So, this was it. They either got Buffy back tonight, or… Maybe not at all. No, Willow. Bad thoughts. The spells will work. Giles will slip in and out and tomorrow everything will be back to normal. Easy peasy, Gary Sinese-y. Right?
Well, maybe not. But hopefully they’d be as close to normal as they could get for a while.
She was kind of half hoping that Buffy would get her hands on another grenade launcher and just kind of… Cause so much damage that the place cleared out and the military guys never came back. Not that she was exactly complaining about being holed up with Tara in a safehouse for who knew how long. Tara was good company to be stuck with. Kind and gentle and soft spoken, but steadfast in her convictions.
College courses would have to be made up, and Willow would have to work extra hard, and everything was very daunting and uncertain and really, really scary. But with Tara there, she kind of felt… Very much at ease. She and magic didn’t exactly have the best track record, and she knew that. She was still baking cookies every weekend to make up for the whole Will of Willow spell. Everybody was probably sick of white chocolate and macadamia nuts and dark chocolate and just … Chocolate in general, by this point. And while the guilt was still very much there, reminding her of exactly why she needed to be careful with magic, Tara had helped the pain of Oz’s departure fade significantly.
She couldn’t quite explain it, but… She was starting to think that maybe she might possibly be… kinda gay. Like that vampire version of her that had come from some other timeline, which still weirded her out because their lives were strange enough without throwing Star Trek Mirror Universe stuff in there, slutty clothes and all….
But there had been something kind of skanky and gross about that version of herself. With Tara….
When she looked at Tara, and when they spent time together, the world just melted away. Everything was magical, and not in the ‘things going kablooey’ way. All the stress and worries and fears were just gone. She felt pure. And she remembered feeling that way, with Oz, back when things had been nice and new and not with all the crushing heart pain. She liked Tara. A lot. But working through those kinds of feelings, and expressing them, and hoping that Tara might feel the same way? She could do that after Buffy was safe. There was no rush, right?
Romance wasn’t a rushy thing. She’d just have to wait, and hope.
And in the meantime, get some quality hiding from the crazy demon torturing military time together. Who knew, maybe Giles would come to get them and they’d be a couple. A girl could dream, right?
But for now, the most important thing was getting the spells done, and doing them right, and helping make this plan a success. Until that was done, all the romancing and fluttery eyelashes and blushing would just have to wait. Magic required focus and intent to work right. And if there was never a spell she did completely right again, she absolutely had to do it with this one. This wasn’t something to… make the hurt go away, or to make lusty things happen. This was life or death. Buffy’s life. Buffy’s…
Willow would never forgive herself if she messed it up.
She sat across from Tara, supplies between them in the circle, excitement building within. She loved working the magic, using the energy to accomplish something. She loved the feel of it coursing through her veins. The power. But with Tara, it was like nothing she’d ever felt before. It was almost addicting. The things they did together…
Okay, more action and less feels. You’re thinking too much about Tara when we should already be working these spells.
“Are you ready?” she asked Tara, who gave her a shy smile in return and nodded. “I think we should focus on Giles first, since he has to be all hidden-y? And then the protection? I mean, they’re bound to be noticed at some point, but-”
Tara’s brow furrowed a bit. “What about S-Spike? Sh-shouldn’t we protect him, too?”
“Spike?” Willow hadn’t even thought about him. And why should she? He’d tried to kill her more than once, and Buffy way more than that. Nearly killed Cordy and Xander. And who knew how many people in his unlife he’d brutally killed just for kicks. Why should she help him?
“It’s just- Riley said that Spike had been h-helping Buffy, right? So sh-shouldn’t we try to keep him safe?”
While Willow wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea, she had to admit that Tara had a point. If Spike really was keeping Buffy safe in that place, he’d need to be able to help her get out. And if that meant… Yeah, fine. But as soon as she’s safe, I’m figuring out a way to melt his brain or something.
“You’re right. We’ll do it for him, too.”
They joined hands, and Willow settled her mind. Everything was going to be just fine. She took a deep breath and gave a nod for Tara to start, then alternated the lines.
“Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, hear our plea.”
“Hide the hunter, cause not his prey to flee.”
“Cloak from sight, lend your might.”
“Arrows of light to blind and confuse our enemy.”
Warm fuzzies spread through Willow as they finished the first part of the spell. She could feel the magic working her will, energy pulsing out into the world. She lit the incense, smoke rising and curling and filling the room with the scents of sage and frankincense. Tara rejoined their hands, and spoke the first line of the second spell.
“Apollo, God of Light, twin of the Huntress’s might.”
“Keep our friends safe from harm.”
“Guide and protect, a blinding light so none may detect.”
Willow’s heart leapt in her chest as the spell was finished, the energy from the earth flowing through her and bending to her will. To Tara’s will. It felt… amazing.
Entrance Tunnel Seventy-Two. Or as Giles had started to refer to it, the Air Vent of Lower Back Destruction. Just over a meter tall and equally as wide, he’d been crouch-walking for far too long. He refused to outright crawl on hands and knees, though at the rate he was going it might have been faster.
How the bloody hell is a team of operatives supposed to use this god forsaken tunnel? Oh, right. They’re all young and in shape and used to this. I, on the other hand, am none of those things. I do have the moral high ground, but that’s not much use here.
He knew the risks, of course. He was breaking into a top-secret military operation to free one of their prisoners. He had the feeling that they were the shoot first, don’t bother asking questions type of people. There was a very real chance that he’d never see the light of day again. That he’d either be killed or imprisoned. And he was surprisingly okay with that.
He’d never be able to forgive himself if he didn’t at least try. Anything less wasn’t an option.
He’d already sacrificed so much to get this far. He’d allowed Ethan back in. He’d made a deal with a god. Sealed it. He’d tortured Riley with no regard for whether he lived or died, as long as he revealed what he knew. It should have bothered him more than it did, but… He’d already reconciled with himself over it.
It was worth it. Buffy was worth it. Her life, her freedom. There was nothing in the world he would not give for that girl, including his own life. Or those of others, if it came down to it.
His thoughts traveled down dark roads then, imagining what his girl was going through. What he’d like to do to those who had been hurting her. Were still hurting her. What he’d done to Riley Finn was nothing compared to what he was capable of if he fully let himself off the leash….
Giles took a deep breath and forced himself to focus on the task at hand.
The tunnel broadened, and he was finally able to stand up fully. As much as he wanted to take a moment to stretch, he forced himself to push further in. He knew he had to be getting close. He had to be in position before Ethan would begin his part, and the longer it took to get there… The longer Buffy was in immediate danger.
He quickened his pace, following the only path he could.
As Riley had promised, the tunnel led to a hidden door, which opened into a small electrical room. The Initiative. Giles had officially made it inside. And with perfect timing, he could feel a veil of magical energy settle over him. Willow and Tara had finished the protection spell. Which meant that Riley had just left, and there was about a half hour window of time for Giles and Ethan to do their part.
The entrance to the secured labs. Get there, so Ethan can begin. Then you can find Buffy, escape, and get to the armored vehicle. The faster it’s done, the better.
He cracked the door open and peered into the hall. Not a soul to be seen, for now. Of course, the only way to test how effective the spell really was would be to get into somebody’s line of sight, and see what their reaction was. Or rather, if they’d look at him at all. Slipping out of the room, he stuck as close to the wall as he could, moving quickly and quietly as he could, following the signs.
He passed room three fourteen. A huge lightning scar was seared into the door, and the floor in front of it was blackened. Loki. If he’d given Ethan access to even a little bit of that destructive power, this entire plan would be a cinch, as long as Ethan stuck to it. As long as that locket really held the power of a god.
Giles continued on, searching for the door that led to the pit. He encountered nobody, though it wasn’t all that surprising. Riley had said that only Walsh and Engleman had access to that area, as far as he knew. And they were likely to be occupied…
He walked faster, nearly jogging down the hallway. Until finally, he found it.
He looked through the small window on the door, taking in the scene on the other side. A massive room, with scientists milling about here and there, looking at charts. Security guards, armed of course, but few in numbers. The Pit. He could see why they called it that, for there weren’t many other ways to describe it.
That was his goal. Make it there without being noticed, see if Walsh or Engleman were there, and if not… continue to the testing rooms.
He just had to wait for Ethan.
Oh, how fun this would be. Sticking it to the proverbial man, as it were. Releasing chaos and destruction on a government operation. With Ripper’s approval, and Loki’s eyes on him to boot. It was like all the holidays wrapped into one with a great big bow on top, pretty as could be. He had free reign, as long as he wasn’t directly causing the deaths of innocents. But who in that place really was? They were all complicit, if only by their inaction and silence. They all deserved whatever happened to them once he got started. And how he could not wait to do just that.
Ethan stepped into his casting circle and donned Loki’s locket. The power of a god of chaos, at his fingertips, waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. It was intoxicating, really. Such a shame it was limited to just this once. Then he’d have to return it. He supposed the only plus side to that would be interacting with Loki one last time before having to go back to doing things the boring way. With real spellwork and ingredients and all the chanting and whatnot.
The boy wonder and his centuries old ex-demon lover’s eyes watched him carefully as he sat down, and he couldn’t help but give the woman a mischievous smile. She of all people understood. Chaos wasn’t inherently evil, just as vengeance wasn’t. What was put out into the world would always come back three fold, as a rule. He simply helped that along, as she once had. As he could tell she still longed to do.
“Slipp låsen, som jeg er nøkkelen. Som en innsjø renner den gjennom meg.”
Xander stood, ready for a pointless fight. “What’s he saying? Is he…”
“Oh, he’s just activating the locket thingy that Loki gave him. Don’t worry, honey. If he says stuff he shouldn’t, I’ll tell you.”
Ethan couldn’t help but chuckle. The boy thought he wore the pants, and wanted to so badly. But it was very plain from an outside view who was really in control of that relationship.
“Tell me, Anya. What is it that you find most terrifying?”
“Me? Oh, bunnies. They’re grotesque.”
Bunnies, eh? Well, he could certainly work with that. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, the world was tinted green.
“Slipp løs det som slår frykt inn i monstre. Fjern sikkerhet. Ødelegg våpnene. Rot ut det onde, og la det dø.”
The locket glowed white hot around his neck, but it didn’t burn. Instead, he felt the power of Loki coursing through him, bending the world to his will. Their security systems would fail catastrophically. Their weapons would be useless. And they’d be too distracted by the white fluffy rabbits (which were particularly vicious and bore a grudge against soldiers since the Holy Hand Grenade incident) to even notice what was happening until it was far too late.
It was exciting, working for the Initiative. Paul got to test the creatures they brought in to his heart’s content. No ethics this, or ethics that, blah, blah, blah. None of the bullshit red tape you usually had to put up with. Just pure science and experimentation, as it was supposed to be.
Humming a tune to himself, he looked through the day’s samples and picked one out. Deep tissue from a live specimen without any drugs or anesthesia to mess up the chemical composition. All you had to do was drug a subject up enough to strap them to a table, then wait for it to wear off. Boom, nice, clean samples.
Some of his colleagues also cut the vocal cords of their subjects so they wouldn’t have to hear the screaming. Walsh and Engleman didn’t bother, and neither did Paul. He liked the sounds. Liked knowing he was causing the subhuman freaks pain. He had a feeling Engleman was the same. Walsh, though? Nah, not her. She was just that much of a stone cold bitch.
He carefully carried the sample back towards his workstation, idly imagining what it would take to heat her up. Make that bitch all hot and bothered while she screamed his name….
Huh, speaking of screaming, there was a lot of that going on at the moment. Had the soldiers already come back with the demons that had completely trashed Agent Finn? He would have thought they’d have killed most of them, not brought them in for study.
Guess even the soldier boys can do things right sometimes, he thought contemptuously. Good for th– He froze as he heard a familiar scream. That was Donna from Genetics. He hadn’t managed to worm his way into her pants yet, but he’d heard that particular scream after dropping a sample down her shirt the other day. What the hell was going on?
He put his sample down at his workstation before turning to find out. Then he froze again. There was a… rabbit. A little white mini-lop. Just sitting there, staring at him, nose twitching and… covered in something red.
And before Paul could do more blink at it, the rabbit leaped at him, showing enormous fangs as it went for his crotch.
Then his screams joined those of his colleagues.
Leave it to Ethan to summon Monty Python’s murderous rabbits. No doubt Anya had something to do with that idea as well. She was a nice enough girl, but her centuries as a vengeance demon… Well, he wouldn’t put it past her to tell Ethan to summon the most terrifying creature on the planet, according to her. And he had the power to do it, now.
And when the security personnel had tried to shoot the fluffy little buggers… Their very useful weapons did nothing more than pop a flag out that said ‘bang!’, resulting in their faces going from confusion to utter horror in a matter of moments. Under different circumstances, in a different time, Giles might have paused to watch and enjoy the show.
But he had a job to do, and Buffy needed him. Now more than ever. He had to find Walsh, and get her to release his Slayer, and then escape. Although, without weapons, and with many of their personnel lying on the ground bleeding out from rabbit fang wounds, he very much doubted they’d be able to launch much of a counter attack or search party.
The method may have been cruel, but it was most effective. And at that moment, he couldn’t make himself care about the casualties. Bloody Americans. They should have stuck with what they did best, and kept their noses out of places it didn’t belong.
He slipped into the area containing the Pit, and ran past the carnage toward where Riley had pointed on the map. The testing facility created just for Buffy. Where Walsh and Engleman would most likely be. The massive room fell into darkness as he reached the door, the security lock disengaging just as his hand touched the handle.
Without the locks… He had to hurry. Things would be far more dangerous now.
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