parts 17 and 18 - the end
When she woke up, Willow sighed, stretching her stiff muscles. Her leg felt… better, and so did her shoulder where Silas had bitten her. The light streaming in from the window seemed very bright, and she winced while she staggered to the shower, trying to remember if she had anywhere to be. Nothing came to mind, so she decided to just take some time to think about everything.
The relationship with Tara was over now. There was nothing that she could do to change the past. Not only that, but… Tara wouldn’t like the way she’d been trying to do things. Wouldn’t’ like the near shameless misery and the dabblings with dark power. Tara would have despised Rack on sight… and once upon a time she would have as well. She should have despised him… but the memories seemed almost murky, blurry. Had that been something that Rack had done, or a side effect of whatever he’d done to her? So, she had to move on, without self destructing.
Rack. Ughh. The very thought of him made her skin crawl, well not literally, but it felt like jumbo sized shivers. He was bad, he was trouble, and unfortunately, he was human, so Buffy couldn’t slay him. Couldn’t sic the Initiative on him like they did with Ethan. Hmmm… Maybe she could think of something later. Until then, she would avoid him.
She would have to try to cut back a bit though, maybe it would be better to let Buffy and Spike kill things, maybe even find ways that Xander and Anya could fight as well? Hmm, maybe a strength spell, or… No. That wouldn’t actually be cutting back, would it? As near as she could figure, someone had thought that she and Amy were doing to much magic, or too wild of magic, and had banished them away.
But who would do that? Who could do something like that? Well, Anya still had connections, and Giles had lots of books on all sorts of things. Who knew how much Spike knew about magic and rituals? And then there was always the fact that Dawn was originally intended to open portals between dimensions. There were far too many possibilities.
She wondered just a little what Silas was up to. Probably somewhere hiding from the sunlight, considering the time. Not dead, she would have been able to feel that. She was only worried because her fate had been tied to his, right? Well, that was a good reason to worry if he was healthy, but… did this link that the Goblin King had forged influence her mind or emotions? How much did it affect them beyond the ‘I hurt-he hurts’ thing?
She sighed, dressing in something comfortable as she made her way to the kitchen. Her cereal tasted normal, which was actually a welcome relief. Everything seemed wonderful until she opened the door, the sunlight so bright that it stung her eyes, making them water. With a small whimper, she grabbed a pair of sunglasses, making her way to the Espresso Pump for a nice hot mocha. After everything last night, she definitely deserved a little caffeine. As she walked, a small corner of her mind was wondering if the sensitivity to the light was the result of her bond with Silas, the fading effects of whatever the hell Rack had done to her, or the trip to the Goblin Kingdom and back.
Wrapping her cold hands around her cup, she sat down with a sigh. If it didn’t go away, it would be Silas. If it did fade, then it would be aftereffects of something. More than that was clearly not the issue. Had anyone noticed that she was gone? Would anyone have cared if they did?
“Wills! Buddy, where have you been? We were looking for you and Amy… you didn’t show up for the study thing.” Xander had worry and joy and questions all tangled in his voice. He plopped himself down in the chair next to her, close, but not enough to make her spill the hot drink on herself. “Mocha?”
“I was unavoidable absented from the study session. So was Amy. Considering everything, I deserve this mocha.” Willow glanced at him, trying to figure out if he knew anything about her absence.
“I think… that must explain why Buffy, Giles, and Spike were so angry at Dawn. What happened? Car problems?” Xander shook his head, hair flopping over his face.
“No… more like an unexpected side trip. I have to think of a suitable way to thank Dawn for that then…” Willow sipped at the mocha for a moment before swallowing it down quickly. “I suppose I should go let Giles know that I’m back?”
It wasn’t until she was walking down the street that Xander asked the question. “Back from where?”
She made a little gesture with her hand, as if waving an imprecise direction. “Oh, a bit to the left and creepy of the Twilight Zone. The Goblin Kingdom, a tangled mess of mazes that he calls his Labyrinth. Couldn’t go to research, I was trying to escape the other dimensional maze alive.”
“Labyrinth? Anything like that movie with the puppets and David Bowie?” Xander sounded like he was trying to make sense of everything.
“Sort of. But he doesn’t look like David Bowie, and the goblins aren’t harmless Hensen puppets. And there are dangerous bitey things…” Willow shivered, remembering the tangled mazes, the horrible fear that she’d be trapped there forever.
They walked in silence as Xander tried to think over her words. Willow could tell that he was trying to think of something comforting, and failing. They’d actually reached Giles place when he asked “Where’s Amy?”
The door was flung open, and Buffy was there, looking worried and nervous. “Willow… you’re alive. And… umm, where is Amy?”
Willow shook her head, walking towards the soothing darkness of indoors. Then the strangest thing happened – at the doorway, she had the oddest feeling like she was squeezing though something like jello, an almost barrier. She shivered again as she realized that it was the threshold. “Amy didn’t come back from the maze. She was trapped in the land of the Goblins. We can’t rescue her either.”
The next thing Willow knew, she was being hugged. Buffy and Xander hugged first, leaving her nearly breathless. Then Giles hugged her looking incredibly relieved. The part that was really weird was that pike even gave her a quick hug, releasing her and stepping back so quickly that it almost seemed like he’d been burned when he realized what he’d done.
“Right… good to see that you got out, Red. Thought the Goblins had you.” Spike sounded uneasy, and Willow suspected that it was from far more than the idea that he’d just willingly hugged a mortal.
“I got to come home, although it was a close thing. Amy had eaten the Goblin Fruit, and couldn’t leave. She’s not human anymore, and can’t leave the Goblin Kingdom.” Willow sat in the welcome shade, sighing with pleasure at the idea that nothing here would try to grab her or bite, not even Spike. “The nagas almost got me, and then there were… uggh.” She broke off with a shudder as she remembered the Goblin Zombies.
“Did you say nagas? Can you describe them to me please?” Giles looked like he’d entered research mode, with a side helping of worry.
“Big, scary looking snakes with gobliny heads? Umm… purple and gray with a diamondback pattern. Maybe I should just do an illusion so you can see what I mean…” Willow sighed, her hand rubbing over her calf, where the bite was still aching.
“While I normally would suggest not… I think for this it might be a good idea.” Giles had picked up a book, and was flipping through, searching for something.
Willow sighed, and closed her eyes, shaping the image of one of the nagas. She remembered the sheen of the scales, the dark beady eyes, the glistening fangs… The way it’s head swayed from side to side as it moved. Hearing gasps from the room, she opened her eyes, seeing her illusion in the middle of Giles’ floor, a little translucent but accurate. “Goblin snakes. Very unfriendly.”
“Wills… you didn’t have to make it bigger for the details. Really.” Buffy looked rather unsettled by the image.
“No, that’s life sized.” She leaned back in her seat, feeling oddly tired. Was she just that unused to working magic the right way? Was she still tired from her ordeal?
The door opened, and Dawn came inside, sounding cheerful. “… and I need to have someone help me go over the history for the test on Friday.”
The naga illusion lunged at her, a loud voice hissing ‘Intruder!’ around wicked fangs. Dawn screamed, trying to leap away, her shoulders connecting to the door with a thud. Her eyes were wide with fright, and her hands were scratching against the door as the naga illusion dissolved into smoke.
“Thanks for the vacation, Dawnie.” Willow’s voice was cold. “You almost got me killed, and Amy’s gone now. And here’s the kicker… the whole trip was deliberate. Not an accident from being a little over the top, not a badly placed pole in the way… No, you had to deliberately want Amy and me gone forever. Good to know how you really feel. The illusion wasn’t real, and it couldn’t hurt you. Maybe I should send you to try the real ones?”
”That’s… you couldn’t do that!” Dawn’s voice sounded more like denial than confidence.
Willow allowed herself a small smile. “It’s not the person making the wish that causes their victim to leave. You’re right, I couldn’t send you away, but he could take you. Send you to see the nagas, or the endless corridors that stretch out as you try to walk through them… But I won’t.”
She stood up, running her hand through her hair with a sigh. “It’s good to know that some of you were worried. But I’m feeling really tired all of a sudden, so I’ll just go home and sleep.”
Willow wondered why she felt so tired, before allowing her mind to envision Dawn trapped in the Labyrinth, lost, uncertain where to go, trying to flee from horrible monsters. The image was almost amusing, but made her feel a little guilty. Then, she substituted the image of Rack… Yes, that was better. And hey, no guilt. Best of all, he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else again. She allowed herself to dwell on that fantasy for a while, wondering if it would be right of her to take that chance, to pass a sentence like that on him.
But it couldn’t hurt to think about it, right?
End part 17.
Willow found herself feeling not quite in place anymore. As if she moved a beat behind, or maybe to the left of the world. She still felt tired if she spent much time in the day near Buffy, but she could stay up all night researching, or studying. The light sensitivity hadn’t faded in the three days that she’d been back, and she’d found that she could see in the dark.
Dawn was furious and not speaking to her, being ‘horribly upset and wigged’ over the naga illusion. Considering that she’d only seen them because Dawn wished her away, she couldn’t quite bring herself to be upset over that. And her leg didn’t ache anymore where the naga bite had been, with only a pair of purple lines to show that she’d been injured. Buffy had grounded Dawn for the Wish, especially since she seemed to interpret ‘Amy was trapped’ as pretty much the same as Amy being dead.
Cutting back on magic had left her feeling oddly unsettled, with extra time on her hands. She had wondered what she could do, before deciding to spend a little more time learning purely physical means of protection, and had started looking for a self defense class, or maybe fencing lessons. Something that she could do in the day, away from Buffy.
Giles had been very worried about the nagas, muttering about ‘considerable intelligence’ and ‘reports of venom being quite poisonous, although if they were goblin Nagas that could change a few things…’ Those thoughts would come down to Giles closing his book with a thump while making this sort of clucking noise and rubbing at his temple. She still hadn’t told him that one had bitten her, although she wasn’t quite certain why she’d concealed that.
Xander was talking to her again, trying to figure out how to help her deal with everything. That almost made it worth the pain and terror. Her friend was there again, spending time with her instead of just Anya, not that she tried to keep Xander away from his fiancé. She hadn’t told him anything about Silas yet, uncertain how he’d react. Xander had a well known dislike of vampires, ever since Jesse…
And somehow, that renewed friendship had resulted in her, Xander and Anya walking towards the ice cream parlor while Buffy and Spike patrolled. She was listening to them talk about their upcoming wedding plans, and smiling, laughing occasionally at some of the descriptions.
Suddenly, Xander tapped her elbow, leaning towards her with a worried expression. “I think we’re being followed.”
Willow looked around, her eyes falling on Silas, who was meandering down the street, looking much better in clean, intact clothing. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a gray long sleeved shirt, and soft looking shoes that were some sort of soft leather. He looked much better, especially with his hair combed out and falling past his shoulders in soft waves. “Good evening, Silas.”
“Willow. Who are you with?” He smiled slightly, nodding politely at the group of them.
“This is my friend Xander, and his fiancé Anya.” She hoped that he’d leave them alone.
Anya was frowning at him, as if trying to place him. “Weren’t you in Orsova? Mid fifteen hundreds? There was a wish about an unfaithful lover and her cheating heart being ripped out and crushed… or was that the one about wanting someone to melt slowly?”
Xander leaned over, his eyes worried as he whispered to her. “Anya, sweetie, I know a lot of people sort of remind you of someone, but…”
“Actually, yes. You melted the woman that my sire was trying to court. But you seem to have changed a bit since then, Anyanka.” Silas had an amused smile. Turning to Willow, he shook his head. “Such interesting people that you spend your time with.”
Willow gave a small smile and a shrug. “My life is too interesting?”
Silas just laughed, his eyes sparkling with amusement. “Unfortunately, I fear you are correct. Things shall not be boring here, my Willow. Good evening, and be careful.”
Xander was frowning, staring at the place where Silas had just did that vanishing thing that vampires seemed so good at. “Umm… Wills? I’m getting the feeling that you left a few things out of your story?”
“Umm… the short version is that Silas sort of saved me from the goblin zombies and offered to take me to the castle so I could go home if I’d take him with me. He did, I did, neither of us is stuck there now, unlike poor Amy.” Willow hoped that she could stave off the inevitable lecture and panic. Especially if she told the slightly gentled version of events. “And there’s the ice cream place.”
“Your life is definitely too interesting.” Anya smiled, before turning her attention to the menu.
“Is he going to hurt you, Wills?” Xander’s question was full of worry, lacking the outrage that Willow had been fearing.
“He won’t injure me. I’m hoping he won’t do anything else to hurt me either. I don’t think he’s entirely a bad guy, considering.” Willow tried to think positively, to hide any shred of doubt from Xander. She was also really enjoying this milk shake, the peach flavor just perfect… When had she started liking peach milk shakes anyhow?
“Let’s join that hope, as someone that could get killed if it’s wrong.” Xander sighed, licking at his cone.
Perhaps that was as close to a guarantee as they would get for Sunnydale. She was here, and as safe as anyone got in Sunnydale, and healthy. Her leg was better, her friendship with Xander was back, and she was getting to know Anya better. Silas was here, and apparently staying out of trouble.
Actually, Silas was walking off licking a chocolate ice cream cone. Since when did vampires like ice cream? Was he being influenced by those little willowy bits? How much had they both been changed by everything? Willow had the suspicion that Silas wasn’t staying in one of the cemeteries. He’d been in one for far to long. This was a new start for him… maybe for both of them, in a way. Maybe this was as close as the Hellmouth came to ‘and so they are to this very day’. No sappy couple, but they both managed to escape the terrible danger and go home, hopefully wiser for the experience.
End Darkened Faerie Tale.