Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or anything associated with it. All rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and affiliated products belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Inc.
Summary: Buffy knew to be careful of what she said to strangers when in pain; but no one warned her that vengeance demons were eavesdroppers and granted wishes that weren't expressed to them, though. "I wish I could go back in time and fix it." Spuffy
Based on Episodes: 6x05 'Life Serial' and 6x08 'Tabula Rasa'
Pairings: Spuffy, Tallow, Xanya
The Watcher's Council surprised Buffy by granting her a generous salary the moment Giles mentioned it; it was like they had been waiting for her request. It was by no means in the top income bracket, but with the phoney job title as 'telemarketer', it provided her with the perfect excuse for working from home, and the forty-five thousand English pound per year salary (which Anya calculated to be somewhere between sixty-five and seventy thousand American dollars), Buffy would be able to quickly pay off her bills and afford an allowance for Dawn. She had yet to catch her out on the kleptomania, and was wondering how to do it. Hopefully having a little more money every two weeks would cut down on the stealing.
Willow was still half-heartedly looking for an after-school job. Tara had yet to work up the courage to confront her about her use of Magic, wanting to catch her using spells in excess before bringing it up. She'd watched Willow carefully for almost a week, and was alarmed at what she was seeing. She knew that Willow was getting a little too deep into the Black Arts, but she had no idea how deep; the books that she'd found under the clothing in Willow's drawers were full of all sorts of spells that Tara herself wouldn't try for years, despite the fact that she had been practising longer.
Willow had, of course, noticed that everyone was walking on eggshells around her, but she didn't understand why. Giles, Buffy and Tara were all avoiding her gaze and often left the room when she came into it (Dawn hadn't been told what was going on, but had noticed everyone else's behaviour and had begun to emulate them for completely different reasons), confusing her beyond holy heck. Had Giles told them about what she'd said to him in the kitchen the other night? He had no right to tattle on her about a private conversation; especially about things that were both true, and said in the heat of the moment. She was sorry she'd threatened him, but she wasn't going to take it back. If he wanted to insult her, she was going to defend herself. She wasn't a meek little girl anymore. She was a very powerful witch, and it was time they learned to accept and respect that.
After a week since her conversation with Tara, and confident that she would attempt to slow Willow down, Buffy and Dawn were getting into a regular routine; Dawn would be up and off to school in the mornings, leaving Buffy asleep until about ten. Buffy would then go to the Magic Box for training with Giles until Xander dropped Dawn off from school, at which point Buffy would give Dawn another self-defence lesson, and would later take her sister home to do her homework.
Depending on what time Dawn finished (and if she wasn't going out with friends), they would either watch television with Giles and order in, or they would have a blast trying to cook something out of their mother's recipe books; not all of these were edible, but Dawn liked to cook and was enjoying spending time with Buffy – and Buffy's culinary skills were improving as a direct result of the time in the kitchen.
When Tara came home from her new job at the Magic Box at six, they would have dinner, which was usually a household affair. At nine, Buffy patrolled for a few hours before coming home at about one in the morning for sleep. It was a comfortable routine to settle into, but it wasn't one that would last forever – Buffy could feel that things were going well, but was willing to bet that certain things would interfere before long. Especially since she was looking for somewhere to fit Spike in outside of patrol, since she didn't want to ignore him completely and give off the vibe that she was only using him for his muscle; she knew he wouldn't fit in with her friends, since only Dawn really liked him (Tara was courteous enough, and loved to poke harmless fun at the neutered vampire, but was never as rude to him as the other Scoobies were), which made things difficult.
She was only thinking of the happy now, though; her first major achievement was when Tara provided her with her first rent payment. Pocketing the bills (she was only charging them eighty dollars a month each, since she had her own income), she gave Tara a big smile and a hug. "Thanks, Tara."
"No p-problem." She dug through her purse for more money. "W-Willow asked me to, to cover her this month, too, s-since she's having tr-trouble finding a job."
Buffy grabbed Tara's wrist before she could extract any more notes. "No." She shook her head.
"I know the pay from the Magic Box isn't great; especially since you're only there part time. Don't pay for her." Buffy frowned. "There's still three weeks left for the month. I'm sure she'll find something before I have to get onto her about it." She lied. She wasn't at all convinced that Willow was looking for work (she liked to spend her free time in the Magic Box pretending to check the classifieds while covertly reading spell books) and didn't want Tara saddled with having to pay for both of them. While she knew that Willow and Tara came as a package deal and shared everything with each other, she didn't want Willow to take advantage of her girlfriend.
"Are you sure?" Tara frowned.
"Positive." Buffy nodded.
"O-okay." Tara smiled slightly, putting her purse away. "I-I'll tell Willow that you, you're still w-waiting for it, then."
"Super." Buffy rubber her eyes, yawning. It was Friday afternoon, which meant that the Magic Box had closed early and Dawn was out with school friends. Willow had met with another student to tutor him and Giles was helping Anya with the books for the business while he was in the country, to help pass the time. It was just Buffy and Tara in the house, and they were in the kitchen; Tara was sitting on a stool while Buffy frowned over a recipe that she was trying for an early dinner. "Did you talk to Willow about you-know-what yet?" She asked.
"Not yet." Tara admitted. "I will, though. S-soon."
"As long as she listens." Buffy pursed her lips, tossing in a pinch of salt. "Just, don't leave it too long, please? I know this sounds really pushy of me, and you're fully right to tell me that it's none of my business and to butt out, but it really worries me."
"Y-you're right about it th-though." Tara watched her. "And, and it's just as much y-your business as it is ours. She's, she's your friend and we, we're living in your house." She pursed her lips. "I gotta admit… I'd feel b-better if you and Giles helped m-me."
Buffy stared at her. "I dunno if that's such a good idea. She'll probably think that we're ganging up on her."
Tara sighed. "I just… I think sh-she'd listen more if it came from a-all of us. I m-might be her, her girlfriend, but she l-looks up to Giles and you and D-Dawnie are like, like sisters to her."
"Please?" Tara blinked at her.
"I… I guess…" Buffy faltered. "We should talk to Giles first, then."
"Mhmm." Tara hummed. "I'll call him now." She reached for the phone.
Willow found herself looking onto three very serious faces when she came home from tutoring that night. Dawn was in the hallway, looking on curiously, but a look from Buffy sent her scurrying up the stairs – she wasn't too bitter about what was going on; Buffy had told her that they would likely be arguing, and while Dawn had expressed curiosity, Buffy had told her that she wasn't to be part of the conversation and had promised to fill her in later if things went well. If they didn't, she said, Dawn would likely hear it from her room.
"What's up, guys?" Willow asked apprehensively, standing in the entrance to the living room. "Is something wrong? Is it a demon?"
"Perhaps you'd better take a seat." Giles gestured to the couch; he was standing, while Tara and Buffy were seated in armchairs on either side of the set-up. No one noticed Dawn creeping back to the landing, to eavesdrop on the conversation; she couldn't see them, but she could hear everything that was going on.
Willow took a seat in the middle of the couch. "Guys, what's going on? Did something happen while I was out? Are Xander and Anya okay?" She asked, since they were the only two out of the Scoobies who weren't there.
"No, they're fine." Buffy shook her head. "We want to talk to you about something."
"We w-wanted to talk to, to you about your m-magic, sweetie." Tara twisted her hands in her lap.
"What about it?" Willow frowned, looking at them one by one.
Giles cleaned his glasses in the silence, replacing them on his nose as he cleared his throat. "We are concerned that you are abusing your magicks, Willow." He said bluntly, sitting on the arm of Buffy's chair.
Willow frowned. "What?"
Tara reached down beside her chair and pulled up a few books from the side. She placed them cover-side-up on the coffee table. "L-look at these books; 'Dark Spells for Enemies', 'Manipulation of Time-Space', 'The Book of the Dead' 'Complex Transmogrification'?" She read incredulously. "W-Willow, this is way ahead of, of you."
"W-where did you find those?" Willow stared at them.
"You kn-know where I found th-them." Tara frowned.
"You were going through my things?" Willow frowned at Tara. "Why would you do that?" She demanded defensively.
"Because I asked her to keep an eye on you." Buffy butted in. "I've seen you do more spells since I've been back than I have since you started practising."
"It's none of your business what I do with my magicks." Willow turned to frown at Buffy. "Besides, it was my magic that brought you back from, from that place. It brought you back to life!"
"A-and you almost died doing the, the spell." Tara pointed out. "You, you pretended to be o-okay, but at first, I, I could sense that your aura was weak. Did y-you forget that you were p-passed out for, for hours after we left the graveyard?"
"She was?" Buffy blinked. She hadn't heard that part.
"You weren't aware?" Giles blinked at Buffy. "Did you not notice when you left the graveyard to flee the demons?"
An uncomfortable silence settled over the room; Giles hadn't been told of their crucial error in the resurrection spell. "Buffy wasn't w-with us when we left the graveyard." Tara murmured to break it.
Giles frowned in confusion. "But, Willow said—"
"Willow glossed over some of the finer details." Buffy's voice was low, too, as she crossed her arms and stared at her lap. "Sure. They resurrected me." She shuddered. "But they left me in my coffin under six feet of dirt. I had to dig my way though to the surface. Everyone was long-gone when I got out."
Giles stared. "Buffy—"
"This isn't about that." Buffy cut him off. "This is about Willow." She looked up at her friend, who was looking defensive and angry. "It's little oversights like that that could get people killed, Wills. Not to mention the trauma it can inflict. I almost suffocated in that grave. I have nightmares about it." Even five years later. They were less frequent now, but they were still there.
Willow balked. "So I made a mistake—"
"A mistake that, that almost killed Buffy." Tara blurted. "Again. And, and left us all v-vulnerable afterwards."
"It was very foolish of you, Willow." Giles was massaging a temple in an attempt to digest this new information. "It just goes to show what I was talking about the other night. You are in over your head."
"No, I'm not—"
"Willow," Tara said firmly, "you are using too much magic."
"I'm not!" She insisted. "Okay, so I'm testing my limits. Is that so wrong? Why are you all against me?" She demanded, rocketing to her feet.
"We're not against you, Willow." Giles told her firmly. "Now sit down."
"No, I will not sit down!" Willow shouted. "You're, you're all treating me like I'm the bad guy!"
"We are not." Buffy used a low voice to try to offset Willow's yelling. "You're being stupid. Sit down."
"You are so!" Willow snapped. "I know it was you and Giles that told Tara to warn me about my magicks, Buffy!" Willow had rounded the table to stand over Buffy with her arms crossed. "Xander was right! You're… you're all just being jealous and, and ungrateful!"
Buffy snapped; she rocketed to her feet and gave Willow a good, sharp slap across the face that echoed in the silence that had descended across everyone else. "Don't you dare accuse me of being ungrateful!" Buffy snapped. "You think I don't appreciate being brought back to life? Are you stupid?" She demanded. "I've seen what abuse of magic can do, Willow! Or are you forgetting Amy's Mom? Or Amy? God, Wil, they destroyed themselves when they got too deep into magic!" She held back the knowledge of Willow's own future, although she very much wanted to bring it up.
"I'm not that stupid! I'm careful! Okay, so I accidentally overlooked something in the resurrection spell—" Willow argued.
"And you're acting like you think I ought to be bending to your every will, after the trauma that I went though!" Buffy continued on her tirade, her face reddening. She'd been aching to say this for ages now. "D'you think I haven't heard you? You resent me because now that I'm back, you're not getting a free ride anymore; you don't have control over my house or money anymore! You treat your girlfriend like she's stupid, you patronise my sister like she doesn't matter, and you threatened my Watcher, Willow. Maybe you need to take a step back and realise that you're so drunk with power that it's eating you up from the inside out! The Willow I know and love would never do any of those things!"
Silence descended over the house; Tara and Giles were staring at Buffy with awe. Willow's eyes were wide, her hand over her abused cheek. "Buffy, I…" her voice was small.
"Don't." Buffy growled, eyes closed, pointing at the door. "Just… don't. I don't want to see you right now." Willow fled up the stairs as Buffy sank into her chair.
Buffy sighed. She was suddenly very sleepy. "What?" She snapped at the other two, staring at her. "You know it's true."
Everyone avoided looking at each other in the fallout; Dawn retreated to her room when Willow passed her. The house was so silent that they heard Xander's car pull up out the front; Willow must have used the upstairs phone to call him. She didn't say anything as she came down the stairs and slammed the door behind her in her hurry to leave.
Anya was not pleased about their houseguest. She spent about ten minutes in the kitchen trying to dig out the ice cream out of their freezer on Xander's orders; he was busy comforting a crying Willow in the living room.
So, she was thrown out of Buffy's house. Anya didn't get the big deal. Buffy had every right to throw her out if she didn't want her there.
She was armed with three bowls of chocolate-chip ice cream when she went back into the living room. Dumping two of them with a pair of spoons on the table, she reclined in her own chair across the room.
"But why?" Xander was asking. "Why did she say that?"
"Be-be-because they think I'm ab-abusing m-magic." Willow sniffled, wiping her eyes as she reached for a bowl and spoon.
"But that's ridiculous." Xander scoffed. "Isn't that ridiculous?" He shot to Anya.
"I don't think so." Anya shrugged. "Willow's been using a lot of magic for a lot of little things. That never leads anywhere good."
"But I've always been c-careful." Willow hiccupped. "I'm not ir-irresponsible!"
"It's the responsible ones you have to look out for." Anya said bluntly. "Like you; you've done something incredibly powerful, and you like how it felt. Soon you'll be using that power for less than scrupulous purposes, and you'll like how that feels, and you'll do it more and more often. Eventually, you'll be so powerful that you'll do something really evil and probably hurt a bunch of people in the process." She shrugged, popping a spoon full of ice cream in her mouth. "It's better that you realise that you have a problem now, while it's still early, and try to get help for it. Buffy's right. You're going down a bad path."
"Anya!" Xander was shocked at his fiancée. "How could you say that?"
"Because it's true." Anya defended. "I think you forget how old I am sometimes, Xander. Willow wouldn't be the first witch I've seen turn evil. Half of the world's vengeance demons used to be very powerful witches." She stood up, walking to the bedroom door. "I'm a non-practicing witch, you know. Remember what I told you? I was hexing my ex-fiancé when he left me before I became a demon. If D'Hoffryn hadn't found me, I'd likely have gotten a lot worse. I know these things. It's just that none of you ever want to listen to me!" She slammed the door behind her.
Buffy was expecting the nerd trio to mess with her soon.
She and Dawn had chosen to go shopping on Monday afternoon rather than cook, and were just about to sit in the food court to share some Chinese food when someone barrelled into Buffy. Luckily, Dawn was carrying the tray, so none of the food was lost, but Buffy was knocked over and whacked her head pretty hard against the ground; she was seeing stars as Dawn put the tray down and bent over her.
"You okay?" She asked, not bothering to stare after the guy as he scurried out of sight.
"M'fine." She winced, stumbling to her feet. "God, rude much?" She tried to see the guy over the heads of the circle of onlookers that were starting to dissipate. "Did you see who it was?" Was it Warren? Andrew? Jonathon?
"No." Dawn shook her head. "Guy was wearing a jacket and hat. Didn't see his face."
"No big." Buffy deposited herself into a chair. "You gonna sit, Dawn?" She asked, blinking up at her sister, who was watching her.
"Oh!" Dawn sat across the table and leant over to get a carton. "Yeah, sorry." She broke a pair of chopsticks and started to eat. "So, anyway…"
Buffy's eyes were trained on her food when she first heard the buzzing. Looking up, she saw Dawn move in fast-forward as she ate, not able to hear anything that her sister was saying until time slowed down.
"…and then she said that Danny was too slow for track, and…"
"…totally needs to stop waiting for her outside the locker rooms…"
"…then Anya said that Xander was just threatened by Spike's 'rugged handsomeness', which, like, totally duh…"
Buffy blinked at that one, intrigued. Just her luck that the buzzing kicked in again, gypping her of the rest of the conversation. She frowned in irritation; at least, though, she wasn't being run over by students hurrying on their way to and from class. A lot less pain to be had when she was sitting out of the way of pedestrian traffic. She pulled off her jacket and searched it all over, looking for the thing that was making time go all wonky. She couldn't find it.
"…you even listening to me?" Dawn was demanding. Buffy looked up. "I've been talking to you for the last hour and you haven't said a word." Oh. She was pissed.
"There's something on me." Buffy tried to explain. "Something that's making—" the buzzing started again "—time go wonky." She sighed into the buzzing mass around her.
She patted her sides and obviously managed to brush something off; time went back to normal, but she couldn't see where the little thing had landed. She blinked a few times, looking around her, waiting for the buzzing to start again.
She heard a little 'pft' sound, like the noise the little ball of 'lint' had made when it self-destructed on campus. Unfortunately, Dawn had already had enough of her catatonic sister, and was viciously attacking the rest of her food in silence. "Dawnie."
"What?" She snapped.
"You will not believe what just happened to me…"
At least she knew what kinds of demons were coming for her later, and how to stop the time loop.
It had been a while since Buffy had cast a spell. It had become a part of a Slayer's regular arsenal post-Sunnydale, since Willow was able to teach after her success at not becoming evil after her big spell in the school. Mostly Slayers were taught healing, detection and minor offensive and defensive spells, but those who proved to have an affinity for it were taught other, more advanced magicks. Buffy was by no means great at magic. She'd mastered some spells to an intermediate level, and was nowhere near Willow's (or even Tara's) current ability; but she felt the need to do something. Something didn't seem right since Willow had come home on Sunday afternoon.
She just wanted to check. That was all. And if nothing was wrong, then there was no need to worry about it and she'd never think about it ever again. But if she was right, and Willow was just getting worse faster than she had last time, then something needed to be done. And so she sat in the centre of a circle of sand on Monday night while everyone was getting ready for dinner, just as she had when she'd discovered that evening that Dawn was not really her sister, and burned incense while meditating.
She easily recognised the feel of the trance. Taking deep breaths and reminding herself that Dawn would fade in and out of sight (knowing that her sister wasn't real and accepting it were two different things. She loved her sister, but it would be like a slap in the face to see it again), she opened the door and crept out into the hall.
Tara was just coming upstairs to get her for dinner. She sniffed the air a few times, frowning, before looking at Buffy. "Buffy… did… did you do a spell?" She asked, blinking.
Buffy was absently studying the aura around the witch. Her personal aura, the one that looked as if it were coming out of her very pores, was a greenish colour; not the prettiest in the world, but it was marred by something else. Around Tara's head, there was a layer of red under the green (at least, it looked like red, but it was kinda hard to tell). She frowned and cocked her head, inching closer to Tara and squinted at the magic. It was definitely a spell of some description; it looked as if it were… leaking into her ears? What the hell was that?
There was a thin red line trailing off behind Tara. Ignoring the other woman's concerned and confused questions, Buffy rounded her and began to follow it. She paused at the mirror at the top of the stairs. Looking at it, she noted her own blue-and-gold aura (the gold slivers she recognised as remnants of future-Willow's protective spell. It was supposed to prevent mind-altering spells to be effective against her. It was nice to think that she still held a piece of the future in her being), and… a blanket of red over her head? Unlike Tara, who had the red under her aura, it seemed unable to penetrate past future-Willow's spell.
Blinking at herself and still tuning Tara out, she descended the stairs slowly. Tara passed her and called out to the others (Xander and Anya were over for dinner and movies that night), telling them that she thought there was something wrong with Buffy. Only, when they all crowded into the hall, Buffy discovered that there was something wrong.
Something very, very wrong.
"What did you do?" She hissed at Willow, grabbing her by the collar and flattening her against the wall. Xander and Giles attempted to pry her one-handed grip off of her, but she pushed them back with her free hand. "What did you do?" She demanded again. "Did you think no one would notice?" Willow tried to struggle away from the admittedly freaking-acting Buffy, but she flattened her hand against Willow's breastbone and refused to let up. "Did you think no one would see?"
"Buffy, what on Earth—?" Giles attempted to get the Slayer to move again. She shoved him with a little more force than necessary. He fell backward into Anya and Tara, who had to help him upright after his stumble.
Willow looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Anya was blabbering something about the fallout of the resurrection spell, even though that was now almost three months ago. Buffy turned around to the blabbering group (studiously ignoring her heart wrenches at seeing and hearing Dawn fade in and out of existence). "Shut up." She ordered them. They did. She turned back to Willow.
"Well?" She demanded.
"B-Buffy, I have no idea what you're talking about!" Willow squeaked a little too quickly.
"I see it." She raved like a demented person. "The clouds of red, all seeping into their ears, to their brains." She was well aware of how much she sounded like Drusilla at that point, but didn't really care. She was pissed. "I see the little trails, leading back to you."
"W-what is she talking ab-about?" Tara whispered to Giles.
"I don't know." Giles responded.
"I'm talking about a spell." Buffy's eyes never left Willow's as she ground out the words. "Willow's done a little spell. Was it mind-control? Or was it a memory spell?" She demanded, pressing a little harder. She knew the trance made her a little more aggressive than normal, but she felt a sort of righteous justification when she was reminded of Willow's little 'tabula rasa' spell last time. This was just a toned-down version of that… and a little sooner. Something had to be done.
"Buffy, calm down." Giles attempted to reason with her. "You know Willow would never—"
"Oh, she wouldn't?" Buffy scoffed. "Do you even remember telling her how stupid she was to resurrect me, Giles? Or did you erase that memory, Wills?" She spat. "Tara, d'you remember telling her she was using too much magic?" She could tell by the shocked silence that the others were either believing her or thinking she was insane. "You didn't think anyone would be immune, did you? You thought you could bring all of us under your magically-enlarged thumb."
"Buffy… what's wr-wrong with you?" Willow whimpered, trying desperately to get away from her. Trying to save face and not admit to the manipulation of her friends' minds.
"How do you know?" Anya piped up plainly. "That Willow's cast a spell on us, I mean?"
"An!" Xander was flabbergasted. "How could you even think that Wil would—?"
"A tirer la couture." Buffy interrupted him. "You remember? That spell I used when I found out that Dawn wasn't real?" She hated herself for saying it and winced at the bluntness of it, but it was the truth. "It lets me see if there are magicks in the air. I see them all around the lot of you. There's a spell trying to make it's way into my brain too, but it doesn't work. They all lead back to her."
"…good Lord." Giles was cleaning his glasses.
"A-are you sure you d-did it right?" Willow suggested in a last ditch effort.
Buffy looked right at Dawn and both Summers girls flinched. "I see Dawn fading in and out of existence, just like last time." She snapped her gaze to Willow again. "I'm positive I've done it right."
She shook her head, bringing the trance to an end. She snatched her hand away from Willow as if she burned. "Will, how could you?" She asked in a gentler, hurt voice. "How could you do that to us?"
Willow had the good graces to look ashamed of herself. Looking close to tears, she muttered something that Buffy didn't make out; it was obviously a counter spell of some sort, if the exclamations coming from behind Buffy were any indication. As she turned to look at the rest of the Scooby gang, she took in the varying expressions of shock and anger. Giles looked furious; he was clenching and unclenching his jaw, a little of the 'Ripper' showing through.
But he was nothing compared to Tara.
She had balled up her fists, her eyes flashing with white-hot rage. She glared at her girlfriend, shaking her head a little as she attempted to process the violation that Willow had inflicted on her friends. "How dare you use that spell on us?" She demanded in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. "On me? After what Glory did to me? How could you violate my mind like that?"
"Don't 'baby' me." Tara spat. "I… I can't even look at you—!" She turned to hurry back up the stairs.
Willow finally moved, grabbing at Tara's wrist. "Baby, please!" She cried. "I only wanted to… to make things better for everyone. To make all the hurt and the anger go away! To make the fighting stop."
Tara stared at her coldly. "But you don't get to decide what's better for us, Will." She shook her head in disappointment. "If you don't wanna fight, you don't fight. You don't use magic to make a fight disappear." She turned around. "I just… I can't… I just need to be… alone. Just, just leave me alone." She headed up the stairs. They heard the door to the master bedroom close a few seconds later. When Buffy strained her ears in the quiet that ensued, she could just barely make out Tara's muffled sobs.
"Well, that was very stupid of you, Willow." Anya said bluntly.
She was questioned later. She told them she didn't know why Willow's spell hadn't affected her (it was agreed by all who weren't Willow that they were lucky that it hadn't), and when asked why she'd done the a tirer la couture, Buffy had had to make up a lie about a Slayer dream. Turning the events of what she was now referring to as her 'past life' into a vague sort of dream montage wasn't that difficult. She told them about seeing Willow cast spells that accidentally left them vulnerable, of seeing her with dark hair and attacking herself and Giles, and of seeing her at 'something that looked like a temple of some sort with Xander in the way'.
Besides remarking that she should have come to him before casting her spell, Giles seemed convinced.
"I just… wanted to check things before I started causing panic." She sounded contrite. To be honest, she hadn't thought of the consequences before casting it. She'd merely hoped that she was wrong and wouldn't have to bring it up with the group. Now, she was just angry, but she was forced to be careful. One wrong word could blow the whole thing wide open. "It just felt like things were…" she chanced a glace at Willow, who sat with her hands folded in her lap, picking at her nails, "…wrong. And I wanted to make sure."
She briefly thought of what she was doing as manipulation of her friends, like Willow was trying to do, but quickly dismissed the notion. She was trying to shape the world, yes, but she wasn't depriving them of knowledge that they were meant to possess, or taking away memories of what they'd already experienced. She was just giving them gentle nudges in the right direction (well… giant shoves in Willow's case, she guessed), not unlike what they'd done to her before. She wasn't trying to control them. She was taking control of herself, and that changed how they behaved. She would only be sticking her nose into their business to avoid them hurting themselves (or other people).
"I'm sorry." Willow said again for what was probably the fiftieth time. Buffy was getting sick of hearing it.
Giles looked at her. "I hope you understand how very… betrayed we're feeling, Willow." He regarded her levelly. "Erasing memories is not something to be done lightly, and is incredibly easy to get wrong." No kidding, Buffy thought, reminding herself of 'Joan' and 'Randy'. "Not to mention, it is one of the basest violations a witch can bestow upon a person other than complete mind control."
'Randy Giles? Why not just call me 'Horny Giles', or 'Desperate-For-A-Shag Giles'? I knew there was a reason I hated you!
Buffy had to stuff a muffin in her mouth to keep from snickering at the memory. She didn't know why, but whenever she thought of the disastrous memory spell, that was the first thing that came to mind. As she chewed, she remembered all the other things that had happened, too. They'd all almost been killed. Tara had left Willow. Giles had left right after. She'd kissed Spike.
Okay, so maybe it wouldn't be all bad if it happened again now. But at the time? Kissing Spike had been very, very bad, which was precisely why she'd done it. She'd wanted a break from what she 'should' have been doing, according to her friends. And making out with a soulless vampire? It was like giving the Watcher's Council (and by extension, Giles) a giant middle finger; the ultimate act of defiance. She'd remembered liking it when she'd kissed him when Sweet had been in town, and just wanted to feel that escape again. It just… spiralled out of control after that.
She snapped back to attention when Giles brought up the Devon Coven. "They would be able to teach you so much more about the laws of magic than you could discover from any of the textbooks in the Magic Box." He was saying. "It would take time… perhaps six months?"
Willow was looking at him with wide eyes. "And if I don't want to go to England?" She challenged.
"Will…" Buffy sighed. Xander and Anya were being very quiet, Dawn was sitting next to Buffy (that was becoming a habit, which Buffy had found she liked) eating a muffin, and Tara was still upstairs. Buffy was being mostly silent while Giles had lectured her friend.
"Think, Willow." Giles prompted her. "When Buffy gets prophetic dreams, there is usually very little we can do about it until it's too late. Think of this as a chance to… to learn more about yourself and your power."
"And what if going to this coven is just opening the door for this to happen?" Willow countered, though there wasn't really much resistance to the idea anymore. "What then?"
"The Coven don't employ the Black Arts." Giles shook his head. "They practice the purest of White Magic, and wield great power. They don't usually take on students," he admitted, "but I would hazard a guess that due to the… extenuating circumstances, they would be willing to consider it."
"Do I have to decide now?" Willow asked with a small voice.
"Of course not." Giles sighed. "But if you are willing to entertain the notion, then I must contact the Coven at once."
"I'll… think about it." Willow finally sniffled.
"Then I will call them."
Buffy set up the inflatable mattress on her bedroom floor for Willow. Tara hadn't come out of the Master bedroom, and Buffy had needed to go in to get Willow's pyjamas and clothing for the next day. Willow wasn't speaking to Buffy either, but there was nowhere else for her to sleep. Anya had (for once) put her foot down when Xander wanted to take Willow to their apartment for the night; she didn't want a spell-happy witch with wonky emotions in their home. Tara wouldn't even open the door for her, Giles was still in the living room, and Dawn was so angry with Willow for her spell that she wouldn't even look at her.
While Willow changed for bed, Buffy crept over to Dawn's room and knocked on the door, pushing it open. Dawn was sitting at her vanity mirror, brushing her hair and looking like she wanted to cry. Dawn glanced at Buffy in the mirror before setting her face and continuing to brush in long, even strokes.
"Hey." Buffy sat on the bed against the headboard, watching her sister with a slightly tilted head and crossed legs. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." Dawn bit. "Between having another spell cast on me that messes with my memory," Buffy winced at the reminder that all of her memories with Dawn until about a year and a half ago were all lies, "and being reminded that I don't really exist… I'm just great."
"Dawn," Buffy winced, "I didn't mean it like that." She sighed. "You know I love you, right?"
Dawn finished brushing her hair and came to sit next to Buffy on the bed. She hesitated for a minute before making like she wanted to crawl onto Buffy's lap, like she used to with their mother; Buffy didn't even hesitate to open her arms and gather her up like a child, despite the fact that Dawn was fifteen and taller than her. She kissed her hair lightly as Dawn began to sniffle, rocking them back and forth for a few minutes. "I love you too." She finally heard mumbled into her collarbone.
"I only said what I said downstairs," Buffy explained, "to make the point that my spell was working. It had nothing to do with you. You know I wouldn't give you up for anything, right? That I'd do anything to make sure you're safe?"
"Yeah, I got that when you—" Dawn broke off, shivering slightly. Buffy didn't need her to say 'jumped off that tower'. She knew what she was talking about.
"Good." Buffy rested her temple against the crown of Dawn's head. "'Cause I don't know what I'd do without you."
"I'm so glad you're here." Dawn's hands clutched at Buffy's pyjamas. "Please don't go away again… I don't think I could take it if you did."
"Don't worry, Dawnie." Buffy said with conviction. "I wont."