Chapter Seven: Possession
Chapter Seven: Possession
Vi lay on the floor of the crypt. Her body racked by seizures. Twisting and turning, she writhed in unvoiced agony. A great cry of pain and fear rose up from deep inside her soul, but was lost in the shadows that consumed her and never reached the surface. Deep inside her mind, Vi was fighting a battle unlike any she had ever encountered. Her memories were fading, consumed by shadows and lost in confusion. The power from the crypt was stronger than ever. It was forcing itself upon her, penetrating deeply and painfully into the farthest corners of her mind. Worst of all, it was almost as if the intruders in some way belonged, as if some deep and ancient part of her welcomed the invasion. Disjointed images flittered through her unconscious mind—a dark feral woman adorned in battle-paint fighting shadowy incoherent figures, an explosion erupting at the foot of a mountain, an old man standing imperiously against a gathering storm. The images vanished as quickly as they appeared, and she forgot them as soon as they had passed.
She was alone now. Alone against a multitude of shadows, of dark uncertain shapes. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself bereft of memory, of power, even of name. She was no longer a Slayer, no longer Vi. All that remained was a frightened girl cowering in the lone patch of light, while the darkness swarmed around her, whispering to itself. Something primal stirred within her, unlinked to memory or strength. It was the urge to face them and die like a Slayer, even if she could no longer remember that word. She rose slowly to her feet and stood proudly against her foes. The shadows watched her without eyes, and the din of wordless chatter faded. For a moment all was still within her mind, and then the light burnt out, metaphorically speaking.
Beech watched patiently as the Slayer’s body stilled at last. The struggle was almost over. There had never been any doubt over the outcome. Slayers had power, but his masters were power. More importantly, their roots were deeply entwined with the Slayer line, in ways Beech could not even begin to understand. The Slayer’s body stirred and rose unsteadily to its feet. Beech noticed that the body’s motions were clumsy, as if controlled by an inept or unpracticed puppeteer. Those who had possessed Vi were unused to a shell of flesh and blood.
“Transference is complete,” Not-Vi said in an overlapping swarm of voices. Beech flinched slightly. Every word bristled with power. This was not what he had expected, but then he wasn’t entirely sure what he had expected.
“Congratulations,” Beech said bowing as much as his pride permitted. “Allow me to be the first to welcome you.” Not-Vi tilted its head inquisitively. Beech could feel the various entities studying him through the Slayer’s eyes. “It is an honor,” he continued, “to be in your presence. We have waited so long…”
“Where is the Meddler,” Not-Vi interrupted. The weight of its many voices speaking in unison forced Beech to step back.
“I don’t know,” Beech admitted. “But I have secured the crypt. The Slayers and their pet witch were routed…”
“They are of no consequence. If you cannot locate the Meddler, then you are of no use to us. We would speak with Semyon.”
“He’s busy on the Hellmouth,” protested Beech.
“We would speak with Semyon,” Not-Vi repeated unequivocally. “There is much work to do.”***
Willow awoke in Giles’ office. She glanced around blearily. The old leather couch was actually quite comfortable. A dark haired blur approached, rapidly crystallizing into Kennedy.
“Hey,” she said. Kennedy smiled in relief. “We were worried about you. Ethel did a lot of healing spells.”
“Ethel was here?” Willow sat up quickly and was immediately hit by a wave of vertigo.
“Easy, easy,” Kennedy said. “She left to rejoin the coven. They’re off to storm the crypt, but never mind that. How do you feel?”
“Like I just went one on one against the First.”
“Did you?” a new voice asked. Another spectacled blob emerged into her vision and materialized into Giles.
“Hi Giles,” Willow tried to smile brightly, but only managed a grimace. “No it wasn’t the First.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. How are the girls?”
“Better now that they’re away from the crypt. It appears to have some form of influence over them,” said Giles.
“No shit,” came Faith’s voice. Willow blinked rapidly. Her ears felt stuffed with cotton, and her vision had tunneled. As Willow concentrated her head finally cleared. She could see Kennedy and Giles hovering over her worriedly, and Faith in Giles’ chair with her feet up on the desk. The pose might have insulted Willow at one point, but these days she could read the worry beneath Faith’s apparent nonchalance. “Yo Red, nice of you to join us.”
“You made it out then,” Willow said relieved.
“Yeah it wasn’t bad all things considered. Aside from you getting your ass kicked it was mostly minor injuries, cuts and bruises and a few broken bones.”
“Mostly?” Willow asked sharply. She turned to sit on the couch properly. Faith winced uncomfortably.
“They took Vi,” Kennedy said.
“We don’t know,” Giles said. “Everything we’ve learned tells us that they, whoever they may be, are targeting Slayers. Presumably Vi is part of their strategy.” The telephone interrupted Giles. “Yes,” he barked somewhat impatiently. “Listen Xander, we’re rather in the middle of…earthquakes you say? And fire and demons massing…Yes that certainly sounds like the signs of an apocalypse. I have every confidence that you are…I’m sorry but did you say Ace?” At that everyone in the office sharpened their gaze. “Yes that sounds like the young woman in question. She’s been appearing everywhere in connection to our own problem…No we’re not entirely sure if she’s friendly…sit tight Xander. I’ll send someone on the jet. They should be there in a few hours…I’m not sure yet.” Giles hung up.
“Ace is in Cleveland?” Faith asked.
“It would appear so. Xander is facing the beginnings of an apocalypse. The timing cannot be a coincidence.”
“Are you saying Ace is one of the bad guys?” Faith demanded.
“It looks that way,” Kennedy said. “She wasn’t keen to talk last time we met.”
“She clearly knows more than she’s telling,” interrupted Giles, “and she’s not the only one. Ace is working for the Doctor.” The announcement did not get quite the reaction Giles had hoped for.
“Who?” Willow asked with a frown. She had been away on business for the better part of a month.
“Dr. McCrimmon. He’s been researching for weeks now. Most likely a ruse, so he could keep an eye on us. Sir Alistair vouched for him but…”
“You think he fooled Gramps?”
“It’s not impossible Faith. Though perhaps he’s working for him. I know for a fact that UNIT high command would dearly love to penetrate our operation.”
“You don’t believe that,” Willow said.
“No. Sir Alistair would never try anything of the sort. Nevertheless the Doctor has infiltrated us for almost a month, and now Ace is in Cleveland offering her assistance. They are clearly working to their own agenda.”
“Do you think they’re working with Beech?” asked Kennedy.
“No,” Giles answered hesitatingly. “For now we should assume their enmity is genuine.”
“So…they are white hats?” Faith asked.
“Not necessarily. More often than not, our enemy’s enemy is our enemy as well.”
Faith sighed and jumped to her feet. “I’ll go to Cleveland. I still say Ace is a white hat. She’s just not very good with the sharing thing.”
“Very well,” Giles agreed. “Be careful, and don’t be too trusting.”
“Relax Giles it’s me. When am I ever too trusting? Just let me know when the jets ready to go.”
“Wait,” said Willow as she stood. “I’ll send you.”
“Are you sure you’re up for the Willow Express, Red?”
“I’m sure,” Willow said ignoring the worried glances.
“Well alright. Beats flying. Ready whenever you are Red.”
Willow concentrated, ignoring the splitting headache. She probably shouldn’t be doing this so soon, but she needed to feel useful and her pride was hurt. Beech shouldn’t have been able to beat her. Her hair began to flow in a non-existent breeze and Faith began to fade and become translucent. One final gust of power and Faith was gone, sent hurling through the ether towards Cleveland.
“Whoa,” said Willow. “Head rush.” Kennedy caught her, as her legs collapsed.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“I know,” Willow replied as she sank into the couch.
“You should rest,” said Giles.
“No.” She took a deep breath and turned the full force of her resolve face on Giles. “Tell me about the Doctor,” Willow demanded. “Tell me everything.”