with the creature. Willow didn't look.
Faith stabbed the First in the back with her dagger, using all the strength she had to do so, but the First merely shrugged, popping the blade out with a sickening wet sound. Then she grabbed Faith's left arm and pulled. Faith screamed as her arm was pulled right out of it's socket and then broken in several places.
Finally Willow reacted.
The first whispered word was so quiet no-one noticed that Willow had spoken in the melee at all. When Willow's hair and eyes grew black the two slayers left on the inside of the rock divider did notice though neither was in a position to pay any attention to this fact.
There was not a single creature in the area that did not hear the tormented cry of rage and despair as it was torn from Willow's lips, nor did anyone fail to notice the blast of burning wind that exploded out from her.
When that wind hit the black rock and white stone markers those became sand, and the wind turned too dark to see through. The Scoobies and the Goonies could do nothing but flatten themselves against the ground and try to shield themselves, even though the wind did not touch them. The force of it around them was so great it drove them all to their knees regardless.
As the roaring wind died away, startled Scoobies and Goonies discovered that the rocks were no more, and that the area had turned into blackened glass from the heat, including the sand creatures that most of them had been fighting with.
What remained was the green light, still holding it's two captives in place even though the rock they had rested upon was gone, and the First, slowly getting to her feet and facing Willow.
With a sneer the ancient slayer held up both arms, and the green energy shot out to pulse into her. Both Tara and the unknown child screamed from within the light.
"No more." Willow gestured almost negligently, and the green light was cut off, then extinguished. The First staggered with the sudden disconnection while Tara and the child fell to the ground, no longer held in place by mystical energies.
Willow took a step towards her fallen lover, but the First lifted a clawed hand in her direction, shooting a blast of black energy.
It divided around Willow harmlessly while Willow looked at the First with an air of disinterest. Then Willow's expression hardened. Within the blink of an eye she was standing in front of the First Slayer, and within another, holding her aloft by the neck.
A cruel smile played on Willow's lips.
"Before I terminate you, and believe me I will, lets see if there is something you have to tell us. Any last... words?" A pause. "No? I guess I'll just have to go the direct route then."
With a flash of Willow's eyes, the memories of the First was opened and displayed, like a chimera floating over the blackened desert.
The first memories were images of a ceremony, of a terrible demon, dark magic, and a young woman screaming in fear and pain. Then came the unrelenting sunlight and battles... hunting, fighting, killing, until there was none left to fight against.
Humans avoided her, feared her... the reek of their fear was the closest she came to all but one of them at first. Another young woman, sent out to feed her and inform her of her blood-riddled fate, but also to banish the she-demon the humans had created yet feared just as much as the creatures she had been made to destroy.
Confused and lost, she remained nearby for days despite the explanation, and the young woman was sent out once again with food and a plea for her to leave. This time she took the food and she took the woman as well, feeding off human flesh and a human soul, leaving the remains as a warning to those that had created her.
She wandered under the scorching sun, hunting and killing the beings that was more like herself than the fearful humans she was supposed to be protecting. The humans fed her and she preyed upon them, it was the price of her protection.
Until at last the humans gathered enough strength to capture her, to seal away her undying form in her prison of rock. Many humans gave their lives to seal her within the circle, and even more gave their lives to strengthen the barrier so it would hold her over the passage of time. Then her strength was borrowed, sent to be reborn into the mortal coils of human maidens in generations to pass, to serve the function for which she herself had been created.
The line of slayers had been born.
Endless time passed but her prison was outside of time itself, and she knew nothing of the world beyond it's boundaries. Then something happened. A small barrier stone was broken... a slayer blended her power with that of a slumbering deity, awakening the First's spirit and giving her a small window in which to return to the world.
For a single night, the First invaded the dreams of her successor and of the other beings. Although she was defeated and her spirit returned to her prison, the energy she had fed on from the dreams of her prey had made her stronger, and the small breach in her prison remained. Through it she siphoned energy and life from small, defenceless things.
Then she was summoned. Completely summoned by her successor, yanking her spirit completely out of her prison for a short time and destroying yet another stone, feeding her with energy once more.
She had just enough strength to bind her prison to the place she was summoned to, and to make that area hers. Every living thing that entered there died, giving her it's energy and making her stronger... and once strong enough, she would shatter the barrier with her own fists and enter the world beyond again. To feed, to revel in the hunt, in the kill, like she once had.
It would have taken a long time, indeed none of those that were involved with breaching her prison would be alive then, nor the children of their children's children. But something unexpected happened.
Her Voice was slain and had her spirit torn in several directions while the world of flesh and the world of spirit trembled in pain. The First was quick to reach out and draw that lost spirit in to feed off of, but did not expect what came with her.
Her Voice had been touched by a hellgod, and the connection remained like the faintest of echoes tainting the otherwise pure spirit. The First used the turmoil of the realms to pull in the vessel for that power, imprisoned like she, only in a prison of mortal flesh instead of rock.
Absorbing the hellgod into herself the First merged with the entity called Glorificus, joining their consciousness and their ambitions. But the power of the hellgod was still enclosed within the tiny child, and so the First arranged the Voice and the child within her prison, allowing them to remain in order to slowly absorb their powers. And for every passing day she grew stronger, shattering more stones before her might.
The First could feel it when that last summons from the newly awakened deity awoke the consciousness of the Voice, and she allowed the Voice to call out in reply. Then she waited for the goddess to come, to crush the last of the barrier and to be absorbed as well until the First would be invincible. Humans would not be able to imprison her again, and she would feast on them all.
"Is that it?" Willow was unmoved and unimpressed. "Then I will grant you your freedom..." Willow's eyes flashed. "...in death."
Willow still held the First in the air as her mystical flames consumed the body, until there was nothing left to hold on to. Not even ashes remained of the First Slayer.
When nothing remained of the First Slayer Willow finally turned and walked over to where Tara lay. At first she did not touch her, trembling instead as she watched her for a long moment. Then ever so gently Willow scooped her love up into her arms, buried her face into Tara's hair, and wept.
As Willow wept clutching her beloved, a soft white light began to shine around them. It quickly grew in intensity until it encompassed all that were watching them, blinding them for a brief moment.
When the light died Willow Rosenberg was lying unconscious in the sand with the naked but breathing form of Tara Maclay on top of her, and the strange blazing desert was replaced by morning a stone's throw outside of Sunnydale proper.
When next Willow opened her eyes it was to the somewhat darkened interior of her room in the Summers residence. Through the window she could see the sun just setting, casting the room around her in familiar shadows save for a small muted lamp on the dresser.
There was a sense of peace inside her that had been missing for much too long, and after a heartbeat she realised why. The warm weight at her side... so deeply rooted within Willow's heart that there could be no mistake. Willow looked to her side, confirming with her eyes what her other senses had already told her.
Tara. Living, breathing, sleeping Tara, curled up on Willow's shoulder like always. Had all that dark despair been but a fevered dream?
Then Willow saw the slender hand clutching Tara's, and followed it to the head resting on the edge of the mattress. Dawn, sitting in an uncomfortable chair next to their bed and even in sleep not surrendering her desperate hold on Tara.
Tears welled up unbidden in Willow's eyes.
Dawn. Their little Dawnie... their little girl. The child they had tried to raise as best they could, and that Willow knew Tara in her heart saw as her own, as unlikely as their circumstances were. It was a bond that Dawn felt as well, and there had been moments when Willow had almost envied them their close mother-daughter relationship even though at the same time it warmed her heart to see them both together.
In the deepest part of Willow, where darkness always lingered now, Willow acknowledged that Dawn and Anya had been the only two that had offered support and shared her pain in those hours of mind-destroying grief. Dawn's heart too had cried for vengeance, for a loss echoing Willow's own, and she loved the girl all the more for it.
It was not that Willow resented Buffy and the others for fighting her and trying to stop her, in truth Willow herself, though not entirely consciously, had done everything she could to make sure that they would indeed be able to stop her. She even went so far as to lower her power to Buffy's level, secretly counting on Buffy's experience giving her the upper hand in a combat where their strengths were equal. But it proved not so, and Willow had ended up holding back as to not kill her friend even though Buffy had not done the same.
Then Giles had shown up, not to help nor to support, but to deceive her most dangerously... upping her power until she felt all the pain and torment in the world and could not bear to let humanity suffer for any longer. Willow wondered if that had been Giles idea, or if he had simply been manipulated by the coven whose powers he had borrowed. She hoped so, out of a lingering kernel of love for her once paternal figure.
In the end it was Willow that stopped herself, although she could tell Xander did not see it that way. She didn't care either way and didn't see any reason to correct him.
Willow reached over and patted Dawn's head gently. No, she didn't resent the others for fighting against her... but a part of her did resent them for how they had brushed Tara's death aside, ignoring her pain and trying to make it all about them. A part of Willow whispered that it was her own fault for always letting it be about them. Internally bowing to the truth of that statement, Willow looked at the two resting on the bed beside her. She knew where her priorities lay from now on.
She patted Dawn once more, then carefully shifted her fingers through Tara's hair. Tara made a small mewling sound in her sleep and snuggled in closer, making Willow tear up again. Then she felt someone watching.
"Oh." Faith spoke very quietly as not to wake Tara and Dawn. "Sorry, didn't mean to disturb you... was just, you know, checking in on ya." A pause. "Everything... five by five?"
Willow grinned slightly as she wiped her eyes. "You know, I never understood that expression."
Faith smirked. "I know."
"Any chance of an explanation?"
"I dunno... ask me again in a couple of years." Faith grinned and moved a little closer to the bed.
"I think I will." Willow's smile faded. "Faith, I... want to apologise to you."
Faith inched a bit closer, looking a bit surprised.
"For... well, for everything. I never gave you much of a chance, and for that I'm sorry." A wry half-smile. "And also for the incredible she-of-the-open-mouth-ness about you and Buffy... I should have seen it coming, really."
A glance at Tara. "And I owe you."
Faith sat down on the edge of the bed. "Nuh, no way Red."
Willow looked a bit startled, making Faith grin some more.
"It's thanks to you B is with me now... and I'm not talking just the love spell." Faith closed her eyes. "Her death... I don't ever want to go through that again."
Willow touched Faith's hand in sympathy, knowing all to well what losing your loved one was like.
"Plus that little light thingy you did? Healed us all right up, and I'd be hurting pretty bad right now if ya hadn't." Faith made a self-depreciating sound. "Anyway, no owing, ok? And as for the rest..." A pause. "We were friends once. Whadda ya say?" A smile and a nod was her answer. "Heh, wicked cool."
Faith looked away for a moment, growing sombre.
"Look, Red... Willow, about what we saw back there... what the First Slayer thought of you... about what you are..."
Willow interrupted her with a hand on her arm. She nodded and closed her eyes. "I know."
A sigh. "It took time to realize, to accept, but I know what I am. I've... researched it, and everything I check tells me the same thing... calls me the dark goddess of the Hellmouth." An even deeper sigh. "I didn't want it to be true." Even more quietly. "Does the others know?"
Faith shook her head. "No, I don't think anyone else actually picked up on that in all that happened. Someone would have mentioned that if they had." Faith hesitated. "You know that they'll find out eventually though... don't you think it's better if they hear it from you?"
"I will... tell them. I know I have to, I just tried to deny it... sealing away my power is all I can do, and I guess I was hoping somehow they wouldn't treat me differently. But of course everything already is different." Another sigh. "There's something else too... but you need to keep it to yourself for right now."
A deep breath.
"See, Buffy didn't come to Sunnydale by accident."
"I figured, you know, Hellmouth, the master..." Faith gestured slightly, watching Willow intently. "No?"
"No. The Slayer was called to Sunnydale because this is where I was born." Willow rubbed at her eyes. "I know how it sounds, but from what I've managed to piece together the Slayer, meaning Buffy, was destined to come here to protect me until I, um, awoke. Or possibly to keep me in check, the information varies a little on that point."
"Huh." Faith grunted.
"You have to tell her." Faith was serious.
"I know, and I will. But not right now." A pained expression flitted across Willow's features. "I have... other things to worry about right now. Someone else's reaction to all I've done and what I am, for starters."
They both looked at Tara in silence for a long moment.
"Five by five, Red."
A groan from the bed next to Willow startled them both.
"...five what by five what?" Tara mumbled sleepily, burrowing more into Willow. "Never understood that expression."
Perhaps it was the surprise, or perhaps it was just a human reaction to release the tension, but whatever it was, as a pair of drowsy blue eyes peered at her Faith couldn't help it... she laughed.
"Are you sure you're up to this? Don't you think you should be lying down for a while?"
The worried voice belonged to Buffy whom, after first having squealed, hugged Tara and lifted her in the air, had since been hovering somewhat nervously nearby like a mother hen ever since Tara and Willow had come down the stairs, hand in hand and with red-rimmed eyes.
Tara smiled sweetly and patted Buffy's cheek. "I'm alright Buffy, really, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" Dawn asked from her spot on the floor by Tara's feet. "Can we get you something?"
"Yes... do you feel a hankering for some fresh brains perhaps?" Anya had hugged Tara as well, then before anyone had the time to say anything about it, explained her new relationship with Amy and suggested many fun double dates with Tara and Willow. To Tara's credit she had taken the news in stride, merely nodded to the suddenly blushing Amy, and not commented on Anya's lack of timing.
"I'm fine, really I..." Tara was interrupted by a sudden wailing from the bundle temporarily ensconced in a laundry basket stuffed with Buffy's old baby blankets.
"Oh no, not again, I just managed to get her to sleep!" Buffy sounded frantic, then glared suspiciously at Dawn and Amy. "Did either of you go and poke her again?"
While the two in question protested their innocence to a testy Buffy, Tara walked over and picked the little girl up, cradling her to her and making soft cooing noises.
"There there... I'm right here now sweetie, go back to sleep." To everyone's amazement the child quietened and snuggled in drowsily. Tara looked apologetically at them. "I think we may have developed some kind of bond between us, but mostly I'm just used to children from back home."
"Thank goodness, none of us here has much experience with encounters of the diapered kind." Buffy exhaled and sat back down. "Whose is she, anyway?"
"According to dad and Jono's research so far, she isn't anybody's." Faith eyed the child warily, wondering if the noise would start up again. "Officially she doesn't exist."
"What about unofficially?" Willow wanted to know.
"Her folks was taken by those knights, and at least her mom died when she was born. There's no info on the dad after that point, but it's highly unlikely he survived both the knights and what happened when the kid got taken to... that desert place."
"He didn't." Tara added softly. "She's all alone."
"Uhuh." Buffy said slowly. "What about Glory?"
"She's gone, as in completely. The First Slayer too." Willow's expression was dark, and there was something in her voice that spoke of power and absolute conviction, so Buffy and the others chose not to pursue the question.
Faith nodded. "She's just a normal kid then?"
Willow and Tara spoke in unison, then Willow continued. "She has a great deal of Glorificus power inside. I can probably put a dampener on it so most of it remains dormant, but sooner or later she will be able to tap into that power."
After a moment Willow added darkly. "With what we know of things of occult origins, sooner or later someone will sense her power and come for her, too."
"Guess that means just dropping her off at the orphanage and hope for the best is out." Faith concluded dryly.
"Can't we take her?"
Dawn looked up from where she had been carefully poking at a tiny fist, noticing that everyone except Willow and Tara was staring at her. "Well if she's not Glory anymore, can't we take care of her? She's so... cute, and, and... so tiny. We won't let anything bad happen to her."
"Dawn, she's not a puppy." Buffy admonished, and a small argument ensued between the two sisters until Faith reached out and put a hand on Buffy's shoulder, calling her attention to the silent conversation going on between Willow and Tara.
"You know that if there turns out to be blood kin we may have to give her up?" Willow asked quietly, searching Tara's eyes. "That raising a baby like this will be... challenging?"
Tara nodded. "I know. But I would like to try."
Willow looked at the small child and smiled. "Then try we will."
Her response earned her a kiss from Tara who pulled her in close.
"Cool." Dawn grinned. "I always wanted a baby sister." Followed by sticking out her tongue at Buffy.
"You know..." Willow looked nervous. "If we do this, if we end up adopting her... then I will want to make an honest woman out of you eventually, Miss Maclay."
Willow didn't dare to look at Tara as she whispered the rest. "With all I've told you and all you know... are you sure you want to risk that?"
A long moment of silence, in which Willow closed her eyes against the pain of rejection. She chided herself silently for ever entertaining the hope, even for a moment. She was trying to collect herself enough to say something, hopefully to salvage the situation when she felt someone step up beside her. Looking up Willow saw Faith smirking, winking at her as the dark slayer leaned over and surprisingly carefully gathered up the baby.
The baby fussed slightly in her sleep but Faith rocked her a little and the girl settled down. "Hush now rugrat, your moms need a little baby-free space right now."
Even Dawn was backing away with a huge smile on her face, walking over to a sniffling Buffy, both of them staring at Willow and Tara.
That was when Willow felt long fingers slip into her hair and, shakily, cradle her neck. She barely had the time to register surprise, or the tears running down Tara's face, as she was turned around and pulled in for a long, fervent kiss and an even longer embrace. They ended up clinging to one another and weeping softly despite their wide, happy smiles.
"I'd say that was a yes, wouldn't you?" Dawn commented, still grinning, from next to Buffy.
"Darn tootin'." Buffy sniffled, then spun around and hugged Faith hard, crying some more into her shoulder.
"He-ey, careful there B... don't want me dropping the niece now do ya?" Faith balanced her lover and the baby somewhat awkwardly. She rocked the sleeping child some more just in case.
"Heh... you're B's niece but Dawnie's little sister." She told the girl. "Boy are you going to have one reeeaaally interesting family tree, kid."
Three months later Faith Wilkins was standing at the back porch of the Summers residence, listening to the sound of happy voices inside the house and staring up at the starry sky. She located one of Tara's strange constellations as she idly swirled her drink and wished for something with a bit more bite than the iced tea the mug contained.
But it was Willow and Tara's party, to celebrate the adoption and the naming ceremony for their little girl, so Faith behaved, just feeling vaguely fortunate that the drinks offered ranged in the coffee, iced tea and lemonade areas, as opposed to some of the strange things those two could occasionally come up with. Still, choice of beverages aside, Faith had found herself getting rather fond of the couple, and was glad things were working out.
It had been a couple of busy months for everyone, but as far as Faith was concerned, life was good... beyond good, even. And she had a feeling most of her friends would agree.
Faith smiled slightly as she heard the door open and close quietly, and a familiar set of footsteps walk up from behind.
"What're you doing?" Buffy asked as she snuggled up against Faith and put her head on Faith's shoulder.
"Just looking at the Pile o' Crackers... thinking." Faith grinned as Buffy stole her drink. "Never thought being a secondary character would take this much work."
"Secondary character? Oh no." Buffy snorted, then leaned in for a kiss. "You're a main player now, honey." Another kiss. "You'd better just get used to it."
Faith smirked at her amorous lover. "Is that so?"
"Uhuh... because, you know..." Buffy wrapped her arms tightly around Faith. "You're my Chosen One. My chosen only."
Blinking away sudden tears in her eyes, Faith hugged her lover as close as she could. Both women savoured the sense of peace they had in that moment, underneath the stars.
Warm, safe, loved... and together.
Return to BtVS Fiction
Return to Main Page