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Previous Chapter: Chapter 18
Next Chapter: Chapter 20

Buffy was a limp, unconscious weight in his arms as Spike ran into the hospital. She’ll be fine, he thought desperately. It’s just like Dru after that bloody mob in Prague. She’d survived that, and he’d made her better. Buffy would survive, too, even if he had to go back to the Initiative labs to rip Finn’s heart out as a bloody offering to whatever god or demon would take it. That thought was actually rather appealing, but he couldn’t afford the distraction of dwelling on it right now.

“Need a doctor here!” he bellowed, slowing so he wouldn’t crash into anything and jostle Buffy. It gave the little bit – all bundled up in his coat – time to catch up with him and plaster herself against his back, her still-shaking hands clutching at his shirt like he was the only lifeline in a world that had got even scarier than usual. “She’s bleedin’ out. Needs a transfusion. She’s O positive.”

God, he could feel her blood all over him, the heady scent driving him crazy with a sickening mix of terror and desire. He wanted to shove it back inside her somehow, let the red of it bring the color back to her pale cheeks. He wanted to lick himself clean, take the flavor and essence of her inside, to be savored and cherished. Wanted to….

People in scrubs where there with a gurney, after a forever that had lasted only moments, trying to take Buffy away from him. He had to fight the urge to growl at them and hold her tighter. They’re here to help, you useless git! he snarled at himself as he handed her over.

“Has she been drinking or doing any drugs?” one of them asked while the others wheeled her away, calling out arcane medical terms. When he didn’t answer right away, the nurse continued, “Sir, we need to know so we can properly treat her.”

“No. No drugs or alcohol. She’s, uh, she’s Buffy Summers. Her mum is here right now. A patient. Joyce Summers.”

That was apparently enough information to start with, because the person went away, leaving him there alone with Dawn. And all the other random people hanging about, of course, but she was the only one that mattered to him. And now that her big sis was being looked after, he suddenly remembered that the girl needed to be checked out, as well. She’d a cut likely in need of stitches.

“Come on, let’s get you checked in,” he said, taking a step towards the counter.

“No,” she whimpered. “No. No. I, I don’t….”

Bloody hell. Spike squeezed his eyes shut, trying to figure out what to do. He wished they hadn’t left Tara behind to recover from the gas grenade. Or that he’d had time to stop by the house to pick her up. Once Buffy had collapsed, he’d sprung into action, somehow managing to grab up both her and Dawn and catch the keys that Miller bloke had tossed at him. He’d taken the man’s truck and sped straight to hospital.

All the poor little chit had been through with her sister’s ex tonight, it was no wonder she didn’t want to be looked over by a bunch of strangers. Giles, he thought suddenly. As an active watcher, he had to have enough basic medical training to patch up his slayer, didn’t he? At least enough to clean and stitch up a wound.

He didn’t want to leave, but he knew what Buffy would want of him. He’d take Dawn to Giles. And talk to the man about just what the bloody hell had happened to Buffy. Whatever it was, it wasn’t natural, and he had a suspicion about who was responsible. If he was right…. Well, if it was up to him, Red’s nickname wouldn’t just describe her hair.

 

 

Willow stared up at the ceiling, feeling both drained and elated as she lay there on the floor. She’d done it. Well, she didn’t have concrete proof or anything, but considering how much energy it had taken, the spell had to have worked. Buffy was whole again. Physically at least, anyway. Now she just had to do the memory erase, and they’d have the old Buffy back. No more painful memories of years of terrible slavery. No more obsession with Spike.

She sat up and looked over at the baggie of Lethe’s Bramble. Should she go ahead and do it now, or wait until she had more energy? She was really excited about it, but she was also pretty tired. Before she could decide, the door suddenly slammed open, and Giles stormed in, looking furious. Tara was right behind him, eyes bright with misery and unshed tears.

Willow jumped up to her feet, ignoring the surge of lightheadedness from the abrupt movement. “What is it? What’s wro–”

“Silence!” Giles snapped, hand lifting in what looked a lot like a magical gesture. “You will speak when I say you may, and not a moment before.”

His words and tone hit like a physical blow, making her stagger back in hurt confusion. What was going on? Why was he being so mean? Jealousy, a little voice in her head suggested. She tried to form words, to ask her questions and fling out her accusation, but she couldn’t speak. Giles had used magic on her, just coming in and stealing her voice.

She tried to push back, to cut through with her own power, but she was still weak from the spell to restore Buffy, and there was some sort of… of barrier blocking her. Her mind raced, trying to figure out what was going on. Was this some kind of witch hunt, like back with the Hansel and Gretel demons?

No, that didn’t make any sense. Giles wouldn’t be using magic against her if that was the case. And Tara…. The feeling of betrayal bit down even harder on her heart as she realized Tara was murmuring softly, a very familiar spell to join her power with someone else’s. She wasn’t just bearing witness to this. She was actively helping Giles.

“What have you done?” he demanded.

Some of the magic pressure let up. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “What’s goi–” Her mouth snapped shut so fast, she almost bit her tongue.

“I asked you a question, and I expect an answer.” Giles’s voice was ice. “Buffy is in the emergency room, suffering from severe internal hemorrhaging. What. Have. You. Done.”

She felt the blood drain from her face. Buffy was in the hospital? With internal bleeding? That shouldn’t have happened. Unless…. Nausea roiled in Willow’s gut. She had been so sure she’d gotten things right, but what if too much of the original spell had been used? Or if she hadn’t used enough ingredients to fully regrow Buffy’s uterus?

“I… I just wanted to help,” she whispered. “I tried to regrow….” She couldn’t talk anymore, and this time it had nothing to do with magic, just the look in Giles’s eyes.

“You and Buffy discussed this, then?” He took several steps towards Willow, and she found herself backing away. “She agreed to it, and the two of you set up a date and time for the spell to be performed?”

“Well, no, I just –”

“You just,” he said harshly, cutting her off. “You just acted as you saw fit. You went in and used your power to make changes to Buffy’s body without her knowledge or consent.”

The way he said it, the look on his face as he said it…. He made it sound like she’d… like she’d violated one of her best friends. But she hadn’t. She hadn’t. “I-it’s not like that!”

“It’s exactly like that,” Tara said quietly. She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “Wh-what you’ve done…. My god, Willow! M-magic isn’t meant to be used like that! It, it’s a violation. You violated Buffy and, and you violated the magic.”

Willow staggered back, bumping into the wall. How could Tara think that? Tara, who had grown up with magic. Who had nurtured and guided her path deeper in. Tara thought she had done something horrible. Had she? Oh god.

“I… I can fix this. If we all work together, we, we can –”

“No,” Giles said with a dark finality. “You have caused terrible harm to Buffy, and the only ones who can ‘fix it’ are the medical team working on her right now.”

No. No, that wasn’t fair. She’d just made another mistake, and she needed to be allowed to fix it. That’s how things worked. You messed up, and then you fixed it. Except… sometimes things stayed broken, didn’t they? And sometimes… sometimes trying to fix things just made it all worse. Her knees suddenly went weak and she slid down to the floor.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said in a voice as small as she felt. “What… what am I supposed to do?”

She could wait until Buffy healed, then do the memory spell, but it wouldn’t take long for Buffy to realize something was wrong. The first missed period, and….

Giles sighed, some of the anger seeming to drain out of him. “Obviously, none of my lessons have got through to you, and Tara has not been enough of a restraining influence. I’ve already put in a call to a coven in Devon. One of their members is on her way. She will be putting a stronger block on your magic and teaching you ethics. If you don’t appear to be gaining an understanding of the teachings within a year, the binding will be made permanent.”

Permanent? They would take away her magic forever just because she’d…. Her eyes strayed towards the bag of Lethe’s Bramble as she thought of using it again. She could play along for a bit until she was able to use her magic again, and then….

Maybe… maybe she could do more than erase memories. She could add ones. Joyce had cancer. What if they all thought Buffy did, too? That she’d needed a hysterectomy to get rid of it. It would all work. Willow could fix everything, make everyone feel the way they should. She’d just….

She’d just slash away and rewrite everyone the way she wanted them to be. Violate them. And she couldn’t even argue it was for their own good. Because it wasn’t. It was for her good.

Willow closed her eyes and hugged her knees to her chest. She hadn’t just made a mistake. Even after her impulsive act had destroyed the book, she hadn’t really learned anything at all. She’d taken the time to do a bit more research, but she’d still been throwing magic around casually, with no regard to anyone else or real thoughts of the consequences.

And now she had to pay the price.

 

 

Buffy was awake and flipping through a magazine when Spike peered into her room. She looked a sight better than the day before, some of the tubes and wires and whatall removed. Her vitals were still being monitored, though, and an IV delivered fluids, nutrients, and medicines into her veins.

“Hey,” she said, smiling at the sight of him.

“Hey yourself, love,” he said as he walked into the room. He sat down on the edge of her bed, careful not to jostle her too much. Slayer healing or not, she’d had her belly sliced open and her insides rifled through to remove whatever bit of horror Willow had put there. “Docs say yet when you’ll get out for good behavior?”

She grimaced and stuck her tongue out at him before answering. “Good behavior keeps you in longer. If I complain and have enough fits, they’ll want to get rid of me sooner.” Her expression got more serious. “They’re still running some tests on the… the mass they removed. But, uh, if I keep doing well, they think I can go home tomorrow. Same time as Mom.”

Spike had to fight the urge to storm out, hunt Red down, and throttle the bitch. As it was, Giles had had to threaten him with a cross and being chained back up in the bathtub – a hollow threat now the chip was gone – to keep him away from the confrontation.

Just as well, though. The Bit had needed rest after getting stitched up, and she’d been terrified at the thought of being separated from him. Only reason the poor little chit wasn’t clung to him right now was because she was off visiting with her mum.

“Spike?” Buffy’s voice was oddly hesitant. “The, uh, the doctors? They told me… I can probably cut the time in half, because, you know, Slayer and all, and….” The words tripped out in a rush before she stopped and took a deep breath. “I know we just started it back up, but, uh, the doctors said no vaginal sex for six weeks.”

He couldn’t help smiling. Was a serious situation and all, but she looked so bloody adorable, all nervous and shy about things. He reached out to slide his finger along her jaw, tilting her head up so she was looking him in the eye.

“Hey now, love, no worries. Only six weeks, yeah? And that’s based on the healing of a normal human. And if we’ve both an itch needs scratching, well, found all kinds of ways for that before, didn’t we?” He waggled his eyebrows at her, which got a grin and a blush.

He took one of her hands in his and linked their fingers, suddenly feeling a bit pensive. “And even if we didn’t have all that, I wouldn’t toss you aside for lack of shagging. Don’t need sex for love. Me an’ Dru…. After she got sick, she couldn’t handle more than cuddles, you know? And then you dropped that bloody organ on me, and wasn’t much I could do for her after that. She was there for me until….”

Until Buffy’s ex had gone all evil again and butted into things. He knew she’d never go back to the pillock, that Buffy was true and loyal, but he couldn’t help wondering if she’d end up throwing him aside just as Dru had. All the time and effort spent lovingly at her side, seeing her through the rough times, discarded once those rough times were past.

Her hand squeezed his comfortingly. “Hey, you and me together, okay? We’re partners. I… I love you. And I know you love me. You’ve said it. You’ve shown it. It’s the reason you aren’t out there right now, killing and eating all of the nummy walking happy meals. I don’t think Riley would have even been willing to give up real happy meals for me. And Angel….”

She trailed off and laughed, but there was no humor to it. “God, I was so hung up on him. He was always coming and going, being all mysterious. He’d be there if he absolutely had to be, but for the most part, he just left me to figure things out on my own. He didn’t have my back. And….” She stopped to take a deep breath. “Lack of sex is one of the reasons he left me.”

“Wanker,” he muttered.

No wonder she’d been worried he might scarper. A right mess of insecurities, the both of us, aren’t we? he thought wryly. Wasn’t anything really new though. They’d been together for nearly six years.

“You’re a vampire without a soul, but I know you’re doing your best to be good. For me. That… that means a lot.” She looked down at their hands, seeming uncomfortable with all of the emotional talk. “And, and you know, who else am I going to find who’s man enough to be my naughty girl when I feel like being a bad boy?”

The look in her eyes, the way she said it…. She didn’t just mean possible retreats to Senka while she healed enough to fully accept her womanhood back. He lifted their linked hands and kissed hers before running his tongue along it, taking in the heady flavor of her.

“Anything you want me to be, love,” he whispered huskily. “And once you’re feeling better….” He gave her a slow, sexy smile. “Well, your naughty girl might just need a bit of punishment, I’m thinking.”

 

 

The shop was closed up for the night, but Giles was still there, sitting at the research table and unwinding with a glass of scotch. The past few days had been unbelievably busy. The research into Glory and Dawn had continued despite Dawn’s unfortunate experience and Buffy’s hospitalization. And then Ms. Phoebe Thorpe had arrived from Devon to put a stronger binding on Willow and teach her. She’d also taken Tara under her wing as a pupil, and the shy young woman already seemed to be thriving, like a flower given fertilizer.

The bell over the door rang, and he looked up, expecting a would-be customer who didn’t realize they were closed. Instead, it was Buffy, looking pale and small in soft, baggy clothing. He immediately got up and pulled out a chair for her. She sat down gingerly with a wan smile and not even an attempt at a quip.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, sitting down beside her. His poor, dear girl. Everything she’d gone through, compounded by Willow’s hubris. “Do, do you need anything?”

“Hanging in there, for now.” She went silent for a moment, picking absently at a loose thread on her t-shirt. “So, about Glory. Spike had an idea.”

She eyed him, no doubt expecting some sort of objection before even hearing the idea. Maybe he would have in the past, but he’d seen what the vampire had done for both Buffy and Dawn. For good or ill, he was part of the team, and Giles wasn’t going to just dismiss an idea of his out of hand.

“Go ahead,” he quietly encouraged.

“When we fought her, Glory mentioned a time limit. If she could sense Dawn, she would have found her by now, so….” She shrugged and continued. “Spike sold some gems from the other dimension for a pretty big chunk of money and suggested that me, Mom, him, and Dawn head down to Florida to wait things out.”

“That’s… bloody brilliant, honestly,” he admitted.

Glory’s presence seemed to have caused the normal Hellmouth activity to die down, reducing the need for a slayer. And after all she’d been through, lord knew Buffy could use a vacation. It would no doubt be good for her mother’s recovery as well.

“So you’re okay with the idea?” She seemed cautiously hopeful, as if she’d expected to have to lay down the law with him as she had with Xander days ago.

“Absolutely. And with an accomplished and knowledgeable witch like Ms. Thorpe at hand, we should be able to handle things here. It’s possible we could lead Glory all about on various wild goose chases until the time limit runs out.” He considered the possibilities for a moment, then turned his attention back to Buffy. “When will you be leaving?”

“As soon as possible. Dawn….” She sighed and looked down at the table, drawing random patterns on it with her finger. “She’s not doing well. At all. She knows Riley can’t get at her again since he’s been tossed into a secret military nut house, but she keeps having nightmares. She doesn’t feel safe in the house she was kidnapped from.”

They lapsed into silence, then. An oddly comfortable one, but Giles was going to have to break it. There was something that needed to be addressed before Buffy left with her mother and sister. And her boyfriend.

“Buffy, about Spike…”

Her whole body tensed, a grimace of pain shooting across her face before she forced herself to relax. “Look, I know you don’t approve, but this is my life. I –”

“Yes, it is,” he cut in, obviously surprising her. “And no, I don’t approve,” he managed a smile for her. “But then, I see you as a daughter, and that, my girl, means no one is good enough for you in my eyes. But at least you’ve the sense to be dating an Englishman this time around.”

That got a laugh and an easing of the tension. “In all seriousness,” he continued, “who you are with is up to you. No one else can make that decision for you. And as to Spike being a vampire…. When you were with Angel, the love you felt for him….”

“Was kid love,” she finished for him, staring down at her fingers. “It was intense, and it was real, and the pain was real, but it was kid love.”

“Indeed, because you were still a child in many ways. Despite that, you were able to do what needed to be done and send Angel to hell.” And now, despite looking like she should still be in high school – a combination of good genes and slayer healing – she was a mature young woman who had been through more than he could even imagine. And she had a mature, deep love for the vampire… the man who had been by her side for it all. “I believe that Spike will do his best to stay on the relatively straight and narrow. And I know that you’ve the strength to deal with things if it turns out he can’t.”

Buffy stared at him silently for a moment. Then she slowly, carefully turned in her chair and reached out to hug him. It was too tight and made breathing somewhat difficult, but he didn’t care. They could have so easily lost her in that other dimension. Those days without her, with no idea if she’d ever return…. But she was back with them now. Off to Florida soon, but still home, where she belonged.

 


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Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter 18
Next Chapter: Chapter 20

Reviews ( 1 )

kasumi
January 20, 2021 21:29

"Run away! Run away!" The best choice, ever.

Glad that Willow is forced to see the error of her ways, let's just see if she manages to stick to that.
Good that Buffy is better and Dawn wasn't hurt all that bad. Stupid Riley.