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Note: Thanks to Lisa and Gabrielle for the betas. And just an FYI, there *is* a bit of B/A in this story. It was necessary for the set-up, and I hope those of you that aren’t B/A fans will read it anyway. Please? ::makes puppy-dog eyes::

And yes, there *will* be a sequel. As you’ll see at the end, there really has to be one.


Prologue:

"Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon," Angel said, false bravado making the words sound strong. He watched the horde approach, swinging his sword experimentally, getting a feel for it. "Let's go to work."

A bright flash of light to the left had them all turning to see what else the Senior Partners had in store for them. Did the word 'overkill' mean nothing to those people?

"Got room for a few friends?"

The voice was one he remembered from his dreams, soft and sweet and full of optimism. "Buffy," he croaked, as surprise, hope, and dismay slammed through him at breakneck speed. He would gladly die at her side, but he never wanted her to die like this, fighting a fight that was not her responsibility.

"Not just Buffy," she replied, stepping to the side. Behind her were—his jaw dropped in shock—at least a hundred young women. They shared her stance, her cocky expression, and best of all, they carried weapons.

"'Bout time you showed up, Slayer," Spike said offhandedly, but Angel could see the relief and the hope building in his childe's eyes. Maybe they *would* live to see another night.

"We gonna stand here all night, or are we gonna kick some demon ass?" Buffy demanded, shooting both vampires a smile, then jumping into the battle.

Four hours and a dozen fallen comrades later, all that remained standing were two vampires, an ex-god, most of the slayers, Gunn, Willow and Xander. They were tired as hell and wetter than they could ever remember being in their lives. But they were alive.




"How did you know where to find us?"

Angel had wanted to ask that very question for hours, but Spike had beaten him to the punch.

They had taken temporary refuge from the morning sun inside the lobby of the Hyperion, the empty hotel welcoming them back like an old friend. Strangely enough, it felt right to be there again, Angel thought. It was a reminder of a time when things had been simpler, and friends now lost to the cause had still been with them. Now Cordelia, Lorne, Fred and Wesley were gone, and their absence weighed heavily on him.

Buffy shrugged her answer, tossing her head towards Willow, who was working a strengthening spell on a still-weak Gunn. Angel felt lucky that they were not adding his name to the list of fallen comrades.

"Willow?" Spike asked curiously.

The redhead turned towards the voice, seeing them gathered at the foot of the stairs. "Sleep," she whispered, waiting for Gunn to close his eyes before getting up and approaching the other three.

"Hi," she greeted, seating herself wearily on the bottom step and looking up at the still-standing threesome. Sure, she thought, it was easy to be all stand up-y when you had vampire and slayer strength. But she was tired, and she was gonna sit, and they would just have to deal.

"Buffy said you were the one who told her that we were in trouble?" The sentence may have sounded like a question, but Willow knew an interrogation when she heard it, even though Angel's tone was deceptively gentle.

"Yeah. I--I had a dream." Willow fell quiet, staring down at the floor as she felt the others looking at her. Tears dotted her cheeks when she looked back up at them. "It was Tara. Or, or maybe it was something that looked like her. I don't know. All I know is that it told me that I had to come here, that you needed me, and that Buffy and the others needed to come with me." She shrugged her shoulders, wincing slightly as a sharp pain exploded in her head at the gesture.

Magic use could be much more draining than physical exertion, and Willow had used enough magic tonight to know that she was about to collapse. She struggled on, regardless. "So I grabbed Buffy, and the slayers, and with a little help from some friendly witches, here we are. Oh, and Angel? She also gave me a spell to secure your soul."

And with that, she passed out completely, sinking into oblivion.




A year later, give or take

"This is perfect," Buffy whispered, leaning back against Angel and fitting her body snugly against his. "All is quiet, the others are gone, and it's just you and me." She wriggled her ass enticingly against his quickly hardening erection, giggling at the responding growl from deep in Angel's chest.

"You know I can't resist you when you're doing that," he groaned, his hands slipping around Buffy's waist and pulling her even closer to him, his fingers lingering to caress the bare skin of her midriff.

Angel took a deep breath, the scents of jasmine and Buffy filling his senses, and thought he must be the luckiest man--or vampire--on earth. If someone had told him a year ago that he would be so happy that his dead heart could burst, he would have dreaded and feared the possibility. But now, thanks to a soul that could not go 'poof' at a moment's notice, he was not only happy, he was ecstatic.

Willow's spell had worked perfectly, although there *had* been some tense moments the first time he and Buffy had decided to take his newly secured soul out for a test drive. But that had been almost a year ago, and Angel couldn't imagine being any happier than he had been for the last six months. Oh, things weren't perfect by any means. Buffy was still human, with a big fat expiration date stamped on her forehead, and he was still a vampire. But they promised each other not to think of that, merely to concentrate on living for today.

Buffy turned to face him, and thoughts of the past flew from his head as she attacked him with her lips, nibbling lightly on his ear lobe while her hands ran down his back to his ass, grabbing the flesh there and squeezing lightly.

They had never made love in the kitchen before, Buffy thought, as her eyes fell upon the table in the middle of the room. Plenty of space, she decided, imagining the look on the others' faces if they ever figured it out. She giggled, feeling naughty at what she was contemplating suggesting to Angel.

The sound of the door slamming open, accompanied by two angry voices, reached Angel's ears first, but Buffy heard them soon enough. "The kids are home," Buffy whispered, drawing her mouth reluctantly from Angel's ear.

"And they're in a mood again," Angel agreed. He took Buffy's hand, and together they walked into the lobby.

"I see you two made it back in once piece. Did you manage to find and dispatch the Worsine demon? Can I tell Mrs. Flaherty her problems are over?" Buffy's voice was cheerful, hoping to defuse the electric tension she felt flickering in the air around her.

Willow and Spike stood facing each other, a scant two or three feet between them. Spike's sneer, coupled with the harsh lines of anger on Willow's face, confirmed that they were just an inch from trading blows. Once again. The two of them had been at it for months now, fighting constantly, their words escalating from snide to downright hurtful.

"Would have been back an hour ago if grandma Spike hadn't insisted on driving," Willow commented breezily, giving the blond vampire one last glare before turning on her heel and heading towards the kitchen.

"Well excuse me if I don't want to die in a fiery car crash!" Spike yelled, his angry gaze following Willow as she disappeared into the other room. "I swear," he said, turning to Angel and Buffy, "she's like a bleedin' maniac. Drivin' way too fast, and with the hand gestures," he waved his hands about, pantomiming Willow's nervous hand movements.

"Oh yeah?" Willow demanded, the anger in her tone slightly muffled because of the distance it traveled, "You think I'm such a bad driver? Well let's take a test. Which of us has knocked over the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign EIGHT TIMES?!? Huh?" She emerged from the kitchen carrying a cup of what Buffy hoped was calming chamomile tea. "Let's see...was it me? Oh, no, that's right, it was YOU! So ha!" Willow lifted her cup to her mouth, taking a quick mouthful of the liquid and wincing as her tongue was burned by hot tea.

"That. Doesn't. Count. I did that on purpose," Spike insisted, a faint smile curving his lips as he watched Willow burn her tongue. Served her right, he thought.

"Yeah, sure you did, Spike," Willow goaded him, her eyes flashing with anger. "Just like you 'meant' to let Buffy kick your ass all those times. Uh huh, I'm *so* buying that one."

"Hey," Buffy exclaimed, putting her hands up in front of her, "don't you two drag me into your twisted little arguments. I prefer to play the role of innocent bystander."

"Fine, whatever," Spike growled. He turned quickly, and with a swish of leather he was gone, leaving Willow to stare impotently after him.

"Aarrgh!!" she screamed, frustrated beyond her ability to articulate. "He's just so damned..." she hesitated, trying to think of the right word, "IMPOSSIBLE," she yelled after him.

"What is it with you two?" Buffy asked, eyeing her friend cautiously. Willow was usually such a calm, together person. But lately every time she and Spike were in the same room, it always ended with one of them stomping away while the other raged angrily in their wake.

Angel took this brief lull in the conversation to head for the stairs. "I'll be in our room, okay? You two probably want to, uh, talk. Alone."

"Sorry, Angel," Willow called up after him.

Buffy led her friend into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of water from the refrigerator and unscrewing the cap. The cold water refreshed her, cooling and soothing her as it went down, but didn't help her immediate problem any. "Why do you two seem to have such a problem? I mean, jeez, Willow, I haven't seen you this angry with anyone...ever. But the minute you two see each other, it's like you start sharpening those barbs and anticipating a fight. It's almost as if you *like* hurting each other."

Willow slumped dejectedly into a chair, her expression sad and confused. "I don't know, Buffy. I mean, every time I tell myself that I'm not going to let him get to me like he did last time. And then he says something, and I feel like I need to respond, and then he says something mean, so I have to say something mean back, and then...and then it just gets worse from there." She gave Buffy a look of such despair that it made the Slayer's long-buried maternal instincts itch to kick in. "He's just so...infuriating!"

Buffy smiled as she remembered a time, back in a town that no longer existed, when Angel had made her feel a lot of the same feelings. Confusion, anger, desperation, and that terrible feeling of hopelessness. Yeah, she remembered all of that. But she and Angel had been in love; they had been star-crossed lovers, with all the angst and extra baggage that the term implied. Willow and Spike weren't even friends, much less lovers. Were they?

Buffy choked on a mouthful of water at the thought, her eyes burning and throat closing as she coughed in an effort to expel the liquid. And then suddenly she felt fine, the unpleasant sensations disappearing as quickly as they had come upon her. "Thanks, Willow."

Willow shrugged. "No biggie."

"Well I'm going upstairs. If you're sure you can keep from killing Spike when he gets back, that is." Gonna see how quickly I can get Angel naked and tied to the bed, she thought eagerly, hoping that the vampire didn't already have plans of his own. Or if he did, that they also involved them being naked. Together.

Willow sighed. "I'm fine. I just need to...decompress, I guess. You go up and have fun with Angel. Or...whatever it is that you want to have with him." She smiled slightly.

"Thanks, Willow. And anytime you want to talk about the Spike problem, or anything else, you know where to find me." She hesitated for a bit, "Just, don't find me for at least a couple of hours, okay?"




Angel was ready for her, naked, a set of handcuffs dangling invitingly from his erect cock. Buffy smothered a giggle at the sight—for someone they had all decided years ago had no sense of humor, he sure did know how to make her laugh.

"I don't know what you've got in mind, mister, but I'm a good girl," she whispered, closing the door behind her and floating into his waiting arms.

His lips quirked into an appreciative smile as he gazed down at her perfect face. "Yes you are," he confirmed, his voice husky with desire. "A very, *very* good girl."




Later, as they lay together, lazy and sated, she thought about Willow again. Her friend was lonely. That much she knew. Sure, they worked together and played together; she and Angel included her in as much of their life as they could. But that just wasn't the same as having a special someone around who could make you feel like the most important person in their world.

"What are you thinking about?" Angel asked curiously.

"What makes you think I'm thinking about anything?"

He smiled into her hair, giving the soft strands a gentle kiss. "I can hear you," he teased.

Buffy turned to face him, giving the vampire a kiss on his chin and a cheeky grin. "Just thinking about Willow," she admitted, her expression losing its playfulness. "She's lonely. I think maybe that's part of what is going on between her and Spike. I mean, she's so busy with school, and with this stuff, that she doesn't really have any time to meet anyone. Plus, she can still be so shy. And then there's Spike, who just seems to go out of his way to antagonize her…"

"You think Spike antagonizes her?" Angel asked, surprised. Admittedly, he was a bit biased when it came to Spike, but everything he saw led him to believe that Willow usually instigated their little contretemps. Tonight seemed to be a prime example. The first thing out of her mouth had been a crack about Spike's driving.

“Yeah, I think mostly he does. But…maybe I’m seeing what I want to see?”

“Could be,” Angel agreed, his voice bland and non-committal. Regardless of who was at fault, the problem needed to be dealt with. Dissension in the ranks could lead to serious problems, and he didn’t want to see any of his friends get hurt.

“Maybe we should…” she shook her head quickly, dispelling the idea. “Never mind.”

“No…what were you going to say?” His curiosity was piqued. Buffy was usually so forthright. She rarely hesitated to speak her mind or suggest a plan.

“Well,” she began, gathering her thoughts, “I was just thinking that maybe…”

“Maybe?”

“Well, it’s just that they remind me of something. Someone. A couple of someones.” At Angel’s confused look, she hurried on. “Remember when we were in high school, and Xander and Cordelia used to argue with each other? How they’d be so mean to each other in public? And then, when nobody was looking, they’d sneak off to the broom closet.”

“So…” Angel drawled teasingly, running his fingertip up and down the length of one of her tan arms, “you think Willow and Spike are running into the broom closet when we’re not looking?”

Buffy giggled at the thought. Did they even have a broom closet? Well, it was a hotel, so they probably did. But that was *so* off the subject. “No, but—well, maybe they should.”

“Huh?” It wasn’t eloquent, but it conveyed his confusion.

“Valentines Day is next week,” she commented, seemingly apropos of nothing.

Angel frowned, trying to put the pieces together. “You want to—to set them up on a date? A blind date?” Hell, his relationship with Spike was friendly, but tenuous. Pulling a trick like that would make things so much worse.

“What? Don’t you think they’d be cute together? Think about it.”

Well, they were both lonely. But that was hardly the basis for a lasting relationship. Besides… “Would it bother you? Seeing Spike with someone else?” he asked curiously.

Buffy answered his question by bringing his face to hers and crushing his lips, the kiss slow and deep and reassuring. “Does it look like I’m bothered?” she asked, panting slightly. “Spike’s a friend. We used to have something, but it was never like this,” she said. Nothing else would ever be as good as this.

Angel considered Buffy’s idea. Maybe there was an attraction between Spike and Willow. Certainly Spike could behave like a little boy when he was interested in someone. As a child he had probably been quite adept at pulling pigtails and calling names in an attempt to hide his real feelings.

But Willow? She seemed to have a strong preference towards the female of the species these days. Would she even be interested in dating a guy again?

“What’s the matter? Don’t you think Willow is good enough for Spike?” The words seemed silly, but there was something in the way that Buffy said them that made him take her seriously.

He looked into her eyes and gave a rueful laugh. “Seriously? She’s probably too good for my childe. But…isn’t she gay?”

“You know, I think Willow’s always been more interested in the person inside than the packaging. I mean, look at who she’s been interested in: Oz, Xander, Tara; they were all pretty different physically, but inside, they had a lot of the same qualities. I think the reason she and Kennedy broke up so quickly was because she just didn’t see those same qualities in Kennedy, and once the big fight was over, they had absolutely zilch in common.”

Angel nodded; it made sense to him. “Okay, so say I do think it’s worth trying. How do we get *them* to realize it?” He held a finger to her lips to quiet her. “You said a blind date, but you know as well as I do that the minute they spot each other, they’ll head back here and rip our heads off. It’s got to be a bit more subtle than that.”

Buffy frowned. Subtlety wasn’t really her strong suit, and she was the first to admit it. Slayers met their problems head-on and solved them in the quickest, most effective way possible.

Then she decided to look at it from another direction. The crafty direction. She could be crafty…

“Don’t set them up with each other,” she murmured.

Giving him a quick peck on the cheek, Buffy jumped out of bed and began to pace the floor. She always thought well when she was in motion. “So we set them up with someone else. Like…oh, I know, that guy at the gym. The one who’s always bugging you. Trevor, right? Set her up with Trevor. And Spike,” she frowned, grounding to a halt as she tried to come up with someone. “Harmony!”

Angel shook his head in disgust. “Trevor’s a pig. Willow would want to shoot him after five minutes in a room with him. As for Harmony, the only way that Spike would ever set eyes on her again is if she was being vivisected. He detests Harmony.”

“Exactly!” Buffy crowed, excitement fueling her movements as she jumped back onto the bed, bouncing her way over to Angel. “They both meet their dates at some swanky restaurant. The same one, I mean. And within a couple of minutes they’re ready to leave. So they leave—”

“—together,” Angel finished. Damn, she was smart. “So what do we tell Harmony to get her to show up?”

“Well,” Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, “Okay, we can tell her that Spike wants to make up. But he’s too shy to approach her, so we’re helping.” Buffy’s face fell as she considered it. “Nah, Harmony’s probably not going to buy that.”

“Are you kidding? Harmony’s self-obsessed and vain. Of course she’ll buy it. I’ll just have to do a little creative selling.”

“You think?” Buffy asked, uncertainty clouding her eyes.

“I think,” Angel confirmed. “I’ll take care of Trevor and Harmony. You just tackle Willow and Spike.”

Buffy almost shrieked with excitement. This was going to work; she just knew it. Her biggest problem now settled, she set her sights on something smaller. “Now what did we do with those handcuffs?”




Willow scanned the interior of the fancy restaurant anxiously. At least it looked nice. The lights were low, placed strategically on the walls in a way that just screamed ‘mood lighting.’ Tables that were small and intimate lined the walls, most of them already occupied with couples who smiled coyly at one another. The predominant colors seemed to be dark gold and deep burgundy. The décor reminded her a bit of a grown-up restaurant her parents had taken her to once, long ago, as a reward for getting straight A’s on her report card.

Here it was, Valentines Day, and she was going out on a blind date. Set up by Buffy and Angel, no less. The thought frightened her, but it wasn’t like there were any hot guys or gals knocking down her door lately.

It had been…well, she didn’t know how long it had been since she’d been on a real date. Dating on the hellmouth was generally tricky. Relationships, serious and otherwise, were forged in the heat of battle, and the fight to make it to tomorrow. That kind of intensity didn’t lend itself to double dates at the drive-in or sharing a soda at the corner drug store.

Her last date had been with Kennedy, she realized with a pang of memory. And it hadn’t gone well, not really. No need to go any further down that particular stretch of memory lane.

She scanned the crowd curiously, trying to match any man sitting alone with the description Buffy had given her. Her eyes fell upon a well-built guy sitting at a table for two, a white rose stuck in the vase at the table. That was their cue.

Well, he didn’t seem to have any extra legs or noses, or anything else unexpected. She breathed a sigh of relief for that. Sure, Buffy *said* he was normal, but then again she was dating a 200+ year old vampire. Something like that tended to make your definition of ‘normal’ slightly skewed.

Trevor stood up as she reached the table, his dark eyes looking at her in a way that made her slightly uncomfortable. She shrugged it off, letting him pull out her chair and seat her, giving him a hesitant smile as he sat down across from her.

They studied each other covertly, their conversation casual, as they opened their menus and made their choices. His hair was jet black, his eyes such a dark brown that they were almost black, and his teeth shone brightly against his tan face. Maybe he wasn’t model-perfect, but he wasn’t bad looking either. Definitely a face she could see herself getting to know better.

Until he opened his mouth.

Each sentence was more vacuous than the last, and they all started with the same word: I. I just got a big promotion. I just bought a new Mercedes. I just got back from a three-week vacation in Jamaica. I just …

Willow’s mind started to wander, her eyes gazing at the other patrons of the restaurant as she tried to block out the mind-numbingly boring chatter coming at her from across the table. It figured. She finally had a date with a good-looking guy, but he seemed to have the personality of an over-the-counter sleep aid.

A flash of white caught her wandering eye, and her eyes narrowed as she recognized Spike. He sat at a table about halfway between her table and the bathroom. An equally blonde-haired woman sat across from him. Harmony. Oh, just perfect. Even Spike had a date tonight. So maybe he was stuck with Harmony, but it was still better than being with good ol’ Trevor.

Willow turned her attention back to her date, concerned that she might have missed something. But no, his chatter was progressing along the same lines it had earlier. I this, I that, you know what I think…

Maybe she should turn him into a newt.

She was a witch. She knew the spell. Okay, so there was that whole, ‘do no evil,’ rule, but surely there were exceptions. This was an exception, if there ever was one.

“So what do you think? Would you?”

Oops, apparently the subject had changed. Willow looked back at him, allowing her confusion to show on her face. “Sorry,” she murmured, “I—ah, I thought I saw someone. Someone I knew, I mean. What were you saying?”

Trevor leaned towards her, his elbows resting lightly on the tablecloth. His eyes smoldered as they met hers, and the look he gave her was pure sex. And it didn’t do a thing for her.

“I was just wondering if you would consider doing a little three-way action. You know, with that friend of yours? I think he’s pretty hot.”

Willow’s eyes got big as she realized what he was asking. A newt was too good for this guy! A pig. Yes, she’d turn him into a pig. With the curly tail and everything. And a girl pig at that. One that all the sleazy boy pigs would be hitting on twenty-four hours a day. And then the shoe would be on the other foot.

“I—excuse me, I have to…” she gasped quietly, refusing to meet Trevor’s eyes as she fled for the safety of the restroom.




Spike’s eyes began to glaze over as he listened to yet another of Harmony’s stories about how badly he had treated her. She seemed to have conveniently forgotten the part where she slept with Hamilton and nearly got them all killed. But Angel had decided to let bygones be bygones, so she was still dead, not to mention deadly boring, but not dusty dead.

Right about now he was thinking that a mercy staking was in order. And he didn’t particularly care which of them was to be staked. He remembered watching something on the Discovery Channel about animals that had nibbled off their own appendages in order to escape a trap. Listening to Harmony babble on, he began to feel a certain affinity for those poor creatures.

A flash of red hair caught his eye, and he realized that it was Willow, sitting at a table not far away, with a man that looked vaguely familiar. Some bloke from the gym, he realized. Must have been Angel’s doing: fix the witch up with a little something for the day that existed only as a tribute to love. What a bloody sham.

The one thing that made him feel better was the bored look in her eye. She didn’t seem to be having any better of a time than he was. Damn Buffy and Angel, and all the other happy couples out there that couldn’t believe a man could be content without a woman in his life.

“Hey, that was Willow, wasn’t it? How rude, she ran right by without even stopping to say hello!”

Harmony was right, he realized. Stupid, but right. Willow had flown by them, probably on the way to the loo, and hadn’t even stopped to say hello. It seemed odd. Maybe they weren’t the best of friends, but Willow was hardly one to ignore him. Well, unless she thought it would piss him off. Then she’d do it in a heartbeat. But this was different.

He shot a look at the man she was sitting with. He seemed unperturbed, but Spike wondered if he had said or done something to bother Willow. “Maybe you should see if she’s okay? Don’t you birds do that ‘going to the loo in pairs,’ thing?”

Harmony considered his request. She could tell that Spike was bored, mostly because he didn’t even seem to be listening to her. Her suspicion was confirmed when she calmly told him that she had hunted down Antonio Banderas and turned him. Spike hadn’t even batted an eyelash.

The evening was going to be a washout. Might as well say hello to Willow and find out what was going on. Then maybe she and Spike could get out of here and have sex. It wasn’t hearts and flowers and romance, but it was better than nothing.

Willow didn’t seem to notice her when she came into the bathroom. Her gaze was locked on her reflection, and her expression was off-putting, to say the least. Harmony had seen friendlier expressions on the faces of guard dogs.

“Willow? Wow, it is you. How have you been?”

Willow’s eyes scanned the mirror, confused and slightly worried when her senses told her she was alone in the room. She turned to face the voice, and then relaxed slightly when she realized it was Harmony. Vampire-light, kinda like light beer, but the buzz was a killer. She smiled at the thought—at least she still had her sense of humor.

“Hi, Harmony. How ya been? You here with Spike, huh?”

Harmony sighed. Why was it that even with access to a mirror and a reflection, Willow still chose to look that way? God, she missed having a reflection. Mirrors were just…just the best, that’s all.

“Yeah, I guess I’m with Spike. Not that we’re together again. We’re just talking. And then you made a beeline for the bathroom, and Spike sent me in to make sure you weren’t…I don’t know, slitting your wrists or something. I’m not sure what he thought you were doing in here.”

Great, she was reduced to being pitied by Spike. This was a new low for her. But then she remembered that Spike was here with Harmony, and by the sounds of it, they weren’t exactly hitting it off. The fact that he was probably just as miserable as she was buoyed her spirits slightly. At least she wasn’t the only loser here tonight.

Willow watched curiously as Harmony opened her purse, spilling the contents onto the bathroom counter. “Ah, here you are, my little friend,” she cooed almost lovingly, as she picked up a battered pack of cigarettes. “They won’t let me smoke inside the restaurant, but I don’t see any signs saying I can’t smoke in here,” she explained. “Tell Spike I’ll be out in a couple of minutes, ‘kay?”

She seemed to accept that Willow would do as she commanded; the lighter was already catching the end of the cigarette. “Ahh,” Harmony sighed, closing her eyes, the expression on her face almost reverential.




Willow sat down across from Spike, startling the vampire from his thoughts. “Harmony’s having a smoke in the bathroom,” she said by way of a greeting. “I’m fine,” she continued, rattling the words off like she was reading them off a list. “I’m not slitting my wrists or thinking of off-ing myself,” she added, her tone slightly defensive.

“Didn’t think you were, pet. Just seemed odd that you wouldn’t stop by and say hello, is all.”

She flicked a quick glance over to her date, who appeared to be coming on to their waitress, if the hand he was snaking up her inner thigh was any indication of his intentions. “Valentines Day officially sucks,” she pronounced bitterly.

Spike’s eyes followed hers, widening slightly when he saw what she already had. Credit had to be given, he supposed, for the bloke’s sheer daring. But points were to be taken away for a lack of taste. Willow was much prettier. Beautiful at times, really, especially when her eyes were blazing with anger.

“You and Harmony? What’s up with that?”

Spike groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Don’t ask. And I mean that literally. Suffice it to say that Peaches and his Slayer will pay dearly for every minute I’ve suffered tonight. They’ll long for death.”

Willow giggled. As harsh as his words were, she knew that they were mostly for show. Kind of like when she thought about turning Trevor into a newt. Or a pig. It was all talk.

“What about you? How’d you get set up with Skippy the Wonder Pig?”

“Um, Buffy strikes again? He goes to the same gym as you guys, and she thought that it would be nice if maybe we got together.” Willow shuddered slightly, remembering exactly how ‘together’ Trevor had wanted to get. “He’s a pig, all right,” she confirmed. “He wanted to,” she leaned across the table and whispered the last bit, “have a three-way!”

Spike stifled a cackle, turning it into a cough instead. Judging from the expression on her face, Willow wasn’t fooled. She settled back in her chair and fixed him with one of her evil glares.

“He wanted to do you and Buffy at the same time? Wow, the guy definitely has some balls.” Although as he considered it, Spike had to admit that it wasn’t all that bad an idea. Sure, he’d been with Buffy; best not to dwell on that for too long. But Willow was new territory. And the new territory was not looking too bad, from where he was sitting.

“No,” Willow corrected him, her face turning a pretty shade of pink, “he wanted to ‘do’ me and Angel.”

“You and Angel?” There was no way he could contain his laughter this time. “Oh, that’s just, that’s SO very wrong. Hah!” Hell, this was better than cable, he thought. Suddenly the whole ‘Harmony’ issue was paling in comparison.

Willow looked like she was about to bolt, so he reached across the table and put his hand on her forearm. “Sorry, pet. It’s just that…” a smirk crossed his lips, “wait until Angel hears about that. Or Buffy. I’m not sure which one of them will be more upset.”

She had to admit that Spike had a point. Angel might be a little annoyed by the whole incident, but Buffy was liable to be pissed with a capital “P”. She could be a tad bit territorial where Angel was concerned.

“Guess I’d better get back to my ‘date,’” Willow said with a sigh, her eyes wandering over to see who the jackass was hitting on now.

Harmony. Her date was hitting on Harmony. Anger battled with self-pity for first place in an emotional free-for-all. Could the evening get any worse? It was like high school all over again. Well, not that Oz had ever hit on Harmony, because he was way too cool for that. But there was the whole ‘cheerleaders can have any guy they want’ thing.

Not that she wanted Trevor, because, ewww, he was just yuck. But it was the principle of the thing…

Spike watched the emotions shift across her face as he took in the scene playing out at the other table. He felt something akin to compassion wash over him. At least he thought it might have been compassion. There also could have been something wrong with the blood he had earlier, though. Either way, he saw a chance to dump Harmony, and he’d be an idiot not to take it.

Standing up and coming around to Willow’s side of the table, he grabbed a hand and pulled her to her feet. “C’mon, let’s get the hell out of here.” He dragged her to the door without waiting for a reply. Not that he was getting one; the redhead seemed uncharacteristically quiet just now. Almost dazed. He could get used to that, he thought smugly.

Willow only gave a token protest when Spike pulled her onto the motorcycle behind him, handing her a helmet and then, once it was firmly attached to her head, pulling her arms around him until her hands clenched themselves together around his waist.

She watched without comprehension as the streets of Los Angeles flew past her, the danger inherent in the speed making her feel slightly reckless. Yep, this was her, Willow Rosenberg, spending Valentines Day on the back of a motorcycle, with Spike, of all people. Who would have guessed?

And even more surprising was the fact that he was being nice to her. They hadn’t gotten along this well since…she stopped for a moment, trying to remember if they had *ever* gotten along. Then again, it was pretty hard to pick a fight when you were zipping through the city at—she craned her head to look at the speedometer and then gasped—sixty-five miles an hour. And wasn’t that just *way* over the speed limit for this part of town?

“Relax, Pet,” came a calming voice through speakers in the helmet. “You were fine until you looked at the speedometer. Just calm down. ‘Sides, we’re almost there.”

The voice soothed her, although she suspected that it was the part where he said they were almost there that had the greatest impact on her nerves. Wherever it was they were heading.

She began to pay more attention to their location, noticing illuminated overhead street signs and buildings that looked vaguely familiar. They were in the garment district now, deep in the heart of L.A.’s downtown. He turned off of Wall Street onto 9th and then a quick jog onto Maple, finally turning into a multi-story parking garage and stopping.

The grip that her hands had on each other unclenched, but her legs were slightly wobbly. Her hands sought Spike’s shoulders as she tried to get off the motorcycle gracefully. Her mind was willing, but her body was clumsy. It took her a moment, but at last she was standing on her own two feet, her body still buzzing slightly from the vibrations of the motorcycle.

“Steady, pet.” He turned his head to make sure she was off the bike. She seemed a bit pale, but otherwise okay. Considering the way she drove a car, he was surprised that a little something like this would bother her. “You okay?”

Willow took a couple of deep breaths and then nodded. She took a moment to surreptitiously survey her surroundings.

Yep, it was a parking garage. Nearly empty, too. They were parked in a spot that seemed to be designated for motorcycles and bikes. Outside she could see Maple Avenue, nearly deserted at this time of night. She wondered why exactly Spike had taken them here. Her mouth opened, ready to ask a question or make a snarky comment, but closed instead. This was better than spending time alone, or with Trevor. For once she was just going to try to get along with Spike.

“There’s a place around here,” Spike told her, grabbing her hand and leading her to the street.

“A place?” she asked warily. What kind of place was it, exactly? Was it the kind of place where you got arrested if they caught you there?

The neon glare of an all-night liquor store caught Spike’s eye, and he made a slight detour, grabbing a bottle of Merlot and walking out the door, leaving Willow to throw a twenty towards the sleepy shopkeeper on her way out the door behind him.

Spike kept up his silent act, using the hand he still held to guide her through a small maze of back streets and alleyways. Soon the stores and signs changed from clothing-related businesses to flowers, and Willow realized that they were now in what was known as the Flower District.

She would have liked to stop for a bit and enjoy some of the window displays, but whenever she tried to slow down, Spike just tugged her along. She wondered how long they would keep going. Would he drag her all the way to the Pacific Ocean? But no, he seemed to be slowing at last, and Willow took the moment to catch her breath. They hadn’t been running by any means, but Spike did tend to walk a bit faster than she did.

They stood before a wrought iron gate that spanned the space between two buildings. In between the bars Willow could see what looked like a small garden. It was dark, but in the pale moonlight that shone down between the buildings, she could make out intriguing colors, shapes, and scents, and she couldn’t wait to get inside.

Spike released her hand, rummaging around inside his pants pocket in search of what turned out to be a key. Willow waited expectantly, eager to get inside and explore.

When the gate was open she darted inside, moving slowly from plant to plant, examining each one almost reverently. It felt a bit like a fantasy world, this little bit of forest buried deep inside downtown Los Angeles.

The rest of the city was far away now as she sniffed at a purple lilac bush, then moved on to something that, according to the plaque, was a California Bush Anemone. The delicate white petals fascinated her, and she stared at them for quite some time before moving on to look at an exotic form of California poppy.

Spike watched her progress from a bench in the middle of the park. It was a strange evening. She seemed different tonight. Softer, maybe? More vulnerable, definitely. But instead of feeling the need to press his advantage and draw first blood, he felt oddly mellow; charitable almost.

He had always known that this side of her existed, but it was something she kept well hidden, especially from him. Was it out of fear? Fear that he would hurt her? Fear of something within herself?

After a while she felt satisfied that she had seen all there was to see, so Willow joined him on the bench. “Thank you, Spike. This is…just marvelous,” she sighed.

He gave her an understanding smile; his first reaction to the place had been somewhat similar.

“Sorry, I didn’t think to bring along some glasses,” he commented, as he dug the cork from the bottle of wine, using a bottle opener from his key chain. He offered her the first swig, watching as she considered it. Deciding there was no hidden motivation, she tilted the bottle slightly and drank a bit.

“Feels weird to swig wine,” she confessed, handing the bottle back to him. “Isn’t the whole point to sip it?”

He supposed she was right. Unlike whisky, gin, or any of the other ‘hard’ alcohols, wine was supposed to be savored and appreciated. “You don’t have to,” he reminded her, his voice bordering on defensive. “Just thought it might fit the mood, is all.”

Any other night a hundred nasty comments would have come to mind, but it seemed a shame to let unpleasantness touch this place of beauty, so she let the subject drop. “How did you find it?”

Spike smiled, acknowledging her choice. They were building something new tonight, trying to break the hurtful habits they’d fallen into over the last year. He supposed he could do his part. “Funny story, actually. Remember Clem?”

She nodded, and couldn’t stop the smile that formed as she thought about the friendly demon.

“When everything went to hell in Sunnydale, he moved here. Works for the guy who owns the store next door.” His arm shone in the moonlight as he pointed to the brick building to their right. “They had a problem with a small-time mobster, wanted them to pay protection or some crap. I had a little talk with him, and now he leaves them alone.” Technically speaking, he was leaving everyone alone, what with the eight bullet holes in his chest and the fact that he now resided at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, but Spike figured she didn’t really want to hear *all* the boring details.

Willow considered the story, choosing not to think about the parts she knew he wasn’t telling her, and concentrating on the ‘Clem’ part. She could see him working here, among such peaceful surroundings. It seemed right, somehow. One of these days she and Buffy would have to visit him. They were Sunnydale refugees, after all, members of a unique club.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked curiously. Her face had taken on a slightly wistful look, as if she were remembering happier times.

She hesitated, unsure whether she wanted to give him that much. “Sunnydale,” she answered finally.

He glanced at her, watching for a sign of her mood. Melancholy, maybe contemplative. Staying silent seemed to be the best course of action.

“It wasn’t all bad times, you know? I mean, yeah, there were plenty of those.”

Spike nodded his agreement to that one. He couldn’t remember any particularly great times, but they hadn’t all been bad.

“I grew up there. Xander and I. And Jessie. But he didn’t make it through high school.” A sad frown touched her lips for a moment, and her lower lip quivered slightly.

Spike vaguely remembered a reference to a childhood friend, someone who completed Willow and Xander, and turned the couple into a trio. The Master had gotten him, or so Spike had heard. Or maybe it was Darla. Didn’t really matter; dead was dead.

Willow shivered slightly. Was she cold, or merely reliving an unpleasant memory? Spike threw an arm across her shoulder, offering whatever it was she seemed to need. A grateful smile was his reward.

“It wasn’t all bad,” he prompted softly, leaning in to listen.

“It was different before. Before Buffy, I mean. Not that I’m not glad she came to town,” she added quickly, turning to face him. “I am glad. I mean if she hadn’t, I’d be dead. I don’t know how many times she saved me.”

He thought back to those days. If Willow had still been alive when he came to town with Drusilla, she wouldn’t have been when he left. How many times had he tried to kill her? He struggled to come up with a number but failed. Three or four that she knew about, and at least that many more that she didn’t. Not that she would have stayed dead for long. Even back then, it had been obvious that she was far too smart to become just another meal. And kind of cute too, in a fluffy sort of way. The quiet ones always made the most interesting vampires.

“And if it wasn’t for Buffy, I probably wouldn’t have met Tara,” she said quietly. ‘Or lost Tara, or killed Warren, or tried to destroy the world.’ Lots of stuff went unsaid in that one short sentence.

“Tara was a good gal,” Spike agreed. He even meant it. But he didn’t add the bit where she probably would have bored Willow silly in a couple more years. That would have shattered their tentative truce into tiny, sharp pieces.

“Yeah,” Willow sighed.

A strong gust of wind rattled the trees, sending leaves dancing in the air. Willow shivered again, hugging her arms around her in an effort to keep warm.

“Cold?”

“A little,” she admitted. It wasn’t uncomfortable enough that she wanted to leave, but there was no point in denying it, especially since Spike had already known the answer before he asked the question.

Spike stood, pulling Willow to her feet as well. She began to protest, not wanting the evening to end, despite the weather, but Spike merely shrugged off his duster and settled it around her shoulders, before sitting back down on the bench.

It felt wrong to wear the coat. Almost disloyal, in an odd sort of way. He had taken it off the body of a dead Slayer, after all.

“Why do you still wear it?” she asked without thinking. Upon reflection, she wasn’t sure if this was a question she really wanted to know the answer to. She sat again, waiting.

Spike shrugged, looking away from her as if he were embarrassed. “Tried not to wear it for a while. Decided I missed it, I guess.”

She frowned. “It’s not really who you are anymore,” she insisted.

He met her eyes again, a bit of yellow swimming with the crystal blue. “Don’t be daft,” he said harshly. “Of course it is. I’m still all of that; the killer, the murderer, the bastard you lot used to wish would meet the sunrise.” He frowned, looking away from her again and choosing his words. “But I’m more than that, too.”

“More?”

Spike sighed, trying to find the words to explain it to her. This duality was something that he’d had time to get used to. But how could he explain it to a human? And did he really want to?

“Angel and I, we deal with the soul in different ways. He likes to, well, I guess you’d say he likes to separate himself from the demon. Here’s Angel, here’s Angelus. Two different and distinct personalities. And if that’s what helps him sleep at night, then that’s all well and fine.”

Spike slid his eyes towards Willow, then looked away. “For me it’s different. It’s like all that—that *stuff* is still inside me, screamin’ to get out. I’m still a killer. The soul just reminds that I don’t have to kill. Least, not today.”

He gave her his most predatory smile, the one that was meant to remind her that she was prey, and that she would always be prey. “I make no promises about tomorrow.”

Instead of being afraid, Willow thought about a black-eyed girl who had once held the world in her hand, ready to crush it like the empty thing that it was. “I get that,” she agreed.

Spike turned and looked at her, a bit surprised, in spite of himself. There was something in the simplicity of her reply that told him that she *did* get it, that her words weren’t meaningless platitudes.

She had that far-away look on her face, the embarrassed and yet slightly wistful look she got when people danced around the topic of what she’d done, and what she’d almost done.

Sometimes he felt sorry for her. People expected big things from her, good things, and he knew she felt that pressure every day. She bowed to it, giving in, conforming, when he suspected that sometimes she really wanted to break free and do things her own way.

It was easier for him. People’s expectations were low. Mostly because he worked hard to keep them that way. So whatever he chose to do, he never got that, ‘I’m so disappointed in you,’ look that seemed to bother her so much.

Spike reached over and ran his hand down the arm of the jacket, caressing the leather, letting the familiar texture comfort him. “I suppose it’s also a reminder,” he murmured.

“Of happier times?”

His hand dropped to his lap, and his eyes closed briefly. “More than that, really. It was like…” Spike hesitated, “like a life without consequences. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and never worried about what consequences my actions would have. There was no ‘tomorrow.’ Only the now. Because, we had forever.”

Willow tried to imagine such a life, but knew that any ideas she had were only pale impressions of how it must have been. “You miss it, don’t you?”

Eyes that were cold and angry sliced into her, and she knew it was the demon peering out at her from behind those eyes, regardless of the human mask he wore.

“What do you think?” he growled, his tone warning her to leave this topic now, before he made her regret it.

Willow was silent, her mind testing the possible limits of his patience. But curiosity had always been her worst trait. Or her best. It was all a matter of perspective, really.

“So why do you do it? Why live with us, like us, if you don’t have to?”

She watched with relief as the anger left his eyes, replaced by something soft and almost shy.

“I suppose it’s because of Angel,” he admitted.

The fact that he used his sire’s name instead of one of the multitude of derogatory nicknames was not lost on her.

“Forever is a long time to be alone.” He watched for her reaction as he continued, “Someday you’ll all be gone and it’ll just be us again. Might as well stay on good terms.”

Willow tried not to flinch at his casual mention of her mortality. It wasn’t his fault that she and Buffy came with an expiration date, she reminded herself.

It was really almost tragic, she realized. Eternity stretched out before him and Angel. Not like a gift, though, but like a burden. She had thought about it before, but only in the vaguest of terms. But now, when she thought about how happy Buffy and Angel were together, there was a bitter aftertaste. The time they had together would be so brief, and then Angel would be alone again.

“He’ll need you,” she agreed. “When Buffy’s gone.” She was the one thing that had given Angel’s life meaning for so long now. Once she was gone, Willow wasn’t sure what Angel would do.

Spike wanted to smile at her naiveté, but he decided to let her keep her illusions. When Buffy was gone, Angel would cope. Sure, he would rail at the powers that be, curse them for their insistence on playing by the rules. Then he would probably brood for a good decade or so. But eventually, he would get over it.

And all along the way, Spike would be there to harass and pester his sire, keeping him irritated and fighting so that he would forget his pain for a while, submerging it in the anger he directed towards his childe. Spike had always been his whipping boy, a position he never planned on giving up.

Willow reached out her hand for the bottle. He raised an eyebrow at her before handing her the wine. She took a hurried gulp, and Spike watched as her eyes watered slightly.

She coughed a bit, her face flushing. It was enough like a blush, and he wished, not for the first time, that he could taste her blood.

He could do it now—she was distracted, probably wouldn’t notice the fangs until they pricked her skin. He might even get away with it, although there was also a decent chance that she would hurl a bolt of sunlight at him and turned him to dust.

But he wouldn’t do it. Didn’t even want to, really. It was just one of those random impulses he had from time to time.

He watched the wine work its way down her throat as she swallowed convulsively. She turned to face him, her eyes slightly dilated and swimming with self-pity, and a touch of anger.

“God, this is pathetic. I can’t even get drunk properly.”

“Aah,” Spike sighed, a grin tugging at his lips. “If I’d have known it was a drunk you were after, I would’ve bought the whisky. There’s nothing better for a good night of oblivion. Trust me on that.”

Her face lost a bit of its color, the natural pale returning. “As I recall, you didn’t buy anything at all,” she replied tartly.

Tease her, annoy her, get her to think about something that didn’t involve death or tragedy. “Oh, that…well, I didn’t want you to feel like you weren’t contributing anything to the evening. Wouldn’t want you to feel bad, you know?”

Willow stared at him for a moment, trying to decide whether to be offended or amused. The thing was, when it came from Spike’s mouth, it almost sounded reasonable. Amusement won the mental tug-of-war, so she leaned back against the bench, trying to hide her smile.

“I saw that,” he teased.

“Saw what?” The smile turned into a full-fledged smirk.

“There, you did it again,” he said, his finger reaching out to gently touch the corner of her lips. “Whether you admit it or not, I cheered you up.”

As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. Despite the rather dreadful beginning, this evening was actually turning out to be kind of interesting. Spike wasn’t being an asshole, for the most part, and this place was just…it was just really cool.

“I’ve been thinking about something,” Spike told her, watching and waiting until he had her full attention.

“What’s that?”

“Promise you’ll consider this seriously? Won’t go all angry-girl on me?”

He looked slightly nervous, she thought. Was this some important revelation? A big vampire-type secret he was about to divulge? “I’ll be relaxo-girl,” she promised solemnly, although a smile hid behind her serious eyes.

Spike stretched his legs out in front of him, slouching down in the seat slightly. Patting the pockets of his jeans, he found his cigarettes and lit one up. “Thing is, I think we were set up. No way in hell I would have shown up if I had known Harmony was going to be my date. Buffy promised me it was some hot bird she met at the gym.”

Willow got a look on her face—the look he saw often when she was studying for a test, or researching a particularly difficult problem. She was thinking his accusation through to its logical conclusion, looking for a way to refute it, or possibly agreeing with it. Spike waited patiently; he’d been over this ground a couple of times tonight, and already knew that she’d find no flaws in his argument.

“Think about it,” he invited her, exhaling smoke into the cool night air. Mixed in with the scents of the park, he could sense a rainstorm off in the distance. They would be fine for an hour or so, though. “Would you ever, in your wildest dreams, have dated anyone like that? Or even anyone named Trevor?”

He had a point—oh, not about the name, good people came with all kinds of labels. Who would have thought that she’d be sitting here in a secluded park with a guy whose last name used to be ‘The Bloody,’ after all?

But that guy, the one Buffy had set her up with, he was a jackass. And anyone who had spent more than thirty seconds with him would have realized it. “Who set up the meeting place?” she asked suddenly, and Spike could see the anger beginning to build behind those deceptively mild eyes. Oh yes, Buffy and the poof were going to get it from this girl.

“Take a guess,” he offered. “She even called up and made the reservation for me.”

She made a little ‘grrr’ sound that was almost completely unlike a growl. “Sorry, guess I can’t quite pull that off. But if I *could* growl, I’d be doing it right now,” she swore.

Spike smiled. She often came off like a silly little thing, but if you crossed her, she could show you some claws. He wondered what it was that bothered her most. Was she upset that Buffy had gone behind her back, or was it the fact that he was the object of the fix-up that had her so peeved?

The thought of them, together, wasn’t all that outrageous. If it had happened in a movie, the marquee would read something like, ‘Vampire with a soul finds happiness with a reformed witch,’ and yeah, that did sound kind of silly, now that he thought about it. But if you looked beyond the labels, they made a certain amount of sense.

She had seen him at his worst, and his best, although Spike wasn’t quite sure which was which anymore. And in spite of that, she was still speaking to him.

They clicked, in an odd way. He had said things to her tonight that he hadn’t admitted to anyone, and she had handled it. And had lobbed back a couple of secrets of her own.

Not that that was the basis for a relationship, but it was certainly something to think about.

He understood that tonight was special. Sort of a step outside of reality. In all likelihood, by tomorrow morning they’d be back to their usual: yelling at each other and driving Buffy and Angel crazy. But maybe it didn’t have to be that way.

A plan began to form in his mind, insidious and evil and slightly naughty. A smile formed on his lips to match it, and he turned to Willow with mischief playing in his eyes.

“How would you feel about a little revenge?”

He looked just like a child plotting mayhem, Willow thought, trying not to let the sparkle in his eyes make the decision for her. But, in his defense—their defense—Buffy and Angel had set them up, and one could argue that they deserved whatever they got. Whatever Spike had planned for them.

“I might be interested,” she allowed, an answering sparkle twinkling in her eyes. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well,” he drawled, “How do you feel about eternity?”




Buffy relaxed back against Angel’s broad chest, her hand absently caressing the bare skin of his upper thigh, as the sat together in the recliner. By unspoken agreement, the door to their suite had been left open. The lovers waited anxiously for the return of their friends.

Whether their friends would still be speaking to them upon their return was another matter entirely.

“Do you think they’ll figure it out?” Buffy asked, echoing Angel’s thoughts. She had thoroughly enjoyed their evening together; Angel had cooked for her, and had even let her pick the movies. But in the back of her mind there was always a lingering anxiety, that unquenchable curiosity that had her wondering whether Willow and Spike had ended up together.

And if they had, were they both still okay? If Willow came back with a dustpan full of powder, Angel would kill her. Or die trying.

“I think you have to stop worrying about them,” Angel murmured into her hair, kissing the silken strands as they cascaded down her shoulders. He reached her ear, softly blowing the hair to either side so he could nibble on the lobe for a bit, worrying it between his teeth, listening as Buffy’s heart skipped a beat, and then sped up as if hoping to make up for the fact.

A wordless moan followed as Angel slid a hand under her pajama top, running it slowly up her abdomen, stopping to cup her breast, holding the flesh in the palm of his hand. He held it there, feeding off the sound of her panting, loving her responsiveness. His thumb circled the areole without touching the peak, observing how it felt as it hardened beneath him.

Grabbing the small bud between his thumb and forefinger, he pinched her there, twisting slightly, then smiled as she gasped and ground her ass into his lap.

She never wanted to talk about this; about how she enjoyed the pain just as much as the pleasure; about how the two were connected, intertwined, twin sensations that could become one under the right hands. His hands. But he knew that she liked it, even needed it, whether she wanted to admit it or not.

The perfection of the moment was broken by the sound of a key in the lock of the front door. Buffy couldn’t hear it, but he did. Spike. And from the lack of an accompanying heartbeat, it seemed that his childe was alone. So much for Buffy’s plans. He only hoped that Spike hadn’t figured out that he had been manipulated.

Or if he had, that he was so drunk that he simply didn’t care.

There were sounds that puzzled Angel. A breathy giggle, female, and a quickly whispered conversation reached him, and he tried to put the pieces together without any luck. Someone was downstairs with Spike. Someone who didn’t have a heartbeat.

Harmony? It seemed unlikely, but no other answer presented itself. But no, it didn’t fit. Something was telling him that this wasn’t Harmony. It didn’t *smell* right. In fact, it smelled like…Willow? But it couldn’t be. No heartbeat.

Angel nudged Buffy, almost knocking her off the chair in his hurry to get to his feet. Something was wrong here. Very wrong. He just wasn’t sure what. In the meantime, the blonde looked at him, obviously confused, and then trailed along in his wake as he headed for the lobby.

The sight that greeted him was a thing of nightmares. Spike, obviously drunk, was propping up a very pale Willow. She reeked of Spike’s scent, as if she had bathed in it. And she was equally drunk. But no, not drunk. Something else.

And then he saw them.

Twin puncture marks, small and careful, almost healed, but still visible to his critical eye. But Spike wouldn’t have. He just…he wouldn’t have. Wouldn’t have. Wouldn’t have. The words repeated themselves, looping over and over, as Angel watched the blond set Willow on the couch, and then join her, his arms pulling her back up against his chest, hands roaming her body as if memorizing each and every piece of her.

The shaky status of her limbs were made obvious by the way she almost slid off the couch. Weak from blood loss. Needing food. Probably woke too early, before her demon had a chance to fully get used to its new body.

Her demon.

Angel took a step backwards in horror. Spike had turned Willow.

End of Blind Date
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The authors own nothing. Joss, UPN, WB, etc. own Buffy, the show, the characters, the places, and the backstory. The authors own any original plots.