5 Time Running Out
If the atmosphere in The Magic Box could have been painted on canvas, an artist would have run out of black and purple, brown and grey. The closed sign was on the door and they were ignoring the people who rattled the handle, still trying to get in.
Giles sighed. “Hopefully, when Tara arrives and agrees to help, they’ll never need to know anything about this.”
“I’m more concerned with this Anya person,” Giles went on, oblivious to the young girl’s hesitation. “Do you have no memory of her at all, Xander? You’re supposed to be in love with her. Does the name mean nothing to you? Evoke no response?”
Xander wiped his hands down his face, as if to clean away clinging cobwebs, because that was exactly how he felt, that his world had shattered into a thousand pieces that floated around his head in a whirling spiral of unhappiness. “No Giles, no bells ringing, no boxes ticked, no great revelation of requited love. And wouldn’t you think there should be something, some tiny little kick to my memory at the sound of her name?”
“Xander Harris! You need to help me. This place has rabbits....hundreds and hundreds of bunnies.....help.......”
Dawn jumped and stared round the shop. The voice had sounded so loud, as if its owner was standing right behind her. “Did you hear that?”
Giles glanced up, his face a map of worry lines. “Hear what, Dawn?”
“It was a girl, shouting Xander’s name. She sounded angry and scared. Something about rabbits?”
Dawn almost snapped that even if they were on the sidewalk, it was mega weird that they would be calling Xander’s name and talking about scarey rabbits, but her friend looked so worried and exhausted with a sort of despairing look in his eyes, that for once she managed to keep quiet.
‘Oh, I do so wish Buffy was here,’ she thought unhappily and wondered what her sister was doing right at this very moment.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Spike didn’t need telling twice. He pulled Buffy towards him, eyes gleaming in the light from the massed candles. But suddenly, the passionate kiss turned soft and tender and his iron grip eased as he slid his hands possessively around her waist. He wondered if perhaps this was all a dream - he’d wake up any moment now in the dark of his crypt, a smile on his face, alone in an empty bed. “My wife,” he said then cleared his throat as he could hear his voice trembling which was not a bloody good sound for a Big Bad.
“I hope you notice that he missed out the “obey” word in the vows” A smile glimmered deep in Buffy’s eyes.
“Did he? I wasn’t concentrating. Well, I expect we’ll muddle along without that.”
Buffy rubbed her head against his cheek. “I’ve got a feeling Giles and Willow are going to say that it isn’t legal. What with the priest being a sheep demon and all.”
“He’s licensed for weddings in California! I checked. And you saw his certificate on the cave wall. We’re legally married, Buffy. Rupert and Red can shout all they like.”
Buffy tightened her arms round him. She had looked at the certificate - she wasn’t quite certain if Mr S Heep - the name at the top of the paper - made the document valid or not. But she didn’t care. She felt married. That was all that was important.
“Buffy! Spike! What a wonderful night. So exciting! I’m so proud to be your best demon, Spike. So proud.” Clem couldn’t keep still. Apart from losing the ring (twice) - he kept forgetting which fold of skin he’d hidden it in - he’d played the part of both best demon and chief bridesmaid, producing a little bunch of roses for Buffy to carry.
“And such a beautiful ring.” He glanced at Spike, his worried face looking even more worried than usual. “Did you know it gives the wearer - ”
“ - all the love in the world.” Spike broke in and glared at his friend over Buffy’s head.
Clem hesitated. Demon rings were so powerful, especially that one. Did Spike really not know what he’d given Buffy? What havoc she could cause now if she chose. The Slayer wearing that particular ring was very worrying. Still, they were married now. What could possibly go wrong. “So is it still a secret, Spike, or can I tell all our friends?”
Spike glanced at Buffy. “Up to you, pet,” he said. “Do you want an official announcement?” He knew what she would say. Bloody hell, it was incredible that they’d even got the ceremony out of the way. Telling her friends and family was a vast step that he felt she wouldn’t want to take just yet.
“Spike - let’s just have a couple of days to ourselves, before all the oh dearing and Buffy you don’t know what you’re doing, begins. Then, yes, Clem. You can tell the whole world.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Xander leapt to his feet as the Magic Shop door bell clanged urgently and Giles hurried to let Willow and Tara come in. Then he sat down again, heavily, almost breaking the chair. Of course, he loved Giles and so wasn’t attracted to women at all - except, Tara! The skin- tight leather trousers that clung to every voluptuous curve - the plunging black top that left nothing at all to his imagination. How could he possibly have missed the fact that Tara had this incredibly sexy figure under her usual long skirts and rather formless clothes? Not that he was attracted at all, of course, because, hey Giles, far more charming and debonair and ... he shut off his thoughts with a snap because they were getting way out of hand.
Willow looked and sounded nervous. “Hey everyone - here’s Tara. She said she’d come and talk to us all about, well, you know, the spell and reversing it and helping - ”
“But sweetie, I’ve explained - you’re not you. This - ” Willow waved a hand at her girlfriend’s outfit - “this isn’t you. Drinking and hanging out in demon bars - that’s not what I wanted you to do.”
“So what did you want?” Tara raised her eyebrows and her tone was one that Willow had never heard before from her lover.
She caught hold of the tail end of her temper that was about to erupt. Everyone kept questioning her behaviour and, after all, what had she done that was so bad? “I was just trying, I don’t know, to help you be a bit more.... assertive. Have more confidence. Yes, that’s what it was. It was a good thing I was attempting. But the spell must have got out of control. Everythings gone too far. But we can reverse it. I know with your help, I can.”
“And making me fall in love with Rupert? What was that?”
The red-head winced. She couldn’t remember the last time Xander had sounded so angry towards her. It was as if the very foundations of her world were shaking. She’d always had his complete trust and backing even if she hadn’t always given it in return. “I didn’t ask you two to fall in love in the spell. I just said ‘be married’. That doesn’t always mean love - look at your parents! It was because you and Giles were all wrapped up in making things for his apartment and no one was paying any attention - ”
“To you!” Giles broke in.
“Yes. No. Not to me, but to what I was saying about Buffy and Spike sleeping together. That is so wrong. You both know that in your hearts. We’ve got to stop it and I just got angry when you wouldn’t listen and I made choices, bad choices, I admit, but I’m over all that now and just want to get back to normal.”
“But Will, you’re the only one who thinks things were better before,” Xander said quietly.
Giles sighed: he would cheerfully stay with Xander for the rest of his life, but he knew only too well that spells didn’t exist in isolation to the rest of the world. There were always consequences, usually bad ones. “We don’t know what harm will be done by the spell, now or in the future. That’s the problem.”
Dawn dropped a box of pebbles and crawled round on the floor picking then up. “And there’s the Anya girl, too,” she said. “None of us remember her, except for Willow, but apparently she’s our friend and we need to get her back. I bet she isn’t happy wherever she is.”
“The girl I’m supposed to be marrying,” Xander added bitterly. “And I can’t even picture her face. Some fiance, I’ve turned out to be.”
“Anya?” Tara frowned, as if the name was familiar but she couldn’t quite remember.
“No!” Three voices - Giles, Willow and Xander - all spoke at once.
“The sooner they’re parted the better,” Xander added. “I agree with you about that, Will. We have to break them up. Why in the name of all pizzas you had to make them get engaged, I have no idea! And did you see the size of the ring Spike stole for her?”
Tara swung herself down and crossed the room to look at the books Giles had in front of him. She had been the only person Buffy had confided in about sleeping with Spike. She refused to admit she loved him but agreed to “feelings”. To Tara, those feelings were the same as love. She also realised that the rumours that were circulating today amongst gossipy demons, stories of a ring, a demon priest, a wedding, hadn’t yet reached The Magic Box.
Giles pushed a book towards her. “This is why we need your help. Willow can’t do a reversal spell on her own, she’s powerful but not that strong. However, I’ve found one that works if two witches use it.”
“OK, let me see. Oh yes, I remember reading that one. Small problem.”
“What? Is it the ingredients?” Willow asked anxiously. “There are all sorts of supplies in the basement.”
“Not just the supplies, although three small pieces of jade seems a bit extravagant, even for a spell this strong. No, look, there at the bottom of the page. Everyone altered by the original spell needs to be there when it’s reversed. And you don’t want to tell Buffy and Spike.”
“We can’t,” Willow whispered. “She’d never forgive me.”
“I don’t see why she should be upset,” Xander said. “After all, you’re saving her from a grizzly relationship with a vampire. And let’s face it, Will, we’ve been down that road and back already with Angel.”
Dawn pushed the charms and pebbles aside. “I’m going to find them. It’s just dumb making all these plans without them.” Privately she didn’t think the spell would have made any difference to her sister and Spike. And reversing it would prove nothing. “And you all keep forgetting about Anya. How long can she stay where you sent her, Willow?”
The red-head looked vague. “Oh ages, Dawnie. Ages and ages.”
“So where did she go?” Tara asked.
“It’s very cold!” The voice that only Dawn could hear sounded fainter now and she had the sudden feeling that time might be running out for the girl they couldn’t see and couldn’t remember.
There was a crash as Xander stood up, pushing his chair backwards. "But this Anya, she was here when you did the spell, wasn't she? And now she's not. So how can we get everyone together to reverse it?"
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