The floor of a principal's office may not be the most idyllic place to perform a potentially world saving spell but that's where Willow was tapping into the most powerful magic she'd ever attempted. The fear of going veiny and evil again almost prevented her from completing it but power and peace flowed through her, as well as the knowledge the spell worked. She didn't need to see the white tresses in her peripheral vision to confirm she hadn't gone dark. Euphoric joy brought tears to her eyes right before the spell ended and her hair returned to it's normal red. Across from her sat her girlfriend Kennedy who appeared relieved and overjoyed.
"You are a goddess," Kennedy said in astonishment. Willow lifted the scythe, whose power she channeled in the spell, and handed it to her girlfriend.
"And you're a slayer. Get this to Buffy," she told the new slayer before falling to her side giddy in the aftermath. "That was nifty."
The power she felt coursing through her was intense. The power of good, the Powers that Be, and the power of the entire slayer line burned in her veins. She almost wanted it to stop but it felt so good she wasn't fighting it. She should get up and help but she was still so overcome by the magic she had worked. Using the power, she reached out towards the battle to see if everyone was in position. Whether because of physical proximity or being acquainted with him the longest, Willow felt Xander first and was surprised that she could not only tell his position in relation to her but she could feel his soul. He was sure of his convictions and the plan they'd laid out but there was also terror. She was proud of him for being here anyway. It was then she realized that during the course of the spell she'd touched the soul of every living potential in the world and right now she still had the power to reach out for and read souls. As she thought of the spell she could feel all the newly awakened slayers a few floors beneath her fighting to beat back the First's army of turok han.
She felt for Buffy and was not surprised her best friend's heart and soul were singularly focused on the task at hand. Love for friends and family fueled her attacks and Willow's heart swelled with pride and awe at the ingrained fierceness contained in such a tiny body. Faith was next and like Buffy she had a sense of duty but the dark slayer's need for redemption and acceptance were only surpassed by the excitement she felt when she exerted her skills.
Willow continued picking up the unique signatures of all the souls in the school. Vi, her fellow ginger, lost all her timidness. Kennedy was joyous in her strength. The protectiveness Willow could see in her girlfriend had increased exponentially for her slayer sisters. Kennedy was born for this. Some slayers perished and Willow felt their souls pass on. As Buffy was stabbed Willow could feel her rage but she was still lying helpless on the floor of Robin's office overwhelmed. Only a small amount of fear began to seep into her mind before she felt Buffy rally and in turn rally the rest of those fighting with her.
Willow attempted to rally herself next but then she felt it. She felt Spike's soul. His essence washed over her. She'd always known there was more to the violent, sarcastic, and defensive vampire from five years ago. In his history he was unique in so many ways which had always intrigued, if not terrified, her. Since gaining his soul he was more reserved and now she knew why. The love, guilt, rage, pain, hope . . . it was all too much. How could he stand it? Through proximity she could read his demon as well. He reveled in the violence and didn't care that it was against other demons. He was an adrenaline junky and aroused by the violence. This why he was able to stomach helping them for years without a soul. She couldn't feel the other demons in the school but she'd bet they were nothing like Spike's. His demon craved acceptance and attention as much as the soul. The rage his demon felt being near so many slayers paled in comparison to everything else Spike felt. She wanted to delve deeper but was jolted out of her exploration when her chest started to burn, seeing nothing to explain the sensation.
Suddenly a burst of light broke through the floor and up through the ceiling. With a start she realized the pain belonged to Spike and with that came the knowledge that this light was coming from the amulet he wore and that it was powered by his soul. His demon did little to mar the soul's purity as evidenced by the brilliance of the light cleansing the Hellmouth. The guilt his past gave him was lessened when he was finally able to feel his soul and relief prompted tears of joy to fall from her closed eyes. Those same eyes were jolted open when the ground started to shake violently.
Soon Kennedy was there helping her out of the crumbling building. They made it onto the bus and shortly thereafter Faith jumped in and told Robin to gun it but Buffy wasn't on the bus. Dawn was desperately looking out the window for her but Willow could still feel Buffy and she was on the move. Spike was still in the high school though and just as she reached out to feel him an intense pain radiated through her. Spike had been consumed by fire and the town was falling behind them. The grief she felt at his loss was surprisingly painful. After getting a small peak at his soul, she knew what the world had just lost.
She almost missed Buffy jumping onto the roof of the bus she was so lost in thought. The bus stopped and she looked towards the back window. What once was Sunnydale was now a crater and just as she adjusted to the scene she saw the Welcome to Sunndyale sign fall. Relief helped shake her from grief as she climbed out of the bus to join the others who were discussing what happened. When Buffy said Spike's name the still present power reached towards him. She could still feel him. Why could she still feel him?
Examining what happened in the last few minutes, she realized she never felt his soul pass on. His body had been burnt up but his soul was still somewhere buried in the crater he created. Was he in pain? No . . . she didn't feel pain anymore, just confusion. A smile broke onto her face and she joined in the revelry of her friends, deciding to keep this information to herself until she knew what it meant. They defeated the First and a world of possibilities was now open. This morning none of them knew if they'd survive and some of them hadn't. As everyone discussed what to do next she silently decided what her next course of action would be. She would retrieve the one fallen soldier whose soul didn't pass on. She would save Spike from wherever he was trapped.
They all realized they had to find someplace to go and she was relieved to find she had remembered to grab her cellphone and her wallet before leaving the house. Deciding to wear pants with decent pockets was a good choice.
"Guys . . . Guys . . . Xander . . . Giles . . . GUYS!!" she finally shouted. The assembled group finally quit their chatter at her yell. "Let's all get back on the bus. Some of us need real medical attention and I'm not up on where the closest hospital outside of Sunnydale is. We all need a place to stay and regroup. There is a motel a few miles up the road and those of us not in need of help can get some rooms, rest, and figure out where to go next. Then one of us can drive to a hospital, pick up food, and supplies in the bus. I'm so amped up from the spell I don't think I could sleep right now so I'm volunteering. I'll pick up a cell phone charger and everyone can check in with me. Anyone have a problem with that?" Buffy and Faith just smiled at her bossiness before everyone proceed to go about their chores.
By 11pm she was staring at the ceiling of a motel room still wired. The power she felt after the spell had yet to fade much and she was unsure it would at this point. Part of her wanted it to but another part hoped it wouldn't. Deciding not to dwell on such terrifying thoughts, she reflected on the last few hours of activity. It only took 15 minutes to get to the nearest motel and since recent events kept people away from Sunnydale, there was enough room for the group. After getting directions from the clerk she drove the wounded to a nearby hospital. Some needed to be patched up while others needed to be admitted. While the wounded were tended to she made phone calls and gathered supplies.
Her parents were in South America and hadn't even heard about Sunnydale yet. When she called they told her they would email the necessary insurance documents for the house and car, instructing her to keep the money. Apparently, her mother had received an amazing job offer at a university in Brazil and they did not intend on coming back to the states to manage their affairs for a couple months at the earliest. The "massive sinkhole" was seen as convenient to them. Next she called the Hyperion to tell Angel that a second front wasn't needed after all. She knew it should probably be Buffy who called but sadly she doubted the slayer would remember to inform him.
He had thanked her for calling and was relieved everyone was ok. She mentioned the power of the amulet had consumed Spike and Angel's only response was a quiet, "oh". Had he sensed his grandchilde dying or did he feel nothing since Spike was really just trapped and not dead? Maybe he did and just didn't care. She hoped she was wrong but then again she was pretty sure the last time they actually interacted was when Spike paid someone to torture Angel for the gem of Amara. Plus, the whole Buffy thing probably didn't turn Angel into a big fluffy puppy either. Angel made his dislike of Spike known but Spike was on the side of good, had a soul, had just saved the world, and was family. In fact, he had helped save the world three times when he didn't have a soul. Hesitantly she reached toward Spike and felt his soul still waiting in Sunnydale but that's all she could tell at such a distance.
After all her calls and shopping she drove back to the hospital to check on the admitted girls and pick up the ones who had been discharged. Kennedy had only gotten a few stitches but had decided to stay to watch over the others. As Willow had gleaned earlier, Kennedy's protectiveness had been amplified and there was no way she'd leave them. Robin had still been in surgery but they'd been assured someone would call with an update.
Once back at the hotel Giles, Buffy, Xander, Faith, Dawn, and her all met to discuss next steps. She was pleased all the sleeping arrangements had been taken care of in her absence and that Giles was able to speak with some contacts in England. He had spoken with the coven and it was decided that Xander, Dawn, Andrew, and he would take the girls to a surviving property of the Council large enough to house and train the new slayers in Scotland. As one of the only surviving members of the council it was at his disposal. Buffy and Faith would start traveling to find the new slayers. The more seriously wounded would receive instructions once they were ready to travel. As their meeting wound down Giles told her to contact the coven as they had mentioned needing to speak with her. He had informed them that he had first needed her help to get them settled before calling them back. She was a little annoyed but knew his priorities were in the right place.
An hour of discussion and planning had been enough to send everyone towards much needed rest. Assignments for the next day had been handed out. Passports would need to be acquired and other arrangements would need to be made. She briefly mentioned she had contacted Angel to let him know the status and then headed back to her room.
She pulled herself from her thoughts and reached for her phone. Time to call the coven. It was early in the morning there but she needed to speak with them about her new power and Spike. It probably wasn't the best idea to keep everyone out of the loop about Spike but her reasoning was two-fold. She didn't want to get anyone's hopes up and she didn't want to see the possible disinterest either. Many of her group wouldn't see saving him as a priority, even if he just saved the world. Now was the time to get some answers.
"Willow," answered a voice after two rings.
"Althenea. Hi. Giles told me to call."
"Yes, we have a few things to discuss. Are you okay to talk now? I know you must be tired." Willow missed her friends from the coven and needed their grounding energy right now.
"Yes. Now is good. I'm exhausted but there is no way I can sleep right now. Since the spell I've been wired like a good motherboard." She was nervous that the power she'd tapped into was somehow wrong. She knew it wasn't but after almost destroying the world you tend to second guess yourself. Althenea giggled at her strange simile and the sound helped put her more at ease.
"I would imagine so. We all sensed the power while you completed the spell. There was no darkness in it thought so I knew you hadn't gone to the 'veiny place' as you put it," she informed happily. Willow was relieved.
"Oh Althenea, you have no idea. For the first time in a long time I relinquished all control and it was . . . was . . " Althenea chucked under her breath while Willow tried to think of how to put all of it into words.
"Willow, we've known how special you are for a long time and knew you'd play an important part in this battle. We are so proud of you." Pride was evident in her voice and Willow could almost see her friend's soft encouraging smile. The middle-aged witch had been her mentor while rehabilitating from the dark power, grief, and rage that had consumed her, and nearly ended the world, last year when Tara was murdered. She was a trusted friend and Willow was indebted to her and the coven for not only helping save her but helping them save the world.
"Thank you Althenea," she said with genuine gratitude.
"You're welcome Willow. Now, onto what I wanted to speak with you about. Since the spell how have you felt?"
"To be honest I'm not sure how to describe it. Althenea, I was able to feel everyone's soul and I still can," she said half giddy and half worried. "I suppose in order to awaken all the potentials' power, their essence had to be touched and changed by the spell but . . . was this supposed to happen?"
"We knew it was a risk but it had to be done. I'm sorry if this is overwhelming for you but I'm glad you've already made the connection between the mechanics of the spell and this new ability."
"Ability?," Willow questioned quickly. "You mean this isn't going to go away?"
"It will fade. Now that you've confirmed our suspicions about your reaction to the spell, we believe the Powers that Be have gifted this skill to help you continue your fight against evil. The intensity of it will fade but the skill is something that will not leave. You'll need to learn how to use it."
"What?" she asked nervously. "Wha . . what . . . what do they want with me? They have a new army of slayers for their fight." She could feel herself starting to panic. She'd just completed the biggest magical challenge of her life and she was scared of what would be required of her next.
Sensing her fears, Althenea started to explain in a soothing voice. "Willow, calm down. You just changed the game entirely and they want to help you continue your work. You're a full-fledged champion now. You don't have to be physically strong or use violence to be a champion. This is a good thing." Stunned would be putting Willow's emotional state lightly.
"Oh," she squeaked out. She was a little scared and a little overheated from her panic. Was she sweating now? Ew. "Ok, so I can feel souls . . . what now?"
"Get some sleep Willow. If you're too wired at least try to meditate."
She started to consider finding some pajamas before she remembered. "Wait, I need to ask you about Spike." If they knew about her new power maybe the Powers that Be had told them about Spike and how to help him.
"The ensouled vampire who wore the amulet?," Althenea asked.
"Yes, he didn't make it out of the Hellmouth. He was destroyed by the amulet."
"Yes. Giles informed us of that. I'm sure the Powers that Be consider that a loss." Althenea sounded confused but was trying to be sympathetic.
"Well, here's the thing. I can still feel his soul."
"What?," asked the shocked witch on the other end of the line.
"I can still feel him. The souls of the others who fell passed on. His didn't and for some reason it's still in the Hellmouth."
"But . . . wait . . . what?" She paused for a moment and then began again. "So you're saying Spike is still alive, well undead, but stuck under the rubble of Sunnydale?" She sounded as confused as Willow did.
"No, I meant it when I said he was destroyed. I felt his body burn up and turn to ash but his soul is still there. He's stuck somehow. I can tell he is conscious but not much more." Not knowing if he was okay was starting to bother her. Now that she didn't have errands to run she had time to think about what he could be experiencing.
"Huh . . . well . . . huh. Rupert said you were miles away. You can feel him from that distance?"
"From the hotel yes but as I get farther away it's harder."
"Can you feel anyone else that far away?"
"If I try very hard yes but only vaguely. His soul is easy to reach and pick out but I can't feel his emotions or sense how he's doing. I'm not sure if that means he's okay or if I'm just too far. What are you thinking Althenea?"
Over the next 45 minutes of discussion Althenea had left her with lots to think about and a promise to consult the rest of the coven. However their back and forth speculations brought them to a few solid suspicions. They reasoned that the Powers that Be had given her new power so she'd be able to help Spike. He was the only one she could feel at a long distance and his soul was the only one of the fallen soldiers not to pass on. Althenea had agreed the amulet had been powered by his soul and figured he was somehow trapped in the amulet. While Althenea did her own research, Willow would contact Angel. He had given the amulet to Buffy and he may be able to help. Now it was 12am and time to finally sleep.
As she closed her eyes she reached toward Spike with the hope that if he could feel her he would find comfort. After what only felt like 20 minutes her eyes flew open again. She had been dreaming but it felt real. Was it real? She ran through what she experienced and realized that during her slumber she had been in the amulet with Spike. He was not happy at all. A hyperactive vampire who had just died was stuck in a small black room with no idea what was going on. She tried calming him as much as she could but he couldn't hear her. He ranted for a long time and she could tell he wanted to break something or hit something but there was nothing for him to smash. He needed out of there fast. She rolled over to look at the alarm clock and she'd only been asleep a few minutes. Hopefully Angel was still up this late because she definitely needed to talk to him. She grabbed her newly charged phone and quickly dialed Angel's cell number so as to avoid having to small talk anyone else currently awake at the Hyperion.
"What?," a voice she thought was Angel's growled.
"Angel?," she asked timidly. Ever since Angelus any kind of aggression from Angel put her on edge.
"Shit! Willow?," Angel asked sounding contrite.
"Yeah Angel it's me."
"Damn. Sorry. I didn't look at the caller ID. Now's not a really good time. Is it urgent?" Now he sounded annoyed.
"Do you consider your grandchilde's soul being trapped in an amulet buried in a destroyed Hellmouth urgent?," she asked returning his annoyed air. There was a long pause as if Angel was debating the answer, which was pretty disappointing.
"How soon can you get here?," he asked. That was more like it but was traveling farther from the amulet the smartest idea?
"Angel, can't we just talk on the phone?"
"Look, things are complicated here and I don't want you to be able to hang up on me." What did that mean? Why was he always so cryptic?
"Um . . . ok. Well this is important so I guess I'm coming to you. It's the middle of the night so I'll have to wait till morning to find a car. The only vehicle available to me at the moment is a school bus."
"What?," he asked sounding almost amused.
"Remember that whole Hellmouth being destroyed thing? We didn't exactly have time to get our cars or belongings when we were fleeing the destruction."
"Oh right . . . I can help with that. Give me the name of the hotel and I'll call you right back." She told him the name and city then he hung up quickly. Ten minutes later her phone rang.
"Hello," she answered.
"Willow, a rental car will be at the hotel in an hour. I'll explain when you get here."
After a few rounds of questions and no answers Willow gave up on getting them till she could unleash her resolve face in person. Resigned, she took a quick shower and gathered her belongings before heading to see Giles to tell him she was leaving. A rumpled Giles answered the door.
"Willow, what is it?," he asked groggily.
"Giles, I need to get to L.A. to see Angel. It's about Spike."
"What?," he asked more confused.
"Right. So I'm going to give you a quick explanation and no interrupting. Ok?" He gestured for her to continue. "During the spell yesterday I had to touch the soul of every potential in order to awaken the slayer in them." His eyes became a little more alert now. "After the spell I could feel all of the souls in the battle. If they fell I felt their soul pass on but Spike's never did. His body is gone but his soul is trapped in the amulet that's now buried back in Sunnydale. I spoke with Althenea last night and she agrees with my conclusions. The coven knew this spell had the potential of leaving me with this power. I can only feel souls within a mile radius now but the power is not going to go away. It seems it was a gift from the Powers that Be and I'm some sort of magical champion now. Our theory is that part of the reason they gave me the power was to save Spike. Since the amulet came from Angel I'm going to L.A. to figure this out. Any questions?" She finally took a breath and looked to her father figure with trepidation.
In his traditional British manner Giles sputtered for a second before saying, "I guess you best be on your way. I can handle things here and we have your cell number. I have tons of questions but they can wait. Actually wait, can you feel his soul now?"
A relieved Willow answered. "Yes. He's the only one I can feel at such a distance. While I was asleep earlier I was there with him and he's not happy. I wasn't able to calm him down but I'm not even sure he could see or hear me."
"You were in the amulet with him?" She nodded. "Good Lord . . . well I'd assume he's not taking it well. If he could see you he probably thought you were a figment of his imagination and you wouldn't have been able to get through to him. Between getting a soul, the First messing with his mind and torturing him, and the fight. You're right. This is best to handle with immediacy." She was smiling at Giles now. She'd thought he'd fight her on this. He did try to have Spike killed recently. Noticing her smile Giles added, "Spike and I have a rocky history at best but he just helped save the bloody world and died for us all. We owe him this much. I'll let everyone else know what's going on when they wake up. Call me when you get to L.A. to check-in."
"Yes Sir," she saluted chipperly. Giles rolled his eyes and went back to bed.
The rental car arrived and three hours later she was walking into the Hyperion. The moving boxes took her by surprise. Angel acting secretive wasn't new but she had enough mystery in her life as is.
"Hey Willow, sorry about the mess," Angel apologized. He was wearing his trademark black button down and black pants but was currently trying to wipe dust of some kind off of him. "We're moving to another building." Willow cocked her eyebrow suspiciously at the vague statement. Angel smiled and shook his head. "Alright, why don't you take a seat and I'll grab you some water. Then we'll catch each other up."
Willow remained silent as Angel ushered her to sit on the weird circular couch in the lobby and then brought her a bottle of water. She took this time to use her new power and reached out to Angel's soul. His soul was there. In fact, now that she was in front of a person while using her power, she noticed she could see an aura around him. The inside was a peachy orange color with two vivid green lines and the outside a dingy gray. She could also feel the presence of his demon quietly seething beneath the surface. Unlike Spike's Demon, Angel's was just rage and bloodlust. No wonder Angelus was so brutal.
Angel sat and told her his story. As he spoke the gray surrounding his soul grew darker. If she had to guess she'd say the gray was his guilt. Between Jasmine, Cordelia, Connor, and joining Wolfram & Hart he was in a state of turmoil. When he was finished he looked at her a bit stunned. "Willow, I'm not sure why I spilled all of that to you. I'm pretty sure you aren't even supposed to remember Connor at this point. I'm sorry for placing that burden on you."
"Actually Angel, I do remember him. I'm not sure why but I do. Are you going to be okay?," she asked. Her heart broke a little bit for him. The dark gray of his guilt was now surrounding a burnt orange color. His soul was literally tinged with his grief. The green was brighter than the rest, only slightly dimmed. Why were those pieces not affected in the same way?
Angel looked up and blinked tears from his eyes. "As long as Connor is I will be," he answered. "Thank you for being such a good friend Willow. You've done so much for me. I'm not sure why you can remember but I'm honestly not surprised. You've always seen more than any of us. Now tell me what happened and how I can help."
Willow smiled at his thanks and warmed at his rare compliment. When Buffy wasn't around to distract him Angel was easier to talk to. "First let me just ask. Are you sure about Wolfram & Hart? I know they gave Connor a new life, gave us the amulet to close the Hellmouth for good, and have made some big promises. Are you sure about this Angel?"
"Wolfram & Hart gave us this office to run and I'm trying to use their resources for good. I know this looks bad but after everything that happened recently I decided to take the risk and try to do good on a larger scale. If you're worried about my soul it's still here."
"I believe you Angel. Long story as well but I can see your soul." It was strong with conviction and resolve but stained with guilt. The brooding was definitely not an act. Knowing she was dealing with Angel and not Angelus soothed a little bit of her worry. His shocked and confused face made her giggle. "You remember that scythe Buffy had when you saw her at that temple?," she asked. Angel nodded so she continued. " Well I did a spell using the power of the scythe to turn all potentials slayers into full-fledged slayers." She heard him mumble something she suspected must be a curse of some kind. "Yeah, tall order." She laughed nervously hoping she wouldn't see the disapproval of her using magic like she'd gotten use to seeing.
Angel just gestured for her to continue. "During the spell I touched the souls of all the potential slayers. I was left with a power to see souls. I'm not sure what else I can do with this new skill but the coven said they believe the Powers that Be meant for me to use it to save Spike. It appears we are both champions now." She lowered her head at that because it still seemed too much to process. "Anyway, when the amulet started working I could feel Spike's soul powering it and then I felt him die." Out of nowhere Willow started crying. Maybe it was just overload from everything that had happened or maybe it was the fact that recalling the pain Spike had gone through, when she had time to process it, was overwhelmingly horrifying. Angel's hand was now on hers, offering comfort. "The power of the amulet and Spike's soul closed the Hellmouth for good and Sunnydale is now a crater. I felt the souls of all those who died pass on except for Spike. When I realized this I reached out and I could feel that his soul was still there buried in Sunnydale."
Angel squeezed her hand and she looked up. For how much time they'd spent near each other in the past they hadn't spent a lot of time just the two of them. "Can you tell anything else about his state?," he asked.
Willow reached out reflexively and confirmed Spike's soul was still in Sunnydale before looking down at their still joined hands. Then she gasped. "Willow, what's wrong? Is William okay?" The use of Spike's Christian name caused her to look up in surprise. As her new revelation spun in her head she gaped at Angel and decided to ponder his use of the name.
"I don't know. I can't tell his emotional state from this distance. In fact, he's the only one I can feel from this far. Which is another reason we think I have this power to help him. Ironically, it seems fitting since the first spell I learned was giving you your soul." Angel nodded but gave her a searching look.
"Why did you gasp then?," he asked.
She quickly let go of Angel's hand and reached for her water. After taking a sip she lied her ass off. "I just remembered I forgot to tell my girlfriend I left the group and came here." She took another sip of water. Angel didn't look convinced but she needed to get them back on track. There wasn't time for any distractions. "Is there anyway you can search Wolfram & Hart's files for mentions of the amulet?"
"I'll help however I can Willow. I may have my issues in regards to Spike but I can see how his actions were that of a champion. If the Powers that Be didn't want him rescued they wouldn't have given you these powers at the same time. I was a little wary of what the amulet would do since Wolfram & Hart gave it to me but it appears the Powers that Be were prepared for this. Which, if you've ever dealt with them, is surprisingly straight forward." He let out a sardonic laugh. "Why don't you get some rest in one of the rooms we haven't packed up yet and I'll make some calls to get the ball rolling. "
He showed her to a room on the second floor and found her some clean linens to remake the bed. She hadn't slept more than 5 hours in the last 72 and the extra energy she'd gotten from the spell was finally fading. Soon she was fast asleep.