Right, I actually went and checked to be sure this time… Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, Angel: the Series
, and all associated characters belong to Fran and Kaz Kuzui. With a myriad of writers, artists, and editors, actual rights are a nightmare when you go near a comic book universe. Suffice it to say that Marvel Entertainment LLC owns all of the property printed in their comics, along with the television and movie adaptations of said same property. Not mine, don't sue, and so forth and so on.Summary:
She just wants to live…Joe's Note:
I suppose it's only fair to give some credit to NimbustheMariner's Enter the Phoenix
challenge for inspiring this fic. It caught my eye, even if I ultimately dismissed the idea presented and went my own way with things. Mostly because… well, what he wanted? That's not how the Phoenix Force - any incarnation of the Phoenix Force - works. He was basically asking for a Red Lantern story in Marvel clothing. Nimbus, if you're reading this, I'd suggest editing and reclassifying your challenge. Someone might answer it that way. But for now… on with the show.
Leaning against her girlfriend's back, Tara Maclay reached around and slowly did up the buttons of Willow Rosenberg's white blouse. While she wasn't entirely happy at the prospect of cutting off the lovely view, they really did need to leave the bedroom, at least for a bit. Have something to eat, see how Buffy was, be there to greet Dawn when she got home from school… "Hey. Look at us. Clothes."
Tara chuckled at that before pressing a kiss to the redhead's cheek. "Better not get used to 'em."
"Hmm. Yes, ma'am." Spinning around, Willow hooked her fingers in Tara's belt loops and pulled the slightly shorter woman in for a kiss. Willow pulled back before Tara could get too into things, making the redhead laugh at the slight pout that formed on her lips and pull her in for a hug. "I think Dawn is going over Janice's tonight. I can be not used to clothes then, kay?"
Smiling shyly, Tara nodded before perking up as something caught her eye. "Xander!"
Willow blinked owlishly at that before unwrapping her arms from around Tara and taking a step back. "Okay, not quite the response I was hoping for…"
"Oh shush. I'm the last person who would want to think about Xander like… like that." Turning away, Tara gestured for Willow to follow her as she approached the window. "No, he's here." Peering down at the backyard, she watched as Buffy and Xander spoke briefly before moving over to sit on a nearby bench. "I think they're making up. Or at least I hope so." Their makeup probably wouldn't be nearly as much fun as hers and Willows had been, she thought with a smile. Although if it ended up that way… hopefully they would have the good sense to come in out of the yard first. The last thing they needed was CPS showing up because one of the neighbors had seen something like that!
Chuckling at the absurdity of her own thoughts, Tara turned away to give the pair some privacy and leaned back against the window as she watched Willow fuss with her hair. Not that Willow really had enough hair to do much with, especially since she didn't believe in product or accessories, but there was a soothing normalcy to it. A reminder of many mornings together, and hopefully something she'd see for many mornings to come. A series of rapid, sharp cracks pulled Tara from her thoughts and then she grunted as the window behind her shattered and the most indescribable, fiery pain ripped through her back. Droplets of red erupted from her chest, splattering across the sleeve of Willow's white blouse and drawing her girlfriend's attention. "…Tara?"
Tara took an unsteady step forward, reaching up to pat at her chest. Even after meeting her family, the others tended to forget where she'd come from. She knew what an exit wound looked like. She didn't know 'who' or 'why', but she was suddenly able to quantify the 'what' behind her pain: she'd been shot. Meeting Willow's blue eyes, she offered her girlfriend a shaky smile. "So much for you keeping a shirt on."
"Tara?" Willow rushed forward as Tara tipped forward, the brunette breaking her fall with one arm as she kept her other hand pressed tightly against her chest. "Tara? Baby?" A pair of knees appeared in the corner of Tara's vision as Willow joined her on the floor, and then the world spun as the redhead rolled her onto her back. "Baby, come on! Get up!"
When she attempted to take a deep breath, Tara found herself hacking wetly and coughing red-tinged phlegm onto the floor. Oh, that wasn't good. That wasn't good at all. Still, she did her best to put on a brave face, offering Willow a shaky smile as she reached up to cup the redhead's cheek. "Calm down, sweetie. It's going to be okay. You need to go downstairs and call 911, okay?"
Willow shook her head violently. "Buffy and Xander-"
"Are out back. We don't know if they heard the shot. They might not know anything's wrong." Tara pulled Willow in closer, pressing a careful kiss to the redhead's forehead. "I'll be fine… as long as you can get me help. You need to do this, Willow. I'm counting on you." The redhead hesitated for a moment longer before hopping to her feet, rushing out the door and thundering down the stairs. Quite inanely, Tara found her thoughts drifting to the new cordless phone she'd bought for the house two days ago, still sitting in its box down in the dining room. If only she hadn't procrastinated, she mused, Willow could have been on one of the two handsets this very second, talking to emergency services from her side. On the other hand, sending Willow off bought her precious time for… "I can feel you, you know. Is this where we make a contract and I become a magical girl?"
The silence stretched on, but Tara refused to believe she was mistaken. She could feel something, damn it. Finally, a spark of fire appeared out of thin air, crackling and pulsing as it grew into a raptor-like bird made of roiling flames. "…I do not understand."
Tara let out a wheezing chuckle. "Sorry, I just figured that with how much you've been spying on me, you would have seen me and Dawn watching Puella Magi
and… you know what, never mind. It was funnier in my head."
"Your end is fast approaching, and yet you spend your last moments in good humor?" The bird's body rocked from side to side as it waddled across the floor toward her, leaving a trail of footprints singed into the floor. It came to a stop beside her head, one beady black eye staring at her. "You are not like other humans…"
"Oh, it's terrifying. I'm terrified. Even knowing that there is a heaven, who says I'm going to get into it? Who says I'm good enough? Who says I'm worthy?" Tara felt her chest rapidly going numb… maybe it was the strange bird's presence or maybe she was just that far gone. Either way, words were coming easier and faster with each passing moment. "But everything that has a beginning has an end… that's another beginning. You can't stop your death any more than you can stop your own birth. It's a natural part of your life. It… just is."
Offering her what was unmistakably a nod, the bird made its way over to Tara's arm and hopped up onto it, wander up her bicep to her shoulder and out onto her chest. But even as she saw wisps of smoke curl upward, Tara only felt a comfortable warmth. Goddess. Was she that far gone already? Maybe she should have kept Willow with her. Said a proper goodbye. "For many years, I have watched over your kind, and many others. But I have only watched. I wish to experience. Experience… through you." Flaring its wings, the bird leaned forward over Tara's face, consuming her entire field of view. "Will you allow yourself to be the house in which I live?"
Tara furrowed her brow in thought. That sounded an awful lot like demonic possession, which tended to end in, well, Buffy ending someone. On the other hand? At least that scenario prolonged the whole 'ending' part that was quite rapidly approaching for her at the moment. She wasn't deluded enough to think she could be saved; she'd just wanted to save Willow the pain of witnessing the moment the light in her eyes went out. So… the devil she knew or the devil she didn't? Death or possession by… "Can I at least ask who I'm going to be sharing my body with?"
"I am fire and life incarnate, now and forever. I… am the Phoenix."
As the first ambulance pulled away from the house, Willow gestured impatiently for the second set of EMTs to follow her… and then got knocked back onto her ass as the upper floor of 1630 Revello Drive exploded. The redhead's cry of anguish died on her lips as the fire surged upward, shaping itself into a distinctly birdlike form. A distinctly birdlike form that was wrapped the body of her lover, Tara laughing joyously as she corkscrewed up into the sky. Flight, elemental conjuration and control on that large of a scale, presumably healing grievous injuries… all of those were beyond Willow's abilities, much less Tara's. And so it left her with just one question.
"Oh, baby… what have you done to yourself?"