TITLE: A Questing We Will Go
AUTHOR: JK Philips
RATING: PG (It will probably eventually get to R, if not NC17. For now, plain PG)
SUMMARY: Where did Dawn learn to fight like that in “Grave?”
TIMELINE: Immediately after “Grave”
DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters; they are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. I simply am doing this for fun, and non-profit use.
EMAIL: . Feedback always appreciated.
MY WEBSITE: www.jkphilips.com
--------------------------------------------------- Gods, bind him, cast his heart from the evil... realm... return... I call on... Willow’s energy was failing. She couldn’t keep the spell going. Her weakened and battered body had passed its limit, her breathing labored, blackness creeping into the edges of her vision as unconsciousness threatened. She slumped forward. And then suddenly, she sat bolt upright, head snapped backwards, face to the sky. She felt something go through her, powerful, scary, and then it was gone. Like an ocean wave passing over her and knocking her off her feet. This time she did collapse, pulled down into oblivion for how long, she didn’t know. Te implor Doamne, nu ignora accasta rugaminte! Words floated through her head. An echo of power and magicks. Nici mort, nici al fiintei... She didn’t understand their meaning. Lasa orbita sa fie vasul care-I va transporta sufletul la el! But it seemed like she should recognize them. It seemed like they were spoken in her voice. Asa sa fie! Asa sa fie! Acum! But the memory remained as elusive as a dream after waking, and then she was waking. Acum! She became aware that she was lying on a bed, unsure how long she’d been unconscious for this time. Her head still felt big, definitely not head-sized, and she didn’t want to risk opening her eyes just yet. She shifted slightly, and the weight of someone’s hand settled over the top of her arm. “Oz?” “Oz?” an unfamiliar female voice echoed back. “Who? Ah, yes. Oz, your former boyfriend and werewolf. I didn’t mean former werewolf, of course. I assume he still is one of those. No one’s found a complete cure for that yet.” Willow opened her eyes. Not a hospital room. Not a hospital bed either. A patchwork quilt covered her, and a blonde woman she didn’t recognize sat in a high back wooden chair beside her. The woman smiled at her, entirely too perky considering the world could end at any moment. Or maybe it all ready had. The woman patted her on the shoulder. “Oz is not here.” “Xander?” Willow pleaded. “Is back in Sunnydale.” “Then where am I?” Please don’t say hell. Please don’t say hell. “In England, you silly. As soon as the coven gives you a clean bill of health, we can go back. And you can start making arrangements to repay me for the extensive damage you caused my store.” The woman offered out a piece of paper and a pen. “I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a payment plan based on conservative estimates.” Okay, not technically hell. But what was she doing in England? Why was this woman trying to extort money from her? And more importantly… “Who are you?” “Oh, crap.” The perkiness dropped off the woman’s face. “My name is Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins. But you should know that already. If you’ll excuse me for just a moment…” The woman vanished into thin air. Willow whimpered and pulled the quilt up to her chin. *** Light flickering over her closed eyelids woke Dawn. She had dozed off against a boulder after her spirit guide had suddenly and unexpectedly leapt from her arms and rabbited off into the desert. Like rabbits are wont to do. Someone had built a bonfire just in front of her. That someone was barely visible through the fingers of flame separating them. “You’re the First Slayer. Buffy told me about you.” Her dreadlocks bobbed as she nodded slightly, constantly shifting her weight side to side. Thin, gauzy rags covered her torso. Arms, legs, and face gleamed with white warpaint in contrast to her dark skin. Her arms she held out to either side of her, like a tightrope walker improving her balance. The entire package embodied the power of the Slayer without the trappings of a normal life. “You are not the Slayer, nor will you ever be,” the Slayer told her. Dawn felt both relief and disappointment at the same time. “Then why did this quest thingy work? Can anyone just come out here and ask you stuff?” “No. But you are connected to our power now. You are the Key.” “Duh. I know that. I open the gates to Hell. Real self-esteem booster there.” The Slayer shook her head, pacing her side of the fire, moving restlessly like a shark. “No, that is merely what she wished to unlock. But you are more. You are the Key. You open all doors.” “Okay, so that’s what I was: magic, glowy Key thing. But then the monks made me.” She touched her body with her hands, emphasizing her meaning. “This me. What did they make? ’Cause I’m more than just a kid, aren’t I? I’m not strong like Buffy, but how do I know this stuff? How can I pick up a sword and just know? How did I catch those knives or know any of those martial arts moves? I mean, I don’t even watch Jackie Chan. And to be honest, I never got to see many of Buffy’s action scenes either.” “They did not have the power to change what you are. You are still the Key. They made you a body of Slayer’s blood, and so you are the Slayer’s Key.” “So I open the doors to slayerness?” “You are connected both to the source and to the end. You are the Slayer’s Key.” “Again with the cryptic. See, Buffy gave me a replay of the whole ‘death is your gift’ thing, and I’m prepared.” Dawn pulled out her diary and started flipping through pages, searching for the well thought-out questions she’d written down in advance. “Question one…” When she’d lifted her eyes from the page, ready to grill the first Slayer until there were no ambiguities or loopholes left, she found the bonfire and slayer both gone. Just the empty desert. “Crap!” She was the Slayer’s Key. That was hardly any more enlightening than “Death is your gift.” *** “Just because she didn’t recognize you, doesn’t mean her brain is fried,” Buffy argued. “Maybe… maybe she wanted to forget you.” Anya considered this, becoming outraged at the possibility. “Maybe she’s faking it! To get out of paying for all the damage at the Magic Box. That sneaky, evil witch!” “Enough!” Giles interrupted forcefully. “Both of you. Speculating on Willow’s state of mind is rather pointless at this particular moment. Let’s reserve all judgments until after she’s returned home.” “She’s already home,” Anya informed them. “What?” watcher and slayer chimed in unison. “Home. She’s already there. That’s why I’ve been looking for you two. The coven couldn’t help her. She didn’t recognize any of them either. Kept carrying on like she’d been kidnapped or something. She tried to SOS the neighbors with a flashlight. Except for being really annoying, she’s harmless now, so they just zapped her back to your house, and I followed right behind. Emily was nice enough to tell me where you all had gone… after I talked her out of her crossbow. Who is she, by the way?” “Don’t any of those women believe in airplanes?” Buffy grumbled. “Zapping people everywhere. I tell you, that’s why the airline industry is going belly up.” “Buffy,” Giles touched her shoulder to get her attention. “Maybe you should go back to be with Willow. I’ll wait here for Dawn.” “No, I… You go, Giles. I don’t know if I can. What if she doesn’t know who I am either? Or what if she does, and it’s just really weird?” “Or we could all go,” Anya suggested, pointing just over their shoulders. “Here comes Dawn now.” Dawn didn’t look happy. “How’d it go?” Buffy tried. “You shoulda just bought me a Magic 8 ball,” she grumbled. That was all she was willing to share about her quest in the desert. They all piled into Buffy’s Jeep (which used to be their mom’s Jeep) and drove home (except that Anya just zapped home, claiming that the last road trip involving horses and spears and crazy hellgods had put her off road trips in general). *** Buffy didn’t know if she could go inside. The last time she’d seen Willow, they’d been beating the crap out of each other. Willow had tried to bring the Magic Box down on top of Giles. The way he’d looked right after it was all over, Buffy had wondered if Willow had succeeded in doing so after all. She’d tried to hurt Dawn. She’d tried to end the world. She’d summoned a bunch of stick monsters to finish the Summers sisters off. Worst of all, she’d skinned a man with a flick of her wrist. Murder without hesitation or remorse. Buffy could still remember the smell of Warren’s body and the sounds of Xander’s retching. What did you say to a friend after that? How was rehab? Giles’ hand on her shoulder gave Buffy the courage to open the door and go inside. “Buffy!” Willow squealed, dashing over and enveloping her in a hug as soon as they’d gotten inside. Buffy didn’t quite hug back, just patted her on the back politely until Willow let go. “I’m so glad you’re here. Somehow I woke up in England with this weird girl telling me-” “I have a name!” Anya protested. Willow leaned in close and whispered it in Buffy’s ear. “I think she’s a demon. She just keeps vanishing.” Buffy steered her friend inside, sitting them both down on the couch. Willow wouldn’t let go of her arm, as if she might vanish too. She kept babbling, so very much the Willow she remembered that it made Buffy’s heart ache. “What’s going on, Buffy? Where is everyone? Where’s Xander? Did he give you the message? I tried, I really did, but I guess I’m better at researching the magic than doing it. And Giles-” Her eyes lighted on Giles in the next moment. Smiling broadly, she dashed over to give him a hug too. “Giles, you’re okay! Mostly okay,” she corrected after she hugged him a bit too tightly for his still healing ribs, eliciting a small gasp and grimace. “Oh poor Giles, what’d he do to you?” His injuries were specifically attributable to her, but no one pointed that out to her just yet. “Willow, come have a seat,” Buffy asked gently, patting the couch next to her. “What’s going on?” She sat down as requested, wringing her hands and jiggling her knees slightly with nerves. “Did it open? Are we getting sucked into hell?” She glanced around the living room and the assembled crowd all gawking at her. “Where’s your mom?” “Will, my mom’s dead.” Buffy was surprised at the ease with which she said it. But she saw the raw grief in Willow’s eyes, a mirror reflection of the day she’d found her mother’s body. Hands covering her mouth, the tears came easily for Willow. “Omigod! Angel?” Maybe Anya was right. Maybe Willow’s brain was fried. Because Buffy wasn’t able to follow the connections Willow was making. “Angel’s fine.” “Fine as in the spell worked and he’s Angel again? Or fine as in a fine cloud of dust somewhere over Crawford Street?” Buffy and Giles exchanged glances. He sat on the arm of the couch just to the other side of Willow. Dawn, Anya, and Emily remained at a respectful distance. “What’s the last thing you remember?” Giles, ever the researcher, began the cross examination. Willow frowned, concentrating. “Cordelia and Oz. They were helping me do the spell, the spell to curse Angel with his soul again. Angel had Giles at the mansion. And you and Xander-” “I remember it all,” Buffy interrupted, saving her the bother of a ‘previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ montage. “But that was four years ago, Wills.” “Four years?” Giles rose, hands in his pockets, pacing slightly as he mulled the situation over. “You said then… you said that you had felt something go through you. At the time you did the spell to restore Angel’s soul, something went through you.” Anya snapped her fingers eagerly. “The coven said the power wasn’t hers! That’s when she got the power. That’s when it came into her.” “Yes!” Giles spun to face Anya, face flush with the excitement of a puzzle solved. “And when the coven took the power, they took the memories that were tied up with that power!” Willow closed her eyes, as if chasing a thought hidden deep inside herself. “I kept hearing this other language in my mind. Just before I woke up. I kept hearing this other language, except I was saying the words. Acum. Acum. Like I was sneezing or something.” “Romanian,” Giles supplied. “Oz and Cordelia said you started speaking Romanian during the spell.” “So I have amnesia?” Willow seemed much calmer than Buffy imagined she’d have been in that situation. Then again, Willow seemed to have clicked over into research mode, intellectualizing her predicament. “Four years worth of amnesia? Like a bad soap opera?” Buffy patted Willow on the shoulder reassuringly. “After I fill you in on the last four years, you’ll realize ‘bad soap opera’… not so far off the mark.” “Xander?” Willow’s voice was getting smaller. The truth was beginning to hit home. “We’ll call him, and he’ll come right over,” Buffy promised. Anya stepped in to add, “You can’t have him. I know you wanted him back then, but he’s mine now. Well, not technically mine, seeing as he shattered my hopes and dreams into a billion pieces on the altar he left me at. But I do feel it’s only fair to warn you: moving in on a vengeance demon’s ex-fiancé… not wise.” Willow turned to Buffy for confirmation. “Her and Xander? But she’s a demon.” “And Cordelia wasn’t?” Buffy sighed and took pity on the friend who had almost killed her. “Come on, let’s go upstairs. I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version.” “Besides,” Anya added desperately, “you’re recently gay. You wouldn’t want Xander now anyway.” “Gay? Who’s gay?” Buffy steered her friend towards the stairs by the shoulders. “All in good time.” “I’m not gay,” Willow protested. “Hello? Dating a musician! A very male musician.” “Dawn, you’re demoted to couch for the night,” Buffy informed her as she passed by. “Willow gets your bed.” She still didn’t know if Giles was sleeping with Emily, but this would certainly force the issue. Four women, three beds, one couch, and one Giles. He was going to have to share with someone tonight. “Dawn? Who’s Dawn?” Willow, still desperately confused, asked as they went up the stairs. “My sister.” Willow laughed. “You don’t have a sister.” Buffy sighed. This was going to be a lot harder than she thought. *** Buffy had never expected to actually enjoy being at the DoubleMeat Palace. But standing in front of the grill, mindlessly flipping burgers, she could just zone out, tune out, click off. This was a little window of time in which she could escape the chaos that was her life right now: no friend recovering from murder and amnesia, no sister with unexplained powers, no confusing and wrong feelings for her watcher, no disturbing mental images of him all entwined and naked with another woman, granted a woman she was doing everything in her power to fix him up with, but another woman all the same. Okay, maybe there were still those images, but everything else was pleasantly forgotten. “Summers,” Todd snuck up behind her and made her drop a burger patty on the floor. “A word.” He walked off, simply expecting her to follow. She did. He led her into the employee break room and then the down the stairs into storage. “We started having meetings down here now? Did I miss the memo?” She got to the bottom of the stairs, and the words ‘leading a lamb to slaughter’ seemed particularly apropos. Josh, the missing DoubleMeat employee, stepped out of the shadows in full vamp face. She could cross that off her to do list. She didn’t have to look for Josh on patrol anymore. She would have reached for Todd, to save his undeserving ass, except Todd had turned around at this point in time, also sporting new fangs. She started walking backwards up the stairs. If she could get to her employee locker, she kept a stake in her jacket pocket. No stakes on her at the moment; her stupid uniform didn’t have pockets. As she walked backwards, she bumped into another cold body. Ambush, all right. She reached around and punched him with everything she had. But he’d already jabbed something in her side. Things were spinning, and she was grabbing for the railing as she stumbled. Todd and Josh caught her as she fell. How kind of them. Everything went black. *** The three of them carried her through the sewer system, a wary eye constantly vigilant in case the tranquilizer wore off before they’d reached the lair. They dropped her on the ground in front of their Sire. Harmony clapped her hands giddily. “Ooo, and she’s still wearing the hat and that god-awful stripey shirt. Quick, someone get me a camera!” ***
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