"When the fire goes out, when the crystal turns black, the spell will be cast. Diligo victum, diligo victum, diligo victum." Pulling out the crystal and staring into its depths, Willow Rosenberg tried to convince herself that she was doing the right thing. Love had to conquer everything else.
With a quick wave of her hands Willow sent the shard to safety, locking it forever in the realm of protection. She would not allow her friend to be forced into reliving the pain she was clearly in. Whatever happened, Willow convinced herself that it had to be better than what Buffy was going through now. With a happy skip Willow headed for the door of the house on Revello drive and towards the Magic Box, secure in the knowledge that her ‘Love Conquers' spell would not only help Buffy get over her depression at being torn from Heaven by basking in the love of her friends, but that Tara would stop being mad at her. She ignored the voice in her head that shouted if Tara ever found out about this she would leave her for good. She had to do this; she really did have no other choice. Willow could not bear the feelings of guilt over Buffy and anger from Tara any more. She had to fix it.
As the door to 1630 Revello slammed shut, the large bunch of unused herbs that Willow had carelessly left behind, fell and ignited. Willow had once again messed up a spell, but the consequences of this one would span time itself.
Chapter One: He sleeps.
Spike smelled the burning ozone of magic just before the darkness overcame him.
Dawn felt compelled to stand not realising the glow she could see was in fact coming from her.
For the first time since she'd been stolen from her place of rest, Buffy felt wave after wave of emotion hit her, as if everything she had failed to feel since she'd returned had been stored up somewhere and had finally been released.
Xander shot to his feet and raced first to Anya, who had passed out next to the similarly affected watcher, not realising yet that the almost crippling fear of his upcoming marriage had left him completely; knowing only that he had to get to his love.
Tara and Willow unconsciously reached for each other as they, too, slipped into the oblivion.
Xander watched frozen as the green mist that surrounded Dawn, lifted and seemed to split in two. The first half settled on the unconscious watcher, and then seemingly disappeared from view. The second half concentrated itself on Anya's chest until it solidified into a pendent and the maybe not so ex-vengeance demon woke with a start.
As Anya woke, so did the majority of the others, the only notable exceptions were Giles and Spike.
Tara seemed to gather herself more quickly and rushed over to check the two members of their group that were still unconscious. Reaching Spike first, she gasped as what she was seeing in his aura seeped into her consciousness. "He has his soul," she announced to the group in shock.
"Someone cursed Spike with a soul?" Buffy squeaked in disbelief.
"No, Buffy," the Wiccan assured her. "He has his soul. No curse. It's attached, so it's permanent and there's no trauma to it which means it returned on its own and as the demon isn't fighting it, I'd have to guess that Spike wanted his soul back."
Ignoring the loud questions and exclamations that her statements created, Tara moved to Giles. "Oh Goddess," she whispered. "He's in a mystical coma. We can't wake him. He has to come out of it on his own."
"What the Hell happened here?" The Slayer snarled in desperation. "I wish..."
"WHOA! Ix-nay on the Ish-way, Buffster, Anya's got a shiny new pendent." Xander quickly interrupted. "I think our best choice is to make Giles comfortable in the training room, then deal with everything on a case by case," he suggested with uncharacteristic maturity. "Tara, can you see about waking, Spike. We need to know if he's gonna be capable of being a part of this or if the soul's going to cause him problems."
"I'm fine," Spike mumbled as he gingerly sat up. He kept his eyes averted as he announced his own little bombshell, "Its not new."
Buffy looked at him blankly before shaking her head, First things first she silently ordered herself. "You okay to help me move Giles?" she asked quietly, moving to the side of the recovering bleached blond.
"Just give me sec, Slayer. I need to clear m'head," he replied with equal softness as his gaze drifted unwillingly towards the unconscious man; his soul keening loudly.
With slow deliberate steps Spike moved closer to Giles, staring down at the other Brit with an unreadable expression on his face. Silently, he motioned to the Slayer to take the Watcher's feet. Together they carried the comatose man to the training room couch, neither saying a word.
As soon as Buffy and Spike returned to the table, Xander focused on the vampire. "You okay, Spike?"
Spike stared at the carpenter in open-mouthed shock; never before had Alexander Harris spoken to him in such a way. Spike could hear the concern in the young brunette's voice and it floored him.
"Um...yeah...I'm fine, Harris. How ‘bout you? You feelin' okay, mate?" Spike watched the man sceptically.
Xander chuckled and shrugged self consciously. "Man, I've been jealous of you for years, I don't know what happened to any of us, all I do know is that the jealousy is gone and I'm man enough to admit that soul or no soul, without you this summer- I'd be dead. I owe you my thanks and my respect and I hope you'll accept both."
Spike's eyes widened briefly as the other spoke. A slight smile crossed his lips as a softness settled on his features. He offered a slightly shaking hand to the brunette and smiled broadly as his proffered grasp was easily accepted.
As their hands parted Xander stepped back into his self appointed role as ‘the man in charge'. In clear and precise detail he explained to the others what he had seen.
Willow listened, saying nothing. She had no idea what had happened. The only ones that were supposed to be affected were Buffy and Tara. As the quiet blonde slipped her hand into Willow's left, the redhead made the decision to say nothing for the moment. As long as Giles woke up quickly, and nobody else seemed to be hurt, she couldn't see any reason to rock the boat with her girl.
"I'm not a demon," Anya informed them all. Picking up the new pendant that rested on her chest, she took the time to study it. "It's not a Vengeance Pendent. I don't recognise it at all."
"Well if that green mist that Xander saw was actually Dawn's Keyness, then maybe it would be better to lock that thing away until we can discuss it with Giles. The last thing we need is for it to fall into the wrong hands and have someone breaking down dimensional walls or something equally of the bad." Buffy offered with a shudder. Her tone lighter than it had been since she had been brought back. She couldn't get over the fact that everything that had happened to her felt like it occurred years in the past. She felt like she'd been given a new lease on life. The whole world looked brand new.
"Buffy?" Dawn hesitantly tried to gain her sister's attention. "You're acting different," she offered guardedly, unable to clearly state what it was about her sister that seemed to have changed, but hoping with desperation that it was a good thing.
"I feel different, not so much depresso girl anymore," Buffy smiled at her sister as she answered her question.
Buffy's smiled turned into a grin of delight when Dawn threw herself into the blonde's waiting arms.
The momentary jubilation of the gang was brought back under control with Xander's next question. "What about you, Wills? Any changes?"
As all eye's turned to her, Willow blushed. "Nope. No changes here. Everything's the same in Willowland."
The conversation quickly turned back to the watcher. No one but Willow noticed the speculative gaze of the vampire that watched her; no one except the white Wiccan, whose suspicion grew.
"So what's the deal with the soul, Spike? You said it wasn't new," Buffy asked the quite vampire, allowing his attention to drift back to her. She was surprised to note the butterflies in her stomach when his gaze locked with hers.
Spike shrugged nonchalantly. "Rupes didn't trust me with Dawn without it."
"You let him curse you," Willow gasped in shock and more than a little envy. She hated that Giles had done such a powerful spell without her.
"Hell, no!" Spike snorted with derision. "Told him I wanted to fight for it and demon girl told us about the Trials."
"The Trials?" Tara quietly asked, turning to Anya.
Anya moved to join the others at the research table before she answered. "If you want something badly enough and are willing to pay the price you can go through the Trials. Every trial is different and specifically set up to cater to the supplicant. In Spike's case he had to face his victims and ask for forgiveness."
"Wow," Willow stared at the vampire with new respect. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"I didn't want to ask you or the Whelp to forgive me, I figured after Angelus' shite it'd be an uphill battle. Better to let sleepin' dogs lie." Spike replied quietly, a new shyness clear for them all to see.
"And me?" Buffy queried. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"You had enough of your own stuff to deal with, luv. Didn't seem right layin' mine on you, too."
"Thank you," Buffy smiled softly. "If it means anything to you, you have my forgiveness."
Spike swallowed to hold back his tears as Willow and Xander echoed her sentiments.
Willow smiled nervously; to all intents and purposes the effects of her spell seemed to be beneficial. Now, if only Giles would wake up.