Gahhh, time to go cook yummy fish!
Huge huge hugs to Schez for all the magic help… on the magic, LOL.
I challenge anyone to have more banners for a six chapter fic, LOL. This one was made by the tremendously wonderful hollydb
Their quaint little apartment suddenly become home to a planning committee akin to a wartime offensive. Paper, books and boxes that were depressingly empty of Italian pastries were scattered across every flat surface, all while Willow delegated research to her minions: Dawn and Andrew. Buffy had wanted to help, truly she did, but the fact that she had never been able to achieve a balance between Action Buffy and Research Buffy meant that she paced while she read, or tried to read yet quite often emitted hisses of frustration when it just didn’t jive with her plans.
As much as she wanted to be the one to discover what was needed for the spell—incantations, ingredients, a miracle—Buffy just wasn’t seeing it. And she so wasn’t going to let on that it was because her eyes blurred with tears every time she thought of Spike and the possibility that she would have a second chance to do the big ‘I love you’ speech. Maybe this time, rather than being so off the cuff in the face of certain flamey death, she could try out the far more eloquent one she’d been saying in her dreams ever since. Throw in a phrase of two to show him how much she really got the ‘love isn’t brains’ diatribe he’d aimed once at her doomed and young relationship with Angel. After all this effort, if he still didn’t believe her then he was just too boneheaded for words.
It was only a small section of the original Scooby group, but to see Willow and Dawn sharing the traditional research secrets with Andrew lightened her heart. The earnestness on their faces gave Buffy renewed hope that she’d been trying hard not to build up in her head. It took her some time to really embrace the acceptance, having so long bottled every emotion up in fear of it exploding into grief she’d thought they would frown upon. Seeing her sister, best friend and even Andrew so willing to make her happy, at the risk of making a major mistake, forced a feeling of awe to take her over. As much as she’d always loved her friends, awe was not something Buffy had ever experienced in regards to them. Pride, anger, wariness, love, but never pure unadulterated awe.
Giles had called several times during their research sessions. Buffy was convinced he could feel the stirrings of hysterical spell searching all the way over in England and was determined to act peppy and push him off the scent. What she so did not need right now was Giles and his paranoia where Spike was concerned. For the first time since the spell activating so many little girls to power, Buffy felt wonderful about being able to tell Giles to get someone else to ‘do it.’ If he had a mission to locate more of her, she wasn’t going to be a part of it. Months spent aching for the one she lost was so close to being at an end that she couldn’t bear the thought of being sent away and severing the urgency she was feeling from Willow and Dawn.
They’d picked it up from her, of course. It was almost a giddy feeling to right some wrongs and to allow true love to finally conquer all. So swept away in the idea of once again being able to stare into fathomless blue eyes had Buffy stepping almost blindly over the loophole that he may not have ended up at peace, and instead was watching his step at a too hot and fiery place.
It was day three, and the house looked like fifteen famished Xanders had hit it in a rush. Buffy held back the groan wanting to escape as she took in the mess, but as soon as Willow said ‘uhuh’ thoughtfully, it was all forgotten. On that triumphant day, Willow found the spell to locate Spike, and by that night they were ready to sit down and try it. No fuss, no pressure, just Buffy tapping her foot for every second that Willow prepared. She literally growled at Andrew as he entered with his oven-gloved offering of celebratory cookies—most likely in an effort to divert attention away from the possible bad results of the spell.
It was hardly a road bump in the anticipation.
Buffy felt sickness swirl in her stomach as Willow lit candles, chanting as Dawn waved incense and waited for the one moment that Buffy dreaded. The white milked through her eyes as Willow settled into a trance, and Buffy tried to push the pain and agony of nerves away, concentrating on finding out that Spike hopefully wasn’t swanning happily around in Heaven. She found the guilt of hoping Spike hadn’t been judged deserving of the place of eternal rest was slowly lessening—even if it was selfishness that had spurred on the feeling.
She was kind of disappointed not to see some kind of map that plotted out Heaven and Hell in easy colours, printed for ease of viewing. There seemed to be nothing that would show the onlookers the information Willow would learn, and that just added to the nervousness as Buffy clutched her hands to her chest, stared at her zenned out friend with her heart and nerves shining from her eyes.
Buffy wasn’t even going to pretend she understood the phrases Willow used, nor the other elements of the spell. It had been explained, but while the ideas got complicated Buffy just concentrated on Dawn and Andrew’s understanding nods and felt secure that her sister wasn’t objecting. Dawn showed a knack for the study of demons and this crazy secret intellectual world they lived in while Buffy just wanted to go and beat the crap out of the bad guys. Or demons, because she wasn’t really the Slayer of Human Bad Guys. Not that that reversal sometimes wouldn’t be such a bad thing!
An explosion of sparkles and smoke had Buffy jumping to her feet and racing to a spluttering, possibly choking Willow. The overcome witch waved her hand in front of her face, trying frantically to disperse the smoke that made her breathing difficult. “Don’t panic.” Cough. “I’m completely fine.” Cough, cough.
Buffy finally got to her friend through the billowing cloud only to find tears streaming down the pale cheeks and the girl beginning to choke out giggles from her raw throat. A powerful cough interrupted the slight hysteria and Buffy dragged her up off the floor, a concerned look fighting with her impatience to hear the results.
The two girls stepped clear of the smoky confusion and Willow stumbled to the couch. Flopping down, she looked at her audience as she attempted to come down from the high that magic almost always induced in her.
“Well,” she began, then stalled as she chose the best way to say it. Because like it or not, knowing Spike was in Heaven would have been super reassuring and yet the possibility of Hell made this whole enterprise far more interesting and free of the guiltage, and the babble in her head was just as ludicrous as it was out loud.
Buffy stared at her friend hard, her fist curling and preparing to exact an answer any way she saw fit if Willow wanted to continue playing the mute routine. She looked away from the wide eyes that showed that Willow had guessed her desperation, and then the words she’d longed to hear spilled forth.
“He’s not there,” the witch stated solidly. Authoritatively.
Buffy felt the mass of tension exit her body in a terrifying rush and suddenly felt extremely weak at the knees. He wasn’t in Heaven, or any dimension that could be mistaken for the peaceful realm. Voice shaking, body vibrating with the need to move swiftly toward the next step, Buffy implored Willow to elaborate.
“So he’s been in Hell all this time, then?” She was hardly looking for the answer, in her mind being more than rhetorical, so was almost knocked metaphorically on her not-so-padded ass when Willow answered in confused negative.
“Ah, apparently not so much.”
The gasp was almost torn from her throat and Buffy felt such a painful contraction of her heart that the small amount of strength she’d retained gave out and she finally slumped to the floor.
“You mean, he doesn’t exist at all? That the amulet sucked him into nothing? That’s just so wrong.” Dawn voiced what Buffy had been thinking yet without the hysteria the Slayer had felt was about to explode from her body. But still, the sadness in her voice was overwhelming.
“Wrong, yet sadly accurate,” Willow admitted with a frown. “It doesn’t seem quite possible, but I swear I sent the call out to every dimension but ours and he’s nowhere to be found. I’m so sorry, Buffy. B-but I guess it makes our mission a bit easier?”
Buffy snorted at that. Easier? Oh completely, if you found making a vampire return from nothing but thin air a simple act. But then again, maybe Willow did think that. Maybe she could handle anything, and why was she still doubting that? Willow had achieved some pretty amazing feats in her time—mystical engagements between enemies, re-ensouling vampires, enacting the end of the earth and lets not forget the believing in the crayon story so as to unenact it. If that was even the opposite of what she’d done. Releasing an ancient power so that it called every single potential into their birthright was an act that still boggled Buffy’s mind, despite her taking advantage of the result to have more than an occasional early night.
“Can you do it?” There was no doubt that Buffy knew that Willow knew what she was asking, and Andrew and Dawn’s eager looks at the witch just confirmed they were all on the same page.
There was the trademark Willow look of indecision and lack of confidence before the cover of empowered witch fell into place and she nodded. Buffy didn’t want to know the mechanics of it, didn’t care for the explanation as to how it was possible despite Spike apparently not even existing anymore—and what happened to his soul? Buffy nodded unknowingly then excused herself.
Turning her back and rushing, not walking to her room, tears burned her cheeks and throat as she contemplated a lost soul, not deemed important enough to remain in existence though it was fought hard for and won heroically. That hurt a whole lot more than Buffy would have ever expected, but like the parts of herself she’d lost when she was torn out of Heaven, like little sacks of baggage checked in and lost between boarding and disembarking, the loss of Spike’s soul was devastating. He’d won it because of her—for her, and she considered it her gift. The greatest gift anyone had given her besides life, and she wanted it back. It was beyond wrong that it could have been blinked out of existence along with her town and along with a hero.
It proved that justice was blind.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Dawn giggled as she flirted with the security guard. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the disappearing swish of Andrew’s appropriated leather-jacketed style, and counted down the minutes till she could crow in his face of her success.
Kicking herself for her momentary lapse in attention, Dawn turned mega-wattage back on the hunky Italian and couldn’t resist the urge that had her reaching out and squeezing a very swollen looking bicep.
“So, you look like you work out.” She was awed without doubt; muscles like this didn’t grow on just any man, and she had enough teenage years behind her now to know major salty goodness when her sister let her out of the house long enough to use her eyes. As said hunky male began chattering to her in husky chauvinistic Italian phrases that Dawn totally wished still went over her head, she thanked her lucky stars that Buffy was so consumed with the missing Spike misery that she allowed some free time for Dawn to get a taste of the Roman nightlife.
Running a hand up and over his very firm chest and shoulders, Dawn could feel the drool slip out of her mouth and hoped this guy would see it for the compliment it truly was. Very slowly she moved, thanking her natural gift of flirting for getting this guy to turn his back, enthusiastically taking his business card with his phone number on it just as Buffy clocked him over the head. He hit the ground with an awkward thump, yet all Dawn could do was bounce excitedly, flash her success at her sister, and tear around the corner to brag to Andrew.
She didn’t even slow at the unconscious body on the ground, just waved the card around squealing—quietly of course, because covert was the objective of the night—and jumping in Andrew’s face. “I so win.”
Andrew looked way too confident for a geek with sci-fi separation issues. “Guess whose contact was gay? I have a date for Friday night.” His smirk rivalled those of the best, and the best, as they all knew, was Spike.
“No way,” Dawn spluttered, stomping her foot and looking at Willow for confirmation.
“Sorry Dawnie, it’s definitely way.” The redhead giggled, already picturing the photo opportunities of this bet.
Buffy caught up to the group and looked at Dawn in amusement. “Sucks to be you, little sister.” She dragged the beefy security guard into the shadows like he was nothing but a sack of potatoes and headed into the building.
“I get to choose your underwear,” Andrew taunted and scuttled away as Dawn aimed a baleful glare his way.
“You little creep. You’re not even gay, are you! I am so not cleaning your room in my underwear, you perv!”
“Ah, but my little Dawn, you made the bargain and thus must stick to the rules of the game lest you lose all credibility.”
She looked a little uncertain, but conceded grumpily. Making bets and winning was more fun than she usually had to look forward to, thanks to Buffy’s overly strict Friday night routine. Although being forced to watch crap Italian shows had helped her learn the language so much faster. If she didn’t go along with this hideous loss, she may never have the opportunity to humiliate Andrew ever again, and that would be a loss sorely missed.
“Fine, but if you even try to choose a g-string, I’ll pour bleach all over your new nerdy watcher-wannabe wardrobe.”
Buffy had left their squabbling behind as she walked closer to the spot. She didn’t need to have magic oozing from her fingertips to see why this was the best place to make her dreams a reality. The Pantheon demanded awe and Buffy felt so drained of spirit and essence that just standing in this place that offered her hope renewed her in ways she’d never expected.
It had taken a week to get to this point. A week of endless fear and emotional exhaustion, broken occasionally by Andrew and his hilarious attempts to be helpful. Endless study had Willow discovering the most amazing things. A flawless crystal created by none other than Leonardo da Vinci—and sarcastic cracks about her momentary confusion as to why Leo off the Titanic would waste his time on something that didn’t make him look pretty were really unacceptable. Willow deemed this priceless piece to be essential to her spell—the one she hadn’t even found yet, and whoo boy was the recovery of that a doozy that would have made Giles totally wig if he knew anything about it.
Buffy knew it was one of those moments that she’d share with Spike—once he’d been resurrected and they’d taken care of the nose breaking to force him to believe her loving declarations—and they’d laugh heartily over it before making love for days.
Willow hadn’t shared much information about the crystal, and Buffy had the feeling it was because she’d decided to hold as much of the guilt for what they’d planned to do from Buffy as possible. Not that she couldn’t have taken it, but the evidence of her continuing grief was still more than plain to anyone who took the time to look. It would only take having Spike back in her arms for Buffy to let go of the depression that was swelling around her. She barely smiled, hardly letting her lips quirk when Andrew had walked back into their apartment, holding out the crystal respectfully to Willow while everyone stared at him in dumbfounded approval. No amount of imploring would have him tell how he did it, though; he had just tapped his nose to indicate it was a secret while the left side of his face twitched. He turned to head to his room, his walk jerky as smoke billowed out from under the flapping of his coat and his knees appearing all rickety. His mumbled platitudes to Spike were seriously wigworthy, but the girls let it go, allowing his strange hero worship while it so far worked to their advantage.
The spell was discovered—of all places—to be residing in the Vatican. The words that would save her vampire were located under lock and key of the earthly agents of God. If Buffy wasn’t so frantic with worry that things would go without a hitch, she might have been laughing her ass off at the irony. The recovery of that was a secret too, but Willow at least went along with Andrew on that mission. Buffy and Dawn had spent several hours swallowing their urge to laugh hysterically when the pair returned with a weathered and ancient book under a protective arm, yet with hair electrified and standing on end. Willow’s almost scared expression and frantic hissing every time they looked about to open their mouths to ask the inevitable was enough for them to have mercy and drop it. That and the several threats to forget all about the spell if they even dared to inquire what had happened.
And all of it had led them here, to the moment that Buffy couldn’t hide from and the one that would give her back the chance of which she’d been cheated. While she stood in the centre and peered up to the endless blackness of the sky through the circular opening at the apex of the dome, she felt the balling up of fear in her belly.
What if this was wrong? What if Willow had read the cosmos wrong and Spike really was out there somewhere happy, loved and warm in a way that only being truly finished could make him? Spontaneous shivers struck her and Buffy tried to hug her cold body back into the warmth of the night. All week she’d blocked out the doubts, refusing to remember all the spells that had gone wildly wrong in Willow’s early days. She had control now; she had respect for nature and the elements that gave her her power. It was the least Buffy could do to believe in her skill. Especially as the witch was only doing it to benefit her.
It was too late for second thoughts now. Buffy could feel the power thrumming through the air even as she stood quietly by and watched Willow, Dawn and Andrew set the scene around her, somehow feeling it all so close to hand but barely registering the slight interference with her surroundings. The night changed around them, though Buffy was willing to bet that only she noticed it. She was so still she could hear the soft buzz of insects flying by, or the loudness of the silence the others were abruptly interrupting as they dragged huge ormalu candelabras into an inner circle for light, the metallic scrape of the bases over ancient marble floors almost deafening. But it was too distant to make Buffy feel more than a little uncomfortable. She was focused on what was to happen, how she’d greet Spike when he flashed back into her life.
Buffy was forced out of her meditative state as Andrew bumped into her and nearly sent her to her knees under the heavy candelabra he’d been struggling backwards to place under the oculus.
“Whoa, watch where you’re standing, Buffy. We’re trying to raise the undead dead here!” Dawn jumped in before Buffy had the chance to pummel Andrew for helping to return her undead lover, even if he was clumsy and more likely to stumble into the spell and return them the mother of Frankenstein than Spike. “And I know I haven’t mentioned it before, but as soon as you get Bleached and Repentant back I’ll be staying at a hotel with Willow and Andrew. Last thing my young ears need is to be corrupted with the moaning and groaning of you two.”
Buffy snapped her mouth shut before she gave into the temptation to yell at anyone and losing her support for this entire act. She felt so jittery now, nervous and wondered what it could mean. It didn’t feel like what she would have expected to be getting her dream back. It was almost like a warning and as strong as it was becoming, Buffy was fighting it off even more.
“What was with doing this in a church again?” Buffy nibbled at her lips, feeling a creeping itch start to abuse her skin. The urge to scratch and hum and then cry was getting more and more powerful the closer Willow was to being fully set up.
“Well, we picked it for more than its churchy origins,” Willow explained patiently. “Before this place was even built, the site was rich in pagan rites, for all the old gods Greek and otherwise, hence the Pantheon nameage. Then the nature of the building itself—really, really old.” She held out a hand as if to show the weight of the point, then lifted her other in a scale of comparison. “Spike, also of the really old. And the religious aspect is totally of the good. I know you think it’s a contradiction to raise the undead on sanctified soil, but really, Buffy, it’s completely perfect. If the Powers truly object to us bringing Spike back over—” She paused at the look of horror that took over Buffy’s face, “—then they won’t approve the spell. I’m so sorry, but we need this. Need someone to be able to make that final decision. I couldn’t find him, Buffy. I’m pretty sure that means he doesn’t exist out there, but just in case he does and the Powers don’t want him moved, they have the authority here to stop me going too far.”
Even though that was what Buffy wanted—to not give into the desire to be selfish and bring him over at all costs—Willow putting the possibility of failure into words made her freeze. She felt her blood turn to ice and infuse her body with a damning cold she feared she would never lose. This was how Spike must have felt all the time—totally dead inside but still moving and thinking and parodying life. She had no more words for Willow, finding the need to preserve her energy a more serious consideration as she felt her knees go weak and her body shudder.
With the new boost of light from the freshly lit candles, Buffy looked up and so wished she hadn’t. It was there in the curve of the dome, the omen she really didn’t want to acknowledge. Heaven, and in that second Buffy knew it would all go wrong. Tears gathered and spilled over and down her cheeks while in front of her Willow poured her thrice blessed sand in a perfect circle before taking her place in its centre.
Wiggling her butt till she was comfy on the cold marble floor, Willow then took out from a black silk bag a crystal the size of a small egg, placing it carefully, reverently in the middle of a larger circle of blemish free quartz crystals.
Peering out at Buffy under her lashes, she swiftly brought out a dark glass beer bottle and sat it so that it touched the central crystal from which all the power from her casting would be directed.
“What the hell is that? Are we conjuring Spike from the beer drinking dimension?” Buffy stared at the bottle with a mixed look of confusion and appalled curiosity.
Willow blushed, obviously wanting to delay this conversation, but Buffy was insistent, needing something, anything to distract her from the sense of badness that this was all going to blow up in her face.
“I, ah, kinda needed something of Spike’s to channel the energy and locate some kind of signature that he would have left behind. Dawnie said that you didn’t have anything, that it was one of the things that…which I get, I truly do. I lost everything I had of Tara too, and really we’re so lucky to have this—”
“Willow, where did the bottle come from?” She’d surpassed curious now and was getting a nasty feeling that someone might have gone past certain boundaries.
“A-Andrew had it.”
Dawn flinched as Buffy turned incredulous eyes upon her housemate and quirked a brow.
“Wanna let me in on why you were carrying one of Spike’s beer bottles to the final fight, Andrew?”
He looked scared, his eyes wide as he stared at Buffy.
“No,” he squeaked and Buffy decided it was just better to let it go with a shrug. She really didn’t want to know. It could only be horrifying or disgusting, and now was so not the time to learn about more of Andrew’s disturbing little habits.
It was time to kick it up a notch and Buffy gasped as the wicks of seven pure, thick beeswax candles burst into flame around the sand circle, burning brighter than an ordinary candle would under a natural force. It was a good reminder of how serious this was, of how totally out of her realm it was, and Buffy felt that warning buzz again that she was at Willow’s mercy to get this right. Buffy knew she could trust Willow—the search for Spike had been absolute and he was nowhere. He wasn’t in Heaven and he wasn’t in Hell, and it was criminal that a man—a vampire like Spike could save the world and end up nowhere. That was no reward, no payment for sacrificing his existence. These thoughts helped to add strength to her waning belief, and with a straighter back, Buffy peered into the bright shimmering light and said a quiet prayer of thanks to the Gods for so far not shutting them down. Then another to ask they allow him through.
And then it was show time, and Buffy wondered at the brittle grasp she had on the situation as Willow called upon masters of otherworld power, and implored them to do her will.
Almost before her lips had even parted, the swirling sky parted and settled above the eye of God staring down upon them. Before Buffy could breathe in, she felt a rush of adrenaline almost manifest in the room as heavy winds began to circle them and then rushing their bodies with a force that almost knocked them over. The questions Buffy had held away from her, the ones she’d really not wanted answers to was hitting her hard now, the guilt slapping at her face while tears came faster and wind battered her to her knees. It screamed, speeding from the sky through the eye until it took them over, made Willow’s hair fly wildly around her head and trying to force her focus off the spell she’d positioned in front of her.
Each of the clear quartz crystals lit internally, shedding even more light on the event than Buffy ever felt was needed, though it still remained mostly dim. Until the main rock acted like the Spike’s fatal amulet and conducted lightning and blinding light to its thrumming centre before shooting it straight through the dome, clashing with the already lively night. The burning in her eyes was severe and Buffy finally buckled under the combined forces, falling to her knees and moaning for it to end. Pain ricocheted within her skull and Buffy only just heard the cracked voice of her friend calling out to Pluto, not quite demanding he release the dead as she struggled back to her feet.
Asking for such a gift required sacrifice; Buffy had expected that. And being the longest lived Slayer she’d thought herself capable of withstanding the most obscene amount of pain. But not this—not knives that sliced her heart from inside her chest and then stabbed it a hundred times before squeezing the vestiges of life from it in a full and angry fist. Somewhere distant she could hear her own scream and wondered objectively if she was being a bit of a coward, even as a crowd of furious spirits combined to thrash her alive.
“Minerva, take our sacrifice and renew our wish to return the wise. Let us recover the one taken; Pluto, release William the Bloody into our loving arms and let this suffering of the one who loves him be at an end.”
Lightning arced through the sky and into the room straight down from the hole in the dome, striking the glowing crystal with a momentum that made it explode spectacularly, sending the shattered shards to all quarters of the room. The force pushed a barrier of resistance against them and they were knocked off their feet—except for Willow who had already been sitting. A final scream as the promised pain was delivered unerringly throughout Buffy’s body and the jagged light slammed around the room, joining the candelabras in a circle of mystical electrical energy.
All around them was angry, howling winds, jerking lightshows mere centimetres from their bodies, and then a roar of fury erupted through the night—through Willow’s well thought out incantation. The witch dropped to the floor in a dead faint, vulnerable to the fury that appeared next to her in the sacred circle. Buffy clashed eyes with a stranger and a scream was torn from her throat. He skipped over her friend, focused briefly on Dawn and Andrew, then licked his lips before looking over her body suggestively.
And then he pounced, his minor disorientation just enough to make this first attack falter, despite Buffy’s distress. Who was this? It wasn’t Spike, couldn’t be Spike, yet the face was familiar and the eyes belonged only to a man who’d loved with his whole self.
This one wanted to kill her and with his rebound attack, Buffy ducked his fists before shouldering into his belly and running him to the wall with fierce intent. Her hand circled his throat, and in the split second she had to observe the vampire face displayed just for her, Buffy could admit that it was him before slamming his head back into the wall and stepping back from his slumped unconscious form.
It was Spike.
He’d just come back wrong.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/99791.html