Disclaimer: All the characters, and any borrowed dialog from 'Flooded' belong to Joss Whedon, and I am grateful to him for letting me play.
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Anya was puttering nervously about the Magic Box, opening the cash register, closing it, straightening things on the shelves, opening the cash register again. It was making Xander crazy as he watched from his seat at the table. After the fifth time she opened the cash register in about ten minutes he snapped. “Ahn? Is that really, really necessary?”
“Sorry,” said Anya sheepishly, quickly closing the register and coming over to sit next to Xander.
“What’s wrong?” Xander asked. “You’re jumping around like a r.. kangaroo.” He breathed a silent sigh of relief that he had remembered not to mention rabbits.
Anya wrung her hands together. “It’s just… it’s not that I don’t want to see Giles, but what if he wants the store back? I mean, I’m making lots of profits, and we need the money for the wedding, and I just don’t think I could take it if he took the store back again!”
“Anya, Giles is here because of Buffy,” Xander soothed. “I’m sure he’s not even going to be thinking about the store.”
“I hope you’re right,” Anya sighed. “This tension is just killing me! If Willow hadn’t done that spell then Giles wouldn’t be here and I’d still be in charge of the store!”
“Anya,” Xander said sternly. “If Willow hadn’t done her spell, Buffy would still be gone. The store, while admittedly very important to you, is sort of secondary here, okay?”
“Fine,” Anya said. “But just in case, I am going to make sure the papers he signed are handy.” She bustled off back into the office while Xander rolled his eyes and shook his head.
The bell over the shop door rang at that point to signal the arrival of Willow and Tara. “Good afternoon, ladies. How were things last night?”
“Very quiet and hotel-y,” Willow responded. “But hey, at least someone else will make the bed.”
“So you really left Buffy and Dawn alone all night with the Bleached Wonder?” Xander said.
“It was necessary,” Tara said simply, and the look in her eyes indicated that the subject wasn’t one she wished to discuss.
Xander caught the warning look from Tara and took a different tack. “So then, um, time for the big research powwow again?” Xander said. “I should have brought donuts in advance.”
“I just hope we can find a way to help her,” Tara said. “I never… I didn’t think Buffy could ever be like that. She was so…”
“Broken?” said Anya, returning with ownership papers in hand.
“I really don’t think she’s permanently broken,” Willow insisted. “She’s just got to be disoriented and… and really upset and…”
“Willow, she was in heaven, not stuck in traffic in New Jersey or something. Might be a little bit more to it than that,” Xander said.
Willow opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the arrival of Dawn and Giles. “Giles!” she said, glad for the distraction. She ran up and hugged him in greeting. “We’re so glad to see you!”
“It’s good to see you all as well,” Giles replied. He returned the hug in an almost perfunctory manner.
Tara noticed his reserved manner and it filled her with apprehension. “Did Spike stay behind with Buffy?”
“Yes. I believe they were watching TV when we left. It seems to soothe her.” Giles turned to the others. “Xander, Anya, good to see you both. I trust things are going well?”
Xander also noticed that Giles was even more stiff-upper-lip and British than usual, but Anya piped up with, “Things are going very well. Very profitable. And you signed the papers, remember?”
“Anya!” Xander admonished, but Giles looked as if he had hardly heard her.
“How’s Buffy this morning?” Willow said, oblivious to Giles’ unsmiling demeanor. “It’s just so good to have her back, and I’m sure that when we figure out how to..”
“You have no idea what you’ve done, do you?” Giles asked quietly.
“I’m sorry?” Willow said. Isn’t he happy she’s back? How could he not be? I know she’s got some problems right now, but I’m sure once he gives me the okay I can fix things.
Giles motioned to the table and everyone sat down, just like old times. “Tell me about this spell you performed,” he said, watching her closely
“Well, it was really scary. Like, I don’t think the Blair Witch could have watched it,” Willow babbled nervously. “And then this giant snake came out of my mouth, and there was a lot of energy crackling everywhere. This huge pack of demons interrupted, and it looked really dicey for a minute, but I totally kept it together.”
“You’re a very stupid girl.” Giles’ flat, angry tone stopped Willow cold. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? The forces you’ve harnessed? The lines you’ve crossed? I trusted you to respect magic.”
“Giles, I brought her back!” Willow cried. “I mean, I know she’s still a bit shaken by the experience but…”
“Shaken!” Giles thundered. “She’s destroyed, Willow. She barely knows her own name! You took an incredible risk that has Lord knows what repercussions!”
“I did what needed to be done,” Willow shot back. “No one else could have done what I did!”
“Oh there are others who could have done it, make no mistake,” Giles snapped. “But they’re not the type of people you want to meet.”
“So what, you’re saying I should have left her dead? That you’d be happier if she was still rotting in her grave?” Willow shouted angrily.
Giles took a deep breath, attempting to get a hold of himself. “Seeing her again is… a blessing. But you were lucky you didn’t kill yourself, or the others.”
“I wasn’t lucky,” said Willow defiantly. “I was amazing. You weren’t even there, so how could you know what I did? What forces I harnessed?”
“If I had been there I would have bloody well stopped you,” Giles shouted. “The magic you channeled is more primal than anything you can hope to understand. You have brought back a shattered wreck of a human being who might never recover, you rank, arrogant amateur! And while she sits there terrified of her own shadow and convinced that she’s in hell, you just stand there patting yourself on the back!” The two of them were standing by now, eyeball to eyeball, both radiating emotion and fury while the others watched, dumbstruck.
“You’re right,” said Willow in a cold voice. “The magic was powerful. I’m very powerful. So maybe it’s not such a good idea to piss me off!” Her eyes flashed alarmingly dark for a moment.
“Willow! Giles! Enough!” Tara said, stepping in between them and shoving them apart. “Y..you’ve got to stop f..fighting or we’re n..never going to help her!” Tara’s stutter returned as was typical when she was extremely distressed but she still stood her ground and fixed them one after the other with a fierce glare.
“Look, let’s just everyone take a step back, okay?” Xander added, also trying to diffuse the situation. “Everyone just sit down, and let’s discuss this rationally, alright?”
After a long moment of staring each other down, both Giles and Willow looked away and moved back to their seats. The others sat down as well, carefully, as if the table was a bomb waiting to go off.
Giles began again. “This morning I spoke to Wesley Wyndham-Price in LA. He has, per Angel’s request, been researching the possible side effects of resurrection spells. I had asked him to fax his notes here. Have they arrived?”
“Let me check,” said Anya. She hustled off to the back room and came back with a small sheaf of papers. “These were on the machine.”
Giles took them, put on his glasses, and studied them for a moment before passing them to Willow. “As you see, there are several possibilities which could explain Buffy’s current condition, which is why the particulars of the spell are extremely important.”
“What possibilities?” Dawn asked nervously. The argument had unnerved her, and she found herself still shaky as she sat slightly outside the circle, perched on a high stool with her arms wrapped around herself.
“According to Wesley, sometimes the intended target of the spell comes back without a soul, or with the wrong soul,” Giles explained, fixing his gaze on Willow as he spoke. “It can also cause amnesia, profound personality changes, depression, and a host of other mental side effects.”
“She could have come back without a soul?” Xander cried. “Um, Wills? How come you never mentioned that little detail?”
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Willow said, her cheeks burning slightly. “Besides, as it says here, it is an extremely rare side effect.”
“Yes, but the spell was interrupted,” Anya put in. “The urn of Osiris got smashed. That can’t be good for the spell.”
“You used an urn of Osiris?” Giles said, horrified. “My God…”
“Giles, please, let’s stay focused on now, okay?” Tara pleaded. She was also disturbed at the revelation that the spell’s consequences were indeed much more dangerous than Willow had let on. She was ashamed of herself for not questioning Willow more deeply at the time. At the same time, they needed to be concerned about Buffy and hash out the past another day.
“How do we know if her soul is there or not?” Dawn asked. She shivered a little at the thought. “Does that mean she’s some sort of… zombie or something else unnatural?”
“Guys, this isn’t rocket science,” Willow said. “There are some fairly simple spells meant to reveal someone’s soul. You do the spell, and they glow or something. No problem.”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said. “She’s really, really scared of you, Willow. I mean, someone mentioned your name and she started getting shaky.”
“But this spell is completely benign,” Willow protested. “She’ll see that I’m not trying to hurt her.”
“I rather think that someone else needs to do this spell,” Giles said. “She calmed down and started speaking a bit more as the day wore on, but she is still extremely fragile. I agree with Spike on this point – she is not ready to be around you yet. I am sure I am more than capable of performing this spell myself.”
Why is everyone ganging up on me? Hello? Brought her back from the dead here! I think I can handle a simple soul revealing spell. Aloud Willow said, “Fine. But what do we do once we find out?”
Giles blew out his breath between pursed lips. “I don’t know. If she has no soul, or someone else’s soul, there are ways to restore it. But if she has her own soul…”
“She could be insane,” Angel finished. The others turned, startled, as Angel emerged from the shop’s basement. “Sorry I’m late. Tunnels took long than I remembered.”
The others shifted uncomfortably, not exactly sure what the vampire would be bringing to the table. Giles finally broke the silence by saying, “I was just filling everyone in on what Wesley had found.”
“Yeah, I talked to him a little while ago,” Angel replied. “I personally don’t believe there’s anything wrong with her soul.”
“But how could she be Buffy and not remember us at all?” Xander wondered. “We were friends for years.”
Angel leaned against the counter and folded his arms. “I saw similar things with Drusilla. The things she went through, the things I put her through, completely drove her out of her mind. It took her quite a while to remember her name after she was turned, and she was never really sane again. She had been, for lack of a better word, a holy person. She was devout, a convent girl, believed deeply in saints and the power of God to save her. When all that was ripped away, there was nothing left.”
“So what are you saying then?” Dawn asked, concern etched on her young face.
“I’m saying that there may be nothing you can do, and you need to be prepared for that,” Angel said. “There may be no way to fix her. And she may not be able to… live in society.”
“What do you mean by that?” Xander said sharply.
“I mean the best thing would be to put her in an institution,” Angel replied. “She’s docile now, but she’s a slayer. A slayer who is insane is a danger to everyone around her. If something sets her off and she flips out, who’s going to stop her?”
“But she’s Buffy!” Willow cried. “We can’t just lock her away and pretend she doesn’t exist! We can’t give up on her like that!”
Giles spoke up as well. “I, for one, think we’re all rushing to conclusions without completely understanding what is going on. We don’t know exactly what she is thinking or what she experienced. I still don’t even know enough about this spell to make any judgment about what could be causing her symptoms. I don’t think that pulling her away from her home and Spike is going to improve things at all, and it could very well trigger that violent episode you are worried about!”
“Spike. I really don’t understand how you could work with him, Giles,” Angel said, shaking his head. “He’s a monster. I know. I made him what he is. He’s got no soul, no moral compass whatsoever.”
“That’s bullshit!” cried Dawn, leaping to her feet fast enough to knock over her stool.
“Dawn!” Tara exclaimed, shocked at the teen’s sudden outburst.
“I don’t care!” she yelled. She walked up to Angel and got in his face, looking absurd since she barely came up to mid-chest. “Spike helps! He kept me safe all summer! He got tortured by a hell god rather than tell her about me being the Key. He got stabbed and thrown off a tower! He’s been the only one who’s been quiet and gentle with her and she only talks when he’s around. I don’t care if he doesn’t have a soul. You just leave him alone!”
“He helped for one summer. So what?” Angel retorted. “He was a vicious killer for a century! We’re supposed to overlook that because he managed to behave himself for six months?”
“Oh, and you never killed anyone?” Dawn shot back, defiant.
Angel’s face clouded further. “I’ve been working for years to…”
“Enough!” Giles thundered, standing up. “This bickering is pointless. Dawn, we know how you feel about Spike. Angel, your opinions of Spike are equally well known. This is neither the time nor place for this stupid argument. Both of you hold your tongues unless you are helping solve the problem. Either that, or leave.” The anger and frustration poured off Giles in waves and stunned the assembly into silence. Dawn spun around and stomped back to her stool, picked it up, and sat on it with folded arms and a scowl. Angel looked about to protest, but another glare from Giles convinced him to keep his mouth shut for the time being. “Fine. If we could actually get back to the problem at hand – Willow, I need you to tell me, in detail, exactly how you cast that spell. What ingredients you used, what books you got the information from, everything.” Giles sat down and pulled out a pen and a notebook. “Begin.” Willow took a deep breath, looked around at the ring of staring eyes, and began her tale.
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”
Spike and Buffy were curled up together on the couch, with Spike once more reading Shakespeare to her. They had watched Casablanca on a classic movie channel, but Buffy had seemed restless and confused by the end. Spike had located the sonnets in Joyce’s collection, and the iambic rhythms once more did their trick. Halfway through the current choice the door opened and Buffy jumped, clutching his arm. “It’s just us!” Dawn called. She and Giles came into the room, and Buffy loosened her grip slightly as she recognized the dark haired girl. “What are you reading?” Dawn asked curiously as she took off her jacket.
“Shakespeare’s sonnets. She really likes them for whatever reason,” Spike replied.
“How extraordinary,” Giles commented. The thought of Buffy, who couldn’t be induced to read a Slayer related tome even in the face of an apocalypse, actively enjoying Shakespeare was hard to fathom. Dawn curled up on the floor close to Buffy, while Giles sat down heavily in an armchair and took off his glasses, leaning his head back and rubbing his eyes.
“You were gone a long time,” Spike observed. “Scoobies giving you trouble?”
“It was, shall we say, a heated discussion.” Giles had drawn the details out of Willow after much hemming and hawing on her part. He had nearly blown his stack entirely when he heard that she had called a deer and slit its throat, and Angel had had a sharp comment or two about some of the blacker elements of the spell. Tara had been completely shocked as the details came rolling out, and it was clear to Giles that Tara would not have gone along with the whole scheme if she had known all the details. Xander was still having a hard time seeing Buffy’s return as a bad thing, but Anya was clearly aware of all the possible bad things that could come from such a spell. More angry words had been exchanged on all sides, but in the end a plan of action was developed.
“So what happens now?” Spike said. Buffy was sitting next to him, her knees pulled up to her chest, looking anxiously at him and Giles in turn. Spike noticed her tensing up and put an arm around her, pulling her close.
Giles found his insides clenching a bit at the sight of Buffy snuggling up to the Slayer of Slayers, but he kept his objections to himself. “I would like to do a spell to reveal if she still has her soul. If her soul is missing, there are ways to re-ensoul her.”
“And if her soul is present and accounted for?” Spike asked.
“Then we’ll have to think of something else,” Dawn admitted.
“This spell. Is there any chance it could hurt her?”
Giles shook his head. “No. It should make her glow with a white light if her soul is there, that’s all.”
Spike looked at the woman in his arms for a long moment. He was loathe to inflict more magic on the poor thing, but he also knew that the others would never relent until they had an answer. Taking a deep breath he said, “Let’s try it then. Can I stay near her?”
“She can stay right where she is if that suits her,” Giles said. He got up and went over to his shoulder bag, pulled out a notebook and a bag of herbs, and returned to the living room. Buffy watched with wide, nervous eyes as he cast a circle of herbs around himself and began chanting. Dawn dared to reach up and pat Buffy’s knee reassuringly, but Buffy was too intent on Giles to notice.
“Shh, love. Nothing’s going to hurt you,” Spike murmured, holding her tight as he watched Giles perform the spell.
“I seek the soul of Buffy Summers, wherever it may be found,” Giles proclaimed. “Let it be shown to me, who seeks it without malice and with no ill intent. Reveliare.”
Buffy closed her eyes as a warm sensation passed through her. Heaven. It feels like heaven. Is he finally sending me back? Oh thank you…
Spike nearly let go of her in surprise as her body relaxed and began to glow, first faintly, then with ever increasing intensity until Dawn had to turn her head away from the blinding glare. The light turned Spike’s wide eyes electric blue and made every curl on his head stand out in sharp relief. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the light vanished, and Buffy was once more an ordinary girl, curled up on a couch.
“Heaven?” Buffy asked, opening her eyes. She looked all around, but her face fell when she realized she was still in the same place. “No… please, no…” she put her hands over her face and began to weep piteously.
“Oh Buffy, don’t cry,” Dawn pleaded. She moved up onto the couch next to Buffy, stroking her sister’s hair over and over. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
Spike raised his eyes to Giles. “She seems to have her soul, Rupert.”
“Yes, that would appear to be the case,” Giles answered. He sat down once more, his own eyes getting moist as he watched Buffy mourn anew for the paradise she had lost. She has her soul. That’s really Buffy in there. He wasn’t sure whether that made him feel better or not. If her soul had been missing, they could pretend that all this behavior was due to it not really being her. But now they knew – it was really her, and she had really been destroyed by the actions of Willow’s spell. He could do nothing but watch as Dawn and Spike began once more to patiently pick up the pieces.
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