Caught in the Act
“Of course, I'd like to assume that I have, or at least had, a soul,” Frasier was saying to Willow as he paced back and forth in his hotel room. “But this spell you're talking about sounds dangerous. And I've yet to understand just what difference a soul would make to me. I think I've managed to keep a lid on my, er, darker self thus far.”
Willow shook her head, red tresses bouncing around her shoulders. “It's so not dangerous! No danger. I've got the spell perfected, there isn't even that nasty no-sex vengeance clause anymore....”
Frasier stepped back, looking appalled. “I beg your pardon??”
Xander and Buffy exchanged a look. Willow was babbling again, a sure indication of her nervousness. Frasier's pacing was rather stiff-legged too, and both of them noticed that he kept a certain distance from Willow. Something was definitely up with those two.
“Well, uh, see, originally it was a vengeance spell, you know, cast by gypsies to pay back a vampire for killing one of their daughters....” Willow cast a nervous glance to Buffy, who gave a sharp shake of her head. “Um, but that doesn't matter anymore,” she said hastily into Frasier's horror-struck expression. “I took it and tweaked it a little, and now you can have sex after I cast it on you!”
There was a dead silence for a few minutes, and finally Frasier cleared his throat and said, “Well, that's certainly a load off my mind.”
Xander rubbed his temples with one hand. “Can we please
stop talking about sex? I'm getting a head-ache.”
“Plus it's grossing me out,” Buffy agreed.
“Surprisingly enough, the furthering of my personal life isn't the foremost thing on my mind,” Frasier said dryly. “I'd like to know more about just what this spell is going to do to me.”
“Haven't you been listening?” Buffy asked with a touch of impatience. “It's going to restore your soul.”
“Yes, yes, I get that, but how will it change me? How will I be different than I am now?” Frasier looked around at the three Scoobies. “Will I stop drinking blood? Will I be able to walk during the day? Will I be able to resume my former life?”
“Uh, big 'No' to all those questions, Doc,” Xander put in. “What it will do is give you a conscience, so you stop killing people all on your own.”
Frasier frowned. “But I've already done that.”
“There's a dead mugger in the city morgue who would disagree with you,” Xander replied, matching Frasier's frown.
“Well he doesn't count!” Frasier flared. Now Willow and Buffy exchanged looks.
“You can't count him out just because he's a bad guy,” Xander snapped. “Bad guys don't deserve to be eaten!”
“But I didn't eat him!” Frasier whined. “I only broke his neck, and that was after he shot me!”
“Oh, well that makes it alright then,” Xander said.
“It does?” For a moment, Frasier looked hopeful.
“No, it doesn't!” Xander snapped again.
Buffy put a hand on Xander's arm to calm him down. “Inside voices, Xan,” she said, and then the Slayer looked to Frasier. “Look, Doc, having a soul will be better for you. It keeps you in touch with your human side. You won't go all fangy like you do sometimes, the soul will rein it in.”
“But I'll still be...a monster.” Frasier heaved a heavy sigh.
Willow took a tentative step to Frasier and gave him an awkward pat on the shoulder. “You'll still be a vampire. But whether you stay a monster is really up to you. You can still do good things, you know, even if you can't go back to your old life.”
Frasier restrained the urge to flinch away from her touch. Even her nearness had that terrible hunger in him rearing its ugly head. He couldn't even look her in the eyes. “What in the world can a vampire psychiatrist do. I'd constantly be worried that I'd eat my own patients. That is, if I had any patients willing to come and see me at night,” he said morosely.
“Well actually,” Buffy glanced between Willow and Xander, both of whom nodded. “We've been talking about it, and we think we have an option for you. That is, if you're willing to be re-ensouled.”
Frasier looked up at Buffy. “Oh? What option is that?”
“We think we can use a psychiatrist at the Watcher's Council in England,” Buffy said in a serious tone. “There are a lot of new slayers that could do with some counseling. We probably couldn't pay much, I mean, we're still organizing things and money's a little scarce. But I think there would be a place for you there, if you had a soul and were interested.” Buffy moved from where she'd been sitting to kneel in front of Frasier, and she took both of his cold hands in her warm grasp. “It'd be a big change, Doc, and it would take some time for you to get used to our routines. You might even be counseling demons once in a while. But we really think this might be the best thing for you.”
“Leave my family here in Seattle? My job, my life? My son....he'd have to be raised by his grandparents. I don't know if I could walk away from all of that...” Frasier stared down at his hands, clasped in Buffy's.
“Believe me, Doc, it's better for your son to think you're dead. He's kinda young to be faced with the hard truth of you just now,” Xander said, a bit more relaxed now that Frasier seemed to be coming around to their way of thinking. He had a thoughtful expression on his face, absorbing the image of Buffy kneeling in front of Frasier, who obviously remained distressed. For the first time, it began to sink into Xander how much she genuinely liked the man, despite the undead aspect. Buffy was really relating to him. Xander wondered if it were still because of the Giles thing.
Frasier held Buffy's gaze for a moment, and then finally looked up at Willow. “Will....will you three be there? I won't have to go alone, will I?”
“It's a busy time for us,” Willow said quickly. “But yeah, I think we can go with you, get you settled in, before we have to go anywhere else.”
Frasier looked back into Buffy's eyes, and finally he nodded. “Alright. I'll need to tell my family about my new....plans. I may be dead, but there are still arrangements to be made.”
Buffy gave his hands a final, reassuring squeeze, and then rose to her feet. “This is the right choice, Doc, I know it,” she said confidently.
“I hope so,” Frasier said with another morose sigh.
* * * * *
Xander retreated to his room to call Giles and fill him in. Buffy went to get more pig's blood, leaving Willow and Frasier alone while Willow began to prepare for the spell. She'd already retrieved all of the reagents she needed. Frasier sat on a chair, very still, watching her go about her work. Willow set a few bowls of incense on a table, glancing back over her shoulder nervously at him from time to time.
“So, uh, don't you think maybe we should talk?” Willow asked, still speaking rather quickly.
He'd been dreading this. “Talk? About....about what?” Frasier stammered.
“Well, I dunno, off the top of my head, how about the other night when we kissed?” Willow said, now setting out candles. “I mean, I think it's something we should talk about, considering we're going to be working together and stuff.” She set out a final candle on the cleared floor, studying the circle she'd made with a critical eye before turning to face Frasier. Almost immediately, her cheeks turned a bright pink. “I'm almost ready to do it.”
Frasier blinked and stood up. “To do what? Kiss? I'm not sure that's a good idea...”
“No! No kissing. Absolutely no kissing. I meant that I'm ready to do the spell.” Willow folded her arms over her chest and backed up a step.
“Oh, the spell, of course that's what you meant. I'm sorry for assuming...” Frasier was the one babbling now.
“No, no, it's understandable, I was talking about kissing, after all, and then I said I was ready, no wonder you thought...” Willow trailed off, her cheeks brighter pink than ever.
“Willow....” Frasier said, his tone soft. “I want you to understand that I think you're a beautiful young lady, and I am very attracted to you....”
“Stop right there mister,” Willow cut him off. “I am not going to listen to a vampire give me the brush-off.”
“That's not what I'm doing,” Frasier insisted. “I'm just not sure that you can....trust me. I'm a blood-sucking fiend, after all.”
“That's why we're doing the spell. Anyway I'm not asking you out. In fact, I think it's best if we just....put it behind us.”
“Oh, I see. You wanted to be the one giving the brush-off.” Frasier couldn't resist a small grin, his light blue eyes studying her slender form. He remembered how she had felt pressed against him, how sweet her kisses had tasted, that enchanting scent of honey and jasmine....
“Well...” Willow hesitated, still blushing. Frasier found it to be utterly charming. She didn't move as he stepped towards her where she stood in front of the circle of candles she'd laid out. Her clear green eyes moved up to meet his gaze, and both became aware of the sudden change in atmosphere. It was charged with tension. Willow entirely forgot what she'd been about to say.
“I wonder,” Frasier said in a low tone, his voice just a bit husky. “....if I will still feel this way towards you after you have cast your spell on me...” Who is casting on whom?
Willow wondered dazedly. He was leaning down again, getting closer just as he had two nights ago. She wanted to be disgusted, revolted, repelled....but instead that same excitement overcame her. It was as if her skin was tingling in anticipation of his touch. She didn't even notice when her arms lifted to slide around his neck. Willow was completely absorbed in the feel of his lips on hers, of his arms around her waist.
Neither of them heard the door open behind them.
Neither of them saw the looks of shock on Buffy's and Xander's faces, both of them having returned at the same time.