Spirit's Flame
by Erin

"Buffy, look out!" The warning caused the Slayer to whip around, barely blocking the kick leveled at her by the vampire. The vampire growled in fury, and shot a glance toward the source of the warning, a redheaded bitch who was keeping to the sides of the fight. "Get her!" he snarled to the other three vampires. "I'll take care of blondie, here."

Buffy raised an eyebrow, and got into a fighting stance. "Blondie, huh? Wow, you must've been turned for your wit and originality." She lashed out with a leg, coming solidly into contact with the side of his head. The vampire grunted, and his head snapped around. Were he still human, such a kick would probably have killed him.

Willow looked nervously at the three approaching vampires. She held a cross in her left hand, and a stake in her right. She waved the cross in the direction of the vampires, and they shied away from it and began to surround her. "Um, you guys don't want to eat me," she said, stalling. "I think I'm anemic."

Buffy followed up on her kick with a series of devastating kicks and punches. She drove the vampire relentlessly backward, and he stumbled against a mound of turf and fell back. The moment of distraction was all that Buffy needed; before he could react she fell on him, driving her stake into his heart.

Two of the vampires advancing on Willow saw their comrade fall, and they were on Buffy like a shot. Willow yelled out a warning, and then felt something solid hit her from behind. She fell and twisted, the cross slipping from her hand. The third vampire was on her in a second, reaching for her neck. Willow had the presence of mind to angle her stake so that it was pointed upward, away from her chest; when the vampire lunged on top of her, he drove the stake into his own heart. A moment later, he was dust.

Buffy was having a difficult time with the remaining two vampires; there were gashes and bruises on her arms. She roundhouse kicked one vampire who then was knocked back into a tree trunk and landed heavily on the turf, unmoving. Buffy turned her attention to the remaining vampire.

The remaining vampire took a couple of steps back, and his eyes surveyed the scene nervously. This was supposed to be an easy kill; even when they found out one of the girls was the Slayer, they figured that four against one would be enough to tip the odds in their favor.

Buffy advanced on the last vampire, bold and confident. "Now, be a good boy and let me stake you," she said, "and we can all go home happy. Well, not you." She punctuated that with a swift leg sweep which took the vamp's legs right out from under him. In a flash Buffy drove the stake into his heart, dusting him.

Willow rose somewhat unsteadily to her feet just in time to see the other vampire, supposedly knocked out, advancing on Buffy. She barely had time to call out a warning before he lashed out with a nasty kick that caught Buffy right underneath the rib cage. Buffy tried to roll, tried to get far enough away from the vamp to get to her feet, but he followed her too closely. Another swift kick and she felt her head snap back as his booted foot caught her squarely in the face. She fell back, and fought for consciousness.

Willow watched in horror as the vampire kicked Buffy one last time. Self-loathing warred with terror in Willow's heart; they would have never had a problem if Buffy could count on her to hold her own. If she wasn't so goddamned useless in a fight...! Willow ran to Buffy's side, shielding her from the vampire.

The vampire was somewhat taken aback by Willow's bold move, and then he gave her a cruel, thin smile. "Oh good," he said, "more for me." He leapt at the two women, eyes gleaming with a feral light.

"No!" Willow screamed. She threw up a hand, and flinched away from the vampire's impending attack. A heat, unlike any she'd ever experienced, flowed through her. She watched, stunned, as a bolt of flame erupted from her outstretched hand and struck the vampire in the chest, throwing him back. The vampire sank to his knees and watched in horror as the flames spread over his body. He screamed and collapsed as his body was consumed by the flames.

"Will..." Buffy rasped, as she struggled to sit up, "what the Hell was that?"

Willow looked at her hand like it was suddenly not part of her body, an alien thing. "I...I don't know. I wish I knew."

Buffy and Willow limped into their dorm room, locking the door behind them. Buffy eased down onto the bed, and Willow brought out the first aid kit. Although she was able to heal the worst of Buffy's injuries with the gift Brighid had given her, it still took a great deal of energy, so Buffy insisted that all the smaller cuts and bruises be bandaged and left to her natural, Slayer healing.

Although, Willow thought, the energy the healing took was nothing compared to what happened to her after setting that vampire on fire. When Willow tried to stand up after that, she got such a wave of dizziness that she almost collapsed on the spot. Buffy nearly had to carry her home, but Willow made it under her own power. Barely.

"Are you feeling any better?" Buffy asked, once Willow had finished cleaning the minor cuts.

"Yeah, I guess so. Still pretty tired, but I think I'm getting my energy back. I don't know what happened, though. I certainly didn't cast a spell or anything that I can remember."

Buffy looked thoughtful. "We'll ask Giles about it tomorrow. He might know what's going on, or at least be able to do the research thing. In the meantime, care for a shower?" She grinned at Willow as she said this.

Willow grinned back. "Ok, but separate showers. I don't know how long I'll be able to stand up."

Buffy laughed. "Ok, spoilsport." She and Willow grabbed their stuff.

"Mmm, clean is nice," Willow said, slipping under the covers next to Buffy. The two of them slept in Willow's bed ever since that night, the first night they made love. It was a bit on the small side, but since that meant that she and Buffy would have to sleep curled up together, neither one of them really minded.

Willow put her arm around her lover's stomach, and rested her head on Buffy's shoulder. "Geez, Will," Buffy said, chuckling, "did you stick your head in the refrigerator or something? Your hair is ice cold."

Willow stuck her tongue out at the Slayer. "Of course it is, silly, it's wet. And who told you to come to bed naked, anyway?"

Buffy smiled at Willow lasciviously. "Who told you *not* to?" She rolled over on top of the redhead and bent her head down, kissing her soundly. Willow's hands roamed over Buffy's bare skin, across her back and around to her breasts. She could hear the Slayer's quick gasp, and felt her lover's lips move down, planting kisses on her chin, her jaw, her neck... Everywhere Buffy touched her, Willow felt like her skin was on fire. Oh, the heat...

A bright movement caught her attention, and Willow glanced over Buffy's shoulder. Her eyes widened. "Fire!" she yelped, pushing Buffy away and pointing. "Fire!"

"Huh?" Was all Buffy could think of to say, and she looked where Willow was pointing. Sure enough, a towel that had been draped across the back of Willow's desk chair was on fire. Buffy leaped up, grabbed the towel, and smothered it against the floor. The fire was quickly put out, and luckily it didn't even give off enough smoke to set off the fire alarms.

"It's ok," Buffy said, sitting down next to Willow. "It's out."

Willow looked around wildly. "How did it catch on fire? The towel was wet, Buffy, it was wet!"

Buffy wrapped her arms around her friend. "Ssh, Will, it's ok..." She rubbed Willow's back comfortingly.

"This is scaring me, Buffy," Willow whispered. "I had to have done it, I had to have set that thing on fire, but I don't know how..."

Buffy joined Willow under the covers, and pulled her into a hug. "We'll talk to Giles first thing tomorrow," she said softly. "Don't worry, Will, everything will be ok. Giles will know what it is."

"Pyrokinesis," Giles said. "It's the ability to start fires using one's thoughts. It generally manifests itself during puberty. Why do you ask?" Giles took off his glasses, and looked at the girls.

Buffy and Willow exchanged glances. "See, we had this close call last night, with a few vampires," Buffy began. "I was down, and there was one vampire left. Willow was trying to shield me from the vampire's attack until I could recover. The next thing I knew, Willow put her hand out and he turned into Vampy-que."

Giles looked at Willow, startled. "I see, have there been any other incidents?"

Willow cleared her throat. "Well, last night, in our dorm room, I set a towel on fire. A wet towel."

Giles thought for a moment. "Well, such a power can manifest itself at times of extreme distress, or emotional intensity. What were you doing last night when you set the towel on fire?"

Willow went beet red. "Um..." she glanced at Buffy. Buffy was suddenly very interested in Giles' desk lamp.

"Never mind," Giles said, holding up his hand. "I think I can guess."

"Um, but, Giles, we've...that is to say, it wasn't the first...I mean...I've never set towels on fire before!" Willow managed to finish.

Giles cleared his throat. "Yes, well, I suspect that the close call with the vampire last night managed to unlock your powers. What puzzles me, though, is that you're far too old have this power by way of psychic ability. It must be magick."

"But I haven't performed even the smallest fire spell in weeks!" Willow said.

"What about that goddess, the same one who gave you your healing power?" Buffy asked.

"It couldn't have been her," Willow frowned, trying to remember. "She told me she'd give me healing or fire, and I chose healing."

Buffy thought for a moment. "Actually, Will...She asked you which one you would choose." She shrugged. "Maybe that was some sort of test, to see if you would choose the big destructo power, like the warlock wanted to."

Willow's shoulders slumped. "Then why can't I control it? I do just fine with the healing."

Giles sat at his desk, and began flipping through a book. "I suspect that the fire gift requires somewhat more control than the healing. That is, it's difficult to heal someone to death, so a little extra energy put into it is hardly noticeable." He paused, and took his glasses off for a moment. "I'll try to find anything I can on these gifts, and how to control them. Willow, I think the best thing you can possibly do now is practice. Don't practice alone, and try doing it someplace safe. Buffy, I assume you'll be willing to help her."

Buffy nodded, and sat down next to Willow. "Hey," she said softly, "it's going to be ok. The both of us together, we'll have you in control of this in no time. And then you'll be out there, fighting beside me, torching vampires before you know it." This seemed to cheer Willow up a bit, and she smiled up at her best friend. Buffy smiled back, and said, "C'mon. Let's go practice."

It was a long, frustrating afternoon. The girls tried to think of some place safe to have Willow practice; it needed to be secluded, but the woods were out because of too much vegetation. Buffy suggested a swimming pool, but it wasn't secluded enough, and Willow argued that she didn't know how she was going to start any fire if everything was soaked. So the girls finally settled on an empty chemistry lab. Between the metal and stone tables, and the tile floor, there was nothing that would burn should Willow inadvertently lose control of her power. They hoped.

Willow stood staring at a candle sitting in a lab sink. She frowned. "How am I supposed to control this power if I don't know how to use it?" She had been trying to light the candle for the past twenty minutes without success.

"The last couple of times it happened, did you feel anything?" Buffy asked, looking over Willow's shoulder.

"It felt like...heat. Like there was something inside me generating this heat. But I don't know where it was, or what it was. I can't narrow it down." Willow sighed in frustration.

Buffy thought for a moment, and then got an idea. She came up behind Willow, and slowly ran her hands up under her shirt. Leaning forward, she licked Willow's earlobe and whispered, "Look at the candle." Willow's breath caught, and she stared fixedly at the candle before her. Buffy ran her hands across Willow's skin, up her stomach and up to her breasts, feeling them under the cloth of her bra. She squeezed slightly, and began kissing Willow behind the ear, down to the nape of her neck.

The candle, wick and wax both, exploded into flame. The two girls stared at the smoldering remains of the candle. Buffy flashed a triumphant smile. "Looks like it worked."

Willow smiled. "Oh yeah, that'll be great. Now all I need to toast some vamps is for you to start kissing and groping me as soon as we see 'em."

"Well, as much as I wouldn't mind," Buffy chuckled, "that would probably get too distracting. But at least now you felt it, right? You know where the heat is coming from?"

Willow nodded, hesitantly. "Um, I think so. Let's try another one." Buffy fished another candle out of the box they had bought, and set it in the sink next to the remains of the last one. Willow stared at it, felt the place deep down inside her that was the source of the flame. She tapped into it, allowing it to escape.

The second candle exploded. Buffy jumped up and down. "Hey, you did it!" Willow picked bits of wax out of her hair, and said glumly, "Yeah, I did it. I still can't control it." Buffy shook her head and said, "You'll get there. Let's try another one."

Hours passed. The girls stopped when they finally ran out of candles. Unfortunately, Willow hadn't come any closer to being able to control her power, and bits of candlewax covered the sink and counter. Buffy looked at her friend, worriedly.

"Don't worry about it too much Will, you'll get the hang of it..."

"And what about until I do?" Willow replied, sharply. "Someone startles me, and I could turn them into the Human Torch. It could be anyone, I could hurt Xander, or Giles, or even..." Her voice fell to a whisper, "even you. I never want to hurt you, Buffy." She buried her face in her hands. "I can't even barely touch you."

It broke Buffy's heart to hear her love talk like that. "Listen to me," Buffy said, pulling her friend into a hug. "I know you'd never hurt me. Or any of our friends. Control is just going to take practice, Will. Come on, we'll go back to the dorm and order pizza."

Willow sniffed, and rubbed her eyes. "You go ahead. I'm going to stay here and clean up." Buffy looked at her, and asked, "Are you sure?" Willow nodded. "I'll be fine, I'll clean up and then I'll meet you back in the room." Buffy left regretfully, but she knew the redhead needed some time alone.

Willow cleaned up the lab, and left the building. There was a full moon out, casting bright beams of light over the campus. Willow walked slowly across the lawn in the cool night air. Why? She thought. Why was this happening? She was happy with her life right now. "Goddess," Willow whispered, "why did you do this to me?"

She heard a voice in her head, calming her, soothing her like a breeze across her mind. "Do what, child?"

Willow looked around, and saw the figure of the Goddess standing a few feet away. She appeared smaller and more translucent than she did the first time, but the face was still distinct. It was Brighid.

Willow looked at the Goddess pleadingly. "Why did you give me this gift that I can't control?"

Brighid looked down at the girl and smiled. "But you can control it, child. You are the Avatar; I wouldn't have given you the power if you couldn't control it."

"But I don't know how!" Willow felt the tears running down her cheeks. "And I'm a danger to all my friends until I can."

The Goddess looked at Willow sympathetically. "Would you rather I take the gift from you? I could do that, but if I do your ability to assist the Slayer in her battles will be limited. You will not be able to protect her as you would like. Is that what you wish?"

Willow shook her head. She knew the Goddess was right; deep down she had been praying for something to make her more useful, something which would help her protect Buffy as Buffy always protected her.

"To live with this gift is to live every day with the knowledge that you can harm another living being, perhaps even kill them. It is the responsibility that your Slayer bears every day of her life, and it will be your responsibility too. The power does not come easily, nor is it to be used lightly. It is a hard lesson, but one which is necessary to learn.

"Now then." The Goddess came closer. Willow couldn't tell whether she walked or glided, her movements were so smooth and precise. "The gift comes from your spirit. You have a great deal of spirit, Avatar." She smiled at the girl. "But the means to control the gift come from your heart and your mind. You have been calling on the gift without telling the gift what you want it to do."

Willow started when the Goddess said this. "Tell it what to do..." she murmured. "I think I understand!"

The Goddess smiled. "Your love is waiting for you, child. She is very worried. Ease her fears." The Goddess disappeared an instant later.

Willow looked into the moonlit sky. "Thank you, Goddess," she whispered, and then took off running in the direction of Stevenson Hall.

Buffy was pacing around the room; for what seemed like the thousandth time she told herself that she shouldn't have let Willow walk home alone. But part of her knew that it had to be done, that Willow had a hard enough time trusting herself right now without Buffy making things worse.

Buffy was startled as Willow came bursting into the room. She was absolutely stunned, though, when Willow ran over to her and grabbed her in a big hug, nearly pulling her off of her feet.

"Whoa! Willow! To what do I owe this very nice, but very manic-depressive, turnaround?"

Willow held up her hand. "Wait! I need to try something first." She grabbed a scented candle off of her dresser, and placed it on her desk. Buffy raised an eyebrow but kept silent. Willow sat down in front of the candle and concentrated.

Visualize, she thought. Don't pull on the power, just imagine what you want it to do... She stared at the candle for several seconds and the wick finally burst into flame.

Buffy looked shocked and happy. "Will, that's great!" She ran over and hugged her best friend. "But how..."

Willow smiled, and hugged her back. "A little visit from the Goddess," she said, happily. "When she talked to me, I knew what to do. I knew what I was doing wrong."

Buffy grinned at her friend. "So does this mean you can control it?"

Willow pulled Buffy into a kiss, saying, "There's only one way to find out..."

And the single candle left burning all night was proof enough of her success.

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