DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the slayerettes belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: These stories contain adult material with scenes of women loving women. Consider this story to have a R rating. If this is illegal in your state or you are underage, please go to a more appropriate site now.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Tears of the Goddess
By Lisa Countryman

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

"Ouch," Willow said as Maggie tried to lift her shirt. "And just for good measure, ouch."

"Sorry." Maggie eased the fabric up and winced in sympathy as she studied the scorched flesh. "I need to cut that away. I guess your shirt isn’t going to survive this little encounter." The doctor leaned over to her medical bag and took a pair of bandage scissors and neatly trimmed the shirt away from the burn just under Willow’s ribcage.

"Is she okay?" Tara was resting with her head on the table but her eyes were locked on her lover.

"She’s fine," Maggie assured the blonde Wiccan.

‘Are you okay?’ Tara asked Willow with her mind.

‘Yeah, you saved me,’ Willow replied. ‘And might I add, wow!’

"This is gonna’ scar," Maggie said as she cleaned the wound. It was in the form of a perfect circle, her flesh seared by the overheated shotgun barrel leaving a deep red mark.

Tara lifted her heat and then her brow furrowed. "That’s a full moon," she noticed.

"I guess it is," Maggie said absently as she worked. "Or a circle or a sun, or any other round thing you want it to be."

"Full moon," Willow whispered. "I’ve been marked, by a moon, a moon of the full variety."

"A full moon means ripe with your power," Tara said as she tried to edge closer. "Your powers are at their maximum."

"Well, that sucks!" Willow grumbled. "I don’t even get the demon-frying-flame-thrower hands or anything."

"The flame-thrower-hands are not all they’re cracked up to be," Tara said with a crooked smile. "I have an awful headache and I swear I got a tan from the inside."

"Your temperature was 105 degrees when I first brought you in here." Maggie rested her hand on Tara’s shoulder. "You’re lucky you didn’t cause serious damage." She saw Kate going into the workout room and the doctor’s eyes sparkled. "I’ll check you again in an hour. Call me if you need anything." She hurried away without waiting for a reply.

"You really had flames coming from your hands?" Anya moved closer to the table and looked up and down Tara’s body with a hungry leer. "So, how strong do you think you are?"

"Why?" Willow asked suspiciously.

"Just asking." Anya tilted her head and looked at Tara. She had never really looked at the shy Wiccan with more than a passing glance. She knew that Tara had classical features and soft rounded curves, but now she acknowledged that the Wiccan looked like she belonged in Botticelli’s studio rather than walking the streets of Sunnydale. "You really are beautiful," Anya said after a moment.

"Thank you," Tara said uncertainly.

Willow tightened her lips and her eyes flashed.

"Well, I need to go find Xander." Anya turned and hurried across the room and then thoroughly kissed her boyfriend.

"That was… odd," Buffy said slowly. She looked at Tara and suddenly realized how that might sound. "Not that you’re not beautiful. I mean, look at you. I just mean it’s so not Anya to hand out a compliment." She turned and smiled sheepishly at Willow. "Not that I was looking… Please don’t hurt me."

"God, Buffy, I’m not a jealous monster." Willow rolled her eyes. "Though I do get a bit… grouchy when people drool over my soulmate."

"Willow doesn’t have to be jealous," Tara said quietly. "She knows my heart is hers forever."

"Yeah, I do know." Willow’s face lit up and she leaned over and pressed her forehead to her lover’s.

"This is where I leave quietly while you two do that talking with no talking thing." Buffy cleared her throat and hurried away. She sighed as she looked over at Giles. He was digging through a stack of books and was enjoying himself more than he really should be. She smiled and moved toward him. Of course he was happy, he was researching some evil force. It was what the Watcher lived for.

"Hmm?" Giles lifted his head when Buffy sat next to him. "Ah, Buffy what can I do for you?" He rested one finger on a promising line of text.

"Point me at a book and watch my research dust." Buffy smiled.

"Well, yes." Giles’ face lit up and he slid his book over to the Slayer. "His section here. It’s a translation from the original ancient Greek by an English scholar, so there’s less muddling."

"Muddling, uh huh." Buffy nodded, clearly confused.

"It’s only been translated once," he explained. "Each translator makes small mistakes, or slants things to his or her point of view. If you have something translated from Greek to Latin, to German, and then to English, the odds are a great deal has been changed."

"Like ‘Telephone.’ The party game?" Buffy nodded.

"Exactly." Giles smiled. "This is from the original author with only one translator." He pointed at the section. "There is a discussion here of the ‘marriage of souls.’ I think that might be the bonding ritual that Willow and Tara performed."

"That’s beautiful," Buffy said as she traced the words. "Marriage of Souls."

"Yes, it is," Giles agreed as he slowly turned and looked over at Willow and Tara. They were at the other table, also researching, but they were holding hands as the read over a shared ancient text. They would occasionally glance up at the same moment and lock eyes for a brief connection and then just as quickly they would go back to the book. "It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen."

"Softy," Buffy whispered.

"I meant the concept," he said as he blushed.

"Sure you did." Buffy let him off the hook and began reading.


Several hours later, Kate hung up the phone and went over to where the others were having Chinese food. "I just got special permission to stay for an additional week. Well, four days, until the end of the week," Kate said as she sat next to Maggie and grabbed the fried rice.

"Sergeant Taylor was nice," Maggie said around a mouthful of chow mien.

"I was surprised that he was willing to increase the patrols. Sunnydale has many hot spots." Giles deftly lifted a shrimp with his chopsticks. "Though with the murder rate of the previous owners of this shop, I suppose this is a hot spot."

"Told you we should’ve called it the Magical Murder Spot." Buffy was fighting her chopsticks and then finally just stabbed the shrimp on her plate. "Magic to die for."

Giles glared.

Willow smirked down at her sweet and sour chicken but her cheerful mood vanished when she felt fear coming from Tara. She looked over at the window where her lover was standing. ‘What is it?’ Willow sent. ‘You should eat.’

‘I will,’ Tara responded. She didn’t turn. She kept staring out the window.

‘What?’ Willow asked again. She put her plastic fork on the table and wiped her mouth. ‘Don’t make me come get you. You know how mad Buffy gets when she catches us talking telepathically.’

‘Something is out there,’ Tara whispered in her mind. ‘Something old, yet familiar.’

"Something’s out there," Willow said as she jumped to her feet and pointed at Tara.

"What?" Buffy spun her chopsticks and wielded them like a weapon.

"It’s not out there," Tara said as she turned around. Her beautiful features were troubled. "It’s ‘out there’ like in Sunnydale, lurking, not ‘out there’ like outside the shop."

"Tara," Buffy said as she raised one blonde eyebrow. "This is Sunnydale. There is always something lurking ‘out there.’ It comes with the zip code."

"I know." Tara smiled and turned back to the window.

"Okay, so now Tara’s like sensing all the evil vibes in town?" Anya looked over at the Wiccan and then reached over and took Xander’s fortune cookie and cracked it open. "So, how powerful is she?" She tossed half the cookie into her mouth.

"According to what I read, her full power will only be revealed after the second bonding," Buffy said as she tossed aside the chopsticks and grabbed a fork and dug back into her meal. She didn’t notice the surprised looks from around the table. "The mark of Artemis in the form of a waxing moon shows that whatever power she is going to receive will be huge, especially since she’s already manifesting extreme power," Buffy continued, oblivious to her stunned friends. "After the second ritual she’ll have access to her full power and we can check her Artemis stone color against the Tolman crystal spectrum to see just how strong she is." Buffy polished off her fried rice and went to work on the chow mien. She noticed the lull in the conversation and looked up and her dumbfounded friends. "What?" She wiped her mouth. "Did I spill?"

Giles beamed proudly but said nothing.

"You actually sound like you know what you’re talking about," Anya said. "That is rather shocking since you weren’t talking about fashion trends or makeup hints."

"What? I can’t retain information? I just read it in that Catnip guy’s book." Buffy smirked.

"It’s Atnip," Giles corrected.

"I like Catnip better." Buffy went back to her chow mien.

"Atnip is a noble British name." Giles sighed. "It’s from the medieval ‘atten’ which meant ‘at the,’ and ‘heope’ which meant rose hips. So ‘atten heope’ meant ‘at the roses.’ It became Atnip, a perfectly good name," Giles assured the Slayer.

"Still liking Catnip." Buffy yawned.

"From now on, we’ll call that the Catnip chronicles," Willow suggested. "Way to kick scholarly ass," she added with a giggle.

‘I miss our Kitty,’ Tara sent to Willow from the window.

‘I know,’ Willow replied silently. ‘Dawn isn’t gonna’ want to part with her.’ She was grateful that Buffy’s younger sister had taken Miss Kitty Fantastico while Tara was in the hospital. Dawn had begged to keep the kitten until the Tara returned to her dorm room.

"Um, I think Cordelia is here," Tara said over her shoulder. "That looks like the picture you showed me, except for the hair."

"I told Cordelia to stay at her uncle’s." Giles shook his head. "Are you sure it’s her?"

"Well, she just got out of a cab and is yelling at the driver and pointing at her shoes." Tara watched the unfolding drama outside.

"That would be Cordelia," Xander said. "I’m guessing the cab either had something sticky on the floor or the cabby parked her in a puddle."

Anya scooted closer to Xander and took his hand. "She can’t have you back."

Tara pulled the door open and Cordelia rushed in past her without any acknowledgment.

"Is it too much to ask that a cab not park over the one puddle in all of Sunnydale?" Cordelia stomped over to where Giles was standing. "It’s Sunnydale for God’s sake, land of sun. He couldn’t find a dry piece of pavement to let me out over?" She looked down at her soaked shoes.

"Cordelia, what are you doing here?" Giles asked delicately.

"Well, hello to you too," Cordelia snapped. "No, no, I’m fine. No need to worry, Giles. Just a few blinding migraines and visions chock full of demons. Nothing for you to worry your stuffy British head about."

"What kind of demons?" Maggie and Anya asked in unison.

"I don’t know." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "A big vampy guy with goatish demon hooves and short pants that really detract from his scary image." Cordelia paused and looked over at Willow. "Though slashing your throat got my attention. Oh, and I saw your girlfriend dead on some altar." She turned and glared at Giles. "Still wanna’ know why I didn’t stay at my uncle’s?"

"Willow was dead?" Xander stood and hurried toward Cordelia. Anya had his hand in a death grip and stumbled along beside him. "When? Where? Why didn’t you call us?"

"Don’t I even get a greeting?" Cordelia rolled her eyes.

"Hello. You can’t have Xander," Anya said.

Buffy was about to pound the information out of Cordelia, but Tara intervened.

"Cordelia, I’m Tara," the blonde Wiccan said calmly. "I didn’t get to thank you for bringing the book that saved me. Thank you," she said sincerely. "Now, please tell us what you know."

"See?" Cordelia pointed at Tara. "That’s a proper greeting. Willow’s lesbian has better manners than all of you." She raised her one eyebrow expectantly. "I’m waiting?"

"Cordelia," Tara said sweetly. She held out her hand and a tiny flame erupted from her palm. "Someone tried to hurt Willow earlier, and I tossed huge balls of fire at her. If your whining for attention puts the love of my life in any danger, I’m not going to be happy." The flame grew until it was the size of a softball and then Tara closed her hand and it disappeared.

"You know, I almost liked you." Cordelia stomped over to the table and flopped into a chair. "As I said, vision, Willow and Tara doing the dead thing, big demon, end of story. Kind of."

"Define kind of," Buffy said as she slammed her hand onto the table.

"Kind of," Cordelia said. "As in… sort of." She picked up the sweet and sour chicken and then reached for a fork.

"Damn it, Cordelia!" Buffy grabbed the seer’s wrist. "Quit playing Queen Cordy and tell us what you saw." She loosened her grip. "Please."

"Okay." Cordelia leaned back and sighed. "I saw Willow, but it wasn’t Willow. Well, it was Willow and then it wasn’t, but she was definitely dead. Then I saw that demon, goat boy, but then it wasn’t him, and the him that wasn’t him was…well…he was really hot."

"This is not clearing things up," Willow said angrily. "You’re just being… being… you’re just being Cordelia! Why do you have to make a major production out of everything?"

‘Willow, I’m safe. Calm down.’ Tara moved behind her lover and took the redhead’s hand.

"I can’t calm down!" Willow yelled. "I am not going to let some goat demon kill you on an altar!"

"That’s not what I said," Cordelia pointed out. "The goat guy didn’t kill her."

"Cordelia, do try to explain this some time before I retire," Giles said.

"It’s not like renting a movie!" Cordelia yelled. "I see flashes." She waved her hands in the air.

"So tell us what the flashes were," Xander said.

"I was trying to," Cordelia said and then let out a frustrated growl. "I saw goat boy kill Willow, except he kept changing back and forth between goat boy and the hottie, and Willow was changing from Willow to some…" She paused. "Huh, now that’s just weird."

"What?" Tara asked.

"Oh well, the Willow who wasn’t Willow was dressed like she was going to a frat toga party… everyone was." Cordelia turned to Giles. "And then Tara, who was changing from her to some not her person saw dead Willow. She grabbed the athame from the altar and well…" She looked over at Tara. "I think you’ve seen Romeo and Juliet too many times."

Willow paled as she thought about what Tara had told her at the hospital. Tara had said that she would have taken her own life if the vampires had killed Willow. Cordelia’s vision even included the use of the athame.

"Perhaps your vision relates to the sacrifice Tara made when she performed the mirror spell on Willow." Giles studied Cordelia.

"It doesn’t work that way." Cordelia ran her hands through her hair. "Why isn’t Angel here? At least he knows how these things work."

"Angel is seeing what he can find out about the vampire cult," Buffy said. "He’s down schmoozing with the demons at Willie’s.

"Well, at least he won’t have to sing," Cordelia said under her breath. "Ugh." She shuddered.

"And speaking of guys you’ve slept with, where’s Riley?" Anya asked.

"Anya," Xander hissed.

"Great choice, Xander," Cordelia said. "And you said I had no tact?"

"I have tact!" Anya yelled.

"You people are like a bad soap opera," Maggie said. "And as for the big vision mystery? It’s no mystery."

All eyes turned and locked on Maggie.

"Cordelia said that the Willow and Tara she saw were in togas." Maggie paused and pointed at Anya. "She said they were bonded in past lives." Maggie sighed. "Hello? Cordelia was seeing their past life."

"That… would actually make sense," Cordelia said as she crinkled her brow. "That is, if something going on now is about to mirror that past life."

"You’re a natural at this stuff." Kate smiled at the feisty doctor.

"Question?" Buffy raised her hand in the air. "If this is some past life deal…why is Cordy having the bat signal visions? I mean, don’t her visions warn of impending doom?"

"Oh, yes," Giles said with a frown.

"Maybe the demon was with us in the past life," Tara said with chilling calm.

"Well, if the togas were Roman or even Greek, that would make the demon very old, even for a vampire," Anya said. "And it’s not uncommon for an ancient vampire to take on animalistic features like goat feet."

"Like Kakistos," Buffy whispered.

"I didn’t like Kaskistos in this life," Willow whined. "Are you telling me his buddies have been hounding me through all my lives?"

"Wait…" Buffy stood and glared at Giles. "This whole reincarnation thing was giving me some hope. Are you telling me that if I pay my dues as Slayer that I might come back and get screwed all over again? That I could be slaying vamps for eternity?" She slapped her Watcher’s arm. "That so completely sucks!"

"There is no evidence of any Slayers having lived as a Slayer in past lives," Giles said defensively. "Though the family name Giles does mean ‘the shield,’ and I rather think I do protect you. Perhaps it’s my destiny to take care of you."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Cordelia asked. "Oh, I get it. So, Giles, how long have you been waiting to share that with us?"

Giles stared at her, then blushed. "Do shut up, Cordelia."

"Nothing has changed." Cordelia stood and started to wander over toward Kate, planning to chastise the detective for not being a proper bodyguard, but she never got the chance. "Ouch…" She grabbed her forehead with both hands and her knees buckled. The vision flashed through her mind slamming her with intense pain as every image burned hot behind her eyes. Her synapses were ravaged my mystical energy never meant for humans to endure.

"Cordy?" Xander ran to his former girlfriend as she collapsed onto the floor next to Kate.

"Oh, darn," Anya said. "Too bad no one caught her." She yawned.

"She’s having a seizure," Maggie said as she rushed over. "Get that chair out of the way so she doesn’t hit it." Maggie gently pulled Cordelia’s hands toward her body to keep her from injuring herself. "Easy," Maggie whispered. She looked up at Kate. "Has she had seizures before?"

"Only when she’s having a vision," Kate answered. She knelt next to Maggie, staying out of the way. "But normally she doesn’t pass out."

"S-she’s scared," Tara said. She grabbed Willow’s hand as she felt all the pain and fear Cordelia was experiencing.

Willow nodded as waves of fear from her high school nemesis pounded her body.

Giles ran to get a glass of water and brought it over just as Cordelia was opening her eyes.

"Oh, I cannot believe this." Cordelia slapped the offered glass of water away and then shook her finger at Maggie. "You! It’s not bad enough that I get these demon vision headaches, but no, now I have to… " Cordelia shoved Maggie’s hands away. "Now I’ve got your nutcase stalker broadcasting in my head too. I did not sign up for this crap!" She stood and staggered over to the table and grabbed a note pad and began scribbling. "Just when I was getting used to dealing with demons, I get to moonlight as a stalker alert system. Again, I did not sign up for this," she whined.

"What did you see?" Buffy asked. She leaned over Cordelia’s shoulder trying to see what she was drawing. "Maggie’s evil ex is a sickly cat?"

"That’s a horse, you moron," Cordelia said defensively as she yanked the paper away. "I saw a sign with a running horse on it, and that nutcase cop was there paying off some guy in a uniform. The guy was giving her Maggie’s work schedule."

"Oh, so you get all this from Maggie’s flashes when it’s just about some damn work hours, but when it’s me and Tara getting slaughtered you get all cryptic?" Willow was shouting and waving her arms in the air. "That is some shabby seeing, Miss Seer."

"Can we go back to the current vision?" Kate asked. She pointed at the sketch. "Where was the horse you saw?" she asked, though she was thinking that it did indeed look like a very sickly cat.

"On the guy’s shirt pocket, and the door behind him," Cordelia said. "And it had a shield thing around it."

"Like a security shield?" Kate asked with a sigh. "And I’m betting the hospital has security?"

"Well, we would have figured that out," Giles said.

"Yeah, we’re the Scoobies," Xander added with a charming smile.

"You’re flirting!" Anya slapped the back of Xander’s head.

"As if!" Cordelia said with a disgusted snort.

"Okay, I’ll go over to the hospital and grab Shannon while you wait here," Kate said as she pulled her revolver from her waistband holster and checked it.

"Excuse me?" Maggie put both hands on her hips. "You are not going alone."

"I was not flirting," Xander said as he rubbed his head. "And you should be so lucky," he added as he stuck his tongue out at Cordelia.

"You’re still flirting!" Anya hit him harder.

"Ouch! Hey, you’re giving me a concussion over here!" Xander backed away from his angry lover.

"And you’re waggling your tongue at her in a sexual manner." Anya stepped closer and raised her hand to hit him again.

"God, you are pathetic," Cordelia said. "Could you be more whipped?"

"Nobody calls him whipped but me!" Anya hit Cordelia with a full body tackle and the two rolled across the floor.

"Hey! No hair pulling," Cordelia said. She rolled over and pinned the former demon to the ground. "I was queen bitch of Sunnydale when you were still doing whatever it is you did, demon girl." She squeezed her legs hard, making Anya squeak. "And don’t you forget it."

"Xander," Anya whined.

"Okay, Queen Cordy, point made." He lifted his ex-girlfriend off of Anya. "Been working out?" he whispered as he lowered her to the ground.

"Xander, your mean ex-girlfriend hurt me." Anya fell into Xander’s arms and sobbed.

"I know," he soothed. "But it’s you I love." He kissed Anya’s temple. "If you had your demon powers you woulda’ kicked her butt. You just aren’t used to the whole human body yet."

"You’re so sweet." Anya sniffled.

"Wow, Xander Harris, showing some serious boyfriend qualities," Cordelia said with an acerbic smile. "I’m impressed." She looked over at Anya and gave her a respectful nod. "Not bad for an ex-demon."

"Are we done with the WWF try outs?" Buffy asked. She had one hand propped on her hip and was holding the sickly cat-horse drawing in the other.

"Um, excuse me," Tara interrupted. "But…Doctor Maggie and Kate just left."

"Oh, man!" Buffy whined. "I’ll kill them."

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Maggie followed Kate as the detective ran to the rental car. Both women jumped in without speaking. Both had adrenaline coursing through their veins as they thought about Shannon. Maggie fidgeted with Betty while Kate started the car.

"You need to wait in the car," Kate said. "I mean it." She sighed as she watched Maggie checking her gun and putting lead bullets into the chamber. "You and Betty shouldn’t be anywhere near this mess."

"You already called the cops." Maggie put Betty into the holster on the back of her waist. "I just don’t want you in there without backup."

"You’re a doctor, not a SWAT commander," Kate said angrily.

"You sound like Bones on the old Star Trek," Maggie said with a giggle.

"This isn’t funny." Kate’s eyes narrowed as she guided the car toward the hospital.

"Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor not a sharpshooter," Maggie said as she looked out the window.

"Stop it, Maggie." Kate was beyond angry and she was scared. "This isn’t some joke. Shannon tried to shoot both you and Willow. She isn’t going to be laughing."

"I know that." Maggie’s voice dropped and she cringed. "I just don’t want you in there alone."

"I won’t be alone. Sunnydale PD is meeting me there." Kate sighed and then reached over and took Maggie’s hand. "Please, stay in the car, or better yet, stay with the SWAT staging team. They’ll have a van or something and you can stay out of sight where it’s safe."

"Only if you stay with me," Maggie whispered.

"What?" Kate slammed on the brakes as the light in front of her went from yellow to red. "I’m a cop. This is what I do."

"This isn’t LA, so it’s out of your jurisdiction." Maggie squeezed Kate’s hand. "Let the SWAT team deal with her. If she sees you, she’ll recognize you and try to hurt me by hurting you."

"She’s never seen me," Kate said, sidestepping Maggie’s request.

"Believe me, she’s seen you." Maggie pulled her hand away and rubbed her temples. "She knew where to send the flowers, so she knows where I live. The fact that she attacked Willow at the Magic shop proves she was following us. If I know Shannon, she not only saw you, she has pictures of you too."

"I’m good at my job," Kate whispered. "And I don’t want her to get away again. She might get to you."

"She’ll hurt you, Kate," Maggie said in shaking voice. "I don’t want that."

Kate watched the light change to green and drove toward the hospital. She thought about the SWAT team and the fact that she would probably be in the way more than helping. ‘Damn it,’ she thought to herself. ‘The only reason you want to be there is because you want a piece of that bitch who terrorized Maggie.’ She looked over at the doctor. ‘Going on the raid will just put Maggie under more strain.’

"I’ll wait in the van with you," Kate whispered.

"Thank you," Maggie said sincerely. She took Kate’s hand and lifted it onto her knee and rested it there.

"You seem to be able to talk me into anything," Kate said as she squeezed Maggie’s knee.

"I’ll remember you said that." Maggie ran her fingers over the back of Kate’s hand. "And I just might hold you to it." She dipped her head and gave the detective a sidelong glance.

Kate smiled and turned toward the hospital.


"Hurry up," Buffy yelled as she pounded on the dashboard.

"I am going ten miles an hour over the speed limit," Giles pointed out.

"Why have a red convertible if you aren’t going to speed?" Buffy leaned over the door to try to see around the traffic slowing in front of her. She couldn’t see anything so she turned and scowled at Cordelia. "What is so scary about that whacko getting Maggie’s work schedule? Don’t your visions usually involve more immediate danger?"

"Look, I don’t write the visions, I just get them." Cordelia shoved Willow away from her. "Hey, lezzie, crowd your girlfriend, not me."

"To quote you and Xander," Willow said as she glared at Cordelia. "As if! And…you should be so lucky."

Tara closed and her eyes and used her mind to pull Willow closer, keeping the redhead snugly against her as Giles swerved in and out of traffic. ‘I’ve got you.’

‘Oh, telekinetic hugs. Cool,’ Willow said with her mind. She leaned into her lover and added physical touch to the mental hold Tara was using.

"Yeah, Willow, like you didn’t want me all through high school." Cordelia tried to smooth her hair but the wind refused to cooperate. "Everyone did."

Willow was going to give Cordelia a scathing reply, but the warmth of Tara’s touch pushed away any thought of fighting. The redhead turned her head and lost herself in Tara’s eyes. ‘Wow.’

‘You were right,’ Tara sent. She tilted her head to one side and flashed Willow a crooked grin, complete with her hooded bedroom eyes. ‘She is just like Anya…without the nice side.’

Willow burst into laughter and dropped her head onto Tara’s shoulder. "Goddess, I love you," she said as she kissed her lover’s neck.

Cordelia stared and then opened her mouth to comment, then gave up. She was bored and still had a lingering headache. Bickering with Willow had been a fun way to pass the time, but apparently the former nerd had better things to do.

"Give it up, Cordy," Buffy said from the front seat. "When Tara breaks out that cute kitten look, you can’t get Willow into a bad mood."

"If my cat looked at me like that, I’d get it neutered," Cordelia said with a sarcastic smile. She opened her purse and used a compact mirror and put on an unnecessary coat of lipstick.

Tara nuzzled Willow’s temple and then left a lingering kiss. She smirked and focused on Cordelia’s lipstick.

"Hey!" Cordelia yelled as her hand jerked and left an autumn-coral streak across her face. "Damn witches."

Giles studied the Wiccans in his rearview mirror as he turned into the hospital parking lot. "Tara, try not to taunt the mystic visionary," he chastised, but eyes sparkled with mirth. "Any more than necessary," he added when he saw a parking space.

"Yes, Mister Giles," Tara promised. "No more than necessary."

"I can’t wait to get back to LA," Cordelia muttered into her compact as she fixed her makeup.


Kate walked over to the unmarked patrol car and nodded at the officer standing next to it. Maggie was with her, so close that their hands kept brushing. The officer turned and nodded at the approaching women.

"Detective Lockley?"

"You must be Lieutenant Turner," Kate said as she scanned the empty parking lot. "Where’s the tactical team?"

"I sent them home," he replied. "O’Donnell’s not here."

Maggie stepped a bit closer to Kate until her hip was pressed against the detective.

"Look," Turned said as he held his hands out. "Your source was wrong. I checked the security tapes myself. No one fitting O’Donnell’s description has been to the security office or anywhere else on that floor."

"Did you question the security officers?" Kate asked. Her lips pressed tightly into a tense line.

"Yeah," Turner said. "I talked to the manager, and he said his people don’t even have access to the doctors’ schedules."

"Damn it," Kate said as she turned and looked around the parking lot for anything suspicious. It was getting dark, and nightfall meant Shannon would have better cover. "All right, I’m getting Doctor Doyle back to her secured apartment."

"That’s a good idea," Turner said. He looked over at a policeman walking toward them. "Just a minute." He hurried over to the officer and they talked in hushed tones.

"So, I guess Cordelia’s vision was a little out of focus?" Maggie shivered, more from the situation than the cooling air.

"Cordelia may seem flighty," Kate said as she draped her arm around Maggie and pulled her closer to warm her. "But she is very smart and very on top of these visions. I don’t know what’s going on, but I intend to find out."

"You promised to stay out here." Maggie wrapped her arm around Kate’s waist. She enjoyed the contact and decided she would physically restrain the detective if she tried to leave.

"That was when the SWAT guys were supposed to be in there." Kate pivoted, surprised when Maggie’s grip pinned her in place. "Hey, she’s not here. They cleared the building already."

"Then I’m going with you," Maggie insisted. She saw Kate’s eyes narrow. "I mean, if it’s safe, what would it hurt?" She smiled, knowing she had Kate trapped.

"Okay," Kate said reluctantly. "But stay close."

"Can’t get much closer than this." Maggie looked down at their intertwined bodies.

"Excuse me," Turner said and then cleared his throat. He looked slightly over Kate’s shoulder, not willing to meet her eyes. "Officer Kline said a woman matching O’Donnell’s description was here this morning flashing a badge and asking questions at the personnel office. The secretary went to call for clearance and O’Donnell left."

"Damn it," Kate said angrily. "Why wasn’t personnel alerted? They should have had security down there immediately."

"They called security," Turner said as he looked over at Maggie. "The restraining order is common knowledge in personnel. Doctor Doyle reminds them often enough."

Maggie felt her cheeks burn. She didn’t like Turner’s tone or his condescending smirk.

"O’Donnell assaulted Doctor Doyle on hospital property and she attacked a friend of ours this morning." Kate pulled away from Maggie and glared at Turner. Her chest was inches from his and their eyes met. "If you’re suggesting that she’s overreacting, Lieutenant, I think I need to talk to your captain about updating your training."

"Hey, I didn’t say that," he said quickly. "I just meant that everyone knows the situation." He cleared his throat and took a step back. "Though, you seem a little close to the situation yourself."

Kate raised one eyebrow in challenge. She wanted to hear him say the words so she could take his head off.

"Look," he whispered as he motioned for her to move away from Maggie. When Kate didn’t budge he rolled his eyes. "Your…friend seems to have a thing for cops." He smirked. "You know how badge chasers are…"

"You bastard." Kate shoved him against his patrol car with a bone-rattling thud. "She’s a crime victim and your attitude is out of line. I want you off this case."

He leaned into the car, staring at Kate. He didn’t seem panicked or even uncomfortable. "As I said, you’re too close to the situation."

Kate released his jacket and backed up just as a blonde flash reached past her and yanked Turner into the air. Kate spun and her eyes widened.

"Are you the scum that’s helping Shannon?" Buffy demanded in a dangerous growl. She had Turner by the arm and she was in full Slayer mode.

"Who the hell are you?" Turner asked as he tried to break the Slayer’s grip.

"Buffy, it’s okay," Maggie said. "He’s a detective."

Buffy dropped his arm and backed up.

"Jesus," Turner said as he looked over at Maggie with an incredulous stare. "You really do go for the hot tempered blondes, don’t you? How many more do you have lined up?" He looked over and shook his head when he saw Tara running toward them with Willow in tow.

"Let’s go," Kate said angrily.

"But…" Buffy pointed at Turner and then the hospital.

"Shannon’s not here," Kate said as she looked over to see if Maggie was okay. "Let’s get Maggie inside before it gets dark."

"It’s okay," Maggie told Tara when she stumbled to a stop and glared at Turner. "We’re all leaving."

"Wait," Buffy said as she pulled Kate aside. "Send them back with Giles and you and I will go see what we can find out from security."

Kate smiled and nodded.

"You’re not going in there alone," Maggie said angrily.

"I’ll have Buffy," Kate pointed out. "I think we’ll be safe."

"I need to get back to the station." Turner eyed Buffy. He recognized her from several disturbances, including the fiasco at the graduation when the high school burned down. "Good luck." He climbed into his car and drove away.

"Doctor, you’re all right?" Giles asked as he ran up to the small group.

"She’s fine," Buffy said. "Now take them all back to the apartment and lock things down for the night."

"We are not your servants." Cordelia walked up behind the Watcher. "You’re worse than Angel. He’s always sending me off on his errands. Like I don’t have better things to do than buy his special hair gel and his beeswax leather conditioner."

"You’ll be careful?" Maggie asked. She looked back and forth from Kate to Buffy, concern darkening her features.

"Slayer’s honor," Buffy promised. She held up three fingers. "I will keep the detective safe."

"I can take care of myself." Kate saw Maggie’s expression and cleared her throat. "I promise, we’ll be safe."

"Okay then," Willow said. "It’s settled. We’ll go back to the cool apartment and meet Angel and you two will go do the Harriet the Spy thing." She smiled at Giles. "And I will drive?" she added hopefully.

"Oh, all right." Giles slowly handed the redhead his keys.

"Great, so I guess Giles and I will be squeezed in the back seat with the doctor?" Cordelia asked.

"You can sit in front," Tara offered as they walked back toward the parking lot.

"No, you go ahead." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "I wouldn’t want Willow getting lonely." She hurried ahead of the others. When she got several feet away from them she smiled. ‘Those two really are cute together,’ she thought. ‘Not that I’ll ever admit it.’


"I have the whole Slayer thing down, but I’m new to this detective thing," Buffy admitted. She and Kate came out of the elevator on the second floor and paused.

"You just stand behind me and look threatening," Kate said with a smirk.

"I can do that." Buffy narrowed her eyes and scowled.

"Very nice." Kate nodded her approval and then pointed at the door marked ‘security’. "Just so we’re clear. I’m bad cop, you’re quiet cop."

Buffy nodded.


Willow pulled into the parking garage and eased into the visitor’s space. She smiled and looked over at Tara and smirked proudly. "Notice, no multiple attempts to get the car into the space."

"Very impressive," Tara said seriously. "Deserves a reward." She leaned over to kiss her lover on the cheek.

"Hello? Waiting to get out of the car," Cordelia whined. "Kiss her after you let us out."

"Parking this beast isn’t as simple as it seems," Giles said defensively. "It’s much larger than my old car and it takes some adjusting."

"Try that SUV of mine," Maggie said with a smirk. She tried not to think about Kate at the hospital, but it was hopeless. Her smirk faded.

"Right, Giles." Cordelia snickered even as Tara climbed out of the car and pulled the seat forward. "I manage to park Angel’s huge car just fine. I wish I had a red sports car. You have no idea how difficult it is to park in LA."

"I’m sure it’s horrific," Giles said with an exasperated sigh.

"Cataclysmic," Willow chimed in.

"Maybe you could get a seer’s parking sticker," Tara suggested. "You know, it could be blue and have a little stick Cordelia having a vision."

Willow giggled and gave Tara a loving but goofy grin.

"I’ll sign the DMV form," Maggie offered with a sweet smile.

"Funny." Cordelia sighed. "You four should get an act in Vegas."

Tara bit her lip and reached out for Willow’s hand. "I owe you a kiss for that parking feat." She smiled, then her eyes widened. "No," she whispered. She spun, pushing Willow behind her.

"What is it?" Giles turned and saw a figure in dark clothing step out. "Run…" he yelled as the figure sprayed him in the face. Another figure dressed in black sprayed Tara and Willow.

Maggie grabbed for Betty but the first attacker hit her in the face with the spray and she crumpled to the ground.

Cordelia managed to kick one of the attackers in the groin and doubled him over but the other grabbed her and sprayed her in the face. He adjusted his gas mask as she fell to the pavement in a heap.


Buffy walked into the hall and looked back at the security office as Kate exited. "Okay, that was…unproductive."

"I don’t think they knew anything," Kate admitted.

"They were actually very helpful, except for the whole ‘they didn’t know anything’ angle." Buffy leaned against the wall and stared at the white door and the crisp lettering that read, ‘security.’ Something about the simple door bothered her.

"I’ve never known Cordelia to be wrong," Kate admitted.

"Okay, new angle," Buffy said as she thought over the day’s events. "If the security office doesn’t have the doctors’ schedules, then how did that guard get them?"

"Maybe he didn’t give them to Shannon," Kate stared at the door. "Oh, god." She pointed at the plain lettering. "This door doesn’t have the emblem."

Buffy nodded, still thinking about Kate’s comment.

"Damn it." Kate grabbed Buffy and yanked her down the hall. "Shannon wasn’t getting Maggie’s schedule from the guard, she was giving it to him. She must have talked to some goon at this security service’s main office. Some goon she could pay off."

"Why would he need to know when Maggie worked?" Buffy ran alongside the detective and her pulse quickened, though it was fear not exertion that caused the increase.

"He wouldn’t." Maggie slapped the elevator button and turned to Buffy. "He needed to know when Maggie wasn’t working."

"She’s hiring him to grab Maggie." Buffy dove into the elevator as soon as the doors opened. "And we sent Maggie back to her apartment, with just Giles to guard her."

Kate hit the button and rubbed both temples. "And as nice as Giles is, he’s no match for a hired goon with security training."

"He’s tougher than he looks," Buffy said. She felt a knot in her belly as her Slayer vibes began making her skin tingle.

"He better be," Kate said as the door opened on the ground floor. She rushed out and sprinted for the rental car.


The taller attacker peeled off his mask and then rubbed his aching groin. "Bitch," he said as he looked down at Cordelia. "Greg, dude, you didn’t tell me she had self-defense training."

"How was I supposed to know?" Greg asked. "Christ, Kyle, she just said to grab the doc."

"Which one is she?" Kyle was holding his groin and wondering if he could still have children.

"She told me to grab the brunette," Greg said. He looked at Cordelia and then Maggie. "Two for one? Maybe we can keep the leftovers?"

"I’ll grab this one, you take the kicker." Kyle limped away from Cordelia and hefted Maggie over his shoulder.

"It’s a shame to leave these two." Greg licked his lips as he looked down at the two Wiccans. Tara had crumpled to the ground half covering Willow. "That redhead’s hot."

"Let’s go," Kyle ordered. "I want these two tied up before they wake up." He lifted Cordelia and carried her to the van in the corner. As soon as they drove away two other dark figures stepped out of the shadows.

"Even destiny bows down before me," Thanatos said as he walked toward Giles, Tara, and Willow.

"We don’t have to deal with their powers now." Marcus hurried along beside his master.

"Bring the little one," Thanatos said as he picked up Tara. He inhaled sharply. "This one is powerful. More than I imagined."

"And this one is skinny," the younger vampire said with a smirk. "She’ll barely make a snack."

"She holds the heart of the golden-haired witch," Thanatos pointed out. "That makes her more powerful than you will ever be."

"Yes, lord Thanatos." He cradled Willow in his arms and hurried toward the sewer grate at the back of the parking structure. He glanced back at the man beside the car and almost felt sorry for the human. He had four women and in a few minutes they were all gone. Pity was a human emotion, one the vampire had no use for. He looked down at the witch in his arms and wondered if Thanatos would let him eat her when the ancient demon was through with her lover.


"I’m sure they’re fine," Buffy said as Kate swung the car into the parking structure. She needed it to be true, though her doubts were stronger than her words. "We’re only a few minutes behind them. Nothing could happen."

Kate’s arms ached from gripping the steering wheel until her fingers went white. She tried not to think of all the horrible ways the situation could turn out.

"They’re fine, right?" Buffy asked. She loved Willow like a sister, and the thought that she was in danger was making Buffy’s stomach threaten to reject her late lunch. She did not want to see what chow mien looked like after a few hours inside a Slayer.

"Oh, god no," Kate said. She was heading toward the visitor’s parking and she could see Angel standing with Giles, or rather holding the Watcher up. She slammed the car into park and jumped out. "Where’s Maggie?" she yelled as she sprinted the final yards.

"Willow?" Buffy jumped out of the car. "Giles, where’s Willow?"

The Watcher looked up, still dazed.

"I found him on the ground," Angel said. "There’s no one else around." The vampire frowned and looked into Buffy’s eyes. "They used some kind of gas."

"It was one of the guys from the hospital’s security force." Buffy went to Giles and looked him over. She lifted his chin and frowned when his eyes rolled back into his head.

"There were two of them," Giles managed to say.

"We have to find them." Kate ran her hand through her hair. "First thing we have to do is get a list of the security company’s employees. I’ll get background checks on all of them."

"I’m going to the main office," Angel said. "It’s on the wharf. If they had anything to do with this, I’ll get it out of them."

"Let’s go," Buffy said. "I feel like kicking some ass." She eased Giles back against the car, glowering when she saw an angry bruise on his jaw. "You stay here while Kate makes her calls."

Angel nodded and pointed toward his car.

"I’m going with you." Kate blocked Angel’s path.

"Fine," he said as he stepped around her. His eyes were dark and he was edgy. He cared about Cordelia more than he would ever admit, and he owed Willow more than he could even calculate. If Shannon O’Donnell injured any of the missing women, Angel wasn’t sure what he would do. "Get in or get out of our way." He jumped over the door and flopped behind the wheel.

Buffy jumped over the other door and sat in the seat and her brow knitted. "Coming?" she asked Kate.

"I should come with you," Giles stumbled toward the car.

"You’re staying," Buffy ordered. "You can’t even stand up."

"It’s my fault," Giles said as he leaned onto the car door. "I have to do something."

"Come on." Kate opened the door and helped Giles into the back seat." She looked over at Angel and waved her hands in the air. "Well?"

Angel slammed the car into reverse and squealed the tires as he backed out of the parking garage.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

The first thing Cordelia thought was that she had experienced yet another painful vision, except she didn’t remember any images of doom, death or demons pillaging. Then she remembered the garage and wanted to scream, she wanted to scream at Kate, and Angel, and Buffy, and everyone else she could think of.

‘At least I kicked that one guy in the crotch,’ she thought. She was lying on her side, and her hands were bound in front of her. ‘Could be worse. I hate it when they tie my hands behind my back. That gives me shoulder cramps.’ She listened, keeping her eyes closed. She heard angry voices, muffled, probably coming from a nearby room. ‘Okay, open my eyes and stare some psycho in the face, or lay here playing dead until they kill me?’ She eased open the eye closest to the ground, hoping that if there was someone in the room with her, they wouldn’t notice. ‘Not good,’ Cordelia thought. She saw Maggie a few feet away, bound, gagged, and blindfolded. She looked like her face was bruised. ‘I’m guessing this is the work of the nutjob ex-girlfriend. Demons generally hand out abuse to all their captives.’

"Why did you bring the girl?" Glass shattered in the next room.

‘And that would be the nutjob ex-girlfriend,’ Cordelia thought as she opened her other eye and scanned the room. It was a small storeroom, full of paper and cleaning supplies. ‘Can’t I ever get held captive in a five star hotel? Just once?’

"We didn’t know which one was her." A slap punctuated his statement.

‘Wrong answer,’ Cordelia thought as she sat up. The room had no windows, so for the moment, she could look around without drawing attention.

"I gave you her picture, Kyle," Shannon yelled.

‘Yeah, Kyle, so why the hell am I here?’ Cordelia leaned toward Maggie and made a quiet hissing sound. "Psst, Maggie?" She reached out and tugged the blindfold down around Maggie’s neck. "Ouch," Cordelia whispered when she saw a bruise over one of the doctor’s eyes.

"Greg said she could be a spare." Another muffled slap. "Knock it off. You aren’t paying us enough to hit me."

‘Bad idea, Kyle.’ Cordelia cringed. ‘Never argue with a psycho.’ She eased the gag out of Maggie’s mouth and noticed the rag was stained with streaks of red.

"Put that gun away," Kyle whined in a panic. Furniture overturned in the other room.

"Jesus, she’ll use it. Don’t piss her off."

‘And that would be Greg,’ Cordelia frowned. ‘Nobody calls me a spare, you jerk.’

"What am I supposed to do with a spare?" Shannon yelled.

Cordelia waited but there was no response.

"She’s not a spare, you idiot," Shannon yelled. "She’s a witness."

"Suddenly, spare isn’t sounding quite so bad," Cordelia whispered. "Maggie, wake up."

The doctor’s eyes flickered but didn’t open. She groaned weakly and released a drawn out, labored breath.

"Maggie, wake up," Cordelia ordered.

"I didn’t sign up to kill anyone," Kyle said in the next room.

Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut expecting to hear gunfire.

"Then get out," Shannon said. "And take Greg with you."

"Really?" Greg asked.

"Where did she find these guys?" Cordelia opened her eyes and scooted closer to Maggie. "Doctor Doyle to the trauma one, stat," Cordelia said in a harsh tone. ‘What the hell, it works on TV,’ she thought with a shrug.

Maggie’s eyes flickered, but this time opened briefly.

"Wake up." Cordelia moved closer and used her bound hands to wipe a thin streak of blood from Maggie’s lip.

"What?" Maggie’s eyes opened and she squinted to focus on Cordelia’s face. "Oh, shit." She closed her eyes and sighed.

"Well, I see you have a firm grasp on our situation," Cordelia whispered.

"Where are we?"

"We are at the corner of screwed and completely screwed." Cordelia shoved Maggie away from her. "Roll over and let me untie you."

"Ouch, shit," Maggie said as she rolled onto the other side. She coughed weakly.

"Hold still." Cordelia worked on the knots as quickly as she could but her hands were shaking.

"Can’t breath," Maggie wheezed. She pulled her arms free as soon as the knots came loose. "I think I broke a rib… or three." She sat up and probed her side. "Oh, yeah," she said when she felt the swollen, tender area under her left arm.

"Can you untie me?" Cordelia asked gently and held out her hands.

Maggie nodded and bit her lip to keep from groaning.

"Weapons?" Cordelia asked as soon as her hands were free. She looked around the room. "I supposed we could kill them with paper cuts." She eyed a ream of paper.

Maggie stumbled to her feet and smiled grimly. She pointed toward a gallon jug of cleanser.

"You’re a doctor," Cordelia said in a hushed whisper. "And you’re suggesting we throw some burning-acid stuff on them? It could blind them, and the very least, hurt like hell." She smiled. "I knew I liked you."

Maggie turned the bottle and read the contents, then moved on to the next bottle and did the same. On the third bottle she smiled and tapped it. "It won’t blind them," she whispered, "But I guarantee a nasty rash and maybe vomiting." She grabbed a pair of thick rubber gloves. "Don’t get it on your skin."

"Now, we wait." Cordelia took the bottle and climbed up onto a box to get a better angle to throw the chemical weapon.

Maggie found another promising chemical and waited.


Thanatos paced the small area in front of the makeshift altar and smiled. All was ready. He had chosen the deserted, burned out church because it would never be noticed. It was in the underground section of Sunnydale. Thanatos had once killed a priest in this same church before the Master had tried to open the hellmouth a century earlier. It had been one of Sunnydale’s premier churches before being sucked underground. Thanatos liked symmetry, and making his den inside a church he had once drained a priest in suited him well. He looked up when her heard Marcus come into the large cathedral like room.

"Attend me, my servant," he said with a wave of his cloven hooved hand.

"Lord Thanatos, how may I serve you?" The lesser vampire tugged the chains holding down the blonde Wiccan and then checked her eyes again for good measure. He smiled at his handiwork. The duct tape held her blindfold securely in place. There were some modern conveniences he did enjoy.

"You have done well," Thanatos said. His feet clomped on the black marble floor as he walked over to the altar. "I will not forget this, Marcus."

"Thank you." The lesser vampire spun, and bowed to Thanatos. The ancient one had never called him by his name before, and after eighty years of loyal service, it was high praise indeed. "I live to serve, Lord Thanatos."

"How is the little one?" Thanatos wandered over to Willow and saw that she had been secured to one of the pillars and had her eyes taped closed as well. "Excellent, if the witches cannot see us. They cannot harm us."

‘That’s what you think,’ Willow thought. She kept her body slumped in place and tried reaching out to her lover again. ‘Are you awake, Tara? Don’t let them know if you are. Please wake up.’ It occurred to Willow that her beautiful lover might have been injured during their capture. That thought angered the redhead. ‘Tara! Answer me.’

"Will you use the dagger or drain the strong one yourself?" Marcus asked.

"The dagger," Thanatos replied. "I’ve always been sentimental." His hooves clattered on the floor as he wandered to the back of the room. "Come, let us prepare for the ritual."

"Should I stand guard?" Marcus asked. "You said they are powerful."

"Without their hands and eyes, witches are lambs ready for the slaughter." Thanatos snickered happily as he led his servant into the other chamber.

‘Tara, wake up. Their talking about draining and daggers and I really need you.’ Willow focused to keep her breathing regular and calm. The last thing she needed was for the vampires to realize that she was awake.

‘Willow?’ Tara asked uncertainly.

‘Oh, thank the goddess,’ Willow answered. ‘Pretend you’re still unconscious.’

‘Where are we?’ Tara asked, though she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. ‘Those men who attacked us weren’t vampires, but these ones are. I can feel their energy. How did we get here?’

‘I don’t know,’ Willow replied. Her voice trembled in her thoughts as fear filled her mind.

‘I’ll get you out of here, love. Don’t worry.’ Tara’s psychic voice was clear and crisp and full of confidence.

‘There was talk of draining when you were unconscious,’ Willow explained. ‘Draining does not sound good. I am definitely gonna’ vote no on the draining.’

‘Calm down. Tell me where you are.’ Tara began doing a mental inventory. ‘I feel you off to my left, but I’m tied on my back, with my hands and feet bound really tight and I’m blindfolded. I need to know exactly where you are.’

‘I’m tied to a big thick pole, maybe a pillar.’ Willow slowly composed herself as she began doing something productive. ‘My hands are behind my back around the pole and I’m blindfolded, but I’m pretty sure my feet are not tied. I can feel you directly in front of me.’

‘Can you cast without your hands?’ Tara asked.

‘Well, I’ve staked a vamp with a pencil while tied up, but I wasn’t blindfolded.’

‘Reach out to my mind,’ Tara said in Willow’s thoughts. ‘Picture your ropes, like tiny snakes unwinding. I’ll help you.’

‘Snakes?’

‘It’s okay. Snakes are good. No frogs here,’ Tara joked.

Okay.’ Willow focused and tried to attack her bonds. ‘What about you?’

‘Let’s focus on you first,’ Tara responded. She didn’t want to tell her lover that her bonds felt more like chains. If she could get Willow loose, there was a chance the redhead could use an unlocking spell or go for help.

‘They’re moving,’ Willow sent. ‘I feel them!’

"Me too.’ Tara felt her heart sink. She could feel the vampires returning. ‘Hurry, love.’

‘Almost.’ Willow had to remind herself not to struggle against the ropes. ‘Oh, no,’ Willow sent. ‘I hear them.’

‘I’ll keep them busy, and you get untied.’ Tara could hear the clomping of the bigger vampire coming from her right.

‘Do the flame spell,’ Willow suggested.

‘Remember how much that bounced off the alley walls before?’ Tara pointed out. ‘If I send flame balls flying around in here, one might hit you.’

‘I’m way over here. I can hear them on the other side of this room or whatever it is.’

‘I’ll try,’ Tara said. ‘Just… please keep your head down.’

"This will be my greatest hour." The door creaked and Thanatos came in first.

Marcus nodded solemnly.

Tara tilted her palm toward the sound of their voices and focused all of her fear and anger at the two vampires. Flames burst from both palms and roared across the room.

"Lord Thanatos!" Marcus yelled as he shoved his master away. The flame hit him and he screamed. His arm was on fire and he grabbed a nearby curtain to put out the flame.

"This cannot be," Thanatos said as he dove behind the door. Another ball of flame hit the doorframe and the oak began to smolder. Another flame hit the wall and bounced off, flying wildly back in the opposite direction.

Willow felt the ropes drop and reached up and ripped off her blindfold just as the ball of flame was reaching her. She squealed and ducked.

"Willow?" Tara yelled.

"Keep flaming!" Willow replied. ‘I have another eyebrow,’ she thought as she rubbed her singed temple and turned to face the attackers. ‘This is not good,’ she realized as she ran to her lover. The vampires were held back for the moment but Tara was securely chained to a small marble altar. She would have to stop flaming the vampires while Willow unlocked the bonds or took off the duct tape blindfold.

"You cannot keep this up, witch," Thanatos taunted.

Willow rushed to Tara, careful to stay away from her palms and the flames she was shooting. "Liberationis accommodatus claustrum." Willow said as she tried to conjugate the phrase ‘release her from this prison.’ She was under pressure and hoped the spell in Latin would work. She stared at Tara’s chains and nothing happened. "Abi catenae," she tried. The Latin spell was simple, meaning only ‘be off with you, chains,’ but it seemed to work.

Tara felt the bonds slip away and sat up. She tugged at her blindfold and then heard the vampires charging so she opened her eyes and sent tendrils of fire at them only to realize that there was only one attacker.

"Where’s the other one?" Tara asked in a near panic.

"I don’t know." Willow helped Tara from the marble altar and focused on the large, cloven hooved vampire hiding behind a pile of crumbled debris. "Why do they always drag us to some broken down church in the underground section of town?"

"I can’t get him from here," Tara said even as she sent balls of flames bouncing off of the pile of rubble he was using for cover. ‘I’m getting weaker,’ she warned silently.

Willow crinkled her brow and held both hands toward Thanatos. "Adlevationis bestiae," Willow said as she focused her energy. Thanatos lifted into the air. "There you go," she said through clenched teeth. "Vampire piñata. Flame away."

Tara summoned all her energy and gathered a huge sphere of fire between her hands. Her body shook as she heated it, picturing the sun as she took aim.

Thanatos dropped to the floor, stumbling on the broken marble and Willow screamed.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Willow whispered with her mind.

Tara glanced over and saw the second vampire. He had Willow by the throat and had a dagger pressed under her jaw. Her flame dropped to the ground and slowly flickered out.

"Don’t hurt her," Tara pleaded. She lowered her hands. ‘I love you, Willow.’

‘Save yourself,’ Willow whispered in her mind. ‘Kill that big one and run.’

Tara shook her head. She would not leave to lover.

"Put your palms over your eyes, witch," Thanatos said as he glared at Tara. "Good," he added when she complied. "Now if you try that again, you’ll incinerate yourself." He clomped over to her and then reached onto the floor and grabbed a roll of duct tape. It was slightly singed but usable. He taped Tara’s hands in place so that her palms were pressed over her eyes, effectively stopping her from using any magical attack.

‘Willow, if you get the chance, run.’ Tara was shaking and her head was throbbing from using the flame spell.

‘I won’t leave you. We’re in this together.’ Willow inhaled and tried to pull away from the dagger. She felt a trickle of blood on her throat. It was warm at first, then cooled as it ran down her neck and soaked into her shirt.

"Well done, Marcus." Thanatos shoved Tara toward the altar. "Prepare her." He nodded toward Willow.

Marcus spun Willow to face him and then held her in his grasp with one hand. He tossed the dagger away and then ripped Willow’s shirt in half. She cringed as the cool air chilled her bare chest. Only her thin bra protected her from his hungry gaze. He watched her pulse point as her blood pounded through her veins and then he ran his chilled fingers over her warm skin. "You will make the master strong," he said. "And then your mate will restore him."

‘Now would be a good time for Buffy to show up,’ Willow thought.

‘I’m sorry I couldn’t save you,’ Tara sent back.

‘I’m sure Buffy’s looking for us.’ She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and tried to not think about the cold fingers tracing her pulse point. Her best friend was the Slayer, so she would be saved. Buffy would never stopped looking for her. It never occurred to Willow that Buffy wasn’t looking in the right place.


Buffy tiptoed through the warehouse. She wasn’t used to sneaking, and it pissed her off. When she had seen the van outside the security firm’s main office, Buffy knew it belonged to the kidnappers. A quick glance inside confirmed it. They saw rope, gas masks and canisters of an aerosol spray. Kate was actually calling for backup. Buffy was furious. Willow and Tara were inside and they were in danger, and there was no telling what Shannon would do to Maggie, and Kate was stopping to call the police. Of course Cordelia could make anyone want to kill her so all in all, Buffy was ready to go charging into the building.

"I’m going in," Angel said. He was crouching next to Buffy.

"Cool," Buffy responded as she stood to go with him. She liked that about him, no fuss, no muss, no calling Initiative goons for backup, just go in and save the day.

"Kate did say to wait," Giles pointed out.

"And if Shannon kills them all before the backup gets here?" Angel scowled.

"I’ll send Kate in after you," Giles said in a defeated tone.


Shannon grabbed Kyle by the arm and swung him to a stop. "Which room did you leave the girl in?"

"In the storeroom with the doctor." He wanted to get as far from the crazy woman as he could.

"You put them together? Are you insane?" Shannon kicked a nearby desk. "You and Greg go get Maggie and bring her in here."

"You said we could go," Greg whined. He looked longingly at the door.

"Bring her in here and then you can go." Shannon picked up her nine millimeter and checked the clip.

Kyle nodded to Greg and they went to fetch the doctor. "Let’s just get out of here as fast as we can," he whispered once he was in the hall.

"She beat the crap outta’ the doctor while she was unconscious." Greg shivered. "How crazy is that?"

"Just grab the doctor and we’ll get the hell out of here."

"Think we can have that other girl?" Greg paused and wiped his sweating hands on his jeans.

"Think with your brain and not what’s in your pants." Kyle shoved him toward the storeroom. "The faster we get out of here the safer we are."

"How ‘bout you give me ten minutes with her?" Greg asked with a leer.

"I heard it only takes you two minutes," Kyle said. "And we don’t even have time for that."

Greg glared at his companion and swung the door open. He screamed when something hit him in the face. It felt like sand being ground into his eyes.

Kyle backed up, but not before something splashed onto his leg and it felt like his skin was on fire. He grimaced as the chemical entered his system and he grabbed his stomach and fought the urge to vomit.

Maggie came through the door and hit Greg in the face with a ream of paper. She pivoted and swung it as hard as she could and hit Kyle under his jaw.

"Oh, no you don’t," Cordelia ran over to Greg and punched him in the nose. He was already kneeling on the floor gagging and her punch sent him sprawling flat on his face. "That hurts," Cordelia said as she peeled off her rubber gloves and tossed them on the floor. "Well?" She looked at Maggie expectantly.

Maggie nodded and they hurried through the hall. The metallic sound of a gun slide drawing back and clicking into place froze the doctor where she stood. "Shit," she said without turning.

"Going somewhere, lover?" Shannon asked.

"Not good," Cordelia whispered. She looked at Maggie and they turned together and faced Shannon.

"Let her go," Maggie said fiercely. "This has nothing to do with her."

"What’s in it for me?" Shannon asked seductively. She kept the gun trained on Maggie’s forehead as she walked over to the doctor. "Are you gonna’ make it worth my while? Come to your senses maybe?"

"I came to my senses the day I left you." Maggie’s eyes were hard and her jaw set. She flinched when Shannon slapped her across the face.

"You have a pretty mouth," Shannon whispered. "When it isn’t saying ugly things." She held the gun to Maggie’s temple and slowly pressed her lips to the doctor’s.

Maggie leaned away from Shannon but the violent blonde grabbed her and pushed her into the wall.

"Hey, Callisto?" Cordelia yelled. "That act’s over the top on Xena. It really isn’t playing here."

"You can smart off, or you can live." Shannon turned and aimed at her gun at Cordelia. "The choice is yours."

"Honey, try that back in Chicago." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Here in LA, we know bad acting when we see it."

"Cordelia," Maggie said as she tried to pull away from Shannon. "Shut up."

"Oh, please… She’s all big and tough when she has a gun or you’re unconscious."

Shannon’s eyes narrowed and she pointed at Cordelia and fired.


"That was a shot," Kate yelled as she ran to catch up with Angel and Buffy.

"Thanks for the news flash." Buffy grabbed the door handle and twisted it sharply to one side. The lock broke and she pushed the door open. "Oh, look, someone left the door open."

Angel followed the Slayer inside.

"I thought you had to wait for an invitation?" Kate was crouched low and jogging next to Angel. Both he and Buffy were stalking purposefully down the hall.

"This business is open to the public," Buffy whispered. "Vamps are free to come as go as they please."

"Down here," Angel pointed toward a long corridor.

Kate gave him a questioning look.

"I can smell the gunpowder," he explained.

Buffy jogged to the end of the long hall and paused next to the door. She checked it and then snapped the lock with a twist of her wrist.

Kate’s eyes widened and she decided she wouldn’t antagonize Buffy anymore.

"No wooden bullets, so I go first." Angel pushed past the Slayer and took the lead.


"Okay, that got my attention," Cordelia said as she slowly turned and looked at the hole in the wall a few inches from her head.

"Shannon, let her go," Maggie pleaded. "I’ll go with you. Just let her go."

"Maggie! You can’t do that." Cordelia felt her chest tighten. Thing were going downhill fast.

"She’s seen me. She can testify against me." Shannon glared at Maggie. "You’re lying. You won’t go with me."

"Just let her leave and I’ll go anywhere you want." Maggie’s mouth was dry. She tried to lick her lips but her parched tongue stuck to her skin. "You brought me a ticket, didn’t you?"

"Yes." Shannon smiled and ran her hand through Maggie’s hair. "Of course I did."

"Then let’s go." Maggie took Shannon’s hand. "You bought it open ended, right?"

"You know me so well, lover." Shannon ran her hand down Maggie’s arm and pulled her closer. "Why did you run?"

"I had to make sure you wanted me," Maggie lied. She forced the bile back down her throat. It didn’t matter that Shannon made her skin crawl. All that mattered was getting Cordelia out of the situation before Shannon had her next mood swing.

"I do, baby," Shannon whispered. She kissed Maggie’s temple, letting her lips linger and then moved her kiss to the doctor’s ear. "I knew you wanted me to come after you."

Cordelia shook her head from side to side. ‘This is a bad idea,’ she thought as she saw Shannon’s eyes moving across Maggie’s body with possessive intent.

"Let’s go." Maggie smiled at the woman who had tormented her for as long as she could remember.

"Tell your friends she came with me," Shannon told Cordelia. "I didn’t take her." She led Maggie down the hall.

"No, that gun in your hand is just your way of saying hello," Cordelia whispered. She watched the two women head toward the exit and sighed. She looked into one of the offices and saw a phone. She should call for help and let the police deal with psycho Shannon. "Damn it," she whispered. "I’ve been around Buffy and her do-gooder friends too long." She ran after Maggie and Shannon. She rounded the corner and screamed when a side door opened and Angel grabbed her.

"Cordelia?" he asked in a hushed whisper.

"Stupid, creeping vampire!" She pounded her hands on his chest. "You scared the hell out of me." She continued hitting him.

Angel watched as Cordelia’s hits slowed and she looked up at him and her eyes filled with tears. He cringed, knowing what was coming.

"I was so scared," she sobbed and she pulled him into a death grip that passed for a hug.

He furrowed his brow and looked over his shoulder for Buffy.

"Where are the others?" Buffy asked.

"Shannon took Maggie," Cordelia said with a sniffle. She pointed toward the exit.

"When?" Kate demanded.

"Just now." Cordelia still gripped Angel like she was a boa constrictor.

Kate ran down the corridor cursing under her breath.

"Where’s Willow? And Tara?" Buffy yanked Cordelia away from the vampire.

Angel relaxed and gave Buffy a grateful half smirk.

"What are you talking about?" Cordelia looked at Buffy. "Willow and Tara aren’t here. Those goons grabbed me and Maggie."

"But Willow and Tara are gone too." Buffy felt her mouth dry. "Shannon didn’t kidnap them?"

"No, she kidnapped me," Cordelia whined. "Don’t I count?" She grabbed Angel and buried her face into his chest.

"So where are Willow and Tara?" Buffy sprinted down the hall. She prayed that Shannon would know where to find the two Wiccans.

Angel was torn, he should help Buffy, but Kate was with her and he had been worried about Cordelia. She shifted in his arms and sobbed. He wrapped his arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze.

"Shh, it’s okay, Cordy. I’ve got you," he whispered. Buffy was the Slayer, and he knew Kate was a good cop. It bothered him to not run into the fray, but when Cordelia’s sobs lessened and she started to shake, he decided that he’d done the right thing. He just hoped Buffy could find Willow and Tara before it was too late.

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Thanatos pinned Tara against the cold marble of the altar and tore her blouse partially open. He touched her neck and smiled as he felt her strength pounding under his cloven hand.

"This one is marked," Marcus said. He pointed to the red full moon high on Willow’s belly.

Thanatos narrowed his eyes as he looked over at Willow. "Can it be?" He yanked Tara’s shirt in half and tossed it aside. "Fegkari thygateras?"

‘He just called us daughters of the moon,’ Tara told to her lover. It didn’t occur to her that she shouldn’t have understood the phrase in ancient Greek. She shivered as goosebumps covered her skin. There was something frighteningly familiar about this vampire.

"Let me look at you," Tara demanded. She sat up and tried pulling her bound hands off of her eyes. Ever since the bonding with Willow, Tara seemed to grow more confident with each passing hour.

Thanatos ignored Tara’s demand and he ran his gnarled hand over the crescent moon just below the blonde’s ribcage. His eyes widened and a nauseating laugh bubbled from his lips. "Destiny," he whispered. "I will have my revenge." He shoved Tara onto the altar and leaned over her. "Move and your mate dies." He walked to Willow and studied her face, then bent down and examined her moon shaped scar. "This scar is fresh," he noted. "And it is the blood moon." He bent his head back and laughed.

Willow swallowed and tried not to look into his beastly face.

‘What’s happening?’ Tara asked.

‘Well, they’re not killing us, that’s always good,’ Willow replied.

Thanatos leaned into Marcus and whispered in his ear. The lesser vampire pulled away, shock covering his face, but he nodded.

"Put her next to her lover and tape her hands," Thanatos said. "If they try anything again, I will tear them apart slowly."

Willow cringed at the images that evoked. She wasn’t about to stand still while they butchered Tara. ‘Get ready to make a run for it,’ she told her lover. ‘The goat vamp is doing something in the back of the room. I’m gonna’ rip that tape off of your eyes and then we’re gonna’ see just how fast we can run while you barbecue some vamps.’

"Be still. You can’t untie tape, witch. Don’t even try." Marcus glared at Willow. He looked over toward Thanatos and frowned. "Was the sacred dagger damaged?" He took a few steps away.

‘Go help him,’ Willow suggested mentally as she remembered watching Return of the Jedi at least fifteen times with Xander.

"Can I help?" Marcus asked as he moved a few steps further away.

‘Hey! I think I’m a Jedi Master,’ Willow told Tara. ‘Here we go.’ She turned and grabbed the tape over Tara’s face and yanked it off. It came loose, but so did a good-sized chuck of her lover’s blonde hair. ‘Sorry,’ she sent as she tugged Tara toward the door.

"Get them, you fool!" Thanatos bellowed. He charged toward them but Tara tossed a flaming sphere at him. A second ball of fire hit Marcus and he fell to the ground, rolling to put out the flame. Thanatos howled as the two witches sprinted through the door. Tara tossed one more sphere that hit the oak door and it created a wall of flame.

"Hurry," Tara yelled as they ran through the catacombs. "Where are we?"

"Underground section of Sunnydale." Willow yanked Tara down a dark tunnel, tripping over the various piles of debris littering the ground. "This section of town was sucked half into the hellmouth at the turn of the century…um, last century, not this one."

"Do you know how to get out?" Tara glanced at her wrists and the tape melted and she broke her hands free.

"Um, well," Willow stalled as she ran further into the darkness. "I know how to get to that area over there." She pointed to a dimly lit cavern. "And from there we can climb up into what used to be my high school."

"Cool," Tara said with a smile. "I always wanted to see where you grew up."

"Yes, well, that cavern used to be the Master’s lair, and tons of vamps hang out down here." Willow paused and rubbed her taped hands across a shard of broken glass. "So stay close, and quiet," she whispered as she broke her hands free. She saw a broken chair and yanked the leg loose. "Cool, instant stake." She grabbed another one and gave it to her lover.


"You did well." Thanatos patted out the last of the flames on Marcus’ chest.

"Why did you let them go?" Marcus frowned at the scorched area on his arm.

"Her mark is the waxing moon," Thanatos explained. "She needs to perform the second ritual before her full power awakens."

"Lord Thanatos, I mean no disrespect, but she almost killed us." Marcus looked down at the ground. "Having her stronger may not be a good thing." He kept his gaze down, half expecting to be slapped.

"As long as we can use the little one as leverage against her, we can control her." Thanatos stood and pulled Marcus to his feet. "Their scars are fresh, so they are newly joined. We will leave Sunnydale so the Slayer does not hunt us, and then return in one cycle of the moon."

"And then you will drain them?"

"And then I will drain them and take my revenge on the bitch whose name cursed me." Thanatos smiled and pulled Marcus alongside him. "The Goddess of the Moon reveres these two. That will make their blood all the sweeter."

"Artemis?" Marcus asked. He cringed when Thanatos hit him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

"Do not speak her name," Thanatos growled. "Every time you say a god’s name, you give them power."

Marcus nodded as he rubbed his jaw. It was broken, but it would heal. Lord Thanatos was teaching him the ways of the ancient ones and a few broken bones would be an equitable trade for the wisdom he sought.


Shannon was smiling and holding Maggie’s hand as she pulled her toward the parking lot. They could have been mistaken for a playfully couple except for the gun Shannon was pressing into the doctor’s side.

"You’ll move in with me," Shannon said in a giddy tone. "And get a job at County Medical again."

Maggie pulled to a stop and squeezed her leg. "I think I pulled a muscle."

"Let me see." Shannon knelt next to the doctor and rubbed her leg. She was gentle with her touch, which only made the incongruity of the gun she kept pointed at Maggie even more unsettling. "It’s the same one you hurt playing softball," Shannon said softly. "Remember, I had to carry you to the car?" She looked up and grinned at Maggie. "Shouldn’t be a problem."

Maggie’s eyes widened. ‘Cordelia, you better be calling the cops,’ she thought.

"I’ll just scoop you up and carry you, lover." Shannon stood and ran her hand through Maggie’s hair.

"I can make it," Maggie stalled. "We just need to go slow."

"Okay," Shannon said slowly. Her concerned expression transformed and anger covered her face. It was almost as frightening as watching a vampire morph. "You’re stalling." She grabbed Maggie’s arm and squeezed it hard.

"Why would I be stalling?" Maggie winced. She knew her arm would have a bruise to match the one on the other side that Buffy had caused.

"That Lockley bitch has you doing whatever she wants." Shannon yanked Maggie toward the car. She saw the shocked look on the doctor’s face and smiled cruelly. "Yeah, I know her name. She called my precinct asking about you. I have friends," she added in bitter whisper. "As soon as we get back to Chicago, you’ll forget all about her."

"Shannon, why don’t we go get my things at the apartment?" Maggie genuinely smiled. ‘And I’ll get you in the lockdown doors and you can wait for the Sunnydale PD,’ she added in her thoughts. ‘See how you like dealing with an ex-Seal who has your picture behind his desk.’

"You never wanted to go home with me, did you?" Shannon asked as she shoved Maggie against her car.

Maggie opened her mouth to answer and noticed a distinctive black convertible parked a few spaces down. It was Angel’s.

"Did you?" Shannon grabbed her jaw, squeezing hard enough to make Maggie’s eyes water.

"Hello, doc, got that light?" Spike stepped out from behind a parked van.

"Who?" Shannon aimed her gun at Spike and then remembered how he had shaken off the bullets the last time. She pulled Maggie in front of her and pressed the muzzle of the gun to Maggie’s temple. "What the hell are you?"

"Hell has something to do with it." Spike walked closer and leaned against a car. "Though I think you might get some first hand info when you cross over."

"He’s a cop," Maggie said, leaning her face away from Shannon’s gun. "He’s got a new kind of body armor they’ve been testing out here."

"That’s me, a regular Dirty Harry." Spike smirked and pulled his jacket sleeves and did his best Clint Eastwood eye squint. He pushed off of the car and took out a cigarette and held it in his lips while he dug out a box of matches and lit it. "Want one?" he asked as he moved a little closer to Shannon.

"If he’s a cop, what the hell happened to his face that night?" Shannon wrapped her arm around Maggie’s waist and kept their bodies pressed together.

"Top secret," Spike deadpanned. "New thing for distracting druggies." He smiled. "Really freaks them out."

"That was no makeup job." Shannon was nervous, and the gun was shaking against Maggie’s temple.

"What else could it be?" Maggie asked. She took a deep breath.

"What about that girl, with the flames?" Shannon was now scared and losing her temper. She shifted her grip from Maggie’s waist to her throat. "What is this place?"

Maggie tried to answer but as soon as she opened her mouth Shannon tightened her grip and cut off the doctor’s air. She loosened her hold just as the doctor’s legs threatened to buckle. Maggie coughed and her eyes watered.

"Okay, you got us," Spike said. "You wandered into the hellmouth. That lil’ bird you tangled with was a witch. And I’m a vampire." Spike smiled like a silent movie hero. "But I’m a good vampire. Wanna’ see my fangs?"

"You’re insane." Shannon moved closer to the door of the car.

"Yes, I probably am," Spike conceded. He tilted his head and thought about his recent infatuation Buffy, and the fact that he was once again coming to the rescue. "Yeah, definitely insane," he concluded. "But then, you’re one to talk. I mean, I’m all for taking what you want, but this is a throwback to caveman days. Why not just bonk her on the head and drag her out by her hair?" He edged closer. He was three feet away from the gun, and if he could get a bit closer, his lighting quick reflexes would allow him to grab the weapon before Shannon could react. His plan was working perfectly.

"Maggie!" Kate yelled as she bolted out of the building in the distance.

Shannon swiveled and backed away from Spike and then looked over at Kate.

"Bugger," Spike said under his breath. "Ruined my plans, you stupid copper." He saw Buffy run out next and his eyes lit up.

"Bitch," Shannon said when she saw the detective. She moved the gun away from Maggie’s temple and took careful aim at Kate.

"No." Maggie shoved Shannon’s arm just as the gun went off. She saw a blur of black and was knocked to the ground as Spike took the gun.

Buffy heard the shot and tackled Kate. She rolled with the detective securely wrapped in her arms and pulled her behind a dumpster. "Stay down," Buffy said angrily. "You’re the big bad cop. Aren’t you supposed to know better than to go running out of a building screaming your lungs out?"

"Let me go." Kate struggled, but the Slayer was too strong.

"Why not just stand up and say, ‘Hey, Shannon, over here. Free shot?’ It’d be faster and I wouldn’t have to scuff my favorite leather pants." Buffy looked down and saw that the scuff was actually a tear. "Ah! My pants!" Her eyes narrowed. "That psycho is going down."

Shannon looked at Spike. He was dangling her gun from one finger and had a smug, goofy grin and actually seemed to be puffing out his chest.

"Give it up, Shannon." Maggie moved next to Spike.

"This hero stuff ain’t so bad." Spike wrapped his arm over the doctor and his smile brightened.

Shannon looked behind Spike and nodded as if she were signaling someone. Maggie and the Spike both shifted their gaze, and Shannon used the distraction to hit Maggie with a roundhouse kick to the side of the head. As the doctor crumpled to the ground, Shannon dove into her car and drove away.

"Hey, no fair kicking my damsel in distress." Spike sighed and knelt next to the doctor and did his best to look like Errol Flynn. "You can come out now," he called out. "The danger’s past."

Buffy’s head peeked cautiously out from behind the dumpster. Kate popped up a second later with her gun held in front of her.

"Maggie! Oh, my god, she shot her." Kate sprinted over to the doctor.

"Where is she?" Buffy yelled as she followed on the detective’s heels.

"Duh, she’s right here." Spike pointed at Maggie. She was groaning and starting to wake up. "I saved her," he added proudly. "And she’s not shot." He glared at Kate. "Not on my watch." She looked over at Buffy expectantly.

"Maggie?" Kate fell to her knees and gently ran her hand over the doctor’s face.

"Where’s the psycho ex-girlfriend?" Buffy demanded. She grabbed Spike’s coat and pulled him away from the two women.

"Oh, her," Spike said with a sigh. "She got away, but I saved the doc." He smiled at the Slayer and waited for his reward.

"Idiot!" Buffy shoved him away.

"But…I…" Confusion covered Spike’s face. "I did the saving thing. The doc’s fine." He pointed at Maggie and noticed she had a slight bloody nose. "Well, she’s mostly fine."

Buffy glared at him.

"Well, she’s not shot," Spike whined.

"Gee, too bad for you," Buffy said sarcastically. "Now you can’t trick her into letting you feed."

"I saved her!" Spike yelled. "If I hadn’t been here she’d be off in that wacko’s love nest by now."

Buffy froze and tilted her head to one side. "Why are you here?" She had the look of the primal Slayer as she studied Spike.

"Um, I…" Spike looked down at Maggie who was now sitting up. "I saved the stupid doctor," he said quietly.

Buffy slammed Spike against the nearest car. She lifted him up and pounded him against the cold metal with each word she spoke. "Why… are… you… here?"

"All right," Spike relented. "You wouldn’t let me come with you, so when I saw Angel asking questions at Willy’s… I kinda’ hid in his trunk."

"He’s got a crush on you," Maggie said as Kate helped her stand.

"I do not!" Spike yelled.

"He does not!" Buffy yelled louder. She glared at the platinum-haired vampire and made a disgusted face. "He better not!"

"My god, you’re right," Kate said. "He does."

"I was bored. Looking for a lil’ action." Spike rolled his eyes.

"I don’t have time for this." Buffy stepped in front of Maggie. "Have you seen Willow and Tara?"

"No. Why?" The doctor was sincerely confused by the question. "They were in the garage when I saw them last."

"They’re gone," Kate explained.

The door to the building opened and Buffy turned to see Angel walk out with Cordelia wrapped around his waist. Giles wandered out behind them. The Slayer turned back toward Maggie and was not surprised to see that Kate and moved in front of the doctor to protect her from any possible danger in the building. ‘Talk about crushes,’ she thought.

"Shannon got away?" Angel peeled Cordelia away from his hip and looked around the parking lot.

"I saved the doctor." Spike puffed his chest out. "And I didn’t have to use any Nancy boy hair gel."

"Don’t give up your night job, Spike," Angel said as he went over to Buffy. "The two goons in there swear they didn’t take Willow and Tara."

"They could be lying," Maggie suggested.

"I convinced them to be honest," Angel said darkly.

"I’m quite sure they were telling the truth," Giles said as he nodded toward the building. He cringed as he pictured Angel morphing into his Angelus self to ask the rather pointed questions. One of the men had actually soiled himself. "We should leave before the police get here," Giles said. "They’ll keep us here asking questions when we should be looking for Willow and Tara."

"I’ll stay," Kate said. "Maggie and Cordelia should too. They’ll need to give a report to the cops about Shannon."

Maggie nodded and scooted closer to the detective.

"Need some muscle?" Spike sniffed and flexed his arms.

"Let’s go back to the garage and look for clues." Buffy rolled her eyes and pointed toward Angel’s car.

"I can do clues." Spike jumped into the backseat and patted the space next to him.

"I didn’t mean you." Buffy glared at him. "Maybe you should ride in the trunk. You seem to enjoy it."

"Will Shannon come back?" Cordelia asked. She was shaken, and her face was pale. Now that the immediate threat was over, all of her adrenaline-based bravado had worn off leaving her tired and scared.

"I’ll deal with her if she does," Kate said grimly. She tilted her head and then motioned for Angel to get going. "I hear sirens. You better go."

Giles climbed into the backseat next to Spike, and Buffy got in the front with Angel and they drove away.

"What do you think happened to Tara and Willow?" Maggie shivered.

Kate took off her thin blazer and draped it over the doctor’s shoulders.

"I think that goat demon has them," Cordelia answered. "Somehow those guys grabbing us exposed Willow and Tara to danger. Why else would I have a vision with the kidnappers?"

"Did you tell Angel that?" Kate asked. She eased Maggie against a car and turned when she saw the police coming from the other end of the street.

"Yes," Cordelia said quietly. "I’m kinda’ glad I had to stay here." She looked up and caught Kate’s eyes. "I didn’t want to have to tell Buffy that she may be too late. I did see a sacrifice altar in the other vision. Maybe Buffy wasn’t meant to save us all."

Maggie sighed and leaned into Kate. She felt the detective’s warm arms around her and she allowed her emotions out. Tears slid down her cheeks and she pulled Kate into a hug and cried. On some level Maggie blamed herself because she was the one who brought Shannon to Sunnydale. If Willow and Tara were in danger, it was her fault, and that thought made the doctor shiver. Luckily, Kate was there to whisper soothing words into her ear.

Part 17

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