Willow paced nervously, this had to work; she didn't come this far only to watch Anya die again. She was still concerned that there had been too many changes in the vengeance demon when she arrived in this dimension for her to be able to take her back home. Anya was killing, violently, not that Anya had never killed the men she was cursing before, most eventually died, but these were all very straightforward mutilations and murders. Anya was usually more...creative. They had put off summoning her because of police business that Anita had to take care of last night, so she and Asher were now waiting in the backroom of Guilty Pleasures for her to call and tell them that Anya had made contact.
"You should relax, Ma Cherie," Asher said softly from the corner, "Anita can take care of herself."
"I'm sure she can," Willow sighed, "I'm more concerned about...Asher, if she can summon up enough rage toward someone else in a moments notice, I'm worried she might say something she shouldn't."
"You warned her of the danger."
"I did, but vengeance demons don't care about intent," Willow explained, still pacing, "They... All it takes is one word, if she uses the word 'wish' Anya will grant it and she can be...as creative as she wants in how she does that."
"I don't understand," Asher responded.
"Buffy's sister once 'wished' we would all spend more time with her," Willow explained, "She didn't even know she was talking to a demon, she thought she was the school counselor, that night we were all trapped inside Buffy's house, no one could leave. A demon was loose in the walls and there wasn't a damn thing we could do."
"Ah, I can see your concern, but I'm sure it will be fine."
"Do you know who Anita is directing this anger at?" Willow asked.
"I have a few ideas, but I don't know for certain?"
"Maybe we should warn them," Willow suggested, "I really don't want anyone accidentally hurt."
"Don't worry, the likely targets of Anita's anger are more than capable of defending themselves," Asher assured her, "You need to take your mind off of this, Anita will contact Jean-Claude as soon as your friend contacts her."
"Okay," Willow smiled, "Why do you keep the right side of your face hidden? I've seen vampires and demons that definitely should but you are so not one of them."
"You don't see the part of me that would horrify you," Asher said, turning away from her as she moved to sit next to him on the couch, "My hair and clothing hide it."
"That’s silly," Willow argued, "You're gorgeous, I've seen the portraits, Jean-Claude has."
"Those are very old, things change."
"Yeah, but vampires don't age," Willow pointed out, "Now, a picture of me in of couple centuries won't be a pretty sight."
Asher let a small smile escape his lips, "You don't understand. My appearance is a terrible thing; I do not think I could bear to see disgust at the sight of me on your face."
Willow sighed. She couldn't imagine being disgusted by looking at this man. In fact, Asher was the first man she had been attracted to since Oz. "Okay, I don't understand, so explain it to me. Tell me why seeing your entire face would send me running."
"Vampires didn't always have the rights we do now," Asher began, turning to face her again, but carefully keeping his right side in the shadow of his hair. "We still don't in most countries. A couple of centuries ago I was taken by the church. They believed they could expel the 'demon' that made me a vampire with holy items."
Willow's eyes widened, she knew that holy items at home could burn a vampire if they touched it, but she also knew that the effect was much worse here. Jason had made her remove and hide her cross before they went into the circus because it could actually burst into flames just by being near a vampire. She doubted the church had simply put the vampire near a cross.
"They bound me and used holy water to chase the evil out," Asher finished.
"Used holy water how?" Willow asked, not entirely sure she wanted to know the answer.
"They dropped it on me, covered half of my body with it," Asher explained, bitterness evident in his voice, "Do you still wish to see my face?"
Willow took a deep breath, she couldn't back off now, she couldn't hide from seeing this. She had pushed him into this confession despite his being so sure she wouldn't accept him in his less than perfect condition, "Yes."
Before Asher could respond she reached over and brushed his hair away from his face. Her eyes filled with tears as she took in the scars covering the hidden side of his face and neck. She could see the small rivulets burned into his skin where the water had run down his face. She reached out to trace a scar just below his eyes but dropped her hand away when he flinched.
"You're right Asher, I am horrified," she said quietly.
"I will send Jason to sit with you," he said standing up so quickly she hadn't seen him move.
"No," Willow protested, grabbing his arm before he could leave, "I'm not horrified for the reasons you believe. I'm horrified that you think so little of me. That you believed I would let a few scars chase me away from you. You are one of the kindest people, or well, vampires I know. I mean, okay, you may give Angel some competition in the brooding department but I like you."
"You don't find my appearance...displeasing?"
"What I find displeasing is that you are considered a monster," Willow said quietly, "And the people that did this to you aren't because they did it in the name of God."
"Most people don't see it that way," Asher said, sitting beside her again.
"Most people are idiots," Willow grinned, "Anyone that can't see that you are absolutely perfect isn’t really worth the effort. Hell, you've got me rethinking the gay thing."
"That's very kind," Asher said quietly, "But you don't have..."
His statement was cut short by Jean-Claude entering the room, "Sorry to interrupt, but ma petite says your friend is in her office right now."
"Okay," Willow said, "Tell her to try to keep her there. How long will it take to get to her office?"
"Jason is waiting to drive you," Jean-Claude said, "She doesn't work far from here; it shouldn't take long."
"Are you coming?" Willow asked Asher as Jean-Claude left them alone to return to whatever it was he was doing in the club.
"Will we be back before dawn?"
"I'm sure we can," Willow responded, "If not, Jason can always leave me and bring you home."
"Then I will join you."
“Is that her?” Jason asked, trying to look past Willow into the waiting room of Animators Inc.
“Yeah,” Willow frowned. She had hoped that this would be a false lead. If Anya was…enjoying…her work as much as the recent murders indicated convincing her to leave wouldn’t be as simple as Willow would’ve liked.
“Well then,” Jason grinned and pulled the door open, “After you.” His grin widened as both Willow and Asher frowned as they passed him.
“Is she going to be much longer?” Anya asked the secretary, as Willow stepped up behind her.
“I’m really not certain, Ms. Blake said she’d be out shortly.”
“That was nearly an hour ago,” Anya snapped impatiently, “What could be taking so long?”
“Well, I don’t…”
“She was waiting for me,” Willow said. She moved to the side of the desk so Anya could see her, and to stop her from yelling at the poor man behind the desk any longer. As she moved, Jason positioned himself in front of the door, and Asher moved behind Willow.
“I don’t think…” Anya hesitated as she realized who had spoken. “Willow?”
“In the flesh,” Willow smiled slightly, still not entirely sure if Anya was happy to see her or not.
“How did you find me?” Anya asked hugging her tightly, “I never thought I’d see… Are you dead? Did the First kill everyone?”
“Umm, magic, and no to the other two.”
“So, you aren’t here because you’re dead,” Anya responded suspiciously. “Why are you here then?”
“Looking for you, actually,” Willow admitted. “You wouldn’t believe how many dimensions I’ve had to search in the last few months.”
“Me?” Anya said, “Why were you…” She was cut off by the office door opening.
“Took you long enough,” Anita snapped, “Let’s finish this in here.” She pulled the door closed after everyone had made their way into the room.
“Now, why were you looking for me?” Anya asked as soon as the door closed, “And how did you know where to look?”
Willow sighed and paced the floor for several seconds before responding. “I was looking for you because Xander misses you. It’s been more than two years and he’s still grieving. I owe it to him to try to make it better. I knew where to look, or well, really, that I could look, because D’Hoffryn told me.”
“He knew where I was all this time?” Anya asked angrily.
“Not exactly, that’s why he came to me,” Willow said and explained D’Hoffryn’s visit to her.
“So you came to make me come back?” Anya asked, “Like you did to Buffy?”
“If I intended to force you I wouldn’t be here, I would’ve just brought you back,” Willow snapped. “The same spell that I used then would’ve worked now and I wouldn’t need your exact location to do it.”
“So, then, I say no, and you go tell Xander and make him feel even worse?”
“Xander doesn’t know I’m here or what I’m doing,” Willow explained. She was still angry that the vengeance demon could think so little of her, “If you don’t come back, he’ll never know. It’s your choice.”
“I wouldn’t advise staying,” Anita cut in, “If you stay the police will connect you to the murders and I’ll be sent to kill you. If you leave, the murders stop, and it’s over.”
“That’s how I found you, Anya,” Willow sighed, “I followed the trail of dead men from California, and then when I got here, I followed your magic.”
“I didn’t kill those men,” Anya said, “I haven’t killed anyone. That’s not why I’m here.”
“Anya, they’re going to let you leave,” Willow said softly, not completely sure why the other woman was denying it, “The men all fit…”
“The profile,” Anya finished, “All recently separated and not a friendly parting. I know, but it wasn’t me.”
“You said that wasn’t why you were here,” Asher interrupted. “But you are here for a reason?”
“I am here because of the murders,” Anya admitted, “But I didn’t cause them. When I died I was sent to a heavenly dimension. Apparently saving the world a few times outweighed the years as a demon, I understand why Buffy hated being back. It was wonderful there. I was able to see other dimensions. I could watch whatever I wanted, but not any of you. That was the only rule. I couldn’t see you or interfere in anyone else’s life. Then things started to get weird and I could sense emotional pain, especially vengeance.”
“But you couldn’t do anything about it?” Jason asked.
“No, and I didn’t want to,” Anya answered, “At first it wasn’t a big deal. I would tell the right people what I felt and they would make sure the right person in that dimension took care of it. Then the murders started in this dimension. They were nearly identical to what I had done. They weren’t committed by the women, but by an outside force. Which means it was harder to track and stop them from there. So they wanted me to come here, and try to get to a victim before they became a victim.”
“Intercept the vengeance call?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, and it finally worked. Whoever is doing this stayed here longer than the other places. So I was finally able to intercept Anita’s call. Which was really you, right?” Anya asked Willow.
“Well, the call itself did come from Anita, but it was my idea.”
“So the reason Willow has been able to track you is that you were tracking this other…thing?” Asher clarified.
“So, if you didn’t commit the murders,” Anita said pacing behind her desk, “Who did? And how the hell are we going to find it?”
“This changes everything,” Willow sighed, “Anya do you or don’t you want to come home with me?” That was the one thing that hadn’t changed because of Anya’s revelation.
“I do, but I can’t just leave this demon, or whatever she is out there killing,” Anya said.
“Oh, we’ll stay until we stop it.” Willow agreed. There really wasn’t any question about that; she had not spent all those years working with Buffy and the other slayers to just walk away from a possible demon attack without at least trying to stop it.
“Well then, we need a new plan,” Jason pointed out.
“No,” Anya responded, “I don’t think we do. You’re plan was to find the murderer by putting out a call for vengeance. It could still work. If I heard it maybe she did too. We just need to see if anyone else shows up.”
Willow looked around the large living room again; being legal definitely improved on a vampire's decorating taste. Or maybe it was just Jean-Claude. Sure, the monochromatic look wasn't her style, but it was better than Spike's crypt or that creepy mansion Angel had used in Sunnydale.
They had made it back before dawn, barely. Asher had immediately disappeared into some other part of the building, leaving her with Jason. They were now biding their time waiting for Anya and Anita to call. Jason had suggested it would be easier for her to stay here than for him to have to come and get her from the hotel if the call came during the day.
“Why is it so important for Asher to be back before dawn?” Willow asked suddenly.
“Vampires…sunlight…” Jason shrugged, “Is that different in your world too?”
“Well, no,” Willow frowned at him, “Vampires can't be in sunlight, I know that, but as long as he's shielded from direct light, no fire.”
“He didn't want you to see him die, Willow.”
“He is dead,” she pointed out. “Big part of the vampire thing.”
“Vampires here truly die during the day,” Jason explained, turning on the couch to face her. “Not walking undead, but real death.”
“Asher didn't want you to see that. He had already risked a lot by showing you his scars. The dead thing can freak some people out even more than the scarring.”
“Has he ever tried to fix it?” Willow asked, “The scarring, I mean. Or is he just happy to brood about it?”
“Well, he does seem to enjoy brooding,” Jason grinned. “But yes, he has tried. Anita found a plastic surgeon a couple years ago, but the scarring was too deep.”
“What about magically?” She asked. “There are spells that could…”
“A coven tried once, back when it first happened.”
“But that was what? Two, three hundred years ago?”
“Magic hasn't changed has it?” Jason asked. “Why are you asking, anyway?”
“There are so many reasons it may not have worked then,” Willow explained, pacing the room as she thought out loud. “The coven may not have been strong enough, or too afraid, he is a vampire, after all. The scars could've been too fresh and…”
“Okay, so you're saying he should've tried more than once?” Jason held up a hand to stop her babbling before it got too far.
“Well yeah, and with a different witch,” she stopped pacing and faced him again, “Do you think he'd try again?”
“Depends who's asking.”
“Why?” Willow asked, frowning. “As long as it works what difference does it make who asks?”
“Asher is very…proud,” Jason pointed out. “If he thinks the person asking is doing to because they pity him, he'll get…”
“Sulky?” Willow asked, smiling slightly at Jason's nod. “What if I ask him?”
“He'd probably agree for you.”
“So you really think he'd let me try while I'm here?” Willow asked, her smile getting wider at the prospect of helping the vampire. “Because I have to go home to talk to Giles, and find out some things about vengeance demons, and…”
“While you're here?” Jason repeated, frowning. “Willow, are you leaving when this is over?”
“Well, yeah,” Willow frowned at the _expression on Jason's face, “I mean, I have to. I have responsibilities and my friends and…Why wouldn't I be going home?”
“Asher,” Jason replied, “Willow, he likes you, a lot. He's been more open with you than I've ever seen him with anyone else, other than Jean-Claude.”
“He's only known me for a few days,” she said, flopping back onto the couch next to him. “He can't be that attached to me, can he?”
“He's shown you his face. He doesn't do that. Not unless he's trying to frighten or shock someone.”
“He must have…”
“No, most of the people that live down here have never seen his entire face.”
“Anita has seen it.” Willow argued.
“Yeah, but…” Jason frowned trying to find a way to explain it, “Anita accepts him because Anita likes to take care of people. Don't tell her I said that though. But she isn't his; she doesn't love him, not really. She will always belong to Jean-Claude, or Richard. Or Nathaniel, or even Micah, but not Asher.”
“I can understand that,” Willow sighed, “The wanting someone to love you, but he knows I'm gay, right?”
“Are you sure?” Jason asked, “That you're gay?”
“Well, yeah, I did tell you about Tara and Kennedy.”
“You did,” Jason agreed, “But you also told me about the werewolf, Oz, right? Oh, and Xander.”
“They were a long time ago.”
“And I'm not saying what you felt for Tara wasn't real,” Jason said, “But are you saying what you felt for Oz wasn't?”
“I loved Oz,” Willow said immediately.
“So, maybe it's not about gender for you?”
“Okay, maybe you're right, but what about Kennedy? I have a girlfriend to go home to.”
“Do you love Kennedy?”
“What?” She hesitated a moment, and then said, “Of course, I do.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, “You've been here for days. You've mentioned missing your home, Buffy, Dawn, Xander, and Giles. You even mentioned someone named Andrew once, but never that you missed Kennedy.”
Willow sat quietly for several moments thinking about what he had said. Had she really not mentioned her girlfriend as a reason to want to get home quickly? She hadn't spoken to Kennedy directly since she got here. She had sent a magical signal to let her know that she was okay, but no, she hadn't had the desire to go home to her. “Even if that's true, I can't just not go home. I have to deal with it, with her. She does deserve better than a message through Anya. Maybe Asher could come back with me?”
“To a world where he would be hunted?”
“Okay, not going to work," Willow frowned, “I have to go back for a while today, but I'll talk to Asher and we'll come up with something, okay. There has to be a solution to this.”
“Willow, what’s taking so long?” Kennedy asked the moment Willow appeared in the small kitchen. “Has something gone wrong? Why haven’t you been coming home?”
Willow sighed. She had hoped the younger girl would not be home when she got here. “I don’t have a lot of time right now, Kennedy. I have to get back.”
“Why? You’ve been gone nearly a week. It wasn’t taking this long in the other ones.”
“I’ve found her,” Willow responded. Obviously she wasn’t getting away from the other girl without an explanation. “She wants to come back but there’s just something we have to do first. When I come back, later, with Anya, I’ll explain it all to you. Right now I have to talk to Giles and get back.”
Kennedy followed Willow up the stairs, still asking questions. Willow ignored her because she wasn’t ready to answer any of them yet. She had to hurry. She found the spell she needed the one that would call her back from the other dimension if they ran into trouble and recited the memorized astral projection spell that would take her to Giles. A few seconds later she appeared in the large living area of the new Watcher’s Council, startling Rona.
“Damn it, Willow,” Rona said, relaxing when she realized who it was, “You really have to stop doing that.”
“Sorry,” Willow’s smile saying she really wasn’t all that sorry. “I need Giles.”
“Thanks,” Willow said already heading down the stairs to the rooms in the basement.
She followed the sound of Giles trying to explain some sort of martial art technique to a new slayer, who obviously wasn’t getting it right. She stood in the open doorway and waited for the girl to try the move one more time before interrupting. “Got a minute, Giles?”
“I think we’re due for a break,” Giles admitted, to the young slayer’s obvious relief. “We can work on this later.”
“I have a…” Willow hesitated; no one but Kennedy knew what she had been doing for months. She wasn’t entirely sure Giles would approve. “You know what, this is a long story can we do this upstairs?”
Giles followed her into the kitchen without asking any questions. Willow frowned when she saw Andrew already there. She hadn’t wanted to discuss this with him yet. The more people that knew what was happening, the bigger the chance of Xander finding out, and she didn’t want him to know until she had Anya safely back in this dimension. “Hi Willow.”
“Hey,” Willow responded, “I need both of you to promise me you won’t repeat any of what I’m telling you until it’s over, okay? Especially to Xander.”
“Willow what’s..?” Giles started to ask.
“You won’t say anything?” Willow repeated looking at Andrew. She knew she could trust Giles to keep it to himself until it was time. When Andrew nodded his agreement she told them what she had been doing, starting with D’Hoffryn’s visit, and ending with finding both Anya and another vengeance demon in St. Louis.
Both men stared at her silently for several minutes. Giles finally broke the silence with barely controlled anger, “Willow, that was foolish and dangerous. To take off into unknown dimensions. On the word of a demon? What were you thinking?”
“Kennedy knew where I was. She would’ve called you if I didn’t check in regularily.”
“By the time she’d know something was wrong it could’ve been too late.”
“But nothing happened,” Willow pointed out, “I’m fine. I found Anya. Right now I need to know how to stop this demon.
“I can give you what I have on vengeance demons,” Giles agreed, “Although, I’m not sure it will help you. Their power may be different there.”
“I know,” Willow admitted, “I have to try though. I can’t just bring Anya back and let this demon continue to kill.”
“Take help,” Andrew suggested.
“I can’t,” Willow responded, “Buffy and Faith are busy and Kennedy is too…risky.”
“Risky how?” Andrew asked. “She’s a slayer and she’s good at what she does.”
“That’s why. This world is different,” Willow explained, “Vampires, werewolves, witches, they’re all accepted parts of society there. Vampires are legal citizens and lycanthropy is just another disease. Kennedy has a tendency to stake first ask questions later.”
“Then take Dawn,” Giles suggested, “She’s been training with Buffy and she’s been learning some magic.”
“If something goes wrong and you need to bring me back, you may need Dawn,” Willow answered, “It’ll take a lot of power, power that neither of you have. You may need to tap into Dawn’s mystical key energy to do it.”
“How long will you be gone?” Andrew asked.
“I don’t know. As long as it takes for this thing to respond to the call. I’ll contact Kennedy every day. If she doesn’t hear from me for forty-eight hours she’ll call you and you can bring me back.” Willow gave Giles the copy of the spell that he would need to bring her home. “Giles, is there a spell to remove holy item-scarring from a vampire?”
“I’ve seen a few, but they’re tricky at best,” Giles answered. “And in another dimension we have no way to know how the magic will work.”
“Why do you want one?” Andrew asked.
“Asher. I don’t want to give up the hope of helping him.” She quickly explained the details of how Asher had gotten his scars.
“That’s just…” Giles shook his head. “Cruel. I understand you wanting to help him, but it’s risky. It would be safer to bring him here and perform the spell.”
“He won’t come with me.”
“Why not?” Andrew asked. “If we can fix the scars.”
“Why would he?” Willow responded, “He’s a legal citizen there, he can do what he wants, no one is hunting him. Would being hunted like an animal be worth removing some scars to you?”
“I’ll give you the spell, Willow,” Giles agreed, “But if you can get him to return with you it would be safer to do it here. He can always go back after.”
A short time later, she had the books she needed and had said her good-byes with assurances to call as soon as she returned or if she needed more help. She recited the spell again to return her to Kennedy.
“Are you going to talk to me?” Kennedy said as soon as she appeared in the bedroom again.
“Kennedy, please,” she said angrily, “I can’t do this right now. The longer I’m here the more chance people will die. We do need to talk, and we will, when I come back again.”
“Willow…” Her voice faded away as Willow once again said the words to return her to the other dimension, Where she was met with two anxious faces.
“What happened?” Willow asked immediately.
“Anita called,” Asher responded. “The demon contacted her.”
“Okay, we were expecting that,” Willow frowned, “So why the worried looks?”
“Anya said to tell you she knows who it is and it’s bad,” Jason explained.