Ficlet #5 of my Cycle Series. Sequel to She's Come Undone. Spike/Fred; rated PG-13; set post-Not Fade Away.

Making Medicine

The attempt at a cure has begun, on the floor in Willow's living room where she and Fred are seated cross-legged, facing one another, listening to a CD of soft, hypnotic music. Fred's followed Willow's instructions happily; she likes the witch and wants to please her, and she thinks her rituals are fun. They gently clasp hands over a bowl of herbs and incense and flickering candles; the odors soothe and the tiny flames relax and comfort, and Willow closes her eyes and murmurs the magic that Council wizards swear by for the repair of damaged minds. Fred interrupts only once, to announce with a giggle that it's like playin' Little Pink Clouds.

Spike watches them through the kitchen doorway. He's seated, too -- in one of the chairs of the dinette set -- stiff and wary, his arms twisted into a knot across his chest. Almost too casually, Faith joins him, sipping a can of orange soda and perching on the dinette table itself with her feet on a chair.

"So…" she says after a minute, "…are you guys going steady?"

Spike glances at her only long enough to give her a withering look. "What's it to you, Slayer?"

"Nothin'. I just never figured you for the Girl Scout type, is all. Y'know, innocent goody-two-shoes Pollyanna teacher's pet who couldn't punch her way out of a wet paper bag." Faith smiles with mischief, and drops her voice to a sultry purr. "I always got the impression that you liked your ladies rough 'n' wicked. Warm champagne, remember?"

This time he doesn't even bother to look at her. "Tastes can change."

"Guess so." Faith looks a bit disappointed at his refusal to flirt with her. "From booze to buttermilk, though; that's a change I never would have predicted…although come to think of it, she did wear Naughty Librarian glasses sometimes."

They fall silent and watch as the candle flames turn an unnatural purple and Willow lays her palms on the sides of Fred's face. Fred's eyes glaze and droop shut, and Willow's chant drones on: "Chaos, depart. Discordia, depart. Anu, goddess of health, Brigantia, goddess of healing, Menrva, goddess of reason, help us. Harmonia, restore us. That which was undone, make whole. Tabula implore, tabula supplere, tabula integra."

Faith picks quietly at the tab of her soda can. "Did Wes…were you there when he died?" There's grief in her voice, for all that she tries to seem unaffected. It catches Spike by surprise.

"No. Dunno many details; just the basic how and why. Illyria was with him, though. I suppose you could ask her about it when she blasts through your front door…if she's not too busy slaughtering everyone, that is. Girl does enjoy a good rampage."

"The 'why' was stupid." Faith glares into her soda as if The Why is floating there. "He had no business hookin' up with that place, y'know it? Crazy-ass psycho killer attorneys. I should've made him come back to Sunny D with us when I had the chance."

"Right, 'cause the Hellmouth was so much safer."

"Shut up and let me enjoy my hindsight. Who knows, maybe if you'd gotten your girl out when you first started feelin' the wiggins, she wouldn't be walking around with pudding for brains right now."

She could swear she sees him wince, and for a moment she's almost sorry. But it passes.

"She loved that bloody laboratory of hers too much to leave," Spike replies. "Was convinced it was her best means to fight evil 'n' bring truth and justice to the world." He pauses, and then adds, "She wasn't my girl, anyway. There were always two or three blokes in line ahead of me. Still could be, for all I know."

Faith sighs. "Dude, you gotta stop wearing your heart on your sleeve. It was pathetic when you were jonesin' for B, and it ain't any prettier now."

"All done," Willow announces suddenly, and Fred sags over in an unconscious heap. "Help me get her on the couch."

They scoop her up and deposit her on the sofa, and tuck a pillow under her head. Willow chews her lip thoughtfully and surveys her handiwork. "She's gonna be out for awhile; maybe even a day or two. We'll know if it took when she wakes up."

"I don't like the sound of 'if', Red," Spike tells her.

"I know, but hey, it beats 'when pigs fly' or 'I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat' or 'we don't have a clue what we're doing.'" Willow smiles at him encouragingly. "Wanna hear something funny? One of the goddesses I invoked – Harmonia – well, guess what the name of the territory was that she and her husband legendarily helped conquer?"

"Disneyland?" Spike guesses.

"No. Illyria. Is that a lucky sign or what? Go, Team Us!"

Still smiling, Willow begins to gather up her supplies from the floor. Spike pulls an ottoman next to the sofa, and watches Fred. Her breathing is deep, steady. Her cheeks are flushed. There's no movement under her eyelids; her sleep seems almost drugged, beyond dreaming.

For awhile he only watches. Then with one gentle finger he traces her lips.

Outside the wind begins to pick up, whirling around the house and chimney and rattling the tree branches. Another gust, and hail stones clatter across the roof…then cease as suddenly as they came.

Everyone waits, listening in the stillness. Faith goes to the window and watches as the silent lightning illuminates an afternoon grown dark and threatening.

A high, shrill whistle breaks the silence. From the corner of the room a ball of electricity, fist-sized and crackling with static, appears. It hangs in midair as though getting its bearings; then it moves. Bobbing and lurching, it begins to trace a crazed, rapid path along the walls and down the ceiling. One, two, three more light balls follow it. Together they circle the original ball, which shoots past them and swings toward the sofa.

Without taking her eyes from the floating lights, Faith picks up a heavy candlestick. "Rosenberg, we could use some cover," she says.

"Already on it," Willow murmurs, as both she and Faith back slowly up to flank Fred on the sofa. Spike hisses and shifts into vamp-face. Whispering a spell, Willow throws a protective force field around them all.

The original ball veers off, circling.

Illyria has arrived.