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 local detectives begin investigating the attack on Tara, Buffy and Willow and the others try to develop a plan of action.
“Do you have any other questions?” the neurologist asked as he stood in the hallway outside Tara’s hospital room.
Buffy and Willow looked at each other and shook their heads. Joyce smiled and held out her hand. “Thank you, Doctor.”
The doctor shook Joyce’s hand, gave a small smile to Buffy and Willow, then headed down the corridor. He passed two detectives in dark suits, one male and one female. The two police officers approached the three women and caught them before they went back inside the hospital room.
“Excuse me,” the male detective said. “I’m Lieutenant Land, and this is Sergeant Dunn. Are you Miss Maclay’s family?”
“Yes, we are,” Joyce replied.
“Are you one of the people who brought her in?” As Land asked the questions, Dunn began taking notes.
Joyce started to reply, but Buffy broke in. “No, that would be us,” she said, pointing to herself and Willow.
“And you are?”
Detective Land looked at Joyce.
“I’m Joyce Summers,” she said. “Buffy’s mother.”
“Thank you,” Land said. “Dr. Salinger in the E.R. filed a report regarding Miss Maclay’s condition. We’re here to investigate the alleged attack.”
“It wasn’t ‘alleged’,” Buffy said hotly. “Take one look at her and you’ll—”
Joyce put her hand on Buffy’s arm and called her daughter’s name. Buffy backed down but still cast an angry glare at the officers.
Land softened his tone. “Look, we’re just trying to find out exactly what happened.” Buffy gave a reluctant nod, and Land went on. “Start at the beginning…tell us what you know.”
“We were moving to a new apartment,” Willow said. “Me and Buffy and Tara. Tara was back at her dorm room packing.”
“We’ll need her room number,” Dunn interjected without looking up from her notes.
“Sure,” Willow said. “Anyway, we found Tara’s dorm room broken into. The door was busted in, a-a-and Tara was gone.”
“The place was trashed,” Buffy added. “Like there’d been a big fight.”
“We didn’t know what had happened to her,” Willow added. “We just started looking everywhere—”
“And you didn’t call the police?” Land asked.
Buffy and Willow looked at one another. “No, we didn’t,” Buffy answered without elaborating.
Land and Dunn stared at Buffy and Willow for a moment. When the two girls didn’t say anything else, Land said, “Go on.”
“Later, she must’ve gotten away from whoever took her because she contacted us,” Buffy said. “We rushed to where she was, and—”
“Who’s ‘we’?” Land asked. “Just you two?”
“No, me and Willow and Giles and Xander and—” Buffy explained.
“And that’s all,” Willow interjected, stopping Buffy from saying Anya’s name.
Buffy looked at Willow a moment and nodded. “Right. That’s all.”
“We’ll need their full names and numbers,” Dunn said.
“Okay. Anyway, that’s when we found her like we did.”
“Where was that?”
“In the forest reserve north of town, in the building next to the watch tower.”
“And how did she contact you? Was there a certain number she called?”
“Umm…” Buffy hesitated, unsure of how to answer. She looked at Willow.
“Oh my god! They want to know how she contacted us. What do we tell them?” she said mentally to Willow.
“W-W-Well, we can’t tell them it was a cell phone or something. They’ll check,” Willow answered. “We’ll just have to tell them the truth.”
“The truth?! They’ll think we’re crazy!”
Willow shrugged and turned back to the detectives. “Umm, well, actually…that’s the weird part,” she said, giving an embarrassed chuckle. “I-I-I know this is gonna sound totally crazy, but…Tara’s kinda, well, slightly psychic. She contacted us with her mind.”
Dunn froze and looked up from her note-taking. Land’s mouth had dropped open. “She contacted you with her mind?” Dunn asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Willow said. Buffy added a corroborating nod.
“Ohhh-kaaaay,” Dunn said and went back to her note-taking.
Land had recovered from his shock. He cleared his throat and said, “And when you got to the watch tower, what did you find?”
Buffy started to speak but couldn’t. She turned to Willow.
“We found Tara…” Willow stopped, also unable to go on. Joyce put a hand on each of the girls’ backs.
“I know this is difficult,” Land said, “but we need to know everything.”
Buffy took in a shaky breath. “We found Tara hanging from the ceiling, strung up by her wrists,” Buffy said. “She was…naked…with her back to us. I think he wanted us to see what he had done to her. Particularly the message.”
“Yes, the message,” Land commented. “ ‘Slayer’s bitch, Witch’s whore, The weakest link, Is no more.’ Any idea what that means?”
Buffy and Willow exchanged pained looks. Then Buffy turned back to the detectives. “No, not really,” she said. “Sounds like crazy serial killer talk to me.”
“Do you have any idea who might have done this?”
Buffy and Willow sadly shook their heads.
“We’ll check out Miss Maclay’s room and the watch tower, collect what evidence we can,” Land said. “We’ll need to speak with you again after that. We’ll need Miss Maclay’s dorm room and the names of numbers of those who were with you when you found her.”
Dunn turned to a clean page in her notebook and handed the notebook and her pen to Buffy. Buffy nodded and began writing down the necessary information. Land pulled out several business cards and handed them to Willow.
“If you think of anything else, please call us,” Land said. “And we’re very sorry for what’s happened to your friend.”
At that, the two detectives walked away, allowing Willow and Buffy and Joyce to go back inside Tara’s room.
“They’re not telling us everything,” Dunn commented as they headed down the hallway.
“No kidding,” Land replied grimly.
* * *
In the Harris basement, Xander and Anya fell back into the bed, their nude bodies glistening with sweat. Both were breathing hard. After they had caught their breath and cooled off a bit, they snuggled back together.
“Feel better now?” Xander asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Anya replied sincerely, running her hand over Xander’s chest.
“Good, I aim to please.”
Anya leaned up on her elbow. “But we really need to do this more often. We could die at any moment, and the last thing I want to do is to die thinking, ‘Gee, I sure wish I’d had sex more often.’ I mean, if we’re going to be stuck in these fragile, mortal bodies, we’d better get every ounce of pleasure we can squeeze out of ’em. Am I right?”
Xander smiled indulgently at Anya. “You betcha,” he said before kissing her forehead and pulling her down into his arms once again.
* * *
Meanwhile, in his apartment, Giles was leaning over his desk, talking on the phone. A legal pad covered with notes was before him. The former watcher tapped his pen.
“Are you sure, Quentin?” Giles asked. “There’s nothing more on the Power of Three, nothing on this ‘Caleb’ fellow?”
Giles listened intently as Travers answered.
“Very well,” Giles said, disappointed. “If you find anything…”
Giles listened again then nodded with a faint smile.
“Thank you, Quentin, and good night. Oh, yes…good afternoon, I mean.”
Giles hung up the phone. He sighed heavily, took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
* * *
Faith and Vamp Willow were outside a mausoleum, finishing off the last few vamps of rather large nest they had discovered on patrol. Vamp Willow was trading blows with a female vampire, who matched her move for move. When the redhead brandished her stake, the vampire kicked it out of her hand.
“Lost your stake,” the vamp taunted.
“Don’t need it,” Vamp Willow replied, dropping her hands nonchalantly. “Incindere!”
The vampire instantly caught fire. She gave a quick shriek then combusted in a fiery poof.
Vamp Willow gave a satisfied harrumph and turned toward Faith, who was body-slamming a male vampire over the stone bench in front of the crypt. The concrete cracked in two under the force of the blow. Before the vamp could recover, Faith leaped on top of him and plunged a stake into his heart, dusting him.
Vamp Willow smiled and sauntered sexily over to Faith. “Mmm…I just love watching you work, baby.”
“Is that so?” Faith said with a grin, tucking her stake into her back pocket.
Vamp Willow grabbed Faith by her belt and pulled her close. She nuzzled into the slayer’s cleavage, then moved upwards, trailing the very tip of her tongue along the slayer’s skin. When she reached Faith’s neck, she stopped and whispered, “Makes me hungry.”
Faith tangled her fingers in Vamp Willow’s hair and pulled the vampire’s head back before planting a crushing kiss on her lips. Then, with hands roaming, they kissed as if devouring one another. After finally separating, they still held one another, leaning their foreheads together.
“It’s gonna be dawn soon,” Faith said. “Wanna take this party indoors?”
Vamp Willow’s lips slowly lifted into a playful smirk.
* * *
The door to Giles’ apartment burst open with a loud bang. Faith and Vamp Willow inched their way inside, their attention solely on each other as they hungrily made out. Faith felt behind herself for the door’s edge and fumbled with trying to close it. She finally gave it a backward kick, making it slam once again. They continued kissing and groping until a loud throat-clearing interrupted them. Faith froze and looked around Vamp Willow to see a very peeved Giles staring at them—or rather trying not to stare at them.
“Giles,” Faith said. “Didn’t expect you to be here.” Vamp Willow turned to face the watcher as well, but still clung to the slayer’s body.
“Yes, well, I, um…had some, um, very important calls to make.” Giles kept his gaze averted. “And-and-and some books to consult.” He flashed an embarrassed smile. “I’ll be returning to the hospital soon.”
Vamp Willow had gotten bored during Giles’ flustered reply and had begun to nibble at Faith’s ear. “Good. Great,” Faith said, trying to ignore her girlfriend’s attentions. “We’ll just hit the shower then. Get cleaned up. And…join you there later.”
“Very good, very good,” Giles said, nodding way too much. “You can call Xander to pick you up,” he added as the slayer with vampire attached backed down the hallway. “The number’s by the phone.”
“Cool. Bye!” At that, Faith opened the bathroom door and shoved Vamp Willow inside.
Within seconds, Giles heard bodies thud against the door. And then the moaning started.
“Oh dear lord,” he groaned unhappily. Then he hurried to shove his notes and papers into his leather satchel. As he picked up his keys, he heard a crash from the bathroom. “Good god, I hope my apartment survives,” he muttered as he left the living room, closing the front door behind him.
* * *
When Giles entered Tara’s hospital room, his hands were full. With his satchel swung over his shoulder by its strap, he held a large white sack in one hand and a cardboard tray of Styrofoam cups in the other. Joyce got up from her chair and took the sack and tray from him. He thanked her and set his satchel on the floor. As Buffy and Willow joined them, he pointed toward the rolling table where Joyce was setting out the sack’s contents.
“I, um, brought donuts, oh and coffee,” Giles said. “Not exactly the breakfast of champions, as it were, but um…”
“Thanks, Giles,” Willow said sincerely, giving him a small smile. Then she and Buffy moved into the watcher’s arms for a warm hug.
When Buffy and Willow left him to check out the donut selection, Giles embraced Joyce and gave her a quick kiss. “How is she?” he asked quietly.
“The same,” Joyce said sadly.
Giles nodded, and the two fell silent. Just then, they heard a light tapping at the door. Buffy was closest to the door, so she said, “Come in.”
The door slowly opened, and Caleb stepped inside. He was dressed in a black clerical shirt with a white collar and black pants; his head showed no sign of the wound Tara had given him. He smiled politely at the group.
“Mornin’,” he said. “I’m Father Mallory. I wanted to stop by and see how you folks were holdin’ up.”
“That’s very kind of you, Father,” Joyce said, returning his smile. “Thank you.”
“No need to thank me, ma’am,” Caleb said. “Jus’ doin’ my job.” He looked at Tara sympathetically then glanced at a piece of paper in his hand. “Miss…Maclay. You’re her family then?”
“Yes, we are,” Buffy answered.
“Well, she’s lucky to have such a fine family standin’ vigil at her side,” he commented. They nodded their thanks. “I’ll be heading to the chapel shortly. Would you like me to light a candle and say a prayer for Miss Maclay?”
Buffy and Willow looked at one another and then at Joyce and Giles. Then they turned back to Caleb.
“Um, sure,” Willow said a little uncertainly, “but Tara’s not Catholic or anything. Heck, she’s not even Anglican.” Her hand went to her mouth, and she said worriedly, “Oh…I said ‘heck’ in front of a priest!”
Caleb chuckled. “Don’t fret, my sister. The Lord is forgiving, the Lord is merciful.” He sobered and took a step back toward the door. “I shall pray for Miss Tara, and for you all, that my God will make Himself known to you, for truly He is all-powerful.”
At that, Caleb smiled once more and then stepped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. As he moved down the corridor, a malicious grin spread across his face.
* * *
A little later that morning, Buffy held a meeting in the hospital cafeteria. Everyone was there, except for Joyce, who remained in Tara’s room to watch over her. The group sat at a long table in the back corner.
“How’s Tara?” Faith asked.
“Not good,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “Will did a healing spell, a-a-and I think it helped. I mean, physically she seems to be healing some, but…”
“She’s still in a coma,” Willow finished for Buffy. “Well, it’s not even really a full coma, the neurologist said. It’s more like a mini-coma combined with catatonia.”
“Have you tried contacting her?” Xander asked. “You know, with that mental walkie-talkie thing you guys do?”
“Yes, we’ve tried,” Buffy said, “but she’s just…not there.”
“It’s like she’s withdrawn so deeply inside herself that she can’t even hear us,” Willow explained.
“Can’t you do something to reach out to her?” Anya asked.
“Maybe. More on that in a minute,” Buffy said, putting on her boss voice. “First order of business: I want someone with Tara at all times, and I want them armed. For all we know Caleb could come back and try to finish what he started.”
Everyone at the table nodded in agreement, clearly ready and willing to defend Tara with their lives.
“Second item,” Buffy continued. “We got a visit from police detectives last night, and more than likely, they’ll be contacting the rest of you as well. We need to get our stories straight.”
“We told them that we found Tara’s dorm room broken into. We left you out of it, Anya,” Willow said. “We weren’t sure if your new human identity would hold up under police scrutiny.”
“Good answer!” Anya confirmed gratefully.
Willow went on. “We said we looked for her and couldn’t find her, but then she contacted us during a brief escape, and we tracked her down using information she provided.”
“We didn’t say anything about the magic part, but we did admit that Tara contacted us psychically,” Buffy added. The others got a shocked look on their faces.
“Is that wise?” Giles asked.
“We had to,” Willow said. “If we had said she used a phone, they could’ve checked and known we were lying. The last thing we need is to be considered suspects ourselves.”
“We told them where we found her,” Buffy continued, “but we didn’t say anything about Caleb or Wolfram & Hart; they are not something the regular police can handle.”
“We just said we didn’t have any idea who might have done this to Tara and left it at that,” Willow supplied.
“Everybody clear on that?” Buffy asked. When everyone nodded, Buffy went on. “Next item: Patrol.” She looked expectantly at Faith and Vamp Willow.
“Don’t worry, B, we got it covered,” Faith told her. “We bagged ten just last night, right babe?”
“Yep!” Vamp Willow answered proudly.
“Thanks,” Buffy said sincerely, “but just the same, I’m gonna call Riley and ask him to get the Initiative to help out—increase their patrols or something. And maybe post an undercover guard here at the hospital.”
“Speaking of the uber-powerful secret government agency,” Xander interjected, “can’t the Initiative pull some kind of Feds takeover here? You know, get the local cops off our backs?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy answered. “Maybe. I’ll ask.”
“What did Angel say?” Willow asked Xander.
“He’s working the Wolfram & Hart angle,” Xander replied. “Said he had a ‘contact’ he was going to hit.”
“Hit up, you mean, right?” Faith asked.
“No, I’m pretty sure he meant hit,” Xander answered. “And the way he sounded—with near-Angelus scary-tude—that ‘contact’ of his better talk fast.”
* * *
In Los Angeles, Lilah busied herself with getting ready for the work day. She sat at her dressing table applying her makeup and styling her hair. As she looked at her own reflection, she met her own gaze, staring deeply into her eyes.
“Lilah, my dear, great accomplishments always come out of great risks,” she heard Holland’s voice say in her mind.
She closed her eyes and let out a long deep breath. She opened her eyes and looked at herself sternly.
“You can do this,” she told herself. “It’ll work.” She looked at her watch nervously. “It’ll work,” she repeated as if trying to convince herself.
* * *
About a block from the Wolfram & Hart tower, Lilah came out of Starbucks carrying a large coffee in her hands. She sipped gingerly at the hot drink while walking leisurely to the sidewalk. After taking a few more drinks, she set her coffee on the newspaper box next to her, glanced at her watch, and opened her purse. She pulled out her Palm Pilot and started scrolling through her schedule for the day.
Suddenly, a van came roaring up to the curb right in front of her, screeching to a halt. Lilah gasped in alarm and stumbled back away from the curb, dropping her Palm Pilot. The van door slid open, and two masked, black-clad men leaped from the vehicle and grabbed her. She screamed and tried to fight them off, but within seconds they had dragged her into the van and driven away.
Bystanders were shouting and pointing and looking at each other in shock, as if they couldn’t believe what they had just seen. The man who had been nearest to Lilah was already on his cell phone, calling 911.
* * *
Holland Manners was in his conference room, talking with several of his staff members prior to their morning meeting. Suddenly, one of the interns burst into the room, a frantic look on his face.
“What is the meaning of this?” Holland demanded.
“I-I-I’m sorry, sir,” said the frightened young man, “but I thought you’d want to know: Ms. Morgan’s been kidnapped!”
Holland jumped to his feet. “What?!!”
* * *
After many twists and turns and misleads, the kidnappers’ van pulled into an unmarked garage. At a beep from a remote, the garage door closed. When the garage was cloaked in darkness, the black-clad man holding Lilah released her and pulled off his mask.
It was Angel.
Cordelia in the driver’s seat and Wesley next to Angel removed their masks as well. All three stared intently at Lilah.
“You wanna tell me what the hell’s going on?” Angel demanded.
“Yeah, like…why do you want to help us and why did we have to kidnap you to get it?” Cordelia added snarkily.
* * *
“Good!” Willow said, crossing her arms tightly. “I hope Angel does go all Angelus on whoever’s responsible at Wolfram & Hart.” Then she turned to Buffy and corrected herself. “In a totally not-lose-his-soul kind of way, of course.”
Buffy gave a small smile then grew grim. “Right now…what I want…is Caleb. Any ideas on how to find him?”
“We could, um, use that gypsy spell that Willow found…the one we used to locate Spike,” Giles suggested.
“But that needs something that belongs to Caleb, right?” Buffy asked.
“Well, yes, but perhaps we could find something at the watch tower?”
Buffy gave a pleased nod. “Okay, let’s do it.”
“Wait a minute,” Faith interrupted. “I don’t mean to be the party pooper here, but say you do find this Caleb guy, what are you gonna do with him then? How are you gonna fight somebody like that?”
“We don’t know yet,” Xander said. “That’s what we have to figure out.”
The Scoobies looked at one another in silence, all waiting for someone to come up with a viable solution. No one had an answer.
“We need our Power,” Willow said finally.
“I know,” Buffy replied, “but I’m not sure we can get it. Not with Tara out of it.”
“What about that spell Giles told us about?”
Everyone looked at Giles.
“There’s a ritual we can perform,” he answered. “Seers used it in joint vision quests; they would join their minds and move through the spirit realms together. In addition, some Shamans used it to enter the minds of the possessed, in a kind of exorcism from the inside out.”
“That doesn’t sound very safe,” Faith pointed out.
“It’s not,” Giles confirmed. “The herbs one must take…well, they’re rather mind-altering.”
“What? Like mushroom-munchin’-toad-licking-acid-dropping kind of altering?” Xander asked.
“Not exactly,” Giles said, “but the ritual will allow Willow and Buffy to fully enter Tara’s psyche.”
“What’s the catch?” Anya asked, eyeing Giles suspiciously.
Giles sighed. “The catch is that it’s a completely internalized ritual. They start it, and they have to end it. We won’t be able to intervene at all. And they won’t have an external anchor.”
“Which means they could get lost in there,” Vamp Willow pointed out.
“Yes,” Giles said.
“And we could end up with all three of them in a coma,” Faith clarified.
“Yes,” Giles confirmed. “And of course, they’d be completely vulnerable during the ritual because they would have no connection to the outside world. They’d be as helpless as Tara…in the physical realm, at any rate.”
“I don’t like this idea,” Xander said warily. “Maybe it would be better to wait, let Tara come out of this on her own.”
“No, we can’t wait,” Willow said urgently. “What Caleb did to her, it was made to last, I’m sure of it.”
“Willow’s right,” Buffy said. “He didn’t go to all this trouble to disable the Power of Three just to have her come out of it on her own in a week.” Buffy turned to Giles. “How long will it take to get the ritual materials together?”
“If the magic shop has what I need, a few hours maybe?” he answered.
Buffy looked at Willow intently. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes. Anything to save Tara.”
Buffy turned back to the group, ready to issue orders.
“Giles…get everything together for the ritual. We’ll do it as soon as we can get everything ready.” Giles nodded in compliance.
Buffy turned to Xander and Anya. “I want you guys to go back to the watch tower, see if you can find anything connected to Caleb there. Get back as quickly as you can. We’ll need you when it’s ritual time.”
“We’re on it,” Xander said.
“Willow…I want you to go the apartment and pack us a bag. We’re gonna be up here at the hospital most of the time, and I’d really like to get cleaned up, and I’m sure you would too.”
Willow looked down at herself. “No kidding.”
“And pack any magic stuff you think we might need.”
“Faith…I want you with Willow. My Willow, I mean. We don’t know if Caleb might be waiting to target one of us. Oh, and stop at Giles’ and get weapons…lots of them.”
“You got it, B.”
Buffy turned to Faith’s girlfriend. “Willow…I mean, Other Willow…you’re with me. I’m gonna send Mom home for a while, and we’ll stay with Tara. Not much you can do during the day anyway.”
“Okey-dokey,” the vampire replied.
Buffy made eye contact with all in the group. “Everybody clear?” When she got nods all around, she said, “Okay then. Let’s do it.”
* * *
As the Scoobies got up from their table to start on their tasks, they paid no mind to the people who were sitting nearby. The sparse crowd was a mix of doctors and nurses and technicians as well as visitors who had family or friends in the hospital. The Scoobies walked right on by all of them without a thought.
After the Scoobies had passed him, Caleb turned around in his chair and watched them make their way through the dining hall toward the exit. He had been sitting less than twenty feet away, eavesdropping on their entire conversation. He smiled wickedly and pulled out his cell phone. Within a minute, the voice of Holland Manners could be heard answering on the other end of the line. Caleb shared all he had heard then waited as Holland considered the matter.
“Proceed to stage two,” Holland said finally.
A huge smile spread over Caleb’s face as he watched Buffy and Willow and the others leave the cafeteria. “I was so hopin’ you’d say that.”