Disclaimer: Buffy, Smallville, all are properties of other people. I don't even own park Place or boardwalk. (Monopoly, the game isn't owned by me either.)
As Ben staggered down the darkened road, he struggled with the nausea in his gut. He transformed a moment later into Glory, who cried out and fell to her knees.
She clutched her head and screamed, pulling frantically at her hair.
Stealing the essence of others to keep the madness at bay was the only way she had to fend it off, and now she’d stolen a part of the boy, the other immortal in town.
It infected her; it was alien and didn’t keep the madness away at all, but the place it occupied in her mind couldn’t be filled. The madness was closer than ever.
The scratching sounds from behind her were closer than they’d ever been and she screamed again. She grabbed the closest car and threw it into a building, then staggered down the road.
She allowed herself to shift into super speed, but somehow, no matter how fast she ran, the scratching sound was always just behind her.
Suddenly slowing to a stop, she felt to her knees, gagging. Transforming back into Ben was for once almost a relief.
The sounds of the explosions had faded as Willow raced directly through town in the Kia and she knew she didn’t have much time.
The light on her dashboard pointed the way, and as they left the town of Smallville behind, Willow saw something in the distance.
Somehow in less than a day Glory had built herself a castle.
She wondered for a moment if Glory and Dracula used the same contractor, then shook her head. She didn’t have time to worry about it.
The fifty foot tower behind the castle was something else, however.
Metal bars were rising into place on their own, with no visible signs of support, and at least three mutants were hanging among the girders, throwing flames and welding. She could see electricity arcing.
Glory had surrounded herself with an army of mutants, and Willow realized with a sinking feeling in her stomach that even with Glory gone, she wasn’t a match for them all.
She wouldn’t be storming this castle.
Pulling the car to the side of the road, she closed her eyes for a moment, and then murmured a quick spell summoning the power of Ariadne to protect her from sight. It wasn’t invisibility so much as a ‘Don’t notice me’ spell.
People would see her, but they would ignore her, much like people in Los Angeles ignored the homeless.
There weren’t any homeless in Sunnydale, of course, as they tended to be used as appetizers the moment darkness fell.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the car door and stepped out into the night air. By this time of night the air had turned crisp and chill, and she wished she’d brought Tara’s jacket.
She felt a moment of guilt for abandoning Buffy, but this was a chance that wouldn’t come again.
Furthermore, this was valuable reconnaissance that Buffy needed to know. Glory had decided on the place, and while none of them knew the time yet, they could guess that it was soon.
Given the rate the tower was going up, Willow guessed that the ritual was planned for very soon.
She made her way across the lawn, careful not to walk too quickly or look too distressed. As long as she did nothing to draw attention to herself, they would treat her as one of them.
Men and women in hospital gowns were trailing in and out of the front door. Willow kept her eyes down as she walked forward.
The woman lying near the entryway staring at her hand, which was alternately turning into wasps and reforming almost made her gasp, but she managed to keep a grip on her reactions and simply move on.
The light was before her, invisible now to anyone but her. She followed it down corridor after corridor until she came at last to a closed and locked door.
Two of the mutants were standing before the door, a talk, bald tattooed man with lighting moving up and down his arm, and a gaunt, older man who was staring at his hand as flames ran up and down his knuckles.
She’d seen the first man being beaten by Clark Kent, and the bruises all over his face were a testament to the attack. That he was still able to serve here was a testament to how tough he was.
Willow bit her lip. The ‘Don’t notice me’ charm wouldn’t work to get her past the doors; they were actively watching for intruders.
The sound of a scream from the front of the house froze her. That was Glory’s voice; she’d spent too long getting here.
“What happened?” Martha asked, rushing out of the house as Buffy lifted Clark’s unconscious body out of the truck and leapt to the pavement.
“Glory happened,” Buffy said grimly. “We need to get him inside.”
With Jonathan holding the door open for her, she entered quickly and set Clark down on the couch. Chloe and Martha followed behind.
The injuries on his body were entirely healed by this point, but he remained unconscious.
“What’s wrong with him?” Jonathan asked.
“Glory has the ability to steal people’s sanity by sticking her fingers in their head,” Buffy said. “She uses it to keep sane herself.”
“But Clark is invulnerable!” Martha protested.
“Not to magic, apparently.” Buffy stared sightlessly down at the couch. How many people were going to have to pay for Glory and her madness?
Martha and Jonathan glanced at each other. “What happens to the people that she does this to?”
“They don’t get better,” Buffy said grimly. “She did it to Willow’s girlfriend Tara, and she’s just psychotic.”
“Dangerous?” Jonathan asked.
“She’s slapped Willow a couple of times,” Buffy said. “Tried to get away from her. What are you…?”
At the meaningful looks passed between the Kents, Buffy suddenly realized why they’d been asking. “He’s going to be dangerous when he wakes up.”
“We’ll take care of it,” Jonathan said grimly. “We always do.”
“There’s got to be something you can do, “ Chloe said suddenly.
“You saw what that woman was capable of,” Buffy said shortly. “I’ve been fighting things like that for the past five years and I’m nowhere in the weight class she and Clark are in.”
“But there has to be something!”
“If there is a way to save him, we’ll find a way.” Buffy lied.
Deep in her heart she knew there was no way to save any of them. Despair was already creeping in as she realized that her last, true hope of saving them all had vanished like a dream.
“Yeah, mate,” Spike said into the pay telephone. “You do this and I’ll consider all thirty kittens paid in full and I’ll get you twenty more. I’ll pay for your gas too.”
“So he’ll do it?” Giles asked.
The trip to Metropolis had been a constructive one as they’d begun brainstorming about what to do if Clark Kent failed to stop Glory.
“Clem will come through. He knows some demons that can help do some of the heavy lifting, and he’ll have the stuff out here by tomorrow evening.”
“We’ll be lucky if we have anything left in the shop when we get back,” Anya said.
“We’re fully insured,” Giles said. “Although it does go against the grain to send demons to steal from your own store.”
“You can’t exactly Fed Ex any of that,” Spike said. “And really, he’ll do it for peanuts.”
Well, kittens actually. Sunnydale was known as having very low rates of stray animals; missing pets on the other hand were at an all time high.
“What do we do now?” Dawn asked.
“I say we get on the road and keep going,” Xander said.
“What about Buffy?” Spike said. “Or Clark?” Not that he cared about the wanker, but still…
“We’d just get in the way,” Xander said, “Except you, maybe, and somebody has to protect Dawn.”
“The further Dawn is from Glory, the more comfortable I’ll feel,” Giles said. “The safety of the world depends on Dawn missing her appointment.”
“Where is Dawn?” Anya asked. “She went to the restroom fifteen minutes ago, and she hasn’t come out yet. I’ve been watching the door.”
“You didn’t go in with her?” Xander asked.
“She had the chili burrito surprise,” Anya said. She grimaced. “I tried to tell her it was a poor choice for a long trip, but she wouldn’t listen. And it was a one person bathroom anyway.”
“We need to keep a constant eye on her until this is all over,” Giles said. “Who knows what kind of agents Glory has out there now?”
Nodding, Anya headed for the bathroom. She pushed the doorway open easily, and then gave a small scream.
The others rushed to her and peered inside the convenience store bathroom.
Lying on the floor of the bathroom, the store clerk’s body had already skeletonized, the body fat having melted from the bones.
The back wall had dissolved as well, leaving a five foot gaping hole.
Of Dawn there was no sign.
“Oh Bugger,” Spike said.
The two guards went running in the direction of Glory’s voice, and Willow slowly headed for the door. Her only hope now was to get Tara out before Glory noticed she was gone.
The door was locked, but a muttered spell caused it to click open. Willow pushed her way inside and a moment later closed the door soundlessly behind her.
She was in a bedroom with a four posted bed. On that bed, sleeping was Tara.
“Tara!” Willow cried out involuntarily, and the ‘Don’t notice me’ spell broke.
Tara woke with a start and she said “Bunnies!”
Rushing to her, Willow took her in her arms and hugged her, holding her tight for a long moment. For a moment she felt that everything was going to be all right as long as she had Tara in her arms.
The crash caused the walls to shake and Glory’s voice rose from outside. “Bring me the witch!”
Willow pulled herself away from Tara reluctantly and stepped toward the window. A glance outside showed a mob of the meteor infected rushing inside the building, even as Glory pulled the head off the balding electrical mutant that had fought Clark earlier.
Willow grimaced. They were actively looking for Tara and her ‘Don’t notice me’ spell wouldn’t work on her.
Behind her Tara whimpered.
With an army of mutants between her and Tara and freedom, Willow began to draw power into herself. Her eyes darkened as she began to summon the power of the goddess Hecate.
Neither she nor Tara were going to survive this, she knew, not with an army and a hellgod against them, but they weren’t going to go out without a fight.
If this was the end, at least they were going to go out together.
“You’re sure,” Buffy asked.
“She screamed, turned into a man and ran off,” Chloe said. “It’s not like I’m going to forget it anytime soon.”
“He hurt her,” Buffy said wonderingly. “Really hurt her.”
If they’d gotten there a few moments earlier, or if she’d thought to ask Chloe what had happened to Glory it would have all been over now.
For the sake of the world and her sister, she could have snapped his neck, no matter who he was.
All she wanted was for it to be all over, and now her chance was gone.
“Damn you Willow,” she muttered under her breath.
They’d wasted precious time arguing, and if Willow had been with them, Buffy was sure she’d have thought to have asked the question Buffy herself had been too thick to ask.
They’d shot their one big gun and they’d almost gotten her, but now the chance was forever lost.
The telephone rang, and blindly she picked it up. “Hello?”
“Buffy,” Xander said uneasily on the line.
Jonathan and Martha and Chloe stared at her from across the room and Buffy fought to keep her expression neutral. They wouldn’t be calling this early unless something had gone wrong.
“Why are you calling so early?” Buffy asked. “She could be tapping the lines already!”
“I’m sorry,” Xander said.
He continued speaking, but Buffy felt her face go numb, followed by her entire body. She stared sightlessly at the others as the sudden impact of what he was saying suddenly struck her.
The telephone receiver dropped to the floor from her nerveless hands.