Disclaimer: I own nothing, especially not Smallville or Buffy.
The sound from the wall by the bed was slight, but Willow whirled to face it anyway. A doorway slid open, and a pale, bald face looked out at her from the darkness. Willow’s fingers twitched, and she almost sent a fireball toward the man, but he lifted his finger to his lips, the gestured for her to come.
Willow hesitated a moment, but she knew she didn’t have much time. Grabbing Tara by the hand, she pulled her off the bed and pulled her behind her into the dark passage beyond.
The darkness was almost total, except for the light from eye level. Willow felt a little creeped out as she realized that there were holes where the eyes on the portrait had been on the wall on the other side.
His face seemingly floating in mid-air, the bald man once again held his finger to his lips as the sound of doors flying open on the other side boomed throughout the chamber.
Willow felt herself trembling, praying that Tara didn’t give them away by crying out as the outraged moan of the crowd outside echoed through the chamber.
She could hear the sounds of furniture being thrown throughout the room in a rage as the people on the other side tore through the room looking for them. If one of them pulled the picture off the wall, they were done for.
She closed her eyes and began to gather power. There was a distant chance that Glory would be able to detect it, but she would need it if they were found.
Heavy breathing on the other side of the wall and the sounds of someone scratching at the wall made her tremble.
If Glory came, she’d punch directly through the walls, and it would be over.
The breathing on the other side of the wall intensified, sounding excited. Willow’s hand twitched again, the urge to gather a fireball almost overwhelming. However, the light from the fire might shine through to the other side, so she squelched the impulse.
A moment later the sounds from the other side of the wall faded, as did the sound of the heavy breathing.
They needed to get out before Glory came up herself.
The man touched her arm and gestured. Willow nodded, and relaxing her hand took her hand in his even as she pulled Tara along behind her. They descended into the darkness.
“They’re on their way back,” Buffy said dully.
She’d killed her sister. The thought kept echoing through her mind. She was the one who had decided to come to this place instead of simply running as far and fast as they could go, and in doing so, she’d killed her sister.
“So Clark’s going to be crazy?” Chloe asked. There was a strange revulsion on her face that Buffy wouldn’t have expected from her, from the little she’d known of the girl.
Chloe shook her head. “Not him. He’ll get through this.”
It didn’t work that way, Buffy knew. People died and they never came back. People went crazy, got brain tumors, went into comas…
Of course, Faith had recovered from the coma. Slayer healing was a wondrous thing, and Clark Kent had something that seemed almost immeasurably better.
“He might,” Buffy said. In her mind she envisioned ruptured brain cells regenerating spontaneously, a fractured mind healing itself.
The oracle had told them to come to Smallville for a reason, and Buffy refused to believe that all was lost. If hope was lost, then she might as well lie down and die.
Hope began as a spark in her chest, and it began to grow as she looked at the others.
“This isn’t over until it’s over,” she said. “And we’re not going to give up on Clark or Dawn or anyone.”
She rose to her feet and said “I’m tired of losing people. Glory has taken and taken and taken, and now she thinks she’s going to destroy the world.”
“What are we going to do?” Chloe asked. She seemed almost a little afraid of something she saw in Buffy’s face.
“We’re going to take it back,” she said.
“Gone?” Glory screamed. She grabbed one of the mutants who had dropped to his knees before her and she pulled his arm off. The blood spray was only a little satisfying as she began to beat him to death with it.
By the time she’d killed the fifth mutant, the arm had shattered into splinters of bone and meat.
She couldn’t even use the mutants as food; they were insane already and the sickness inside them tainted everything.
“Bring me someone to eat!” she screamed.
She began clawing at her face as the madness washed over her again like a wave. They’d pay for doing this to her; they’d all pay. If she had to hold the gateway open herself until this entire species was destroyed, she’d do it.
Humanity was a vermin that needed to be destroyed.
Willow blinked in the light as the door slid open before them. They were in another room, this one empty and covered in dust.
The only light came from beneath the door, but even that illumination seemed bright compared to the absolute darkness she’d experienced in the passage. Tara was oddly quiet behind her, as though she’d found the darkness soothing.
“I’m Lex,’ the man said quietly. “This is my home.”
“You live in a castle?” Willow asked, astounded.
“My family brought it over from Scotland stone by stone, secret passages and all,” Lex said. He stepped across the room and began searching another wall. “They don’t all connect with each other so that an enemy who uncovers one won’t find them all.”
“I’ve got a car parked down the road,” Willow said. “If we can just get to it…”
Lex chuckled bitterly. “I’ve got six cars down in the garage. We wouldn’t last a minute outside, not with that crazy bitch out there.”
“So we create a distraction,” Willow said.
“My staff is dead and I’m all out of TNT.”
Willow allowed a small fireball to rise and float above her hand. “We don’t need TNT. We’ve got me.”
“Clem will arrive tomorrow morning,” Spike said. “I don’t know how much time that will leave us, but it’s the best we can do.”
“The Coven in England has confirmed that the ritual is set for tomorrow night,” Giles said. “They tell me that without the power of the hellmouth to latch on to, it might take more of the Key’s blood to open up this rift.”
“And you are sure there is no hellmouth here?” Buffy asked.
“The nearest one is in Cleveland,” Giles said. “That’s been confirmed by every source I can bring to bear.”
“We don’t know where this is going to be held, yet,” Buffy said. “I wish Willow would hurry up and get back.”
The thought that she wouldn’t make it back wasn’t in the plan at all.
“Buffy,” Spike said. “I’m sorry. We all are.”
Buffy shook her head shortly and said, “We aren’t going to talk about it. We’re talking about solutions, not problems. We’ve been fighting each other as much as we’ve been fighting Glory, and it’s got to stop. She’s got an army, and against that there is only us.”
“I’m with you,” Spike said.
“We’re going to save Dawn,” Buffy said emphatically. “We’re not losing anyone else.”
The moan from the couch alerted them and Buffy said “Everybody back, except Spike and me.”
He could literally tear someone’s head off if he lashed out. The others moved back a respectful distance as Buffy approached the couch. Spike moved around to the back of the couch, where he would be able to lean over and attempt to grab an arm if necessary.
“Clark,” Buffy said. “Are you ok?”
Slowly he opened his eyes and a moment later he tried to speak. All that came out was a guttural moan. He stared at her in horror.
Buffy could hear Martha cry out in the background, but she felt a grim sort of satisfaction. None of the others had been affected this way. There was something about Clark Kent that was different, and different meant he had a chance.
“Can you lift your arm?” she asked.
He lifted his right arm and let it drop, but his left arm was motionless. She could see that part of his face was sagging.
“You’ve had a stroke,” she said.
She’d seen it before, when she’d been forced to visit her grandmother in the nursing home. The speech, the weakness on one side, the sagging face. Her grandmother had never recovered.
Of course, her grandmother hadn’t had even the benefits of slayer healing, much less whatever Clark had.
“You are going to get better,” she said, forcing herself to believe it.
“We’re going to have to move fast,” Lex said. Glancing at Tara, he said, “Are you sure she’s up to it?”
“She will be,” Willow said. “She has to be.”
They stepped out into the passageway leading to a room on the upper level of the back of the house.
Most of the mutants had gone back to work, although Glory was in the front. Willow stared out at the window.
Lex had pointed out the critical points in the design; all she had to do was pull out three struts and the tower would become critically unstable. With any luck, Glory would assume it was the result of using shoddy crazy people labor and not realizing it was a distraction.
Grabbing Tara’s hand, she pulled power from her. Together they’d always had more power than they’d had apart, and even now, with her so profoundly damaged, it was still true.
She reached out and pulled with her mind. She could hear the sounds of bolts sheering and she strained to pull it from where it had been welded. It took her a moment to realize that with the tons of weight from above, moving the strut wasn’t going to be easy.
The mutants had used a combination of bolts and welds, depending on what junk they had available.
Seeing the problem, Lex leaned toward her, almost uncomfortably close. “Break the seals,” he said. “Snap the bolts.”
There were at least six mutants above the place she was trying to break and Willow knew that if she managed to bring the tower down, she was going to kill some of them, and she’d be using Tara’s power to do it.
She grasped her girlfriend’s hand again, and slowly bolts began to sheer off and welds began to unseparate.
“That’s a girl,” Lex whispered in her ear, and she found herself trembling.
Already, Buffy could tell that Clark’s speech was improving. He wasn’t nearly ready to fight yet, but Buffy finally felt the warm sensation of hope in her chest. If only Willow would return, she’d feel confident that everything was going to be all right.
She sat beside him, the others having made beds in the barn or on the floor. She couldn’t sleep and neither, apparently could he, although he still couldn’t speak.
“I’m sorry I brought this to your town,” she said quietly. “I just didn’t know what to do.”
He stared up at her mutely and she shook her head.
“You’ve got great parents,” she said. The Kents had earned her respect, first with the way they’d stood up to her when they were clearly afraid, and again when Jonathan Kent had charged into danger to rescue his son. “It helps a lot.”
Staring out the window she said “It just never seems to stop coming. There’s always one more Big Bad to fight, one more vampire or demon, one more apocalypse. It never seems to end.”
She felt something. She glanced down to see that Clark had placed his weakened left hand in hers.
He squeezed her hand reassuringly.
He was getting stronger and the message was clear. She wasn’t alone in this. This time she had allies, and things were going to be different.
Hope was alive in Smallville.