The Fire Within by Eowyn315
Chapter #1 - Just For This Moment
Disclaimer: Joss owns ’em. I just make ’em sing silly songs. Which, incidentally, I also do not own (except for the ones I wrote myself).

A/N: Seeing as how I’m not Joss, and don’t have the time or the inclination to actually write a musical all on my own, I’ve taken songs from existing musicals, and at times changed the lyrics to fit the story. I’ll let you know at the beginning of each chapter where the musical numbers are from, and provide links if I can find them, so you can listen for yourself.

Lots of thanks to GoldenBuffy and Unbridled_Brunette for betaing. And thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber for writing so many damn musicals.

The song in this chapter is "As Long As You're Mine" from Wicked.


Chapter 1: Just For This Moment

Buffy pulled away from Spike, breaking the kiss as the music faded. She felt the abrupt sensation of regaining control over her body, and it dawned on her exactly what she was doing. “Oh my God,” she muttered, disgusted with herself, wiping at her lips with her hand. “Oh my God!”


“What are we… ugh, that was… ugh.” She turned away from the vampire, frazzled, before whipping back around. “It was the spell,” she said, a defensive tone creeping into her voice.

Spike cocked an eyebrow. “Demon’s gone.”

“Then, why were we still singing?” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. “It had to be the spell.”

Spike stepped closer. Too close. Close enough that she could smell leather and cigarettes, and the lingering scent of her own perfume on him. “From what I gather,” he said, his voice low and husky in her ear, “the music brings out your true feelings, love.”

He had her now, he was sure of it. Hadn’t he been saying it for a year, that there was something between them? That spark, that undeniable attraction – it was there every time they fought, every time they were even in the same room together. He knew Buffy had feelings for him, and it only took a dancing demon to bring it out of her.

“Stop it!” Buffy pushed him away. “It was – weren’t you listening? ‘This isn’t real, but I just want to feel,’” she quoted herself. “You’re just… convenient.”

“Oh, so if we’d stayed in there, you’d’ve snogged Harris, then?” Spike waved his hand toward the Bronze and scoffed. “You bloody well know the reason why you were kissing me, Slayer.”

“No,” Buffy said, less certain now as she backed away from him. Had she mentioned just how much she didn’t like this? Losing control of her mouth, blurting out her darkest secrets as soon as the song started; and, oh yeah, the whole almost killing herself by dancing. Now, here she was, making out with Spike – Spike! Of all people. Or, well, demons… things. And the worst part – she couldn’t stop herself. Damn demon and his stupid music.

But she couldn’t deny that kissing Spike had made her feel more alive than she’d been since coming back. His touch sent currents of electricity jolting through her body, and she felt as if she was waking up from a deep sleep – parts of her that had been numb for weeks suddenly bursting with new life, humming with emotions so strong they threatened to overwhelm her.

The strongest one being desire.

Spike leaned toward her, engulfing her with his scent, his voice, his touch. Buffy glanced up and was swept away in his gaze, his blue eyes sparkling with need. They mesmerized her, mirroring the passion she felt deep within herself. Any protests that Buffy had were lost as Spike’s mouth captured hers and his tongue probed gently, seeking entrance to the warm hollow of her mouth. Her lips parted slightly, granting him access, and the kiss deepened, stoking the fire that had started between them.

The two were vaguely aware of the music, a melodic minor key with a soft, compelling beat that propelled them back to Spike’s crypt. Before her mind had a chance to catch up with her body, Buffy found herself tumbling onto the bed, still tangled up in Spike, who was now shirtless as he buried his face in the cowl-neck of her red top, leaving a trail of wet kisses down her throat. She moaned, surprised to find herself matching the tone of the music. “Mmmm… ahhh…” Buffy boldly ran her hands over Spike’s bare chest, feeling the muscles tense beneath her fingertips. His body was hard, compact, and coiled like a spring waiting to be sprung.

Spike tightened his vise-grip on her, pulling her flush against him. Buffy’s moans of pleasure gave way to words, and she began to sing.

“Kiss me too fiercely
Hold me too tight
I need help believing
You're with me tonight
My wildest dreaming
Could not foresee
Lying beside you
With you wanting me”

Spike growled with desire, drinking in her scent, a mixture of sweet perfume and musky desire. He pulled her shirt over her head, tossing it to the floor where it joined his red button-down and black tee. Spike lowered his head, taking Buffy’s cloth-covered nipple into his mouth, teasing it to a hardened peak as he tweaked the other with his fingers, propelling her into the next verse.

“And just for this moment
As long as you're mine
I've lost all resistance
And crossed some borderline
And if it turns out
It's over too fast
I'll make every last moment last
As long as you're mine”

Spike rolled onto his back and pulled Buffy up to perch astride his hips, running his hands across her back, unclasping her bra and sliding it off her in one fluid motion as he sang to her. Tracing his hands over her body with reverence, he memorized the curve of her shoulders, the dip of her slender waist, the gentle swell of her breasts, the pebbled texture of her taut nipples. He could scarcely believe that she was here, that this was finally happening, and he wanted to commit every moment to memory, fearful that he would face the usual rejection once the spell broke.

“Maybe I'm brainless
Maybe I'm wise
But you've got me seeing
Though different eyes
Somehow I've fallen
Under your spell
And somehow I'm feeling
It's up that I fell”

Buffy lowered her hand to his zipper, releasing his aching cock from its tight imprisonment. Spike groaned at the light touch as her fingers brushed over him. The desire between the two reached a frantic height as they hurriedly shucked off their jeans. Buffy’s voice joined with Spike’s, both edged with desperation and passion.

“Every moment
As long as you're mine
I'll wake up my body
And make up for lost time”

“Say there's no future,” Spike sang to her, lifting his hips and letting his cock rub against the crotch of her thong, now soaking wet between her thighs. She whimpered with need at the touch. “For us as a pair.”

Their eyes met in understanding, and they sang together, their voices laden with lust, at the point of no return. “And though I may know, I don't care.”

Wrapping his arms around Buffy, Spike reversed their positions once again as he ground his erection against her. The slight hitch in her voice as he brushed against her clit urged him on as he ripped away the tiny scrap of material covering her sex. As the music reached its height, Spike slid inside, burying himself to the hilt in her warmth, making Buffy arch her back as a bolt of pleasurable pain raced through her. She dug her fingers into his shoulders, gripping them as though holding on for dear life.

“Just for this moment
As long as you're mine
Come be how you want to
And see how bright we shine
Borrow the moonlight
Until it is through
And know I'll be here holding you
As long as you're mine”

The instrumental refrain repeated, fading slowly as it was replaced with the chorus of Buffy and Spike’s moans as they thrust against each other, passion building even as the spell dissipated. When their climax came, it was hard and fast, overtaking them with the heat and intensity of an all-consuming fire, until they had nothing left but the smoldering embers of their desire.
Chapter #2 - Too Far
A/N: Again, a big thank you to GoldenBuffy and Unbridled_Brunette for the beta.

Tara's song is Take That Look Off Your Face from Song and Dance/Tell Me on a Sunday. (I couldn't get it to play, but maybe y'all will have better luck...) Willow's song is Once Upon a Dream and I Must Go On, both from Jekyll and Hyde.


Chapter 2: Too Far

“Still no sign of Buffy,” said Willow, entering the bedroom she and Tara shared in the Summers home.

“I’m sure she’ll turn up,” Tara replied from her perch on the bed. She didn’t look at Willow when she spoke, fixing her gaze, instead, on something she was playing with in her lap. “She probably wanted to be alone after…”

“God, I feel so awful!” Willow muttered, as she threw herself on the bed next to her lover. “I mean, she was in heaven, and we… God.” She trailed off, burying her face in her hands.

“Maybe… maybe that’s the problem,” Tara said, chewing on her bottom lip.

Willow looked up, a puzzled frown on her face. “What?”

“You, trying to play God. Willow, the magic thing – it’s gotta stop.”

“What are you talking about?” She sat up to look Tara in the eye. “I don’t – I would never… I thought I was helping her! We all did! We thought she was in some hell dimension.”

Tara shook her head sadly. “That’s not the point, Will. This is about you using magic to get your way. You – you change things, mess with things that shouldn’t be – You take the easy way out, in-instead of dealing.”

“Like what? I mean, other than Buffy – which we all agreed to – when have I done that?”

Tara lifted her hand out of her lap and held up the Lethe’s bramble Willow had used to cast the forgetting spell. “What is this?” she asked, her voice quiet but firm. She already knew what the herb had been used for, but she needed to hear it from Willow.

“Sweetie, it’s not what you –”

“You did a spell on me!” Tara was close to tears. “You invaded my mind! How could you? After everything – after Glory?” She shuddered at the still-fresh memory of the awful, lonely place where she’d wandered during that time last spring when Glory had sucked her brain. Even after she’d had her mind restored, she had never quite shaken off the nightmares, and the idea of someone else – someone she loved – violating her like that…

“What did you make me forget, Willow?”

Willow cast her eyes to the floor. “We had a fight. I just didn’t – I wanted it to be over.”

“You can’t just use m-magic to make your problems go away!” Tara cried, jumping off the bed, realization dawning on her suddenly. “That’s what it was about, wasn’t it? We were f-fighting over you using too much magic.”

“Tara –”

“I can’t believe you’d do that! I can’t believe you would d-do that to me.” She choked back a sob, her next words barely above a whisper. “Was it worth it? Losing my trust over this? We – we could have talked about it! Was it worth it just to avoid a conversation?”

Willow’s eyes widened, brimming with tears. She leapt to her feet and tried to reach out to Tara, but her lover shied away. “Losing your… baby, I swear, it was just this once…”

“How do I know that, Willow?” Tara’s shoulders sagged, defeated. “How will I ever know?” She looked at Willow sorrowfully, and then began to sing.

“If I’m not mistaken, this is nothing new
Bet I could tell you when it began
I noticed a change, but I just closed my eyes
As only a woman can

“No, I didn’t dig deep
I did not want to know
Well, you don’t interfere
When you’re scared of the things you might hear”


As a mournful piano continued to play, Tara shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, Willow. I can’t do this. I c-can’t just sit back and watch while you abuse magic like this… and I won’t let you abuse me.” She gathered up her pillow and a blanket. “I’ll sleep on the sofa tonight. Then, I’m moving out.”

“Tara,” Willow tried again, but the blonde was already gone. She picked up the forgetting herb off the bed and twirled it in her fingers, letting the tears run down her cheeks as she tried to figure out how her life had fallen apart so quickly. “When this all began, we knew there'd be a price...” she sang softly. She just hadn’t known the price would be Tara.

“Once upon a dream
We were lost in love's embrace
There we found a perfect place
Once upon a dream

“Once there was a time
Like no other time before
Hope was still an open door
Once upon a dream”

Memories came rushing to the fore – the spells, the whispered conversations, the tender moments. The intensity of the connection they’d forged through love and magic, taken from her so suddenly it was like losing a limb, losing a part of herself. As her emotion grew, the music rose in speed and pitch, spurring her on through the forceful bridge.

“And I was unafraid
The dream was so exciting
But now I see it fade
And I am here alone”

Was it only two days since Tara had sung to her in the park? When they’d been so happy and in love and…

No, she was fooling herself. They still would’ve been fighting, if Willow hadn’t done her spell. But it wasn’t true, what Tara said, about her abusing magic. It couldn’t be true. She only used magic for good things, like fighting demons and saving people.

And pulling Buffy out of heaven.

Willow collapsed on the bed in a fresh bout of tears. It wasn’t enough that she’d lost her girlfriend; she’d apparently ruined her best friend’s life by bringing her back from the dead.

“Once upon a dream
You were heaven-sent to me
Was it never meant to be?
Was it just a dream?
Could we begin again?
Once upon a dream”

At least everything made sense now. The way Buffy had been acting, why she hadn’t seemed happy or grateful that they’d resurrected her.

Well, no more.

“When this all began
We knew there'd be a price to pay
Too late now to turn away
We have come too far
I know I'll find a way”

Wiping the tears from her face, Willow sat up with renewed determination. She would fix this. No matter what it took.
Chapter #3 - In You Now
A/N: The song in this chapter is Moments in the Woods from "Into the Woods." This is my first attempt to change the lyrics to suit the fic, so if they're corny, I'm sorry.

Thank you to GoldenBuffy for the beta.


Chapter 3: In You Now

“Oh my God.”

Spike rolled over lazily and looked at Buffy. “You keep sayin’ that.”

She sat up in bed, clutching the red sheet to her chest. “Well, first it was an ‘oh my God, what am I thinking?’ kind of thing. Then you started doing that thing with your tongue and it was an ‘oh my God, that feels so…’ – ohhhhhh.” She broke off into a moan as Spike’s fingers slid up her inner thigh, sticky with last night’s spendings. “Stop that.”

In response, Spike started nuzzling her side, licking the skin at her hip. “I mean it, stop that. Now we’re back to ‘what am I thinking?’ territory and… oh God…”

She felt him grinning against her flesh as his slender finger slipped inside her. “Mmmm… I beg to differ, pet.”

Buffy slid back down the bed, her legs falling open to grant Spike better access. “Ohhh, yes… no, wait!” she protested, wriggling away from him. “Spell!”

Spike looked at her with a mixture of impatience and bemusement. “This has to be the spell. I don’t even really like you!” she insisted, starting to crawl out of bed, pulling the sheet with her.

Spike pulled back, reeling in both sheet and Buffy until he could wrap his arms around her again. “’S not what you were saying last night. Pretty sure there were at least a few parts of me you were professing love for.” A wicked grin crept across his face and his eyes went glassy at the memory.

“This was a mistake, Spike. I can’t believe I let myself –” She whipped around and grabbed him by the throat. “My friends never hear about this, you understand?”

He took a rasping breath, more from surprise than anything else, and released her from his grasp, hoping she’d do the same. “Yeah, pet.” All signs of affection vanished from his expression, closing off his emotions as he resigned himself to the resumption of their usual roles.

She let go and attempted to once again leave the bed, this time managing to make it to the pile of clothes on the floor. Spike reached one arm toward the bedside table, patting around for a pack of cigarettes but coming up empty-handed. Which was too bad, because he could really use a cigarette. Or two. Packs.

As he watched Buffy dress, Spike mourned the loss of their brief but incredible union. Already it seemed like nothing more than a dream, a foolish fantasy that could never withstand the harsh light of day. Had she really been here, giving him soft caresses and fierce, hungry kisses, drowning him with the scent, the feel, the taste of her? Had they really – dare he say it? – made love in his bed, rising to new heights of passion with every extraordinary touch?

He knew it all to be true, and yet, watching her now, that night which meant everything to him seemed a million miles away.

But bloody fucking hell, it had been worth it.

“I have to go,” she said, adjusting her shirt, attempting to scrounge some decency from the rumpled mess. “It must be almost sunrise.”

“Way past, I’d say.”

“Great,” Buffy muttered. She pulled on her shoes and stood up, fully dressed. “I’m going now. I just – ugh.”

She shook off her disgust at what they’d done and turned to leave, but Spike was out of bed like a shot, blocking her path. He wrapped his arms around her neck and she tried not to be distracted by the fact that he was still naked. He was a vampire, and vampire still equaled bad, even if his body was so smooth and sculpted, and his arms were like bolts of solid steel encasing her, and his cock was shiny with her juices and half-erect, bobbing around as though demanding her attention.

“Slayer,” he whispered in her ear, in a tone of voice that melted her insides so that she wondered how she wasn’t a Buffy-puddle on the floor. “Don’t think you can get away so easy. You want me. You play the virtuous part, but you’ve gotten a taste. I’m in you now. You’ll be back.” Spike ran his tongue along her collarbone, trailing upwards, paying the same attention to her neck and that spot just behind her ear, causing her to emit a little gasp of pleasure.

Clinging to his faith in his own prowess, and to the sweet aroma that filled his nostrils – not the lingering scent of their lovemaking, but the fresh arousal that even now was dampening the Slayer’s thighs – Spike told himself he had a chance. He had driven her to ecstasy once – well, more like several times, actually, he was quite proud of that – and he could do it again. She wanted him as much as he wanted her, even if she wouldn’t admit it.

He would make her want him.

He let his fingers tickle the back of her neck, sending shivers down her spine, while his lips hovered millimeters from her skin, teasing mercilessly. He felt the twin points of her nipples brushing his chest through her shirt, and he pressed his erection against her, feeling through her jeans the warmth of a renewed rush of liquid heat. A mewling whimper escaped Buffy’s lips as her hands slipped around his waist, caressing his skin, but Spike quickly pulled away before she could do anything to relieve the growing ache of her unsatisfied stimulation.

“Go,” Spike said, with a smirk that told her he didn’t expect her to be gone for long.

Pausing outside the crypt, in the blazing sunlight, Buffy looked back and wondered aloud, “What was that?

“Was that me?
Was that him?
Did Spike really kiss me?
And kiss me?
And kiss me?”

She ran her fingertips over the spot on her neck where he’d licked her.

“And did I kiss him back?
Was it wrong?
Am I mad?
Is that all?
Does he miss me?
Was he suddenly
Getting bored with me?”

She shook her head as if to clear the crazy thoughts from her mind and began to march purposefully through the cemetery.

“Wake up! Stop dreaming
Stop prancing about the graves
It's not beseeming
What is it about this spell?

"Back to life, back to sense
Back to Dawn, back to Scoobies
He will never be good
There are vows, there are ties
There are needs, there are standards
There are shouldn'ts and shoulds”

She slowed down to a meandering pace, tilting her head to one side in thought.

“Why not both instead?
There's the answer, if you're clever
Have a sister for warmth
And a Watcher for aid
And a vampire for… whatever…”

A small satisfied smile crept across her face as she remembered how her limbs had dissolved into the quaking, writhing bliss of orgasm under his skilled mouth and hands and body, before her eyes widened in horror as she came back to her senses and redoubled her speed, trying to put as much distance between herself and Spike as possible.

It's these spells

“Face the facts, find the cause
Join the group, stop the demon
Just get out of his crypt
Was that him? Yes, it was
Was that me? No, it wasn't
Just a spell-induced trick

“Just a moment
One peculiar passing moment...
Must it all be either less or more?
Either good or bad?
Is it always ‘or’?
Is it never ‘and’?
That's what spells are for
For those moments in the crypt…”

Somehow, ever since her resurrection, the world hadn’t seemed so black and white. Good and bad became less distinct, less disparate. She’d come back to a world where her friends caused her pain and Spike brought her… what? Happiness? Well… pleasure, that was for sure. She paused, leaning against a tombstone in a contemplative, dreamy daze, twirling a strand of her long blonde hair around one finger.

“Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one
But if life were only moments
Then you'd never know you had one”

She rolled her eyes and started walking again.

“First the vamps, then a sister,
Then my death, then a moment
Who can live in this town?
And to get what you wish
Only just for a moment
These are dangerous spells”

She climbed the cemetery gates, jumping to the ground on the other side. Before she left, she gazed in the direction of Spike’s crypt, running her fingers gently along the gate’s iron bars.

“Let the moment go…
Don't forget it for a moment, though
Just remembering you've had an ‘and’
When you're back to ‘or’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more
Than it did before”

She turned away from the gate triumphantly.

“Now I understand
And it's time to leave the crypt!”

When she made it back to her house, it was empty. A glance at the clock told her it was almost ten. Just a quick shower, then she’d have to be off to the Magic Box to figure out why the hell she was still singing.
Chapter #4 - Sweet Tension
A/N: The songs in this chapter are And the Money Kept Rolling In from "Evita" (not the best quality, but you get the idea) and Trying Not to Notice from "The Woman in White."

Chapter 4: Sweet Tension

The gang was already assembled when Buffy arrived, including Giles and her sister. Xander appeared to be telling them all a story. No… upon closer inspection, Buffy realized he was singing to them.

“And the money kept rolling in from every side
Anya's pretty hands reached out and they reached wide
Now you may feel it should have been a voluntary cause
But that's not the point, my friends
When the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask how
Me and Anya, we are guaranteed a good time now
Anya's got the capitalist fever, open up the doors
Never been so proud as seeing my girl a success”

He grabbed Anya’s hands and they danced around the magic shop, while the others chorused:

“Rollin' rollin' rollin', rollin' rollin' rollin'
Rollin' rollin' rollin', rollin' rollin' rollin'
Rollin' on in, rollin' on in
Rollin' on in, rollin' on in
On in”

Buffy cleared her throat, and the music quickly died away. “Oh, thank goodness,” Xander muttered, taking a seat at the table with a sheepish expression on his face. Anya pouted a bit before returning to the cash register. She liked the money song.

As she looked around, Buffy was startled to find Spike leaning casually against a bookshelf. He must have taken the tunnels and beat her here while she was at home. Stupid vampire, she thought. She did her best to avoid making eye contact, but somehow they managed to gravitate towards each other.

“Buffy, where’ve you been?” Willow asked, her voice full of concern. “You didn’t come home last night.”

Spike opened his mouth to respond, and Buffy heard the rising strains of a musical intro. She clamped her hand over Spike’s mouth and the music stopped abruptly. This was no time for the truth. Especially not if the truth was going to be a love song.

“Patrol,” she said. “Thought maybe I’d find Sweet… I think he’s still around.” She looked at the others. “Guess you guys’re still singing, too.”

“Anya gave me a whole operatic lecture on not playing with the merchandise,” Dawn replied.

Tara also nodded, and Buffy noticed another gaze-avoidance thing going on between her and Willow. Huh, she thought. That’s weird. They seemed fine last night. Maybe they got hit with a truth-revealing showstopper.

She groaned inwardly. Speaking of which…

“Hey, uh, about last night…”

“Why didn’t you tell us, Buffy?” Giles asked, unable to stop the anger and betrayal that tinted his question. Buffy’s secrecy had hurt him deeply. Of all the people she should have been able to trust – he’d expected her to be honest with him. Not in any official capacity, because Buffy shared his own growing distaste for Council practices and procedures. But as a friend, as the father figure he’d come to be… He’d never expected this sort of duplicity. “You lied. You’ve been lying to us ever since you came back.”

“What was I supposed to say? ‘Guess what, guys. I know you think you did me this huge favor, but you actually really screwed things up, so I’d like to die again, please’?”

At this, Willow drew in a sharp, choking breath and Dawn let out a muffled cry. Spike elbowed Buffy in the ribs. When she looked at him, he was glaring and wagging his eyebrows in an “apologize now” face.

Buffy grumbled to herself – where did he get off telling her what to do? But, as usual, he was right. With a sigh, Buffy turned back to the group. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have… Look, I don’t know what to say. I mean, yeah, it’s really hard being here right now. But I’m sure… well, I think, eventually I’ll get past it, and I’ll be super-grateful for the second chance at life and all. It’s just…”

“We just wanted things our way,” said Tara, in a dull, flat tone. “We needed Buffy back, and we didn’t think about the consequences.” Willow looked like she was on the verge of tears – and on the verge of saying something, but she kept quiet.

“We’re really sorry, Buffy,” Tara finished. “At least, I am. Not – not sorry you’re here, but sorry we didn’t think about what maybe was best for you.”

Buffy just nodded.

Giles adjusted his glasses before clearing his throat. “There’s… ah, certainly some lessons to be learned here about the ramifications of magic. One shouldn’t try to control things one knows nothing about,” he finished, landing his gaze upon the redheaded witch.

Willow gave the Watcher a deadly stare before walking out of the magic shop.

“I should go after…” Buffy mumbled, pointing towards the closing door.

“Nah, I’ll go,” said Xander. “No offense, Buff, but you being around kinda amps up the guilt trip. Besides, I learned a valuable lesson about magic last night.” He made a face at Anya and then followed Willow outside.

Giles watched them go, before turning a thoughtful gaze upon Tara. She looked upset and uncomfortable, and Giles found himself mulling over what she’d said before. “Ah, Tara, could I speak to you in private for a moment?” he asked, motioning to the back of the store.

With a nod, the blonde witch followed him into the training room. While Anya headed down to the basement, the others grabbed books and began researching Sweet.

Dawn curled up against the pillows in the reading corner. She opened her book, but her focus kept drifting to the stairs leading up to the restricted section, where Spike was perched, his own research text laying open on his lap. She watched as his jaw clenched, the muscle twitching of its own accord, his brow knitted tight in concentration. Damn, he was hot. He always treated her like a little sister – especially since he took care of her all summer in Buffy’s absence. But she was almost sixteen now, and she was certain he’d start seeing her as a real woman one of these days.

Or he would have, if little Miss Love-of-My-Bloody-Unlife hadn’t been around. It so wasn’t fair that she had to compete with Buffy. Why couldn’t the monks have given her to an ugly sister, who wasn’t all special and Chosen One-y? Somebody who wouldn’t completely steal the attention and affection of the guy she liked. And who wouldn’t be an absolute bitch to him about it. “Stupid Buffy,” Dawn mumbled, before she began to sing softly to herself.

“Sweet tension fills the air
Which I know I ought not dwell upon
I look away and I still see him there
I’m trying not to notice him
Yet I can’t help but stare”

Spike glanced up, but his attention didn’t fall to Dawn. He snuck a peek through the railing to where Buffy was seated at the table, poring over her book, blonde hair cascading around her shoulders like a curtain, in what was either a newfound dedication to research or a diligent effort to avoid him. Spike was pretty sure it was the latter.

He ached to touch her again, to feel her surrounding him as she had last night. He’d imagined it so many times, but the real thing was incomparable. The Buffybot, Spike realized now, had been a mere shadow of the thrill that was the real Buffy. The smell of her, the taste of her – just remembering it now was enough to drive him mad with desire. He shifted the book in his lap to conceal the growing bulge in his jeans as he unknowingly picked up Dawn’s song.

“No gazing, know your place
Words that I’d be wise to tell myself
I close my eyes and I still see her face
I’m trying not to notice her
But I don’t stand a chance”

Buffy looked over her shoulder and caught Spike’s gaze for a moment before they both quickly turned away from each other.

“I’m trying not to notice him
Yet I return each glance”

She closed her eyes, trying to expel the confusing emotions that had been roiling around inside her since the two of them had come together so spectacularly. She wanted to convince herself that it wasn’t real, that it was the spell. The singing making them do things that they would never normally do. Really, she’d never have danced like such a spaz in real life. Same thing with the sex… except she couldn’t shake the thought that it wasn’t just sex, as though the magic music had burrowed deep and unearthed some sort of feelings she had for Spike.

“A thousand contradictions
Are stirring in my soul
They seem to grow in me
Overflow in me”

Spike gripped the metal railing hard enough to bend it. “In spite of my convictions, I’m losing my control.”

“I’m slightly shocked inside,” Dawn completed the bridge, off in her own world in the corner. “Keep it locked inside.”

Then, as the music surged, all three were swept up in unison, each unaware of the others’ singing, even as their voices mingled and harmonized.

“Unspoken, unexpressed
Still it’s louder than a symphony
Can no one hear what my heart seems to shout?
Perhaps they do not notice it
Though it’s as plain as day
I’m trying not to notice it
But it won’t go away”

As the accompaniment faded out, they cast furtive glances around the shop, trying to ascertain whether anyone had noticed anyone else singing. No one had. With a fair amount of fidgeting, nervous coughing, and throat clearing, they settled back down to their work.
Chapter #5 - Can't Go Back
A/N: Tara's song is Back to Before from "Ragtime."


Chapter 5: Can’t Go Back

Willow was halfway down the block before Xander managed to catch up. “Hey, Will… hey, wait up!”

Instead of slowing down, she quickened her pace. “I don’t wanna talk right now, Xand.”

“Too bad,” he replied, catching her arm and spinning her around to face him. “Look, Will, I know what you’re feeling… because I feel it, too.”

“You have no idea what I feel!” she shot back, breaking out of his grasp. She started walking away again, but Xander was right behind her.

“I’m gonna go out on a limb and say guilt.” He stepped in front of her, blocking her path. “Am I right?”

“No!... Maybe,” she conceded. “But it’s not – it’s not just Buffy. I mean, yeah, all with the guilty feelings there but… it’s Tara, too.”

“What about Tara?” He took her arm again, gentler this time, and led her toward the Espresso Pump where they could sit and talk.

“She left. I – I mean, she said she couldn’t… be with me, and she’s moving out.”

“Oh, Will, I’m sorry,” Xander breathed, giving her a brief hug before settling her in a chair and taking the seat opposite. “What happened?”

“She – she said I’m using too much magic,” Willow sniffled, pulling several napkins out of the table’s dispenser and wiping her eyes.

“Are you?”

She seemed startled by the question. “Well, no, I… I just… It doesn’t hurt anybody!”

“It hurt Buffy.”

“But she’s alive! And we didn’t know she was in heaven! And I feel terrible, but I can’t be sorry that my best friend’s not dead. And Tara’s accusing me of – of… and we fought, and it was awful, Xander, and I just wanted it to be over, so I…”

“You what, Will?”

“I did a forgetting spell,” she mumbled. “So she wouldn’t remember the fight.”

Xander leaned back in his chair, stunned. Before he could gather the words to speak, Willow went on. “I know I use a lot of magic, but I just wanna help. I need to help.”

“Who were you helping when you cast a spell on Tara?”

She dropped her gaze to the crumpled napkins in her hand, which she was nervously tearing into strips. “Magic is… it’s what I do.”

“It’s not all you do, Will.”

“I know, but… I know I could fix this – all of it. Buffy, too, if I just –”

“Willow.” His voice startled her into silence – a stern, commanding tone she rarely heard from big funny Xander. He captured her gaze and held it, daring her to look away. “Will, promise me you won’t do a spell to – to fix Buffy. You won’t just… make her forget or anything.”

Her eyes flicked down again. “But…”


“I promise.” She lifted her head and met his eyes again. “I promise I won’t do a spell to fix Buffy.”

“And Tara?”

She shook her head. That much, at least, was true. But there had to be plenty of ways to fix things without actually casting a spell on the person in question, right?


Having explained to Giles her concerns about Willow, Tara left the Magic Box. She didn’t think she could stomach sitting there, doing research with the gang as though nothing was wrong. She didn’t know where Xander and Willow had gone off to, but the Summers house was empty when she got there.

She gazed around the room she’d shared with Willow for the past several months. They’d made it their home in the wake of tragedy, and yet they’d managed to fill it with so many joyful memories. All memories that now seemed bittersweet upon recall.

Pulling a suitcase out of the closet, Tara began to empty the drawers of her belongings, reminiscing quietly.

“There was a time
Our happiness seemed never-ending
I was so sure
That where we were heading was right
Life was a road
So certain and straight and unbending
Our little road
With never a crossroad in sight"

Gathering odds and ends from the dresser, she caught her reflection in the mirror. How had she become this sad creature who looked back at her? She closed her eyes and imagined the two of them, arms wrapped around each other, eyes dancing, grinning at her from the mirror, the very reflection of love.

“Back in the days
When everything seemed so much clearer
Women in white
Who knew what their lives held in store
Where are they now?
Those women who stared from the mirror
We can never go back to before”

Somehow, it had all changed. Willow had become a different person – she’d ceased to accept the world as it was and depended on magic to change it. Tara knew from her mother’s tutelage, that wasn’t what magic was for. It wasn’t meant to suppress emotions, or gloss over arguments. It wasn’t meant to be an easy fix for whatever was wrong in your life.

“There are people out there
Unafraid of revealing
That they might have a feeling
Or they might have been wrong

“There are people out there
Unafraid to feel sorrow
Unafraid of tomorrow
Unafraid to be weak
Unafraid to be strong”

Placing the last of her essential possessions in the suitcase, she closed it and zipped it shut. With a quick pass around the room, she decided she could come back for everything else. She pulled the suitcase off the bed, stopping to glance in the mirror one last time before leaving the room for good.

“There was a time
When you were the person in motion
I was your girl
It never occurred to want more
You were my sky
My moon and my stars and my ocean
We can never go back to before
We can never go back to before”
Chapter #6 - Planning
A/N: Anya's song is Thank Goodness from "Wicked." It's a long scene - the first part of the song I'm using starts around 1:00, and the second part starts around 4:30.


Chapter 6: Planning

When Xander and Willow came back to the Magic Box after their talk, they found the gang intent on researching Sweet. Willow silently took a seat at the table next to Buffy, sending her friend an apologetic glance before pulling one of the books towards her and delving in.

Xander went behind the counter and slipped his arms around Anya’s waist, peering over her shoulder at the book she was reading. “That’s a funny-looking demon,” he remarked.

Anya quickly shuffled her book, and the bridal magazine hidden inside it, as though she could convince her fiancé that she hadn’t been planning her wedding instead of researching.

“Good to see you’re hard at work, sweetie,” he said, planting a kiss on her temple.

“Well, I have a wedding to plan!” she replied. “And I don’t have a mother to do it for me, and you’re certainly not interested! So, I’m sorry you’ve got a demon problem, but I have problems, too!”

Dawn glanced up from her text at the ex-demon’s outburst. “Are things not working out like they’re supposed to?” she asked.

“Oh, no!” Anya exclaimed, suddenly adopting an overly cheerful attitude as she spontaneously began to sing. “Why – We couldn't be happier. Right, dear?”

Xander looked up, startled, a brief expression of panic on his face before he nodded assertively. Anya barreled on, not really paying attention to his response as she was swept away by the lilting melody.

“Couldn't be happier
Right here
Look what we've got
A fairy-tale plot
Our very own happy ending
Where we couldn't be happier
True, dear?”

She looked to Xander again, who gave her a timid smile.

“Couldn't be happier
And we're happy to share
Our ending vicariously
With all of you”

She gestured magnanimously to the rest of them, encouraging them to join in her cheer. Other than Dawn, who perked up at the tune, the group just stared at her, still somewhat taken aback at the random bursting into song. Xander, for his part, was trying to look as excited as his fiancée while resisting the sudden urge to run out the door, when Anya suddenly spun around, pulling him into an embrace.

“He couldn't look handsomer
I couldn't feel humbler
We couldn't be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true!”

As the mystical trumpets played their final flourish, she planted a kiss on Xander’s lips and turned back to the group with a grin.

“Right – ah, well… yes,” Giles stuttered, taking off his glasses and polishing them with relish. “But perhaps if we focused on research…”

“Oh, what difference does it make?” Anya asked. “We’re not gonna find out any more about Sweet than we knew last night, right?”

The others glanced around worriedly, realizing she had a point.

“Ooh!” said Willow. “We do know one thing.”

“What’s that, Will?” Buffy asked.

“We know Sweet was summoned, right? Using that talisman Dawn had?”

Xander groaned. “I said I was sorry, guys.”

Willow shook her head, gaining excitement as she fleshed out the idea in her head. “No, that’s not it. What I’m saying is, we have the talisman. So we can summon him whenever we want.”

“And whoever does it gets to play queen of the damned in the musical from hell,” Buffy pointed out, a note of doubt in her voice.

“Not if we did a – a binding spell, or – or an entrapment spell, or something. We could keep him here, so Buffy could, you know, kick his ass until he makes the music stop.”

Spike raised his eyebrows. “That’s not a bad idea. I think Red might be on to something.”

“Ooh, hmm… ah, do we, uh, do we really need to do the whole spell thing?” Xander asked nervously, his eye on Willow as he recalled their earlier conversation. “I’m just saying, you know, magic is a very dangerous tool, and you never really know what is going to happen.” He broke off in a self-conscious laugh. “Believe me, I know. So, maybe it’d just be best to, you know, stay away from anything too –”

“Boy, boy, crazy boy. Stay cool, boy.” Spike cut off his babbling by singing a riff from West Side Story, snapping his fingers in rhythm. When he realized the others were looking at him, he rubbed the back of his neck. “Oh. That… wasn’t the spell. I just like the… gang violence,” he finished with a shrug.

“Yes, well, I do tend to agree with Xander,” said Giles, before giving his glasses another furious polish. Remembering his own conversation with Tara, he was just as hesitant to encourage Willow in any further magic.

“Do we have any alternatives?” Buffy asked.

“Well, no,” Giles admitted. “Perhaps we should, ah, speak to Tara about this spell?”

“I can handle this, Giles,” said Willow, an underlying icy tone to her voice.

“I’m sure that you can. But you’re dealing with a spell that will violate the demon’s will, holding him involuntarily. Any mistakes could be quite disastrous.”

“Fine,” said Buffy, eager to have a plan to get rid of Sweet. Hopefully, that would keep any more… incidents like last night’s lapse of judgment from happening. “Then we consult with Tara, we do the spell, and I kick some serious tap-dancing ass.”

“Long as that’s all right with Officer Krupke here,” Spike said, gesturing toward Giles.

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Who’s Officer Cupcake?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Okay, you’re seeing a musical. When this is over.” Buffy didn’t miss the implied date in that statement, but she thought it best to just let it go in light of the audience present.

“When this is over, I don’t think I’m gonna ever want to see a musical again,” Dawn said, making a face.

With a solution settled upon, the Scoobies gathered up their belongings and placed the books back on the shelves. Once the others had filtered out and they were the only two left in the Magic Box, Anya said, “Xander, sweetie, can we go over the seating arrangements for your –”

“Sorry, Ahn, not right now,” he replied hurriedly, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead before dashing out of the shop.

Anya sighed, watching his retreating form, and began to sing again, more hesitantly, as though trying to convince herself.

“That's why I couldn't be happier
No, I couldn't be happier
Though it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
But I couldn't be happier
Simply couldn't be happier”

She paused in thought. “Well – not ‘simply,’” she said.

“’Cause getting your dreams
It's strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated
There's a kind of a sort of… cost
There's a couple of things get… lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed”

The swell of music accompanied a twirl up onto the stairs, one hand holding on to the railing, the other extended above her head, hitting the big moment with flourish. But then, as the music wound its way back to a tiny melody, she sank down on the step, deflated.

“And if that joy, that thrill
Doesn't thrill you like you think it will
Still –
With this perfect finale
The cheers and ballyhoo”

She stood up with renewed determination.

Wouldn't be happier?
So, I couldn't be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true
Well, isn't it?
Happy is what happens
When your dreams come true!”
Chapter #7 - Dangerous Game
A/N: The song is Dangerous Game from "Jekyll and Hyde."

Chapter 7: Dangerous Game

Spike sensed her before he saw her.

He was in the upper level of his crypt with the refrigerator door open, his head bent to inspect its contents, when he felt the tingle go down his spine. The tingle that could only mean her. He let the packet of blood in his hand drop back onto the shelf as he straightened, closing the refrigerator door.

As if on cue, the door to the crypt burst open, and her scent wafted towards him. “Knew you couldn’t stay away,” Spike said, smirking to himself without looking at her.

“Shut up.”

Buffy closed the door and took a few tentative steps towards the vampire. “I didn’t come here for –” She stopped abruptly, and he finally turned to face her, a knowing look on his face. Spike was wearing a black button-down shirt that he’d been too lazy to button, and he ran one hand slowly down his bare chest, watching her eyes follow the path down to the bulge in his jeans.

Her gaze lingered there for a moment, then flickered angrily back to his face. “Shut up!” she said again, even though he hadn’t spoken. “I came to ask you a question.” She pulled out a stake. “And if I don’t get the right answer…”

Spike held up his hands in a protest of innocence. “No need for that, pet. What d’you wanna know?”

“The chip isn’t working, is it?”

“The…” His head tilted with curiosity, and he squinted at her. “What are you –”

With one hand on his chest, she slammed him back into the wall, her other arm raised threateningly, stake aimed at his heart. “It’s not working. It can’t be. The things we did last night…”

Buffy couldn’t believe that it had taken her this long to realize it. He had touched her and her brain had just… shut down. Had stopped processing everything except the feel of his fingers and his lips, and the beautiful pleasure they were coaxing out of her. Afterwards, she’d had so many things on her mind – including the “why” of the sleeping with Spike – that she’d neglected the “how.” But the things she’d let him do to her…

Her hands, held above her head, pinned to the pillow by his painfully tight grip on her wrists…

His cock, ramming into her over and over with such force it made her cry out, his fingers digging into her shoulders as he came, leaving bruises and crescent shaped nail marks on her skin…

Her clit, throbbing as he bit down on it with blunt human teeth, making her spasm uncontrollably against his relentless hand, coated in her juices…

His hand, fisted in her hair, yanking it roughly as she brought him off, forcing his length down her throat…

His fingers, then his cock, working into her unbearably tight asshole, as she screamed and cried and begged him for more…

“Baby likes it rough.” Spike licked his lips and glanced down at her hand resting on his chest, where his milky skin was littered with nail scratches and bruises from their rough play.

Recovering herself, Buffy shoved him harder against the wall, scraping his shoulders against the stone. “There’s no way the chip wouldn’t have gone off.”

Spike smirked at her, his tongue sticking out between his teeth. “Only one way to find out, pet.”

He suddenly vamped out, throwing her off of him and sending her into the ratty chair in front of his TV. Buffy rolled over it and landed on the floor with a thud, her stake coming to a stop a few feet away. “Guess you’re right, Slayer,” he said with a grin, looking decidedly not in pain, and seeming like the old Spike – the one who’d tried to kill her – more than ever. “It doesn’t work.”

They both lunged for the stake, but Spike got to it first and caught Buffy by the wrist. “Ah, ah, ah, love. Let’s not be hasty now.”

She tore her arm from his grasp, her eyes glaring daggers at him. He just shrugged and moved past her, tossing the stake into the pile of weapons already in the corner. “For all we know, it could just be you,” he said, returning to his human face. “Maybe you came back wrong or something.”

Spike walked casually around the crypt, radiating confidence and utterly unconcerned about the potential danger. He knew the Slayer wouldn’t kill him, not after last night. She’d been so hot for him, begging him to make it hurt. Hell, considering what they’d done, a little fight to the death was just foreplay.

She spun in place as he paced, trying to keep her eyes on him. “There’s nothing wrong with me!”

“Oh, so you wantin’ to kill yourself, that’s nothing to worry about?”

“That was – that’s different.”

“Could do it for you, I suppose, now the chip’s no problem.” He grabbed her suddenly by her upper arms and pulled her in close. “Do you want me to, Slayer?” He wouldn’t, of course – those days were long past – but now he knew the violence turned her on as much as it did him.

Her mouth went dry, and her words were barely above a whisper. “I – I want you…”

He could hear her heart going a mile a minute, could smell the arousal she felt with his body pressed against hers. He smirked. “Do you now, Slayer?” He dipped his head, running his tongue along the pulsing vein in her throat.

Jerking herself free, Buffy snapped, “Stop it! I told you, this isn’t about –”

With preternatural speed, Spike was behind her, and her protest died on her lips as his hand came to rest on her shoulder. The weight of it was heavy yet gentle – no longer threatening, but beckoning. She stilled, stiffening under the suddenly sensual touch, as he slowly slid his hand along her collarbone and up her neck, sending tingles coursing through her entire body.

Pressing his palm against the nape of her neck, Spike circled around until he was facing her. “Buffy,” he murmured, in a voice that urged her to give in to all her wicked desires.

She began to sing in a mournful tone, her voice tentative, the lack of accompaniment making every inflection stand out against the silence.

“I feel your fingers
Cold on my shoulder
Your chilling touch
As it runs down my spine”

A harp arpeggio faded in, and Spike slid his hand up to tangle in Buffy’s hair, locking his eyes on hers as she sang to him.

“Watching your eyes
As they invade my soul
Forbidden pleasures
I'm afraid to make mine”

Hand still fisted in her hair, Spike pulled her towards him. His other arm wrapped around her waist, sliding down to her ass to press her lower body forcefully against his. The kiss was firm and passionate – but brief, as Buffy broke out of his embrace, whirling into a half-dancing spin that sent her across the crypt. When she picked up the melody again, there was a note of desperation in her voice.

“At the touch of your hand
At the sound of your voice
At the moment your eyes meet mine
I am out of my mind
I am out of control
Full of feelings I can't define!”

Spike followed her with measured predatory strides, as she backed away from him in a slow motion game of cat and mouse. “It's a sin with no name,” he sang.

“Like a hand in a flame,” Buffy continued.

“And our senses proclaim…”

As he reached her, they sang in unison, “It's a dangerous game.”

Spike circled around Buffy possessively, letting his fingertips brush down her bare arms, causing goose bumps to break out across her skin. She shivered as his voice growled in her ear.

“A darker dream
That has no ending
That's so unreal
You believe that it's true”

Standing behind her once more, Spike gripped Buffy’s upper arms, hard enough to leave bruises. She tilted her head back and to the side, unconsciously exposing her neck to his hungry gaze.

“A dance of death
Out of a mystery tale
The little Slayer
Doesn't know what to do”

He released her with force, spinning her around, and they began to circle each other with graceful steps, their dance mimicking so many of their battles. Their eyes fixed warily on one another, but burned with an unfulfilled passion as Spike continued to taunt her, Buffy’s anguished responses overlapping with his.

“Will the ghosts go away?”
“Will she will them to stay?”
“Either way, there's no way to win!”

She charged forward then, slamming into his chest with both hands, as their vocals reversed roles.

“All I know is I'm lost.”
“And I'm counting the cost.”
“My emotions are in a spin.”
“I don't know who to blame.”

“It's a crime and a shame,”
Spike returned, pulling her roughly into his arms.

Buffy inclined her head, her forehead nearly touching his. “But it's true all the same…”

“It's a dangerous game,”
they sang together. Spike brushed a strand of hair out of the Slayer’s face, following the line of her jaw and trailing down her neck. At her shoulder, his grasp became strong again, forcing her backwards against the wall. Her arousal at the dominating gesture flooded his senses.

“No one speaks,” they continued in unison, their eyes never leaving the other’s face. “Not one word.”

He lifted her slightly, pinning her between his body and the wall. Buffy responded by wrapping her legs around his waist, as her arms locked around his neck. “But what words are in our eyes.”

Spike’s hands made their way up her thighs, creeping under her skirt and fumbling with his own jeans as Buffy sang and he echoed her words back to her in alternating rhythm.

“Silence speaks
Loud and clear
All the words we (don't) want to hear!”

Even as Buffy added the “don’t,” a nominal protest, she was sliding down, letting Spike’s waiting erection pry apart her damp folds, impaling her as he plunged his cock impatiently into her, filling her up with a jolt of delicious pain. He pressed the full length of his torso against hers, fucking her hard into the wall, slamming her body roughly into the stone with every thrust.

“At the touch of your hand
At the sound of your voice
At the moment your eyes meet mine
I am losing my mind
I am losing control
Fighting feelings I can't define”

Buffy clutched at him – his shoulders, his hair, whatever she could get her hands on – in a frantic scramble to hang on before the impending fire consumed her. “It's a sin with no name,” she panted, nearly in tears from the overwhelming sensations.

“No remorse and no shame,” Spike returned, twisting his hips slightly to strike something deep inside her that made her burn with unquenchable desire. “Fire, fury and flame.”

“’Cause the devil's to blame.”
Buffy’s voice hit an urgent peak.

“And the angels proclaim,” they finished together, voices soaring. Shifting to game face, Spike sank his fangs into her pulsing throat. Buffy threw her head back, the orgasm hitting her with the force of a freight train, her spasming channel coaxing Spike to a violent final thrust as he came inside her. He took only a quick pull at her blood, more to mark her than anything else, then let his forehead fall against the stone next to her face.

Their bodies stilled, held up by the wall and Spike’s rapidly weakening knees, as they whispered, “It's a dangerous game.”
Chapter #8 - Always Be There
A/N: The song in this chapter is Lost in the Darkness from "Jekyll and Hyde." I have no explanation for the video that goes along with this clip... just listen, lol.


Chapter 8: Always Be There

Spike watched Buffy’s chest rise and fall, lifting the sheet that covered the two of them in a slow steady rhythm. She was exhausted. For that matter, so was he – he’d fucked her over every square inch of his crypt, or so it seemed, and once they’d made it to the bed, they could barely move. He’d no sooner slipped a finger inside her, careful of the swollen and bruised flesh, before her breathing became shallow and even, her eyes closed, her expression sated and peaceful.

With a contented sigh, he kissed her brow and settled in beside her, cocooning her with his body. But it was impossible to sleep when all he wanted to do was look at her, drink her in, the goddess that had somehow found her way to his bed.

Spike had expected to be dust for sure, after biting her in the throes of passion. But Buffy had been more interested in letting him stake her, in a manner of speaking. The rest of the night, whenever he had the chance, he would run his tongue over the mark he’d left, causing her to moan every time. Once, when he had her on the brink of climax, she had tangled her fingers in his hair and pressed his face into her neck, as though encouraging him to do it again.

He hadn’t.

Spike wasn’t about to push his luck. He was quite content to have tasted her once. Especially since Buffy was letting him touch her and kiss her, opening herself up for him, letting him inside her. Letting him make love to her – that was more than he’d ever dreamt of.

Suddenly, Buffy began to thrash, kicking him under the covers as she clawed at the sheet with her hands. She let out a moan, unlike all the others that evening, laden with fear and panicked desperation.

“No,” she gasped, shoving him away and pushing the covers off as if she were trying to escape from something. It occurred to him that she was dreaming about being dragged out of heaven and waking up in her coffin, scratching and crawling her way to freedom. Her living nightmare that had become reality.

“Shhh,” he soothed, pulling her struggling form back against him as he wrapped her up in his arms, pressing a trail of soft kisses along her bare shoulder until she quieted again.

“My poor Buffy,” Spike murmured against her skin, running one hand up and down her arm in a soft caress. He wanted more than anything to take her pain away, but he couldn’t help the hurt that seeped in at the notion that their coupling was simply a product of her suffering. This isn’t real, but I just want to feel, she’d sung to him. Was he just a release? Just a means to end the numbness she’d felt since her return? If that were all he was to her… well, he would accept it, because he loved her more than anything. He would be what she needed, regardless of the cost, no matter how much it killed him inside. But he longed to be so much more.

“Lost in the darkness
Silence surrounds you
Once there was morning
Now endless night

“If I could reach you
I'd guide you and teach you
To walk from the darkness
Back into the light”

He was a fool, a damn fool. He could never be the one to show her the light, and being with him would only pull her further into the darkness. Spike cursed his vampiric existence as he never had before, frustrated that his demon couldn’t give him the right answers. Buffy was always the one with the answers; she’d been his conscience for over a year, even when she was gone. Now, she could barely guide herself, and both of them were floundering.

“I need you, Buffy,” he whispered. “Do whatever I can for you, pet, but I need you to be who you are.

“Deep in your silence
Please try to hear me
I'll keep you near me
Till night passes by”

He knew she would leave him as soon as she woke, just as she had last time. It nearly killed him, but he couldn’t help loving her. He was hers, completely, and no amount of hurt could drive him away.

“I will find the answer
I'll never desert you
I promise you this
Till the day that I die”

As the music faded out, he resumed his vigil over her sleeping form. Sometime later – minutes or hours, he couldn’t tell – Buffy began to stir. Rolling towards him, her eyes flickered open and she gave him a sleepy smile. “Is it morning?” she mumbled.

“Yeah, pet,” he said softly. “It is.”

She propped herself up on her elbows. “I should go. I left Dawn all night again.”

He leaned over her and pulled her into a gentle kiss, as his fingers ran through her hair and his tongue made love to her mouth. Buffy melted into it, falling back on the pillow and snaking her arms around him. Running her hands over his muscular back, she left hot trails on his skin, lighting him on fire with her touch. When she finally needed to breathe, he released her mouth, nuzzling her face as he kissed along her jaw and down to her neck.


“Don’t,” she whispered.

He pulled away to meet her eyes with surprise. “Buffy, I –”

“Shh. You’re going to say you love me.” She traced her hand down the side of his face. “Please, don’t.”

He rolled off and flopped onto the bed next to her, annoyed and disappointed. “Why not? Didn’t take issue with it last night.”

She sat up and twisted to face him, supporting herself on one elbow. “There were a lot of things I didn’t take issue with last night.” Her fingers came up to the bite. “I should stake you for this.”

“You won’t.” His tone was petulant.

“No,” she said gently. “I won’t. If you’d wanted to…” – kill me – “to hurt me, you could have. And – I need you, Spike. I need this. But – look at me.” She tried to pull his face in her direction. He fought her at first, before turning his head. “But I can’t say something I don’t mean.”

“You don’t have to say it, Buffy.”

She gazed at him, taking in the heartbreak and resignation etched on his face. She couldn’t explain to him how much it hurt her to not say it back to him, when he was so sweet and gentle and loving. But she couldn’t love him – she just couldn’t let herself fall that far.

They’d been right last night – it was dangerous. Buffy knew that from experience. As much as she needed what Spike could give her, she couldn’t let it be love. She gave him a sad, tentative smile and kissed his brow before slipping out of bed.

He watched her dress again with a sigh, but with less of the painful ache in his chest that had accompanied this scene the previous morning. At least she’d come back. She had come back and spent another night with him, and even the chip’s failure didn’t chase her away. Whatever she felt for him, she admitted she needed him. And that was all his cold, dead heart needed to feel like it was beating again.

“You gonna tell the others?” he asked, as she donned her clothes. “’Bout the chip, that is.”

“No!” Buffy stopped, half-naked, and stared at him, a horrified expression on her face. When he didn’t seem to get it right away, she hissed, “Because then I’d have to tell them how we found out!”

Spike raised his eyebrows at her and let out a low chuckle. “Could just tell ’em I hit you.”

“Oh. Yeah. I – I guess that would… yeah, then. Yeah, I’ll tell them. Tonight. Scooby meeting.” She turned to go, her gut roiling with guilt that she would have kept the knowledge from her friends in order to protect her sordid secret sex life.

“Hey, you talk to the good witch?” he called after her. “She gonna do the spell?”

“Yeah,” Buffy replied. “We’re doing it tonight, at the Magic Box.” She started to walk away again, heading for the ladder leading upstairs, but turned back. “Spike?” she said, her expression vulnerable. “You’ll be there?”

“Always be there, pet.”

Buffy hesitated then nodded before disappearing up the ladder.
Chapter #9 - Memories
A/N: If you can't figure out the song in this chapter, you need to go back and watch Once More with Feeling again! :)


Chapter 9: Memories

“Honey, I need your input on the gifts.”

Xander paused in puzzled silence for a moment – still holding the jar of frog parts he was using to restock the shelves – before turning to his fiancée. “Gifts? It’s our wedding, Ahn. I’m pretty sure gift giving is a job for the guests.”

Behind the counter, Anya rolled her eyes at his obtuseness. “It’s customary for the bride and groom to give a small token to the members of their wedding party,” she explained patiently. “As a thank you for putting up with them during the months of planning.”


“Don’t look at me like that,” Anya replied. “These are your human traditions.” She shook her head. Humans could be so strange about their customs. “So, I was thinking gold cufflinks for Giles and Spike, maybe with an engraving –”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa – Spike?” Xander set down the jar and stared at her.

“Yes. You know – blonde, muscular, about this tall…” She held her hand up just above her head. “Recently saved Buffy from dancing herself to death.”

“I know who he is, Ahn,” Xander snapped, striding over to her. “When did he get invited, much less in the wedding party?”

“Right around the time he saved Buffy from dancing herself to death,” she replied matter-of-factly. “And you don’t have any male friends, so I just assumed he would be your best man.”

“No – Ahn! Willow! Willow is the best man… best – woman…” Unable to let it go, he repeated, “Spike?”

“Fine,” Anya replied, dismissing him with a wave. “So, for the women I was thinking –”

“Ahn – no,” he cut in, holding up one hand. “We can’t afford this.”

“But it’s tradition!”

“Our friends won’t care! Anya, my parents are spending way too much on this wedding as it is. I can’t ask them for anything else.”

“But –”

“We don’t have the money!” Hs hand slammed down on the counter, and suddenly his memory transported him back to his parents’ house. He was sitting on the floor in the living room, playing with a toy truck, careful not to get between his father on the couch and the television across the room. His father liked to watch TV after dinner, and Xander knew better than to interrupt, no matter how much he wanted his father to play with him.

Especially nights like these, when his mother was just as drunk as his father and they’d been yelling at each other all through dinner. Even now, with the table cleared and his father settled on the sofa, the argument was still going on while his mother did the dishes in the kitchen.

Just as he always did when his parents raised their voices, Xander kept to the corner, trying to make himself as small as possible. If he didn’t stay out of the way, he could very well find his father’s wrath turned on him. He dreaded those moments when his father’s eyes turned on him, when his hands would go to his waist, stripping off his belt and beckoning Xander to him. Every time he felt the sting of the leather on his bare flesh, Xander swore he’d be good from then on. But it didn’t seem to matter. Sometimes, even when he hadn’t done anything, if his father was angry, he got hit. That was why he hid. If his father didn’t notice him, he’d be okay.

Of course, this time, hiding might not do any good, since they were fighting about him.

“It’s only for two weeks,” his mother persisted, hovering in the doorway that led to the kitchen as she dried her hands on a dishtowel. “And it’ll be good for Xander. He could make some new friends.”

“It’s not my fault the boy doesn’t have friends, Jessica!” his father snapped. “If he didn’t hang around with that damned girl all the time – the Jew-girl with the hippie name – maybe he’d toughen up and the other boys would want him around.” Unnoticed, Xander flinched at his old man’s disapproval. “I’m not paying for some goddamned baseball camp just to try to make a man out of him. He can come to work with me this summer.”

His mother scoffed, made more brazen by the wine she’d had with dinner. “You mean you’re actually going to get a job? Could’ve fooled me. With all the time you’ve been spending at the Fish Tank, I didn’t realize you’d had time for an interview!”

“I told you, woman, Jimmy’s gonna get me something at the plant!” he said with an angry snarl, leaping off the sofa with his hands balled into fists at his sides. Xander cowered further into the darkened corner, pretending to be absorbed with his Tonka. He was still young, not yet at the age when he would start stepping in and taking the blows for his mother, until he came to realize that she provoked her husband when she was drunk, and Xander decided she got what she deserved.

“Yeah, just like the last three jobs Jimmy was gonna get you that all fell through.” His mother marched unsteadily to the sofa and smacked her husband with the towel. “Why couldn’t you have gone to college and made something of yourself?”

Xander trembled as he watched his father grab his mother’s arm and shake her. He drew his hand back to slap her, and then the scene shifted again, and Xander was watching older versions of himself and Anya in their places.

“You think I’m not educated enough?” the salt-and-pepper-haired Xander demanded, as his wife reeled from the blow. “You knew that when you married me, Ahn.”

“Well, that was before the Magic Box was destroyed by that pack of Ratnall demons and we lost everything!” she cried. “And the construction was bringing in decent pay –”

“You know I can’t do that anymore, not with my back!”

“Right, and whose fault was that?”

“Don’t start!” he ground out, knocking her back through the kitchen doorway.

“If you hadn’t been trying to be a hero and help Buffy all the time –”

Xander slammed his hand into a kitchen cabinet right next to her head, frightening her. “Don’t make this about Buffy!”

Suddenly back in the present, Xander blinked and said, “Huh? What about Buffy?”

Anya let out an exasperated sigh. “I said, do you think Buffy will be bringing a date? I’d like to know before I do the seating chart; otherwise, it’ll throw the whole thing off.”

“Oh, uh… I don’t know,” Xander replied, distracted. “Why don’t you ask her?”

With a frustrated shake of her head, Anya wandered away from her useless fiancé, leaving him to sing softly to himself, horrified by the things he imagined.

“I’m not ready for you to be my bride
I keep pretending, but I just can’t hide
I know I said that I’d be standing by your side
But I…”

He shuddered, seeing again his past merging with his future in his mind. The possibilities terrified him, paralyzing him with anxiety and indecision.

“Our path’s unbeaten, and it’s all uphill
My father haunts me, and he always will
That’s the reason that I’m standing still
But I…”

He watched as Anya began talking animatedly with Willow, who had just come into the Magic Box. Willow nodded, her eyes glazing over, the way most of his friends reacted when Anya went into super-bride mode. Whenever Xander heard the wedding talk now, he wanted to run in the opposite direction. Not that he didn’t love Anya – he did, with all of his heart and soul – but it filled him with a cold sense of dread to know that he was diving headfirst into potential pain and misery, the same as he’d seen his parents suffer through. They’d drowned their sorrows in booze. Would he do the same?

He was already spending more time with the guys from the construction team, leaving the site after work and heading straight to the bar, then stumbling home to Anya. She never got drunk like his mother did, though she sometimes raised her voice when he missed dinner. He didn’t want to end up like his parents, but the more he thought about it, the more he tried to push it away, the closer he came to becoming them.

“I wish I could say the right words and go on like we planned
Wish I could play the husband
And take you by the hand
Wish I could stay
But now I understand
My fear’s standing in the way”

The door to the magic shop opened, and Tara entered hesitantly. Against her will, she immediately scanned the room for Willow, averting her eyes when her ex-lover tried to meet her gaze. She fought the rush of emotions that threatened to overtake her – she couldn’t stop loving Willow, no matter how hard she tried.

“I’m under your spell,” she sang softly to herself, reprising her song from the night she’d discovered the memory spell. No one else seemed to hear her, as Willow reluctantly returned her attention to the magazine Anya was holding in front of her face.

“God, how can it be
You still have this effect on me?
You worked your charms so well
Willow, don’t you see
You’ll always be a part of me
You made me believe...”

“Believe me, I don’t wanna go,”
Xander chimed in, his first word overlapping with Tara’s last. Then, together, they sang,

“And it’ll grieve me ’cause I love you so
But we both know”

They broke into counter-melodies, each lost in their own world, singing to their oblivious lovers.

“I wish I could say the right words and go on like we planned
Wish I could play the husband
And take you by the hand…”

“Wish I could trust just that it was just this once
But I must do what I must
I can't adjust to this disgust
We're done and I just…”

“Wish I could stay,”
they finished together, finding harmony though neither knew the other was singing.

“Wish I could stay
Wish I could stay
Wish I could… stay”
Chapter #10 - Unexpected Consequences
A/N: There isn't much music in this chapter. The snippet Sweet sings is from "Phantom of the Opera." I couldn't find a clip, but it's to the tune of "All I Ask of You," if you're curious.


Chapter 10: Unexpected Consequences

“Oh, good, Tara’s here,” Anya said, startling both her fiancé and the witch out of their musical daze. “Tell me, what do you think of these flowers as the table centerpieces? Willow thinks they’re too big, and people won’t be able to see each other across the table. But isn’t the arrangement just lovely?”

“I – uh,” Tara stuttered, her eyes flickering unbidden toward Willow. “I – I think W-Willow’s probably right,” she managed.

“Oh,” Anya pouted. “Well, I’ll get Buffy’s opinion when she gets here. Where is Buffy, anyway? We can’t really do this spell without someone to do the pounding once the demon is summoned.”

“Hey, did you guys hear the news?” Tara asked, taking a seat at the table while studiously avoiding the redhead on the opposite side of it. “Th-they found three more bodies last night – all spontaneously combusted.”

Xander sighed. “I’m really glad we’re fixing this tonight. All these people keep… and I feel like it’s my fault.”

“Well, you didn’t know what would happen, sweetie,” Anya reassured him. “I mean, how many musicals result in mass casualties?”

“Les Misérables,” Willow pointed out.

“Also Titanic,” Tara added.

“And West Side Story has a lot of death, as Spike so aptly pointed out yesterday,” Anya mused, beginning to change her mind.

“Hey, guys?” said Xander. “Not really helping here.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Buffy cut in, as she walked in the door. “I had to drop Dawn off at a friend’s house. I didn’t know how long this would take, so she’s spending the night.”

“What do you think of these flowers?”

Buffy backed away from the magazine that Anya shoved in her face. “I think they’re, um – pretty?”

“Oh, excellent!” the bride-to-be exclaimed, glossing over Buffy’s hesitation. “That’s two votes for yes and two for no – and since I’m the bride, I think my vote should count more, so that means pretty flowers!” She happily circled the picture and folded down the corner of the page to mark it for future ordering. “Speaking of the reception, Buffy, are you bringing a date?”

“Am I – huh?” she replied, distracted. “Where’s Spike?”

“Oh, is Spike your date?” asked Anya.

“Huh?” Buffy repeated, this time with wide eyes. “No! No, no, no… I just – uh, was wondering, um…”

She breathed a sigh of relief when the bell on the front door signaled a new arrival. The sight of Spike, however, caused a combination of shivers and heated skin that completely undid her. As if she hadn’t already been tongue-tied enough. She wasn’t sure which was more frightening: the idea of telling everyone about his chip malfunctioning, or the fact that Spike’s mere presence was turning her insides to goo.

“Hi, Spike,” said Tara shyly, but in a friendly tone that helped to break the tension. Willow and Anya echoed her greeting. Xander just rolled his eyes.

Spike nodded his acknowledgement to the ladies. “Am I the last one?” he asked.

“Giles is in the back, setting up the spell.” Willow gestured over her shoulder.

Spike glanced over at Buffy. “Think you best call him out here, pet?” He fixed her with a defiant look, challenging her to tell the others about the chip. He refused to be afraid of the Scoobies’ undoubtedly negative reaction, but he was anxious to see what Buffy’s response would be. He knew Xander, at least, would immediately call for his head – preferably separated from his body – and he wanted to know if the two nights they’d spent together had truly bought him a reprieve. She hadn’t staked him as soon as she found out, which was a good sign, but he wouldn’t rule out the amazing sex as clouding her judgment a bit. Letting him live while faced with her friends’ disagreement was a different story.

Buffy nodded hesitantly. “Yeah, uh, I’ll just… Giles!” she shouted.

Her Watcher hurried out of the training room. “What is it, Buffy?” he asked, with a slight hint of alarm.

“Uh, hi?” She waved to him sheepishly. Giles shot her a disapproving look and folded his arms across his chest, letting his heart rate return to normal.

“Uh, guys,” Buffy started. “There’s something, um… something…”

Spike saw her hesitation and realized the awkward position she was in. So, he decided to make it easy on her by smacking Xander upside the head. The boy let out a startled exclamation, and Spike yelped in pain when the chip fired, zapping his brain as his hand connected with Xander’s skull. Buffy fell silent, shocked and now even more frightened by this unforeseen turn of events. As everyone else tried to figure out what had just happened, the Slayer felt a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Spike’s chip still worked.

On humans.

Spike’s chip still worked, but it didn’t work on her. That meant… that meant… She didn’t want to think about what that meant. She didn’t want to think about what she was now, in what non-human form she might have come back.

As the pain passed, Spike processed what had just happened, and his eyes met Buffy’s with alarm. He’d only meant it as a joke, when he said that thing in his crypt about her coming back wrong. But maybe he’d been right after all. Maybe Buffy really did come back wrong. He shot a deadly glare in the direction of the redheaded witch who’d spearheaded the resurrection effort. What had she done to his girl?

Before he had the chance to rip her throat out, Giles spoke up, trying to get them back on track after Spike’s bizarre behavior. “What was it you were saying, Buffy?”

“Nothing,” Buffy said, after a moment’s hesitation. “It’s n-nothing.” She and Spike shared a meaningful look before she turned back to her Watcher. “Just, uh, everyone’s here. Let’s start the spell.”


Buffy handed Tara the necklace she’d forced Dawn to relinquish, the one that would summon Sweet again. Tara put it on and stepped into the larger of two concentric circles drawn in red sand on the training room floor.

“Now,” Giles said, explaining the process once more to the group. “Tara will conduct the spell from within the power circle. Once the demon is summoned, he should appear inside the inner circle – that’s the entrapment circle. He will be held there by the binding spell, but that does not mean the circle’s border is an impenetrable wall. Buffy will be able to enter it, to… extract information from this Sweet character. Do not get too close to the circle. If you cross it, he can grab you, and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. Is that understood?”

“What about Tara?” Willow asked, partly out of concern, but also with a hint of bitterness at not being the one chosen to do the spell. “Won’t she be vulnerable, being so close?”

“She should be protected, as long as she stays outside the entrapment circle,” Giles assured her.

“I can do this, Giles,” Willow insisted. “The two of us together would be –”

“Tara alone will be sufficient, Willow,” he cut her off sharply. He gestured with one hand, and Buffy took up her position outside the circle, ready to attack when the time came. Wordlessly, Spike stepped up next to her. The others stayed back, fanned out across the room, a safe distance from where the spell would take place, but all within arm’s length of a weapon.

Embarrassed by the argument between witch and Watcher, Tara glanced down at the text lying open on the floor in front of her and took a deep breath. She began to recite the spell, softly at first, her voice barely audible despite the silence that had fallen over the others. She wove the binding spell first, her words like threads, spinning an invisible web to ensnare the unsuspecting demon.

Once that was complete, she turned to the summoning spell and began to chant steadily. She felt the magicks swirling around her, reaching out across dimensions, sending out a signal. As the rhythm of her voice created a pulsing flow of energy, she suddenly noticed an inconsistency.

Her eyes swept around the room, finding Willow, watching her lips move silently as she fed her own magic into the spell from outside the circle. Reaching out to her ex-lover through the mental connection they’d been developing, Tara said silently, ‘Willow, stop.’

Willow’s voice echoed back in Tara’s head. ‘I can help. Let me just –’

‘Willow, you’re not helping,’
Tara snapped, struggling desperately to maintain the rhythm while also counteracting Willow’s influence. ‘You’re destabilizing the spell.’

‘No, if you just hold that line, I can beef up –’

‘Willow! Back. Off.’

Tara gave her an angry stare, about two seconds away from dispersing the magical energy she’d gathered and ending the spell entirely. But by then it was too late, and a swell of music began to rise, signaling Sweet’s entrance. The spell spiraled out of control, as Willow and Tara struggled for dominance. Sweet suddenly appeared in the middle of the inner circle, and the music cut off in an abrupt discordance as he looked around, his face falling when he saw who had summoned him. “You kids again?” he asked, annoyed. “I thought we were done here.”

“Yeah? Well, you were supposed to take the song and dance show with you when you left,” Buffy retorted, unaware that the inner workings of the spell were in peril.

“That wasn’t part of our deal, sweetie pie. I –” Sweet stopped speaking abruptly as he reached the edge of the binding spell and came to a halt. “What is this?”

“Couldn’t risk you carting off someone to be your queen again, could we?” Spike replied.

The demon gave him an appraising look. “Don’t worry, precious. It wouldn’t be you.”

Spike found himself mildly offended by that. “Oh, yeah? Way I hear it, most of the boys in theater swing that way. Figure, with that suit, you gotta be one of ’em.”

“Spike!” Buffy hissed. “Don’t taunt the demon.”

“You were doin’ it.”

“I pun, that’s totally different.” She turned back to Sweet. “Now we’re gonna bring the curtain down on this musical once and for all.” Spike rolled his eyes.

Sweet just gave her a melodramatic pout. “I gave you my music,” he sang sadly. “Made your songs take wing. And now, how you’ve repaid me – denied me and betrayed me…”

“Oh, shut up,” Buffy replied. “If you’re not gonna make the singing stop, let’s just make with the pummeling, shall we?”

She charged toward the demon, delivering a snap kick that knocked Sweet backwards against the far barrier of the circle. The force of it jarred Tara’s delicate hold, and before Buffy could get in a second blow, the binding spell collapsed.

“Oh, God, what’d I do?” Buffy whimpered, as Sweet lunged out of the circle and grabbed the closest person – Tara. Too weak from the magic to fight back, she was thrown over his shoulder like a rag doll, struggling ineffectually.

“Sorry, need a queen,” Sweet said.

Buffy and Spike charged simultaneously, trying to tackle Sweet to the ground and save Tara. But the demon gave them a Cheshire cat grin, disappearing with the witch in a burst of light. Buffy and Spike collapsed on the ground in a heap as their target vanished. Sweet’s disembodied voice echoed in the room. “Now, I gotta run. See you all in hell!”

Willow dropped to her knees. “Oh, God. He took Tara. Oh, God. Oh, God.” She covered her face with her hands. “It’s my fault.”

“What the hell happened?” Xander asked, clutching Anya’s hand as Buffy and Spike got to their feet. They all looked stunned at the sudden turn of events. They could scarcely believe that, moments before, Tara had been in the room, and now she was being whisked off to who-knows-where in some horrible hell dimension.

Giles watched Willow dissolve into a tearful mess. “I think I have some idea. Willow.”

The young witch looked up at her name. “I was trying to help,” she said, painfully aware of how hollow those words were beginning to sound. “I just wanted to – I was trying to help.”

“You interfered,” said Giles.

She nodded. “Oh, God, Tara. I’m so sorry, baby. I’m sorry…”

Buffy crouched on the floor next to her friend, wrapping her arms around Willow. “It’s okay, Will. We’ll get her back.”

“It is not ‘okay,’ Buffy!” Giles said harshly. “Willow interfered with the spell, and now it’s caused us to lose Tara. God only knows where she is or how to get her back.”

“We’ll figure something out, Giles,” Buffy replied, maintaining her confidence for Willow’s sake. “We’ll get her back.”

“Well,” Anya said, cutting through the tense atmosphere with her usual matter-of-fact tone. “I guess that means more research.” Sparing a glance at the distraught witch, she headed back to the shop with Xander in tow. Spike ducked his head and slipped out the back door.

“Buffy,” Giles said, his voice soft but firm. She looked up at him, then back at Willow, and nodded. She rose and followed him to the shop, leaving the redhead curled on the floor, sobbing as she repeated, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Chapter #11 - Music of the Night
A/N: Buffy's song is I Dreamed a Dream from "Les Miserables" and Spike and Sweet's song is Music of the Night from "Phantom of the Opera." It's a different version than the lyrics I used, but you get the idea.


Chapter 11: Music of the Night

After an hour of fruitless, shell-shocked research, Buffy closed her book, giving in to the itchy, restless sensation crawling over her skin. She needed action. Announcing she was going to patrol, she left the Magic Box before anyone could object.

It was no surprise to her that her feet, entirely of their own accord, carried her directly to Restfield and right to his crypt. She hesitated at the door, for some reason unwilling to kick it open as she normally did. She raised one tentative fist to knock, only to let it drop back to her side.

Spike saved her from the indecision by opening the door and finding her standing there. “Shouldn’t you be off figuring out how to get the witch back?” he asked, one eyebrow raised as he let her in.

“I know… I should,” Buffy replied, a note of resignation in her voice. “But… it’s this music – it… it makes me do what I want, instead of…” She caught Spike smirking at her. “What?”

“You want me.”

“I…” She started to protest, but realized it was useless and rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, I think we established that pretty well already. But – I don’t love you. I do not, could not, will not love you.”

Spike cocked his eyebrow again at her insistence. The lady doth protest too much, he thought to himself. Shakespeare had a fine bloody point. “Why do you keep coming back, then?”

“Because I need this. I need to –” She cut herself off with a sigh, relenting but turning so her back was to him. It was hard enough, allowing herself to open up to him – she couldn’t look at him while she did it. “Since I came back, I’ve been… numb. Going through the motions.” A tiny, ironic smile stole over her face at the memory of her first song in the graveyard. “But I can’t – I can’t be the Slayer like that. I need my emotions. I need that fire to… do what I do.”

“Hence the ‘dance till you burn’ routine.”

“Yeah… but…” Buffy turned around to face him. “But you showed me that I… that I could live and still have that fire.” She reached out, pulling him towards her and capturing his mouth in a long, slow kiss. “This fire.”

“So, that’s all this is, then,” Spike said, backing away. “You just needin’ to feel something.”

“Yes!” she cried, but almost immediately corrected herself. “No!” Finally, she settled on, “I don’t know.”

“Well, thanks for clearing that up.” He started to show her the door.

“Spike!” She grabbed his arm. “Please…”

He shook off her grasp, catching her gaze in an intense stare. “No. We have something, Buffy, you and me. I’ve known it since the first moment I met you.”

“The first moment you said you’d kill me,” Buffy said dryly.

“Well, yeah. Vampire. And after all the fighting and bloodshed, here we are, doing this.” This time, it was Spike who initiated the kiss, pressing his lips fiercely against hers, leaving her breathless. “It’s bloody epic, ’s what it is.”

“I’ve done epic,” Buffy retorted. “Not interested in a sequel.”

Spike scoffed at the reference to Angel, but didn’t say anything. He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment before saying, “You’re right – you used to have a fire.” One hand came up to caress her cheek. “I saw you and you burned brighter than any other Slayer I’d ever seen. And you made me burn, Buffy. God, I’m still… and I see it, sometimes, even now. I see it in your eyes, when we’re making love.”

“Don’t call it that!” she cried, jerking away from him. “It’s not –”

“It is love, Buffy! Wake up!”

“I can’t love you,” she insisted. “I can’t… love.”

She blinked, and they looked at each other, both startled by her admission. Before Buffy had a chance to process why she’d said it, the music was tugging the confession further out of her.

“There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting”

“Buffy…” Spike started.

She shook her head and continued to sing.

“There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting

“There was a time
Then it all went wrong…”

As the mysterious music filled the crypt, Buffy moved, dream-like, to the center of the room. Spike took up a perch on the sarcophagus, her attentive audience.

“I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

“Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted”

The music hit a dark minor chord, and Buffy suddenly changed, the peaceful expression on her face filling with anguish as sweet memories clouded over, becoming painful ones.

“But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame”

As Spike watched and listened with rapt attention, she moved to a pillar, extending one hand to caress the stone as though it were a lover.

“He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came”

Buffy spun around, pressing her back against the pillar as though it were holding her upright, an expression of longing on her face.

“And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather”

Her hands clenched into fists at her sides, building to the climax of the song.

“I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed”

With the last line, the energy, driven by pain and heartbreak, seemed to go out of her, seeping away as she slid down the pillar to crouch on the floor, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.

Spike stared at her for a minute, his throat tight with emotion, before he let a noise of bitter disgust escape from him. “So, it’s all about Angel, then,” he said. “You’d rather be with your precious Angel.”

Buffy scrambled to her feet. “No, it’s just… Look, I know it’ll never work with Angel. I know that.” She tried to meet his eyes, but the disappointment she found there pierced her heart. “And he was – he was that once in a lifetime thing, you know? If I couldn’t make it work with him, how can I make it work with anybody?”

“Because Angel was bloody stupid, that’s how!” He shoved off the sarcophagus to pace angrily around the crypt. “You’ve got him all up on some pedestal, pet. Trust me, he doesn’t deserve it. Angel and Angelus – they’re the same person. You’re looking for some line of bloody demarcation that isn’t there! Angelus was always inside him, Buffy. He just learned to hide it better with the soul, is all.” His rant ran out of steam, and his shoulders sagged. His head tilted to the side, and he looked at her with a mixture of love and regret. “Can see he did a number on you, love. Hurt you so bad you think it’s not worth trying again.”

“Maybe it’s not,” Buffy said quietly. “Riley wasn’t any different, in the end.”

Spike cracked the tiniest smile. “You ever think maybe you’re just dating the wrong blokes?”

“Oh, and you’re the right one?”

He shrugged. “Could be. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. Let yourself go. Live in my world for a bit.”

As he approached her, the music faded in again, soft and melancholy, enthralling her, beckoning to her.

“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness wakes and stirs imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses”

Spike reached out with one hand, running his fingers through her hair as he circled around behind her.

“Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender”

He sang softly in her ear as his strong hand turned her head, guiding her gaze towards him over her shoulder.

“Turn your face away
From the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night”

His hands slid down her arms, grazing her skin with his fingertips as the music built to a crescendo.

“Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the world you knew before”

His fingers intertwined with hers, bringing her hands up to her stomach as his arms wrapped around her waist.

“Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar
And you’ll live as you’ve never lived before”

She did, closing her eyes, and letting the music wash over her, falling under the spell it wove.


Far away, someone else picked up Spike’s song, a demon intent on seducing his prey.

“Softly, deftly, music shall caress you,” Sweet sang, trying to lull Tara into complacency and eradicate her fears and trembling. “Hear it, feel it, secretly posses you.”

They were in a small wooden rowboat that seemed to move of its own accord, since neither of its occupants was using the oars. The bow cut through the thick mist that shrouded their surroundings in mystery. As they went on, Tara guessed they were on a lake, maybe underground, or in some sort of cave, but the fog and darkness effectively blotted out any land.

Tara had no idea what dimension they were in. All she knew was that she had been in the Magic Box, and the next instant, they were standing on a small dock, with only a single torch illuminating their transport. She didn’t know why Sweet hadn’t just teleported them to the other side of the lake in the first place, but she supposed he liked the Phantom of the Opera setting.

Seated behind her, Sweet pressed his hands to Tara’s temples as he continued to sing to her. Her eyes flickered closed as foreign sensations washed over her.

“Open up your mind
Let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night”

Tara felt herself relaxing against her will. She wanted to be tense; she wanted to be frightened, but she couldn’t fight the intensity of the music as it rolled over her, seducing her with its power. The gentle sway of the boat added a false sense of calm, like a mother rocking her child to sleep.

“Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before
Let your soul take you where you long to be”

The song crescendoed to its height as Sweet let his voice ring, resonating against the cave-like walls and rippling over the lake. Then, he paused, and Tara held her breath as the note echoed in the silence.

“Only then,” Sweet sang, softer and slower now, “can you belong to me.”

Two demons, separated by time and space, singing in unison, as Tara succumbed to Sweet and Buffy melted into Spike’s arms.

“Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
Let the dream begin
Let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night”

As the music swelled into an instrumental, Buffy surrendered to her emotions, her lips finding Spike’s in a deep, bruising kiss. He clutched her protectively, possessively, as she poured into her kiss all the love she couldn’t admit she felt. Pressing her body intimately against his, Buffy found refuge in his arms, letting the euphoria wash over her in waves of pleasure as she tasted his sweet mouth and explored his body with her hands.

Tara was jolted to alertness as the boat abruptly arrived at the far shore of the lake. She tried to resist as Sweet pulled her out of the boat, but found herself swept along by the music as he led her deeper into his underground lair. The cavern suddenly opened into a vast throne room, which glittered with bright lights and colors, in stark contrast to the place they’d just emerged from. Brilliant sunlight poured in through a row of windows across the room, dazzling Tara and prompting her to run across the room to peer out. Sweet let her go, and, looking down, she felt slightly as though she were in an M.C. Escher drawing, realizing they’d come out from underground only to find themselves at the top of a high tower, the tallest of a series of turrets and towers of a shimmery Emerald City-like castle.

Stunned, she turned to stare at Sweet, who gave her a saucy grin. “Welcome to hell,” he said, not the slightest bit surprised by her disbelief. Escorting her with one hand, like the royalty she apparently now was, Sweet guided her to the opposite end of the long hall, where a pair of gold, jewel-encrusted thrones with red plush seats were positioned on a raised platform, beneath a draping red and gold canopy. Sweet seated Tara in the smaller queen’s throne and took his own place next to her.

“You alone can make my song take flight,” he sang to her. “Help me make the music of the night.”
Chapter #12 - Not the End of the World
A/N: Giles' song is It's Not the End of the World from "Tell Me On a Sunday," and Willow's song is No Good Deed from "Wicked."


Chapter 12: Not the End of the World

“Hey, Will?” Xander peeked into the training room, where Willow was still crumpled on the floor. “We’re, uh, we’re going home now.”

Willow didn’t stir.

“We’re locking up,” Xander tried again. “Do you – do you want a ride home?”

She shook her head silently.

Xander sighed, leaving his perch in the doorway and coming to crouch next to his friend. “Will, sweetie, come on. You can’t stay here all night.” He tried to take her hand and pull her up, but she resisted him.

“Tara…” she whimpered, running her fingers through the remnants of the sand circle on the floor.

“Come on, Will. We’ll get her back, I promise. But you can’t just stay here.” He grasped both her arms and pulled her roughly to her feet.

“I let this happen,” she said, burying her face in his shoulder as she collapsed against him. “I made it happen.”

Unable to argue, Xander just rubbed soothing circles on her back as he led her out to his car.


There was a heavy sadness weighing on his shoulders as Giles unlocked the door to his hotel room. It tore at his heart to see his surrogate children so thoroughly broken, and he wondered how they had come to this.

Tara was gone, possibly already trapped in another dimension. They had no idea how to get her back, if it was even possible.

Willow was a mess, already too deep in her abuse of magic, and this could quite literally drive her over the edge. She was as lost to them as Tara, for she surely would not survive the loss of her lover. He feared for the young redhead, the girl he’d thought of as a daughter for years, whom he’d taken under his wing nearly as much as the Slayer he was charged with.

But not enough.

Pouring himself a glass of Highland Park with a shaky hand, Giles drowned his regrets in single malt scotch. He should have been more careful with her, should have monitored her progress more closely. She had advanced much too quickly, tackling vast, complicated spells before she’d mastered the simple skills. There were so many times he should have put a stop to it. The restoration of Angel’s soul. Her “will be done” spell. Teleporting Glory. Reversing Tara’s brain-sucking. Her recent telepathic abilities.

And beyond all of that, if anything should have indicated to him that the young witch needed to be reined in, it was the resurrection spell that brought Buffy back. He was foolish to think that she’d back down, that she would turn away from the path she was on. The budding witch was out of control, harnessing forces she could not comprehend.

And then, there was Buffy.

He still hadn’t gotten over her betrayal. All this time, she had been lying to him. The one person in the world she was meant to trust. She, above all of them, was his. The daughter he’d never had. He, the father she deserved.

Or, so he thought.

He would always carry the guilt of letting her die. No amount of argument, no convincing himself that this was the natural order of things, for Watchers to lose their Slayers, could persuade him that it was not his fault. Her return had been a miracle – his second chance as much as hers. But it was all a lie, for his precious Slayer could not trust him enough to tell him the truth. That was when he knew. She didn’t need him as a Watcher. She just wanted him as a crutch.

He poured himself a second glass of scotch and pulled the plane ticket out of his jacket pocket. He stared at the words until they became meaningless, swallowing a mouthful of the whisky as the mournful, compelling intro music began to play.

“It’s not the end of the world if I leave her
It just might seem so tonight
It’s not the end of the world, it’s a blessing
Mustn’t wait ’til it’s too late”

Really, this revelation about heaven was a blessing in disguise. If he hadn’t known, he might have lost his resolve, continued to stay, which would only further ingrain in Buffy the notion that Giles would always be there to fix her problems. No, this was good. He could leave, knowing he was doing the right thing.

“I’ve got to go away, it’s the best thing to do
If I stay, she won’t stand strong
It will do her good
Even though she may think she’s upset
She’ll forget”

He’d thought to leave her to teach her how to be independent. Now, it seemed she was teaching him a thing or two about independence. Perhaps he’d known all along, inside. After all, he was still living in a hotel, rather than searching for a new flat. It was as though he’d understood, intrinsically, that his Slayer was gone for good. Even resurrected, she had ceased to be his.

He tilted his head back, draining the last drops of liquid from the glass before finishing his song with weary resignation.

“It’s not the end of the world to move on
It’s not the end of the world ’til it’s gone”


“Hey, Ahn?” Xander said, lying in bed on his back, staring up at the ceiling.

“Mmmph?” Anya murmured sleepily, her voice muffled by his chest.

“You think Willow’ll be okay?”

Anya picked her head up and stared at him, and for a moment, he was afraid this would be another “jealous girlfriend” moment, where he wasn’t supposed to worry about his best friend because Anya was envious of his close relationship with another woman.

Instead, she surprised him by saying, “Of course she’s not okay,” in her best “stupid male” voice. “She screwed up her magic and accidentally sent her girlfriend to a hell dimension. Which part of that did you think she was gonna be okay with?”

Xander sighed. “None of it, I guess.”

Anya snuggled closer to him and asked, “How would you feel if it were me?” Her tone of voice indicated that it was a rhetorical question, but there was still the sliver of doubt within her that wasn’t certain of the answer. Ever since their secret-spilling duet the other morning, the uncertainty had been gnawing at her belly. Maybe it wasn’t the breakaway pop hit she’d hoped for, but the song had made some valid points. She was terrified that he wouldn’t love her enough, that someday he would leave her because she embarrassed him, because she wasn’t pretty anymore, or because she couldn’t quite figure out how to be human. As much as she wanted to believe in true love and happiness, she had a thousand years’ experience that proved they didn’t exist.

Xander’s breath caught in his throat at her question. She couldn’t be – was she – questioning him? Had he not concealed his treacherous thoughts as well as he assumed? No… she didn’t suspect, wouldn’t… because it was stupid. He would have to be crazy to leave her. He’d never been so in love; he’d never felt this way about any other woman before. But that was the problem, wasn’t it? He loved her too much to hurt her, to lead her, unsuspecting, into a future of hurt and regret. A little pain now would be better than the vast acres of pain that were sure to come.

Pulling her tighter to him, he whispered, “If it were you, I definitely wouldn’t be okay.” And, despite the fears and doubts swirling around inside him, he meant it.


Willow sat down on her bed, fighting the urge to just curl up and cry again. She was alone in the house – Dawn was sleeping over her friend’s house, and Buffy hadn’t returned for the third night in a row.

“I have to get her back,” she said aloud, her eyes going over the shelves of books on witchcraft. There had to be some spell in there that could help Tara. Frantically, she pulled the books off the shelves, flipping through them haphazardly and discarding them in a heap on the floor when they proved to be of no use.

Her panicky gaze focused on a protection spell, and she nodded her head rapidly, murmuring, “Yes… yes… okay…”

She set the book on the dresser, her hands extended in front of her, palms up, her eyes fixed on her reflection in the mirror as she chanted.

“Eleka nahmen nahmen
Ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen
Eleka nahmen nahmen
Ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen”

Her hands were trembling, and her thoughts were so scattered that it was impossible to summon up the concentration she needed. Shaking her head as though to clear her mind, she plowed on.

“Let her flesh not be torn
Let her blood leave no stain
Though they beat her
Let her feel no pain
Let her bones never break
And however they try
To destroy her
Let her never die
Let her never die!”

Willow took a deep breath, raking a frustrated hand through her hair and yanking on it before resuming her spell.

“Eleka nahmen nahmen
Ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen
Eleka nahmen nahmen
Ah tum ah tum eleka… eleka…

“Ugh!” She broke off with an anguished, aggravated cry. “What good is this chanting?” She slammed the book shut hard enough to rattle the odds and ends on the dresser.

“I don't even know what I'm reading
I don't even know which trick I ought to try
Tara, where are you?
Already dead or bleeding?
One more disaster I can add to my
Generous supply?”

She grabbed the book and threw it on top of the pile already on the floor, shooting the pile a reproachful look, as though it were the books’ fault they didn’t have the right spells.

The damage is unlimited
To everyone I've tried to help
Or tried to love
And, oh, Tara, you're the latest
Victim of my greatest achievement
In a long career of distress
Every time I could, I tried making good
And what I made was a mess!

“No good deed goes unpunished
No act of charity goes unresented
No good deed goes unpunished
That's my new creed
My road of good intentions
Led where such roads always lead
No good deed
Goes unpunished!”

She spun furiously, and then she caught sight of herself in the mirror again, eyes wide, her expression wild. The bottom dropped out of her voice, and the note she was holding hollowed. Her next lines were barely a whisper.

Brought back from the dead
Your memory,

As her lover’s name fell from her lips, her voice once again swelled to a frenzied volume, and she began to interrogate herself harshly in the mirror.

“One question haunts and hurts
Too much, too much to mention
Was I really seeking good
Or just seeking attention?
Is that all good deeds are
When looked at with an ice-cold eye?
If that's all good deeds are
Maybe that's the reason why

“No good deed goes unpunished
All helpful urges should be circumvented
No good deed goes unpunished
Sure, I meant well
Well, look at what well-meant did
All right, enough – so be it
So be it, then
Let all of us be agreed
I'm wicked through and through
Since I cannot succeed
Tara, saving you
I promise no good deed
Will I attempt to do again
Ever again”

As she gritted out the words, she returned to the bookshelf, sweeping the remaining books onto the pile on the floor in a tantrum.

“No good deed
Will I do again!”

When the shelves were empty and the background music faded, Willow sank down next to the pile in despair, a sick feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t let it be. She couldn’t just leave Tara there. There had to be something… something she could do to help her. If she couldn’t save Tara – well, just the idea of continuing to practice magic, after it had cost her her lover, made her ill. But if she didn’t at least try, she’d never be able to live with herself.

She gazed at the tomes littering the floor. They weren’t the ones she needed. There were more books at the Magic Box, but she couldn’t get them until morning.

She couldn’t wait until morning.

Glancing at the clock, she made a decision. It was the middle of the night, but what good was knowing a vampire if you couldn’t call him in the middle of the night, right? She snatched up the phone and dialed with shaky hands.

“Hey, Angel… no, Buffy’s fine,” she assured him. She hesitated for a moment. “Could – could I talk to Lorne?”
Chapter #13 - Falling Apart to Half Time
A/N: Oddly, no singing in this chapter. But the title is a line from the Fall Out Boy song "Dance Dance."


Chapter 13: Falling Apart to Half Time

“It’ll work,” Willow insisted, despite the skeptical expressions on her friends’ faces. “It has to work.”

Giles took off his glasses and studied her. “Willow, I understand you’re upset about Tara, but you must be reasonable about this. What you’re suggesting would require shifting dimensions and creating temporal folds. You know how dangerous that is, after Glory… Willow, if you’re wrong – if you’re off by just the tiniest bit – you could collapse dimensions!”

“I can do it! Look, I have equations.” She showed him the loose-leaf paper with her scribbled notes on it, including a few diagrams, lists of equations, and several clusters of what appeared to be nonsense words. “Angel’s people worked it all out.”

“You called Angel?” Buffy jumped in, hating her pathetic tone of voice but unable to stop herself. From his vantage point in the corner of the shop, separate from the others, Spike growled low in his throat.

“I called Lorne. He’s… well, he kinda works for Angel. And he’s a singing demon from another dimension, so I thought he might have some ideas.”

“And – this is what he came up with?” Giles asked, looking over Willow’s notes.

“Well, he knew of Sweet, and – and he thinks we could find his hell dimension, with these calculations here.”

The redheaded witch had spent the entire night on the phone, as Angel woke up his colleagues one by one. After Lorne came Wesley, who had advised her – and cautioned her – regarding several spells used to traverse dimensions, something they’d become familiar with earlier that spring. Then, Willow had been passed on to a spunky physicist named Fred who had worked through the equations with her, figuring out how to get to the right dimension using Lorne’s knowledge of Sweet.

Her phone bill was going to be monstrous, but by noon, they had a plan. It was dangerous, and there were any number of things that could go wrong, but Willow had enough drive and determination to make up for the lack of confidence.

The others didn’t have that luxury.

“Willow, you can’t possibly be serious about this,” Giles admonished her. “I mean, this is – this is extraordinarily perilous. You don’t possess the skills to –”

“Don’t possess the skills?” Willow stared at the Watcher incredulously. “Angel managed to do it just by reading from a book! Giles, I raised the dead! I can do this.”

The two were so engaged in their argument that neither saw Buffy flinch at Willow’s words. Xander and Anya, too, were busy watching the fight, so that only Spike noticed the Slayer’s involuntary reaction. He gravitated toward her, lifting one hand to comfort her.

His touch was light and discreet, simply brushing the back of her neck with his fingertips, but the sensation sent tingles of desire down her spine. She closed her eyes, letting herself be enveloped by the warm glow his touch created within her. Then, she felt his fingers skate across her hip as his arm came surreptitiously around her waist, and the feelings inside her intensified, causing her to draw in a slight gasp.

Spike’s hand disappeared abruptly, and Buffy realized that conversation had ceased, and the others were looking at her curiously. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I, uh, need to hit something.” With that, she grabbed Spike by the front of his shirt and dragged him into the training room.

Once they were gone, Willow turned back to Giles. “Look, I know you don’t trust me, Giles. I know you think I’m arrogant and – and an amateur. But I made this mess, and you have to let me fix it!” She paused, choking back a sob. The truth was, she wasn’t even sure she trusted herself anymore. But Tara meant everything to her. “I have to get her back. Even if she never wants to see me again. I can’t – I can’t live with myself, knowing this is my fault.”

Giles sighed. “I understand that, Willow, but you must think of the larger picture. What if your spell hurts even more of your friends? What if it damages the fabric of space and time? Willow, if you’re wrong – you could destroy the entire world.”

“Buffy was willing to destroy the world to save Dawn,” Willow said softly.

“And she died because of it.”

“Then, that’s what I’ll do,” she replied. “If I have to.”


Shutting the training room door behind them, Buffy tossed Spike up against it, kissing him hard. Gripping her tightly, he spun them around, reversing their positions. He planted one hand next to her head while the other traveled downward, coasting over her soft breasts and taut stomach, finally nestling between her thighs. Arching into his touch, she pulled his head down to hers and desperately devoured his mouth. He ground his erection into her hip while his hand worked at her clit through the fabric of her pants, and he let out a moan as her hands fisted in his hair. She answered him with her own kittenish whimpers, his touch sending her spiraling higher and higher until she came crashing back to earth with the suddenness of her unexpected climax.

When they finally separated, both were breathing hard. Buffy smiled through her haze of pleasure; she liked the way she could make him forget he didn’t need to breathe. She had just pushed off the wall to pull him into her arms again when the door opened behind her. With lightning speed, Buffy threw an unsuspecting Spike to the ground, standing over him as though they’d been fighting.

“Buff?” Xander said, poking his head in the open door. “You okay in here?”

“Yeah,” she replied, conveniently out of breath, though for very different reasons than her friend would suspect. “We were just, uh – training.”

Xander raised his eyebrows. “Not that I don’t favor the Spike hittage, but – he can’t hurt people. How does that –”

“It just works, okay?” Buffy interrupted quickly, as she and Spike exchanged a look. Neither was overjoyed at the reminder that Buffy apparently wasn’t entirely human. She extended a hand to help the vampire to his feet as she asked Xander, “What’s going on out there?”

“Giles and Will basically had it out over her dimension-hopping plan. She stormed out in a huff, saying Giles didn’t care about Tara.” He sighed. “Ahn’s in there now, going over everything with Giles, trying to see if it’s even possible.”

Buffy nodded. “Spike and I are gonna go out and patrol.” Spike raised his eyebrows at the idea that she was deciding for him, but he didn’t object. “Let me know if you guys figure anything out,” she finished.

“Yeah, will do,” Xander said, giving the two of them one last suspicious look before heading back into the storefront.

Buffy breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Spike, surprised to see his eyes flaring with furious sparks of yellow.

“Won’t be your dirty little secret, Slayer.”

“I know,” she said, trying unsuccessfully to soothe him, as he jerked away from her touch. “I just – I wouldn’t know how to explain it to them. That I’m –”

“Using me to scratch an itch?” he broke in bitterly. “Why not? Afraid they'll think less of you?” He sneered at her. “I only wonder, pet – would it be worse if you told them it was just sex, or if they thought you were in love with me?”

Buffy stared at him, hurt, but also frightened by the question. She was pretty sure they’d be shocked, and maybe disappointed in her, if she said she was using Spike for sex. But ultimately, they’d understand. After what she’d been through – after what they’d put her through – they’d be able to forgive her for acting out like that.

But if she told them she loved Spike… it’d be the anti-Angel club all over again. Worse, because Spike didn’t even have a soul.

The problem was – the longer this went on, the harder it was to convince herself it was just about the sex. And that frightened the hell out of her.

“Well, I'm not,” she snapped back defensively, “so that's not an issue.”

He flinched as though she’d slapped him, and he said in a harsh, spiteful tone, “Right. How could I forget?”

There was such pain and depth of emotion on his face that Buffy softened immediately, her anger dissipating in the space of a second. “Look,” she said, in a gentler tone. “Once this singing thing is over – if I still… feel this way…”

“Then you'll tell them?” She couldn’t miss the note of hopefulness in his voice.

“I – I…” She stuttered, losing her nerve. “Spike, it’s been four days! I don’t know what to tell them – because I don’t know what this is yet.”

“You knew I loved you. Knew what you were getting into. If you’re not going to –”

“Spike, please,” she said, throwing up her hands. “Can we… not… do this now?”

Spike let out a disgusted sigh. “Right. Come on, then. Let’s just patrol, all right?”
Chapter #14 - Confessions of a Vampire
A/N: The song in this chapter is Confessions of a Vampire from "Dance of the Vampires," which is, by the way, one of the worst musicals ever, though I hear it's mildly better in German. This song is kind of cool, though. I had to rearrange a lot of the song, because I couldn't use some of the verses (for obvious reasons, if you listen to it).


Chapter 14: Confessions of a Vampire

Spike refused all her attempts at conversation, leaving them to walk in frustrated silence as they made the circuit through the usual cemeteries. After they’d dusted five vamps with no more than instinctual grunts and barked commands between them, Buffy finally couldn’t take it any longer.

“Do you really think I came back wrong?” she asked timidly.

The question was enough to stop him in his tracks as he turned and stared at her. “What?”

“You can hurt me. That has to mean I’m not human, right? I came back wrong.”

Spike shoved his hands into his duster pockets and tipped his head back, studying the sky for a moment before he sighed and dropped his gaze back to her. “Don’t rightly know, pet. Guess you’d have to ask the witches – once we find Tara, that is.”

Judging by the expression on her face, she’d been hoping for more comfort than that. Spike made a face as he wrestled with himself over what to say. “Still smell human,” he offered. He lifted one hand and let it run down her bare arm. “Still… feel human.”

Just as before, his touch sent tingles through her – only this time, it was a cold shiver of fear, rather than the heat of passion. “What if that’s why this is happening?” Buffy asked. “Us, I mean. What if… maybe I don’t have a soul anymore, and that’s why –”

“Bloody hell, Slayer. Of course you have a soul.”

“How do you know?” She looked up at him, unshed tears glistening in her eyes.

That brought him up short. “Well – I don’t, really.” He met her gaze. “But I know you, Slayer.”

“No – you don’t,” Buffy insisted. “Or you’d know that I’d never let myself love another vampire.” It was her first line of defense against Spike – pick a fight whenever he got too close. Distract him, drive him away, anything to keep him from sneaking into her heart the way he had been doing pretty much constantly for the past four days.

“Bollocks!” Spike growled, grabbing her by the shoulders and backing her into a tree. “I’m not him, and you bloody well know it.” She stared at him, startled by the sudden violence, her eyes wide, but not with fear. It was almost funny, in a way – ever since she and Spike had been doing… whatever it was they were doing, she seemed to be spending a lot of her time with her back up against the wall.

“And what’s more – you’re with me, and it’s because of what I am,” Spike went on, pressing himself against her, the tree bark digging into her spine. “Don’t try to deny it. Don’t tell me you don’t get off on it.” Just as he had in the Magic Box, one hand dropped to her crotch, where her pants were still damp from her last orgasm. He leaned in, so that his voice was a low rumble in her ear. “Don’t try to pretend you don’t come when I bite you.”

The way he said it, with his tepid breath on her neck and his fingers massaging her through her pants, it was almost enough to make her come right there. Then, he jerked his hand away, releasing her from his grasp as he backed up, leaving her panting with unfulfilled need.

“Go on,” he scoffed, “tell me there’s anyone else in the world can do what I do to you.” She opened her mouth to protest, but the only answer she managed was a choking gasp. He nodded once, and when he spoke, his voice was quieter and less taunting. “No one understands you like I do, Slayer. Thing is, I don’t think you understand me.”

“You’re a vampire,” she replied, distaste evident in her voice as she pushed off the tree to stand on her own two feet. Now that his tone was gentler and he wasn’t playing on her rough sex kink, she was finding it easier to regain her defiance and avoid that whole “melting into jelly” thing that was so inconvenient. “Evil, soulless killer. What more do I need to know?”

“So, that’s it?” he snapped. “You just write me off?” He lashed out angrily, swinging his fist but aiming at nothing. “What do you want me to do, Buffy?” he demanded. “You want me to get a soul? Is that what it'll take? Or will you just find another reason not to be with me?”

She stared at him coldly. “It's not like I'd have to look very hard.”

He froze, returning her gaze with a disbelieving stare of his own. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Hmm, let's see,” she replied, folding her arms across her chest and tilting her head in thought. “You tried to kill me and all my friends on multiple occasions. Or, how about you murdered two Slayers – not to mention the tens of thousands of innocent people you've killed. Are those good enough reasons?”


Taken aback, Buffy said, “What?” She hadn’t really expected him to give in, but even he had to admit those were pretty good reasons… right?

“Yeah, okay, I tried to kill your friends,” Spike admitted, pacing in front of her. “But how many times have I saved their buggerin’ lives since then? Helped save the bloody world, didn’t I? Oughta count for something.” He stopped pacing and whirled to face her, pointing an accusing finger at her. “And yeah, I’ve killed Slayers. Same as you kill vampires. We were enemies. It’s just how the game is played.”

“You think killing people is a game?”

“Oh, and what you do isn’t?” he scoffed. “Tell me you don't enjoy it.” She started to protest, but he cut her off. “Not the big, once a year ‘we all go to hell’ bollocks, but this…” He gestured around them at the cemetery. “Patrolling, scrapping with vamps every night. You love it.”

Leaning in close, Spike murmured in her ear, “Could feel it, when you were fighting me.” He pulled back so that he was looking her in the eye when he said, “We’re the same, you and me.”

“We are not the same,” Buffy replied, pushing him away from her. “I don’t kill innocent people.”

“Well, all right,” Spike intoned in a dramatic, operatic voice, looking up at the sky again as the mournful background music faded in.

“No stars tonight
The moon must hide
Can't bear to see my face”

He held his hand theatrically over his face, before dropping it to his side and turning toward Buffy, who rolled her eyes.

“So many moons have passed
So many suns gone down
Too much blood under the bridge
Too many worlds turned upside down”

“Oh, please. This is ridiculous.” With an exasperated shake of her head, Buffy turned to walk away from him, but Spike caught her by the arm, forcing her to turn back to him.


“What?” she snapped. “You're not sorry you killed them!”

“No, I'm not,” he admitted, as the background music changed, becoming more earnest and sincere. “I can't be sorry, Buffy. It’s just… what I am. Haven’t got a soul to prove to you…” He shrugged. “Besides, sorry gets you nothing, doesn't make up for it. Can't make up for it, can I?”

Buffy gave him an annoyed look. “What’s your point, Spike?”

He closed his eyes, letting the memories wash over him as he sang, savoring the sweetness of remorseless violence.

“So many victims washing on the shores
An ocean of pure tears,
So many pleas for mercy, howls of pain
Intoxicating fears”

When he opened his eyes again, Buffy was staring at him. “You're disgusting,” she said, punching him in the nose and wiping the expression off his face. “You – enjoyed it.”

“Course I did.” Spike caught her by the wrist before she could land another punch, and then responded with one of his own. “Vampire, right? You gotta understand that, gotta know what I was to see that I've changed.” He kicked her in the stomach, knocking her backwards against the wall of a nearby crypt.

“This? This is you…” She shoved him away with a grunt. “…changed?”

Ducking a roundhouse kick, he snarked back, “You started it, pet.”

He knew he had to keep pushing her – he needed her to accept him, demon and all, or it would never be the relationship he wanted. He sang forcefully as they continued to fight.

“I used my body just like a bandage,
I used their bodies just like a wound,
And I'll never know where they disappeared,
But I can see them rising up out of my memories now,
Just like the demons rising up from a tomb...”

Just as he hit the word “demons,” he slammed her down on a large flat stone monument and backed away. She sat up slowly, taking the opportunity to regroup as he spoke.

“No soul, but I’m haunted anyway, knowing what you think of me. It kills me, Buffy – trying to be good for you.”

She looked up at him, her anger softening, and Spike knew that what he was saying had started to affect her.

Crouching in front of the monument on which she was perched, he said softly, “Buffy, the only reason I’ve changed is because of you.”

Buffy shook her head in denial, but he knew he’d broken down her certainty. “The chip…” she said feebly.

Not the chip,” he insisted, rising to pace in front of her again. “May not be able to hurt people, but I could’ve done a fair bit of damage, yeah? Get minions to bring me food, do the dirty work. Hell, could’ve set fire to the whole damned town if I wanted to.” He watched her eyes widen, as though she’d never thought of the possibilities, of the ways he could’ve gotten around the chip’s restraints if he’d wanted to stay the Big Bad. “Didn’t have to switch to bagged blood. Didn’t have to help you and your bloody Scoobies, patrolling, fighting my own kind. Did it for you, pet. Wanted to prove to you I could…

“But there's no way ever to apologize,
Repent or make amends,
No release and no redemption,
And the hunger never ends...”

Buffy was surprised to find that she was holding back tears as she watched him. Spike was naked, vulnerable, exposing everything of himself to her. The man, the demon, and everything in between. She began to understand his struggle, his inner chaos, the way his love for her had made him more of a man, but not enough to quash the demon within. She saw him trying to reconcile his two dueling natures, to be the man she wanted him to be.

And she found it echoed her own struggle – her desire to give in to him, to surrender to the emotions she could no longer deny, even when every fiber of her being vibrated with the wrongness of it. Her senses screamed at her, “Vampire!” and her slayer-trained mind called him a killer, a murderer, worthy of her stake and nothing more.

But he was challenging her to see him, just as he was, not as measured against the benchmarks Angel had left, not as the Council had taught her to see him. Challenging her to forgive what he had done in his past, to love him for who he had become… for who he still might be, with her by his side.

“Spike…” she whispered, standing up to approach him, but he was already propelled into the next verse, the music swelling behind him, drawing into the big finale.

“And when I grasped for life,” Spike sang bitterly, reaching out a hand to clutch the air.

“I always killed the things for which I yearned
I wish to be a flame and reduce to ashes
But I have never burned”

His head tilted back, his arms spread as he sang to the sky, “I long to fly in total freedom, and yet these chains keep dragging me down.” Then, he fell to his knees in front of her.

“I want to be an angel or the devil himself
But I am nothing but a creature longing for the things I can’t have!”

He held his arms out, bearing his chest to her as though expecting a staking, stripped of all pretenses. Just Spike, beautiful, passionate, tender, reckless and fierce. Her lover, her freedom, her protection.

Buffy’s hand shot up to cover her mouth in shock. She took a hesitant step backwards, and Spike deflated, certain he’d gone too far, frightened her away.

Then, without warning, she dropped to her knees and fell into his arms. Her mouth found his, capturing him in a desperate, fervent kiss, and he could taste the salt of her tears as she collapsed bonelessly into his longing embrace.
Chapter #15 - Across the Universe
A/N: Jeepers, lot of songs in this chapter. Tara's song is If I Could Only Dream This World Away (somewhat overacted, I think it should be quieter and more subdued), and Willow's song is All For Laura, both from "The Woman in White." Buffy's song is Unexpected Song, from "Tell Me On a Sunday." By the by, I must have listened to a dozen different versions of this song, trying to find the right one. Apparently, Sarah Brightman did a way too up-tempo version that everyone insists on copying. So, even though it's a woman's song, I ended up with good old Michael Crawford.


Chapter 15: Across the Universe

Tara stood soberly, gazing out the large windows of the throne room. It hadn’t taken her long to realize that Sweet’s castle on a cloud was little more than a prison. She hadn’t been allowed to leave the room since he’d brought her in – magical barriers blocked the doors, which were also guarded by those creepy minions with the ventriloquist’s dummy heads.

The only viable exit led to a small suite – bedroom, bathroom, and modest sitting area, all tastefully decorated and furnished with antique mahogany furniture – which Tara had been informed was her new home. Each room had large windows looking out on the world she would never be allowed to explore. She had been told that all her food would be brought to her, whenever she requested it, though she had yet to test that out. As soon as Sweet left her alone, she collapsed on the large bed, exhausted from the night’s adventures.

She slept through the entire day, waking to find her windows to the outside world had darkened. Two glowing moons hung suspended in the sky amidst the stars. At least the moons had each other; she was alone in this strange, unfriendly place.

Suddenly, she was hit with a pang of longing so strong it nearly overwhelmed her.

She missed Willow.

Despite what had happened, despite the redheaded witch’s own part in sending her here, Tara couldn’t help wishing her girlfriend was there with her. Anything seemed bearable with Willow by her side. She regretted the way they’d fought, the way things had ended up. She wished she’d done things differently, tried to teach Willow the proper uses of magic instead of just ignoring it until she couldn’t hold it inside anymore. Tried to talk to her instead of just moving out.

Raising one hand to the windowpane, running her fingers over the glass as though stroking her lover’s face, Tara began to sing.

“If I could only dream this world away
I'd awake
In you arms
If I could keep this bitter life at bay
Wide awake
In your arms”

She began to drift throughout the suite, wandering aimlessly through the rooms as her mournful tune went on.

“The vow that keeps me from you
I cannot undo
I'm lost
Lost in a fantasy that can't come true

“If I could only dream this world away
I'd awake
In your arms
I long to sleep forever
Dreaming only of you
I'm lost
How many nights like this can I go through?”

She was just starting to wonder how long it would take to grow her hair out, to use as rope for escaping out the window, Rapunzel style, when she heard a voice in her head.

‘Tara? Tara, baby, are you there?’

Tara reached out through the psychic link and felt for Willow’s presence. ‘Willow? Willow, I’m here!’

A long time went by before she heard the response, faint and hesitant in her head. ‘…Tara?’

‘I’m here! Willow, you have to help me!’


Tara felt the connection wavering. They’d never tried to sustain it between dimensions before. She poured all her emotional strength into maintaining the link. ‘Willow, can you hear me?’

The reply was barely audible, fading in and out. ‘I’m… find you, baby… gonna get you back.’

Tara squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on one thought with everything she had.

‘I love you.’


‘I’m gonna find you, baby. I promise I’m gonna get you back,’ Willow said, silently but forcefully. She got no answer, but sent one final message across time and space before easing her concentration and letting out a long, slow breath. ‘I love you, baby. And I’m sorry.’

She collapsed onto her bed, hugging a pillow tightly to her chest, her emotions on overload. At least she knew now. She knew for sure that Tara was alive.

It was late, and she knew she ought to get some sleep, especially if she wanted to have the energy to pull off the spells she’d need to get Tara back. But sleep wouldn’t come, and she couldn’t expel the restlessness that plagued her.

“Inner voices
Keeping me awake
Will I ever sleep again?
Everything I’ve done
Choices that I can’t explain
All for Tara
This is what I claimed
All for Tara
Have I betrayed you?”

Her voice wavered as she sang, her sadness pouring out of her, flowing into the music, feeding it, letting it gather momentum, increasing in volume and tempo.

“With our old life
Ever out of reach
Look at what I’ve led you to
God forgive me
Look at what I’ve done
Look how I protected you
All for Tara
Shouldn't I have known?

“All for Tara
Was it really you
Who I was thinking of?
All for Tara
But at the start
Were you foremost in my heart?”

Rising from the bed, Willow moved to stand at the window, gently brushing aside the curtains to peer out at the empty backyard, drenched in amorphous shadows. The moon glimmered overhead, casting a bluish glow over everything.

“All for Tara
That’s how I’ll live
Till I save you
Till you forgive me
I’ll dedicate my life
I swear upon my soul
I’ll find a way to set you free”

Gripping the windowsill, Willow sang with fortitude, her voice crisp and clear.

“All for Tara
Till my dying breath
Long as you’re in need of me
I will somehow learn to be strong
I will live to right this wrong!”


Gasping for breath, Buffy broke the kiss, turning her face into Spike’s neck and inhaling his sweet and smoky scent. She tightened her arms around him, nestling in his strong embrace, but he pulled back to look her in the eyes.

“Buffy, what – ? Are you… is this…?” His voice broke, unable to form the questions that were rattling around in his brain. He was having trouble processing that Buffy was kissing him – that he had shown her exactly what kind of monster he was, and she was still kissing him.

Buffy brought one hand up to gently caress his cheek. “I have never felt like this,” she confessed to him hesitantly in song, both of them still on their knees in the middle of the cemetery. “For once I'm lost for words. Your smile has really thrown me.” She ran her fingertips across his lips, causing them to curve upwards into the smile she sang about.

“This is not like me at all
I never thought I'd know
The kind of love you've shown me”

The faint piano accompaniment grew stronger, as Buffy ran her hands down Spike’s arms, intertwining her fingers with his when she reached his hands. She stood, pulling him upright along with her.

“Now, no matter where I am
No matter what I do
I see your face appearing”

Again, she stroked his face with soft, tender touches, her eyes never leaving his.

“Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing”

“What does that mean?” Spike asked her hoarsely.

“It means I know who you are,” Buffy replied. “And it doesn’t matter. None of it matters anymore.”

“So, just like that… I sing a song, and all’s forgiven?” His voice was hesitant, and his brain kept trying to tell him something about gift horses.

“It – it wasn’t just the song, Spike,” she told him, letting one hand slip inside his leather coat, tracing the muscles of his stomach through his thin cotton t-shirt. “You’ve been so good to me, ever since I came back. And – and before, too. Dawn… she told me what you did for her… for everyone. Helping out when you thought I was gone.”

He gave her a sad smile, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. “Made a promise.”

“I know, and I – I never said thank you. And then, your song… I know that – I know I put you in those chains, with the way I treated you, and – and telling you that you can never be good. I was wrong, Spike. You won’t be a good man… you already are.”

He looked at her, amazed. “Buffy, are you…?”

“I…” – can’t say that word – “…care about you.” Buffy looked into his eyes. “I’m yours. And I want – I want to give you all those things you think you can’t have.”

Spike closed his eyes briefly, a joyful, relieved smile crossing his face. “You, Buffy… all I wanted was you.”

Buffy kissed him, and then the music, which had been playing softly in the background all along, crescendoed again, prompting her to continue her song.

“I don't know what is going on
Can't work it out at all
Whatever made you choose me?”

Spike leaned in, pressing kisses over her eyes, her nose, her cheeks. It suited her, this song, so very like her to show him how she felt without ever saying those few precious words. But she knew how much he loved her, and whether she would say it or not, he understood now that she shared his feelings.

“I just can't believe my eyes
You look at me as though
You couldn't bear to lose me”

Spike grew serious then, his arms tightening around her as he buried his face in her hair, letting her scent surround him, fruity and intoxicating and musky and Buffy. “Lost you once, love. Couldn’t ever do it again.”


He looked down at her, finding her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “What is it, love?”

“I want you to know… They didn’t bring me back to life, Spike. You did.” When he gave her a quizzical look, Buffy added, “Maybe they did the spell, but – I wouldn’t be… Without you…” She sighed. Unable to put her emotions into words, she simply repeated, “You brought me back.”

He didn’t speak, simply kissed her breathless again. When he finally released her, she sang,

“Now, no matter where I am
No matter what I do
I see your face appearing
Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing”

As the music faded to a quiet background ambiance, Buffy leaned into him and asked, “Spike? Walk me home?”

The spell was broken in an instant, and Spike’s face fell. “Yeah… sure, pet.” He looked down at his boots. “’S just… thought we’d go back to my crypt… y’know…”

Buffy shook her head. “I can’t. I can’t leave Dawn another night. I’m already in the running for the Worst Sister Ever Award.”

“Right,” he replied, pulling away from her, his disappointment evident, even though he knew she had a valid point. “Right. Niblet comes first.”

Buffy put her arms around him again, kissing him gently. “You’re coming with me, doofus.”

He pulled back in surprise. “Huh? You mean…”

“I want to make love to you in my bed.”

That was all the encouragement Spike needed, putting their supernatural speed to use as he raced back to the house with Buffy in tow. They crept silently up the stairs, careful not to wake Dawn or Willow. Once they were securely behind the closed door of her bedroom, Buffy collapsed into his arms, out of breath and choking back giggles.

“Gotta be quiet, pet,” he whispered in her ear as he held her close.

“Guess I’ll just have to keep that mouth of yours occupied,” she whispered back with a wicked grin.

Spike let out a low growl. “Think I’ve got a few ideas.” With that, he swept her up in his arms and deposited her on the bed, smothering Buffy’s squeal with a kiss as he jumped on top of her. He peeled her clothes off slowly, almost reverently, kissing her skin as it emerged from beneath her shirt. She pushed his duster off his shoulders, but after shrugging out of it, he lost interest in his own undressing, focused on the nipple he was teasing to a peak in his mouth, his hands causing goose bumps as his fingers roamed up her sides and down her arms and over the curve of her breast. He left a wet trail down her stomach, swirling his tongue around her belly button before continuing on his downward path.

Buffy let out a gasp as she felt his tongue lap against her opening, and she let her hands stroke through his hair, gently loosening his curls. With the most tender of touches, Spike’s tongue slipped between her folds, taking the time to taste her as though it were the first time. She arched her back, urging him on, unable to take his slow pace. Reading her cues, Spike’s hands slid up her thighs to grip her hips as he delved into her harder and faster.

Buffy squirmed, thrusting against his face, digging her heels into his back. He brought his mouth up to her clit, teasing her, licking and sucking until she was on the verge of tears. His fingers joined his eager tongue, plunging into her depths as his mouth worked over her clit, and then suddenly she was whirling through space, stars exploding into supernovas before her eyes. Buffy turned her head to the side, burying her face in her pillow to muffle her cries.

When her thighs finally stopped quivering, Spike kissed his way back up to her mouth, letting her taste herself on his lips. Buffy gave him a blissful smile, and then began to sing softly as she undressed him.

“Now, no matter where I am
No matter what I do
I see your face appearing
Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing

“Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing”

Spike pressed his fingers against her lips, and Buffy drew them into her mouth, her own juices tart on her tongue. Withdrawing his hand, Spike replaced it with his lips, his legs twining with hers as the kiss deepened, pressing his hardness against her as her soft, pliant body molded to his. Buffy pulled him on top of her and took a moment to drink in the sculpted-marble figure above her. Running her hands down his rippled chest, she whispered, “Make love to me.”

“Every time,” he murmured, knowing that her words were less a request of him – for it was what he had always done – and more a statement of her own intentions, though she couldn’t yet bring herself to say the words he longed to hear.

Sliding downward, easing into her, sheathing himself in her warmth, Spike began to do exactly what she asked.
Chapter #16 - Running Away
A/N: The song in this chapter is No More from "Into the Woods."


Chapter 16: Running Away

“Hello?” Dawn called, coming in the front door after school. “Anybody home?”

She got no response. Making her way into the kitchen, she noticed that her cereal bowl from that morning was still sitting in the kitchen sink, and the open cereal box was still on the counter where she’d left it. She had been in a rush – she’d overslept her alarm and no one had been around to wake her up.

Dawn could tell Willow hadn’t been downstairs all day; otherwise, she would’ve cleaned up. Buffy, on the other hand, would have left a terse note telling her to wash her dishes or she was grounded. Instead, it looked like nothing had been disturbed all day.

They can’t possibly still be sleeping, Dawn thought to herself, as she made a peanut butter and fluff sandwich. Of course, knowing Buffy, she probably wasn’t even there. I bet she didn’t come home again last night, she thought resentfully. It’s not like she’s been much with the caring lately.

But even when she was out all night, Buffy had still always made it back by morning. What if something happened to her?

Scarfing down her sandwich, Dawn dumped her dirty dishes in the sink on top of the cereal bowl and headed upstairs to find Willow. She’d been all weepy and mopey ever since the thing with Tara, but she was also the only adult in the house, and if something had happened to Buffy, well… Willow would just have to snap out of it.

The witch’s door was still closed, indicating that she hadn’t gotten up yet. Dawn let out an exasperated sigh, and was just about to knock on the door when something else down the hall caught her eye.

Buffy’s door was closed, too. That meant she was here – though God only knew what time she’d gotten in – and was probably still sleeping.

“Buffy,” Dawn said, barging in without knocking. Serves her right for making me worry. “If you don’t get your ass out of… bed…”

She trailed off in shock, faced with, in fact, an ass.

Spike’s, to be precise. Buffy was lying on her back, Spike on his stomach next to her, an arm and a leg draped possessively across her body, his face nestled in the crook of her neck. Both of them were naked, the covers tangled at their feet. While the position of Spike’s limbs concealed most of her sister, Dawn was still left with the unexpected sight of the vampire’s lily-white bottom. So, she did the only logical thing she could do, given the situation.

She screamed.

Buffy and Spike awoke with a start. Catching sight of Dawn in the doorway, they, too, screamed, as Buffy scrambled for the covers and Spike dove off the far side of the bed to avoid the younger girl’s eyes.

“Oh, my God…” Dawn managed, as she pointed a shaky finger at the bed. Her jaw continued to work, but no further sound could be forced from her throat.

“Dawnie – oh, God… what did you see?” Buffy asked, clutching the covers to her chest. “Don’t you knock?”

“Um… naked ass,” Dawn said, her eyes wide. “Naked Spike ass,” she clarified, prompting Spike to pop his head up sheepishly from behind the bed.

“Sorry, Bit,” he mumbled, before glancing at Buffy. “Told you we shoulda gone to my crypt.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well, if you’d locked the door…”

“Oh, my God, Buffy!” Dawn’s voice took on a hysterical tone, but it seemed to be happy hysterical, rather than angry or frightened hysterical. “You and Spike… are you guys…? How long?” she demanded.

Buffy and Spike exchanged a look. “A few days. Since the night at the Bronze,” Buffy admitted.

Dawn’s expression suddenly changed to one of comprehension. “So, that’s where you’ve been all week… Oh, my God!” she squealed again.

“You’re not… mad?” Buffy asked her hesitantly.

“No! Probably scarred for life…” – she shot another glance at Spike – “but not mad.”

“Okay, then, could you, uh, go away now?” Buffy glared at her, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. “We’ll, um, be downstairs in a minute to talk about… things.”

Dawn nodded and left the room, but did a quick double take before she closed the door behind her. As scarring as it was to see her sister naked in bed with a guy, she had to admit…

Spike’s ass was pretty nice.


Giles looked up from the cash register as Xander came into the Magic Box.

“Hello, Xander,” he said, but the boy barely even acknowledged him. “Xander? Are you all right?”

Xander glanced distractedly at the Watcher. “Oh, uh, yeah. Fine.”

“If you’re looking for Anya, she’s not here,” Giles told him. “She had a meeting of some sort.”

“Yeah… Small Business Owners… something… Association.” Xander continued to wander aimlessly through the store, his eyes flicking over the merchandise as though his mind were preoccupied elsewhere.

“Xander… are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine, Giles,” Xander said exasperatedly, pulling a small envelope out of his coat pocket and studying it. “I’m just…”

“Worried about Willow?”

Xander looked at him, surprised. “Oh. Yeah, I guess.”

Giles could tell from his reaction that it was more than Willow that was concerning him. “Anxious about the wedding planning, perhaps?”

“No. No, not at all.” This time, Xander avoided his eyes, turning the envelope over and over in his hands.

Giles came out from behind the counter, concerned about the young man’s behavior. “It’s quite understandable. A wedding can be a terribly stressful time. I know that Anya has been quite –”

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Xander interrupted.

“Of course,” the Watcher conceded. “I just thought… with so many women around, you might want another male perspective.”

Xander stood silently, avoiding the other man’s eyes for a long moment, torn between wanting to keep his problems a secret and feeling the need to confide in someone. Finally, he said quietly, “There’s not going to be a wedding.”

Giles’ mouth dropped open in shock. “What… I don’t understand. What do you mean?” He took off his glasses and began polishing them with a handkerchief. “Have you and Anya called it off?”

Xander shook his head. “Not yet. I – I’m leaving her.”

The older man’s expression softened with sympathy. “Xander…”

“I don’t wanna talk about it!” he snapped, before breaking into song.

“No more questions
No more tests
Comes the day you say, ‘What for?’
Please – no more”

Giles let out a sigh. “They disappoint, they disappear, they die but they don’t.”

“What?” Xander asked, confused.

“They disappoint in turn, I fear,” Giles sang. “Forgive, though, they won’t.”

Xander shook his head in frustration, sinking down in a chair at the research table.

“No more riddles
No more jests
No more curses you can’t undo
Left by fathers who hated you
No more quests
No more feelings
Time to shut the door
Just – no more”

Nodding in understanding, Giles put his glasses back on. “You’re afraid of turning out like your father.”

“He was a drunk,” Xander said bitterly. “And an abusive husband and a lousy father.”

“And you think leaving Anya is the solution?”

“Only way to protect her,” he replied with regret. “What if I turn out…?” Xander shook his head. “I can’t take that chance.”

“Ah,” Giles said knowingly. Leaning on the table across from Xander, he began to sing again.

“Running away – let’s do it
Free from the ties that bind
No more despair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder”

The last line was accompanied by a fluttering hand motion as Giles gestured off to the side.

“No, I get this,” Xander interrupted, tapping the edge of the envelope on the table nervously. “This is like reverse psychology or something.”

“It’s just advice, Xander,” Giles assured him. “You might do well to listen.

“Running away – go to it
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care
Unless there’s a ‘where’
You’ll only be wandering blind
Just more questions
Different kind”

Xander studied the older man, as though giving the words some serious thought. Then, he glanced at the note in his hand, his cowardly escape. He didn’t have a plan beyond leaving the note in the Magic Box for Anya to find. He hadn’t thought about leaving Sunnydale, though of course, it’d be terribly awkward to stay. Anya pretty much lived with him now – would he make her move out? Would he leave?

“Where are we to go?” Giles went on, echoing his thoughts. “Where are we ever to go?

“Running away – we’ll do it
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son
The farther you run
The more you feel undefined
For what you’ve left undone
And, more, what you’ve left behind”

Now lost in his own thoughts, Giles reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his plane ticket, studying it intently.

“What’s that?” Xander asked. “What…” He trailed off, catching sight of the BA logo. “You’re leaving. You can’t leave! Buffy needs you! We all need you.”

“You don’t, really,” said the Watcher sadly. “Not anymore.”

Xander’s face fell, only to see Giles rip up the ticket in the next moment.

“But I don’t think I’m ready to give up what I’d be leaving behind.”

Xander breathed a sigh of relief, and then his eyes widened with amusement. “You reverse psychologied yourself, didn’t you?”

“No, I…” Giles’ protest died on his lips, a small smile creeping onto his face. “Well, yes, I suppose so.” He looked at the young man across the table. “And you?”

Xander glanced down at his hands and silently ripped up the envelope he was holding. Giles nodded.

“We disappoint, we leave a mess, we die but we don’t,” the Watcher sang.

“We disappoint in turn, I guess,” Xander picked up the melody. “Forget, though, we won’t.”

They locked eyes and sang together, “Like father, like son.”

With a sigh, Xander rose from the table, hands shoved in his pockets as he wandered to the front of the store and gazed out the window.

“No more demons
Waging war
Can’t we just pursue our lives
With our children and our wives?
’Til that happy day arrives
How do you ignore
All the witches
All the curses
All the wolves, all the lies
The false hopes, the goodbyes
The reverses,
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?

“All the children...
All the demons...

“No more”
Chapter #17 - Walk Through the Fire
A/N: Okay, the first song should be pretty obvious. :) The second one is Do You Love Me from "Fiddler on the Roof."

Chapter 17: Walk Through the Fire

Buffy and Dawn were already at the Magic Box when Spike came up through the basement, restricted to the sewers in the waning afternoon light while they’d taken the above-ground route.

Anya had returned from her meeting, and Xander was seated uncomfortably next to her at the research table. Dawn, too, sat at the table, while Giles stood behind the counter and Buffy paced the shop.

The Slayer stopped in her tracks, her head turning toward the basement door at the sound of Spike’s entrance, and she greeted him with a smile.

“Miss anything?” he asked.

“You’re not needed, Evil Dead,” Xander cut in, before Buffy had a chance to respond. “Why don’t you take a walk outside or something?”

“Because I want him here,” Buffy replied, more sharply than expected, her hand reaching out to take Spike’s.

“Buffy, there’s no need to get upset,” said Giles, “and – and… are you holding hands?” he finished, in a higher register than his normal voice.

“They’re dating,” Dawn said chirpily, earning wide-eyed looks from the others, including her sister.

Giles turned back to his Slayer and asked, “Buffy, is that true?”

Buffy’s eyes darted back and forth, from Giles to Spike to Dawn. She’d known she would have to face this eventually, but she’d been hoping to ease into it a little, rather than having to answer a point-blank question. Dawn and her big mouth were so grounded.

“Well, we’re not… dating so much as… I mean, there haven’t been any actual dates…” She felt Spike’s hand tighten in hers, giving her an encouraging, but also insistent, squeeze. “Yes,” she declared, lifting her chin and meeting her Watcher’s eyes. “Spike’s with me now.”

With you,” Giles repeated, taking off his glasses and polishing them for the second time in as many hours. “Oh, dear.”

“Buffy, what are you doing? Are you crazy?” Xander demanded, leaping up from the table. Then, he let out a relieved sigh as he came to the only thing that passed for a logical conclusion. “It’s a spell, right?” He turned to Dawn. “It’s just a spell, right, Dawnie? Buffy would never… We can fix this –”

“It’s not a spell, Xander,” Buffy interrupted. “This is real.”

The argument erupted then, with all of them talking at once, as Spike jabbed an angry finger into Xander’s chest while he and Dawn staunchly defended Buffy to the distressed young man, who was in turn hurling accusations at Buffy while she furiously cut off Giles’ attempts at a lecture.

Meanwhile, Anya just sat silently at the table, a resigned expression on her face as her fiancé showed more concern for his friend’s love life than he had for his own relationship. It didn’t matter to her whether Spike and Buffy were together – it made sense, really, with them both being super-powered and everything. Anya didn’t understand what the big deal was. She’d killed way more people than Spike had, and no one seemed to object to her marrying Xander.

Except, she suspected, Xander himself. But he still hadn’t brought himself to say anything yet, so she could only continue on making wedding plans as though nothing was wrong, even while gripped with the horrible fear that he didn’t really love her and was only marrying her out of some sense of obligation. She should’ve known that whole “proposal right before the world ended” thing was a bad idea. When the world didn’t end, that is.

Finally, Xander’s voice rose above the din, forcing the rest of them to yield. “But, Buffy, it’s – it’s… Spike!”

“That’s kind of the point,” Buffy shot back. “Spike has been there for me, and cared for me, when you guys had no idea what kind of pain I was going through.”

“In all fairness, Buffy, you didn’t tell us what you were going through,” Giles said, more reserved than the rest of them.

“That’s because you were so – so proud!” She spun angrily back to face Xander and Anya. “You were so proud of yourselves and what you’d done. And you wanted me to be happy. So, I gave you that, and no one cared what it was doing to me.” Buffy backed away from them, standing in the center of the room as her song began.

“You brought me back into a world of pain
I look into it and it’s black
He made me feel like I was something real
I want that feeling back”

Turning to Spike, she extended her hand across the distance between them.

“Now through the smoke he calls to me
To make my way across the flame
Not fade away, but live another day
Feelings that have no name”

With slow, deliberate steps that matched the beat of the music, Buffy walked toward Spike, her hand outstretched.

“So I will walk through the fire
’Cause where else can I turn
I will walk through the fire and let it…”

Grabbing hold of Buffy’s outstretched hand, Spike pulled her close to him and sang to her.

“You know that I’d do anything
I’d have saved you if I’d known how
But then you died and something broke inside
But I can save you now

“And I will walk through the fire
I guess I’ll never learn
I will walk through the fire and let it…”

Shaking his head with concern, Giles donned his spectacles as he provided the bridge.

“I should have stopped this from the start
When Angel came and stole your heart
A vampire’s love will only cause you strife”

“Buffy, you’re not thinking straight,”
Xander chimed in. “Wanting who you used to hate.”

“Why don’t you just butt out of her life?”
Dawn snapped, defending her sister.

“That isn’t true. We only want what’s best for you,” Xander sang to Buffy in reply, and then he was joined by Giles and Anya. “And we will walk through the fire…”

Buffy looked at her friends reproachfully.

“So one by one, you turn from me
I guess my friends can’t face the truth
You drove me here, into the arms you fear
And now I can’t be moved”

Then, she turned to Spike, and they sang to one another, each lost in their lover’s gaze, as though no one else was in the room.

“And we are caught in the fire
The point of no return
So we will walk through the fire
And let it burn
Let it burn
Let it burn!”

As the last notes faded away, Spike tipped his head forward to rest his forehead against Buffy’s. She ran her hands up and down his arms reassuringly, and then turned back to the group. “Short version: Spike stays. Anyone who has a problem with it has a problem with me.”

“Buffy…” Giles started with a sigh.

“I mean it, Giles,” Buffy warned. “I’m tired of you all dictating my life all the time. I’m not going to let you take away the one person that’s meant everything to me since I’ve been back.” From directly behind her, she heard Spike’s slight intake of breath at her declaration, and her ferocity faded away. “I need him with me,” she said more softly, “and I can’t – I don’t want to have this fight, okay?”

“It’s just… this is quite sudden,” Giles said. “Surely you understand it takes time to – to adjust to –”

“Fine. You have five minutes,” Buffy told him, hurrying back to the training room before she broke down in front of them.

Spike met the Watcher’s eyes for a long moment. He didn’t expect to wring approval from the other man just yet, but he silently made his intentions clear before following Buffy to the back. Dawn caught his gaze as he passed the table, and she gave him a smile, letting him know that she’d be representing Team Spike in his and the Slayer’s absence.

As soon as Spike left the room, the others erupted in concerned discussion, but the sound was quickly silenced as Spike closed the door behind him. “Hey,” he said softly, coming up behind Buffy where she was staring blankly at the wall, resting his hands on her shoulders. “You’re a bit of all right, you know that?”

The beginnings of smile crossed her lips, but she ducked her head, not turning to face him. Spike slid his hands down her arms until she was wrapped up in him. “Knew it’d be hard, pet. But you did it.”

She didn’t respond, but he could smell the salt of the tears welling up in her eyes. “They’ll come around, love. Niblet’s out there, won’t let a one of ’em say a word against you.”

This time, a smile did form, and Buffy turned around in his arms to bury her face in the hollow of his throat. A laughing sob escaped her as she wrapped her arms around his waist. “This is real,” she whispered, a note of disbelief in her voice. “This is – I mean, we’re…”

“’S what you wanted, right?” Spike asked, with a shade of uncertainty. “What you said last night…?”

He felt her head bobbing up and down against his chest. “I want you, Spike. I mean it – I’m yours.”

A comforting affirmation, but still shy of the words he desperately longed to hear. Spike pulled away enough so that he could look at her. “Buffy? Do you love me?”

“Do I…
what?” Buffy replied, taken off-guard.

Spike, too, seemed surprised at the words that were coming out of his mouth, but as usual, he couldn’t resist the music’s spell. “Do you love me?”

“Do I love you?”
Buffy backed out of his embrace. “With Tara getting kidnapped, and Sweet still lying low, and all of them freaking out…” – she gestured toward the door, behind which her friends were still talking animatedly – “Why can’t you let it go?” When he tilted his head to the side in a pout, she threw up her hands and added, “Spike, don’t give me that expression!”

“Buffy, I'm asking you a question…” He took her by the shoulders again, looking her square in the eye as he sang, “Do you love me?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “You're a fool.”

Spike gave her a slight smile. “I know… But do you love me?”

“Do I love you?”
Buffy stepped away from him again and strode toward the door.

“With all that we’ve been through together
You know that there are feelings there
But think about what’s going down”

Reaching the door, she pulled it open, oblivious to whatever was happening on the other side, and spun in the doorway to face him. “With so much at stake, why talk about love right now?”

“Buffy,” Spike said seriously, aware that the others had stopped their conversation and were watching them, but focused only on the woman in front of him.

“The first time I met you
That night behind the Bronze
I was bad”

“Said I’d die,”
Buffy chimed in.

Spike smiled. “Now I’m changing…”

“So am I.”

Spike reached out to cradle her face gently in his hand, his fingertips running from her temple down along her jaw, tipping up her chin.

“And since your resurrection
You have matched me in affection
And now I'm asking, Buffy
Do you love me?”

“I'm your girl,”
Buffy responded evasively, turning away from him to avoid his eyes.

“I know,” Spike replied. “But do you love me?”

“Do I love him?”
Buffy sang, reflecting to herself.

“For so many years I've fought with him
Been angry and distraught with him
Now I find my heart is his
If that's not love, what is?”

Spike came around and stood in front of her. “Then you love me?”

With a relenting smile, Buffy replied, “I suppose I do.”

Spike pulled her into his arms. “And I suppose I love you, too.”

“It doesn’t change a thing,”
they sang together. “But even so… After all we’ve been through, it's nice to know.”

Across the room, Anya tilted her head to the side as she gazed at the couple, her expression softened with emotion. “It’s sort of beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Xander replied flatly, affected more than he was willing to let on. “In a bile-in-my-mouth sort of way. Listen, Ahn, I need to talk to you.” Taking her arm, he pulled her away from the others and lowered his voice, his eyes focused on the scuffed toes of his shoes. “I – I think we should postpone the wedding.”

Anya went pale. “What?”

“I love you, Ahn,” he said, his head snapping up to look at her. “I need you to know that, but…” He sighed. “I’m not ready.” Before she could get upset, he rushed to reassure her, “It’s not you – I love you, so much, and I thought I’d be ready for this marriage thing, but… it’s a big step, and – and I want to do this right. I don’t want us to end up like my parents, resenting each other, but staying together because they don’t know what else to do. I – I need to be sure.”

“You’re not sure you want to marry me?” she asked in a small voice.

“No! God, no, that’s not it. I’m not sure of – of me,” Xander said. “I don’t know if I’m good enough, if I’m – what you deserve. And I don’t want to marry you until I am.” He took her hands in his. “But I do want to marry you.”

“Oh,” Anya said slowly, digesting his speech. “Well, that’s… okay. I – I guess it gives me more time to plan, right?” She perked up a little. “And besides, the bridesmaid situation is all up in the air, what with Tara gone missing, and who knows what Willow’s going to do. I mean, she could end up getting us all killed, and then there’d be no wedding at all…”

Xander suddenly looked stricken. “Oh, God. Will.” Turning to the group, he asked, panicking, “Guys! Has anyone seen Willow?”

Buffy and Dawn exchanged a look. “We haven’t seen her,” Dawn replied. “I think she was up in her room all day.”

“You mean…” Xander trailed off as he met Giles’ eyes, which were also full of concern. “She was dead set on doing that spell… and no one’s seen her since yesterday?”

That was when everybody disappeared.
Chapter #18 - All Manner of Hells
A/N: I'm back from vacation! Did you miss me? :) Willow's song is This is the Moment from "Jekyll and Hyde," and the princes' song is Agony from "Into the Woods." This clip is pretty much exactly how I picture them, since it's the cast I'm familiar with, so you should get a good idea of what they're doing in the scene.


Chapter 18: All Manner of Hells

Taking a deep breath, Willow surveyed the magical ingredients laid out on the bed in front of her. Sitting cross-legged with a dusty old tome open on her lap, she gathered her focus and concentration, preparing to open the dimensional portal that would lead her to Tara – theoretically, without collapsing the fabric of the universe.

“Okay, this is it,” she said to herself, trying to shake off her nerves and psych herself up. “You can do this.” She took another breath, and began to sing as she mixed the different components of the spell.

“This is the moment
This is the day
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way”

Opening a Ziploc sandwich baggie of blue powder, she pinched a small amount between her fingers and sprinkled it over the leafy herbs in a small bowl by her knee.

“Every endeavor
I have made ever
Is coming into play
Is here and now – today”

Picking up a small wooden-handled knife carved with mythical runes, she sliced it across her palm and let the blood drip into the bowl. After a moment, she grabbed a cloth, cleaned the knife, and wrapped it around her hand, pressing her fingers into her palm to stop the bleeding.

“This is the moment
This is the time
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme”

With her good hand, she opened a second plastic baggie, this one containing red powder, and sprinkled a pinch over the bowl.

“Give me this moment
This precious chance
I'll gather up my past
And make some sense at last”

As the music swelled, she uttered a phrase in an unknown demon language, and the mixture in the bowl suddenly burst into a mystical red flame. The flame grew larger, swirling into a vortex in front of the wide-eyed witch. Just as she had time to think that she shouldn’t have done this alone, she felt herself being sucked into the portal by a force too strong to resist. Then, Willow was gone, along with her spell book and the knife, and the fiery red portal shrank and then winked out of existence.


“Okay,” Xander said cautiously, looking around at the sunlight-dappled forest on all sides of the clearing they’d suddenly found themselves in. “What the hell just happened?”

Before anyone could respond, Spike suddenly yelled, “I’m on fire!” and set off at a sprint for the shade. After only a few steps, though, he came to an abrupt halt, peering down at himself, and then up at the sun. “Oh. Never mind.” A grin slowly crept across his face as he casually walked back to the others.

“That’s great,” Buffy replied distractedly. “Where are we? And how’d we get here?”

“Uh, hi, guys,” Willow said with a sheepish wave as she emerged from the edge of the clearing.

Six pairs of eyes turned to stare at her. “Willow, what is going on?” Buffy asked. “What the hell did you do?”

“This is Sweet’s dimension!” she told them excitedly. “I transported us here, so we can rescue Tara.” She paused, clutching her spell book to her chest. “Well, actually, I only meant to transport myself, and I was kind of hoping I’d pop up a little closer to where Tara actually was, but somehow I must have dragged you guys along…”

“You foolish, foolish girl,” Giles said, his voice cold and calm, his gaze hard.

“You did this?” Buffy exclaimed. “Willow, how could you? You dragged my sister here! You put her in danger!”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “I’m not in danger, Buffy. What’s gonna happen, the trees grow arms and kidnap me or something?”

The Slayer whirled to face her sister. “We have no idea what’s out there! There could be demons or – or wild animals, or – what if someone finds out she’s the Key?” she finished, directing the last accusation back toward Willow.

“Buffy, I’m sorry! It was an accident – I told you that. I didn’t mean to bring you all here… but Tara’s here somewhere, and she needs me! We have to save her.”

“Haven’t you done enough?” Anya asked bluntly. “It’s your fault she’s here in the first place.”

“I know. That’s why I have to do this,” Willow replied, her voice wavering but her eyes full of determination. “I know I screwed up – big time. But I can’t let this go until I make it right. I can’t… I’m sorry…”

The redheaded witch was getting visibly upset, and Xander headed over to comfort his best friend. “It’s okay, Will,” he said, giving her a hug. “We’ll help.” He turned to the rest of the group. “Right, guys? We’ll help.”

Anya and Dawn nodded silently, as did Giles, after a moment.

“Yeah, Red,” Spike said gruffly. “We’ll help.”

“Don’t think for a moment that this excuses your careless behavior,” Giles told her, his voice stern and authoritative. “We will be having a very serious discussion about your use of magic when we return.”

When Buffy, as the last hold out, didn’t say anything to Willow, Spike gave her a nudge.

“You couldn’t have at least dragged my weapons chest along for the ride?” she pouted, a passive acceptance of the group’s decision.

“Just have to steal ’em from the locals,” Spike reasoned. “Where we headed, Red?”

“Hold on.” Willow closed her eyes and concentrated on getting Tara’s attention. ‘Tara? Tara, baby, we’re here. We’re coming for you. Where are you?’

After a few moments, she opened her eyes, an image of what Tara had seen from her window clear in her mind. “We’re looking for a castle,” she told the others.

“So… which way is it?” Dawn asked, glancing around the clearing. They could see nothing in any direction except trees.

Spike tilted his head back and gazed at a tall tree on the edge of the clearing, then turned to Buffy, who was following his eyes. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”


“This was so not a good plan,” Buffy grumbled as she clung to a tree branch, a hundred feet above her friends’ heads.

Spike, who had apparently turned into a monkey as soon as his feet left the ground, was too busy leaping from branch to branch to notice the Slayer’s discontent. He let out a whoop as he finally broke through the leaves and had a clear view of the treetops.

“You should see this, Slayer!”

“Fine where I am, thanks,” she muttered, willing herself not to look down. Heights didn’t really appeal to her so much after doing a swan dive off Glory’s tower.

Spike scrambled back down to Buffy’s level, a broad grin on his face. “Spotted the castle, pet. Not too far that-a-way,” he said, gesturing in a way that made her fearful of him toppling off the branch, despite knowing that he couldn’t actually die from the fall.

“Good. Can we get down now?”

Spike smiled at her. “Worried, pet?” Forcing her to release her death grip on the tree, he pulled her toward him, trying to loosen her up by kissing her. Tentatively, she let go of the branch to wrap her arms around his neck. Just as she eased up and started getting into the kiss, she felt Spike wobble slightly. Shifting her weight quickly, she overcompensated, causing the two of them to lose their balance and slip off the branch.

They plunged toward the earth, catching twigs and leaves in their hair and clothes as they crashed through the branches, Buffy screaming and clinging desperately to Spike, who let out another gleeful roar.

He wrapped his arms and legs around her, twisting his body so that he was underneath her, cradling her and cushioning her fall as he hit the ground first.

“Ow,” he said, his bones rattling from the impact. “You all right, pet?”

“I give that dismount… a two,” Xander said.

Anya snorted. “One point five. They barely avoided landing on their heads.”

Buffy scrambled to her feet, giving Spike a fierce slap as soon as he was upright. “Oh, my God, are you crazy? We could’ve been killed!”

Spike held his arms up, shielding himself from any more blows as he tried to hold in his laughter once he knew neither of them was seriously hurt. “Maybe you,” he teased. “Not so much me.”

Buffy’s angry retort was cut off by Giles, who asked, “Did you see anything?”

“Yeah, castle’s that way,” Spike replied, pointing off in a direction. “Come on, kiddies.”


They’d only been tramping through the forest for about a half hour when they heard singing in the distance. As they got close enough to peer through the brush, they could see that the voices belonged to two men dressed in old-fashioned European clothing. The uniforms and the swords suggested military, but the fancy embroidery and glittering jewels adorning their tunics indicated royalty.

“Did I abuse her, or show her disdain? Why does she run from me?” the dark-haired prince sang, brooding over his predicament. He looked to be the older one, as he had more decorations, and an air of entitlement the other lacked. “If I should lose her, how shall I regain the heart she has won from me?

Beyond power of speech
When the one thing you want
Is the only thing out of your reach”

“High in her tower,”
the blond one butted in, ignoring his companion’s woe, “she sits by the hour, maintaining her hair. Blithe and becoming, and frequently humming a lighthearted air: Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah…” Unlike his brooding brother, he had an air of whimsy, emphasized by his silly grin as he swayed back and forth in imitation of his love.

Far more painful than yours!”

At this, the elder prince’s head whipped around in shock, as though amazed his younger brother would dare to take away his spotlight.

“When you know she would go with you
If there only were doors”

An expression of tragic hopefulness crossed the prince’s face, framed by his messy curls.

“Agony!” they sang in unison. “Oh, the torture they teach!”

“What's as intriguing –”
the younger began.

“Or half so fatiguing –” added the other.

“Um, excuse me?” Buffy interrupted, stepping out of the shadows and approaching the angst-ridden princes. They both halted mid-song and took her in.

“Can we help you, young maiden?” asked the dark-haired prince in a booming, self-important voice.

“Perhaps a damsel in need of our aid?” the other chimed in helpfully.

“What? No!” Buffy replied with disdain, offended at being considered a damsel. “I’m a Slayer in need of your swords.”

The older prince gave her a seductive grin, the maiden conquest he’d sung of so desperately all but forgotten. “We would be pleased to be of service, my lady.” He approached her and ran a white-gloved hand through her hair. “A maiden such as yourself shouldn’t roam about the woods unescorted.”

Disentangling herself from him, Buffy snapped, “I don’t need to be escorted. I can take care of myself.”

Undeterred, the prince advanced again, reaching out to caress her throat. “I admire your bravery. Anything can happen in the woods – may I kiss you?”

Without hesitation, Buffy cocked back and punched him hard enough to knock him out. “No.”

She gave his prone form one last look of disgust, and then turned to the other, thus far more reasonable, tow-headed prince. “I need your weapons.”

The prince’s hand went to the hilt of his sword. “Our weapons? Surely, my lady, you don’t intend to go into battle yourself? Why, that is the job of a prince.”

Buffy tilted her head back in frustration. “Chivalry is so annoying,” she muttered. She started to raise her fist again, but stopped herself. “Hey – that girl in the tower you were talking about? Where – uh – where is it?”

“Two leagues from here, due east, just beyond the mossy knoll,” the prince rattled off. “She was imprisoned there by a terrible witch, in a tower with no door or stairs. In order to manage a visit, I must stand before her window and call out, ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your hair to me!’”

Buffy blinked. “Okay. Wrong tower, then.” Without warning, she leapt into a spinning kick that left both princes unconscious on the ground. She pulled the swords from their scabbards and tossed one of them to Spike as she marched past. “Not a word,” she warned him as he tried to keep the grin off his face.

As the group disappeared after Buffy, the two men slowly came to, realizing their situation. The dark-haired one turned to the blond in confusion and sang,

“Am I not sensitive,
As kind as I’m handsome,
And heir to a throne?”

“You are everything maidens could wish for,”
the other assured him.

“Then why no…?” He raised his eyebrows suggestively.

The younger prince stared at him. “Do I know?”

“The girl must be mad,”
he concluded, touching his hand to his temple, a perplexed expression on his face.

“You know nothing of madness,” his brother retorted. “’Til you’re climbing her hair, and you see her up there, as you’re nearing her, all the while hearing her: Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah…”


“Is it just me,” Dawn asked as they emerged from the forest, “or does this seem kinda…”

“Un-hellish?” Xander supplied, eyeing a troupe of ballerinas, dressed in wood nymph costumes, prancing through the trees in the distance. “Yeah, I noticed that.”

“All manner of hell dimensions out there,” Spike pointed out.

“Quite right,” Giles said, hefting an axe onto his shoulder, which they’d acquired from the tin woodsman they’d passed about an hour back in the forest. He’d given it to them in exchange for a spell Willow performed to keep him from rusting when it rained. “We have no idea what to expect from this dimension. I suggest we remain on our guard.”

No sooner had he said that than one of the ballerina nymphs suddenly burst into flames. She began to shriek as the others tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire. After a few moments of frantic pirouettes, the dancer finally collapsed on the ground, her body charred and crispy.

With that sobering reminder that this dimension was not all fun and games, the group came to a halt at the edge of the forest, facing the imposing castle that loomed in the distance, and the small town that lay before it.

“Well,” Buffy said, with a sidelong glance and a nod at Willow. “Let’s go see the Wizard.”
Chapter #19 - Preparing for Battle
A/N: The song in this chapter is taken from bits of Another Day and I Should Tell You from "Rent."


Chapter 19: Preparing for Battle

To the outsiders, the town was chaotic. Everywhere they looked, people seemed to be acting out scenes from numerous and varied musicals. The effect was overwhelming, as melodies swirled all around them, mixing and clashing, and sometimes battling for dominance. The townspeople sang and danced their way through their daily routines, occasionally interrupted by the stray person who spontaneously burst into flames.

More than once, they came upon a couple or a group in the midst of an argument. At first, they assumed that this was simply a more belligerent society, but they soon realized that most of the disagreement sprang from the citizens’ inability to keep from blurting out their deepest thoughts and feelings in song. Secrets were vulnerable to exposure; lies were impossible to maintain.

“Well, I guess we don’t have to bother with a cover story if someone thinks we’re suspicious,” Buffy reasoned. “We’d never make it through the chorus without spilling the beans about rescuing Tara.”

“Quite right,” Giles replied. “I suggest we keep a low profile and avoid drawing attention to ourselves until we get inside the castle.”

As they were passing an alleyway, they caught sight of two rival gangs facing off against each other, fighting with movements so synchronized it looked like a dance. Distracted by the rumble, Spike stopped, gazing longingly at the violence as the others went on ahead. Rolling her eyes, Buffy doubled back and grabbed him by the arm, dragging him away from the melee.

“No drawing attention to ourselves,” Buffy reminded him.

“Just looked like fun, is all,” Spike replied with a shrug.

As the castle loomed up ahead, the group ducked into an abandoned warehouse nearby to strategize, out of the sight of any of Sweet’s minions. “What do you think, Will?” Buffy asked. “Is this close enough?”

Willow looked back over her shoulder, even though she couldn’t see the castle from inside the windowless building. “I guess so. My power’s pretty sapped from the dimension hopping. I can’t be sure where inside the castle we’ll end up.”

“Not exactly filling me with confidence here, Will,” Xander said, real anxiety underlying his good-natured tone.

“I can get us past the guards at the door,” Willow said. “After that…”

“After that, we’re trapped in there with those creepy bobble-head minions, and they kill us all,” Anya finished for her. “Yes, this is a good plan. Let’s go with this plan.”

“Spike and I will take care of the minions.” Buffy shifted her sword from one hand to the other, leaning the blade against her shoulder. “And Giles can back us up, with his wood-chopping… axe… thingy.”

“Don’t feel right about bringing the rest of them in there with no weapons, Slayer,” Spike pointed out.

Buffy paused and looked around at her defenseless friends – and her sister. No way was Dawn going in there unprotected. But she couldn’t spare anyone to wait outside with her.

“You’re right.” She turned to Spike and gave him a look. “Can you take care of that?”

Spike nodded, catching Buffy’s meaning, and took off without a word.

“Wait, how’s he gonna get… Oh,” Dawn concluded sheepishly. “Never mind.”

“So, we just sit and wait for Spike to come back?” Anya asked.

“I’m gonna need some time to prepare,” Willow said, backing away from the group and sitting cross-legged on the floor. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, beginning the meditation exercises that Tara had taught her, which would allow her to focus her power enough to perform another complicated spell. The last one had taken more out of her than she’d expected – of course, she hadn’t expected to transport six other people with her – and trying to do it again, even without the dimensional portal, would probably take most of her strength. If only Tara were here to –

Willow’s head snapped up suddenly, as an idea began to take shape.


By the time Spike returned, the rest of the Scoobies had taken seats on the warehouse’s cement floor, or on top of the dusty wooden crates that remained, and were lounging listlessly while Willow meditated and Buffy paced.

Buffy looked up sharply as Spike burst in the door, his arms loaded with rifles and pistols. “Where’d you get this stuff?” she asked him, as he began handing out guns and ammunition.

“Bunch of pansies building a barricade a few blocks away. Thinkin’ they’re bloody revolutionaries or something.” He snorted. “Don’t even know what they’re fighting for.”

“Think they’ll miss these?” Buffy took one of the rifles and turned it over in her hands experimentally, raising it to her shoulder to look down the sight. She didn’t have much experience with guns, but it couldn’t be that different from a crossbow, right?

“Okay,” she said. “Um, I think Dawn should get a sword.” Before Dawn could protest, she went on, “I do not trust you to fire projectiles that could possibly kill us. Anyone else that doesn’t feel comfortable, the other weapons are up for grabs.” After a moment’s hesitation, Anya reached for the other sword, and Willow unfolded from her lotus position to claim the axe. Xander and Giles both seemed content with their firearms, the former presumably because of his residual military memory and the latter most likely due to a history that Buffy so didn’t want to think about.

“We all set, Slayer?” Spike asked, shouldering his own rifle.

Buffy looked to Willow for her cue. “A few more minutes,” said the witch. “I wanna try to contact Tara again.”

Buffy nodded, turning back to Spike only to find that he’d slipped silently out of the warehouse again. She found him leaning against the wall in the back alley, his rifle propped up next to him, a curl of smoke rising from the lit cigarette in his hand.

“Hey,” she said, and he turned his head to give her an unreadable look. “Thanks, you know, for the weapon-stealing.”

Spike nodded once, taking another drag on his cigarette.

“Are you okay?” Buffy asked, pressing a concerned hand on his bicep. “What is it? Talk to me.”

“’S nothin’, Slayer. I’m fine.” When she wouldn't relent, he sighed. “’S just... had some time to think, you know? Thinkin’ what if you were right? What if it is just the music doing this, and you don't really...”

Buffy’s brow creased into a troubled frown. “Are you saying you don’t think I really love you?” His silence gave her all the answer she needed. “Spike! You were the one telling me it wasn’t the spell making me feel this way. You were the one pushing me to admit that what we have is real.”

“Yeah, and I got what I wanted, didn’t I?” he said, as though that were an explanation.

“Yes, you did, so what’s with…” Then, it hit her. "That’s… never happened before... has it?” she asked him softly. “No one’s ever loved you back, not the way you wanted them to. Least of all me.”

“What’m I supposed to think, Buffy?” he asked, not acknowledging her assumption, but not denying it, either. “All of a sudden, you’re...” He gestured toward her with his cigarette. “And I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

She shook her head, in partial disbelief that after everything – after she’d defended him to her friends and told him she loved him – that he still needed reassurance. But another part of her knew that he would never be sure, would never stop bracing for the pain. That was a luxury he’d never had – the confidence of knowing he was loved as deeply as he himself loved.

She wasn’t even sure if she could give him that, but when the song came out of her, she didn’t try to fight it. “Spike,” she said, her hands coming to rest on his chest, delicately fingering the leather of his duster.

“The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn
There is no future, there is no past
I swear this moment’s not our last”

Spike sighed and pulled her into his arms, his eyes closing as he pressed his cheek against her hair. Buffy felt all the tension ease out of her body as she melted into him. She couldn’t explain how it had happened, but she felt safe now in Spike’s embrace.

“There’s only us, there’s only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss
No other road, no other way
No day but today”

“You believe that, Slayer?” he asked, his voice rough.

“I do now.”

“I should tell you I’m disaster,” Spike sang, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I forget how to begin it.”

“Let's just make this part go faster,”
Buffy replied. “I have yet to be in it. I should tell you…”

“I should tell you…”

“Well, here we go,”
they sang together.

“Who knows where?
Who goes there?
Who knows?
Here goes…”

Spinning them around so that Buffy was against the wall, Spike lowered his head and captured her mouth in a fervent kiss, his fingers tangling in the hair at the nape of her neck as her arms tightened around his waist. They surfaced breathless, singing to each other in desperate, husky voices.

“Trusting desire, starting to learn
Walking through fire without a burn
Clinging - a shoulder, a leap begins
Stinging and older, asleep on pins
So, here we go…”


The pair broke apart reluctantly at the sound of Dawn’s voice. “Willow’s ready now,” she mumbled, before ducking back inside, her cheeks burning, muttering something about how the two of them were going to be unbearable now.

Grabbing his gun, Spike followed Buffy back into the warehouse, coming to a stop hovering over her shoulder, his fingertips subtly grazing her arm, as though he valued even the slightest contact with her.

“We’re ready?” Buffy confirmed. Willow nodded. Picking up her own rifle, Buffy returned the nod, giving her friend the signal to begin.

“It… it’ll probably help if we’re all… touching,” Willow said.

Shuffling into a tighter circle, they all extended their hands, clutching weapons as they held on to one another. Willow closed her eyes, sending out a telepathic call to Tara.

‘I’m here,’ came the reply.

Chanting out loud as Tara chanted along in her head, Willow reached out mentally, joining their power together as Tara channeled her own magic into the spell through their connection. There was a rushing sound, and when she opened her eyes, they were all standing in a dark, candlelit hall with gray marble walls.

“We’re inside,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper, in case there were minions nearby.

The rest of the group looked around, taking in the maze of intersecting hallways, each speckled with wooden doors leading to unknown rooms. “Which way?” Buffy asked.

Willow closed her eyes again, trying to sense Tara through the telepathic link, using her as a beacon to guide the way. She spun slowly in a circle until the feeling was strongest. “There.” She pointed.

Buffy and Spike approached the door first, guns at the ready. Cautiously, Buffy crept forward, pulling on the door handle while Spike kept his rifle trained on whoever they might find on the other side. The door wouldn’t open.

Buffy pulled harder. “It’s locked,” she said, as the rest of them relaxed slightly at the anti-climax. Backing up a few steps, Buffy gave the door a powerful kick… and promptly stumbled backwards when it refused to give under the force of her foot. Giving it a perplexed look, she crouched slightly, and then charged at the door, driving her shoulder into it with brute Slayer strength.

“Ow,” she pouted.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Come on, Slayer. On three.” Taking up side-by-side positions, Spike counted off, and the two of them kicked simultaneously, but to no avail.

“Stand aside, ladies and gents,” Xander said, pulling out his pistol and firing three quick shots at the door handle. The lock shattered, Buffy was able to push the door open easily, revealing a winding staircase. Spike ran up a few steps and leaned into the center of the spiral to see how far up it went.

His eyes widened. “Red? Any way you can magic us up these steps?”

The rest of them gathered on the stairs, peering up dejectedly at the seemingly endless spiral.

“I don’t think so,” Willow said with a sigh. “I’m pretty beat. Maybe… maybe myself, but…”

“Guys?” Buffy called from the doorway. “We got company.”

Spike leapt past the others to see five minions heading their way. “Start running!” he instructed the Scoobies, taking up a position in the doorway next to Buffy. “Buffy and I’ll hold ’em off.”

They were able to pick off two with the rifles before the other three overwhelmed them, knocking the rifles aside to get in a couple good kicks. Buffy managed to hold onto her gun, smashing it against the temple of a minion’s enormous dummy head. Spike took on the other two, sweeping the legs out from under one of them while jabbing the butt of his gun into the stomach of the other. They quickly dispatched their hobbled opponents and piled all five of the bodies against the door in a makeshift barricade, then fled up the stairs after the rest of the group.

With supernatural speed, they caught up in no time, flying past the mere humans to take the lead before slowing so as not to leave them behind. After about three hundred or so steps, Giles was flagging, and Xander’s breath was coming in short gasps. “Shoulda… worked out… more…” he panted, turning his sheepish, red-faced expression toward his fiancée.

“You’d think all the running for our lives we do, we’d have more endurance,” Anya observed.

“My thighs are burning,” Dawn whined.

“Stop, guys,” Buffy said, reaching out a hand to hold Spike back before he dashed on ahead of them, oblivious to the tired humans. “We need to stop. Are you guys okay?”

Giles leaned heavily on the railing. “Certainly. Ah, does anyone know what a heart attack feels like?”

“Giles!” Buffy cried, before realizing he was teasing. “Maybe we should, um… Spike and I can go on ahead, and you guys just follow behind at your own pace. Remember, there may be a battle up there. We can’t be exhausted when we reach the top.”

“I’m gonna try teleporting again,” Willow said.

Buffy looked at her. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It can’t wear me out any more than the Stairmaster from hell here. I’ll meet you at the top,” she said, just before she disappeared with a pop.

Spike and Buffy shrugged at each other, and then started up the stairs again, leaving the rest of them to follow as best they could.

Willow reappeared inside the bright throne room, which was surprisingly empty, save for the two figures seated on the matching thrones at one end of the room.

“Tara!” Willow’s eyes welled with tears at the sight of her lost lover. She started to rush toward her, but a booming voice from the seat next to Tara stopped her in her tracks.

“Well, well, well,” Sweet crooned. “If it isn’t the wicked witch of the west.”
Chapter #20 - For Now
A/N: Whew... we've finally reached the end of this ride. Hope you've enjoyed it. It was quite an undertaking. I'm proud to say that the fic won two awards at Spark and Burn Awards - Reader's Choice for Best Episode Stealer, and Judge's Choice. Banners are posted at my LJ.

The songs in this chapter (there are a lot of them) are: Finale from "Pippin," Rent from "Rent" (the part I used starts around 3:40), For Now from "Avenue Q," and the last line of "Phantom of the Opera."


Chapter 20: For Now

“You can’t have her,” Willow said resolutely, squaring her shoulders and standing up to the red-skinned demon, despite her wobbly legs, exhausted from the consecutive spells.

Sweet glanced over at Tara, and then back at Willow with a shrug. “She summoned me. Them’s the rules.”

Willow knew she should wait for the others, wait for Buffy and Spike to burst in and start kicking ass, but she couldn’t hold herself back. Now that Tara was within reach, she would do anything to get her free. “Fine,” she said. “Take me instead.”

“Willow, no!” Tara cried.

Ignoring his bride, Sweet raised his eyebrows with a grin. “Oh, here’s a precocious one. She wants to make a deal.”

Willow nodded. “Yes.”

“I think I’ve got a better offer for you.” A piano started up and, rising from his throne, Sweet began to sing seductively as he gracefully stepped down from the platform.

“Think about the sun, Willow
Think about her golden glance
How she lights the world up
Well, now it’s your chance
With the guardian of splendor
Inviting you to dance
Willow, think about the sun”

“Dance?” Willow asked doubtfully. “Doesn’t that usually end in a flamey death?”

Sweet glided gracefully in circles around her, weaving a spell with his words, enticing her with his music.

“Think about your life, Willow
Days are tame and nights the same
Now, think about the beauty
In one perfect flame
And the angels of the morning
Are calling out your name
Willow, think about the sun…”


Buffy and Spike pushed themselves as hard as they could, charging up the stairs toward Willow and Tara. Guards posted at the top heard the commotion and started down, meeting Buffy and Spike as they rounded the uppermost bend in the staircase. They were more of Sweet’s minions, and Buffy managed to pick one off with her rifle; but a second guard knocked the gun out of her hands before she could set up another shot and sent the weapon flying over the railing.

“Oops,” Buffy said, peering down the spiral for a moment before delivering a kick to the minion’s temple, sending him plummeting to his death. Fortunately, the staircase was narrow enough that only two minions could fight them at once, but Buffy could see they were at least three deep on the stairs.

Spike shot one of them in the stomach, but before he collapsed, the minion caught Spike with a head-butt, and the vampire tumbled down the stairs, slamming into the wall at the next curve.

While he recovered, Buffy fought off two guards at once, being extra careful with her footwork on the steps. She tried to remember what Giles had taught her about fighting on uneven terrain, and wished she’d been more agreeable when he’d suggested they pick up their regular training schedule after her resurrection. She decided the person on the higher ground seemed to have the advantage, since she kept getting punched and kicked in the head, while the best she could do was blows to the knees and stomach.

Sensing Spike coming up behind her, she cried, “Get me on the other side of them!” Without a word, Spike lifted her up and launched her into the air. She somersaulted over the heads of the first four minions, tackling one to the ground as she landed. Buffy drove her fist through his eye socket, hard enough to punch a hole in his head.

“Eww,” she said. Shoving the body off the steps, she quickly turned to the one remaining guard above her.

Spike, meanwhile, continued to spar with the two in the front line. Without enough time or space to aim his gun, he used it as a bludgeoning tool, bashing the minions with the butt of the rifle. He really preferred that, anyway. He’d never been a big fan of guns. He smashed his weapon into one of their throats, bending him backward over the railing, but the other grabbed him from behind and tossed him into the wall.

Buffy nearly lost her balance as her feet missed a step, but she quickly recovered and attacked the minion above her with a kick that was supposed to knock his feet out from under him. The minion went down, but used her momentum to send her toppling over the railing, and it was only by a combination of luck and gymnast’s skill that she managed to catch hold of the bar and swing herself back up to the stairs.

“Buffy, you all right?” Spike yelled over the fighting, as he slammed the butt of his gun into a guard’s head and flipped him over the rail.

“Fine!” she replied, catching her minion around the knees and pulling him down so that his spine cracked against the stairs.

They both spun at the same time, aiming their fists at opposite sides of the last remaining minion’s head. The head whipped around, snapping completely off at the force of the double blow. As the body dropped between them, Buffy and Spike were left facing each other, their faces streaked with grime and bobble-head minion goo. Buffy stood a couple steps above him, sweaty and panting hard with exertion.

Grabbing her by the hips, Spike spun Buffy into the wall, stepping carelessly over the dead bodies of the minions, and smashed his lips against hers. A brief indulgence, and then they were both off and running again, headed for the top of the stairs.


The tempo picked up, and more instruments added to the background music. When Sweet began to sing again, he was backed by an entire invisible chorus.

“Think about your life, Willow
Think about the dreams you planned
Think about the moment
That's so close at hand
When the power and the glory
Are there at your command

“The power and the glory
Are there at your command”

Buffy and Spike burst through the door, but Willow took no notice, watching Sweet as he tap-danced in circles around her, the chorus beckoning her to give in. The two warriors skidded to a stop, taking in the scene, afraid to intervene for fear that they would get Willow hurt.

“The power and the glory
Are there at your command
Willow, think about your life!”

“Don’t you want to be powerful, Willow?” Sweet asked. “Don’t you want that? How long have you lived in the Slayer’s shadow? Trapped, held back by those who don’t want to see you shine. Unable to reach your full potential.”

At this, Buffy started to charge forward, but Spike held her back, sensing the greater significance of Willow’s situation.

“Rivers belong where they can ramble,” Sweet sang. “Eagles belong where they can fly… I can do that for you. All it costs is her life.” He pointed to Tara.

Willow looked at Tara, then at her friends. Finally, she faced Sweet, and began to sing hesitantly.

“I’m not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I’m never tied to anything
I’ll never be free”

As she sang, her voice became stronger, her stance more self-assured.

“I wanted magic shows and miracles
Mirages to touch
I wanted such a little thing from life
I wanted so much”

Willow turned back to Tara.

“I never came close, my love
We nearly came near
It never was there
I think it was here”

The witches’ eyes locked together, and the love that still lingered was evident to both of them; but their attention was distracted by Giles, Xander, Anya, and Dawn, who’d finally made it up the stairs and into the throne room.

“They showed me crimson, gold, and lavender,” Willow went on, now singing only to Tara.

“A shining parade
But there’s no color I can have on earth
That won’t finally fade
When I wanted worlds to paint
And costumes to wear
I think it was here
’Cause it never was there
No, no, no, it never was there”

As the music grew more confident, the melody echoing Willow’s attitude, she marched up to the platform and extended her hand to Tara, helping her down off the throne.

“You’re turning me down?” Sweet asked her, coming around and gripping Tara’s arm, holding her away from Willow. “I can offer you power…”

“I don’t want power,” Willow replied. “I want Tara.”

“All right, then. Deal’s a deal.” He let go and pushed Tara toward Willow. “Be seeing you around.”

“That’s it?” Spike asked disdainfully. “Bunch of namby-pambying and you just up and let us leave? What a crappy demon.”

“Hey, I’m not a bad guy,” Sweet said, holding up his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Just like to teach the world a song! That whole ‘taking my bride down to hell’ thing – clause in my contract, you know? So, I’ll let you be on your way, and you kids just enjoy the music, all right?”

“Not so fast,” Buffy said, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against the closest wall. “We leave, and the evil sing-a-long stays with you, you hear?”

“No can do, honey-pie,” Sweet chuckled, breaking free of the Slayer’s grasp. “No bride, no big finish. The show must go on.”

“So, if we take Tara back… we’ll never stop singing,” Dawn said. The others glanced around at each other with renewed worry.

Sweet eyed Buffy with interest. “What about you, Slayer? You were willing to make a trade before.”

Buffy’s cheeks flushed at the memory of nearly dancing herself to death. It was no surprise when she felt Spike’s hand tighten on her wrist, a subtle but firm reminder that she wasn’t that girl anymore. “Well, I’m not willing to now,” she replied.

“Is that so? Had a change of heart? Decided you’re happy with your life?” he pressed. Catching sight of Buffy and Spike’s joined hands, Sweet gave them a calculated grin.

“Think a little love song changes everything, do you? How do you leave the past behind when it keeps finding ways to get to your heart?” he challenged them harshly.

“It reaches way down deep and tears you inside out
’Til you’re torn apart
How can you connect in an age
Where strangers, landlords, lovers
Your own blood cells betray?
What binds the fabric together
When the raging, shifting winds of change
Keep ripping away?”

Buffy faltered a little under the musical assault, but she stood her ground with Spike’s shoulder pressed against hers. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Because I figured something out.”

“Oh?” said Sweet. “Do share.”

As if on cue, a perky, upbeat tune began to play, and Buffy stepped forward.

“Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied
Everyone goes ’round a little empty inside”

“Take a breath,”
Xander chimed in. “Look around.”

“Swallow your pride,”
Willow added.

“For now...” Xander sang. Then again, with Buffy and Willow joining him, “For now...”

One by one, the others stepped forward as well, offering their contributions to the song.

“Nothing lasts,” sang Spike.

Anya added, “Life goes on.”

“Full of surprises,”
came from Dawn.

“You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes,” Giles went on, with a nod to Buffy.

“You’re going to have to make a few compromises…” Xander came up and put his arm around his fiancée. “For now...”

“For now...”
Giles echoed.

“But only for now!” they sang in unison, splitting off into two groups, one echoing the other. “For now…”

“Only for now! (For now)
Only for now! (For now)
Only for now!”

“For now we’re healthy,”
Willow broke out.

“For now we’re employed,” Xander sang with a smile.

Together, Dawn and Anya said, “For now we’re happy…”

“If not overjoyed,”
Buffy finished.

Giles shot a sidelong glance at Spike. “And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now...”

“For now...”
Spike returned with a knowing look.

“For now...” Xander sang.

“For now...” Anya echoed.

“But only for now! (For now)” Again, they went into the group-sing, with half of them singing, “Only for now!” and the other half alternating with their interjections. “For now.”

“Only for now! (For now)
Only for now!

“Only for now!
(For now there’s life!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s love!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s work!)
For now there’s happiness!
But only for now!
(For now discomfort!)
Only for now!
(For now there’s friendship!)
Only for now (For now!)
Only for now!

“Don’t stress,
Let life roll off your backs
Except for death and paying taxes,
Everything in life is only for now!”

“Each time you smile…”
Xander sang.

“...Only for now,” echoed the group.

“It’ll only last a while,” Buffy went on.

“...Only for now.”

“Life may be scary…”
said Dawn.

“...Only for now
But it’s only temporary,”
the group chimed in.

“Ba-dum ba-dum
Ba-dum ba-dum
Ba dum ba-dum
Ba-da da da da
ba-da da-da da da-da
Ba-dum ba-da, ba-dum ba-da
Ohhhh –”

“Everything in life is only for now,”
Willow finished.

“Aww, that’s sweet,” Sweet said in a saccharine voice. Then, his tone hardened. “One of you is staying.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” She and Spike charged at Sweet and, as if on cue, the door burst open and more minions swarmed in. Giles and Xander took aim with their guns, while Anya, Willow, and Dawn attempted to do battle with their own weapons. Unarmed, Tara found herself grabbed by one of the minions. Willow glanced over in time to see him hold Tara by the head and snap her neck. She fell to the ground in a heap.

“Tara!” Willow screamed, running over to her lover’s body. The din of the battle around them faded away, as though they were the only two in the room. She clutched Tara with disbelief. It wasn’t possible. She couldn’t have made it this far only to lose her now. “Tara, baby…”

“I’m okay…” Tara said softly, sounding kind of surprised.

Willow opened her eyes to see Tara looking up at her. “Willow, did you…?”

“I did a spell,” she admitted, realization dawning as the words came back to her. Let her flesh not be torn, let her blood leave no stain… And however they try to destroy her, let her never die… She hadn’t thought the spell even worked, but somehow it had managed to keep Tara unharmed, just as she’d willed it. “Right after you were taken. I just – I was afraid they’d hurt you.”

“Am I… immortal now?”

Willow smiled. “Just in this dimension, baby.” Her face fell, as relief gave way to guilt and shame. “God, Tara, I’m so sorry! This is all my fault!”

“Shh,” Tara said, soothing Willow’s sobs. “It’s all right…”

“No, it’s not. How can you ever forgive me?”

“Because I have faith in you, Willow,” Tara replied, drawing a wide-eyed expression of awe from her lover. “You turned down the offer of power, and you showed me how important I am to you. I know all the apologies haven’t been made, and the trust isn’t entirely rebuilt… but I think it’s a good start.”

Willow’s tears gave way to relieved giggles, as she and Tara hugged and kissed each other amidst the fighting.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike were trying to take on Sweet. The swift-footed demon was elusive, dancing in circles around them as they tried to fight him with their usual combat techniques. They’d barely managed to land a blow, and Buffy worried that Sweet was distracting them, so that the weaker Scoobies were left to fight his minions.

“Spike, this isn’t working!” she complained, as they backed away to regroup.

Spike nodded. “We’ve gotta dance, love,” he told her, lifting her into the air and tossing her into a spinning kick that managed to connect with Sweet’s head. Getting the idea, Buffy made her movements more delicate and graceful, without sacrificing her power, letting Spike lead her in a fierce ballet she didn’t even realize they were capable of. They twirled and leapt, and it was pure artistry, but it was also furious battle as together they managed to land more and more of their blows. They beat Sweet across the room, backing him up toward his throne.

“Spike!” Dawn called out, tossing him her sword. Spike caught it and handed it off to Buffy, who pirouetted into a thrust that impaled Sweet. The demon staggered backward, collapsing onto his throne, and looked out at his enemies, who were finishing off the last of his minions.

“You alone can make my song take flight,” he sang mournfully. “It’s over now, the music of the night!” With this last refrain, Sweet slumped down in his chair, dead.

Spike glanced at Buffy, shifting nervously, unwilling to make the first move. He was terrified that the breaking of the spell would mean the end of whatever they had had together. Despite her reassurances and her declaration of love, Spike’s heart had been broken too many times for him not to be wary.

Buffy eased his fear by snaking her arms around his waist and leaning into him, encouraging him to hold her. He dipped his head so that his mouth was next to her ear and asked softly, “So… now this is over, you still, uh…?”

She smiled at him. “Yeah. I still really, really do.” With that, she pulled his head towards hers and kissed him.

“Hey,” Willow said, pulling away from Tara momentarily as something caught her eye across the room. “When did that happen?”

Tara followed her gaze to where Spike was holding Buffy close, their heads inclined towards each other as Spike murmured something in her ear. Whatever he said, it made Buffy smile and reach up to caress his cheek, pressing a soft kiss on his lips.

“Guess I missed a lot while I was gone,” said Tara. Willow just nodded, wondering if she’d been so focused on saving Tara that she hadn’t even registered the change in her best friend’s relationship with the vampire. None of the others looked particularly surprised, even if they didn’t all seem very happy about it.

Pulling away from Spike, Buffy turned to the witches. “Willow, can you get us home?”

With Tara’s help, Willow managed to reverse her spell, depositing them all back in the Magic Box.

After a moment of silence, Buffy asked, “Okay. Anybody wanna sing?” She looked around at the others. “Anybody?” They all shook their heads, and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief.



the end