Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
There's also a special disclaimer for this chapter. I didn't make up the bit about what Spike did during the war. That's down to Christopher Golden, in his novel "Pretty Maids All in A Row".
As to any authenticity regarding the wiccan bits that's all down to Cherie, whereas the mistakes and the entirely made up bits are mine all mine.
SECTION 1 - CHINA IN YOUR HAND
It was a flight on the wings
Of a young girls dreams
That flew too far away
And we could make the monster live again
Oh hands move and heart beat on
Now life will return in this electric storm
A prophecy for a fantasy
The curse of a vivid mind
Don't push too far
Your Dreams are china in your hand
Don't wish to hard
Because they may come true
And you can't help them
You don't know what you might
Have set upon yourself
China in your hand
(T'Pau, Album - Bridge of Spies)
Thursday, May 16th, 2002
Spike's comments regarding the world's impending doom didn't seem to receive what the vampire considered to be due attention from the older of the two watchers. This was mainly because he was somewhat preoccupied by what he could see through the still open front door to the house.
He managed to last until Wes removed his helmet before, aghast, he removed his glasses to clean them.
"Wesley?" He imbued the other watcher's name with such utter incredulity that Spike couldn't control a smirk.
"Hey," the slayer teased. "If you could be a closet mod jogger, what makes you think Wes wouldn't make a biker. You had your secrets."
Spike snorted his amusement at a mental image of Giles perched atop an over-laden Vespa wearing an olive drab parka with The Who's logo on the back, but didn't say anything.
"That can't be Wesley Wyndam-Pryce!" Giles replaced his glasses, only to confirm that his view was unchanged, except that the object of his amazement was now making his way through the doorway.
"Giles! I thought you were in England."
"Yes, well... Up until this morning, I was." The watcher looked uncomfortable, almost as if he was looking round the hallway for listening devices.
Buffy quickly came to the rescue. "Spike's been busy stocking up the fridge with bottles of some beer or other for him and Wesley. What say we relieve him of a few and go make use of that garden furniture out back, for once?"
Spike gave another snort. "I think on your track record you better stick to the Budweiser, pet. Newkie Brown's for the grown ups, love. Just because Clint Eastwood imports it by the crate, doesn't mean the rest of you Yanks are up to it."
"I am so tougher than Clint Eastwood!" Buffy protested.
"Well seein' as how he makes Rupes here look like a spring chicken, I've got no doubt that you could beat him to a pulp, but I bet he could drink you under the table without even trying, besides..." the vampire bent over to whisper in his fiancée's ear.
"Ew, Spike! Gross." Buffy slapped the platinum blond in the stomach hard enough to produce a startled exhalation of air.
"Giles, come and provide me with some civilised conversation." Buffy tugged her father-figure off towards the back door.
Wesley hung back until Spike recovered from the blow, hanging his jacket up in the meantime. "What on earth did you say to her?"
Spike smirked. "I told her if she tried to keep up with us drinking that stuff she'd have the shits for a week."
Wesley smiled. "A slight exaggeration."
"Well, if I'd said for a day she'd probably have tried anyway, on principle, and I'm already sharin' out what I bought for the two of us between three. If she was drinkin' it as well, it wouldn't last no time. Not to mention it's kind of hard to keep an eye on Bit if I spend all night in the bathroom holdin' Buffy's head while she throws her guts up."
Wes shook his head. "I guess I won't be taking the Harley home tonight, then."
"Probably not. Well, we best go raid the fridge and then see what brings the watcher all the way from the Georgian terraces of historic Bath." He gave Wes an appraising look. "Not to mention what happened to bring you clear across town." Spike shifted through to the kitchen with Wes following. He cleared up the broken pieces of a bowl, picked up a half-empty pint beer bottle from the counter and extracted another two similar but full ones from the fridge along with a bottle of Bud lite. He pulled out a tray and placed the bottles and four half-pint glasses on it.
"Yes, well I suspect that Giles' news may be rather more urgent," Wes admitted, as they moved to join the slayer and her former watcher, giving the older watcher his second shock of the day.
"S-spike!" Giles' eyes widened as he watched the vampire approach across the lawn.
"Yeah?" the vampire pretended ignorance of what was freaking the watcher out, even as he took a seat in the sun next to his fiancée, passing out the full bottles of beer and keeping the half-full one for himself.
"You-you're not burning!"
"Funnily enough, I was actually aware of that little detail. Nice, isn't it? Kind of handy when social services comes to visit tomorrow, too. I figure once that's out the way I'll have to hand them back, though."
"You mean... The orbs? They..."
"Well, considerin' you were the first one to start hollerin' about invulnerability you took a while to work that out.
So, Rupert, You've got a beer. Give it half an hour and you'll get some dinner. Let's skip the rest of the make nice bollocks an' get to the point. What dire catastrophe brings you rushing from the motherland?"
"There's actually a couple of things." Giles addressed his answer not to the questioner but to Buffy. "Firstly, and arguably most importantly, there's a coven based in Devon that I've had dealings with since I returned home."
Even though they weren't physically touching, Spike picked up on the disappointment and hurt that Buffy felt when Giles described England as his home. Giles carried on oblivious.
"They haven't been able to come up with any detail, but they have some gifted prognosticators and it would appear that a dark power is about to rise in Sunnydale." Giles removed his glasses, rubbing at them again with his handkerchief before replacing them.
"Very Kendra," Buffy commented dryly. "And secondly?"
"Secondly, news of your engagement has somehow reached the ears of Quentin Travers. A friend who still works for the council says he's determined that the wedding won't go ahead. I have no idea what form his intervention may take. He may try sending a special ops squad. He may simply have Spike deported, or he may arrive on your doorstep with another of his delegations."
"He can't do that. No one and no thing is going to stop this wedding. This is going to be my special day." Spike reached an arm around Buffy to gently stroke her back, trying to soothe her, as she became more irate. "What gives him the right to be arbiter of our lives? Who does he think he is to interfere with our wedding? What have we done to him?"
"Actually." Wesley interrupted, "I think you may find that Spike at least has actually given him some provocation."
"I've never even met the old bugger," Spike denied.
"No," agreed Wesley. "So far as I'm aware you never have. Nevertheless, you did briefly make the acquaintance of his grandfather, one Harold Travers. It was admittedly a rather brief meeting. You remember visiting London, 1940?"
"Spike, what's he talking about?" Buffy asked.
"He's saying that Travers' grandpa was one of a bunch of Watchers that me and Dru killed one time when we paid a visit to Wanker Central."
"Of course!" Giles muttered. "I'd heard the stories, but it was so long ago, I never put it together that it was you."
Wesley shrugged. "There was a girl training as a watcher the same time I was. She wrote-."
"Wrote her thesis on me," Spike finished for him in an almost bored tone of voice.
"Well, when I was first assigned here, in light of your time here the year before, I checked out a copy. It was quite fascinating, as a matter of fact."
"Hey, don't I get a copy?" Buffy asked. "No fair with the Council knowing more about my husband than I will. And how come you knew about this?" she asked as she turned to her fiancé.
"Well, it was you that sent the dizzy bint and her crossbow wielding cronies to the crypt to bat her eyelashes at me an' get her tweed knickers all wet."
"Spike!" Buffy administered a swift but not particularly forceful elbow.
"What? 'S not like I encouraged her." He gave a smirk. "If I'd been interested, I doubt I'd've had to."
Giles gave an impatient sigh. "I think we're getting side-tracked here. I think the more immediate threat is that represented by whatever the coven predicted. As Spike pointed out earlier, while he is in possession of the orbs he is invulnerable, so whatever Quentin may try his life is under no immediate threat."
"Okay, watcher, we'll take this 'dark power' seriously when you tell us what you're hiding?"
"Who says I'm hiding anything?"
"You did. No sooner did you spit out the little line than the glasses were off and you were tryin' to wear a hole in them. A convenient little trick for when you don't want to look people in the eye, isn't it? So spill, Rupes. What do you know?"
"I don't know anything," Giles stated firmly. "I'm merely concerned as to one of the possibilities."
Spike's thoughts flicked back to an argument that he and Buffy had overheard one night when they were on the back porch.
"I see. I guess we'll need to watch our step, then."
"What?" asked Buffy. "What's he getting at? I don't get it."
"He's trying to avoid saying that this is the sort of thing that might be the result of a lot of magic." Spike answered.
Giles' beer suddenly seemed to demand a lot of his attention. "It is simply one possibility, Buffy."
"You think Willow's this 'dark power'?" she asked, apparently dumbfounded.
"Or she may inadvertently raise it," Giles admitted. "But it's no more than a hunch. Not even that really, more like a bad feeling. It's probably just paranoia."
"Or you could view it as the answer to the questions, 'Who has enough power to do something like this?' and 'Who's arrogant enough to play with those sort of forces?'" Spike suggested. "I think the world is safe for tonight, though. She's meant to be meeting Glinda in the library.
So, I'm guessing that we've got time for Wes's news before dinner."
"I'm afraid my news isn't anything like so dramatic. Just that I think I've found somewhere to live and in all probability run the agency from, though there's a bit more paperwork to do on that."
"So you're definitely staying in Sunnyhell, then?" Spike asked with a grin.
"I should be able to sign the lease tomorrow morning, but I wanted to make sure none of you would object to a new neighbour."
"Neighbour? Where neighbour?" Buffy asked.
"Across the road. The old Kalish place." Spike looked blank. "The house where you smashed in the window last night."
"Wes, that's great. You'll be right across the street if we need you... and vice versa. And we'll be so close by, any time you feel like company you can just pop over."
"Not to mention giving me a bolt hole for when the oestrogen levels over here get too much to bear," Spike joked.
"Hey," exclaimed the slayer. "You love it round here. You know you do. You think you're Hugh Hefner."
"Hugh Hefner, am I? Then where are we going to-."
"Have you guys all gone deaf?" called a voice from the porch and Dawn appeared around the corner of the house carrying the handset for the cordless phone. "I'm supposed to be the invalid here, not the servant."
"Sorry, pet. I was going to head back in in five minutes to finish off in the kitchen."
"Yeah? Well, you've got quarter of an hour to get it all under control before you go to pick up Brandon." She passed the phone to Buffy. "It's Anya, something to do with Tara and Willow. She asked if I knew where Wes was as well, but since I didn't realise we were having an English embassy tea-party on the back lawn, I told her I didn't know."
"Anya, hi! How's Xander?"
"Drunk, affectionate and currently unconscious, but he's not our problem."
"Willow never showed up to meet Tara. She rang me to see if Willow had taken anything from the magic shop. She thinks she's going to try to use that forgetting spell to make us forget that she sent the email to Sam, and to make Dawn forget what happened to her."
"Surely she wouldn't try that again after the last time?" Buffy argued.
"You mean, she wouldn't mess with people's brains again without their permission after her delusting spell and her will be done spell and her making Tara forget about them arguing and then making us all forget who we were and then conjuring demons and grand theft auto by magic. No, of course she wouldn't. What was I thinking? Willow's your friend. Of course, she wouldn't endanger us all... Again."
"What do you want us to do?"
"Well, not that it's much of a hope, but if we split up someone may be able to find her and try to talk her out of it. Of course, if we're all over the place when our memories go then it's even more dangerous, but Tara's got no hope of getting back here to get the ingredients she'd need to do a locator spell in time, so for now she's checking some of the buildings on campus."
"Wes is here. So is Giles. If they met you at The Magic Box they could do it, couldn't they?"
"Either one, I think."
"Anya, hold the line a minute. I just want to check something.
Giles? Wes? Anya and Tara say Willow never showed up to meet Tara this evening. They think she's going to try to make us all forget about last night and that in a way it's her fault."
"What do you mean it's her fault?" Dawn asked in a suspicious tone of voice.
"Later, Dawn. Please ," Buffy pleaded. "But that wouldn't be a dark power, would it?"
"No, there has to be something else. Ask if she got any components?" Giles suggested.
"And there's no way she'd be able to make everybody forget," Spike argued. "We're talking troops, doctors, nurses... and then you'd have to get rid of all the physical records. X-rays, notes, bills. Red's little trick wouldn't cut it. 'Sides, twice in one week is too much to expect anybody to put up with." Spike gave his opinion while Buffy questioned Anya.
"Just a big quartz. That's why they thought it was the memory spell. They figured she probably took some Lethe's bramble while Anya was busy with something else."
"Quartz? As in common ingredient between magic and watches?" Spike asked before Buffy could finish relaying what Anya had said to the two watchers. "Big as in big enough to use as an offering to some demon demi-god you might want to conjure up if, say, you wanted them to take back time. There's your dark bloody power. She's not trying to make everybody forget. The stupid bint! She's trying to make it never have happened."
Spike winced suddenly as Buffy's arm impacted once more with his stomach. "You had to go and jinx us by saying we'd be safe for the night, didn't you, Einstein?"
Up in the clock tower where Buffy and Riley had once fought The Gentlemen and their minions, Willow sat cross-legged with a ceremonial circle in front of her. Its design was complex and looked like a Celtic knot pattern, so that the single line in cobalt blue edged finely in the gold of yellow sandstone, circled the area which it bound, seven times over. It had taken her over an hour to draw, for the areas that represented where the line crossed under itself had to be represented precisely. The blue of the line's centre had to meet the gold at the edge of the line it travelled under or the circle would be broken. Overlap too far, so the blue in one strand met the blue of the next, and the circle's potency would be reduced. The whole design was traced in sand. The same sand as would once have filled hourglasses. In the very centre of the circle sat the huge quartz crystal, so translucent you could almost see through it, about the size of a catcher's mitt.
Between the witch and the circle were placed the spell book from which she had taken the design, several crystals and a freshly sharpened, silver letter-opener. The star garnets were for empowerment and productivity. They also represented glory, but Willow wouldn't admit even to herself that she might use them thus, as that would be contrary to the workings of white magic. The sulphur crystals were for wish empowerment, white stones with pale yellow pieces all through them, almost as if someone had taken a bag of sherbet lemons and crushed them before trying to glue the end product back together. The letter opener? Well...
Everything was ready. Willow simply meditated to clear her mind. She needed to dismiss the thought of the look on Tara's face when she had first suggested that she take back time. She tried to forget the look of disappointment on her face when she told her about the email and the hurt, lost look on Dawn's face when Spike and Buffy brought her back from the hospital.
Most of all, she tried to ignore the whining and the scrabbling that came from the now urine-stained cardboard box in the corner of the tower. After all, once the spell was cast, she would be totally blameless, because she literally wouldn't have done anything.
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