By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 18 - Window of Opportunity
*What if I am not ready to go back?* Back to what? A Watcher who had betrayed her? A Council who used her like a pawn? A life without friends?
She felt everyone's eyes on her. They were expecting her to take her place in the circle in order to begin the ritual. They wanted their friend back. They had every right to.
"I think it's time to say goodbye," Tara said with an encouraging smile. "I hope..."
"Actually," Spike interrupted, "can I just have a word with her?" He looked at Maeve and nodded towards the training room. "Slayer?"
"Of course," she said. "If that's all right with you?" she asked Willow.
"Sure," the witch replied nonchalantly. "But don't take too long. We don't want to keep Buffy trapped in the past longer than necessary. Not that I have anything against your century or anything. I mean, I'm sure it's nice and all, you know, horse drawn carriages and stuff are kinda quaint, but I don't think your time and Buffy are mix-y."
Maeve nodded and followed Spike into the training room.
"I wonder what Spike would want with her?" Xander mused, when the door had closed behind them. "He really has a thing for Slayers, doesn't he?"
When the others stared at him, he quickly did a verbal back-pedal. "Not that I'm thinking what you think I'm thinking. I bet Spike's asking her to invest a few bucks for him in her time so he can live on the interest from now on. Which doesn't sound like such a bad idea, come to think of it."
"Perhaps I should ask her to do that for me, too," Anya said, sounding hopeful. "It would be like a dowry for me. If I want a house with a white fence, two cars, a college fund for my children and a dog, it might be a good idea to start capital growth in 1880."
While Spike closed the door behind them, Maeve walked to a collection of throwing knives that were hanging on the wall. She traced each of them with her fingertips. When she turned around to face him, her features were composed. As always, there was no outward sign of what went on inside her, but the vampire sensed her distress, anyway.
"You don't want to go back," he stated.
"I... I would have liked to stay a little longer," she admitted.
He waved towards the closed door. "They're not YOUR ties. You have to make your own. Back then."
"I know. But I don't know how."
"You will, trust me."
There was a silence.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" Maeve finally asked, and was surprised to see that the vampire looked... embarrassed.
Spike shrugged. "It probably doesn't make any difference," he said, more to himself. "I just want to make sure...What the hell! Look, can you do me a favor?"
She looked at him. She did not need to remind herself that he was a vampire. She could sense it. Like a hunter senses his prey. *He killed two Slayers. He told me himself. He should be the enemy.* And yet, she didn't hesitate.
"Of course," she nodded.
"When you get back, can you check on my mother and my sister? After I was turned - it was in June 1880. I don't remember the exact date - when it happened, my... the other vampires I was with, they wanted me to kill my family. You know, severing all ties to humankind and all that. I... well, let's just say they weren't in when we called on them. Can you just make sure they really are safely elsewhere once I... disappear?"
He held out a crumpled piece of paper. "Victoria." It was a pencil drawing that showed a pretty girl of perhaps 16 years. Name and address were written at the bottom.
"I know you can't take it with you, but maybe you can memorize it? I didn't draw her glasses, cause she refused to wear them in public." *A lot like me, she was.*
She took the portrait and studied it. Then she looked at him. The resemblance was striking. She nodded solemnly. "I would have recognized her even without the picture. And to answer your question: yes, I will make sure that your family is safe. I will have my Watcher invite them to stay with us. It's the least he can do." There was a sudden hint of steel in her voice. She folded the paper carefully and put it into her pocket.
"Thanks." He fiddled awkwardly with his packet of cigarettes but then he squared his shoulders. "I mean it's not like I care or anything. To me they've been dust for bloody ages, but it would be kind of risky to mess with time, and since I remember them not being there, we should see to it that it really happens that way."
"I understand," she said. And she did.
"There's something else," he said, suddenly looking very nervous. "I saw your Watcher's diary."
"Oh," was all she said.
"Do you wanna know when and how you're gonna die?" He studied her intently. "Cause if you do, I'll tell you."
When the Slayer and the vampire finally left the training room, the others looked at them expectantly, and not without curiosity.
Maeve walked over to where they were sitting. "I am ready now. I guess, it is time for me to say farewell."
Anya rushed towards her and embraced her warmly, sad to let her go. In just two days they had discovered a fondness for each other that could have easily turned into friendship, given half a chance.
"Thank you, Anya. For everything," Maeve said, fighting the tears that were threatening to well up. "I will miss you."
The ex-demon, as usual, expressed her feelings rather bluntly. "I know it is futile to wish for things one can't have, but I really wish you could stay. There are so many things I would have liked to show you. And you are so much easier to get on with than Buffy. Why can't we have both of you? It's not like `there can only be one'."
"Anya." Xander reprimanded her.
"What? Counting Faith we already have two. Why can't we have a third Slayer?"
Maeve shook her head. "No, I don't belong here. I wish I did, because you have all been so very kind to me. Thank you all."
She looked at Xander. "I am sorry about your arm," she said.
"Think nothing of it," Xander said. "I always get beaten up. It's like a running gag, only less funny. Also, it's usually the nasties who do it, but if I had to choose, I'd rather get walloped by a pretty girl... and that came out a little more suggestive than it was supposed to. Shutting up now." He grinned sheepishly. "Take care of yourself. Burn a few corsets."
"I promise," Maeve replied with a smile.
Once more, she looked at each of them, memorizing their faces. "Give my regards to Mr. Giles, please," she said, before stepping into the circle.
"I will," Xander promised.
Willow and Maeve sat down cross-legged in the middle of the circle, while the rest of the gang quietly took their places around the outside. Willow had an open book in her lap and Buffy's `Mr. Pointy' directly in front of her. There was a tall cylindrical glass vial filled with a purplish powdery substance between them. The curtains to the shop were drawn to keep out the afternoon sun. There was an eerie line of light where the curtains met -but didn't quite close- that glowed bright yellow. The line of light was mirrored on the floor. It cut through the center of the circle, making the glass vial twinkle with life. The silence was deafening; the anticipation, almost tangible. Spike refused to take part. Instead, he stood away from the group, leaning against the wall - tapping his pack of smokes against his leg, debating whether he should bother climbing down into the sewers or stay and baby-sit the kiddies and wait for the sun to hurry up and set so he could finally have the cigarette he so desperately needed.
Willow took a deep breath and proceeded with a brief summary of what the spell would entail. "First, I will track Buffy's exact location using the spell I began earlier. That's the easy part. Then, once I know exactly where she is, I'll tag her and..."
"Tag her?" Xander interrupted. "Like they do to Grizzly Bears on the Discovery Channel?"
"It's a way to track her," Tara answered. "It's like a magical mark that Willow can see through dimensions and follow wherever it goes."
"Uh huh," he answered. "Like she's a Grizzly."
"Anyway," Willow continued. "After she's tagged, I will perform the portal spell. Basically, what should happen is...I'll draw a square on the floor symbolizing the doorway and after I perform the incantation, we will sprinkle the powder onto the drawing and the portal should materialize right here in the circle."
"Cool," Dawn mumbled, awestruck.
"It'll look sort of like a window. We'll be able to see into 1880. It should be pretty amazing," she said proudly.
"Can they see us?" Xander asked.
"No. I'm pretty sure it will be invisible on the other side. But Buffy should be able to hear us and once Maeve puts her fingers through the doorway, Buffy should see the hand materialize in her time. All she'll have to do is reach out and touch it, and they should return to their own bodies." Maeve looked skeptical. Willow reached forward and took her hand. "It'll work Maeve. You'll be home in no time."
*That is precisely what I am afraid of.*
"Now, I'm going to need silence," she gave Anya a pointed look. "Everyone should focus. Just concentrate on the words I'll be saying, and if I need to, I will be able to draw from your energies."
Xander looked uncomfortable with that, but didn't object. "Let's begin," Willow said.
"Reperio per articulus," Willow recited loudly. "Reperio per tractus." Her hands began to glow pink. "Reperio Buffy Summers." The stake, again, began to rise above the floor. "Effringo fenestra!" A small point of light exploded above the floating stake. "Reperio Buffy Summers!" The point of light began to dance around Mr. Pointy. It circled and swooped. "Per tempus! Per tractus!" Willow's eyes turned black. Her body stiffened as raw power surged through her. Maeve's eyes grew wide. "Reperio itaque macula Buffy Summers!" The point of light moved even faster, until finally, it shot straight into Willow's forehead and disappeared with a final bright flash. Willow closed her eyes.
Everyone was silent. Everyone was anxious. The seconds seemed like hours.
"I see her," Willow whispered. "I found her." She smiled, opened her eyes and put Buffy's stake aside.
The gang exhaled in unison.
"Okay, now for the next step," she said.
"Are you sure about this, Willow?" Tara questioned quietly.
"Yes, baby," she said and smiled at her concerned girlfriend. "I can do this."
Tara approached the circle and carefully, so as not to disturb the crystals, sat down near Willow.
"What can we do?" Xander asked.
"Be ready to welcome Buffy home."
Maeve shifted uncomfortably.
Willow took the chalk in her hand and drew a large square on the floor directly in front of her.
Willow closed her eyes and rested her hands face up in her lap. She began to mouth words, foreign words, so quietly they were barely a whisper. The air in the shop began to crackle with power.
Xander could feel the hairs on his arm stand on end (the other was still sling-wrapped). He glanced at the others, wondering if they were feeling it too. They were. And though Willow continued her chant inaudibly, Xander began to hear the words echoing inside his head. It gave him the creeps. *Patefacio foris...What the? What's a foris? Get out of my head. Okay, that's me, that's my voice. I'm still in here.* Xander was about to panic when someone else did it for him.
"Guys! Oh no! Guys!" Dawn started yelling. "W-who are they?"
Xander turned his head to follow her distraught gaze and found himself almost face to face with a floating blue-cloaked...something! He stumbled backward into a bookshelf
dumping its contents onto the floor. "You mean, WHAT are they?!"
"Oh no," Tara said as she glanced at the still entranced Willow and then back at the floating blue figures.
Near the front end of the shop, three pale humanoid creatures floated serenely about two feet from the floor. Their hands were clasped in front of them, and the hooded cloaks they wore plunged their eyes into shadow. Their white lips were pursed in an expression of distaste.
Maeve stood abruptly, knocking over the powder-filled vial, spilling its contents into the square. *Still not perfectly accustomed to this body,* she thought. She warily moved to the being closest to her and began an inspection of it. She walked a circle around it. Oddly, it remained still and allowed her investigation without comment or movement.
"What are they?" Dawn mumbled nervously.
"Chronoths," Spike answered.
Everyone turned to look at him.
"W-why are they here?" Tara asked the vampire.
He shook his head. "You mess with time, you call upon you the wrath of the Chronoth Tribe. They," he tilted his head toward their visitors, "are drawn to temporal power. Ran into a few of them a while back when Dru decided she wanted to see if she could contradict her visions."
"Wrath?" Xander asked. "We don't want any wrath."
"They can't hurt you," Spike said. *I don't think.* And to prove his point, he grabbed the purple stone he was previously playing with off the shelf and tossed it at the nearest entity. The pale face didn't flinch as the stone passed through its cloaked figure and landed with a thud on the floor behind it.
"So, wrath?" Xander asked again. "Where's the wrath."
"Maybe they're just observing," Spike answered. "Should probably wake Red up and wait for Rupert's starry alignment, though. Don't think we should be messing with these kinds of powers."
Just as everyone's attention turned back to the witch in the center of the circle, a small blue square of light appeared and hovered over the chalk outline on the floor. Tara gasped.
"The powder," she said. "Maeve spilled the powder. The portal is opening."
Just then, the Chronoths began to chant. They floated into a small huddle, still chanting.
"What?" Xander asked.
"Looks like they don't want this spell to happen either."
And before Xander could utter a half-hearted "Oh no" - something crashed through the window of the Magic Box.
Oddly, Willow remained spellbound as chaos erupted around her. The cloaked figures floated away from the ruckus toward the edges of the shop. The two Fyarl demons they had conjured attacked straight away.
"Stay away from the mucous!" Spike shouted as he kicked one in the gut hurling it into a bookshelf.
Maeve was on the second demon in a flash. Punch. Kick. Duck. Mucous splattered against the ground to her right. She grabbed a chair and smashed it into the creature's head. It staggered a bit, but quickly regained its composure. It lashed out at Maeve, scratching her arm with its claws. She barely noticed the blood as she pummeled the ugly horned demon with her fists. She backed it into a table and kicked it...hard. It bounced off the table and fell forward trying to take Maeve down with it. She moved quickly, though, and jumped over the falling creature - landing on the table behind it.
Spike was furiously attacking the other demon. Kicking and ducking. But the Fyarl swung hard and clipped the vampire's head. Spike went down, momentarily dazed. Xander rushed into the skirmish to help. With a large urn in hand, he careened toward the beast and broke the granite container over its head. It fell backward, landing on its rear. It was still rubbing its head as Xander pulled the vampire upright with his good arm and dragged him away from the angry demon.
Maeve waited for the creature to regain its feet before she took a step forward and launched herself off the table, sending her heels into the back of the demon's head.
"Weapon!" she shouted. "I need a weapon."
Dawn ran to the counter and yanked open a drawer. Several carved wooden stakes rolled toward her; she grabbed one and flung it toward her sister. "Here Buffy!" she shouted, before realizing her error. "I mean, Maeve," she mumbled.
Maeve caught the stake in her right hand and drove it through the creature's back. Green sappy blood oozed from the wound and the creature laid still. She yanked the stake out revealing an ugly gaping hole.
The other demon was regaining its composure and had a hankering for some Xander-flesh. It growled as it stood and lumbered toward the man and the vampire. Xander scrambled for something else he could hit it with while Spike propelled himself at the beast. Vampire visage to the fore, Spike growled and punched its face.
Maeve came to his aid - from behind the demon, she drove her stake through its neck. There was a gurgling noise and the creature clawed at its neck. Spike could see the point of the stake protruding from its scaly skin. Still, the demon had strength. It whirled on its attacker, swinging its gargantuan arm at her head. Maeve ducked an instant too late and she was thrown several feet, landing with a crash - and perhaps a fractured bone.
Spike risked a glance back toward the witch and noticed the portal had doubled in size. It was now a window the size of...well...a window. Tara was trying to coax Willow out of the spell, but it didn't seem to be helping. He had just turned his attention back to the green-ooze-spurting demon when he heard Anya shriek. Spike bolted out of the demon's reach and looked around the shop. Xander had run to Anya's aid - they were both hammering the hole-y demon with large books. *You can see right through it,* Spike thought. *Neat.*
"Silver!" Spike yelled over the cacophony. "You need to kill them with something silver!"
Maeve heard his instructions and scanned the shop from where she was lying. Xander and Anya were ineffectually trying to fend off one demon. It was winning, pushing the duo closer to Tara and the circle. Tara was still stroking her lover's arm - trying to bring Willow out of the spell and close the ever growing portal. Spike was keeping the other monster occupied. Dawn? Where was Dawn? Oh, cowering behind the counter. Good. On the far wall, in the back of the shop, there was an umbrella stand. There were swords in the umbrella stand. Swords were silver. *Hopefully.*
Maeve stood and ran (with a slight limp) to the back of the shop. She grabbed the handles of two swords and made her way back to Spike. He was barely holding his own. Blocking powerful punches took a lot out of a vampire. Maeve edged up behind him. "Right hand. Sword," she said as she handed over the weapon. He took it, gladly.
From where she stood, Maeve could see that Anya had been cut badly and was leaning on the counter for support. "Anya, are you alright?" she shouted.
"I'm okay. Just please help Xander," she replied.
Xander was trying to keep the Fyarl busy by kicking its legs and hitting it with his weapon of choice: "The Lost Fire Rituals of the Sacred Mongol Brotherhood". It was difficult for him to keep his balance, holding the heavy volume with one hand. The creature had finally had enough of the book-bashing and grabbed it from Xander's grasp. The fear on Xander's face was evident as he backed away from the enraged demon. Unfortunately, he backed right into Tara. "Xander! No!" Maeve yelled. But it was too late. He toppled backward over the frightened witch and landed (well, fell, really) right into the hovering portal. There was a flash of green energy that filled the room for less than a second and Willow fell backward from her sitting position, the spell finally broken.
Maeve bolted over to the surprised demon, and taking advantage of the magical diversion, plunged her sword into its gut and yanked it upward - leaving a trail of gore in its wake. The Fyarl demon's eyes opened wide as it fell to the floor, finally dead.
Spike, currently too busy fighting to be able to keep an eye on the others, punched the remaining beast with his free hand and then, behind his back, quickly switched the sword to his left. He kicked the demon in the shin and as it hunched over in pain, he brought the sword up, and in a swift downward arc, lopped the horny head clean off its scabrous body.
After the spell was broken, the Chronoths began to fade. They floated backward and dissolved into the air. In a matter of seconds, the chaos and clamor in the shop was replaced with an eerie silence.
"Xander," Maeve murmured.
"Oh please, not Xander," Anya moaned as she collapsed in a heap on the floor.
Maeve ran to her side.
Tara was hunched over Willow, dabbing at the girl's bloody nose with her sleeve. Dawn was standing at the counter, and Spike had just finished wiping off his sword on the dead demon's leg.
"What about Xander?" he asked as he turned toward the others. Noticing the missing Scooby, he continued, "Where IS Xander?"
Dawn pointed to the center of the circle where all that remained of Xander was a pile of his clothes, his watch and pair of ratty sneakers.
Spike's eyes widened in shock, "Oh god, tell me he didn't get dusted."
Continued in Part 19 - The Bare Necessities