Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 1 - CHINA IN YOUR HAND
It was a flight on the wings
Of a young girls dreams
That flew too far away
And we could make the monster live again
Oh hands move and heart beat on
Now life will return in this electric storm
A prophecy for a fantasy
The curse of a vivid mind
Don't push too far
Your Dreams are china in your hand
Don't wish to hard
Because they may come true
And you can't help them
You don't know what you might
Have set upon yourself
China in your hand
(T'Pau, Album - Bridge of Spies)
Thursday, May 16th, 2002
"Wesley?" Giles called softly from the back porch.
"Back here," the younger man replied from his seat in the back garden.
"You wouldn't happen to know where Spike keeps his stash of hard liquor, would you? "
"Back at his apartment, I believe. I don't think he trusts Dawn enough to leave that sort of stuff lying around the house. Probably with good reason."
"You're saying Spike doesn't drink when he's here?"
Wes shrugged. "Beer, an odd bottle of wine with dinner. Can't say that I've seen him with anything stronger and considering the look on his face when Dawn turned up on her boyfriend's motorbike, if there had been something stronger in the house, then he would have been drinking it."
"Good lord!" Giles didn't know which part of that last sentence shocked him more. Spike had obviously cut down on his drinking, Dawn was dating, Dawn was dating a biker and Spike was back in his protector role, apparently with Buffy's consent.
"So that's where they left Dawn?"
"I believe so."
"And how long has she been seeing him?"
"You know, I've no idea. I did get the impression that dinner the other night was his first visit."
"But Buffy already trusts him enough to leave Dawn with him?"
Wes gave a wry smile. "I think getting a mortal wound trying to defend Dawn bought him a certain amount of leeway."
"What on earth has been going on around here?" Giles asked, suddenly realising that perhaps he had left this afternoon before Anya had reached the more important pieces of exposition.
Willow came to gradually, the sound of muffled voices drawing her from her sleep. She struggled at first to remember why she should be asleep at such a time. Then her recollection returned. She opened up her laptop and checked the date on its clock. Still Thursday, May 16th, 2002. It seemed to taunt her. All she had wanted was a couple of days.
She moved to the mirror, seeing a face she didn't recognise. She sat for some time looking at the new lines and wrinkles that marred her skin. That demon had a nerve doing something like this to her. Next time she summoned her she would make sure she was better prepared. Then, they would see who came off best. She would show her no one bullies Willow Rosenberg any more, mentally, magically or physically. First though, she had to recover her energy so that she could fix this.
She wondered who had brought her home. The voices coming from the garden drew her to her window, but she could only see the two former watchers. There was no sign of any of the house's actual residents. Had they been the ones to find her? Maybe it wasn't too late for a forgetting spell or two. She couldn't believe that Giles would actually understand what she had attempted. He kept trying to put boundaries around her, but the Goddess would never have gifted her with such power if she were meant to keep within the confines that were set to protect lesser practitioners. Giles would pretend he didn't understand that, though. It was jealousy, pure and simple. Not only had Buffy outgrown her need of him, but little Willow had so far surpassed him in the magical arts that it was him rather than her who was shown up as the rank amateur. Still, he insisted on trying to act the father figure.
Maybe Buffy would let him step back into the role as if nothing had changed when he left them. Willow wasn't inclined to be so accommodating.
First though she had to find out what exactly everyone knew. Otherwise, when word got back to Tara all the recriminations would start all over again. Willow really loved the other girl, but she was so prissy when it came to magic...
"It sounds like it's been quite a week," Giles commented.
"Well, on the up side, no apocalypse, so far," Wes replied.
"Quite. Nevertheless, one would have thought with events of this magnitude that Buffy would have tried to get in touch."
"I don't think she felt there was a secure means to speak to you. As things were actually happening she was probably too busy dealing with them and telling you after the fact probably didn't seem quite so important. Besides, there's hardly been breathing space between one crisis and the next."
"You told her she needed to grow up." Willow's voice made her presence known before she stepped from the shadows. "It's not exactly going to encourage her to be forthcoming with the confidences. It's either going to look like she's needy or she's gloating about not needing you. Either way, you get to be all disapproving."
Giles turned his attention to the not-so-young witch. "I think that assessment is a little harsh. I've seldom criticised any of your choices, a fact that I deeply regret given your recent actions. Perhaps if my guidance had been a little firmer earlier, then we wouldn't find ourselves in our current situation. You were very fortunate that the consequences of your actions were no worse than they have been."
"And what would you know about what I've done?"
"Let us say that in addition to you, we also picked up the book you were using and an eight hundred dollar quartz that no doubt I would have found deducted from my share of the profits from The Magic Box."
"No, you wouldn't. Not if the spell had worked, and besides you got it back, didn't you?"
"That is beside the point. I am merely making the observation that I am probably more aware of what you have been doing than you might think. Are you really going to tell me you can justify the fact you were about to sacrifice an innocent animal?"
"It didn't count. It wouldn't have happened. And it was for Dawn. Surely Dawn's innocence is more important than some animal?"
"I somehow don't believe that had you explained the options to Dawn that she would have felt her innocence would be preserved by killing a young dog. In fact I'm inclined to believe that she would find the idea somewhat abhorrent.
Which leads me to believe that your motives were rather more to do with what you wanted than what Dawn would have wanted. "
"How dare you come back here and try to tell me what to do? You gave up any right you had to interfere in our affairs when you walked out on us. You wanted your 'new life'. Well, go back and live it. You made it plain that you didn't care about any of the rest of us the first time you left, and then the second time just made it clear you didn't care about Buffy either. Well, if you can't be here when you're needed then don't expect to play the preacher when you do make an appearance.
I think you forget that I'm not some fifteen-year-old anymore. I am an extremely powerful Wicca, and you would do well to remember that you're not powerful enough to want to piss me off."
A fourth voice joined the conversation. "No, Willow, you're not a fifteen year old. You're not even the eighteen-year-old that I fell in love with, and you have no idea how much I wish you were. You're not a Wicca, either. You don't heed any of the teachings. You use magic for all the wrong reasons and you never think of other people or the consequences of your actions. You're certainly a very powerful witch, but you're not a Wiccan.
You're threatening one of the people who mean most to you in this world, just for speaking his own opinion, which happens to agree with mine, so maybe you want to threaten me, too?"
"T-Tara, I didn't know you were here. I'd never have said any of that stuff if I'd known you were around. You know I would never hurt you."
"I was sleeping in Buffy's room until I heard you arguing, and no, Willow, none of us knows that you wouldn't hurt them. You already hurt Dawnie when you took her to Rack's. You know that you hurt me. What you did to me wasn't just a mental violation. It meant when we made love after that it was rape. I thought you had put it behind you, but you just don't get that the things you do are no better than Jonathan and his attempt at being a superhero. It's all self-glorification, and we're all just your puppets.
And whether you would like to hide the side you've just shown to Giles from me or not, it'll still be there. Somewhere along the way, the wonderful, sweet girl I fell in love with has got lost and I'm done setting myself up for more pain by trying to find her because I don't think I ever will."
"Y-you're leaving me again? B-but we just. It was good. I mean we were good. You can't leave. Just think how much Dawnie would miss you."
"We weren't good enough for you to want to keep things as they were. We weren't even back together for two weeks before you chose power over me. You knew that what you were doing was black magic, and you knew I wouldn't approve. That's why you hid and turned your phone off. And my relationship with Dawnie is for the two of us to work out."
"Tara? Wait! Please... I can fix it. I know I can."
"Willow, don't you understand. There is no 'it' for you to fix. It's you. You're what needs fixing, and you can't just magic it better."
"It's the ageing thing. I can fix the ageing thing. It's simple, just a general reversal spell and I'll be right back. I just did a spell that went wrong. That's all."
"You still don't get it. You could look eighty and be stuck in a wheelchair or something and if you were still the same inside as you were when we met, I'd count myself lucky to push you around for the rest of my life. It's not what you look like. It's who you've become.
That first argument we ever had was because I said you scared me. Well, now, with the possible exception of Xander, I don't think there's anyone who isn't a little bit scared of who you've become. Is fear what you really want from people? Because, personally, I'd rather have friendship and trust."
Tara looked sadly at the other witch before she returned inside.
"Tara, wait!" Willow moved to go after her but was prevented by Giles' hand, which clamped around her upper arm.
"I think she's said as much as she wants to say."
"Well, maybe it isn't just about what she wants."
"I disagree. I think you've caused her quite sufficient pain for one day, and unless you really are about to start throwing spells in my direction, I would strongly suggest that you leave her alone.
I would also suggest that when you speak to the others you think very carefully before you say anything which would alienate them further than you have already."
Willow turned, trying to stare down the former watcher but finding that it wasn't as easy as she might have thought. The two were still glaring at each other, with Wesley taking a supportive position at Giles' right shoulder when the quiet was broken by the sound of a car pulling up.
Soon Dawn could be heard making encouraging noises, and then a loud whining followed.
"Buffy, what's wrong with her? Why doesn't she want to go in the house? It's like she's scared."
"It's not what, pet, it's who," Spike answered. "Go fetch some of your clothes or something. Not the clean stuff, the more it's got your scent on it the better."
"Em, I haven't washed my gym clothes from yesterday, yet."
"Perfect, pet. Go get them."
"What if it doesn't work?" Buffy asked, after the teenager had run inside.
"I guess we work that out when we get there. Even if you sent Red packing tonight her scent would still be all over the place. Thing is I was countin ' on bein ' able to lock her in the bathroom overnight till we get her housetrained but since that's only a connectin ' door away from Red I can't see that workin ' too well. I guess it might have to be the basement."
"We can't lock her in the basement!" Buffy protested.
"Well you come up with a better suggestion, then, and bear in mind that you get to clean up wherever it craps or pisses and don't even think about suggestin ' it shares a room with us."
Dawn bounded downstairs only to almost bump into Willow and the two former Watchers.
"Guess you didn't manage to screw up the whole world, then. Looks like you did a pretty good job on yourself, though." The teenager's greeting to Willow was terse. She didn't, yet, know any more than she had when Buffy and Spike had taken her to Brandon's, but she knew that the witch had wilfully acted in a way that would hurt Tara, again.
The contrast to her welcome for the two watchers couldn't have been more evident. "Giles, Wes, Buffy got me a puppy. Come meet her. She's kind of scared to come out of the car but she's really sweet."
"I think we've already met." Giles replied.
"Perhaps it might be an idea if you were to retire to your room for now, Willow?" Wes suggested.
Willow's face turned so pale that her freckles stood out as if she had measles. It was one thing for her to shrug off the idea of performing a sacrifice. It was another to deal with an animal who was obviously scared to death of her. Pride dictated she should hold her ground, but in this instance pride lost out. She dashed upstairs even quicker than Dawn had come down.
"What's up with her?" the teenager asked.
Wes grimaced. "I'm sure Spike and Buffy will explain before the end of the night. Why don't we see if we can coax your dog into the house?"
Dawn rolled her eyes as she headed out of the house with Wes. "Why am I always the last to find out everything?"
"Actually, I thought that was Xander," the watcher replied.
Between the four of them, with Dawn practically burying the dog's nose in her bag of washing, they finally coaxed her into the house.
"Where's Red?" Spike asked when they were all in the living room.
"I believe she went up to her room," Giles replied.
"She's up, then."
"Long enough to argue with both Tara and myself."
Dawn's eyes turned to Buffy at this news. "Don't let her make Tara leave, again. Please, Buffy."
"Shh , love. Don't get yourself all worked up. Tara's not going anywhere she doesn't want to. Okay? Now, let someone tell you what you've missed."
"Well, I've seen the hag so you can skip that bit."
Gradually, with bits and pieces from everyone, Dawn got the story of what had happened that night. By the end of the tale the teenager was angrier than any of them had ever seen her and she was holding onto the dog so tightly it was struggling for breath.
She turned to her sister. "Buffy, this house is half mine. Guardian or not, I still have a say in how this house is run, and that bitch is not staying one more night under this roof. And if you don't have the spine to throw her out then I will."
Releasing her grip on the dog she made a dash for the stairs, the speed of her actions causing the scar on her upper thigh to start bleeding again. Buffy was only a couple of steps behind her and Spike was not far behind that, determined to be there for both his girls in the coming showdown. Most surprisingly of all, a grey shadow didn't so much dash as slink up the stairs behind them.
Dawn slammed open the door to what she still thought of as her mother's room.
"Get out of that bed!" she screamed at the witch when she saw her lying there. "You don't deserve to touch anything of my mother's. You make me sick. Buffy might not have the guts to tell you that you're not welcome, but I just found out what you did, what you were going to do, and I do.
I want you out of here now. You can come back tomorrow and we'll have your things all packed for you, but for now just get enough stuff for tonight and get out. Go to Xander's. Go to a hotel. Go to hell. I really don't care. Your stuff will be on the porch waiting for you by eleven tomorrow morning, and I suggest that's the last time you pay us a visit."
The redhead turned to Buffy, plainly expecting her to contradict Dawn, but she didn't. Instead, Spike spoke up, his hands firmly on Buffy's shoulders. "Dawn's jumped the gun a bit, I reckon, but the fact of the matter is you've overstepped the line once before and you got a second chance. When it comes to Dawn's safety, nobody gets third chances. We can't have you livin ' here any more. It's not a choice Buffy wanted to make, but until you get your act together you're just not safe to be around. 'Course Buffy would have given you long enough to pack, but I reckon since Bit's so determined she'll concede the point.
If you get what you need for tonight together, I'll drop you off at Harris's or Giles' hotel or wherever you want to go.
Come on, Bit. Let's get that leg of yours fixed up again." Spike turned and pulled Dawn with him. He wasn't surprised when Buffy didn't follow them.
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