Crashing the Hermit Cave
Willow had been doing so well about going out, but after Ethan and his damned spell to make her feel the pain inflected on his own body, she'd felt even worse and hardly ever came out of her rooms. Buffy felt like crap about the whole thing, and so she was going to offer yet another apology and see if she could get Willow to come out a bit more.
Buffy didn't bother knocking, knowing Willow wouldn't answer. Instead she gave a light tap to the door and slowly pushed it open, sticking her head through the crack. Willow was sitting on the couch wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. "Hi. Feel like company?"
"Sure. I guess, " Willow replied.
She'd been hiding in her rooms since the whole Ethan thing. Kennedy being here just made it worse.
"I brought snacks just in case you feel like nibbling, but you better not, because we're going to have a girl's night and talk and stuff."
Buffy padded in and sat next to Willow on the couch, dumping the contents she'd been holding onto the coffee table. With a wince, she looked at the witch's arm. "How's the arm feeling?"
"All right," Willow said.
She didn't really feel like talking much, but she could feel Buffy's guilt. It was choking her.
"No phantom twinges? When I put Ethan's shoulder back in I tried to do it as gently as possible."
"I know," Willow sighed. "It's not your fault. You didn't know, Buffy."
Willow didn't know what else to say when suddenly something else occurred to her.
"Kennedy is here. She fought Pevensie. She would have lost. She's too cocky these days. We might need to speak to Faith about that."
Buffy was about to ask if Faith was the best person to knock Kennedy down a few pegs, but if anyone could beat sense into Kennedy, it was Faith. "I'm going to speak to Robin about not letting us know he was sending her. It wasn't fair."
"I think he panicked, Buffy. She actually hurt Andrew. I know he's annoying and stuff, but he's still a person, a regular person who's not as strong as her. She's different, harder. Maybe we shouldn't have let her leave after..."
She shook her head. "That wasn't her choice. She was a leader in Sunnydale out of necessity and I should have been firmer. I don't see how this could be a punishment. Most slayers want to come here instead of staying on hellmouths."
Perhaps she would take Kennedy for a training session while she was here. Then Faith could finish it off back in Cleveland.
"Well, with how things have been going lately with the zombies and the missing bodies and the dark wizard tattoos and Ethan," Willow said. "I'm thinking a hellmouth might be safer."
"We had zombies, missing bodies and Ethan on the Hellmouth. Ooh! And an evil tattoo? Remember that thing he put on the back of my neck. It was a bitch
to get off. So, no, this is pretty much par for a Hellmouth," Buffy grinned. "And I hope that wasn't a not-so-subtle request to be shipped out of here. I don't think so."
"It wasn't. I think Draco and Oz would have something to say to that too. These tattoos are different, Buffy. I can still feel what they did, and please don't tell Draco this, but I get an oogy feeling sometimes when I am around someone that has one. It's getting harder to shut people out."
Willow wiped a hand over her face. She didn't want her best friend to worry, but she did want Buffy to understand why she stayed in a lot of times.
She looked at her best friend. Willow was paler than normal and it was obvious she'd lost some weight from not eating. Her normally vibrant face was gone. "When was it easier? Before this whole marks thing started?"
"It hasn't been easier since I started doing magic for every little thing. This is my own fault. I just need to figure out a way to tune out all the slayers. It's the scythe. You know how you said when you held it, it felt like it was yours? I feel like that with the slayers. You're all... mine. I think maybe when the slayer essence went to all the potentials, that some of the scythe itself stayed with me."
She didn't know a single thing about the magic revolving around the scythe or how Willow used it, but she would try. "Is there a way to get it out without hurting you?"
"I don't know. I've barely touched the surface, but I started looking for a way to put what I have of it back into the weapon. I'm pretty sure I can do it. I took stuff out. I should be able to put it back, right? I'm kinda scared, though. You know who things go with me. What if I make it worse? What if I end up like that guy that heard all the people's thoughts and went mad?"
Speaking from experience about having voices in her head and almost going mad, Buffy was confident they could help her if it came to that. "You won't," she said confidently. "We will research every part and take every precaution. Everything will work out."
Willow smiled even though she wasn't so sure this time. Everyone she spoke to in Knockturn about this pointed her in the direction of a dead man. He knew dark magic. He knew how to fight it. Problem was that he was very dead. They also mentioned his proteges might have some ideas on it, but most of them were do-gooders now. She'd gotten names. Mainly Draco and Blaise. Pansy Parkinson didn't deal with that stuff. The Greengrass sisters might. Most everyone else was dead or in prison. Except for Flint, and he didn't do that stuff either.
The only exception was Nott, and no one seemed to know much about him.
"I've, um, been asking around. Mostly I get told a dead man would have helped me, and that I should ask Malfoy or Zabini."
Buffy was cautious. "An actual dead man, right? Not undead-dead?" At Willow's nod, she sighed. "Well that sucks. Maybe Draco and his friend can help you. You know they would because they're your friends. Why haven't you asked yet?"
"Because Blaise is trying to stay straight and not do any dark dealings, and Draco, well, he's been clean for years. I don't... it would be hard for them, I think. I hope that this is light magic with the scythe like last time, but who knows? And it's a lot. It will take a lot of power to do this. I could have died in the school if Kennedy had not come back for me. I was wiped out. I could barely walk."
"Well lucky for you we don't have a city about to cave in on itself and thousands of uber vamps about to crawl out of the Hellmouth. You have numerous slayers to draw strength from, especially me." Buffy reached over and gave her a hug. "I don't want my Willow to be sad and reclusive. I miss seeing you in the halls."
Willow hugged Buffy back. It would be nice not to be afraid anymore. She'd spent so much time in the last few months being either sad or afraid.
She knew the coven would help her - if they knew. She had a feeling Astoria did. She wondered why the Seer hadn't said anything. The girl couldn't keep anything to herself.
Buffy pulled back with a grin. "Now, Draco and I had a chat the other day and he has become a young, no-fun Giles. Since we are without a Bronze here, I decided we're going to take a group trip and go relax somewhere for a night. Any suggestions?"
"Three Broomsticks," Willow said. "Mac's older brother owns the place. If we go on a weekend, there's live music and dancing. Or I'm sure there's clubs in London if you feel less wizarding society."
"No, no! That sounds great. This place will work." Buffy did a little dance still sitting. "Oh I can't wait. We've all needed some de-stressing time."
"And who do you plan on taking to this shin-dig?"
"Well, Draco of course. You. I know Anya will probably want to go. Maybe Theo. Maybe Dawnie can take a break from her studying and come join us. Possibly some of the older slayers, and Mac - especially since it's her brother's pub we're going to."
"You plan on having Draco and Theo go somewhere? Together? Like at the same time?" Willow started snickering. "Good luck with that."
She rolled her eyes. "Did you know that Draco came to my rooms and tried to forbid me from going on a date with Theo? And his excuse was 'he might be evil'." Uh oh.
Willow laughed nervously. She'd been thinking the same thing lately. Well, not evil. She wouldn't go that far, but he was definitely not being all full-disclosure with them either. There was something there.
"Well, that's Draco. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried Theo next, threatened him and stuff."
Buffy rolled her eyes again. "Whatever. Theo's been nothing but nice and I'm trying to take your advice to date more to heart."
"I know," Willow said, frowning. "And I'm glad. Just be careful, all right. You know how the dating thing tends to go with our group."
"Well he's not dead, so I'm already doing well. And he's not part of a military demon round-up group, so yay there." She made a face. "And I don't think he's immortal. Here's to hoping he's just a normal human."
Willow smiled. Those were usually the worst, but she wanted to be optimistic. Buffy seemed happy about Theo. Maybe Willow would just do a little more checking into his background to be safe.
"Where is he taking you? Or are you being modern and taking him? Who asked? How did it happen?"
Happy to get Willow off of her downer mood, Buffy gave up the details. "Well, remember how I told him I was going out with Draco? He called me on it, and said he wanted to try a date with me. I have no idea where we're going, or when we're going."
"Well, that would be something to find out." Willow paused for a moment. "Why did you tell him you were going with Draco?"
"Well, his reaction when he heard Draco worked here made me pause for a second. What if Pevensie was hurt and Theo refused to heal her just because Draco was her watcher? I wanted to test out how he acted towards me if he thought I was attached. If he was going to be so biased, I would have kicked his ass out."
"I don't think Theo would ever refuse to heal anyone. He was going to heal Blaise when Blaise was flat-out refusing to let Theo anywhere near him."
Buffy remembered the story and chuckled. "That's the time when Mac carried him up the stairs right?"
"Yeah," Willow said, giggling. "Marvel at the thought. I think those two have made an uneasy peace or something. And did you see how big her smile was when she got back from France? I think she got some."
"At least one of us is," Buffy grumbled.
"Well, if you're really that cranky about it, Mac has an older brother and plenty of male cousins who are willing and able." Willow grinned. "He's older, but Brody's not bad to look at, and he wears a kilt. They all do."
"I'm not cranky," Buffy retorted, "I'm just... almost cranky."
"Or you could just be a total ho and sleep with Theo on your first date."
Buffy threw her hands in the air. "Draco thought I was going to do the same thing. Do I really seem that desperate or something?"
"You grumbling about at least one of us getting some was extra grumbly," Willow replied. "I just know you like the dating thing, and now that the world doesn't feel like it's ending and you're the only one who can stop it, maybe you can do more of the dating thing."
"Yes, but now I feel like the single mother of dozens of cranky teenage girls. When asked by potential boyfriends if I have any children, the urge to say 'more than I can count' will be hard to pass up."
"Well, Theo or any of the MacDougals would know that about you already, so there's that, but you know, if you want to find dates, leaving the Council wouldn't be a bad idea."
"You don't leave."
"I don't want to find dates either."
She sighed and leaned back against the couch. "Some pair we are, huh? We've turned into little old cat ladies except our cats are hormonal teenagers. The Hellmouth is looking pretty up."
"Hey, all of my exes are here right now," Willow remarked. "Could be worse. Can you imagine Spike, Angel and Riley all in one place?"
"Oh God, they'd either kill each other or I'd do it for them." Buffy rubbed Willow's arm. "Having Oz around isn't so bad. It's not like he's a creepy stalker ex or anything, and Kennedy will be gone soon. We'll get this thing with your magic and the marks cleared up, and hopefully I'll have a date or two lined up. Look on the bright side. It's not a Tuesday."
Willow snickered, and grabbed a pudding cup and a plastic spoon that Buffy had brought in her pile of snacks. She opened and started eating.
"And pudding makes most things better."