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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Seven: Rescuing Amy
"It is a denial of justice not to stretch out a helping hand to the fallen; that is the common right of humanity."
"Next time, please don't say 'unless it's an emergency,'" Tara said softly, raising an eyebrow at her lover. "Because every time someone does, there is one." Then she turned to the tunnel, advancing carefully into its shadowed depths.
The weak voice inside had fallen quiet again. Tara could hear a coughing sound from somewhere ahead of her, but she couldn't see anything; there wasn't any light, natural or otherwise, to guide her steps. She licked her lips to moisten them, nervously aware that this time she was the muscle and Willow the backup.
"Tara...?" Willow whispered, coming to a halt behind her. She sounded as nervous as Tara felt. "You wanna shed a little light on the subject?"
"Umm... j-just a second..." Tara touched a hand to her throat, where a crystal pendant hung on a thin leather cord. "Incandesce," she whispered. The stone grew warm against her skin and emitted a soft white glow, just enough to show her where to put her feet and how far away the walls were. She'd been worried that whatever was blocking this place from the outside world would also prevent her from working her own magic, but it seemed to be just a fuzzy sort of shielding, not a nullification spell.
A gasp echoed in the enclosed space, followed by the clatter of small stones slipping over each other and bouncing off of the floor of the cave. "Oh, goddess... Who's there...?" The pained voice spoke again, and this time Tara recognized the voice; it was definitely Amy's.
"That's Amy," Willow breathed in Tara's ear, placing a small hand on Tara's shoulder.
"Shhh," Tara cautioned her, then narrowed her eyes and concentrated, reading the 'aura' of the underground space as best she could. An Elemental mage would be far better at this, one who could talk to the spirits in the earth or air, but she could at least open herself to the presence of other beings, or any magical traces left behind.
After a moment, she let out a sigh of relief and willed her necklace to grow brighter, illuminating the rough-hewn walls and the heap of fallen rock blocking the tunnel several dozen meters from where they stood. Except for a strange blank spot that was probably the treasure chamber itself, the place had that empty aftermath kind of feeling, and the number of recent aura trails leading to that magical wall equaled the ones coming out. No one was hiding in there.
"Amy's the only one here, I think," she told Willow. "Warren definitely got what he came for, but they left a little while ago."
"Phew." Willow stepped out from behind Tara and walked slowly towards the rockfall, frowning at it. "Amy?" she called. "It's Willow and Tara. What happened? Are you okay?"
"Not... particularly..." the hidden girl groaned. "He brought... the ceiling down on me..."
Tara winced in sympathy. They had been more concerned about stopping Warren from using Amy to get the Orbs than about the girl herself-- she wasn't exactly a friend-- but Tara found it difficult to tolerate anyone's suffering, friend or not. "How bad is it?" she yelled. "Did it just catch your legs, or...?"
Amy filled in the blanks with a raw, pained laugh. "It's... pretty bad. I'm... mostly buried."
"Goddess," Willow breathed, picking her way through the outflung fringe of the rock pile. "How are we ever going to move all of this?"
Tara bit her lip. If Amy was in a lot of pain, she wasn't going to be much help; it was hard to do magic when you couldn't concentrate. Willow had only her hands, and that was a lot of rock to move manually. Tara could dissolve a few of the larger rocks to get through, but then the entire stack would shift and possibly crush Amy further. She could try levitating the mess, but her telekinetic grasp was pretty weak; it would take a great many tries to shift that much mass.
At least, it would for her alone. Tara frowned, flashing back on the Gentlemen's visit, way back when she was first getting to know Willow. They'd been chased by some lackeys and needed a way to block a door. Individually, neither of them could have budged the soda machine even a little, but when they'd linked hands it flew across the room as though shot from a cannon.
Would it be too much like doing magic, if she asked Willow for help with this? She could do the actual casting, guiding the levitation, and treat Willow as just another energy source. When they linked their power like that, it tended to multiply what either of them could do alone, and in this case that kind of power would be necessary. They had to get to Amy before her injuries got any more serious.
"Willow?" Tara spoke up, picking her way through the rubble until she stood behind her girlfriend. "I, I don't think I can do this. Not alone."
Willow turned wide green eyes on her, her expression equal parts shock and doubt. "But Tara, you know I can't do magic. Not now, maybe not ever. Remember? You agreed, it's too dangerous."
Tara swallowed. "I'm not asking you to do magic," she said, reaching out to caress Willow's smooth cheek and tuck several wayward red hairs behind her ear. "Just, d-do you remember the soda machine?"
Willow thought for a moment, nibbling on her lower lip, then nodded. "When we needed to block the door," she said. "I couldn't move it by myself, but then you lent me your power..."
Tara smiled encouragingly. "Exactly. You don't have to do anything, just let me draw from you."
Willow thought about that a moment more. There was still doubt in her face, matching the knot under Tara's breastbone, but there really was no other way to do this in any reasonable amount of time. Finally she smiled a little, and took Tara's hands in hers. "Okay," she said, "Operation Willow-Battery is a go."
Tara took a deep breath, and focused on the link between them, imagining Willow's power flowing into her through their joined hands. It didn't feel as smooth or as joyous as it had in the past-- there was too much water under the bridge for that, and too much darkness in Willow's energy. There was a strange sense of balance to it, however, and a distinct feeling of having come home.
"Amy?" she called out, when she felt she was ready. "We're going to try something. How far past you does the tunnel go?"
"Not very," Amy answered, then coughed. "There's a... barrier. But it... burns up every... everything that touches it. Instantly."
"Hey," Willow said, raising her eyebrows. "Rescue Amy and clean this place up at the same time; Martha Stewart would be proud."
Tara stifled a laugh, then closed her eyes and concentrated. Carefully, she extended her mental grip around the rock-pile, imagining it flowing around and between the stones and solidifying like concrete. She was careful not to take the entire mass; she didn't want to grab Amy up by accident. Then she began to push.
The rocks wouldn't slide smoothly past each other and there was no room to lift them against the ceiling, so she had to thin the stones out a little, funneling them out from the far side while holding the rest still. It didn't take long to figure out where the barrier was, when the first batch vanished from her touch with a sizzle of strange power.
Very shortly, all but the bottommost portion of the rubble pile was gone, obliterated against the Nezzla demons' barrier. Most of the rock dust and some of the smallest pebbles had escaped Tara's control, pattering down in a dusty rain as they worked and making Amy cough more, but otherwise it had gone without a hitch. She released Willow's hands with a sigh of relief, and let their mingled magic separate again.
Willow sighed as well as she felt Tara release her power, then turned shining eyes on her girlfriend. "That wasn't so bad," she whispered, smiling. "It feels different, when I'm not controlling it. No temptation or anything."
That was an encouraging thought. "Maybe we can, um, experiment a little later," Tara said, smiling back. "But for now, Amy...?"
"Right." Willow nodded, her expression slipping back into seriousness. Then she began climbing through what was left of the rockfall, looking for any sign of the trapped witch.
Tara followed her, opening her tired magical senses again to check for the girl's aura. Amy had fallen silent sometime during the removal, so they weren't sure exactly where she was, or what state she was in.
They located her after a minute or two, when the glow from Tara's necklace caught glints from Amy's light brown hair. She didn't look well; she was unconscious, there was a lot of blood, and her aura was very weak.
"We have to get her out of here," Willow said, looking worried.
Tara knelt next to the fallen girl, carefully picking off the rocks that were still resting on the girl's chest and extremities. Fortunately, it looked like her shoulders and head had been spared, and the way she was laying had probably protected her spine. "I think I'll have to levitate her to the car," she said, quietly. "I might need your help again; we can't risk injuring her more."
"I told her to stay away from me, you know," Willow said with a worried frown, helping Tara move the rocks. "After she dosed me with power and called it a birthday gift. Did I do the right thing? Should I have tried harder to get her to stop, too?"
Tara sighed. Willow's guilty insecurity complex had a tendency to manifest at difficult times. "It's not your fault, Willow," she said quietly. "She would have pulled you right back down, you know that."
"Maybe not," Willow said, her voice pained. "I mean, maybe Warren wouldn't have gotten to her. Maybe if she had real friends, I could have stopped her going to Rack. Maybe..."
"She did have friends," Tara assured her. "She chose to go find Rack again, after you, um, de-ratted her. B-besides, it's much easier for someone to pull you down, than for you to pull them up. My mother used to say they have gravity on their side."
Willow smiled a little at that analogy and sighed again. "You're right. I just feel guilty, seeing her like this, when I was mean to her last time we talked."
The last of the debris came free, and Tara winced at how bad Amy looked. "Everything will work out," she said, mentally crossing her fingers. "Let's just get her to the hospital."
It took some doing to get Amy to the car without jostling her or worsening her injuries, and the effort utterly exhausted Tara. As soon as Amy was laid out on the back seat, she slumped into the passenger seat and leaned back against the headrest with her eyes closed.
Willow put her spare key in the ignition, then paused and pulled out her cell phone again. "Hey, I've got reception now," she said, sounding encouraged. "You think I should call 911? Or just Xander and Giles?"
"It would take the ambulance too long to get here," Tara murmured, keeping her eyes closed. "Try the guys, tell them we're taking her to the hospital. Giles will probably have questions."
"Okay." Willow dialed quickly, then waited for someone to answer her call.
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