Unbetad I'm afraid. Feel free to point out any errors, I don't mind. That's if you can even remember what's happening.
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 Wolfram 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. Meanwhile, Willow has been working out the mechanics of the spell she needs to do. It is agreed they will do it at a stone circle called The Dancers. Buffy is still not happy and takes events into her own hands by going after The First on her own. Giles knocks Spike out to stop him following her.
A sudden bump jolted Spike abruptly to wakefulness. Unconscious to fully awake in half a second, he opened his eyes to find that Angel had dumped him none too gently at the centre of a stone circle, a large ring of tall, roughly weathered standing stones looming like a great range of mountain peaks behind the other vampire.
The Dancers as Giles had called them.
Spike grimaced, pushing himself up off the rain sodden ground; as ways to wake up went, a face full of wet grass might be a long way from a place in his Top Ten and was little better than the way Giles had sent him to sleep, but it was hardly the worst way he’d come to during his long and varied unlife.
It had still hurt a bit though.
“Ugh!” he griped as he spat out a sour mouthful of mud. “What the bugger was that for?”
Angel wasn’t the least bit sympathetic. “It’s about time you were awake. I’m tired of carrying your carcass.”
“You’d be awake if someone had just dropped you like a sack of bloody potatoes!”
Angel huffed, implying it was less than he deserved, but didn’t bother to reply. In the dark Spike couldn’t see much of Angel’s face, but it was not hard to picture the scowl that was undoubtedly painted there; even Angel’s broad shoulders, set against the blanketing cloud cover like a range of shadowy mountains, seemed to be frowning.
Ignoring him, Spike wiped the mud off his chin and checked himself over for damage. Not much seemed out of place, although the damp ground had offered little in the way of a soft landing. Mostly it was his dignity that bore the bruises and it had seen worse over the years, what with chips in his head, cuckolding Chaos demons and some right kickings from Buffy back in the old days; a few grass stains were nothing against that catalogue of disaster. His jaw ached though, the left side still stiff and tender from meeting Giles’ fist; it appeared the old Watcher’s punch really was more impressive than he’d remembered. Thankfully, the swelling would be all but gone in an hour or so, but then he wouldn’t be around anymore to care.
Pushing that dangerous thought aside, he got to his feet. “I’m a condemned man, you know!”
Angel sighed, grave and world weary, “Can we get this over with?”
A voice behind Angel, its owner lost in the shadows, replied, “Good god, yes.”
Spike gave the both of them a well deserved two fingered salute, but whether they could see the gesture, he didn’t know or care. He couldn’t be bothered to get any more worked up about it; tempting though it was, arguing with Angel and Giles was not the way he wanted to spend the last night of his existence if that was what this was going to be.
So instead of rising to their bait, he tried to figure out where the sodding hell they’d brought him. They were outside, that was obvious enough, and it was dark and wet, the sky spitting out a steady, miserable drizzle at the earth. Most of it at least, seemed to be falling on Angel, who lingered like a black cloud with some personal grudge.
No change there.
But although the enormous grumpy vampire attracted the rain to him as if he was some kind of magnet for gloom, the stones themselves seemed to draw the darkness from the thin woodland that rimmed the circle, magnifying the night. With the moonlight blocked by the thick clouds, the upright stones rose up to the sky as a maw of jagged black teeth biting a chuck out of the sky, chewing it up and spewing it back out as deep, impenetrable shadows. Spike couldn’t help but think he would be next in their jaws.
Here at the extreme edge of the woods, the land fell away from the stones, a long, but gentle hill sloping down in soft undulations to the dead village; where, in the distance behind the silent houses, the lonely lights of the Retreat could just be seen as lonely beacons marking the world’s last stronghold against The First. Spike looked away from the safe walls of the last homely house. He wouldn’t be going back there.
They were doing this.
Someone had set a short, stubby church candle on top of each stone and while Wesley sat and took a cross-legged position atop the recumbent altar stone, Giles was busy unpacking more equipment for the ritual from a bulky backpack. At first Spike couldn’t see Willow, but a flash to his left gave her away as she lit the first candle, a spark of magic from her fingers making a little firefly light that fought valiantly against the steady rain; it fizzed and spat and fluttered in protest, but compelled to by her magic, it stayed defiantly alight.
The scene set, Spike turned his thoughts to more important matters. “Where’s Buffy?”
“Not here.” Angel fidgeted, shifting his weight anxiously from one foot to another. Clearly Spike wasn’t the only one unhappy about that.
“She left for the Well,” Willow explained, flicking a finger at the next candle. The wick crackled as it burst into a reluctant flame.
Spike wanted to kick something in frustration, one of the big stones would do, but he couldn’t quite work up the anger. It looked like Buffy had got her own way yet again. Even if he could get away, there was no chance he would ever catch up with her in time to prevent her doing anything stupid; hours had passed, it was midnight or thereabouts as far as he could tell, he must have been out for half the night.
Yeah, that punch had been a belter.
The only way left to stop her now was to go through with the ritual and maybe they might get it done before she ever reached The First. The sooner the better was fine with him; he’d already made his peace with the world.
“Are you okay?” Willow asked as she returned to Giles’ side. The candles were all lit now, pushing back the night and those fathomless shadows back into the trees. A warm, flickering glow bathed the ground inside the circle with the reassurance that that the night could be resisted.
“I’m still in one piece, thanks for asking.” Spike fired another glare at Angel for good measure, just in case he hadn’t got the point the first time.
“Oh, give it a rest.” Giles groaned.
Angel crossed his arms as leaned against the nearest stone. “That’s not what Willow asked.”
Spike turned his back on them, not wanting to answer Willow’s loaded question, he doubted he even could answer it; he wasn’t okay, not really. He couldn’t kid himself, this brief interlude outside the amulet had given him all he’d ever hoped for and now he just had to let it all go again. But he needed to, it was either him or Buffy and there was no way he would ever let Buffy to throw her life away for a second time; especially for him. He’d had more than a good innings all told, and Buffy deserved the same. It was better for all of them to stop drawing this out.
He straightened and faced them again. “Now you’ve finished sprucing up the place, let’s get started.”
Willow seemed to understand and let her question drop, not pressing him further. Instead she drew the amulet out of her pocket and offered it to him. Spike reached out and took it gingerly by its chain. As it swung and turned and spun from his fingers, the low wattage of the candles made the crystal burn, its facets capturing an inner fire that took Spike straight back to Sunnydale and his first turn on the barbecue.
When he looked up Willow was watching him anxiously, her unspoken question clear.
Spike gave rueful shrug, maybe this time he could give her some sort of answer. “My choice, sweet. Better me than the Slayer.”
“Phooey to that.” Willow still didn’t look happy. “We’ve all been so busy with the new Council and everything, and Buffy, she’s been so lonely and grievey. I think she needs you right now.”
Heartened a little, at least someone other than the slayer gave a toss about him; Spike gave the young witch a small smile in return. “Can’t always get what we want, can we Angelus?”
Angel glowered at the jibe, but then unexpectedly clapped Spike on the back in a way that was meant to be comradely, but was rather more awkward than that. “No, we can’t. But you’re not so bad, you don’t deserve this.”
Not knowing what to say to that unexpected declaration, Spike nodded. “Yeah, er, right then. Thanks.”
Angel clapped him on the shoulder once more, his hand lingering a little longer this time as if in regret, and then withdrew. It was a goodbye, a testament to a hundred plus years of shared history, maybe even a little gruff affection.
Touched, but unsure as to whether he should offer something in return or even if he should lest the fragile truce be broken, Spike swallowed and turned back to Willow. “So what do I do?”
“Okay…” She paused a moment then took the dish Giles offered her. Spike would bet any money that it had been liberated The Retreat’s silver cabinet. “Sit next to this and put the amulet on.” She bent and placed the dish at the centre of the circle.
Spike did as he was told, settling down again onto the damp grass and slipping the amulet’s chain over his head. The rain pattered into the dish, blurring fine Victorian scrollwork.
“Are you sure this is gonna work?” Angel looked up at the miserable sky. “What if the candles go out?”
“They won’t,” Willow told him as she placed several small bundles of dried herbs into the dish. She fussed nervously with them, positioning each of them around the dish more carefully than they really needed to be. “It’s the circle that’s important.”
When she was satisfied with her arrangement, she took a small bottle from her pocket and uncorked it, before pouring the scented oil over the desiccated plants. Spike’s sensitive nose winkled as the combined scents fragranced the night like an eye-wateringly strong pot pourri.
“Once I cast the spell to activate them,” she continued, “the stones will protect us so Wesley can recite the ritual. The local ley lines will focus power into the circle and give it all an extra kick in the pants,” she snapped her fingers. The herbs started to burn. “The rest is just… insurance.”
“Right, the way I see it I’m extra crispy either way.” He was being flippant, Spike knew that, and it wasn’t fair on Willow, but he was the one flinging himself into the bonfire to save the world again, he was allowed one last grumble.
Willow’s lip started to wibble. “Don’t say that.”
“You know it’s true, Red. Please can we just do this?”
Through the pungent, billowing smoke from the herbs, Spike watched her shift uncomfortably. “Let’s just do it our way, okay?”
Spike couldn’t argue with that.
Clearly unable to say more, she hurried away.
Everyone took their positions. Willow stood in the west, facing the rising sun while Angel took the East position in the protective lee of a crooked stone that leaned precariously over him. Giles gave Wesley an umbrella and the Codex Tempus Mormundi before taking his place near the most southerly stone. The cardinal points covered, the ritual began.
Wesley opened the precious book at a page he had already marked. “Are we ready?”
There was a soft murmur of agreement, although Spike didn’t add his own voice to the chorus. He would never be ready.
Willow stood up, a short bladed knife in her right hand. She pointed it to the North.
“Spirits of the North, I command you…”
Spike tuned her out as she finished casting the circle, trying to think of other things. The large pendant felt heavy and cold against his chest and he wanted nothing more than to rip it off and lob it away into the trees. Maybe he wasn’t as ready for this as he’d thought.
The protective circle cast, Willow had slipped back into her place and Wesley started to read; the words he spoke aloud forming broken, harsh syllables that seemed to catch in his throat. To accompany the reading Giles started to beat out a gentle rhythm on a small, African drum. Willow shut her eyes and started a descant chant of her own. Angel with nothing to do except watch, looked even glummer than usual.
The chants began to weave their deep, heady magic. Spike felt his eyes grow heavy and he let them flutter shut, wallowing in the mantras, the drum, the rhythm of the earth’s heartbeat. Life. The beat was the spell, a tapestry of intricate notes woven from the life-force of every living thing around them. Even the air started to vibrate; a quivering, uncertain breeze pushing at the candle flames.
As the spell worked, the amulet grew hotter and it started to glow; Spike could feel it burning through his breastbone. He was beginning to feel a little hot himself, something inside heating him up like a small nuclear reactor creating hot fusion in his chest. This was a familiar feeling, he’d felt this the first time and he braced himself for the moment it would consume him, but although the heat built its way towards its inevitable flashover, other elements came to the battle.
The drizzle intensified, turning into a vicious, stinging deluge that became heavier still as it railed against the earth. The wind picked up, whipping the rain around them with whiplash slashes of angry precipitation. The ground beneath them trembled, but not in the deep, rumbling way of the earthquakes back in California, this was shallower, a shimmy not a shake, but just as threatening.
Then just as the heat was getting too much to bear, the amulet opened, splitting the night apart with a burst of piercing white light. The circle lit up, unnaturally bright, banishing the darkness away. A wave of magic rippled across the surface of the earth.
Willow and Wesley kept chanting, Wesley faltering slightly as the umbrella turned itself inside out and was ripped from his hands. To protect the fluttering book from the rain, he curled in on himself, stumbling over a few words as he did so, but always he kept up the chant, the threads of the magic he wove unbroken.
Bracing herself against her stone, Willow looked to Giles for reassurance.
“Ignore it,” he yelled back at her. “Keep going. It’s The First. But it cannot harm—“ He ducked a flying branch that narrowly missed his head. “—us.”
Sound now joined the chaos. A hum that grew louder until it was all any of them could hear, then a whoosh of air and the wind blew and blew, sending a cascade of debris twirling around the circle.
“Keep inside!” Angel yelled, unnecessarily.
Then everything stopped.
The shaking ceased. The wind eased. The rain spat out the last of its venom. Only the intertwined voices of Willow and Wesley broke the silence. Wesley straightened and he proclaimed the garbled rantings of a madman into the night air. Until…
Until a boom louder than thunder tore through the ether.
“Look!” Giles pointed down at the Retreat.
The house had been ripped apart, the roof blown to pieces by the plume of psychic energy that was erupting from the attic.
Angel took a step forward to get a closer view. “What the hell?”
All the ghosts, all the spirits, all the energies; everything that had ever been trapped there, were released as one by the blast. The air around them roared, and they heard screaming, crying, shouting, laughing.
Spike looked up. The energy swirled and coalesced into a broad, imposing pillar of light that bridged the gap between the earth and the heavens in a great arc that gathered above their heads. Where it breached the sky, the suffocating blanket of cloud broke apart and coiled in on itself, spinning the vapour into an angry maelstrom of psychic fury and raging weather, a whirling, vindictive carousel cloud of loathing and spite. With it, the rain returned; the surging clouds belting out a lashing, hateful torrent. The wind bawled with some banshee howl, splitting the air apart in hissing forks of serpentine lightning. The earth rocked and rolled.
But the circle held, strong and sure as the old, old rocks that formed it. The storm whisked the rain around the circle as the sky lit up, but not a drop of water fell this time between the ancient stones. A great bolt vaporised a nearby tree as it crashed to earth, but inside the circle the violence could not touch them.
Spike felt every cell in his body shiver. There was no going back, no time to back out. This was it. Then it came. He was on fire; his body engulfed by flames that roared and rippled around him. The heat, furnace hot, was unbearable and it hurt, oh yeah it hurt, and he screamed out when he was unable to hold in the pain any longer.
Willow and Wesley finished their chanting on the same beat and Wesley yelled out, “NOW!”