All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15

Wicked Ways
By jodyorjen

PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: For the real Branwenn, priestess and friend.
AUTHOR”S NOTE: This is in no way intended to be a thorough introduction to Wicca. If you’d like one, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll point you to some resources. All the Wicca 101 material was written by me and reflects my own viewpoint on the subject matter. Your mileage may vary.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 12

I woke up alone, hearing the front door slam. Damned stubborn Wicca. I pulled the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around me as I ran through the house. Opening the front door, I saw Willow walking away, swathed in her cloak. “Willow!” She looked at me, and she was crying, tears rolling down her face. “Come back!” She turned away and kept going as I ran outside in the sunshine, yelling her name.

“Go back inside!” she yelled at me. “You’re going to burn to a crisp.”

“Come back with me or I’ll throw off the blanket and do so gladly,” I said as I reached her and blocked her way.

“You’re starting to smoke,” Willow said, swiping her hands across her cheeks.

“Then you’d best drag me back inside before I’m a big pile of dust, right?”

She looked at me, conflicted. I felt the sunlight burning my skin, even through the blanket. She grabbed my hand underneath the comforter and we ran back into the house. She slammed the door shut and I tossed off the comforter.

“You’re not leaving,” I growled, as I pulled her down to the floor.

“Don’t make this harder,” she cried, her eyelashes damp with tears.

“I’ll make it very easy,” I replied, tearing off her skirt. “You’re not leaving. You belong here, with me.”

“I told you, I think it’s best if I stayed away for a while,” she said uncertainly.

“That was before we made love, Willow. That was before I knew the truth.” I ripped the laces from her bodice, leaving her naked underneath me, wearing only her boots.

“You’re making it very hard to be reasonable,” she said. “The smart thing to do is to stay away from each other until the feelings die down. It’s just hormones, it’s not logical-“

I slipped my fingers inside her and stroked as I bit her neck. She arched up and I kissed her passionately, until she was slick and warm around my hand. “Tell me you want me, Red,” I whispered into her ear.

“You know I do,” she replied. I entered her and she pulled tightly on my hips, driving me into her hard and deep.

“Tell me you love me,” I demanded, as I moved within her.

She turned her head away. “I-.”

“Say it. I know you do. Might as well admit it.”

Her shoulders trembled. “I can’t.”

“I’ll say it, then,” I whispered. “I love your smile, your nose, your silliness, your hands, your hair, your spirit. I love being inside you, making you mine. But most of all, I love the way you look at me, with your heart in your eyes.”

She came violently, her nails scratching up my neck and catching the lobe of my ear. I held on to her tightly, as she seized and spasmed, muscles clenching hard around my body. “You’re mine,” I gasped against her ear. Her breath calmed and I kissed her delicately before I withdrew from her and carried her to my bed. She lay back on the pillows, her eyes closed and a smile on her face. I grabbed my handcuffs from under the bed, snapping one cuff around her wrist. Her eyes popped open as I closed the other one around mine. I grinned at her and sat down on the bed. “I’m not running away, and neither are you. Not anymore.”

She looked down at her wrist in disbelief. “You didn’t just do that.”

I kissed her forehead. “Done fucking around, pet. We’re going to talk this out, and neither of us are going anywhere until we’re done.”

“This is ridiculous,” she said angrily. “You can’t make me-“

“I can make you do any number of things, love,” I told her.

“I can make them go away,” Willow retorted. “With magick.”

“Or you can leave it on and we can suss this out. You can go back to crying over me or we can work something out and we can be together.”

“You don’t need to make this so hard,” she said. “It’s already hard. When I’m lying in my bed at night and thinking of you, I’ll know exactly what I’m missing.”

“So you won’t see me anymore?”

“Yes.”

“You’d rather be alone and miserable than with me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what the fuck sense does that make?” I roared. “I don’t understand what the hell you’re playing at. You love me, you maddening bint. I can’t believe that you’ll walk out on what we have now, and what we could become.”

“I’d rather stay with you,” Willow stated. “But it’s not that simple. It’s not your fault that you’re still in love with Tara. It’s not my fault that- “ she stopped abruptly.

“You fell in love with me?” I supplied.

“Just stop,” she said. “Just let me go.”

“You’re not leaving until we get this worked out, Willow,” I disagreed, angrily. “And not having you any more, that isn’t a choice. I need you, and you want to be with me. There’s no reason for this to be so difficult.”

“It’s easy for you to be impartial,” she said. “You’re not emotionally invested in this. I’m the one who’s going to get hurt, not you.”

“It hurts me when you leave, Willow,” I told her. “It stings like hell when you keep running away from me.”

“I wish I could stay, you have no idea,” she said. “But I just can’t do this.”

“Tell me you don’t love me, and I’ll let you go,” I looked at her hard, grabbing her chin in my fingers.

“I don’t love you,” she said flatly, pulling away from me.

“Well, I love you,” I told her. “You’re my friend, and my lover. You make me laugh, and you make me think, and you make me happy, Will.”

“You’re not in love with me,” she retorted.

“I want to be, I could be. There’s really nothing I’d like more.”

“I just don’t know.” Willow faced me again. “It’ll be easier to stop being with you, now, then it would be to break it off later.”

“What do you need me to say, or do?” I asked her. “What can I do to make you stay with me?”

“That you won’t break my heart. And you can’t promise me that.”

“I won’t ever leave you, as long as you want me to stay,” I assured her. “I’ll be with you as long as you live, and I’ll turn you so that you never die, if that’s what you want.”

“Why?” Willow’s eyes begged me for an answer. “Why me?”

“I know how you love, with your whole heart. If you can love me that way, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you,” I replied, hoping that she would hear the truth in my voice.

“But how do you know you won’t change your mind?”

“I’ve only ever offered to turn two people.” Entwining my fingers with hers, I tried to make her understand, “not many I would want to keep around, for the long haul.”

“I don’t think this could work,” she looked away, her voice soft. “I just don’t think we could make this last.”

“Just give me a week,” I asked her. “Give me a week to show you how good it can be between us. Come live with me, or I’ll take you away, somewhere we can be alone.”

“This is just insane, Spike. We would never-“

“One week. Seven days, out of the whole rest of your life. We’ll do anything you want, go anywhere,” I told her. I took out the key to the cuffs and unlocked her. “I’ll do whatever it takes, just to keep you with me.”

She took the key from me and unlocked my cuff. “You make it so hard to resist you,” she teased, playing with the handcuffs. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I kissed her, sliding my hands across her back, along the smooth expanse of her skin. She closed her eyes and raised her wrists over us, fastening one cuff closed. She tilted back her head, and the key slipped from her fingers onto the sheets. I closed the other cuff and traced her lips with the tip of my tongue. She opened her mouth, and I kissed her deeply. I slipped back inside her, and I pumped in, out, and back again, my hands tracing the cuffs on her wrists. I needed to make her mine, to take her, every way I could.

“Willow,” I pleaded, licking her neck. “Please.” She wrapped her legs around my waist, and I bit down with blunt, human teeth.

“Change,” she whispered. “Bite.”

“I’ll be careful,” I promised, as I released my demon. I lightly pricked her neck with my fangs, and a slow trickle of her blood ran into my mouth. She shuddered and came, and I held her tightly, thrusting harder within her as I drank, my mouth filled with the delicate taste of her life. I retracted my fangs and pulled away from her neck, and she bit my shoulder hard as she scratched down my spine. My orgasm overtook me like a thunderbolt, leaving me panting and gasping and overwhelmed by emotion.

****

“That time was much more enjoyable,” said Willow. “Nothing strips off the post-coital glow like a little medical emergency.”

I dabbed at her neck with a bit of gauze, smearing ointment over the tiny pinpricks I had made. “This shouldn’t even show at all in a day or so,” I reassured her. “And a good thing too. Buffy sees you looking like a pincushion, I’m going to get a stake shoved up my ass.”

“I don’t think she’ll mind if I’m willing,” she mused. “It’s not like you’re jumping me in an alley or something.”

“I don’t think that she’d really welcome a discussion on the finer points of sex with a vampire,” I argued. “Riley getting his jollies with the trulls proved she has a real intolerance for blood-play, even if it is consensual.”

“You’d think that she’d understand,” said Willow. “I know for a fact that Angel‘s bite was a sexual experience for her, although he didn’t bite her when they made love. She said he wasn’t interested, that it never came up.”

I looked at her. “I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been part of my repertoire, Willow. But you know that I don’t need to bite you to enjoy the sex, right? It’s a definite bonus, but you don’t have to let me do it.”

“It feels amazing,” she smiled. “I don’t mind it, although I don’t think I’d let you do it again when you were drunk.”

I ran my fingers over the scab on her breast. “That, I’m afraid, is definitely going to leave a scar.”

“Fortunately, it won’t be where many people will see it.” The wound was right above and below her nipple.

I looked at her sharply, feeling decidedly jealous. She laughed. “Gotcha.”

“That wasn’t funny, Willow,” I told her. “I don’t want other people looking at you naked.”

“Okay,” she said brightly, kissing my cheek. “I’ll cancel my plans for the nudist colony then.” I moved my head, capturing her mouth with mine. She grabbed my shoulder, desire blazing up between us as I lay her down on the bed and moved over her. “No,” she stopped me, grasping my waist.

“You don’t want me?” I asked, surprised.

She blushed. “I’m sore,” she admitted. “Regular human girl here. I’m not built for the all sex all the time Spike experience.”

“I should have been more gentle,” I moaned, feeling like an ass. “But you seem to like it when I get rough with you.”

“I do,” she said. “I really do. But I guess I need a little less hard rock and a little more soft jazz right now, you know?”

“I can make you feel better,” I stood up “I can make you good as new.” I went to the kitchen and came back with a bowl of ice.

“I don’t think I’ll like anything that you can do with the ice, Spike,” she warned.

“Just trust me.” I put a few ice cubes in my mouth and waited until my mouth was very cold. I morphed into my demon and crunched them into bits, swallowing most of the remains. Shifting back to my normal face, I pulled her thighs apart. Slowly sweeping over her puffy outer lips with my tongue, I licked her inside and out. She squirmed, and I held her down, careful not to hurt her. I took another ice cube between my lips and ran it over her chafed thighs. Stretching my tongue as long and hard as I could, I slid the ice cube inside her, then fucked her with my tongue, moving hard within her. She screamed and grabbed the back of my head. I slipped another cube inside her, and moved my mouth to her clit. I surrounded her bud with my mouth, probing and licking with the tip of my tongue as I sucked. Willow tugged at my head, her hands scratching my shoulder. “Oh, God,” she said. I sucked harder, and slid the last ice cube inside her. “God, god, yes, god, I love you,” she cried out as she came. I worked her with my mouth until she couldn’t take anymore. Pulling away, I spooned into her and kissed her shoulder.

“You can’t trust anything that is said during sex,” she crooned drowsily, her eyes fluttering shut.

“True enough, pet,” I replied, pulling the sheets over us.

“Especially something like I love you,” she yawned. “That’s definitely a big thing, a big deal thing that you don’t just blurt out because the person you’re with is amazing.”

“Point taken, Red,” I told her as I rested my head against her shoulder. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“Good,” she said faintly. “Wouldn’t want to feed your big ego or anything.”

“Love you, baby,” I whispered as I held her tightly.

“Love you, Spike.”

****

My phone ringing shrilly in my ear woke me. I reached out and fumbled for it. “You’re late, dude,” Richard’s voice accused me.

“Late for what?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.

“It’s six-fifteen. You’re supposed to be here, at the mall, for the costume fitting.”

Oh, yeah. Right. “Okay, I’m on my way,” I said.

“And if you happen to know where Willow is, she’s supposed to be here too.”

“I think I can figure that one out,” I told him, as she rolled onto me, her arm sprawling across my chest.

“Hurry up before Anya has kittens, OK?” he said. “She’s talking about smiting people if the wedding gets ruined.”

“Tell her not to get her knickers in a twist,” I answered. “We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

I leaned over and kissed Willow lightly. “Hey, sweetheart, we have to get up now.”

“Don’t want to,” she said sleepily.

“We have to go play dress up now,” I coaxed her awake, kissing her nose. “And after that, we have the Wicca group. We have to get going.”

She sat up and stretched. “You ripped off all my clothes,” she said accusingly.

“Yes, guilty as charged. But you have the presents that I bought for you, and there is one you haven’t seen yet. Big box on the kitchen counter.”

She came back a few minutes later, clad in the outfit I had picked out for her. It was a soft suede jacket and matching long skirt, in a deep forest green, with a black gauze blouse and a black wool hat. “I really like this,” she preened for me. “It is a very Willow outfit.”

“High praise indeed,” I said, as I buckled my belt and pulled on my boots. I grabbed a necklace from the top of my dresser.

“Don’t wear that.” I looked at her, surprised. “I hope that this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but you look kind of pimpy in jewelry.”

“You don’t like it?” I asked, disappointed.

“You’re pretty imposing already, with the hair and the coat and the attitude,” she reassured me. “It’s kind of overkill.”

“Least you like the coat,” I said, pulling it on.

“Absolutely adore the coat,” she answered, smiling.

****

I walked out of the dressing room, strutting along. I stopped suddenly, making my cape swirl. “I feel very evil in this outfit,” I told Xander. “This is great.”

“Well, stamp down on the instinct to create a little chaos,” he said seriously. “The wedding will be an evil free occasion.”

Clem walked out of a dressing booth, wearing his normal street clothes. “I’m really sorry, Xander, but there is no way that I’m wearing that costume.”

“Everyone’s wearing one,” said Richard, tugging at the hem of his tunic. “We all feel stupid. We’re united in lameness.”

“Well at least you both get to have light sabers,” Clem pointed out. “I’m the only guy in the wedding party that doesn’t get one.”

“I have a blaster,” answered Xander. “I don’t get a light saber.”

“Well, can I be someone that does have one?” asked Clem.

“He’s really tall,” commented Richard. “And we don’t have a Chewbacca.”

“I never thought I’d be clamoring for a big hairy costume,” said Clem. “But anything is better than being Jar Jar Binks.”

“I still don’t know how you’re going to convince Giles to wear his costume,” I told Xander. “I don’t think he’ll be thrilled.”

“Well, at least he gets a light saber,” Clem muttered.

“He faxed his measurements to the shop from England,” said Xander, “and he said he’ll do whatever is necessary to help pull off the wedding. His reward is a light saber, okay?”

“I don’t see why he can’t stay in a hotel,” I complained. “And it wasn’t very nice of Anya to volunteer me. He’s staying at my house, and I got roped into picking him up from the airport tomorrow.”

“He’s already spending a fortune to come back here for the wedding, and he’s really tight on money since he gave his nest egg to Buffy,” Xander explained. “You’re doing a good deed.”

“What do you mean he gave up his nest egg?” I asked.

“He gave Buffy all of his savings before he went home,” replied Xander. “And it didn’t really make a dent in the debt that Buffy has. The mortgage on the house is bleeding her dry. It’s taking every penny she’s making at the Doublemeat just to pay it, and she’s still charging groceries and paying utility bills on plastic.”

“What?” Richard and I said in unison.

Xander looked uncomfortable. “Maybe she didn’t want the two of you to know how bad it was. Don’t tell her that I said anything.”

“Do you know how much debt she’s in?” Richard asked him.

“With her student loans, I think about thirty thousand,” confessed Xander.

“She has to sell the house,” Richard declared. “Even with her new job, she’s not going to make enough to put a hole in that kind of debt.”

“We told her that, but she wouldn’t hear of it,” explained Xander. “She didn’t want to uproot Dawn and Willow would have to find another place to live.”

Richard looked concerned. “I’ll have to talk to her, and see what we can come up with.”

“And I’m going to talk to Red,” I said.

I walked out of the dressing room and out into the store. “Which way to the Death Star?” asked a pimple-faced teenager.

“Sod off.”

Spotting a clerk, I asked, “Excuse me, but where is the ladies dressing room?”

“It’s over there, but you can’t go in there, sir.” She laughed. “Even if you use the Force.”

“Well, have you seen any ladies dressed like Princess Leia around?”

She pointed. “Princess Leia’s over that way.” I headed for the girl in the long flowing white robe. She was too short to be Anya. “Red, that you?”

The girl spun around. It was Buffy. “Hey, dad,” she said with a grin. “How’s the evil thing working out for you?”

I took off my helmet. “Where’s Willow?”

“Quite a bit of stunt casting using you as Vader. They should have made you be C3PO.”

“Do you know where she is or not?” I asked impatiently.

“She’s in the dressing room,” Buffy replied. “She’s not very happy with her costume.”

“She’s another Leia, right?” I asked.

Buffy shook her head. “No, she and Sophie are the only two that aren’t.” She looked over my shoulder. “Here comes Willow, now.”

Willow arrived wearing a beautiful red silk kimono, an ornate obi around her waist. “You look lovely,” I told her.

“I don’t get to be Leia,” she said sadly. “I have to be Queen Amidala and no one will even know who she is. They’ll think that I just wandered in from a Japanese wedding.”

“With the wig and makeup on, you’ll look perfect,” I promised her. “It could be worse. Anya could have made you be Yoda.”

“Put your helmet on. I want to get the full effect.” I put on the helmet. “Say a line,” she said.

“You are powerless to resist the force of the Dark Side,” I intoned in a theatrical voice.

Willow clapped her hands. “Wow, that’s good.” Buffy rolled her eyes and walked away. “Say another one.”

“Luke, I am your father.”

She giggled. “That is so cool,” she said. “And really sexy.”

“Really?” I looked at her, surprised.

“Very,” she cooed to me. Willow looked thoughtful. “You get to take that home tonight, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“We could play a fun game later,” she spoke in a low voice, caressing my chest.

“I’ll be sure to bring my light saber,” I said with a grin.

****

“I can’t believe that we’re eating here,” complained Willow as we sat down at a table at the Doublemeat Palace.

“We don’t have time to eat anywhere else, and the community center is right across the street,” Richard pointed out.

“I refuse on principle. Don’t eat anywhere you’ve killed a big phallic monster in the kitchen, that’s my new policy.” She sipped on a milkshake.

“We’ll go out afterwards,” I offered. “You’re going to need more than that for dinner.”

“Can I come too?” Dawn asked brightly.

“Don’t invite yourself along, Dawn, its rude,” said Buffy, munching on French fries.

“We’re going to try to eat by ourselves this time,” I told her. “We still haven’t had a date alone.”

“And tomorrow night is Passover at my parent’s house,” Willow said glumly. “That’s bound to be a real laugh riot.”

“Willow’s taking you home to meet the parents?” inquired Richard.

“I already met them,” I replied. “They invited me to their seder.”

Xander and Anya sat down, bearing their tray of food. “You’re going to a seder with the Rosenbergs?” asked Xander. “Willow, they’re going to grill him to death.” He paused. “Or deader than dead.”

“I’m sure Spike can handle it. Or maybe I’ll just wipe all their minds afterwards if it goes really badly.” We all turned to look at her. “Bad joke,” she said lamely.

“They’re going to want to know things that you don’t even have answers for,” Xander warned. “Like your SAT scores, and where you grew up, and how much money you make to support their lovely daughter with.” He shook his head. “Ira is going to eat you alive.”

“What are SAT scores?” I asked to Willow’s obvious dismay.

“What are you going to tell them if they ask how old you are?” inquired Dawn.

”Twenty five?” That’s how old I was when I was turned.

“That makes you too old for Willow,” said Buffy.

“Twenty one?” I asked.

“You don’t look twenty one,” Willow observed. “You look older than us.”

“Just tell me the right answer, and I’ll go with that,” I told her.

“Twenty three,” suggested Richard. “Older, but not too old.”

“What about if they ask you about where you went to school, or where you work?” asked Buffy.

“I went to university in Britain and I’m independently wealthy.” I sipped at a Coke. “What more should I do, bring along my bank statement to show how much money I have?”

“Ira would probably like that,” Xander said. “You’re dating his little girl, his only child.” He shook his head. “I feel sorry for you.”

“What could I tell them that would make them happy? I don’t want them giving Willow a hard time.”

“You could give her a very large diamond ring, tell them that you want to convert, and talk about how you want to give them lots of grandchildren,” commented Xander. “That would work pretty well.”

Willow looked sad and I turned to her. “I really am just an incredibly horrible choice for you, aren’t I? I can’t give you any of those things.”

“We should get going,” she changed the subject. “We’re going to be late for the class.”

****

A tall woman dressed in a black turtleneck and jeans with a large pentacle necklace stood in front of the room. About a dozen people sat on the floor in front of her, plus all of the Scoobies. “Welcome to Wicca 101,” she addressed the class. “My name is Branwenn, and I will be leading the class this evening. I am the high priestess of a Wiccan coven here in Sunnydale. Our discussion tonight will be presented from the Gardnerian viewpoint, as I was initiated in that tradition to the third degree.” She walked over and handed me a stack of papers. “Please form a circle, and pass these handouts around.” We all scooted around on the floor, forming a circle. Willow sat on my right, with Richard on my left. I took a paper and handed the rest to Richard.

“Just to be clear,” said the priestess, “Wicca is a pantheistic religion that is centered around worshipping the God and the Goddess in their many forms. Although spells may be used by some Wiccans, the root of Wicca is attuning oneself to the cycle of nature. It is not about manipulating reality, but rather fully joining with reality. Those who are primarily interested in performing spells to control the actions of others, or to gain for oneself, are in the wrong place. One of the tenets of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede: -An it harm none, do what thou wilt.- We also believe in the notion of karma- negative actions sow negative consequences. If you do evil, you will bring it back upon yourself threefold.”

I thought about that for a moment. If that was true, and the evil I had done in my life would come back at me threefold, I was in for a serious karmic beating. I raised my hand. “Yes?” asked Branwenn.

“Does that mean that if you’ve done evil things, if you’ve been evil, you’re just fucked, karmically speaking?”

“No,” she said. “The choices that we make are like pebbles in a pool. The ripples that are created can go off into the future, causing events that were never what we intended. All we can do is control the choices that we make now, and let go of the past, of the things that we have no control over. The karmic debt to be paid will still be there, but it may be repaid in ways that can’t be foreseen, in this incarnation or in a future one.”

“So karma isn’t a punishment?” asked Richard. “It’s not like sin, where you do something that displeases God and have to repent and make amends?”

“Karma is about healing, not pain,” clarified the Wicca. “It’s a process of growth and learning. Karma lets you become someone better than you were. Giving to the world, and not just taking away.” I looked over at Willow, and her eyes were filled with tears. I wondered what she was thinking. I took her hand in mine and she smiled.

“The core of Wicca is the belief in the God and the Goddess. Some Dianic Wiccans worship only the Goddess, but what we are discussing tonight is the Gardnerian view. The God and the Goddess are a duality, each dependent on the other for balance. They are the yin and the yang, balancing light and darkness. Just as in nature, where day follows night in an endless cycle, so the God and the Goddess go through a cycle of ritual death and rebirth. This is the wheel of the year.” She held up a drawing of a large circle. “This is the front page of your packet.”

I looked down at my chart. Drawings of plants surrounded a large circle, with cardinal points marked at north, south, east and west, and names written around the rim. “We are currently at the eastern point of the wheel of the year,” said Branwenn. “Each point on the wheel of the year is celebrated with a ritual called a Sabbat. Wiccans recently celebrated Ostara, which is a celebration of the return of spring and the end of winter. The next Sabbat that we celebrate will be Beltane, which signifies the mating of the God and Goddess and is celebrated as a fertility festival, an unabashed celebration of sexuality.” She circled round the diagram, explaining each of the Sabbats in turn.

“Wiccan ritual is comprised of several basic elements that are repeated throughout the year. We will learn more about Wiccan ritual by participating in one together. If anyone is more comfortable observing than participating, please have a seat against the back wall.” Several people got up, including Richard. “The first step in any ritual is purification.” She lit a stick of incense and waved it in the air. Night Queen. The scent immediately brought Tara to mind, following her from room to room as she purified the house. “Burning incense or sage is most commonly used to cleanse a sacred space for use in the ritual.”

She walked over to a tape player and pressed a button. The melodic sound of bells filled the room. “The next step is grounding, preparing for work in the circle by letting go of all stress and distraction, and tapping into natural energy. Close your eyes and breathe deeply while you relax your muscles.” Willow dropped my hand, and I set down my paper down on the floor. I closed my eyes, focusing on the sound of the bells. I began to feel light and calm, the same sense of peace as the time I tried scrying.

“Please rise and form a circle.” We all gathered around. I took Willow’s hand and turned to find Xander on my left. He looked at my hand and then moved aside, leaving Anya in his place. She took my hand in hers. “Within the boundaries of our hands we form a sacred space,” chanted Branwenn. “By the bones of the earth, by the currents of air, by the flame of the fire, by the waves of the water, by the spirit that surrounds us, the circle is cast. So mote it be.” I felt a tingling feeling run through me, like an electrical current. I turned to look at Willow and she looked at me. She could feel it too. I turned to look at Anya. She looked bored, her eyes a bit glazed.

“We invoke thee, Goddess Sophia,” Branwenn intoned. “Grace us with your presence, your wisdom and serenity, as we seek to find the path to knowledge. Help us to integrate our bodies and souls, to reconcile our desire for spirituality with the demands of our daily lives.” The air in the room grew heavy, building a feeling of anticipation. “Close your eyes and focus within,” the priestess instructed. “Look within yourself for the path you are searching for, and trust in the wisdom of the goddess to show the way.” I closed my eyes, and let myself go.

I was walking in a forest, during the day. The leaves were russet and gold, in the full splendor of autumn. There was a small track that I was following, but it was hard to make it out, buried under shifting leaves and twining roots. I came into a small clearing, and there was a woman standing there. She was veiled from head to toe, swathed in layers of black. She turned and smiled at me. It was Buffy.

“It’s been a long journey,” she greeted me. “The way has been hard.”

“Not especially,” I replied. “Easy enough if you see through to what is underneath.”

“You need to stop following the path,” she said. “The time has come for you to make a new trail of your own.”

“The way is cut and made,” I told her. “I didn’t choose it, but I’m forced to follow it.”

“You need to let go,” responded Buffy. “If you surrender, you’ll gain everything. If you fight the current, it will pull you under.”

“I can’t help what I am. I can’t deny what I am.”

The figure moved closer to me, and placed her hand on my shoulder. Tara’s blue eyes shone brightly beneath the veil. “Do you want the gift that I have for you?” she asked.

“I don’t want your gift. I can’t trust you. You gave me love and took it away.”

“I can give it back and make it live forever, “ she said. “I can give you love that will never end.”

“I can’t believe in you,” I replied. “I can’t believe in us.”

She turned away. “When the time is right, you’ll believe.” She turned back to look at me, and I saw she was Willow. ”When the time comes, you’ll have to forgive, and take the gift.”

I came back to myself with a rush. I felt Willow’s and Anya’s hand in mine. I smelled the incense and heard the chimes. “Open your eyes and focus outward,” said the priestess. “Take with you the lessons that you have learned and trust in the wisdom of the goddess that has been revealed to you. We thank you for your wisdom, Sophia, and the blessing of your presence. We beg thee depart, so that you may share your insights with others who have need of you.” The feeling of electricity dissipated, leaving only a sense of calm. “The circle is open, but unbroken. May the peace of the Goddess go in our hearts. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.”

Branwenn smiled. “We will now have cakes and ale to celebrate the end of the ritual. If you are interested in learning more about Wicca, the flyer for a study group is on the refreshment table.” The group dropped hands and wandered to a table in the corner, which was loaded with plates of oatmeal cookies and jugs of cider.

“That was really intense,” said Willow. She looked ecstatic. “I had some real insights into some of the mistakes I made. I feel like I’m on a good path, heading in the right direction.”

Richard came up and patted us on the back. “So, how did the ritual go?” he asked. “It must have been a lot more interesting than watching you all stand around with your eyes shut,” he laughed.

“I think I fell asleep standing up,” said Buffy, putting her arm around Dawn’s shoulders. “I’m ready to head home. I want to get in a full night’s rest before my first day of training tomorrow.” We said our good-byes and they left.

Willow and I walked over to Xander and Anya. They were talking animatedly, eating cookies. “Do you guys want to go and get something to eat?” Willow asked. “I’m starving.”

“We need to go home,” Xander refused for both of them. “I have to be at the site at six in the morning tomorrow.”

I helped Willow into her coat and we wandered out to the parking lot. “What a bunch of party poopers,” said Willow. “They’re all boring, with the early to bediness.”

“They didn’t stay until bed until six,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, I guess we’re in nocturnal mode.” She smiled, then yawned. “Or maybe not.”

“Why don’t you come back to my house, and I can make you a bite to eat?” I invited. “And you can sleep over.”

She looked at me and smiled again. “Okay.” She kissed my cheek as I helped her into the car. We drove down the street, and she waved her hands in the air. “I almost forgot!” she said excitedly.

“Forgot what, pet?” I asked her.

“At your house, there’s a whole bag of stuff I brought over last night. We can set up your altar together.”

“I don’t really know how to do it,” I admitted.

“It will be fun,” she assured me. “We can do it together.” We turned into the driveway behind the house and pulled into the garage. I helped her out, shutting the car door behind her.

I heard a noise, a large thunk around the side of the house. “Get inside, Red.” I pulled a kukris out of the backseat and unsheathed it.

“What is it?” she asked worriedly.

“There’s someone on the other side of the house,” I told her quietly. “It might be another demon, like the ones we ran into last night.” I kissed her swiftly. “You lock yourself in my room, Willow. If anything comes near you, use your worst mojo and fry it. Fuck karma, use your blackest magic. I won’t risk losing you, not again.”

“I’ll be waiting,” she said. I opened the trunk and handed her an axe. She took it and slipped quietly inside. I walked around the side of the house. There was a figure lurking in the shadow by the door, his features hidden by the collar of his coat. I swung at him, only to be zapped fiercely by the chip. Crying out, I sank to my knees.

Giles turned around and looked down at me. “Bloody nutter,” he said, irritated. “Is that any way to treat a houseguest?”



Continued in Chapter 13

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