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The Sick Rose

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Summary: O Rose, thou art sick, The invisible worm, That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed, Of crimson joy, And his dark secret love, Does thy life destroy... - William Blake

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Willow-Centered > Pairing: OtheramusewithaviewFR1327,269143,10618 May 0719 May 07Yes

Pretty Blue Eyes

Disclaimer in first chapter.

§▬§▬§

Slowly, ever so slowly, green eyes flickered open. Seeing only blank white, they blinked in confusion once, twice, three times before their owner could summon the energy or desire to sit up.

Willow looked around in profound puzzlement. Why was she in the hospital? Why was Xander sleeping in the chair beside her bed? And what were all those strange, old-looking books beside him?

Attempting to stretch her under-used muscles she was arrested by a sharp pain in her wrist. A needle was connected to her hand, following the tube it was attached to she was startled to see a bag of fluids.

She was being fed intravenously, why?

A soft snuffling sound drew her focus and she watched in mild bemusement as Xander made the climb back towards wakefulness.

"Wills?" He sat up in surprise, any remnants of his uncomfortable night banished by the fact that his friend was awake and looking at him.

"Xand? What's going on?"

He plucked at the sheet covering her, and she could see that he was restraining himself from hugging her, "Wills, you've been unconscious for a week! I came to check up on you the day after I got your message and found you collapsed on your bed…" He blushed, "You hadn't even had time to get dressed…"

She nodded, remembering, "I know, I was just so tired, Xander."

The dark-eyed young man nodded solemnly, "We know, Giles and I have been researching sleep-demons, Wills. We don't know how this - this thing attached itself to you, but we're going to get rid of it, don't worry."

"Sauron is not a thing," green eyes flashed dangerously, "He's my friend, he's just lonely, that's all."

Xander's eyes nearly bugged out of his skull, "Just LONELY? Wills when I found you the doctor's say you hadn't eaten in three days, you've been unconscious for a WEEK! What's wrong with you?"

Willow shook her head sharply, Xander was her bestest bud, why wasn't he happy that she'd found such a good friend? "Nothing's wrong with me, I've just been catching up on all the sleep I lose during the school year, that's all."

"Over 168 hours of sleep?" He was beginning to get angry, she could tell. Xander had always had the worst temper out of the three of them. She was the logical one, Jesse was the optimistic one, and Xander was the pessimist. Willow hadn't quite figured how things worked out in the new trio they'd formed with Buffy, but it didn't really matter, did it? Now that Buffy was gone…

Xander was trying to get her attention, had been trying to get her attention for the past five minutes. He had watched in horror as her eyes grew glazed, then seemed to look past him. A happy smile grew on her face before her eyes slid shut and she collapsed back onto the pillows with a contented sigh.

Minutes later, three nurses and a doctor had to drag the young man out of his friend's room as he struggled wildly to get back to her. They had found him shaking the patient by the shoulders, practically screaming into her face. Patients and families watched in ill-concealed pity as the desperate young man fought to get back to his friend.

"She's gotta stay awake, you don't understand! Willow, PLEASE!"

§▬§▬§

Giles and a slightly-more-subdued Xander hunkered down for the 'research party.' Without Willow or Buffy there, calling it a 'party' was something of a joke. The man and boy wore pinched looks of concentration as they avidly searched through Giles's books and tomes for something - anything - they could use to help the redhead.

"And you're absolutely sure she said Sauron?"

"Yes, Sauron," Xander nodded, smiling bitterly, "She called him her friend."

"Yes, well," Giles took his glasses off and proceeded to polish them, thinking, "No doubt there is some sort of mind-control, or perception-distortion involved."

"Gee, ya think?" The dark-haired teen sighed, "Sorry, G-man, that was uncalled for, it's just... We've never done this sort of thing without Willow to help in the research, I mean, there she'd be," he gestured towards the librarian's favorite machine, "Looking up stuff online…"

"You've been unable to contact Oz?"

Xander nodded, "I think his cell's off. I tried e-mailing him earlier, but he's probably at a gig or something."

"Well, we'll just have to do things the old-fashioned way then, eh?"

"Old-fashioned wouldn't happen to be synonymous with British, now would it?" Xander asked, summoning up a wan grin to go with his weak attempt at lightening the mood.

But Giles had already returned to his research, leaving Xander to page through yet another solid tome of demonology. Hours passed with nothing, until at last:

"Ah! Uh, what would Wills say… Eureka!"

"You've found something?" Giles asked eagerly.

"Maybe, but it's not a sleep-demon thing, it's a book on old gods and demonic entities from alternate dimensions."

"Alternate dimensions?" The librarian frowned, "Let me see."

Silently, Xander handed the dusty volume over, coming to hover beside Giles's shoulder while the older man paged through the book, consternation showing clearly on his face.

At last he sat back, his expression one of deep thought.

Xander jigged from foot to foot impatiently, "So? Didja find something, can we kill it?"

Giles came back to himself with a start, "Oh, um, yes. It appears there's a series of precedents for this sort of thing, demonic entities crossing world-dimensions to access something or someone on a Hellmouth…"

"So, what's with the weird? I mean, you seem seriously bugged?"

"This book," he leaned forward to caress the leather cover absently, "It describes certain Hellmouths, ones I'VE never even heard of, in the past tense, almost as if they'd been closed." He shrugged, "I didn't know that they COULD be closed, let alone permanently shut."

"You mean no more Hellmouth? 'Mystical convergence' goes bye-bye? Why hasn't the Council just gone around and shut all of the 'Mouths then?" Xander asked, flabbergasted.

"I don't know, and for now that doesn't matter," the Englishman shook his head, "What matters is figuring out how to help Willow." He turned back to the book and proceeded to flip through until he found a page covered in a strangely flowing script, "Now, it seems that this entity, 'Sauron' is a god of some type-"

"Uber-powerful Big Bad, got it," Xander interrupted impatiently, "Why does he want Willow?"

"It says that he's attracted to power, and the corruption of good, it references a few creatures that have been sent through the Hellmouth on various errands, typically to capture a particular artifact or… here we go… once, several decades ago one of his minions captured a Slayer and drained her blood, there has been no mention of him since then."

"What would he want with Slayer blood?"

Giles sat back, rubbing the bridge of his nose thoughtfully, "Well, Slayer's blood is one of the rarest and most useful magical tools in our world. It makes vampires more powerful, instilling a sort of 'high' for a short while, and increasing their stamina and intelligence in the long run. It's possible that Sauron wished to use it for some sort of ritual."

Xander frowned, "That's nice and all, but what would he want with Willow? She's nice and normal, well, incredibly smart, but NORMAL, like me…" He trailed off, shock on his face, "Oh crap."

"What Xander?" It was Giles's turn to express impatience.

"The spell Willow did to get Angie's soul back," Xander started haltingly, "Something went wrong. It seemed like it was going ok, then her eyes turned black and she started spouting off some stuff in a weird language-"

Giles interrupted the teen to recite something in an oddly guttural, yet flowing tongue. It seemed as if the shadows of the room strengthened with his words, reaching out as if to touch the librarian.

Xander paled, "Yeah," he muttered, "That's the stuff."

"That is the language the demons have spoken whenever they've crossed over, it's a demonic variant, one that the Watcher's Council has been unable to positively link with any in our own land. It has trace elements of classic vampiric and Fay languages, but not enough to be a true bastardization of either."

"The language stuff is all well and good, G-man, but why did she start spouting off that gobbledygook or whatever it is?"

"It seems that she drew Sauron's attention when she cast the spell," Giles smiled sadly. "It's why Jenny wanted to be the focus, using such power is dangerous on a Hellmouth, it draws attention. The combination of so much power and such innocence," he shook his head, "I'm sure it was too much for Sauron to be able to resist."

Sighing, he continued, "What I cannot understand is why he would wait so long, why he didn't start trying to get to her while she was still in the hospital. Can you think of anything, Xander?"

"Yeah, she did a spell to remember what happened during the casting, she wanted to know so she could fix whatever it was she'd done wrong in case she ever had to do it again."

"I doubt she would ever again have cause to reattach a soul to a vampire," Giles muttered drolly.

Xander grinned weakly, "Yeah, but you know Wills, she's always gotta do it right, big on the learnin' is our Willow." He turned serious, "How do we stop this thing?"

§▬§▬§

She watched the sun rise, it was beautiful. The sky looked as if it had been dipped in blood: terrible and glorious.

Sauron stroked her hair softly as she leaned with her head against his shoulder, "I wish you could stay with me."

She sat up, "Why can't I?"

He looked surprised, "Well, your friends for one, they will be wanting you back."

She pouted, "They don't need me, and besides, I WANT to stay."

"It's not always like this," he warned, "My existence here is hardly idyllic. We are in the midst of a war."

"A war? Why, what's going on?"

His dark-silver eyes turned thoughtful, "Hundreds of years ago I was lord over most of these lands. I governed elves, dwarves, men, all races were peaceful and united under my banner. To better allow the peoples of Middle Earth to rule themselves, I gifted a set of rings to each of the races. The rings held much of what was best about each of the peoples they were attuned to. Three for the elves, wisest and fairest; seven for the dwarves, the craftsmen and makers; and nine for the race of man, to show stewardship under my reign."

"That doesn't sound so bad," suddenly her face brightened, "Elves? Like the little Keebler guys?"

He smiled indulgently, "No, they are man-shaped, but… different. I know not how to describe them to you."

"Never mind, go on with the story," she curled up beside him on the bench, folding her knees up to balance her head on her hands as she watched him with sparkling, intent green eyes.

"Lastly, I crafted a ring for myself, so that I might know what each of my chosen governors was doing, and so I could communicate with them more easily. I poured my soul into my ring, made it the focus of all that I am, it held my very essence as a ruler so that someday I would be able to pass it on to an heir worthy of Middle Earth…" He shook his head sadly, "I vastly underestimated the desire for power in the races I governed, even among the elves. They claimed that I was undermining their authority, that I was a bad ruler, and so they banded together against me. The dwarves, the elves, and the men all fought together to destroy me…"

After a long pause, Willow finally asked softly, "What happened?"

Sauron's lips twisted into a bitter and sad expression, "They stole my ring, my very SOUL from me on the day of our battle, and hid it. Without my ring I am but a shade, capable only of visiting the dreams of others. It has been a very lonely existence, torturous to watch as my lands grow dark and twisted without my guidance. The race of man has no heir to their kingdom, the elves have faded and many have left our land, and the dwarves have foolishly disturbed many evils in the depths of their subterranean domains." At this last statement his eyes gleamed with something a little like satisfaction, but this emotion was quickly doused so as not to upset his young companion.

"A soul ring, huh?" Willow asked, frowning. "You know, I happen to know a teensy-tiny bit about soul-magics myself. Maybe I could help you find your missing piece."

"Truly?"

"Oh yeah," the budding witch's head bobbed with enthusiasm, "I'm sure I could do SOMETHING to help you!"

Sauron leapt to his feet, lifting Willow and spinning her around in exhilaration. In her joy, Willow did not notice the dark anticipation that gleamed deep in his eyes, did not see the way his smiling teeth seemed almost feral, and did not care that she had just agreed to abandon everything that she once held dear.

Sauron stopped abruptly, his happy look dissolving as if it had never been there, "How can you help me, my Willow? You are so far away…"

Caught up with the fact that he had called her 'his,' Willow spoke before she thought, "Can't I come here? Fully, I mean? Like, in body, not just dreaming?"

"Yes… there is a way, but you would never be able to go home again," Sauron murmured, his eyes so full of pain and loneliness that the gentle witch's heart nearly broke.

"That doesn't matter, you need me more," she leaned her head against his chest.

He smiled down at her, and his eyes flickered red-gold, "Truly, Willow, I do."

§▬§▬§

Feverish eyes popped open to see pale gray shadows chasing across a pristine white room. Willow sat up slowly, her muscles too weak for anything more than small movements. She glanced around and was pleased to note that this time there was no Xander to hamper her plans.

Slipping out of the bed, she stood shakily and had to grab onto a nearby chair to steady herself. Slowly she made her way to the door and slipped out.

She didn't worry about nurses or doctors seeing her, this was Sunnydale, after all. They would probably assume she was out for a quick stroll, she giggled, they'd be right.

Willow was more worried about the trip to the school, after all, this WAS Sunnydale, and her path would lead her right by a couple of the town's worst cemeteries.

She was surprised when she got outside, the heat wave that had made everything so very dank and nasty was gone, signaling the return to a nice balmy 85 degrees. She shivered in her hospital gown, luckily it had a front AND a back, thank you very much Sunnydale Hospital!

The trip to the library was slow. She had to stop several times to rest, but luckily Sunnydale was a small town, and the hospital and school were relatively close together.

She was unsurprised to see lights on in the library, Giles and Xander were no doubt researching ways to get her back. Willow WAS surprised at the pang that this knowledge caused her, she would miss them terribly.

"… been two months, Giles, I would think that Willow's condition would be more worrying!" She heard Xander's voice as she neared the library, he was apparently in the middle of an argument.

"Yes, but-"

"But, NOTHING! You can't go off looking for Buffy, not when we're so close-"

"Xander, you have to face facts: Willow's not going to wake up unless she WANTS to!"

"She DOES want to, Giles!" The redhead winced at the desperation she could hear in her old kindergarten buddy's voice, " Sooner or later she'll wake up, needing our help, and when that time comes, we're gonna need to know what to do!"

"And in the meantime it is my duty as a Watcher to ascertain the whereabouts of my Slayer."

There was a brief silence, then the sounds of furious movement. Willow barely had time to dodge behind one of the doors before they swung open violently as Xander left, muttering viciously about, "Slayers who abandon their friends."

Willow ducked through the doors quickly as they bounced open again, she didn't want to draw any attention for what she was about to do.

She watched, safely hidden, as Giles poured himself a shot of amber liquid. He looked haggard and old, far more aged than he had been when she last saw him. Willow wondered what could have happened to affect him so.

Moving swiftly she got behind a few of the stacks, she needed a bit more space for what she was about to do. Sitting cross-legged, she balanced her hands palms-up on her knees, rosemary-bundle before her and whispered the phrase that had started it all… with one or two minor alterations:

"Morgoth hear my plea, open the veiled door, lead the token to me!"

There was a sigh, as if an insurmountable weight had suddenly been lifted, and suddenly a small flash directly in front of Willow. Something fell out of the air to land on top of her bundle of rosemary with a soft thud.

Smiling she bent and picked up the object, the token that Sauron had sent halfway through the void to allow her to make the journey to his world.

It was a small ring, barely large enough for a child's finger. That made sense, Sauron had described to her how the dwarves had abandoned their rings, cast them away as a symbol of their allegiance to him. A few of his servants, those who remained loyal, had found them and now here was evidence before her.

She picked it up gingerly, feeling the banked power rolling off it in waves. It was dirty and tarnished, but she could see and feel the cool metal beneath, script of a curly tongue decorated the band, though it was difficult to make out underneath all of the grime.

Willow stood carefully, as silently as she could. She would have to stand in the middle of the library, the center of the Hellmouth for the next bit. It made her a little uncomfortable that this ritual took place in the center of something so painful and vile, but she had to admit that it did make a certain kind of sense.

Sauron had explained it to her: the Hellmouth was, in and of itself, not evil, just powerful. A center of mystical convergence that would naturally draw the attention of those who would wish to bend it's neutral power to their wicked aims.

Moving slowly both out of necessity and so as not to attract Giles's attention she crept down the stairs and out into the center of the library. She faced south, the direction of change and journey and prepared to slip the ring onto her finger.

"Willow? Willow, what are you doing here?!"

"I'm leaving, Giles," the redhead's gaze was calm and direct. The librarian saw with dismay how thin she was, her eyes burned with feverish intensity in her thin, pale face, the most vivid thing about her was her hair. The brilliant red made a mockery of the deathly pallor of the rest of her.

"Leaving?" He spoke with great care, making no sudden movements as he left his small office and moved nearer to her.

Her expression was serene, "Sauron needs me."

"Willow, WE need you. Buffy needs you, Xander needs you, why would you want to leave?"

"Buffy doesn't need me, she LEFT me. Xander will be fine," she shot down his arguments quietly, with no hint of emotion in the face of his desperate plea.

At last he was within striking distance, "I'm sorry, Willow, you CAN'T leave."

She smiled sadly. "Goodbye, Giles," she slipped the ring onto her finger.

He lunged just as she vanished in a wave of orange-red-gold light and a soundless explosion that knocked him across the room and into one of the many stacks of books that lined the walls.

Tomorrow Xander would find him, unconscious and bleeding underneath a large stack of ancient histories. The two men would have an uneasy relationship for the rest of the teen's tenure on the Hellmouth, bound together yet apart by the babbling redhead that neither could save. Xander would slowly drift away from their group, anger at himself for his helplessness and the blonde Slayer for leaving them forcing him to go a new direction. He would later join the military.

Tomorrow the hospital staff would notify the Rosenbergs that their daughter had vanished from the hospital. There would be a brief search, but most likely the petite redhead had gone and joined one of the gangs that ran rampant through the small community. The Rosenbergs would enjoy great success with their newest series on 'Teen Crises: How to Recognize the Seven Danger Signs.'

Tomorrow Oz would check his e-mail, too late to help his girlfriend. With Willow gone, he would have no reason to stay in Sunnydale for another year, and the Dingoes would enjoy much success in the first of many tours. His hair would remain black in silent mourning for the rest of his life.

Tomorrow Buffy would begin the journey back to Sunnydale, unaware of the tragedy she could not have averted. With the disappearance of the redhead, she would have no close female friends until another Slayer joined them. Together the pair would become the bane of the demonic world, the Chosen Two.

§▬§▬§

On a throne of twisted metal, Sauron smiled benevolently down at his closest advisors and the two small hobbits between them.

"May I have them my lord, please?"

The voice was childishly excited, yet the hobbits shivered at the tone, drawing closer together as they stared at the female who spoke.

Sauron stroked hair that mixed red and black into a chaos that reminded him strongly of blood and death, so perfect for his favorite creation. He nodded once, savoring the feral smile that lit her face, inwardly comparing it to the innocence she had once displayed.

"Pretty blue eyes," she cooed, stroking the shorter of the two hobbits. He shuddered under the touch of her bloody hands, but did not back away. The presence of the Witch-King at his back kept him close to the girlish creature, the lesser of two evils in his mind.

He was a fool.

"Yes, such pretty blue eyes." She grinned, "I think I'll take them out…"

The screams of the hobbits kept the denizens of Mordor entertained for months.

§▬ El Fin ▬§





A/N: My darkest fic to date, feedback is MUCH appreciated!

Like it, love it, loathe it with the fiery intensity of a thousand hot suns? Lemme know!

The End

You have reached the end of "The Sick Rose". This story is complete.

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