THE POWER OF THREE
Rating: R (for language and violence)
Content Advisory: Beginning with Part 07 and continuing until the end, the story goes violent and dark. Fair warning.
Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.
My Website: http://www.dragonwriter17.net/
Feedback: Yes, but only if it’s of the non-flamey variety: DragonWriter17@aol.com
Distribution: The Mystic Muse, Near Her Always (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)
Spoilers: The end of BtVS Season 4’s “Wild At Heart” and beyond.
Author’s Notes: I have kept to the BtVS/Angel canon in some ways, borrowing directly from aired episodes; however, I have also made significant changes: deleting certain storylines, moving some, changing others, as well as adding some completely original plots. If you haven’t read my backhistory story for Tara, “Out of Shadow into Light,” you need to because it is critical to Book 2.
Number of Chapters: 16
Chapter Summary: As the Three celebrate the news of Tara’s total lack of demon-ness by completing their move off campus, Caleb strikes. At the same time, Vamp Willow and Faith decide to make a visit to the “real” Sunnydale.
Several Weeks After Part Six
It was night in the Wishverse, and Giles was in the dining room of the Mansion, concluding a meeting of the White Hats. Faith and Vamp Willow were there, as were Riley, Forrest, and several others from the Initiative. As the meeting broke up, Faith and Vamp Willow walked out of the room. Riley and Forrest were right behind them.
“Willow and I are heading out for patrol,” Faith called over her shoulder to Giles.
“Sure you’re up for it?” Forrest said, pointing out the fresh bite marks on Faith’s neck. “Looks like you been letting Red here make some recent withdrawals.” He appeared to be joking, but more than a little disgust was in his voice.
Without even saying a word, Faith nonchalantly elbowed Forrest in the face, bloodying his nose. Vamp Willow laughed and put her arm around Faith’s waist as the two kept on walking.
Riley stopped beside his friend. “Man, when are you gonna learn?” he said, shaking his head.
Forrest was holding a handkerchief to his nose. “Geez, get a sense of humor, why don’t ya!” he called out angrily to Faith, who ignored him.
Faith and Vamp Willow grabbed a few stakes in the foyer and headed out the front door. As they came down the steps, Vamp Willow suddenly gasped and put her hand to her chest as if she were in pain.
“What is it?” Faith asked.
The sensation had passed as quickly as it had come, so the vampire simply said, “Nothing.”
When Vamp Willow shrugged it off, Faith did too, and they set out for their patrol.
* * *
Later that night in a nearby cemetery, Vamp Willow and Faith were in the middle of dealing with a large nest of vampires who had taken up residence in a crypt. Faith twirled and kicked one vampire into the wall of the crypt while quickly staking another. Vamp Willow wasn’t using her stake at all. Instead, she was magically calling up small fireballs in her hand and slinging them into the vampires, incinerating them.
“Look at you,” Faith said to Vamp Willow mid-fight. “Puttin’ the fiery hurt on the vamps. Wicked! You’re really takin’ to this magic stuff.”
“Yeah, I’ve learned quite a lot from Ethan,” Vamp Willow said.
“I don’t like that guy,” Faith grumbled. “I don’t trust him. I mean, he just shows up, Mr. Super Warlock, and we take him in without so much as a background check.”
“We don’t need a background check. He and Giles go way back. He knows all about Ethan’s untrustworthy ways,” Vamp Willow said. “Still, that won’t keep me from learning everything I can from him.” Vamp Willow shot Faith an arrogant smile. “Besides, I’m his star student.” Then she sent out multiple fireballs that took care of the rest of the vamps all at once, including the ones Faith was fighting.
Faith turned and gave Vamp Willow an incensed look. “Excuse me,” she complained. “Those were mine! Show-off.”
Vamp Willow laughed. “Yeah, I wonder what my fuzzy other self would say about me now? I’d spell circles around that little—”
The redhead gasped as she’d done before, this time falling to her knees because of what was hitting her. Her hand flew to her chest, and she began panting in distress, not from the need for air, but from the intensity of the pain she was experiencing.
“Oh god…” Vamp Willow said in a choked voice, as tears started to stream down her face.
“Willow!” Faith said, running immediately to her side. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Vamp Willow paid Faith no mind and just let herself slip to the ground. She curled into a fetal position, crying even harder.
“Willow!” Faith called again, brushing the redhead’s hair back from her face.
Vamp Willow gave a big sob and then abruptly stopped. Whatever had been assailing her had apparently ceased its attack. She drew in a few more hiccupy breaths and sat up, wiping the tears from her face.
“Will…babe…what’s going on?” Faith asked, holding tightly onto the vampire’s arms.
Still shaking from the ordeal, Vamp Willow said, “I-I-I don’t know.”
“C’mon, I’m getting you back to the Mansion,” Faith said.
The slayer pulled Willow to her feet, and wrapping her arm firmly about the vampire’s waist, she led her from the crypt.
* * *
Giles sat in his wheelchair with his back to the fireplace. Faith stood nearby, but Vamp Willow paced nervously.
“You said this was urgent. Are you sure you don’t want me to call the others?” Giles asked.
“No!” Vamp Willow objected sharply. “You think I want Forrest and his Initiative buddies knowing about this?” The vampire growled and went back to pacing. “Vampires are not supposed to have breakdowns. They don’t bawl their eyes out over stupid, human, emotional shit!”
Faith dropped her gaze, hiding a grin at Willow’s tirade. She knew better than anyone how much these “touchy-feely” moments annoyed the vampire. Hell, she herself shared a lot of those same feelings.
“Especially when it’s not even their own shit,” Willow added in a huff.
“What do you mean?” Giles asked.
Vamp Willow stopped pacing then sighed heavily. “I think that what I was feeling was tied to my goodie-two-shoes self over in the other Sunnydale.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t know what’s going down over there, but it’s bad. Really bad.”
“Is it happening to Willow herself or to one of her friends?” Giles inquired further.
“I don’t know,” the redhead replied with a frustrated shrug.
“Well, we should just hop over there and see what’s up, then,” Faith announced.
Vamp Willow nodded in agreement, but Giles shook his head. “Absolutely not,” he said firmly. Faith looked at Giles in shock. “You are the slayer for this dimension,” Giles lectured. “You simply cannot leave it unprotected.”
“We didn’t have any problem yanking Buffy from her dimension,” Faith pointed out, “and besides, we owe her…her and Tara both. They didn’t have to stay and help us, but they did, and because of them, we defeated the Master.”
“That’s right,” Vamp Willow added. “Besides, Willow could have let Buffy kill me, but she didn’t, so I guess I owe her for that.”
“Okay then, off to Buffyville!” Faith said, and she and Willow did a high five.
“Yeah, so get your boyfriend down here, and let’s talk magic,” the vampire witch said.
Giles got an insulted look on his face. “Ethan is not my—” A blush crept into his cheeks. “I don’t know where you get such ideas,” Giles insisted, folding his arms across his chest.
“Maybe it’s the fact that he sneaks into your room late at night?” Faith said slyly, causing Giles to blush even more.
* * *
Giles and the other leaders of the White Hats were once again seated in the dining room for a meeting. Giles sat at the head of the table. On one side of him were Ethan, Riley, and Forrest. On the other side were Faith and Vamp Willow.
“So let me get this straight,” Riley said. “Willow got a funny feeling, so she and Faith are going to do some risky ritual so that they can pop over to the other Sunnydale and see what’s up?”
“They need our help,” Vamp Willow stated firmly. “I’m sure of it.”
“Your little ‘soul seed’ tell ya that?” Forrest asked snidely.
“That’s right,” Vamp Willow said, glaring at Forrest.
“How exactly were you planning to get to the other Sunnydale?” Giles asked, putting the conversation back on track.
Vamp Willow looked over at Ethan then said, “Well, we were thinking we’d use a modified version of the spell that brought Buffy here. In that spell, we reached out and made a connection with the slayer energies—in other words, Buffy—and teleported her here. We figure we can use that same connection, but instead of bringing her here, we send ourselves there.”
“I can see how that would get you there,” Giles commented, “but how will you get home?”
“The spell will work like a rubber band,” Ethan explained. “The band will get stretched when we send them there. When it’s time to come home, they’ll simply release what’s holding them there, and they’ll pop right back.”
“We’ll need to set an anchor here, though,” Vamp Willow added. “You know, so that we don’t go flying off into the ether or ricocheting around dimensions.”
“The timelines between dimensions aren’t the same,” Giles said. “How do you even know you’ll get there in time to be of any assistance at all?”
“We don’t,” Vamp Willow said, “but I still think we should try.”
“Riley and company can handle patrolling while we’re gone,” Faith said. “It’s been nothing but the usual lately anyway. No hints of anything major brewing. Trust me, you won’t even miss us.”
Giles turned to Ethan. “Are you sure you can do this?” he asked.
“Ah, Ripper,” Ethan quipped, putting his hand on his chest in dramatic fashion. “You wound me with your doubts.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” Giles replied, rolling his eyes. He thought for a moment then said, “Very well.”
Vamp Willow and Faith smiled excitedly.
* * *
In the “real” Sunnydale, Buffy and Willow and Xander were at the Three’s new apartment, unloading the latest set of boxes from Buffy and Willow’s dorm room. When they finished, they stopped for a break in the kitchen, quenching their thirst with ice cold bottles of water.
“Hey, did I tell you about this new show I saw?” Xander said. Willow and Buffy shook their heads. “Well, it’s pretty good, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to what’s going on here in Sunnydale. It has three witches whose house rests on a magical nexus of some kind, and they have to vanquish demons every week. Coincidence? I think not.”
Willow and Buffy both made a scoffing sound, discounting the notion. “Yeah, right,” Willow said.
“And when they go up against a really bad demon, they have to chant ‘the power of three will set us free’ three times,” Xander continued, giving the girls a knowing glance.
Buffy and Willow exchanged nervous looks, then they chuckled and shook their heads. “Nahhh,” Buffy said, leaning against the counter. “It’s just a TV show.”
“Well, I guess you’re right,” Xander said. “After all, on the show, the ‘Three’ are sisters, so there’s no hot lesbian sex at all…” Buffy smacked Xander on the arm. “Owww.”
* * *
Meanwhile, Tara was in her dorm room, finishing up packing her stuff. Anya was there with her helping. Tara stopped packing one box and looked over at Anya.
“Thanks for helping,” Tara said.
Anya looked up and grinned. “Well, according to Xander’s latest lecture on human etiquette, that’s what friends do: they help each other move. Even when they don’t want to.”
Tara hid a chuckle at Anya’s statement, knowing better than to be hurt by the former demon’s blunt honesty. Despite her lack of tact, Anya had a good heart, and she was trying very hard to re-learn human ways and to be a good friend. Tara went back to packing.
Suddenly, a big ugly demon broke in the door to the dorm room, startling both Tara and Anya. The beast was about seven feet tall and had shaggy hair on its shoulders and torso. Between its coal-black eyes was a single horn coming out of its forehead. It roared and headed for Tara.
Tara held out her hand to cast. “Thicken!” she commanded.
As the air shimmered and thickened around the demon, he simply passed his arm through it and shattered the immobilizing spell. He rushed Tara and grabbed her by the arm. She screamed and started to fight back.
“Leave her alone!” Anya cried, picking up an unpacked lamp and crashing it over the demon’s back.
“Buffy! Willow! ” Tara screamed in her mind.
* * *
In their new apartment’s kitchen, Buffy and Willow felt and heard Tara at exactly the same time. Buffy shot up from her leaning against the counter. Willow dropped her water bottle. They looked at each other, fear on their faces.
“Tara!” they said simultaneously then dashed for the front door.
Xander ran after them. “What is it? What’s going on?”
* * *
Back in Tara’s room, Anya was hanging off the demon’s back, beating him on the head with a candlestick. Tara was still locked in his grasp, desperately running through her repertoire of spells, none of which were working.
“Let her go, you big sasquatch!” Anya yelled, smacking him once again in the head.
The demon gave an aggravated roar and reached back for Anya. He ripped her off his back and flung her violently across the room.
“Anya!” Tara cried out when she saw the former-demon crash into the wall and slip to the floor.
The demon instantly turned back to Tara and savagely backhanded her, knocking her unconscious. When Anya groggily looked up, she saw the beast put Tara over his shoulder and haul her off through the broken door. Anya wobbled a moment, bleeding from her temple, then dropped back to the floor as she passed out.
* * *
Mere minutes later, Buffy and Willow and Xander arrived on the scene. They rushed inside and found Anya just coming to, pushing herself off the floor. They ran to her side. Xander pulled her into his lap.
“Anya! Are you okay?” Xander asked frantically.
“What happened?!” Willow said.
“Where’s Tara?!” Buffy asked.
Anya blinked slowly, still a little disoriented. “It took her.”
“It?” Buffy asked. “What took Tara?”
“Big demon,” Anya said. “It broke in the door. We tried to fight, but it was too strong.”
“Oh god, Buffy!” Willow blurted, the tears already coming.
Buffy turned and grabbed Willow’s arms. “We’ll find her,” she reassured the witch, “but we’ve got to stay calm, okay?” Willow got herself under control and nodded. “I need you to call Giles. As soon as he gets here, we’ll take Anya to the hospital. In the meantime, I’m gonna see if I can track this thing.”
Willow sucked in a big breath and let it out. “Okay,” she said and walked purposefully over to the phone.
Buffy went and kneeled next to Xander and Anya. “Anya, are you okay? We can call an ambulance if…”
“No,” Anya said. “I’m okay. Go.”
Buffy nodded gratefully then got up and rushed out the broken door.
Xander pulled a blanket from a nearby box and settled it over Anya. As Willow watched Buffy go, she waited anxiously for Giles to answer his phone.
* * *
Outside Tara’s dorm, Buffy followed her senses. They led her around the front of the building to the side yard, where the demon’s tracks could be clearly seen. She followed them to a small alcove. There, in the shadows of multiple trees, the trail just vanished.
Buffy looked from side to side, behind and in front of herself, but there was no sign of either Tara or the demon.
* * *
A couple of hours later, Willow and Buffy were sitting with Giles in the waiting area of the emergency room. They cast nervous glances toward the door to the treatment area. Eventually, Xander came through and walked over. Everyone immediately stood up.
“How is she?” Giles asked.
“She’s okay,” Xander replied, taking a seat. The others sat back down. “It’s just a mild concussion. Nothing broken. Some bruises. She’ll be fine.” He tried to say this matter-of-factly, but it was clear that he was shaken by the event. “I can take her home in a bit.”
“Good because we’ve got work to do,” Buffy said. “We have to find Tara. And Anya’s the only lead we have.”
“Anya did say she got a good look at the demon that took Tara,” Xander said. “If we find out what we can about it, maybe that will help us find her.”
Willow and Buffy seemed encouraged by this news, gripping each other’s hands tightly.
“What about this-this bond the three of you have?” Giles offered. “Can you use it to find Tara?”
Willow’s face fell. “We’ve tried, and we can’t…” Willow trailed off.
“We can’t sense Tara,” Buffy finished for her.
“Oh god, is she—?” Xander asked in a panic.
“No! No,” Buffy answered immediately. “If she were, we’d know. A-A-And it doesn’t feel like that.”
“She could be unconscious,” Willow suggested. “Or blocking us, I suppose.”
“Or someone’s blocking her,” Giles said ominously.
* * *
Back in the Wishverse, Ethan was looking over his preparations for the portal spell. They had moved the furniture in the living room out of the way and set up the ritual there, directly in front of the fireplace. Faith and Vamp Willow waited nearby as the warlock made his final checks. At last, Ethan sighed in satisfaction and turned to the group.
“Is everything prepared?” Giles asked.
“Indeed it is,” Ethan answered. “Shall we?” he gestured grandly for Faith and Vamp Willow to join him in the ritual area.
Vamp Willow immediately stepped forward, but Faith suddenly pulled her back. “Wait!” the slayer said. “You can’t go like that,” she told the vampire.
Willow looked down at her attire: tight black jeans and black boots, a low-cut white blouse. “I already dressed down so that I’d quote ‘fit in’ unquote,” she said sarcastically.
“No, I mean, what if we get there and we’re right in the middle of the football field at high noon?” Faith explained.
“Oh,” Vamp Willow said. “Good point. So what we do?”
* * *
About a half-hour later, Vamp Willow trudged awkwardly from the downstairs bathroom and into the living room. She was wearing a hodgepodge of protective gear: a ski mask pulled over her head, a motorcycle helmet on top of that, a heavy scarf around her neck, a fireman’s jacket and pants, and thick ski gloves.
Faith, Ethan, and Giles tried not to laugh but failed.
“I am not amused,” Vamp Willow grumbled under the heavy visor of the helmet.
* * *
In the “real” Sunnydale, Buffy and Willow and the others were back at Tara’s dorm, examining the scene of the demon’s escape.
“You said you couldn’t track it?” Xander asked, hovering protectively near Anya, who had a bandage on her temple.
Buffy nodded. “I tried, but it’s like it just disappeared. Right there. See? Hundreds of feet of solid track, then poof! Nothing.”
“Do you think it teleported?” Anya asked, patting the bandage on her head. Xander took her hand and pulled it away. She glared once then pouted.
“I don’t know,” Buffy said. “Maybe.”
“But if it could teleport,” Giles asked, “then why did it choose to break down Tara’s door to get inside?”
“It’s a sucker for a good entrance?” Xander offered.
“I can do a magic tracking,” Willow said with confidence. “If it did use teleportation, there will be a psychic residue. I’ll need to get supplies, though, and check something in your library.” Giles nodded.
“Let’s do it,” Buffy said before leading the group away.
* * *
In a dank, poorly-lit, window-less room, Tara lay facedown upon the floor. Slowly, she came to, pushing herself up groggily.
“Anya?” she called out. She blinked her eyes several times and then took in her surroundings. She quickly realized that she wasn’t in her dorm room, and Anya was nowhere to be seen.
Carefully, Tara got to her feet, wincing as some of the soreness from her fight with the demon made itself known. She touched her bruised cheek and then looked around the room.
It was a small room with cinder block walls. A single heavy metal door was on the other side of the room. An old metal desk and chair were to one side, along with a set of rickety filing cabinets. The room was dirty and filled with cob webs, apparently unused for some time. Various papers lay about the floor. The ceiling was low and un-paneled. The bare metal beams of the internal structure were visible as well as the electrical and plumbing duct work. Out of the four rusty light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, only one was working. Several bare I-beam-like columns ran from the floor into the ceiling. One wall was partially framed on one side, crossed with metal conduit that was part of the electrical system that would have been hidden behind the finished wall.
Tara went to the door and tried it. It was locked. She stood before the door and gestured at it. “Resera,” she commanded. Nothing happened. She spoke the word again. The result was the same. A look of frustration came over her face, and she turned from the door.
Tara walked a few feet away. I’ve got to contact Buffy and Willow, she thought to herself. She closed her eyes and concentrated, gathering her energy; then she reached out and made contact.
* * *
“Willow! Buffy! ”
Willow and Buffy were at Giles’ apartment, sitting on the couch next to each other, conducting research with the others, when their heads shot up at exactly the same time. They both jumped to their feet.
“Tara?! ” they said, sending their thoughts out.
“What is it?” Giles asked, hurrying over from his desk.
“I-I-It’s Tara!” Willow blurted excitedly. “She’s contacting us!”
“Tara, are you all right? ” Buffy asked.
“I think so,” Tara replied via their psychic link.
“Where are you? ” Willow asked.
“I don’t know,” Tara said. “A room somewhere.”
“Describe it ,” Buffy told the witch. “Tell us anything you can. We’ll find you.”
“Well, I think it’s underground. A basement maybe? And it’s—” Tara’s mental message stopped.
Willow got a worried look. “Tara? What is it? ”
“Someone’s coming,” Tara replied, but she didn’t say anything else.
“What’s going on?” Xander asked.
“We don’t know,” Buffy answered. “She was trying to tell us where she was, and then she heard someone coming.”
“She’s scared, Buffy,” Willow said, reaching out to take the slayer’s hand.
“I know,” Buffy said, wrapping her arm around Willow.
* * *
Tara nervously watched the door as the old lock began to turn. After a hefty clank of the lock, the door swung open, and Caleb walked arrogantly inside the room, a proud grin plastered on his face. Tara backed away.
“Oh, good,” Caleb said when he saw Tara standing. “You’re awake.”
“Wh-Wh-Who are you?” Tara asked.
“Caleb’s the name,” the dark-clad man said, “but I’m not the one who’s important here, darlin’. You are.” He closed in on Tara, who backed all the way to the unframed wall. “In fact, you’re the key to ev’rything.”
“What do you want from me?” she said, trying to sound brave.
Caleb smiled broadly. “Pain,” he replied simply.
Caleb thrust his hands forward, sending two huge bolts of energy directly into Tara’s body. She fell to the ground, screaming and convulsing, as the Caleb continued to zap her with a maniacal look of glee on his face.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART