seraphcelene: (it mocks me)
[personal profile] seraphcelene
This isn't finished and never will be. I'll be honest about that. There were supposed to be parallels between Dorothy and Willow, and Dorothy and Buffy. I had big plans about themes of loss and addiction, etc, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. But, yeah. Not so much. Moving on. Done and done. So, to close off 2014, here you go:

Title: The Dandelion Seed
Author: seraphcelene
A/N: Amnesty! Unfinished crossover fic: Buffy/The Wizard of Oz/Wicked.


"Was she to be taken seriously,
or was she merely a blow-away dandelion seed,
caught on the wrong side of the wind?"
- Gregory Maguire, Wicked


"Treacherous red of poppies and poison berries.
Crimson, carmine, cerise, cayenne,
safflower, scarlet, vermillion.
All the dangerous, warning, compelling, ripening,
happy, fortunate, words for red."
- Eileen Berry, The Red Poem


0.

Here is where you are. There is love and there is hate, but there are no bluebirds. There is nothing in the stars. It was all a lie.

Miles away from where you began, this is home.


i. Poison Poppies

Dorothy's too fragile, or so the Wizard tells her. One of the palace doctors slides a needle into the brachial artery in the crook of her elbow. It's thick and hearty despite the injections.

She isn't from Oz and the poppy, poison distilled and diluted, is the only way they can get her across the void.

When she isn't jumping wormholes, Dorothy lays the poppy out in lines.

***


Scarecrow tells stories about concrete things: sun, wind, rain, and growing things. Sometimes he gets poetic, philosophizing about the state of potatoes, describing the dry murmuring of corn husks in the field or the mocking cackle of crows. Trapped in an opium haze, drugged so that she can retain her sanity crossing dimensions, in Dorothy's mind the stories always turn into nightmares filled with looming, laughing shadow crows that peck at her eyes.

Dorothy rolls into Brr, huddles naked against his side. His fur is sleek-soft and only half as warm as usual. A curling warmth against her side, Brr gags and heaves. The choking sound makes Dorothy's stomach twist hard and what's left in her belly begins to back up into her throat. Just as she's going to swallow and choke and maybe die, hands wedge beneath her back and wrap around her thighs turning her as the gorge rises. Convulsing, her body trapped in the rhythm of involuntarily contracting muscles, Dorothy tries to purge the magic-laced opium from her body.

Cramped and exhausted, Dorothy whispers through dry, cracked lips, "No more crows."

Scarecrow repeats softly,"No more crows."

Dorothy cries when Scarecrow begins to tell her a story about sunsets, so he tells her about sunrise instead.

Maybe it's been three days when she finally floats out of a neon dream or maybe it's been a month caught between talking apple trees and the heavy oblivion of poppy induced sleep. She can't be sure. Every time is like the end of the world, a cataclysmic shattering of dimensions, bending light and crucified sound. Her body isn't her own. It's become an awkward, alien thing stretched and folded between pockets of reality, directionless until she remembers where her arms should be and how to see.

Dorothy forces her eyes open then blinks them closed against the light. It is morning, dawn, perhaps. She leans in slightly, curls an arm to prop her head up. She won't risk opening her eyes, it's still too bright beyond the lid.

"Where are we?" she asks, coughs around the sore dryness in her throat.

"Hellmouth, I think." The voice is loud and Dorothy winces at the sound. Her head slides back down into the cushion of pillows. Shivering, she cuddles closer against the fur pelt wrapped around her back.

"Hellmouth where?"

"Open your eyes, little one. See for yourself." And the voice sounds closer, near her head, a rustling like wind in dry grass. "You've got to be thirsty. Hungry? The trip over was rougher than usual. This place is bound by very strong magicks."

"No food," Dorothy whispers. "But water sounds good."

"Open your eyes first," the voice demands. "You've slept for two days. Let me see your eyes."

***


Being here is not like being in Kansas. This place is too loud, too fast, and the bleached out California landscape burns her eyes. They squat in an echoing and abandoned house on the edge of town, at the border of where the magic is strongest. Ivy and dead roses crawl across the facade and litter the darkest corners. The petrified roses are past scent and crumble when touched.

The ocean is a marvel. It's the only thing she likes about this place. They spent a day, staring out at the ocean and watching the waves crash into the shore. Scarecrow called it the Pacific Ocean, a name drawn at the edge of the world on a map the wizard kept locked under Quadling Glass. The water is as different from the Nonestic as sapphires to emeralds, and there was no referent for the awe that she felt. The Nonestic Ocean always made her homeseick for the vast, rippling expanse of the Kansas prairie in summer. This is something all together different, although somehow, no less sad.

"This is the last fucking time," Dorothy mutters as she carefully divides the red dust on the coffee table into three neat and even lines. "No more bouncing around dimensions," she says. "I'm tired." Licking the tip of her finger, she presses it into the stray dust that's drifted across the table. "I'm too young to be this fucking tired."

"Not that young," the straw man says. "Time moves differently over the rainbow, slower. It's been almost a hundred and fifty years since you left Kansas."

Dorothy licks her finger again, tongue sweeping away the dust coated on her fingertip. Leaning down, Dorothy holds a hollow tube, some discarded remnant of a tik-tok soldier, against the opening of one nostril. She places a finger against the opposite nostril and inhales deeply. The burn is sharp, familiar and comforting.

Dorothy closes her eyes and lets the burn settle and sizzle out. She blinks her eyes wide and waits until the double images sync into one.

"Why don't you sit down," she tells the scarecrow pacing the length of the room. "You're making me dizzy."

"The poppies make you dizzy," he snaps. "While you're giving things up, why don't you give that up?"

Dorothy leans back against the leather couch, stretching her arms out across the tops of the cushions and lets the Poppy work its technicolor magic. "It's almost sweet how you worry. If it just weren't so annoying. What's the matter? Feeling guilty? The poppy was your idea anyway. Eases Man and Animal through the fucked up topsy-turvy aftereffects of a trip through the vortex. Your idea, remember? Your shiny metal brain."

Dorothy doesn't have to open her eyes to see the guilt, the way his head drops slightly or the way he begins to turn away.

"It was only intended for the missions," he says. "For the initial trip through the wormhole." His voice goes soft when he says, "You do too much of that. You shouldn't do so much."

Dorothy sighs, and sinks deeper into the couch, curling her legs beneath her. "You shouldn't worry so much. You'll wear out your shiny brain. I wouldn't want you to do that. Look at all of the trouble we went through to get it."

"Maybe its my heart you should worry about."

"Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable," Dorothy chirps, and that is the most truth the Wizard ever spoke."This place isn't anything like Kansas, you know. This time is so different. I wish you could've seen it, the world I mean, back then. The fields and the sky. When this is finished, maybe I'll take you to Kansas. Maybe it hasn't changed. Maybe we'll stay and find a farm, grow corn." The thought makes her smile as she slides further into euphoria.

The Scarecrow stops pacing and watches her. Then he eases closer to the couch and lowers Dorothy gently onto her back. He straightens her legs and pulls a blanket over her lap. He doesn't think she hears him when he says, "They will resist. They always resist."

"But they don't have the shoes," Dorothy says without opening her eyes. "And they don't know how to believe."

She is asleep when he whispers, "I don't want to stand in a field of corn."



ii. Flying Monkeys

"Xander?" Dawn has been waiting for him. "Xander, I really have to get to school and you're totally late, which means that I'm going to be late if we don't leave like five minutes ago."

Flustered and panting, Xander scoops up the remote control from the coffee table and aims it at the television. "Tell me you guys saw it," he says. The TV screen flickers through channels and chatter with every press of his thumb.

Buffy walks into the room, drying her hands on a scrap of kitchen towel, Tara at her heels. "What's the big?" she asks, drawn by the slam of the front door and Xander's animated babble. She slings the towel over her shoulder, crosses her arms over her stomach and marvels at how normal it all seems, as if she didn't die and come back. It seems unfair that she's the only one who changed.

"Slow down," she says. "What's up? Saw what?"

"Flying monkeys," he says and points at the TV.

The newscaster beams calmly at the camera. Her wide smile is stretched thin across her rigid face. "Monkeys with wings were spotted overturning garbage cans in a construction site not too far from UC Sunnydale. Local authorities are unsure if this is a prank or if there is a new, undiscovered species of monkey on the loose in Sunnydale. An advisory has been issued for the area. The tower, illegally constructed last spring has seen its fair share of odd occurrences, and is scheduled for demolition next week "

Xander clicks the TV off, and drops the remote back on the coffee table. "Tell me you guys have been watching the news. It's on every channel."

Dawn rolls her eyes and snaps her tongue sharply against the back of her teeth. "First of all, news? Way depressing. Second, I have homework." She adjusts the backpack slung across one shoulder. "For the school that I have to be getting to now."

"But monkeys," Xander chirps. "Not butt monkeys, but monkeys. Flying monkeys. All over Sunnydale. They think its some undiscovered mutation, but this is Sunnydale. Home of the Hellmouth. Somehow new species translates into my head as demon." He raises one hand. "Who's with me?"

"Calm down, monkey boy." Buffy steps further into the room. "That's your site, isn't it? Your company's handling the demolition. Have you heard anything?"

"There was some amateur video, but there's nothing official on the corporate party line. Not that I would expect it. I mean, we had a super trooper, army Initiative right here in good ole Sunnydale and never knew about it." Xander pauses and then says what everyone is thinking: "Could it be Glory coming back?"

"No." And Buffy thinks of that night. The night she died and went to Heaven. She also thinks of Dawn and the night she came back. How the city burned. "No," she says again. "I don't know. I don't think so. Giles said that Ben died in the battle. Without Ben ... without his body to keep Glory anchored, she died. Like really died."

No one mentions Buffy lying broken at the base of Glory's tower. How she died, too, and now, here she is walking and talking and breathing. Dawn looks down and doesn't mention the photo or the egg or the ring of candles on her bedroom floor the day after their mother's funeral. She doesn't mention the footsteps on the porch or the knock at the door.

There are a lot of ways for people to come back.

"Okay, right," Buffy says, wiping her hands on the towel draped across her shoulder, not because they are wet or dirty, but because it's something to do with her hands. She shifts into leader mode, issuing orders like directing traffic, like breathing, because this is what she's good at. It's what she does. "Xander," she says."Have you seen the tower at all? You said there was video."

"Yeah, but it was kinda in and out of focus. They were definitely monkey-ish. But I don't know. I mean the place just generally looked ransacked. It could have been anything or anyone."

"I can't image that flying monkeys would be too difficult to spot," Tara chimes in. "I mean with the tails and wings and everything."

Dawn giggles. "Yeah, and little monkey hats and the little cymbals."

"Right." Buffy rolls her eyes. "Xander, I want you to take a look at the construction site, and I want you to take me with you."

"Hey," Dawn protests. "That's my ride. I've got to be at school in ten minutes."

"I don't have class until ten," Tara volunteers, "I can take you."

"Great, you guys better get going. Tara, if you run into Willow, tell her to meet us at The Magic Shop?"

Tara, ever willing, nods yes. "We should get going. C'mon, Dawnie."

Dawn snags her book bag from the floor and follows Tara to the door.

***


Buffy follows Xander slowly. There's more trash than before. Newspapers blown helter-skelter and tangled in the skeletal remains of the tower. Overturned trash cans rock on their sides, occasionally rolling away noisly before banging into the structure's base or each other.

Trailing in his wake and scanning the cordoned-off demolition site, she steps carefully. She slides her feet forward as if testing the stability of the ground beneath her. It isn't the most stealthy way to patrol an area, but the tower doesn't feel real. It doesn't feel solid. She's dreamed this place too many times to count and the dreams always end with falling. So she walks like the old and infirm, her feet perpetually connected to the ground. If a hole were to open up, her toes will go first, and maybe she can save herself. Or maybe it won't matter, maybe she'll just throw herself forward and get it over with.

Looking up into the dark, up into the shadows that lead to the tower's apex, Buffy tries to remember what it felt like to fall. The memory is fractured: Dawn, the dull red-gold glow of cresting sunrise, light without sensation. She doesn't remember if dying hurt. When pressed, Giles said she was dead before she hit the ground. She wants to ask Xander where she landed, where her body broke on the pavement.

Xander pushes aside the yellow police tape criss-crossed across the stairs, breaking her reverie and dragging her back into the here and now. Her friends seem to be really good at that.

"It looks normal enough," Xander says. "The damage could have been caused by any garden variety teenage vandals."

"Which is why that video is really weird." Buffy pitches her voice low and even, willing away the husky, dry rasp that comes with trying not to cry. "I mean what flying monkey would come all the way to Sunnydale to vandalize a construction site." Xander pulls away the yellow caution tape and Buffy steps past him onto the stairs. "Where did they even come from?"

Buffy is standing on the fifth tread of the stairs when she hears the first crash, a loud metallic collapse of trash cans. She turns away from the stairs and ... the monkeys are startling and unexpected. Their tails curve up over their backs, resting between the wide, predatory spread of raptor wings.

Buffy raises the crossbow she's brought along."What the fuck are those?"

Xander is almost speechless, his eyes wide."Flying monkeys!" He shouts and Buffy isn't sure if its from fear or awe.

"That is so disturbing. And really gross."

The monkeys swoop towards them, snatching at them like eagles pulling fish from a stream. Xander is grabbed with hands and feet, the leathery paws curl into his jacket and he is dragged six feet before Buffy, launching herself from the stairs, tackles the monkey to the ground. They role in a tangle of arms and tail, and Buffy pushes Xander out of harm's way. Out of the the path of her angry, thundering fists. The monkey is husky and squat, and it's neck makes a deep, satisfying crack between her hands.

The monkeys are fast, darting in to grab hand fulls of clothing, too close to aim, so that Buffy uses the crossbow to bludgeon as much as anything else.

"Get down!" She yells and Xander grabs the bent top of a trash can to deflect the careening animals. Buffy herds Xander backwards, firing arrows and swinging the wide cross of the bow. The monkeys hover just out of reach, dropping down suddenly from all angles and then flying back up to avoid the vengeful swing of the crossbow.

When the monkeys pull back, suddenly scattering into the bare bones of the tower, Buffy and Xander freeze. They remain crouched, partially covered by Xander's battered, improvised shield.

"Who are you?" The girl emerging from the shadows is tall, soft and curvy. A wealth of dark hair cascades around her shoulders, and Buffy thinks of Cordelia and her Breck-girl, porn star hair. The girl is poured into a dress the color of the sky, an inch of skin visible between the abbreviated hem and the top of her boots.

The girl blinks slowly, her gaze vague and heavy lidded. "Are you a witch?" she asks. Tilting her head slightly to one side, she inhales."You're not ... human. Mostly but not entirely."

Buffy ignores that. Not like it's untrue, just irrelevant. "Nice shoes," she says. "A little dominatrix for my tastes but if you like the look ..."

The girl reaches down to touch one glittery red-encased thigh."These old things? I killed a witch for them. Two, really. Not on purpose, of course, but, well, these things do happen."

"Right, " Buffy hesitates. "I take it the monkey things belong to you and I'm sure everyone would be a lot happier if you'd keep 'em on a leash. Pick up after them, you know the drill. Better yet, why don't you put them back into whatever box they popped out of. Get the hell outta dodge."

The girl blinks again, slowly. "Box? We breed them now, I think. Brrr? Don't we breed them now?"

"Yea." The reply is deep and rumbling, a growl rounded into words. "We breed them."

A lion steps out of the shadow, slow and ponderous, its enormous frame slouching into the light. Gold-green eyes peer out from a heavy russett mane. The lion yawns, it's gaping mouth full of sharp teeth and a red, red tongue.

"Uh, Buffy." Xander is pointing at the girl and the rumbly voiced lion at her side.

"If you're not a witch, and I hope you're not becacuse I am very good at killing witches, are you the Queen here? Or the empress?" The girl looks confused for a moment. "I don't remember that we had a queen, but it's been so long and things change. Not that it matters. There are still things to be done. Government's to overthrow. World's to conquer."

"Yeah?" Buffy lifts the crossbow again. "Well, this is my world and there will be no over throwing and no conquering."

"Uh, Buffy." Xander repeats.

"We can make this hard, if we must. Or this can be easy. Is there a wizard now? Has that changed, too?"

Buffy stares down the shaft of the crossbow, her finger crooked into the trigger. "Wizard?" she asks. "What? You mean like Harry Potter?" The crossbow lowers slightly. "What is this? Is this like a flash mob, role-play thing? Am I being punked?"

The girl lifts her hand and a ball of red-gold fire spins in her flattened palm. The ball spins faster and grows. "Tell your wizard that Oz, the great and powerful, is annexing this dimension. We will bring terms and you will surrender." The ball grows steadily, flaming and bright. "Tell him we are come."

Spinning steadily faster, the light is blinding. For a moment reality shifts and Buffy remembers the rising sun and light too bright to look at. She stumbles backward, her hand thrown up to ward off the light and the memory.

It takes moments for the light to fade and she's blinking away the hovering dark spots in her vision. Sitting on her ass on the cold concrete and then Xander's warm, seeking fingers curl around her own.

"I can't see anything," he says.

Buffy's vision repairs itself much more rapidly and she scans the construction site as she gently squeezes his laced fingers. "They're gone," she says. "But I'm betting it's not for good."

***


"It was Dorothy." Xander is still excited and thrilled, and all he can do is kind of repeat that fact over and over again. "Like the Dorothy Gale. Oz -- Dorothy Gale."

"Oz?" Anya asked. "Like the Wizard of?"

"Yes. Like Professor Marvel, don't-look-at-the-man-behind-the-curtain Wizard of Oz."

"Oh, I didn't like him at all," Anya frowns, the distracted, distasteful frown that pinches across the bridge of her nose when she's thinking of vengeance and life before Xander. "He was such a small, petty man. And you see a lot of that in the vengeance game. A lot of small, petty men. But he was especially bad. I mean, really. And he had an especially overinflated ego."

"Wait. Hold on." Xander has his hands in the air, arrested, braced, stunned that there are things about his girlfriend that he still doesn't know. That surprise him when dropped into the conversation so matter-of-factually. As if she wasn't a demon for a thousand years before she met him. "You mean the Wizard of Oz," he finally asks. "The man. A real flesh and blood person."

Anya blinks, continues wrapping twist ties around the bags of sacred stones that are going on sale in the morning. "Well, of course," she says without looking up. One twist, two twists, her nimble fingers turn. "That is who we're talking about."

"This day just keeps getting weirder."

Buffy is unfazed. She died twice, and the second time she remembers heaven. "Okay, Anya. Spill."

"Remember the world without shrimp?" Anya asks, still not looking up. Picks five stones, one stone each from five baskets lined up on the table, and drops them into a velvet bag. "Well Oz is like that." And this time she does glance upwards, just barely raising her head. "It has rulers and despots and small, petty men. It also has some pretty nasty witches. The magical and demonic aren't hidden like they are here. It's all part of the same fabric. What I remember is that the wizard was very big on expansion. He was always taking over countries. Made a lot of people really unhappy. There were also four witches. Two that he more or less controlled. And two that gave him a really hard time. Last I heard, two of the witches had died and he was pretty much running the show."

"So, how does Dorothy Gale, I mean, the Dorothy Gale, end up the wizard's henchman?" Willow asks. "I just don't get that part. I mean, she had the shoes and there was Glinda and everything."

Anya waves one hand dismissively. "Galinda was an idiot. It was really all about the other one. But once she died ... who knows? I wasn't really working that dimension. Stuff trickles down through the grapevine, though."

A man of straw filled the doorway, dressed in green, a uniform similar to the ones worn by the flying monkeys. An emblem, a gold O surrounding a Z decorated the front of his coat. "She can't help herself.," he said. "The shoes are charmed and she's never been strong enough."

"Wow, scarecrow," Xander pointed. "Scarecrow right here. Looking at it, standing, talking and is that weird to anybody else but me."

"It's always kinda weird when things turn out to be true," Tara smiles.

"Yeah," Dawn chimed in. "Like that whole thing about Santa Claus."

"Guys," Buffy speaks quietly. "Is your psycho crazy, killer girlfriend in the red stilettos with you?"

"Dorothy is," he pauses, searching for words, tasting the flavor of all his thoughts before deciding which one he wants. "Dorothy is occupied. I come because I need your help. Because I fear that she won't survive another trip past the rainbow. The Wizard uses poppy to control her and the additction is strong. It is also killing her."

***


When he leaves they have a plan. A way to save the day because that's what they do. Because Scarecrow loves Dorothy, they find a way to save her, too. Two birds, one stone. Everyone gets what they need except Buffy still has to go back to the Tower. Back to the end and the beginning, but it would be weird if she didn't because what else is she supposed to do. Everyone expects it and telling the truth would somehow be worse.

So instead Buffy helps Giles move the rack that used to hold the sacred stones that weren't selling individually. She carries it to the front, near the door, and Giles follows with baskets filled with velvet bags, the stones divided up and labeled. Sale. Five for the price of one.

"I'm not sure, Giles. Can we really trust him?" She takes the baskets and arrange them on the table next to a smaller sign that reads: All sales final.

"It makes a certain sort of sense, I suppose, the-the portal that opened when --when Glory." He can't finish without pulling his glasses from his face and polishing them with the corner of his shirt. "Yes, well, um, there was a lot of mystical energy generated in that location. It was a portal and the area is probably weak. We just need to send her back through and re-inforce the weak spots."

"Or what? Can we expect things to pop in and out from one dimension in that particular location? I mean, seriously? If I never go back to that tower again, it'll be too soon."


iii. Sister (Saint)

And Dorothy is getting agitated. They can all see it. The smashing things begins, and the laughter and the tears. And she spends more and more time getting high. It happens every time. The longer they're away from Oz, and no one saw it coming this time. Not here because isn't this home. Isn't this where she belongs.

"Maybe it's time to go back," Brr growls.

Scarecrow has to agree because he loves her. He has always loved her, and he's sure that she loves him, too. Even though she won't say it. "The spells are not working. I cannot find a way out." He is pensive while he thinks, he's always been a heavy thinker, a deep thinker, concentrated even when he didn't have a brain. "There are rumors of a key," he says. "A key to unlock everything."

Dorothy wanders into the middle of their conversation; her dress is a column of summer blue. Her eyes are heavy lidded and her voice slurs. She stumbles as she roams even though the ruby slippers have decided to be flat for the day. Scarecrow leads her to a chair, helps her to sit.

"There is a Slayer," Brr says. "She may know of this key."

"But will she give it to us?" Scarecrow asks.

"She wants us to leave." Dorothy's voice is a slur. "She should give it to us since she wants us to leave so badly."

"But if she's afraid. If she's worried that we will return with an army, maybe she'll just kill us instead." Brr is always the voice of caution.

"We'll have to find it." Dorothy sits up, tries to push herself to her feet. Her hand slips against the chairs arm and she sinks back down. "The shoes will lead us, if I ask."

Scarecrow frowns. "The shoes are the problem in the first place." But he helps Dorothy to her feet anyway. Calls for twenty monkeys and Brr, and they follow Dorothy out the door, the shoes on her feet leading the way. She sleep walks through the quiet streets, weaving across the sidewalk because the shoes may move forward, but she's still three sheets to the wind.

"Here," she finally says and stops in front of a house with a wide front porch. Walks up the front path, across the lawn, and to the front door. Knocks without thinking about, without giving Scarecrow an opportunity to order the monkeys to their spots.

The curtain in one window twitches to the side, and before he can see who peers out it falls back in place, but no one comes to the door.

"We've been seen," Scarecrow says. "Break down the door." He pulls Dorothy to the side and the monkeys fly forward, kicking and rattling and destroying like only they can. The door hangs from the hinges when they're through.

Dorothy steps across the threshold, over the mess of the broken door. The ruby flats leading her forward, leading her up the stairs. She opens a door and stops, surpised. "I can't see it," she says. "I know that it's here. I can feel it, but I can't see it. There's a humming. A buzz. Static. Scarecrow what is that?"

"I think it is there," Scarecrow says and points towards a window and the girl halfway out, one long leg thrown over the casement.

Dorothy covers one eye and steps further into the room. "Ah," she says. "There you are."

If Scarecrow is surprised to see Dawn, he doesn't say so, merely hopes that she doesn't give him away. He thinks quickly, because that is what he does.

The girl turns to climb the rest of the way out of the window. She stops, screaming as the monkeys rush the window, and she stumbles back inside.

"Bring it," Dorothy says.


iv. The Red Shoes

It's the end of the world all over again. The Tower, Glory's Tower rising ominously over the everything, stretching bony fingers to the sky. The haphazard architecture leans slightly and Buffy wonders if it will come down at any minute, tumbling down over them, bits and pieces of debris to really end everything. To destroy her, again, and this time won't necessarily be any less voluntary than the last. She jumped from that tower, jumped and died and this is where she returned when they brought her back. This is where the world ends.

"And what, exactly, did I say about flying monkeys in my town. You're really not listening."

Dorothy stands at the center of a chalk circle, bisected by lines of salt and sage. The jar in her hand is curved and glossy red. A second jar sits at her feet, white and squat, its wide mouth leaking darkness until it surrounds her ankles. There is the faintest glint of ruby in the clouds of night near the ground. Dark and stormy night, clouds hanging like witches in the sky, sailing across the moon. The unsteady light flickers in and out and Dorothy casts handfuls of salt and crushed quartz into the air. It hangs for a moment, rainbowed dust hovering and reflecting light in fractal rays. They hover, coalesce and a whirlpool forms in the center, expanding outward.

"You," Dorothy growls, her voice thick and low with heavy magic. "Do I have to drop a house on you, too?"

The swirling, floating, coalescing door of quartz and salt begin to solidify and fracture, great rending cracks tearing it apart and shattering it.

Willow steps out of the shadows. Her yes have gone black and the her voice is more growl than anything else."Try it, bitch."

Dorothy raises a hand, "Rumpere Lumen," she says and a ball of light forms in the center of her palm.

"Congelo," Willow counters and the light grows dense, dark, black as obsidian and crawling up Dorothy's arm. It's nearly to her arm before she can stop it, before she shakes off the spell
and the glittering jet falls like dust to the ground.

***


The top of the tower is windy and cold. They balance precariously as the whipping wind threatens to blow them away. Teetering on the brink, Dorothy thrusts the dagger towards Willow, Willow rolls to the side, Dorothy's breath grazing her cheek as she rolls past.

"Willow," Buffy shouts. Racing up the stairs, she throws her body forward, catches Dorothy around the waist and tackles her to the ground. Dorothy bucks up, throwing Buffy off her, swing her legs around and up, a windmill tipped in glittering ruby to catch Buffy in the chest. Buffy falls backwards, doesn't have time to think about where she is, about the top of the tower and the night she died. Dawn bleeding into the abyss and Spike. She freezes only slightly before grabbing the dagger from where its fallen and swinging forward, blocks the thought of Faith, teetering on the edge of a building, defiant and surprised. Pushing the blade home, into the soft give of belly, Buffy sobs, a hiccup of escaped sound. "I'm sorry," she whispers.

Dorothy's mouth falls open, her eyes widening. She raises one bloody hand to touch the side of Buffy's face. Her lips, painted red to match the slippers curve up into a half smile. Buffy recognizes the smile, gentle and relieved. Dorothy leans up away from Buffy and takes one step backward. It's Faith all over again, and there's Dawn, too, standing at the edge of empty air, bleeding, and Buffy is no more prepared to catch Dorothy now then she was when Faith fell.

"Oh, my," Dorothy chokes. "It's like the end of the world." Her eyes roll back and she falls.

"Buffy," Willow calls her. She's already pulling herself up, dragging her limp leg towards the staircase leading downward.

Buffy follows and when they get to the bottom of the staircase, there is Scarecrow, arms full of Dorothy, limp and bleeding. He looks as Buffy approaches. "She isn't dead, you know. Not yet. Not completely. I have to take her home."

Willow stumbles forward. "I know," she says and touches his shoulder. Then gently slips the ruby slippers from Dorothy's small feet.

Scarecrow doesn't stop her, doesn't tell her that the slippers don't belong to her. That they are dangerous. There are no warnings, no recriminations. Instead he says, "Thank you."

Buffy steps forward into the quiet between them. "Make sure that she doesn't come back," she says.

"Make the Wizard understand," Giles adds. "Make him understand. No more troops. No wars, no advance parties, no monkeys, no ... lunatic children sacrificed for his dreams of world domination."

Scarecrow looks down at Dorothy draped across his arms. "No. No more troops, no more lunatic children. I'll make sure that he understands. Not that it will matter, in the end. Without the shoes. Without the shoes his power is greatly diminished."

He moves slowly, easily, unwilling to disturb Dorothy in his arms. Tara stands in the center of the chalk circle, the red jar in one hand, the white jar squat and evil at her feet."Will," she said. "I'll need your help."

Willow begins to cross the circle, to break the arc. "Without the shoes," Tara says firmly. Her gaze cool and hard.

"Tara," Willow begins.

"Without the shoes, Will," she says.

Giles is beside her and takes the shoes.

Willow steps into the circle, slides her arm around Tara's waist, her hand slinking over Tara's hand in the jar, her fingers laced over the back of Tara's hand. Together they grab a handful of salt and crushed quartz. Tara begins the chant and Willow's voice follows right behind. The portal opens slowly, the tossed quartz glinting in the air. The portal circles and glows, Scarecrow steps near and turns to Buffy.

"Thank you," he says.

"Good luck," she replies.

Scarecrow nods briefly, turns, and steps into the portal. It flashes briefly, and they are gone.

Xander limps forward, helped by Anya. His left side is covered with blood and he cradles his arm awkwardly.

"I feel sorry for him," Xander says.

"Yes." Giles stares at the shoes in his head, winking redly in the failing light. "He has his work cut out for him."

Willow's brow furrows. "But without shoes, she doesn't have a lot of power. There's not a lot she can do."

"She doesn't want to live," Buffy chimes in and they are quite. They've been here before. A summer before. White light and the startling sight of a body falling from the sky. Buffy falling from the tower and then broken at its base.

Tara wraps her arm around Willow. "He'll have to live for the both of them. At least for a little while."

"Hmm," Buffy is distracted. "At least for a little while."

***


"Now, what about the shoes."

"They have to be destroyed. You know that. They're too dangerous to leave as is."

Willow reaches out and touches the shoes where they sit on the table. They glimmer and wink in the overhead light. Sparkling and red. "They're so pretty."

Tara reaches out and captures Willow's hand before they touch the shoes. "Yeah," she says. "They are. But like oleander or foxglove. Beautiful and dangerous."

"But we wouldn't use them all the time. Just y'know. It would make smacking down the Big Bad way easier."

"It's not safe."

"There are plenty of things in The Magic Shop that aren't safe. We have a whole section dedicated to the Not Safe."

"No, Will. This is different. The magic in these ... it's really personal and it's really angry. It's why she couldn't control them. They controlled her, in the end. And they'd do that with anyone who wears them."

***


Here is where you begin, where you start. It is where they catch you when you fall. You'll never escape from it. Not really. It is where you dream and where you return.

This is home.

There is no place like it.

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August 2016

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