Part Twenty-Nine

“Willow - ”

“Daniel, I don’t want to hear it,” Willow cut him off before he could plead his case. “You know why you can’t come.”

No, he didn’t… okay, yes he did, but he wasn’t about to just let her walk out of here. The plan had too many flaws, Kawalsky had to see that! Daniel didn’t understand how they honestly thought it was the ‘only’ plan.

There had to be another way.

“Willow, it’s too dangerous,” he pointed out the obvious. They weren’t just going to stand there and let her walk out of here, were they? “What if they capture one of you? How will you fight them? Bullets won’t work - ”

“And they're strong,” Faith added, moving to block Willow from leaving the room. “You saw me fight them, I could hardly hurt the bastards. When they got me, Red, it only took two of them to take me down. What chance do you guys have if something goes wrong? You’re human.”

“We’re not going to engage. Faith, we’re going to -”

“Engage? Red, you’re kidding yourself. All it will take is for one of those things to get their hands on you and it’s all over.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Willow argued.

“No? It happened to me, Red, and I’m the Slayer. I’m stronger and faster than you, I was BORN to fight demons and when it came down to that fight, Red, it meant shit. I may as well be human for what good it did me. And you’re willing to go to them… damn, Red, you’re insane.”

“Wait,” Kawalsky interrupted the argument. “Slayer? What the hell is a Slayer?”

Daniel wanted to know the answer to that question too. A lot of what Faith had said didn’t make sense.

Willow shook her head. “I’ll explain it to you on the way, Sir. Right now, we don’t have time.”

No! “Willow -”

“Daniel!” Willow turned to face him. “Please, just… trust me. What Faith said isn’t going to happen. We’re going to be all right.” She gave him a meaningful look. “We’re going to get out alive, nothing is going to happen.”

Daniel shook his head. He knew what Willow was trying to say to him. SR-1 were trained for this. They were used to coming up against enemies like this but… Daniel had a bad feeling about this. A really bad feeling, and he couldn’t shake it. The last time he had a feeling like this, he had died. “Willow, listen to Faith.”

Faith blinked in surprise at him. “Trust me, Red, you’re in over your head. We,” she indicated to Angel and Cordelia, “can find a different way. You just have to hold on.”

“For how long? Faith, I don’t understand my links, I don’t know how to control them. The demons can and will use them to destroy us, and if that happens, it’s hell on Earth.”

H-hell on Earth? She wasn’t being literal, was she?

“This way it makes sense. If I die, or if my team dies, the rest of you will live and you can stop them. You have the witches you need to defeat them, you have not one,” Willow pointed to Daniel, “but two men who can research and find a way to stop the final ritual. My team and I are just muscle, we’re expendable.”

“No one is expendable,” Angel growled.

“Christ, Red, listen to yourself. You’re nuts,” Faith shouted at her. “How the hell do you think you’re going to find the demons? I know you said the link… but where are you going to lead them? What if some innocent people get caught up in this?”

Willow faltered at the question and Daniel resisted the urge to shout for joy. Not that it was really appropriate to shout for joy anyway, not with what they were saying.

“I think I know where we can take them,” she said. “I have some maps in Angel’s office of the tunnels, if we go via the tunnels, hopefully that will force them underground.”

“It’s still not enough,” Daniel argued. “Willow this…” Daniel hated to admit this but, it really was insane. He could see why Willow would think her plan would work but he could also see where it could fail. Why wouldn’t she listen to reason? “There has to be another way.”

Willow’s sad eyes met his. “There isn’t.”

No! There was another way! “Why can’t we call Jack? He’ll help you and he’ll protect you, Willow. We might be able to convince him to keep this quiet.” Yes, he was grasping at straws.

“Jack?” Cordelia repeated. “Who’s Jack?”

Daniel hesitated. “My best friend -”

“General O’Neill,” Willow informed her friends.

Faith looked at him like he was nuts. “You want to call in Red’s General? No way.”

“Then what do we do? Do we let them go off on their own?” Daniel couldn’t keep the outrage from his voice. He realized yelling at Faith wasn’t fair, but he was getting desperate.

“Yes.”

What? Angel wasn’t serious, was he?

“Willow obviously knows what she’s doing,” Angel’s tone was cold. “If she wants to pull another act of heroics, then we’re not going to stop her.”

“We’re not?” Cordelia was stunned.

Willow narrowed her eyes at Angel. “Another act of heroics? What are you talking about, Angel? This isn’t about heroics.”

“Isn’t it? You went off to save Faith on your own, and now isn’t any different,” Angel didn’t disguise his anger.

“Wait a second, you’re pissed that I went and saved Faith?” Willow shook her head. “I did what I had to Angel, it was the only way.”

“It was stupid.”

“It was successful,” Willow reminded him. “Angel, you have to stop thinking of me as that eighteen year old girl you knew back in Sunnydale. I thought we were past this, but obviously we aren’t. That act of ‘heroics’ as you call it, is what I do for a living -”

“Rosenberg…” Kawalsky said her name in a warning tone.

“It’s okay, Sir,” Willow told him. “They don’t know anything.”

Angel rolled his eyes.

“Angel,” she focused on him again. “The Willow you knew and loved died at graduation. I’m not her and you have to let her go, let me go. I’m not yours to protect anymore.”

Daniel saw the hurt flash across Angel’s face.

“I’m doing this and if you want to stop me, you’ll have to kill me.”

Damn it! “Willow, please…”

“Daniel.” Kawalsky put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “She knows what she’s doing.”

No she didn’t! It only sounded like she did. Daniel could see the well hidden uncertainty in her eyes. She wasn’t sure of what she was doing, it terrified her, but she was convinced this was the only way.

“And before you ask, you’re not coming. Even if Rosenberg wasn’t in love with you, I wouldn’t let you. You’re as compromised as she is.”

Daniel ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “Well then at least take Angel with you… or Faith, she’s the Slayer… whatever that is. We don’t need both of them.” Actually, Daniel didn’t know that. Everything he was saying now came straight from the desperation he was feeling.

Daniel didn’t want Willow to go.

Not now, not after they… god, he loved her! He couldn’t let her go.

Willow walked up to him, and when he looked into her eyes, he gasped. All of the emotion she was feeling was open for him to see. She wasn’t hiding anything from him. “Yes you do, Daniel. Those demons, they’re trying to end the world and if we all die now, no one will be left to stop them. I need you to help Angel here, Daniel. You need to get Giles, get him to safety and find a way to stop them.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but she covered it with her hand.

“And I will be back, Daniel. I’m not going to die, I don’t want to die.” She smiled sadly. “I have too much to live for.”

His heart shattered at her words. “I can’t lose you, Willow. I don’t think I could…”

“You’re NOT going to lose me,” she said, barely containing her emotions. “I’m not going to die. I don’t give up, not while I’m still breathing.”

Daniel closed his eyes. “I still don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it,” her voice was gentle now. “You just have to do it.”

Every fiber of Daniel’s being was screaming at him to stop her, but he couldn’t. He didn’t have that kind of power over her. “Willow…”

She shook her head. “No more, Daniel. Decision has been made, we can’t waste any more time. We need to get ready to go, I have to go through the maps with Grogan before we leave.”

Shit! He had to stop her, he had to! “What if you’re wrong?” he said, his last futile effort to talk some sense into her. “How do you even know they’re going to fall for this? They might not be after you.” He still couldn’t shake that feeling that something was going to go wrong, deadly wrong.

Daniel wasn’t a superstitious man, but the feeling he had was almost enough to make him want to call in the SGC despite the consequences. This was going to end badly.

“They came after me before,” Willow told him. “They’re after my magic.”

Wasn’t that more reason for her not to go?

Before he could say anything, she turned to her team. “We’ll take traditional weapons, everything we can carry.”

Kawalsky nodded. “We need to find a place to draw them into, some place that’s away from people and where we can hide. If we go via tunnels, we’ll be enclosed and our escape options will be limited. We need somewhere - ”

“Already on it, Sir,” Willow told him. “I saw a place when I went jogging yesterday, I just need to see the map of the tunnels before I can lead us there. We’ll use Angel’s office to discuss our plan of attack… if that’s okay with Angel.”

No, Angel, say no.

“I can’t stop you.”

NO! Daniel watched despairingly as SR-1 disappeared into Angel’s office. God damn it! It wasn’t going to end like this. They weren’t going to go, were they? Daniel cursed. “I wish I'd never encouraged Willow to come back here,” he muttered angrily to himself.

Cordelia, Faith, and Angel turned and stared at him.

“What?” Faith was looking at him strangely.

“I said… nothing,” he felt a stab of guilt for being so thoughtless. “I’m just… we’re not going to let her go, are we?”

“She’s determined to do it her way, I say we let her,” Angel stated.

Faith and Cordelia gaped at him in shock. “You’re not serious, are you, Fang?”

The vampire nodded. “She’s not going to listen to reason and I’m tired of arguing with her. If she wants to do it her way, she can do it her way.”

NO!

“And if I want to do it my way, I’ll do it my way.”

“Your way, Fang? What are you up to?” Faith looked hopeful.

Angel shook his head and glanced towards the door then at Daniel, silently implying he wasn’t going to talk when it could easily get back to Willow.

“I won’t say anything,” Daniel assured him. “Whatever your plan is, I’ll go along with it.” Um… did he actually just say that? God, how desperate was he?

Angel studied him silently for a minute. “We’ll have to wait until Willow goes. Until then, everyone start packing up. Willow’s right about one thing, we’ve wasted enough time already.”

Just as Daniel started to help unload some of the weapons from the cabinet, the door to Angel’s office opened.

“Someone remind me never to make fun of Rosenberg’s map fetish again,” Grogan said as he walked out of the office.

Willow grinned at his words. “We all have our kinks.”

Joking? They were joking around at a time like this?

“You know where you’re going?” Angel asked, his expression still cold.

Willow stopped in front of him. “Yeah.” She looked back to her team. “We’re heading through the tunnels now. We can’t wait any longer.”

It took everything Daniel had not to try to stop her again. He didn’t like her going and he didn’t like being left behind. How was he going to help here? These people didn’t trust or know him. At least with SR-1 he would be able to do something.

“Be careful.”

Willow nodded at Angel, then turned to Daniel. “I’ll be back, I promise you.”

Daniel didn’t want to hear promises. “I can go with you.”

“You can’t. If you came with us, I’d be distracted.” Willow reached up and touched the side of his face. “Be careful, and stay with Faith and Angel. They can protect you.’

“You be careful, too.”

Willow stepped away from him. There was no kiss goodbye, no loving declaration. They didn’t need to say how much this was killing both of them. Saying it would only make it harder. Taking a deep breath, Willow approached Faith and Cordelia. “I know you’re angry at me but… keep Daniel safe.”

Tears filled his eyes.

“We’ll take care of her, Daniel,” Kawalsky assured him. “Nothing’s going to happen to our girl.”

Willow laughed slightly at the ‘our girl’. “We should go.” Their eyes met one more time. “We’ll meet you at Caritas as soon as the links are severed.” Daniel couldn’t speak, all he could do was watch her walk out of the room.

“Fang, tell me you have a plan?” Faith asked once Willow and the others were out of sight.

Angel nodded and picked up a sword. “She’s not going alone,” he declared.

Daniel fought the urge to cheer. “We’re going after her?”

“No,” Angel told him. “I’m following them. I’ll be able to track their scents from a distance, so they won’t catch on.”

Faith didn’t look happy. “What about the rest of us?”

“Faith, you, Daniel, and the witches will go get Giles from the hospital. When you get Giles from the hospital, I want you to find a way to cut the ties from the demons mystically. Willow might not want to use magic, but I do. Cordelia, Gunn, Rondell and everyone else, pack up as much as you can here and get to Lorne’s. If you’re there before Faith and the others, start researching on ways to cut the links too. So you’ll need to take as many magic books as you can.” Angel ordered. “Severing those links is the only way to end this.”

“I know of a binding spell that could sever the ties,” Annabelle announced. “Our coven uses it on witches who have become too dangerous. But I advise on thinking carefully before using it. The spell binds the power of the witch to a crystal, in essence, she’ll be stripped of her powers.”

Strip Willow’s powers? Daniel wasn’t so sure that was a good idea.

“Do you know the spell by heart?” Angel wanted to know.

“No, but the coven can perform it from New York. Distance is not an issue for this spell, all they need is the name of the witch,” Annabelle said. “Only a few witches know of the spell’s existence.”

Angel pulled his cell out of his pocket and threw it to her. “Call your coven on the way to the hospital. Will it take them long to set it up and do it?”

“We have all the ingredients on hand.”

“Tell them to set it up and to be on standby, we’ll use it as a last resort.”

“Angel, what about the final ritual, won’t we need Willow for that?”

Angel shook his head. “We have Annabelle and the coven but… I want you to find another spell to sever the ties. Annabelle’s spell is an absolute last resort. I’d prefer to keep Willow as she is.”

Cordelia nodded.

“I have to go,” Angel announced. “I don’t want them to get too far ahead of me.”

“I’m going with you,” Daniel stated in no uncertain terms, standing in Angel’s way. “You can’t stop me.”

“I like him,” Faith commented to Cordelia. “Red really knows how to pick ‘em.”

Cordelia nodded approvingly. “Anyone who can stand up to Broodboy without batting an eye gets the okay from me.”

Great, he had the approval of Willow’s friends.

“Not this time,” Angel replied to Daniel’s demand. “I’ll need to move fast. If there is trouble, I won’t be able to protect you.”

Daniel didn’t care.

“I’ll bring her back to you, but I have to do it alone. The demons are slower than I am, but I’ll lose that advantage if you come with me.”

“Not to mention what Red would do if she saw you,” Faith agreed. “She’d freak, and maybe get herself killed because of it.”

Shit! Daniel didn’t want to be left behind, but he saw their point. If they had had more time, he would have argued more but he didn’t want Angel to lose them. “I’ll go with Faith.”

Angel nodded. “Move fast. Daniel has a point, we don’t really know for sure they’re after Willow. She is the strongest witch here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be after the others.”

Willow was the strongest witch here? Stronger than Annabelle?

“That’s it then.” Faith clapped her hands together. “We’re out of here. Daniel, Tara, Annabelle, let’s get moving. We don’t know how far away those demons are.”

“Take small weapons with you,” Angel advised them. “You’ll be in a hospital so don’t take anything that will draw attention to you.”

Daniel turned and picked up a small blade, longer than a dagger but shorter than a sword. God, what he’d do right now for a zat. The Goa’uld weapon would really come in handy.

“Daniel?” Angel called to him.

“Yes?”

The vampire was looking at him with an unreadable expression. “You said before, that you were sorry that you encouraged Willow to come back here…”

Shit. “I didn’t mean it, I was upset. I don’t - ”

“It’s okay,” Angel assured him. “I just need to know… You encouraged Willow to come back here, when?”

“A year ago”

“The first time she came back,” Angel was speaking more to himself than anyone else. “I always wondered why she came back.”

All of them, Angel, Faith, and Cordelia, were staring at him.

“We ah, had just met and she mentioned you,” Daniel felt the need to explain. “I brought her the ticket as a present for getting into the, um, program.”

Angel continued to stare at him until finally he said two words. “Thank you.”

He was gone before Daniel had a chance to say ‘you’re welcome’.

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