Willow put down the book she’d been looking through with a sigh and gathered Miss Kitty into her arms. “At least somebody appreciates me,” she muttered glumly. She held the cat close as she flopped back into the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
She’d just been trying to help, to give poor Dawnie a reprieve from all the confusion and fear. The girl had ripped up her journals and stuffed toys in a fit of hysteria or something. Hospitals gave people sedatives for things like that all the time, so what had been so wrong with Willow temporarily blocking the bad feelings? Tara had said that Dawn needed to work through them, but it was the same argument she’d been given by her friends for the whole Oz thing.
And, yeah, okay, her spell for that had ended up going pretty badly — she shuddered at the memory of Buffy and Spike being all lovey-dovey — but it would have gone perfectly if it had actually done what she’d intended. No more pain and misery to “work through.” She’d just wanted to give Dawn that, even if only for a day or so. But Tara had been so upset, and Willow had given in and undone the spell right away.
Fat lot of good that had done. Dawn had stared at her with a look of utter betrayal and had screamed at her, yelling at her to get out while throwing damaged toys at her head. She’d pretty much fled at that point, going to the Magic Box for some kind of comfort and to help with the research into getting Buffy back.
She’d expected Giles to understand what she’d done. To maybe praise her quick thinking in dealing with Dawn’s hysterics. But, no. He’d just given her that tight-lipped look of disapproval and a lecture on how she couldn’t “play about with other people’s emotions.” So now here she was, hanging out in the dorm she shared with Tara, alone except for Miss Kitty Fantastico and the books she’d taken from the Magic Box.
Speaking of which….
She sat back up and gave the cat one more ear scritch before putting her down and picking the book back up. This particular tome had a nice table of contents with a brief summary of each spell, all of them having to do with time, space, or other dimensions. She continued scanning through it. Nope. Nope. Nope. There was one that seemed like it would maybe be useful, but not for this. Several spells for opening portals to specific dimensions. Which would have been useful if they knew what dimension Buffy had ended up in.
She turned the page, then froze for a moment after reading the first few words of the second spell summary. Opening a portal to an unspecified dimension through the use of an empowered object connected to something on the other side.
She excitedly flipped to the listed page and read over the list of spell components and instructions. Most of the things she either already had or could figure out a substitute for. The only problem was going to be the empowered object itself. A personal possession like Mr. Gordo could work, but it would take weeks to power it up enough. Maybe….
Dawn would work. She’d been created as Buffy’s sister, was presumably full of magical energy, and had the added bonus of actually being a dimensional key.
Willow jumped up off the bed and started gathering up everything she’d need for the spell. She’d go to the house, and once she told Dawn and Tara about it all, they wouldn’t be mad anymore. They’d be proud of her and would….
She slowed, taking her time as she selected a substitute for one of the components. What if, instead of going back with the spell, she went back with Buffy? She was one of Buffy’s best friends, and she had a lot of power at her disposal. What if she used herself as the connected empowered object?
She bit her lip, mulling things over, then started setting everything up on the floor where she and Tara usually worked magic together. A candle at each of the cardinal points. A small silver bowl of water, along with four others for the herbs and powders. A brazier for burning the herbs at the right time.
She took a deep breath before sitting down in the center of everything. She lit the candles and brazier, then began reading out loud from the book. She could feel the power building with each word, could feel something starting to happen as she channeled it through herself as the empowered object. It was working! She’d be —
Then the book burst into purple flame and everything went dark.
Strolling through the market with Buffy’s hand in his and the familiar weight of his coat on his shoulders, Spike could almost forget he was a slave. Almost, but not quite. The warm sun was a reminder that they weren’t in their own dimension, and the coat — apparently sold to their owner along with the two of them and their other belongings — was in direct contact with his skin since he was wearing it with nothing but his collar, boots, and gladiator skirt. A breeze stirred through the air, blowing another reminder of their slavery into his face.
He cursed in annoyance and used his free hand to shove back the strands of hair that had escaped the ponytail. After a year and a half in this dimension, the bloody stuff went down past his shoulders. When they’d been unsold slaves, they hadn’t been allowed to make any alterations to themselves. As a sold slave, he’d been flat out forbidden to cut his hair, due to some sort of bizarre obsession these mohawked lizard people seemed to have with long, curly hair. Over half of their owner’s human house slaves had it.
Buffy, the cheeky thing, grinned at him. “Well, here’s a silver lining. If we end up stuck here long enough, we can always act out Rapunzel if we get bored.”
“Only if it’s the cleaned-up version, love,” he said with a snort. “Don’t imagine you’d fancy getting your eyes poked out by thorns, and birthing twins,” he smirked and curled his tongue behind his teeth as he ran his hand down his bare torso, “could ruin my girlish figure.”
Buffy’s mouth opened for more banter, but quickly closed as she focused on something off to the side, her cheeks turning bright red. Spike followed her line of sight and couldn’t help laughing. All they’d gotten up to together, and she could still be so adorably innocent at times.
“Shut up,” she muttered, lightly shoving him and staring at the ground.
They’d been to markets that catered to slaves before, but those had all been geared specifically towards gladiators. Now that festival season was over for the next five months, they were visiting a market specifically designed for house slaves, though anyone could shop there. Like gladiators, house slaves tended to have their own money, due to rewards for good behavior rather than coins flung down at them in the arena. Unlike gladiators, they tended to be human, and their markets were full of things humans liked. Including the delightfully naughty things humans liked. His innocent little Slayer had discovered a shop with all sorts of kinks on display.
“Come on,” Buffy said, kicking uncomfortably at the ground. “Let’s try to find those herbs and spices you’ve been wanting to experiment with while we’ve got down time.”
The water in this place had a strange, tangy aftertaste and a slightly slimy mouthfeel, making a decent cuppa a near impossibility. Spike hadn’t completely given up, though, and he still had hope for a good curry. He’d already found a rice substitute just by charming the kitchen girls in their owner’s gladiator house into letting him poke about. Not that he actually needed either tea or curry, being a vampire and all, but that hadn’t changed the bloody fact he was English, and damn if he was going to let slavery make any difference to the things he liked.
“Right, then. Carise said there was a good spice shop near here that might have what I need.” Carise was no more the girl’s original name than Senka was his or Rehva was Buffy’s, but it was the only name she’d use. “We can —”
He was cut off by the buggering breeze blowing those sodding loose strands into his mouth. Bloody hell! He growled and yanked the rest of his hair free from the ponytail and tried to force it all back into some semblance of control. Not exactly the first time he’d ever sported this particular hairstyle, but it had been nearly a century. A fella tended to forget a thing or two in that amount of time.
“Here, let me,” Buffy offered, circling behind him.
He let his hands drop down to his sides as she dug her fingers into his hair. They were warm against his scalp and lingered there for a long moment before she began to slowly finger comb the unruly curls. He shivered slightly, his eyes fluttering closed. If it meant more of this, the sodding mess could misbehave as much as it wanted. Eventually, though, she pulled it all back into a tight ponytail, then stepped away from him, putting some distance between them.
“Come on, let’s go get those spices,” she said, turning and heading off towards a likely looking market stall.
Spike glanced wistfully over his shoulder at the sex shop before following her. They weren’t exactly vanilla, but not really kinky either. Hell, it had been over a year since her first birthday in this dimension, and she still got shy at times about physical affection, especially in public. But today, she’d held his hand and now she was doing this. Maybe that meant, someday, she’d be up for a bit more.
“… blnnga… wrnnng…shobke….”
Willow struggled towards consciousness, forcing her eyes open as she tried to understand the words she was hearing. Some part of her brain recognized that they were English, but she couldn’t seem to actually process them.
“Shink ackning plnp.”
She blinked a few times, a blurry blob forming into Tara’s beloved face. She looked worried, upset, and relieved all at the same time.
“Tara?” Her tongue felt thick and strange as she said the word, and she wasn’t even entirely sure she’d said it.
“Naln bou gkan?”
Willow blinked again. “Huh?” She blinked more, then worked on sitting up. She was in bed. The last she remembered, she’d been attempting a spell to get Buffy back.
“Are you okay?” Tara asked, her words suddenly making sense as Willow fully woke up.
“I… what happened?”
Giles suddenly came into view, holding a damaged book, and Willow’s heart sank. “You did something very foolish,” he snapped. “What did you think you were playing at, trying a spell from this book by yourself?”
“I, I was just…. I thought I could get Buffy….” She glanced back and forth between Giles and Tara. He looked so angry, and Tara…. Worried, upset, and relieved, though the upset seemed to be winning out over the rest. “What,” she swallowed to wet her suddenly dry throat, “what happened?”
“I c-came back to the dorm last night,” Tara stammered, looking down.
Last night? It was already the next day? How long had she been out?
“She found you unconscious on the floor,” Giles cut in when Tara faltered. “As it appeared to be magically induced rather than medical, she called me.” He held up the book. “I had been spending the entire evening looking for this. And now it and the necessary spell are damaged beyond repair.”
Everything seemed to spin for a moment as Willow stared at the book. She’d seen it in his hands when he first started in on her, but it hadn’t really registered what it must be. Oh, gods. The book. She’d destroyed the book. Her mouth started feeling too wet, like she was going to throw up.
“Is… is there another way?”
“Most likely, but finding them will be difficult. Our best course of action will be to find another copy. Luckily, I know someone who has one. It will take a few days to get here.”
A few days? Willow swallowed hard. A few days wasn’t too bad. Buffy was tough. She could handle just a few more days in another dimension. Right?
Buffy paced the small room, angry and nervous and really wishing she could hit someone. Like the two big, hairy demons — she thought of them as Thing One and Thing Two — standing near the door, acting like they were better than her, even though they were slaves, too. They just happened to be overseers and to have power over all the others, including the gladiator class.
The bastards had dragged her away from Spike at the crack of dawn, forced her to scrub down in a bath hot enough to turn her into a lobster, and then had taken her to wherever this was. They hadn’t answered any of her questions, but she had a sick feeling that she knew exactly what was going on.
She hugged herself tightly, remembering the morning after the trip to the market with Spike. It had been a week ago, now, and she’d been called to the main house to meet with Lady Sasszan. Their owner had wanted to know how many of her powers would pass on to any children. Buffy had told her, truthfully and with as much respect as she could manage so she wouldn’t be brain zapped, that being a slayer was a mystical calling and couldn’t be passed on.
“You aren’t going to get any super powered babies out of me, you know,” she said, for about the fifth time. Like before, they just laughed at her, the assholes. “I mean it. It doesn’t matter what guy you have off looking at porn or whatever to get ready, being the Slayer isn’t hereditary. Lady Sasszan already knows that. Did you guys just not get the memo about this?”
God, no wonder they were laughing at her. She sounded like a frightened little girl. Hell, she felt like a frightened little girl. Except that when she’d actually been one, minus the frightened part, she’d wanted the two-point-five kids ideal.
When she’d found out what she was, she hadn’t been certain she’d live long enough to even worry about it. But then she’d just kept surviving, and there had been Riley, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d thought maybe she’d think about it once she graduated college. But now Riley was gone and college was gone, and she was a slave. This was so not the kind of situation to bring a child into.
Thing One snickered again and turned to Thing Two. “No wonder she’s a gladiator. Too stupid for anything else.”
“If she wasn’t as ugly as any other human, she could alway-”
The door opened and an orange lizard woman poked her head in. “The operating room is ready. Bring the human.”
“What? Operating room? Why is there an operating room?” Buffy demanded, her voice high and panicked as one of the overseers grabbed her by the arm. She tried to dig in her heels and resist, but gave it up when the brain slug sent out a warning jolt. “What’s going on?”
The overseers just laughed more until the nurse, or whatever she was, looked over her shoulder at them with an annoyed glare. Or at least that’s what Buffy thought it was. She wasn’t that great at reading lizard faces, so for all she knew, it could mean she was constipated or had gas. Either way, the two demons assigned to get her where she was going and keep her safe stopped being assholes. For the moment anyway.
“There’s nothing to worry about, Rehva,” the nurse said as they continued down the hall. “This is a very common procedure for dealing with that bleeding issue you humans have, and the doctor has done thousands of them. Only the main body of the womb will be removed, so your hormones should stay within normal levels.”
Buffy went numb for a moment, the nurse’s words a meaningless jumble of sound, as if the slug just hadn’t bothered to translate this time. Then they sank in. Main body of the womb…. Oh god, no. No, no, no. That couldn’t mean what she thought it meant. It couldn’t. They weren’t going to, to spay her like a dog they didn’t want breeding or dribbling blood on the carpet. Heat and chills tingled through her in waves, and she felt like she was going to throw up, despite not eating or drinking since before bed last night.
She stopped moving, ignoring the little jolts going through her head as the overseers tried to drag her forward.
“No,” she said, shaking her head and trying to pull away. “No, no, no. You can’t….”
She had to get out of there. Had to get away. She couldn’t let them…. She didn’t know if she wanted kids at all, definitely didn’t want to be forced to have them with some stranger, but she was only twenty, damn it! They couldn’t just take that option away from her. She choked back a sob and jerked to the side, breaking free. She tried to run, but only managed three or so steps before blinding pain stabbed through her head, dropping her to her knees.
She was vaguely aware of the nurse talking. “See? This is why you should have told her. The poor things get so frightened. It really isn’t as invasive as it used to be, dear. We had a human slave a decade or so ago who was a doctor. Now we know how to just cut the hole a bit to make more room, go right in, cut the womb loose, and pull it right out. Easy as can be for a young thing like you.”
The words seemed like they were supposed to be comforting, but they only made things worse. More real. Strong, rough hands grabbed her and started pulling her down the hall. She tried to struggle, but the slug was still hurting her, leaving her weak and unable to get away. No, no, no. The word circled around in her head like a skipping record. No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. It wasn’t. Then they were in the operating room, and another jolt sizzled through her head as she tried to fight, this one strong enough to actually knock her out.
When she came to, she was strapped down to a table, her legs up in stirrups while the nurse lizard put a soaked cloth over her mouth and nose. Don’t breathe it in. Don’t breathe it in, she chanted to herself, but the pain and terror had her hyperventilating.
As whatever was on the cloth started to take effect, another lizard took up a position between her legs. There was a table beside it covered in surgical instruments and a spray bottle. The last thing Buffy was aware of was a scaly hand touching her where it shouldn’t, opening her up and spraying her down.
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January 4, 2021 11:53
Poor Buffy. 🙁 It's a difficult reality to face, and to have it ripped from you without any choice... 🙁