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by Gypsy Gray

"Demon....the demon...."

"Oz, mix culla root and two parts Xrazeya tears with the sulfur
powder. Riley boil me some water."

Xander and Wesley worked in perfect unison. While the ex-watcher chanted
a healing spell, Xander gently probed around the edges of Tara's mind. He
was looking for traps and trying to determine the level of psychological
trauma at the same time. He sensed a small flaring of magic, but a quick
check told him it was Giles using a spell to make the water boil almost
instantly. Oz brought him a mug, and he began trying to get the foul
smelling purple liquid into the young witch. Finally, when she'd swallowed
about half the potion, he felt her heart slow and her pulse steady. A quick
look at Angel and Giles told him that he and his family weren't the only
ones who realized how close to death Tara really had been.

"Tara? Can you tell us what happened?"

"I...can't remember." Xander was going to call her on the lie, but
her eyes flicked to Willow and back to him. It was like being gut punched by
a Buick going sixty. He'd known. Hell, he'd come to terms with the fact
already. He'd thought he had. But it hurt so bad to know that Willow was
responsible for this. She had called the demon. She had trapped it here. She
had tried to kill Tara.

"It's alright. Let's get you to bed. Cordy, Riley." The rest watched
in silence while they helped Tara to the bedroom Xander and Spike shared.
The sorcerer locked eyes with Angel and then glanced at Buffy. A slight nod
was his answer. It was enough. He went to his room, there were wards to be

With the door locked and a layer of magic between the room and the
rest of the house, Xander sat beside Tara and waited. The witch was still
and quiet, but her eyes were open and tears washed pale streaks on her dirty
face. Cordy leaned against the sill and stared out the window. Riley leaned
against the door and closed his eyes. They both knew what they were about to

"Tara, I need you to tell me." Xander kept his voice gentle and low,
but it still seemed to echo in the silence.

"I caught her...she called the d.d.d.demon, she trapped it here.
I've been so t.tired was draining me...s.she was draining me to
f.feed it...and her own power. I walked in on her performing the was like she wasn't human. I....her eyes...and she
d.d.dragged me to it....but it didn' said I could live if I helped it said I had to...that she has to...d.die."

"Who is she?"

"I...I can't..."

"You have to say it Tara. You have to."

"....willow..." Cordy sat on the other side of the bed and held the
shaking blonde while sobs crashed through her. Xander lowered his own head
and let his tears come. His friend was gone...and now there was no way to
save her. Willow had to die...and he had to make sure of it. Riley's hand
was warm and heavy, and Xander allowed himself to be hugged...just for a

Pulling away from Riley and standing up, was hard. Facing what was
outside the door was harder. But it had to be done, and there was no one
else to do it. Squaring his shoulders, he looked at Riley and Cordy sitting
on the bed trying to comfort Tara.

"You two stay here. Don't leave this room. If Buffy or Willow try to
get in here, the three of you get in the closet and lock the door from the
inside. It's covered in magic....enough that no one can in once the door is
locked from the inside. Protect her."

As soon as he stepped out of the room he heard the arguing. Standing in
the kitchen doorway he watched Buffy try to get past Spike and Angel while
Willow tried to dodge Wes and Giles. Doyle and Oz were standing shoulder to
shoulder in front of the backdoor. Anything trying to get through there
wouldn't find it a pleasant experience. Willow's words took a moment to
filter through to him, when they did his stomach was time.

"She's the demon. That's not Tara. We have to kill her....kill

"She's not the demon Wils."

"Shut up Xander!! Willow says she is then she must be. She's the
magic expert and I'm the Slayer. Now stop being an idiot and tell Spike to

"Tara's not the demon Buffy...Willow is."

"NOOOO!!!" Xander's words got the reaction he was hoping for. Willow
panicked. If she'd calmly denied Buffy would have believed her. Instead she
ran. The red head barreled past Oz and Doyle, she was in the courtyard and
headed for one of the walls when Buffy caught her.

"I don't believe it! Xander was right!!" Again, Willow might have
gotten out of it, but instead of telling Buffy it wasn't true...she
attacked. Angel locked eyes with Xander. The vampire understood. They were
dealing with an insane witch and an out of control Slayer. The most
efficient way to handle it was to set them on each other and deal with
whoever was left standing in the end. For a moment, Xander thought Angel
might try to interfere. Buffy hadn't really done anything yet, and Angel
hadn't seen inside her mind. He didn't know that she meant to kill Doyle and
Riley to get Angel back.

"Buffy, don't look her in the can't fight if you look her
in the eye." Then again, maybe he did know. As long as Buffy was lost in the
fight, she wouldn't even realize it was Willow she was fighting. Slayer
instincts could be very useful.