Willow smiled a purely feminine smile as she led the way through the woods. In an hour, she
would be joined by her Lord, her Horned God, her Mate for Beltane. And she was thoroughly
looking forward to it. After all, she hadn't been with Angel for almost a full cycle of the Wheel of
She let her mind drift back to the first time she'd preformed the Beltane ritual, six years ago.
She'd been a novice Wicca then, celebrating her first Beltane alone. She had thought that not
having a male partner for the ritual and celebration would not matter. Little did she realize that
the Dark Lady would take matters into her own hands.
That night, and every year since, the Dark Lady embodied her and called for her Horned God.
And every year, he would come and they would mate and love and be one with each other.
Over the passing years, the ritual changed. First, Angel and Willow had to let go of their mortal
ties that made them feel guilty. Once they did that, what they learned had brought a deeper
understanding to their lives, as well as a sense of wholeness when they were together.
Then Amy had joined her circle, followed by Cordelia. Willow had not once thought the
who had moved to Los Angeles with Angel, would want to be a part of the ritual. But Angel's
yearly sojourns on April 29th to Sunnydale had piqued her curiosity and the dark-haired vampire
told her about what occurred. Cordelia had approached Willow during the day on the 30th and
asked more questions and the redhead invited her to join them that night.
Now, a fourth was joining their circle, completing the last Quarter and changing the ritual once
more. Willow smiled at the blond Slayer, who babbled nervously as they come closer to the
clearing in the woods.
"Are you sure about this whole naked thing?" Buffy asked, fingering the simple shift she wore
that she borrowed from Willow.
"Believe me, Buffy, you won't even realize you're naked," Willow answered. "Besides,
sometimes being sky-clad during a celebration and ritual is very empowering."
"But just think of all the things that could be watching us," Buffy pointed out. "Animals, or
people, or-or vampires!"
"Don't worry," Willow placated her best friend. "We will be safe in the circle of protection.
Only those we call will be let in."
"That's another thing I still don't get," the Slayer said as she picked up the firelight ahead of
them. "Who are we calling? And how, by cell phone?"
Willow smiled and shook her head. "By nature, Buffy. By the gods and goddesses. By the
"By the Force, Luke?" Buffy teased.
Willow playfully swatted at her. "Very funny."
The two old friends giggled as they entered the clearing. The Beltane fire was already lit in what
was to be the center of the circle. The Quarter markers were all in place in the four directions --
north, south, east and west - and upon them sat the symbolic representation of the element
associated with the Quarter, waiting to be used.
"Bright Blessings, Amy," Willow greeted as she gave her fellow Wicca a hug
"Bright Blessings, Willow," Amy returned. "And to you, Buffy, Merry Meet."
"Um, hi," Buffy replied.
"When's Cordy getting here?" Willow asked.
"Cordelia's coming?" Buffy said in surprise. "I though it was just you, me and Amy."
"No, Cordy's been doing this with us for two years now," Amy answered. "This will be her
"Are you talking about me behind my back?" Cordelia asked as she came into the clearing,
dressed as the other three women. The smile on her face belayed her sharp tone. "Bright
Blessings on this beautiful Beltane."
"Merry Meet, Cordy and let me guess, English final?" Willow joked.
"Bright Blessings and are you ever going to get your degree?" Amy added.
"At the rate I'm taking classes -- no," Cordelia answered, kicking her shoes off and setting them
outside of the circle. "Plus, fang face has me running these stupid errands all the time. I swear,
Will, why you called that stubborn vampire is beyond me."
"I didn't chose him," Willow replied, setting candles around the circle and lighting them. "The
Dark Lady called her Mate and it just happened to be him.
"Right, and all that salty goodness had nothing to do with it," Cordelia said.
"Are you talking about Angel?" Buffy asked Cordelia and Willow.
"Of course," Cordelia replied with a frown for the Slayer. "Who else?"
"Cordy, she doesn't know exactly what goes on here," Amy told the former cheerleader.
Cordelia's smile grew to wicked proportions. "They you are in for a very interesting night,
"Cordy, behave," Willow admonished. Amy set out four Athames, one for each of them, at the
four Quarters as Willow explained the Beltane ritual in further detail to Buffy. "Buffy, like I told
you earlier, Beltane is the celebration of fertility. It is the time when the Lady mates with the
"By mate, you mean have sex?" Buffy asked.
"It's a little more than just sex," Willow answered. "But, yeah."
The Slayer looked at the other three. "So, we're out here to have an orgy. The four of us with...
Cordelia snorted and Amy stifled her laugh as they continued their preparations. "Buffy,"
Cordelia said. "As much as I love Angel as a friend, in no way do I want to have sex with a dead
guy. That's just too eew for me."
"Besides, the Horned God is only called to the Dark Lady," Amy said. "The rest of us have our
"Explain please?" Buffy asked with a helpless look at Willow.
"We have our own men to fuck until dawn," Cordy answered in Willow's stead.
"That's a blunt way of putting it," Amy commented.
Cordelia shrugged. "It's true."
"Buffy, when we call the goddess to embody us, we each get a certain one," Willow said. "And
that particular goddess calls her specific god, who is embodied in a male counterpart. Mine is
Angel. He is the Horned God to my Dark Lady."
"Mine is Oz," Amy said with an impish grin. "He is the God of the Beasts to my Goddess of the
"What about you, Cordelia?" Buffy asked.
"Xander," Cordelia answered offhandedly.
Buffy's eyes widened in shock. "But I thought you two hated each other. I didn't even know
you spoke to each other."
"We do and we don't," she replied. "But I am the Dark Mother of Mortals and he is the Dark
"But how can you two...you know," Buffy said, then looked at Amy and Willow. "And you two.
I know Amy and Oz are together, but Wills, you're not with Angel."
"It's not our time to be together yet," Willow replied with a wise smile for her friend. "We both
have things we need to do before we will be as one outside of the Beltane rite."
"And before you ask," Cordelia spoke up. "This is the only time a year I get to feel complete.
I'm not ready to take on Xander in the real world yet and he isn't ready for me, either. But one
day..." She trailed off with a wistful smile.
"Buffy, you don't have to participate if you don't want to," Willow told her best fiend. "You can
go home and bully Spike into doing his good deeds for the night."
"But Pinky, that's what I do every night," Buffy complained.
"How is your evil, pet vampire these days?" Cordelia asked.
"Annoying, petulant, whiney," Buffy replied. "And many other synonyms. One of these days,
I'm going to kill Whistler for making him into one of the good guys."
"Reluctant good guy," Amy added.
"Very reluctant," Buffy said. "I have to practically force him to patrol with me just so he'll watch
my back. You'd think after five years of doing that, I'd at least be used to it."
"But it's better to have him as a quasi-friend than an enemy," Willow pointed out. "Even if he is
a pain in the neck."
The other three groaned at the horrible pun. "Wills, I should stake you for that," Buffy said.
Amy looked up at the sky, took a deep breath, and sighed contentedly. "Ladies, it's that time."
She walked to her place at the North Quarter and picked up her small bag of dirt.
"Buffy," Cordelia said with a serious expression. "If you do join us, your life will be changed."
"She's right," Willow said as Cordelia took her place in the West Quarter. "A goddess will
become a part of you and she will call for her Mate. When that happens, that person is going to
be your mate, as well."
"Like you and Angel, Cordy and Xander, and Amy and Oz," Buffy said with understanding.
"One more question before I decide. Do you love Angel?"
"Yes," Willow answered immediately. "As Cordy loves Xander and Amy loves Oz and vice
versa." She laid a hand on her friend's arm and answered the unasked question. "And yes,
although I have to wait for what could be a very long time until I'm together with Angel, it's
"For me, too," Cordelia added softly on the other side of the fire.
Buffy nodded and gave Willow a shy smile. "Where do you want me?"
"We cast this circle for our protection. Let no harm come to those within," Willow chanted as
the celebration began. She nodded to Amy across the fire, who continued.
"Guardians of the North, Element of Earth, I call to thee," Amy said as she sprinkled the dirt from
the small bag she held onto the ground.
"Guardians of the East, Element of Air, I call to thee," Buffy continued, letting a handful of
feathers fall to the ground.
"Guardians of the South, Element of Fire, I call to thee," Willow said as she lit a red candle and
placed it carefully down.
"Guardians of the West, Element of Water, I call to thee," Cordelia finished, setting a glass filled
with water down.
"Goddess, hear us," Willow said. "We ask of you to be with us on this Beltane night..." As the
words of the ritual continued to flow, the power began to build within the circle. And as it has
always been done, the four girls took their Athames and plunged them into the earth, allowing the
goddesses to embody them.
Then, as each rose to their feet, they were one with their specific goddess. Willow was the Dark
Lady, Cordelia was the Dark Mother of Mortals, Amy was the Goddess of the Hunt and Buffy
was the Goddess of the Day. The four smiled as their shifts dropped to the ground and they
began to dance sky-clad, calling for their Mates.
Angel's head shot up from the book he was reading and a wicked smile crossed his face. He
stood, dropping the book to the couch, and made his way into the night.
Oz was playing his guitar in the bright, post full moon light when he paused mid-strum. The
inside of him growled in anticipation and he quickly rose, heading for the woods.
Xander stopped what he was doing suddenly, glanced at the calendar and grinned. He pushed
away from his desk and made his way out of the apartment.
Angel, the Horned God, dropped his pants to the ground and stepped out of them as he came up
behind his Dark Lady. The firelight played off his pale skin as he put his hands on her shoulders,
halting her movements. His pressed himself against her back as his eyes traveled across the
He saw that Oz, the God of the Beasts, had already joined his Mate, standing proud and erect
next to the Goddess of the Hunt, his hand around her waist. Turning his head, he watched as
Xander, the Dark Father of Mortals, joined the group, his hands sliding around the Dark Mother's
waist, halting her dance. Xander met Angel's eyes and nodded his head in silent greeting.
The Horned God's gaze slid over to the Goddess of the Day, who was silently dancing as she
called for her Mate. The man who was Angel started when he saw her Mate approach, but
everything disappeared as the god who embodied him took over.
Buffy could feel the Goddess of the Day inside of her, as if she had always been there. Her mind
and body sang out for her other half, drawing him to her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw
Angel come up behind Willow and then Xander join Cordelia, leaving her as the only one alone.
She felt as though she was crying out in anguish because her counterpart was not answering her
call. The sense of aloneness had never been so strong.
Then she felt cool hands against her wrists and sliding down her arms, halting her dance.
Her Mate had come.
Spike frowned and peered into the darkness of the cemetery around him. He fingered the sake in
his pocket as he searched for the source of what he was feeling. He began walking at a rapid clip,
following his instincts, and looking for unseen danger.
He stopped suddenly when he saw firelight and looked around him. Some how he traveled into
the woods without realizing it. "What the bloody hell?" he said to himself as he slowly moved
forward towards the light.
Then he saw her and everything clicked into place. His duster slid to the ground as he continued
towards the dancing woman bathed in the glow of the fire, followed by his shirt. He toed off his
shoes, barely stopping to pull off his socks and belt, as he walked up behind her.
Clad only in his jeans, he raised his arms and captured her swaying wrists, then lightly ran his
hands down her raised arms.
The God of the Night had joined his Goddess of the Day.
The four women of the circle turned and faced their called ones, and the Beltane ritual began.
Dawn was approaching and the four Mated couples needed to separate. They all stood and redressed, none of them wanting to leave, but knowing that they had to go. Oz was the first to disappear into the woods, knowing that he'd see his Goddess at their home, for they were already together outside of the Beltane rite.
The Dark Father of Mortals kissed his Dark Mother tenderly, lovingly, knowing that he wouldn't see her again until the Wheel of the Year turned a full circle again. "I love you, Dark Mother," Xander whispered. "So very much, Cordy. So very much."
"I love you, too, Dark Father, Xander," Cordelia whispered back, holding him close. "I love you, too." Xander squeezed her hand as he stepped away from her, then turned and left the clearing.
Angel rested his chin on Willow's head, soaking in her warmth. "I'll see you soon, Dark Lady, I promise," he told her.
Willow raised her head and smiled up at him, tears in her eyes. "I'll be here, my Horned God, my Angel," she replied. "I'll be here waiting for you. Always." He bent and kissed her softly on the lips, then slowly pulled away from her and faded into the remaining darkness.
"Come to me, Day Goddess," Spike said softly, staring into Buffy's eyes. "You know where I am, Buffy. I've wanted you for so long..."
"I will, Night God," Buffy replied. "I will, Spike. I'll be there soon and then I don't plan on leaving." Spike smiled happily and pulled her into a quick, hard embrace, then practically sprinted away into the coming dawn.
The four ladies turned and faced the dying fire and Willow began to speak. "Goddess, we thank you for being with us on this Beltane. Guardians of the North, South, East and West, we thank you for being with us on this Beltane. May our circle of protection return into the night and may the gods and goddesses bring Bright Blessings on each of our lives. The ritual has ended, an it harm none, so mote it be." Each of them blew out the candle near their spot and the energy that had built that night faded away as if it were never there.
"Well, I hate to boff and run," Cordelia said after cleaning up some of the ritual supplies. "But I need to get back to the hotel and get a little sleep. Mr. Only-Wears-Black-Now wants me to do some things around Sunnydale before we leave tonight."
"Ok, Cordy," Amy said, giving her a quick hug. "Safe journey."
"Merry Part, Cordy," Willow told the brunette, repeating the hug.
"Um, bye," Buffy said.
Cordelia shook her head and hugged the Slayer. "Merry Part, Buffy, and Merry Meet Again," she said. Stepping back, she looked Buffy over from head to toe. "And try to do something with that hair before next year."
With laughter following, the former cheerleader left the clearing. "I'm going to go, too," Amy said, picking up her bag of used supplies. She gave them a mischievous grin. "Oz is keeping the bed warm for me."
"Go, Amy," Willow told her. "And tell Oz I'll see him at six."
"Will do," she replied. "Merry Part to you both."
"Bright Blessings," Willow said.
"Bye, Amy," Buffy said. As soon as Amy had gone, the Slayer turned to Willow. "So, um, now what?"
"You tell me, Buffy," Willow replied with a knowing grin.
Buffy blushed. "Well, Spike is sorta waiting for me," she said, then frowned. "But what if I get there and he doesn't want me? Does the ritual thingy wear off? What about..."
"Buffy," Willow interrupted. "First of all, I told you that the person the Goddess in you calls will become your mate, as well."
"You mean, he didn't have a choice? That's reassuring."
"Let me finish," the redhead scowled. "Secondly, when the gods and goddesses embody us, they use our already present feelings. So, you and Spike already had a thing for each other."
"Oh," Buffy said. "Then why didn't we do anything before this? We've been working and hanging together for five years now."
"Buffy, all of us knew you two would eventually get together," Willow said. "Even Giles has resigned himself to that fact. But both of you had been burned by love too badly and were scared to try again. Just think of this night as breaking through that fear so you two can finally admit your feelings for one another."
"Thank you, Dr. Rosenberg," Buffy teased. "You should have been a shrink rather than a computer teacher."
"No, I think I'll just stick to being a wise witch," Willow replied, picking up her bag. As they started out of the clearing, she asked, "So, what was it like?"
"Like both of us wanted to be the dominant person," Buffy answered. "He wanted to...but I wanted to...so we kinda did that sixty-nine thing so that it was equal. Then I was on top, then on the bottom. We moved a lot."
"Night and Day," Willow said. "Always struggling against one another, but in reality, equals. You can't have one without the other."
"You do realize that I'm going to have to try and explain all this to him," she pointed out.
"Buffy, I highly doubt that talking is what you're going to be doing," Willow said, giggling. Buffy
joined in and laughing together they made their way into the dawn, another Beltane passed.