Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter 16
Next Chapter: Chapter 18

“You!”

The word was punctuated by a punch to the face that sent Buffy staggering back. What the hell? What had just…? She and Spike had just been in to visit her mother, and now this?

Before she could figure anything out, she was grabbed by the shoulders and whirled out of the way of another blow. That led smoothly into being picked up and launched at her attacker, a blonde woman Buffy now recognized as Glory. She knocked her down to the ground, pinning her before unleashing a volley of brutal punches to the middle of Glory’s face.

The instant she felt the woman tense under her, Buffy moved, rolling out of range of retaliation. Her hand shot up in the air, fingers flashing through familiar patterns to set up a vague strategy for her and Spike. It was like being in the arena again; Buffy could almost hear a crowd cheering them on. Senka and Rehva, working together like a pair of wolves going after a moose. Or maybe a grizzly, ‘cause whatever this woman was, she wasn’t prey.

The skirt Senka was wearing was longer than what he was used to and got a little in the way, but he still managed a high kick to their opponent’s chin. She staggered back, but it didn’t give her any room to breathe. Rehva was right there, alternating punches and kicks before dropping down for a leg sweep. The instant the woman was down, Spike surged to his feet and whirled away, coat billowing out dramatically behind him.

Buffy moved back in just as the woman started to get up, kicking her in the face. He knew he should be more worried, maybe even terrified, but Senka’s heart was racing in excitement. He lived for this, fighting against a skilled opponent where there was a real chance that they could lose if they weren’t at their best. They could do this. They could win. They’d beat this crazy bitch, and then he’d pull Rehva close for a victory kiss, and once they were somewhere more private, he’d lay her down and….

Glory grabbed his leg and shoved him away, the force of it sending him to the ground with the wind knocked out of him. Then Glory grabbed Buffy by the shirt and slammed her against the front of the hospital.

“Do you think this is some kind of game?” Glory yelled. “You don’t just go around hitting people!” She backhanded Buffy across the face. “And you don’t kill their snakes. It was you, wasn’t it? I have a time limit here, you know! Why do you kee-”

She was cut off by Spike grabbing her from behind, his fangs sinking into her throat.

 

 

Riley pulled up across from Buffy’s house, engine idling as he stared out at it. The lights were on, confirmation that someone was still there. Tara had answered when he’d called and had told him Buffy wasn’t home. She might be now. Either way, it didn’t matter. The gas grenades he had should be powerful enough to knock out even a slayer, and if not, he had the tranq gun as backup.

It wasn’t a plan he was particularly proud of. A sneak attack against women and what was masquerading as a child was pretty much the definition of cowardly. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have any other options. Not if he wanted to save everyone.

Did he want to save everyone? His hands tightened on the steering wheel as that thought circled through his mind. There was a part of him that didn’t want to. That just wanted to tell all of Sunnydale to go to Hell while he went off with Graham to actually do something useful. But….

He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. He didn’t know why he was immune to the effects of the key, but he was. That meant he had a duty to do something about it.

He shifted his foot from the brake to the gas pedal, pulling into the driveway. Only a few seconds later, he was out and throwing a heavy rock through the window to make an opening for a grenade.

 

 

The circle was drawn and the raspberry leaves set just so in place of the bitter gourd called for by the base spell. It was supposed to enhance and speed up the natural regenerative powers of the human liver. With the substitutions and tweaks Willow had made, it should regrow the uterus of the spell’s target.

Should…. That was the key word, wasn’t it? The spell she’d done before should have worked to open up a portal to get Buffy back. Instead, it had blown up in her face and left Buffy stranded there long enough to lose part of herself.

My fault, she thought in misery. She’d done the math. Based on what her diagnostic spell had told her, Buffy would have still been intact if they’d all worked on the spell together the morning after Willow had found it. If she hadn’t just impulsively done that spell…. If she hadn’t….

Isn’t this the exact same kind of thing? a small voice whispered in the back of her head.

Willow took a slow, deep breath and closed her eyes. No. It wasn’t the same. She’d been impulsive and stupid before. She knew it. This time, though, she’d spent a day researching the spell she was going to use and how to alter it to be what she wanted. She was prepared. And as for the second spell….

She opened her eyes and looked over at the bag of dried flowers she’d need for the other spell she had planned. That one she’d found in a book, no alterations needed, and it was even in English. All it really required was the Lethe’s Bramble and her will. She’d fix the mistake she’d made, and then she’d get rid of the memory of all of this. It would be perfect.

No one would remember that Buffy and Spike had gone to that other dimension, and they wouldn’t remember the time they’d spent there. Riley wouldn’t remember about Dawn, so he’d go back to normal and he and Buffy would be back together. No one would know about the mistake Willow had made, and Tara and Giles wouldn’t be mad at her.

She felt tears prick at the back of her eyes. Tara…. Pain and resentment bubbled through her at the thought of her girlfriend. Tara should have been there with her, helping with the spells, but Willow knew she’d just object and try to stop her. Tara didn’t trust her with magic anymore.

Like she’s never made any kind of mistake. Like, oh, I don’t know, blinding us all to demons. She’d made a mistake out of fear, and they’d all moved on from it. But Willow made a mistake, and suddenly everything she did was being scrutinized and judged.

She sighed and forced herself to let go of the anger. It didn’t matter. She’d use the Lethe’s Bramble and everyone would go back to how they’d been before Buffy went through the portal. Including herself.

That meant she had to do the other spell first, and it was going to take a while to cast, especially since she was doing it alone. You can do this, she told herself as she sat down in the center of the circle. It was going to work. She could do this, and everything would be okay again.

She took a deep breath and began to chant.

 

 

Almost like biting into a tree, it was, but Spike was able to force his fangs into the bitch’s throat. The blood that welled up and into his mouth had the expected foulness of a powerful demon, but there was an odd undercurrent of human. And the strength of it…. Giddiness and nausea roiled through him, weakening his grip just as she reached back to grab him and fling him aside.

Over a century of being a scrapper had taught him a lot of things, including how to fall, but he was too disoriented to pull out any of his tricks. He hit the ground with a bone-jarring thud that made his vision white out for a moment. The woman was on him before he could recover, lifting him up with a hand clamped firmly around his throat, cutting off his airflow. Don’t need to breathe, you poncy git, he reminded himself, trying to stave off panic as he clawed ineffectually at her hand. Bloody hell, what was the sodding bint made of?

“You’re a vampire,” she said, eyes narrowing in disgust. “I’m running out of time to find my key, and you’re forcing me to waste it on something as lowly as a vampire!”

The hand squeezed, threatening to break bone. Terror even stronger than the atavistic fear of suffocation sizzled through him. He could survive a broken neck, but it could lead to paralysis even worse than what he’d experienced before. He twisted and kicked, desperately trying to free himself without much hope of success. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Buffy pulling a knife out of her boot. She’d gotten bloody brilliant with the things over the years, and the sight of her with one calmed a lot of the panic.

He didn’t stop fighting, though. A quick sign of, tough skin, followed by an intense struggle. He kept the bitch’s focus on him long enough for Buffy to get into position, kicking her in the face just as his partner jabbed at the back of her neck. The woman’s eyes widened in absolute horror, but her grip didn’t weaken. She slowly reached behind her with her free hand, pulling forward a clump of hair that had been sliced through by the knife.

There was a scream of incoherent rage, and Spike suddenly found himself launched towards the pavement. The sickening crunch of bone on pavement was the last he was aware of before unconsciousness took him.

 

 

Even before they’d officially started dating, Tara and Willow had spent Saturday nights practicing magic together. This one, though…. Tara was alone with Dawn at the Summers house, keeping her company until Buffy came home from patrolling. Willow had been invited over, but she’d refused, saying she needed to study.  She could have studied here just as easily, but she was still upset over the argument about magic. Honestly, Tara was, too.

She knew Willow was a good person, but her ethics…. It made sense, really, considering her parents. Tara had met them, once. They were nice enough, especially when compared to her own family, but they seemed to expect perfect behavior while dismissing anything they didn’t like as a “phase”. Even their relationship — while not apparently frowned on — had been treated as some kind of political statement more than anything. Results seemed to be what mattered to them, more than the way they were reached.

Tara bit her lip as she thought about the situation. She’d been teaching Willow what she knew, but she’d been letting the other woman take the lead. Maybe… maybe she needed to step up and insist on teaching ethics? She’d tried to explain why using magic on people without permission was bad, but she hadn’t been able to find the right way to make her point. Maybe she needed to start with the childhood lessons from her mother?

“Tara?” Dawn was standing in front of her, holding a bowl of popcorn. “Ready for the movie?”

“O-oh, yeah.” She patted the spot on the couch beside her, then picked up the remote for the VCR. She’d already put The Last Unicorn in for them to watch.

She’d just hit the play button when there was a sudden sound of breaking glass as something smashed in through the window. Then everything happened at once. Dawn started screaming as a rock hit the floor, followed by a small round object that started releasing some kind of gas. Tara was on her feet, ready to cast a spell, as a man burst in through the door. His face was partially obscured, but what she could see looked familiar along with the build. And the aura….

Was that… Riley? What? Why would he…? The confusion cost her just enough time for the gas to start affecting her. She fell to the ground, her vision dimming as Riley walked past her to get to Dawn.

 


Leave a Review

Email address will not be displayed with your review

Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter 16
Next Chapter: Chapter 18

Reviews ( 1 )

Kasumi
January 18, 2021 19:20

Ooo Major conflict time. So much going on at once.

Let's hope that Spike and Buffy can weaken stupid perm girl enough to kill the boy form.

Let's hope Willow gets distracted and can't do the spells.

Let's hope Riley.. Well we can't hope that. He's stupid. Let's hope someone coshes him over the head