The Highest Peak
The battle itself turned out to be almost anticlimactic. Willow's plan worked like a charm and even though Tara had to get rid of a couple of clouds we didn't have much of a problem. It turned out that by choosing a seemingly 'weak' form the demon had lessened its physical power significantly, it could afford to do it seeing how brute strength was not a major factor in its strategy... not for hunting and certainly not for defending itself. It fed on those children it caught in its deception and it knew we wouldn't fight it directly. The demon was well aware of the fact that we feared its very nature and it knew we couldn't take the chance that it would actually be wounded in a frontal fight... as to the actual killing of its victims, then it was forced to revert to its natural form anyway so its human facade became irrelevant at that time.
The truth is that we were extremely lucky. The demon got cocky and because of that we managed to corner it out in the open. It was still taunting us with how there was nothing we could do to stop it when Willow got rid of it. It had assumed that the fact that it was bound to this dimension meant it was safe from magic and it never even saw it coming.
Oddly enough the thing that's bothering me is that the link worked like a charm in spite of a minor glitch, one Willow made sure was corrected as soon as we got home. She added the ones who were missing before dismissing the link. I was surprised by her decision to dismiss the link in stead of just terminating it. Making it permanent had not been the original plan but she said it would be easier to leave it dormant so that we could reactivate it whenever it was needed rather than to have to recreate it from scratch in case of emergency. Seeing how the original spell had turned out to be quite complicated and had required some rather unusual ingredients, I was forced to admit she had a valid point.
In fact the difficulties we encountered when gathering the necessary ingredients for the spell served to bring another point home: Now that things have calm down somewhat, maybe we should look into the possibility of recreating the Magic Box here in Cascade. I know that with no hellmouth around and very few true practitioners in the area it is unlikely to be a profitable venture. I can't help but fear that a new Magic Box would be doomed to make most of its business by selling incense and candles to new age types and catering to wannabes, but we do need a steady supply of ingredients for our own use and in order to obtain those without raising suspicions we will require an acceptable front. Another reason why I've been so reluctant to even consider the possibility of setting up a new store was deeper than the fact that I was too busy and it was made painfully clear earlier today when the link was completed. No matter what name I come up with for it, setting up a new magic shop is bound to become a constant and unavoidable reminder of Anya and I fear that neither Xander nor Andrew are ready to cope with that just yet.
I was shocked by the new understanding I gained of those around me today. I have no further doubts about any of them... not even about Spike. Ever since he came back a part of me has lived in constant fear for Buffy's well-being. I no longer feared that he would turn against us as I did before the battle against the First... his sacrifice was enough to convince me of his intentions, but I did fear the damage he could do to my slayer. A part of me had never been able to forgive him for what he did to her and it took the link for me to realize the depth of his feelings for her.
The link itself was very different from what I might have anticipated. I never really expected to enjoy the experience yet those few minutes in which all eleven of us were actually connected were absolutely amazing. I remember how when Buffy came back from Heaven she spoke of feeling like she was complete. I'm not saying it was the same thing but I think now I can finally understand what she meant... at least a little. Everything was absolutely perfect and that bothers me.
Through the millennia slayers and watchers have done their duty, died and been replaced, that's the way of the world, the nature of our fight and there's nothing we can do to change it and now we've taken our fight one step further. We have assembled a team here that can do things we never thought possible but I know it won't last. It can't last. Buffy and I can be replaced and the same could probably be said of Xander and Andrew, Methos is Immortal so that's not an issue but that's about it. Replacing Willow and Tara is going to be extremely difficult and replacing Jim and Blair is bound to be almost impossible. We don't know what will happen to the Key once Dawn is gone and one of the things I learned from the link today is the secret Blair attempted to keep from me after his visit to the Spirit Plane, when he asked Spike whether or not he wanted to return... the fact that Spike does not intend to survive Buffy.
All these months we've spent working, putting the new Council together, reshaping it into what it should have been all along, I never allowed myself to think about what would happen in the future... now I can think of nothing else. I know Wesley is doing a wonderful job with the other slayers, setting up an academy where they can get the training they need, teaching them to support each other. It's still somewhat surprising when I think of how he used to be the first time I met him. He has come a very long way in these past few years. The thing is that while the LA slayer academy has been a huge success and is something that will survive us, barring major earthquakes and other disasters, what we have here --what Xander once described as our dream team-- will not. What we have built here is something that cannot be duplicated.
We have climbed the highest mountain, I should be happy about that but the thing is that once you've reached the highest peak you have nowhere left to go but down.