However, as my normal beta is unavailable and no one voluteered to help out this is unbetaed. Anyone who spots a mistake please let me know before I post it everywhere.
And thanks to quinara for the title.
Working My Way Back To You
No characters were harmed in the making of this fic. They do not belong to me, but are the property of Fox Entertainment and Mutant Enemy.
Summary: Spike/Buffy. Post-Chosen, Post Hellbound. What did you think the First Evil was doing after the closure of the Hellmouth? Knitting evil jumpers?
Keep up in PDF! WORKING MY WAY BACK TO YOU IN PDF Just like a book might be, only better!
A brief recap of events...
Spike was resurrected by Angel, Wesley and Fred in Wolfham and Hart using a mysterious disc that remade him from the matter of the universe. The only problem was The First was stuck in his body with him. Captured by Bringers, Spike and The First were separated and both head to England to get to Buffy. Now they need to get rid of The First before it comes through on its promise to sacrifice Buffy to open the Deeper Well. Spike has volunteered to be returned to the amulet, taking The First with him, but Buffy isn't very pleased about that. They argue, ergo sex ensues...
By early evening, the remains of the day were no less grey and depressing; flinty clouds brooded overhead as they spread a premature darkness before the nascent twilight, too lazy to move along or to break onto anything more than a feeble drizzle.
Willow listened to the soft drum of the rain spotting on the windows of the Retreat as she tried unsuccessfully to sleep. The unnatural micro-climate that was taunting them with its capricious moods wasn’t trying hard enough set the stage for the dramatic events ahead, she thought, even though by what the Watcher’s Council said, the British weather should have had plenty of practice. She didn’t know what she expected exactly, dramatic Hollywood thunderclaps and crashing bolts of Hammer Horror lightning perhaps, but this listless drizzle that flicked half-heartedly against the glass wasn’t it. Okay, thunderstorms hadn’t bothered to turn up for the numerous apocalypses they’d faced in California either, but at least the weather there had the common sense to stay out of it and just keep everything comfortably warm.
But it wasn’t the rain that kept Willow awake; even though she was exhausted from the long night she’d spent trying to get to the tormented village. Her mind was just too excited, wound tight, about the spellwork to come to switch itself off and rest, not while the plan was so incomplete.
The spell presented a bit of a puzzle. She’d worked with Wesley earlier in the day on the details and the spell itself would be simple enough, the words of the crazy monk Mormundi spoke through the twisted text of his book to tell them most of what they needed to know, but he’d left the most important part out: how to power a spell as large as he was proposing. And it was going to be a biggie.
Willow wasn’t worried about the size as such, most spells she could cast without much thought to where the magic came from and she was used to channelling colossal energies, but the amount of juice this spell would need wasn’t going to come from just anywhere. There was plenty of energy around, it seemed, but it was already taken. If Giles was correct, the ritual to raise the Old Ones would be a massive undertaking and although The First was a powerful being in its own right, it would still need an army of Bringers to draw on the vast magics of the Deeper Well to bring its plans to fruition. The sort of power The First could wield meant that if they were going to defeat it, they would need a comparable magic source of their own; and it would have to be something really big.
Suitable choices to energise the spell were as notably absent as the thunderbolts. She didn’t have many options. Stuck inside The First’s magical bubble with the rest of Little Darrow, she couldn’t just draw on the elements like she normally might and there wasn’t much in her bag that would help her either. There were some crystals, including a couple of hefty quartz shafts that were always reliable and a beautifully clear piece of uncut aquamarine that was good for keeping her thoughts nice and clear, but while they would certainly help, they wouldn’t be nearly enough. She had surpassed their meagre potential long ago; but sometimes half of magic was in the show, so she’d packed them anyway, along with enough candles to keep the Phantom of the Opera in romantic lighting. But none of these solved the real problem. This spell needed something special. The dilemma niggled at her as she tossed and turned in the enormous bed. She wished that Wesley hadn’t sent her to bed before they’d figured it out, but she’d been falling asleep in her chair. She gave up; she wasn’t going to sleep however hard she tried. If only her eyes could droop the way they had as she’d listened to Wesley interpret the insane ramblings of the mad Mormundi, but research called and the need to figure all this out could no longer be resisted.
She rose. With the internet out with the phone lines and the cell reception, research meant books and lots of them. The trouble was the Retreat didn’t have any. Not decent ones, at least. Not the kind that Giles would have roped off in the Magic Box to keep from the prying eyes and sticky fingers of the foolhardy Sunnydale public. But the Magic Box was buried at the bottom of a huge hole and the shelves in the Retreat’s library were sorrowfully empty, practically picked clean after The First had destroyed the Council’s HQ. The books that were left were stacked here and there in lonely piles of two or three. These were the generic books, the kind that were stocked in all good book stores: ‘Teenage Sun Signs’, ‘The Celtic Tree Magic Fact Pack’, ‘Buddhism for the Busy' and ‘101 Simple Candle Love Spells’. They were unhelpful to anyone seriously adept, and useless for the really powerful magic Willow wanted to do; mostly all they were good for was a quick laugh and to keep the wannablessedbes from thinking too far beyond their chakras and their dark moon ritual altars. Willow knew that the Council kept this stuff to make sure no one was publishing anything too dangerous, the last thing they wanted to clear up was a New Age population that were literally raising hell with demonic blood rites, but that was no good right now. It seemed likely that the books she needed were in the unpacked boxes that still cluttered the Council’s new offices at Stoke Park, being useless when they were sorely needed elsewhere.
Willow flicked through a few of the rejected titles, hoping against hope, but she found nothing helpful. She was even thinking about going back to bed when Giles and Wesley appeared, both holding identical steaming cups of tea. Watchers, they were such British guys, she thought affectionately.
Angel though was a looming, brooding presence behind them. He didn’t look happy and she couldn’t blame him. They had all guessed what Spike and Buffy had gone off to do and that had to hurt, but he would just have to get over it, there was little anyone could do while they were all stuck here waiting and Spike and Buffy both deserved this time together, however brief it would be.
“Ah Willow,” Giles said. “You are just who we were looking for. Wesley and I found something in here I think you might be interested in.”
“A really good Grimoire?” Willow tried. “Or an old witch’s Book of Shadows?”
“Alas, no.” Giles looked mournfully at the bare shelves as he sipped from his cup. Willow could sense the despairing wail of his inner librarian from the other side of the room. “Pitiful, isn’t it? This house used to have books everywhere.”
“And no Google either,” Willow sighed in a sort of sympathy. “I’m a witch which needs some witchy help.”
“What do you need?” Wesley asked as he settled on the arm of a chair as Angel dropped into another and stared into the fire. “I’m certain the three of us can come up with something.”
Grateful for the offer, Willow plopped ‘Native American Shamanism for the Urban Neopagan’ back onto the shelf. “I think I can draw energy from the crystals I brought and from the amulet itself,” she explained, “but we’ll need something else to power a spell this big, some kind of fixed loci to anchor the magic and give it a real boost. I used the scythe in the Hellmouth, but we don’t have anything like that here. If we had any really good magical objects or if I could cast the spell somewhere where the background magic is really, really intense, it might work, but we don’t have anything like that.”
“Ah. I think what we have to show you might do the trick,” Giles said as placed his cuppa on a table and knelt down beside the fireplace. He pulled back a corner of the large and exquisite oriental rug that covered the library floor. Underneath was a wide magic circle marked out in white paint, complete with pentagram and all the appropriate magickal symbols.
Willow knelt and brushed the circle with her fingers. It thrummed with the echoes of invocations and the remnants of sorcery, and she wasn’t sure, but when she touched it, it might even have rippled. “Wow,” she breathed. “Serious stuff.”
“Indeed,” said Giles as he got back to his feet. “This house has belonged to the Watcher’s Council for many years. It’s seen quite a lot of this sort of thing, you know.”
“And all that old magic would help power almost spell you wanted.” Willow grinned, but then her excitement turned to a frown. “But it may not be enough. The First will have Shamen drawing on the Well to top up its ritual. We might need more amplification. We need to be sure.”
“How about The Dancers?” Wesley suggested.
“The Dancers?” Willow looked up. “Like Morris Dancers?”
“Good god no, nothing as dreadful as that. It’s a stone circle hidden in the woods,” Giles explained as he reclaimed his tea. He looked down into his cup and put it back on the table when he realised it was nearly empty. “This area has many such places. I believe The Dancers are also on several ley lines.”
A stone circle. Willow thought as she stared down at the pentagram nudging her knees. Wesley could have mentioned that sooner! She hadn’t known there was anything like that nearby, although she perhaps should have guessed, England seemed to be full of them, particularly in the wilder West Country. She had seen plenty of small rings of standing stones in Devon during her time with the Coven, so many she even knew what to expect: The Dancers would be a small ring of stones that would barely meet her waist, as far removed from the grand scale of Stonehenge as they could be, but that didn’t matter, she also knew how powerful even these small circles could be. Most were so ancient they had been sucking in magic for thousands of years and the good ones could even distort the reality around them, bending time and space in small ways that the magically sensitive could often feel. If the local ley lines also intersected at the site, that warping would only be ramped up by the earthly forces zipping along the lines. Somewhere like that would be perfect for casting the spell, assuming they could get there.
“You’ve been there? Can we get to it?” Angel asked, speaking for the first time and echoing what Willow had been thinking. She’d thought he hadn’t been listening.
Giles and Wesley exchanged glances.
“I believe many from the Council have been there, to, um, experiment.” Wesley supplied, hastily covering his smirk with a swig of his tea.
“Experiment?” Willow asked doubtfully. “With what?”
Wesley shrugged. “Drugs. Sex. Magic mostly.”
Willow couldn’t help it, her jaw dropped in surprise. “Oh.” She looked from Wesley to Giles.
He looked sheepish. He coughed. “I was young and it was the Seventies. It was all good fun.”
Willow fought to dispel the images that put into her head. She’d known about the Watcher’s Ripper days, but they weren’t something she liked to think too much about. Thinking about Giles doing things like that was like thinking about her parents and she so didn’t want to go there. A stray thought wondered what Wesley wasn’t confessing to, but somehow imagining that was even worse.
Better then to veer the subject back to business. “Sounds…er, great. The First won’t keep us away?”
“I’m sure The First will post sentries,” Giles agreed, checking with Wesley who nodded.
“They won’t be a problem.” Angel added, shifting in his chair, suddenly less sullen and more alert at the prospect of a fight. Willow believed him. He looked like he might explode if he didn’t hit something soon.
“We know The First is supremely arrogant,” Giles continued, shoving his hands into his pockets. “We can hope it’ll be too occupied with its own ritual to perceive any threat from us.”
Willow agreed. With Angel in his foul mood, security wasn’t going to be a problem. “Okay. How do we know this is going to work? Is the amulet still active?"
"Active, inactive, I don't believe the amulet works that way. It just is." Wesley pulled them amulet from his pocket and threw it for her to catch.
Willow opened her hand as she caught it. The amulet looked the same as it always had: large, heavy and blingy in a really ugly way. She rubbed a finger over the chunky stone. "It still has power,” she said, a little surprised. It had discharged enough energy to vaporise a vast army of Turok Han, yet it still made her fingers tingle. “I can feel it. It's like a vessel now. Empty.” She looked up at Wesley. “It's waiting.”
“Indeed. My biggest concern, however, is can we trust Wolfram and Hart?” Giles looked pointedly at Angel.
“Not likely.” Spike snorted from the doorway before the other vampire could reply.
“You know, I just don’t care.” Angel surged to his feet, while the atmosphere in the room immediately became sub-zero. “Can we just get this over with?”
“Hi guys,” Buffy announced as she gave Spike a gentle shove and slipped into the room after him. The chirpiness of her voice cut through the chilly vibe but it was mismatched to the serious set to her mouth that challenged anyone to cross her.
Willow gave her a small wave, which Buffy returned with a small, brief smile.
Spike sauntered over to the fire, injecting something blatant yet casually sexual into his strut to rub Angel’s face in it. Angel glowered and Spike gave him a satisfied smirk, doubtlessly unable to let an opportunity like this go by one last time. The taunt was well aimed; if steam really could come from Angel’s ears, it would be gushing like Old Faithful. Willow thought Angel looked like he was about to erupt, but he stayed his hand and fumed silently. No one dared comment as the two vampires faced off; Wesley fidgeted uncomfortably, Giles looked as if he was trying to suppress a grin, Buffy looked livid at all the macho posturing. It was like watching two wild animals competing for females on the Discovery Channel, only not as mature.
“Will had a good question,” Buffy glared at both of them, pulling them back to reality and the sticky business of the amulet. She turned to Wesley and said sharply, “Can we trust Wolfram and Hart? They’re evil right? Would they just let The First go?”
Willow noticed Wesley wince at the part about evil, but he ignored it when he spoke. “Wolfram and Hart can be relied upon insomuch as the Senior Partners will always support their own ends, but the time will certainly come when we no longer run the LA branch. However, I think we can be satisfied for now that this plan has their support. The First is as much of a problem to them as it is for us. ”
Buffy frowned but her eyes sought Spike’s and for a fleeting moment she brightened into a sweet, melancholy smile that was just for him.
Willow watched them interact and smiled, she was a witness to an epic affair that had spanned everything between good and evil, death and resurrection, redemption and sacrifice. Despite the swagger, Spike looked tired, but Willow couldn’t miss how he quietly buzzed with an inner happiness she had never seen before. She was glad to see them some kind of happy even for a short time, there was so much love there for it to be wasted.
Her friend had never talked much about Spike, about those times. No one wanted to talk about that terrible year, herself included; she had been so wrapped up in her own problems that she hadn't noticed that Buffy wasn’t fixed. The pain had been pulling her friend apart and by clinging to Spike, she had dragged him down with her. And Spike, Willow remembered now, had been notable by his absence at that time. That should have tipped her off. The Scoobies were used to Spike just being around, hanging in the edges of the gang, a constant, if unwelcome presence at Buffy’s shoulder. Then suddenly he was gone, no longer dogging her for affection, or hanging around the Magic Box for a glimpse of her - because he hadn’t needed to, she came to him.
What little Willow knew of the rest she’d guessed or was pieced together from the crumbs Buffy had scattered through a handful of conversations and off guard moments when she let her secrets slip, but she knew enough not to believe most of Xander’s assumptions and that was a relief because she knew all too well that love like Buffy and Spike’s was hard to cherish, and even harder to keep, but in the end it just needed to survive. Willow envied them their strength and their passion, while at the same time not wishing any of it for herself; she was content now with a more cosy kind of love, which thrived in her heart on a slow burn. She was done with all the drama and the grief and the ending of the world. It was all too much.
Buffy seemed to be thinking and was not liking the conclusions she was coming to. "What if next time the amulet releases you, it's the future and everything has changed?” she asked Spike quietly.
Spike stared at the floor. "I'm not coming out again, pet. We'll see to it."
Buffy didn’t look reassured, but she gathered herself and addressed the group. “Okay. So how do we do this?”
Previous parts are here.