Chapter Notes:
The fallout, a redux with Spike and Buffy, and Willow's journey into Spike's mind.

In retrospect, the fallout had been better than she’d expected.

Buffy’s reaction had been predictable. She’d gaped a few moments before stammering out, “Spike…has a soul?”

Spike’s response had been unexpected. Willow had expected him to explode in an angered fury, taking out half of the shop before storming through the door and hiding under the cloak of night. Instead, he had reverted to his state before the spell, quiet and distant, and had walked wordlessly back into the training room, pushing the door closed behind him with the toe of his boot.

And so Willow found herself surprisingly torn between wanting to talk to Buffy and wanting to talk to Spike. It was decided for her when Buffy managed to regain control of herself enough to speak coherently.

“Willow…are you sure?”

Fussing around with another shelf full of magic ingredients, looking for anything that would facilitate the spell she had in mind, and much more composed than she’d been minutes earlier, Willow replied, “I’m sure, Buffy. I saw it.” Picking up the lavender she’d sought earlier and placing it in Buffy’s arms, she breathed, “It was…it was beautiful.” Willow closed her eyes in remembrance. “It was beautiful,” she reaffirmed, “and it was warm. Bright.”

Buffy shifted the supplies in her arms, and the noise prompted the red-haired girl to open her eyes again. Spike had a soul? Had he been cursed in whatever hell dimension he’d been in – how long had he even been gone? Longer than it had been in this dimension? Exactly how much had been inflicted upon such a man?

“Willow,” she said lowly, “what else did you find?”

The witch sighed and crossed to one of the bookshelves, searching intently for a specific tome. “I’m not exactly sure,” she confessed, “but there’s some sort of magic power in him.” For the briefest of instances, Willow’s eyes adopted a far-away look and her body flinched in a shiver. Coming back to herself, she added, “It’s strong, Buffy. I don’t know how strong exactly, but…it shouldn’t be there.” Continuing her perusal of the shelves, she said, “I lied about the symbols I drew on the floor. I didn’t want to worry you. I sensed the power almost immediately, and I just wanted to be…prepared. Just in case something…happened.” She followed up quickly with, “But nothing did.”

Buffy’s brow furrowed in thought as she idly ran a fingertip along the rough surface of the lavender. “Wills,” she started slowly, “is Spike’s soul like Angel’s? Maybe that power is what’s keeping the soul in.”

Willow shook her head and pulled the sought-after book off of the shelf, clutching it to her chest. “It’s not the same,” she replied. “Spike’s soul is…well, anchored, I guess is the word. Angel’s was always kind of unstable, because that was part of the curse. Spike’s soul is solid…like he’d never lost it at all.”

Buffy set the load in her arms onto the table and rested her hands on her hips. Silent in contemplation, she finally parted her lips and said, “But that doesn’t make sense. We know he didn’t have a soul before he…before, so how could he come back with one if it wasn’t a curse?”

Willow bit at her bottom lip and her fingers clutched the book a bit tighter as she offered, “Maybe he got it himself.”

Buffy frowned at the suggestion. “He voluntarily got a soul while he was suffering in a hell dimension? That doesn’t really fit.”

Willow’s answer was quiet and low. “Maybe…maybe he wasn’t in Hell.”

The two girls stood silently, regarding each other for the span of several long moments. Finally, Buffy shifted nervously and picked up the ingredients on the table, cocking her head towards the training room and saying, “He’s been in there for a while…we should probably get moving.”

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He wasn’t entirely attentive when Willow digressed into the magical theory that supported what she wanted to do. The only thing in his mind was a haphazard mantra of came back wrong came back wrong.

His mind was stuck on the soul. He came back with a soul, like fucking Angel, and what angered him wasn’t so much the actual presence of the soul, but rather the fact that he didn’t know how it had gotten there. He was fairly certain that Buffy had a theory, if the troubled glances she sent his way when she thought he wasn’t looking were any indication.

He came back with a soul, but he also came back with – if he understood Red correctly – some sort of magical force built in. It was no secret that Spike thoroughly disliked magic, and he agreed completely with Willow’s suggestion to remove it from his system. Willow used some sort of medical analogy to describe the process, but he’d checked out again at that point, opting instead to light a cigarette and puff slowly, trying to organize his thoughts. Surprisingly, Buffy had not voiced a single word of complaint, instead pushing the door open wide and cracking one of the windows.

“Spike?”

Willow’s voice pulled him from himself and he turned his attention back to her, dropping the long-dead cigarette butt to the ground. Shoving his hands inside the pockets of his duster, Spike allowed his eyes to flit briefly over to Buffy – who was staring at him worriedly, biting inattentively at the corner of her thumbnail – before meeting the witch’s once again, and he nodded.

“Do what you have to, Red. Don’ particularly like usin’ magic to begin with, but I don’ want any mojo bouncin’ round in my noggin.” He shook his head briefly in remembrance of a chip implanted an entire lifetime ago. “So the way I see it, it’s the lesser of two evils.”

“Thanks ever so,” Willow muttered as her mouth quirked briefly into a wry grin. The moment quickly passed, and Willow turned away from the vampire to fuss around with the ingredients she’d gathered in the shop, placing them at various points on the chalk symbols on the floor and absentmindedly mumbling instructions and reminders to herself.

Spike’s gaze slid once again to the surprisingly-docile slayer on the opposite end of the room, and he watched silently as her own gaze, filled with guilt at having been caught staring, fell quickly to the floor, attempting to take an interest in the chalk scribblings she found there. Loosing a small sigh, Spike pushed off from the wall and walked over to her, hoping – even in the midst of his own crisis – to try and alleviate some of the pain he could feel radiating from her tiny form.

That practice certainly hadn’t died with him.

“It’s gonna be all right, you know,” he said quietly as he stood in front of her. “An’ weren’t you the one tryin’ to convince me this mornin’ that Red’s a crack-shot witch?” Her eyes still refused to move from the floor, and he added, “Way I see it, Willow’s jus’ gonna light a few herbs, chant some Latin nonsense an’ provide me with a clean bill of health so I can go back to my crypt and cozy down until tomorrow night.”

She did look at him, then, and flinched when his words registered. She opened her mouth to speak, and paused before she could; given the train wreck of a conversation they’d had outside of the Magic Box, she would have to choose her own words very carefully. The last thing she wanted now was to drive him away.

So Buffy reverted to a universally tried-and-true standard: bribery.

“Maybe you should just stay at my place until tomorrow,” she replied, trying desperately to appear nonchalant, and ruining it completely by following up with one long ramble. “I mean, I know for a fact that your crypt’s still empty, because I kept an eye on it all this summer, but there can’t be any blood left over in it, and even if there was, it’s probably bad by now, and I just picked up a whole bunch of blood for you when I went out this morning and it’s just sitting in my fridge and you’re the only one who drinks it and you wouldn’t want it to just go to waste, would you?”

Nice one, Buffy, her mind chided. Show him how psychotic you can be. That’s the way to keep him around. Taking a deep breath to gather herself back together, she tried again.

“I have blood,” she repeated, “and Mom’s…the guest room is open, and I know that Dawn would really want to see you.” If her eyes were overtly pleading with him to agree with her, she didn’t care.

Allowing himself one more indulgent look at the slayer before him, Spike finally nodded. “All right, Buffy. I’ll stay the night, if you’re sure.”

Buffy nodded in turn. “I am.” She smiled at him, and some of the hurt he’d seen in her eyes was gone.

A long silence stretched between the two, broken only by the sound of Willow clearing her throat. Waiting until both sets of eyes were on her, Willow announced formally, “It’s time.”

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Spike’s mind was a hallway filled with unmarked doors.

The hallway stretched on farther than she could see, and Willow let her fingertips trail lightly against one of the doors as she walked towards the slowly-growing source of power. For every handful of steps she took, the hallway stretched on even farther, and more than once Willow stopped walking and turned the knob of a random door, hoping to break the seemingly endless cycle of hallway.

After two or three times unsuccessfully trying the unmarked doors, Willow simply continued to walk, hoping the answer would present itself. The doors were filled with images, such as she seemed to remember being in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons she used to watch with Xander on Saturday mornings when they were much younger, except the images played out in front of her like a movie, depicting some part of Spike’s past. She never stared at the images for very long; while the academic in Willow was always curious, no matter what the situation, a majority of her felt it would be a violation of both Spike’s trust and mind if she were to watch his memories play out in front of her.

Willow blinked and stopped in her tracks. Trust, she mused. Trusting Spike. When exactly did that happen?

Shaking the thoughts from her head, Willow looked ahead of her with a sigh and continued to walk aimlessly towards the source of power. Rolling her neck to relieve it from a particularly insistent crick -- how long exactly had she been walking, that her joints had started to stiffen? -- Willow’s eyes fell upon one of the doors and noticed a name engraved in elegant capital letters on a placard placed in the center.

DRUSILLA.

Sliding her surprised gaze to the opposite end of the hallway, Willow’s eyes fell upon the door proclaiming to house Spike’s memories of ANGELUS – and on the placard, with some sort of crude writing implement, the word “poofter” had been scratched in as an aside, and Willow’s lips twitched into a small smile – and as she continued to walk slowly down the hallway, eyes darting from side to side, reading the names on the doors – many she didn’t recognize, but among them she’d located the rooms Spike had set aside for each member of the Scooby gang.

It was fascinating to her, and yet a puzzle. A seeming contradiction in terms, that Spike’s mind could be so organized that he had rooms dedicated to specific people, yet the simultaneous presence of so many unlabeled doors was indicative of nothing more than a disorganized mind. Or maybe that wasn’t it at all; perhaps Spike was opening his mind to her more willingly. Maybe he could sense that she was getting nowhere with her foray into his mind, and that she needed some help.

All she knew was, as she looked down the once-there span of hallway in front of her, that the heavily-padlocked blue door hadn’t been there the moment before.

Willow allowed her hand to hover just over the surface of the door, and she closed her eyes as the raw energy exuding from it washed over her body, and she shuddered involuntarily. This was it, the source of power she’d detected in Spike’s mind. And what power! Such energy could certainly be dangerous and destructive, which was why she had every intention of removing it from Spike’s mind.

But such energy, if properly channeled, could be liberating.

Willow shook her head and reached for the heavy lock hanging from the door’s handle, flinching as it burned her fingertips on contact. Cradling her injured hand against her chest, Willow sank to the floor as she closed her eyes and concentrated, pleading with her mind to conjure up any spell or incantation that would aid in her quest to break through the barriers set on the blue door.

Time held no meaning for the witch inhabiting the mind of the vampire. It could have taken seconds, minutes, hours. Years. All she knew was the sudden rush of energy surging across her person and down the hallway, and the sight of the now-opened door, its contents – seemingly nothing more than pinprick rays of light – bouncing around each other as though still in a completely-confined space.

This was the moment. Reaching out and syncing with her own body, Willow felt the weight of the jar being held by her physical self moments before it appeared in her hands. Holding the jar in front of the open door, she began to chant, watching wide-eyed as the light began to dart into its new container. Prison.

To never be released again.

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A/N: ::hides:: I’m sorry! I’m so sorry it’s taken so long for an update; if any of you read my livejournal, then you’ll know that everything in my life kind of blew up at once (stupid real life) and I had to get back on track. I also am going in for a root canal tomorrow (ick) and wanted you all to have this chapter before I got pumped full of painkillers for who knows how long. I hope you all are still staying with the story, despite the fact that it’s been a while since I’ve updated (I told you all; I’m NEVER abandoning this story!), and I hope you’re still enjoying it…we’re just getting started!

And you all are AMAZING – Chirality has won *two* awards! Chirality has won “Best WIP” from Spark and Burn, and “Best Episode Stealer” from Love’s Last Glimpse! Thank you to whoever nominated me, and again, a huge than you to all of my readers! And look at my pretty banners :)

As always, I love each and every review I receive. Show me some love while I’m recovering from surgery?








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