Author's Note: This story is set just after Dopplegangerland in Season 3. There is no continuity with the series from there in. There is no link between this story and Wild Willow or Hells mouth, Heavens Gate.
As darkness fell over Sunnydale, the last of the sunlight retreating behind the hills, the tons folk shut themselves away for the night, at least those with an underlying suspicion that dark forces were at work during the night hours. Paranoia could be a life saver in Sunnydale. Those that did go out took a risk of not coming home, at least not as anything human. But there are people who reversed those odds.
People like Buffy.
Any creature that encountered her would be unlikely to win over itís expected prey. In fact it was far more likely they would end up a pile of dust thanks to a swift stake through the heart. But even with her role as a Slayer Buffy never got through a night of patrolling without wishing she was warmer in her own bed. Or someone elseís. Her attempts at relationships tended to crash and burn. Off hand she couldnít think of a boyfriend that hadnít been killed, tried to kill her or had been killed by her. The killing theme seemed to run throughout. It was the price a girl paid for being the chosen one. Tonight was slow. So slow in fact that it was as close as physically possible to motionless. Normally this would have been a blessing but Buffy was stake happy. The vampire front had been quiet all week and she was itching for some evil creature to jump her just so she could defeat it.
Training with Giles was a small outlet for physical aggression but it had itís limits. She wasnít allowed to kill him for one thing. Not that she was a violent girl by nature. Impulsive certainly, shallow potentially and catty occasionally but not the overtly violent type. But she still felt like killing something. What she saw when she turned the corner was something she couldnít kill. In fact it was probably the last person in the world she ever wanted to kill.
"Hey Will." Buffy waved to the red hear who walked casually down the street.
"Hi Buffy. Find any Vampires?"
"None. Nada. Zilch. All of a sudden this town is a vampire free zone. Why are you out tonight?"
"Oh, planetary alignment stuff. Tonight is the best night in a hundred years to cast magic mirror spells."
"What do they do?"
"Well.. they work like mirrors. Only theyíre magic."
"Like a compact mirror?" Buffy pulled a small make up mirror from her satchel of Slaying implements.
"Yeah. Sort of like that."
"Isnít magic wonderful."
"Anyway there were some ingredients that I needed to pick up from the all night witchcraft store."
"The all night witch craft store?"
"Oh yeah. Itís under new ownership."
"Let me guess, itís for the same reason every shop in this town is ever put under new ownership?"
"Mysterious accidental death." Both girls said in unison.
"Anyway, the streets are safe right?"
"I guess so." Buffy almost sighed. "Iíd better keep moving. See you tomorrow."
Willow wandered off with the innocent spring in her step that she always seemed to have. Buffy on the other hand slumped down at a bus stop. What was the point of being a Slayer if there was nothing to slay. On the other hand, perhaps something had happened to the Hellmouth. Maybe vampires were heading somewhere else now. Another town. Somebody elseís problem. Then she could live a normal life as a normal girl and never have to worry about the supernatural again.
"Blech." Buffy choked out her sentiment.
It was nearly impossible for her to imagine a life without slaying, her existence being free of her talents and challenges.
As tough as it could be at times, Buffy liked being a Slayer. And if she ever met such an alternate self, such as Willow had had the dubious fortune of doing recently, Buffy would be the first to tell her what she was missing. Slaying made her what she was. And a lack of it made her frustrated.
"I thought a change in vampire numbers was a sign of something about to happen." Buffy complained, leaning back on her chair in the library.
"Well, partially yes." Giles admitted. "But usually it means an increase. A dramatic drop in vampire numbers may be a good sign. What does Angel know?"
"Nothing. Suddenly vampires have just been moving to other pastures."
"Maybe theyíre just tired of the same meal night after night." Xander suggested, looking up from a book he was supposed to be reading.
"Somehow I doubt that vampire culinary tastes are to blame. There may be something in it. But nothing comes to mind."
"Willow said something about a planetary alignment for mirror spells."
"And vampires donít cast reflections. That could mean something." Xander suggested helpfully.
"Or it could mean nothing." Giles brought him back down to earth. I wish there was something we could do but until evil rears itís head, so to speak, weíll have to wait."
"So what are we waiting for?" Willow asked as she entered the room, looking slightly more content than usual.
"Evil." Buffy replied. "What else? Why are you so happy?"
"Oh just the mirror spells I used last night went really well."
"I would have thought youíd have had enough of mirror images lately." Xander quipped.
"Eww. Donít remind me."
"Yes Xander." Buffy added. "Please donít."
"Iím sorry. Itís this mouth. I think the breaks are faulty."
"Itís okay." Willow shrugged. "I mean, she was creepy and all butÖ well no she was just creepy really."
"Yes. Well Iím sure wherever she went back to suited her perfectly."
"Just another vampire thatís left town." Buffy shrugged.
"Oh I wouldnít worry." Xander tried to re-read the top of his page for the twentieth time, "Iím sure evil will turn up sooner or later."
When Hannah Prescot first heard the voice she thought it was her imagination. She switched on her bedside lamp and looked about her room, fearing that some monster might leap out of the darkness. It was a foolish action she told herself, especially for a mature teenager. Nevertheless she felt as if the voice somehow had been more solid than a mere thought.
She flicked her head about, blonde hair spinning behind it. There was nothing there. Nothing but her nice safe room.
And a voice.
"Whoís there?" she accused into the dim room.
Shh. You wouldnít want to wake anyone would we?
"Where are you?" she asked softly, her voice shaking with fear.
Right in front of you. Came the voice from the foot of your bed. And behind you.
Hannah flinched as the voice came from her back.
And inside you.
The teenager covered her ear as the voice rung in her mind.
"What do you want?"
I need something from you Hannah. Something very precious. Something that I am willing to reward you well for.
"I.. I donít have anything." She whimpered.
Oh but you do Hannah. Everyone has something.
"Please donít hurt me." She begged.
I wonít hurt you Hannah. Iím going to make you happy.
Yes. You want to be happy donít you? You want to feel loved.
"Loved?" she asked again.
Poor little Hannah. Ever since mommy died youíve had no one to talk to. Daddy doesnít care does he? He wonít even let you date boys. Just keeps you locked away all lonely. Nobody loves you.
"Thatís not true."
Nobody loves poor Hannah. Poor Lonely Hannah wants love. Wants warmth.
"NoÖ Iím notÖ " she cried softly.
I can go if you want me to Hannah.
"No. Please donít go. Please stay with me."
Of course Hannah.
Hannah felt a warm presence press against her, beneath the fabric of her pajamas, stretching out over her skin, infusing her with warmth. Hannah let out a soft gasp at the touch, everything she and ever imagined it to be and more. Invisible fingers entwined with her own, a soft touch stroking her from head to foot. Beneath her night shirt she felt delicate gusts breezing over her breasts, forming goose bumps on the tender flesh and quickly making her nipples rise up. Hannah gasped again, rolling over as the touch continued to flow through her, bringing her a greater contentment than she had ever known. It ran over her sides, past her hips, down between her legs, sending tingling shocks of pleasure deep within her. She pressed her mouth against her pillow least her rising cries be heard where they were unwanted. Her delight was so great that she periodically let out squeals of delight at the expert sexual touch unlike anything she had ever experienced.
"I will make you so happy Hannah." The voice whispered in her mind. "So happy for the rest of your life."
"So. No vampires tonight." Joyce asked her daughter over the dinner table.
"Nope. No vampires, no werewolves, no mummies, reptiles, demons or other assorted nasties. Tonight I am one hundred percent your normal daughterÖ apart from the fact that I just shot off that list. Try not to let it bother you."
"I try Buffy. Iím sure every mother worries about their daughter but their daughters arenít out saving the world every other night."
"Actually Iíve only saved the world a few times. More than enough I guess. So what do you have planned? A gathering?"
"Iíve slightly gone off gatherings." Joyce looked down at her food.
"Oh yeah. The whole welcome back thing. We could just sit back, watch T.V and binge on chocolate."
"Iíve gone of chocolate too."
"Oh. Gee thereís really a lot of things this town can sour your experience of."
"Buffy. We donít have to do anything." Joyce smiled. "Iím perfectly happy with the knowledge that my daughter is safe and well in her own home as every daughter should be."
"Six girls ran away from home last night?" Willow mused the news as she munched on her lunch.
"At least thatís what itís being considered as."
"But why would seven different people run away on one night?"
"Maybe they werenít allowed to watch the season final of Melrose." Xander shrugged. "It was on last night. So I hear."He added quickly.
"It could be just coincidence." Willow shrugged.
"No such thing in these parts." Buffy chewed a pencil, hoping Giles wouldnít notice it was one of his.
"Yes I sometimes feel that the use of the word Ďcoincidenceí should be banned within Sunnydale city limits." Giles added.
"Nevertheless there is a slim chance that this has nothing to do with anything supernatural. Is there anything linking the girls?"
"Not that I can think of." Buffy mused. "One was track star, one was an art student, one drama buff, one lab rat. No link there."
"They could have run off with their boyfriends." Xander suggested wildly.
"Nope." Buffy shook her head. "I donít think any of them had boyfriends."
"None of them?" Giles suddenly seemed more attentive.
"Might that mean that they were all virgins?" Willow asked nervously.
"Itís possible." Giles nodded. "Which would mean that we may dealing with some sort of cult after all."
"Well weíre safe right?" Xander shrugged.
"Xander," Buffy raised an eyebrow, " I think youíd be safe even if you were still a virgin."
Xander swallowed nervously and turned his eyes to the floor as did Willow. The revelation of his experience with Faith were as fresh in the young witches mind as the experience of meeting her evil twin. The more upsetting experience was a matter of debate. Willow had known herself longer than she had known Xander but not by much. And emotions were beyond magic.
"Well we have to figure out where they are and why." Willow hoped to get the conversation moving again.
"I agree. We should get the rest of the gang in." Buffy suggested, eager to get on the tail of potential evil.
"You mean Angel?" Giles tilted his head. "Wesley is making a report to the council."
"Oz is off on a week long road trip." Willow sighed slightly.
"Faith is.. hey why should I know where Faith is?" Xander caught himself.
"That would leave Cordelia." Buffy mused. "So Iíll go talk to Angel this evening."
"And Iíll avoid Cordelia." Xander raised his hand. "And Faith."
Hannah hung, suspended in a dream of pure ecstasy. She had run from her house the night before, under the request of the voice and ever since she had been blanketed in a perpetual haze of pure physical and mental delight. Nothing mattered anymore, not her home, not her friends, not her life. All that mattered was the touch, the pure tide of sex that washed over her. She had not opened her eyes for hours, wandering instead in a world of blissful dreams. Occasionally a noise would break through her euphoric trance, the sound of another girl crying out in pleasure. She might have been able to move but it was so nice to feel the touch that she had no desire to do so. She simply rested, letting the touch creep over her. She didnít want to move, not ever again, not while the touch had her. Hannah wanted to die this way.
No luck. No links. Nothing of value anywhere on the Internet that might have been a clue to the whereabouts of the girls.
Willow sighed and lay back on her bed, wishing that she could help in someway. The others had done no better, not Giles with his book work or Buffy with her street searching, or Angel with his ancient knowledge or Xander with hisÖ Willow searched for a word for what Xander actually did. The closest she could get was moral support. But as it happened his role turned out to be the most successful. All the others, including her, had failed.
She turned her head, looking about her room for the source of the voice.
"I hear a voice yet I see nothing. Thatís a bad sign."
I want to help you Willow
"I suffer this horrible trust issue with disembodied voices." She stood up and looked about the room.
I can offer you something unimaginable in return for something so small.
"You sound like the add for World Vision. Who are you? You.. you took the other girls." Willow clicked.
I took them to a place of pure delight.
"Iíve already been to Disneyland." Willow stammered. "I was four. I was scared of Pluto."
You need not be scared
"Iím not scared." Willow protested. "Iím merely stringing jokes together as a means of bolstering my spirits."
Your spirits will serve me well.
Willow turned suddenly and lurched for her phone. As she did a wave of pure ecstasy flowed through her, knocking her to her knees. She felt it engulfing her being, slowly gaining control over her. She knew that soon she would go anywhere to follow that reward. She fumbled the speed dial button awkwardly, her hands trembling.
Hands ran over the skin of her legs, kneading their way up her bodyÖ
Caressing her shoulders, her back her armsÖ
Her neck, her thighs her breasts.
"Hello Giles speaking."
"Giles!" Willow gasped as she felt her mind being clouded over by the touch. "Follow WilloOOOOH!" She dropped the phone to the floor.
"Willow?" Willow!" Giles demanded into the receiver but got nothing but a buzzing tone. He slammed down the phone in frustration and picked up his jacket just as Xander entered with a carton of Chinese food.
"We have to hurry." Giles jogged past him.
"Hey. I walked two blocks to get this." Xander protested.
"Willowís in trouble." Giles called back.
Two seconds later a swinging door banged into the dropped carton.
"Itís kind of weird." Buffy flicked rocks at a tree stump. "Itís like I really want their to be bad things happening just so I can get action. Like people who want a bad one night stand just for the feeling you no what I meanÖ Sorry. Bad analogy."
"Donít worry about it." Angel mused. "I know what it can feel likeÖ both.. parts.."
"Yeah. I know. I still think about it too." Buffy stopped throwing and examined the stone in her hand. "Sometimes itís hard not to. I mean everything, all the horrible things that came after, for you, for me, for everyone. It would be so much easier to accept if it hadnít beenÖ"
"A moment of pure happiness." Angel finished.
"Yeah." Buffy bit her lip in silence for a moment, wishing that something would distract them from the awkward moment.
Lurching across the graveyard with a struggled semblance of humanity was a figure. Buffy sprung to her feet, carefully examining the distant figure. From where she stood, looking at it in the shadows, it might well be a zombie. Whatever it was it wasnít moving like any human would.
"Come on." Buffy nodded to Angel as they slipped cautiously closer.
As they watched the figure came out of the shadows, lit by the moon light.
"Willow!" Buffy exclaimed in shock. Her friend did not reply or even acknowledge the Slayers existence. Instead she kept moving, not a normal human walk but a labored one, as if she were a puppet on tangled strings.
"Willow? Whatís going on?" Buffy stepped in front of the vacant girl And looked at her face. Willows head hung back, mouth slightly open with an expression of blissful ignorance on her face. It was as if she was caught in the middle of a wonderful dream.
"Willow wake up!" Buffy demanded, shaking the girl who didnít stop walking. Buffy felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to find Angel staring at the helpless teen with concern.
"Buffy, sheís under some sort of spell. And sheís going somewhere. We canít fight it until we find out whatís going on. If we follow her we might."
Buffy cast a nervous glance at the sleepwalker and considered.
"If you think itís the only way."
"Well you could shake her again but I think she already looks pretty shaken up."
Buffy examined Willows face again, seeing it flushed and with a sheen of sweat. "Alright. We follow her."
"Buffy!" the ex lovers turned to a call behind them, seeing Giles and Xander running to meet them. "We were following Willow and lost her."
"You lost her? Sheís moving about as fast as a turtle on depressants."
"Well we kind of got caught up with a vampire."
"Oh great. The only other vampire in town and I miss him." Buffy sighed.
"Willow called me. She sounded.. well badÖ Told us to follow her."
"We were about to." Angel nodded, looking at the still lurching girl. "Any idea what this is about?"
"None." Giles admitted. "But keep your eyes peeled for anything."
They followed Willow onwards, each one of them filled with concern for their friend. At the worst of times Willow was lively, even the evil vampire Willow had been, but this dead and mindless version was something none of them wanted to see for longer than they had too. Willow descended down into one of the many tombs in Sunnydale, leading on to a complex tunnel system. The others followed, Willow giving them no attention at all. The tunnel became dustier and darker as they went, occasional torches on the walls the only light source.
"Thereís someone up ahead." Angel whispered cautiously. "In there." He pointed to a small alcove through which Willow was passing where a humanoid figure rested against a wall.
"Ready?" Buffy exchanged a glance with Angel who nodded.
They quickly rose and crossed over to the wall, ready to attack. The figure did not move. Not an inch.
"Oh my god." Buffy whispered in dread of what she saw. Standing against the wall was a teenage girl, or what had once been a teenage girl. Now her body was a husk, dry and flaking, lifeless eyes mercifully closed.
"What could have done this?" Buffy asked, staring at the body.
"Using Soap without moisturizer?" Xander suggested.
The others cast him disbelieving glances.
"Iím at the joke or wretch stage." He shrugged. "Itíll pass."
"This is what happened to the girls isnít it?" Buffy asked the Watcher.
"I think itís a safe bet to assume it."
"Then thatís whatís going to happen to Willow too."
"Not if we can help it." Angel said, striding forward to follow Willow once more. The others cast one last, unsettling glance at the body, then moved on.
Hannah was tired. So tired. But it still felt so nice. She felt as if she was sated with pleasure, she was drowning in it. Her strength had all been sapped by the still reaching hands on her body. The sounds around her had died down too, exhaustion setting in. She felt her consciousness fading, fading into oblivion. But she was still at peace, knowing that the last moments in the world would be pure bliss.
"Welcome Willow" spoke the voice, given a physical presence at last. "I wondered how you would get here my dear. The others, they came so willingly, but I fear I did not have the time to convince you."
Willow did not reply, still lost in the delirious haze. She could not see the chamber in which she stood, the other girls on the walls, most of them dying shells of what they once were, some still twitching in delight. She did not see the man before her, dressed in black robes, his hand encased in a gold gauntlet.
"The time is near child. But I fear I need your life energy quickly. I imagine this will feel somewhat intense." He waved his hand before her, the gauntlet radiating a yellow light. Willow began to scream.
At the sound of her scream all four friends increased their speed. For Buffy and Angel this meant that they entered the chamber in seconds. Giles and Xander were not far behind. Buffyís mind raced at what she saw, dying girls on walls, a man with a cloak, Willow standing in a yellow light screaming. One thought was all she needed. In a second she tackled the man to the ground. Angel moved and caught Willow before she hit the floor. The man struggled with Buffy, somehow managing to overbalance her and rise to his knees.
"Angel! Stop him." The Slayer cried out but the man had reached forward, gloved hand grasping onto a scepter in the middle of the room.
From it a bolt shot out, striking each of the remaining kidnapped girls, drawing from them the last of their life. One beam reached for Willow but Angel shielded it, the life force of a vampire not what the spell sought. Then it stopped, the beams fading, the girls crumbling to dust. And the man lying on the ground, laughing.
"It is done." he cried.
"Whatís done?" Buffy growled pulling him roughly to his feet.
"You cannot stop it. It is done. He will be here soon."
"Gosh, I never learn to like the sound of that." Xander sighed, taking Willow, barely conscious in his arms.
"Who is he and what have you done?" Angel grabbed him as he shifted into vampire form.
"He is Yeatril, High Chaos demon, bound in the void between worlds. But he shall be freed. You cannot break the spell now. Then he will come for you and there is nothing you can about it."
"Why did you kill those girls?" Angel demanded, shaking him again.
"The life force." He laughed. "The life force was the key to opening the gate. Only virgins could do it. Females too. Only females be focused on for opening the gates. Once there open then anything can come through. But you need girls to do it. Very dangerous for men. Never mind. All the girls were silly, all wanting someone to love and to trust. They had what I needed. And I gave them a death of unimaginable pleasure."
"Shut up." Buffy back handed him in anger. How do we stop it?"
"You canít. You canít stop it." he giggled madly.
"Mirror." Willow whispered.
"What?" Buffy turned to her weakened friend.
"Cast a magic mirror spell to deflect it." The young witch broke away from Xander, standing on her own feet. The last thing she remembered had been hearing a voice in her room, feeling a loss of control then awakening here. Even as tired as she felt, she was able to conclude that sheíd been under some sort of control and something very bad was about to happen. That was all she needed to know.
"Willow, you canít cast a mirror spell. Youíre too weak."
"Iím not weak." Willow protested. "Iím just a little flushed. Buffy itís the only way."
The Slayer, the Watcher, the vampire and Xander exchanged a glance.
"Letís try it." Buffy nodded.
"No!" the man protested. "You cannot turn the spell. Not now! Not after so long!"
"Shut up!" Angel snarled and even the madman wasnít insane enough to speak again.
"Buffy, Iíll need your help." Willow sat down beside the rod, which was beginning to glow more and more intensely.
"What about us?" Xander asked, eager to help."
"More reflections can be complex. And besides, he said that only girls can do this sort of stuff. Buffy?"
The Slayer nodded and sat down across from her friend, who seemed to be recovering quickly. "You know what youíre doing right?" Buffy asked, noticing worried glances from the four others, standing across from them.
"No. I just hope that the mirror spell will do something. It should be powerful enough. Give me your hands."
Buffy reached out her hands gripping Willows. She could feel the damp palms and heat radiating from Willows body. Obviously there had been more going on than simple control. She would have to ask her about it sometime. The young witch began to chant, recalling the words of the mirror spell she had cast the night before, hoping that a slight alteration would be enough.
Between the girls, slowly forming around the glowing rod, was a sphere with a mirrored surface. Buffy looked up at her own face, masked with concern. If this didnít work then there would be some serious demon slaying to do. Willow focused on her own flushed face, repeating the words of her incantation. Behind her reflection, at the top of the rod, a smaller sphere was beginning to form, glowing blue, pulsing as it became larger and larger. Willow hastened her chant, straining harder to channel her magic potential and that of her friend. The sphere grew, wider and wider until it was no more than an inch from the girls faces, directly reflecting their images. Within the silver orb the blue one continued to grow, but now it distorted, twisting as it pulsed, losing itís form.
"No!" the man screamed in desperation, trying to rush forward as inhumanly strong arms held him back. "The target is becoming lost! Youíre ruining the spell."
"Good." Angel looked at the sphere as it twisted and turned, spinning faster and faster until it was almost out of control.
"How long do we have to hold this?" Buffy called to Willow, looking through her reflection to the seething mass of chaos.
"Until the other spell wears itself out." Came the reply. Buffy could tell there was strain in the young witches voice. She was not used to powerful magic and she had very nearly died once tonight already. Buffy could only hope that she might lend her friend her own strength and hold the spell. The sides of the blue chaos touched the side of the mirror, pushed back in on itself. It folded and twisted, unable to break the barrier.
"No!" the man cried in despair, collapsing to his knees as he saw all his work fall apart before his eyes.
"How long has it been?" Xander asked, staring at what looked like a massively destructive force, blocked only by Willow magic.
"Five minutes." Giles checked his watch. "How long does it last?" he demanded of the whimpering man but he received no coherent reply.
"Buffy!" came the desperate cry from the other side of the sphere.
Willow felt her concentration slipping, parts of the spell starting to give way. She struggled to keep control of her power, focusing on only the mirror before her, not what she saw behind. The blue mass was swirling now, spinning into a vortex with the appearance of engulfing itself. She had to keep hold of the spell. Sweat dripped from the witches brow, her teeth grinding together, as an ache flowed through her.
"Buffy!" Willow groaned. "I canítÖ. I canít hold it.."
"Try to Willow. Just a little longer."
"You have to."
Tears blurred Willows eyes as the vortex spun faster and faster, pressing against the sides of the sphere. She felt it bending, bubbling, losing its integrity. In front of her the mirrored Willow bent and warped. "I canít." she whimpered in defeat.
And the barrier gave way.
In a flash of blue light the room was gone. Buffy shielded her eyes but could still see nothing apart from the searing blueness. The other too were forced to hide their faces as the massive blue storm erupted outwards. Then suddenly, in a final flare, the light was gone. Buffy squinted, trying to blink the after images out of her eyes. She looked to the entrance where Angel and the others were rising to their feet. Then she turned to Willow. The young witch was rubbing her eyes and getting up off the ground where she had fallen. She took a second or too to grab her breath then looked up.
Into the face of the last person she ever expected to see.
Both Willows screamed.
At least that was what Buffy heard. But she didnít see it. Her eyes were fixed firmly in front of her, matching the identical eyes of an identical girl. So stunned was Willow and Buffy and indeed their friends, that they didnít notice the other new arrivals until a voice piped up, as a small girl rose to her feet.
"Well Katie," Rachel said as she looked around the chamber. "I donít think weíre at Warner anymore."