Buffy breezed into the newly opened Council library. It had taken Giles almost two years to track down the books needed to replace the copies blown up by the First. Giles had told her that he needed her to protect the participants doing a ritual that night. Buffy was almost grateful for his insistence that only she could do the job right. Buffy loved her friends, but she felt like a fifth wheel when they went 'Bronzing'. They still called it that, despite the fact that the Bronze was at the bottom of a crater in Calfornia. They all had somebody. Willow had dropped the volatile Kennedy for an equally volatile Brazilian wicca. Xander had found himself dating a cute half-demon, fufilling his demon magnet title once again. Faith was still dating Woods. Dawn was dating one of her college schoolmates. Even Andrew had found himself a girl in the opinionated Rona from the original Sunnydale potentials. After Buffy's disastrous attempt to forget Spike by dating the Immortal, she'd decided she was done dating for awhile.
"So, what's the what, Giles?" Buffy plopped down in one of the comfortable armchairs. She stared at the roaring fire, and she wondered if it was a British thing to have a fireplace in a library.
"As you well know, this is Friday the 13th." Giles picked up a book laying on the desk. "There is a reason why the day is held with such superstition."
"Because if you're camping at the lake, Jason'll jump out and hack you up?" Buffy quipped. She giggled when Giles threw her a dirty look. Buffy smiled while she waved for him to continue.
"Please, Buffy. This is very serious," Giles said, gently admonishing the Slayer. "This month also happens to be a blue moon month, meaning there will be two full moons. One occurred on the first and the next will occur on the 31st, which we both know is Halloween." He sat down in the armchair opposite of Buffy.
"Okay, got that. Two moons, Halloween, and a Friday the 13th," Buffy sighed. "Tell me about this ritual you want me to protect. Are they expecting trouble?"
"Not trouble per say, but the witches become vulnerable when they perform this ancient ritual. The blue moons make it perfect for a combination ritual of fertility, rebirth and affirmation." Giles opened the book to the marked page, and he handed it to Buffy. "They will have an out-of-body experience while they communicate with the Goddess Mother. So, they wish to be safe rather than sorry."
"So, I'm there to make sure nothing evil and nasty creeps up to thump them over the head?" After a precursory glance, Buffy handed the book back to Giles.
"Yes, that's right," Giles agreed. He handed Buffy a piece of paper. "Here are the directions, just give them to Pete. He's standing by to chauffer you to the location."
"Thanks, Giles." Buffy got up for her seat. "I'll give you a report in the morning." She waved at the Watcher as she left the library.
Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd spent the last two years regretting trying to eliminate Spike from Buffy's life. He knew now that he should have never sided with Wood to try and kill the blond vampire. Although one good thing had come from the encounter; the First's mental trigger had been destroyed. It was after Giles had found out that Spike had given his life to keep them safe that the Watcher had changed his mind about the vampire. He was nothing like Angel at all. Giles had watched Buffy try to come to grips with Spike being gone. He had even watched as she'd disastrously tried to date the Immortal. The senior most Slayer simply wasn't the same since Spike had dusted in the Hellmouth and at this point, Giles was certain he'd do just about anything to have the blond menace back in their lives, even if he had to offer up his couch, his Wheatabix and his whiskey.
Buffy glanced down at the white robe that the witches had asked her to wear. It wasn't the worst garment she'd ever been expected to fight in, but it was close. She hoped nothing showed up to bother the witches during the ritual. There was something about the women that called to Buffy's soul. Maybe I need some time with a coven, Buffy thought to herself. Something to come to terms with being without Spike. She turned to watch the trees, and she missed the unexpected visitor flicker and disappear inside the ritual circle.
Anqet hadn't meant to enter the circle, but the Goddess could feel the pull of magic and loneliness somewhere close to the witches performing the ritual. Normally Anqet didn't concern herself with lesser beings except when she was called forth and then only with the ones that did the calling. However, this time something pulled on the Goddess' consciousness. Anqet stood beside the most powerful of the witches and whispered into her mind.
Who is the lonely one, Serina? Anqet's eyes followed the young woman, who was circling the witches with her attention on the trees. She could see the sensual ripeness that the woman exuded. Ripeness that was overshadowed by dejection.
That is the Slayer the Council sent to watch over the ritual, Goddess. Serina's astral body turned to watch the Slayer, too. She knew that Buffy was sad, but to actually catch the attention of Anqet? This was something out of the ordinary for a fertility ritual. She knew that they were invisible to Buffy. So, she wasn't worried that the Slayer would be caught off guard by their presence in the sacred circle.
Her despair is tangible. I can taste it on the wind. Anqet peered at the Slayer. She is covered with magic. A dark magic that lingers upon her very soul. She saw the silverish black tendrils of deceit curl out of the blond woman and shoot off in many directions. Anqet could tell that even though the magic was focused on the Slayer, it didn't originate from her own desires.
I cannot see it. Serina took a step closer to the Slayer while she said a chant under her breath. I cannot see what you see, Goddess.
That is because whoever placed the spell on the Slayer called upon a god to do it, Anqet murmured. I must consult my sister Goddess, Mayat. She shimmered out of sight for a few moments. She returned with a trouble look on her face.
Goddess, what is wrong?
This is quite troubling. Mayat says that the Cursed One asked Loki to hide the Slayer's Champion from her. Anqet hissed. She didn't particularly care for Loki. He reminded her too much of her own brother of chaos, Nan-Parath. The spell must be ripped from the Slayer's soul and banished.
The setting isn't right for a cleansing ritual. Serina realized the silliness of her words when Arqet arched her eyebrow at the witch. Sorry, Goddess. Sometimes I forget.
That's quite understandable, Anqet said. Besides, Serina, my dear, I'm a Goddess. I don't need a cleansing spell. She glided out of the circle and over to the petite blond Slayer. Anqet put her hands a couple of inches above Buffy's head, and then, she outlined Buffy's body with her hands. When she was finished she returned to Serina's side.
Ah, yes. I can see it now. Serina studied Buffy carefully. The Slayer's aura and the Champion's aura are being kept separate by the Cursed One's spell. I believe we'll find that he has also put a spell on the Champion, making him susceptible to suggestion.
Anqet opened the palm of her hand after making a fist. She looked into the swirling sphere of ether in her hand. I can not see the Champion clearly enough from here to sense his aura. How were you able to determine this, Serina?
I saw it on the boy. You know, the short irritating one? Serina paused while she made a connection in her mind. In fact, it's on all of the Slayer's companions. I thought it was some residue from fighting the First Evil, but apparently I was wrong.
Time for all the players to take their places. Anqet snapped her fingers and the clearing filled with the soft glow of fairy lights. She snapped her fingers again to make the first of her guests arrive.
Giles had been enjoying a good book and brandy in front of the fireplace when suddenly he found himself sitting on air instead of his overstuffed armchair. He fell awkwardly backwards onto the ground, bruising his bottom on a rock. Giles looked around in shock, only to find himself peering up into the perplexed face of his Slayer.
Willow and Dawn showed up next, both giggling at the scenery change. They had both been at the Summers' apartment or 'flat' as Giles called it, laughing over some of the weirdos at the club that night when they were transported to the clearing in the woods. They were dressed in their thick flannel pajamas and had their hair up in pigtails. They had definitely been having a 'girl's night'.
Xander popped in next, asleep and in his boxer shorts. The sudden drop from warm sheet filled bed to October cold forest was a shock on the young man's system. He whined until the witches found him another white robe to don. Then he grumbled and groaned until the other Scoobies told him to shut the hell up.
Angel thanked all that was holy that he'd gotten Spike an apartment of his own, finally. The blond vampire had caught his grandsire having sex with the werewolf, Nina, one too many times, and Angel was tired of the moon jokes that Spike would tell anybody that listened. Angel was plunging into Nina's warm, wet body when something shifted, and he found himself humping the cold, wet ground. He heard cries of outrage and horror all around him. When he looked up there stood Buffy, the Scoobies and a whole bunch of women he didn't recognize.
Xander peered slyly down at the naked vampire. Then, he whispered loudly into Buffy's ear. "Naked push-ups? Gotta say Spike looked like he was much better at it." He grinned cheekily when Buffy slapped her hand over her mouth to cover her giggles.
Spike got out of bed early that day. Something told him that if he didn't he'd be terribly sorry. So, when he popped into the middle of a clearing full of Scoobies and witches, he wasn't terribly surprised. What did surprise him was seeing Angel's naked, white ass humping the ground and Harris' rancor less comment about naked pushups. He wasn't surprised when Giles whipped off his glasses, pinched the bridge of his nose, and declared he wished he was blind again.
"Now come on, Watcher. Listening to a newly engaged couple snog is not near as traumatic as seeing Angel's full moon," Spike declared. He hooked his thumbs casually in his waistband and splayed his fingers across his groin.
"Spike." Twin screeches filled the air. In a matter of seconds, the blond vampire had his arms full of Summers' girls, and his cheeks covered with kisses. Spike was even more surprised when Willow, Xander and Giles each gave him a hearty welcome, as well.
"Can someone tell me what's going on here?" Angel's whiny voice cut through the clearing.
"Yes, I am the one you want to speak to, Cursed One." The Goddess' irate voice boomed through the clearing. "I have discovered you're keeping the Slayer and her Champion separated by nefarious means."
"I have no idea what you mean." Angel pulled himself up to his full height and looked down his nose at the petite female. "I am Buffy's champion and everything that is keeping us apart will be resolved when she is done baking." He did his best to ignore his nudity. He was a vampire, after all. Angel noticed that Xander was wearing a white robe like some of the other occupants of the clearing, and this made him wonder why he wasn't being offered a robe either. He noticed that Spike was the only person that would look at him. "And can I please have some clothes, too?"
Buffy begin to giggle uncontrollably when after Anqet snapped her fingers, Angel was dressed in a spandex superhero costume. The brunette vampire was dressed in a hot pink body suit and tights with a purple cape, purple boots and purple boxers. Around his waist was a golden utility belt and splayed across his chest as a big golden A.
"Oh god, where's my camera?" Xander laughed. He pretended to take pictures while the girls hid their smiles behind their hands. Xander stepped behind Spike and Buffy when Angel lunged at him. "Ah come on, Deadboy. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... or laughs in this case."
"All he needs is the Angel-mobile, and he's all set to be the Champion of the people," Spike snarked. He smiled down at the Slayer plastered to his side. "You don't think his costume makes him look too gay, do you?"
"Spike," Angel growled. "That's enough." Then, he turned his attention to Buffy. "Buffy, you need to step away from these people. They're all bad for you. If you come over here to me, I can protect you." Angel held his hand out towards the Slayer.
"Why are you still under the delusion that Buffy needs to be protected?" Giles asked. "I could understand when she was a brand new slayer, Angel, but she's an experienced warrior now."
"Peaches, I do believe that Nina needs to be informed about how you really feel," Spike announced. "I have a feeling that she's not going to be too happy when finds out you're just shaggin' her till the Slayer decides she's ready to settle down."
"That is none of your business, Spike," Angel grunted. "What kind of lies did you tell Buffy before I got here?"
Spike snorted loudly. "I didn't get here before you. I popped in just in time to see your big, fat, white arse moon the crowd."
The coven watched the proceedings as if they were spectators at a Wimbledon tennis match. Some of them even looked like they were keeping a mental score; Scoobies 7, Angel 0. While the witches didn't know all of those people gathered, the ones they did, they trusted. Several of the women shivered in the cool October air.
"Enough!" Anqet's voiced boomed. "The Watcher is correct, Angelus. You treat the Slayer as a child unable to make up her own mind, rather than the warrior she is. As always, you are making her decisions for her and everyone else. Just as you did when you left her behind, and yet still returned to Sunnydale to stalk her. Just as you did when you took back your day as a human."
"Ohhhh busted," Xander and Dawn chortled at the same time.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Angel swore in denial. He turned to the Slayer. "I swear, Buffy, I don't know what this woman is talking about. It's clear she's delusional." He lifted his hands towards Buffy in a gesture of innocence.
"No, Angelus. It's you that's delusional." Anqet sniffed in surppressed fury at the vampire's actions. "You did the same exact thing when you took over the helm of Wolfram and Hart. You made the decisions for others, once again. You decided that your son needed to have a so-called normal life. So, you made everyone forget about him."
"He deserved a normal life," Angel protested. "Just as Buffy deserves a normal life."
"Can I stake him now?" Xander asked at the same time that Spike uttered, "Pillock." They glanced at each other, and they both smirked evilly.
"Normal, shmormal." Anqet waved a hand in the air. "Normal is for uninformed mortals who run about their daily lives in complete and utter unawareness of the things that go bump in the night. Xander Harris is the most normal person of the gathering this evening, but can he lead a normal life now? No, because he knows what is out there. He sees what is out there."
"If the Whelp is the most normal of all of us, the world is in a hell of a lot of trouble," Spike teased. He reached out to slap Xander on the arm.
"Watch it, Captain Peroxide. I'm a demon magnet and I know how to use my powers," Xander chuckled in a fake evil laugh.
Spike playfully dropped to his knees and kissed Xander's kneecaps. "Oh Xander, you studly man you." He roared with laughter at the memory of all the demons, male and female, that tried to come after Xander during Willow's spell.
"Get off, you pervert." Xander kicked at Spike. "It's Buffy you need to be kissing up to, not me." He toed the kneeling vampire towards a giggling blond Slayer.
"With pleasure," Spike's laughing stopped, and his voice rumbled like a purr. "If she wouldst grant to send her favor my way, I wouldst worship the place forever where she lay." He crawled up to rest on his knees in front of Buffy. "My heart twas broken, and my soul was rent. Every moment apart felt like a lifetime spent." He stood up and cupped her cheek in his hands. "Just say the words I long to hear, and I promise to always hold you special and dear."
Angel grimaced when Spike's voice changed and the deep, rich timbre of Spike's upper crust accent filled the small clearing. His lip curled in disgust when Buffy cooed under the blond vampire's ministrations and words. How can she fall for such tripe? Much to Angel's dismay, even Giles and Xander seemed impressed by the bastard.
"You're still as awful as you ever were, Spike," Angel taunted. "Perhaps they had your nickname right the first time ... William the Bloody Awful ..."
"I suggest you keep those thoughts to yourself, Angel," Giles snarled. He could see Buffy was beaming with happiness, and he knew there was nothing in this world or the next that was going to stop him from making sure that she kept feeling that way. "Your ego is obviously getting the better of you."
"I'm not the one being taken in by this... this... idiotic waste of space," Angel spat out in disgust.
"The only waste of space I see is you," Dawn declared. She stepped out from behind Buffy. "What right do you have to dictate our lives for us? What makes you so damned special?" Dawn paused for a moment. "Oh yeah, you're the all mighty, all knowing Angelus. The same Angelus that has managed to kill all of his team. Great show." She gave the brunette vampire two thumbs down while she stuck out her tongue, blowing a raspberry in Angel's direction.
"You're a child, Dawnie." Angel uttered the childhood nickname, his voice dripping with condescension. "You couldn't possibly begin to understand what I've had to deal with." He looked down his nose at the girl. "I did what was best for everybody involved."
"No, you did what you thought was best for everyone involved." Anqet drifted towards Angel. "This ends! Now!" The goddess gave a short, angry wave of her hand.
Awareness flooded Buffy's system. The happiness she felt knowing that Spike was undusty was eclipsed by the anger that her former love had blocked this from her mind and the minds of her friends. Buffy cupped Spike's cheek, and she smiled as brightly and as beautifully as she could. She whispered so softly, only he could hear. "I love you, William."
"How could you?" Dawn asked, aghast. "You knew that we missed Spike. That all of us missed him." She waved her hand to include the rest of the Scoobies.
"This is the last straw, Angel." Cordelia Chase's dulcet tones rang through the clearing. Her ghostly body appeared next to the goddess, Anqet. "The Powers want to see you! You're in BIG trouble, mister."
"Cordy, what is goin..." Angel was cut off midsentence when he disappeared from sight.
Cordelia turned to Anqet, and she bowed regally. "Thank you, Goddess, for bringing this to our attention." Then, she turned to the Scoobies. "Things have been in chaos on the higher planes since Angel stupidly took on the Senior Partners by himself. I gave him that last vision so that he'd seek help in his fight, not kill off his entire team of fighters."
"I'm very sorry about what happened to your colleague Fred, Cordelia." Giles had the grace to look ashamed of himself. "Angel demanded Willow's presence and offered up no explanations as to why he wanted her. It would have been very remiss for me to send such a powerful witch into the lion's den."
"I don't know why he called you in the first place." Cordelia waved a hand in the air. "It's not like the spell would have let you respond in a positive way."
"It's great seeing you, Cheerleader," Spike drawled. "But it's gonna be light soon." He tilted his head towards the eastern sky, which was taking on a definite lighter appearance.
"You do know that I haven't been a cheerleader in years, don't you, you bleached menace?" Cordelia retorted.
"First impressions and all that rot." Spike smirked at the ghostly woman.
"Ha! First time you saw me I was dressed up as a cat. Then, again, you did date Harmony." Cordelia put her hands on her hips while she gave the vampire the evil eye.
"You dated the Whelp here. So, I'd say we're even." Spike ducked the slaps that came his way from the Scooby females. "Hey, none of that. I thought you chits were all happy to see me?"
"We are happy to see you, but we're all getting tired." Dawn punctuated the sentence with a huge yawn. "Some of us aren't use to staying up all night. I want to go home."
"Champion, do you wish to go with your Slayer or back to Los Angeles with the Cursed One?" Anqet asked. She hoped he made the right decision for himself. She'd hate to have to do something drastic to the blond vampire.
Spike stared down into Buffy's upturned face. He took in her hopeful eyes and the teeth chewing nervously on her bottom lip. Then, Spike searched the faces of the other Scoobies, finding none of the rancor that had been there previously. He grinned, hugged Buffy and Dawn closer to his sides, and answered the Goddess' question, "'ll be going with Buffy. I've let Angelus influence me for far too long."
"The spell that he weaved with Loki allowed that to happen. I'm sure that the Senior Partners thought that they could bend him further for their own purposes by anticipating his needs before he even spoke them aloud." Anqet bowed her head to the others. "So mote it be." She snapped her fingers, and she was alone in the clearing with Cordelia.
"Soooo," Cordelia said, stretching out the vowel in the word. "You wanna go see what the Powers have planned for Angel? It should be a heck of a show."
"Lead the way."