OH GODDESS! Then it hit me – all of it, I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until every vain in my head started pounding. I remembered the muffled scream, the hissing, running to the back door – the bottles for collection tipping over and smashing and the door being kicked, knocking it with a bang full swing on the hinges before it collided with the wall, shattering the glass from the window all over me and the kitchen. I started calling out. “WILLOW?” But there as no answer. I held onto the side of the counter and pulled myself unto my feet and grabbed the phone of its cradle on the wall.
I dialled the number and held the phone to my ear with my shoulder while I tried to remove as much glass from my arm as I could, before grabbing a towel from the pile of clean washing in the basket and pressing it firmly to my arm. Buffy answered the phone.
“It’s T-tara, ….Willow’s gone….I mean she was taken….monsters came…I don’t know where she is…”
Buffy’s voice was calm and soothing. “Tara, I need you to slow down. You say Willow’s been taken?”
“Yes.” I whispered as I felt the first tear slide down my cheek.
“Are you at home?”
“Don’t move I’m on my way over!” The phone went dead.
I wasn’t sure what to do with myself as I waited; I taped some gauze to my arm and attempted to clean the mess in the kitchen. I felt Miss Kitty nudge against my leg. I was sure she was trying to comfort me. I sat down on a chair and she jumped into my lap. Then I cried, I felt so lost – I needed to be out there looking for Willow. How long had I just been sitting there? Could they have got far? Would they hurt her?
My trail of thought was broken by the knock on the open door; I turned to see Buffy gazing wide eyed at the kitchen and me, crying my eyes out. She knelt next to me and put her arms around my shoulders. “I’m sorry Tara, I tried to get here as quick as I could.” I sobbed a little more. Then I flinched as she brushed her hand over my arm.
“Oh God! You need to get that looked at, it’s seeping through.”
I shook my head. “I need to find Willow first; it’s just a few scratches.”
Buffy raised my chin with her and brushed away some of my tears. “First things first.” She looked down at Kitty on my lap. “We need to get you two out of here in case they come back.”
I carried Miss Kitty in my arms and we got in the car. I remembered smiling through cloudy eyes. Even though Buffy had finally passed her driving test, I was probably the worlds second worst passenger – For all intensive purposes that crown belonged to Xander; after all…it is his car!
We arrived at the Summers house and I was greeted by Dawn and Xander, both pulling me into a bear hug, Kitty jumped down from my arms and yawned, totally unimpressed with the attention. Then she curled up in a cubby hole behind TV like she used to when she was little.
“Oh My God, what happened to you?” Dawn held my arm up
Buffy nodded to the couch and I sat. “Looks like its story time.”
I sighed and slouched back – Dawn came in with some bandages and began to clean my arm up. “Yesterday I spotted something in the garden. I c-couldn’t make it out. It looked pretty much like a big green lizard. I got a little closer to it and it bolted over the fence.”
Dawn had finished wrapping my arm up and Xander sat next to me on the couch. “So you got oogly booglies living down in the old back yard eh? Well it beats the dead snake I found at the end of ours when I was four.” He drifted back into his childhood. “I poked it with a stick and Dad slapped me round the back of the legs for being a torment.” His face shifted back to reality and he subconsciously began to rub the back of his thigh as if the pain was only from minutes before. “But I severely digress here…please continue.”
“Willow had gone to the Magic Box and had felt something watching her. We finally decided at about lunch time we were being paranoid and went to the park for lunch. We didn’t notice anything unusual. It started to rain so we made our way back to the apartment.”
Dawn frowned. “But…it didn’t rain today; I was out shopping with Janice, not a drop.”
Xander looked at me. “I was on the construction site, don’t remember rain.”
I nodded. “We realised the storm was only surrounding the area we were in.”
“Wait!! Storm now?” Buffy’s eyes were wide open. “As in extreme weather condition that is very difficult NOT to notice?”
I nodded again. “We were under a tree and saw the lightning so we decided to make a run back. We headed backing the direction of town but found ourselves back in the Park.”
Xander scratched his head. “You and Willow got lost on your way back from the park, one of your favorite places in the whole world? And yet, might I add still to this day Willow still refuses to tell me why?”
I sighed. “No, we just ended up where we started, like someone had shifted the ground from under us and set us back. And so she shouldn’t…there are some things that should remain personal.” I grinned and Xander got that look of boyish intelligence and understanding. “When we finally got to town we took some alleys to cut back into town, then we met the Lizard men.”
“What did they look like?” Buffy enquired.
I shrugged. “Overgrown Lizard man things. I’ve never seen anything like them before.”
“Okay, so Lizard dudes in the backyard, personal thunderstorms and an ambush in a dank and dirty alleyway and you didn’t call me until now?”
I lowered my head feeling rather stupid. After all, if we had called earlier maybe Willow would still be here? “I thought we were just overreacting at first, but after the lizards in the alley...” I paused, trying to stop the tears. “Willow was going to call you this evening.”
Dawn sat cross legged on the floor in front of me. “How did you manage to get away from the lizards in the alley?”
“We ran into the Magic Box, we told Anya what had happened – but she was busy with customers and just shrugged. She told us that we were pretty girls, Together - pretty girls and sometimes demons like to chase pretty girls…We just thought she was trying to be awkward so we left before Willow had a clear shot to swing at her.”
Buffy went into the hall and grabbed her jacket. “Okay, I’m going to take a look around for Willow and these lizard dudes. Dawn, you’re in charge, get Tara some painkillers and Xander guarding the house – There’s plenty of weapons in the chest.”
She opened the front door.
I stood immediately. “W-wait…I should go come with you…She’s out there…I c-can’t just sit here and wait, I should be out there helping you.”
Buffy put a hand on her hip. “Not in that state, you could get yourself killed.” She walker back over to me, placing her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.” I nodded and she left.
Xander tried to cheer me up. “You know Willow, she’ll be kicking shins and calling them rude names right now – they’ll be letting her go in no time, she’s a real bruiser.”
I wanted to smile; I could imagine Willow dishing out the abuse. But I wanted to get out of the house and start searching. Dawn made some tea to calm my nerves and started going through the books she had in the house. Not being allowed to go on patrol had turned Dawn into quite the intrepid researcher.
“Did it look like this?” She held up one book and I frowned.
I shook my head.
Xander got up and dialled a number into the phone. Then he started talking in a low voice. Dawn and I looked at each other. We just about caught his whispering.
“I just thought maybe you might be able to help….No this isn’t a trade off…I’m not offering anything in return.” He hung his head and we both looked at him with questioning eyes. “NO…hot sweaty sex isn’t an option! I would have thought them being your friends would be incentive enough?!” We both looked at each other and grinned. We both mouthed ‘Anya’ “Okay, I’ll put you on speakerphone.”
Dawn was first to speak. “Hey Anya.”
“Hey yourself jailbird…how are those sticky fingers of yours?”
“Ahn, play nice now.” Xander warned
“Okay, look…I haven’t heard much, the other demons don’t really like talking to me anymore – See what hanging round with a bunch of demon hunters does for your reputation?! I’m totally a social demonic recluse now…and without the medical benefit package too!”
“Anya!” Xander shouted.
“Okay! Just saying…Geez Louise, I would have thought honesty was something highly celebrated by humanity due to its gradual disappearance in human society.”
With one last ditch effort Xander coughed to get her attention.
“Right, big nasty evil looking to take over Sunnydale, then America then well…you get it …blah blah. The Lizard men sound like the Lithcos – they’re a band of savages – not great thinkers. I’d imagine they’re working with the evil. It’s a good job too, otherwise they wouldn’t have thought twice about ripping your throats out if they were acting on their own. They like to make a mess, eating entrails…using bones as tooth picks…They were great when I used to entertain my guests, they had this wonderful party piece with human hearts…”
“Okay Anya, thanks for the info.” Xander jumped in, he saw my face fall.
With that Buffy came storming back through the door. My eyes watched closely behind her and waited for Willow, but she wasn’t there.
She headed for the weapons chest and pulled out a massive broadsword, twirled it round and jabbed into the air. Giving a satisfied nod she turned to us.
“Guess who I just bumped into?” Everyone was silent.
She sighed. “Pale, doesn’t usually take long breaths, English, pain in my ass – Billy Idol wannabe?”
Xander spoke first. “Captain Peroxide.”
Buffy nodded. “He was real chatty whilst trying to kick my ass, boasting that he had something I might want…Willow.”
I went to the weapons chest and took out a crossbow. Then headed for the door. Buffy blocked my exit. “Whoah there witchy foo – where you going?”
“To kill Spike.”
“OOOOooh no you don’t, you already got hurt once tonight, Willow’ll kill me if I let you get hurt some more.”
I looked at her. “Okay I’m borrowing her resolve face on this one, and maybe I don’t wear it half as convincingly but I’m coming…I still have a few ‘tricks’ up my sleeve.”
Everyone had forgotten that Anya was still on the speakerphone. “As long as there aren’t any bunnies up there because that’s just too cruel for even Spike...evil..evil..evil.”
I stood poised at the door with cross bow in hand, glaring.
“Right then, I never argue with resolve face – but stick close okay?”
After an hour hunting around the all the cemeteries we could think to check we were still having no luck finding anyone or anything. We were just about to leave for home. ‘CLICK’ The familiar noise of a zippo lighter to the left of us.
“You can come out of the bushes now Slayer.”
Spike was sitting on a headstone, taking a long drag of his cigarette and looking pretty smug with himself. Buffy stepped out first, but motioned for me to stay hidden.
“Thought you might try to follow me to get your precious Red back, but no such luck pet – she’s tucked away somewhere disgustingly dark and dank.”
Buffy edged the sword forward in a threatening motion. From my hiding place I began to aim at him with the crossbow, right for the leg – not to kill him, just hurt him like hell.
“You can come join us too witch, know you’re there…and if you fire that at me you’ll never find her.”
I walked out of the bushes still with the crossbow aimed. He threw his cigarette to the floor and laughed.
“Here comes Blondie Bear to the rescue!” He snorted. “Did I tell you that your bit of skirt is just adorable when she’s terrified? All wimpery and teary eyed.”
Buffy growled. “I’m really going to enjoy watching you scatter all over the graveyard.”
Spike shifted and got up off the headstone. “Yeah right, look at you all Miss Mighty Mouse; puff that chest out a bit more cos I’m enjoying the view.”
We both rolled our eyes.
“You’re n-not only evil, but you’re a p-pervert.”
He turned to me and grinned. “And proud of it – comes with bein’ bad.”
He sniffed the air. “Did you know Red wears the smell of you all over her…it’s like perfume…very….mmm…uplifting, if you know what I mean?...It was a real struggle for me to keep my hands off her…My juices would really be flowing if I was alive.” He grabbed himself suggestively and smirked.
I fired a shot into his shoulder and reloaded. “I’m going to make you suffer.”
Buffy grabbed my arm. “Wait – you kill him, we won’t find her alive, even if he is a sick, twisted…nothing.”
Spike grabbed his shoulder and winced as he pulled the bolt out. “Whoah there! You call me sick, you should talk to your broody pop idol looking ex undead boyfriend, love – He was the definitive guide of ‘sick’ way back in the day. The things he used to do to get his jollys on with terrified but far more beautiful young maids, and then he’d make then scream his name…I remember it now…dirty scoundrel.”
He shot a look behind us. “Well, I’d love to stay and chat some more but I’ve got dinner plans. Ta ta.” He leapt over the headstone and ran off into the darkness. The first of the lizard men behind us began to hiss.
I turned, my back to Buffy’s. We were totally surrounded.
Then they began to charge…