The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 27 & 28

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 25 & 26]

Chapter 27

Willow slipped between moments.

Billions of galaxies halted in their ponderous motion. The Earth stilled its race around the sun, the black clouds froze, the raindrops hovered mid-air. Tara’s face became a snapshot, a study in courage and resolve. Abaddon, a slavering wolf, paused on the brink of attack. All around, statues of a battle, memorials to warriors not yet fallen.

Slowly, deeply, Willow breathed. In, and out. In, and out.

Here, in this space without time, she was perfectly calm: neither angry nor afraid, neither hateful nor proud. It was not dark magic, this energy she held. It was power, pure and simple, distilled and purified, undiluted by feeling, the raw light of Creation itself.

She looked around at the anger and the pain, the weapons and the heroes, the stark desperation of bloodshed. And she thought: violence is such a clumsy way to kill.

Physical combat was arduous and risky. Guns could miss. Bombs and missiles were costly, complicated, imprecise. Even subtler violence, like poison, could be detected or survived.

Magical violence was no better. Telekinesis, lightning, turning blood to ice – she knew all the tricks. But chant the wrong word, use the wrong kind of crystal, and the entire thing could fail or backfire. Even if it worked, there were wards, counterspells, defenses. The whole affair was dubious at best.

It had taken her most of her life to learn the manifest truth. Violence was a child’s game.

If you wanted to kill someone, just kill them.

Willow reached out with her mind.

Embraced Abaddon and his warriors.

Gathered their life-threads.

Caressed them tenderly.

And snapped.

Forgive me, she thought, to no one in particular, and shifted back into time.

Chapter 28

Abaddon’s body crashed into the mud just in front of Tara. At the same moment, all the demons – the entire army – crumpled like discarded marionettes.

The cries and yells faded to murmurs of confusion. People looked around at the corpses, trying to understand.

Willow helped Tara to her feet. “Are you okay?” she asked. But Tara only gazed at her with an unreadable expression.

The witches migrated to Willow first. They had sensed the magic and its source. They gathered around her, staring – some in horror, some in revulsion, some in awe. Several of them wept. One girl knelt down and threw up quietly.

Emily said softly, “What did you do?”

Willow didn’t answer. The question was, she guessed, rhetorical.

Following the witches’ lead, everyone else congregated around. All of them looking at her.

“You did this?” said Dawn.

“Willow,” said Xander. “You got your power back!”

“No,” said Buffy, in a voice hard as diamond. “She never lost it. Did you?”

Silently, Willow shook her head.

“You didn’t burn out when you killed the Senior Partners,” said Buffy.

“If anything,” Willow said quietly, “it made me stronger. The limit on my magic was…self-imposed. Like a nozzle on a pipe. I could remove it anytime. And I did.”

“Anytime,” Buffy echoed. “Anytime, you could have ended this.”

She was stained all over with blood and dirt. Most everyone was.

Buffy laughed, dark and dangerous, and held out her arms to encompass the battlefield. “Well, aren’t we a bunch of idiots, huh? Fighting for our lives like it actually mattered. At least three of my Slayers are dead, Willow. At least two witches. And the twelve Slayers from the Watchers’ Council.” Another wild laugh. “Boy, I bet they feel stupid now!”

“Buffy…” said Dawn.

“Hell, twenty years of chasing down vampires. Crawling in holes, marching through jungles and swamps, freezing in the Arctic. Keeping a list of every Slayer who gave her life for the cause, to be sure I’d never forget. God, isn’t it nice that you let me spend a third of my life on that, instead of snapping your fingers to do it instantly?”

“Buffy,” said Dawn. “Shut up.”

Buffy glared at her. “Excuse me?”

“Let her talk,” said Dawn. “Let her tell us the reason.”

“Oh, by all means,” said Buffy. “Y’know, I’m curious too. What was the reason, Willow?”

Willow looked around at all of them, searching for the words. She felt empty.

“The power that I have,” she began, still quiet, “is absolute. There are no barriers. No counterspells. No limits but my own conscience. I can kill anyone, anytime, anywhere, for any reason, instantly, without consequence. I can sit in judgment on the whole planet, dispensing life and death, without leaving my house. That’s what this power is.”

She shook her head.

“I won’t be that person. I won’t walk that path.”

Willow brushed some wet hair out of her face.

“I promised myself I would never do this, and I never will again. Today, I broke my promise, and that was wrong. I’m sorry. But I couldn’t…I just couldn’t…”

She looked at Tara, and her voice broke.

“She’s my girl.”

Buffy was unimpressed.

“So I guess you just would’ve let Abaddon kill me, huh, Will? I guess I don’t qualify for this special protection program. Apparently it’s only people you’ve made out with. Oz, I suppose he qualifies. What about Xander?”

“Buffy,” said Xander. “It’s not that simple, and you know it.”

“It is that simple!” Buffy yelled. “Don’t you get it? This is over, and you’re going home to your nice little house with your nice little wife, and I’m going back out there with Zeta Black, risking my life, to do what I have to do. All because her morals are too precious to let her hands get dirty. We’ll be hunting for decades – ”

“No.”

It was Giles. No longer glowing. Holding a rag to the wound on his shoulder.

Buffy turned on him. “I’m sorry, did you say ‘no?’”

“You shall not hunt vampires ever again,” he said.

“Are you seriously giving me orders? Now, after everything?”

“It’s not an order,” he said. “It’s a fact.”

“Is that right? And please, Mr. Giles, do tell me just one single reason why I should give up my life’s mission.”

“Because there are no more vampires,” he said.

She stared.

“What?”

“That one you killed yesterday night. He was the last. It’s over.”

She marched up close to him. “You can’t possibly know that.”

“There is a flame in the Watchers’ Catacombs,” he said, “that has burned as long as anyone remembers. It symbolizes our fight against the vampires. I got a message just now. It has gone out.”

“So?” she said. “So a draft came through the window. Who cares?”

“It’s true,” Emily said in surprise. “I just did a spell to point me toward the nearest vampire. There isn’t one.”

“Yeah,” said Buffy, “because witches are right at the top of my trust list right now.”

Spike was staring off into space. “Tetelestai. ‘It is finished.’ He knew. Somehow, he knew.”

Buffy frowned. “No. That doesn’t…that doesn’t mean…”

“Commander.” A Slayer approached her. It was Alice, from Sri Lanka. She was holding the Scythe. “Look. The wooden stake on the end. It broke off during the battle. The spell to protect it has lifted. It isn’t needed anymore.” She wore an expression of weary triumph on her face. “Ma’am, it’s over. We’ve won!”

“No. No.” Buffy was shaking her head. “It can’t be over. I can’t believe…”

Everyone was talking now – some arguing, some excited, most just trying to figure it all out.

After a minute, Dawn came up to her sister, leading a woman by the hand.

“Buffy,” said Joyce.

“Mom?” Buffy looked startled. Hurt. “No, I…I wasn’t going to see you.”

Joyce kissed Buffy’s hair. “Sweetie. I am so proud of you. I always have been. You’re so strong, and you have a good heart. I love you and your sister more than anything.”

She gathered her up in her arms, and Dawn hugged them both at once.

When at last they let each other go, Giles put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “And I am proud of you, Buffy. I have never stopped being proud of you.”

At long last, bleeding and overwhelmed, she broke down. She buried herself in his arms, and he held her tight.

“Giles, I’m tired,” she said in a small voice. “I’m so, so tired.”

“It’s all right,” he told her. “It’s over. You can rest now, Buffy. You can rest.”

[Go on to chapters 29 & 30]

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