Chapter Seventeen - Connections

“Tara?” Angel asked, gently trying to shake the blonde awake. She stirred a little, but didn’t open her eyes. Angel looked around, for something, smelling salts, water, anything. His eyes fell on a flower, and he sighed. It was better than nothing.

Angel plucked the fragrant flower from the ground, and held it up to Tara’s small nose. She started to stir a little more, and suddenly sneezed violently, three times in a row. Her nose started to turn a little red, and her eyes watered as she started to open them. Angel grinned down at her, and she sneezed again, weakly pushing the flower away.

“I’m allergic,” she croaked weakly, another sneeze punctuating her admission.

“Sorry. I just wanted to wake you up,” Angel said sheepishly. Tara sniffled, rubbing her nose. “Now, what happened in there?”

“Kellan…it was…I don’t know. But it felt like somebody stabbed me in the throat. I couldn’t…”

“It’s okay, Tara. You’re okay.”

“I know how to help her. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before,” Tara said, a little wonder in her voice. She let Angel help her up. “I think he knew. Kellan. That’s why he did that to me.”

“Then we need to get back inside. What if he tries it again?”

“I don’t…I don’t think he can. And it was weird. I felt like I couldn’t breathe at all, but plenty of oxygen was going into my lungs. It was like…an illusion.”

“An illusion? So you just felt like you couldn’t breathe? But you could?”

“Yeah. I don’t…I wonder if Kellan actually has any power? I mean, he obviously does, but is it stronger than mine, or Willow’s?” They were walking back into the cave, Angel supporting Tara a little. “A lot of his magic so far has been weak, or illusions.”

“So he’s not that powerful. Which means we can beat him.”

“If I can establish a link with Willow. She’s had the power for a while, to use telepathy. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do it, though.”

“Wesley has some power. Maybe if you did it together,” Angel suggested, “you might be able to.”

“Giles knows some magic, too,” Tara said. “Even Anya has a little bit of power left from her days as a demon.”

“Then you should have more than enough power between the four of you to establish the link.”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Willow’s more powerful than all of us. I don’t know if we’ll be powerful enough.” They walked into the part of the cave where the others were brain-storming to find a way into the bubble.

“Tara,” Dawn said, jumping up. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay, Dawnie. Kellan did something to me. But I’m okay now. And I have a plan.”


“You bastard,” Willow said, tears cascading down her face. She’d been wrong. Tara’s body, dying in front of her…there was no way that could be an illusion. It was far too real. Her decision had killed her lover.

“I told you, Witch. Your lover, or the Savior. You chose the Savior, and your lover died for your choice. You’ll live the rest of your days with that regret.”

“I’m still not going to help you,” Willow said, venom in her words.

“Oh?” Kellan replied, one eyebrow raised. A flash of his hand, and Xander was standing, tied, gagged, and possibly drugged, because he looked very calm. But that was Xander. When the chips were down, he was braver than any of them.

“Xander?” she asked. The vampire that had killed Tara stepped forward.

“Make the correct choice this time, or your friend will die.”

Willow looked at Xander for a moment. Her lifelong friend. She’d known him since before she could remember. Growing up side by side, the best of friends. He knew all her secrets, and she knew all his. Would she be able to sacrifice him to save the world?

“Keep in mind, that even if you choose not to save your friend, I won’t stop with him. All your friends are gathered in the cave, waiting for me to pluck them out, one by one, to try to persuade you. Either you perform my ritual, or you watch all your friends die. And then, once the Key, the Chosen, the Champion, and the Twice Called are dead, you won’t be able to do your ritual anyway. Either way, I will win. Why let your friends die for no reason?” Kellan smiled mirthlessly at her. “You just take your time thinking about it. I’ve got all the time in the world.

Willow did think about it. What could she do? How could she save her friends and the world? If she saved her friends, the world would end. If she didn’t, it would still end, but they would have died before her eyes. Which was the right choice?

Willow? Tara? Was that Tara? In her head?