A Journey Through the Dark Places
Willow sat and thought. Xander had convinced her not to destroy the world, but she still hurt. An agonising and deep-seated hurt inside that burned at her. She looked up for a moment when she heard a door opening, then dropped her head and returned to the inside of her mind and the all-encompassing grief, before anyone could see her.
* * * *
Anya was brooding. She was honest enough to admit it to herself at least. She was brooding. Why did Xander hurt her so much? And now, with him saving the world, no-one was going to even think of wishing him some kind of hideous fate. It just wasn’t fair. She contemplated her options. She knew about Willow’s recent thirst for revenge, and this began to make her think.
* * * *
“Why am I so unlovable?” Willow cried out, still partly asleep. She was caught in her dreams, half way between sleeping and waking. “I just want to be happy!”
Buffy sat outside the door, crying softly. She could hear her friend’s pain, but had no way to deal with it. She couldn’t bring Tara back, couldn’t ease the agony of grief that Willow was suffering. ‘It’s not fair,’ she said to herself, ‘she’s been through so much, and now all this too.’
* * * *
A form floated outside Willow’s window. As Anya sank gently onto the small balcony she crouched, concealing herself from any casual viewers. She looked inside to see Willow thrashing against the covers. ‘I haven’t seen that much pain in centuries,’ flickered through her mind briefly. She eased open the window and straddled the ledge, dropping noiselessly into Willow’s bedroom.
Anya used her full range of demonic abilities only rarely. She found she needed a moment to re-orient herself from the flight to Willow’s bedroom and the artificial silence she had created around herself. As she looked down at Willow, Anya realised that she and Willow had a great deal in common. It was sad, she mused, that they had previously been un-friends. Perhaps this was also the time to change that.
* * * *
Willow suddenly shrieked and reached full wakefulness. The only thing that prevented Anya from being detected was the artificial silence that she had already established. Willow scanned the room, and seeing a figure, tried to focus in the gloom.
“It’s only me, Willow. Anya. I just came to see how you were doing.”
Willow blinked blearily. “How did you get in without Buffy hearing or seeing … Oh, that’s right, demonic powers.”
Anya smiled a little. “I thought I should come and learn about vengeance on the big scale.” She smiled a little wryly as she said it, trying to encourage Willow to attempt to see the silver lining. “Oh, don’t worry. We can’t be overheard. Another of my abilities.”
Willow smiled a little. She realised to herself that this was something she had been wanting. To talk to someone from outside the small closed circle of the Scoobies. She needed a different perspective, and Anya would certainly provide that.
“I’m coping. Some days are better than others, y’know? I still miss her, and I still wish … perhaps I shouldn’t say wish.”
Anya laughed. “I promise not to grant any wish unless you tell me ahead of time that you want a wish granted. Deal?”
“Deal!” Willow replied, smiling despite herself.
“So, how are you really?” Anya asked, sitting forward intently.
“Crappy. Everyone’s scared of me, and I’m essentially a prisoner here. ‘It’s for your own good, Willow,’ they say. ‘It’s only until the Council can help.’ But I’m still a prisoner, being kept here by my best friends! Because they’re scared I may still have magic that I’ll use to hurt them.”
Anya was shocked at Willow’s statement. “They’re what? But they can’t! It’s not legal. Oh,” Anya said rapidly, waving her hands. “Why don’t I go to the police and report them for this?”
Willow smiled wryly. “What are you going to say? ‘Help, my friend is being held captive and all she did was try to destroy the world. Just a little bit though!’ They won’t believe you.”
The blonde smiled and giggled a little before replying. “Well, I was just planning on telling them the basics. You’re being held against your will, and that it’s wrong.”
Willow smiled without any real emotion. “Do you really think they could keep me here if I didn’t want to be kept, Anya? Regardless of whether or not I have magic, I could still get out of here in a matter of minutes if I chose. Its just … I don’t know what it is. I just don’t care. Well, I do care about one thing. I need to apologise to you for using you the way I did.”
Anya sighed and stood up, looking down at Willow who was still curled in bed. “I do understand that. The drive for revenge is something I know intimately.” Anya paused and then thought for a moment. Willow needed to be galvanised, and there was one way that she knew she could do it. “I think, young miss, that it’s time for you to make some decisions. After the ‘bastard who cannot be named’ dumped me at the altar, I had to make some decisions too. I think it’s time for you to get out and find out what you want!”
Willow blinked. “You read Harry Potter?”
“No, who’s he? The last book I read was one by H.P. Lovecraft. He wrote horror stories. I saw him professionally. Sad he died so young, and that no-one knew how his stomach cancer grew so fast!” Anya grinned evilly as she spoke.
Willow gaped at Anya. “You killed the greatest horror writer in history?”
Anya shrugged. “At least I was kind. There was a horde of other demons wanting him. He was getting far too close to the truth and the stories sold so well. Someone was going to kill him. That’s for sure. I was just the lucky demon.”
Willow was shaking her head. “All that time! All that time I had those stories in my bookshelf and I could have used them for research! That’s so frustrating!”
“I just bet Giles knew.” Anya added slyly.
Willow looked at her in shock and anger. “Goddess! He did. When we first found out about vampires he went into this long speech about how demons were here first. I thought it sounded kinda familiar. He was nearly quoting Lovecraft! Or maybe Lovecraft was quoting the Council! Whichever way it was, why didn’t he tell us?”
“You know what the Council are like. They keep everything secret. Giles is just as bad. He kept secrets from me even in the Magic Box! And as for Xander …” Anya interrupted herself, spotting a familiar object. “That’s his, isn’t it?” She asked pointing at a hideous purple shag pile rug.
Willow nodded. “He asked me to keep it safe. He was afraid his parents would throw it out when he moved out.”
Anya spat on the rug.
“Well, I feel strangely better,” Anya continued. “As for that miserable misbegotten son of a sheep molesting whore … he pretended to love me! For over two years!”
“You’re still working through the anger, aren’t you Anya.” Willow stated flatly.
Anya nodded once, curtly, in response.
“I know that feeling. I still want those two little toads in my power. I’d teach them not to hurt people. Especially people I love!”
Anya looked at Willow speculatively. “I’ve been thinking. There’s a double standard going on here. Buffy tries to kill everyone and it’s all ‘It’s okay, you aren’t well.’ And when she had sex with Spike it was all ‘We understand, we still love you Buffy.’ But when I had sex with Spike, after Xander left me at the altar, almost everyone hated me. And … and when Xander did that stupid spell that made everyone sing and Dawn almost got kidnapped to hell, no-one said a word. But when you get justifiably upset they tell you how evil you’ve become!”
Willow looked up at Anya, and sat up in bed at her realisation of what Anya was saying. “You’re right! They don’t really like me. I’m just useful!” She shook her head as she realised that the statement was untrue. “No, that’s not right. But you are right about the double standard! And I’m not going to take it any more.”
So saying, Willow got out of bed and began dressing, a smiling Anya looking on. ‘Oh, she’s so pretty under all the clothes. She hides herself!’ Anya thought as she watched the little redhead dress quickly.
Once Willow had dressed, she looked at Anya. “I have a wish to make.”
Anya nodded. “Remember I can only grant a wish which will allow you to gain vengeance.”
Willow smiled cruelly. “I wish that my powers were returned to me in full, so that I may exact vengeance on all those who have hurt me, on the understanding that any attempt to use you will void the wish entirely.”
* * * *
Buffy started as the sound of Willow’s door opening woke her up. She turned to look at Willow who was emerging, a look of determination on her face. “Hi Willow, how d’ya sleep?”
“Okay. I’m going out now.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “How? You know you can’t go out, Will. I won’t let you until the Council have checked you over.”
“Like this.” Willow gestured, her hand twisting as she did so. Buffy rose off the floor and hung in mid-air, her feet kicking uselessly. “Willow! Put me down!”
“Let me think about it a moment.” Willow pretended to ponder the question for a moment before shaking her head. “No. You can hang around for a while.”
Willow walked past the helplessly protesting Buffy, with Anya following in her wake. “Later, Slayer.” Anya said spitefully. “Much later.”
* * * *
Three hours later, Willow and Anya were in a coffee house, drinking lattes and talking intently. Neither saw Giles come up behind them. Clearing his throat, he began to speak. “Er, Willow, if I can have a moment of your time?”
Willow looked around and smiled. “Of course Giles. Please, sit down. Have you ordered?”
Giles looked taken aback by Willow’s courtesy. “No … no I haven’t ordered yet.”
Willow nodded and gestured to one of the waitresses. As the woman came over, she indicated she should take Giles’ order.
After Giles had ordered a pot of Darjeeling, he looked at both Willow and Anya. “What are you up to Willow? You left the house, even though you agreed to see the Council. And how did you get your magic back? Even though the others aren’t certain you were completely drained, I was.”
Willow smiled, trying for enigmatic and quoted, “Be careful what you wish for …”
Anya snorted with laughter. “Yeah, right! Everyone I’ve dealt with except you has been anything but careful!”
Giles blanched. “You made a wish? Oh God! You’re after Jonathon and Andrew, aren’t you.”
Willow nodded again. “I am, and I won’t be stopped this time, Giles. This is just something that I have to do. They killed the one person in the world who accepted me for what I was, didn’t hold me to a higher standard than anyone else or make excuses for everyone else. I have a right to punish them.”
Giles shook his head slowly. “No, you don’t. They’re human.”
”I’m not the slayer, bound by rules and etiquette. If a vengeance demon says I have the right, I guess I’ve got a good case.”
“Willow, please. You did dreadful things to Warren,” Giles sighed and looked at the witch. “Let me be clear about this, I’m not losing sleep over him being dead. He was an evil man. But you can’t do this. You’ll embrace the dark again.”
“How come it’s always me who’s wrong? No-one said anything to Xander after his little effort in song and dance magic! And Buffy. How come it’s okay for her to try and kill everyone, but it’s not okay for me? No, I won’t accept that double standard any more!”
Giles sighed and pushed his chair back. “I’m sorry Willow, but if you persist in this, I’m going to have to stop you again.”
Willow gestured at Giles, an action that held him immobile and silent. “I’m sorry Giles, but I have to do this.” She took a Lethe blossom from her jacket and cast the forgetting spell, deleting his recall of Willow and Anya. All he could remember was coming in and having a pot of tea to take the load off his feet during his search for the girls.
* * * *
Willow looked at Anya. “So, where do we go? Sunnydale won’t be safe for us.”
Anya looked back “Why not? After all, we’ve got some impressive firepower together. And it’s closer for both of our plans.”
Willow nodded. “That’s true. And I’m pretty sure we could come up with some effective glamour spells as well, for when we need to avoid the others.”
Willow and Anya lounged back in leather easy chairs. Their shoes and socks were off and they were sipping magically conjured cocktails with inappropriate names.
“Y’know, Wills,” Anya said drunkenly, “this isn’t like any screaming orgasm I remember. It hasn’t made me go ‘Oh God!’ or curl my toes or anything.”
“I-I think you’re mis-mis misun … not getting the reason for th’ name,” an equally intoxicated Willow replied. “These things are named t’ make silly girls blush! I think.”
Anya looked at Willow, “Would that mean that they’d want to exact revenge after?”
Willow laughed. “Goddess! No! It’s all part of the … the dating and flirtation rituals.”
“Why do humans bother with all that?”
“Ummmmmmmm. Dunno. S’Very important though. Got to flirt.”
“Why? Why can’t I just say ‘I like you. You like me. Let’s have orgasms.’ Why shouldn’t I be able to do that?”
“’Cause people’d think you’re a slut?”
“Why? Wouldn’t that be easier than getting embarrassed about the names of drinks?”
“Probably. But people are stupid.”
“True. Just look at Xander.”
“Nope, don’ wanna. He’s special.” Willow’s voice was loaded with bitterness as she spoke. “No-one ever tells him off! Not even when he did magic and dumped you! I just wish he was treated the same as the rest of us!”
”Ooopsies!” Willow giggled.
* * * *
Wrapped tightly in her glamour of invisibility, Willow watched through the window as Buffy and Giles yelled at Xander. They were berating him for taking risks and almost getting himself killed the previous night.
The look on Xander’s face was one of confusion. He hadn’t experienced anything like this before and really was uncertain what to do or say. Complaints, yes, but a full-scale attack of this nature? The last time he could remember was in the dark days after Cordelia had left him, and her verbal barbs weren’t as cruel as some of the things that Buffy and Giles had been saying.
‘Why couldn’t this have happened earlier? And why’s it happened now?’ Willow asked herself. ‘Maybe I wouldn’t have tried so hard if they were fair. Still, it’s time he learned to take responsibility for his decisions.’ Willow thought as she continued to watch.
She was waiting for them to head out on patrol, as she needed to get into Buffy’s house and locate a book for a detection spell. The ones that she had learned ‘Before’as she referred to the time when she was trying to revenge Taraseemed not to have the necessary range.
Eventually, the argument died down and the three stepped out of the house. Willow released the glamour and opened her mind. She began to scan the house carefully. As she had suspected, Clem was staying with Dawn. It was simple for her to slowly ease them both into a deep and dreamless sleep, one that only she could awaken them from.
Willow focused her will on the door briefly and heard the locks click open. She walked inside cautiously, and began to hunt for the book. She was sure that Giles would have left it in the room he was using, which was where she began her search. She opened herself fully, feeling for any magical emanations from the room. As she began to be overwhelmed by the quantity of magical material there, she focused more tightly, seeking books and manuscripts. Magic associated with paper. “Ah, there.” Willow muttered as she located a locked chest that radiated the precise magical vibrations she was searching for.
She released the spell and pulled the chest from the wardrobe. She again focused her will on the lock and it immediately opened under her mental touch. Raising the lid she sorted through the books and scrolls inside. Finding the grimoire she needed, she placed her hands on the pages and shuddered as she drew the knowledge into herself.
As she finished, she looked over at the mirror. “Still a redhead, thank the Goddess!” Willow whispered the prayer of thanks. “It had to be done though. I couldn’t just steal the book. That would be too noticeable,” she murmured to herself. Willow tidied the chest back up, slid it back into the wardrobe and left. Once safely outside, she released Clem and Dawn from the induced sleep and walked away.
* * * *
Anya watched Xander as he worked. He was a foreman now, and even his workmates liked him. She sighed as she realised that the chances of anyone but Willow wishing him ill were small at best. She teleported away, back to her apartment.
* * * *
Giles sighed and leaned back in his chair. It had been a fortnight, and no-one had seen or heard from either Willow or Anya. He was becoming worried. If they had left Sunnydale, there was no telling where they were or what they could be doing. He was well aware that Willow would have magic in place to prevent any attempt at detection; so casting any kind of divination was not an option for him.
Willow watched Giles as he thought. Again wrapped in her glamour of invisibility, she took a certain amount of amusement from the fact that she was less than twenty yards from him as he attempted to locate her. Satisfied that the Scoobies had no leads, she teleported away.
* * * *
Anya didn’t even look up as she heard the whoosh of displaced air that announced Willow’s arrival. “Hi Willow, what’s new?” She called out.
Willow chuckled as she replied, “Ate a book again.”
Anya’s head whipped round, and she let out a sigh of relief as she said, “You’re not a brunette! Thank the Infernal Gods for that!”
Willow pouted and rolled her head slightly sideways. “You don’t like Gothy Willow?” As she asked, Willow gestured and suddenly her skin paled and her hair darkened to a raven. “Gothy Willow likes you … a lot.”
Anya blushed and looked down. “Hey,” she said hotly, her head coming up again, “I’m a vengeance demon, I don’t blush. And I like all the Willows. I always have.”
Willow smiled and let the glamour fall away. As she did so, she blushed. “G-Good,” she stuttered, “because I t-think I rather like you as well.” As she spoke, she took Anya in her arms. “Please, Anya. I want to feel a person again. To be with you. I want to touch and caress and love.”
* * * *
Xander was miserable. He admitted it, but tried to keep a front up at work. He still flogged himself emotionally over Anya, and also over Willow’s departure from the safety of Buffy’s house. He couldn’t understand why Giles and Buffy had become so critical of him either. In the past he tended to be self-critical and they provided the necessary emotional support to allow him to overcome his perceived failings. Now, though, they were almost as vicious in their attacks on him as he was himself.
He sighed as he opened a can of Miller and sank it in front of the television. He was aware that drinking alone was not the best idea in the world, but he rationalised it as something he did only rarely and only when he was under great stress.
* * * *
Anya slept, and in repose her features took on a calmness that never appeared when she was awake. Willow watched her as her breasts slowly rose and fell in time with her breathing. The redhead was surprised at herself. It was only a matter of six weeks or so since Tara’s death, and already she was reaching out for someone else. Was she really so fickle? After some thought Willow decided she wasn’t being fickle. After all, Willow reasoned, love came when it chose, not when you wanted it.
“Love?” Willow asked herself, unaware that she was speaking aloud. “Goddess! I am! I love Anya. A vengeance demon! My tummy does that little flip whenever I see her. When she smiles I feel happier. Already? So soon after Tara? What on earth is happening to me? Am I being rebound girl?”
Anya’s eyes opened. “No, I don’t think so. I’ve been thinking about things too. Last night was a revelation for me. I realised that a lot of our fighting was a refusal to admit an attraction. Well, that and the fact that Xander and Tara would’ve been very upset. You’re naturally faithful, and because of my past, I was incredibly faithful to Xander. After all, the last thing I wanted was a vengeance demon coming after me!”
Willow chuckled. “Yeah, I can see it would’ve been embarrassing to say the least.”
Anya rose from the bed and stretched, her lithe body rippling as she did so. “Come and kiss me then, you gorgeous witch. I want orgasms!”
Willow needed no second invitation.
* * * *
Giles and Buffy sat together in the back of the Magic Box. The training room was one of the few areas that Buffy and Willow hadn’t completely demolished during their struggles. They had been discussing the failure of anyone to locate either Willow or Anya, and the conversation had drifted, quite naturally, to Xander.
“I still think it’s all Xander’s fault.” Buffy said dogmatically. If he’d married Anya, then Willow wouldn’t have her powers back and Anya wouldn’t be a demon again.”
“I don’t think it’s as simple as that Buffy, although I’ll admit freely that Xander does appear to be a nexus for a lot of the negative events recently. After all, we shouldn’t forget the song and dance disaster!”
“It wasn’t all bad Giles, at least you and I could carry a tune!”
Giles laughed as he replied. “Well, that’s true. There are some people in town who still haven’t reappeared in public after their performances.”
“What are we going to do about Willow and Anya though?” Buffy asked, reverting to the original conversation.
“Well, as of yet, Willow and Anya have done nothing at all. We can’t really attempt anything until they do. And, of course, we have absolutely no idea where they are.” As he spoke, Giles removed his glasses, cleaned them absently and sighed. “I’m worried about both of them. They’re both still in a great deal of pain, and neither of them have ever shown a tendency towards moderation when they’re grieving.”
Buffy nodded as she began to speak. “I really don’t understand Willow at times. She got all addicted to magic, and then went all cruel and evil on us. But she’s really smart. So how come she did all this? I mean, I understand about her wanting to revenge Tara’s being shot. I even understand it ‘though I can’t agree with it. But how did someone so smart get so caught up in things like this?”
Giles sighed again. “It’s never as simple as a case of smart versus dumb. Willow may have an addictive personality, which would leave her vulnerable to all sorts of potential addiction problems; or she may have just been caught by circumstance. The point is, we won’t know unless we can find her and have some psychologists assess her. That’s the main reason I want to find her. From what we’ve seen of Willow’s potential, there’s no saying what she could be capable of.”
* * * *
Willow smiled at Anya. After a day of lovemaking, the two women were completely at ease with one another. Lying together on the bed, pillow talk had inevitably moved to small talk, and Anya finally asked the question she had been pondering for some time. “What about this book you ‘ate’?” Anya asked, her hands making the quote marks as she spoke.
“Oh, that. It’s … it was a book of detection spells. None of the spells I know … knew have the range to locate Andrew and Jonathon.”
“Ah, so you’re intending to go after them?”
Willow nodded. “Not to kill them though. I intend to terrify them witless, but I won’t actually harm them.”
Anya looked a little disappointed at that. “You won’t?”
“No, but I rather think you’ll like the idea I have come up with. It goes like this …”
Willow and Anya stood in the Mexican desert. The morning sun beat down brutally, and the two women could almost feel the water being leeched from their bodies by the savage aridity of the location. Even on the top of a small hillock, their visibility was limited by a combination of the glare and the heat effect that rippled and twisted anything over a hundred yards away into surreal images. “They’re here? Those two little creeps are here?” Anya asked Willow sceptically. “How on earth can they survive?”
“Well, the spell said that they’re within a mile radius of this position.” Willow answered with certainty, her mouth partially closed in an instinctive reaction to preserve moisture.
Anya nodded and tried to scan the horizon. “I can’t see a thing except rock and dust and the occasional dead shrub.”
Willow nodded again. “I can’t either. What I need is height.” As she spoke, she gestured with both hands, appearing to push down against the ground. As she did so, she began to rise into the air. As Willow left the ground, she found maintaining stability was difficult at first. On previous occasions where she had used this particular power, she was being driven by anger or grief. Using it consciously was new to her, and more difficult than she expected.
As she rose higher, the redhead scanned downwards, finding that the heat haze was lessened by the angle she was looking at. By the time she had reached a decent altitude, she was able to see that the terrain below her was slightly more varied than she thought when on the ground.
Willow suddenly gasped in shock as Anya said from next to her, “Look! A balka!” She pointed towards the ground on their left.
“A what?” Willow asked as she stabilised the rocking that Anya’s surprise appearance next to her in mid-air had caused.
“There, next to the little tree.”
“All I can see is a gully, Anya. And what’s a balka? And what language is that anyway?”
“That thing that looks like a crack in the ground. A balka. It’s Russian. It’s what we called them back when I was a kid. I think they’re called wadis too, some places. They’re dry watercourses.”
“Oh. So why didn’t you say gully?”
“Are we going to hover here all day like a pair of admittedly damn sexy vultures,” Anya asked with some acerbity, “or are we going to follow the balka?”
Willow chuckled in spite of herself. “Sexy vultures? Now that’s an image that’s just … disturbing. Yep, let’s follow the thing. At least there’ll be some shade.” The two girls began to descend to the ground, unaware that during their time together in the air, they had begun holding hands.
They landed close to the lip of the dry gully, and began to clamber down the steep and rocky side. “Hmm. Perhaps we should’ve landed inside instead.” Anya muttered.
Once they reached the floor of the gully, they found it smooth and sandy. The going was easier than it had been in the desert itself, and they began to move purposefully down the path left by water in times past. Again hand in hand, they moved onward, and in short order, Willow realised that they would need water. With an almost negligent gesture, Willow created two canteens, and handed one to Anya.
“What? Evian was too much to ask for?”
Willow giggled. “That sounded so much like Cordelia that it’s scary!”
Anya just looked at Willow.
“Whoops. Sorry! Won’t say that again!” Willow said with an unrepentant grin.
Anya smiled and moved closer to Willow. With their arms entwined about each other’s waists, they walked onward in a companionable and peaceful silence.
After a short while, Anya asked, “Are we getting any nearer?”
“I dunno. I know they’re still within a mile though. I’ll be able to tell if we move out of range. Or if they do. But that’s all.”
“Well, we’re close now. Why don’t you use a different spell?”
“Well, I can’t maintain two similar spells at once. The magic … conflicts. Sorta like running two incompatible programs on my laptop, I guess. And since I wouldn’t be able to tell if they’re within a mile, I’m not willing to risk it yet.”
Anya looked at Willow, surprise colouring her features. “You know something? I don’t think you’re a Wiccan at all. I know perfectly well that you at least show respect to the triple goddess, but your mind is totally different. You know what you remind me of? A science-fiction book that loser-boy used to read. Now, what did he call the people like you? Like your mind I mean?” Anya thought for a moment before recalling the term. “Yes! Technomancers. That’s it!”
Willow looked hard at Anya, processing what the vengeance demon had said before answering. “I suppose,” she began uncertainly. “But I still feel Wiccan. Well, sort of. I guess I’m embracing the Morrigan at the moment ... Shit! We’re going the wrong way!”
The pair immediately turned and began retracing their steps. “Okay, we know they’re almost exactly a mile from this point,” Willow began uncertainly. “Now I should be able to use the other spell.” She looked speculatively at Anya for a moment. “I wonder if I can cast the direction spell so it works on you. Look, there’s an overhang with a little shade”, Willow said, pointing. “Lets sit and I’ll work it out.” They moved into the minimal amount of shade provided, and Willow began to meditate.
As Willow descended into the recesses of her mind, Anya looked around at the scenery. It wasn’t much to look at. In many ways it reminded her of her birthplace, in what was now southern Russia. The dry watercourses, the brass burning of the sun, the heat, the sand, the oppressiveness of the whole environment. The total stillness of the animals and birds. There was something nagging her at the back of her mind. But what was it? She simply couldn’t recall.
She tried desperately to remember what was beginning to unnerve her, and descended into memory herself. Anya could perceive the similarities and differences between here and her homeland. It was hotter and drier here, and there were far fewer trees on the edges of the watercourse. But the weather was very similar. It was something about the weather. But what?
As she continued to try and work out what was bothering her, she heard Willow stir. Looking over, she saw that the little redhead had emerged from her meditative state and was beginning to re-focus on the world around her.
“Okay, I’m pretty sure I know how to do it.” Willow said slowly. “Are you willing to let me?”
Anya nodded, still distracted by her thoughts.
Willow began a low, almost inaudible, chant and a glow appeared in each hand. Raw magical power shimmered in the heat, creating a minor heat haze around the two women. As the redhead completed the incantation, an orange glow enveloped Anya for a moment and then disappeared.
“Which way are they?” Willow asked almost nonchalantly.
“Oh, the way we were headed until we took a rest. But Willow, something’s wrong. Not with the spell, but around us. I can’t work out what it is though.”
Raising her eyebrow, Willow looked at Anya. “Wrong? Around us? Do you mean wrong about you and me, or the place?”
“Definitely the place. It’s stirring something in my memories. Memories of my first time as a human.”
Willow nodded as she absorbed the information. “Okay, if you can’t be any more specific, I guess we just go on, but be extra careful.” Smiling, Willow took Anya’s hand in hers, and then leant in close, kissing her softly. “Between us I think we can cope with almost anything, sweetie.”
They began walking back along the watercourse, in the direction that Anya had indicated. As the sun rose higher and passed the zenith, there was no shade whatsoever, and both women felt the heat and the burning of the sun dreadfully, until Willow thought to conjure two parasols.
After a long and winding walk, they came to a fork in the gully. “Which way, hon?” Willow asked.
Anya indicated the smaller gully leading away to their right.
As they turned, they both looked behind them. In the distance, a low rumbling sound could be heard. Not thunder, but something that felt and sounded similar. They looked at one another, slightly confused. Then realisation dawned on Anya. “Quick, up the sides. We need to get out of the balka. That’s a flash flood! By all of the Infernal Gods, that’s what was worrying me!”
Horror showed for a split second on Willow’s face before the pair dashed to the side of the gully and began to scramble up. They climbed like creatures possessed and reached the top of the gully in short order, their fear lending them the adrenalin to move at top speed.
They moved away from the edge of the gully onto the hot floor of the desert and continued to trudge parallel to the watercourse. Only three or four minutes later the rumbling sound of the flood began to surge, and they could clearly hear the crashing hiss of the water as it surged down the dry riverbed. They moved closer, looking cautiously over the lip of the gully. To their relief, they saw that the water appeared to be only about half way up the sides of the gully. They felt safe following the line of the gully once more. They resumed walking; the onrushing water below them throwing a spray into the air that cooled them slightly in the heat.
As they crested a slight rise, they could see down into a small valley that blended with the gully they had been flowing. The water surge had begun to slow and spread as it was released from the confines of the watercourse. At the far end of the valley, well above the waterline was a small and decidedly dilapidated-looking village.
“We head towards the village.” Anya said a little nervously. She was still worried about the floodwater.
Willow just nodded. She checked her canteen, and then Anya’s. Both were empty. She gestured again and two bottles of Evian appeared in her hand and she ginned impishly at Anya.
“Better?” Willow asked as she handed one to the blonde who had so rapidly become a part of her life.
Anya laughed and embraced Willow. “You really are a sweetie!”
They scanned the area ahead, looking at the small and battered collection of buildings. Nothing moved. Not even a tumbleweed brightened the landscape.
They began walking again and, as one, Willow and Anya looked at each other. “They’re in there,” both said simultaneously.
Willow and Anya watched as the waters crested only yards short of the closest house in the village. As the waters lost their impetus, a wave of relief coming from the frightened villagers washed over Anya.
Slowly, the two girls began to approach the village. Anya was now continuously using the direction spell that Willow had cast on her as they cautiously moved toward their goal.
Seeing that what cover they had from the ground and heat haze would soon disappear, Willow indicated quietly to Anya that they should conceal themselves and wait. As they settled behind a small fold in the ground, Willow conjured a magically climate-controlled tent, food and water. After they had crawled into the tent, Willow initiated another spell, this one blending the tent into the landscape and also creating a barrier around the tent to prevent sound from escaping.
“So,” Anya asked immediately, “how long do we wait?”
Willow smiled at her lover. “We’ll need to wait until some time after dark. And we’ll have to keep an eye, from time to time, on the flood. If there’s another surge, then the village may be washed out in which case we’ll be chasing them.”
Anya checked her watch. “It’s only three. What’ll we do until then?”
Willow almost leered. “We should eat and drink first. But then … I’m open to suggestions.”
* * * *
It was just after sunset. The spells that Willow had cast on herself and Anya told the two girls that their prey had not yet moved. Willow realised that it was time to perform a reconnaissance. She brought herself into a seated position and crossed her legs.
Anya watched as her partner sat there, naked and meditating. She was aware of what Willow was going to do. She was going to project her mind into the body of an animal and use its eyes to see what was happening.
Willow felt her self, her essence, enter a small owl perched on the upper branches of one of the few local trees. As she became accustomed to the feelings and sensory input of the bird, she encouraged it to take off and fly towards the village itself. As she felt the movements of the bird, she began to feel in tune with the creature, and its emotional priorities washed over her. It had fed, and was therefore not hungry; but it was extremely territorial. Willow felt the bird continually checking to see if it’s range was being intruded on by another. Fighting and overcoming the distractions, Willow directed the bird into the village.
Recalling the run-down house that they had identified as the current hide-out of the geeks, she silently hovered outside and convinced the bird to sit on a window ledge. Peering in, she saw them, both Jonathon and Andrew. They looked somewhat the worse for wear. They were dirty and unshaven and both still looked afraid.
Having confirmed that both of the boys were still there, Willow gently directed the bird’s mind to scout the immediate area. She could see that the house they were in was a little isolated from the rest of the community. It was tucked behind a small fold in the ground and there was a large, empty basket outside the door to the dwelling. ‘Are they setting themselves up as the local brujos?’ she wondered idly.
She directed the bird higher, and looked for sources of light. As she had suspected, the only light came from the small house occupied by the geeks. She then directed the bird back to a tree and gently left its mind.
Slowly waking from her trance, she looked over at Anya, and quickly summarised the situation for her. In response, Anya looked at her lover and asked, “So, what do you want to do?”
“Well, I was thinking of waiting until three or so in the morning, and then paying our pals a little visit.” Willow answered with an evil smile on her face.
Anya laughed and took Willow in her arms. “I love it when you’re malicious.”
* * * *
The two girls readied themselves for the attack. They had both donned dark clothing and hats which Willow had conjured from home. Leaving the tent, they moved cautiously and quietly towards their goal. All their communication was done through Willow’s telepathy spell, so they could remain utterly silent until they were ready.
Willow took a slow, calming breath as she and Anya crouched outside the small house that Jonathon and Andrew now called home. For the last hour, they had been approaching the building, checking regularly for any magical traps or warning systems, as well as more mundane defences. Now, after the long approach, they were ready.
Willow summoned the magical force necessary and uttered a single word in a low voice as she pointed towards the rickety wooden-slatted door. “Shatter!”
In an instant the door blew inwards, splintering and sending shards of timber hurtling into the room. Willow and Anya were almost on the heels of the flying wood. A glowing nimbus of light enveloped both girls as they entered. Anya had adopted her full demonic visage, while Willow had again generated the image of her dark self. As they looked around, they could see two quaking forms cowering in the far corner.
Jonathon asked, in a trembling voice. “Who are you, what do you want?”
“We are the Erinyes! The Furies of vengeance and punishment! Stand! Face the retribution of the one you have wronged!” Anya’s voice rang like the crack of doom.
Willow laughed, and it was unlike her usual laughter. This time, it was a sound redolent of ancient and timeless evil. “It’s time.” She said in a flat voice. “I hold you, motionless and speechless by the force of my magics. Listen as I tell your fate. And create it.”
Willow began to weave strands of magical energy, and in a moment she released one. It split and struck both boys in the groin. “Thus, I curse you with sterility. Because to allow you to breed is simply too foolish an option.”
She released a second strand. This one struck their hearts. “You are no longer able to love. Except for one another.”
Willow then released a third strand of energy, which again hit the boys in the groin. “This renders you both impotent, except with one another!”
Willow’s voice deepened as she chanted a fourth curse. Loosing yet another bolt of energy, this hit the feet of both boys. “You cannot now, or for ever more, return to Sunnydale!”
Anya laughed as each bolt of energy struck home.
“And, finally,” Willow said in a voice utterly devoid of emotion, “I drain your magics and return them to the ether from whence they came.” The final strand of energy struck each of the boys in the centre of the forehead. This time they staggered back and fell to the floor.
“Now, you can go. Just never return to Sunnydale. Oh, and think yourselves lucky that you weren’t directly involved in killing my Tara.”
Willow dropped the magical nimbus surrounding both her and Anya, but kept the Dark appearance she had also conjured. At the same time, Anya allowed her demonic visage to drop away.
“A-Anya? But you helped us!”
“Only because Willow didn’t want my help. Now she does, so … I’m with her!” Anya explained it brightly and breezily, as if she were still selling goods at the Magic Box.
“Well, that sucks,” Jonathon observed.
Willow laughed flatly. “From your point of view, all I have to say is understatement much!” Willow looked at Anya and smiled. “Bored now, let’s go!”
Anya grinned back. “Let’s, I’m sure they want to be alone. What a sweet pair of lovebirds.”
With a pair of flamboyant gestures, both the witch and the demon disappeared, leaving only a hole where their presence had been. A WHOOSH and slam of air raced into the previously occupied space.
* * * *
As they reappeared at their campsite, the two women looked at one another, and then burst into hysterical laughter.
Anya was the first to start recovering. “That was brilliant, and evil,” she gasped out between breaths.
Willow, still laughing helplessly, could only wag a finger at Anya. When she eventually recovered, she looked at Anya. “Not evil!” Willow protested. “The only magic that was real was the spell that drained their magical ability and returned the energy to the planet. The rest was all smoke and mirrors.” She grinned brightly at her lover.
“And you say that’s not evil? That’s even more evil than actually cursing them! They think that they’re gay and infertile, and impotent! You’re vicious!”
“Wait a minute,” Willow protested, “how come not cursing someone is worse than cursing them?”
“Errr …” Anya hesitated.
“Well?” Willow asked pointedly.
“It’s … because … because you misled them deliberately and lied to them, and … and … you aren’t even a vengeance demon.” Anya finished in a rush.
“I think we’re beginning to pick up each other’s traits dear, you’re beginning to babble like me.” Willow leant in to kiss Anya as she spoke, taking any sting away from her words.
Anya reluctantly broke the kiss and smiled. “Home?” She asked almost winsomely.
“Sure,” Willow answered. “And when we get there,” she continued, “I have some planning to do.”
Willow and Anya were sitting and talking quietly. After their terrorising
and victory over Andrew and Jonathon, they had returned to Sunnydale, but
now both were becoming a little bored. Anya suspected that D’Hoffryn was
giving most of the available vengeance work to other demons while Willow
just had nothing to do.
“Y’know,” Willow explained to Anya, “this being evil isn’t all fun and
puppies. I can’t finish my courses at school, I can’t just go out and have
fun because the others may see me and would try and ‘rescue’ me.”
Anya nodded emphatically in agreement. “I think D’Hoffryn doesn’t trust me
any more. I’ve only had one vengeance to perform since we got back from
Mexico last month. And what was that? This stupid woman wished she had her
husband’s head on a platter. So I gave it to her! Twenty seconds work. And
the platter was silver! Well, they can all go and …” The sentence was
completed by a flipping gesture.
Willow nodded. “Have you noticed, An,” the redhead began, “that D’Hoffryn
is a male?”
The brunette gave her lover a withering glare. “Well, as Buffy would say …
“So why is a male in charge of vengeance for women scorned?”
“Because …” Anya paused. “That’s a very good question. Got an equally good
“No answer, yet.” Willow replied, frowning. She reached out and gently
removed Anya’s power centre, kissing the demon’s lips softly as she did so
and murmuring, “trust me.”
The petite redhead held up the glowing, green necklace and muttered a
phrase in what Anya thought may have been Slavonic, and a crimson sphere
appeared around the piece of jewellery that marked Anya as D’Hoffryn’s
servant. “Okay, “ she said, “now we can talk safely. The necklace is in
stasis. How’d you like a promotion, lover?”
“Well, why don’t we take over Arash’Maharr?”
Anya just stared at Willow in shock. “D’Hoffryn is a really powerful demon,
and he’s probably heard by now through the necklace! We’re dead!”
“That’s why the necklace is in stasis. It was obvious that your power
centre would be what he used to keep an eye on you. He can’t use it to
monitor anything but that one second of time it took to cast the spell.
We’re safe until we release the spell.”
“So, why go up against him, Will?”
“Two good reasons. First, the fact that he’s treating you badly. It makes
me want to give him some of his own medicine. Secondly, bored now. I want a
“So you want to take over a demon dimension? Isn’t that an extreme way of
“I don’t think so. Why am I here now? Vengeance,” Willow reminded her with
a predatory smile. “I think it’s time for a change in personnel. Plus, you
know he tried to recruit me, so I’m guessing he sees me as a potential
adversary. A rival. I want to get in first.”
Anya goggled at Willow. “You don’t think small, do you?”
Willow smiled coldly. “Nope. No benefit in that. I want a place to be safe
and Arash’Maharr will give me that … plus protection when the next slayer
“Are you aware of the amount of power D’Hoffryn wields?” Anya asked, her
eyes gleaming at the thought.
“Not precisely, but I can guess.” Willow ran a hand through her hair as she
thought and planned. “What I’ll need to do is to have everything in place
for a single overwhelming attack. But first, research! I need to find out
“I never heard about any,” Anya replied somewhat gloomily.
“We’ve got time to find some,” Willow smiled at her partner. “And, if you
haven’t forgotten, I’m research girlI’m sure I’ll find something.” She
gestured flamboyantly and the crimson sphere vanished, leaving only the
* * *
A week later, Willow was with Anya as the vengeance demon received a
message regarding a plea for her help. Anya’s back arched as D’Hoffryn
communicated with her where she was needed. As the contact continued, Anya
rose from the ground and hung in mid-air.
As Willow observed, she could see that the process was painful. She
wondered if that was some strange type of demonic motivation. She was torn
between running to her lover’s aid and remaining still, in case
interference would hurt Anya even more.
The contact ended and Anya fell to the ground, looking distraught. “Damn
that hurts. You’d think he’d be nicer when he wants us to do
something. Not that I mind, but ouch!”
Willow said nothing but simply took Anya in her arms and held until the
pain subsided. One thought continued to echo through the little redhead’s
mind. ‘No more of this. No more of this.’ And then Anya vanished.
* * *
Anya returned two days later. As she tiredly opened the door and walked in,
a redheaded bullet hit her. “Goddess, An, I’ve missed you!”
Anya staggered under the impact. “Oh Hellgods! Willow, can I get up please?”
Willow laughed and got up, offering Anya a hand to help her from the floor
as well. “Sorry An. I just really missed you. What did you have to do?”
The brunette sighed. “Just the usual. The only difference was that this
time my target was also female. I guess I’m the vengeance demon for gay
women scorned in love too. What this woman wanted though …” Anya shuddered
at the recollection. “Let’s just say that not all wishes should be granted.
It was because the target was a woman and you're a woman and she didn't
look like you but I kept thinking 'This could be Willow because Willow is a
woman and this is a woman'!”
“Oh baby!” Willow gathered Anya in her arms and held her. It was odd, she
reflected, that a vengeance demon would be forced to go through so much
pain to perform her job. Acting in a sudden thought, she asked, “was it
easier before you became human, An?”
Anya nodded. “Yeah, it didn’t hurt when D’Hoffryn contacted me, and the
jobs I have are far worse now. I think he doesn’t really trust me. Haven’t
I been loyal? Well, I mean kinda? He hasn’t trusted me since I became a
Willow nodded and, as she had done previously, enveloped Anya’s power
centre with a ball of crimson energy. “Well, sweetie, we have to do
something about all this. I’m scared for you, and I’m sure that D’Hoffryn
intends to get rid of you somehow. I’ve been thinking things through, and I
need to get some information on him somehow.”
The brunette nodded slowly, thinking through things as she did so. “You
aren’t going to be able to use any of the usual contacts for this, Willow.
We’re going to have to get the information elsewhere.”
“I know,” Willow acknowledged slowly, her brow furrowed in thought. “I
don’t know where though. I’ll have to do some research about this. Now, if
you’re feeling better, I’d rather like a kiss, please.”
Anya willingly complied.
* * *
Two days later, Willow had found what she hoped was the answer. It was in
one of the books she had earlier stolen from Giles and the information in
it seemed credible. Once she had re-read the material dealing with
D’Hoffryn, she went in search of her lover.
Anya had been sleeping when she felt something crawling over her thigh.
Waking with a start, she began a scream and choked it back when she saw it
was her lover’s hand, slowly creeping up her leg. “Hi there, beautiful. Are
we going to have …”
“No, sweetness, no time for orgasms now.”
Anya pouted playfully as Willow leant in, kissing her very gently before
once again placing the vengeance demon’s power centre into stasis. “I just
read something interesting,” Willow began. “Apparently, D’Hoffryn can be
banished from our dimension. But it has to be a wish made by someone in
“What good’ll that do for us?” Anya asked, her mind still fuzzy from sleep.
“Well,” Willow began tentatively, “the hard part about killing D’Hoffryn
has always been that he can bounce between here and Arash’Maharr. If we can
arrange for his banishment, then he’s a much easier target.”
“So how’re we going to actually get someone to wish him away? It won’t be
easy,” Anya said doubtfully. “And how long does the banishment last?”
“I have a plan that might work,” Willow said, smiling evilly.
“Well! Tell already!” Anya snapped, exasperated by Willow’s teasing.
“I was thinking about using Xander. Do something interesting, like turn him
into a woman, and then you could explain it’s all D’Hoffryn’s fault.
Knowing Xander, he’ll automatically wish D’Hoffryn would go away or butt
out or something. That should banish him to Arash’Maharr via your power to
grant wishes. It lasts for one full cycle of the moon. So roughly four weeks.”
“So we have to get Xander to wish him away, get to Arash’Maharr and kill
D’Hoffryn all in four weeks? And would it even work, since I’m only the
vengeance demon for scorned women, not involuntary transsexuals?”
“There’s a vengeance demon for involuntary transsexuals?” Willow asked,
more from shock at the concept than anything.
“I don’t know, but D’Hoffryn covers all the bases.”
“Okay, I’ll have to think some more then. Are there any other VD’s you can
“VD’s!” Anya was outraged before the penny dropped. “Oh, you mean vengeance
demons. Let me think. There’s Hallie of course, she dislikes D’Hoffryn even
more than I do. Who else?” The last question was directed as much to
herself as toward Willow.
“Hallie’s job is to deal with teens, right?”
Anya nodded slowly.
“Okay then,” Willow continued, “what if we can manipulate Dawn into
making a wish?”