The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 9 & 10

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 7 & 8]

Chapter 9

Willow was in her comfy clothes, sitting on the couch at home, a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips open beside her. She crunched one as she waited. The viewscreen in front of her read:

Charles Gunn

CEO, Wolfram & Hart, Worldwide

Los Angeles, California

Connecting…

A minute later he appeared, breaking into a wide grin. “Willow!”

He sat behind a huge desk with absolutely nothing on it, wearing a suit that must’ve cost more than a small car. Still sporting the goatee, still a cue ball on top.

Well, you know. If a cue ball were black.

“Charles.” She smiled. “How are things in Lawyer Land?”

“Oh, it pays the bills. And it pays for a few additional houses, on which to pay the bills.” He laughed. “No, but it’s good. You realize that next week is the 10-year anniversary of the Universal Demon Common Code?”

“Wow,” said Willow, trying to remember what that was. “The UDCC.”

“For the first time ever, a legal framework governing every demon on Earth. No more vigilantes. We arrest, try in court, sentence if guilty.” He shrugged. “Still a few kinks to work out, like…most demons don’t accept our authority. But we’re getting there.”

“That’s great! Really great.”

He chuckled again. “And it’s putting you to sleep right in front of me. Fair enough. What’s on your mind, Miss Rosenberg?”

Pleasantries over. He wouldn’t be smiling much longer. “I assume you’ve heard about Sunnydale?”

Charles nodded. “The entire underworld’s buzzing with the news. It’s like demon Christmas. Which, I guess, would be pretty weird. Are you going?”

“Yes.”

“I figured. Be careful. I know you can take care of yourself, but there are some seriously big-time players gearing up for a piece of this action. Things so dark they make Freddy Krueger look like Edward Scissorhands. I haven’t got names yet, but it won’t be pretty.”

“As expected.” Assume the worst, and you’re never disappointed. “I’ll have my witches there, plus Illyria. And the Council is sending a team of Slayers.”

“That’s a good start. But I’d bring a little more firepower, if I were you.”

“Actually, that’s what I want to talk about…”

“Oh no.” He waved a hand. “Stop you right there. I can’t give you any special forces. This is a battle, not a police action. Wolfram & Hart agents are spread too thin as it is.”

“Special forces weren’t quite what I had in mind.” She paused, feeling rather dramatic. “I want you to give me Vault Forty-Seven.”

“Vault Forty-Seven,” he repeated dully.

“Well, not so much the vault, as what’s inside.”

“That’s, um.” He stroked his goatee. “That’s some pretty heavy artillery, Willow. What are you going to do with it?”

“Exactly what you think.”

“Yeah.” Charles leaned forward. “Sorry, but um, I have to say no on this one. I’d like to help, and Lord knows I’d love a front-row seat to whatever kind of crazy you’re planning. But if we start giving power to vigilantes, it could seriously damage the firm’s reputation.”

Willow smiled. “I’m sure you have ways of handling PR situations.”

“Yeah, we do. Mostly by preventing them.” He shook his head. “Sorry. My answer’s final.”

“No, it’s not,” said Willow. “You’re going to give me what I want.”

Silent for a moment. More curious than defiant. “And why is that, exactly?”

“Because I’m calling in my favor.”

He stared at her.

“Your favor,” he said. “The one you’ve been sitting on for almost two decades?”

“I don’t recall it having an expiration date,” she said mildly.

“No, no, I didn’t mean that. It’s just…” He laughed again, mostly from surprise. “This is what you’re using it on? You can ask anything you want from the CEO of an interdimensional multi-trillion-dollar corporation, and this is it? Don’t get me wrong, it’ll get the job done. I just always assumed you’d go for something…bigger.”

Willow smiled.

“As far as I’m concerned,” she said, “it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

Chapter 10

That night found Willow rummaging through old boxes and seldom-opened drawers. She finally found what she wanted in a corner of the attic, nestled under a stack of National Geographics from 2003.

She carried her prize down retractable wooden stairs, into a guest bedroom, where she sat cross-legged on the floor to examine it.

The Sunnydale High ’99 Yearbook.

A red cover with odd-looking art: three faces staring at the sun. (You could go blind. Was that what they wanted to teach impressionable teens?) At the bottom, in big, serious letters: ‘The Future Is Ours!’

She flipped through it, searching for one picture after another.

Willow Rosenberg. Rockin’ the overalls, of course. Not so much a smile as a look that said ‘I’m having intestinal cramps.’

Alexander Harris. A grin that could only be translated as ‘Hey, ladies.’ She was probably the only girl in school who’d ever found it sexy.

Daniel Osbourne. Having a staring contest with the camera, and winning. Oz lived in Tibet now. Last she heard, a grandfather, and owner of a surprising number of yaks.

Cordelia Chase. Prettier than you, and knew it. Who would ever have thought, all these years later, she would actually miss Cordelia?

And finally…

Buffy Summers. Warm, honest smile. Glowing with optimism. Not a child, not innocent, even back then. But still, mostly, herself.

Going back, seeing her this way – it could break your heart.

Willow closed her eyes. When had Buffy changed? When had the darkness crept in?

You could point to any number of traumas, of course. Loss of her mother. Death and harrowing resurrection. Annihilation of her hometown.

A lot of people told Willow the real change had happened during the war. Connor being turned to a vampire, he and Angel staking each other’s hearts at the same moment. The death of Andrew, and of so many Slayers.

The day that Diabo’s vampire thugs traveled all the way north to Colorado, took Dawn hostage, and hacked off part of her leg as a warning to Buffy.

It was supposed to intimidate her.

He obviously didn’t know Buffy.

Spike told Willow later, he had never seen a human being so angry. Hadn’t understood, really, what anger was capable of. That night, he learned. No screaming, no swearing. No throwing things around. Buffy was far beyond those minor tantrums. It was almost gentle, this rage, in its exquisite sharpness, its single-minded unity of purpose. It was a physical force, irresistible and serene.

Spike had never seen it before. But Willow had. She had felt it, breathed it, tasted it. Carried a piece of it, still, in her heart. Willow and Buffy, they understood each other fine.

A team of commandos rescued Dawn. Later that night, Buffy and Willow stormed the Palace, just the two of them. Witch in the sky, Slayer on the ground, they split the world between them.

Diabo was dead within forty-five minutes. They wrapped up the rest of the war in a few weeks.

That was when she changed, people said. And maybe it was true.

But for Willow, the real change had come three months later, during a rare sunny day in London. They were on vacation – sitting together on lawn chairs in St. James’s Park, eating overpriced watercress sandwiches, watching pelicans on the lake.

She could still remember the exact words that had shifted the course of their lives.

“Will,” said Buffy, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Not allowed,” Willow said brightly. “This is relaxing time only. If I see you with even a single idea, I’ll drag you to the stockades.”

Buffy didn’t answer, and Willow realized they had drifted into something serious. She put down her sandwich, worried. “What is it?”

“I’ve been thinking,” said Buffy. “I want to kill the vampires.”

Willow frowned. “As opposed to what you’ve been doing for the past twenty years, chasing rainbows and cuddling puppies?”

“No,” said Buffy, still looking at the water birds. “I mean, I want to kill them all. I want to eradicate their species. I want to wipe them off the planet.”

“Oh.” Willow wasn’t sure what to say.

“I’m tired, Will. I’m tired of fighting one battle after another, when nothing changes. I’m tired of playing hero like it’s some kind of game. I want to finish this. Forever.”

Willow reached for Buffy’s hand, but found her fingers tight, unresponsive. She pulled back, really concerned. “Well, um. What did you have in mind?”

“Start with their power sources.” She was getting warmed up now, constructing her idea aloud. “Where do vampires draw their strength? The Hellmouths. So let’s destroy them. There are thirteen in the world. I say that’s one down, twelve to go.”

“Wow. Uh, that’s a pretty tall order. I mean, theoretically it’s possible, but…”

“Next. Their allies. Who are the biggest vampire sponsors anywhere? The Senior Partners, Wolfram & Hart.”

Willow was still playing catchup. “You want to stop them from…”

“I want to kill them.”

“Okay, Buffy, listen. Listen to me. Please?” She tugged at her sleeve and finally got the Slayer’s attention. “I know you’re hurting. I can’t imagine how much. But this stuff you’re talking about? We’re kind of in crazy territory here. The Senior Partners are older than the universe. Their entire dimension is a fortress. There are whole categories of magic that only exist because they invented them. Think about what you’re saying.”

She wondered if that would make her mad. But Buffy looked back to the water, undisturbed.

“I have thought about it,” Buffy said. “A lot. And I think it’s time we stop selling ourselves short. With one Slayer, one witch, and some friends, we killed a god. Remember? Now we have dozens of witches, hundreds of Slayers, all the resources of the Watchers’ Council, mountains of cash. And you. You’re ten times stronger than you were back then. A hundred times. Whatever we want to do, let’s do it.”

Willow kept silent. She could see her friend had rehearsed this talk, needed to get it out.

“And then we come for the vampires.” Buffy stood up, paced over the concrete path, animated. “We step up the game. No more of this medieval weapons crap. We think different. We stop treating it like a series of fights, and start treating it like what it is. Genocide.”

Willow’s throat went cold. “Yeah, when you’re selling your plan to a Jewish girl, maybe don’t bill it as a genocide? Not really one of our favorite words.”

“This is different. They’re not people, Will! I didn’t hear you complaining about the first few thousand I slaughtered.”

That was the first real flash of anger, but it faded at once.

“I’m just saying,” Buffy continued, “we need to get efficient. Industrial. Let’s figure out the tiniest amount of wood that qualifies as a stake, encase it in a bullet. Let’s explore the limits of holy water. Can you spray it as steam? Can a priest bless a rainstorm, or the moisture in the air? Let’s do it. And sunlight. I want to shine it in the dark. I want to synthesize it, weaponize it. We’ll find a way.”

She was really getting into it, using her hands, sculpting invisible futures in the air.

“And we need to go further. Long-range vampire detectors. Chemicals that toxify human blood, without hurting humans – we can put them in the water supply. Gases that stop vampires metabolizing blood – we can pump them in the air. We just need to do the research.”

Buffy sat down again, hands clenched tight, a fresh intensity in her eyes. “And when we’re ready, we sweep the cities. Big ones first. We go block by block. Spread out from there. Sterilize the major infections. After that, the rest is just cleanup.”

She was nodding.

“We can do this, Will. We can make it happen. I know I can get Giles onboard. But I’m coming to you first. I can’t do it without you.”

Buffy leaned toward her urgently.

“What do you say?”

Willow rested her head in her hands, thinking. Trying to find a path of logic through the doubts and the worries. Trying to figure out what, exactly, bothered her about this scheme.

It wasn’t the epic, near-insane difficulty of the plan; she had followed Buffy into hell before, and she would again. Nor was it the ruthless, massive, calculated violence; though that made her uncomfortable, she knew Buffy was basically right. Vampires were monsters, not people, and they ought to be exterminated.

What bothered her was Buffy herself. The hunger in her voice. The grim, predatory set of her jaw.

Willow didn’t care what this would do to the vampires. She cared what it would do to her friend.

“Buffy,” she said at last. “You know how this ended for Captain Ahab, right?”

Buffy’s smile was colder than Siberian tundra.

“Ahab hunted his whale in a wooden ship,” she said. “Let’s try it in an aircraft carrier.”

They talked about it for three more weeks after that. But in the end, Willow said yes.

And now she was sitting on the floor, looking in a yearbook at a girl who no longer existed.

What would become of the woman who’d taken her place?

What would become of them both?

[Go on to chapters 11 & 12]

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