Chapt 20. A new normal
Rating: Overall R or FR18 (Language, violence, death, chaos and explicit sexual naughty moments)
Pairings: Willow/other – crossover with Stargate SG-1; Buffy/Spike and others….
Disclaimer: I own nothing; BtVS, nope; Stargate SG-1, nope there too. Really I got nothing left so don’t sue me!
Feedback: Of course…. But be warned, I need lots of help….
Author’s Notes: BtVS - Takes place after S6 “Wrecked” and starts to go AU from there… For Stargate SG-1 S7 consider it episode “Heroes”. See Chapter 1 for more details…
Inspired by the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil” and by several Ozzy Osbourne songs.
Author’s notes: Well I’m back with an update! I won’t bore you with details as to why this took so long but I’m never taking that many classes in a summer semester again… Ever! Even my muse went on vacation while I did all that homework… But we’re back so without further delay here we go with the next chapter!
Darkness – Chapter 20 – A new normalHow am I supposed to know
Hidden meanings that will never show
Fools and prophets from the past
Life’s a stage and we’re all in the cast
You gotta believe in someone
Asking me who is right
Asking me who to follow
Don’t ask me, I don’t know!“I Don’t Know” by Ozzy OsbourneSunnydale –
There was a distant smell that tickled Tara’s senses tugging her from her deep slumber. As her eyes fluttered open to abandon another night’s sleep, the smell grew more distinct and she suddenly felt very hungry. She slowly sat up, stretched and glanced at her alarm clock wondering who could be up before her in the Summers’ household.
‘Buffy and Dawn are certainly not morning people…’ the young woman smirked at her thought but then again was drawn to the smell. ‘But someone is definitely cooking breakfast.’
Grabbing her fluffy robe to fight the cold morning chill and sliding over the edge of the bed into her slippers, Tara headed out into the hallway to glance briefly into the rooms of her two housemates. Dawn was still bundled up appearing as a large lump in her bed as the witch expected but Buffy’s bed was empty and already made. The witch frowned at that and made her way slowly downstairs to the kitchen towards the flavorful aroma. The sight she found there shocked the woman…
“Buffy?!? Are you cooking breakfast?”
“Oh hey Tara! That I am… Cooking breakfast that is,” the Slayer paused to glance over her shoulder and smile before turning back to her work. “Perfect timing too, your omelet should be done right about now… I hope you like it!”
“Wow! Uh, no offense but… When did you learn to cook? Not that it’s bad or, or… I-I mean…”
“Tara, I totally understand. I’ve not exactly had the best track record with the kitchen before,” Buffy replied as she brought over the frying pan to slide a very nice looking omelet onto a plate at the kitchen island near her housemate. “Here you go! Its ham, cheese and a little green pepper; we only had the one left from when you made stew the other night so I had to use it sparingly.
“Buffy, this looks great… When did you pick up this little skill?”
“Recently down at the Double Meat if you can believe it; I’m shocked myself. I’ve actually picked up a lot of cooking tips from the guys down there. We’re not technically supposed to but we do a lot of special order breakfast stuff for the late shift customers; cops, sanitation workers, janitors. Even the FBI agents have started showing up… So, they started asking when we serve breakfast and if we do special orders… Like we have anything else to do, right? Al taught me how to crack eggs without messing them up when we were doing fried egg sandwiches and Sharon taught me how to make omelets! See?” the Slayer offered her a knife and fork.
Tara was still a tad bit skeptical but there was no denying the omelet looked good and the smell was equally appealing. Within a couple moments the witch had sliced up a portion of the meal and made it disappear into her mouth. For the second time this morning she was shocked…
“Buffy, this is good! I mean really good…” she added after finishing up her second bite and starting into cutting up another piece. “I’m impressed!”
“Thanks,” the petite blonde’s smile lit up the room as she turned back to the stove and started making a second omelet. “I have enough to make us each one… Well, that is if Dawn ever wakes up...”
As if on cue, the Slayer’s sister managed to drag herself into the room looking far from awake. “Is that food I smell? Is there any coffee?” she managed to mumble out as she shuffled into the room.
“Good morning to you too princess! So wonderful to see you today,” Buffy spoke over her shoulder briefly as she added the ingredients to the pan. “Yes to both; coffees in the usual spot…”
“Here Dawn, sit down while I pour us all a cup,” Tara got up and made room for the obviously still half asleep teen, “Buffy made breakfast this morning!”
“Huh,” the teen managed to get out, “Did you say Buffy made breakfast? I must still be in my nightmare…”
“Very funny…” her sister replied, “For that remark you can have cold cereal…”
“Actually Dawnie, it’s really very good,” the witch gestured to her plate with a couple pieces still left on it. “Try a bite from mine if you don’t believe me…”
The teen looked skeptical but grabbed a fork with her good hand and gave it a try. That was soon followed by the rest of the omelet on Tara’s plate, “This is great! No way Buffy…”
Dawn was silenced as a fresh omelet was skillfully slid onto the plate by her sister. “I’ll take that apology now along with my cup of coffee too. Thank you very much…” Buffy added smugly before turning back to the stove.
“Wow, I’ve woke up in bizzaro-world…” the former Key shook her head but made herself at home in front of the plate of steaming food. “But at least I won’t starve here!”
“This was nice…” Buffy offered out into the silence of the kitchen. Dawn had eaten her fill and was back upstairs getting ready for school while the Slayer and the witch sat across from each other enjoying the last of their coffee.
“What’s this?” the witch asked with a slight raise of her eyebrow expressing her interest.
“This… This morning, us hanging out; Dawn actually in a good mood in the morning for once,” the Slayer explained, “And if she hustles a little I might actually get her to school early… I like this, normal thing here.”
“Is that what we’re calling it now? A normal thing?”
“It is compared to our more recent activities,” Buffy replied with a slight nod of her head. “It’s just been so long since we’ve had… I don’t know… Just a morning where there wasn’t a crisis in the works or an apocalypse or… Some sort of impending doom thing! It’s just nice to be normal again. After last night…”
“What about last…” Tara’s face screwed up into a frown but her reply was stopped by a firm hand on hers from the woman across from her.
“After last night I’m tired of crying; I’m tired of being just sad a-and mad all the time! I want us to, to live again… To be normal again… Well, uh, at least our version of normal…” Buffy explained as she fought with her brain to come up with the words to express her feelings. Feelings that had finally sorted themselves out after the previous night’s cry-fest with the blonde witch, “I-I think we both can agree things will never be the same after, uh, well, recent happenings. But I think we both can accept that, uh, well… Tara I just don’t think it’s likely we’re going to find her… And that we need to keep living in the meantime… I don’t know; I-I mean Giles might come up with something but the FBI might just have as much luck as us…”
“I-I k-know Buffy…” came the soft stuttered reply from the witch as she pulled her hands away to pull up her arms and cross them over her chest as she grew self conscience over what they were saying, “it just isn’t… I-I just don’t know if I can yet, you know? W-Willow was such a h-huge part of my life. And then she’s not; and then she’s gone… And she obviously needs help… Part of me still loves her and it just doesn’t seem right to stop feeling for her but…”
“Oh God Tara I know…” Buffy quickly replied, “I still love her too and I’m not giving up on her. But I-I also think we need to stop beating ourselves up over all that happened. We’re not giving up on her… We, we just need to accept some things happened and move on…” The Slayer paused and moved around the kitchen island and moved to hug the still seated witch. “We still have each other… And if you’d like to, I’d really love it if you stayed here with me and Dawn from now on. You’re family to us and this can be your home again now if you want it to be…”
Tara gently pulled her arms free and then hugged the shorter blonde back, “I-I’d like that… Thank you Buffy.”
“You’re most welcome Tar,” the Slayer replied as she pulled back to look the witch in the eyes, “We love you and you’re so important to us… To me…”
Tara nodded back and smiled at the woman she realized was a dear friend to her; sadness for her lost former lover quickly slid to the back of her mind as she rejoiced in the comfort of belonging she felt in the arms around her now. But looking up, the witch then noticed there was more to that look in her friend’s eyes then she first thought. The Slayer moved closer and she closed her eyes thinking Buffy meant to hug her closely again. However she suddenly felt a pair of soft lips caress her cheek lightly, almost as if they were scared to approach her. Then they moved gently to rest directly over her mouth where they touched so softly it almost felt like she imagined it. The witch’s heart suddenly raced as she then both felt and heard the Slayer’s next words.
“Thank you Tara. I’d be lost without you…”
And then there came the moment when it seemed everything stopped for Tara – her breathing, her pulse, rational thought, everything… She found herself easing her face forward a fraction of an insignificant amount but it was enough for her lips to meet the lips of the woman holding her tightly. Then after a moment of contact, words followed from somewhere in her brain that was still capable of thought. Words spoken so softly she imagined she only breathed them out –
“I’m here for you Buffy, I won’t leave you… I promise!”
How long they stood like that the witch couldn’t tell. It felt so nice; to feel something other than pain and it felt so good again…
But the moment of peace ended when the sound of footsteps in the upstairs hallway were quickly followed by the voice of their youngest housemate, “Buffy I’m almost ready! Can we stop by and pick up Janice?”
The magic of the moment broken, the two slowly parted as Buffy sighed and then called back over her shoulder, “Yeah, I’ll be right there…”
Looking back, the Slayer gently smiled, “I’ve, uh, gotta drive Dawn… I’ll finish cleaning up when I get back. Okay?”
“Okay,” Tara, suddenly fully realizing what had just happened, nodded quickly since her brain was having problems forming coherent sentences.
“Will you be here or do you…” Buffy began to ask.
“Class! Oh, I have class, uh, this morning! I need to get ready,” the witch realized, glancing at the clock and seeing she would have to move her behind if she was going to make school on time.
“I can drive you once I drop off Dawn,” the shorter blonde offered, “Will that help?”
“T-that would be great Buffy,” Tara nodded.
“Alright then… See you in a few,” and with that the Slayer headed out to the living room, gathered her keys and her younger sister that had just bounced downstairs and was out the door in a few moments.
To Tara however time seemed to have stopped as she felt rooted to her spot on the kitchen stool; her mind awash with countless thoughts and emotions over the events of the past few minutes. But one thought kept repeating over and over –
‘Buffy and I kissed!!! Goddess, what am I doing???’A little while later in Colorado Springs –
“Nice place,” Willow commented before taking a sip of her tea then added with a gesture towards the bookcases lining the den, “You have a very interesting book collection Daniel.”
“Thanks…” the archeologist remarked with an understanding smile to the witch,”Yeah, it’s, uh, been a labor of love and work over the years. Mostly love… Classic works on legends and science fiction somehow just seem to fit together well considering my chosen profession nowadays,” he paused to pick up his coffee mug and gestured towards Willow looking closely at his collection of Arthur C. Clarke novels, “I can only imagine what yours must look like.”
“Mmmm,” the witch smirked and nodded knowingly at her host before returning to browse the bookcases, “Yeah, its funny how things like science fiction, witchcraft and myths all seem to spin together at times after what we’ve run into. A strange but almost comfortable fit looking from our unique perspective I guess…” She reached out and tugged out an older hardcover, “I see you’re a fan of Clarke’s books; this is a very old copy of Childhood’s End. Very nice…”
“It’s one of my favorites…” Daniel confirmed, “I still read it from time to time. Well, it’s been awhile actually, I’ve had a lot of other reading lately…”
“I know the feeling,” Willow again nodded as she put the book back and thought about all the reading she still had to do yet today, “I used to read all the time for fun. Science fiction, mythology, and fantasy… Then I started wanting to understand what it was all about; the science and legends behind the stories. The history behind the people that wrote them… That’s when it became more of a calling then just fun. Well, maybe a bit of an obsession at times… Even now, with all this technology around us, I still love a good book in my hands to read… When I find the time that is,” turning back to the archeologist she noticed that they were no longer alone as the other guests joined them in the den. “But like you, I rarely find the time to just read for fun anymore. How about you Jack? Fancy a good book now and then? No, wait, you strike me more as the rugged action hero type and not the bookworm…”
“I read…” O’Neill glared at the witch with a look he normally reserved for annoying junior officers but paused for a moment before adding, “Newspapers and… other things… I prefer fishing for relaxation. It’s peaceful.”
Willow raised an eyebrow, “Ah, an outdoors type. Now that does seem to fit you…” taking a moment for another sip of her tea she then added, “A bit cool for that now however...”
“Well,” Janet spoke up from where she moved over along the opposite wall nursing her own coffee cup between her small hands, “it had been a mild winter around here until recently. I don’t mind the cold normally but this morning was certainly chilly.”
Willow took the moment to run her eyes slowly over the petite doctor across the room from her. Janet had worn a cream colored sweater that fit her just perfectly in the witch’s view as her gaze paused directly on her secret lover’s chest. All the SGC people had worn civilian clothes for this meeting but Willow had eyes only for the doctor.
“Certainly was a bit chilly this morning,” the red head nodded in agreement. Then she added when she caught Janet’s eyes, “Would have loved to just have stayed in bed all day snuggled up close to someone warm. Certainly a lot cooler here than where I’m from…”
“I bet,” Janet quickly added as she hid her slight smile at Willow’s comment behind the coffee mug – ‘I’ll get you for that tease missy!’
“Well, we have a lot of items to cover so we should probably get to it. Jack did you want to start?” Daniel looked over at Jack to have him take the lead.
“Yeah… Alright Willow, as we mentioned back before, well before all this other stuff happened, there’s a lot of people interested in what you’ve done. And what you’ve said you could help provide us to help protect the Earth,” Jack gestured towards the front door, “But to put it bluntly, there are also a lot of people out there in our command that don’t trust you because of how things have gone so far since we’ve, uh, run into each other. So we’re here to start laying out some ways to fix these issues…”
“Alright, I’m willing to listen to anything reasonable you have to offer on how we should try working together. However I think we could start off with the fact that I can be trusted. Like I said before, I’ve never discussed anything I learned from the Initiative with anyone. Except of course for those that were there during its operation and, uh, and its destruction… Additionally I’ve not discussed anything about the Stargate or the SGC with anyone that hadn’t already known about it from other sources. Like those from the NID… So I think that should be worth something to your superiors, don’t you?”
“Fair enough Willow,” the colonel replied nodding towards his assembled team members, “I think that is something the others may not have considered. We also had some ideas on how we could proceed to work towards, uh, getting to trust each other…”
The conversation then continued back and forth for several minutes, questions and answers exchanged between the groups. But the whole time Willow had Asharah’s questions in the back of her mind – ‘How did they take down Ra? Was it really the sun god that her people had worshipped all those years ago? And what of these Gou’ald creatures? Where did they really fit into this?’
Willow’s mistrust of all things military had abated somewhat with her falling for Janet and her recent interactions with Jack and Samantha. And as much as she found the senior officer annoying and a bit sneaky, the witch had discovered that Janet had a deep respect for all the SG-1 members and under Jack’s leadership they had survived the impossible many times. Daniel was easy to like right off the bat and she could see being friends with him just as easily. And then she found Samantha Carter an interesting anomaly among her past experiences with the Initiative as Janet had shared several stories of how the brilliant astrophysicist had outsmarted the Gou’ald and their agents while a member of the SGC. The witch thought there had been a bit of a girl crush going on between the doctor and the major but it appeared that Janet and Sam had grown exceptionally close being the lone females in a group dominated by men. Teal’c fascinated the witch but was an enormous puzzle to her with his stoic ways.
‘I could easily fall into being comfortable with these people. But still they are likely the exception,’ she told herself, ‘and then they answer to others that they likely didn’t even know. How far can I trust their superiors?’
While the witch dealt with her thoughts and these menial negotiations, her spirit companion kept her senses focused around them as the witch had asked of her before they arrived. But the questions hung there before her as well; the doubt dragged at the corners of her mind... She wanted her answers now! Their hurried research this morning had just raised more questions than anything and this petty posturing back and forth with the others nagged at her. Willow had argued that the demon lord would be a fool to break their pact in such a simple deception but they lacked facts either way now in both their eyes. The anger, anxiety and questions pulled her in a million different ways. But Asharah fought thru those feelings and held her focus; patience had held her together during the long years with Glory and rewarded her by finding Willow. She reminded herself of her reward and focused on her eventual revenge. And being trapped in an ancient magical device for a couple thousand years will certainly teach one patience… The priestess returned her attention back to the conversation at hand as the blonde scientist was talking to her host.
“And that brings us back to the biggest thing on everyone’s mind at the moment…” Sam explained, “How you were able to get off world without the Stargate? We have a few million ideas but we’d all like it if you could show us. Could you do a demonstration of some kind to start with so everyone would know what we’re dealing with? Would you have any problems working with us to make that happen?”
“That seems reasonable enough…” Willow replied nodding slowly, “What did you all have in mind? I mean I guess I could show you now but there’s really not a lot of room here to do it…”
“Wow, you could do it here? I mean is it something we could… “ Sam quickly replied but then caught the look on Colonel O’Neill’s face and corrected herself. “Oh, um, no, not here Willow. I’d, well… really the whole sciences department at the SGC was hoping we could do it someplace where we could setup some instruments and record the event for study. There are not a lot of people that understand magic like you do; okay well, no one at the SGC really knows what to expect when you do, well, whatever it is you do exactly. An event like this is rather unprecedented and really needs a controlled environment so we can study the effects. We’d like to use a whole spectrum of analysis instruments and…“
“Whoa, whoa Major Cart, uh, sorry, I mean Sam,” Willow raised up her hand to stop the clearly excited scientist, “Look, I get what you’re saying... Honestly it’s not really that big a deal but I’d be okay with doing something like that, um, demonstration, someplace for you guys. As long as it was someplace I was comfortable with, I’d have no problem. Just tell me the where and when… Oh and we’ll need a little open space, um, maybe like a car garage or something like that. The gateway needs a little room to setup…”
“Gateway? Is what you use like the Stargate? I mean, we really have no idea since we’ve not seen what you do…”
“Well really its two parts,” the witch explained, “I call this end, the anchor point here on Earth, the gateway. The other end, the spot where we arrive, is the portal. I have control over both but they behave a little bit differently. I’ll show you when we open it up.”
“Wow… Okay, that’d be great!” Sam answered, then quickly turning to O’Neil she asked, “Sir do you think we could use one of the hangers near the SGC for this? Or maybe one on Peterson if Willow would be more comfortable staying here in town…”
“I don’t have any problems with either place,” Willow quickly injected, “As long as I have your word on a couple things first. You guys get me that get out of jail free card we talked about earlier for calling off this FBI witch hunt and that I get access to the SGC database of gate addresses. Oh and there is that pesky matter about someone with the NID trying to kill me; I’d really like that to stop too. We agree on those things and I will be more than happy to show you how I bypassed the Stargate and share my magical knowledge of these artifacts. Okay?”
“I think that we can…” Daniel started but Jack jumped in quickly to interrupt him.
“Before we get to agreeing on that, I’d first like to know why you need access to the gate addresses,” O’Neill asked, “I mean if you can get past the Stargate with your, whatever it is you have, why do you need the gate addresses from the SGC?”
Willow sighed with an annoyed look at Jack, “Alright, let me go over this again… Remember when I explained to you last time at your place about the artifacts? The Staff of Ra, the library of ancient knowledge, all that other stuff?”
“Yes,” Daniel jumped in before O’Neill could annoy the witch any further, “I remember you mentioned something about, ah, about a path, right? A special path to this library secured by wards and magic; would that be linked with the gate addresses you need?”
“That’s it exactly Daniel! I believe the path mentioned in the legends from the old writings I have found is actually a special series of gate addresses,” Willow replied. “I believe this ancient race actually built that path using these special gate addresses but Ra discovered the path as well somehow and it led him to the library. And like I said before he used that library as a place of safe keeping for these artifacts and used the path to secure it. But that’s why I need access to your library of gate addresses; my list is, uh, not fully organized and… well, its kinda incomplete… Without your address list it might take me an awful long time to find the starting point to the path.”
“How did you figure this all out Willow? The path, the library and all?” Daniel asked, the curiosity clearly written on his face, “We’ve chased down legends and rumors about store houses of knowledge before but they usually turn up as traps from the Gou’ald or just myths. Do you have something that convinced you that it’s all true?’
The witch paused for a moment and took in a breath. Willow and Asharah had figured there would be a time when they’d have to open up a bit more on some of what they had learned. The priestess wasn’t keen on showing anyone else anything they had for an advantage knowledge-wise but her host knew there would be a point where gaining credibility would be worth the trade off. Her host had also argued it was the least telling of all the tomes they had considering their brief chance to compare notes this morning with what Amy had found in the books of knowledge from Willow’s deal with D’hoffryn. Considering it would be seen as an offering of good faith and they could use it as leverage, the spirit had agreed. Provided that she got her answers to the questions she had concerning Ra of course…
“I have this Daniel…” and the witch held out her hands and after a moment a book that Willow had become very familiar with appeared in them. “I obtained this from the estate of the late hell-goddess Glory. I think you in particular will find it interesting Daniel…” and as she held it out to the archeologist she looked him straight in the eyes, “I’m placing a lot of trust in you by loaning you this. I ask that you take great care with it and guard it well as I think it might be one of a kind and older than anything I’ve ever encountered before.”
“Thank you, I promise I’ll take great care of it Willow. Uh, what is it?” he asked as the witch gently passed it into his hands. The book was large but not extremely so, bound in a dark hard substance that almost looked like metal. It did have a significant weight to it, almost as if the pages inside held some great dark secret within.
“Call it a… a novice primer on ancient history… Inside I found a story of an elder race that was here before the dawn of human existence as we know it. If I translated the passages correctly, and I’m fairly certain I did, that book explains this race is the builders of the library. And the ones that built the Stargates…” the witch explained. “There are passages in there with numerous languages; some that translate back to the hieroglyphics that you discovered before. I bought your books to help me learn how to read them actually. Which I then learned and figured out later that many are early Gou’ald writings... In any case I consider it my own Rosetta Stone for this ancient race.”
Daniel quickly opened the book and began to gaze in wonder at the first pages within. While he was distracted by the writings and Sam moved over to look over his shoulder, Jack asked “So how do you know that this book was telling the truth and it’s not some legend or…
“Hang on, let me explain further…” the witch raised her hand to forestall further objections, “This book, Daniel’s books and some other writings I found helped me learn how to unlock the Stargate. Without even having a Stargate… Neat, huh?” Willow smiled, cast a quick glance at Janet to wink at her and returned her attention to the others that had now gathered around the book in Daniel’s hands. “The first time I opened the gateway and walked through it to another world I became an instant believer…”
“Wait Daniel!” Sam quickly pointed to the top of a page as her friend flipped it over, “Look at that! Isn’t that…”
“Yes… That certainly looks like early Ancient script. Or at least a closely related language… I’d need my notes from the SGC to be sure but it’s a close match, amazing…” he slowly traced his fingers down the page tracking over the writing in the book. “We’ve only found a few examples of their earliest writings, this is priceless…”
“Willow, did you say you had more of these writings?” Sam asked looking up from over her friend’s shoulder.
“Yes, I have a couple more. As well as other items I recovered from my travels that I believe you would find interesting. And I’m more than willing to share as long as we can come to an agreement on what I asked for. We each have many things the other wants and we each want to save the Earth… I think that we can come up with a reasonable set of, compromises for lack of a better term, if everyone is willing… Correct?” the witch summed up looking hopefully at the two scientists before her.
Daniel and Sam nodded in agreement before both turning to look over at Jack who currently wore a frown. That frown quickly became an annoyed look as he noticed his team members and the witch were looking at him and waiting for his reply. Willow took a second to glance over at Janet briefly and wink; the doctor briefly raised an eyebrow but gave no other response. Meanwhile Teal’c remained silent and watchful as was his norm.
“I think we can make those requests happen… General Hammond gave me the okay if I thought it was appropriate,” Jack still didn’t look fully convinced that this was a good idea. In fact he was far from convinced it was anywhere in his best interests to get involved with this young lady and her magic. However considering the circumstances and the fact that she was likely less dangerous than Anubis… “So, uh, yeah… We can consider those things approved; I’ll call the SGC and have them call up the other agencies. Those rogue NID agents are still going to be an issue, well at least those types like Finn… And we still don’t know about how far we can trust some of those people on the oversight committee considering what happened with Woolsey…”
“Do you think there could be more NID groups like Captain Finn’s out there Colonel?” Sam asked, “I mean, well, his team was very specialized from the information we’ve found…”
“Can’t say for sure Carter… But one thing’s been consistent with these guys since we’ve first ran into them,” Jack sullenly replied, “they’ve got a backup plan for everything… I’d rather not play whack-a-mole with these bad guys while worrying over Anubis but we need to play things smart for both our sakes.”
“I agree with Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter,” Teal’c nodded towards his team leader. “With our efforts focused on fighting Anubis it could distract us from threats here on Earth. Especially threats to Willow Rosenberg from associates of Captain Finn’s… I believe it would be in all of our interests if we were to offer her some additional protection,” then he turned to address the witch directly, “I mean no offense concerning your ability to defend yourself but it would be wise to pool our limited security resources together for our mutual benefit. And for the civilian population at large considering what occurred in Sunnydale when you were attacked… Do you not agree Willow Rosenberg?”
“Uh, sure… No offense taken,” Willow was a bit taken aback since the big alien had never spoken more than a single sentence to her previously – ‘And he does make a good argument… What would happen if another bunch of those lunatics from the NID found her at her hotel right now? How many others would die? How much more innocent blood would…’
‘Be careful my host,’ Asharah pulled her away from those morbid thoughts and refocused her on the current issue, ‘Do not let them control you! Remember what happened with Finn; remember he argued the same thing?’
“Okay… I’m not saying yes or no yet; what do you suggest?” she asked – ‘There is no harm in finding out what they think Asharah, it could be helpful. Janet trusts them so I don’t think it’s fair to treat them like Riley. Besides he is right; we can’t be everywhere at once. I’m concerned for Amy’s safety as well…’ – “Just please don’t suggest the SGC; I have no desire to be on lockdown because that is not my idea of security… More like prison! And seriously, my college dorm room had more space than your so-called guest suites! Really, you guys need to look at doing some upgrades for your VIP’s…”
Sam looked sheepishly at her team leader since she’d replied with almost the same exact thoughts when Colonel O’Neill and General Hammond had discussed Willow staying at the SGC for her safety.
“Well…” Daniel started to reply since he had suggested the witch staying with him during the same previous meeting at the SGC.
“She could stay with me…” Janet suddenly offered from her spot across the room – ‘Dear God! Did I just say that out loud???’ – she realized then quickly followed, “Uh, I mean, well, I have the extra room… And my housing area is already protected and monitored by the SGC security teams. It, uh, wouldn’t be a problem…” – ‘Oh dear God I’m so dead… Why did I open my big mouth???’
“Oh, that’s very nice of you… I-I don’t want to impose…” the witch tried to seem casual in her response but inside her thoughts and emotions were doing the happy dance – ‘Wow! Score one for Janet with the quick thinking!’ – “I have all my research books I’d need to bring. Oh and I also have my assistant Amy that’s been staying with me; can she stay as well?”
“I have two spare rooms actually! Really, it wouldn’t be a problem at…” the doctor quickly replied but was interrupted by Colonel O’Neill who had perked up at the name of Willow’s assistant.
“Whoa, your assistant Amy? That wouldn’t happen to be one Amy Madison would it?” Jack asked the witch pointedly, “The FBI has a missing persons report on her from her father you know?”
“Hmm, well, can’t say much for what her father thinks but she’s not missing. Amy works for me and she’s part of the deal… Our deal-thingy we’re making here. Okay? Good!” the witch quickly dismissed any further protest from the colonel by turning back to Janet and asking, “You sure we wouldn’t be a problem?”
Jack looked like he was about to argue the point when Sam offered up, “That’s actually a pretty good idea Colonel… I mean, I know Daniel was going to offer for her to stay here but Janet does have the room and her neighborhood is already secured. Boosting security in her immediate housing area would be easy compared to most places except for the SGC itself. And well… no offense Daniel, but Janet’s place is more, uh, female friendly…”
The archeologist nodded slowly in agreement, “No, no, you got a point there Sam… And no offense taken,” he offered with a sincere smile and then added, “I think Janet’s place is the best idea for a short term solution Jack. That is if Willow is okay with the idea; I know you appreciate your freedom...“
“Thanks Daniel, I appreciate your consideration. But I, uh, well, I can’t really argue with Teal’c’s logic. As long as you guys think I won’t present a danger to Janet and her daughter… I’d be happy to accept!” the witch smiled broadly and quickly turned back to her secret lover,”Thank you Janet! I’ll try not to inconvenience you too much... I can buy groceries and cook and stuff too; you’ll not even realize I’m there! Well, not really since I’ll be cooking and stuff, but you get the idea…”
Jack was so busy trying to figure out where he lost control of this issue that he failed to notice Janet roll her eyes at Willow’s little act.
“It’s not a big deal Willow. My daughter Cassie will enjoy having someone else to suffer with through my own dinner disasters. And it’ll be nice to have some company on the drive to work…”
“Cool,” Willow giggled softly before turning back to the others, “So, that seems settled… What now kids? Time to get to work?”
Sam smiled at the young woman’s enthusiasm, “Well for a start we can coordinate getting the experiment with your gateway setup. I also brought a copy of the SGC’s gate address database for us to go over; I was hoping we’d get a chance to swap address information…”
“That’s a good start. And while Sam’s getting the database started up I’d like to see your notes on the translations in this book if you don’t mind Willow,” Daniel asked the witch, “I mean if you have the time? I’d really like to know how you worked these translations…”
“Sure Daniel, I’d like that…” the witch replied with a smile, relief evident on her face now that there looked to be an agreement coming together. “I think I can spare a couple more hours today. I’d like to get settled with my stuff at Janet’s later this afternoon if that’s okay?”
A chorus of agreements filled the room as people stood to refresh their beverages from the kitchen although it appeared Jack was still put out about the whole housing thing, “The SGC guest rooms are not that bad…”
However as she walked into Daniel’s kitchen to get some more tea, Willow’s companion spirit gave the witch a mental knock to the forehead, ‘While I’m pleased that you have made progress my host I do believe we are still in need of some answers concerning a few other items…’
‘Ooops, sorry…’ Willow mentally cringed as she remembered her promise to get further answers that Asharah had concerning one key event.
“Daniel, there’s one thing I’d like to hear about while we gather up my translation notes,” the witch asked, “Considering that we’ll be going up against Anubis together now, I’d like to know how you stopped Ra before? Maybe something similar will work here…”
The other conversation in the room quickly ended as Jack and the archeologist shared a look.
“I, well, I have the Cliff’s notes version of it, you could say,” she added after a moment of silence in the room, “Just, uh, information I picked up along the way in my research… I’d like to hear the details about it from those that were there. That’s not a problem, is it?”Meanwhile, in the skies not too far from Sunnydale –
When she’d been recruited by the FBI’s Special Projects division, Special Agent Williams had figured it would be a significant positive move for her career. She’d applied herself hard after joining the Bureau but it seemed like she couldn’t catch the big break to set her apart from her peers. So Williams figured being recruited for a special assignment would look good on her file and give her a chance to make her mark. She almost reconsidered after her old supervisor found out about her reassignment and had a few words with her prior to her departure – “So the spook’s playground offered you a job, eh?” he’d gruffly asked but it was clearly a statement as he added, “Well good luck with that; hope you like chasing ghosts…”
Williams didn’t understand anything that had come of that conversation at the time. Five years later, she understood all too well what her former boss was alluding to… The ‘Spook’s Playground’ was the nickname given by the regular Bureau agents to the Special Projects division. And chasing simple ghosts would be a picnic compared to her normal cases. But the Hellmouth team chief position was the culmination of all her worst cases rolled up into one big messy package. Riding back towards Sunnydale in the small commuter jet the FBI had on loan from the Air Force, the agent couldn’t help but shake her head over the circumstances of her morning.
‘If anyone had ever told me,’ the agent considered, ‘that I’d be rushed out of the field to meet with a special US prosecutor to testify to a judicial panel on the need for a search warrant to look in a magic shop for alien relics previously owned by a multi-dimensional hell goddess killed in central California by a group of vampire hunting teenagers I’d have punched them in the face…’
She didn’t know which issue was worse however – the fact that the US had a special prosecutor for the supernatural, that there was a judicial panel for supernatural law cases or the fact that she had easily convinced the three judges on the panel to ignore the US Constitution in the interest of national security and public safety. Looking over at her partner crashed out fast asleep across the aisle from her, Williams shook her head again – ‘How does none of this faze Burns? Damn I envy him…’
The special agent was roused from her musings by the approach of a steward from the front cabin section.
“Special Agent Williams, you have a priority one call coming in from Washington. It’s the assistant director… You can take it up here,” the steward gestured back towards the front of the plane.
“Thanks,” she nodded and followed the man back from where he’d come – ‘Priority one from the assistant director, I’m sure it’s just more glowing encouragement on the great job I’m doing out here. I should have stayed in bed this morning…’Sunnydale, later that same afternoon –
Tara sat in the student center reviewing a book from her earlier class. However after a few minutes she stopped realizing that she had reread the same set of lines over and over again.
“Crap, I’m a mess…” she sighed as she flipped the book closed and sighed in a very un-Tara-like manner. She took a moment to center herself and just tried to focus on her breathing to restore her calm and get back to reading. But after a few minutes she just gave up on that too. Her emotions were all over the place right now, focus was not a skill she possessed at the moment. Classes had been a blur after Buffy had dropped her off at school; thank the Goddess that it was so early in the semester. Now she was waiting for the Slayer to finish her short lunch-rush shift at the Double Meat; the petite blonde had insisted that she pick up the witch after her shift. Dawn was heading to Janice’s after school, as was her usual habit lately, so the two women had talked about dropping by the mall to window shop since they would be alone and then stopping by to check in with Giles at the Magic Box.
“Alone… With Buffy again,” the witch dropped her chin onto her hands as they rested on the textbooks stacked on the table before her. The student center was all but empty; all but the most dedicated or bored students had abandoned the area after midday classes had finished. The nearby TV filled the area with news about the upcoming presidential inauguration but Tara had no interest in national news or politics right now.
‘Alone with Buffy again… That’s not a bad thing at all, right?’ With just a hint of rising panic nipping at the back of her mind, Tara took stock of current events in her emotional life. ‘No not a bad thing at all. I love spending time with Buffy! Except for… Okay… Admit it, Buffy has feelings for you. Like lusty-type feeling maybe even… And, and…’
“And,” the witch audibly gulped as she admitted the rest, “You have feelings for her too…”
Tara didn’t know when it happened, couldn’t explain it and had no clue how she managed to let her emotions run this far out of control but it didn’t matter. She cared for Buffy now… And not in the love-you-best-friend way; Goddess she had to admit there were some lusty thoughts there recently. Her guilt over her lost relationship with the now missing Willow had somehow been numbed and in its place was the constant presence of the Slayer. Where it had once been the petite red head at the center of her emotional world, there now was the physically strong but emotionally trashed Buffy. Buffy, the girl who now always made it clear how much Tara meant to her. Who valued her, cared for her and obviously had some lusty thoughts of her own if she read the looks from this morning correctly.
The witch closed her eyes and slowly shook her head as she mumbled, “Goddess, this is hardly normal…”
Giles carefully unwrapped the last contents of the trunk he had brought from the storeroom earlier and placed them neatly on the table.
“So that’s the last of them then?” the archeologist asked looking up from the other end of the table where she was examining items the former Watcher had brought to her previously.
“Yes, that’s the last,” he acknowledged with a sigh and a bit of effort as he attempted to stretch out his back and shoulders, “and I’m glad to be done with that chore. I should have had Buffy help me bring those trunks upstairs earlier…”
“I’m sure it is handy to have the Slayer around to move heavy trunks Rupert,” she replied with an amused smirk on her face,” but I’m also sure she would have given you a great deal of grief for the task…”
“Yes, yes I’m sure she would have,” Giles responded with a smile of his own. “However I think it would have been worth it. All things considered that is…” his voice trailed off as he shifted his sore shoulders in slight discomfort. “I don’t recall them being all this heavy or having so much, er, well, having so many items in them. But then… Well, I don’t think I was really aware of all that was going on during that time…”
“After Buffy died you mean…”
“Er, yes… It was…” he paused a moment and looked down in thought. Looking back up towards his friend, “It was a difficult time for all of us. Everyone was hurting; in shock in some cases it seemed. I was… Not exactly myself as well.”
“Completely understandable,” Karen replied slowly nodding, “considering the circumstances.”
“Yes. Well…” the former Watcher cleared his throat and attempted to restore some semblance of order to his mood but failed considering the words that followed, “I was prepared to make adjustments to our new situation although it appeared things were not going very well at times. But then they brought her back… Well, mostly it was Willow that brought her back. I-I seemed to have underestimated her abilities and her commitment to Buffy. Significantly underestimated her on many levels it now seems…” gazing at the collection of items on the table before them and around them on shelves in the back room of the Magic Box. “I had no idea she had developed the knowledge or ability to perform such a task. And I certainly failed to realize she had acquired such an interest in Glory’s past… If she did acquire something of power from this rubbish I certainly had no knowledge of it even existing previously.”
The archeologist rose from her chair and moved towards her friend to place a comforting arm on his shoulder, “You are not to blame for her actions. If she had managed to keep her lover and her childhood friends in the dark about all this Rupert then how could…”
“But that is the issue Karen,” Giles suddenly burst out pulling off his glasses with one hand and gesturing back towards the front of the store, “I was Willow’s mentor and I let her get involved in magic. I let the whole bloody lot of them get involved in all this, this death and destruction with seemingly little regard for the eventual tragic end. I did know better and I failed to protect them…”
Stepping away from the table, he walked towards the far part of the room to calm his thoughts. After a moment he continued, “Please don’t misunderstand, I-I don’t regret Buffy being back at all… But on many nights, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that there would be a price to pay for her return. Perhaps there has been now…”
Karen looked like she was going to debate that point with him when there came the noise of the front door chime ringing numerous times followed by several loud voices from the front of the store. Their conversation for the moment forgotten, both moved out of the back area to see what the ruckus was all about. Moving from behind the curtained area they found several people in dark suits at the front of the store with Anya doing her best to contain them there.
“Giles! Giles! They said they have a warrant and want to search the store again!” the former vengeance demon complained turning to him, “They can’t do that can they? I mean they made such a mess before… And they scare away the customers!”
Before the former Watcher could reply, one of the agents broke away from the group, pulling out his identification and advanced towards them, “Mr. Giles, I’m Special Agent Franklin sir. We have a warrant to search your store. We don’t want to cause any trouble sir but we have a job to do so if you could assist by containing Ms Jenkins and answering a few questions we’ll finish our task and be on our way…”
“I-I don’t understand,” Giles replied as he looked at the agent’s identification, “You’ve already searched the store for Willow, what else could you need here?”
“Actually Mr. Giles,” came a familiar voice from the open front door, “we’re not here to look for Ms Rosenberg…”
“Agent Williams…” Giles stepped away from the other agents and met the senior agent as she walked into the front of the store, Special Agent Burns close behind her. “Could you please explain this intrusion? We’ve cooperated fully with the authorities, why are you here again?”
“Yes, you have cooperated with us fully in the past and that was appreciated,” the FBI agent agreed as she pulled out a copy of the warrant she received earlier this morning. “But as I said before, we are not looking for Willow Rosenberg anymore. This warrant is to search the Magic Box for any items left behind by the entity known as Glory and to seize all such items. Also we are here to detain you and Professor Karen Phelps for questioning concerning several inquiries made online concerning similar items.” Williams then nodded to her partner who nodded back and led the rest of the assembled agents further into the store.
“Detain us? What the devil for?!?” Giles stepped in front of his friend as two agents moved to either side of them. “We’ve done nothing wrong; why would you need to… Wait, did you say you’re not looking for Willow anymore?”
“The detention is only for questioning Mr. Giles. As long as you and your friend here cooperate there should be no issues concerning your visas for being in this country and you’ll be free to return to your normal activities in a couple hours,” the agent explained making her expectations of their full cooperation known. She the continued, “As for the artifacts, they are seen as a national security issue… So I can’t discuss them further except to state that your assistance in identifying them all will certainly speed up our departure from your establishment here. As well as reduce the need for you to remain within our custody for any moment longer than needed while we check on the status of your visa. Again…”
The smile that was added on to the end of that statement made it perfectly clear to Giles that he had precious little maneuvering room in this situation. The FBI agent was fully prepared to throw him and Karen into a lockup until she had their cooperation.
“I see,” Giles didn’t have any cards to play this hand but he wasn’t counting himself out of the game yet. Drawing his friend’s hand into his own and glancing over at the clearly upset Anya, “I can’t speak for Professor Phelps or Anya but you will have my full cooperation, as you have had this whole time if you remember. But please… Can you clarify your earlier statement Agent Williams? Why are you not looking for Willow anymore?”
Agent Williams frowned for a moment as she thought over his statement. At that moment the front door chime rang again announcing the arrival of Buffy and Tara.
“Hey Giles it looks like…” Buffy’s voice trailed off as she realized the Magic Box was packed full of FBI agents again. And then to add insult to injury she noted her least favorite FBI agent appeared to have her friends cornered in the store. “What are you doing here again Williams? Couldn’t find a class full of preschoolers to terrorize at this time of day?”
“Charming as always Ms Summers,” the agent smirked at the obvious jab. “No actually I’m here trying to clean up some loose ends… And I was about to inform Mr. Giles here that our investigation concerning Ms Rosenberg has been concluded.”
“Y-you found Willow!?! Is she alright? Can we see her?” Tara quickly asked as Buffy was shocked speechless by the agent’s words.
“I’m not at liberty to reveal the details but since you’ve been so helpful previously... Willow has made contact with government agents and is cooperating with them. She is fine from what I was informed… I’m sorry but I can’t tell you all more,” Agent Williams explained, her strict tone from earlier now subdued. “I would also advise that you not attempt to look for her or contact her at this time. Don’t speak to others about her or related issues for your own good. Her activities are still considered a national security issue…”
“What!?!” Buffy yelled out, “She’s not some issue you can just box up away from us!”
“Buffy! Please, calm yourself,” Giles moved up to his Slayer while drawing Karen with him. Turning back to the FBI agent, “However Agent Williams I agree with her; you can’t keep us from trying to see Willow. It’s not right, it’s not…”
“Mr. Giles, please… I’m very sorry about this,” Agent Williams insisted, “I really am. I was advised not to tell you at all by my superiors but I know how much you are concerned about her so I convinced them otherwise. I knew you would keep trying to find her. But you must understand, Willow is in protective custody now and her activities and whereabouts are considered highly classified. Please do not push matters by trying to find or contact her… You will be subject to arrest if you do try to breach her custody and your safety is my concern in this matter now.”
The group of assembled Scoobies looked at each in shock after the agent had finished and a bit of resignation edged into the eyes of Tara and Giles. Buffy however looked even angrier if that was possible at the moment.
“But then, why are you here again? Why do you need the artifacts from Glory? We don’t even know if they are from her! Does this make sense to anyone?” asked a very confused Anya.
“I’m sorry Ms Jenkins… That’s a matter of…”
“Oh wait! Let me guess, national security, right?” Buffy interrupted, the venom in her voice was almost a tangible thing, “You so need a new line Williams…”Colorado Springs, later that same evening –
The witch woke with a start, tensed up and blinked her eyes rapidly as she quickly glanced around the room trying to get her bearings.
“Whoa, easy Willow… It’s me; you fell asleep reading on the couch,” Janet was kneeling down next to her and had a cup of something in her one hand, the other rested near the small pile of books the witch had been using for research earlier. “I-I thought you might like some tea to help you relax but I guess you fooled me… I think you were more tired than you let on!”
“Hmph, it just must have caught up with me. I don’t even remember nodding off…” she smiled softly as she sat up straighter; then stretched and yawned before taking the proffered cup. “Thanks for this Janet. And for everything today…”
“My pleasure… Relax for a second while I double check on Cassie and Amy,” the doctor smiled and trailed a hand softly over Willow’s blanket covered shoulder as she moved out of the living room and towards the back of her home where the bedrooms were.
Willow took her advice and enjoyed the peacefulness of the moment, pulling the blanket snugger to her body to fight the slight chill in the house from the cold weather outside. Glancing quickly at her wristwatch she realized she had been asleep for at least thirty minutes while Janet had cleaned up after their late dinner. The doctor insisted on taking care of everything this evening as their new host while her new housemates had been getting settled into their rooms with Cassie’s assistance. The witch was pleasantly surprised how well Amy and Cassie had hit it off together. Janet’s adopted daughter had been a wonderful host herself and Willow’s new apprentice was quickly set up comfortably in her new room. She had initially been concerned about Amy’s view on moving from their high priced digs in Denver but had soon realized that her new student was very happy to make a new friend and settle into someplace more stable than a hotel suite.
The witch yawned and stretched again before taking another sip of her tea and debated about picking up her book again and continuing her research. It had been a long several days for the witch, her companion spirit and her new student… Between the countless hours of research over the last few days, meeting with SG-1, then quickly getting packed and moving the gear the two witches’ had accumulated at the hotel to Janet’s house and finally meeting Cassie for the first time, Willow was wiped out. Even Asharah would admit to being a bit worn around the edges with all that had been addressed the last few days; the priestess had also been caught off guard by Janet earlier as she was taking a spiritual ‘catnap’.
Willow was reminded again of how through all the recent trials Janet had been her rock and kept her grounded while the witch tried to get things moving in the right direction. Or at least the direction she hoped things should go; the various possibilities and issues that needed to be addressed gave the witch nightmares at times…
‘Getting everyone to sign off on them actually staying with the SGC doctor had been a stroke of genius on Janet’s part,’ she thought, ‘I never would have been so bold as to try hiding in plain sight…’
Willow admitted to herself she would miss the luxury of the hotel suite, especially that bathroom and whirlpool tub, but had to admit it had become an expense that she really didn’t need. Glory may have left millions behind for the witch’s taking but getting access to it all and turning it into real hard currency for easier accessibility was a time consuming effort. As was trying to avoid the all seeing eyes of the US Internal Revenue Service which seemed to be more of a hazard then avoiding the NID so far… Besides for what she was spending on those hotel suites she could buy Janet a hot tub!
‘Hmmm, that’s not a bad idea…’ the witch considered for a few moments. ‘I wonder if she would like that, kind of a… thank you gift for playing host to me and Amy perhaps?’ Rolling her stiff neck and shoulders for a second she thought, ‘I could sure use a long hot soak in a hot tub right now. Course all of this effort could be in vein if we don’t succeed in stopping Anubis…’ she continued as her mood sank. ‘We made a lot of progress today but so much more needs to be done, so much more research on the artifacts, the gate addresses, what was done to secure the library…’ the witch ticked off the worries in head.
‘Yes my host… Much more research must be done if we are to find the staff. And we most definitely need more answers from our new partners,” Asharah’s thoughts drifted across the witch’s mind, ‘I am still not fully convinced of their trustworthiness despite Janet’s word and what they shared with us today. Their tales of battles with these Gou’ald creatures leaves me…’
‘Asharah,’ Willow mentally sighed, ‘I thought we agreed to discuss that tomorrow? We all know you have major doubts about their stories of Ra and these other creatures posing as the gods. And I’m sure they left some details out because they don’t trust us yet or because we’re not cleared to know. Heck this whole group is run on secrecy! We both know the gods do exist in one form or another in the higher planes or in other dimensions. I mean, heck, Glory alone is a prime example… These Gou’ald could be alien imposters as they described; just like D’Hoffryn’s books says they are. Especially considering I dealt with Osiris when bringing back Buffy and that sounds nothing like what has happened with this, this… creature that SG-1 dealt with that’s called Osiris. So that certainly makes it possible the Ra they supposedly killed is a different being than the one that you and your people worshipped. Or it could be the same or something completely different! You’re right, we need more answers and we need proof! And yes, some of their answers were evasive and incomplete. It certainly does seem kind of convenient that the world they defeated their Ra-being on has been destroyed by Anubis… But going around on this rat wheel is not going to get us anywhere! So no more tonight, okay?’
“Hey, I’m back…” Janet announced her presence as she sat down next to Willow and that conveniently ended any further discussion between the witch and her companion spirit for the moment.
“That was quick… Everything okay with our housemates?” the witch attempted to sound upbeat but the mental argument with Asharah had darkened her mood again.
“Yup,” the doctor nodded with a smile as she shifted to bring Willow’s legs onto her lap and pulled the large blanket over the both of them. “Both of them sleeping nicely, I even think I heard Amy snore a bit… But I’m more worried about you. You look wiped out…”
“I’m fine. Really…” the witch replied. She gave a good effort but it was clear her recently arrived companion on the couch was not buying it. “Okay, you’re right… It’s been a busy few days and it’s catching up with me.”
“Well let’s get you put to bed so you can…” Janet started to get up but was interrupted by the witch putting her hand out to stop her.
“I can’t, not yet. I really need to finish some more of this research Janet. There’s so much left to do. I’ve barely scratched the surface on the artifacts and…”
“Willow, you won’t do anyone any good tomorrow or the day after that if you work yourself to death,” the doctor argued back, “Besides, I don’t date zombies so I’m saying you need to get some rest right now missy!”
Any argument that the witch was about to present was quickly smothered by the unexpected kiss that softly covered her mouth. Within moments she found herself gently pulled up into the arms of her lover and Willow quickly eased herself into the comfort she found in those arms and lips.
“You have a hell of a good bedside manner doc,” the witch mumbled out as she ended the kiss and looked into warm eyes immediately across from her.
“I like to think so… But I save the good stuff for you!”
“Well I’m glad to hear that…” Willow replied, “So you win. I’ll go to bed… But first,” and Janet groaned at the objection as she had already moved to pull the witch up out of the couch, “I need to meditate. I’ve not done it at all today; I’ve skipped it too much lately and I can feel the stress it’s putting on my magic…”
“Okay, if it will help get you some rest… Can I watch you?”
“Actually,” the witch had a sudden idea, “you can help center me and I’ll give you a lesson in meditation for witches. Here, sit on the floor with me and I’ll talk you through it… Sit close so we can hold hands.”
“Alright,” the doctor nodded, moving to sit across from her and moved so that their knees touched comfortably. The witch smiled at the simple contact with her lover.
Willow had not meditated for than a few minutes in the past couple days. With all that had gone on and her continued use of magic in her activities she was feeling more than just a bit frayed around the edges from it all. Asharah had been there to help maintain her shields and focus but that could only go so far without damaging the spirit as well. Or so they thought; they had really failed to gauge how much stress they could put on their combined powers so far. Control and focus seemed to be the key issues; channeling their raw power was something they had yet to have a problem with. Yet…
Willow’s meditation sessions were no longer a time of giving thanks to the Goddess for her previous gifts of magic. That had ended the minute she had sold her soul… Now they were a way to refocus and reestablish control over her use of magic and understanding her own powers and the elemental magic she drew from the universe around her. Since most of what she drew could be considered mostly gray power and often cast later as dark magic now, she didn’t think it would be appropriate to do that with Janet for her first time. So something else was in order and her companion spirit immediately agreed with her choice.
“This is something I used to do when I first started to practice,” the witch began to explain as she took her lover’s hands in her own. “We’re going to take time and find your focus. From there we can build a foundation so that you can understand what the power is inside you. Then we can move on to other things, okay?”
“Okay,” Janet smiled but it was clear there was a bit of tension behind the reply.
“It’s okay to be nervous Janet. But this is not a big step for you,” her young lover explained, “Remember what we did at the hotel? We used your focus then with my power; this time we’re just going to find the focus again and let you explore it yourself. Trust me…” then the witch’s voice continued but no words were verbally spoken – ‘I’ll be with you every step of the way. I’ll never leave you alone in this… Okay?’
‘I trust you Willow,’ the older woman thought in reply hoping to stay in tune with her lover’s thoughts. She relaxed and let her thoughts drift in tune with those of her new teacher.
And with that, Janet’s first real lesson in magic began…Meanwhile, on one of the dark demonic planes –
“My lord, I have news for you on-on the beast…. H-He has removed himself from his realm,” the servant groveled before his demon lord master, “Your spies report that it appears he is preparing to gather his forces on the Earth… To draw them to the Hellmouth…”
“Yes, little one. I surmised he would do so soon,” D’Hoffryn replied from where he sat among his books of dark knowledge, “You see little one, the human militant forces that were assisting the Slayer on the Hellmouth are being significantly reduced now that they have aligned themselves with the witch Willow… The beast foolishly believes he can sneak his forces in and set his plan for revenge against the Slayer-line into motion now, while the human forces are divided and the Slayer is vulnerable. He also believes the others that could help her are too distracted by the Anubis-entity. He is partially correct in this assessment at the moment,” the demon lord turned and addressed his minion directly, “Sadly for him; he is as short-sighted now as he always has been…”
“But my lord... The portents point to his victory; the dark seers are foretelling a great victory for the forces of darkness. Even the higher powers are…”
“The higher powers are even more deluded than the beast!” D’Hoffryn’s voice echoed over the room like a malignant force, silencing the minion and making the creature grovel further to the floor. “I am the dark lord of the wish; patron demon to those that seek vengeance through it! I know what forces move in the black hearts of demons, humans and beasts. Yet even I cannot truly see the future… Choice, free will and chance, all are powerful forces that defy even the Fates themselves. I know the seers forecast a victory but they do not see who will be its master! I have seen the signs myself little one; even the Powers That Be are simply preparing for damage control as is their want in situations like this. They seek balance where a vacuum is about to appear. The beast, the Anubis-entity and the others are all moving their pieces but none of them see the full picture. The game space is not truly set yet…”
“My lord, forgive me… I-I do not understand, please enlighten this worthless servant!”
“I will share my full wisdom soon enough little one,” he replied moving back to his black stone throne, “The signs still are too vague for my own liking. But I will say this now for this much is clear to me: not all the key pieces are in play yet. And even those that are present on the battlefield have not shown their true colors yet. This is where the others have erred and their lack of vision will cost them dearly. However I do see the time is near; the storm is approaching and we must be prepared to act…”To be continued…