Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Many thanks to my beta Leon Stryfe who stepped up when I was stuck and helped write more than a few chapters with me. For all your help you have earned the title of Co-Author for this story and my sincere gratitude. Thanks to my wonderful friend Sweetprincipale who listens to me and encourages me. And the wonderful ending was all her idea!
I have played with the time-line a bit in this story. The Angel episode "The Trial" actually aired a week after the Buffy episode "Shadow". For the purposes of this story "The Trial" happened first. I have taken quite a bit of dialog from a few episodes of season 5. Shadow written by David Fury, The Trial written by David Greenwalt, No Place Like Home by Doug Petrie, Checkpoint by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie, Blood Ties by Steven DeKnight, Spiral by Steven DeKnight and Intervention by Jane Espenson.
I hope you enjoy the story. This is the longest piece I have ever done and hopefully I did it justice. Thank you to everyone who is following this story and for everyone who has reviewed! It means more than you can know.
The Summers' women found themselves in a stone ante-chamber with archways at either end and a guard for each. There were no windows nor furnishings, not even a chair to sit on.
"Can we see what is going on?" Joyce did well to keep the concern out of her voice.
"But of course, madam. He is fighting for you and your youngest daughter." The man's cryptic reply earned him confused frowns from two of the Summers women. Waving his hand, a window appeared on one of the stone walls, showing Spike fighting the demon.
In a sweeping move, Spike jumped over the demon and grabbed a sword from the wall and proceeded to inflict heavy damage on his opponent.
"What do you mean he's fighting for Dawn?" Buffy spoke quietly, not wanting either her mother or sister to hear the conversation.
"She is the key, is she not? If he passes the trials she will no longer be the key and your mother will be healed."
Dawn wasn't paying any attention to the conversation going on between Buffy and the man she thought looked like a butler. She was too busy watching Spike fight. She squealed suddenly, drawing everyone's attention just in time to witness Spike slicing the demons head off. They then watched on in shock as orange blood began to spray out of its neck coating Spike's face and the floor with it, where it began to smoke. With a roar of pain he wiped it off the best he could. As he finished, another door opened and Spike exited the room.
"Is he done? Is that it?" Dawn turned to the dapper man as she excitedly asked her question. The look on his face telegraphed his answer.
"I am afraid not, my dear. He has two more trials to go." With that he disappeared.
Buffy looked on in horror as a room appeared, its floor covered with sand. Spike knelt down for a needed rest, his face covered in burns from where the blood had sprayed on him and his chest was covered in cuts and bruises, just as the man appeared in the room with him.
"Well played; you bested the sea monk quickly. The next trial is more difficult, of course. How well can you stand pain?" A curious sound began filling the room as he spoke.
"Bloody hell. Gotta give the Wankers that Like to Screw with You credit; they really know how to spoil a bloke's day." As soon as he finished speaking, hundreds of large beetles started crawling out of the sand and up Spike's legs and arms. The women watched on in shock as Spike was quickly covered by the bugs. Dawn turned away, her face becoming green with the effort not to vomit as the beetles poured into Spike's mouth. They entered so fast Spike could not even scream in pain and started crawling under his skin. The caretaker of the trials moved around gingerly, trying his best not to step on any of the beetles.
"You can end this challenge at any time, vampire. Just lay yourself flat on the ground and we will call them off." At Spike's pained but hopeful look, the man continued. "You will forfeit the challenge, of course, and your reward will be denied you." Spike glared at the man balefully, fighting to stay upright amidst the debilitating pain.
After what seemed like hours of agony, the beetles suddenly left as fast as they had arrived, leaving a gasping Spike on his hands and knees. He hadn't made a sound after the bugs had started crawling around inside him.
"Oh! That was horrible," Joyce exclaimed.
Once Spike had recovered, he stood up shakily and walked through the door that appeared next to him. As soon as he entered manacles appeared from the ether, wrapping around both wrists and ankles. Lacking any time to react, Spike found himself chained, spread eagle, in the middle of the room. The conductor appeared next to him just as magically as the chains had.
"This is the last trial, vampire. Pass this and the Powers will reward you with what you ask."
"My life for hers, right? That's the deal, innit' mate? Well get to it. It's past the nibblet's bed time and big sis's gotta get her back home."
"If you are certain?"
"I'm certain I don't like repeatin' myself, mate." Came the heated reply.
As the man pulled a hidden lever, hundreds of wooden stakes appeared in the wall.
"One last chance to change your mind, sir."
"Pull the damn lever," Spike snarled.
"As you wish, sir." The man let go of the lever and the stakes flew out of the wall. Spike closed his eyes the instant before they hit.
The pain he expected never came. When he opened his eyes, he was no longer chained up in an empty room but rather in the room with Dawn, Joyce, and Buffy. Before he could come to grips with the change of location, Joyce flew at him, enveloping him in a hug, Spike groaned in pain, his body covered in cuts, bruises and a few burns. Thankful that his lungs no longer needed oxygen since he was sure he had a few broken ribs, Spike attempted to console the crying woman while wondering what exactly he did wrong. Spying the curator of the place, Spike called out angrily.
"Oi, Jeeves! What the bleedin' hell is going on! My life for hers, that was the deal. I passed your trials, offered up my life. Care to tell me why I'm not dust in your little room of horrors right now?" Prying himself loose from Joyce's vice-like grip, Spike began stalking towards the man, intent on ripping his head from his shoulders.
"Congratulations," the man began, stalling Spike in his tracks, "you passed every test. Madam, if you would come here I will take care of that tumor for you, as well as that nasty aneurysm, and all will be well." Confusion replaced the anger on Spike's features while Joyce walked over to the man. He placed his hands on either side of Joyce's head, smiling slightly before a bright white light encircled her.
"It's gone," Joyce exclaimed, as her tears fell and the light faded. "Buffy, it's gone, all the pain it's gone!"
"Now, little miss, I believe that it is your turn." The man beckoned for Dawn to take her mother's place before him. With cautious steps and a questioning glance Dawn walked over to him, not sure what was going on but seeing her sister coming to stand next to her made her relax. Buffy and Spike walked over with her and stood on either side of the young girl. The man performed the same procedure on Dawn as he did on Joyce, however it was a green light that surrounded Dawn. When it had faded, everyone could see that she was wearing a beautiful emerald necklace.
"I think you will now find that the hell goddess that you have been fighting will be unable to achieve her goals. Keep this on you at all times."
"Now for you," the man said as he turned toward Spike. "Kudos! You have earned your soul back." Before Spike could protest, the dapper man overrode him. "There are no loopholes on the soul; it is yours and yours to keep, whether you want it... or not." Silence reigned in the room as Spike began walking anxiously towards the man. Before Spike could cross the room, the man motioned for him to stop before speaking again.
"This is most unprecedented. I have an offer for you from the Powers. Your actions here were quite heroic and as such they have decided that you are to be their Champion, fighting along side the slayer. The current Champion seems to have lost both his way and their faith in him as a result. If you accept, becoming their Champion will cleanse the guilt from your soul before they return it to you."
"Return his soul? What does that mean?" Buffy asked, suddenly very nervous about what was going on. She barely gave any thought to Angel losing his status as a Champion of the Powers with tonight's turn of events.
"I thought you understood, my dear. He offered his life and his soul for your mother and sister. It was understood that if he failed the trials he would lose his life but if he completed the trials his soul would be returned to him. I hear the guilt can be crushing."