Chapter 10 - Laying Claim
Disclaimer – Buffy: see chapter 1; Winchesters: see chapter 5The Ingathering
Tara looked at the elder Winchester brother for a moment before focusing her gaze back on Sam. Her head tilted as she invoked her aura-sight. Serenity shifted slightly, but shook her head when Dean opened his mouth to speak. For several minutes the foyer remained silent. Finally, Tara blinked.
She took a deep breath. “I think so. It’s going to be a complicated piece of magic, but we can do it.” Even as the others sighed with relief however, she shook her head. “There’s a catch.”
Serenity lifted an eyebrow. “Isn’t there always?”
“Ahem,” Giles cleared his throat. “Before this goes any further, perhaps we should move to the library?”
“No,” Buffy shook her head. “Some of the kids are doing their extra credit work in there. Let’s take this to the study.”
“Coolness,” quipped Faith with a smirk towards Xander. “I’ll let Caridad know. She’s got watch today.”
Giles led the group into the study. As everyone took a seat, he led the blonde witch to the most visible spot. She turned wide blue eyes up to him, but he shook his head. “I’m sorry, my dear, but you’re the one who has to do the talking right now.”
She nodded and clasped her hands in her lap. Serenity came and sat next to her. Putting her arm around the younger woman, she gave her a small squeeze. “It’s okay, Glinda. Just tell us what you know.”
Tara sighed. “The…’hook’ in his aura is old. It looks like it’s almost as old as he is. Whoever…Whatever attached itself to him can track him through it. I know a ritual to remove the hook, but it will leave a gaping hole in his aura.”
Xander gave a soft snort. “And the universe hates a vacuum.”
“Exactly.” She nodded. “If we don’t fill that hole, something else will.”
“And with our luck, it’ll be something icky,” Willow noted. Dean and Sam shot disbelieving looks at her, but Serenity grinned.
“Icky…Willow-speak for bad news,” she told her brothers, answering their questioning looks. “Any ideas on what we could fill the hole with?”
“And why will it leave such a big hole?” Sam questioned.
Tara looked at him. “Because of the age. It was…stuck into you when your aura had barely begun developing. You’ve grown up since then, and your aura has…compensated for the hook’s presence. We’re going to have to pull the hook up through the…scar tissue.” She frowned and stared blankly into space for a moment. “Usually when these things are found quickly enough, there’s just a small hole. If you can keep the person quarantined for a while, their own aura will grow to cover it. For the size of hole this will cause, you would have to be quarantined for a long, long time.”
“And that’s not happening around here,” Cordelia sniffed. “Between the various scrapes and fights that break out and the regular incursions, you wouldn’t be in quarantine for a week before something spilled in. Of course, it would probably eat you, so the aura wouldn’t be a problem, but it certainly wouldn’t be good either way.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Thank you, Cordy. So, how do we fill the whole?”
The room focused on Tara once more. She bit her lip and looked down. After a moment of silence, an unfamiliar hand settled on hers. Startled blue eyes flew up to meet warm hazel. Dean had crouched down in front of her. He looked uncomfortable, but he kept his voice soft. “Look, just tell us. Whatever it is, we’ll make it work.”
She nodded, one side of mouth pulling up in a slight smile. He gave her a nod and moved back to his brother’s side. Sam raised an eyebrow at him, but Dean ignored him.
“Okay,” Tara said softly, giving the brothers another small smile. “When we remove the hook, we will need to link someone else in there. That will let their aura shield and protect him.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Dawn piped up from her spot between Xander and Buffy. “Why don’t we just go ahead and do that?”
Tara gave her a strict look and the young brunette leaned back. Dawn frowned. “I’m missing something, aren’t I?”
Willow leaned forward. “Dawn, think it through; what does it mean to bind two auras together?”
“Well, first off, the two people in question are strongly linked.” Her brow furrowed in consideration. “It would be pretty much impossible to lie to each other, plus if one were in trouble, the other would know…” Her voice trailed off.
“Yes?” Tara prompted with a smile.
“Oh,” Dawn said softly. “If something bad happened to one of them, the other would probably end up sharing the experience.”
Giles patted her shoulder before moving to sit by Faith. “This is why you have to think these things through. It is all very well to know the solution, but it could cause just as many difficulties as the problem if you do not consider the consequences.”
Dean and Sam watched everything with blank looks. Oz watched them for a moment before leaning around Tara to look at Serenity. “Sera?”
“Hmm?” She lifted an eyebrow at him.
Turning, she caught the confusion as well. She smiled and shifted around to look at them. “Dawn’s always had a gift for portal and gate magic, but we’ve only recently had the chance to let her focus on her training. She’s studying various magics now.”
“We’ve seen the danger of self-trained magic.” Willow’s voice was low as she looked down at her hands.
Buffy shook her head. “Been there, seen it, and over it.” The two friends shared a long speaking look before the blonde turned back to the group. “So, if we only use one person in shielding Sam, what happens?”
Tara shrugged. “Well, it would actually be two.”
“Come again?” Xander asked, leaning forward with a frown.
“Say Dean volunteers,” started Tara.
“No ‘say’ about it,” Dean interrupted. “I’m going to be part of it.”
“Dean,” Sam began.
“Shut up, Sam.” Dean glared at his brother. “It’s going to be me….period.”
Before his younger brother could say anything, Tara spoke up once more. “Actually, it will be us
Everyone turned to stare at the blonde witch. Even though she shrank back from their combined gazes, she continued. “It’s a healing spell, and I’m the most powerful one we’ve got. I will be the…glue, I guess? The glue that binds the auras together.”
“So if something happens to Sam….?” Oz trailed off, eyes focused on his friend.
She bit her lip. “It depends on how bad it is.”
“Worst case scenario here, Tara,” insisted Xander.
Tara took a deep breath and glanced around. “If we do this and Sam dies, the psychic backlash will probably kill Dean and send me into a coma.”
Sam stood up, shaking off Dean’s hand. He paced to the far end of the study before turning back. “We’re not doing this.”
“What the hell, man?” Dean followed him. “That frickin’ Yellow-Eyed demon can track you and you’re saying no?”
“Yeah, Dean, I’m saying no. Think about it. We come real close to dying on a regular basis. I’m not putting you or Tara into that position.”
“Sam….” Dean started.
His brother interrupted. “No, Dean.”
Dean opened his mouth to fire back, but a sharp voice cut in. “Enough.”
Both of them turned to face the speaker. Giles stood up and gave both of them a disapproving look. “Before you decide to turn the study into a battleground, perhaps we could finish our discussion. Do sit down…the both of you.”
They obeyed, reacting to the authority radiating off the leader of the IDF. Giles gave a sharp nod before glancing at the others in the room. When his gaze finally came to stop on Tara, he softened. “Tara, what if more than one person chose to bind their auras with Sam’s?”
She blinked and tilted her head in thought. “It should lessen the effects, on both sides.”
“Both sides?” Serenity asked.
“Yes,” replied the blonde girl. “Going back to the original premise, if Dean were killed, I would still be in the coma and Sam’s aura would have another gaping hole…if he survived.”
Dean’s hazel eyes narrowed. Risking his life for Sam was one thing; risking Sam
was another thing altogether. Even as he opened his mouth to speak, Serenity silenced him with a single look. She turned back. “So, how many would be optimal for this to happen safely?”
Tara closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She went through different scenarios in her head and tried to consider each option. Finally she sighed. “It would be best to have as many as possible, but I can only handle so many auras at one time. I’ll already be handling mine and Sam’s.” She bit her lip and considered her own abilities. “Five; I can handle five more auras.”
With a nod, Serenity looked at her brothers. As her blue eyes travelled from Dean’s pleading hazel to Sam’s regretful green she shrugged. “Alright; we need three more volunteers.”
Sam opened his mouth, but Buffy stood and cut him off. “You need two
volunteers, you mean.” She smiled at her sister. “They’re your brothers, so they’re my brothers too.”
As Serenity started to smile, Dawn cut in. “What about me? They’re mine too, you know. Make that one
“Okay, just stop.” Sam shook his head in bewilderment. “Are you all crazy? Serenity only met us two days ago; you met us less than an hour ago, and suddenly you want to tie your life
“We’ve done crazier,” Xander remarked with a thoughtful grin.
Faith chuckled. “Last fall’s mini-apocalypse? When we managed to stop the ritual with hummus?”
“Oh, please,” groaned Cordelia. “Who knew we would ever actually use Oz’s lame idea?”
Willow started giggling. “We needed a distraction so they’d lose control of the power they’d raised….hummus worked!”
Oz just smiled, but the others started laughing. Dean and Sam stared around the room again, bewildered and confused.
Serenity quieted her laughter. “Okay, that’s enough. We’ll have to tell the boys some stories later. For now, we still need one more volunteer.”
“I will be the fifth,” Giles answered. Dean frowned at him, and Giles simply shrugged. “You need at least one person in the binding who is not risking their neck every night. The children have decided I’m more important in research than in the field.”
“Well, obviously,” Dawn said with a direct look. “We’ve got slayers and witches and hunters out the wazoo right now. We’re not strapped for people, and we’ve only got one of you.”
Giles opened his mouth, but Cordelia cut him off. “Don’t even start. You’ve had how many concussions?”
He sat back, a slight frown crossing his face. Xander pointed a finger at their mentor. “Field work’s out.”
“Except in apocalypses,” said Oz. The others agreed, and Xander nodded.
Tara smiled at the watcher. “You really are too important to us to risk.”
Even as Giles began to shake his head, Serenity leaned forward pinned him with a look. He looked at her and she gave him an arch look. “If you can tell me, honestly, that Willow did not track the car all the way from Lawrence to Cleveland, I’ll make them stop.”
A red flush spilled over Willow’s face as Giles sat back with a sigh. Serenity nodded. “That’s what I thought. If the boys hadn’t decided to drive me home, what size team would have been waiting at the bus station?”
Now everyone shuffled their feet and no one met her eyes. She smiled. “You’re not the only one putting up with it.”
“Hold on,” Sam interrupted. “I still don’t get…”
“You’re family.” Oz’s words quieted the room. Everyone turned to him and he shrugged. “Serenity accepted you; you accepted her. We’ll tear you apart if you hurt her.”
The brothers gaped at him while Serenity sighed. Faith just grinned and shook her head. “The man hardly talks, but when he does, it’s worth hearing. Okay, Tara, you’ve got your five volunteers. Now what?”
“I’ll need some time to prepare. We’ll need to do this at sunrise.” Various people around the room groaned, but Tara shook her head. “It’s for safety’s sake.”
“Safety?” Dean asked.
She nodded. “Sunrise is when most evil things go to ground, hiding until nighttime. In order to prevent anything else from becoming part of the binding, we will want to have some very strong wards up as well as doing it as sunrise.”
Willow stood up. “I’ll start preparing and cleansing the ritual room.”
The redhead hurried out. Oz gave a small smile and shrug before following her. The others turned back to Tara.
“What else do you need?” Xander asked.
Tara shook her head. “I’ll give Giles and Dawn my list of ingredients. If they’ll pull everything together, I’m going to go meditate. Everyone who is going to be part of the ritual will need to go to bed early; you’ll want to be rested.”
“It’s going to be a tough one, then?” Sam asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “We’re talking about directly interfering with the auras of seven people.” She paused and her eyes went hazy for a moment in thought. “Seven…that’s good. That will make a very powerful binding. It should be nearly impossible to break.”
“Nearly?” asked Dean.
She focused on him. “Nothing’s impossible to break. Even the strongest of bonds can be tested beyond endurance. However, a seven-fold bond means Sam will have a powerful guard on his aura. If anything starts trying to break the bonds, we will all know. We should be able to track him before things go that far. I’m not going to lie though…it can
He nodded. “Better to know.”
“Right,” said Xander, clapping his hands and standing up. “I’ll go arrange a room for Dean and Sam in the family wing.”
“I’ll go with you,” Cordelia said. “Who knows what you’d ‘arrange’ for if I don’t?”
“What do you think I’d do? Give them bunk beds?” he asked, heading out the door.
She sniffed as she followed. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Your taste is abysmal. We just got you to start dressing appropriately. Although I still intend to burn that plaid.”
Faith laughed wickedly. “Sooner or later they’re going to get it, right?”
“Oh, eventually,” sighed Serenity, rolling her eyes. “I might be ready for retirement, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”
“They tried once,” Buffy volunteered, glancing at the door.
“True,” agreed Serenity. “But they were in high school. They needed to grow up some. All of this bickering?”
“Foreplay,” Faith interrupted, anticipation gleaming in her smile. “It’ll be fun to watch.”
Giles removed his glasses and began cleaning them. “Enough, children. Tara, go get your list together and take Dawn with you. She can find me in my office when you’re through. Buffy, Faith, you’ll be responsible for the school the rest of the evening. Serenity, give your brothers the tour and then get something to eat. Everyone get to bed early so we can be sure to perform the ceremony on time.”
As the others scattered, Giles remained behind with Serenity, Dean, and Sam.
“You too, Giles?” Serenity asked, propping her chin on one hand.
The Watcher smiled at her. “Did you truly presume otherwise?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“What’s going on?” Dean asked as Sam eyed both of them nervously.
Giles gave a dangerously sharp smile. “I believe Xander, Buffy, and Oz have all given you a ‘welcome’ now? I am sure you will receive several more over the next day or two. I simply wanted to get mine out of the way before the ritual.”
The two brothers exchanged a look and Dean stepped forward. “Before you start, let me tell you this. She’s our sister. I get that we just found her; you’ve known her longer, and she’s one of yours. We get it.” He folded his arms over his chest and focused serious hazel eyes on Giles. “I don’t do this type of thing, but I’m guessing you need to hear it. She is our
sister. We take care of family…period.”
“We’d never deliberately hurt her,” Sam agreed.
“And the others?” Giles asked, serious green eyes examining both men.
Dean shrugged. “No offense, but Serenity and Sam come first. Tara, Buffy, and Dawn are next. After that? We’ll see how it falls out.”
“Well, yeah,” Dean said, lifting an eyebrow. “She’s about to do some major mojo to help Sam; not to mention she’s putting her own self at risk to do it. That makes her one of ours as well.”
Giles nodded. “You seem to have your priorities in order. Serenity is very important to all of us, and we want this to work out, believe me. One thing you must understand – the people who were in this room? We are all
family. The loss of any one of us would cause us a great deal of pain. Needless to say, anyone who hurts one of us hurts all of us.”
Both men nodded. Dean stepped forward and held out a hand. “I can’t say things won’t go wrong. I can promise you that we won’t deliberately cause harm to anyone here unless they switch sides.”
“We’ll also try to help where we can,” added Sam.
With a smile, Giles shook Dean’s hand and then Sam’s. “I believe we understand one another. Serenity will take care of you from here.”
As the Watcher left the room, both brothers turned to her. She lifted her hands in a brief shrug. “That could have been so much worse. He didn’t actually manage to get a threat out.”
The brothers exchanged glances. Sam gave a crooked smile. “Oh, yes he did.”
“Never mind,” Dean answered. “Tour?”
She gave them both a frown, but shook her head. “Sure. Let’s go.”