THE POWER OF THREE
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.
Additional Note: I’m making a change to the story as presented in Book 1. In Book 1, the Senior Partners of Wolfram and Hart knew about the Power of Three rising and were involved in sending Lindsey to Sunnydale. I’m changing that so that the Senior Partners don’t know. Only Holland knows. He planned to deal with the Power of Three on his own and thereby raise his own status in the firm.
Number of Chapters: 16
Chapter Summary: As Buffy and Willow deal with the fallout from Caleb’s attack on Tara, Faith and Vamp Willow finally arrive in the “real” Sunnydale.
After helplessly staring at Tara for a moment, the group finally clicked out of their daze. Buffy took control and ran over to Tara. She gently tilted Tara’s slumped head to the side and checked the witch’s pulse at her neck.
“She’s alive!” Buffy said excitedly.
“Oh, thank god!” Willow cried in relief.
“Giles, Xander, help us cut her down,” Buffy ordered. The two men pulled off their backpacks and came over to assist. Buffy turned to Anya and pointed at one of the backpacks. “Get out the blanket.”
Giles and Xander each took a wrist and cut the rope holding Tara in place. Buffy and Willow caught Tara and eased her to the floor onto the blanket that Anya had just laid out. They wrapped her up in it.
“Tara, baby, we’re here, it’s us,” Willow said, crying and softly pushing Tara’s hair away from her bruised and battered face.
“Tara, sweetie, can you hear us?” Buffy asked.
Tara’s eyes remained closed, and she gave no response.
“We have to get her to the hospital now!” Buffy said.
Buffy scooped Tara into her arms and left the room.
* * *
A short time later, Xander was zooming down the highway, racing back toward Sunnydale. In the back of the van, Buffy and Willow held each other while cradling the unconscious Tara in their laps. They both cried freely while crooning encouraging words in their girlfriend’s ear.
“Hang on, baby,” Willow whispered as she stroked Tara’s hair.
* * *
At the Sunnydale Hospital, Buffy rushed Tara into the Emergency Room, with Willow hot on her heels. They blasted right past the admitting nurse, who blustered toward them until Giles intervened, leading her aside to explain. As Buffy and Willow got Tara on a gurney inside the treatment area, the doctor came over.
“What happened?” the doctor asked.
“We found her, in the forest, like this,” Buffy said. “Somebody took her and tortured her and—” A sob caught in Buffy’s throat, and she couldn’t go on.
“Do you know her?” he asked.
“Yes,” Buffy said, having regained her voice. “Tara, her name’s Tara.”
“Does she have any medical conditions, allergies?”
“Shrimp!” Willow interjected anxiously. “She’s allergic to shrimp.”
“No, I meant any allergies to medicines,” the doctor said.
“Oh. Right. Stupid,” Willow said, hanging her head.
Buffy took Willow’s hand in hers but kept her eyes on the doctor and answered his question. “I don’t think so. She’s never said.”
“That’s okay. We’ll take care of her,” the doctor said. “If we need any more information, we’ll contact you in the waiting room.”
“But—” Buffy started to object to the doctor separating them.
“You’ve done all you can for now,” he told them. “Leave the rest to us. We’ll update you just as soon as we can, I promise.”
When the doctor gestured at the door, Buffy and Willow reluctantly left the treatment area.
* * *
When Buffy and Willow trudged unhappily into the waiting area, Xander and Anya rushed over.
“How is she?” Xander asked.
“We don’t know,” Buffy answered. “They just started on her.”
“They’ll let us know something as soon as they can,” Willow added.
They all stood there, saying nothing for a moment.
“She’ll be okay,” Xander stated. “We found her, she’s alive, so she’ll be okay.”
Buffy nodded, trying to be hopeful and agree with Xander’s words. Willow began to cry and crumpled onto a nearby bench. Buffy went with her. The two just held one another and cried.
Xander and Anya were at a loss at what to do. They finally just sat down on the same bench, Xander next to Willow and Anya next to Buffy. They put a comforting hand on the backs of the distraught girls and waited.
* * *
About an hour later, Giles re-joined the group, having filled out all the requisite paperwork for Tara’s admission to the hospital. It had taken a while to explain the unique relationship that the Scoobies shared, but once Giles supplied the necessary legal documents proving that he and the others were all health proxies for one another, the admitting nurse gave him no further difficulties.
“Have you heard from the doctor yet?” he asked upon his return.
Buffy shook her head.
“Here he comes now,” Xander said, pointing behind Giles.
The doctor came over to the group. They all stood to greet him. “Are you Tara’s family?”
“Yes, we are,” Buffy said.
“How is she, Doctor?” Giles asked.
“Stabilized, but still critical,” the doctor replied. “Unfortunately, her brain activity indicates that she’s...well, she’s in a coma essentially.”
Willow whimpered. Buffy shored her up.
“She was beaten very badly, but she doesn’t appear to have any broken bones or internal bleeding. We’re going to do some x-rays and scans to be sure, of course.” The doctor looked down and cleared his throat before looking up and continuing. “The, um, the other injuries...the cuts and burns and the, um, the sexual assault...they’re not life-threatening.”
“Oh god...” Willow cried before slipping back down to the bench. Buffy wrapped her arms around Willow, and the two of them went back to crying.
The doctor shifted on his feet nervously before moving closer to Giles. He lowered his voice and said, “I know you’re all very upset, but…I’m required to report things like this to the police and…” He shrugged and trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
“I understand, Doctor,” Giles said. “Please keep us informed of her progress?”
The doctor nodded and went back inside the treatment area.
* * *
Hours later, Buffy was sitting on the bench, staring off into space. Willow was lying on the bench with her head in Buffy’s lap. Buffy absently stroked Willow’s back. On the bench next to them, Xander and Anya were huddled together, leaning on each other’s shoulders, sleeping. Giles was walking out of the waiting room with Joyce, headed for the vending area down the hallway.
An orderly in white scrubs pushed an empty metal cart with a broken clanging wheel through the ER, earning him glares from the Scoobies. Once he was gone, the group closed their eyes once again.
The orderly went to the elevator that was near the ER. He pushed the down button, waited for the car, and entered it once it arrived, clanging the metal cart over the jamb loudly.
When the doors opened again, he was in the basement. He rolled the cart out and clanged down the hall a short ways before entering a set of double doors. Inside the doors was a makeshift office: desk with chair and lamp and phone, filing cabinets, a computer station. Around it were clumps of broken wheelchairs, gurneys, and carts and other unused hospital equipment. He parked the cart and sauntered over to the station, where a white-clad woman was sitting in the chair looking bored.
The orderly reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
“You ready for a smoke break?” he asked.
“Yes!” the woman said enthusiastically as she got up from her chair. She glanced down the hallway toward a room whose light was on, then turned back to the orderly. “Let’s go,” she said.
The two of them walked through the double doors to the elevator and pushed the call button. When the elevator arrived, they entered and closed the doors, and the elevator started its way up.
Back in the now-empty office area, a huge whoosh hit the room. The lamp fell over and off the desk, and file folders blew open, sending papers everywhere. A portal was opening. Within seconds, Faith and Vamp Willow came tumbling out of it and slammed into an abandoned gurney, sending it crashing into a clump of metal tables. As the portal dissipated, they both groaned and sat up. Faith was the first to get up. Vamp Willow was slower because of the protective gear she was wearing.
“Where are we?” Vamp Willow asked as she pulled off her motorcycle helmet and ski mask. She gave her hair a fluffing.
“A hospital, looks like,” Faith answered. “Some kind of storage area maybe?”
Vamp Willow finished taking off her bulky getup. “A hospital? Why would we end up here?”
“I don’t know. Wasn’t the spell supposed to tap into the slayer energies?”
“Supposed to,” Vamp Willow replied.
“Well, maybe Buffy’s here in the hospital,” Faith said. “If she’s like me, she’s been to the E.R. more times than she can count. Let’s look around.”
Vamp Willow noticed the lighted room down the hallway. “There,” Vamp Willow said, pointing at the door. The two headed that way.
When they reached the room, they realized it was a working patient room. Faith took the lead and went inside. A curtain on the far side hid part of the room. Faith slid the curtain aside slightly.
From behind Faith, Vamp Willow asked, “What is it?”
“It’s me,” Faith said in a shocked but calm voice.
“What?” Vamp Willow pushed the curtain aside so that she could see. She froze in place. Her mouth dropped open.
In the hospital bed lay the pale body of this world’s Faith, still comatose since her battle with Buffy the night before Graduation Day.
“Holy shit!” Vamp Willow said.
* * *
Moments later, Faith and Vamp Willow were still in shock, staring at the comatose woman in the hospital bed.
“What happened to me?” Faith asked, upset. “Why am I here?”
Vamp Willow shrugged uncertainly. “I don’t know.”
“Buffy and Tara never said anything about my counterpart when they were in our world,” Faith said. “What about when you were here?”
“Nope, never saw her, and I really don’t remember them mentioning her.”
Faith went to the end of the bed and pulled the chart from the slot. “Chart says I’ve been here…she’s been here…since May of last year.”
“She’s been in a coma all this time? Even with slayer healing?” Vamp Willow noted. “Damn.”
“If she’s in such bad shape, then why’s she stuck down here?” Faith asked, anger entering her voice. “I mean, shit…she’s thrown down here like another piece of fuckin’ broken equipment!”
“Look, we can ask the others when we see ’em okay?” Vamp Willow said, giving Faith’s arm a squeeze. “For now, let’s just do what we came here to do: find Buffy and see what’s going on.”
Faith nodded at that and didn’t say anything else.
* * *
Faith and Vamp Willow took the elevator up the ground floor. It opened near the ER. Faith walked out of the elevator and headed for the main exit. Vamp Willow didn’t follow; instead, she hovered at the door to the ER.
“Faith,” she called out, drawing the slayer to where she was standing.
Together they both looked inside and saw Buffy’s face across the room. They rushed inside the ER waiting room and found Buffy on the bench with Willow in her lap.
“Oh, man, we’re too late,” Faith said to Buffy, who was staring at the Wishverse duo in shock.
“What happened to Willow?” Vamp Willow asked, kneeling down and putting her hand on Willow’s arm.
Willow awakened groggily. “Whuh...what is it?” Then she saw Vamp Willow. “Ahhhh!” she yelped and scrambled closer to Buffy.
At the yelp, Xander and Anya woke up. When Xander saw Faith, he screamed too and pointed at the brunette. “Ahhh, evil slayer, evil slayer!”
Giles and Joyce returned just then and stood protectively behind the Scoobies and glared at the two intruders.
Faith and Vamp Willow backed away. This was not the welcome they expected.
“No, no!” Buffy interjected frantically to the group. “She’s not evil! That’s Bizarro Faith.”
“Gee, thanks,” Faith deadpanned. “That’s way better than ‘evil slayer, evil slayer’.”
“This is Faith and Willow from the Wishverse,” Buffy explained.
Xander and the others took on an “oh” expression. Anya gave a pleased smile. “I was always awfully proud of that wish,” she said. She stopped smiling when Giles frowned at her.
“What are you doing here?” Buffy asked, getting to her feet.
“Red here got some bad vibes from Willow,” Faith said. “We thought we’d better come see what was up.”
“But Willow’s okay,” Vamp Willow noted. “Maybe Ethan did get it right, and we’re here before it happens.”
Faith shook her head worriedly. “No, something’s already happened, hasn’t it?” she asked.
Willow nodded, tears falling again.
“It’s Tara,” Buffy said.
* * *
About an hour or so later, Faith and Vamp Willow sat with the Scoobies in the ER waiting room, getting the scoop on what had happened.
“So, let me see if I’ve got this,” Faith said. “This evil law firm in L.A. hired this Caleb guy to attack Buffy and Willow and Tara because of this power-of-three-guardians-of-the-hellmouth thing. Caleb kidnapped Tara and left her for dead, but you found her in time.”
“Why didn’t the so-called ‘curse’ kick in?” Vamp Willow asked. “Shouldn’t Caleb have gotten some kind of karmic lightning bolt or something?”
“Well, we don’t actually know for sure that he didn’t, but...I imagine that the curse failed to activate because Tara never died,” Giles said.
“Maybe that was Caleb’s plan all along,” Buffy suggested. “Hurt us but not kill us.”
“It’s devious, but effective,” Anya noted.
“No kidding,” Xander agreed. “With Tara alive but out of the picture, there’s no Power of Three and no curse to worry about.”
“But why is this L.A. group going to so much trouble to hurt Buffy and Willow and Tara?” Joyce commented. “They’re not even in L.A. What is this group up to? What’s so important that the Power of Three has to be crippled?”
* * *
In L.A., Holland was meeting with Lilah in his office. While they were mid-discussion, Holland’s private line rang. He picked up the receiver and put it to his ear.
“Yes?” he answered. After hearing who it was, he smiled. “Ah, Caleb. One moment please.” Holland put the call on the speaker. “You have news?”
“Indeed I do,” Caleb said over the speaker. “I bring good news from Sunnydale,” he bragged. “Stage one is complete.”
Holland’s expression brightened into a smug smile. Lilah looked on anxiously.
“Excellent,” Holland said. “And who was the ‘unfortunate’ target?”
“Well, they all were, thanks to that wonderful connection they share,” Caleb said with a laugh. “But it was the blonde witch who earned my special attentions. She was…well, lemme just say that I haven’t had such a pleasurable assignment in quite some time.”
“And you’re certain that she’s out of the picture?”
Caleb gave a loud scoff, which Holland took as an affirmative answer.
“Very well. Once my contacts have verified the assignment’s completion, your payment will be wired to the account you specified,” Holland said.
“Why, thank you,” Caleb said happily. “It’s been a pleasure doin’ business with you. Should I move on to stage two? Or have you changed your mind on that one?”
Lilah cast a shocked look in Holland’s direction, as if she suspected what the elder lawyer had in mind. Holland ignored her. “Maintain surveillance,” he told Caleb. “We’ll talk about stage two later.”
“Will do,” Caleb said cheerfully.
Holland ended the call and hung up the phone. He turned to Lilah and stared at her hard, daring her to question him. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but then closed it and glanced away. Holland smiled and leaned back in his chair.
“I take it you don’t approve,” Holland said, offering Lilah the chance to speak her mind.
Lilah turned her eyes back to her boss. “I’m just concerned, sir. What you’re doing…it’s risky.”
“Lilah, my dear, great accomplishments always come out of great risks,” Holland lectured. “That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am now, and it’s how I’m going to earn myself an elevation to senior partner.” He paused for a long moment, then gestured grandly at his office. “Which would, of course, leave a vacancy in my current position.”
Holland stopped again, allowing Lilah time to consider the implications. As he expected, her eyes flashed with greedy ambition. She covered it up quickly, but Holland had already seen what he had wanted to see. He smiled wickedly.
Lilah crossed her arms and returned his smile. “What’s next?”
“Oh, plans within plans,” Holland replied. “There is so much more at stake than you can possibly imagine.”
* * *
Back in Sunnydale Hospital, the Scoobies were still deep in discussion with Faith and Vamp Willow when the doctor entered the waiting room and came their way. Once again, they all stood, anxious to hear what he had to say.
“Doctor?” Buffy prompted.
He gave a sweeping nod as a greeting to the group. Then he turned to Buffy and Willow, who had taken a step forward to meet him.
“How is she?” Willow asked.
“We’ve done all we can here in the E.R.,” the doctor said. “She’s stable enough, so we’ve moved her to a private room.”
“Can we see her?” Buffy pleaded.
“Yes,” he replied. “Just get the room number from the admitting nurse, and remember, not too many visitors. Two or three at the most at a time, okay?”
“Of course,” Buffy said, nodding enthusiastically.
As the doctor turned to go, Willow grabbed his hand and held it. “Thank you,” she said with deep sincerity. Buffy added her hand to echo Willow’s statement. The doctor merely smiled, pulled away, and returned to the treatment area.
The Scoobies immediately engaged in a group hug, taking some comfort in the fact that Tara was stable enough to be moved. Faith and Vamp Willow stood awkwardly nearby, still very much the outsiders in all this.
After the hug, Buffy and Willow rushed over to the nurse’s station and soon left the E.R. to find Tara’s private room.
* * *
After Willow and Buffy left the E.R.’s waiting room, the Scoobies turned back to each other. The smiles of relief that had been on their faces faded when they considered all that lay ahead of them. As a heaviness returned to the mood, Giles and Joyce unconsciously moved into each other’s arms in a sideways hug; Xander and Anya did the same. But no one spoke.
Faith looked over at Vamp Willow then cleared her throat and stepped into the group. “So, um, what do we do now? I mean, what can we do to help?” The Scoobies moved apart slightly and turned to the pair.
Giles pushed his glasses up on his nose and said, “Well, um, I think it would be very helpful if you two could handle patrol for the time being.”
“No prob,” Faith assured them. “We can do that. You got a place we can crash?”
“Yes...my apartment,” Giles said. “I can take you by there. Joyce?”
“I’ll stay here,” she replied. “Someone needs to stay here with the girls.”
Giles nodded at that then said, “Oh, and someone should call Angel, let him know what’s happened.”
“I’ll do that,” Xander said. “I’ve got his number back at my place.”
“All right then, meet back here later?” Giles said.
Everyone nodded, and the group broke up, with Joyce heading to the nurse’s station and the others moving toward the exit.
* * *
Meanwhile, upstairs in the hospital, Buffy and Willow eased into Tara’s room. Holding hands, they anxiously approached her bed. They crossed to the far side, away from the I.V. and the electronic equipment monitoring her vital signs. The girls’ faces creased in pain when they took in the sight of the injured blonde.
Tara appeared to look worse rather than better. The bruises on her face that had before been merely red and slightly raised were now dark purple and fully swollen. Butterfly closures were taped along a nasty cut on her forehead. Light gauze bandages covered the brand marks on her neck and arms. She was breathing on her own, but she was so pale and still that she seemed to be barely alive. Thankfully, the heart monitor indicated a faint but steady rhythm.
Willow let out the sob she’d been holding in and reached out to touch Tara’s arm. She stopped inches above it, not wanting to touch her anywhere that might hurt. She settled on just taking her hand. With her own tears flowing, Buffy stroked Tara’s hair several times then rested a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“I’m so sorry,” Buffy whispered.
“Please come back to us,” Willow said in a choked voice. “Please…”
Their cries came in earnest then, and the two fell sobbing into each other’s arms. They were crying so hard that they didn’t hear Joyce come inside. She went instantly to them and pulled them into a warm, comforting embrace. They wrapped themselves around the older woman, seeking solace in the mother’s touch.
* * *
Having been by Giles’ apartment, Faith and Vamp Willow were now on their way to patrol in the last few hours of darkness. Carrying their borrowed weapons, they approached one of the many graveyards in Sunnydale. Neither had had much to say since they had left Giles’ place.
“Weird seeing a stand-up Giles, isn’t it?” Faith commented, breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” Vamp Willow said flatly before looking up and seeing the cemetery’s gate. “Oh, good. We’re here. I so need to kill something right now.”
“You and me both,” Faith agreed grimly.
The two determined White Hats entered the graveyard, gripping their weapons tightly and hoping for demon prey to be awaiting them.
* * *
In L.A., Angel was just coming in from a long night of demon hunting. He took off his jacket and headed for the bathroom to wash up. He stopped when the phone rang. He wondered who would be calling at such a late hour. He walked over and picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” he answered.
He listened intently for several moments. Then his face tightened into barely-contained fury.
“Don’t worry, Xander,” he said through clenched teeth. “Somebody’s definitely going to pay, and I know just who to start with.”