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POV: Shifts Perspective
Spoiler Alert: There are tidbits from past episodes and especially the Spanderverse series.
Notes: Story number Nineteen in the Spanderverse-universe, following “Songs of Pain and Comfort”. Everything from the television series through the defeat of Adam also occurred as depicted, in the Spanderverse.
People’s thoughts are depicted in italics. You’ll find emphasis depicted with an underline.
Battling with a God
Ch 17 – Mindtrip
Anya snored lightly on the sofa, muttering to herself that she had places to be. No one in the shop paid her any mind, or even heard her.
Willow’s entire being was focused on Tara. She was monitoring her aura for any signs of distress and empathically feeling out her emotional state for any hint that she was slipping away and becoming incorporated into whatever was happening in Buffy’s mind. If she lost perspective, she could end up trapped in a Buffy-delusion, even dying in the real world if she believed she was being killed in the mindscape to which she’d traveled.
Tara opened her eyes to find herself looking at a small vestibule. Curious she turned in a half circle until she found herself looking at a small, blonde child wearing pig tails. In her hand was a small, plastic doll and she was currently putting a dress on it.
“Hello,” she said questioningly. She wasn’t quite sure where she was, but it ‘felt’ safe.
“Hi,” the child smiled. “Do you want to have a tea party with me?”
“Uh… I-I’m not sure. I think I’m supposed to do something. I-is this your house?”
“Uh-huh. I’m going to live here forever,” the girl answered.
“What’s your name?”
“Mommy and Daddy call me Buffy, but my secret name is… you won’t tell any one will you,” Buffy asked in a whisper.
“No. I won’t tell.”
“My real name is Joan,” she whispered again. “I hate the name Buffy!”
Buffy? Buffy! I’m in Buffy’s mind, Tara remembered. Right, Buffy is lost and Glory has Dawn.
“Uh, Buffy… what are we doing here,” she asked, kneeling down in front of the child.
The girl blew an annoyed breath at her, “I told you! I’m having a tea party!”
Tara smiled, “No honey…, uh…, Buffy, I meant, why are we here… in this place? Why are you pulling the little girl act?”
“You’re a little weird,” Buffy said to her.
Just then the door behind Tara opened and she turned to see a very big Joyce and a red haired man enter the room. Joyce looked very young and in her hands she held a little bundle. A dark haired baby swaddled in a pink blanket. The wrap had a stylized ‘D’ embroidered onto it.
“Dawn,” she whispered.
“Mommy! Daddy, your home,” Buffy excitedly shouted. She rushed into what Tara now assumed to be Hank’s arms. She’d never met him and if they had pictures hanging up of him at the Summers’ house, she hadn’t noticed them.
“Hey, kiddo,” Hank picked her up and swung her around eliciting an excited squeal. “Look what your mom has brought home.”
Buffy took on a peevish expression. “What, a stupid baby? So, what?”
“Come on, Buffy. Don’t you want to meet your little sister,” Joyce asked. Tara realized that these memories were completely false, and yet she couldn’t stop smiling. No wonder Dawn remained so ‘real’ to them, even after they found out where she’d come from. The monks really had gone all out; she realized that Dawn’s own energy was probably used in constructing this new reality in their minds. It was a little disconcerting.
“…be I could look after her? Just sometimes….” Buffy was saying.
“Well… it is a lot of responsibility,” Joyce smiled. “Do you think you’re ready to be the ‘big girl’ in the family?”
“I’m ready,” Buffy smiled at her parents. “I’ll be the bestest big sister, ever.”
Memories, like dreams are in a constant state of flux. Tara was disoriented for a short time as the entire tableau she was watching changed with the speed of thought. The seventies décor gave way to the late nineties. Gone was the vestibule like entryway into the Summers’ home. Now, she stood in a very recognizable dining room. Buffy, the child, was replaced by her older self. Though she still looked different to Tara; not being as thin as she was now. She was sitting, pensive at the table while Joyce looked disturbed and worried. Dawn wasn’t in evidence, but from the music upstairs Tara felt she knew where she was.
“Buffy, if he’s been threatening you…?”
“No, no, it’s not like that. I mean he hasn’t really done anything. It’s just that he’s been following me around and stuff. I think he’s having trouble letting go. I-if he should stop by while I’m not here, just… don’t invite him in, okay? Make sure that Dawnie knows to stay away from him. I-I’m sure he won’t do anything….” Buffy sounded unsure of herself to Tara and apparently Joyce had agreed.
She had sighed and now sat looking at her daughter. “I don’t know, Buffy. Maybe we should just talk to the police. Dawn is getting to be that age when she’s watching what you do, even if you don’t realize it. She’s looking to us to see how to let men treat her in the future. If this ex-boyfriend is turning into a stalker….”
“I’ll take care of Dawn, mom. And I can deal with Angel… really,” Buffy said.
Another shift in perception and this time Tara felt a lump in her throat. She was standing at the foot of Joyce’s hospital bed from only a few months ago. Buffy had her mother’s hand in hers and Tara got from the gist of the conversation that this was before the operation took place for the tumor.
“But, she is ours, isn’t she? No matter how she came here, and I don’t need the details, she is mine. I won’t give her up, Buffy. Promise me, promise me you’ll never tell Hank… promise me you’ll always be there for her as her sister,” Joyce said.
“I will be mom. I promise you, Dawn is my sister. I’ll look after her, no matter what,” Buffy responded. She turned and looked directly at Tara.
“And a fine job I’ve done, isn’t it?”
“Buffy? What happened… it wasn’t your fault. You know that, right? We did the best we could,” Tara insisted. “And it’s not over. We can still get her back.”
“Sure. Like Anya is back?”
“There’s no reason to think Dawn will be hurt like Anya. She needs Dawn more,” Tara reasoned.
The tableau altered itself again around her. Tara held her eyes shut against the motion that was turning her stomach. When she re-opened them she was in the past, only an hour? Two? How long had she been in here?
“Buffy,” Tara heard Dawn scream.
She turned to watch Buffy who was strangely frozen. The effect only lasted a moment and then Buffy was running for Glory and just as in reality, she’d been batted away.
Suddenly, Buffy was standing at her starting position again.
“Buffy,” Dawn screamed.
Frozen-Buffy stared for several heartbeats. She ran for Glory and was batted away.
And Tara found herself back in the Summers’ living room, being invited to tea by little girl-Buffy.
Xander and Spike came into the Magic Box soaked through to the skin and covered in wet leaves. Outside the storm continued to rage. As they stumbled in, they took in the sight before them.
Xander crossed the floor, looking at Buffy staring wide-eyed while Tara and Willow sat silent, still and with their eyes closed in front of her. His immediate concern was for Anya who was lying on the floor, twisted up in a ratty looking blanket.
Once he’d gotten her back on the couch and settled, he became concerned that she hadn’t reacted at all to being picked up. He reached out for her wrist, but found her pulse steady and strong. Her chest was rising and falling with regular breaths.
“Anya is really out,” he said.
“Maybe the Wiccans gave her something to help her calm down.”
“What do you think is going on over there,” Xander asked.
“Looks like a spell to me. The candles are white and in a triangle around them. I think we should sit tight and not disturb anything. If their mucking about with Buffy in her condition, any disruption might be dangerous.”
“It’s cold in here. Can you look for something more to cover Anya?”
“Yeah, of course. I don’t see any sign of Rupes.”
“I’ll try his apartment with my cell,” Xander said. But a moment later, he hung the device up, frustrated. The electricity was playing havoc with reception from the nearly constant lightning display outside. He was just about to call out to Spike to see if one of them (preferably Spike, it was nasty out) should run over to Giles’, the streetlamps outside went out. Apparently, the freak storm was causing power outages, as well. Xander sighed. Somebody up there was really trying to stop them from re-grouping and finding Dawnie.
And if we do find her? Are you ready to do what needs to be done, Hyena asked harshly.
“I’m not talking to you,” Xander whispered fiercely. And where’s Commando? I know you know something. He’s in there with you after all!
Maybe he just faded away, she growled at him. She felt restless and fueled with… belligerence. Xander was going to get them all killed because he wouldn’t suck it up and take care of the problem.
Well, until I hear from him, I don’t want to hear from you, Xander directed at her.
She looked into a corner of Xander’s psyche he couldn’t see himself. And there struggling, was another Xander Harris, dressed in a camouflage green uniform.
He tried to yell as loud as he could at the Xander in the real world, but Hyena had him overpowered and his voice wasn’t attracting the physical Xander’s attention. Hyena’s smile was absolutely feral and he could feel the dark power, again, emboldening and strengthening her.
Tara was again standing in the desert behind the service center. Around her were representations of her and the other Scoobies. It was weird seeing herself struggling to yank Anya along from earlier in the evening.
Again, Dawn screamed. And again Buffy froze for several heartbeats. The first time she’d seen this play out, it bothered her but she couldn’t articulate why. Now she knew, this wasn’t quite the way it played out for real. Buffy hadn’t frozen like that. She’d seen her, she remembered, as Glory’s presence became known. Dawn had barely finished screaming her name and Buffy had taken off like a shot to save her. As she did now; and this time it was just like in real life. Buffy was swatted away and Glory took Dawn.
This time as the scene re-set itself Tara stood in the frozen Buffy’s path. When she went to run for Glory, Tara flinched, but didn’t move out of the way.
“Tara, what are you doing,” the Buffy in front of her yelled in exasperation.
“Trying to help,” Tara replied calmly. “Buffy, what happened here?”
“Glory is getting away with Dawn!”
“Glory did get away with Dawn, Buffy. You can’t change that no matter how many times we replay this scene. But something else happened here. It’s something small, but the way you keep freezing before running to help Dawn… I know it’s something.”
“Don’t go there, Tara, please,” another Buffy said from beside her. This Buffy was dressed as the one in the hospital room with Joyce had been dressed. They both stood looking at action-Buffy who was again frozen at her starting place.
“What happened here, Buffy? It’s something small, I know, but it was important.”
“I promised I’d take care of her,” hospital-Buffy replied. “I swore it to mom.”
“And you have been. We’ve all been doing our best. It’s not your fault what happened.”
“Yes, it is,” action-Buffy said, breaking from her frozen trance. “I did this to her.”
“I don’t understand,” Tara admitted with a mixture of sympathy and frustration.
“This is when she gave up,” hospital-Buffy replied calmly… almost disinterestedly.
“What,” Tara asked, not quite grasping. She’d seen Buffy try.
“It was just for a minute,” action-Buffy admitted. “Dawn screamed. I turned to see Glory had her….”
“….and for just that one nanosecond, I wanted to let her go,” hospital-Buffy said. “I’ve been so tired….”
“…and in that one brief moment,” action-Buffy picked up the narrative. “I saw a way out. Dawn would die, and it would be horrible but it would be over.”
Both Buffy’s now joined their voices, both looking at one another with a mixture of pity and disgust. “Spike says that I have a death wish. That I want an end to the violence and the fear. The First Slayer told me that ‘death is my gift’, that all I’m here for is to do violence. For just that one moment, I wanted to give into what Spike talked about. I wanted it over and done with. I wanted to stop fighting.”
Action-Buffy turned from her counterpart and met Tara’s teary gaze. “I didn’t want to stop Glory, not really, so I failed. She swatted me aside and took Dawn. I did that to her.”
“No, Buffy…, no. So for one heartbeat you wanted out of being the Slayer, so what?”
“So, she betrayed our promise to our mom,” hospital-Buffy said simply. “She didn’t protect Dawn and now she’s going to die. We killed our sister.”
“Buffy… Buffys… listen to me, please. You’ve had to accept so much on your shoulders and there are things that I and your other friends will never understand about being the Slayer. But this right here… this I do get. It’s called ‘guilt’ and it’s a normal emotion. But that’s all it is… it doesn’t mean anything. I was there in the desert… you never stood there like that and watched what was happening. You did try to stop Glory from taking Dawnie. And okay, so some normal but selfish part of your brain thought it would be easier to stop fighting? It didn’t stop you from reacting. And I get that you’re scared and sad and that you’re sick of the violence, but right now you’re just being self-pitying and selfish.”
Tara turned her back on the Buffys and started to walk away. She hoped this worked because honestly, she had no clue what she was doing.
“Wait, where are you going,” hospital-Buffy asked.
When Tara turned around, she met action-Buffy’s eyes. “We still have time to save Dawn. I’m going to do what you should be… are you coming or not?”
Tara came to and shook off the numb feelings in her limbs. Behind her, Willow was instantly alert and stroking her hair.
“Did it work? Is she alright,” Will asked her.
Both of their eyes traveled to Buffy. Xander and Spike, unnoticed yet, stood behind them.
All eyes turned to Buffy and waited. With a shudder the Slayer seemed to snap back to the here and now. Her eyes met her friends’ worried expressions and she felt two tears in her eyes fall. They were joined by others and she collapsed in tears.
“Dawn… oh, god, Dawnie… I’m so sorry,” she sobbed in her hands.
Xander was immediately at her side pulling her to his chest. Tara and Willow weren’t far behind, smothering Buffy in a group hug. Spike fidgeted at the display and chose to smoke instead of joining the emotion-a-thon.
“Not to break up this touching moment…,” he started. Xander’s glare told him to pipe down, so he did. Then he mentally kicked himself with a self-deprecating smile for turning into Xan’s ‘old lady’.
“No, no, Spike’s right,” Buffy said, encouraging the Scooby Gang to let her go. “We don’t have time to do this… we have a war to wage. What’s our sitch?”
“Spike and I just arrived and except for a set of brand new stitches, I’m ready to go,” Xan said.
“Demon bint is out,” Spike said.
“It’s just a sleep spell,” Willow offered, shading red for some reason. “She, uh, should be fine.”
“She was out of control and wanting to run outside,” Tara explained.
“What’s up with the storm? How long have I been out of it?!”
“It just started suddenly a while ago. Maybe Glory is doing something,” Xander offered before backtracking, “Uh, nothing to do with Dawn, I’m sure! I-I’m sure Dawn is fine… uh, happy even. Or, you know, not happy, because I’m sure she wants us to come to the rescue….”
“Smooth, Xan,” Spike said.
“Not at all babble-y,” Buffy squeezed his shoulder.
“Actually, I think this is magical,” Willow said thoughtfully. “I can almost feel it in the air. Strange… but it feels… familiar, somehow. Almost like I know who’s doing it.”
“Here Will, let me link with you and sense what you’re picking up on,” Tara said while taking hold of Willow’s hand.
After several moments of utter silence, except for the raging winds outside, Tara’s eyes snapped open. “It’s Giles! He’s wielding black magic… God, he’s so angry!”
“He must be going for Glory,” Willow exclaimed.
“Oh, my God, he’s going to get himself killed,” Buffy cried out, bolting to her feet. Before the others could stop her, she was running out into the storm.
“Here, Spike,” Xander yelled tossing him something from his jacket pocket. It was a set of car keys.
“You can run faster than us. Go! Get my car and meet Buffy at Glory’s. Get Giles and get the hell out of there!”
Again, Spike didn’t hesitate doing what Xan wanted and in a dash, he was also out in the storm. The others looked at the door and listened to the raging thunder and lightening. Only the flickering candle light gave them any luminescence to see by and it did nothing for the chill in the air.
“Okay, Buffy and Spike will see to pulling Giles’ fat out of the fire. Now, what are we gonna do to help,” Xander looked at the two women.
“Gather stuff to fight with,” Willow immediately answered. “The Orb-thingy is downstairs. Tara and I will go get it and see what else is there. You should see if we have any powders, talismans, anything at all up here that looks usable, Xan.”
“Okay, gang, let’s move like we have a purpose,” he said, clapping his hands together.
End Chapter 17