Storm made her way out of Alan and Andrew's room and down to the kitchen. Logan, obviously enjoying a cup of coffee, greeted her.
She smiled to herself and went to the coffeepot and poured a cup for herself. Ororo seated herself then took a deep drink from her mug before saying, "Good morning Logan. How does this morning find you?"
"Helluva thing, Jean's alive, One-Eye ditched the kid, half the kids in the place saw Jean keel over last night. It ain't barely daylight and we've had a full day already." He said and took a drink of his own coffee.
"How did you know about Scott and Andrew?" she asked with worry. She didn't want her friends to be hurt by gossip and speculation.
"I overhear things sometimes, can't help it, I got good ears. Don't worry, no one else knows, and I won't tell." Logan said seriously.
"Thank you, my friend. I know the whole story will inevitably come out, but I can hope that the time will be delayed as long as possible to give everyone time to deal with their new situations." Storm said and took another drink, enjoying a decent cup of coffee.
"Don't seem to be much for us to do but just hold it together till the dust settles." Logan said and leaned back in his chair.
"That might be the hardest thing to do right now." Ororo said and sat her coffee on the table.
"I know you want to fix everything, but it don't work that way. We just have to hang around till someone needs us." Logan said, looking Ororo right in the eyes.
Ororo nodded and silence fell over the kitchen.
Logan got a contemplative look on his face which turned to resolve. Finally he said, "I'm gonna be out of town for a few days and I need to keep it quiet."
"Of course, where will you be?" Ororo dared to ask.
"I just thought of something I can do. Someone needs my help... she just don't know to ask for it." Logan said and left the room.
* * * * *
Classes were canceled for the day due to the overwhelming lack of teachers.
Andrew, Alan, and Xander were surprised by the lack of visitors and enjoyed a morning of napping and conversation.
Finally it was noon and Andrew opened the portal to his home dimension.
"Hi Buff, how are things at Slayer Central?" Xander asked, noticing that there was still damage in the living room.
"It's fine. When you left, the demon feeding frenzy seemed to stop. How are you doing there? Any demon problems?" She asked pleasantly.
"Not a one. Have you had any luck finding a spell to get rid of the demon beacon?" Xander asked with his goofy smile, the one that had curiously been absent for most of the past twenty-four hours.
Buffy nodded and said, "Yeah, Willow has a spell that she thinks will work, she's ready to try it if you are."
"Sure, come on. Let's give it a try." Xander said as Andrew opened the portal to the floor so Willow could come through.
A moment later Xander, Andrew and Alan were watching as Willow cast the circle and prepared for the ceremony.
Buffy walked through the portal and asked, "Where's Dawn?"
"With Tara, I guess." Xander said before an 'Oh Shit!' expression fell across his face.
"Tara?" Willow asked, suddenly gone pale.
"Yeah, there is a Tara in this dimension. She's here visiting her Uncle Hank. Willow, she's not the same Tara you knew, she is a completely different person than the one you knew." Andrew said, trying to deflect Willow's probable reaction.
"I need to see her." Willow said, putting on her resolved face.
"Fine, can we get Xander's demon magnet demagnitized first? I'd go to get Dawn now, but Alan and I are both confined to bed for a few more days." Andrew said with some tiredness showing through his voice.
"Love, do you need to close the portal and relax?" Alan immediately asked in a soothing tone.
"No, I'll be fine, but the sooner we're done, the better." Andrew responded quietly.
"What happened?" Buffy asked, just noticing that the men were in bed.
"Stroke." Xander said, pointing at Andrew. "Blood loss, non-vampire." He said pointing at Alan.
"I guess you're in a hurry." Buffy said as she watched Willow finish the preparations.
"And you wouldn't be?" Xander asked Buffy seriously.
"Point taken." Buffy said as Willow began the chanting.
Long minutes later Xander was standing in the center of a circle while Willow was chanting and stopping occasionally to throw little pinches of ground herbs at him.
Alan was watching in bafflement as Andrew was following the spell, considering how she was affecting the balance of forces.
Finally, the spell was finished and there was no outward difference.
"Did it work?" asked Xander seriously.
"Rona, Caridad, bring it in." Buffy called through the portal.
The two Slayers came into the room carrying something that looked like a cross between a deformed pit bull and a dead goat. The stench of decay filled the room as the Slayers struggled with the bound beast.
They sat the demon before Xander, and everyone looked on to see its reaction.
The beast did nothing but struggle against the ropes that were binding it. It made no move toward Xander and didn't seem to notice him in the room.
Confident that the spell had worked, Willow said, "It looks like our work here is done. Where's Tara?"
Caridad and Rona dragged the struggling demon back through the portal, as Xander moved to open a window.
Andrew threw a disgusted look toward Willow before casting his mind about to find Tara and Dawn.
He was surprised to find them about ten feet from the bedroom door and rapidly approaching.
Andrew pointed at the bedroom door as Dawn knocked.
"Come in." Alan said, wondering when the thing got closed again.
Dawn and Tara entered the room.
Willow ran for Tara, but Dawn got in the way.
"She's not the Tara you remember. She is a completely different person." Dawn said strongly.
Willow ignored her and made her way to Tara.
Tara endured a hug and kiss without betraying a hint of emotion.
Willow finally noticed and said, "Don't worry Tara, we were meant to be together, I'll protect you and you'll never have to worry about anything again."
"Willow, I'm not her. I don't know you. Please don't touch me. Leave. Me. Alone." Tara said firmly.
Everyone in the room but Dawn was astonished at the confidence in Tara's voice. Dawn just beamed at the strength Tara had just displayed. True, the blessing and joining with the water element did give her a boost of confidence and power, but the strength of will to say those words came from Tara herself.
"You can't mean that, baby. I love you and now that you're back, we can be together forever." Willow said, sure that she could make Tara see it.
"No." Tara said and crossed her arms over her chest.
Willow said, "You just need to spend some time with me and you'll love me again. I know it."
"No." Tara said with firmness.
Willow began chanting in some ancient language that Andrew didn't even know. When Buffy and Dawn realized what Willow was doing, they ran to stop her, but Willow just raised a hand and they froze in place.
Her eyes and hair had turned black and her skin became veiny. Xander moved to stop her but with a flick of her wrist he was knocked into the opposite wall.
As she uttered the last syllable, a blue flash erupted from Tara and Willow stood stunned before she fell to the floor, unmoving... unknowing... unthinking...
Dawn and Buffy were released from Willow's hold. Dawn made her way to Tara, as Buffy made her way to Willow. Andrew and Alan struggled out of bed and made their way to Xander.
Buffy tried to revive Willow, but she wouldn't snap out of whatever trance state she was in. Finally Buffy asked, "What did you do to her?"
"I did it. I performed a blessing on Tara last night to protect her." Dawn said to Buffy and Tara.
"But what did you do to her? I can't wake her up." Buffy said with extreme worry.
"I invoked the protection of Gabriel in accordance with the natural laws." Dawn said and led Tara to a chair, she wasn't looking so good.
"What does that mean?" Buffy asked, cradling Willow against her bosom.
"It means that whatever Willow was trying to do to Tara with that spell, came back to her three-fold." Andrew said as he helped Xander up onto the bed.
"She was going to make me her zombie?" Tara asked in horror.
"Something like that. She had a problem, she used magick to solve it. I don't know what that spell was she was chanting." Dawn said seriously.
Andrew got comfortable in his bed and said, "I don't know either, I don't even recognize the language she was using."
"So what are we going to do with her now?" Buffy asked in a helpless near-whisper.
"Wait for the spell to wear off and hope that she learned a lesson from this." Dawn said simply.
Buffy looked with anger at the uncaring attitude of her sister.
"Willow took care of you and all but adopted you when I died. Is this how you repay the kindness that she's shown you over the years?" Buffy raved.
"The Willow who did those things was wonderful and I loved her a lot. She's gone, she's been disappearing, a little at a time for the past six years. That woman isn't the same person. She uses magick to hurt people. Look around you Buffy, how many people have been hurt by her magick? How many times has she nearly killed one of us or all of us? The old Willow cared about her friends and would never do anything to put them in danger. Willow the witch gets what she wants with magick. She doesn't have to work for anything anymore." Dawn said, her anger turning to anguish.
"I think I would've liked Willow before she was a witch. She sounds like a really nice person." Tara said in comfort to Dawn.
"Yeah, she was the best. Smart, happy, and always fun to be around... I miss her." Dawn said and turned to cry on Tara's shoulder.
"I wish we could make her like she was before she was a witch." Tara said absently while comforting Dawn.
"Done." Willow said in a dark raspy voice. She still had her black hair, black eyes and veiny skin, then a flash of light engulfed her, transforming her into her red-headed, blue-eyed old self.