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The Fire Within by Eowyn315
For Now
A/N: Whew... we've finally reached the end of this ride. Hope you've enjoyed it. It was quite an undertaking. I'm proud to say that the fic won two awards at Spark and Burn Awards - Reader's Choice for Best Episode Stealer, and Judge's Choice. Banners are posted at my LJ.

The songs in this chapter (there are a lot of them) are: Finale from "Pippin," Rent from "Rent" (the part I used starts around 3:40), For Now from "Avenue Q," and the last line of "Phantom of the Opera."


Chapter 20: For Now

“You can’t have her,” Willow said resolutely, squaring her shoulders and standing up to the red-skinned demon, despite her wobbly legs, exhausted from the consecutive spells.

Sweet glanced over at Tara, and then back at Willow with a shrug. “She summoned me. Them’s the rules.”

Willow knew she should wait for the others, wait for Buffy and Spike to burst in and start kicking ass, but she couldn’t hold herself back. Now that Tara was within reach, she would do anything to get her free. “Fine,” she said. “Take me instead.”

“Willow, no!” Tara cried.

Ignoring his bride, Sweet raised his eyebrows with a grin. “Oh, here’s a precocious one. She wants to make a deal.”

Willow nodded. “Yes.”

“I think I’ve got a better offer for you.” A piano started up and, rising from his throne, Sweet began to sing seductively as he gracefully stepped down from the platform.

“Think about the sun, Willow
Think about her golden glance
How she lights the world up
Well, now it’s your chance
With the guardian of splendor
Inviting you to dance
Willow, think about the sun”

“Dance?” Willow asked doubtfully. “Doesn’t that usually end in a flamey death?”

Sweet glided gracefully in circles around her, weaving a spell with his words, enticing her with his music.

“Think about your life, Willow
Days are tame and nights the same
Now, think about the beauty
In one perfect flame
And the angels of the morning
Are calling out your name
Willow, think about the sun…”


Buffy and Spike pushed themselves as hard as they could, charging up the stairs toward Willow and Tara. Guards posted at the top heard the commotion and started down, meeting Buffy and Spike as they rounded the uppermost bend in the staircase. They were more of Sweet’s minions, and Buffy managed to pick one off with her rifle; but a second guard knocked the gun out of her hands before she could set up another shot and sent the weapon flying over the railing.

“Oops,” Buffy said, peering down the spiral for a moment before delivering a kick to the minion’s temple, sending him plummeting to his death. Fortunately, the staircase was narrow enough that only two minions could fight them at once, but Buffy could see they were at least three deep on the stairs.

Spike shot one of them in the stomach, but before he collapsed, the minion caught Spike with a head-butt, and the vampire tumbled down the stairs, slamming into the wall at the next curve.

While he recovered, Buffy fought off two guards at once, being extra careful with her footwork on the steps. She tried to remember what Giles had taught her about fighting on uneven terrain, and wished she’d been more agreeable when he’d suggested they pick up their regular training schedule after her resurrection. She decided the person on the higher ground seemed to have the advantage, since she kept getting punched and kicked in the head, while the best she could do was blows to the knees and stomach.

Sensing Spike coming up behind her, she cried, “Get me on the other side of them!” Without a word, Spike lifted her up and launched her into the air. She somersaulted over the heads of the first four minions, tackling one to the ground as she landed. Buffy drove her fist through his eye socket, hard enough to punch a hole in his head.

“Eww,” she said. Shoving the body off the steps, she quickly turned to the one remaining guard above her.

Spike, meanwhile, continued to spar with the two in the front line. Without enough time or space to aim his gun, he used it as a bludgeoning tool, bashing the minions with the butt of the rifle. He really preferred that, anyway. He’d never been a big fan of guns. He smashed his weapon into one of their throats, bending him backward over the railing, but the other grabbed him from behind and tossed him into the wall.

Buffy nearly lost her balance as her feet missed a step, but she quickly recovered and attacked the minion above her with a kick that was supposed to knock his feet out from under him. The minion went down, but used her momentum to send her toppling over the railing, and it was only by a combination of luck and gymnast’s skill that she managed to catch hold of the bar and swing herself back up to the stairs.

“Buffy, you all right?” Spike yelled over the fighting, as he slammed the butt of his gun into a guard’s head and flipped him over the rail.

“Fine!” she replied, catching her minion around the knees and pulling him down so that his spine cracked against the stairs.

They both spun at the same time, aiming their fists at opposite sides of the last remaining minion’s head. The head whipped around, snapping completely off at the force of the double blow. As the body dropped between them, Buffy and Spike were left facing each other, their faces streaked with grime and bobble-head minion goo. Buffy stood a couple steps above him, sweaty and panting hard with exertion.

Grabbing her by the hips, Spike spun Buffy into the wall, stepping carelessly over the dead bodies of the minions, and smashed his lips against hers. A brief indulgence, and then they were both off and running again, headed for the top of the stairs.


The tempo picked up, and more instruments added to the background music. When Sweet began to sing again, he was backed by an entire invisible chorus.

“Think about your life, Willow
Think about the dreams you planned
Think about the moment
That's so close at hand
When the power and the glory
Are there at your command

“The power and the glory
Are there at your command”

Buffy and Spike burst through the door, but Willow took no notice, watching Sweet as he tap-danced in circles around her, the chorus beckoning her to give in. The two warriors skidded to a stop, taking in the scene, afraid to intervene for fear that they would get Willow hurt.

“The power and the glory
Are there at your command
Willow, think about your life!”

“Don’t you want to be powerful, Willow?” Sweet asked. “Don’t you want that? How long have you lived in the Slayer’s shadow? Trapped, held back by those who don’t want to see you shine. Unable to reach your full potential.”

At this, Buffy started to charge forward, but Spike held her back, sensing the greater significance of Willow’s situation.

“Rivers belong where they can ramble,” Sweet sang. “Eagles belong where they can fly… I can do that for you. All it costs is her life.” He pointed to Tara.

Willow looked at Tara, then at her friends. Finally, she faced Sweet, and began to sing hesitantly.

“I’m not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I’m never tied to anything
I’ll never be free”

As she sang, her voice became stronger, her stance more self-assured.

“I wanted magic shows and miracles
Mirages to touch
I wanted such a little thing from life
I wanted so much”

Willow turned back to Tara.

“I never came close, my love
We nearly came near
It never was there
I think it was here”

The witches’ eyes locked together, and the love that still lingered was evident to both of them; but their attention was distracted by Giles, Xander, Anya, and Dawn, who’d finally made it up the stairs and into the throne room.

“They showed me crimson, gold, and lavender,” Willow went on, now singing only to Tara.

“A shining parade
But there’s no color I can have on earth
That won’t finally fade
When I wanted worlds to paint
And costumes to wear
I think it was here
’Cause it never was there
No, no, no, it never was there”

As the music grew more confident, the melody echoing Willow’s attitude, she marched up to the platform and extended her hand to Tara, helping her down off the throne.

“You’re turning me down?” Sweet asked her, coming around and gripping Tara’s arm, holding her away from Willow. “I can offer you power…”

“I don’t want power,” Willow replied. “I want Tara.”

“All right, then. Deal’s a deal.” He let go and pushed Tara toward Willow. “Be seeing you around.”

“That’s it?” Spike asked disdainfully. “Bunch of namby-pambying and you just up and let us leave? What a crappy demon.”

“Hey, I’m not a bad guy,” Sweet said, holding up his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Just like to teach the world a song! That whole ‘taking my bride down to hell’ thing – clause in my contract, you know? So, I’ll let you be on your way, and you kids just enjoy the music, all right?”

“Not so fast,” Buffy said, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against the closest wall. “We leave, and the evil sing-a-long stays with you, you hear?”

“No can do, honey-pie,” Sweet chuckled, breaking free of the Slayer’s grasp. “No bride, no big finish. The show must go on.”

“So, if we take Tara back… we’ll never stop singing,” Dawn said. The others glanced around at each other with renewed worry.

Sweet eyed Buffy with interest. “What about you, Slayer? You were willing to make a trade before.”

Buffy’s cheeks flushed at the memory of nearly dancing herself to death. It was no surprise when she felt Spike’s hand tighten on her wrist, a subtle but firm reminder that she wasn’t that girl anymore. “Well, I’m not willing to now,” she replied.

“Is that so? Had a change of heart? Decided you’re happy with your life?” he pressed. Catching sight of Buffy and Spike’s joined hands, Sweet gave them a calculated grin.

“Think a little love song changes everything, do you? How do you leave the past behind when it keeps finding ways to get to your heart?” he challenged them harshly.

“It reaches way down deep and tears you inside out
’Til you’re torn apart
How can you connect in an age
Where strangers, landlords, lovers
Your own blood cells betray?
What binds the fabric together
When the raging, shifting winds of change
Keep ripping away?”

Buffy faltered a little under the musical assault, but she stood her ground with Spike’s shoulder pressed against hers. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Because I figured something out.”

“Oh?” said Sweet. “Do share.”

As if on cue, a perky, upbeat tune began to play, and Buffy stepped forward.

“Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied
Everyone goes ’round a little empty inside”

“Take a breath,”
Xander chimed in. “Look around.”

“Swallow your pride,”
Willow added.

“For now...” Xander sang. Then again, with Buffy and Willow joining him, “For now...”

One by one, the others stepped forward as well, offering their contributions to the song.

“Nothing lasts,” sang Spike.

Anya added, “Life goes on.”

“Full of surprises,”
came from Dawn.

“You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes,” Giles went on, with a nod to Buffy.

“You’re going to have to make a few compromises…” Xander came up and put his arm around his fiancée. “For now...”

“For now...”
Giles echoed.

“But only for now!” they sang in unison, splitting off into two groups, one echoing the other. “For now…”

“Only for now! (For now)
Only for now! (For now)
Only for now!”

“For now we’re healthy,”
Willow broke out.

“For now we’re employed,” Xander sang with a smile.

Together, Dawn and Anya said, “For now we’re happy…”

“If not overjoyed,”
Buffy finished.

Giles shot a sidelong glance at Spike. “And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now...”

“For now...”
Spike returned with a knowing look.

“For now...” Xander sang.

“For now...” Anya echoed.

“But only for now! (For now)” Again, they went into the group-sing, with half of them singing, “Only for now!” and the other half alternating with their interjections. “For now.”

“Only for now! (For now)
Only for now!

“Only for now!
(For now there’s life!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s love!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s work!)
For now there’s happiness!
But only for now!
(For now discomfort!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s friendship!)
Only for now (For now!)
Only for now!

“Don’t stress,
Let life roll off your backs
Except for death and paying taxes,
Everything in life is only for now!”

“Each time you smile…”
Xander sang.

“...Only for now,” echoed the group.

“It’ll only last a while,” Buffy went on.

“...Only for now.”

“Life may be scary…”
said Dawn.

“...Only for now
But it’s only temporary,”
the group chimed in.

“Ba-dum ba-dum
Ba-dum ba-dum
Ba dum ba-dum
Ba-da da da da
ba-da da-da da da-da
Ba-dum ba-da, ba-dum ba-da
Ohhhh –”

“Everything in life is only for now,”
Willow finished.

“Aww, that’s sweet,” Sweet said in a saccharine voice. Then, his tone hardened. “One of you is staying.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” She and Spike charged at Sweet and, as if on cue, the door burst open and more minions swarmed in. Giles and Xander took aim with their guns, while Anya, Willow, and Dawn attempted to do battle with their own weapons. Unarmed, Tara found herself grabbed by one of the minions. Willow glanced over in time to see him hold Tara by the head and snap her neck. She fell to the ground in a heap.

“Tara!” Willow screamed, running over to her lover’s body. The din of the battle around them faded away, as though they were the only two in the room. She clutched Tara with disbelief. It wasn’t possible. She couldn’t have made it this far only to lose her now. “Tara, baby…”

“I’m okay…” Tara said softly, sounding kind of surprised.

Willow opened her eyes to see Tara looking up at her. “Willow, did you…?”

“I did a spell,” she admitted, realization dawning as the words came back to her. Let her flesh not be torn, let her blood leave no stain… And however they try to destroy her, let her never die… She hadn’t thought the spell even worked, but somehow it had managed to keep Tara unharmed, just as she’d willed it. “Right after you were taken. I just – I was afraid they’d hurt you.”

“Am I… immortal now?”

Willow smiled. “Just in this dimension, baby.” Her face fell, as relief gave way to guilt and shame. “God, Tara, I’m so sorry! This is all my fault!”

“Shh,” Tara said, soothing Willow’s sobs. “It’s all right…”

“No, it’s not. How can you ever forgive me?”

“Because I have faith in you, Willow,” Tara replied, drawing a wide-eyed expression of awe from her lover. “You turned down the offer of power, and you showed me how important I am to you. I know all the apologies haven’t been made, and the trust isn’t entirely rebuilt… but I think it’s a good start.”

Willow’s tears gave way to relieved giggles, as she and Tara hugged and kissed each other amidst the fighting.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike were trying to take on Sweet. The swift-footed demon was elusive, dancing in circles around them as they tried to fight him with their usual combat techniques. They’d barely managed to land a blow, and Buffy worried that Sweet was distracting them, so that the weaker Scoobies were left to fight his minions.

“Spike, this isn’t working!” she complained, as they backed away to regroup.

Spike nodded. “We’ve gotta dance, love,” he told her, lifting her into the air and tossing her into a spinning kick that managed to connect with Sweet’s head. Getting the idea, Buffy made her movements more delicate and graceful, without sacrificing her power, letting Spike lead her in a fierce ballet she didn’t even realize they were capable of. They twirled and leapt, and it was pure artistry, but it was also furious battle as together they managed to land more and more of their blows. They beat Sweet across the room, backing him up toward his throne.

“Spike!” Dawn called out, tossing him her sword. Spike caught it and handed it off to Buffy, who pirouetted into a thrust that impaled Sweet. The demon staggered backward, collapsing onto his throne, and looked out at his enemies, who were finishing off the last of his minions.

“You alone can make my song take flight,” he sang mournfully. “It’s over now, the music of the night!” With this last refrain, Sweet slumped down in his chair, dead.

Spike glanced at Buffy, shifting nervously, unwilling to make the first move. He was terrified that the breaking of the spell would mean the end of whatever they had had together. Despite her reassurances and her declaration of love, Spike’s heart had been broken too many times for him not to be wary.

Buffy eased his fear by snaking her arms around his waist and leaning into him, encouraging him to hold her. He dipped his head so that his mouth was next to her ear and asked softly, “So… now this is over, you still, uh…?”

She smiled at him. “Yeah. I still really, really do.” With that, she pulled his head towards hers and kissed him.

“Hey,” Willow said, pulling away from Tara momentarily as something caught her eye across the room. “When did that happen?”

Tara followed her gaze to where Spike was holding Buffy close, their heads inclined towards each other as Spike murmured something in her ear. Whatever he said, it made Buffy smile and reach up to caress his cheek, pressing a soft kiss on his lips.

“Guess I missed a lot while I was gone,” said Tara. Willow just nodded, wondering if she’d been so focused on saving Tara that she hadn’t even registered the change in her best friend’s relationship with the vampire. None of the others looked particularly surprised, even if they didn’t all seem very happy about it.

Pulling away from Spike, Buffy turned to the witches. “Willow, can you get us home?”

With Tara’s help, Willow managed to reverse her spell, depositing them all back in the Magic Box.

After a moment of silence, Buffy asked, “Okay. Anybody wanna sing?” She looked around at the others. “Anybody?” They all shook their heads, and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief.



the end