Drain Brameged Inc. Proudly Presents
Call Crow Call...
Call, crow, call in the dead air of the day
Are there eyes to pick,
here, quick, take mine
Call in the dead of day, crow,
Call, crow, call.
- Ian Mudie
Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down
"What am I?" the girl said.
In the darkness of the room within, greater then the darkness of the night without, no one had an answer.
"What am I?" She wailed again. "Why am I here? What happened to us?"
She sat huddled in the corner of the sofa, feet curled beneath her, the ragged scraps of her death attire still barely covering her, the shards of modesty lying about her, mocking the appearance of something 'human'.
It peered down at its messenger from its place on her shoulder. This would not do. Where there was supposed to be fire there was only void, where there was supposed to be rage there was only pain. Pain alone was not enough. Perhaps she would have to go back, to the Earth, back to the grave, back to the shackles that had bound her.
Tara crawled across the floor on her hands and knees and pulled herself into a sitting position on the end of the sofa opposite the girl. Amy moved up behind her, curling up on the floor at Tara's feet. She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, as if to ward off a chill. There was no escaping this cold though.
Tara reached out a hand, tentatively, slowly across the space separating her from their 'guest.'
"Are you crazy?" Amy hissed seeing what Tara was about to do. "Don't touch her!"
"I have to," Tara whispered back. "And don't talk so loud, she'll hear you."
"No you don't," ,he girl said. "I can hear you fine. I'm dead, not deaf." She looked up at the two of them. "Tara."
"Willow," Tara replied, pulling her hand back quickly.
"She's not Willow!" Amy protested loudly. "She can't be Willow. Willow is dead! They're all dead!"
A memory...the ghost of memory flashed across the girls mind. She smiled slightly, more of a smirk and in the darkness, something truly horrid to witness. "A better one than I said this but it still fits. I may be dead; but I'm still pretty."
"Oh Goddess!" Amy shuddered. She leaped to her feet and grabbed Tara's shoulder. "We gotta get outta here." She gave a hard tug.
"No!" The redhead cried. "Don't leave, please!"
Tara didn't move for a few seconds before resting her hand on top of Amy's. "It's alright." She said quietly.
"It's not alright!" Amy insisted. Her eyes were beginning to tear over. "This...this thing is here, in our home claiming to .. it's wrong. All this is wrong and she shouldn't be...she can't be...please...please please Tara if you love me get on your feet and run!"
Tara had never heard Amy beg for anything in her life; but she still didn't move.
"Yes." Tara said quietly. "Yes it is wrong, the fact that she is here, that Willow--"
"That isn't Willow!!" Amy practically screamed.
"It is Willow," Tara repeated quietly. "And it is wrong that she's here, that's why she's here. So things won't be wrong anymore." She turned to the Crow. "That's it isn't it? It's the reason isn't it?"
It just looked at them.
"You..." The redhead swallowed and tried again. "You know why I'm here then?"
"Maybe." Tara shrugged slightly.
"What happened? To us.,.to..." The girl gestured helplessly.
The question punched through the hasty barriers Tara had erected in her mind. This ...sitting before her the woman she had once loved, still loved. Or at least loved her memory. Even, on warm evenings laying in the arms of Amy she would dream of those short, short moments when, for a bare instant, Willow had been hers.
At the cost of someone else's body, her morals, her honor, and what little sense of self-respect she had had back then. Amy was helping her build herself back. Had been.. after hearing what had become of her first love..
'I can't, she's not, I can't, she's not, I can't, she's not...' Tara's mind was locked in a loop of denial. Even though having moments before argued against Amy's claims, she had not, up till now, really truly believed. 'The question...I have to answer the question because I want to help her. No...no don't think about, can't think about it; it will hurt. Must help! No, the hurt.. Oh Goddess, she's _here_ and it really happened, never really...help her...but that will hurt...no no no no no no...'
"Tara?" Amy knelt down and put her hand on the other wiccan's upper arm. "Tara honey?"
Tara was not very responsive. Her eyes stared at the redhead still curled up in the far corner. The two of them were staring at each other. The former seemingly lost within her mind and the latter, simply lost.
The redhead reached slowly toward Tara, a look of concern playing across her features only to have her hand slapped away.
"Don't touch her!" Amy hissed at the recoiling girl. "Don't you dare touch her."
Again a field of obsidian slid across the witches eyes and the air around her grew heavy, again curled lips began to snarl out ancient words that called upon buried powers. The redhead whimpered piteously.
It fluttered from the girls shoulder and landed on Tara's knee, the blonde still did not respond but it's present perch brought it exactly at eye level to where Amy still kneeled upon the floor, fists clenched, energies just beginning to make themselves known. Once again ancient met fawn in a contest of wills. Black on black, raw magic versus ancient, ancient ...patience.
The Crow stared.
"No." Amy hissed. "I defy you. I don't care your reasons of justifications. She doesn't deserve this. She didn't do anything. It's not her. I defy you. Do you hear me? You're just a bird...a...a feather duster that doesn't know it's place. I defy you!"
The Crow stared.
"I...I have powers," Amy continued. "I'm not a weakling. I'll crush your heart out. End your legacy. Destroy this thing you've perpetuated on my Tara. Willow's dead. She's resting, asleep. This is not her and you better let this thing go, let her free or I'll...I'll kill you. I'll kill you real bad. So...Go DO it!"
The Crow stared.
"Just go," Amy's instructed. "Go away. Take her with you, we won't interfere. We...we won't tell anybody if that's what you want but please...go away."
The Crow stared.
The power of the witch melted away, vanishing back to the ether. "Please...please please go away." Amy now sobbed. Her normal brown eyes, her sense of self being swallowed by the sharp, deep, pit in it's own vision.
The Crow stared.
Amy broke away and held a hand, palm out, in front of as if attempting to block something or protect herself. She looked away quietly weeping. For herself maybe, or for Tara, possibly even for the dead girl in her home. It didn't matter though, simply because It did not care.
A black beak jabbed forward suddenly and the sharp tip penetrated skin, muscle, nerves and bone. It punctured the flesh cleanly from one side to the other. With a sharp yelp of pain Amy pulled her hand to her breast, cradling it with her other and continued to sob. Silently, the blood worked it's way from the deep wound to slide down the white skin of her wrist and drip patiently onto the rug, staining it deeply.
It flew back to it's original perch on the girl's shoulder, she had moved out of her instinctive fetal position to watch the battle. Now she sat nervously in the corner. Legs curled beneath her hands clasped in her lap. She said nothing the entire time understanding it was not allowed. She now eyed It warily, in the dim light it's blood soaked tip glimmered in the dark. It clicked it's beak a few times and a black tiny tongue flickered out briefly to taste the few drops it could reach.
Now together the two of them watched as Amy seemed to be lost herself. She had stopped crying a few moments before and now her wet cheeks reflected in the gloom. The wiccan held up her hand; It was a tiny puncture but complete. She seemed to watch as the red eased over her skin, almost grudgingly.
Her brown eyes were wide as she studied the wound. "Ah..." She said softly. "I see!"
The redhead shuddered violently.
"She killed you." The whisper. Tara's whispered voice bounced around the room. "Faith killed you, first your baby, then Buffy and then she killed you."
Tara had not moved from where she was, herself, curled up on her end of the sofa. Still staring off into the dark corners of the room.
"Tara?" Amy said, not turning in her lover's direction.
"She killed you." Tara murmured again, quietly, plainly, in a neutral tone of voice with no inflection behind it. Nothing to indicate that she was being more than a voicepiece for a memory. "Just...stabbed Buffy...sliced you open, baby's dead. Killed Buffy...so Buffy's dead. The she sliced your throat. So you were dead too." Tara gave a small giggle. "Sh-She slices...she dices...she even makes julien fr-fries."
"Tara. Tara...c'mon baby...shhh.." Amy had clambered onto the sofa, putting herself between the girl, the bird and the witch. She eased Tara down so the long haired wiccan was lying with her head in her lap. If either of them noticed Amy's still bleeding hand, matting Tara's hair to her skull, they didn't say.
"She killed you," Tara started over. "She just-"
"Shush now love. Shhh...it's alright. Everything is alright." Amy ran the fingers of her unhurt hand through Tara's hair. The other hanging off behind the sofa, slowly dripping into the carpet.
"No," She said quietly. Amy jerked her head around in surprise. 'I almost forgot she was there.' She thought.
"No." The readhead repeated. "Let her speak. I..I need to hear this."
Amy's lips began to curl up yet again and a sharp word arose in her throat. Then the dull ache of her wounded hand seemed to twist about in her head and both reactions died stillborn.
Tara sighed, she lifted her head out of Amy's lap despite the others small cry of dismay. Turning her head slowly she locked eyes with the redhead.
"She killed you." Tara began yet again. "And...there was so much blood. I heard, I heard that the entire roof was covered in it. Even after you were dead, supposedly Faith just kept cutting and cutting. She...it's like she was trying to kill you, anywhere you might go."
"Say it again." The command was spat out through tightly clenched teeth.
Tara obeyed. "Faith... just...she killed you as ..and your baby she.." Tara's voice began to crack.
"Say it again!!"
"She killed you!" Tara blurted. "With...her knife. Stabbed and cut...the baby was ..and Buffy."
"She butchered you!" Louder.
"She slaughtered your daughter!" Screaming.
"AGAIN!!" the redhead screamed back, leaping to her feet, leaping at Tara and stopping mere inches from the wiccan's nose. A tiny rivulet of saliva worked it's way between the girls teeth, over her lower lip and hung there for an eternity.
"She..." Tara gasped. "She hurt Buffy."
In utter contrast to the volume used a second before the question uttered from dead lips was exquisitely quiet.
"Buffy wasn't dead. Before you I mean." Tara whimpered. "Faith hurt her...for hours."
The redhead took a numb step backwards. "But...but I felt her ...she died... I know it."
"No." Tara whispered helplessly shaking her head. "Goddess no, I'm sorry but Buffy was... Faith hurt her before she let Buffy die."
"H...how? How do you know?" The girl demanded quietly.
"The newspaper." Tara replied. "The...story was about how she...she...was...found...covered...and...she was still alive when they found her. For a while."
She tried to take another step backwards but her legs gave way and she collapsed between the table and the sofa. "What did she do to her?" She growled. "What did Faith do to Buffy!?"
Tara's jaw worked silently for a few seconds. "I..." She started over. "I don't know."
Air rasped in and out of dead lungs, a mind that was far too alive not being aware that the exercise in breathing was unnecessary. The sounds of breathing from a dead person grew louder and louder in the small, dark room, until, a high pitched keening wail that built into a full throated scream then culminated in violence.
"FaaaaiiiiiiiiTTTTTTHHHHHH!!!!" The redhead screamed standing up and putting her fist through the glass tabletop. Her blow carried through the flimsy matter and smashed into the carpeted floor but this too proved no barrier. The rug was pulverized and driven down into the cement foundation of the house and that too yielded allowing the fist to be embedded within with a sickening crunch.
Again the redhead raised her arm let fly, again the cement, solid rock, did give before her, and again, and again, each time with the sound of flesh and bone being ground to pulp. The entire exercise in futility was done in silence; silence of two witches staring in abject horror, silence as an ancient force did ruffle it's feathers slightly deciding that, at last, she was ready; silence as tears, fresh ones, slid down her cheeks and agony curled in her guts.
It didn't matter though. Rage could only last so long, quick and fast is was, burning itself out but the hate, and the pain those would be a source of power for a long time; a harsh mistress, a ceaseless task master that would drive the girl on, never giving her peace or respite. She would have to earn those and only through vengeance would they be paid for.
She stopped trying to destroy the floor as her rage burned out, guttered and died for the most part. Her legs gave way to the pull of the world and she slumped back against the base of the sofa resting her face in her hands, on a mutilated mess of ruptured tissue and bone, but quickly becoming less so before the two witches eyes.
"Willow...your hand," Tara began, out of the corner of her eye she noticed Amy's wounded limb still slowly dripping blood onto the carpet. "Amy! Your hand! What happened?"
The other blonde glanced at her own injury and her eyes, almost drawn against there will, tracked across the room to rest upon the black bird that had fluttered back to the girls shoulder. It seemed to be waiting for her for as she looked up on It, It, in turn, was staring at her. The human quickly broke the lock first.
"A lesson." Amy muttered. "Just a lesson."
Tara clucked her tongue a few times, reaching into her pocket. "We...we'll never g-get those stains out of the carpeting." She pulled out a handkerchief and gently wrapped it around Amy's palm. She tucked the edges of the handkerchief into the wrapping so it wouldn't come loose easily. Giving into an impulse or even a need for something comforting Tara tried to give Amy's hand a tender kiss but her lover pulled the hand away, beyond reach.
"No." She whispered. "Not now. It...it wouldn't be right."
With her hands, the one fully healed as if never harmed, spoke up. "Yes, do it now. Always do it, never let anything stop you." She turned to stare at the two lovers. "Never let anything stop you." She repeated.
Her face was wet with moisture streaming down her face. Tears, salty, but cold. Cold tears from cold flesh falling to a cold floor of broken glass, torn carpeting and crushed cement. Her eyes though were colder still. Like glimmering emeralds in the gloom of the house. Shimmering, reflecting, capturing light and twisting it outward just like the precious gems would. But a cold light.. a dead light.
"It is alright now." The redhead continued. "It...wouldn't bother me." She rubbed at her temple wearily. "It...might even help a little." She smiled slightly lowering her hand. "Help me, seeing that love still ..is?"
With a slight sigh of relief Amy held her arms open and Tara, without a sound collapsed into Amy's embrace. 'At last.' She thought to herself, cradling her head on Amy chest while working her arms around her lover's waist. 'Something warm.'
She nestled down, luxuriating, briefly the warmth of Amy's sweater, the heat from her arms around her, the steady beat of her heart right next to her ear. A stab of guilt arced across her own heart, here she was safe in the arms of her love and behind her, left all alone...
'But she insisted.' Her mind countered. 'That doesn't make it any better though.'
"Willow." Tara said, voice slightly muffled be Amy's sweater and embrace. "It...it hurts to see you."
"It hurts to be seen." The redhead replied distantly. She sighed. "Go to bed. Get some rest I'll be gone soon. Where...I don't know. To do what...that I do know."
"And that would be what?" Amy said gently rubbing Tara's back and neck.
"Find Faith." The girl shrugged.
"And after that?" The Wiccan demanded.
"I...I don't know." The redhead seemed to wilt. "Maybe..."
"We'll help." Tara's muffled voice spoke up. "We have too. I...I have to." She pulled away a bit and looked up at Amy's face. "I do. You know that don't you?"
"Yes." Amy nodded. "I know and we will help."
"How can you help?" The redhead snorted getting to her feet. "I mean really. What can you do?"
"We can...uh.." Tara briefly wore a look of panic. "We can give you something to wear. Cause...it wouldn't be a good idea to walk around like that."
The redhead looked at the tattered and torn dress that was barely preserving any modesty she might have once had. "If you say so." She shrugged again. "But I can find something myself. This isn't a game Tara. This isn't the Scooby Gang anymore. That's dead...we're dead.. I'M dead! Don't you get it? Don't you understand?"
"Yes," Tara said turning around in Amy's arms. "I think I do. Amy does as well...now. Thats...that's why we're going to help. And the others too we should.."
"No!" The girl's shout bounced around the room. "We don't tell them. They've...gotten over it Not gonna drag them back into...whatever. We just don't tell them. Please.. I shouldn't have even.. come here and it's all just.. just don't. Please."
"If...if that's what you want," Amy said.
"We can help." Tara insisted in the background. "We ..we can help you find Faith. Y-you think we didn't want too? That we just let it go? We...we tried to find her, cause, even though the cops said there were n-no suspects we knew. All of us...w-we knew and we tried."
"So how can you help?" The redhead asked again.
"Well...we tried...in the past to...scry Faith. Find out where she was but...it never really worked." Amy shrugged. "The best we could get was LA. She was somewhere in LA. and it's not exactly like we were in touch with your friends that much."
Tara studied the new pattern of red in their now destroyed floor. 'There goes the security deposit' her mind informed her helplessly. "That...that would be my fault. What with everything...I tried to do...so..."
"I can't be here." Willow said slowly, getting to her feet. "I...can't it...it's not allowed. I'm...not sure but...it's against the rules. Go to bed. Just...go to bed...sleep. Try and forget. I'm sorry for all of this."
"We're coming then," Tara said sitting up straight. "We'll...we'll come with you to Los Angeles. We'll help you f-find Faith. Do you think this is just about you? She hurt all of us, Xander, Anya everybody! So...so we're coming along too and...and you can't stop us."
With those words the black bird on the redheads shoulder flapped it's wings and landed on the space of the sofa separating the one woman from the two wiccans. It stretched it's wings out to their full length and stayed that way. The meaning was clear; that of a barrier.
"Yes." The girl replied looking at the bird. "I do think it's just about me. I know it is. Faith killed us. She killed our child, she killed my wife and she killed me. That's why I was brought back; for vengence, but to be taken alone. I have to go now."
She stepped around the ruins of the small table that had been the center of the room. "Sorry about that." She said indicating the mess. She stepped toward the front door.
"Willow, wait!" Amy cried out. The redhead turned around slowly, reluctantly.
Dashing out of the room Amy came back a few seconds later, in her arms she carried clothing. These she tossed on the ground. "Take them." She said. "We will help you, and if all we can do is prevent you from being a naked women on a vengeance trip than that'll have to do."
The redhead knelt down and, it seemed reverently, ran her fingers over the black jeans that lay on the floor. Also in the tangle of clothing was a simple dark red button down shirt and black socks. There even was a bra...also black.
"And...and...you can have my boots!" Tara suddenly piped up. She too rushed out of the room and came back a moment later with the items in question.
The redhead sighed. "Tara, they probably won't fit and I.."
"Y-yes they will." Tara nodded. "I...uh...I know so."
The boots joined the pile on the floor. They were a deep, grey color, with a just the tiniest bit of a heel and the material seemed to be soft leather that, when worn would be a snug fit that stretched up the leg and end just below the knee.
"I...I...that is..." The redhead stuttered. She then gave a sigh. "Where can I change?"
"Uh...the ..bathroom is through that door over there." Tara said pointing in the direction.
Gathering the clothes up in her arms the girl crossed the room and shut the door firmly.
The two wiccans sat, reluctantly on the couch. As they had moved about the room It had followed them with it's eyes, wings still outstretched, still playing the role of the barrier between them and It's vessel. The empty minutes passed, the two of them, holding hands, Tara mindful of her lovers injury being gentle. The sat on the sofa as The Crow stood on the table, it's wings marking a border they were not to pass. Where the redhead was, being on the other side of that line.
And so they sat in the dark, waiting for the what had once been to return.
With a flurry of feathers and the beat of powerful wings It took to the air and, flying across the dark room, and vanished out the still open window into the night.
"Uh.." Amy said in a puzzled tone.
"Goddess!" Tara exclaimed and leaping to her feet hurried over to the bathroom door. She flung it open and stared. Amy peered into the room over her shoulder. The white neon light from within stabbed across the dark living room floor creating very black, deep, shadows of the two of them on the floor, on the carpeting, on the blood.
Within the wind, flowing in from the open window pushed gently on the curtains. The rags that the girl had been wearing were sitting neatly folded, or as neatly folded as possible, on the closed lid of the toilet. There was no message, there was no note, no words in lipstick on the mirror. Just an open window and some folded rags.
"She's gone." Tara said sadly.
"Yes." Amy replied. She gently placed her good hand on Tara's shoulder.
"What do we do now?" Tara asked.
"We go to bed." Amy answered. "We go to bed and try and get warm."