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Chapter 9, in which a vengeance demon makes her way home.
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There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.
Homer, The Odyssey.

    “So,” Spike said to Buffy. They had a plate of sandwiches laid out for Willow’s return. “We’re in agreement then?”

    Buffy took a deep breath. “Yeah,” she said.

    “You sure about this, pet?”

    Buffy smiled and jumped up to wrapped herself around Spike and kissed him. Happy. Coquettish. Perky. “One hundred percent sure, silly.”

    Spike laughed and held her close. He was always double checking.

    Things really had been better when she stopped trying to fight it. The stupid arguments over dishes and who left the window open had faded like the nothings they were. When they did have a genuine disagreement, they had stopped pulling out the big guns and trying to hurt each other. They talked stuff out, made themselves communicate, played some of the conflict resolution games that Wesley had looked up for them. They did a lot of, “Let me see if I got that straight,” and “So if I’m hearing you correctly.” Trapped into loving a vampire due to a spell, Buffy had stopped attacking Spike when he mourned his inability to kill. Accepting his love for the slayer, Spike had stopped being unforgivably rude and breaking every law he could, just to annoy her.

    It wasn’t perfect. But they were happy enough together. They danced and they sparred and Buffy learned how to play poker, and Spike learned how to drill her in her homework, and they both learned to tune out each other’s music. Spike learned how to make snide comments about undubbed Indian movies with Xander. Buffy learned to accept it when Clem had to go cough up a skin-ball in the bathroom. And when Buffy got home Spike was there to rub her neck. And first thing in the morning they sipped coffee and warmed blood over the breakfast table. And they were both there late at night – early in the morning – in the same bed, snuggled together, happy in each other.

    Buffy’s opinion of Spike had changed radically. His history, though riddled with bloodshed, had been a brutal journey of unsatisfactory love and emotional loss. The fact that he was a poet would have shocked her before she’d heard him whisper those heart-stopping lines to her in their bed. It had finally occurred to her that, though Spike was a vampire and his idea of torment was different from a human being’s, he had been as tortured by Angelus as Buffy had been.

    “What do you think she’s gonna be like?” Buffy asked.

    “Well, if she’s anything like me,” Anya said, “she’ll still be a little giddy. There’s pretty much unlimited power at your fingertips when you’re one of D’Hoffryn’s chosen. I was dancing on air for the better part of a decade.”

    “Was that literal, sweetie?” Xander asked.

    “Only partly.”

    “So, has D’Hoffryn bothered to confirm or deny yet?” Buffy asked, arranging the plate of sandwiches. “Was Willow made into a demon?”

    “He’s still being all patronizing, and promising he loves me just as much as his other demons,” Anya said. “He still thinks I’m just upset that I’ve been replaced. Won’t admit if any of his new demons are Willow.”

    “What time do you think she’s gonna get here?” Xander asked anxiously. He’d deeply missed Willow.

    “She didn’t say. Just two days. The reception on her spell phone was a little wonky.”

    “Well, she was trying to communicate through several dimensions,” Anya said. “Of course things get garbled on the way.”

    “Why would it take her so long to get from Arra...chiropractor, anyway?” Buffy asked.

    “It’s easy to get lost in Arrashmahar,” Anya said. “Not that I’ve been there in a while.” She looked a little wistful. “Everything’s sort of like a spot lit stage. You pop through the black from one part to another.”

    “Doesn’t that get kind of barren and spooky?” Xander asked.

    “Well, we teleport,” Anya said. “So we don’t have to walk it. And each pool of light has different things, and you can have anything you’d ever want. Hot tubs, and palaces, and boiling pits of blood, and crystalline gardens, and huge museums of hatred. Excellent movie theaters, too.”

    “I’ll remember that when looking for a good school district for the children,” Xander said with slightly horrified sarcasm.

    “No.” Anya looked bewildered. “There aren't any schools. Of course not. Vengeance demons don’t procreate, that’s absurd.” She stopped. “I could have children. We could have children. You and me!” she said to Xander.

    Xander looked as someone had just pointed a gun to his head. “Well... um... I mean... yeah... one day.... Um. I was just...”

    “Breathe, dear,” Anya said. “I didn’t mean now.” But she beamed sunnily all the same. “I just never realized there were upsides to this human thing before. Apart from all our orgasms.” She snuggled in closer as she sat on Xander’s lap.

    There was a time when Buffy would have felt wistful watching the two of them snuggling. Now, before her wistfulness could even manifest, Spike wrapped his arms around her from behind and lowered his face to her neck. “Bet Xand didn’t expect that from his little joke,” he breathed in her ear.

    Buffy chuckled. “They look okay.”

    “Children thing ever bother you?” he asked quietly.

    Buffy shuddered. “So not interested,” she said. “I’m not even twenty.”

    Spike kissed her cheek. “Let me know if you ever change your mind, yeah?”

    Buffy turned around in his arms. “And what? We’ll talk about it?”

    “Well, we could talk it out... find a way ‘round it,” Spike said, lowering his hands. “Or we could just keep taunting fate and see if some miracle happens.”

    “I’ve had enough miracles, thank you.”

    “But the taunting fate, thing?” he asked with a wicked grin.

    Buffy bit her lip, and then kissed him. “Later,” she whispered.

    “I love you,” he murmured.

    “Love you, back,” Buffy chuckled into his mouth before turning back to arranging sandwiches.

    It was testament to Xander’s own change of heart that he didn’t even mind Spike and Buffy fondling each other in front of him. Spike had saved Xander’s life so many times by now that so long as Buffy was happy, Xander wouldn’t have cared if Spike had three heads. When he’d said something along those lines, Anya had said that was ridiculous. Only tripic demons had three heads on a human body, and they weren’t anything like vampires.

    There was a knock on the door. Anya jumped up and ran to the window, checking for demons.

    “Is that her?” Xander asked. “Is it?” He pushed up alongside her.

    “No,” Anya said. “It’s just some girl.”

    The girl knocked again. Xander frowned and glanced at Spike before he went to open it. It was testament to the dynamics of the household that Spike automatically came and stood behind Xander, in case the girl at the door was one of the demons who could shroud themselves as human. “Um... hi. Could I see Buffy?”

    “It’s Tara, pet,” Spike called over his shoulder.

    “Tara!” Buffy was glad to see Tara, but confused as to why she should be there. “Was there something you wanted?” She swallowed, looking nervous. “Is... Angel here?” It was daylight, but he might have been shrouded in a car or something. “I don’t want to see him.”

    “No,” Tara said quickly. “No, I think... I think he’s still in LA. I’m just here to... um...” She stepped into the room and placed a golden talisman down on the floor. “If you’d all stand back?” She muttered a small incantation – Anya laughed and whispered to Xander that Tara’s accent was hilarious – and suddenly standing where the talisman had been was a tall and beautiful red headed vengeance demon, who took one look at Xander and ran forward to hug him.

    Xander wasn’t expecting a Willow about six inches taller with demon markings on her face. “Um... Will?” he asked.

    Willow let him go and beamed at him. “Xander! I’m so glad to see you! I’m so glad! Are you all right? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean... Anya!” She jumped forward and hugged her too. Anya returned the hug fully. “Sister demon, sister demon!” Willow crowed. Anya had been right. Willow was extraordinarily giddy. “And where’s Buffy? Buffy – Buffy!” Willow grabbed Buffy so hard that the slayer grunted with the force.

    “Ease up there, Will,” Buffy said.

    “Oh, sorry,” Willow said. “Strength can be a little hit or miss when you have to remake your body from scratch every time you enter a room.”

    She certainly sounded like Willow. Just a little self-effacing, and kinda happy with it.

    Anya seemed to understand. “I know!” she said. “And the feet?”

    “Oh, god, feet!” Willow said. “Don’t get me started on feet!”

    Xander sidled up to Spike. “What are they talking about?”

    “Search me, mate,” Spike said.

    “Is everyone okay? How’s Amy? Has someone been giving her rat food? She likes cookies.”

    “Running her little wheel,” Xander said. “I’ve been taking care of her. She lives in the hall, ‘cause... well...”

    “I don’t like the way she watches him when he’s naked,” Anya said loudly.

    Tara stepped backwards away from the group.  “Um... well. You seem to... um... be doing fine so...”

    “No! No! Everyone, this is Tara!” Willow said, jumping forward. She grabbed the young witch and pulled her back into the circle.

    “We’ve met,” Buffy said.

    “Tara’s the one who found me, in Arrashmahar,” Willow said.

    “A-Angel said you’d be there,” Tara said softly. “Be-before he went back to LA. I-I only had to do the summoning.”

    “Do the summoning – she’s being modest,” Willow said. “She pulled up my demon name from the dark sites. That must have taken months! Then she summoned me over from the nether-realms, and to be even more wonderful, she realized I’d been caught by my own spell, like, almost as soon as she talked to me.”

    “Caught? How?” Xander asked, and he pulled Willow down to the couch.

    “Oh, just as I was leaving your basement,” Willow said. “I said I don’t care about anything, remember?”


    “It... it caught her,” Tara said. “Her will was not to care, so... she didn’t. Care. About anything. When I summoned her she was just... everything she said was just... okay. I told her that her friends were looking for her, and she just went... oh.”

    “Yeah. Everything that happened to me, I was like... okay!” Willow said. “I didn’t care about anything. Anything at all. So, D’Hoffryn offered to make me a vengeance demon and I was like... okay! And he sent me out – I’ve been all over the world, Buffy! And people told me their little stories and made wishes, and I was just... okay! I didn’t think about any of it.” She looked up at Spike, for some reason. “It was actually really scary, now I look back.”

    Spike nodded, as if that made perfect sense. Then Buffy realized – Willow had turned to the only other current demon in the room.

    Willow wouldn’t let go of Tara’s hand. “Anyway, Tara finally summoned me, and got me out of my own spell, and suddenly I could care again. And I was so scared that you were hurt, Xander! And... and Buffy... God, I’m so sorry, guys! Where’s Giles?”

    “Guide dog training. We couldn’t reach him,” Buffy said.

    “Guide dog...? Oh, well. Well, anyway, I couldn’t just come back. I could only stay in the summoning circle at first. I needed to go and apply to D’Hoffryn for human residency status.”

    “Human residency?”

    “Like me, before I was just Anya,” Anya said. “Establish yourself on earth with a name and an identity. It can be a little overwhelming living in Arrashmahar. A lot of vengeance demons moonlight with a human identity. If you don’t have one, you’re pretty much only allowed to show up on business.”

    “Right,” Willow said. “So I couldn’t come to see you guys until today.”

    “So are you going to stay a vengeance demon?” Buffy asked. “And by the way, you’re still... all...” She gestured to her own face.

    Willow frowned. “Huh? Oh!” The vengeance demon lines of power faded, and Willow’s own old perky face shone at them. “Sorry about that. Well, I’m still discussing that with D’Hoffryn. He hadn’t realized I’d agreed under duress from a spell. It makes the contract a little shaky.”

    “Do you want to stay a vengeance demon?”

    Willow frowned. “I’m... I’m still figuring that,” she said. “It’s a lot of power, Buffy. I mean, a lot.

    Buffy frowned.

    “Oh, but I swear, no vengeances with killings or maimings or anything! No alternate reality spooky vampire worlds or bloody wounds or anything. I might just... do little vengeances. Like stubbing toes, or never finding the perfect puppy.”

    “D’Hoffryn won’t want to keep you,” Anya said decisively. “You’ll get out of that contract in a week, tops.”

    Buffy shook her head, but she smiled. “You’re still Willow,” she said. That was all she’d been afraid of. She wasn’t anymore.

    Spike wouldn’t stop looking at Tara. “What made you summon her home?” he finally asked.

    Tara looked shy. “Um, well... Angel told me about the rest of the spell. Xander and his demons and all, and how it needed Willow to end it. And... it just... I wanted... I wanted to be sure everyone stayed safe.”

    “Angel did that, huh?” Spike said.

    Tara looked up. “I was really just worried,” she said. “He didn’t tell me to summon Willow, it’s just... she was in my wicca group. It didn’t seem right to leave her lost.”

    “Tara was really nice,” Willow said. “She wouldn’t let me go until the spell was off me, and I was myself again. Could care again. It,” she squeezed Tara’s hand and smiled at her warmly, “it’s just really nice to meet someone so serious about the craft.” The two looked as if they’d become fast friends already.

    “Speaking of the craft...?” Spike asked suddenly.

    Buffy looked grave. “Oh. Right. Um... Willow, could Spike and I talk to you privately?”

    “I think that’s my cue to go and show Tara our penthouse apartment,” Xander said. “Have you ever seen a penthouse? I mean, as in, an apartment at the top of the house, obviously, not a magazine.”

    “Though we could show you one of those, if you’re interested,” Anya added. They led the bewildered looking witch up the stairs.

    Willow looked at Buffy and Spike and frowned. “Look, I know what you two are going to say,” she began.

    “I don’t think so,” Buffy said awkwardly. “Would you just... um... sit down? It’s... going to be a little hard to understand.”

    “Um... okay,” Willow said.

    “We have something important we want to tell you,” Buffy said.

    “This is gonna sound weird,” Spike said.

    “And maybe you won’t want to listen,” Buffy said.

    “But it’s really important to us.”

    “To both of us.”

    Willow looked from one to the other of them. “Wait... you two agree about something?”

    “Always,” Spike said.

    “Mostly,” Buffy said.

    “Sometimes.” He was smirking now.

    “A little.”

    Spike looked down at her with a big smile on his face. “Always...” he kissed her, and she kissed back for a long moment before pulling away with a seductive bite of her lip.

    Buffy turned back to Willow, who was staring at them with her mouth open. “We don’t want you to end the spell,” Buffy said.

    Willow blinked at them. “What?”

    “The spell,” Buffy said. “We don’t want you to end it.”

    “You see, Red, we’re happy,” Spike said. “I know it’s kinda strange... but... happiness, real happiness is so rare in this world...”

    “And even if the love and everything’s not real,” Buffy said.

    “We feel it,” Spike said.

    Buffy leaned forward and took Willow’s hand. “I know it’s strange,” she said. “But there are things... some... really awkward things that are... hard to explain. About my being a slayer. And Spike... he understands them. And yeah, maybe it is a spell making us willing to go that extra mile, and maybe the love isn’t real, but... we’re happy.”

    Willow looked very confused. “You two are happy together,” she said.

    “Well... yeah,” Buffy said.

    “You did a good job, Red,” Spike said. He put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “It feels real, and we’re happy with it. So, we’re asking you. Don’t take it away.”

    “Please,” Buffy said. She slid her hand into Spike’s free one, and they looked back on Willow, pleading and defiant at once.

    Willow looked at the two of them. “But... it was forced on you.”

    “Well, yes.”

    “So... isn’t that kind of like a rape?”

    “Is that what Angel told Tara?” Spike asked.

    “Sort of. I don’t know if he used that word...” Willow swallowed. “Well, yes,” she finally said.

    “And that’s the other reason,” Buffy said. “Right now, it feels like the best thing in the world. If you take that away...”

    “We’ll both hate you for it,” Spike said with his eyes narrowed. “And I’d make sure you’d feel it.”

    “Spike, settle.”

    “All right, love,” Spike said quietly.

    Willow moved subtly away from them. She looked at Buffy. “He just... backs down when you ask?”

    “I love her,” Spike said firmly. “Even in a spell, I’d go to the moon for her. Can’t you understand what that means?”

    “I don’t think either of you understand what that means,” Willow said awkwardly.

    “What do you mean?” Buffy asked.

    The door clicked, and then opened. Willow looked relieved at the reprieve at first, and then nervous again when she saw who it was. Giles came in with a bright smile on his face. “Buffy!” he said.

    Buffy jumped up to go to him. “Giles! You’re back! Where’s...” She looked behind him. “Didn’t you get your dog?”

    Giles shook his head and came in without a cane. “I didn’t need one,” he said. “My eyesight came back two days ago! I haven’t been able to reach you. I – Willow! Willow, you’re back! Anya said you’d been taken by the demon D’Hoffryn, are you...” He stopped. “Did he make you into a vengeance demon?”

    “Um. Well,” Willow said, looking very awkward. “It’s hard to explain. I...” She looked from Buffy and Spike to Giles and back again.

    “Your vision came back?” Spike asked. He glanced at Willow. “You already took the spell off Giles?”

    Willow swallowed, still a little nervous of the vampire. “Um... you don’t understand,” she said. “I took the spell off completely. The moment I knew I had cast it properly. I took the spell off me, so that I could care again. That meant all the things I said were undone. All the spells came off at once. Giles’ eyesight, and Xander’s... little demon problem. You two....”

    Spike and Buffy stared at Willow.

    “You two shouldn’t have been in love for more than thirty-six hours, now,” Willow said. “Whatever’s going on between you two now... it’s all you.”

    The dead eyed stare at Willow slowly turned inward. The slayer and the vampire turned their heads and looked at each other. There was a subtle movement as they both leaned slightly apart.

    And very suddenly, Giles and Willow found themselves alone in the room, as Spike went into the bedroom, and Buffy fled out the front door.

    “What’s going on with them?” Giles asked.

    Willow looked torn. “They didn’t want me to end the spell,” she said. “They claimed they were happy.”

    Giles thought about this for a moment, and then sank heavily onto the couch. “Oh, good lord,” he whispered.

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