Her normal approach of hit it hard wasn't going to work. Anything that was a
clean 20ft taller than her height with heels just wasn't going to be daunted by
her little lovetaps. And if it snarled at her, with those rows of sharp
shark-like teeth parted to let loose the howl, the sheer blast of air would blow
her down the street.
Nope. Conventional slayage was not going to work here. That left just one
option: Giles magical and supernatural strategic knowledge. The power of the
almighty human brain to prevail of demonic forces, the strength of years of
study and experience to win the war of good over evil.
Wouldn't it have been nice if he wasn't shaking his head so negatively? "I-I
don't know, Buffy." Giles was nervous. The way he kept rolling his shoulders,
and struggled to keep his feet from fidgeting were not comforting his Slayer by
any means. "I'm not familiar with pit fiends. They don't usually roam the
Buffy raised one eyebrow, still not happy about the situation, but very aware
that Giles was leaving out some details. "Oh?"
"He's getting close to the bus." Angel reported, drawing Buffy back away from
what Giles hadn't said, and back to the situation. "We've got to get those kids
out of here." His weekend visiting old friends was not panning out as it should
"I'm open to suggestions." Buffy grumbled, locking down any emotions before
the demon could do anything to any of those kids. Odds were, some of them
wouldn't survive, no matter what she did. These were the battles she hated most.
Throwing herself on a grenade was one thing, but kids? Innocent children didn't
deserve to have their lives snuffed out because some stupid fool tried to
control a big bad nasty of a demon.
Xander flinched, as the creature chuckled in it's own way, pleased by the
hors d'oeuvres presented before it. "Can we move the bus? If Buffy gets past Mr.
Ugly, can she drive it away fast enough?"
Angel grunted, considering the younger man's idea, but discarding it quickly.
"Not with the damage done to the bus. Engine was pretty much punched out when
they hit the demon."
Long nails scraped across the surface of the bus, creating a shrill sound
reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard. As metal parted under that touch, the
children's horrified screams reached Buffy's ears.
The Slayer was running before Giles' and Angel's protesting calls could stop
her. Even if the cost of saving a few children was her life, it was a payment
worth making. A local parish priest who knew of Buffy's fight had blessed the
knife she carried. It was her best weapon against this creature, and yet,
infinitesimal in the demon's eyes.
Fleetly, with speed that was inhuman but divinely blessed, Buffy darted close
to the demon, avoiding the tail swinging with a destructive rampage. She knew
that the height difference between her and the demon made the battle grossly
unfair. But if Daniel could defeat Goliath, then Buffy could take down one
measly pit fiend.
Faster than the demon could react, she jumped high, impaling her knife deep
into the creature's hamstring, and tore the blade downwards. Reflexively, the
pit fiend lashed it's tail, and Buffy wasn't able to get clear in time. The hard
scales crashed into her body like a Tsunami wave, and threw her across the
street and into a brick wall.
The world went momentarily dark as pain made it's claim on her consciousness.
She was out mere seconds, wakening slightly as hands roughly pulled her up and
away from the wall. "Broken ribs," she heard Angel shout to Giles. "...need a
There wasn't time for a doctor, she wanted to say. They both knew if the
demon wasn't stopped now, it wouldn't be happy until it destroyed all of
Angel swung her up into his arms, racing clear of the now approaching demon.
Somehow, the demon failed to notice him, it's small eyes peering down into the
shadows Buffy had fallen into. The crater left by Buffy's impact with the wall
was sizable, but the only way it could NOT have noticed Angel's burden was if it
wasn't sensitive to Angel as a living or unliving being.
"This is hopeless," Giles said, deftly touching Buffy's ribs to determine how
severe her wounds were. "There is nothing we can do. I do not have the
knowledge, or the power to cast it back; and Buffy can not fight this
Angel grunted, passing the Slayer to Xander. He was reluctant to release his
burden, but in order to protect her against the creature, he needed his arms
free. "So we abandon the kids," he concluded for Giles. "And we do what?"
Buffy moaned in protest, not willing to give up the lives of children.
Xander's strong arms tightened, preventing her from moving too much. "A witch,"
the Slayerette offered. "Could a real witch do anything?"
Giles nodded, abruptly turning away from the watching the demon. The fiend
had given up on finding it's missing mosquito, and was returning to the
succulent little sampler all contained in the metal box. Watching children die
horrifically was a trauma Giles didn't need. Hearing it would be awful enough.
"Yes, quite. I do wish Willow were here."
Three protests sounded. Willow, fellow Slayerette to Xander, was safely miles
away in Los Angeles to visit friends. Protecting her was their primary goal, on
most battles, the last thing anyone wanted was Willow exposed to this monster.
"Willow isn't a witch, Giles!" Xander protested. "I mean, she's a witch, but not
Metal scrunched. Instinctively, Angel pushed at Giles, using his body to
encourage the group to move away. "No, she's not," the vampire agreed. "But she
does have contacts. We need to hurry. Call her cell number. There has got to be
a coven in San Fran that can renounce the demon!"
"Indeed," Giles agreed, his pace increasing. Clearing through the rubble the
demon had made to the buildings was not going to speed their progress, and as
loathe as they all were to abandoning children, far more lives depended on them
doing just that. "A coven with a mature, seasoned witch. Innocence cannot
comprehend such a creature, and it cannot raise sufficient powers to command a
pit fiend back to hell. Willow would be as helpless as we all are against it.
She is possible equal to a novitiate, but in no way as strong as a maiden. This
is out of her league by way of her purity."
Her skin was absolutely crawling by the time the coach reached the city
skirts of San Francisco. The sensation of wrongness made her stomach twist
violently. *I've been gone three days... what could happen in three miserable
days?* Willow cursed silently.
Despite having slept since getting on the bus, she was exhausted. Her weekend
escapes were not restorative to her energy levels. Invariably, she always
expended far more than she had just to loose her personal demons. And this time,
romping with Spike had really drained her. Physically and bodily, *But,
voluntarily!* She almost chuckled, looking down at her neatly bandage wrist.
Leaving the vampire a few ounces of blood had been by way of a "Thank you for
not killing me-and for some truly fantastic sex." Some girls left 'dear John'
letters, but not Willow. She left a piece of herself.
Her rest had been disrupted ten miles outside of San Francisco. Slowly, the
sense of evil had crept through her awareness, until finally it was consuming
her. Rather like how talking about fleas could make skin itch, her entire body
crawled with a need to be clean of such darkness. Which, in light of her
alliances of last night, was almost ironic.
"What is going on? I don't need this on my way home, tonight!" Willow
muttered, staring out the window to the south. The disturbance was perhaps ten
minutes away. In the darkness, however, she couldn't quite see what the problem
was. "I hope Buffy has it under control."
With great determination, Willow firmly pushed her back against the plush
seat and ordered her body to relax. "I can't do anything. So chill. You need a
shower, sleep and a change of clothes before anyone sees you!"
Closing her eyes, she inhaled and exhaled deeply, struggling to escape the
chill in her soul. For a moment, she succeeded. One beautiful precious moment of
velvet blackness, where her soul was the only glimmer of light against the
backlit of a starry sky that was ripped apart by a bloody tear through the heart
of the sky. Screams, a rising crescendo of horror in a children's choir tore
through her subconscious, and threw Willow's attempt at calm to the winds.
Bolting straight, she looked again out the window, her eyes staring to the
south. "No, no, no. Not tonight. Please, not tonight," she begged silently, her
shivers intensifying with each second that the bus moved deeper. They were
nearly at the nexus of the evil, it was definitely within walking distance now.
*Or running distance. Please, don't let there be children!*
Hastily making her decision, as the screams she had ‘heard' echoed endlessly
in the back of her head, Willow grabbed her backpack and inched past her
seatmate. The bus hadn't arrived at the terminal, but she didn't care. Boldly,
she walked to the front of the bus, snapping her fingers to get the driver's
attention. "I'm getting off here." She said, once he looked at her. Eye-to-eye
contact, and she could partially control his mental reflexes.
Wordlessly, the bus slowed to a stop, and the doors opened. Willow hit the
The screams were less imaginary and more real, now. Tearing across the
streets in the most direct route she could, Willow let her training in magic
take control of her responses. Sensitivities trained in three years of intense
practice now reached out to identify the evil and the potential victims. There
were kids, the feeling of youth and innocence were flags to her mind.
And there was a Baatezu, a pit fiend. *Shit, shit, oh man super-shit!* Willow
groaned silently, wishing her sense of survival was strong enough to turn tail
and run. The noble self-sacrifice streak ingrained in her by years of helping
Buffy, however, weren't about to allow for the abandonment of children. *Okay,
okay... we're thinking.* Willow calmed herself, jumping down stairs quickly.
*They're magic sensitive, so I'll draw him out using me as bait. Gee, that's a
great way to see my next birthday.* Savagely, she bit down on her already
bruised lips. *So, then what? While it's thinking I'd make a great meal, what do
I do? I can't attack it magically and win, so what?*
Pit Fiends lived in the deepest degrees of hell. They made vampires seem like
puppy dogs, in terms of the death and destruction they caused. Earth, to them,
was uninhabitable with all the little fleas on it. Humans made nice meals, but
were, in general, great inconveniences. *So how did it get here? What moron
would free a pit fiend? Certainly none of the covens around here!*
Dancing around the corner, she stepped into the most horrifying scene from
her worst nightmare. Looking down a clear path at a pit fiend about to pluck a
child from a bus. *Oh, sweet Goddess!* Freezing for only a second, she ran
harder than ever down the street towards the demon, a plan forming even as her
legs began pumping. *One way ticket back to hell. I hope you've already killed
your summoner, I'm not up to a challenge.*
Pulling one hand in front of herself, she quickly sketched a couple of light
protective spells, meant to keep her alive long enough to cast the monster back.
Twenty feet away from the monster, Willow came to a dead stop, her feet placed
shoulder width apart and arms stretched up in summoning. *And let the show
The shields Agatha's coven had so carefully taught her to create fell away
from her mind as if they were nothing more but tissue paper. The energies and
magicks that had infused her body seeped into the world around her, as clear as
a fragrant cherry-blossom tree on a warm spring day.
It definitely attracted the Baatezu. The clawed hand froze just above the
gaping opening in the bus, and it's incredibly ugly face swung in her direction.
*That's it, big boy. Come and bite this little meal.* Willow taunted silently,
now taking large steps backwards. The distance meant nothing, even running she
could not outpace the demon, but she hoped her movements would entice it to move
away from the bus. *Oh, goodie. I can still out think the bad guys.'*
Two steps shortened the distance between herself and the creature into a mere
10ft. *Oh Lord and Lady, help me tonight! I'm a little pooped for this, but I'm
pretty sure you want those children to live!*
Squaring shoulders, Willow drew her power back around her, like a mantle
about her shoulders. Head up, she licked her lips one, and the words seemed to
fall off her lips before her mind had a chance to dream them up. Normally,
before opening any portal anywhere, invoking the protection of the four
quarters, and then requesting the Gods presence was done. This, however, was an
emergency, and in an emergency any good witch knew to fake the entire ritual
song and dance and get down into the actual workings.
Especially when a big leathery ugly with more teeth than it needed was about
to breath down your throat.
Angel had sensed the power before they'd cleared the rubble. Stopping dead in
his tracks, Giles had walked right into the vampire's back. "Angel?" The Watcher
asked, the nervous tone in his voice not escaping anyone's notice. "Is the
"There's a witch down there," the vampire breathed, turning away from the
path and jumping back down a few meters. "My God, she's strong!" Moving further
away, he scrambled to get a good view of the challenger. The demon blocked most
of his view, just based on the pit fiend's sheer bulk.
Absently, he heard Giles and Xander return closer, silently cursing Xander
for not keeping going. Giles might be certain that the slayer's own advanced
healing abilities would take care of her wounds, but Angel lacked the same
confidence. "Who is it? Good guy, bad guy? Can you see?" the boy asked.
Angel shook his head. "Not yet..." He muttered, blinking rapidly and
straining his predator's gaze into the fray below. The fiend wasn't happy, the
witch was definitely upsetting it. Already, it had moved away from the bus. A
quick glance at the vehicle and Angel saw the opportunity they needed to save
the kids. "Will Buffy be okay for a little while?" He asked, quickly. "If we
move it, we can get those kids out!"
"Buffy will be fine." The Slayer insisted in a rather shaky voice. "Get the
kids. Now." The blondes eyes were open now, and the strength in them belied the
strength of her body. "Leave me right here, and go!" Her tone brooked no
Angel stripped off his jacket, leaving it around Buffy's shoulders as they
propped her carefully. She hissed, despite herself, at the pain of her ribcage,
but offered no other complaint. Silently, her eyes begged him to hurry.
Giles was already moving down the rubble, taking a great deal less care on
his descent that he had on climbing up. Nodding quickly to Xander, Angel just
began to throw his body down, indifferent as to whether he hit ground or not.
With his superior strength, endurance and energy, he was past Giles and at the
bus in minutes.
"Come on... Go! Go! Go!" He shouted at the kids, ripping the doors open. They
were perhaps, ten or eleven. Based on the various clothing and bags, Angel was
willing to guess that a school trip had been their reason for being out so late
in the evening. The driver, and teacher up at the front of the bus were already
dead, likely from impact.
Like a river, they flooded out of the bus, guided by Giles and Xander up
towards the Slayer. Nimble little bodies with the passionate survival instinct
rose like a flood, sweeping over the rubble of buildings and into the safe
Looking up after the kids, Angel smiled, seeing that Buffy had struggled to
stand and was cautiously leading the kids to safety, with one arm wrapped across
her abdomen. Turning away, he climbed into the bus to see if there were any
wounded survivors left behind. Amazingly, only the adults had been killed.
"Someone was looking out for these kids!" He muttered.
"Clear." Angel informed his two male companions. "Let's get going before the
Witch.... Jesus Christ!"
Both Giles and Xander jumped, unaccustomed to hearing Angel swear in that
manner at all. A good re-practicing Catholic, in as much as a vampire could
practice, Angel avoiding using the Lord's name in vain in the hopes that such
small honors would help his soul gain a right to heaven. It had taken Willow the
better part of an entire evening to explain his reasoning to Xander, but once
the boy had the concept mastered, Xander realized it was a belief he could
Now, to hear Angel swear with such vehemence, Xander turned to find the
source of the vampire's shock. The demon was in a rage, this was clear. The way
the pit fiend was standing, legs braced securely, they all knew it was about to
sweep it's tail in a wide circle. The force of such a blow was tremendous… Buffy
was by no means fragile, and the damage such a smacking had done to her was
But that alone wasn't what shocked the vampire. Peering through the creatures
parted legs, they all had a very clear view of the Witch that was taking the
demon on. Slender, tiny and young, her shoulders were thrown back proudly, and
arms outstretched with palms raised towards the darkened sky. The short black
bomber jacket fluttered lightly in the night air revealing a thin strappy top
beneath. Paired with a short black skirt and black boots, she was the
preconceived image of what a witch really was.
And her name was Willow Rosenberg.
"Sweet God in heaven!" Giles breathed. "She'll be killed!" Realization
created a motivation, and before any of the three men could do more than react,
they were running down the street to try and distract the pit fiend.
Angel took the lead, heading straight for the demon's legs, much like Buffy
had before. With his head tucked low and shoulders curved forward he had the
grace of a jaguar, lithe, sleek and so very fast. However, with his focus solely
on his target, and not on Willow, he missed a pertinent little detail – she was
casting a circle.
Arms reached high into the air Willow's fingers dancing arcanely and nimbly
creating glyphs of burning silver fire. Faster and faster her fingers moved, the
symbols spinning out and falling down to the earth like a burning waterfall of
silver. Flames kissed the ground and like a gas stove's pilot light, ignited a
blinding circle of fire around herself and the demon.
Angel ran smack into the circle, and bounced off an invisible wall. It threw
him backwards onto his ass. "No, Willow!" The vampire protested aimlessly.
Climbing to his feet, in reached out for the barrier and cringed at both the
feeling of the divine in it, and the pure strength of the wall it created. It
would keep the demon from further external damage, but also kept Willow trapped
inside with the creature.
Giles was beside him, suddenly, the Watcher's hand clamping down on Angel's
wrist and hauling it away from the barrier. "It's burning you, Angel. Let it
go!" Giles ordered. Xander stood behind the vampire and sucker punched him in
the lower back. It lacked the strength to harm Angel, but it did surprise him
enough to turn around, pulling his hand clear of the protective circle Willow
Instantly, now that it was free of the contact to the fiery wall, pain
overwhelmed him. Giles still held onto Angel's wrist, his tongue clucking
disapprovingly as he took a cursory examination of the wounded hand. The circle
had acted much like a cross or holy water would to Angel's flesh. "I had no idea
she was that strong!" Giles commented, surprised.
Xander stepped away from both men, now that Angel was safe, and stared
hopelessly at Willow. "Can't we help her?" He pleaded, fixated only on his
perception of Willow as fragile and weak, rather than the powerful witch Giles
was implying that she was. "I thought you said that an innocent can't take this
"She can't," Giles confirmed. "She's containing it, but there is nothing else
she can do." A death sentence self-imposed, his words implied. "A witches power
grows in stages. A novice cannot raise a demon, much less contain it! A maiden
might, but nothing else! Only a Priestess would have any resource of control."
As if his words were prediction, the demon let loose its scream, directly at
Willow. The tail whipped around, as the creature twisted, intent on swatting out
the inconvenience in front of it. Willow didn't flinch, nor did she stop her
apparent chanting. The tail lashed towards her, stretching out longer and longer
until it collided with the borders of the circle.
Fire arched as if fed by a blast of oxygen, the heat of the blaze unfelt by
the observers. But, the were hot and as ferocious as lasers. The tail cut into
the blaze and was seared off and incinerated. The pain, to the pit fiend was
tremendous. Throwing back its head, eyes glowing incandescently, it lunged
forward with it's scream.
Like a tornado, the air battered at Willow, tossing her jacket away from her
shoulders, and blowing her hair back off her face. Still, she stood her ground,
her lips still moving rhythmically. Pale skin against the darkness of night
seemed to almost glow. The black fabric of her clothing only emphasized the
creamy pallor of her flesh.
"What's that on her shoulder!" Xander shouted, leaning forward. His nose hit
the circle's barrier, but unlike Angel, it did not burn him, it just kept him
out of harms way. "What the hell is going on? Giles?"
Like black ink on a white canvas, a crescent moon and pentacle decorated
Willow's chest, above her right breast. Not large, but still not small, it was
almost decorative for the simple and clean lines of the marking. "Night-walker!"
Angel breathed in astonishment. "She's a recognized witch to the night-people!"
Giles tossed the vampire a startled look. There were aspects of the
supernatural that all the books the Watcher's had acquired had no knowledge of.
Every so often, Angel would make a reference like this that had no meaning to
Giles whatsoever. And, as always, the Watcher made a mental note of his
questions, but shelved them for asking once the danger was past. Right now, his
questions meant nothing, as they watched Willow battle on.
Lifting her hands from her sides, where they had fallen after the casting of
the circle, Willow reached high into the night sky and tilted her head back.
Power laced through her body, reviving fatigued limbs. There would be a price
for such expenditures of energy, and already she could see what one of those
prices would be. *Why do they have to be here?* She thought in a distant corner
of her mind that was free of the struggle at hand.
Controlling a Baatezu was pointless. They were invulnerable to magic used
against them, but not to magic used to the environment around them. Containing
it was easy, once you understood that concept. A simple circle would work.
The problem was, containment couldn't last forever. Destroying it was really
not likely. Since controlling a Pit Fiend was so difficult, summoning another to
tear it apart was stupid. Physically taking it out on her own was a ridiculous
idea, and casting it into stone, like Acathla would require a congregation of
covens or, a high ritual that invoked the physical essences of the God and
Goddess. Somehow, Willow was doubtful that was about to happen.
The only way she could see to actually come out of this alive was to send the
demon right back to the pit it crawled out of. Opening a portal to hell wasn't
too hard, but it did require a mature and balanced witch. Balanced in both light
and dark magic – innocence and corruption. *Lucky me, I have all the
prerequisites.* The complication was that Giles had to know what such a portal
meant, and that she wasn't likely to be in any shape to deal with them
afterwards. Her little secrets were about to come out for a full viewing.
The creature's tail swung wide, and Willow's eyes narrowed. Much like a human
would to a fly, the Pit Fiend was trying to swat her out. Unlike a fly, though,
Willow wasn't so defenseless. As the tail crashed into the circle's boundaries,
the godfire incinerated it, blowing ash back to the ground as harmlessly as a
The demon howled in pain, and the onslaught of its scream felt much like
being in a wind tunnel. It took such strength to not be blown away, and to not
falter in her spell-casting. The slightest error would trap her in hell too.
Angel had suffered so greatly in the outer circles of Hell, so much so that
Willow really didn't want to find out what the inner circles looked like on a
Focusing only on her spellwork, she hoped that her personal protections would
keep her uneaten long enough to finish. The foundation was set. Anchoring the
gate to the circle gave her a ticket back and a connection to her world. The
problem with battle magic was that you didn't have the safeties and preparations
that went into a structured casting. Normally, something like Stonehenge, or
twin pillars of quartz were used as anchors. Using the circle itself was
somewhat of a footloose risk, but Willow had to believe it would work.
Now came the challenge of opening a link between earth and hell. This was
where innocence faltered. An innocent, a true unblemished soul, could not begin
to reach out, touch and hold fast to the dimensional differences between earth
and hell. Only an experienced mind could do that, which is why normally only
coven elders worked this kind of magic. *Can't look anyone up, right now. I'll
just wing it, and apologize later.'*
Seren, the local coven High Priestess, absolutely went wild when Willow did
things beyond her range. The concept that devoted study, and practice of those
lessons learned just to keep the good guys winning were the forces that pushed
Willow forward. It wasn't a gift, in Willow's mind, or an aptitude for magic.
More, it was a necessity to learn and learn it well that made her achievements
Unfortunately, it also enticed the younger coven members to take risks they
weren't ready for, thinking that if a non-traditional Wiccan could do it, so
Touching a bit of hell, like what Willow was, would have fried their brains
and invited a demonic possession. *I wonder if that's how the first vampire was
made?* Willow absently thought, spinning her fragment of hell into a small
vortex. *Gotta look into that.*
Fingers curled, creating an imaginary spiral in the air. In her minds eye,
that spiral twisted, turning faster and faster until it was a tangible presence.
Casting it in the center of her sacred circle, Willow prepared to expand it.
The Pit Fiend screamed, sensing now what it was the Witch was doing. It
wasn't utterly stupid, but a non-offensive attack did confuse it. Realizing that
this nice tasty world was about to slip from its grasp, it lunged directly at
Willow. A massive clawed forelimb reached down, wrapping around Willow's body
and pulled tight.
The darkness was her first warning, so caught up in her castings as she was.
Opening her eyes, she looked up just as the hand closed about her. *Oops!*
"WILLOW!" Xander screamed at the top of his lungs, fists pounding into the
circle's wall. "It's killing her! NO! Someone stop it! Stop it!"
Giles pulled Xander back, surprisingly strong arms steadying the younger man.
"Stop it!" The Watcher shouted. "You're not helping her if you kill yourself
trying to break a circle!" Giving Xander a quick shake, he was startled when the
boy's body went limp. Head rigid, Xander stared straight across at where Willow
Looking up, Giles felt his jaw fall open in surprise too.
The silver fire of the circle was nothing to the explosion of blue-white
light that erupted in the creatures hand. Tearing through the limb as if it was
a simple snowflake, the nimbus grew brighter and brighter.
Howling yet again, the pit fiend fell back, retracting it's wounded hand and
cradling it against it's body. It took two great steps backwards, away from the
witchling that was causing such pain.
To Giles, Xander and Angel's surprise, Willow emerged from the creature's
shadow unscathed. "My heavens!" Giles breathed, astonished. Like a Goddess
rising from an ocean, Willow's true power revealed itself. Her street clothing
melted away in the glowing nimbus surrounding her, leaving a simple white shift.
Barefoot, her hair falling loose down her back, the redhead seemed not like a
sweet naïve child, and more like an exotic and powerful wisewoman. "I had no
idea!" Giles continued.
"Giles?" Xander's voice had the tremulous quiver of a person in shock. "I…"
The confusion was apparent. Even Angel's face reflected great confusion and
"She's a witch," Giles simply said. The words alone couldn't convey what he
wanted to say. "A Priestess of a coven, perhaps. I never thought anyone so young
could rise so far…."
Unspoken went what they were all thinking. Somewhere, somehow when no one was
looking, Willow had lost her innocence and naivete. The girl they saw every day
was a façade to the woman beneath.
"She's sending it back to Hell." Angel summarized, feeling the prickly
sensation of an opening to Hell. Unlike the Hellmouth, however, he could also
feel the rigid control and temporary nature of this portal.
Giles flinched, startled. His jaw opened, and closed. "Dear sweet God. What
has that child been mucking with?"
"Grant this Release!" Willow intoned formally, her voice rising as if in
song. Poignant, deep it was like a rich wine. "Witness me!"
The vortex was maturing, about ready to physically manifest. "I am standing
subservient, grant this world peace!" Throwing her head back, Willow welcomed
the passions of her chosen God and Goddess to infuse her.
The vortex erupted full grown as power flowed into her and then outwards.
Bare arms snaked upwards, an exotic dance with minimal movement, and spread wide
into a ‘v'. As if that were a sign to begin, the portal unleashed it's vacuum,
pulling the creature in.
Surrendering to the divine powers that consumed her, the pleasure enough to
destroy an inexperienced mind, Willow let the Gods anchor her to this world, and
was able to resist the suction into Hell.
The air cleared about her, as Baatezu shrieked it's last protest before
disappearing. Opening her eyes, Willow gazed blankly at the churning vortex, the
violent colors in it a fine representation of the horrors of the creature's
Leaving the portal open too long was to invite more monster's into Earth,
Willow knew. Despite the struggle to free herself from the ecstasy of divine
communion, she pulled her mind clear. Amazingly, as hard as it was to open a
controlled portal, it was ridiculously easy to collapse it.
Reaching wide with her mind and magic, Willow shepherded the strains of magic
that fed the portal, keeping it alive and pulled them back into herself. Tense
like a guitar string, they snapped beautifully and the vortex fell in upon
itself, dwindling to nothingness in mere seconds.
The urgency was gone now, and Willow felt the adrenaline leave her body.
Quickly, before she made any mistakes, she made quick reparations of thanks to
her circle's guardians, and dismantled the circle. Power flitted away in a rush,
leaving her weak-kneed. "Tomorrow is going to hurt," she predicted softly.
Breathing carefully, trying to keep black spots from clouding her vision,
Willow was startled when warm arms slid about her body, pulling her up. "Willow!
Oh my God, Willow! Are you okay?" Xander's voice filled her ear. Pulling her
tighter, he failed to notice her rather scanty clothing, he was so far gone on
making sure she was real.
"Peachy, I'm tired. Can I go home now?" Willow muttered, pulling away from
Xander. Looking over his shoulder, she watched Giles and Angel's steady
approach. *Uh-oh.* Vampires could sense another vampire's presence without much
difficulty. Willow just hoped that vampires couldn't sense another vampire's
fingerprints on a human. Having Angel figure out that she had just returned from
a frolic with a vampire, much less Spike, would not be good.
The illusion of who she was had serious cracks in it, right now. That would
be the straw that shattered the camel's back. They expected a meek, quiet, mousy
Willow whose idea of adventure was a new webpage. It was safe, easy, simple and
utterly boring. It was also the hardest life to live… walking two separate paths
but keeping one hidden. Unbidden, Spike's words slipped through her mind. *So
why do you bother being what they expect, then?*
"Shuddup." Willow muttered, unintentionally aloud.
"Willow?" Giles spoke, wondering who the girl was talking to. "Are you
A long night was about to get much longer. She could just feel it.
"Marvelous," Willow replied dryly, studiously avoiding Angel's eyes. "A little
on this side of exhausted, but just marvelous. I didn't burn my brain out, the
hands and feet all work. I can still do algebraic equations, and have no fear of
a computer… can we go home now? I was on my way home to bed when I got
The three men exchanged quick glances, all making the same conclusion.
Despite their abundant questions, Willow was definitely not in any mood to
answer them. Prudence being their best course, irritating a very tired and very
powerful witch was not a good idea.
"Yeah, sure," Xander answered soothingly. Wrapping one arm across her
alarmingly bare shoulders, he pulled her towards the other end of the street.
"We just have to go find Buffy and the kids, and then we can go."
Willow looked up, suddenly remembering the children she had risked her life
for. "The kids! Oh! Are they okay?" She asked anxiously, looking to Giles,
Xander and then, finally, Angel.
Angel smiled, the kind of expression that was like a little boys wistful
expression on Christmas Eve. "Fine," he promised. "None were hurt, and they
scampered away faster than you'd believe!"
Wearily, Willow smiled. In distracting Baatezu, she'd given no further
thought to the children. Hopefully, that didn't make her a bad person. *Just a
tired one!* After the risks she'd taken these past few days, adding bad karma to
the mix was the last thing she needed. "Thanks for getting them out!"
"Doing our duty, ma'am,." Xander droned comically. "Glad to be of service."
It took a few minutes, with Angel finally picking Willow up and carrying her
up the hill as her fatigue slowed her down, before they found Buffy and the
children. The Slayer was sitting, favoring her one side noticeably, with the
kids cluttered about her. From the way she was moving one hand and talking, it
was clear that she was amusing the elementary school children with a story.
Her voice trailed off as she saw them clear the rubble, blue eyes widening
dramatically to take in Willow. Buffy's mouth parted in a silent ‘Oh!' as her
eyes slid from Willow's wild red hair to her bare feet.
"WILLOW!" A small tornado whipped through the center of the clustered
children, barreling straight at the witch. "Willow! Willow! Willow! I knew you
were coming! I knew you'd save us!" Before any adult present could stop her, a
tiny blond girl with masses of ringlets, hurled herself into Willow's arms. "I
told Barron too! He didn't believe me!"
"Dana!" Willow gasped, sinking to her knees as her arms wrapped around the
child. "Oh Goddess! What are you doing here? Where's Barron?"
Dana twisted in her arms, freeing one arm to point back into the crowd at a
dark haired little boy watching them both. "There!" The little girl informed
everyone. "He didn't believe me!" She turned back to Willow, making the
accusation gravely. "I saw the bad thing, and I said you were coming, but he
Willow smirked, amused. The child was a coven child, the youngest daughter of
one of the more respected coven leaders in San Francisco. She was also the
biggest bundle of energy Willow had ever seen, and was always claiming to have a
new ability, just after hearing about it in someone else. A veritable
hypochondriac for magic. "You saw me, hmm?" Willow teased.
Dana nodded, brown eyes serious. "Uh huh. Last night. I saw you in my dreams.
Baatezu was eating Matt, and then you came and saved me and Barron! And you
Willow looked past Dana to Barron, surprised when the boy nodded
confirmation. If the girl really was beginning to develop Sight, it was
something her mother needed to know immediately. "I see," Willow murmured,
slowly standing. She kept the girl in her arms, the four-year-old child not a
tremendous weight to carry.
It didn't take much more than that for Giles' curiosity to manifest. "Second
sight, I take it?" He commented softly to Willow. "I suppose these are Wiccan
children?" Smiling warmly at the boy, he glanced back at the girl in Willow's
"Uh huh!" Dana nodded eagerly. "I saw the Wisp in my head, yesterday! She
left the Hunter's bed in Sanctuary to come save us! I saw it all!"
"Wisp?" Buffy asked, growing confused. The way the girl was talking, it
sounded almost like she meant Willow.
Willow's hand clamped on Dana's mouth before the child could condemn Willow's
respectable image to a shallow grave. Casting the child a warning look, and
making mental note to have a very long chat with the girl's mother, she lifted
her fingers slowly.
"Willow!" Barron was the nail in Willow's coffin. "The Grandmother always
calls Willow a Wisp, ‘cause she blows in like fairy dust and stirs up trouble.
Dana said she saw Willow with a Hunter to Mama. And mama got all red." Turning
to Willow, the five year old boy looked up with earnest interest. "Why'd Mama
turn red ‘cause you were sleeping over with a Hunter?"
Willow groaned silently, feeling four pairs of adult and knowing eyes turn to
study her. *I should have gone to Harvard.*