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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Five: Girl Power
"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
"Damn Anya." Willow scowled at the door, looking very much like she wanted to stomp her foot.
"Sweetie?" Tara gently touched Willow's arm, wondering where the anger was coming from.
Willow turned her irritated green gaze on her girlfriend. "I mean, I understand why she still shorts out Xander's circuitry, but Giles? Since when does she throw his great big brain off the tracks? They left here without any weapons or a way to find Amy!"
Tara smiled a little, amused at Willow's vehemence. "Since she tricked him into wishing?" she answered Willow's first question. "Besides, Xander has Amy's address. They'll probably check Willie's after that for information? O-or maybe try a location spell."
"Not unless they go by the Magic Box for supplies," Willow objected, "and they don't have anything of Amy's to cast it with. Plus, I don't care how blase Giles suddenly is about the magic, I've never seen him cast anything off the cuff. They need help!"
"Willow..." Tara began cautiously. Everything she was saying was more or less true, but Willow and magic were still, in Tara's opinion, un-mixy things.
"I know, I know! So would you? Please?" The big green eyes widened, and Willow's face took on a pleading expression that almost qualified as puppy-dog eyes.
Tara sighed. Well, it wasn't as if it would take much time or energy, and it could save the men a lot of running around. "All right. Do we still have anything that was Amy's?"
"Thank you!" Willow sighed in relief and threw her arms around Tara in a quick hug. "I think there's some stuff from the Habitrail in my closet," she said, and ran up the stairs.
Tara went into the kitchen and opened the coupon drawer, looking for a map of the Sunnydale area. She had one back in the dorm, but she didn't want to run back just for that, and there were usually a couple of spares in Buffy's house. They came in handy, for several reasons.
She located a map that wasn't spotted with pizza residue, demon slime, or anything else that could interfere, and spread it on a large clean area on the floor. According to the chore chart, Dawn had mopped in here Thursday night, so it should be fine on the tile... and hey, easy to clean up afterwards.
Willow came back downstairs. She had changed into a pair of jeans, and was carrying the round running wheel from Amy-rat's cage. "I gave her some of the other toys, you know, kind of as mementos, but she said she never wants to see any big wheels ever again. So, voila. One object heavily associated with the person to be located."
Tara had the components for the location spell she wanted to use with her, as it wasn't particularly complicated. A few sprinkles, an incantation, and some concentration were all it required. Theoretically, the materials she'd scattered on the map would coalesce in a pinpoint of light, showing Amy's location. As long as she was in the mapped area unshielded and the focus object was properly chosen, it was pretty much guaranteed to work.
"Something's clouding her presence," Tara said with a frown a few moments later. "I can't... I think there's a magic barrier around her. But it's somewhere in this area." She gestured at a softly glowing region on the map that covered a few square miles.
Willow frowned down at the map. "There's nothing there. The Initiative cave-and-tunnel system avoided that area, and the sewers don't run out there either. It's one of those blocks of space that don't show up on any Sunnydale blueprints. Demon hideout, maybe?"
Tara sighed, and let the spell go. "Do you think they took her along? To fetch the Orbs?"
Willow nodded, looking determined. "Probably. So... I'll get a crossbow and some stakes. It shouldn't take us very long to get there." She jumped up and walked back out to the living room. A creak of hinges and some muffled clunking announced that she was digging through the weapons chest.
"Us?" Tara called into the other room. She unfolded her body from the floor, brushing her knees off as she stood, and carried the map over to the garbage can. She shook the residue off, put it back in the drawer, and then went for a broom to make sure none of the herbs and powders were left on the linoleum. "Willow, I thought we were doing this to help Xander and Giles. You, you need to call them."
"With a vague area?" Willow objected loudly. "We need to narrow it down. I promise we'll call them when we figure out where it is. I'll bring my cell phone." She reappeared in the doorway to the kitchen, brandishing an axe and a crossbow. Then she extended the axe to Tara, handle-first, with a smile. "Here. It's the one you stopped that biker demon with, the one that attacked me."
Tara leaned the broom handle against the counter and cautiously took the axe, remembering the chaos of the evening they'd brought Buffy back, and the gang of demons looting the town. It had been the first time she'd ever killed anything with such a weapon. Willow had been weakened from calling on Osiris...
Tara looked into Willow's face and did a thing she seldom felt comfortable with; she studied Willow's aura for the flickering that would indicate lying or deception. She loved Willow, but after everything that had happened, it was only prudent to be cautious. Fortunately, nothing was wrong; Willow was just her normal enthusiastic self.
"Okay," she told Willow, then put a touch of bedroom in her smile. "B-but just so you know, this wasn't the kind of activity I had in mind when I came here."
Willow blushed very prettily at that remark, and her eyes sparkled. "Don't worry, we won't go anywhere near the demons unless it's an emergency. We'll be safe back home in no time, and then maybe we can get back to those plans." The last words were spoken breathily as she leaned over the weapons between them and touched her lips to Tara's in a gentle kiss.
It took about half an hour to locate the general area the map had indicated. There weren't any roads running directly through that chunk of land; the ground rose and fell there in gentle waves, and trees obscured any possible caves or buildings.
Willow carefully parked Xander's car in the nearest pull-off area, and tucked her spare key back in her pocket. "So," she said. "We scout a little, and at the first sign of demons or Amy call Giles and Xander."
Tara nodded. "That's the plan." She got out of the car, trying to minimize the sounds of gravel scrunching under her feet, and retrieved the heavy axe from the back seat.
Willow got her crossbow and exited the car, then patted the pocket of her jeans to make sure she still had the cell phone. Then she glanced over at Tara, and her face shifted into an unreadable expression.
"What?" Tara asked, a little alarmed. "Is something wrong?"
Willow shook her head and sighed. "No, just remembering. You know back before the Glory thing got big, when we were still living in the dorms? You kept studying spells and things late at night."
Tara thought she saw where this was going. "I s-said I d-didn't think I was useful," she stuttered, with a sad smile.
"Yeah." Willow looked down at the ground and turned over a few pieces of gravel with the toe of her shoe. "My turn now. Xander wanted your help, not mine."
"You're s-still the real Scooby, though," Tara said, quietly. "That won't ever change."
Willow gave her a watery smile. "I know. It just hits me sometimes. It's been years since I was just a normal girl. Queen of the research, hacker extraordinaire, but no extra powers-- it kinda sucks."
Tara bit her lip, not sure what to say to that. Strictly speaking, Willow wasn't addicted to magic... she was addicted to the dark magics, which was an entirely different thing. Lots of the heavy kind of spellwork had effects on the caster, including adrenaline and chemical spikes, producing a 'rush' that was way too easy for a body to get used to, and way too vulnerable to outside meddling. But until Willow viewed magic as a tool and not a method of empowerment, it wouldn't be safe for her to practice even the white magics. She would just get sucked right back down.
A moment of silence hung in the air, and then Tara smiled reassuringly at her. There was something she could say. "You're special to me."
"And that means more to me than the magic," Willow said seriously. Then she took a deep breath and turned towards the forest. "Okay, then. Let's find Amy."
They picked slowly through the forest, looking for trails or any other sign of life. There was a lot of ground to cover, a lot of hillside to examine for caves, and a lot of brush and other foliage to push aside. Tara was hampered by her skirt, as she hadn't been able to change before leaving Buffy's house, but at least she'd been wearing sensible shoes.
It was around five o'clock when they found the tunnel entrance. It would never have been visible from the outside if the previous visitors had been at all careful, but someone had broken several branches on the trees that flanked the opening. A few of the branch stubs were as large around as Tara's upper arm, but the sap seeping from them was still fresh.
"Did Xander ever tell us just what these Orbs were supposed to do?" Tara asked quietly, trying to figure out how much strength it would take for a person to do that much damage.
Willow blinked at her for a moment. "You know, I don't think he did. I think he and Giles forgot we weren't there when Jonathan talked about them. Why do you ask?"
Tara touched her fingers to the beads of sap, then showed them to Willow. "Someone left here in a hurry. A-and I don't think it was a demon. But they did so much damage..."
Willow sighed. "Xander did say the Orbs were going to help them with their crime spree. I guess now we know how; even if Buffy were still here in town, she would have a harder time stopping them if they have superpowers from some magic artifact."
Tara nodded. "We should probably call them now and tell them what we've found before we go in."
"But if Warren and Andrew have already left...?" Willow looked into the dark mouth of the tunnel, then back at Tara, and then sighed. "No, you're right, I know. Who's to say it was them, or that they both left, or whatever." As she spoke, she pulled her cell phone from her pocket and checked the display screen.
She didn't dial, however. Instead, she began pacing around on the hill, scowling at the phone as she went. "There must be something blocking the cell coverage here... I'm not getting a signal, Tara."
Tara glanced back in the direction of the town, then at the hills around them. "Did you check it in the car, where we parked?" she asked. They could always track the direct path back to the road and wait for the guys there.
Willow gave her a chagrined look. "Um, no. I kinda forgot..."
A weak cry interrupted their conversation, issuing from the tunnel's mouth. Both Tara and Willow went silent, listening hard.
"Help me..." the voice pleaded. "Anybody... please...?"
Willow looked at the phone, then at Tara; Tara looked at the tunnel, then at Willow. They stared at each other for a long moment, until Tara sighed and nodded. Nothing else to do now, but go in.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.