last01standing: (Default)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title- The Fallen
Author- [livejournal.com profile] trolllogicfics(AKA Paige or Insane Troll Logic)
Rating- pg-13 (violence)
(other story info on chapter one)

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Thirteen- The choice

There was an uneasy silence in the group as they all packed into the barren room.

“Now that’s just wack.” Gunn said finally. “You say it painted itself there.”

“Yeah,” breathed Jesse. “That’s so not natural.”

“It's blood,” Spike said suddenly. “It's fresh.”

“It’s Tara’s,” Willow confirmed, surprising everyone with her absolute certainty. “They took her.”

“I believe those are the least of our worries,” said Wesley, ignoring Willow’s pointed glare. “We’ve translated a prophesy that seems to say that the world is in jeopardy.”

Cordelia snorted. “The world’s always in jeopardy. That’s nothing new.”

“Cordelia,” Giles said sternly, “you shouldn’t make light of this. Apocalypses are quite serious. People could be killed.”

“Like me?” she retorted sullenly, effectively silencing him.

“We have reason to believe that all of the resurrected are involved.” Wesley allowed diplomatically.

They had relocated to the lobby of the hotel while the older members of the group attempted to explain the situation. Willow was still nearly incoherent sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest. Oz had a comforting hand on her shoulder, listening to the commotion with his normal detached expression. Buffy stood with her arms crossed, staring coldly at Giles. Spike was just behind her. The rest of the groups seemed divided, the scoobies on one side and the Angel Investigations gang on the other. Kate and Lindsey stood somewhere in the middle, inevitably grouped together simply because they didn’t belong anywhere else.

“What’s this prophesy say?” Anya asked brashly. “It’s never just ‘the world’s ending. Sucks for you.’ There’s always a loophole. There has to be. A thousand apocalypses and the world’s still here.”

Wesley took a deep breath a quoted from memory, “’In the time of imbalance when evil has chosen its champions, there shall come the fallen. Seven forgotten souls lost to darkness. Seven chances lost to evil. But where live endures death follows. And where evil is, good remains. Balance begets life. And balance upset is a world’s ultimate end. The one true stop to these last days is balance be restored.”

There was an awkward silence before Jesse, being least versed in prophesies blurted, “What the HELL are you talking about? Did we knock the earth out of orbit or something?”

“Nothing quite so dramatic,” Giles tried to explain, “A few months ago, an exceedingly risky spell was performed that appears to have set off a chain of reactions eventually cumulating in the end of the world.”

“The spell,” Buffy protested, “that was the only way to beat the First and close the hell mouth.”

“You can’t defeated the First,” Wesley snapped. “Don’t you understand? The First Evil has to exist. There’s a delicate balance that has to be maintained.”

“And we broke it,” Alonna said softly, “What happens now?”

“That’s where things become vague,” Giles said tiredly. “We know balance has to be restored, but we don’t know how. Truth be told, we don’t know very much at all.”

“We do know something though,” Lindsey put in suddenly. “The ritual they plan on using is call the Rite of Blood. I don’t know exactly what it says, but if the name’s anything to go by…”

“You,” spat Willow suddenly, “you knew. You knew about Tara. You had to.” She stood up suddenly and stretched out a hand.

Lindsey flew back and slammed into the wall, apparently unable to move. Willow stood up and rounded on him. “You seem to know everything else don’t you.” Her eyes had gone black. “You let her get taken.”

The sheer power surrounding Willow seemed to have rendered the crowd motionless, all of them, except Oz. The werewolf stepped in front of her and said softly, “I’m sorry Willow.”

And he slugged her hard. In shock, Willow hit the ground, on the other side of the room Lindsey sank to the ground, unaware of how close he had been to death. Oz offered Willow a hand up which she took as if in a daze. “Sorry,” Oz mumbled again as he hauled her to her feet.

Lindsey moaned as he pushed himself up. “This is what I get for helping you clowns.”

“He didn’t know Willow,” Oz whispered into her ear. “It’s not his fault.”

“We can’t start blaming everyone now!” Cordelia said sternly.

“Think,” said Andrew, “while we fight amongst ourselves, they may very well be out there building the ultimate doomsday device that rivals anything in Bond faced or…”

“We get it Andrew!” Dawn snapped.

“I think we all want to get Tara back safely,” Giles allowed, “but we have to be open to the very real possibility that this is all a trap. A trap that we cannot afford walking into. We should be…”

Buffy cut him off. “We get the picture. As far as I can see it, we have two choices. When they contact us, we can walk into the trap and try to get Tara back or we could wait and let them come for us.” She swallowed. “So we put this to a vote. I say we go in fast and hard and take care of this as soon as possible.” She surveyed the group intently waiting for them to say something.

Anya couldn’t stand the silence and suddenly blurted, “This is dangerous and stupid and I don’t want to die again.”

“It’s Tara, Buffy.” Willow said almost immediately after. “We’ve got to get her back.”

Buffy nodded and raised an eyebrow at Oz whose gaze flickered to Willow long enough for her to realize that his loyalty to Willow would outweigh his jealously. A second later he answered in the affirmative.

She turned her gaze to Xander, silently posing him the same question and Xander sighed. “I’m sorry Wills, but something’s messing with us and walking into them doesn’t seem like a good option.”

“You know me Buffy,” Spike said softly, “I’m not one to back down from a fight.”

“Got to agree with bleach boy on this one,” Gunn said flippantly. “Nothing beats good old fashioned ass-whopping.”

Giles folded his arms across his chest and stared at the Scoobies. “We could be very well be playing straight into enemy hands. We can’t do anything until we know more.”

“We have to go,” Dawn protested suddenly.

“You don’t get a vote.” Buffy snapped.

“Why not?” Her voice was irritated and she quickly scanned the crowd for leverage. “Jesse’s younger than I am!”

Jesse turned red and mumble, “She’s got a point.”

“Fine,” Buffy conceded, “but if you die, I’ll kill you.”

Dawn smiled brightly at a battle won and, her voice somber, she said, “We have to go. We owe that much to Tara.”

Next to her, Andrew stammered out the same verdict.

Buffy’s eyes drifted over to Kate who was shaking her head. “It’s too risky. I don’t like the feel of it.”

Lindsey leaned unsteadily against the wall, looking defiantly at Willow. “We’d be walking right into a trap. And I’m not looking for a free ride into hell.”

“I think we need Angel back before we do anything,” Cordelia said, slightly amazed that she was agreeing with Lindsey. “The vision was for him anyway.”

She elbowed Doyle who had seemed content to just wait and watch the debate and after a pause he said, “Someone’s in trouble and we help them. That’s how it works right?”

“I don’t like it,” Alonna Gunn said, drawing an uncomfortable amount of attention to herself. “We’ve got to pick our battles and I don’t think this isn’t one of them.”

“She’s right,” Fred squeaked, “we don’t even know what we’re up against. Who we’re fighting what we’re trying to stop…”

Ms Calendar raised an eyebrow. “The longer we wait to take these guys out, the more people die. I say We do this now.”

Wesley glanced around the room noting that he wasthe only one who hadn’t said something yet. He sighed. “If we’re to have any chance at coming out alive, we need surprise. We can’t just walk in blind.”

Buffy licked her lips and drew herself up. “Nine for, nine against.” She scanned the crowd, looking for who she might have missed. She could have sworn there was one more person.

And then she realized who it was. Jesse was sitting mutely next to Xander, observing the scene with a critical view. Willow’s healing spells had done wonders for him, but Buffy could tell that it wasn’t complete. There were fading bruises covering most of his visible skin and he had the upright sit of someone with cracked ribs. But he was the only one who hadn’t given an answer. She swallowed. “What do you want to do Jesse?”

The murmur that had built up in the room went dead silence.

Jesse gave her a cheeky grin but his voice held a slightly bitter edge. “I want to finish high school. Go to college. Live past twenty. That would be nice.” He sighed heavily. “But you know that doesn’t seem like it’ll happen if the world ends.”

“What about what happened to you?” Kate asked slowly.

“This? Me and Xander got beat up way worse than this in junior high. I don’t see us being any better if we put this off.”

“Then it’s settled,” Buffy said to the silent room.

“What now?” Alonna asked.

“We do what they said,” Buffy replied hating that fact with every fiber of her being. “And we get Tara back.”

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The sense of foreboding in the hotel was nearly tangible. Alonna had dragged her brother over to the weapons rack going over ever possible choice of swords, crossbows and axes debating the uses of each one. Willow pulled Oz back to the room 217 where they sat and stared at the message on the wall. Jesse had fallen asleep on the couch. Cordelia and Doyle somehow managed to scrounge up a pack of cards and they were playing poker with a few other people. Kate and Lindsey sat next to each other in an uncomfortable silence. Giles and Jenny Calendar were talking in hushed voices in a secluded corner.
Wesley had, as always resorted to research.

He had heard of the Rite of Blood of course. There were oblique references to it in many works but none that showed exactly what it entailed. He had been using Wolfram and Hart’s special volumes, but he was starting to suspect that something was blocking his information. He could have sworn the Rite of Blood was in the book Dark Majiks.

He closed the Wolfram and Hart book and put it slowly on the corner of the table. He circled towards the back of the room and reached to the back of the closet. He’d made it a point not to take his own collection to Wolfram and Hart. Even after all he’d done, he still had doubts about that place.

He found his slightly battered copy of Dark Majiks and leafed through the yellowed pages. From downstairs he heard a distinctive murmuring of voices and the metallic clang of various bits of weaponry.

And then he found it.

The book was thankfully in English. He scanned the entry on the Rite of Blood , a chill going down his spine. The purpose of the ritual was to create a hellmouth, but by all rights, hellmouths could not be created or destroyed, only active or dormant. That was the way it had always been.

…until Sunnydale. That hellmouth had been outright closed. As far as he knew, that had never happened before. By all natural laws, it shouldn’t be able to happen.

As legend had it, when the world began, it was filled with demons and the greatest of them wished to return to his native realm, so he had created the first hellmouth. But hell is not content to pour in through a single passage so it began to force its way in through other places as well. All in all, thirty seven hellmouths had been created that day. And that number had remained constant ever since.

So conceivably, creating a single passage to hell would open all of the existing ones.

And for the first time in eons, it had just been made possible.

In the time of imbalance

Wesley read what was required for the ritual. Saw that it needed to be performed on a thrice damned ground. “Wolfram and Hart,” he whispered quietly, suddenly hating himself for being one of their employees.

But even that wasn’t as disturbing as some of the blood required: blood of the innocent, blood of a Master, blood of magic, blood of a seer, blood of the chosen, blood of a partner, blood of sacrifice, blood of true evil.

And he knew that at lease two of their number fit their group. The chosen one and the seer.

Buffy and Oz.

The voices downstairs seemed to be getting softer, fading into the distance. He thought he heard somebody say, “Let’s roll.”

He closed the book in a haze and goes into the room where the spell had gone wrong.

Blood’s on the walls but it’s a different message than it was only an hour and a half ago.

It read “Midnight, Wolfram and Hart.”

Wesley stared at the message on the wall for only a second longer than necessary, but even as he rushed down the stairs to follow the group out of the hotel and stop them from gambling with the well-being of the world, he had the sinking sensation that the crucial piece of information had, as always, come a second too late.

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