tinker, tailor, soldier, spy
“Buffy,” she said softly, staring down at the abyss beneath her feet. Her hair, the long, soft length of it that he loved to run his hands through- it whipped through the air in tangled ropes, like a curtain that he couldn’t get close enough to.
“Dawn,” Lance called her name, taking a careful step forward, mindful of the creaking sounds the tower kept making.
“Dawn, come back- this isn’t real…” he swallowed, feeling a very real
shiver of fear as he heard something. Something extraordinary. Something that should definitely have not been up there with them.
“She died,” Dawn continued in that same voice of hers and Lance took two more steps towards her, seeing the resolute strength in her spine.
“Dawn,” Lance could hear it even clearer now. He kept repeating to himself that it wasn’t real. That it couldn’t possibly
be real, but no matter how much he might have been trying to convince himself otherwise- the sound kept getting louder.
The beating of humongous, leathery wings, way too close to him for comfort.
He cursed his curiosity, turning to look over his shoulder with wide eyes even as he knew that he shouldn’t be doing so.
,” Lance breathed out, heart doing triple time to make its treacherous way out of his chest.
A huge dragon, with blue black scales and beady yellow eyes- close enough for him to see the single minded malice within their tiny centre, it opened it’s giant maw as it flew closer to them.
Lance whipped his head around, trying to get Dawn’s attention- even if he had to drag her back from the edge himself. And that was when he saw her better.
She was standing facing him, back to the whirling energy vortex below them. The wind was whipping her hair into an ever increasing frenzy and her dress fluttered in the wind.
But what was more terrifying than all of that- Dawn’s eyes. They were positively inhuman, an eerily bright green. Pupil-less, instead- flashes of white lightning danced within them.
She looked like every fantastic creature that he had pictured growing up. Majestic and awesome, fearsome and utterly unlike the beautiful, clumsy, genius he had fallen in love with.
Lance shuddered, feeling goosebumps erupting on every inch of his skin as he eased his way closer to her.
“Dawnie, just stay there- please
,” he pleaded.
It was true. Stupid but true. He had managed to fall in love with her. How could he not when she was as perfect as she was? Even with all her flaws, she was still everything that he wanted- but had never had the courage to voice.
Braver than he could ever picture himself being.
“She died for this world,” Dawn murmured and Lance saw it then, clearer than ever before- that steely determination in her eyes. “But it wasn’t really her choice,” she continued, cocking her head as if she was listening to a message on the wind, instead of the horrible howling of the dragon circling the tower or the growing crackle of the energy beneath them.
It wasn’t real, Lance repeated to himself, stepping closer, praying that he wasn’t making a horrible mistake even as he did. It wasn’t real.
choice,” Dawn smiled and took a step backwards. She spread her arms wide, like a saint giving her salvation.
It wasn’t real.
Lance reached out for her hand.
,” he tried to picture the laughing girl he first met, hair messily knotted in a bun with a couple of pencils instead of chopsticks, bent over a manuscript.
“Please take my hand,” the lump in his throat was getting bigger and Lance took another step forward.
Her body, pale in the moonlight and slick with sweat, arcing towards him in a taut bow as he explored every inch of her with his fingers, teasing out her pleasure moment after moment.
She looked at his fingers then. This unknown, foreign goddess standing in front of him, instead of the girl he had gotten used to.
,” Lance’s voice cracked. His cheeks felt wet, he realized, hot and slick. Was he crying?
Some terribly inane part of him felt insanely grateful that Booth wasn’t here to call him a girl.
And then she did it. She took his hand and Lance pulled her closer, tugged her into his arms.
It wasn’t real, it wasn’t real- he kept repeating to himself, closing his eyes as he inhaled the still sweet smell of her, holding her in his arms as she pushed the both of them off the rickety tower and into the unbelievable agony of the energy cloud below.
She had been here before. She remembered this place.
Willow opened her eyes.
The desert stretched before her, cruel and unending- mile after mile of endless brown sand as far as the eye could see.
She tilted her head upwards, shaded her eyes with the palm of her hand. There was no sun, only a vast and unnaturally blue stretch of the sky.
“Huh,” she furrowed her brows, “that’s new.”
Buffy had never mentioned anything about the sun missing. In fact, the last couple of times she had described her visits with Sineya- she had always said that the slayer line was connected through the African savanna, through the first slayer’s motherland. Willow was pretty sure that there was sun in Africa, in fact- there was probably a whole lot
of sun in Africa.
“You’re not really here you know,” a man said from behind her and Willow flinched, remembering that moment of excruciatingly sharp pain when she had realized that her eyes were gone.
“Yeah, sorry about that” he still didn’t look as impressive as all that, just a short guy wearing dark blue jeans and a nondescript blue shirt, an outfit that he could have swiped off any blue collar worker’s catalogue. “I didn’t really mean to,” he waved a hand in the vicinity of Willow’s forehead, “do that
He looked mildly sheepish at the fact that he had managed to burn out her eyes.
“In my defense though,” he continued with narrowed eyes, “I thought that you’d be able to stand it.”
“Me,” the man shrugged. He crouched to the ground, picking up a pebble in his hands as he did, cradling it in his palm like it was something precious- a rare gold nugget instead of a plain old rock that he had found within the sand.
“It’s amazing,” he commented, raising the pebble to eye level, “how much detail
he put into your world. How much work
, into every single microscopic piece that you and yours never notice anymore.”
Willow knew then.
Knew completely and without a doubt that this man was the furthest thing from human she could get and yet- she didn’t feel any of the wrongness
that she usually felt with demons. Any darkness.
If anything, she felt safe with him. Secure. Strange, since he had burned out her eyes and left her comatose- but some part of her, that hidden lizard brain that whispered louder and louder during the most dangerous times- it knew that this man, short with too long hair and ugly clothes, that he loved her, completely and without return. Mind, body and soul.
“That’s true,” he said quietly, slowly, smiling at her. “I do
love you Willow. You’re one of mine.”
“What do you mean,” Willow took a step back, “one of yours
“All magic doers are,” he looked at the horizon and Willow followed his gaze. In the distance, she could see a dark spot growing closer, a speck moving towards them. “You play with the rules of the universe, bend it to your will, quick and easy like it’s nothing. You can fundamentally change the world without a second thought,” the man glanced at her with a quicksilver smile, “of course
you?” Willow breathed out.
In the distance, the dark shape undulated and weaved, bobbing against unseen winds as it drew ever closer.
The man turned to her then, somehow managing to look regal and impressively intimidating despite the fact that he was only an inch taller than her.
“I’m Gabriel,” he said simply. “And I need your help. Yours and your friends’.”
Willow swallowed, felt the lump in her throat explode into a myriad of thousand sparks, bright and feverish- like jolts of pure energy working their way through her system.
“You’re an angel,” she said, finally naming him- naming the aura he carried with him. Invisible power and effervescent luminosity. He smelled like the sky, like burnt ozone and air just after the cleansing pour of late spring rain.
“You’re an archangel
,” she frowned, heart heavy at the thought that he could probably see within her. See all of her sins, see of her failings. See that she was a killer and that she didn’t deserve to be standing in his presence.
“Yes,” Gabriel told her.
“What do you need my
help for?” Willow could feel them, twin droplets of hot tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.
Gabriel sighed, “because you’re connected.”
“Her,” he pointed and Willow whipped around, knowing full well what she was going to see even before she saw her.
She was just as terrifyingly beautiful and ominous as Willow remembered her from that dream after the Initiative. A shadow made flesh, her skin darker than anything in the desert land, bone white rags wrapped around her body, fluttering in the wind as she prowled closer, a predator on the move.
“You need the slayers,” Willow could feel her heart beating double time in her chest. She whirled around, stumbling back, away from him
. Away from the angel. Gabriel. She felt sick, terrified. This was so much more than anything they had ever dealt with before. This was more than dealing with the PTB’s. This was an actual archangel.
“Why?” she took another step backwards, feeling the shadow of Sineya’s movement at her back.
“The world,” Gabriel began slowly, eyes flashing white, blinding, even with the brightness of the desert sky cornering him, “it’s being destroyed.”
“What?” Willow wrapped her arms around herself. She shook her head. “No, we haven’t felt any portents. The covens have been quiet about any potential apocalypses.”
“It’s not only your
world that’s going to be destroyed,” he smiled ruthlessly, grimly fatalistic humor evident in the gesture. “It’s every
world that’s connected to yours. All of them, falling down like dominoes lined up perfectly well, one after another. Perfect for my brother’s taking.”
“Your brother?” It was like it was a movie, a fantastically fast replay of everything she knew about angels in her head. Archangels in specific.
And then she knew. Without a doubt in her mind, because luck was for suckers that weren’t born in Sunnydale and those that were already dead before the monsters of the world could get to them. Lucifer.
“Yes,” Gabriel bowed his head, sorrow filling his eyes. “My brother walks amongst men.”
“No,” Willow shook her head, unwilling to believe it, because Lucifer was bigger than any beastie of the week. He was bigger than all the vampires. He was bigger than the monsters. He was bigger than the original evil.
She had read the lore on him. She had studied scripture, had read the theorists.
What made Lucifer so much worse wasn’t that he was full of malice. Hell, every second monster out there was full of a hate-on for the world. No.
What made Lucifer worse was that he was full of hurt
“He’s breaking down the barriers, between worlds,” Gabriel continued in the meantime, “tearing down the dimensional walls. His influence is pouring between the different worlds, his evil is spreading across too many dimensions and me and my brothers are being stretched thin. Between the war with the demons, we cannot, as you say- keep an eye
on things everywhere else. We need you to be the front line of defense as he starts attacking those worlds that we cannot protect.”
“Why haven’t we seen anything then?” Willow demanded, terrified and angry and lost.
“Because me and others
like me are doing our jobs,” Gabriel said mirthlessly, “but we won’t last against his attacks for long.”
why,” Willow realized. “That’s why you trapped us in that building, because you need us. Because we’re your last hope.”
The silence between them grew, stretched and swirled, like a thick rope that Willow was sure she would choke on.
“Yes,” Gabriel finally nodded. “But I need you whole and ready
to fight. You’re too fractured now, too broken. Slayers need to be warriors in top form, in order to fight. In order to win
. You're nowhere near ready to face my big brother.”
Willow could feel a thought niggling at the back of her mind. “Slayers
...” she murmured. “But you have Dawn and the normals trapped in there too!”
Gabriel looked suspiciously shifty at that moment. Willow thought that he probably had a lot of experience in looking suspicious. He had the face for it.
need footsoldiers,” he finally said, waving his hand vaguely about. “There are those fighting this war that have no powers, they’re still some of the most important people in the resistance.”
?” Willow pushed.
She never thought that she’d be pushing for answers from a freaking archangel
at twenty three but here she was, trying to get some answers from a particularly squirrely looking one.
“Lucifer is breaking down the walls of reality,” Gabriel began. He took a step away from Willow. “And who you call Dawn is the key to keeping those walls up.”
“Oh my god,” Willow breathed out, staring at the short archangel with wonder in her eyes at his audacity. “Buffy’s going to like dismember
“She’s going to try
,” Gabriel made a face.
“Yeah,” Willow cocked her head. “And I’ll help her.”
“You save the world,” Gabriel told her, uncharacteristic seriousness in his voice (and it was more than strange that Willow could already tell what was characteristic or not for him), “you can try and kill me however many times your little human selves want to.”
He held his breath, feeling the handcuffs click
and fall off his hands.
“Finally,” the girl across from him said in a tone of great annoyance. Like it was his fault for being so slow to get out of his handcuffs.
“Come on,” she urged him, holding her hand out.
Cole eyed her with great suspicion. He glanced up at the painted symbols on the ceiling. They still looked wet to him. Ominously glistening with meaning that he could never find out.
“Why can’t you get into the circle?” he asked her.
She rolled her eyes. “Is this really
the time to worry about that?”
She motioned with her hand again, impatient and eager. “Now come on
. You can either stand here like a coward
while good people are in danger outside, or you can take a chance- take my freaking hand and help me go rescue
Cole got the feeling that she was giving him more choice than she usually did to people. She seemed like the easily impatient type.
He thought about it. There was no choice, not really- not for him. He couldn’t just sit here and wait for someone to rescue him. As a field operative for the CTU, he had gone into some of the worst clusterfucks imaginable- Cole knew, but what was bugging him specifically in this situation wasn't the idea that he had no idea what kind of conditions he was going to be walking into- it was the thought that he had no way of fighting in these changed conditions.
“Don’t think so much,” the girl said, softer, like she had realized how discomfited he felt, how out of his element. “Just take my hand. The two of us will be able to cover more territory faster and it’s better to have someone watching your back.”
Cole took a deep breath. He was a soldier. Saving, helping
people was his job.
He’d learn the new conditions and adapt to them. That was why he was the best.
He took her hand and stepped out of the circle. She was very pretty, a distant part of his commented dazedly even as he saw the circle flash and disappear from the ceiling of where he had sat. She had a short, blonde bob that was curled into a vintage style, soft makeup accentuated her hazel eyes and her red mouth. He could see though, how tired she was, the exhaustion was very visible in her gaze and the bags under her eyes weren’t camouflaged well enough. At least, not from him.
“I’m Anya,” she said quietly, “come on, we need to go.”
“Cole,” he told her, took a deep breath and followed.