The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 23 & 24

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 21 & 22]

Chapter 23

8:30 next morning. T-minus five hours.

Willow emerged from her tent into the cool desert air. Her phone alarm had gone off half an hour ago, but she’d already been awake. Hard to sleep on a night like that. She had on blue jeans, sneakers, and a long-sleeve shirt. Battle gear ought to be comfortable, right?

“Hey, Xander,” she said, as he came to see her with a battle axe slung over his shoulder. “Isn’t that the one that was hanging on your wall in Minnesota?”

He patted the axe’s handle. “Yep. Me and this baby go all the way back to Brazil.” He swung it around a few times. “I figure, your magic is mostly gone, Spike’s a pacifist, and Dawn and Giles aren’t really fighters. Somebody’s gotta protect you guys. Don’t worry, you just stay in one of the tents, I’ll keep the monsters away.”

“Oh. Well, that’s nice of you,” said Willow. “But actually, I’m going to use this.” She pulled a tear-shaped medallion from her pocket. “It’ll make me stronger. Not as strong as I was before, or even as strong as Emily, but hopefully enough to be useful.”

“Shouldn’t you, um, wear that more often?”

She shook her head. “They’re extremely rare, and once I put it on, I get maybe five or ten minutes of juice before it runs dry. Been saving it for a special occasion. I think this qualifies.”

Spike came out of a nearby tent, wearing the same clothes as last night. He looked around and joined them.

“Wasn’t that Buffy’s tent you just left?” said Willow.

“Um…” He smoothed his disheveled hair. “Could have been.”

“Well, was she in there?”

“Didn’t notice.”

“No more questions,” said Xander, “I don’t want to know. Spike, I was just telling Willow that I’ll watch your back during the battle. You know, since you’re all done with fighting these days.”

“Oh, well.” Spike laid a hand on a short sword that hung from his hip. “’Done’ is a strong word. I s’pose I could help out a little, fight the good fight and all that. Peace, uh, gets boring sometimes.”

“But if you kill anything, you’ll die,” said Willow. “Are you planning some big heroic sacrifice?”

“Uh, no, not really.” Spike drew the sword, revealing a straight forest-green blade, worked with intricate filigree. “Got this toy from a goblin in Belarus. Shoots out little sparks of lightning that’ll paralyze most kinds of demon. Not a kill, technically.”

Dawn ambled over, holding a big gray suitcase. “What’s new, kids?”

“Spike slept with Buffy,” said Willow.

“Already?” said Dawn. “Listen, how does that even work? She’s still mega-strong, and you’re not anymore. Wouldn’t she, like, break you?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” said Spike, “but I happen to be very adaptable.” He rubbed his back, grimacing. “And if you know any good orthopedic surgeons, tell me about them after the battle. Assuming we’re both still alive.”

“Listen, Dawn,” said Xander. “I was thinking, you and Giles probably aren’t big on this battle stuff anymore. I just want you to know, I’m here to protect you from…”

Dawn opened her suitcase and pulled out a machine gun.

“Holy crap,” said Xander. “What the hell is that?”

“Colt 603 M16A1 fully-automatic assault rifle. Oldie but a goodie. I got it from a guy in Wyoming after the whole vampires-cutting-off-my-leg thing. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I sleep. Like a teddy bear.”

“That wouldn’t have killed the vampires,” said Xander.

“No,” said Spike, “but speaking as a former vampire, it wouldn’t have been a day at the bloody spa, either.”

“You had this in London?” said Willow. “You can’t even carry a pistol over there.”

“Huh,” said Dawn. “Guess it never came up.”

Giles joined their little group. “My, is that a Colt 603?” he said. “Those are getting harder to find.”

“So Giles,” said Xander, “do you have a special pendant you’re going to wear for the battle? Some kind of electric sword? A military-grade firearm, perhaps? Maybe a rocket launcher, for old times’ sake?”

“Ah, well, if so, it’ll be quite a surprise to me.”

“Okay. So, I just thought, if you want, I could keep you safe during – ”

“I will, however, be wielding an immense volume of sorcery on behalf of the coven in Devon, England. They lent me their power once, when Willow was – ehm – not herself, and after a phone call last night, they have agreed to do so again.”

“Oh, come on!” said Xander, throwing up his hands. “So just anybody can be a magic superhero now?”

“Yes, anybody,” said Giles. “So long as they are a world-class magic user, a proven warrior, a lifelong friend of the coven, and agree to do battle with a beast who could annihilate the world.”

“Man…” Xander examined his own weapon. “And all I have is this stupid axe.” He polished the blade with his sleeve. “Still…I guess it is pretty sweet, as axes go…”

Buffy showed up just then with her gleaming red-and-silver axe. “Everybody got their weapons?”

Chapter 24

1:34 PM. T-minus two minutes.

Willow stood three hundred yards away from the giant red ‘X’ spray-painted on the dirt. She glanced at the digital display on her wrist every so often. “I really thought Abaddon would’ve attacked by now.”

“Evidently, he’s waiting for the souls to appear,” said Giles.

Willow and Giles stood together with Xander, Dawn, and Spike. Buffy and Illyria were a ways off, talking about something.

Xander nodded in Buffy’s direction. “Is she really not going to see her mom?”

“Doesn’t want to reopen old wounds, she says.” Dawn stuck out her tongue. “Buttface.”

“Speaking of wounds,” said Xander, “is she going to be okay for battle? She still looks a little banged up from last night.”

Spike raised his hands defensively. “Hey, if anything, I made her feel better than – ”

“He meant the vampire fight, dumbass,” said Dawn. “She’ll be fine. Slayers heal quick.”

“Thirty seconds now,” said Willow. “Everybody get ready. Remember, we don’t know how much time we have, so hurry.”

“Yes, I shall hobble as rapidly as I can,” said Giles.

Willow’s heart quickened. Her palms were sweating. “This is it. This is it. Six…five…four…three…two…one…”

Nothing.

“Well, it’s hard to be precise,” she said. “The timing can vary by as much as forty seconds in either – ”

A vast crowd of people appeared. No flash of light, no roll of thunder. They simply existed, where a second before had been empty desert.

Willow looked around in surprise, then sprinted into the throng.

So many, far more than she imagined. And so loud! Everyone talking at once, hard to pick out individual voices over the din. She pushed past men and women, adults and children. Most looked more or less modern, but she saw her share of top hats and poofy dresses, mustachioed gentlemen and flappers. Everyone was solid enough, she quickly confirmed, but everyone also had a slight, whitish glow. Probably the excess energy from crossing the Empyrean Veil.

“Tara!” she yelled, and when that proved to be hopeless, she used a little stream of magic to amplify her voice. “TARA! TARA!”

Now and then she recognized someone. There was Larry, who’d picked on Xander in high school, killed in the battle on Graduation Day. He was searching his pockets, apparently having lost something. And there was Cassie, the kind young woman with precog abilities who had died of heart failure.

“Cassie! It’s me, Willow! Have you seen Tara?”

But Cassie didn’t hear, and was soon lost in the crowd. Just as well, Willow realized. Cassie and Tara had probably never met.

A minute later she came across two men arguing – one wearing a priest’s uniform, the other, a suit and tie.

“Look around you,” cried the priest, “it’s an abomination! These whores, these filthy sluts…”

The man in the suit chuckled. “Hello from the Department of Redundancy Department. And my goodness, such language from a clergyman! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

Mayor Wilkins and Caleb. Willow felt sick. She veered aside, still making her way through the horde of people. “TARA!”

She was just reaching the far end of the crowd when a voice to her left called out, “Willow?”

Willow turned. The woman running toward her…

She was about Willow’s own age, long amber hair, a lavender skirt that nearly swept the sand. A necklace with some kind of gem. Lovely pale skin, intelligent blue eyes. On her hand, a wedding ring…

It couldn’t be. But it was.

Tara, as she would have been. If she had lived.

“Oh, Tara!” Willow cried, and they threw their arms around each other, holding each other tight, kissing over and over, saying each other’s names again and again, like a litany against pain.

Willow whispered into her ear, still not daring to let her go. “I’ve missed you,” she said. “I’ve missed you every day. Oh, darling. Oh, my dear, sweet angel. You don’t know what it was like.”

“Yes, I do,” Tara said, stroking her hair. “I watched you. Time is different, in the place I was. There isn’t a past or a future. Everything’s perfect and complete, nobody hurts, nobody hates anybody or dies. I wish you could see it. You will, you will see it. But I watched you all along, Willow. Everything. Everything. We’ve never been apart.”

They separated at last, only to look at each other again. Tara glanced down at herself. “It must be strange, to see me this way. But this is how I feel. This is who I feel that I am.”

“It’s perfect,” said Willow. “It’s even better than – ”

Suddenly Tara’s head snapped to the right.

Something was wrong.

“He’s coming,” she whispered.

“What?” Willow was shaking her head. “Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no. Not now. We aren’t done. We need more time. We need – ”

Tara took hold of her and leaned close. “Time will come after,” she said urgently. “But now you need to go.”

She stepped back and pointed. Willow looked at her.

“GO!”

Willow stumbled back, turned, and tried to outrun the wind.

[Go on to chapters 25 & 26]

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