Episode 12: Motherhood is a Bitch
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All that belongs to Joss and ME and WB. I am not making any profit from writing this, either, by the way. Author Notes:
There is some violence and death in this chapter. Be warned, is all I'm sayin'.
Thanks to Starway Man, my BetaThe Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1
Episode 12: Motherhood is a BitchJanuary 22nd, 1999
Mayor's Office, Sunnydale
“No, no, no.” The Mayor dropped the open folder on his desk. “No, this won't do at all.”
“Sir?” Alan Finch asked from his position near the door. He liked being near the door, during meetings such as this. It was safer. Easier to get away, if he needed to. Well, it had
to be better than being away from the door, right?
“You know, Alan, I'm as welcoming as the next man, but I just don't like it when downright unneighborly people move into town. I have a policy of throwing the Hellmouth open to just about all demons and vampires to play with, and they keep trying to use it for themselves. Now, is that fair?”
“Ahm – well...uhm...I suppose it-” Alan started. He hated it when the Mayor asked him questions like that...he could never tell if Wilkins wanted an answer or not. And it was often dangerous to guess wrong.
“No, of course it isn't.” Wilkins supplied. “Not in the least. It's not fair, not neighborly, and gosh-darn not polite on top of all that. And if there's one thing I can't stand in my town, it's people not being polite. Or even not-people not being polite.” He added. “No need to be discriminatory.”
“What's the issue if I may ask, sir?” Alan asked, on slightly firmer ground.
“Oh, it's the Sisterhood of Jhe. Lovely bunch of cultists most of the time. You always know that a virgin's heart you buy from them is the real deal. But they're coming to use my Hellmouth to destroy the world. And they didn't even ask me for permission first! So as I say, this won't do at all.”
“Of course, sir. But, uh, won't the Slayers deal with them, before they manage to bring about the apocalypse?”
“Well, of course they will.” Wilkins replied. “That's why I keep them and their little friends around, after all. But golly, it's still not polite.” He opened up his newspaper. “Find Trick and tell him I want to him here in my office, as soon as the sun goes down. The same for Spike. I have business I need them to attend to.”
“Very good, sir. I'll get right on it.” Alan ducked out of the room, holding his sigh of relief in until he was well down the hallway.
“Gosh. There's definitely something wrong with that boy. Maybe Alan needs a vacation.” Wilkins said to himself as he turned a page of his paper, whistling cheerily.January 22nd, 1999
Sunnydale High School
“Look, I just want to check with Giles about that big orange demon we killed. It had friends, and I want to know if it was up to something beyond the usual.” Buffy looked down at her sleeve and wiped another piece of blackish green demon goop off her, wishing she had a free hand to hold her nose.
“If it was, it doesn't matter; we killed it. If its friends decide to try something, then we'll kill them too.” Faith shrugged philosophically. “It's what we do, girl friend.”
“Knowing what we have to deal with -” Buffy stopped talking as the sound of breaking glass came down the hallway.
There was no one else in the school hallways. Giles was still in the library, researching thing or another, but apart from him, there shouldn't be anyone in the building at this time of night. Not even the janitors...it didn't take long to pick it up.
“I call dibs.” Faith said with a laugh, running down the corridor. It didn't take them long to find the source of the noise: the trophy cabinet, the host of wins and honors Sunnydale High and its various sports teams had achieved in the past, what few of them there were. The glass casing had been completely smashed, although it didn't look like any trophies were missing...
Of course, there wasn't time for an inventory. The culprit was standing right in front of them. In his usual suit and wearing a fang-filled smirk, Trick clapped his hands. “Well, I didn't expect to see you two here. Good thing I brought friends.” Vampires dropped down from the ceiling, two in front and two behind. Immediately Faith lunged at one, grabbing the vamp by the arm and flinging him into Trick, but the black vampire sidestepped easily.
“I'd love to stay and chat, Slayers, but then I do have business elsewhere.” He mimed tipping a hat as two more of his minions came running down the hall towards them. “Maybe next time.”
“Oh no you don't!” Faith staked the downed vampire and chased after Trick, knocking over one of his reinforcements and staking the other, unimpeded. Trick looked over his shoulder and saw her behind him.
“Well then. If it's a fight you really want, I guess I'll just have to oblige...” Latching on to a sprinkler, Trick swung into her, legs flying right into her shoulders, sending her sprawling as Trick landed on both feet. But by the time Faith had jumped back onto her feet, Trick was nowhere in sight.
“FAITH! A little help here!?” Buffy cried out, staking one of the four vampires she still had to deal with. Jumping up, she kicked out with both legs, taking two in the face, sending them sprawling. The blonde Slayer ran for the one still standing. She made with the staking, but it evaded her swing, punching out at her. Buffy caught it on her shoulder.
“Normally I'd be in a punny mood right about now.” Buffy said, grabbing the vampire's arm. “But at the moment,” she bent it in a way no arm was meant to be bent. “I'm tired,” She flung the vampire into the broken case, glass cutting onto its legs, “and I really need a shower.” She drove her stake into its heart.
“I'll be happy to shower you in your blood, Slayer!” The vampire said, lunging at her. “After I've had my fill-” Then he froze up, a stake sprouting out of its chest and dust fell to the ground. Another member of the undead club, which was just starting to get up off the floor, was quickly dispatched as well.
“Any more of them?” Faith asked. She didn't see any.
“There was one more.” Buffy looked, moving quickly, eyes not lingering in one spot too long “Maybe it ran off...” – then the vampire dropped down from the ceiling – these ones really liked that trick. In one hand was a trophy. A really, really big trophy. “Faith! Behind you!” Faith turned and ducked the swing she was expecting – but it never came. The vampire was just standing there, trophy over its head...not moving at all.
“You might want to stake it now. I don't know how much longer I can hold it like this.” Amy said, standing some distance behind the immobile vampire. “Wasn't even sure if this spell-” Faith drove her stake into the vampire's heart, “-would work.”
“Well, looks to me like it does.” Faith said, cleaning vampire dust off herself. She looked at the shattered trophy case. “What the hell were they doing here, anyway?”
“I don't know.” Buffy said, looking suspicious. “I mean, your regular vamps might come here and break things just for the hell of it, but Trick doesn't seem like the type. He had to have some kind of plan. Let's just hope we stopped him before he managed to pull it off.” She looked at Amy. “What were you doing here so late?” Buffy asked, seeing Amy looking closely at the trophies.
“I – I was looking for Mr. Giles, actually. I was hoping he could give me some magic advice. And to see if I could be any help in, well,” She gestured to the piles of dust, “this. I mean, sure, I'm not part of your little gang of friends that hangs out there in the library every day, but I still know what's what, and hey, you helped save my life.” Amy said, pointing to Faith. “I didn't actually say thanks for that, did I?”
“You don't need to. It's kind of what being a Slayer is for, right?” Faith replied flatly. She didn't look comfortable, for some reason.
“Well, still, thanks. I mean it.” Amy said. “But like I said – I want to help. Not actively fighting what hangs out in this town hasn't stopped them coming after me, and hey, I just helped you guys out.” She turned to look at the trophy case. “So, you think you guys could use...” Amy's voice trailed off, color draining from her face. “No...”
“Amy? Something up?” Faith tucked her stake into her belt.
“There- There's a trophy missing....my-my mom's...” Amy stared past the empty spot in the wrecked case. “It's gone...”
“Okay...I suppose that's a thing...but why do you look so freaked over it?” Faith didn't get it.
Amy didn't answer, and eyes closed, she started muttering to herself. Buffy took the space to explain. “About two years ago, Amy's mom used a spell to switch bodies with her so she could relive her old glory days on the cheer team. Then she cursed all the other cheerleaders that were competition – set one on fire, fused another's mouth shut, blinded Cordelia and threw some kind of curse on me that would have killed me a few hours later. When she was forced back into her original body, Mrs. Madison tried to kill Amy and me. Some spell of hers got reflected by a mirror, and then...she just vanished. We always figured she was dead.”
“No.” Amy shook her head. “She was never dead.” She was breathing short, shallow breaths, just one more shock away from hyperventilating.
“What are you talking about? I saw it – you saw it. Her screaming, the like...purple fire stuff? She's dead.” Buffy said, frowning.
“No. I thought so too, at first...but...last year...I felt it.” Amy was speaking in pauses, words catching before they were spoken. “She...she ended up in her own trophy, stuck inside it...I felt it after...after I started practicing magic.” She looked at Faith and Buffy. “Why- Why would someone take it?” Recognition formed on her face, eyes widening as she stepped back in shock. “No. No. No. No. No. No.” Over and over the denial escaped her lips, as Amy realized that the only reason someone might have for taking the statue...would be to release Catherine Madison from her prison.
“Okay. This qualifies as, like what, our monster this week?” Faith asked, turning her head to Buffy.
“I suppose it does.” Buffy said slowly, looking at the hyperventilating Amy, still desperately denying her own conclusions.January 22nd, 1999
Mayor's Office, Sunnydale
Trick set the largish cheerleading trophy down on the floor in front of Wilkins' desk. “Here it is, like you said you wanted. Mind if I ask what this is about, anyway?”
“You'll see.” Wilkins got up from his chair and opened his...occult implements cupboard, withdrawing pouches and implements. “By the way, Spike?”
Trick shrugged. “Guy was a no-show at the school. Yet somehow, that didn't surprise me.”
“Well, that's too bad. And honestly, Mr. Trick - the surprise is often the best part!”
“Never been all that fond of surprises myself.” Trick admitted as Wilkins started to pour some kind of black powder in a circle around the trophy.
“Where's the fun in that?” Wilkins offered with a smile. He waved a hand dismissively. “Then again, you don't like snickerdoodles, so you don't have the first idea of what's what.” He set four grinning skulls at each point of the compass around the object. Then five candles, a pentacle of incense burning. The Mayor started to chant, the Assyrian words rolling off his tongue without the slightest difficulty. For fifteen minutes, he chanted...
Purple light suddenly flew from the statue, flying up in a column to the ceiling, a thin beam, then wider and wider. With an anguished scream the light was gone, and in its place was a woman, brownish-red hair, still wearing the same clothing she had worn that day in that classroom, so long ago.
Catherine Madison looked around the room, eyes settling on Trick. “What do you want, vampire!?” She tried to step away from the trophy, but as her hand moved towards the black powder circle, it met with resistance, the air solid against her hand.
Trick shrugged. “Oh, hey, it's not about what I want.” He pointed to the Mayor, who was standing behind Catherine. “It's about what the boss wants. He's the one calling the shots around here.”
Catherine turned, a snarl on her lips when she recognized the man she was facing. “Mayor Wilkins.” She said with a hiss. “I always wondered why the police and the city government always acted as though there was absolutely nothing wrong in this town.” She placed her palm on the shield of air preventing her movement. “Any chance this can get lowered? You let me out of my prison, so you had to have some reason for it. Let's hear it.”
Wilkins smiled. “Oh, come now. Is everyone around here all, ah, straight to business? What about the joys of talking about the weather?”
“I'm in no mood for chit-chat. I just spent two years in that damn-” Catherine's voice cut off into a choking gag.
“Now, now, language, Catherine.” Wilkins opened his half-closed hand, and the pressure on the witch's airways was lifted. “Let's watch the swearing. But as you wish; I'm here to offer you a deal. You can either work for me, or go straight back into the trophy.”
“Some choice that is. Still, why do you need me? Your magic is clearly more powerful than mine.” Catherine remarked with distaste.
Richard Wilkins smiled. It was a warm and friendly politician's smile, all meaningless to the situation at hand. “Because there are two individuals that are giving me a great deal of trouble, even if they don't know they're doing it. I would like to see them eliminated. And you have your own reasons to want to get rid of at least one of them. She's an old...friend of yours. Buffy Summers.”
Trick raised his eyebrows at that; like Alan Finch and Spike, he knew perfectly well that the Mayor had decreed that the Slayers and their friends were off-limits, at least until the Sisterhood of Jhe had been dealt with. Impending apocalypse, and all that. So why was he telling this bitch to go nuts and kill the assets he'd previously ordered to be left alone?
Ignorant of the the thoughts going through the vampire's head, Catherine Madison held her tongue from an immediate response. After a few minutes she simply said to Wilkins, “What exactly did you have in mind?”January 22nd, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High
Giles looked at Faith, Buffy and the still-pale Amy, the former two standing, the latter sitting. He slowly sipped from his tea. “I hate to ask this, but I have to. Amy, are you sure
that your mother was trapped in that trophy?”
“I'm sure. I felt her there. I can't explain it...it just...it just...I could feel her presence...like she was standing right near me.”
“So why didn't you ever say anything?” Buffy looked to her. “I mean, tell
Amy shrugged. “I...guess I...I mean, why should I have? She was stuck there...she wasn't getting out...and...it seemed...I dunno...kinda fitting? She may be my mother, but she stole my body...did all those things to you, and Cordelia, and everyone else, just so she could re-live her glory days on the damn cheerleading squad...and there she was, stuck in the trophy.” She shuddered, despite the relative warmth.
“And there's no reason for Trick to take the trophy for itself. It's not valuable, and it doesn't have any other uses.” Giles considered.
“He has to have some kind of...plan, to free her.” Amy completed. Staggered half-complete breaths escaped her.
“Yes. We, uh, I'm afraid we have to work under the assumption that Catherine Madison is free of her prison. If not now, then soon.” Giles said.
“And it's pretty darn obvious what's the first thing she'd want to do – kill me and Amy.” Buffy said softly. “And you're probably be on her list, too, Giles, since you reversed all her spells.”
“A definite point. So we certainly shouldn't leave Amy alone – perhaps she could stay at your apartment, Faith?”
Faith shrugged. “I'm down with that.” She looked at a confused Amy. “Never imagined I'd meet someone I wouldn't gladly swap moms with, but hell, now that I've met you...”
“Then it's settled?” Giles asked, ignoring that.
“No.” Amy replied at once. “I can't leave my dad alone. The divorce was bitter enough that if my mom comes looking for me at his place...and she doesn't find me there...he'd be...” Amy's voice trailed off and she shook her head. “No. Not an option.” She repeated.
“Then I'll come over to your place.” Faith shrugged. “You can tell your old man that I'm a friend, staying over at your house for the night.” Amy nodded slowly in acceptance.
“Yes, err, that appears to be a viable stratagem.” Giles said after a moment. “The question remains, though, how and when Mrs. Madison will make her move – and who will she target first?”
“If she goes after me, or if she goes after Amy, we're going to get through this. Faith can handle this as much as I can, and really Amy, you're no pushover in the magic biz either, it's starting to look like. We can get through this. After all, the other option isn't something that leads anywhere good.” Buffy said, trying to bolster everyone's spirits.January 22nd, 1999
17619 White Oak Drive, Sunnydale
“Why do you stop by for these little visits, anyway? Don't you have better things to do with your time?” Xander turned the Iron Coin over in his hand as he spoke.
The Jester appeared to shrug, turning his azure gaze to meet Xander's brown-eyed one. “Time. That's such a strange concept you lower dimensionals believe in, you know. It's not until you reach what your mathematicians call the eleventh dimension that the locals stop believing in that nonsense. Saving time, spending time, keeping time, wasting time, making time.” He scoffed. “There is
no time. No such thing. It's just an illusion.” As he spoke, the Jester continually shuffled and reshuffled a deck of cards in his hands.
“I've heard people say that. But I don't believe it.” Xander countered.
“You should believe them. They're wise people, for humans.”
Xander shook his head. “Maybe, but I still don't buy it. Maybe it's just because I'm too dumb, sure - but from where I'm sitting, there is such a thing called cause and effect.” These almost nightly sessions with the Jester had forced him to change his reading habits. “If I drop the coin,” He let the coin fall from his hand, and it clattered on the floor moments later. “It falls to the floor. It doesn't fall to the floor before
I drop it. I walk out this room, I have to get up and go to the door first. One thing happens before another. Not just cause and effect, but before and after. That's time, even if it's just something we make up to explain linear progression of events.”
“I suppose that's how you and yours would see it, yes.”
“Ah-ah, don't give me that. I mean, hey, this conversation is happening after you gave me the Iron Coin. Gandalf the Black showed up after
he arranged my dad's death. It wouldn't have made sense for him to have come before that, given what our conversation was about.”
“Well, of course. It's the only way you can understand it.”
“So you see where I'm going with this? To communicate with me, you have to play by the rules of linear progression. So even if it doesn't exist on your level, it exists down here, amongst us mere mortals.”
“Hmm. If that's true, then how does the Coin let you see the future?” The Jester had a perverse-looking smirk on his face as he asked Xander that.
“I'm not seeing the future – or else I wouldn't be able to avert it or alter it. I'm seeing, as you yourself once said, what the forces of Fate have written in that Book. I figure the flashes and images and everything else are simply my brain trying to process what I'm 'reading'.”
“Including the pain you felt, when you experienced what your lover would have undergone a few months ago - had you not altered that sequence of events?”
Xander paused, frowning. He remembered that incident; as well as how the Librarian had warned him that he shouldn't have changed all that, that he had no idea what the consequences would be preventing Cordy from getting impaled by that rebar. Or even how he'd done it, really. “Yeah, okay, you got me there. I'm still trying to figure that one out.”
“And what conclusions have you come to?” The Jester still had that annoying smirk on his face, as if all this was prime time entertainment for him.
“Uh, that coin of yours can really
drive its warning home, if it's important enough?”
“Well, that's not even close, really, but from your point of view - it's a workable enough lie.”
“I get the feeling that, when dealing with you, the lies are more true than the truth.” Xander picked up the coin. “Now, if there's nothing else, you may as well get out of here. I'd like to get some sleep.”
The Jester just laughed. As he faded from view, the agent of Chaos ruffled the deck in his hands, picking it up and letting the cards spring from on hand to the other with a flourish.
They were all the Ace of Spades, a fitting indication of what his whim had managed to generate so far with regards to the plans of some so-called higher beings.January 23rd, 1999
1420 Truman Drive, Sunnydale
Faith had always been a light sleeper. But it didn't matter whether you were a light sleeper or a heavy sleeper, when someone exploded the front door of the house. Within seconds, Faith was on her feet, stake in one hand, one of her knives in the other. The moon and starlight from the now-empty doorway and the windows was enough illumination to show who was responsible. Not that Faith had had any doubts over who would have burst into Amy's house this way, and at this time of night.
“Catherine Madison.” Faith kicked the coffee table at her, but it broke to splinters before it could reach the witch.
“You've heard of me. I'm touched. You must be one of my worthless daughter's worthless friends.” Catherine cut the air with her hand, a fan of energy flying at the Slayer. Faith ducked and rolled to the side, the couch almost splitting in half from the energy blast, a deep gouge forming in the wall behind it.
“Missed.” Faith mocked in a sing-song voice. She looked for a viable weapon, something to throw her opponent off-balance...
“Just one hit. That's all I need. And I'm perfectly willing to destroy my bastard of an ex-husband's house along the way.” Faith ducked behind a stuffed chair as flames flew over her head and into the wall, the fireball crashing apart, crackling along the edge of the room. “You're quick.”
“Comes with the job.” Faith rolled, grabbed a surviving leg of the coffee table and flinging it at Catherine like a boomerang.
“What job? Getting in my way?” Catherine casually whacked the table leg aside with her forearm. “Just like that other girl – Buffy.”
Faith rose to her feet, flinging her stake at Amy's mother. “I'm not Buffy, you bitch!” Like the table before it, the stake was splinters before it reached its target.
“Ooh. I see I've touched a sore spot, Slayer.” Catherine blasted the chair forward. With an 'oof', Faith was pinned against its back as it flew nearly into the wall, fire inches from Faith's head, her hair singing already, dizziness overtaking her vision for a second. Just a second. “I'll have to take care of you first, I suppose.” Catherine summoned another fireball to her hand, pulling her hand back for a throw-
Water flew from somewhere to her left, drenching her hand, her arm, and extinguishing the fireball.
“Get out of this house, mom!” Amy stood firm at the bottom of the stairs, one hand holding tight onto the railing, her knees weak under the energy she was using, as she turned her hand to the fire on the wall, dousing Faith as she put out those flames sputtering near the Slayer. “You're not welcome here.”
Catherine turned her gaze away from the half-pinned Slayer towards her errant daughter. “Once again
, you raise your hand against your mother! The last two years have done nothing for your manners!” Catherine reached out a hand to Amy, holding her in place, paralyzed below the neck.
“But they did do something for my ability to use magic!” Amy shot back. Closing her eyes, she fought against the spell, her magic dueling with her mother's. It's not enough...no, damn it! No!
Amy felt her defenses crumbling...the walls of her castle, as it were, had been breached...
“Not good enough, girl. I won't be taking half-measures with you this time! I'll do what I should have done a long
time ago, Amy!” Catherine reached out with her other hand, clenching an invisible hand around Amy's throat. “I'm going to enjoy this...”
Faith had watched the exchange, but from the moment Catherine had turned away from her, she was on the move. All she had on hand now was her knife, but that was all she needed. Faith swung out with her hand, the blade crossing the foot from where she hid, diagonally across, into Catherine Madison.
The blade didn't sink into Catherine's shoulder – no such luck, the witch sensed her coming at the last moment – but the shock of the hit, the depth of the cut, did affect the middle-aged woman. Catherine staggered away, magical backlash flowing through her as the spell on Amy broke. Faith was moving again as the witch tried to regain her footing. With both hands Faith grabbed her opponent's uninjured arm, wrenching it up and around, snapping the bones as she flipped Catherine Madison onto her back, arm on her throat.
“No!” Catherine gurgled.
“Give me one good reason why not!” Faith demanded, still pressing her arm down and attempting to go for the kill.
“Grlghk.” Catherine placed her usable hand on Faith's chest, and there was a brief discharge of magical energy. The dark-haired Slayer flew backwards, crashing into Amy, both of them collapsing in a pile on the floor. Stumbling to her feet, Catherine winced at the pain in her arms. And the backlash...it had affected her more than she'd expected. With far more grace than a retreat should allow, Catherine departed, vanishing into the night. The whole exchange had taken no more than two minutes - which was how long it took for Amy's father to find his shotgun and reach the living room with it in hand.
The two girls had quite a job on their hands preventing him from panicking and calling the police, once Mr. Madison heard what had happened...January 23rd, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High
“It was as much luck as it was anything else, for the both of you.” Giles admonished Amy and Faith, later in the morning. The whole Scooby Gang was gathered in the library, as was the norm by now. “While it was good that your mother was overconfident this time, she won't be again, and it is unwise to count on the enemy being overconfident twice.”
“Hey!” Faith protested. “It wasn't just luck that had me getting around behind her to get her with the knife, or break her arm. And it wasn't luck that Amy was able to save me from being toasted Slayer. She was that good with the mojo.”
“I, uh, actually wasn't sure it was going to work, Faith. I kinda made that water spell up on the fly.” Amy replied softly from her chair, holding her arms around her middle. “And I was useless
resisting her attempt to hold me in place!”
“I don't think you can blame yourself for that.” Willow interjected. “Like it or not, your mom has been doing magic for a lot longer. She's just better at it. But you managed to keep her busy long enough for Faith to get to her, right?”
“Aren't you listening? Willow, I was useless
against her!” Amy nearly screamed. “I was – you have no idea...I was so...helpless.” Her voice fell to barely a whisper. “I can't be that helpless again – I won't. You have no idea...I was so...I was so afraid
...I can't let anyone do that to me. I have – no. Never again.” She shook her head. “Never. Again.” A long, slow, shuddering breath escaped her. “Sorry.” She murmured, then bit her lip. “Sorry.” She repeated. “I didn't think...I guess...I hoped she wouldn't be able to do this to me. The nightmares...I hadn't had any for over a year...but...I had them....then I lived
Amy looked at Faith, her hand reaching out for the Slayer's. “I didn't – last night, I didn't get to say – thank you. For...for agreeing to help, stay at my house...for what you did – if...if you hadn't – even if my mom hadn't tried to kill me...” Her voice trailed off.
Faith, as Amy was speaking, started to shake Amy's hand off of her – contact like that wasn't really her thing – but she let Amy finish. There was just...God damn, she's fucked up inside.
It was...no, not pity...sympathy? When the amateur witch finished talking, she let her hand fall away from the Slayer's.
“If you hadn't felt like that, y'know, scared?” Oz said from his position near the edge of the group, at Willow's side. “I'd have wondered. But fear is supposed to be a tool, right, when channeled properly. If you hadn't been so afraid – would you have been able to fight as well you did? I dunno. But it's a thing to think about.” He looked back at everyone, at their surprised expressions. “What? I can string multiple sentences together.” He smiled, just for a moment.
“But what do we do about her? I mean, if Mrs. Madison's going to come back better prepared,” Buffy sighed. “We can't all stay at the same place and simply wait for her, sure. But if we don't deal with her soon...I don't want to think about what she's capable of. There's been enough risk to my mom's life recently as it is.”
“Well, what about trying to find her with magic?” Xander suggested. He didn't, couldn't suggest using the Iron Coin. Besides, it hadn't shown her anything about Amy's mom – not a thing. “I mean, there's got to be a spell for that, right?”
“Several, but if she's even remotely prepared, the woman will have masked herself against such magics.” Giles replied. “Still, it might not be impossible to find her.” He looked to Willow and Amy. “I'm going to need help from the both of you to make any magical attempt to find her stick. I'm all right on the theory, but my actual magical power is limited. You two, on the other hand, have more to work with. Between the three of us, we might – might
– be able to find her, or at least some trace of her.” He walked over to the shelf. “Still, that begs the question - what do we do when, uh, when we actually find her? We need some kind of plan...”
“Well, you just said it yourself, didn't you?” Cordelia commented. Giles just looked at her, confused. “This is a trend for you guys, isn't it?”
“Cordy, what are you talking about?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes at Buffy. “Missing things when they're right in front of you.” She pointed to Giles. “You said you knew a lot about magic, but don't have much power. Willow and Amy have more power, but they haven't learned as much about magic as you – yet. And you have two Slayers here as well. Between the five you, you've got enough power to be able to take Amy's mom down, right?”
The young woman looked at them and their facial expressions. “Jeez, do none of you ever think?”January 23rd, 1999
Rack's Den, Sunnydale
Later that lunchtime, Amy stopped herself from wrinkling her nose as she stepped over the threshold into Rack's place. The trashed outer room reeked of failure, sour magical discharge and just...ordinary stench. Some of the junkies lying around, or sitting around, hadn't taken baths or showers or anything in months, it seemed. Idiots.
Magic wasn't something to treat as a means to get high with.
The rush...Amy knew the rush...she couldn't get away from it. But she controlled her magic, not the other way around. Still, her previous search for that rush, that had led her here...and now, that might just save her life.
Amy had been careful in her visits with Rack so far, trying to increase her knowledge, her power. But always only letting Rack have a little, give her just a little...not that he would ever really give her more normally, despite his 'promises'...but now...she didn't have time to be careful.
“Amy.” Rack said, standing in the doorway of his back room, looking at her. “I didn't expect to see you back here so soon.” The dark-haired man was dressed, as he always was, in black; magic sparking from finger to finger.
“I need your help, Rack.” Amy said, hands clenched, hating herself more with every word. So useless you have to...how can you be so weak? You're pathetic.
my help, hm? And here I thought you could barely stand me.”
“Rack, you can gloat later. Please.
I need – power, a spell, something
. Do you want me to get on my knees and beg you to help me? I'll do it.” Amy was shaking – she'd had herself mostly under control, since her outburst in the library...but....not now...not anymore. Not now that she was actually thinking about what would happen the next time she and her mother met in battle.
“Something's got you real fucking scared, Amy.” Rack reached out his hand, and she felt him there, crawling around in her mind, her thoughts.
“Get out of my head!” She yelled, trying to throw up mental barriers against him.
“If you want me out of your head, then you can turn your pretty self around right now and leave. But if you want my help – I wanna see what's got you running scared like this.”
Amy recoiled, Rack felt so...slimy
in her mind. But she didn't have much choice in the matter. So she dropped her barriers and let him in.
The images reached Rack's mind across the thread of his magic. Catherine switching bodies with Amy, vanishing after Buffy uses the mirror trick...the missing trophy...the fear...Rack tasted the fear...smiling...then last night, the attack, the paralysis, the helplessness. Delicious.
Rack pulled out of her head. “Sorry. I can't help you.” He said with a dark smile.
“What? No! I'll let you do whatever you want – I'll do anything
! Please! I have to – I can't let her – she's going to kill me!” Amy really did drop onto her knees. “Anything, do you hear me? Name your price. Otherwise, I'm dead!” Her fear was the only thing on her mind, Rack's probing pushed everything else out of her thoughts.
“I know.” Rack started to turn away. “And she'll pull it off, too. I knew your mother when she was your age, kid. She had real power – and Catherine wasn't afraid to...lose control. I think I'd like to catch up with her, when this is all over. So, there's no amount of money or any kind of reward you can offer, to make it worth my while becoming her enemy. Too bad; you'll be dead before the end of the week.” Laughing, Rack turned away fully, closing the door to his back room behind him.
“No!” Amy scrambled to her feet, running at the door, pounding on it with her fists. “No! Rack! No! You open this door! Now!” She reached for her power, desperate, trying to break down the door -
But all it accomplished was her landing on her ass as she flew out of Rack's den, passing through the threshold barrier. Amy didn't wait. She ran. She ran. Ran from the magical crack den, from her fear, from her mother. Everything. Nowhere. Nowhere was safe. I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to die.
This alley...no. She looked around. How had she gotten here? No. Where was this. Where the hell was she?
“Rack decided not to help you, didn't he?” The voice seemed to be coming from everywhere. Every shadow, every corner. It was male, and a touch accented, maybe? “Well, I'm not surprised. Such an ungenerous man. Nasty, unclean habits too.” The male voice made a disgusted sound. “Germs all over the place, most unsanitary. But there you go: you come to him, begging, and he won't help. Now who would turn down a pretty face like yours?”
“Who are you!?” Amy demanded, her voice quavering too much. “Show yourself!”
“All in good time, my dear.” The voice replied. “As for who I am...well, consider me...someone who knew your mother in the old days. And unlike Rack...I'm not thrilled by the idea of her being back, shall we say.” A piece paper...no, parchment? floated to the ground in front of her – but it had seemingly come from nowhere.
“What's this?” Amy asked,
“A spell – a special one. I won't guarantee it will save your life. You have to know how to use it, when to use it. But it's yours, for all the good it will do you.”
“Why are you doing this? Why help me?” Amy turned around in a circle, trying to find the person speaking to her, or locate him by the sound of his voice.
“Like I said, I'm not all that fond of your mother. Besides, now you owe me a favor. And fairly soon, I imagine that I'll be in a position to collect.”
“What sort of favor? I don't like strings. And how do I know I can trust you?” Amy made no move to take the parchment.
The voice laughed, eerie in its cheerfulness. “Amy Madison, do you really
think that you're in any position to negotiate? Goodbye now. I'll be in touch.” Silence fell on her like a deafening roar, the speaker gone, wherever he'd been.
The mystery man had a point, Amy suddenly realized. Trust...trust didn't matter. There was only one thing that mattered. Her mother. Slowly she half-knelt, reaching down to pick up the parchment, reading the Latin words quietly in her mind. She had no idea what the spell was...what it was supposed to do. But if there was even a chance...even half a chance that it would save her life...no, even less than half...she had to grab it, with both hands...January 23rd, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High
Amy was back in the library at sunset, the moment evening upon them completely, as was agreed.
“Perfect timing, Amy.” Everyone was there. Buffy and Faith, waiting for an idea where Catherine was concerned, in order to deal with the woman. Willow and Giles, for the locating spells. Even Cordelia, Oz and Xander for moral support if nothing else. They were here. All of them. To help. Amy nodded to Giles as he spoke, hope suddenly filling her mind.
The Watcher spread a map of Sunnydale over the central table. “We're going to try the Arcelian Finding Ritual first. Cordelia, light the candles. Xander, drop a pinch of rosemary into those two candles once they're lit. Oz, the Edelweiss petals onto that candle.” The three obeyed, though Cordelia was very careful of her nails as she struck the match.
“Willow, stand on that side of the table.” he continued. “Place your hands on the sides of the map. No, wider. Yes. Like that. Amy, same thing, other side of the table.” Giles held up a clear, straight crystal, thee inches long maybe, tied to a piece of string, over the map, his other hand along the spine of an open book he held out. “Focus your magics into the map, into finding Catherine Madison.”
The ancient Greek flowed smoothly from his lips as he began to chant, suddenly switching to Latin, and then Hebrew; sometimes mid-word. It took a minute, but then the crystal began to glow...and glow...and glow...and do nothing else. It remained still. Perfectly, unnaturally still.
Giles closed the book with a snap. “She's blocked her magical signature against that kind of tracking spell. Blast. But there are other ways. A Clotharian Index Cypher perhaps-” Rupert murmured, picking up another book.
It flew out of his hands the moment it was in them, the library doors swinging shut. Catherine Madison standing there, clothed in a slinky black dress, no sign of her cut shoulder, or her broken arm visible anymore. “Looking for me, I take it?” She smirked. “Found me.”
As if it were just water, Catherine's hand sank into the book, through the cover...her eyes briefly turned red, before turning solid black, purple energy flowing up her arm, which was now submerged to the elbow inside the book. Catherine dropped it to the floor, and it fell open, every page blank.
Catherine popped her neck. “It's been ages
since I've done that. I'd almost forgotten how good it feels. Now, where were we? Oh, yes, properly punishing my ungrateful, worthless daughter.” Catherine reached out a hand, fire forming in it. “Oh, but wait. I forgot about all your little friends, didn't I Amy? How rude of me.” Even as she spoke, her other hand was moving. The stake that flew from Buffy's hand was cast aside effortlessly. Then she waved it on the word 'rude'. Giles, Xander, Oz, and Cordelia all flew into the air, landing around the room with thuds, cries of pain, even a sickening crack from one of them.
“Leave them out of this!” Amy reached out with her magic, water- and watched as it hit the fireball...and did nothing, vanishing as if the fireball was a rock in its stream.
Catherine laughed. “You didn't think that was going to work twice, did you?” She formed a second fireball in her hands. “So many targets, so few hands...who should I hit first?” Faith started to run at the witch, but tripped as Catherine's magic moved a chair into her way. Buffy somersaulted over the librarian desk, her fist flying into the extinguisher's glass case, ignoring her bleeding hand, the red weapon in hand.
“Did you plan for this?” The nozzle fired into Catherine, taking away her fire, covering her in white foam. Buffy tossed the fire-fighting object after its contents, but that Catherine avoided, rupturing the metal case as it flew away from her.
“You can't fight us all at once!” Willow said with confidence she didn't feel, sending two dozen pencils flying at her. She looked to Amy just a little – she had heard the details of the first encounter...
Catherine splintered the incoming pencils easily – but she was still pelted by the splinters, a storm of slivers, Amy directing them all at her mother. Sputtering as some got into her mouth, Catherine sent Willow flying. Faith ran for the red-haired witch, not catching her, but inadvertently cushioning her fall with her own body.
Buffy jumped back over the desk, kicking out at Catherine, catching her leg – but even as she fell, more was in motion. Buffy barely avoided a bolt of energy, the desk cut into, the gouge spreading like a spider's web. But then she fell – and the desk atop her, completely unsecured from the floor. Wind gone, Buffy struggled with the weight pressing down n her.
“No! Buffy!” Willow, on her feet again, tried to help Buffy, but it wasn't working. Amy saw what Willow was doing, and made to help – Faith tossed one, then another knife at Amy's mother, but to no avail. They skittered off into the wall, useless.
“Well, now. How to deal with such an unmannered child like you?” Catherine approached Faith.
“I said, leave them alone!” Amy stepped in front of her mother, pale, shaking. “This isn't about them...”
“They got in my way. Of course it's about them, to an extent. Especially since you care
!” Catherine froze Amy again, the table flying into Willow – but the witch ducked underneath it, trapped against the wall as it flipped to the side. Catherine then looked at the dark-haired Slayer. “Now, let's start with the one you initially put between us! The one that stopped me before, at your father's house.” Faith barely ducked under the lightning bolt that seemed to just jump from Catherine's body towards her.
“Fine by me, bitch.” Faith ran at Catherine, putting everything she had into it, leaping at her. Catherine was unfazed – fire crashed into Faith, washing over her midsection. Crying out despite herself, Faith landed, rolling, trying to put out the flames before they could spread. Slayer healing or otherwise, there would definitely be scarring...
“So pathetic. And you wanted to protect her? Well...not so surprising, I suppose. One worthless, useless, helpless
person feels kinship with another – and that's all you've ever done, Amy. Surround yourself with people just like you. Worthless people. Useless people. Helpless-”
“NO!” Amy cried out. “Not helpless. Never helpless. Never again! I am not your plaything. And I am not
afraid of you!” Amy began to chant, at first a murmur, but her voice rising as she spoke.
“Strong words coming from someone so-” Catherine stopped, as she heard the chant. She didn't recognize the spell being incanted, and that suddenly worried her. “Amy, what do you think you're doing? Do you really think you can use a spell on me? That your pathetic magic can oppose mine?”
!” Amy yelled the last two words. She knew Latin, yes, just like Xander did by this point; but to both of them – and Willow and Giles, for that matter - the English translation was nonsense, random words strung together. Still, whatever it did – whatever that man had wanted – Amy decided that she wasn't helpless. Never helpless. And Catherine wasn't going to hurt Faith more. Not going to hurt any of them – the people who had tried to help her. Never going to hurt anyone again! Anyone!
The last two words of the spell punched into Catherine – the magic barreling into her like a bullet, sending her reeling backwards – but that was just the beginning. The magic flowed up her body, like electricity up copper wire, flowing from Amy, the surroundings, her own crackling eyes, fingers, hands, into her from all parts of her just one place – her chest.
The ensuing blast was almost deafening, the magic overloading and exploding outwards – Catherine's chest exploding outwards too, gore and blood splattering everywhere, almost like a machine with no surge protector in an electrical storm. Catherine's dead body then collapsed, lifeless, to the floor of the library.
Amy watched in disbelief as the spell hit home – the explosion...the empty cavity...the lifeless...
It suddenly dawned on the Madison girl that she had just killed her own mother.
And it suddenly dawned on Xander that the Iron Coin had shown him nothing of any of this when he'd used it earlier and said Amy's name. Which meant it wasn't Fate's idea that all this had happened...
Freed from her magical paralysis, Amy fell to her knees, hands held out at her sides. “Mom...Mom? Mommy?”