PROLOGUE: Willow, Xander
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including (but not limited to) Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, Supernatural, and Twilight. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++Warning: the following story is rated FR-18 for scenes of a sexual nature (both heterosexual and not). Generally the sex isn’t going to be too explicit, but there are a couple of scenes where I couldn’t avoid it. Those chapters are clearly labeled as FR-21. It also contains character death, adult language, and non-sexual adult situations, including discussions of death, suicide, and terrorism. Finally, it contains depictions of normal, loving relationships.The story is COMPLETE. It spans 20 chapters (about 53,000 words), plus a prologue and epilogue. I'll be posting at the rate of about two chapters per week. This story has not been beta’d; any mistakes are mine and mine alone.Continuity Notes: This story begins in January 2012. It is NOT part of the “On” series. It begins in an alternate universe which is very similar to the Buffyverse except that, in this AU, Tara was shot in the shoulder instead of the heart. She survived the shooting. The Trio was captured, although Warren was killed when a spell backfired on him; Season 7 occurred pretty much as it did in canon except that the Willow/Kennedy romance didn’t happen (and let’s assume that it took both Willow and Tara working together to activate the slayers). As of the story’s beginning, Willow and Tara are still together. The story ignores all comics (including Season 8 and Season 9), but does borrow a couple of characters and situations. This includes Satsu, who is Buffy’s girlfriend when the story begins.+++++PROLOGUE"When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness." -Tecumseh of the Shawnees+++++Willow
Willow coughed and wrapped the blanket more tightly around her shoulders. “Yeah?”
Xander came into her room and sat gingerly on the end of the bed. “Turn on CNN, would you?”
“Wh--” Another cough interrupted her, and she took a sip of honey-lemon tea. “Why? What happened?”
“Just... just do it. Please?”
Willow nodded and did as Xander asked. She hit 202 and was immediately assailed by images of a terrorist attack in gorgeous, 32-inch high-definition liquid crystal. “Oh my Goddess,” she whispered, muting the sound; the closed-captioning kept up a running commentary in its place. “Xander... how?”
“It happened a couple of hours ago. I’ve been on the phone with our office in Jerusalem, trying to get confirmation.”
“Confirmation of what?” Willow was starting to feel a bone-deep fear, one she hadn’t felt since that day Tara had been shot. “Xander, please, tell me!”
He finally looked at her, and his dark eyes glistened with tears. “It was their plane,” he said.
Willow felt her mouth open and close several times, but she didn’t say anything.
Xander moved along the bed until he could take her hands in his. “They’re...” He swallowed hard, and Willow watched through tear-blurred eyes as he forced himself to go on. “They’re dead.”+
Willow glared at the sky, as if to chastise it for what it had the decency to do. It was too nice a day for her to bury the woman she’d loved without reservation or question for more than ten years. Too nice a day to say goodbye to one of her two best friends in the whole world. Or any of the others who had been killed that day. It hadn’t even been demons or vampires; just some idiot who thought he could go to heaven by killing Americans. And Satsu hadn’t even been American in the first place!
She stood between Xander and Giles, staring at the perfectly-blue, perfectly-cloudless sky as if the sky itself was responsible for everything that had happened. She couldn’t even watch as the caskets were lowered into the ground -- not that they had bodies in them; slayers were cremated to avoid necromancers trying to bring them back to life or use their remains for magic spells. No; Willow refused to look.
Besides, she’d already seen the headstones. She’d never forget what they said.Buffy Anne Summers: 1981 - 2012. Beloved sister, devoted friend. Third time’s the charm.Satsu Ishikawa: 1984 - 2012. Daughter, friend, companion.Kennedy Richardson: 1984 - 2012. Beloved daughter and friend.Faith Isabelle Lehane: 1980 - 2012. Five by five.Tara Candace Maclay: 1980-2012. “So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” Forever beloved.
“Willow?” Giles’s voice was soft and hoarse; he hadn’t hidden his tears as he’d spoken about the women who’d died closing a newly-formed Hellmouth in Saudi Arabia. “Willow, are you all right?”
She didn’t respond. She should’ve been there. If she’d been there, she could’ve stopped it, could’ve used her power to keep the bomb from killing everyone. I mean, who bombs planes anymore, anyway?
“Will?” Xander hugged her, and she let him. “Will, talk to us. We know it’s horrible, but you can’t hold it in. You have to let us--”
Willow wrenched out of his grip and walked across the crunchy winter grass of the cemetery. It wasn’t even cold enough today to need a jacket over her dress -- it was as if the weather was conspiring against her, trying to show her that life goes on, that things will get better.
Bullcrap. Willow knew things wouldn’t get better. Evil would just keep on coming, and girls would just keep on dying, and Tara was dead already and Willow would never love another person like that again, and it was so unfair
As she walked, Willow closed her eyes and concentrated. She didn’t care who saw her disappear from the cemetery; she only wanted to be alone. One moment she was outside; the next she was in her room -- their room, the room she’d shared with Tara for so many years. She went into the closet, found Tara’s favorite sweater, and clutched it to her chest.
Only then did she fall to her knees and give in to the pain.+++++Xander
Two weeks since Buffy died.
Two weeks since Buffy and the others were killed by a terrorist attack.
Two weeks since Willow had come out of her room.
Xander had forced himself to go through the motions, forced himself to eat and sleep and do his job. Not just for himself, but for Willow, too. He made sure food was delivered to her room, and from all the reports he got, at least some of it was getting eaten. Dawn had tried to get through to Willow too, fought down her own grief and made every effort to draw Willow out of her depression.
But nothing was working. Willow was inconsolable. Maybe if she’d only lost Tara, maybe that would’ve been something she could have eventually come back from -- she’d still have had Buffy and the others. Unfortunately -- oh, God, way more than just ‘unfortunately’
, Xander corrected -- Willow had been deprived of the love of her life, one of her two best friends, and three other women she’d come to care deeply for. Even Faith.
And, worse, the other witches at the ICW campus in Cleveland, where the original Scoobies all lived now, were warning Xander and Giles that Willow was starting to turn dark. They couldn’t get in to see her, but they could feel her aura. “It’s a slow burn,” Lily had reported that morning. “Every time she thinks about Tara and the others, it’s like another coat of black paint over what was once a nuanced landscape. She’s the most powerful of us, and there’s nothing we can do to stop her if she starts tapping into dark magic.”
“Do you think she might try to... ‘fix’ things?” Giles asked.
“I don’t know,” Lily said, “but I wouldn’t put it past her.”
For Xander, that had been the last straw. He remembered very clearly what had happened when Buffy had sacrificed herself to close Glory’s portal, and how broken his friend had been when they’d brought her back. Buffy and the others... they didn’t deserve that kind of pain.
And Willow didn’t deserve the kind of pain she was going through now.
Xander saw only one way out of it that wouldn’t end in Willow’s death. It would be painful, and horrible, and there would be consequences he couldn’t even begin to fathom, but it would be worth it.
He loved Willow. He couldn’t bear to see her hurt.
He was going to fix this.+
As dangerous as it was to summon demons -- demons of any type, even the harmless ones like Clem -- Xander had no difficulty looking up the incantation and paraphernalia he would require to save Willow. If he was lucky, it would save the others, too -- Willow was the one he cared about most, but none of the people on that plane had deserved to die.
Being as highly-placed in the ICW as he was, Xander’s access codes got him into all three storage rooms, and they unlocked the oubliette as well. Willow had had the room built after a rogue witch had nearly gotten away from them five years ago; it went ten stories down, the walls lined with magic-dampening minerals. Xander had also rigged up a dead-man’s switch that was currently sitting in his pocket. If things went horribly wrong, he would simply let go of the button and the oubliette would be filled with enough magic-resistant concrete to stop even Willow herself.
It had, after all, been her idea.
But if Xander’s idea worked, she would never have to worry about using it.
Referring to a printout he’d made in his office, Xander set up a circle of protection before mixing a small quantity of his blood with red paint and drawing a series of runes in the center. He lit candles and placed them at the points of a pentagram -- the ritual didn’t call for one, but he’d seen enough of them to get the placement right. Finally, he combined four different types of herbs in a bag of sand -- the silicon acted as a conductor -- and activated the dead-man’s switch. He thought for a moment about the note he’d left in his office, the note that he hoped no one would ever see, and threw a handful of sand across the circle while chanting words of power.
On the last syllable of the spell, a warm wind filled the room, as if all the air was being sucked into the circle. A pillar of bluish-white light burst from the floor, filling the circle, and Xander held up his hand to shield his eye.
When the after-images faded away, he smiled tightly. The spell had worked perfectly.
The king of the vengeance demons stood before him, trapped by the circle.
“What do you want?” the demon asked. He was in the aspect of a tall humanoid creature, though his skin was bluish-gray and he had horns around the crown of his head. “I was right in the middle of watching a movie.”
“I’m sorry, my lord D’Hoffryn,” Xander said, figuring that pandering to him was probably a good idea. “I thought I should go straight to the top for this one.”
“It’s your fault I lost Anyanka and Halfrek. Why should I do anything for you?” He looked thoughtful. “In fact, shouldn’t I take vengeance upon you by ignoring your wishes?”
“You could do that, my lord,” Xander said. Then he held up the dead-man’s switch. “Thing is, you’re trapped in that circle until I release you, or until I’m dead. And this baby here will bring enough rock down on both our heads to end your vengeance days for good.” At the expression on D’Hoffryn’s face, Xander quickly added, “not that I want to do that, my lord. I don’t have any desire to die, and I don’t have any reason to kill you. I just want vengeance.”
D’Hoffryn sighed and folded his arms. “Can you make this quick? My girlfriend won’t leave the DVD paused forever.”
Xander really wanted to ask D’Hoffryn about the ‘girlfriend’ comment, but now wasn’t the time. And, if this worked, it wouldn’t matter anyway. “First, I want your word that, no matter what my wish for vengeance is, you’ll grant it.”
The demon glared down at Xander. “You’re a very annoying human. When have I ever gone back on my word?”
“Good point.” He sighed. “All right, so here’s the thing. A few weeks ago, some fanatical humans blew up a plane that had five of my friends on it. Terrorists. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.” D’Hoffryn grunted assent. “Okay, well, the goal of terrorists is to spread fear and grief, demoralizing their enemy.” He’d thought about this very carefully, spent all day crafting his pitch. If he didn’t get the wording exactly right, D’Hoffryn might be able to find a loophole. That was the last thing Xander wanted. “They did it, all right. Four vampire slayers, including the final two Chosen, were on that plane. So was a very powerful witch. When the witch died, it broke my friend’s heart, and that’s what I want vengeance for.”
“Would you please get to the point already?”
“I am, I am.” Xander licked his lips. “I want to take away the damage the terrorists caused. I don’t want my friend to feel the effects. And, to do that, I wish that...” He swallowed hard. This was it. No going back.
D’Hoffryn stared expectantly.
“I wish for my friend Willow Danielle Rosenberg to live in a world where she is happy, and where there is nothing supernatural whatsoever.”
The demon’s face went white. Well, whiter, anyway, which Xander didn’t think was possible. “I... I really don’t think--”
“You gave me your word,” Xander said. He held up the switch. “Grant my wish, or we both die.”
“If I grant your wish, everything that makes you the man you are will die anyway.”
“I don’t care!
” Xander shouted. “Do it, damn you! Do it! Do--
+++++Your feedback is, of course, greatly appreciated.Next time: we see the world Xander has wished for.