Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
was created by Joss Whedon. Dragon Half
was created by Ryūsuke Mita. Not sure who owns the rights to these properties, but I don't, and I don't pretend that I do. I acknowledge all copyrights.
I'm up for two Crossing Over awards! Thanks to whoever nominated this story for Best Challenge Response and Best Unfinished Crossover. Voting starts at 7 PM EST on January 11…I'm just saying.
Thanks also to plume and JoeDineen for their constructive criticism. Please see my author comments at the end of the chapter.
Willow floated out of the darkness and back into consciousness. She was lying on the couch in the Summers' living room. Joyce was sitting on the edge of the couch and contemplating something in her hand. Her eyes were glowing blue.
Willow glanced over at the chairs that faced the couch. Buffy was curled up in one of them, wearing an old pair of jeans and a flannel shirt; the clothes had recently been modified to accommodate her wings and tail. She was restlessly playing with her tousled red hair.
Next to her was Xander, and as Willow met his eyes, she wanted to crawl into a hole and pull it in after her. He was looking at her. Not smiling, not frowning; just looking.
"You lied to me, Will," he said. He didn't sound angry…just baffled. In a way, that was even worse.
Joyce closed her eyes and let the Arcane Vision spell fade. She put the object in her hand down on the coffee table. It looked like the cheap plastic locket that Willow had used for the ritual, but it was different somehow.
Buffy sat up straighter when she noticed that Willow was awake. "You okay?" she asked.
Willow sheepishly looked back and forth between the three faces that were watching her. Buffy looked concerned, while Joyce's expression was guarded. Xander…he was quietly unhappy. He'd looked that way on the rare occasions that he talked about his parents. He'd never before looked that way when looking at her.
Willow sat up and shifted away from Joyce, so she could put her feet on the floor.
"I guess so," she said. "How long have I…"
"Only about twenty minutes," Buffy said. "We called Mom right away."
"Sorry," Willow said to Joyce in a near-whisper.
Mrs. Summers didn't reply. She picked up Willow's folded notes from the coffee table and leafed through them.
"This is a first-rate bit of observation," she said. "You must have sketched this pretty quickly, and it's completely accurate."
On Willow's face, contrition warred with the faintest hint of pride.
"But it wasn't like when you did it," she said. "I mean, it was all, with the glowing and the bolt of lightning…did it work?"
Joyce continued to riffle through the pages, but her heart wasn't in it. She was stalling. Finally she sighed and set the notes down.
"This isn't the setting for my native magic," she said. She slowly met Willow's eyes. "I don't even know that setting. It would have taken weeks to work it out, and Buffy didn't even have hours. So I used the neutral setting."
Willow swallowed hard and leaned toward Joyce, hanging on every word.
"I used an arrangement of ritual items that didn’t specify what world to link to," Joyce explained. "I'd just been using my native magic, so there was an affinity there. The ritual defaulted to the source of what I'd been doing. Then I did it again for Buffy, and it defaulted to copying my link."
She turned to see if Willow was following this. The girl nodded, but her eyes said she didn't think it would lead anywhere good.
"The only world you had an affinity for," Joyce told her, "was the one you're in, and it doesn't have any magic of its own. There was nothing to default to, so the ritual picked a world at random."
"So…" Willow said carefully, "it did work, then?"
Joyce sighed. "Yes, Willow, it worked. Technically." Gently, but firmly, she continued, "You can now use a kind of magic I know absolutely nothing about, and you'll never be able to use anything I can teach you."
"Oh," Willow said in a small voice.
"And the odds are that you'll never find anyone, or any written source, that can teach you the magic you can
"Oh," Willow said again, in an even smaller voice. She stared at the floor and added, "I really screwed up, didn't I?"
"I'm not gonna say I told you so," said Xander, "except that I just did, so never mind. The thing I'm having trouble with is where you gave me your word and then broke it the first chance you got."
"I didn't mean
"You didn't…how do you not mean
"Xander," said Joyce.
Xander subsided, while Buffy reached across the table and squeezed Willow's hand.
"Is there anything we can do?" Willow quietly asked.
Joyce shook her head. "The link is for life -- it can't be rescinded."
"So it was all…for nothing."
"Almost nothing," Joyce admitted. "Although you do have this."
She picked up the locket from the coffee table. Like the plastic one it had replaced, it was heart-shaped, and about the size of a pocket watch. But this one was made of gleaming silvery metal. Delicate lines were engraved at the edges, and a watch chain was fastened to a loop at the top.
"It's enchanted," Joyce said, "but I have no idea what it does. The patterns of magical energy in it aren't like anything I've ever seen before." She put it in Willow's hand.
"It's a very weak enchantment, though," she added. "Unless it's supposed to trigger something more powerful, it won't do much. And I could
see that it's not malign."
Willow sighed. "I guess that's that, then," she said. She coiled the chain over the locket and closed her hand over it.
"It's getting late," Buffy said with a glance out the window. "Want me to walk you guys home?" Sure enough, the sunlight had faded to a dim glow in the sky, and every house on the street had its lights on.
"Sure," Willow said. She got up and slipped the locket into the pocket of her jeans.
"Actually," Xander said, "Mrs. S, would you mind driving me?" He deliberately avoided meeting Willow's eyes as he spoke.
"I might as well," said Joyce. "I'm gonna have to go back to the gallery anyway, to finish what I was doing. If I'm lucky, I can get five hours of sleep tonight before tomorrow's meeting."
Willow watched forlornly as Xander got up and followed Mrs. Summers out of the room.
"He hates me now," she whispered.
"No way," Buffy said. "He doesn't hate you. He's just…a little disappointed in you, that's all. And I know that sucks too, but he's been your friend too long to let this end it."
Willow gave Buffy a sad little smile. "I hope so," she said.
As they entered the foyer, Xander came down the stairs. He was pulling on his windbreaker, and he handed Willow hers at the door. Buffy was back in human form.
"Thanks," Willow said. He gave her a sad little smile, but said nothing as they left the house. Joyce was outside, unlocking the car.
"Xander?" Willow said. "I, I'm really sorry. Do you…are we still friends?"
Xander sighed. "C'mere, you nut," he told her, and swept her into a hug. She closed her eyes and hugged back.
"We're always gonna be friends," he told her. "You're my bestest buddy in the whole wide world." He released her and stood back. "It's just…I need to think about things. I'll see you on Monday."
Xander silenced her by gently punching her shoulder. "Monday," he said with a smile. He turned to walk around the car, opening the passenger door as Joyce started the engine.
Buffy and Willow strolled down the sidewalk together in silence. The sun had set, and they were about halfway to Willow's house.
"I keep going over it," Willow said.
"What I did," Willow clarified. "I go over it, and over it, and I just don't get it."
"Don't get what?"
"Why I did it," Willow said. "It was… it was stupid and impulsive, is what, and that's just not me. I know
better. I do."
She shook her head. "I really don't understand it."
"I'll be honest, Will," said Buffy. "Neither do I. You promised Xander -- "
"And I meant it!" Willow exclaimed. "I meant every word! Even if I hadn't promised, it was just good sense! Heck, your Mom was gonna be home in only an hour or two; all I had to do was wait!"
Willow shook her head in bewilderment. "But then I noticed that her magic trunk was unlocked, and suddenly I couldn't think about anything else. All I could picture was how awesome she was when we were saving Amy, and how much I wanted to be awesome too, and…and it was like someone else was using my brain to have ideas with."
Buffy gasped and stopped walking. She turned to Willow, eyes wide.
"Maybe someone was," she said.
"Amy was possessed,
Willow. Something got into her body, her mind, her brain,
and took over. Maybe something got into yours."
Willow slowly shook her head. "I wasn't under anyone's control, Buffy, I was the one doing all that…"
"So, not possession. But something could have been messing with your mind, making you take a stupid chance. I mean, it's possible."
Willow's breath caught, and her eyes felt moist.
"How would we know?" she whispered.
Buffy looked at her watch. "It's getting late," she said. "Let's get you home, and I'll talk to Mom about it tomorrow morning. Maybe she can figure something out."
They resumed walking, but Willow's thoughts were whirling.
"If it's true," she murmured, "then it wasn't my fault."
Buffy pondered her response. "Maybe not, Will," she said. "But it doesn't change what happened. It doesn’t fix anything."
"It'll fix things with Xander," Willow smiled. "Right now, I don’t care about the rest."
"I think," said Buffy, "you probably shouldn't say anything 'til we've talked with Mom."
"I think you're right," Willow said, "and this
time I really mean it." She looked up at the starry sky, finally allowing herself to feel some hope. In the pool of darkness between two streetlights, she stopped again and turned to her friend.
"Buffy?" she said. "Do you think you could fly me the rest of the way?"
"I can sure try," Buffy replied. She turned her back so Willow could help undo the Velcro, while she unfastened the chain that held her ring.
Crouched in the bushes, a vampire watched as the blonde girl shook out her hair and shimmered into something else. It was too dark for human eyes, but his could clearly see the hair turn red, the wings emerging from under the shirt, and the horns and tail sliding into place.
As one of the survivors of the Harvest debacle, he recognized the dragon girl at once. He immediately abandoned his plans to jump out and feed; instead, he concentrated on memorizing every detail.
The dragon girl picked up her friend in the classic carrying position -- one arm under the shoulders, the other under the knees -- and crouched for takeoff. She leaped up and forward, flapping her wings furiously, and then glided over the next streetlight.
With a rustle of leaves, he pushed through the shrubbery and watched as the two girls flew away over the trees and were lost to his sight. He nodded to himself. Cordelia would want to know about this. She was the Master's newest favorite, and if he pleased her, the Master might reward him. He turned and made for the nearest entrance to the tunnels, which was only a few blocks away.
If only he could be sure she would believe every detail. He knew better than to hold anything back, but when he got to the creature's name, he thought he might have a problem
"Buffy," he murmured under his breath. "Why did her name have to be Buffy?"
"She was possessed," Xander said. "I'm sure of it."
Joyce didn't reply right away; she was negotiating a left turn. That done, she shook her head.
"I didn't see any sign of it," she said.
"Well, when she woke up? That
was pure Willow. But what she did upstairs…Willow doesn't do things like that."
Joyce shook her head again. "You know her better than I do," she said. "But if she was under any kind of influence, forming the link would have erased any traces. We may never know." She put on the brake for a traffic light. "She's free of any influences now, anyway. I'd have seen that."
Xander stared out the passenger window. "Something made her do it," he said. "Something evil. I know it." He huddled down in the seat. "I know
it," he whispered.
Joyce wondered who he was trying to convince -- her, or himself.
Buffy was getting pretty tired, but it was worth it to see the awestruck wonder on Willow's face. She'd take that over Mopey Willow any day. Willow clung to Buffy tightly, one arm around her shoulder, her hands clasped together, and tried to look at the stars and the town below at the same time.
"Brace yourself," Buffy said, "we're here." She began spiraling in toward Willow's house. Willow looked down, excited, as Buffy passed the house and landed in a patch of darkness about half a block away.
Once Buffy had set her on her feet, Willow fished the ring out of her coat pocket. She handed it over as soon as her friend had shimmered into human form.
"You're doing that faster, aren't you?" she commented while Buffy fastened the chain.
"Yeah. I can hold it for almost a whole minute without the ring, too," Buffy said. "Mom was right, practice makes perfect."
They walked back to the Rosenberg house together. At the mailbox, they stopped and hugged.
"Thank you for flying me," Willow said. "It was wonderful."
"Also exhausting," Buffy said, "but I'm glad it helped."
Buffy waved goodbye when Willow reached the door.
Willow sat cross-legged on her bed and studied the locket in her hand. It was all she had to show for her foolishness, and she didn't even know what it was good for. She turned it over twice, examining it carefully. There was a hinge on one side, indicating that the lid was supposed to come open, but the ridges that had allowed the plastic locket to snap open and closed were missing on this one.
However, her probing fingers found a small button just under the loop that held the watch chain, right where the stem would have been if it were a pocket watch. She hesitated -- she'd done enough foolishly impulsive things for one night -- but Mrs. Summers had told her that it wasn't malign or very powerful, and she was still depressed enough about what had happened to be fatalistic. She pressed it.
The lid flipped open. The pictures of a plush toy and a puppy were gone; the inside of the lid was smooth and empty. In the locket proper, there was a flat metal surface. A circular symbol, containing only simple curves and straight lines, had been carved into the metal and then inlaid with white enamel. At certain intersections of curved and straight lines, small colorless jewels had been set.
She tentatively reached up with her other hand and touched the symbol. There was a sudden flash of light, causing her to gasp and drop the locket. Something solid landed in her lap, something that squirmed and moved on its own and oh my god it had fur and she blinked --
It was a puppy. A cocker spaniel puppy, identical to the one in the now-vanished picture. It gathered itself, jumped up and licked her chin, making quiet puppy-growling noises.
"Wh-where did you
come from?" she demanded, smiling in spite of herself.
The puppy squirmed some more, trying to wag its little stubby tail, and nipped playfully at her hand. It spun around once and lay down in her lap to begin earnestly licking her fingers, still saying rrrnngg rrrnngg rrrnngg in the back of its throat.
It moaned with pleasure when Willow started scratching behind its ears. She glanced down at the locket, lying closed on the mattress by her right knee.
"Did you -- did you come out of there?" Willow asked. The puppy left off licking her fingers and rolled over on its back; Willow noticed that it was a male. She started rubbing his tummy.
"Aw, who's a little cutie?" she said quietly. "Who's a little…oh."
She looked up at her closed bedroom door, panicked now.
"You -- you can't stay here!" she whispered to the dog. "My folks won't let me keep you! They'll take you to the shelter and you'll get euthanized!"
Happy and oblivious, the puppy squirmed out of her lap and started chasing his tail.
"Quit it!" Willow hissed. "They'll catch you, and then --"
"Willow?" came her mother's voice from right outside her door. "Are you all right?" Before the redhead could draw breath to reply, the knob turned and Sheila Rosenberg pushed the door open.
"I can explain!" Willow cried before her mother could even finish stepping into the room.
Sheila stood bemused and looked at the scene on the bed.
"There's no need to explain, Willow," she said. "It's plain to me what's going on here."
Willow followed her gaze to the mattress. There was no puppy there. Instead, there was a plush toy -- a fuzzy ball, eight inches across, with a puppy face on one side and a stubby tail on the other, with four white paws beneath.
"Um, you can?" Willow managed to say.
"Many girls sublimate their adolescent yearnings as affection for a stuffed animal," Sheila told her. "Most do it when they're a bit younger; case studies have shown it to start as young as twelve, but sixteen is within the normal parameters -- if only on the trailing edge."
"Oh," Willow said. "Right, that's what's going on."
"It's a fairly common way to cope with your awakening sexuality. Don't worry, it's just a transitional phase."
"It is?" Willow said. "Oh good, that's a relief."
Sheila turned to go, but paused and studied the toy.
"Have I seen that before?" she asked.
"I don't think so," Willow said. "I was visiting my friend Buffy's house, and…"
Sheila shrugged. "Well, anyway," she said, "your father and I will be leaving for the airport at about ten in the morning."
"I'll be up," Willow said. "G'night."
She watched the door close, and turned to look at the toy. But now it was a puppy again. His eyes twinkled mischievously at her. She slowly reached out to stroke his head.
"Are you -- can I call you Mr. Wuffles?"
The puppy yawned, stumbled across the mattress and crawled back into her lap. He curled up and promptly went to sleep.
"I guess so," Willow smiled.
Catherine Madison finished retying the twin fashion dolls. The one representing Amy (so identified by short strands of the girl's hair woven into the acrylic strands on its head) now had its arms at its sides, with Catherine's other sneaker shoelace binding it like a mummy. The one she'd marked as representing herself was now facing the Amy-doll from behind, arms around its neck and legs gripping its waist as though riding piggyback. It was tied in place with one of Amy's shoelaces.
Catherine nodded. Yes. There'd be no going back after this, but it really was the way to go. She should have thought of it in the first place. She put the dolls down and added some fresh ingredients to the green sludge that bubbled away in her cauldron. They'd have to steep until late the next day, but then it would be time for the dolls.
"Buffy," said Cordelia. "Seriously. Buffy?"
The vampire, whose name was Mike, nodded eagerly. "That's what the other girl called her."
She leaned forward in her chair and rested her elbows on the desk. He nervously met her skeptical gaze.
Cordelia sat back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. Mike shifted nervously on his feet. Like all the Master's followers, he was uneasy at her insistence on wearing her human face; even here, in one of the side caverns. But the Master permitted it, for whatever reason, so it wasn't for him to object.
a Buffy," Cordelia mused. "Her first day at school was my last. What did she look like again? Before she changed?"
Mike hastily described the diminutive blonde. Cordelia smiled triumphantly.
"Buffy Summers," she said. She yanked open the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out the Dragon Girl file. Then she grabbed a legal pad from the middle drawer and started jotting down notes.
"Thanks, you can go," she told Mike.
Mike didn't move at first. He shifted his weight hesitantly and put his hands in his coat pockets.
"What?" Cordelia demanded.
"Is this information…worth anything?" he asked.
"You've just rendered an invaluable service to the Brethren of Aurelius," she told him. "Congratulations. Now get out."
As Mike left, Cordelia tore off the top page of the legal pad. She'd just written down everything she could remember about Buffy Summers -- and as the former Campus Queen, she'd known plenty before she even met the girl. She tucked the page into the file and put it away.
Rising, she passed through one of the beaded curtains that hung in the cavern that served as her office. Beyond it was a sloping tunnel that led to the main chamber.
"Master," she said.
The Master turned from whatever he'd been contemplating and waited for her to continue.
"We need to send someone to Los Angeles," she said. "To find out as much as we can about an incident at Hemery High School."
"And why do we need to do that?" the Master said patiently.
"Because that's where the Dragon Girl was going before she came here. And she left just after the gym…" She made air quotes. "'Mysteriously' burned down."
The Master grinned with delight and rubbed his hands together. He turned to a waiting minion. "Find Colin and Stuart," he snapped. As the minion leapt to obey, he turned back to Cordelia.
"Is that all?" he asked indulgently.
"No, but I can handle the local enquiries," Cordelia told him "Now that I know her name."
"Xander thought so, too," said Joyce. "At least, he said he did."
She and Buffy were sitting at the breakfast table. Joyce was polishing off a toasted breakfast bagel, while Buffy was scarfing down a nonfat yogurt.
"So, is it possible?" Buffy asked.
"It's possible," Joyce replied. "But I don't know any way to prove it." She looked at her watch.
"I have to go," she said. "I'll be back this afternoon. And then...I should probably see if I can visit Amy. Have you done your homework yet?"
"Yes," said Buffy gravely. "Yes, I have."
"Then you'd better get started," Joyce told her firmly.
"I was gonna
do it," Buffy whined.
"When? It's Sunday already."
"I can do it tonight."
"You can do it now."
"I wanted to go over to Willow's. See how she's doing."
"You can call her. While you're doing your homework."
"But the sun's out! The birds are singing! Spring is finally--"
"Fine," Buffy sighed. She got up from the table and started to clear it.
"Don't fight it, dear. Your father started out as a professional dragon slayer. You've got to expect some things to run in the family."
"Jesse's not here yet," said Jonathan. He poured some more tortilla chips into the bowl in the middle of the table.
"We start at one o'clock," Andrew replied. "We always
start at one o'clock. He knows that."
"Yeah, I know," Jonathan said. "But he said he was bringing someone over. Someone who's thinking about playing." He put his dice bag on the table, next to his character sheet, then started struggling with a jar of salsa.
Andrew, of course, was already set up. And, of course, he was wearing his hooded cloak with the wizard pin. Which was stupid, since he was playing a paladin.
"What?" Andrew cried. "We're about to scale the Inaccessible Peaks of the Skyshard Mountains. We're on a quest most sacred, to retrieve the Scepter of the Ice Kings. We don't have time to babysit some noob!"
"This group is dying, Andrew. We need to bring in new players."
"We do not! We're a stalwart band of brothers; a mighty throng, forging victory from adversity, a--"
"There are only three of us," Jonathan said. He held his breath until his face started to go red, and twisted. The salsa lid finally popped off.
Andrew fell silent. "Well," he said, "I suppose
it wouldn't hurt to have some…auditions." He looked at the wall clock in the Levinsons' basement. "But it's five after one, " he whined. "Why can't we start?"
"Because Jesse's the Dungeon Master?"
Andrew opened his mouth, then closed it. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
"I knew that," he finally said.
Catherine stood looking out her bedroom window. The sun was low enough in the sky that it wasn't too hard to look at; the ground haze dimmed it just enough. She watched as the disk descended, bit by imperceptible bit, until it was clear that it had touched the horizon. She turned and climbed the ladder to the attic.
Once there, she picked up the bound cheerleader dolls and began her incantation.
Mark Wilson was making his rounds at Sunnydale General. The intern's shift was due to end in about half an hour, but he only had a few more rooms to go -- and then it was down to one. Amy Madison's room.
He paused outside the door, listening to the heart monitor. He felt a wave of sympathy for the poor girl's mother. The woman had been so hopeful the day before, and then he'd had to call her today and say that Amy was slipping into a coma. They still had no idea why.
He entered the room and checked Amy's vital signs. He studied the little jagged line on the monitor screen, made notes on the clipboard that hung at the foot of her bed, and sighed.
He was about to leave when he spotted it. The pillowcase was disarrayed, as if a hand had gripped it just above the girl's head. But he'd been a hospital orderly himself not that long ago; he knew that they always smoothed them down before a patient was brought in.
He shrugged and nearly dismissed the thought…but it continued to nag him. He paused at the door. Suddenly it seemed really urgent that he leave…and that made him suspicious.
Deciding that the quickest way to leave was to get it over with, Wilson crossed the room again and lifted the pillow. He gasped in shock at what he saw. The little twig manikin made him feel queasy as soon as he saw it.
And now the urge to just drop the pillow back and ignore the poppet was almost overwhelming. But Mark Wilson wasn't a typical intern. He dropped the pillow, all right, but that was because he was recoiling in horror.
"Goddess," he gasped. "What part of An Ye Harm None
are we failing to grasp?"
These things were dangerous, he knew. Touch one, and some of its malevolence could spill over onto you. But if Wilson's desire to be a doctor meant anything, he had to do what he could.
He always carried several plastic envelopes on his person, in case of emergency. He fished one out now and tore it open, removing a pair of latex gloves. Pulling them on, he gingerly lifted the pillow again and picked up the manikin. With a single, smooth motion, he stripped off the glove and turned it inside out, trapping the bundle of twigs inside.
Dropping the inverted glove in his other hand, he repeated the maneuver. For good measure, he picked up the plastic envelope and stuffed the bundle of Evil back inside. He slipped the whole thing into one of his lab coat pockets. As soon as his shift was over, he'd take the thing home and work the most powerful dismissal he knew, trusting in the Threefold Rule to see him through whatever consequences befell him.
Joyce Summers walked through the automatic sliding doors at the main entrance to Sunnydale General. As she approached the duty nurse's station, she was surprised to see a familiar figure standing at the desk.
"Mr. Giles," she smiled. He turned to face her. "I take it you're here to see Amy?"
"Er, yes," he said. He stepped away from the desk and spoke quietly.
"Unfortunately, she still hasn't awakened, so they're only letting family in."
"She hasn't? That's a bit disturbing. From what I know about soul transference, she should be nearly recovered by now, even with the shock from the Flow Break spell."
"Yes," Giles said. "I wanted to have a word with her about what happened; see if she remembers anything about the creature that took over her body, or where her soul was. The sort of thing you want to avoid saying over the telephone."
Joyce nodded. "Pretty much the same reason I'm here. But if she hasn't awakened…"
"Well, as it happens," Giles said, "I was able to persuade the duty nurse to find out if there was anything she could
tell me. I am a faculty member at Amy's school, after all. She did tell me that they've taken Amy off the heart monitor, and she's talking to the nurse's station for Amy's floor now."
Right on cue, the duty nurse put down her phone.
"Mr. Giles?" she called.
"Good news. Miss Madison's mother is up there right now. If she gives her permission, you can at least see
her daughter, even if you can't speak to her."
"Oh. Er, excellent. Thank you." He turned to Joyce. "Shall we?"
"Of course," Joyce replied.
"If you can distract Mrs. Madison," Joyce murmured on the way to the elevators, "I can take a look at Amy. If there's a mystical reason she isn't waking up, I ought to be able to spot it."
The last thing Amy remembered, she'd been watching TV and eating brownies. Then she was asleep, for the longest time. But the heavy weight on her consciousness had been lifted, and now she was drifting through the veil between sleep and waking. Faintly she heard her mother's voice, saying terrible things…terrible, terrible things that she couldn't make out clearly.
She felt something pulling at her. She'd been asleep the last time this had happened, but her half-dreaming self remembered the feeling. It was a dark, powerful current, pulling her away from the place where she was only beginning to feel home once more. But this time, she could see, or maybe feel,
that the current wasn't sweeping her back to the body that had held it. This time, the current simply went…away.
If she'd still been asleep, she'd have been helpless. Half-awake, she was still unable to fight the current. But she did have just enough strength to hang on.
Giles and Joyce had to refrain from talking shop on the elevator; they weren't alone. Once on the proper floor, they followed the nurse's directions to the room at the end of the hall. But before they could get there, the door suddenly flew off its hinges with a splintering crash.
The lights began to flicker, and several fluorescent tubes popped, showering sparks across the linoleum below. Every security camera in the hall exploded. The two adults ducked as sparks and debris flew overhead.
A slender figure stepped out of the doorway. It looked like Amy, but Joyce didn't need the Arcane Vision spell to realize that it wasn't. She was dressed in a Sunnydale High cheerleader outfit.
"You," she sneered at Joyce. "You think you can cross me? You think you can take this body away from me, and I won't take it back?"
Joyce grabbed at Giles' arm to steady herself. "Oh, sweet devas," she breathed. "Amy."
Amy's eyes darkened to solid black, and her lips pulled back in an ugly leer of triumph.
"Amy doesn't live here any more," she said.
Willow had just finished a late supper. She'd saved out a handful of the loose hamburger meat and put it on a saucer to cool. Now she carried the saucer into her room and put it on the floor in front of Mr. Wuffles.
"There you go," she said.
Wuffles cocked his head quizzically and looked at her.
"It's food," Willow said. "You eat it."
The puppy began scratching vigorously behind one ear.
"C'mon," Willow said. "I haven't seen you eat anything all day. Don't you need to eat?"
Mr. Wuffles looked at her and made an oddly disdainful "whuff" sound, and suddenly he was a plush toy again.
"…I guess not," Willow said. She picked up the saucer and ate the meat with her fingers.
Wuffles turned back into a puppy and started gnawing one of his feet.
Willow was just licking the burger grease off her fingers when Mr. Wuffles suddenly left off his grooming and looked up. He made a faint yipping noise.
"What is it, boy?" Willow asked him. He was up on all fours, hackles raised, walking stiff-legged toward the full-length mirror in the corner. He stood looking into it and whined.
Willow got up and approached the mirror. As she did so, she heard a faint sound; a sort of keening, sobbing noise, almost inaudible. Coming closer, she noticed something moving -- something reflected that wasn't in the room. She swallowed hard and stepped up to look directly into the mirror.
She could see herself and the room reflected perfectly. But there was something else there; a sort of wavering, foglike form that kept firming up and dissipating again. The crying sound wavered in volume as well, fading to almost nothing and then back in again.
And then, for just a moment, it was loud enough to form words.
"Willow," the apparition sobbed. "Help me. Please help me…"
Willow's jaw dropped and her eyes bugged out."Amy!?"
Catherine felt like laughing. Darkness rewards dark deeds, after all, and she'd just killed Amy. The power she felt now…it was even greater than before. She reached out her hands, and Joyce and Giles felt the breath stop in their throats.
"Can't allow witnesses," she said. "So I guess I'll put both of you out of my misery."
She watched the two adults sinking to their knees with a triumphant grin.
TO BE CONTINUED
To plume and JoeDineen: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did
come up with the idea that Willow might have been under some influence in answer to your reviews. I'd never have thought of it without you. I hope this answers your objections (which I'll be the first to admit were valid), or at least satisfies you that there is
an answer. Thanks for your comments; they helped me make a better story.
If I ever find the time to revise this story, I'll try to clarify what was going through Willow's mind in Chapter 8.
Reviews welcome, even unfavorable ones (as long as they're, you know, constructive
criticism). And if you liked it, please rate it.