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ardent for some desperate glory

Chapter Text

Sunnydale, California, 1910

The temple was lit only by candlelight, but the girl’s red hair caught the flickering flames as she approached the altar, giving her the appearance of a wayward halo. Her companion stopped and let go of her hand to take hold of a coppery strand and examine it. Feeling the tug on her hair, Willow turned and smiled.

“You look magical,” Tara said, looking down at her feet and returning her hand to her side. “Like you belong here.”

“You’re the one who knows what you’re doing. I haven’t got the slightest clue what this place truly is, or even what you--what we--truly are.”

“Witches,” Tara whispered in her ear. “That’s the word, and you know it well. Witches.”
Willow laughed. “Witches. We’d be outcasts if they knew.”

“We’d be outcasts if they knew...other things, too.” Tara raised her shy eyes to Willow’s. “Being daughters of Sappho is every bit as dangerous as being daughters of Gaia. We’re deviants.”

“Deviant witches. The bane of polite society.” Willow took Tara’s hand in hers again and proceeded towards the altar. “And yet we’re about to do society a great service.”

“Are you certain you’re strong enough?” Tara asked anxiously. “I haven’t pushed you too far, too quickly?”

“You’ve pushed me in no way I cannot handle. Now come. Midnight is nearly upon us.”

The two girls knelt in front of the altar and raised their joined hands in supplication. “Mother Earth, goddess, the augurs have shown a great evil approaching, and we your daughters beseech you to aid in its defeat. Four vampires, children of darkness, enemies of good, come to tear this place asunder, to sin against you and against order. We seek to defeat them, to protect the innocent from their cruel deeds. For this, we beg your help: grant that these four may be weakened, brought low by your great power.”

A fire sprung up on the altar, and Willow and Tara stepped back instinctively, exchanging wondering glances. “We bring you offerings,” they continued, “to show our gratitude.” Tara reached into her apron pocket and pulled out a flask of wine. With a nod from Willow, she began to sprinkle it over the flames, and together the girls chanted: “Mater, audi nos. Oramus: dona nobis praesidium. Serva nos, serva nos, ser--”

Their prayer was never finished. Four figures stood, silhouetted in the temple doorway; four vampires descended upon them.
“I know who you are,” Tara whispered, struggling against her captor’s arms. “Angelus.”

He smiled. “That’s right. It seems my reputation has spread even to this far corner of the world.”

“And me?” called another vampire, grabbing the wine from Tara’s hands and taking a swig. “You’ve heard of me?”

“W-w-william the Bloody,” Tara murmured.

“Spike!” He thrust the wine flask away from him petulantly, and it clattered to the floor, staining the stones red. “I’m Spike.”

“Spike, darling,” his lover hissed, wrapping her arms around him, “you mustn’t be so loud.”

“Quite right,” said Spike, shaking his hair back and leaning into her. “I’ve forgotten my manners. This, girls, is Drusilla. And we’re going to eat you.”

“Don’t you know what we are?” Willow asked desperately. “We can fight you!”

“You’re witches,” the woman who held her laughed. “Foolish young witches. And so tender.”

“Darla,” Angelus snapped, “don’t encourage them. It’s time we ate.”

“It’s time you were dust!” Willow cried, and spread her arms, freeing herself and knocking Darla unconscious in a burst of magical force, but doubling over from the expense of energy.

“All right,” sneered Angelus, and his face warped into its true form. “Now I’m angry.”

He sunk his teeth in Tara’s neck, and Willow let out a scream. “You can’t!”

Angelus lifted his bloody face. “I just did.” He let Tara fall, limp, to the ground.

Willow ran to her. “Tara! Tara, love, can you hear me?”

“Here,” Tara whispered, and placed her hand in Willow’s.

Now power surged through her, and, turning away from her lover’s body, she faced the vampires.

“Bloody hell,” Spike muttered and fled with Drusilla.

Angelus only laughed. “Does it hurt, little girl?”

“You wouldn’t know,” Willow said, her voice deep, her eyes dark. “You can’t feel pain. Not like I do.”

“Why don’t you kill me, then? Find out just how strong you are?”

“No,” Willow breathed. “You need to live. Live in misery.” She spread her arms to the sky and called out, almost in song: “Noce hunc, deos, noce hunc: redde animum!”

And as she fell to the ground, exhausted, a new man struggled to his feet.

An Angel.