Part Eighteen and Epilogue
Title: The Greatest Show on Earth
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Category: Anita Blake/BTVS crossover
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone, except Bob.
Spoilers: Season Six for BTVS and Narcissus in Chains for Anita Blake
Summary: Challenge Response
“I don’t think-”
“Well that explains a lot.”
Xander Harris grinned at his best friend; looking not the least bit repentant about the barb he had just shot Anita’s way. The Executioner herself had almost had enough of his unique brand of pissing her off, her shooting hand edging closer and closer to her gun.
“It’s a miracle you haven’t been shot yet,” Anita growled out at the younger man. Xander just grinned again, giving her an audacious wink and chuckling at her irritated look.
“What can I say? I’m the guy with all the luck,” he grinned. “Unless you think back to the whole being kidnapped and turned into a werewolf against my will thing. Or that time that Dracula put me under his trance thingy. Or when I almost became a fish-man. Or-hell! I’m not lucky at all! Damn it! This butt monkey role just won’t go away.”
Anita arched an eyebrow at that, to which Willow just waved off with a disinterested look.
“He has this thing where he insists the world wants to make him the butt monkey,” the witch explained with a roll of her eyes. “It’s so not even true. I mean, some of us have been through worse than he has. Heck, Buffy’s died twice for the world. I’d say the Slayer is really the world’s butt monkey. She always gets the raw end of the deal.”
“But she gets superpowers,” Xander complained, his voice going up a level. “I mean, until the whole wolfieness that I caught from Psycho-Paris, I was just your average Joe.”
“Xander, you were never average.”
He grinned, tilting his head a bit as he regarded his friend curiously.
“Now did you mean that in a bad way or a good way?” he wondered.
“I meant it, let’s leave it at that,” the redhead returned smoothly, turning her attention to Anita again. “You don’t have to be here. I am going to break about a zillion laws here. You don’t have to witness it if you don’t want.”
“You don’t have to do this period,” Anita tried to reason with the witch again. “This whole plan of yours is ludicrous! You’re going to get ourselves killed, and that’s exactly what this demon wants.”
“Well, I guess Christmas is coming early for him this year,” Xander grinned. “Because regardless of whether or not we make it, we’re going to do this. It’s our fault anyway.”
“My fault,” Willow corrected him primly. “I tried to end the world.”
“Yeah, but I stopped you, so he’s pissed at me as well,” Xander reasoned. “Not that me saving the world was a bad thing. It was actually one of the best things I ever did, ever will do. One of the things I’m good at. You know, besides running away and being a butt monkey.”
“Can we get off the butt monkey topic?” Willow sighed. “That just brings very disturbing images to mind.”
“Why Willow,” Xander mock-reprimanded her. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“It’s not in the gutter,” Willow retorted. “It can’t be. Your mind is there so much that it has taken up all the room.”
“Hardy-har-har,” Xander made a face at his friend. “You know, I’m actually for your crazy plan. Maybe you should be nice to me.”
“Why start now?” she tossed back with a grin. Anita barely suppressed a shriek at the obvious detraction from the subjection at hand. Shutting her eyes, the brunette counted down from ten and then tried to broach the topic again.
“At least let me call for help,” Anita suggested. “I mean, having Richard and Jean-Claude here would tip the scales in our favour-”
“Or in his,” Willow cut her off. “I’m not sure what kind of spell D’Zanon is going to use. And if he gets by me enough to suck away all my power, I don’t want the three of you standing nearby providing him with a second meal. He gets by us, you and your group will have to be the ones to stop him.”
“Willow, this isn’t the best way to do this!” Anita protested again. “Can’t you see that? Don’t you care that you might die? And if you don’t, don’t you think others will? What about Nathaniel? Did you think about him?”
Willow sighed again, rising to her feet and giving Anita a small, almost patronizing smile.
“I know you don’t get it,” she began, talking as if she were explaining the matter to a small child. “But in the end, none of that matters. I did something very bad a while ago, and I have to deal with the consequences of that. I brought this down on my own head, and now I have to fix it. I know you’re like the big hero around here, and that you want to fix everything to give all your little shifters and vampires a happy ending, but sometimes you have to understand that life doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice, you have to make decisions that others won’t like, or even hate you for. But in the end, you have to make them.”
“I do know that,” Anita grounded out between clenched teeth. “I’m not some amateur Willow. I know that when it comes down to the line, decisions have to be made for others-”
“Then why don’t you see it now?” the redhead countered. “I think it’s sweet that you’re worried about us, even if it’s more about Nathaniel and the others than us. But you have to know-D’Zanon is a real risk. And like it or not, he’s declared war on Xander and me. We’ve just decided to meet him at the final battle before it could be dictated to us.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Anita shook her head. “But it’s not. Real demons, they’re something else. But the ones tainted by mortality are worse. Prayer or faith doesn’t affect them. They’re just evil, and they’ve got damn bad intentions. You need help on this.”
“I need for you to cover me,” Willow corrected her. “I don’t need you for the spell or anything connected to it. I need you to be there in case Xander and me can’t get the job done. It doesn’t get any more simple than that. We’re the first line of defence, you’re the second.”
“But he wants you and this just plays into his hands!” Anita roared, her dark eyes flashing with anger. “You can’t just hand yourself over to him so easily.”
“I don’t plan on making it the least bit easy,” Willow interjected, her own eyes beginning to dance with irritation. “I plan on taking him down. But I’m not getting over cocky on this. You’re my backup. What more do you want from me?”
“A little common sense couldn’t hurt,” Anita snarled. Xander snorted, giving the woman a measuring look.
“You’re just mad because you’re not the big player in all this,” he stated shortly. “Sorry to break this to you honey, but none of this has been about you-Ever. A big bad made its way into your territory but it doesn’t give a flying fuck about you and yours. It wants us, so let us deal with it.”
“This is not a pissing contest,” Anita retorted.
“Then stop making it into one,” Xander shot back, getting to his feet at this point. “Look, we know we make you angry. We do things differently, and we don’t really listen to you. But none of it is about taking anything away from you. We’re not trying to be the next big thing here, we’re just trying to make things right. Now, after this is over, maybe we can all sit down and talk our issues through. But right now, we need to deal with Mr. Let’s-End-The-World. Though why he’s trying, I have no idea. I mean, it’s been tried, and we so stopped the hell of it before. Why do bad guys even bother anymore?”
“I don’t know Xander,” Willow grinned. “Maybe they all have short-term memory loss when it comes to us. After all, more and more come up against us, thinking that they can win. When really, they can’t.”
“And here I thought you weren’t going in overly cocky,” Anita rolled her eyes. “Fine, do it your way. I’m not going to like it one bit, but fine. Do you need anything before I go wait on the end of the world?”
“Well, you could leave Ethan behind so we could pound on him some more,” Xander suggested with a grin, gesturing to the man trussed up in the corner of Willow and Xander’s living room. Anita gave the younger man a look, clearly signifying how she stood on that. Xander gave an exasperated sigh, snapping his fingers wistfully.
“Darn,” he lamented. “Really wanted to hit him some more.”
“Richard will take care of him,” Anita assured him. “He brought some pretty heavy magic into the pack through Paris. Our mighty Ulfric isn’t the least bit happy about that.”
Xander gave a delighted chuckled, waggling his eyebrows at Ethan.
“If you thought we’re bad when we’re angry, wait until you get a load of Richard.”
Ethan’s eyes widened in pure terror.
Willow sat in the middle of her carefully constructed circle, trying to even her breathing to a calm level. Xander patrolled outside the circle, eyes flashing with amber as he regarded the set up before him. They were alone, in an isolated part of the woods. The lupanar was far away from this place, so even a werewolf wouldn’t be able to reach them in time to stop Willow’s spell. Because once she got going, there was going to be a whole lot of magic in the air. Magic that could prove very tempting for some creatures . . .
“We’re sure about this right?” he asked cautiously. Willow nodded, not breaking from her breathing exercise.
“Super sure, right?”
She nodded again. Xander nodded himself, wiping his sweaty palms on the legs of his pant.
“Great,” he muttered. “It’s great to be sure.”
She smiled through her breathing, pausing to wink at her friend before she launched into her chant. Her voice was low, the Latin just tumbling softly from her lips. Xander continued his stalking of the outer magic circle, trying vaguely to decipher the few words he could make out from his friend but coming up with nothing.
He always did suck at Latin.
The wind picked up and his skin began to tingle in the oddest way. He knew it was the magic, felt it radiating from his friend. It spilled out from the circle, currents running over his body that caused him to suck in a deep breath to calm his beast. He knew his eyes had gone completely amber and he didn’t want to alarm Willow should her eyes fall on him. But he had to force them open, to watch for any signs of danger. Anything that would stop his friend from doing what she needed to do in order to stop D’Zanon.
He heard them coming before Willow even finished her spell. He smirked to himself, actually amused at the level of secrecy they were trying to uphold. He wanted to yell out to them, to rile them up just a bit. But any yelling might distract Willow, and that was definitely out of the question.
Xander turned back to his friend, watching her enter the final few words of her spell. Her eyes were open now, black as tar, completely devoid of any light at all. Her hair was starting to tint that colour, streaks of black lining her face.
The air before her started to shimmer, as if reality itself were stretching right before them. The scenery beyond the shimmer began to warp itself, stretching and elongating in ways that weren’t natural. They seemed to correct themselves after a second, returning to normal after the shimmer began to take on a more solid shape.
He was tall, fairly large. About the size of the Judge, from what Xander could make of the materializing mass. As its form became more and more defined, Xander could even make out skin colour.
Hmm, did figure D’Zanon to be a blue demon. He was kind of banking on red. He didn’t know why, it just seemed like red would be more appropriate for the guy. It had on some sort of armour, which he had been kind of expecting. Most demons came with some sort of body armour, usually black. D’Zanon was no exception, its armour actually coming with a few spikes here and there. Its face was large and creased with many lines. Its skin was drawn tight over these lines, giving it an almost plastic appearance.
On a scale of one to ten, Xander gave the guy an eleven for ugliness.
The demon completed its transformation, coming fully into the world with a loud *pop*. Willow started, backing up slowly from the creature that she had summoned and brought into flesh. It was momentarily distracted, taking in its surroundings in mild curiosity before its eyes fell on her and him. A hideous grin cracked his features, revealing a set of frightening white teeth.
“You fools,” it spat, a triumphant look crossing his features. “You’ve sealed your own fates this time!”
“Don’t be so sure.”
The voice came from somewhere behind Xander. He turned, seeing the gathered group emerge from the trees forming a solid line of defence against the large blue demon. A smirk tilted his lips as his eyes fell on Anita, standing ready with her gun pointed at D’Zanon.
“What took you so long?”
Willow rolled her eyes. Leave it to Xander to mock Anita even at a time like this. Really, once they got out of this, she was going to have a talk with him about timing. As in, this was not the time for him to be annoying.
There was a demon that needed to be killed.
D’Zanon let out a roar of fury, the sound echoing off the trees and deep into the forest. Willow smirked, seeing his obvious displeasure with the minor army that had shown up to meet him. Guess he wasn’t expecting such a large welcoming party.
Nuts for him.
The redhead back-pedaled, putting ample room between her and the creature. She barely registered all the shifters that flew by her, intent on stopping the demon before it got very far. She could see D’Zanon, tossing the wolves back one by one as they struck at it, having troubles but not really threatened by these creatures. Willow grinned to herself.
She wondered what it would do if it knew that there were about two hundred more shifters waiting in the wings.
Willow tried not to look as Xander threw himself into the battle, not wanting to be distracted by her fear for her friend. She felt hands grasp her shoulders, pulling her to her feet. She looked into the hurt violet eyes of Nathaniel.
“You didn’t tell me,” he pouted. She gave him a small smile.
“That’s because I knew you would be here regardless,” she told him, cupping his cheek tenderly. “That and Ethan still had a strong connection to D’Zanon. Didn’t want to expose too much in front of him, didn’t want D’Zanon catching on too soon.”
“Catching onto what?” he asked. Willow grinned wider this time, shooting a look over her shoulder at where D’Zanon stood fighting a volley of werewolves and wereleopards. She turned back to Nathaniel, giving him an impish wink.
“Take me to the vamps.”
Xander saw Willow head off with Nathaniel, knowing she was heading for the final phase of the plan. He turned back to the fight, taking a blow right to the chest from the demon and ending up being tossed about ten feet backwards. He hit the ground with a grunt, hearing another one follow his own. He looked up, seeing Stephen on the ground not far from him. He pulled the other wolf close, whispering softly in his ear.
“You don’t have to kill him,” he whispered to Stephen. “Just keep him occupied.”
“Why?” Stephen demanded, giving him a curious look. Xander just gave a wolfish grin, patting the wolf reassuringly on the back.
“Because Wills so has this.”
“You want me to what?”
Willow rolled her eyes, taking a moment to glance where Anita stood firing bullets at D’Zanon whenever she could get a clear shot. The woman would be so opposed to the redhead’s plan, that’s why Willow wanted her distracted while she did this.
“I need your help,” she finally replied, turning to give Jean-Claude a good look at her black eyes. “I can’t stop him in the form he’s in now. But I have the advantage of knowing his whole plan, and that’s why we can still win this. He won’t be taken down in a physical fight.”
“You risked an awful lot on this Willow,” Jean-Claude warned her. “What if we had not shown?”
“Please,” Willow grinned, giving him a goading look. She nodded her head Anita’s way.
“Like she would have stayed out of this.”
Anita didn’t know where Willow had gone. She had seen Nathaniel rush to her side quickly and help her run off behind the legion of advancing shifters, but lost track of her after that.
Anita looked up at the demon, seeing the way it was wearing down a bit, but not enough. It wasn’t that affected by this attack. The only reason why there weren’t dead shifters everywhere was that the shifters themselves were being careful about how they took the blows from the creature. Either way, they weren’t winning this fight. Anita looked for Willow again. Didn’t the redhead say she had a plan or something?
Because now would be a good time for it.
Richard felt the beginning of it flare up through the marks. At first he thought it was Anita, pulling out yet another frightening trick to defeat their latest foe. The events with Chimera were fresh in his mind so he was a bit shocked to pick Anita out of the crowd, looking just as bewildered as he was.
Well, if he wasn’t doing it and Anita wasn’t doing it, that left Jean-Claude. Who Richard had last seen with Willow . . .
The Ulfric snorted to himself. So that’s what her plan was. She had banked on Anita showing up despite her warnings to stay away. Willow had known it and then planned her attack around that.
Smart little witch.
D’Zanon snarled in the faces of those shifters throwing themselves at it. A hand reached out, gripping one of the wolves by the neck. Its grip quickly released after another wolf bit its arm until it let go. D’Zanon let out a roar; knocking both offending wolves almost twenty feet back.
The sounds of her chanting reached its ears almost immediately. D’Zanon turned, seeing that the witch had managed to get herself behind it. She was attempting some sort of vanquishing spell, a weak one at that.
D’Zanon let out a roar of amusement, reaching the witch quickly and grasping her by the arm. Another quick movement of its limbs sent all the near wolves crashing into the ranks behind them, starting a chain reaction of collapse.
D’Zanon returned its attention to the redhead, kneeling over so its lips were near her ear.
“This is the price you pay for defiling my goddess.”
It reared back with its fist, plunging its claws into her abdomen, causing her to gasp in shock. D’Zanon threw back its head, growling with triumph as it sucked the witch’s power away from her. The magic began to fill its body immediately, a great sense of power washing over the demon.
And then it realized the problem.
D’Zanon dropped the witch, stumbling back from her as it tried to fight the magic now coursing through its body. Willow fell to the ground, bleeding from the wounds on her stomach, but a triumphant smile on her face.
“Got you twice now, you bastard.”
D’Zanon roared with rage, red eyes filling with immense hate for the witch. It tried to move closer to her, but found its limbs incapable of movement. D’Zanon sank to its knees, feeling the undesired magic wash over its entire body, finding its centre at its heart.
The demon gave one more roar before it exploded into a thousand pieces.
Jean-Claude had agreed to her plan quickly. It hadn’t taken much convincing, since he could see the fruitlessness of a physical attack just by the way D’Zanon was waving off the wolves as mere annoyances, not threats. The Master of the City had seen the good in her suggestion, though he hadn’t been sure he wanted to give her such power over him.
“Fine then,” she had stated. “Send Asher to hold Xander. If I do anything to you, of the bad variety, tell Asher he can kill him.”
That sealed the deal, for even the vampire knew the deep-seated love she had for her best friend. They had made their way quietly behind D’Zanon while the fight raged on. Jean-Claude hid in the shadows while Willow made sure her presence was felt. As soon as the demon turned on her, the witch had grasped his hand, sending him a final mental reassurance.
*This will work. *
And it had. She had tricked the large demon not once, but twice. First, she made it believe Ethan was calling it to form. And though D’Zanon hadn’t been upset by her appearance there, that hadn’t been the end of her plan. The witch had planned for Anita’s defiance of her wishes, expecting the rather large army to show up like it had. And she had used that to her advantage as well.
When D’Zanon reached to draw her power out of her body, Willow latched onto Jean-Claude’s essence and warped the exchange. What D’Zanon had actually been drawing out of Willow had not been the magic of a witch, but the cold death of a vampire.
She had killed D’Zanon by filling him with death. It was a neat trick.
Anita, of course, had been furious with the witch. Being left out of the loop had not pleased the Executioner one bit. And she had liked it less when Xander told her rather rudely to just deal with it. Those two still weren’t getting along, though no one ever expected them to in the first place.
Willow, she was still too much of an enigma for everyone involved. Jean-Claude had congratulated the redhead on her defeat of the demon and then promptly asked her to discontinue her work with the Circus. She hadn’t been all that surprised. Willow had too easily been able to access his essence, to steal his life, well un-life, force and use it for her own means. The Master of the City didn’t want anyone with that kind of power over him too close by.
At least he let her stay in the city. Though she did have to come in to report to Jean-Claude every now and then, giving her promise of neutrality now that she was in his city.
He probably wouldn’t have been able to chase her out even if he wanted to. Richard, upon the end of the battle, had told-not asked-Willow that she would be the pack’s new vargamor. She hadn’t really contested the matter, knowing she owed Richard a lot for not demanding more of her after she basically tortured Paris on lupanar grounds. Even though she had used the flimsy excuse of extracting revenge on Xander’s behalf, she knew that if he had wanted to, Richard could have pushed the issue and gotten her into a hell of a situation.
Besides, she liked all the little wolfies. They were kind of cute, shifted or not. That and she owed Richard for taking care of Ethan. The little bastard wouldn’t be causing any more grief for them for a little while. Kind of difficult to cause problems when you’re in government custody for being an illegal alien.
Xander adjusted to life as a werewolf the same way he did everything else, with a cutting sense of humour. While he was still offending some people, Xander was quick to learn the whole business of the pack and who not to offend. Though Anita never did seem to get very high on that list.
He kept his employment under Jean-Claude, stating quite happily that he had to be the breadwinner now that Willow was unemployed. That earned him a whack on the head from the redhead, after which he sheepishly apologized. But he did stay on at Guilty Pleasures, his beast liking being around so many others of supernatural origins.
Though he still refused to strip for Jean-Claude.
Willow, well, she was okay. More or less anyway. She was still kind of dealing with the after effects of what she had done. After all, none of this mess would have even started if she hadn’t gone off the deep end like she had after Tara’s death. The aftermath of D’Zanon’s death brought a much more sullen attitude to the witch, one that alarmed Xander so much that he called in an old friend of theirs called Giles. The man had arrived and stayed only one week before Willow was able to resume a somewhat more cheered attitude. She hadn’t completely gotten over it, but she was in the process of doing so.
Nathaniel helped in that department a lot. The wereleopard could not be forced from the witch’s side unless it was for work or obligations to the pard. He all but moved into Xander and Willow’s apartment, something neither owner minded but Anita hadn’t been too sure about. But after a while, even the Nimir-ra had to give in and admit things seemed to be working out for Nathaniel, so why jinx it?
All in all, not happily ever after, because that was myth created some odd hundred years ago to make people feel better. There were still hardships and often heartaches. Things were still argued-like Nathaniel’s need for pain during sex. Willow would not give in, refusing to hurt her ‘kitten’ as Xander called him in any way. There had been disputes over that, even arguments. But an understanding was reached, involving a minor amount of handcuffs and whips.
But let’s not get into that. All you need to know is that it ended, kind of happily too. What more could you want out of a story?