The Bronze was hopping as the trio entered, Spike and Willow in front of Angelus. They had chatted the entire walk over, with the older vampire being silent because he was still in the dog house with the red head. After paying the cover, they cut a swath through the crowd towards what Willow had deemed as ‘her' table months ago.
Seeing it was occupied by Harmony and her clique did nothing to daunt her. She walked right up to them, with Spike on one side of her and Angelus slightly behind her on the other. "Well, well, well, what do we have here?"
Harmony looked down her nose at Willow. "Don't you have somewhere else to be, slut?"
Willow arched one delicate brow, putting a hand back against Angelus' chest as he growled. "And what would that make you, Harmony? Grand central station?"
Spike chuckled as the three girls at the table got up and moved away. Willow slid onto a chair, as did he. The music from the live band was loud and had a Latin/techno style. He absently tapped his fingers on the table as he gazed around the club. "Aren't those two yours?" he asked, pointing to a couple dancing extremely close together.
"Carter and Jordan," Willow replied. "It's their anniversary. They don't know me tonight."
He looked slightly surprised at her words. After what he'd seen, he'd expected no leeway with her pack. His eyes darted around again, picking out the vampires among the humans and noting most of them were hers. In fact, here came one right now. "Lady Red?"
"Hello, Justin," Willow greeted. "Did you enjoy yourself earlier."
"Um...yes, Lady," Justin replied. He would have been blushing if he could. "I...uh, wondered if maybe you'd like to dance?"
"Sure," Willow said after winking at Spike. She slid off her stool and joined the teenage vampire on the dance floor. After one song, Angelus was growling non-stop next to the blond and Spike figured he'd better do something before his sire got any more beat up by the hacker.
Standing, he wandered over to the dancing couple and tapped Justin on the shoulder. "Shove off, mate," Spike told him. The younger vampire looked like he was about to protest, but the dangerous gleam in his eyes stopped him. As he scurried off, Spike pulled Willow bodily against him as a new song started. "You have Angelus all worked into a lather, ducks."
"Good," Willow replied, giving him a devilish grin. "Makes for a great screw later."
Spike laughed, executing a turn and giving her a little dip. "You are a wicked, wicked girl," he told her, nipping her neck with quick flash of his fangs.
Her reply was interrupted by a panicked voice next to them. "Lady Red," Jordan said, her eyes wide as Spike straightened them both. "Carter is missing! He went to grab a quick bite and he hasn't come back."
"Ok, Jordan," Willow said, laying a hand on the girl's arm. "Where did you last see him?"
"Heading for the back door," Jordan replied, tears starting to run down her cheeks.
Willow nodded and started towards the back, gesturing with her head for Angelus to follow. Spike and Jordan trailed behind her, the vampire with a comforting arm around the female. The four exited behind the Bronze to the sounds of fighting and they came to a halt as a certain blond Slayer came into view.
Angelus growled loudly and Jordan started to cry harder. "Shit," Willow summed up precisely, trying to think of what to do. "Spike, go distract Buffy while I try to get Carter out of there."
Spike nodded and passed Jordan to Angelus, then headed silently down the alley. Willow followed a few steps behind, her eyes quickly taking in the details of the fight. Buffy was beating on Carter pretty well, but had yet to stake him and Xander and Cordelia were standing on the opposite side, crosses in hand.
"Hello, sweets," Spike said loudly from behind Buffy. The Slayer whirled, bringing her arms up in a defensive position. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Spike!" Buffy exclaimed. Her head dropped looking him over from head to toe. "You changed."
Spike shook his head. "What the bloody hell was wrong with my clothes before?"
Willow used the vampire's distraction to gesture at Carter. The dark haired vampire scurried her way, but the Slayer turned and saw him. She pulled a stake out of her waistband, ready to stake him, when she yelled, "No!"
Moving rapidly, she put herself between Carter and Buffy, catching the stake as the Slayer plunged it towards her. Spike wrapped his arms around the blond from behind, holding her tightly. "None of that now, pet," he said.
And pandemonium broke loose.
Xander came up behind Spike at the same time Jordan ran up to Carter, launching herself into his arms. Willow still had hold of the stake with Buffy staring at her with huge eyes. Suddenly, Spike let out a hiss of pain as the cross in the Slayerette's hand burned into his neck. He growled loudly letting go of the Slayer to punch Xander across the jaw, sending him flying.
Cordelia shrieked and ran at Spike, throwing a handy bottle of holy water at him. He ducked and it went sailing over his head to hit Angelus in the back, the vampire having turned around to look down the alleyway at the figures of Amy and her beau Jonathan hurrying towards them. He let out a loud snarl of pain as the water burned into his already injured back, and he spun, morphed into his true face.
Spike shot to his feet at the same time Angelus came charging towards them, intent on tackling Cordelia. He spun and grabbed Buffy again, pulling her away from Willow. The Slayer threw her head back, then broke out of his hold, spinning to punch him in the face. The red head dropped the stake she had taken from Buffy and turned to see Carter and Jordan in game faces, preparing to join in the brawl.
"No," Willow hissed at them, grabbing them both by the throats and slamming them up against the building wall. "Leave now."
She released them as Cordelia yelled when she was plowed into by Angelus, skidding across the cement. Xander scrambled to his feet, jumping onto the back of the vampire, making him howl in pain. He grabbed the boy's arm and threw him over his shoulder to the ground, making him land on the former cheerleader. His face was feral as he snarled again at them.
Buffy and Spike were still fighting, exchanging powerful blows as Carter and Jordan started down the alley as instructed. They were halted by Amy and Jonathan, the former casting an immobilization spell on them. Jonathan held a cross shakily in his hands extended towards them. Willow saw Angelus about to disobey her and she snapped again, fire burning under her skin, her eyes glowing an eerie green.
Everyone froze at her powerful yell, Spike and Buffy toppling over together as they lost their balance from their precarious holds on each other. Cordelia and Xander stared at her wide eyed, half risen to their feet. Amy let out a low whistle as the air crackled around the red head.
Willow slowly glided forward and grabbed the silver leash, yanking the vampire down to face level.
"Oh fuck," Spike whispered to Buffy, his arm wrapped tightly around her from their position on the ground. "What say we run while we still have a bloody chance?"
Buffy didn't answer, she was too paralyzed by the scene enfolding in front of her.
"Amy," Willow said just loud enough to carry over to the other Witch. "Release Carter and Jordan."
"But..." Amy began.
"Do it!" Willow snapped, her glowing green eyes piercing her friend. Amy quickly obeyed and the two vampires took off immediately, scared more by the red head's wrath than the Slayer and company.
She returned her gaze to Angelus, infuriated green eyes meeting golden ones. "What did I tell you?" she hissed. He didn't reply and she brought her hand up and slapped him across the face, his head not having the freedom to move with the hit because of the tight rein she had on the leash.
"Um, Willow?" Xander ventured, rising to his feet. Cordelia stood, as well.
Her head jerked over to Xander, noticing his frightened look. Her gaze traveled to the others, noting their similar expressions, even Spike. "Excuse us," she said in a pleasant voice, then jerked Angelus behind her on the chain as she walked further behind the building and turned into the back alley.
Once there, she threw the end of the leash up over an overhanging hook where a drainpipe use to be, the pulled it until he was up on his toes against the wall, his head arched at a harsh angle. She magickally tied it off, then unbuttoned his shirt and yanked it off his arms. The recent marks from his earlier punishment already healing, but she did not notice as she created a bull whip out of pure energy. It pulsed and crackled pink as she brought her arm back.
Spike winced when he heard the loud cry of pain, pulling Buffy even closer to him as the friends stared in the direction Willow had gone. He also found himself becoming aroused, knowing what it had been like when he and Drusilla had been together after his sire had disappeared at the end of the nineteenth century. The female was almost always the dominant in a mated relationship between vampires, and it was one hell of a way to go. Some of the scars he had gotten had taken months to heal.
"What is she doing?" Buffy asked in a stunned voice as another cry tore the air.
"She's putting him in his place," Spike told her. "He must have done something she told him not to do, the bloody wanker."
Buffy must have suddenly realized she was practically in her enemy's arms and she lurched to her feet. Her head whipped around at the sound of another scream and her body tensed. "She's hurting him!"
Spike grabbed her arm before she could headlong where she wasn't needed. "Slayer, don't. They'll be back soon."
"Let go of me," she jerked her arm out of his grasp. She was about to start off when Willow sauntered around the corner, a pleased look on her face. She walked right past Xander, Cordelia and Buffy and up to Spike.
"Spike," Willow said, walking her fingers up his chest. She traced along the collar of his shirt. "Will you take Angelus back to the lair, please? I think he can use a little..." She stood on her toes and licked his neck. "TLC."
"Witch," Spike growled at her, smelling her arousal, inflaming his own. She gave him a wicked grin and he slapped her ass as he moved past her and strolled out of sight.
Xander, Cordelia, Buffy, Amy and Jonathan all turned as one to Willow. "Hi guys," she said cheerily. "Did you have a good summer?"
They all started speaking at once and the red head just smiled at them until they saw Spike escorting a shirtless Angelus towards them. As one, their mouths dropped open and Willow had to cover hers to keep from laughing out loud. "Bloody hell, Red, what did you use on him?" the blond vampire asked as he was careful to only hold his sire's arm, which was over his shoulder.
"Why, do you want me to use it on you?" she asked mischievously. "Or would you rather I give it to a certain someone..."
"Red-" Spike growled, his eyes darting to Buffy then back at Willow. "I'll see you back at the lair."
Willow nodded, raising her gaze to Angelus. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, then lowered his eyes. "Wait," she said, walking directly in front of him. "Angelus, look at me."
She waited until he did as told. "Don't you have something to say to them?"
"Yes, Lady," he replied quietly. Then, he raised his voice and said, "I'm sorry."
She raised her hand and caressed his cheek. "Good boy." She then walked next to Spike and had him duck his head to whisper, "Grab a bite on your way back so he can enter under his own power. I don't want anyone getting any ideas."
"Right," Spike replied, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Have fun...and try not to say anything, will you?"
"Who me?" Willow said, batting her eyes innocently. He scowled at her, then continued past, giving the Slayer a wink as he went by. She turned back to the others as they stared at Angelus' bloodied back. "So, anyone up for coffee?"
Willow managed to get everyone back to the one haven where they'd always met - the Sunnydale High School Library. Actually, she had them meet her there as she picked up the coffee and had a few words with Matthew, who she'd met up with on her way towards the school.
She was outside the back entrance to the library when she heard someone behind her. Turning, she saw a vampire who wasn't one of hers coming out of the bushes towards her in attack mode. She quickly set the coffees down and activated her game face glamour, snarling as the stranger got close enough to her.
Without a word, she grabbed him by the arm and spun, throwing him up against the door. She then lashed out with her fist, catching him across the jaw with a sickening crack. He went to try and grab her again, and she latched onto his wrist, turning her body to throw him over her shoulder. He landed several feet away and, unluckily for him, right on a one of the tree branches which littered the ground, turning him to dust.
Frowning, Willow picked up the coffee and opened the door. She felt badly about what she just did, even though he'd been the one to attack her. Plus, she didn't want the fact that she was entering the Slayer's ‘headquarters' to get back to those in her pack. Slayers were the enemy because they were always trying to kill them. That thought startled her as she wove through the stacks - that she considered herself one of ‘them,' a vampire.
The loud yelps coming from the area below broke her out of her thoughts. She focused on her friends and saw they had crosses held in her direction, save Amy who knew somewhat of her original plan. "What are you guys doing?" Willow asked, coming down the stairs with the coffee.
"Get back, vampire!" Xander exclaimed, hand shaking violently as he held the cross at her face.
"Oh!" Willow said, realizing she still had the vampiric glamour over her features. She dismissed the image, then plucked the cross out of her oldest friend's hand. "Sorry about that. Trouble at the back door." They stared at her as she set the bag and cross on the table, noticing that the holy object didn't burn her.
"Um, Willow?" Buffy spoke up finally. "Are you a vampire?"
Willow chuckled. "Not in the strictest definition of the word," she replied, taking out a cup and sitting down. She grinned as she saw Xander and Jonathan stare at her legs as she crossed them.
Cordelia noticed and smacked her boyfriend upside the head. "Nice outfit, Willow. Since when have you shopped at Wilsons?"
"Actually, this is from The Toy Chest," Willow told her. "I got a wicked green leather outfit that is nothing more than strategically placed straps, but the General doesn't like me wearing it out of the bedroom. Says I'd give my wards heart attacks, which would be funny to see. Could you picture a paramedic trying to revive a vampire?"
"Speaking of Angel," Buffy said. "What did you do to him?"
"And why did you call him Angelus?" Cordelia said.
"And what's up with Spike?" Amy added. "He wasn't part of the plan last time I talked to you. Of course, that was over a month ago."
"Plan? What plan?" Xander asked.
"Why did you want Amy to let those two vampires in the alley go?" Jonathan added, as well.
Willow held up her hand, effectively halting any more questions. She opened her mouth to answer, but closed it when Giles came into the library.
"Oh, h-hello," he greeted, looking over the group. When he saw her, his head jerked in shock. "Willow?"
"Hi Giles," she said, wiggling her fingers at him. "It's story hour, so have a seat."
"Er...yes," Giles replied, setting his briefcase on the counter.
Willow waited until everyone was looking at her expectantly, then she took a sip of her coffee and made them wait some more. When Xander started to fidget, she began telling them about her summer. "In June, I was captured by Master Jonathan and given the choice to become a vampire or die. I chose instead to fake being one, using my magick, in order to find out what Jonathan was up to. Buffy, Xander, Cordelia and Giles, you were all gone as was the General, and I figured that I could put a stop to whatever devious plans he had up his Armani sleeve."
"There is a new Master in Sunnydale?" Buffy asked, giving Giles a worried look.
"Nothing for you to worry your pretty little head about, Buffy," Willow told her. The others looked at her in surprise at her words. She ignored them and continued. "Jonathan has no aspirations on taking over the world. In fact, very few masters have that ambition, most just want to turn a buck and provide for their ‘children.' You wouldn't believe how fast we go through money in our pack. Everyday, someone wants a new game or book or clothing or music. Columbia Music House and Doubleday Book Club are the real vampires. I swear, the last bill that I paid was over a grand."
The group of friends exchanged glances at the way she kept including herself as one of the vampires. "Anyway, I climbed the social ladder in the pack, found out what Jonathan was doing and now I am vice president of Churchill Corporation. Shit, that reminds me..." Willow trailed off and conjured up her laptop and headphone. She booted up the computer and stood fluidly, connecting it to the telephone outlet, then slid the earpiece over her head. Quickly, she dialed up a number while the others stared at her. Their eyes widened further when she began speaking in Japanese.
"Giles, I don't like this," Buffy said to her Watcher as the red head spoke on the phone.
"Willow told me the plan earlier this summer," Amy supplied. "But I thought she would have staked the Master by now."
"Sorry about that, guys," Willow said, disconnecting, but not removing the headphone. "I promised LoSan I'd get back to him today about...well, never mind. I don't want to bore you with what my work details. Let's see, where were we?"
"How about explaining that little scene behind the Bronze?" Xander said.
"And whatever it was you did to Angel," Buffy added.
"Oh, heh heh," Willow replied with a half grin. "Well, Buffy, you were fighting one of mine and I had Spike distract you so I could get Carter out of there. It's Jordan and his anniversary today. I doubt she wanted to spend it in mourning."
"One of-of yours?" Giles asked, removing his glasses as the proverbial lightbulb came on above his head. "Good heavens, what is your placement in the, er, pack?"
"Pack leader," she answered proudly. Giles paled, which the others noticed but didn't comment on as Willow continued. "Back to the alley. Big fight ensued, Angelus defied my command not to hurt any of you, so I punished him. The only reason I'm here with you guys right now instead of being fucked to oblivion is because Spike came up for a visit. He'll take care of my mate until I get back to the lair."
She smiled wickedly at the dumbfounded stares she received and sipped her coffee. Buffy was the one to finally break the silence. "Why did you call Angel ‘Angelus'?"
"I got rid of the curse," Willow replied.
The shouts came from all directions and she put a finger to her ear and rubbed it like they broke her eardrum. "Geez, people, loud enough?"
"Willow, you took Deadboy's soul away?!" Xander exclaimed. "Why the hell would you do something as stupid at that?! Now he'll try to kill us all again!"
"I did not take his soul away," Willow told him. "You can't take anyone's soul away. It's not possible."
"Vampires don't have souls," Giles said. "They are demons. When the-the..."
"Giles, stuff it," she said sharply. "Vampires are exactly the same as humans except they don't have guilt."
"But, they suck blood. They kill people," Jonathan pointed out.
"It's survival," Willow explained calmly. "Should we kill off all the lions because they prey on other animals? How about humans? We eat meat. Where do you think it comes from?"
"But they kill people," Buffy emphasized.
"So do you," she retorted. "Have you ever stopped to think why Spike and Drusilla were together all those years? That's because vampires have feelings and emotions just like humans. Every single one of them does. Juanita loves reading romances, Carter and Jordan have been mated for close to twenty years now, Maria throws a temper tantrum every time she loses playing Nintendo, Albert is an scientist working on a way to cure cancer, a disease only humans get, because his wife died from Ovarian cancer before he was turned. The only emotion they lack is guilt, because they have to survive by feeding on blood. Sure, it makes them a little more...violent, but that doesn't mean they're demons who should be exterminated like cockroaches."
Stunned silence filled the library. She could read disbelief, confusion and worry on their faces from her outburst. An idea came to her on a way to prove what she had told them and she turned to Amy. "Feel up for a walk?"
"A walk?" Amy asked. "What do you...oh. Ok, but on who?"
"Jonathan," Willow suggested. Amy nodded. "Then Angelus."
"What are you two talking about?" Xander asked.
"I'm going to show you, with Amy's help, that what I said was true," Willow explained while Amy spoke to her boyfriend. "We're going to all go for a little visit into a human and then a vampire's mind."
Willow had everyone sit on the floor in a circle with Jonathan in the center. She held Buffy and Xander's hand, while Amy held Giles and Cordelia's. "Ok, everyone close their eyes and try to clear their minds," she told them.
Soon, both the red head and Amy worked their magick and the group manifested outside of a door that matched Jonathan's eyes. Giles was the only one not amazed with the ability to ‘see' one another, as if the mindscape were really a physical place. "You can talk," Willow said, looking at the others around her.
"What is this place?" Cordelia ventured, looking around the blackness and at the door.
"We're kinda in the astral plane," the hacker explained. "This door leads into Jonathan's mindscape. Quick explanation before we go in. On the ‘ground' are different colors, each associated with a memory. The ones closest to the door are the most recent memories, further away are older. If you touch the color, an image will appear before you alone, like you're watching tv. Remove your hand and it will disappear."
"Try not to do that too much," Amy said. "These memories are personal, after all."
"When we go in, to the left as we get close to the soul center, you'll see a wall. The wall is what I like to call the emotion wall. This is what controls our emotions. Again, they are color coded. The larger the color, the more that particular emotion affects the person," Willow went on. "Any questions? No? Then we're off."
Willow opened the door and the mind travelers entered Jonathan's mindscape. They oh'd and ah'd over the colorful path they walked, stopping at times to touch a particular memory color in experimentation. When they got to the soul center, Willow had everyone touch it. "This is Jonathan's soul, the core of his being. You can talk to his subconscious this way and it never lies. It can't, because like I said, it's subconscious."
"Hello Jonathan," Amy greeted her boyfriend's soul center.
"Hello Amy," it replied, making the others not prepared for it jump.
"Hey, how did it know who you are?" Xander asked.
"I know who all of you are, Xander, because you are part of the conscious world which I live," the soul center told him.
Willow allowed them to ask questions and satisfy their curiosity before she turned to the reason they'd all come to begin with. "Guys, look at the emotion wall," she instructed. "See the variety of sizes of the different colors?"
"That brown one sure is large," Buffy pointed out. "What's it mean?"
"Fear," Willow told her. "That's the color of fear."
"We all know what a wimp Jonathan is," Cordelia said.
"Hey, that's my boyfriend you're dissing," Amy told her.
"It's true, isn't it?" Cordelia retorted.
Before Amy could get mad, Willow continued. "Ok, everyone look at that patch of purple," she said. "That's guilt. Jonathan's is about normal for a human."
"And that's what's going to be missing from Angel?" Buffy asked.
"Yes," the red head answered. After a few more minutes, the group returned to the physical world and opened their eyes. Jonathan was in a trance like state, eyes closed, breathing very slowly.
"Wow," Buffy said, looking at the others. "That was interesting."
"Why doesn't everyone take a short break while I call Spike to let him know what we're doing," Willow suggested.
"Why can't we just do it?" Amy asked. "And why are you calling Spike? I thought we were going into Angel's mind."
"I don't want to interrupt at a very inopportune time," she replied with a naughty smile. Even Giles blushed with that statement.
"I so did not want to know that," Xander said, standing. "It's bad enough Jingle Bells was hitting on me..."
"You already knew those two did that sort of thing, Xander," Cordelia said. "Truth or Dare, remember?"
"I know, but nyagh," he shivered in repulsion. "The idea that they could be going at it right now. Ugh." He led Cordelia out of the library, followed by Amy and a reanimated Jonathan. Giles retreated to his office to make some tea.
Willow rolled her eyes, wondering what they would think if she told them about the night before as she dialed Spike's cell phone number. She turned her back attention to the computer as the line was picked up. "Spike's pants," Juanita said on the other end.
"Juanita? What are you doing in Spike's pants?" Willow asked with a chuckle. Buffy came unobtrusively closer to the red head to hear both sides of the conversation with her enhanced Slayer hearing.
"I'm doing the laundry, Lady Red," Juanita replied, then giggled. "Although I wouldn't mind digging around the pockets of the pair he's wearing. You are so lucky to have had both Angelus and him."
Willow tended to allow the lowest minions speak more freely around her, especially Juanita. "Maybe I'll get him in the shower later and just happen to tell you where we'll be," she said.
Juanita giggled again. "Do you want to talk to him? He was out playing pool a few minutes ago, Lady."
"Yes," she replied. She idly punched a few keys on the keyboard as she waited, frowning at the information on the screen. "Dammit, David. You better have done as I told you, or I'll be seriously pissed."
"You got me," Spike said from the other end of the line.
"That I already know," Willow told him. He chuckled. "How's Angelus?"
"Worn out," he replied slyly. "You were right, by the by."
"He did make for a great screw," Spike told her. "Of course, it would have been much more fun if you'd been with us..."
"Later, your horniness," Willow said. "I told Juanita I'd boink you in the shower so she could see you're cute tush."
"Is that a promise?" he replied hopefully.
"Perhaps," she said mischievously. She didn't see Buffy's eyes widen at the conversation. "Right now, though, can you put his royal pain in the ass on the line."
"Nope," Spike said. "He's out like a bloody light."
"Phewie," Willow replied. "Then we can't use him."
"For what?" he asked.
"Mindscape comparison. When asleep, the dreamscape tends to get in the way," she explained, then sighed. "Now what?"
"You can use me again, pet," Spike suggested. Then, he added with a chuckle, "I don't mind."
"That was bad, blondie," Willow said. She thought for a moment, then asked, "Are you sure? There's going to be six of use wandering around in there."
"Promise to ride me hard and put me away wet and you got yourself a guinea pig," he answered.
"Fine, I promise," she sighed dramatically. Buffy was practically having an apoplectic fit behind her. "Go back to the room and get comfy. Oh, and if the General wakes up, call me on the headphone."
"Will do," Spike said. "Adios."
"Bye," Willow replied, then disconnected. She looked up as the others started filing back into the room. "We'll go again in about three minutes. And we're using Spike, not Angelus, ‘cuz the big baby's asleep."
"Geez, Willow, dis your boyfriend much?" Cordelia said.
"He's mine to do whatever I want with," she replied offhand, hitting a few more keys.
Buffy scooted out of the main library and into Giles' office. "Giles, Willow is having sex with Spike!" she exclaimed in a hushed voice. "She's acting all non-Willowy. And what's this about her being pack leader? You got a scary look on your face when she said that."
"Er, pack leader means that she-she is in control of the entire group of-of-of vampires she resides with," Giles explained. "She obtained that position by, uh, dominating the others."
"Dominating how?" Buffy asked.
"Physically a-a-and, er, sexually," he stammered. "Therefore, it is not a sur-surprise she has had, er, relations with Spike."
"You mean Willow is a dominatrix?!" she gasped, looking out the door at the red head in leather seated at the table. "Our Willow?"
"I am guessing that she is no longer ‘our Willow,'" Giles said. "I am afraid that, although she is still human, she has-has crossed over, as it were, to the other side."
"No," Buffy breathed. "No, I won't allow it."
"I'm afraid you may be too late, Buffy," he told her.
"Ok, guys and gals, let's do this," Willow said, getting everyone's attention.
Buffy and Giles exchanged worried looks, then went and joined the others on the floor. Jonathan was odd man out and the hacker set him up playing Solitaire on the laptop. Once settled down and hands clasped, Willow began to explain what was going to happen this time.
"We had a change of plans, like I said, and are going into Spike's mindscape. It is very different than the General's and pretty much everyone's I've ever been in. Remember, though, we're going in so you can see that vampires still have a soul and all that's missing is the guilt emotion on the wall," she said. "Try not to touch any of his memories, unless they're the most recent ones just inside the door, ok?"
After their nods, they started the sequence over again and all met in front of a bright blue door. No one said a word as Willow opened it and led them inside. She noted a few more cheerful colors just inside the doorway and smiled, briefly touching a small patch of light pink to see Spike putting Angelus to bed. She let the image dissipate, then looked at the other travelers.
"Um, Wills?" Xander said. "Why is everything so grey?"
"Yeah, I thought that you said vampires were just like humans," Cordelia said. "So where are all the colors?"
Willow shook her head sadly, a feeling of melancholy stealing over her. "These are Spike's memories. I told you before we came in that his mindscape was very different."
"What do these colors represent?" Buffy asked, her hand reaching out to touch a patch of light grey as they walked. She saw an image of a couple she didn't recognize sitting together at what looked like a diner, feeding each other ice cream with white, plastic spoons.
"Grey is depression," Amy answered. "Black is pain or hatred."
"Then this guy is seriously depressed," Cordelia said, looking around her. "I'm surprised he hasn't staked himself."
Willow did not reply, she just continued to lead them to the soul center. When they arrived, Giles was the first to lay his hand on the white, pulsing glow. "Hello?"
"Hello Watcher," Spike's soul center greeted.
"Are you Spike's, er, soul?" Giles asked.
"Yes," it answered. "I am William's soul."
"Remarkable," the Watcher replied. Willow gave him an ‘I told you so' look.
"Hey, Willow," Xander said, gesturing to the emotion wall. "What color was guilt again?"
"Purple," she replied. "See how it's just not there, but all the others are?"
"Wow, he has really big love, tenderness and sadness colors," Amy said. "Is Angel like this?"
"Kinda," Willow said. "The General's love and tenderness are large, but not as much as Spike's. And he has normal sadness. Although his lust is quite a bit bigger, now that I think about it." She gave the other witch a wicked grin. "No wonder he's so well hung."
Amy rolled her eyes and turned back to the soul center. She noticed the patch of white on the ground and she gasped. "Oh my goddess."
"What?" Xander said, removing his hand from the soul center after asking a few questions. Giles was still at it and Cordelia was studying her nails while Buffy hovered near her Watcher's side.
"I've never seen pure emotion this close to the soul center before," Amy said, staring at the spot. "You have one, Willow, back in your oldest memories. I think it's when you first met Xander. Jonathan has one that includes his parents, but that's also pretty far back in the mindscape."
Xander went to touch the spot, but Willow grabbed his wrist. "Don't," she said quickly.
"Why? And why is it white?" Xander said.
"Pure emotion combines all the emotions anyone can feel," Amy said, sticking her hands in her pockets so as not to touch the spot, though she was itching to do so. "Therefore, it is white, because it comprises of all the colors."
"Then why can't we touch it?" Cordelia asked.
"How would you like it if someone went through your makeup case?" Willow said. Cordelia gave her a horrified look. "Same thing." Deciding they'd seen enough, she added, "I'm getting tired, so let's get going back."
She let Amy lead, followed by Cordelia and Xander as she tapped Giles on the shoulder to get him to leave as well. "This is fascinating, Willow," Giles said as they began walking back to the exit. "I've been a participant in seeing a mindscape before, but never one of a vampire."
None of them noticed that Buffy quickly put her hand on the white patch of ‘ground' to see what the fuss was all about. Springing in front of her eyes was the memory of her kissing Spike at the prom last May in front of Harmony and her sheep. She removed her hand as if burned and hurried to catch up with the group, acting as though she'd been there the whole time.