By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 16 - Live and Learn
"When Cordy was describing the vision, I remembered. I remembered her, Giles," Angel said. His voice was shaking slightly.
"No, no, Angel. It isn't possible," Giles said.
"Giles, I was there. I was there when she died. And if that was Buffy..." Angel couldn't finish his thought. "I was obsessed with her. I played with that girl for years. Mind games," he mumbled. "Cordelia told me she saw a hand-carved stone angel in her vision. That was...I left those on her doorstep, to let her know I was there." He paused, then whispered: "Giles, what did I do?"
"Calm down, Angel. You didn't kill Buffy. I have Maeve's Watcher's journal here," Giles told him. He glanced at the group. They were all still gathered around Maeve and Buffy's letter. He lowered his voice to say: "Buffy is trapped in the year 1880. According to the journal, Maeve did not die until 1885."
"1880?" Angel repeated. "So that means...I didn't kill Buffy?"
"No, Angel, you didn't."
"But, still. Maeve. We have to warn her. I have to...I need her to know," he struggled for the right words. "I need to tell her that I'm... "
"You can't," Giles interrupted. "You can't tell her anything. You cannot alter history. We're already concerned that Buffy could cause a time paradox."
"But Giles, I was so cruel. For years - I was fixated. You can't understand."
"Oh, I understand," Giles said, his voiced tinged with anger, "I understand all too well." *I remember Jenny. I remember the way you tortured me. I understand. Oh, yes, I understand all too well.*
There was silence on the line.
Giles cleared his throat. "Be available in case we need you."
"Of course," Angel answered solemnly. "I'll stay here, at the office. Call me, if there's anything I can do..." It was Giles who cut the connection, unable to find anything else to say to the uneasy vampire.
As the conversation with Angel came to an end, the gang migrated to the area in front of the counter.
Maeve remained seated, still clutching the letter she had just read. It had been strange to read the words of another Slayer. Everything she had ever read about other Slayers had been written by Watchers...in a Watcher's perspective. But Buffy's words produced in her a strange feeling of kinship. This `Buffy' sounded like a very confident person, she was so much in control of her life and she had found so many people who knew about her duty, who loved her and who even helped her. At home, she only had one person to confide in, beside her Watcher. Charles. And it seemed Buffy had recruited him to aid her, something Maeve never would have dared. She sighed, watching these strange, but kind, people crowding Mr. Giles. The thought of going back to her own, much lonelier life, was beginning to trouble Maeve.
"We must hurry," a distressed-looking Giles told the group after he returned the phone to its cradle.
He was standing behind the counter, thumbing through a stack of fax pages about two inches thick. Without raising his eyes to meet their questioning gazes, he said, "The longer it takes to get Buffy back, the more dangerous this situation becomes. I have Edward Willoughby's journal at my disposal, but there doesn't seem to be any additional information concerning the spell he attempted that caused this mess. In fact, the whole incident is not mentioned at all."
"It wouldn't be," Maeve spoke up cautiously. "He was not always..." she paused, considering her words carefully, "completely forthright with the information he provided to the Council."
"Oh, we understand that completely, Maeve," Anya told her, patting her gently on the shoulder. "We don't like the Council much either, do we Giles?"
Giles just shook his head.
"So, what did the poof in shining armor have to say?" Spike wondered aloud, not letting on that his superior hearing had allowed him to follow at least the end of Giles's conversation. *1885, eh?*
"It seems Cordelia had a vision regarding Buffy's...and your," he nodded toward Maeve, "situation."
"You mentioned some powers, Giles." Xander said anxiously, "What powers? What do powers have to do with this?"
Giles grimaced. "I'm not sure," he admitted, "but we must figure that out. And quickly."
"What's next then, Rupert?" Spike asked as he rolled a shiny purple rock between his fingers. "How do we get the Slayer back?" The purple stone slipped and fell to the floor between his black boots. *If he tells me one more time not to worry - that everything will be alright I'll ...I'll what? Ask him again? Talk him to death? Please let him be right.*
Anya shrieked. "If you damage the merchandise, we're going to deduct it from your pay," she threatened.
"What pay?" he smirked. But his heart was not really in that response. He was overcome by a strange sense of foreboding. The date Buffy had given in her letter had sounded way too familiar. *If Buffy messes with the timelines, if she stops Drusilla from turning me...* Dying - or getting dusted - was one thing, but fading into nothingness because he, Spike, never existed... the mere thought caused him physical discomfort. He bent down to retrieve the rock.
"I'm working on it," Giles told the impatient vampire. "I might have a solution, but I need to check a few things first. I'll be in my office." He retreated to the back of the shop. He didn't notice the vampire's interest in his departure.
Everyone turned to look at the door.
*Oh my God, Dawn. We forgot about Dawn!* Tara screamed internally.
"Hi everybody!" Dawn said as she bounced happily into the shop. "No one was home so I had Janice's mom drop me here."
"Uh, hi Dawn," Tara said. "Didja have a good time?" She glanced back at Maeve for a moment, took a deep breath, then turned her attention to the child before her.
"Yea, her mom's a good cook. You know, contrary to popular belief, a teenager CAN get tired of pizza," she looked at her sister as she dropped her backpack on the table. "No offense, Buff."
Buffy just smiled awkwardly.
"So anyway, what's the haps? Any new monsters I should know about?"
"Actually, Dawn, we need to talk to you," Tara said seriously.
Taking advantage of the distraction Spike swiped the forgotten Watcher's journal off the counter, put it on one of the chairs and draped his duster over it.
"So what do we do?" Dawn asked an half hour and a somewhat detailed explanation later.
Her face was solemn. During Willow's narration, she glanced nervously at the-girl-who-was-no-longer-her-sister at least a dozen times. She also looked to Spike for reassurance. He gave it to her in small increments throughout the discussion. A "Don't worry, Bit, the Slayer's safe," here. A "We'll get her back. I promise," there. Here a nod. There a smirk. Everywhere a wink-wink.
"Giles said he's working on something," Tara comforted the girl. "It'll all be fixed soon."
Dawn glanced from the letter in her hand to the new-Buffy and tilted her head. "Maeve, huh?"
The pseudo-Buffy nodded. "Yes," she said quietly. "Pleased to meet you, Dawn."
"I guess we should be getting you home," Tara commented. "It's late. We should all go back to the house and get some sleep. We'll have plenty of work to do tomorrow."
"Oh, come on!" Dawn said. "I want to help. I want to get my sister back now." She gave Maeve an embarrassed smile. "Sorry, it's not like I want to get rid of you or anything..." She shrugged.
The shy Slayer just nodded.
"I know, Dawnie. We all do. But we won't be any good to her if we're exhausted. Most of us didn't sleep much at all last night," Tara explained and she glanced at the others. They did, indeed, look weary.
Dawn sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes. "I can help, you know."
"I know," Tara answered honestly. "Get your things, come on."
Dawn grabbed her backpack and slung it halfheartedly over her shoulder. "You coming, Buf-...I mean, Maeve?"
Maeve glanced around the room questioningly. "I-I'm not sure where I'm needed."
"You're needed in bed," Anya said officially. "You haven't slept a wink since you...well, since you got here." She nodded approval of her own statement. "Why don't you come with us," she suggested, "it must be awkward for you sleeping in Buffy's house." *Besides the bizarre circumstance of living with Dawn's surrogate lesbian parents.* Then added, "And I promise, at our place, no one will call you `Buffy'."
"I would not wish to inconvenience..."
Anya interrupted, "It's settled then. Xander, give me the keys, I'll drive."
"Looks like we're outta here," Xander told the group as he fished his keys out of his pocket with his good hand. "Tell Giles we'll be here first thing tomorrow morning."
"We're leaving, too," Tara said as she took Willow's hand.
"I'll let Rupert know," Spike told them. "Go on, then. Get your beauty sleep. God knows you need it."
"Bye Spike," Dawn said as she left.
*Right, then. Time to catch up on some reading.* Spike took the journal from its hiding place, sat down at the table and propped up his feet.
The apartment was blanketed in inky shadows. If it weren't for the small lamp on the end table in the living room, the house would be wholly black. Xander was fast asleep in the bedroom. Though both girls were working on less than two hours of sleep, they were still wide awake. Second wind, it's called. Maeve and Anya sat side-by-side on the couch, a book open across their laps.
"They sell this?" Maeve asked incredulously, "At a public marketplace?"
"Yes, or you could borrow a copy at a public library," Anya answered. "Look Maeve, I remember what it was like in the 1800's," she said, "I was a vengeance demon for over a thousand years. I remember the sexual repression in England. It was absolutely no fun for women those days."
Maeve only nodded and turned the page...and gasped.
"Oh, yes," Anya said in response, "That's one of my favorite positions. And to think, this book was published almost 30 years ago." She shook her head in amazement. "Granted, people have been kinky for...well, forever. But to put it into print...well, let's just say that Mr. Comfort was way ahead of his time." She smiled at Maeve, "The author of this book was from London, too, you know." She turned the page.
"Oh?" was all Maeve could muster.
"I should probably also give you a lesson on birth control," Anya mentioned. "I just have to remember what was available back then." She thought for a moment, "Can Slayers even get pregnant? That's something I've never discussed with Buffy. Maybe Giles would know."
"I-I would suppose so," Maeve answered. "My bodily functions are...they are normal functions." She turned the page. Both girls tilted their heads sideways simultaneously.
"Yes, that one is difficult to master," Anya remarked offhandedly. Back to the pregnancy question: "But, you have Slayer-power and healing ability and stuff that normal people don't have. Besides, I would assume it would be difficult to fight vampires with a bun in the oven."
Maeve nodded, head still tilted...her gaze trained on the image before her.
"I've also occasionally wondered if a Slayer-orgasm would be more intense, considering that you have, you know, special Slayer-muscles. Plus, the stamina factor. But then, you wouldn't know."
"Yet," Maeve said, trying to stifle a nervous giggle.
"That's the spirit!" Anya said. "I'd say `let me know when you find out' but I guess that won't be possible."
Maeve frowned slightly. "Oh, don't get all mopey on me now," Anya said, "Just wait `til we get to page 109." The frown disappeared and was almost immediately replaced with a quiet chuckle.
Willow opened the curtains with a wave of her hand and a word. The light streamed into the bedroom, rousing Tara.
"Good morning, Sleepyhead," Willow told her lover as she nuzzled into her neck.
"What time is it?" Tara asked sleepily.
"Eight O'clock. I think Dawn's already awake."
"We'd better get dressed then," Tara said, and pushed the covers away.
"Oh, not yet," Willow whimpered. "Let's stay in bed just a little longer."
"Willow, come on. We have work to do. Buffy could be in trouble."
Willow sighed, "Okay. But we need to shower anyway, right? It'll be faster if we do it together."
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
"Xander," Anya whined.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
"Xander!" a little louder.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
"What? I'm up, I'm up!" Xander said, after bolting upright and reflexively slamming his hand down on the alarm clock. Torn from his dream of chocolate covered potato chips and Playboy Bunnies.
"Bunnies? What? Where?" Anya squealed and jumped out of bed.
*Oops, did I say that out loud?*
"Sorry, An," Xander said, "I was having a dre- a nightmare."
"Oh," she said seriously, "I've had that one before. The one where bunnies are nibbling your bloody stumpy toes?"
"Yea, something like that," he answered with a disgusted look.
"Do we have time for breakfast?" she wondered aloud.
"Who wants breakfast after an image like that?"
"You're probably right. Let's just get dressed and head over to the Magic Box. I wonder if Giles bothered to go home last night. I hope he didn't make a mess of the shop."
Xander shrugged and pulled his fiancé into his lap for a big good morning smooch.
"I should wake Maeve," Anya murmured to her lover's lips.
"She could use another twenty minutes of rest, don't you think?"
"Well, we were up pretty late, reading all about the Joys of Sex ," Anya admitted. "Speaking of which, we haven't tried page 130 in a while." She grinned mischievously and slid her hand under his PJs.
Spike woke with a start as the sleepy-eyed Scoobies began piling into the shop. He had one white page lying face down on his chest. The rest of the journal was shoved neatly under his chair and out of sight. As he pushed himself up into something more akin to a sitting position, the solitary page fluttered gracefully to the floor. He was quick to grab it, and shove it into his pocket before anyone could notice.
"Morning Spike," Dawn said. She was the only one of group who was even close to chipper this morning. "Did Giles end up staying the night?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so," Spike mumbled as he struggled toward alertness.
"Was it like a sleep-over?" Dawn snickered. "Did you bond?"
"Yea, we bonded, Bit. He stayed in his office, I hung out right here," Spike told her. "It was a regular brotherhood-fest. Popcorn and pillow fights and all that."
"Did you find anything new?" Willow asked.
"Nothing terribly useful," the vampire admitted.
Giles' head was on his desk, eyes closed. Even in sleep, his glasses remained in his hand. The desk lamp, still burning, painted his face with a translucent yellow cast. He looked old. Two volumes were laid open before him. Willow approached his desk quietly and traced her fingertips over the text on the open pages. *No, this isn't good,* she thought. She turned a page and shook her head. "This will take too long," she mumbled quietly.
"But it will work," Giles answered sluggishly as he raised his head and replaced his glasses.
"Sorry, Giles. I didn't mean to wake you."
"No, no. It's time to get up. Is everyone here?"
"It will work, Willow."
The gang sat around the table while Giles paced back and forth before them. He had a large book open in his hands and while he spoke, he occasionally referenced its pages. Maeve was seated between Anya and Spike, her face - Buffy's face - crumpled with apprehension. She noticed, every-so-often, the vampire would glance in her direction. Inspecting her. *No doubt missing the real Buffy,* she figured. She watched the Watcher as he described the plan, amazed at the involvement of the group around her. A child, a vampire, an ex-demon, two lesbian witches *Anya was such a fountain of knowledge in that regard*, and a normal-ordinary-human-friend. *I wish I had this kind of assistance,* she thought, *I wish I had friends.* "It's actually a very simple spell," Giles was saying. "But we must wait for certain astral constellations to be met."
"How long is that?" Xander asked. "We don't want Buffy back when she's seventy-years-old. No good could come of a wrinkly Slayer dragging an oxygen tank behind her. The vampires would make fun of her."
Giles shot Xander a look of irritation.
"Don't mind him," Anya told Giles, "he didn't sleep well. He had nightmares." She looked at the group and nodded knowingly, "Bunnies."
"We should be able to perform the ritual in two days," Giles said, ignoring Anya's comments.
*Why does Spike keep looking at me?* Maeve wondered. She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. *I'm not sure I even want to go back.*
"Theoretically, Buffy's and Maeve's spirits want to return to their true forms," Giles said, almost directly contradicting Maeve's thoughts. "All we need to do is nudge them slightly, and they should go back to where they belong. Universal balance and whatnot." He closed the book. "Simple, really. We only need a few items and a little patience."
"But, Giles. I can just open a door to where Buffy's spirit is..." Willow started.
"No, Willow. No. We will do this the simplest and safest possible way. We will not be opening doors to anywhere. It is far too dangerous," Giles dictated.
"No. Absolutely not," he interrupted. "End of discussion."
Willow looked as if she was going to say something more, but Tara put her hand on her shoulder to quiet her.
Giles put the book down on the table in front of Anya. "Please gather the ingredients we will need and go over the spell with Maeve and the others," he told her. "Right now, I need to go home and shower. We can meet again tomorrow night to go over the details and then we will perform the spell on Tuesday."
"Can I get a note for school?" Dawn asked.
"We'll see," Tara answered her.
Giles went back to his office to grab his jacket, said goodbye to the Scoobies and -Jingle. Jingle.- left.
"Look you guys," Willow started, "I can do this."
"You heard Giles," Xander said.
"I know what Giles said," Willow interrupted, "But we could have Buffy back by dinner time. It's easy. I can trace her exact position in the space time continuum and then just draw a door directly to her."
"Willow," Tara said quietly. "Giles said it's dangerous. We can wait until Tuesday."
"Tara, you know I can do this," Willow looked at her pleadingly. "Let me do this. I want to help."
"You're playing a dangerous game," the vampire spoke up as he stood. "Magic. Consequences. I know you've heard that song before." He shot a pointed look at Xander before he about-faced and headed to the back of the shop.
"Don't listen to him, guys," Willow said. "Look, I know you think it's dangerous. But it could be even more dangerous if we leave Buffy there any longer. She could create a time paradox. If she does one thing. Just one little thing differently...kills one extra vampire...or lets one live...everything can change."
"She's right, you know," Anya said. "One little difference can mean an awful lot." *Like when Cordelia wished that Buffy never came to Sunnydale. That was fun. Ooh, Xander as a vampire. He was hot.*
"And what if...what if Buffy gets seriously hurt in Maeve's body? What then? What if the Council finds out? What will they do to her?" Willow's voice was growing louder and more urgent. "What about Angelus? Buffy won't kill Angelus...I don't think. I mean, what would happen? That could be bad."
Spike made his way to Giles' office to get away from the others for a while. When he finally had a bit of privacy, he pulled the crumpled paper out of his pocket to look, once again, at the faxed gray, blurry image of a girl he once knew a few lifetimes ago. *Penthesilea. Good to see you again.*
Willow began collecting things from the shelves in the shop. As she grabbed powders and colorful vials, she continued her reasoning. "I mean, think about it," she said. "Angelus would be fighting for his life and Buffy won't be able to stake him." She put the contents on the counter and went back to the shelves. "And she doesn't have us there to help her. She's all alone. What if she gets killed?"
"Can you really do this, Will?" Dawn asked . It was obvious what answer she wanted to hear.
Willow turned to look at her, "Yes, Dawn. I know I can."
"Well, that's good enough for me," she answered. "How can I help?"
"Clear a space on the floor and lay these out in a circle," Willow answered, handing over a basket of crystals. "Also, I'm going to need some chalk."
Tara hesitated. She had no doubt that Willow had the power to perform this powerful spell, because Willow's grasp of magic already surpassed her own abilities. Was is selfish and jealous of her to look at Willow's accomplishments with a certain apprehension? Where was the line between trust and concern?
Dawn took the basket and made her way to the middle of the shop.
"Anya, I left a book upstairs. It's the one with the big circle on the front with the two squiggly lines going through it..."
"Articulus Tractus?" Anya asked.
"Yes - will you bring it down for me?"
Anya look at Xander. He shrugged. He looked to Tara for her input. She was usually pretty impartial when it came to magic-issues. But Tara was conveniently looking at the floor. Xander nodded to Anya. *Willow's my best friend.*
Anya went to the stairs.
"What can I do?" Buffy's voice never sounded so uncertain.
"Come help me, Maeve," Dawn called from the floor. "Help me set up the circle."
*Penthesilea. I guess she doesn't recognize me. Should I say something... would she remember?* He stared at the picture for a moment, laughing internally at his human counterpart, when something else occurred to him. *I met her right before I was turned. I met her in 1880. I met her when...oh bloody hell! I met Buffy!* He smacked his forehead. *A bleedin' failure I was. When she gets back I'll never hear the end of this!* He shook his head and stuffed the image back into his pocket. He started back toward the populated area of the shop wondering about the significance of his chance meetings with the Buffy-infected Slayer of 1880. *No wonder she was so odd.*
When he walked back into the main part of the shop, he was surprised by the activity. Potions, books, vials, crystals. *I should've known.* He shook his head. As usual, he was out of the loop. Just like last time... "So, you're doing the spell, then?"
"Yea," Dawn answered. "Willow says she can have Buffy back in a matter of hours."
"What did I tell you about consequences?" he asked no one in particular. "The Watcher is right about this one. You shouldn't be playing with magic. This is dangerous stuff."
"You want Buffy back, don't you?" Dawn asked.
"Of course I do. More than anything."
Maeve looked up at him from the circle of crystals she was forming. Her eyes glittering with unformed tears.
"But I want it done the right way. I don't want anyone gettin' hurt."
"No one will get hurt," Willow answered him. She wasn't looking at him; she was busy preparing ingredients. "I know what I'm doing."
Spike shook his head. "Don't say I didn't warn you, children." *Right, since when does a vampire have anything worthwhile to contribute to the discussion? Listen to a reckless witch, maybe even give some credit to an ex-demon, but a vampire? Might as well be talking to Dru. Damn I need a smoke.*
"Here's the chalk," Tara said as she handed it to Willow over the counter. "Is that it?"
Willow nodded. "I think we're ready."
Continued in Part 17 - Alley of Fear