Buffy looked around the crowded living room. The noise level was set at roaring. Everyone wanted to get their two cents in. Oz stroked her arm and she leaned against him. Going back upstairs and hiding in his arms for a bit longer was looking better and better. Even the disgusting plastic wash tub full of mayor parts was making a noise. Could that get any more icky? She just wanted some more quiet time with Oz, but that was a long way off. It was time to put on her big slayer panties and handle this mess.
Veruca was sitting in the center of a chalk circle with Willow's head on her lap. She growled at some of the suggestions flying around the room, but Buffy didn't blame her. The group seemed to be heading to some pretty dark places. She sighed. It was time to step in. She squeezed Oz's hand and stepped into the fray.
"We need to help Willow. It isn't our job to punish her." Buffy looked around the room and waited to see if any of the others would argued with her.
"She didn't hurt you the way she did some of us." Xander grimaced.
"No, she stole my memories and kept me from caring for my babies. Oz and I suffered, too. Believe me." She rubbed her stomach.
"It isn't our place to punish her, but we are required to deal with her. The powers she has must be neutralized." Giles sighed. "Does anyone have any useful ideas toward that end?"
"There is a spell that can return her to her original form, but it requires that she exchange her fate with that of the one she has most wronged." Anya shrugged. "So, it leaves a great deal to the unknown."
"I can not condone the use of a vengeance spell." Giles shook his head.
"It's not a vengeance spell. It was a defense against vengeance demons. It should work." Anya glared at the man. "I've been alive for over twelve hundred years. If I say this will work, you can be damn well certain that it will."
"She is my mate." Veruca looked up at the group with a snarl. "She carries my mark. It is not for you to take her from me."
"This spell can't break a mating. Not much can." Anya bent down and met Veruca's uneasy gaze. "She belongs to you, but she must be rendered safe for the world. You might find yourself battling every night to save her, and, as a succubus, she would never be faithful. This spell will help you protect her."
"Are there any other options?" Oz asked the group. "Because now is the time."
"You make your life with this group?" Veruca looked at him incredulously. "They're humans."
"I belong with my mate." He looked at the two women in the circle. "Your mate is human as well."
"But we will not make our lives with so many of the mewling idiots." Veruca snarled.
"You would cut her off from her family and friends?" Oz raised a brow and looked down at Willow with a sad expression.
"I must keep her safe. This pack of yours does not seem to be good for her." Veruca trailed her fingers through Willow's hair. "Will these spells hurt her?"
"We love Willow. We don't want to hurt her." Oz took a deep breath. "The Willow we know is very different from this one."
"She will still be mine." Veruca stroked Willow's hair away from her face. "After you do your spells. They will change nothing."
"Willow has a debt to pay." Giles coughed. "She may belong to you, but her debts must be fulfilled for her own sake."
"I ripped your enemy apart. That will serve to pay some of it." Veruca glared at Giles.
"No. Magic doesn't work like that." Anya sighed. "Wolves view a mated pair as one unit, but magic debt is only accrued by the magic user."
"Fine. Do the spell." Veruca curled her body around Willow's protectively.
"Who can do the magic?" Buffy looked around the group. "Does the spell require anything special?"
"All of us should do it. We can't even hope to find all her victims, but the more that join the circle the stronger the spell will be." Anya sighed.
"We need to get the rats, the ones in her room. They were people." Xander sighed. "I'll get them."
"Angel can't participate. He's tied to the spell, not a victim of it." Emma looked at him steadily. Oz watched as the vampire shifted and deflated. "He needs to be in the center with Willow and her mate."
Angel looked at Buffy, and Oz felt the anger in him surge. The vampire needed to quit trying to play his mate. The bastard was not a victim this time. He never had been. The curse had given him a gift. He had a chance to redeem himself. Oz narrowed his gaze and growled.
Buffy grabbed his hand and pressed his palm over their children. He remembered resting his hand on her still flat belly as they curled together on their furs. He looked at her and saw the same memory in her eyes.
Willow stirred and sat up. Buffy didn't flinch as she snarled and flung herself at them. Oz turned and growled at Veruca.
"Control your mate, or I will handle the situation." He let his hand change.
Veruca grabbed Willow and pulled her down to the ground. Her eyes locked on his hand as he let it slide back to his human hand.
"You have so much control." Veruca eyed him with respect. "I've never seen any wolf with that kind of power."
"That's my guy." Buffy touched his cheek.
Xander walked in with a cage full of rats. Emma, Giles, and Anya looked up from the spell they were adjusting for the situation.