"I suggest we run." said Caelus in a low voice.
"Seconded." Spike said quickly.
Daniel, however, didn't move. He was tired of this: tired of watching Willow suffer, tired of not being able to do anything, tired of hoping she would be alright. She wasn't. She was standing in front of him, and she wanted to kill him.
If Willow had lost it, then Daniel doubted that anyone would get far, even if they ran. Which meant that he, Jack, Sam, Dawn and Jolinar were all going to die, and their deaths would trigger the end of the universe.
So, it was Daniel's last moments before the apocalypse. He wasn't going to spend them running.
After Spike had blown up Adam, he and Willow had talked a little about their relationship. They'd both agreed that their kiss had meant something, and then not done anything about it. Daniel didn't know it, but Jack had a pool going about when exactly he and Willow would start dating.
Still, Daniel wasn't going to die without kissing her again. Even if she killed him for it, which seemed a pretty likely possibility.
So he did.
Willow, who had begun raising her hands to blast everything in front of her into oblivion, froze. The all-consuming desire to cause as much destruction as she could was supplanted by the sensation of Daniel's lips on hers.
Deep inside her, some remnant of the old Willow, the one without the mood swings and instability, burst into life. She didn't want to kill her friends.
On the other hand, she could no more restrain the darkness welling up inside her than Canute could stop the tides.
The darkness obviously had to go somewhere. It just as obviously couldn't go anywhere, not if Willow didn't want to kill anyone.
So, instead of releasing it, Willow turned it inwards, turned it on her herself.
She could feel it scouring through her veins, burning hotter than the sun. Still, Willow struggling onwards, forcing deeper.
Then she found it. The gene that was causing all these problems. The gene that would either kill her or her friends. The gene that had mutated, ever so slightly, so that Caelus hadn't been able to eradicate it.
But she could. Willow could destroy anything. So she did.
She collapsed bonelessly, panting, against Daniel's chest. Daniel, surprised that he was still alive, cradled the back of her head and held her to him. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he wasn't going to let go.
He didn't even move when Spike cleared his throat diffidently behind him and asked "Uh, what just happened?"
"Daniel gave Willow a great big kiss and fixed everything. You know, like a fairy tale." Dawn said excitedly.
Spike looked at her for a long moment before saying "You know, I forgot that you're about twelve."
"Hey! I'm fourteen!" Dawn corrected indignantly.
"It doesn't matter." Caelus interjected. "The darkness has gone from her. She is cured. Which means that all that's left is to reverse the effect of the Ferula."
"Ah." said Jolinar softly, looking down at her feet.
"I guess we'd better head to Giles' so he can do his ritual, then." Sam said, looking at her doppelgänger uncomfortably.
It was dark by the time the group left the lab (it had taken Caelus a while to make sure that none of his work was salvageable). While normally wandering around Sunnydale at night was tantamount to suicide, they were a fairly large group with several trained fighters. It was unlikely that vampires or demons would be able to cause them much trouble.
Giant insects from another dimension were a different matter, however. Especially when it burst from right underneath the group's feet and knocked most of them flying. Only Dawn and Caelus, who were walking more slowly in order to accommodate the Goa’uld slower pace, were spared.
Dawn's instinctive reaction when faced with a giant insect was too run away from it as fast as she possibly could. She could hear her friends getting back on their feet behind her, but she just wanted to leave the insect far behind her. She hated bugs.
Running away would, under normal circumstances, have been a good idea. Unfortunately, this particular insect had been driven a little crazy from its time in this dimension, and correctly assumed that it was Dawn's fault that it was stuck here.
So it ran after her. And as fast as Dawn was, the giant insect was faster. She could hear its feet clattering in the pavement as it caught up to her.
Just as she was certain that the bug was going to crash into her, Dawn suddenly felt herself being pushed hard in the side. She went sprawling sideways, and managed to catch a glimpse of Caelus standing where she'd been standing just a moment before.
That is, before the insect crashed into him and knocked him flying.
Dawn lay where she'd fallen for several long seconds, before the insect burrowed underground and vanished. Then she groggily got to her feet and limped over to Caelus as fast as she could.
He wasn't moving. His eyes were closed. If he was breathing, she couldn't tell. Dawn didn't know what to do. She could bandage wounds (she lived with a Slayer, so she needed at least rudimentary first aid skills) but what could she do to help an alien? She didn't even know if he had a pulse, or where to find it.
She was saved from doing something stupid by Caelus opening his eyes. It took a few seconds, but eventually he managed to focus on her.
The only thing Dawn could think to say was "Are you okay?" which just sounded incredibly banal.
Fortunately for her, the mundanity of her question was put out of her mind by Caelus' answer. Unfortunately, the answer was "Actually, no. I'm dying." The wheezing voice he spoke in and the pain evident in every word did nothing to reassure her.
"What? No! You're - you can't die!" Dawn said frantically.
Caelus tried to force himself up, and failed. "Actually... I can. The impact... crushed my Goa'uld. Toxin. Dying. Where's my scythe?"
"I'll get it." Dawn said, standing up. She just knew that, if she got his scythe, Caelus would be fine.
He had to be, right?
However, when Dawn headed over to her friends, she realised that they hadn't caught up with her. They were just standing down at the other end of the street, not moving. At all. And the insect, which just moments before had been intent on crushing her underfoot, hadn't re-emerged.
Dawn turned back to Caelus to ask him what was going on, but her train of thought was derailed when she saw that she was already standing next to him.
Except it wasn't her. The person by Caelus looked exactly like Dawn would look if she was about twenty years older.
"Arcturus... I presume? Excuse me if I don't get up." Caelus wheezed.
, Ori." Arcturus said in greeting. The Ancient raised a hand, and Caelus was suddenly bathed in red light. After a moment, it winked out. When it did, Caelus got to his feet with no difficulty.
"Hello, daughter." Arcturus said to Dawn.
"Uh... hello." Dawn answered shyly. What could you possibly say to the person who had created you, over ten thousand years ago?
"You froze them in time." Caelus said, gesturing to the Scoobies. "That's my trick."
Caelus' scythe appeared in Arcturus' hand in a flash of red light. "It's not just yours, Ori." Arcturus said coldly.
Caelus didn't say anything, merely extended a hand for the scythe. After a moment, Arcturus handed it to him.
"I'm sorry about all of this, daughter. This incident with the Ferula Gemina was outside my control. Believe me, I didn't want to put you in danger." Arcturus said softly.
"Yeah, well, not enough to come descend and actually do anything." Dawn said, before she could stop herself. Then again, she'd only recently found out that she wasn't human. She had a good excuse to be a little snotty.
"It was not my idea to send Ori here. If it was up to me, I would never have involved him in the first place." Arcturus said.
Caelus rolled his eyes. "If you want to dredge up history that was done long before you were born, go ahead. I do not care one whit for your opinion."
"It doesn't matter what I think, Ori." Arcturus snapped. "But the Alterrans decided that this would be a test for you, to see if you had truly given up your old ways."
Caelus eyes flared, but otherwise he gave no response.
"They seem to think that you have. So I am here to help you ascend."
"I do not need your help. In any case, I must first deal with the Ferula. It is Ancient technology, after all."
Arcturus nodded, once. "Very well." she raised a hand, but Dawn interrupted before the Ancient could do anything.
"Wait! What about my friends? And the bug thing?"
"Your friends will not remember anything untoward happening after leaving the laboratory. And the insect has already been returned to its home."
"And, uh, if you're sticking around until after Giles reverses the Ferula, would you mind being invisible?"
"Dawn hasn't told anyone what she is, yet." Caelus explained.
"As you wish." Arcturus said, although it was clear that she didn't like the idea.
Arcturus transported Dawn, Caelus and the rest of the Scoobies and SG-1 to Giles' house in a burst of red light.
Caelus stayed while Giles reversed the Ferula Gemina's effects. He stayed and watched Buffy comfort Martouf. He stayed and watched Jacob take Spike and Sam aside and tell them that he was happy as long as she was. He watched Daniel and Willow sit together companionably, without talking. He stayed and smoked a cigarette, much to everyone but Spike's disapproval.
Eventually, he took the Ferula in his hands, and pressed his fingers against it in some pattern. He blurred for a moment, and then the Ferula vanished. A moment later, so did he.
Dawn heard his voice in her ear as he ascended.