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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Seventeen: Uses of Power
"Anyone entrusted with power will abuse it if not also animated with the love of truth and virtue, no matter whether he be a prince, or one of the people."
Dawn was the first to notice that they'd left Buffy and Xander behind. The group had filed into the living room and begun discussing who would ride with whom, when the brunette teenager suddenly looked around in puzzlement and asked where her sister had gone.
"I think she's talking to Xander," Tara said softly, reassuring Dawn. She hadn't missed the differences in the way he'd been watching Buffy, and hoped that they were taking this opportunity to clear the air. She still felt a little protective of Buffy on the Spike issue, especially since Buffy had trusted Tara enough to reveal it to her and ask for help, but the secret was poisoning all of the Slayer's relationships. It needed to come out.
"Oh," Dawn said, dropping into a chair. "That's good, I guess. They haven't talked much this year-- not that Buffy really talks to anyone these days."
"She doesn't?" Giles asked, in a worried tone.
"No." Tara shook her head. "Not s-since, well, since." They all knew what she meant, without her having to clarify. "I think m-maybe she talks to Spike, but..."
Giles looked grim. "He said something the other night about her having come back wrong. Buffy assured me that you'd researched it for her and discovered that wasn't the case, but the implications of his having discussed it with her first are somewhat disturbing."
"Spike... does care," Wesley added, with a troubled expression. "He is perhaps unique among vampires in that respect, but we mustn't forget that he is still soulless. If it were to his best advantage to give her poor advice, he would, without a qualm."
Dawn began to look mutinous at that comment. Tara sighed, and decided to change the subject a little before the teen started trying to defend the blond vampire. "He's kind of your nephew now, isn't he?" she asked Wesley.
He grimaced. "And grand-nephew, actually, and also uncle. It depends on which way you trace the Aurelius bloodline. Darla was Angel's sire the first time round, but Drusilla was the one who turned her when Wolfram and Hart brought her back."
"Whoa, whoa," Willow objected, suddenly looking horrified. "Darla was your mother? You didn't mention that before!"
Wesley sighed. "Does it make a difference? I'm the child of vampires, any way you look at it, no matter who the vampires were."
"It makes a big difference," Willow said, still looking shocked. "To me, anyway, and Xander. Don't tell him. She turned our best friend Jesse, back when Buffy first came to Sunnydale, and Xander ended up having to stake him. It's bad enough that you're Angel's son, Xander has major issues there, but he hated Darla with a nuclear intensity."
"Well, he can just deal," Dawn said, still irritable. "If I don't get to hate Wesley for Darla turning our Dad, then Xander doesn't get to hate him either."
"What? Turned?" Giles gaped at her. "Xander mentioned that you said your father had died, but..."
He didn't have a chance to finish his sentence. Without warning, the sounds of gunfire echoed from the back yard. Tara counted at least three shots, one of which must have hit the house, because there was a crash of breaking glass from upstairs. More ominous, though, was the lack of audible reaction from either Buffy or Xander.
Galvanized by fear, everyone bolted for the back door. Dawn was first, and gasped in shock as she saw the scene outside. "Xander!" she screamed, and dove to her knees next to his unconscious form.
Buffy had collapsed into a seated position on the porch, cradling Xander's head and shoulders in her lap. She was covered with blood, although it didn't look like any of it was hers, and had pressed her hand to a gunshot wound in Xander's upper chest. Blood was seeping out at a worrisome rate, and was soaking Buffy's legs as well; the bullet must have gone all the way through.
"Oh my God, oh my God, Xander..." Buffy was whispering, her face contorted in grief. "Not you, I can't lose you too..."
Willow clutched at Tara with a gasp as she, too, exited the house and saw what had happened. "Xander!" she exclaimed.
Giles pulled out his cell phone and pressed it into Tara's hands, then dropped to his knees next to Dawn and put a hand over Buffy's on the wound. "Buffy..." he began to say.
Tara took the phone, steadying Willow with one arm and dialling 911 with the other. She didn't see how an ambulance could get there in time, but there was no question of not making the call.
Buffy abruptly came out of whatever trance she was in, and snapped her head up to stare at her Watcher. "Help him!" she begged. Giles blinked at her, in confusion and dismay, and she made a soft sound of distress before abruptly shifting Xander's upper body from her lap to Giles'. "Help him," she repeated, more fiercely this time, then staggered to her feet and fixed her gaze on one edge of the yard, where the shooter must've come from.
"Warren is mine," Buffy growled, and her face became a tight, angry mask. The Slayer in her was fully in the driver's seat. Before anyone could reach out to her, she plucked Wesley's knife neatly from Giles' pocket and took off at a dead run.
"Buffy!" Giles yelled after her, futilely. "You mustn't kill him!"
"Faith," Wesley said inexplicably, whispering the second Slayer's name in dismayed tones, and took off after Buffy at impossible speeds.
"Dawn, help me move him," Giles said, suddenly. When the girl didn't move, he repeated himself, with steel in his voice. "Dawn! Willow, we must move him to the grass."
"What?" Willow said, looking at him in puzzlement through a veil of tears. "Why?"
"He must be touching the Earth. Help me, please, or we risk losing him!"
Tara didn't move when Willow let go of her and moved shakily to help; she felt as though she had become a statue. All that blood. All that damage and pain, and magic or no, there was nothing she could do. It brought back horrible helpless memories of her mother's death, and of Buffy demanding that they find a way to help Joyce.
The 911 operator was on the line, demanding to know what was going on, and somewhere Tara found the strength to answer. "R-Revello Drive," she stuttered. "1630 Revello Drive. G-g-gun, shots f-fired..."
They stretched Xander out on the grass, facing the blue of the morning sky. His features were slack and pale, and only the slight rise and fall of his chest gave any clue that he was still alive. Giles, his back to Tara, placed his hands over the bloody wound again and bent his head in concentration. Willow and Dawn knelt opposite Giles, looking at the older man with confusion and hope in their faces.
Tara, watching them, heard the operator speak again, asking some question she couldn't quite hear; but though her ears seemed to have gone wonky, there was no problem with her sight. The cell phone slipped from numb fingers as a light welled up beneath Giles' palms, as green as emeralds and rich with the promise of life.
She'd told Buffy, once upon a time, that healing spells didn't work. They were primarily dark magic, and tended to make things worse. But there was one sort of healing magic that wasn't a spell at all; it was part of the very Earth. Giles had never shown any signs of bearing Elemental magic before... but somehow, he was wielding it now.
The world seemed to hold its breath as the glow grew brighter, and threads of ivy wove up out of the lengthening grass to twine around Xander's body. The morning sunlight streaming down was suddenly thick and golden where it neared him, casting strange shadows across the planes of the his face. Willow gasped and pulled back a little, staring open-mouthed at what Giles wrought, then looked up at Tara with shocked green eyes.
"Wow," Dawn babbled, her expression full of wonder. "Oh, wow. Giles? How are you doing this? Not that I really care, I mean, if he's going to be OK. He's going to be OK, right?"
The green glow flared even brighter, etching a Giles-shaped shadow in Tara's field of vision, then began to fade again. The manifestations of Earth magic reversed and began to pull in on themselves, fading slowly back into a normal back yard on a normal Sunday morning. Finally, after a long moment of quiet, Giles lifted his hands from Xander's chest.
"Ohhhhhhhh..." Xander moaned, slowly opening his eyes. "Did anyone get the number of that bus?"
"Xander!" Willow burst into tears and threw her arms around him as he struggled to sit up. "You almost died!"
Giles sagged backward, folding in on himself in exhaustion and relief. Dawn smiled tearily at the hugging best friends, then turned a grateful look on Giles and scooted round to make sure he got a hug, too.
The numbness that seemed to have wrapped Tara's emotions like cotton wool abruptly began to fade, and she slumped to the porch next to the cell phone, leaning her forehead against the railings. The squawking voice of one of Sunnydale's finest still rasped out of the phone's earpiece, and she shut the thing off with a snap, shaking her head. No need for an ambulance, now.
The whole thing must have taken longer than she'd thought, though, because a few seconds later the sound of sirens began creeping up in the distance. Tara took a deep breath and got back to her feet, knowing that she was likely to be the most coherent one in the entire group. Trust the police to respond instantly to a threat of guns, while ignoring the "gang" problem ninety-nine percent of the time.
Movement at the edge of the yard caught Tara's attention, and she flinched, thinking it was the cops already. It wasn't, however; Buffy was back, a grimly pleased expression on her face as she strode across the grass. There was no Warren to be seen.
Tara swallowed, feeling faintly nauseous. What had Buffy done?
But there wasn't any bloody knife, either, and a moment later, Wesley appeared behind Buffy. He had one hand wrapped around Warren's upper arm and the other trapping Andrew's shoulder in a vice-like grip. Neither boy appeared to have any fresh wounds, although both looked extremely upset and kept darting fearful looks toward the Slayer.
"Buffy! Buffy!" Dawn caught sight of her sister and let go of Giles, springing to her feet. "Xander's OK! Giles fixed him!"
"What?" Buffy's pace faltered to a stop, and she blinked as she focused on the little group clustered on the grass. "Xander?!" she asked quietly, staring at him as though she'd seen a ghost.
"He isn't dead?" Andrew blurted, hopefully. "Does this mean you're gonna undo the wish? 'Cause man, it was pretty harsh."
"I wouldn't bet on it." A fifth person had entered the yard with the others, partially obscured by Wesley and the boys, but her smug, matter-of-fact tone was easy to identify. "Buffy could have wished for a lot worse, and personally, I think it couldn't have happened to a more deserving pair of idiots."
"Bitch." Warren said, sullenly.
"You might want to watch your language," Wesley warned him, in a casual, indifferent tone. "Anyanka has quite a bit of power even without the Wish; I wouldn't anger her if I were you."
Xander suddenly spasmed in Willow's arms. He took a deep breath, then pulled back and leapt to his feet, looking wildly around him with an expression of horror. "Buffy!" he yelled, pressing a hand over the spot where the wound had been.
"Xander," the Slayer repeated, still standing frozen several yards from him. Relief flared momentarily in her eyes, but then they rolled back in her head and she fainted, crumpling gracefully to the grass.
"Oh, dear Lord," Giles said, and moved across the grass to her side. "I hadn't realized; the bullet must have grazed her after it passed through Xander."
"Bullet?" Xander echoed, staring worriedly at Buffy. Then he looked up, and accidentally caught Warren's eye. Tara could almost feel the memories click back into place as Xander's face hardened in anger.
At that moment, nearly anything could have happened. What did happen, though, was that Amy walked through the back door with a worried look on her face, followed immediately by a pair of Sunnydale's finest. The cops had arrived.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.