Large PrintHandheldAudioRating
using
 paypal
Twisting The Hellmouth Crossing Over Awards - Results
Is your email address still valid?

Champions All

StoryReviewsStatisticsRelated StoriesTracking
Story

Summary: This starts at the same time as Buffy season 7. Everything is canon up to the end of season 6. I have just joined TTH and am posting this completed story which has previously been posted in full elsewhere. Now Complete.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Charmed > GeneralOsorkonFR185113,72531223,66121 Feb 067 Mar 06Yes

Part I

Champions All

This story is a BTVS/ATS/Charmed crossover. It starts at approximately the same time as season seven BTVS. Everything is canon up to the end of season six. Everything thereafter is subject to change.


The timeline in Charmed is a little vague and somewhat inconsistent with the series. Prue is gone and Paige is part of the family. Cole is gone and there are no babies or pregnancies. Piper and Leo are married and Leo is not an elder.


The story links up with ATS season four just after Angelus has escaped but Cordy is not evil and is not therefore the Beast Master. There is no Cordy pregnancy and no Cordy/Connor.


Warning for Spike fans: Spike does not appear in this story. He left Sunnydale at the end of Series 6. In this story he does not return. The story mainly centres on the many female characters of the three series.


Disclaimer: This is a fanfiction and not written for profit. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters are owned by their various authors and networks etc and not by me.


Thanks: There are a few places in the story where I have used dialogue from the Buffy and Angel shows. I have obtained the wording from Buffy World.


Chapter One - The Quest

Buffy Summers, vampire slayer, was patrolling. She hadn't seen any vampires or demons for several nights but good old Buffy, good old reliable Buffy was still patrolling. I should go away during the summer she thought. I've done it a few times and nothing much happened while I was gone.


The problem was that going on holiday took money. Slaying might keep the vampires and demons down but it didn't keep the wolf from the door. Now why would a wolf turn up when you're short of money she thought? A wolf I could handle, just ask Oz.


Things don't really start stirring until... well in fact right about now. As if on cue Buffy became aware of two figures, two male figures, walking towards her. They were both well dressed and had a Latino appearance. Unlike the usual Sunnydale "instant kill" vampires these two tried the casual approach.


"Excuse me Senorita, are you local?" asked the taller and older of the two vampires. "We're looking for somewhere to eat."


But as usual with vampires casual didn't last long. By now the two vampires, walking forward had closed the gap between them and her. "Or somebody to eat," said the younger vampire, lunging forward in vampire face, expecting the change to horrify his intended victim into immobility as it probably had many times before.


Buffy stepped aside and grabbed the vampire. She tossed him ten feet hard up against a nearby tree and immediately turned to the other vampire. Slipping the stake from her sleeve into her right hand she stabbed forward as the second vampire leapt upon her. He never landed but immediately disappeared in a puff of dust.


Buffy turned back towards vampire number one who was now back on his feet. He clearly had not seen what happened to his companion as he stood up and looked about him.


"Miguel?" called the puzzled vampire.


"Miguel's right here," said Buffy pointing to the dust scattered at her feet. "He's not hungry anymore."


The vampire uttered what Buffy assumed was a foul Spanish oath and came at her. This time, instead of sidestepping she moved forward herself. She staggered the vampire with a left hook and followed up feinting with the stake in her right hand. With the vampire's eyes on that she quickly staked him underarm with the stake slipped into her left hand from her sleeve.


"The old one-two-three, works every time," she muttered to herself, at the same time looking around her for any witnesses or any other dangers. Seeing none she continued on her way.


About an hour later Buffy approached her home. She was still fretting about the unfairness of it all. Even Willy's shuts down during the summer months she thought. She'd once asked Giles about the lack of summer activity (or should that be Summers activity). He'd hummed and harrumphed, cleaned his glasses and pondered but he had no more idea than she did.


Perhaps it's the extra sunshine or the extra daylight or something she thought. Or perhaps the vampires and demons get special discount package holidays. Roll up roll up, show your fangs and get ten percent off. Yeah, that's probably what Willy does during the summer. Anyway, summer's over now she thought. Something really bad will turn up before long. Then I'll want it to be summer again.


"Still up?" said Buffy as she shut the front door behind her. She could see that Dawn wasn't in her bedroom but was still up and watching the television in the front room.


"School starts tomorrow," said Buffy as she walked into the front room, somewhat surprised. Dawn had been sensible about going to bed for a long time now. "You should be in bed."


"I need to talk to you," answered Dawn. "I didn't get a chance earlier and I wanted to speak to you when Willow wasn't about."


"OK," said Buffy flopping down in the armchair opposite Dawn. "What's up?" Summer's definitely over she thought.


"It's Willow," said Dawn. "She's says she's not going back to college, too many memories of Tara."


"But Tara would want her to go back to college." said Buffy knowing it to be true. Buffy had hoped that getting back into the college routine would do something to help Willow get her life back together. More than anybody she had ever known Willow enjoyed going to classes.


"I told her that but I couldn't get through to her." said Dawn. "I know Xander's tried. You're her best friend. I thought you might be able to persuade her."


"Has she said what she intends to do?" asked Buffy. She had a sudden alarming thought. "She's not doing magic again is she?"


"I don't think so," said Dawn. "I think it's just that she's still grieving and doesn't want to move on."


"I'll talk to her tomorrow," said Buffy.


------------------------------------------------------------


The next morning Willow found herself sat at the kitchen table. Buffy had gone off with Dawn to the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High School. Buffy just wanted to see Dawn "settled in," a statement that had outraged Dawn until Willow had pointed out that Buffy really just wanted to nose around the new school.


Willow had agreed to be there when Buffy came back as Buffy wanted to chat over a few things with her. Where do I go to these days anyway thought Willow? Everywhere reminded her of Tara. Willow knew very well what it was about. She'd already had Dawn and Xander tell her she should go back to college. Now it was Buffy's turn.


Willow knew what she wanted to do, what she had to do, but she was feeling a little guilty about it. She would have to go away. Willow's contribution to the household budget from her parents' allowance had kept the Summers/Rosenberg household's head above water in recent months. How would Buffy and Dawn cope if she left?


There really was no point in going back to college at the moment. She wouldn't have any interest in studying. In fact, she thought, she just didn't have any interest in anything mundane at the moment. She stared gloomily at the uneaten bowl of cereal that Dawn had put in front of her before she left.


Willow stood up and wearily picked up the bowl. She threw away the cereal, being careful to hide it under other garbage in the bin. She didn't want Buffy or Dawn fussing about her not eating properly all over again.


Suddenly a figure appeared in front of her. Willow jumped in alarm but immediately relaxed again. It was Anya. Anya could materialise somewhere else nearby and then ring the bell like a normal person but that of course meant pretending to be a normal person. Anya wasn't good at pretending, not unless she was doing business as a vengeance demon. Besides Anya still had issues with Willow over the destruction of the Magic Box and Willow was sure she took a perverse pleasure in making her jump.


"Hello Anya, what do you want?" asked Willow. "Buffy's not here, she's gone with Dawn to school. First day of the new High School."


"Is that the one Xander's been building?" asked Anya.


"Yes, it's in the same place where the old school was destroyed," answered Willow. "You know, the one where we went to school and blew up the mayor." Anya had assumed the persona of a High School pupil during her previous stint as a vengeance demon and had then been stuck with it when her amulet/power source was destroyed and she had reverted to human.


"It's stupid, building a school over a Hellmouth," said Anya. "Buffy should have told them. Not that they would have taken any notice I suppose."


"Is there a particular reason for this visit?" asked Willow. "Because I...


"Have got to get back to brooding about Tara," completed Anya. "Yes I know that's a full time job but don't worry, I won't take up much of your time and anyway it's about Tara, in a way."


"What about Tara?" asked Willow quickly.


"You asked me about other realms, other planes," said Anya. "You remember you wanted to know how to travel to other places."


"And get back again," added Willow.


"Yes, and get back again," said Anya. "You remember I said that only higher beings, basically angels, could travel to and from higher realms."


"Yes," said Willow


"Well, it seems I was wrong," said Anya. "Some human witches have done it recently. They probably had help from some sort of angelic being. I don't know how they managed it but they did."


"Do you know who they are?" asked Willow, "where they live?"


"Perhaps you'd like autographed photos as well," replied Anya sarcastically. "All I know is they did what they did in San Francisco. I don't know who they are, whether they live there or if they were just visiting. You'll have to track them down yourself. Just don't get your hopes up. I can't see any angelic beings helping you after what you did."


"Thanks," said Willow. "I owe you."


"You certainly do," said Anya, "after destroying my shop. I can tell you exactly how much, including added interest. When you become one of those computer millionaires I'll let you have my bill."


"If that magic I did for you works out OK..." said Willow.


"If I need it," interrupted Anya, "and it works, then all debts are paid."


With that Anya disappeared leaving Willow thinking about a trip to San Francisco. San Francisco she thought, only San Francisco. It might have been Arabia, or Patagonia or, or anywhere. Maybe somebody's helping me. Maybe this is a sign that somebody up there's on my side.


No! Willow told herself. Don't do this. Don't hope. This is just one small step. One of many steps and it may not lead to anything. Just take one step at a time. No hopes, just one step at a time.


-------------------------------------------------------------


Buffy arrived home from the High School and looked around for Willow. She was in the kitchen working at her laptop. Good sign thought Buffy. Perhaps she is starting to come out of it.


"Hi Will," said Buffy. "Whatcha doing?" As she said this Buffy looked over Willow's shoulder and saw that she was looking through flight times. "Going on holiday?" she asked.


"Not exactly," replied Willow. "How's the new High School?" she asked, deliberately changing the subject.


Buffy flopped into the chair opposite and sighed. "Exactly the same as before," she answered.


"You mean they have a Snyder and a Giles and their own Cordy?" asked Willow. "Ooh, do they have a Willow and a Xander because I could give them a lot of good advice."


This really sounds like the old Willow thought Buffy. She is starting to come out of it. I haven't heard her this cheerful since, since...I don't know when.


"No, or not as far as I know anyway," laughed Buffy. "But it does have the Hellmouth. I had to help Dawn out with some ghosty things in the basement."


"She's all right isn't she?" asked Willow.


"She's fine. Somebody was using some sort of amulet to stir things up and I suppose the Hellmouth being nearby didn't help. All the bad guys just winked out when Xander broke the amulet," Buffy explained.


At Willow's insistence Buffy went on to give a full account of the whole incident, including Xander's part in it. Buffy put the broken amulet on the table in front of Willow but to Buffy's disappointment Willow showed no interest in it. OK she thought. Not yet fully back to normal. Research Willow would have gone straight to the books with that.


"Oh, I nearly forgot. I've got a new job," Buffy said suddenly. "The new principal wants me to be a school counsellor."


"A counsellor, as in giving people advice and all that?" asked Willow. Not entirely successfully Willow tried to mask her astonishment that anyone would think Buffy was counsellor material. A new job for Buffy, she suddenly thought. That'll make it easier for me to leave. Willow once again had a small encouraging thought that perhaps somebody was helping her.


"Yeah, three days a week and I'll be earning more than I did for a full week at the Doublemeat."


"That's great Buffy. In fact I couldn't be more pleased," Willow advised. "That'll make it easier for you and Dawn."


"Yes, it will," replied Buffy. "Err Willow, There's something I need to talk to you about."


Buffy explained how she thought Willow should go back to college, how everybody felt the same, how Tara would want her to and how she'd enjoy it like she did before. Willow listened in silence until Buffy finished.


"I know that you all mean well," replied Willow, "and I do intend going back to college, just not yet."


Willow explained that she was going to find Tara. She knew she mustn't pull somebody out of heaven again like she did with Buffy even had she still been able to do so but she felt sure she'd be able to talk to Tara somehow. She was convinced that she could do it. She knew where to start and that was why she would be leaving in a few days.


"I know it sounds crazy, but I'm not crazy Buffy. I just know that we're meant to be together for always. Nothing can keep us apart," Willow said in a rush. "I've just got to go."


Buffy realised that it was the idea of this journey to find Tara, this quest, that had brought back something of the old Willow. Her immediate response was to try to persuade Willow not to do it. Not to waste her time only to be disappointed again and again. She quickly changed her mind.


"Who am I do say what's crazy Will?" said Buffy. "We've seen a lot of things that nearly everybody else would think was crazy. If you think you've got a shot at this then go for it. You're certainly right about Tara. She must be in heaven. If I qualified then she qualified ten times over."


"But how can I talk to somebody in heaven after what I did?" asked Willow. "That's what you're thinking isn't it?" That was certainly what Willow had been thinking again and again. She knew she should be with Tara but she couldn't even be sure they would find each other after she died. That was one of the reasons why she knew she had to do something now and not just assume that all would be well after she was dead. Truth to tell it was how she'd persuaded herself not to commit suicide in the really bad days after she came out from under the influence of the dark magic.


"No, I wasn't thinking that," said Buffy stretching the truth just a little. "Without forgiveness I think heaven would be pretty well empty. You're a good person Will. No, what I was thinking was does this mean going back to the magic?"


"Um," replied Willow with a guilty smile. "I've already um gone back to the magic." Seeing the expression on Buffy's face Willow hastily explained about her chats on the phone with Giles in England and with his friends from the witches' coven. ''So you see I don't really have the option of giving it up completely. I need to use it to control it otherwise it'll just build up and, and...well it won't be nice."


Buffy nodded, gave Willow a supporting hug and wished her well. She made Willow promise to call if she needed any help. "We'll always be here for you Will." she assured her friend.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------


A few days later Willow said her goodbyes to Buffy and Dawn at the house. They both needed to be at the High School at the time the plane took off. Dawn, like Buffy was in two minds. She was delighted to see much of the old Willow back but at the same time worried that Willow was setting herself up for a big fall that would take her right back down again.


After Willow left with Xander who was driving her to the airport Dawn turned to Buffy. "Do you think she can find Tara? Do you think she can bring her back?"
"How can I doubt her?" asked Buffy. "Willow's the only person I've ever heard of who brought somebody back from heaven. I think she'll find Tara but I don't think she'll bring her back."


Buffy saw the look on her sister's face and hurriedly continued. "I think she'll find Tara and they'll be together again but I don't see them coming back here."


"You mean you think Willow and Tara will be together again after Willow's dead," said Dawn. As she spoke she realised the implications of what she had just said. "You think Willow will die? You don't think she'll kill herself to be with Tara?"


"If Willow thought she could be with Tara by killing herself she'd already be dead. You know that," said Buffy. "I just think Willow will find some way to join Tara, whether it involves dying or not."


"I'd love to see Tara again," said Dawn. "But if they don't come back together I hope they let us know they're happy."


-----------------------------------------------------------------


Xander had spent a large part of the previous night working out what to say to Willow. Now he remembered nothing of what he had decided on. Like Buffy and Dawn he was worried but was putting a brave face on it.


"Tell Tara we miss her pancakes," he said, "and her smile....Hey, I never saw somebody off on a trip to heaven before." Well not like this he thought sadly but he was careful to remain outwardly cheerful.


Willow knew Xander too well to be upset by his light banter. In fact she knew Xander better than anybody else in the world, certainly better than his parents. She knew that Xander, well Buffy and Dawn as well, didn't believe she was doing anything but wasting her time. She knew they were humouring her because they felt that any activity, even a quest like this, was better than the way she'd been for the past few months.


A part of Willow agreed with her friends, but only a part. That part disappeared completely when she woke up in the night after dreaming about Tara and knew, just knew, that Tara was watching over her. Sometimes she had been certain that Tara's spirit was with her. At her darkest moments there was always the feeling that she wasn't alone. That she'd never really be alone.


The call came to board the plane. Willow picked up her hand luggage ready to go. "Stay safe Will," said Xander. "Look after yourself and when you see Tara ask her if she's got some good looking angel friends who're looking for a date. I've dated enough demons. It's about time I dated an angel."


Xander and Willow embraced and then Willow turned away towards the departure gate. Xander called after her, "a girl angel, make sure it's a girl angel."


----------------------------------------------------------------


Anya sat at the table of the coffee shop and looked at her friend Halfrek. She wondered if even Hallie was really her friend anymore. Hallie hadn't changed, Hallie never changed but Anya certainly had.


Never go back they say, whoever 'they' are. Well now she knew why 'they' said it. She wasn't the same person she'd been when she was a vengeance demon before. Hallie had just spent the past half hour telling her just that, as if she needed to be told.


If you don't buck up you're going to be in big trouble with the master," said Hallie. "They're taking bets on how long it'll be before he deals with you."


I've been doing vengeance thought Anya but Hallie's right. I've not been doing the big jobs, the ones with lots and lots of death and suffering. I've been doing justice, not revenge. Small pains for small transgressions, not like the old days when I'd disembowel somebody for missing a date. When I had somebody who'd left a girl at the altar I used to...better not go there she thought. Nothing's black and white anymore, it's all shades of grey.


"What you need to do is make a big splash, like you used to," said Hallie, "something to make everybody realise that the real Anyanka is back. I know just the thing."


"I can pick my own jobs thank you," said Anya. "Anyway, I've got a really big vengeance job coming up, something everyone will notice."


"Ooh," said Hallie, "do tell."


"I can't say anything yet," replied Anya. "You'll know about it when it happens." As she said this she realised that she didn't trust Hallie. Hallie was after all the demon who'd been quite happy to condemn her along with everybody else when she'd gotten Dawn to make that wish last year. For all that she wanted to be called a Justice Demon Hallie wasn't into justice. Plenty of innocent victims had always been her style.


Loyalty was not a strong suit with demons she thought, even ones you'd known for centuries. Just as well, we need some advantages....Anya broke off her train of thought. Whatever D'Hoffryn had done to turn her back into a vengeance demon she still thought like a human…she still had her soul. D'Hoffryn must know this she thought. He must be up to something.


Anya stood up. "Look, I've got to go," she said. "Nice seeing you again," she added. Anya left the shop. Once out of public view she teleported away.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------


Willow hadn't realised there were so many mystic and magic shops in San Francisco or she'd have come here before. Tara would have loved all this she thought and immediately amended her thought to Tara will love all this when I tell her or...Willow tried to think of something else.


The latest shop was almost the Supermarket of Magic Shops. The bookshelves alone rivalled Giles' school library, the whole library, not just his own collection of books. Willow was searching through all the local magic shops for books about San Francisco itself to see if she could find some clue as to where the local witches hung out and who they might be.


Aha she said to herself as she found the book she had been looking for, 'The Magical Nexus of San Francisco.' It had been listed in the shop's on-line catalogue and Willow hoped it would be just what she was looking for. At least it might provide some clue as to where to aim my search spells she thought.


As Willow began to flip through the book she noticed a young dark haired woman buying magic supplies at the counter. If I don't get anywhere in a few days I suppose I could go up to the nearest person in a magic shop and ask them if they're a witch. A lot of witches must shop here she thought. The trouble was most of them were probably like those at the Wicca meetings in college. Only witches in their imagination. Willow went back to flipping through the book.


Paige Matthews completed her purchases and left the shop without noticing the red haired young woman not ten feet behind her.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Are you sure we can trust her?" asked Buffy. "We've never been close."


"We don't have to trust her," said Xander. "Either her coven can do what she says or it can't."


"Whatcha talking about?" asked Dawn entering the front room of the Summers house and sitting on the couch, "or rather who are you talking about?" A talk between Buffy and Xander thought Dawn feeling a little aggrieved. I guess that counts as a Scooby meeting now since there's nobody else. She still leaves me out whenever she can.


"We're talking about Amy," said Xander.


"Amy the rat?" asked Dawn. She didn't really know Amy but she wasn't sure she trusted her. It was Amy who'd taken Willow to see Rack.


"Better not call her that anymore," said Buffy. "She is a witch and there's no need to upset her."


"Yeah," said Xander. "We don't want it to be Dawn the rat next." Or Xander the rat he suddenly thought.


"So what is she going to do?" asked Dawn thinking that they didn't want anybody using magic again.


Xander explained that Amy's coven recently had been hearing the same phrase as they had: "From beneath you it devours." She was convinced that something bad was coming and had contacted Xander. She wanted her coven to do a spell to try to find out what was coming. However she thought that doing the spell might provoke an attack on the coven and she wanted the slayer to be present and on guard just in case.


"I don't like it but I don't see that we have any choice," said Buffy. "We need to know what's coming and I don't have any ideas about how else to find out." I've never been Amy's enemy she thought, well only when we were under that love spell. But Amy was a rat for years. Who knows how that's affected her? "What's Amy been doing with her life the past few months?"


"She's still living with her father last I heard," said Xander. "But she told me she's going to speak to Anya about buying the Magic Box. She thinks her father will put up the money to let her get it up and running again."


"So she plans on staying in Sunnydale," said Dawn. "It sounds to me like she'll want to keep the town safe. No profit in having all your potential customers killed off. The demons and vampires don't generally pay for what they want. I think we should trust her, until she gives us a reason not to." That all sounds logical thought Dawn. I hope it works out that way.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter Two - Crossover

Willow got out of the cab and paid the fare. As the cab drove away she looked up at the house, impressed. That must be the house she thought. It's the central point of the San Francisco Magical Nexus, or at least that's where I think it is if that book's not just a load of mumbo jumbo.


The house must be at least a hundred years old she thought. It's just the perfect sort of house for a witch, or for a coven of witches. Suddenly nervous she hesitated. For Tara she thought and stepped forward and up the path to the front door. She rang the bell.
A dark haired woman opened the door. "Yes," she said.


"Hello," said Willow nervously, "I'm Willow Rosenberg. I need to talk to you. It's about witchcraft."


"Witchcraft! Sorry, not buying any today, and it's too early for trick or treat," said the woman as she started to shut the door.


"Please help me!" said Willow in panic. "You might be the only person who can."


"Why would I be any help to you?" asked the woman. "And what do you mean by witchcraft?" She sounded sceptical but she was no longer shutting the door.


Suddenly, out of thin air, a large man in a long black coat materialised down the hall behind the woman. He looked human, a rather unkempt human but human nonetheless. However he felt far from human to Willow. A sense of evil and dark magic was immediately apparent to her. He was obviously some sort of demon. The demon raised his right hand threateningly.


"Watch out!" cried Willow at the same time raising her own right hand. The woman turned to see a fireball coming at her from the demon's hand.


"Thicken!" shouted Willow and the fireball slowed almost to a stop. The demon also halted almost to immobility as if trapped in thick tar all around him.


The woman raised her hands and with a sharp movement aimed her power at the very slowly moving fireball. It immediately dissolved. She then did the same thing to the demon, who came apart and vanished. There was nothing of him left, not even the dust left behind by a slain vampire.


The woman turned back to Willow. "Thanks," she said. "Guess you do know something about witchcraft. You'd better come in and tell me why you're here. I'm Piper Halliwell."


Piper led Willow into the front room of the house. As they did so another young woman came downstairs and into the room. "Did something happen?" she asked. "I thought I...uh heard something."


"Paige, this is Willow Rosenberg," said Piper. "Willow, this is my sister Paige. Willow's a witch, a pretty powerful witch. She just saved me from a demon attack. She's here for our help. She was just going to tell me why."


Five minutes later Piper brought in a tray of coffee and cookies and served them around. "Now what is this all about? You're a pretty powerful witch. Why do you need our help?"


"It's all about Tara, Tara Maclay," said Willow. "She's.....dead. I miss her so much. She and I were...that is we were..."


"We understand," said Paige.


"We do?" said Piper, not understanding at all.


"Piper, Willow and Tara..." Paige broke off as Leo walked into the room having orbed into the house out of sight.


"Hi Leo," said Piper standing up to kiss her husband on the cheek. "We've got a visitor. This is...


"I know who she is," said Leo, "and I know why she's here. I'm afraid we can't help you Miss Rosenberg. I'm sorry."


Willow was devastated. She had told herself again and again not to hope but of course she had hoped. She had done nothing but hope and now her hopes had been dashed right at the start of what she had expected to be a very long journey.


"Now just wait a minute," said Piper, "what are you talking about? How come you know all about Willow, what does she want, and why can't we help her?"


"Willow wants us to bring her lover back to life but we can't do that and even if we could we're not allowed to," explained Leo.


"Her lover?... Oh her lover!" said Piper glancing at Paige.


"You're wrong," said Willow. "I know you can't bring her back. I don't expect you to do that. That's not why I'm here." Willow started to hope again, just a little.


Willow explained to Leo and the sisters that she wanted to talk to Tara. Tara had been taken so quickly there had not even been time for goodbye. She wanted to know that Tara was happy and... At that point Willow stopped talking because she was not really sure herself what she would say to Tara if she ever saw her again.


Piper explained that the sisters needed to think about what Willow was asking to see if they could and should help. She frowned at her husband as she said this.


"We've got to talk it through amongst ourselves and see what else the Whitelighter can tell us," said Piper. "Could you come back this time tomorrow and we should have an answer for you?"


-------------------------------------------------------------


E-Mail
From: Willow
To: Dawn


Hi Dawnie, I got your message. Yes, I'm fine. I'll keep in touch when I can but there will be times, maybe several weeks at a time, when you won't hear from me. When that happens don't worry. It'll probably be good news. It'll be because I'm getting somewhere.


You're right to be cautious about trusting Amy but I think you should give her a chance. I've known Amy for years and I think she's basically a good person. Coming back must have been very difficult for her, just like it was for Buffy. Last I heard she was trying to get over the dark magic now that Rack isn't about any more.


There are however a few precautions that you can take when you to see her coven and I've put the details in a separate attachment to this e-mail. If you see Anya, ask her to go with you as well. I know she's a vengeance demon again but I'm sure she wouldn't let anything happen to you or Xander.


I don't have many of my books with me at the moment. Could you please do a little research for me? Could you see if you can find any references to a person or being called a Whitelighter? The people I saw today mentioned the term and I've never heard it before. I'm seeing these people again tomorrow and I'm hoping they'll agree to help me.


All my love (please pass on to Buffy and Xander)


Willow.


------------------------------------------------------------------


Phoebe Halliwell joined her sisters and Leo in the living room of the Halliwell mansion. She had already been filled in by the rest of the family about the visit of Willow Rosenberg. They now had to decide whether they would agree to give her the help she wanted.


"You say she doesn't expect us to bring her Tara back from the dead?" asked Phoebe. That's just as well she thought because if we could do that we'd already have done it for Prue.


"She wants to talk to Tara, she lost her so suddenly," said Paige. "We can do that can't we? I mean we talk to grams and mom. We can bring her Tara here for a while for her to talk to."


"You mustn't agree to this," said Leo. "Willow Rosenberg has used dark magic in the past. You can't trust her." Leo had been briefed in general terms about what Willow had done in Sunnydale over the past year or so. He was worried that Willow would lead the sisters down the path to dark magic.


"Well she saved my life," said Piper. "I owe her for that. We'll be doing the magic, not her. There won't be any dark magic involved. Besides I tested her and she didn't freeze. She's a good witch."


"Isn't it our job to help people?" asked Paige. "She certainly needs help. It's obvious she's not gotten over Tara's death."


"We're not some dead persons contact society where people can come to talk to their dead loved ones," said Phoebe. "If the word got out we could do that we'd be flooded out with people wanting the same thing." But why can't we talk to Prue thought Phoebe. We can talk to mom and grams but not Prue. I'm sure Leo knows why. I don't believe his excuse of it not being the right time. She died more than two years ago.


"Exactly," said Leo. "Besides I don't believe that Willow just wants to talk to Tara. I'm sure she's got something more in mind."


"You recognised Willow when you saw her," said Piper. "What do you know about her that we don't?" She'd tried unsuccessfully to get more information out of Leo earlier. Well, now he'd better tell us all that he knows, she thought. At least if he expects us to do what he wants.


"Yeah, and you already knew about Tara," added Paige.


"OK," said Leo. "I'll tell you what I know." I wasn't exactly told not to tell them he thought, and I was told not to let them work with Willow Rosenberg.


Leo outlined the story he had been told: Willow was from a small California town, Sunnydale. She had become interested in witchcraft whilst at High School even though there was no history of witchcraft in her family. She had taken her interest further when she met another witch in college, Tara Maclay. The two witches had become lovers.


About eighteen months previously Tara had been attacked and badly injured by a very powerful demon known as a Hellgod. Willow had used dark magic to attack the Hellgod. This had not destroyed the Hellgod but Willow had survived the encounter and eventually Tara had recovered when the Hellgod had been finally destroyed.


Some months later, possibly as a side-effect of using the dark magic, Willow had started to use magic for personal gain, even casually for day to day things. This had lead to problems between her and Tara and Tara had left. Shortly afterwards Willow had been shocked by the consequences of what she was doing and had given up magic altogether.


Willow and Tara kept in touch via mutual friends and several months later decided to get back together. However Tara had then been shot and killed by a criminal, not by demons or by magic. The death was almost immediate and Willow had been present when it happened. Willow had immediately called on all her magic, dark and light, to try to save Tara and when that failed she tried to call her back from death. She was unsuccessful.


Willow then went on a rampage. She killed the criminal responsible in a very horrible way but by then was completely caught up in the dark magic. The consequences would have been severe had Willow not been stopped by her friends.


"Stopped how?" asked Piper.


"I believe she was persuaded to stop long enough for them to counteract the affects of the dark magic with white magic," explained Leo.


"So she stopped herself," said Paige, "before she hurt anybody else?"


"I believe so yes," replied Leo.


"So Willow and Tara are, were witches right?" asked Phoebe.


"Yes," said Leo.


"So where was their Whitelighter when all this was happening?" asked Phoebe. "It seems like they went through a lot. They needed help, a lot of help. Was it her Whitelighter who helped to stop her?"


"You know there are never enough Whitelighters," said Leo. "I'm afraid Willow and Tara never had one assigned to them."


"What do you mean one was never assigned to them," asked Piper sceptically. "These girls came up against a Hellgod. Whatever that is it sounds pretty bad." Mental note she thought, Book of Shadows. "Are you saying that's not important enough to get the attention of a Whitelighter because I don't believe it."


"They weren't assigned help because they already had help, just not from a Whitelighter," explained Leo. "They worked closely with the Slayer. That was how they were finally able to deal with the Hellgod."


"The Slayer?" asked Phoebe.


"That's enough," said Paige. "This meeting is now adjourned to the attic where we will all look up 'Hellgod' and 'Slayer' and any other rabbits Leo pulls out of his hat."


-------------------------------------------------------------


E-Mail
From: Dawn
To: Willow


Read your reply just before we went to the coven. Didn't have time to find Anya but I did take those things with me and did that spell of yours. It was so funny. Amy tried to play a trick on all of us by doing a spell that changed everybody's clothes around. Your protection worked. The spell must have bounced back on Amy and her friends because their clothes all fell off. Buffy had to get Xander out of the room pretty quickly. Amy doesn't know what went wrong but I hinted that we all knew a lot of magic and were quite capable of protecting ourselves.


Anyway after that, Amy said sorry, she was just trying to break the ice. She and her witches then did their spells. That's when an ugly little man appeared who Buffy said was Principal Snyder. You probably know he's dead. Well he wasn't really there because he was just a ghost. Buffy put her hand right through him. He made all sorts of threats, like the bad guys usually do, and then he vanished. Buffy says it wasn't really Snyder but was something called the "First Evil." She saw it a few years ago. Buffy's going to ring Giles about it but if you know anything could you let me know please.


I did your research when I got back. I'll do some more when I can but so far I've found two references:


In 'Malvesio's Oracles' on page 278 there is a line which says 'Neither as pure as the soul of a Whitelighter, nor as black as the soul of a Darklighter."


In 'The Higher Realms' by Madeleine under the section on Seraphim it states: "It is believed that there are different ranks of the Seraphim, including Elders and Whitelighters but an alternative theory places Whitelighters in the ranks of the Cherubim."


Seems Whitelighters are some sort of angel. I asked Buffy to see what Giles knows about them when she talks to him.


On a different subject I've enclosed a copy of my calculus homework. What good is calculus anyway? Could you please, please, please give me some help if you've got the time? (But don't stop looking for Tara, Calculus is way behind Tara in anyone's priorities).


Love You
Dawn.


-------------------------------------------------------


Willow walked up to the Halliwell mansion. She was even more tense than she had been on the same spot a little over twenty four hours earlier, if that were possible. She rang the bell and Piper answered the door. She invited Willow inside. She led the way upstairs to the attic where Paige, Leo and another young woman were waiting.


"Willow, this is my other sister Phoebe," said Piper. Phoebe stepped forward to shake hands with Willow. "Pleased to meet you," she said. "Likewise" said Willow.


"What...what have you decided," asked Willow nervously. "Will you help me find Tara?"


"My husband Leo..." began Piper.


"The Whitelighter?" asked Willow. "You're married to an angel?"


"You've heard of Whitelighters then," asked Phoebe.


"Not until I heard one of you say the word yesterday," explained Willow. "I've been doing some research but I don't really know what a Whitelighter is."


"A Whitelighter is an angel, in a way. They help witches, good witches," explained Paige.


"So why have I never heard of them before?" asked Willow. "I know I haven't always been good but Tara was a witch and she was always good. She was the nicest person anybody could wish to meet. She never had any help from a Whitelighter."


"There aren't enough Whitelighters to go round I'm afraid. Most witches don't have a Whitelighter working with them," explained Leo. "We generally work in secret, we have to. Most witches never hear of us."


"Sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you. It's not your fault what happened to Tara," apologised Willow.


"Right, now that's explained lets get back to what we propose to do," said Piper. Piper explained that they had discussed what to do and Leo had told them about what had happened in Sunnydale. Leo didn't want them to do anything because of Willow's previous involvement in dark magic. However, despite this they had not yet made up their minds.


"Before we consider things further we must be able to trust you. What we want to do is question you under a truth spell," said Phoebe. "We need to know that what you've told us is true. We need to be sure of what you are trying to do."


"We'll cancel the spell after you've answered our questions," said Paige. "You won't have to answer any question you don't want to but if you don't answer we won't help you."


"OK," said Willow. "I can agree to that. Anything else?"


"Like Leo said earlier we're not going to raise the dead," said Piper.


Willow nodded.


"You must not do any magic yourself while we do our truth spell. It'd be too risky," explained Phoebe.


"That's OK but what if one of those teleporting demons attacks again while you're doing your magic?" asked Willow. "You might have to do some more magic of your own then. Couldn't you do a warding spell first to keep them out of the house?"


"A warding spell?" said Paige surprised. "Why haven't we done a warding spell before now?" she asked her sisters.


"The quick answer is we never thought of it," said Phoebe. "But that's ridiculous because we know all about warding spells."


"Leo?" her older sister said turning to her husband. "If we've been too stupid to use a warding spell to protect the manor why haven't you suggested one?"


Leo looked as puzzled as everybody else and shook his head.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------


It won't be long now thought Anya. D'Hoffryn will soon pay me one of his little visits. He won't like my latest missed opportunity. She continued walking along the road having decided to walk home from the Bronze. The old Anyanka would have turned that man into a worm all right. A monster worm, which would have killed a lot of people, including his former girlfriend. Instead she had turned his plate of pasta into actual worms and made him eat it. No death and destruction, just a stomach ache and a memory that would always disgust him.


She was aware of the vampire following her and the other two just up ahead. I don't see why Buffy needs to go looking for them she thought. They always home in on any woman alone at this time of night. Buffy's been here for years and they never learn to stay away from young women. Most vampires are very stupid.


Anya stopped and turned back to the vampire behind. "Oh come on, hurry up," she said. "I don't have all night."


The vampire walked forward and stopped. "I'm not who you think I am," he said confident she was mistaking him for a human. He abruptly vamped out and leapt forward at her. Anya didn't move a muscle. She simply held herself rigid and the vampire felt he was hitting a stone wall. He fell back surprised and Anya leant forward with a wooden stake and dusted him.


Anya immediately turned to the other two vampires who were approaching from the other direction. "Haven't you idiots heard of the vampire slayer?" she asked. The two vampires stopped and the female one backed away. The other however was a quite new vampire and typically thought himself invincible, even though he'd just seen Anya destroy another vampire.


"You see this is the slayer's town," continued Anya. "It's her business to destroy vampires. The good news is I'm not the slayer. The bad news is I like destroying vampires as well, only with me it's just a hobby."


Since neither vampire looked like attacking anytime soon Anya moved forward herself. She moved at much more than human or even vampire speed. She grabbed the nearest vampire by the neck and ripped off his head. He disappeared in a cloud of dust.


The female vampire turned and ran, only to run right into Anya who materialised in front of her. She took the vampire's head off with the sword that was now in her hand. As the vampire turned to dust she tossed the sword away. The sword, which Anya had constructed from air, immediately dissolved.


"If this keeps happening I'm gonna have to think of some puns," Anya said to herself as she walked away.


Chapter Three - The Player
E-Mail
From: Willow
To: Dawn


Thanks for the Whitelighter information. If you find out anything more please let me know. I've now met a Whitelighter. He admits to being a sort of angel but he's not exactly my best friend at the moment so anything more I can find out might be a help.


I remember the business with the First Evil but as I recall only Buffy and Angel saw it so I know less than Buffy does. I should have asked the people I met about it but I didn't think of it at the time. I'm due to meet them again in a few days and I'll ask them then. They are powerful and good witches and they seem to have good contacts. The Whitelighter is married to one of them. Yes she married an Angel! It's not just Sunnydale people who are weird. I shouldn't be surprised I suppose because I am in San Francisco.


I have done solutions to each of the calculus questions and attach them with my explanatory notes included. I think people learn calculus so that they can teach other people calculus.


All my love to everybody


Willow


-----------------------------------------------------------


Buffy watched her last 'customer' of the day leave and then sat back in her chair and sighed. All the kids in this school are crazy she thought. They don't think of me as a counsellor, they think I'm an agony aunt, or a lonely hearts club. If one more boy tries to hit on me I'll...I'll give him lines. "Don't hit on the counsellor."


At least none of the girls have hit on me she thought, or would I even know it if they had? I'll ask Willow what to... She suddenly remembered why she couldn't ask Willow. I hope she's all right.


Dawn's doing her best as research girl Buffy thought but I miss Willow and I'd like to know what Giles is doing and why he doesn't return my calls. I'll give it a couple of days and then see if I can contact Wesley in L.A. she decided.


Principal Wood walked into the office. "You've been busy since you got here," he said. "But you're doing a good job. Getting them to do most of the talking, that's always a good thing."


It is? At least I'm doing something right she thought. I let them do most of the talking because I usually can't think of much to say.


"I'd like you to go full time from next week," continued the principal. "For some reason things seem to be building up at the moment. I think what you're doing is helping to keep a lid on things."


"Does this mean..." began Buffy.


"More money?" finished Wood. "Yes, of course. I've got the details here." The principal handed over an envelope. Buffy opened and read the letter which detailed a substantial rise in the Summers' income. "I accept," she said quickly.


"Good," said Wood. He turned away but suddenly turned back. "If anybody gives you any idea about what's causing things to heat up lately let me know."


"What do you mean by 'heat up'? " asked Buffy.


The principal explained that since the school had opened there had been a high level of truancy and violence and several students had simply disappeared. Although he was aware of Sunnydale's poor record in all these areas what was happening seemed excessive even for Sunnydale.


"If I discover anything I'll let you know," advised Buffy, mentally adding to herself, if I discover anything you'd believe. She didn't think talking about the First Evil was quite what the principal had in mind.


"Would you mind if I spent part of each day walking about the school and the grounds to get the feel of what might be going on?" Buffy asked.


"Sort of patrol the place you mean," asked Wood.


Exactly like patrolling thought Buffy. "If you like," she replied.


"OK, but be careful," said Wood. "You're a counsellor, not a security guard."


---------------------------------------------------------


Anya walked around the wreck of the Magic Box. She kicked idly at pieces of debris as she did so. I was really building something here she thought. I had plans, in five years I would have expanded to LA, San Francisco even the east coast.


Anya had the insurance money and she had her savings and investments. She knew she could have the Magic Box up and running again if she wanted to without even using her demon powers for 'personal gain'. She was amused by the thought. Isn't that what demon powers are for, she thought, personal gain?


How can I be a capitalist retailer and a vengeance demon at the same time she wondered? Maybe someday if everything works out she thought. All this waiting. I was sure D'Hoffryn would have moved before now.


The door of the shop opened and Anya looked up. It wasn't D'Hoffryn and anyway he wouldn't use the door. It was Amy Madison. Anya had agreed to meet Amy at the shop. Amy wanted to buy the Magic Box and get it up and running again.


"Hi Anya," said Amy. "What's your decision? Have we got a deal?"


"Well I'd like to haggle but the price is fair so I won't, but I don't want to sell," said Anya. "Sometime I'll get this place up and running again myself." Anya spotted a small shiny object in the debris and crouched down to pick it up. It was a lucky charm. Very cheap, and not very effective but Anya pocketed it anyway on the basis she couldn't have too much good luck.


"But you know if you don't get the work started soon the place will be condemned," said Amy. "It's now or never."


"So it's condemned," said Anya. "When I'm ready I'll get it un-condemned, or I'll buy a new place."


"If you can," said Amy. "If you don't do a deal with me I'll start up somewhere nearby. As well as losing your customers you probably won't get permission to start another magic shop in this zone or even in this town."


"Are you threatening me?" asked Anya ominously glaring at Amy.


"Me, threaten a vengeance demon, do you think I'm mad? Of course I'm not threatening you." said Amy. "I'm trying to do a deal with you. I'm not your enemy Anya, or is it Anyanka? If I was your enemy I'd just open a magic shop without even talking to you and let you deal with the problems later if you ever tried to reopen this place. Anyway you're a capitalist. You should like competition."


"Nobody likes competition," grumbled Anya. "Let's talk."


Anya explained that Giles owned half of the Magic Box so she couldn't do a deal for his half. Giles was in England and she wasn't in contact with him at the moment. Anyway she wanted to keep part ownership herself. A deal was struck whereby Amy bought half of Anya's share of the shop. They reached agreement about repair and restocking of the shop. Amy would take over the running of the shop with Anya joining her if she ever retired from being a vengeance demon.


"Do you really think you might?" asked Amy.


"Might what?" replied Anya.


"Retire from being a vengeance demon. Can you do that?" asked Amy doubtfully.


Anya shrugged. "Who knows, you retired from being a rat. Anything's possible."


Amy gave Anya a dirty look but she said nothing more. It was agreed that Amy would make the arrangements to get the shop restored. Amy turned to leave but turned back as Anya spoke to her. "Ask Xander to put in a quotation for the work. He knows the way the shop used to be and he won't overcharge us. Just don't tell him I said that."


Amy smiled and nodded. "OK, your secret is safe with me," she said. "You can carry on pretending to hate him." Amy then left. Anya teleported away.


-------------------------------------------------------------


It was late at night and Faith was sat in her cell thinking. Something was happening, something big. She knew those dreams she'd had of girls being murdered had been slayer dreams but she'd assumed that was Buffy's business. Buffy 'The Perfect Vampire Slayer' Summers would take care of it like she always did. Now she wasn't so sure.


Faith knew that the knife Deb had used to try to kill her was the same as that used by the rather odd people who had killed the girls in her dreams. Suddenly she realised who those girls must be. Potential slayers! They had that look about them. Faith remembered it from her time as a potential. She'd met a few other potentials during her early training.


Somebody was killing potential slayers and was now going after the slayers as well. That meant that Buffy was in the firing line too. Faith resisted a sudden urge to go to the nearest phone to ring Buffy. She'd have had the same dreams she thought. She'll know more about what's going on than I do and she hasn't called me.


What to do? Faith quickly realised that she couldn't stay put. She was a sitting duck in prison. These people, creatures...whatever, had a long reach. Some of those girls were killed in other countries. They had plenty of people, probably plenty of money too so they could try again and almost certainly would.


But if the enemy, whoever it was, knew so much about slayers it would expect Deb to fail. Nobody who knew anything about slayers would expect Deb to even scratch a slayer. Deb had a big reputation in the prison but in slayer terms she was helpless.


Was this a warning, or did somebody want to spook her? Spook her right out of the prison. If she left would she be doing just what the bad guys wanted? Huh she thought bad guys. I suppose everybody except Angel still thinks I'm one of the bad guys.


Let's not do too much thinking here Faith decided or I'll never leave this bunk. I'll still be sat here the next time they come after me. If somebody wants me out they'll keep sending people until I leave or they get lucky. I'm better off playing my own game she decided. So where to go?


Faith realised she had three choices. One was to try to disappear. The whosits probably had mystical backup. They didn't seem to have any trouble tracking down potentials all over the world and they were meant to be well hidden. If I go somewhere I think is safe it won't be long before somebody comes knocking on my door she thought.


If I leave here I become a player, not a pawn she decided. I'm going after them. I'm going to stop them killing potentials and take them down. I'm going to be The Slayer again. Not the other slayer, not the back up, the reserve, the 'spare'. I'm The Slayer, The Chosen One she thought. They're worried about me. I'm going to give them a lot more to worry about.


Second choice was to go straight to Sunnydale and tell Buffy and her friends she was now one of the good guys and only wanted to help. Everybody would welcome her with open arms and they'd fight the good fight together. Yeah right.


Faith decided to adopt her third choice and look up Angel in LA. She knew about the hotel where he and his gang now hung out. With the rain of fire and permanent dark the TV had reported in LA over the past few days Angel might be glad to see her.


Cordy wouldn't be too happy and nor would Wesley but she didn't have to worry about fighting them. If she went to Sunnydale she could be faced with another knife in the guts from Buffy and a magical whammy from Willow before she opened her mouth. Angel would know what was going on and she could then decide whether to move on to Sunnydale with perhaps some sort of good conduct pass from Angel.


Having made up her mind Faith moved immediately. It was dark and her cellmate was asleep. Everybody was locked down and would be for the next few hours. She went to the window and bent the bars aside. She went through the bars and straightened them from the outside whilst crouching on the sill. Faith had long since worked out her route out of prison, several routes in fact.


As Faith left the window sill by leaping upwards she didn't see her cellmate Maxine jump out of bed and run over to the window. Maxine tried to look upwards but the bars prevented her from seeing anything. She tested the bars but found them as rock solid as always.


"Damn girl, how did you do that?" she muttered. Maxine had known that Faith was odd and special in various ways but this completely astonished her. "And why didn't you do it before?" Maxine went back to her bunk and lay down, already relishing the reaction of the guards in the morning when they discovered that Faith had vanished into thin air.


Meanwhile Faith had leapt up from the cell to the roof in three easy moves, going from window to window, floor by floor. Once on the roof she went to the other side and dropped down into the empty yard. She ran quickly through the shadows around the edge of the yard making sure to avoid the CCTV cameras. After working her way to the perimeter wall she took it in a single leap and disappeared into the darkness outside.


-------------------------------------------------------------------


"She'll be here soon," said Paige. "We can't put her off again. We've got to give her an answer. Anyway you know I'm going to LA tomorrow to check out what's going on there. We've got to get this done today. You all know what I think we should do." I think I might help Willow even if the others don't, she thought.


"I don't understand why you still think we should say no," said Phoebe to Leo. "We know what she wants us to do. We know she's not hiding anything. We can do the spell to bring Tara here for a few hours and then that's it." Phoebe had changed her mind after the question and answer session with Willow. Willow was really hurting and she didn't feel she could say no when it would be so simple to do what she asked.


Phoebe still worried about Leo. More and more she felt that he was following an agenda that he had not revealed to them. He had bosses and orders to follow. She wondered just what those orders were.


"We know Willow still wants to bring Tara back," said Leo. "She hasn't given up on that. If you do what she wants you'll just he encouraging her down a path that could lead back to dark magic. Willow is a very powerful witch. The consequences would be horrific. They very nearly were last time."


"What she really wants is to be with Tara. That might mean bringing her back but it might mean joining her where she is now," said Piper.


"You mean she might kill herself?" said Paige horrified. "I didn't pick up on anything like that when we questioned her."


"Willow won't kill herself because she thinks Tara's in heaven but she doesn't think she'll join her there," said Phoebe. "She may be right." Phoebe looked at Leo who just shrugged.


"Willow doesn't know what she's going to do," said Piper. "She wants to speak to Tara first and then take it from there. She thinks they're soul mates and everything will work out if only they could meet again."


"Exactly," said Leo. "Willow doesn't know what she'll do but it's pretty obvious she'll do anything to be with Tara again. Anything! She brought somebody back from the dead before. She's capable of just about anything. We mustn't help her in this. As I said the consequences could be horrific and not just for her but for you and many other people."


"What do you mean she brought somebody back from the dead before?" asked Phoebe suspiciously. "You've never said anything about that. What else are you not telling us? What have you been ordered not to tell us?"


All three sisters looked at Leo waiting for an explanation. "You know I have to follow the orders of the elders," he said. "They don't want you to help Willow. It's much too dangerous."


"And this previous resurrection?" asked Piper. "What's that all about?"


Leo explained what he knew about Willow bringing back the Slayer. How she had been able to do so because the Slayer had been killed through mystical means. She had not been able to reverse Tara's non-mystical death in the same way.


"No wonder she's so determined," said Paige. "She must think anything's possible after bringing her friend back from the dead." Paige began thinking, wasn't Prue killed by a demon? Didn't that count as mystical means? She decided to have a quiet talk with Willow sometime soon when the current business was all sorted out. She looked up to see Phoebe looking at her and realised she was not the only sister with the same thought.


"So what do we do?" asked Phoebe. "We know what the elders want but we know they're not infallible. They've got it wrong before. We've got to make up our own minds."


"I'll tell you what I think," said Piper. "It seems to me the biggest risk we face is having Willow go back to the dark magics." Everybody nodded. "But she doesn't need our help to do that. She came to us for help and we can help her without anybody using dark magic. If we don't help her she may think she has no alternative but going back to dark magic."


"From what Leo says Tara was always a good witch and a good influence on Willow," said Paige. "Letting her talk to Willow is probably the best way we have of making sure Willow doesn't go dark again."


"I think you're making a big mistake," said Leo. "Willow used dark magic to kill. She's quite capable of using it again."


"From what you said she killed the murderer while suffering from the shock of seeing her lover dying in her arms," said Paige. "No jury would convict under those circumstances. She'd have a valid defence of temporary insanity."


"Nevertheless she killed using dark magic," protested Leo.


"It seems the elders are less forgiving than human law," said Phoebe. "I seem to remember you once told us that when a witch went dark there was no going back. Well I went back and Willow has gone back. She's not evil. This business of once an evil witch always an evil witch looks to be a complete myth."


The front doorbell sounded. Willow had made her third nervous arrival at the Halliwell mansion. Before going down to fetch Willow up to the attic Piper confirmed with her sisters that they were all determined to help Willow despite what Leo and the elders said.


Chapter Four - Vengeance


Buffy, Xander and Dawn sat around in the front room of the Summers' house and discussed what to do about the First Evil. Buffy realised that her dreams of girls being killed were connected because the killers seemed to be identical with what she remembered of the Bringers who served the First Evil.


Dawn's researches had not turned up anything about the First Evil beyond what they already knew. There was nothing that she could find that gave any clue as to how to destroy it.


"Can't we like exorcise it?" asked Xander. "That's what you do with ghosts right?"


"Don't you need a priest for that?" asked Dawn. "Do we know any priests?"


"I'm thinking if an ordinary ghost can be exorcised by a priest we're going to need a lot more to deal with this thing," said Buffy. "It must have a whole lot more power than any ghost. Before we try anything like that we have to know what we're doing."


"Still nothing from Giles?" asked Dawn.


Buffy explained that not only had she had no call back from Giles but she had been unable to contact Wesley or Angel in LA nor the Watchers' Council in England. Giles hadn't called back, Wesley had moved, Angel's number had a recorded message with Cordy's voice on it saying that Angel Investigations was temporarily closed for business and the number for the Watchers' Council was discontinued.


"You don't think this First Evil thingy has got them all do you?" asked Xander.


"Angel and the gang must be busy with whatever that darkness in LA is all about," said Dawn. "Cordy's message was probably done to clear the decks while they sorted it all out."


"I agree," said Buffy. "I can't believe all of the LA gang are gone. One of them would have called us if things were really bad. They're just busy." She admitted to herself that she was worried about Giles however.


The front door bell rang and Buffy got up to answer it. Dawn and Xander followed her out of the room to see who it was. Buffy opened the door and was surprised to see Giles standing there. She immediately jumped forward and hugged him, this time remembering to restrain herself from using her full slayer strength.


Buffy stepped back, and saw that Giles was not alone. There were three girls standing behind him. "I'm afraid we have something of an apocalypse on our hands. Can we come in?" he asked.


Buffy stood back to allow Giles and his companions to enter the house. When they were all inside and Giles had been greeted by Xander and hugged by Dawn Buffy led everybody into the front room.


Giles introduced his companions. They were three potential Slayers: Vi, Annabelle and Molly. Vi was a Canadian and the latter two were English although only Annabelle sounded like Giles. Molly had a strong cockney accent.


Giles explained about the killing of potential slayers and their watchers around the world in recent weeks. The three girls with him were among the survivors. Others would be joining them in Sunnydale in the hope that the Slayer could keep them safe.


"Don't mean to be a wet blanket or anything," Vi interrupted, "but are you sure this is a good idea? Can one girl, even a Slayer, keep us all safe all the time?"


"We'll be stronger together," said Buffy. "I'll be here and so will Xander, Giles, Dawn and the other potentials. We can watch each others backs. It's better than being picked off one by one."


A further discussion followed as Buffy and the gang explained what they knew about the First Evil. Giles explained that he also was aware that their enemy was the First. Unfortunately he was of the opinion that it was not possible to destroy the First. This depressed the gang, especially Annabelle and Molly.


"Well if we can't destroy it we'll just have to put it back to sleep," said Xander. "We just need to know why it's causing this trouble all of a sudden and then we can put things back the way they were."


"I'm betting the First knows the Slayer can stop it and that's why it's attacking the potentials," said Dawn. "It's got weaknesses, we've just got to find out what they are."


Buffy asked Giles about the Watchers' Council and what they were doing about the potentials and their watchers. "Nothing I'm afraid," said Giles to the gang's great surprise. "There is no more Watchers' Council. The headquarters building in England was blown up a few days ago and all the members of the Council were killed."


"Was that what the news called the terrorist incident north of London?" asked Dawn. Giles confirmed it was the same event but he believed it was carried out by an agent of the First and not by the usual terrorist suspects.


Everybody responded to this very bad news with silence and glum faces until Buffy spoke up in an effort to cheer them up.


"Well I'm sad for all of the dead people, I suppose some of them were your friends Giles." she said. Giles nodded. "But the Council usually did their own thing. To be blunt about it they never gave us much help even when we had big problems. We're no worse off now than we were before."


Dawn had a very disquieting thought. "Buffy, we've got to think about security." she said. "If this First has got people setting off explosions we've got to make sure it's not us next time."


"I'll talk to Amy," said Xander, "and see if she can set up some sort of defence or warning system for us, some sort of magic whammy for anybody who tries to attack us with magic or set off explosives."


"A magical ward," said Dawn. "That's what it's called. I'll see if I can speak to Anya as well. She knows a lot about magic."


Giles raised his eyebrows. He knew Amy of course and was aware of her somewhat patchy record as far as the sensible use of magic was concerned. He also knew about Anya's present reversion to vengeance demon.


"I'll also do some research along those lines as well," he said. "But is Willow not about?"


Buffy explained about Willow's quest. This produced some very sceptical glances amongst the potentials along the lines of 'what sort of people have we landed amongst?'


"OK," said Buffy, "I'll do some patrolling. I want to have a look at the place where the Bringers worked when they were here before a few years ago."


"Yeah," said Xander to the potentials. "We've had these guys before and Buffy sent them packing. No problem."


-----------------------------------------------------------


The three Halliwell sisters stood ready to do their spell summoning Tara. Leo stood nearby watching. Willow sat on a chair to one side nervously clasping and unclasping her hands. Suddenly Leo looked up as if listening to something.


"Sorry, I've got to go," he said. To Willow's surprise Leo then disappeared in a swirl of bright lights. Leo's teleportation reminded her of something.


"Did you do the warding spell?" she asked the sisters.


"What warding spell?" asked Piper looking at Phoebe and Paige. Both of her sisters looked blankly at her.


Willow reminded them of the discussion they had had on her last visit about warding the manor to prevent demons teleporting in to attack. Astonishingly none of the sisters had any memory of the conversation.


"You said that after I left you were gonna research why you'd never done a warding spell before," said Willow. "And you were going to do one to protect the manor."


"I smell a rat," said Phoebe. "As Willow says we should always have had a warding spell on this place. Working with the Power of Three we should be able to put up a strong enough barrier to prevent just about any demon from coming in."


"Sounds like somebody's working magic on us," said Paige. "Somebody doesn't want us to put up wards."


"Well demons wouldn't want us to put up wards," said Piper. "There must be some evil out there we're not aware of yet."


"Have you heard about the First Evil?" asked Willow who explained to the Halliwells what she knew of it and its recent and previous manifestations in Sunnydale. "Could that be it?" she asked.


A discussion followed. None of the sisters had ever heard of the First Evil and they could find no reference to it in the Book of Shadows. Piper thought the First Evil might be to blame. Phoebe was more sceptical as it seemed the failure to set wards was a long standing thing and the First Evil seemed to be a recent problem.


"If we'd had wards on this place Prue would still be alive," said Phoebe. As she said this she wondered if Leo was the culprit. He'd done magic on them before because he thought it to be in their best interests. She would not voice this suspicion without proof however as it would devastate Piper if her husband was in any way to blame for Prue's death.


"Either this thing is self-renewing or somebody did a number on us since our last meeting," said Paige. "Either way why didn't it work on Willow?"


"Because she wasn't here," said Piper. "It might be something to do with the manor itself. Remember we didn't get our powers until we spent a night together under this roof. There's magic in this house and we've never gotten around to understanding it. Maybe the manor resets things overnight?"


I hope she's right thought Phoebe. I hope Leo's really innocent. After further discussion the sisters did a Power of Three warding spell on the house. They then did a remember spell to kick in the next day in case they suffered memory wipe again. At last they were ready to carry out the spell to call Tara.


-------------------------------------------------------------


Half an hour later four very frustrated witches stood around trying to work out why the spell hadn't worked.


"Have you done this spell before?" asked Willow. "Are you sure it works?"


Piper explained the many occasions they had successfully done the spell. One of them working alone was sufficient to call their mother or grandmother. They had just tried a Power of Three spell and even that hadn't worked.


"Let's call Grams now," suggested Paige. "We can see if the spell works with her. She might know why it's not working for Tara."


"Or for Prue," added Phoebe.


"Prue?" asked Willow.


"Prue was our eldest sister," explained Piper. "She was killed by a demon a couple of years ago. We've never been able to call her either. Leo said it was too soon."


"I'm so sorry," said Willow. "What did he mean by too soon?"


The sisters explained that they simply didn't know what Leo had meant but their grandmother had said the same thing when they called her back and she met Paige. This led on to an explanation of why Paige had not previously met her grandmother.


"OK people, times a moving on," said Piper. "I'll call grams now. We'll at least know if the spell still works to that extent."


Piper performed the spell alone and the sisters' grandmother appeared in a swirl of light with her usual beaming smile. To Willow's surprise she was fully corporeal and hugged her granddaughters in turn. The Halliwell sisters then explained their problem to their grandmother.


"I've been told not to help you to help Willow I'm afraid," she explained. "You know the elders don't approve of what you're trying to do."


"Can't you just, you know...hint or something," wheedled Paige putting on what she hopped was her best granddaughter's smile.


"Sorry," said Grams. "If I did I'd disappear before the words left my mouth and it'd be a long time before I'd be able to see you again."


Aha, thought Phoebe. Thanks Grams. "We'd better send you straight back then." she said, "before you're tempted to say something you shouldn't."


"Before you go Mrs Halliwell," said Willow. "Do you know why your granddaughters are having so much trouble remembering to put warding spells on this house?"


"We are?" said Paige.


"When did this happen?" asked Phoebe.


Willow rolled her eyes upwards and explained all over again as it was clear that the sisters had once again forgotten about the warding spells even though they had finally done one.


"Oh dear!" said Grams. "It's all my fault I'm afraid." She explained that she had done warding spells on the manor when she had been the resident witch. She'd also done warding spells on each of her granddaughters after they had been born, including Paige.


"It kept out some demons but there were always some that were strong enough to get through," Grams explained. "I think what we have here are side effects of old magic interfering with new." She explained that what they needed to do was to discharge all the old spells on themselves and the manor before putting on any new ones. Clearly Grams old magic was no longer very effective at keeping out demons and the Power of Three would do a much better job.


"You'd better do it now before you forget again. The details are in the Book of Shadows," said Grams flipping through the book. The sisters looked over her shoulder to see details of the discharge spell.


The sisters carried out the discharge spell and then once again carried out the warding spell. Phoebe frantically wrote down details of what had just happened and left the room briefly to put the note on her bed. "Just in case we all forget again," she explained when she came back. "We won't always have Willow here to remind us."


The sisters said their goodbyes to their grandmother. "Leo's doing his best for you, you know," said Grams just before she disappeared. "He's been trying to persuade the elders to cut you all a little slack." Just as she disappeared she looked straight at Willow and smiled.


Willow was stunned by what had just happened, what she had just discovered was possible through the power of good magic. Grandma Halliwell had not been just a ghostly voice speaking through a medium, she had been real, real to hug and hold even if only for a short time. It took a great deal of effort for Willow to suppress, even a little, all of the hope that now surged within her. Hope that she would at least be able to have a little time with Tara, if only to finally say goodbye.


After Grams had been sent back Phoebe explained to the others the implications of what their grandmother had told them. "She as good as said that the elders could stop her responding to our spell," Phoebe explained. "If they could do that they could block us off from Tara or Prue."


"But why would they stop us seeing Prue?" asked Piper puzzled and upset. If this was true then Leo almost certainly knew about it.


"For the same reason they don't want you to help me," said Willow who yet again had gone from great hope to deep depression in an instant. "They're scared you'll try to bring her back."


--------------------------------------------------------


Anya watched the woman walk away. The woman was no longer crying. Anya had met her in the bar down the street. After the usual prompting her wish had been that her husband had never met his secretary. She had granted the wish. The husband had never met his secretary. She had also granted the meaning of the wish, that the husband go on loving his wife. No blood, no death, no evil consequences.


Anya knew how the old Anyanka would have interpreted such a wish. She would have arranged for some horrible accident to happen to the husband to prevent him meeting his secretary. Given him leprosy perhaps.


Of course granting the wish in the old way wouldn't have helped the woman. She would have suffered even more but that wouldn't have bothered the old Anyanka. Suffering and death of the women she was 'helping' had never bothered her. Now Anya could see just how grotesque she had been as a vengeance demon. She could see the emptiness of her old boasting that she was helping women. Just as empty as Hallie claiming to help children she thought.


"Having fun?" said a voice from the darkness to her right. The voice came from D'Hoffryn who now stepped forward into the light. "Glad you're back as a vengeance demon? A vengeance demon who doesn't do vengeance that is."


Anya looked at D'Hoffryn. He looked the same as he ever did but surprisingly she felt no fear of him. For the first time she could look at him and just see a silly looking demon. One with a lot of power but no responsibility. Just the latest in a long line of demon mischief makers.


"Isn't that what you want?" asked Anya. "You're the one who left me my soul when you gave me my old job back. It shouldn't be a surprise that I've still got a conscience."


D'Hoffryn laughed. "Is that what you think?" he asked. "You don't remember do you? I left you your soul last time. I always leave my demons with their souls. It's what you do as a vengeance demon that costs you your soul, not what I do to you. I just give you the power."


"But I see I made a mistake with you," D'Hoffryn continued. He shrugged. "It happens." D'Hoffryn made a casual wave of his right hand and the amulet on the chain around Anya's neck grew hot and dissolved. He waved his hand again and Anya screamed and disappeared in a ball of flame.


"Pity really, " said D'Hoffryn to himself. "You were always one of my favourites."


"How nice," said Anya who had appeared behind D'Hoffryn completely unscathed. As he turned she pulled his amulet from his neck before he could stop her. D'Hoffryn grabbed at Anya trying to get his amulet back. Astonishingly, even though D'Hoffryn thought he had destroyed her amulet Anya still had her full power as a vengeance demon and she knocked D'Hoffryn back twenty feet and over a low wall.


D'Hoffryn no longer had his power source but he was still a demon and hard to hurt. He immediately jumped up ready to continue the fight. Anya however had no interest in a prolonged brawl. As D'Hoffryn stood up she materialised behind him and took off his head with her sword of hardened air. She tossed the sword aside and watched impassively as D'Hoffryn fell to the ground. His head and his body disintegrated as they were consumed in flames.


Anya held firmly to D'Hoffryn's amulet in her right hand and concentrated. After a few minutes she looked up. All of D'Hoffryn's vengeance demons had materialised in a circle around her. Altogether there were forty two demons and they were now all looking at her.


"It's been a long time since we had a new D'Hoffryn," said one, an ordinary looking man in a business suit. "Congratulations, I suppose you have orders for us."


Anya looked around the assembled vengeance demons. Yes, they're all here she thought. She spoke to Halfrek. "See, I told you I'd make a big splash Hallie," she said. Hallie said nothing, one of many demons still too surprised by what had happened to say anything.


"Put your amulets on the ground," Anya commanded. "I won't tell you twice," she added when the demons all hesitated. "Anybody tries to leave here with an amulet dies now," she warned sternly glaring at demon after demon.


Gradually the demons all complied. "Walk away, all of you. Try to be good people. Try to make up for everything you've done." Anya ordered. As the demons put their amulets on the ground they drifted away, stunned by what had happened. "Watch out for vampires," called Anya, "you're all human now."


Halfrek was the last one left. She still couldn't believe what had happened. "This is a test right?" she said. "You want to see who you can trust before you hand back the amulets. Well you can trust me. You know you can. We've always been friends. Even when nobody else liked you..." Halfrek broke off worried that she was saying the wrong thing.


Anya waved her hand and all of the amulets scattered around her on the ground grew bright and then dissolved into nothing.


"No!" screamed Halfrek rushing towards the amulets but stopping when she realised there was no longer anything there. She turned back to Anya but Anya had gone.


Anya appeared back in her apartment. Thanks Willow she thought, all debts are paid. That fake amulet had to be good to fool D'Hoffryn. She put D'Hoffryn's amulet around her neck. Her original amulet was still there, concealed by another of Willow's spells, powered by yet another amulet.


Anya slumped down in her chair. She'd never thought it would work, that she'd have to work out what to do next. She expected there to be some consequences for what she'd done. D'Hoffryn had been of some standing in the demon hierarchy. Somebody was going to be very annoyed about all this.


Chapter Five - Soul Mates


Buffy walked around the area of where she was sure those Christmas trees had been on sale that year. "It's around here somewhere," she said. "There's a hole..."


Buffy disappeared into the said hole. Giles and Vi rushed over and looked down. They were relieved to see that Buffy was all right. She was already on her feet dusting off her clothes. "Stay up there," she called. "I'll check this out."


"Take this," called Vi dropping an axe into the hole. Vi had insisted on joining the patrol and had chosen an axe to carry. It had seemed a silly choice to Buffy because a potential wasn't strong enough to wield it effectively. However as she picked up the axe and looked around Buffy was grateful that Vi had brought it along.


"Keep watch up there," Buffy called. "Don't let anything sneak up on you while you're looking down the hole. It is dark and there are still vampires around Sunnydale."


Buffy walked around the cave. It seemed to be part of a cave network. Goodness knows how far it leads she thought, probably right under the town and into those caves by the Hellmouth where I met the Master. Buffy heard movement behind her and turned quickly but saw nothing. She had learned to trust her instincts however and stood on guard with the axe with her back to a rock wall.


After a few moments and having failed to sneak up on Buffy the bad guy walked around the corner of one of the passages leading into the cave. And what a bad guy! This thing was so ugly it made a vampire look pretty even when it had its vamp face on. The interesting thing was it had fangs rather like a vampire.


As the creature stopped in front of her Buffy started her usual taunting, as usual not really considering whether it was a good idea. Generally Buffy liked the other guy to make the first move. Of course that sometimes meant taking the first hit.


"So what now? After failing to sneak up on me you're going to ugly me to death?" asked Buffy. The creature didn't reply, it only snarled. Perhaps it can't talk thought Buffy. I wonder what it is.


With great speed the creature moved forward and punched Buffy. Or it would have done had Buffy not moved very quickly. It struck hard enough to strike chips out of the rock face. Buffy moved aside as fast as she could but even so barely escaped the grasp of the creature as it struck again with its heavily clawed hand. She struck at it with the axe but only caught it a glancing blow as it dodged aside.


Now the creature was upon her, raining blow after blow. Buffy concentrated on keeping hold of the axe and avoiding or diverting the blows, which in the main she did successfully. Finally the creature achieved its first aim as it knocked the axe from her grasp. Buffy was ready however as she had seen what the creature was trying to do.


As the creature completed the swing of its fist to knock aside the axe Buffy was ready to stab inside with the wooden stake which she brought out from her sleeve. She rammed it into the creature's heart, or at least where the heart of most creatures would be. This time however she hadn't bought the winning ticket. The creature stopped, stood back, plucked the stake out its chest and roared, apparently unhurt.


Buffy wasn't fazed by what had happened. Even with vampires it sometimes took more than a simple wooden stake to take them down. She remembered Kakistos and thought, this thing's far older than Kakistos. Now why do I think that?


Thinking never stopped the slayer from acting. Whilst the creature was busy roaring and showing off his immunity to a wooden stake Buffy had rolled aside and was facing the creature once again with the axe in her hands.


Suddenly there was movement and noise behind the creature as Vi dropped down into the hole. The creature turned at this new threat, forgetting for a moment the far greater danger in front of him. Buffy gave it no time to recover as she took its head off with the axe. To her surprise it immediately dusted. Guess it was some kind of vampire after all she thought.


------------------------------------------------------------------------


The three Halliwell sisters and Willow had come downstairs to the front room to plan their next move. It was now getting late and Willow was worried that another meeting was coming to an end and nothing had been achieved. She seemed to be no closer to seeing Tara.


"OK, said Piper, "what are the alternatives?"


"Well," said Willow. "I came here because I heard that you'd been to a higher plane yourselves. I originally hoped you could take me to see Tara. I never thought you could bring Tara to see me."


"Could we do that?" asked Piper of her sisters. "You're part Whitelighter Paige, could you take us there, or at least take Willow to see Tara wherever she is?"


"I could take Willow to where we went before, the Whitelighter place," said Paige sounding doubtful. "But I don't know how to find a particular person up there. If I go to the Whitelighter place they'll probably jump on us straight away."


"We could use a spell to take us to a particular person," said Phoebe. "We've done it before."


"Yes," said Piper, "but not to a dead person. I'm worried that doing a spell to go to heaven or wherever is a fancy way of committing suicide. I'm not interested in buying a one way ticket." As she said this she saw the expression on Willow's face. Quite clearly Willow would be happy with a one way ticket if it took her to Tara. "Anyway we can't be sure where we'd end up if we tried that," she added.


Willow sat and listened to the Halliwell sisters talk through their problem, her problem she corrected. This is so like when the Scooby gang used to sit around and discuss how to deal with some big bad she thought, or when she and Tara...Willow broke off her thoughts and swallowed and concentrated on something else before she became too choked up to think straight.


"How do we know..." started Phoebe but stopped as she saw Leo's orbing light appear in the middle of the room. However Leo wasn't alone.


"Tara!" said Willow jumping up and putting her hands to her face as the tears began to flow.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Faith finished climbing up the emergency ladder and sat down on the fire escape landing. She hadn't seen any humans out and about for the past hour. Nobody to rescue for the moment she thought. She glanced at her watch and worked out that she'd been in LA for about five hours. It seems a lot longer she thought.


The watch was her watch now. On the way to LA she'd wondered about getting clothes, money, food and all that but it hadn't been a problem. She taken a lot of loot off the vampires she'd killed. One group of three had a truck load of stuff which she'd taken over after dusting them and had parked nearby. She wouldn't be in want of anything all the time this darkness lasted.


Since Faith had arrived in LA she must have killed thirty vampires and demons she thought. Word was going to be out that the Slayer's in town. She knew she should be worried but she wasn't. Let the demons and vamps do the worrying. THE SLAYER'S IN TOWN! YEAH!


Faith had deliberately let it be known who she was. I can't be everywhere she had decided. If I can make the demons and vamps watch their backs they won't have so much time to kill people. They might hold off on attacking a few girls in case it's the slayer. Anyway she thought, it's about time I went to see Angel. He'll know what's causing all this and Wesley will probably be researching ways to stop it. I should work with them.


Suddenly Faith spotted movement below. A running girl and a group of four, no five people or things were chasing her through the streets towards the square directly beneath Faith's position. Faith jumped up and slid quickly down the ladder towards the ground.


The girl ran though the square and into an ally on the other side. The five pursuers came behind, somewhat strung out by the chase. Faith allowed the girl to go past and then came out of the darkness and hit the first pursuer. Her first thought was that it was a human and she pulled her punch. Then she realised that it was one of the creatures who had been hunting down the potential slayers.


They may have been human once Faith thought but they're monsters now. She stopped restraining herself and set about killing. She took out the next two arrivals before she realised she was not alone. The running girl had returned to fight by her side. She'd taken care of the first enemy who had only been stunned and then took on one of the remaining two killers as Faith disposed of his last companion.


Easier than killing vamps thought Faith, much easier. She looked at the bodies lying around and found that she had no regrets. They looked like five human bodies lying on the ground but when alive the eyes had been empty and stitched up, even though they didn't seem to have any problem seeing.


"Thanks for the help," said the other girl. Faith looked at her. She was attractive with long dark hair, maybe a Latino background and perhaps even shorter than Buffy she thought. A trained fighter, which is what Faith would expect if the girl was a potential slayer.


"That's OK, you did pretty well yourself," said Faith. "They're not exactly vamps. You're good, you could probably have taken them all out without my help."


"Oh, I know I could have taken them," said the girl. "I just thought having them chase me through the streets was the quickest way to find you. I heard there was a slayer in town. The description said dark hair so I knew it was you Faith."


"I don't think we've met." said Faith.


"No we haven't," said the other girl holding out her hand. "Kennedy, Kennedy the Vampire Slayer."


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


"That's it," said Buffy, looking over Giles' shoulder at the illustration in the book. "It's even uglier than that in real life, or real death. What is it?"


Giles explained that the creature was indeed a vampire, an ancient ferociously powerful and savage vampire called a Turok-Han, a sort of Uber-vampire. It was much older than the normal vampire. It was a sort of Neanderthal vampire. It had always been assumed that they were a myth or at least that they had died out. Reputedly vampires feared them.


"Oh no," said Xander. "Buffy's the one the vampires are afraid of, well, most vampires anyway." He didn't pursue the subject further however as Buffy glared at him.


"So it shows up now, just when The First is stirring. Not a co-incidence I think," said Buffy.


"I agree," said Giles. "It's more than likely that the Turok-Han is here as an agent of The First. There may be more."


"Um, did you slay it?" asked Annabelle nervously.


"Oh yes, thanks to Vi. She was very brave." replied Buffy who explained about Vi's sudden intervention to distract the vampire.


Vi gave a quick guilty look at Giles who knew very well that she had slipped when trying to see into the cave but had said nothing. "She took its head off with the axe," she said. "One sweep and it turned to dust."


"But if we meet any more we must remember an ordinary stake won't kill it," said Buffy. "I put a stake right into its chest and it pulled it out again. But the good news is it isn't any cleverer than the average dumb vampire. It may be even dumber."


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dawn Summers was walking home. She knew Buffy wouldn't approve but she had thought it urgent to do something quickly to make the house secure, so after Buffy had gone on patrol she had persuaded Xander to give her a lift over to Anya's place. Meanwhile Xander had gone on to try to see Amy.


Both Dawn and Xander thought they had a better chance of getting Anya's help if Xander wasn't involved. Dawn was convinced that Anya still had strong feelings for Xander but she was equally convinced that Anya would be the last person to admit that those feelings were other than ones of vengeance.


The problem was that Anya wasn't home. Dawn had waited a half hour but then decided to go back home. Besides she thought Anya might be on the other side of the world on some vengeance job. I could be here for days.


It was on her way back home that Dawn had run into Amy who had also not been at home and had not yet seen Xander. Dawn therefore explained about The First and the need for protection at the Summers home.


"I might be on the hit list of The First as well," said Amy. "It knows I work with you guys after that spell with the coven the other night."


"Perhaps your coven could do a protection spell for your place as well," suggested Dawn.


"What coven?" asked Amy. "After what happened they all left town. I'm the only one left. I'll have to do all the spell casting myself."


"Are you staying?" asked Dawn.


"Oh yes," replied Amy. "Once you've been a rat very little frightens you any more. Besides I've lived here all my life. You can't be a native of Sunnydale without being threatened by nameless evil monsters from time to time."


Amy agreed to pop by when she had sorted out a suitable spell and first applied it to her home. Before she went on her way she told Dawn about her deal with Anya over the Magic Box.


"So you see I've no intention of being chased out of here," Amy concluded.


Dawn arrived home to find that both Buffy and Xander had returned and the gang had started researching without her. She insisted on being given a full account of what had happened.


"Turok-Han," said Dawn enthusiastically looking at the picture and the article in Giles' book. "That's something new we can research. They can't be all that tough or they wouldn't have disappeared. I bet they've got some special weakness."


"I think their special weakness is the same as their strength," said Giles. "They have more animal and less humanity than a regular vampire. Hence greater strength and speed but less intelligence and ability to communicate. Like a lot of extinct creatures."


"Now that's a word I like," said Xander. "Extinct, at least as far as vampires are concerned."


Molly and Annabelle exchanged glances, impressed. This was not the reaction they expected from people who had just found out about the threat from a new or rather old type of monster.


Buffy took Dawn aside to ask for an explanation for her trip out. When she had explained Buffy surprised Dawn by raising no complaint beyond a frown. In fact all Buffy said was "You'd better tell Xander you've spoken to Amy. Leave a message for Anya on her answer phone."


"Demons have answer phones now?" asked Dawn.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Willow found she couldn't move. She'd said "Tara" when she first saw Tara appear and her mouth had then dried up. She literally couldn't speak, she just stood and stared. Even had she been able to she didn't want to do anything to break the spell. Spell? Was it real? Was it really Tara or was it some deception? Was...


"Willow?" asked Tara. "Is it really you? Are you...are y y you all right? Are you well?"


As she spoke Tara moved towards Willow and, without her knowledge Willow's feet moved her towards Tara. Suddenly they both moved and flung their arms around each other, hugging as tightly as they could. Willow was certain, this was Tara, this was really Tara. Tara knew it was her Willow. Whatever had happened since that horrible day in Buffy's house she would always be 'her' Willow.


Willow and Tara stood and hugged each other in silence for a very long time. Both had their eyes closed and neither noticed that the room had quietly emptied around them. The Halliwells went into the kitchen for a family conference and to question Leo about what had happened to result in Tara being produced so dramatically.


"Well done Leo, you did the right thing," said Paige.


"That's pretty obvious isn't it," said Phoebe.


"I hope you're right," said Leo. "In the end it seemed to be the best thing to do. I hope it all turns out all right."


"What happened?" asked Piper. "Did you persuade the elders to change their minds? Grams said you were talking to them for us."


"Not exactly," said Leo. "My information was a little out of date." Leo explained that he had been briefed all about Willow Rosenberg by the Elders and by Alec, a Whitelighter who worked with the Devon coven in England. Alec had known the basic background about Willow and what she had done and about the help she had received from the coven to try to get over the dark magic.


What neither the Elders nor the coven had expected was that Willow would make such a good recovery from the dark magic and in such a short time. Since the day when she had been persuaded to stop by her friends she hadn't touched dark magic again. This was very unusual.


"So the elders have been keeping a close watch on her since then?" said Phoebe. "How do they do that? Do they watch us the whole time?"


"The watching was done covertly by a Whitelighter who had some previous knowledge of Sunnydale and the people involved," said Leo. "And no, the elders don't monitor your every move. This was just a special case in view of what had happed."


"Anyway it appears Willow was correct in thinking she had a soul link with Tara," continued Leo. "Tara hadn't moved on and we think her link with Willow has played a vital part in the healing process."


As things stood there had been an impasse explained Leo. Tara should move on but would not because she would have to leave Willow behind, maybe permanently. Because of the soul link neither the Elders nor anybody else could force the issue.


"So what happens now?" asked Phoebe, "how long can she stay? Phoebe had in mind the limit that applied to their mother and grandmother at Piper's wedding. She was already thinking ahead. How would Willow react when Tara had to go?


"No, no limit," said Leo smiling. "She can stay, well...permanently."


"She's been resurrected?" asked Paige. "After all you said!"


"The Elders have decided that Tara is a perfect candidate to be a Whitelighter. The soul link and her help in Willow's recovery proves that. Tara's agreed to become, if fact has already become, a Whitelighter, " Leo explained.


"And Willow's a powerful witch who very definitely needs a Whitelighter," said Piper.


"Who needs this Whitelighter," corrected Paige.
Next Chapter
StoryReviewsStatisticsRelated StoriesTracking