Red, White, And...
AN: Yes, I'm alive. My computer is dead (and in the process of being
resurrected) so updates will not be their usual swift selves. Also, I
might slack a bit on review replies. But I'm here and writing, and
grateful for any and all feedback. Thank you for your patience and I
hope you all have a lovely day!
*********** Trick or Treat: Chapter Twenty-Three *********
Samantha Finn frowned as she walked into her bedroom and found her
husband throwing combat gear on with grim, desperate determination.
He looked up as she entered, and Sam's voice momentarily caught in
"What's happened?" she demanded breathlessly. Who else had died that
they cared for? What member of their team hadn't been fast enough, or
lucky enough, to walk away from a mission?
"The girls, Xander's girls… Dawn. There's been some sort of attack- I
have to go. Go now. It's my fault. I fucking told her to trust that
bastard! If anything happens to them I'll kill Jack O'Neill myself…"
Sam's world centered and narrowed into a darkening tunnel. She wet her
lips before asking softly, "What sort of attack? Why is Colonel O'Neill
Riley shouldered his jacket on, irritated by the seemingly irreverent
question as he dug his cell phone out of one pocket. "Who else would
know enough to authorize a government attack on the Booty House? There
were guns Sam. Guns! Guns being used on children. I should have told
Willow and Buffy myself. FUCK government security."
Her husband looked up at her gasp. Looked up and flipped the cell phone
closed mid-dial as he saw her glassy, vacant stare. His hurried, gruff
demeanor turned deadly in seconds as he took five long strides to her
side and gripped her shoulders with black-gloved hands as he demanded,
"What did you DO?"
Sam shuddered in his grasp as she stared sightlessly over his left
leather clad shoulder. It took two tries before she managed to reply
haltingly. "I… I reported the Initiative leak to the NID."
It didn't take much longer to see the light in her husband's eyes flicker
and die with her confession. To see the mask he showed the demons he
fought slide over those well loved features. Hundreds of words, insults,
accusations, passed silently between them as the clock on the wall chimed
The clock's rings were still fading when Riley Finn stepped back and
released her. The physical space between them was nothing compared to
the emotional distance that now separated them. Sam marshaled her bravery
as she tentatively met her soul mate's hardened stare. "I… I thought it
was the right thing to do."
Riley's cold eyes flared briefly with an immutable rage before he quietly
replied. "It wasn't. I'll be taking Haley. If I have to help Xander
Harris bury any of his girls, I'll be coming after you as well."
She held her sobs in as he walked down the hallway, calling firmly for
their daughter. Sam could hear Haley's bright, acquiescing laughter,
and Riley's voice on the phone talking urgently with Graham. Tears ran
down her cheeks and she slid down the wall to a huddled mass on the
Looks like it was finally her turn to be the one who wasn't quick enough,
or lucky enough, to walk away.
"You sure you're up for this?"
Dawn smiled grimly at the younger girl. "Up for what? Ending the world…"
Lindsay looked away, unnerved by the dark humor.
"Don't worry," Dawn said softly, "if there's an Apocalypse I'm pretty sure
Buffy and Willow will make sure we at least live through it."
Lindsay smiled tremulously at the last as she wiped tears away from the
corners of her bloodshot eyes. Dawn sighed and glanced around her hospital
room. Her very crowded hospital room. Thank god for Santa Ruiz. Hot
clueless doctors, and nurses who were very accommodating to the nice girls
who saved the world and got the crap kicked out of them in the process
several times a month. As long as their actions didn't put a patient's
recovery in jeopardy, Xander and Faith's girls were pretty much allowed
the run of the hospital. That kind of blind faith was handy in times
Of course, Dawn could really use a dose of some high quality blue jello.
Made the whole super pissed Wiccan much more palatable.
All of the girls who had been in the house, many of them sporting
bandages and casts of their own, lay huddled in groups all over the room,
with most of them curled up on the floor while a few shared chairs that
had been dragged in from the hallway. Andrew sat, white lipped with worry,
next to Dillan, but the Super Geek wasn't babbling in incoherent fear.
It didn't slip Dawn's notice that the younger girls pressed closer to
the Watcher-in-Training, their backs turned to him in an implicit show
Maybe Andrew wouldn't turn out to be such a mistake after all.
She could only hope that Faith kept a rein in on her temper. The brunette
Slayer had the Big House out in full force, with some of her girls
searching out the Booty House Slayers still on patrol, while the rest of
them made sure that Big Bads to Be in Cleveland knew that just because
shit was going down DIDN'T mean that they had free reign to play with the
An attempted Apocalypse would only serve to piss off Buffy and Willow more.
They wouldn't like their ‘show’ to be topped because once they knew
everything that had happened, heads were going to roll. Probably literally.
Dawn gingerly brushed the bandage that wrapped around her own head, the
reminder of the concussion she had suffered with the attack, and felt a
flare of anger. Maybe heads rolling wouldn't be quite such a bad idea.
Especially if Ashley…
Her full mouth tightened with emotional pain, tears she couldn't show to
the frightened girls she was in charge of, as she accepted the telephone
Lindsay handed to her. Broken and splintered fingers fumbled for a moment
before she managed to dial the number to the White Fortress.
It rang three times before a droll, masculine voice picked up. "Hello,
White Fortress School for the Magical Arts, how may I direct your call?"
Dawn searched through her memory for the name to match the voice. She
didn't mix and mingle nearly as much with Willow's students. Witches
and wizards liked the whole aloof demeanor. Plus, magical or not, most
of them were pretty clueless about what their teacher and patron's
friends were up to at night.
Not even the majority of the magically gifted had the stomach to accept
Vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. The likelihood of an
early, messy death wasn’t exactly a draw to the Slayer way of life.
Made selling any concerned parents a bitch.
The hazy memory of a tall, tanned young man with brilliant blue eyes
provided her with a name. “Hey Leland, can you put Willow on, it’s
“Ahh, Dawn,” the fledgling wizard purred, “the reverend Slayer’s sister
with beauty to surpass…”
Dawn sighed. Drama queens, the lot of them. There SO wasn’t time for
this. “Willow. NOW Leland.”
The flirtaous tone faded as quickly as it had come at the brittle note
of her command, leaving a much more sober young man behind. Dawn gave
him credit for that much. “One moment, please.”
She heard distant shufflings in the background, familiar noise that came
from having a large number of people gathered under one household. The
dorms of college seemed quiet by comparison. The house that Buffy had
was never full of anything more than echoes. Though some part of Dawn
recognized that her sister, for all her bravery and strength, didn’t
have it in her to make a more permanent home. Not on earth.
Not when Heaven waited for her still.
“Dawn? Dawnie, what’s going on?” Willow’s warm but vaguely worried
voice spilled over the line.
Here goes nothing…
“I’m in Cleveland.”
There was a heart beat of startled, puzzled silence from the witch on the
other end of the line before she hesitantly asked, “When did you get in
town, I don't understand…"
Dawn ground her teeth in frustration as tears streaked her cheeks despite
her best efforts. Lindsay sat, lips compressed into a tight white line,
on the edge of Dawn’s hospital bed. Time to be blunt. Ashley didn’t have
time to play nice.
"Xander was taken almost two weeks ago by a secret government organization.
We were in the wrong place at the wrong time and Xander got caught up in
something. They had no idea who he, or we, were. He agreed to stay for
three weeks so that he wouldn't raise any suspicions and we've been
receiving regular phone calls from him reassuring us of his condition.
The head guy, Colonel O'Neill has had several chats with Riley and Riley
vouches for him. That's all fine and dandy but Ashley got hurt and if
something… if something happens to her in surgery and Xand wasn't here,
There was dead silence that last much longer from the other line as the
witch processed Dawn’s torrent before Willow took a deep, shuddering
breath. "Why wasn't I told?"
Tara's grave flashed before Dawn's eyes as the memory of her broken arm
seared through her mind. You think five years would be long enough to
forget some things. To forgive. But how could Dawn forgive the witch
when Willow hadn't even begun to forgive herself?
Hell, Dawn wasn’t planning on mentioning that the military were probably
the ones responsible for the attack unless she had too. At least until
Xander walked through the door to the hospital room. Willow was going
to be pissed enough and Dawn needed the witch level headed enough to NOT
end the world. At least not without rescuing Xander first.
"Because," Dawm replied softly, voice steady, "because Xander asked us
Another shuddering breath echoed across the line.
"I'll bring him home."
Tara's memory smiled sadly at Dawn as the ex-Key to the Universe
Willow Rosenberg was the most powerful witch in the world. And one of
the two people she cared most about in the world was in danger. Was being
held by the very people who had put Buffy through so much pain. Who had
been responsible for so much hurt and death and needless destruction.
Their world was very capable of dooming itself.
The earth didn’t need the military tipping the scales in favor of the dark
Leland Mariole, who had been hovering at her elbow, backed away steadily
at the determined expression that settled over her features like a cloak
as she began to gather her power. His blue eyes widened when Willow threw
back her head and laughed as her blood red hair bled from auburn to a
perfect, snowy white, temporarily giddy from the rush.
Magic filled her physical vessel, made her skin crackle and glow with power
as her eyes flashed with tightly controlled power. Willow had put the last
four years to good use. The black arts would always exist in the world but
she had no need for them. Willow had learned what she needed to in order
to tap, not just into her self, but into the world. Earth’s entire arsenal
of white magic was hers for the taking.
And she took. Took and took until her toes curled and her ivory hair
floated behind her like a veil of bridal white. Her voice, when she spoke,
was hollow, burned with a power that nothing less than absolute will and
unbendable steel had any hope of touching, let alone manipulating.
“I have to fetch Xander now…”
Leland’s Adam Apple convulsed as he swallowed. It didn’t matter that he had
been learning magic from Willow for three years and, more than almost any
other student, knew what she was capable of. Magic on the scale that Willow
could and DID perform it was frightening, terrifying. There were no more
than a handful of mortals in humanity’s history that had ever been able to
shift the earth’s magic to suit their will. And none of them had ever found
a way back from the black arts like Willow Rosenberg had.
“Is he missing?” the wizard asked, and wasn’t at all mortified to hear his
voice shaking. Some things you were SUPPOSED to be afraid of.
Willow smiled dreamily as she closed shining eyes and drifted several feet
off the floor. He flinched as a wave of magic washed over him. “Not for
long. I’ll be home by breakfast…”
One pale hand reached up and RIPPED a hole into thin air. The most powerful
witch in the world floated through, hair trailing behind her. Leland held
his breath as the hole knit itself together before fading seamlessly back
into the fabric of reality.
“Well shit,” he murmured and ran a trembling hand through dark hair.
Xander’s head shot up as a wave of familiar power rolled through him and caught
him. Caught and clung and probably started flashing like a happy magical
beacon to his very best of friends. Looks like whatever the hell had happened
to HIS girls was serious enough to bring in the big guns.
That was both good, and bad. Good because from SG-1’s slow blinks they were
starting to come out of the little freeze Bruce had put over on them and if
Xander didn’t find out what was going on back home there was going to be some
serious threatening going on. Bad because if Dawn had involved Willow, it was
something the Booty House and Big House couldn’t handle by themselves.
There was very little more than two dozen Slayers couldn’t handle.
Xander swallowed his rage, and worry, and desperate, blinding fear as he waited.
Moments later the voice he knew was coming spoke like a caress into his mind.
“Wills,” he breathed, not at all caring that SG-1 could hear him and would
probably think he was out of his gourd.
‘You’re safe? In one piece? An undamaged Xander-shaped friend?’
“Totally undamaged. Fully Snoopy Dance capable.”
‘Good,’ whispered the dreamy voice in his head. Oh boy. He recognized that
voice. It was the one Wills got when she worked some major mojo. The one she
got when she over-extended herself. More good news and bad news.
Good news, she was floating, probably literally, from a dose of white earth magic.
That meant she probably wouldn’t level the Mountain. At least not right now.
Bad news, when she came down off the buzz, she was going to be a very grumpy
exhausted witch who was perfectly capable of holding a grudge and leveling the
Last time he had seen her truly overdosed on magic had been two Apocalypses ago…
Xander shied away from the memory. He had lost two good girls to that fight.
Oh Britney and Paige- that failure still kept him up some nights.
“Wills, there’s other people here with me.”
He could hear her pondering absently despite the distance he knew she was
traveling. ‘Good people?’
Xander looked around the room he was in. At Jack O’Neill and Major Carter
and Dr. Jackson and Teal’c, his very first alien encounter. Considered his
temporary stay at Stargate Command, and all that they could have done to him.
All the tests they DIDN’T do, because military or not, the SGC wasn’t into
slice and dice.
“Yeah,” he finally replied, “good people.”
Willow tsked in his mind. ‘Good people won’t stand in my way.’
Ohhhhkay. Maybe leveling the mountain was an option if the SGC didn’t play
their cards right.
Okay, Jack O’Neill had been screwed with mentally over the years to recognize
when someone had been messing with his brain. Well, he usually noticed. And
this time he definitely noticed. “What the hell just happened?” he demanded
loudly as he struggled sluggishly to stand. And why the hell hadn’t security
caught it? Unless the whole base was compromised…
Carter just blinked at him, and Daniel wasn’t much better off. Teal’c still
seemed to be in some sort of unresponsive trance, but Xander, Xander Harris
was pacing, long strides eating up the briefing room. The shaggy head
snapped up at Jack’s question and the older man felt himself pinned by the
sharp one eyed stare.
Jack swallowed. Oh well, that explained it then. Much simpler than Carter’s
usual explanation for pretty much the same thing. “Did you do the, uhh, magic?”
Xander snorted. “No, but,” he broke off stares to glance down at his watch,
“there’s gonna be a whole shitload of magic going down in about two minutes.
Unless you want people hurt, I’d tell the base to stand down.”
Whoa, what? “Huh?” Ahh, Jack O’Neill, speaker extraordinaire.
A bitter smile twisted the younger man’s lips. “I’m needed back home and a
friend is coming to fetch me.”
Oh fetch sounded bad.
“She gets possessive of me. If you guys try to stop her, she’ll bowl you
“Spare?” Jack asked weakly.
Of course. Nuclear strike. Jack was never going out trick or treating
again, screw a few loose Goa’uld here and there. Xander Harris was a hell
of a lot more complicated. “I can’t just tell the base to stand down, Xander,
ESPECIALLY if a threat tries to enter…”
Xander shook his head. “Jack, NOTHING you do will stop Willow.”
Willow. Willow Rosenberg. Of COURSE. His life sucked.
Jack sucked in a deep breath and met Xander’s stare again as he listened
to his gut. And his gut told him that Xander Harris was telling the truth,
at least about this. Or as much truth as the kid himself knew. His gut had
saved the world a few times. “You promise if I tell my men to stand down
they won’t come to any harm?”
Xander didn’t even blink as he nodded once, sharply, in that one moment as
one warrior to another. “I promise.”
Jack sighed. Well shit.