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She's Like Candy, Cont.
Chapter 5

Giles walked back into the living room while he waited for someone to answer the ringing phone. Holding the phone between the side of his head and his shoulder, he moved to the bookshelf and pulled down the nearly full crystal container that sat there. Giles poured a slightly more than healthy amount into a matching crystal glass.

"Angel, this is Giles." Giles, obviously talking to the vampires answering machine, pushed the glass of amber liquid into Willows hand. "There is a situation concerning Willow that we could use your, or perhaps Wesleys, help looking into. If you could call me back as soon as possible, it would be appreciated."

Giles put the phone back on its cradle before motioning to the glass Willow had begun sipping from, grimacing after each taste. "Something wrong with the scotch?"

"Im not a big drinker, Giles. Bad experience with beer, remember?"

"Yes, well, I would hardly call that American swill beer, but I suppose I understand your aversion to alcohol." Giles put three large, leather bound books in a pile on the floor beside the table and opened a fourth one to a place he had marked with a slip of paper.

"There will be pizza in a few minutes, and there will be no more scotch. Its not my intention to get you pissed, simply to relax enough to be able to help with the research we have in front of us."

"Thanks Giles." Willow sunk back into the couch and cradled the tumbler in still tingling fingers. "Did I mention that my hands and arms are all tingly?"

"Tingly?" Giles looked up from his book with wide, interested eyes.

"Yeah, almost like when youre foot is doing that weird not-quite-asleep thing."

"Oh, I *hate* that!" Xander shuddered in his seat beside, and nearly under, Anya. "You mean youre all numb and prickly?"

"Something like that, only not so much with the numb." Willow took the last of the scotch in a gulp, this time smiling as it made its pleasant trail down her throat. "Here. Let me show you what they look like."

She stood and moved to the table Giles was sitting at. It took her a minute to pull the unfamiliar gloves from her long fingers, drawing gasps from the other occupants of the room when her arms and hands came into view.

"And they were like this when you woke up?" Giles turned his head to take in every detail of her new coloring.

"Yeah." Willow pulled the glove hurriedly back over her hand and arm when the doorbell sounded, alerting them that the pizza had arrived. "I caught sight of my face and the rest of my body, freaked out, and came over here as fast as I could."

Xander had paid for the pizza and was now carrying it through to sit it on the table. "So youre kind of shimmery all over?"

"Well, yeah." Willow could have sworn they had covered this already, but she kept herself from rolling her eyes at her best friend. "Ive got different places that seem to be darker with it than others, like my arms and a place on my chest, but its pretty much an all over motif by now."

"Why arent you purple?" Xander had taken an entire pizza, setting it on the small table in front of the chair he and Anya were occupying. "You know, since the guy who grabbed you was pretty much a California Raisin?"

"I dont know!" Willow fought the burning prickle behind her eyes. "All I know is that Im not looking too Willowy at the moment, and that I feel all weird." The shrill ring of the phone interrupted the babble she felt coming to the surface, and she silently sent thanks that it rang when it did.

She had been wondering since the night before if she should be waiting for some sort of evil to take over her body, crowding her out and leaving nothing but the shell of what she once was. Would her soul fade slowly, or would it wink out like a blown lightbulb? Would the soul restoration she used on Angel work on her if her soul did fly away, or would Buffy and Spike be forced to hunt her down and kill her? Was she going to be some sort of sacrifice, and the glittery show was all to make her more yummy and tender?

Over the last few hours shed been contemplating the new look she had unwillingly acquired, and found herself rather liking most of the changes. The glittering would make blending in around town hard, but her hair and face were lovely and ethereal, if a little too pale for her liking. <If I cut the nails, they shouldnt be *too* bad. That is, if we cant find some way to fix me and put me back to the way I was.>

{Youre so pathetic, Willow. Buffy paced the floor in front of the couch on which Willow sat. I cant believe you went behind my back and took them away from me. Youre such a slut!

It wasnt like that! The vision Willow shook her head furiously. Im not with them both. Angel and I are only friends, and hes trying to help me figure out whats happened, is still happening, to me.

God, Im sick of hearing about you you you all the time!

Now you know how the rest of us have felt since we met you, Slayer. Spike, wearing his demons face and not wearing a shirt, came down the long staircase.}

The vision left as quickly as it had come on, leaving Willow with a slightly dazed feeling. It obviously reflected on her face, as Xander and Anya were both looking at her in open concern and Giles was speaking to her softly.

"Angel wants to talk to you." He motioned to the phone that must have rung during her little trip, and she took it without really thinking.

"Hello Angel."

"Giles said something about a demon and blood. He seemed to think you were doing okay, but I told him that I wanted to hear that from you personally. If you want me to come up there to be another shoulder for you to lean on until we figure out whats going on, I will. Id say that you could come here, youre more than welcome to if you want, but the more familiar people and places you have around, the better. So, be honest with me. Are you okay?"

Willow couldnt help the laughter bubbling up inside of her chest, despite Angels open worrying. "Youre babbling, Angel. I didnt know you knew how to talk like that all at once."

"Well, I learned it from you." There was a soft chuckle from his end of the phone before his voice became laced with worry again. "Are you in any kind of pain? Is there anything I can do while we try to figure out who, and what, the hell that purple bastard was? Say the word and its done."

"Im all tingly, which Im sure Giles told you, but I feel fine other than that. A little giddy, but I think that was more from the scotch he gave me a while ago than anything else." Willow heard Buffys muffled what the fuck from behind her, but ignored it to concentrate on the conversation she was having with the dark vampire.

"Eat something."

"I plan on it. Just got a little sidetracked for a minute. Im fine though, really."

"You wont be fine until we at least know that something bad isnt happening to you. Giles gave Wesley all the details, so hes already hitting the books with Cordelia and Fred. Im going to go see if I can find anything out from the locals. You call if you need *anything*, okay?"

"Okay Angel." Willow knew he could hear the smile in her voice even if he couldnt see her face. "Be careful. I dont want you getting hurt over something as little as this."

"Youre worth getting hurt over, Willow. Ill talk to you soon."

"Bye." Willow hung up the phone and pulled three slices of the pepperoni pizza onto a paper plate before facing a glaring Spike. "Whats wrong? No demons out to kick around?"

"Oh, one or two. What did the Gelled Wonder want?" The scowl hadnt left his face, and Willow fought the urge to tell him it would get stuck that way if he didnt stop.

"And what were *you* doing, giving the girl scotch?" Spike had rounded on Giles, leveling those ice blue eyes on the Watcher.

"Giles was just trying to shock my system into relaxing a little. Angel was just making sure that Im all right. Its all no big deal, really."

"Yeah, that used to be one of his best lines to hook a chit."

"Spike, hes not trying to hook anybody." Willow knew he was baiting her, but it was just too fun to watch him get all worked up over his sire. "Were already friends. He doesnt have to even try any lines on me."

"Arent we friends, pet?" Spike frowned and looked at her from under lowered lashes.

"You know we are. Spike, just because Im friends with one of you doesnt mean that I cant be friends with the other." Willow finished off her first slice of pizza and retrieved one of the cans of soda Xander had set on the table. "He just wanted to make sure Im not in pain or anything."

"Bet you played that one up for all it was worth." Buffy had helped herself to a slice of pizza and one of the remaining chairs. She looked around at the other occupants of the room before speaking again.

"If you want to call and flirt around with Angel, just say so." Buffy stood a brushed off her short skirt. "Lets hit the Bronze."

"In case you couldnt tell, which Im sure you could since I dont think that anyone, not even you, could be that stupid, were researching." Anya held up the can of soda she held loosely in her left hand while she read as if to illustrate her point. "Were trying to find out whats wrong with Willow."

"Yeah, Buff." Xanders confused voice let Willow know that her oldest friend was giving the small blonde more attention than he usually gave anything. "We made it into a research party, just like it used to be. Dont you want to help?"

"Nothings like it used to be, Xander." Buffy retrieved her coat from the table just inside the door before turning to face Spike for the first time. "Well?"

"You dont need me, Slayer." Spike picked up one of the books from the table and settled himself beside Willow. "Said so yourself."


The near slam of the front door made the four humans jump slightly. Spike just smirked and gave a soft sort of chuckle.

"Bitch." Anya openly agreed with the blonde vampires sentiment, but no one disagreed as they all got down to the business of a good research session.

Chapter 6, Part 1

Three oclock in the morning found the group of researchers still scattered around the Watchers living room. Xander was keeping himself awake through the cunning use of caffeine and Twinkies as Anya fought back yawns and drank steadily increasing amounts of tea. Giles and Willow, both accustomed to late hours, were the only fully awake humans keeping Spike company.

The blonde vampire, having moved only to feed or retrieve another book Giles thought may be useful, was still seated next to the redheaded witch. From time to time Willow would, in a fit of melancholy, sigh. Spikes hand would begin brushing over her hair, fingers combing through her curls, until the bout of sadness passed. It didnt occur to her to wonder how he knew she felt better, but she wasnt going to protest the comforting caresses.

"Giles," Anya set her teacup, empty once again, on the table besides a pile of Xanders empty Twinkie wrappers. "If Im going to open the store tomorrow, Im going to need sleep. If you dont want me to make money, then I can stay and help. Which one is it going to be?"

"What was that?" Giles glanced at his watch before confirming the time by the clock on the wall. "Oh, yes, sleep."

He surveyed the weary group. "Youve all done more than I expected to get through tonight. Ill clean up here. You should all go home and get some sleep."

"If its okay," Willow gazed at the older man with something close to terror in her eyes. "Id really like to just stay here and keep researching."

Willow knew everyone was looking at her. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, she couldnt stop the tears from welling up in the corners of her eyes. "The last time I went to sleep, I ended up with a head-to-toe make over. I dont know *what* will happen when I go to sleep again."

"Willow, it will do no good to tire yourself overmuch." Giles was busily filling an empty grocery bag with the trash they had accumulated during the researching. "The current situation, as well as your condition, are stressful enough without forcing yourself to stay awake."

"Much as I hate to admit it, I have to say that I agree with the Watcher on this one." Spike pulled Willow up to lean her tired body against his. "How about I take you home and tuck you in safe as houses?"

"Me and Anya can drop the two of you off on our way," Xander pulled on his jacket and helped Anya with hers.

"Sounds like a plan. You in, luv?" Spike noticed that Willow didnt have a coat with her, so he threw his around her shoulders.

Willow smiled at the unlikely friends. "Sure. Im too tired to deal with any unfriendly nasties that we would probably run into, anyway."

The group said their goodbyes to Giles and headed out. Willow and Spike folded themselves into the back seat of Xanders car. Xander and Anya piled into the front.

Willow had just turned to look out at the growing sliver of moon when that tingle rippled its way up her spine. On a whim, Willow tried picturing a cool breeze that blew through her mind, pushing the feeling out and back down her body. She was happily surprised when it worked, grinning openly for the split second before her control slipped.

When she stopped thinking of the cool breeze, the redheads small body was engulfed in a heat that seemed to burn from her bones outward. Faces, some familiar and some not, flashed through her mind too quickly for her to grasp. A moment later, she got a flash of Buffy hitting Spike repeatedly. Then things switched to her and Buffy in two of the most hideous dresses shed ever seen. Picture after picture, scene after scene, began slamming into her minds eye, making them mostly unintelligible and always painful.

Just when Willow thought her mind was going to melt from the quickly shifting pictures playing themselves on the inside of her eyelids, she felt her body being shifted into strong arms.

"Chit was more tired than she realized." Spike carried her through the door Xander opened, thanking the younger man before shutting it with his foot and carrying Willow up to her room. "Well, youre home. Ill let you sleep."

Willow heard Spike turn, knocking into the bedside table, and forced her eyes open. "Thank you, Spike."

"Its not a problem Red. Go to sleep."

Her eyes were closing even as she tried to protest him leaving without his trademark duster. "Your coat-"

"Can stay with you until tomorrow." Spike tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Just dont do anything too girly in it. Got a reputation to uphold, you know."


"Shes sleeping, Willow. I can smell her."

"Thats nice," Willow sighed dreamily. "Night Spike."

"Night Red." Spike chuckled at her near-sleep talking and let himself out of the Summers house after peeking in to make sure that Dawn was sleeping.

Chapter 6, Part b

Willow forced herself to get out of bed the next morning, even though 10:00 felt more like 6:00 after the night shed had. The worn leather of the duster still surrounded her as she lay, fully clothed, on top of her neatly made bed.

<Ugh. I *really* need a shower.> She let the coat drop across the foot of her bed before shedding the rest of her ill-matching outfit and heading toward the bathroom. A look in the mirror let her know that nothing else had changed in the time she had been asleep, and she hurried through cleansing herself of the last few days worth of grime and general ickiness.

Just as she finished rinsing the conditioner from her hair, Willow gasped as a naked Spike appeared out of nowhere in front of her. It took a moment for her to realize that it was the beginning of another vision, and she wondered at the sigh of disappointment that left her.

{Spike leaned over and began crawling his way up his bed, covering a disinterested Buffy with his body once he had reached her head.

This cant happen again, Spike.

Thats what you always say, Slayer. And yet, here you are.

I mean it this time. Buffy pushed the vampire off of her and began hurriedly dressing, a look of loathing twisting her face. I cant just keep sleeping with you. Youre not worth my time, and especially not my body.

Better watch what you say, Slayer, or I might start taking it seriously.

I *am* serious, you undead idiot. I hate you.

See you tonight then? The cocky grin that he wore slipped from his face as Buffy spit at him.

Youre beneath me.}

Willow gasped again as the vision left her nearly drained, crying on the floor of the tub. Acrid bile was trying to force its way up her throat, and she just managed to throw open the lid of the toilet before she was revisited by the last of the late night pizza. Sitting back on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, water dripping from her body and splashing into the growing puddle around her nude body, Willow fought back sobs.

<Okay. I cant take this anymore.> Willow turned the shower off before standing and wrapping a towel around her hair and another around her body. <I love the two of them far too much to see other dimension glimpses of them like that. Buffy isnt like that, and Spike would *never* look at her that way. That mix of desperation and longing shouldnt be allowed on his face.>

It didnt even occur to Willow that shed just told herself that she loved Spike. She was already throwing on a bra and a pair of panties before her internal monolog was finished. The sky outside her window was a thick slate of deep grey, and sheets of rain pelted the ground, so she threw on a black sweater and a pair of black, zippered leggings. Without thinking, she pulled Spikes duster over her arms before ducking out into the cold rain.

The walk to the Magic Box seemed to go much more quickly than it usually did, though Willow suspected that her worrying and repulsion over what she had seen had more to do with that than her speed. She walked through the store, barely able to return Anyas smile and greeting, to find Giles sitting in the training room, sharpening a small ax. The mans surprise at finding her in the store in the middle of the day was clearly visible before he was able to school his features into a look of pure concern.

"Willow? Is there something wrong? Are you feeling well?"

"Its a little complicated... I think."

"Hows that?" Giles put down the ax and led the witch into the store. "Would you like to have a nice cup of tea and tell me about it?"

Willow glanced over at Anya, deciding that she didnt care if the ex demon heard what she had to say. After Giles found out, there would most likely be another research aspect to work through, so everyone would know that her mind was dimension hopping without her permission. What difference did it make if one of them found out before the others?

"That would be great, Giles. Thank you." Willow busied herself with removing the wet leather coat while Giles went to put on a kettle of water. When he returned, telling her that it would be a few minutes, she decided that she may as well start with the explanations.

"Giles. Theres something I left out about the demons affect on me."

"I do hope its nothing serious. Willow, you *know* how important any information could be to finding a cure for you." Giles pulled the glasses from his face and began wiping them with the bottom of his tie.

"I know." Willow tried to smile at Anya, whod come over to join them when the last customer had been sent on his way with a fake smile and have a good day. "I just didnt know how to say this, or what anyone would say about it.

"At first, it only happened when I touched a person or something they had touched. That was the real reason for the gloves. I thought, if I didnt touch anything, then it wouldnt happen, but now its gotten so that it just happens whenever it wants to and I cant stop it from happening. Well, I tried to stop it once, and it worked, but then a lot of things slammed into my brain all at the same time and I almost passed out. Im just happy that everyone thought I was sleeping, and that Spike and Xander were there to carry me inside my house, and that I wasnt off somewhere alone or something. I dont even want to know *what* could have happened to me if I were fighting or running and it happened. Thats kind of scary, now that I really think about it. I mean-"

"Willow." Giles motioned for Anya to remove the now whistling pot from the stove as he interrupted Willows rambling.

"Whats going on?" Anya had made it back in record time, making Willow suspect that she had turned the stove off and pushed the teakettle to a different burner rather than prepare any tea.

"I think Im seeing other dimensions."

"How so?" Giles had that look on his face he only got when they were deep into research. "What makes you think its alternate dimensions?"

"Well, the first one I got was of Anya being robbed while she was working." Anya drew herself up straighter in her seat, and Willow was quick to point out that it *had* to be a different dimension. "Theres just no way Anya would willingly part with money from her till."

"Okay, that was the first one." Giles, Willow could tell, was already going through his mental lists of demons, discarding those who had no visionary abilities. "While that could actually happen in any dimension, I suppose, it *does* sound a little hard to believe. What else has happened to make you think theyre different dimensions and not something else?"

"It cant be my imagination, Giles." Willow distantly heard the bell over the door chime, signaling that someone had entered the store. "I mean, Spike and Buffy sleeping together? Thats just *wrong*, especially after what she went through with Angel."

"Its nothing like what I had with Angel!"

Willows still wet hair stung her face as she whipped her head around to face a flushed and angry looking Buffy. "You mean, those things Ive been seeing about you and Spike are *real*? Youve been sleeping with Spike?!"

"Its just sex. Something to get our minds off of things." Buffy pulled her coat off and tossed it over one of the chairs. "Its not like I love the Fangless Wonder, or anything."

Giles and Anya, long forgotten, were looking back and forth between the sneering Slayer and the now standing witch. Buffy was standing with her hands on her hips, as if waiting for a fight, and Willow simply looked ready to cry. Very faintly, Anya thought she smelled something burning.

"The things Ive seen tell me that it isnt the same on Spikes end of things, Buffy." Willows long curls began fluttering as if in a soft breeze, though no one else in the room felt anything.

"I know." Buffy tossed her sunny hair over her shoulder. "I want the bastard to love me. What better way to punish him?"

"Punish him? For what?" The scent of burning copper surrounded the redhead, forcing Buffy to take a step back even as tiny sparks began appearing along and over the mass of curls that made up Willows hair. "What does he have to suffer for?"

"Hes an evil, soulless demon. Why shouldnt I use him for whatever I want?"

"What is *wrong* with you!?" Willow pulled Spikes long coat back on, ignoring the sudden warmth of the store. "I cant believe that you would even *say* that."

"Its true, isnt it?" Buffy lifted her eyebrows and sneered openly. "Im the Slayer. Im better than he is. Why shouldnt I do whatever I want?"

"Thats horrible, Buffy, really horrible." Willow was disappointed in the smaller girl, now knowing that she really *was* just using the caring, if evil, vampire to vent on. "Im not staying in that house any more. I cant."

"Whatever." Buffy flopped down on the couch, ignoring the hurt look marring Willows face. "Youll get tired of being alone and come back in a day or two anyway."

Willow shook her head and felt her stomach rolling as she backed toward the door. "Giles, could you look into that for me? I really dont want to see anymore than I already have. Ill be at my parents house if you need me."

<I need out of here.> Willow turned to open the door, surprised when she found herself already standing outside the small magic shop. <Okay. I dont remember opening the door and walking out here.>

Shaking off the strange feeling she was getting, the redhead made her way to the cemetery. If she couldnt talk some sense into Buffy, maybe she could tell Spike the truth about the Slayers feelings. No one deserved to be used like that, demon or not.

Chapter 7

The rain still beating down had Willow soaked, even through the heavy leather of Spikes coat, by the time she reached the old cemetery Spike had claimed a home in. The ground gave way easily under her feet, and she was happy that she wasnt fond of the old tennis shoes shed thrown on before leaving. The squelching of the sneakers as she approached the dark crypt seemed to whisper tell... him with every step.

<Okay, Rosenburg, hes got to know, and youre the one who found out about it all. Just knock, go in, tell him what you know, and leave. Easy.>

Willow stood outside the door to the small building for another five minutes before lifting her hand and knocking.

When no one answered, Willow pushed the heavy door open. "Spike? Are you in here?"

"Here, pet." Spikes voice echoed up from the hole in the floor. "Didnt know who it was, and didnt fancy talking to the Slayer right now."

"W... Well, t-thats what, or who, I wanted to talk to you ab-about. Ah, Spike? Could... could y-you put on a, ah, a shirt? Please?" Willow put a hand over her eyes and turned to face the barren wall instead of the half dressed vampire whod just climbed out of the lower room.

"Protecting your innocent eyes?" Willow could *hear* the smirk in his voice even as a long arm reached past her and snatched a t-shirt from the arm of the chair she stood beside.

"I just need to talk to you, and its hard enough without getting distracted."

"You saying Im distracting?" A low chuckle rumbled through the crypt. "You can turn around, luv. Its safe."

"Spike, you already know how... distracting you are." Willow handed the heavy coat back to the blonde vampire, who casually slung it over the sarcophagus before pulling a battered pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

"What brings a pretty bird like you to a cemetery to talk to my undead ass in the middle of the morning?"

"Ive... Theres something about the demon that I didnt tell you. Well, I didnt tell anyone. At first, it was just a thing that happened when I touched something or someone, then when I thought about them. Now, it just happens. I didnt even know it was real, I thought it had to be some other dimension because the things I was seeing just didnt make sense, but I found out today that it isnt like that, that its really the future, and I needed to tell you that what youre doing with Buffy isnt good."

Spikes face changed from its normal smirking arrogance to completely void of all emotion. The cigarette hung, forgotten, from his slightly parted lips. "Whats that, luv?"

"Im getting visions of the future, Spike." Willow turned burning eyes to the floor. "I thought they were flashes of other dimensions and went to talk to Giles about it. Buffy heard the end of the conversation and ended up trying to defend herself to us."

"So everyone knows about it, then."

"Well, just Giles and Anya right now, but you know Anya and not knowing what not to say to people."

"Good." Spike had recovered with a slight shake of his head and moved to slouch down into the single chair in the room. "I was tired of keepin it a bloody secret anyway."

"Spike." Willow turned to face him now, knowing that she had to look him in the eye when she told him this last part. "Buffy doesnt love you. Shes just using you for the sex."

"Nah, she loves me in a way."

"No, she doesnt, Spike. She *told* me that shes using you, that she wants to punish you."

"Dont know what youre getting all worked up about, pet. She needs me to vent on, which is a lot more than what Ive been needed for in a long time. I need her because I can cause her pain. Besides, the sex isnt bad either."

"Spike!" Willow gave in to the tears, letting them flow freely as she nearly sobbed at the vampire in front of her. "You deserve more than that!"

"Dont cry, Red." Spike stood, moving to wrap his arms around the nearly doubled over witch.

Willow jerked her arms up, dislodging his hold on her, and stepped away from his offered comfort. "Dont. Just dont."

"Willow, its really none of your business who Im shagging, or why theyre shagging me."

"It *is* my business!" Willow was openly sobbing as she forced herself to walk to the door. "Its my business because youre one of my best friends, because youve always been honest with me, and because youve helped me."

<Goddess, I wish I was home.> Before the thought was even finished, Willow found herself standing in the living room of the house shed called home for the last year. <How did... Never mind, Willow. Figure it out later. Pack now.>

Willow threw herself up the stairs, nearly missing her footing several times as she climbed to her room. Pulling the suitcases down from the shelf in her closet, she began throwing her clothes into them as fast as she could. When it became apparent that there wouldnt be enough room for everything, she retrieved some garbage bags from the kitchen and stuffed as much as she could into them as well. By the time the sniffling redhead finished her marathon throwing and shoving, open drawers and empty hangers were all that were left to keep the stripped bed company.

<Im going to need a taxi or something. Theres no way I can carry all these bags *and* my magic trunk on top of the suitcases.> Willow thought for a moment before smiling to herself and giggling. <Give it a shot, Willow.>

Pulling herself up to her full height, Willow began pointing at each of the bags in turn, giggling when they all shrank to roughly the size of a quarter. The suitcases followed suit easily enough. In the end, Willow was able to scoop them all up and deposit them in the pocket of the coat shed pulled out to protect her from the still falling rain.

<Just like Marry Poppins.> For the first time that day, a small smile found itself on the lips of the pretty redhead as she made her way back down the stairs and out the front door.

Willow hesitated for only a second when she reached the end of the front walk. Setting her shoulders, she made a left and quickly reached Xanders old house. After that, she simply made use of the alleyways and shortcuts she and her childhood friend had memorized all those years ago.

<Home again, home again,> Willow shook her head and gave a derisive snort. <At least they left everything hooked up and turned on.>

Willow unlatched and opened every door and window in the house, smiling at the dreary sky that seemed to match her mood. It was no longer raining, though a steady breeze was tossing the trees, and the air now wafting through the house carried a tang of spring. With a little magic, Willow simply let the dust that had gathered over the house leave on the air.

Unpacking was similarly easy, and the redhead found herself settled into her old room just as her stomach let her know that she had now missed both breakfast *and* lunch. With the refrigerator running, but empty, there was nothing she could do but go to the store. With a sigh, she retrieved the car keys from the locked drawer in her parents old room and headed for the tasteful, if seldom used, sedan sitting in the garage.

Picking up the essentials, Willow was struck by inspiration just as she was heading for the checkout line. If she had Giles and Wesley both working on finding anything that had to do with this demon, then there was nothing more she could really do on that level. So, maybe she could find a way to keep herself from seeing things that she didnt want to. That meant using magic or a lot of energy. Either way, she was sure to get major cases of munchies. Magic is hungry work.

Turning her cart, Willow walked the isles of the store with a little more bounce in her step. Now that she had a plan, as sketchy as it may be, she felt a little better about things. Spike knew he was being used and seemed to want whatever it was Buffy gave him, so there was nothing she could do. What was happening to her, however, just took research and good, old fashioned hard work. Willow put some Breyers coffee ice cream into the basket and smiled.

She wasnt called research girl for nothing.

Chapter 8

Within an hour, Willow was home and had nearly all her groceries put away when the doorbell rang.

"Whos there?" Willow crumpled up the plastic bags from the store and shoved them into the bag hanging on the inside of the cabinet door.

"Willow?" Anyas voice carried easily through the screen door. "I came over to help."

"Help?" Willow unlatched the door and let the ex demon in. "With what?"

"Well, I thought that you would be trying to figure out how to control this whole vision thing now that you know that is isnt some other dimension."

"Yeah, thats pretty much my plan." The two girls moved into the kitchen, moving to put the cans of food Willow had bought into the cabinet beside the stove. "I just wish I could figure out when things are going to happen, at least that would be useful."

"Well, I *did* get robbed today."

"What?!" Willow spun so quickly that Anya got a mouthful of coppery hair. "When?"

"A little after you left. Two guys came in and took my money," Anya pouted while she spoke. "One of them tipped over that shelf of crystals when he left, and that brought Giles and Buffy out from the training room. She chased them down and took the money back."

"Well, thats good then."

"Yeah, but I still think shes being a major bitch."

"Shes going through some things right now." Willow shoved the last of the bags into their holder and handed Anya a can of Pepsi before leading her out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room. "Once she gets everything in her head straight, shell get better."

"She wasnt that great to begin with." Anya was grumbling, and Willow was fairly certain that she wasnt supposed to hear that, so the redheaded witch tried to hide her grin while she moved to her computer chair.

"I tried a visualization thing the other night when you and Xan drove me home. It did okay until I stopped the gentle wind thing, then there was just too much all at once. My brain couldnt handle it all."

"Hmmm..." Anya took a sip from her can as she slowly took in the room. "Magic?"

"What?" Willow looked at Anya, who gestured to the tidy closet where her suitcases were stored on a shelf. "Oh, yeah. It just makes things so much easier."

"Yes, it does. I *never* would have been able to turn my cheating husband into a troll without it." Both girls broke into a fit of giggles as Anya moved to look over the books on the shelves.

"Maybe you should *try* to bring on a vision. That way, maybe you can control who you see, and how far. I dont know if that will keep the others from happening, though."

"Ive been thinking about that. Maybe if I teach my mind that it needs to be prepared, itll cut down on the unwanted stuff?"

"A training session for your brain?"

"More like grounding and centering and casting a circle. You know, learned things that get you in the right frame of consciousness."

"Oh," Anya grinned. "Like studying for a test."


"Maybe you should do that grounding thing first. That should let your mind and body recognize that its going to do something that it usually doesnt."

"Good thinking." Willow had shifted to sit Indian style in the chair facing Anya who now sat on the bed.

"I know, but thank you for saying it."

Willow shook her head and smiled as she scribbled notes on a sheet of paper, listing what they were coming up with.

"I should make it into a ritual. Ground and center, then ask for protection and clarity. That should help keep out pain, and keep my mind from wandering when Im trying to focus on one person or thing."

"Then you only have to worry about the whole time thing." Anya tapped the tips of her fingers against the book she held on her lap. "When did you see me get robbed?"

"That night with the demon. The night before last, I guess."

"Then Im thinking that its a short future thing. Maybe youre only seeing one or two days in advance."

"That makes sense except for the faces that I saw last night that I didnt recognize."

"Maybe it was just an overload of information from all over. Just because youre vision girl and know the slayer doesnt mean that all the visions you have are going to deal with only people you know."

"I never thought about that." Willow felt pain blossoming from behind her right eye. "This whole thing is just one big headache."

"Lets try it now, then go find something to eat."

"Good idea. I havent eaten all day." Willow rubbed at her abdomen absently. "I think Im beyond needing the candles to mark the points, but Im going to burn some sage to help with the ritual."

"Need me to do anything?" Anya nearly bounced on the bed in her enthusiasm, and Willow found herself nodding.

"Sure. Im going to use loose sage, so you could sprinkle some on the charcoal round to keep a steady burn." Willow set out the ceramic holder and the charcoal, handing the sage and matches to the older girl. "Well, you could also help me figure out what I should try to see."

"I know!" Anya had the charcoal burning, the top just starting to turn red. "Try to see if Xanders going to get the raise hes asking for this afternoon. That way well know in a few hours if it worked."

"You just want to know if youre going to be doing any celebrating tonight."

"That too." Anya winked and began sprinkling the dried leaves onto the glowing coal. "Lets do this."

"Yes maam."

Willow stood in the center of the floor, smelling the soft, calming scent of the smoldering herbs and visualizing a silver rod running down her back. Growing more at ease with her picture, the witch sent the bar through the levels of the house, then through the cement of the basement, until it was embedded in the earth below. Breathing slowly, she let the silver line grow until her entire body was made up of nothing but the silver stick.

Another deep breath sent the bar deeper into the ground as well as up through the top of her head. Roots slid into the earth, pulling power from the Goddess body. Branches reached out from above her head, releasing the energy back out into the world. Willow could see that the tree she was above the ground was mirrored in the trunk and roots below, branches and roots nearly meeting in an eternal flow or energy.

"Earth, Air, Fire, Sea, let the Goddess hand be a guide to me. Without malice and without pain, let me see what Xander shall gain."

{"So, Harris, you wanted to talk to me?" An older man was sitting behind the desk in a small trailer.

"Yes sir." Xander pulled the hard hat from his head and took the offered chair. "Its about the job."

"Youre not leaving, are you? Cuz Ive gotta say that youre one of the best carpenters Ive seen in a long time."

"Thats just it, sir." Xander rubbed the palms of his down his thighs roughly.

"Whats it?"

"Well, you said yourself that Im one of the best." At the larger mans nod, Xander nodded and took a deep breath. "I just think that I should be getting paid more than I am."

"Because youve been in charge of a lot of things that the others will never come close to, and catch on to anything Im trying to lay out quicker than most, you think you should get a promotion."

It wasnt a question, but Xander nodded his head anyway. "Thats it exactly, sir."

"Well, Harris." The older man poured himself a cup of steaming coffee and grinned at the nervous brunet. "I was wondering when you were going to get the balls to ask me."


"Of course! How does fifteen an hour sound?"


"Take a few classes some nights and on the weekends, and well talk higher."}

Willow let her mind drift away from what she was seeing and opened her eyes to see Anya still kneeling beside the table. Letting all the energy seep back down into the earth, Willow let the silver tree slide back into the thin rod before disappearing altogether. As she let the last of the borrowed energy go, the witch realized that she felt lighter and happier than she had in a long time.

"Thank you, Mother, for protecting and guiding me. Your daughter thanks you." Willow smiled as she faced Anya. "I think I should have been having regular rituals a long time ago. I feel *great*!

"I also think youre going to be having a whole lot of celebrating to do when Xander gets home."

The other girl squealed happily, and wrapped a surprised Willow in a tight hug. "Lets go eat! Ive got to get my energy up if Im going to give Xander as many orgasms as I plan on."

"Maybe *he* should be the one building up his energy."

"You know it!" The laughter of the two young women echoed through the house.

Chapter 9

"All right, young lady. Youve missed more than enough school. I dont care if you *are* still sparkly. Youre going, and thats final." Willows reflection gave her the resolve face, and the redhead knew she was beat.

Since performing the spell with Anya on Monday afternoon, and finding herself to be completely accurate, Willow had done the same ritual twice a day. Twice, she had tried not doing it in the afternoon, but both trials had led to painful bouts as vision girl. Willow had decided that doing two a days, as Xander called them, left her feeling as close to normal as she suspected she was going to get. She had thought about going for three, but took Giles advice not to push herself too hard.

"Just because youve been this way for a week now doesnt mean youll *always* be sparkle-vision girl. Youve got to have something to fall back on." Willow glanced at her clock, confirming that she would have to leave soon to make it to her first class on time. "Youre wearing long sleeves and pants. No one is going to say anything."

Willow gathered her books and the keys to the car. <Not like I dont have my license or arent on the insurance. Besides, its Friday and Ill have to find people in my other classes to get notes from.>

Willow had been living in her old house for five days now. With the notable exception of Buffy, everyone seemed comfortable doing research and hanging out there. There was more room in Willows living room than in the entirety of Giles apartment, after all.

Spike had come hammering on her front door just after sunset on Monday. It had taken a few minutes for the vampire to stop yelling at the witch, even after she had pulled him off the front porch and into her living room. It was pretty obvious to the intelligent girl that the blonde had been afraid when shed just disappeared after she started crying, and she had told him so.

"Just dont want you leaving like that is all."

"Its okay, Spike." Willow had grinned and offered him a drink, laughing when he said that it would just give him a headache. "Lets just agree to disagree on the whole Buffy issue and never speak of it again."

"Its a deal, pet."

Shortly after Spike made his appearance, the rest of the gang had arrived. Giles had dragged in a large stack of books along with two bottles of white wine as house re-warming gifts. There had been enough for everyone to have a decent sized glass, and Willow giggled at using her parents cherished good crystal to toast a long life to everyone present as well as Xanders new income.

<That was a good night.> Willow nodded along as Nora Jones sang a soft blues song on the radio. <Now, if I can just get through the day, Ill be okay. Well, through the rest of the month. After that, Im free for the rest of the spring and summer.>

Willow dropped the mountain of books onto the kitchen counter and let her messenger bag slip to the floor. She had forgotten all about the required reading until Tanya, the strange girl from her Women in Literature class whose notes she had copied on the librarys Xerox machine, reminded her of the paper due the following Friday. Luckily, the library had been able to lend her most of the books she needed. The rest she had found in the used book stores that dotted the area surrounding the campus.

"Long day, pet?"

Willow, startled, didnt register the husky accent or the casual endearment until she had already acted to defend herself. She was, therefore, more than a little surprised to see that the man she was holding captive against the ceiling was Spike. She opened her mouth to apologize as she slowly lowered his bruised and bleeding, not to mention slightly smoking, form to the floor.

<Wait. Bruised? *Bleeding*?! I didnt do that. But, if I didnt, then who did? And how did he get here?>

Willow stood staring at the vampire. Ordering her thoughts, the witch was finally able to give voice to her confusion. "Huh?"

"Yeah." Spike nodded his head like an exhausted toddler. The vampire tried to push himself off the floor, only to fall onto his back with a barely muffled cry.

"Spike!" Willow wasnt aware that she had moved until her hands were pushing blood matted hair from the vampires eyes. "Oh, Goddess, you look bad."

"I... Ive had... had worse."

The usual cockney accent was gone, replaced by a softer lilt, and Willow found herself smiling until she realized a few things that she would classify as of the bad. First, Spikes faded shirt and jeans had much darker patches that were steadily growing in size. Second, the blonde was gasping for breath that he didnt need. The next thing to draw her attention was the swiftly loosening grip on her hand.

"Spike, stay awake." Willow moved to shake his shoulder, drawing a slick, red hand back when he didnt respond.

Only then did she begin to feel the wet carpet under her knees. Willow looked down and saw the red puddle form around her hand as if in slow motion. Then the smell of the blood hit her, and the girl threw herself away from the pale, still body lying on the carpet of her dining room.

"Blood." Willow didnt know if she was commenting on the growing stain on her floor, or thinking of the only thing she knew of that would save Spike.

A rattling gasp brought the now weeping girl back to the vampires side.

"Wa... wanted... T-Thank... you." A thin line of blood bubbled from Spikes mouth, staining his teeth and lips before winding along a sharp cheekbone to his ear.

"No," Willow rested her forehead against Spikes and wept.

Chapter 10

"No." Willow took a heaving breath between sobs, otherwise she might have missed the slight lifting of Spikes chest.

Pulling herself over Spikes prone form, Willow tried to ignore the wet sounds as she crawled over him. She tried to keep herself from touching him and causing any more damage than she had already done with all the magic and the shaking. Her hands slid over the clean tile of her kitchen floor, sending her skidding. The front of her shirt and the material of her jeans were soaked through as well, making it even more difficult for her to make it across the kitchen.

"Nonononono." It was her mantra even as she tried to stand, slipped, and knocked the butchers block to the floor.

Willow pulled the cordless phone from its resting place on the counter and dialed the Magic Box without thinking. Anya, sounding more chipper than usual, answered on the second ring.

"Magic Box, this is Anya."

"Its Willow. Get Giles. Spikes hurt." Willow didnt even bother to hang up, simply dropping it as she moved back to her friends side.

"Come on, Spike." Willow lightly smacked at his face.

She turned to see if Spike was moving at all when a sharp glint of sunlight caught her eye. It took her longer to realize that it was the sun reflecting off the blade of a small parring knife than it did for her to come to a decision about what to do. Snatching the black handle in a shaking hand, Willow bit her lip against the pain and drew it sharply across the skin of her left forearm.

Sliding to lay on her side, Willow put her head on the demons shoulder and held the fresh cut to his lips. "Open your mouth, Spike, just a little swallow or two. Thats all I want."

Willow thought that, if she could get Spikes body to do what came naturally, then its demon would come out and begin drinking properly.

She saw the corded muscles of Spikes throat work just before his lips opened wider over the cut, pulling more of her flesh into his mouth. A moment later, the ridges of the demon appeared, and he started drinking in earnest. Willow could only watch in fascination as large hands rose to caress her skin, long fingers wrapping around her arm as her head began to grow fuzzy.

A muffled bloody hell made her smile, and two amber eyes were the last thing she saw before her eyes drifted closed.

"Red?" Willow heard the heavily accented voice through the blackness. "Willow, pet, youve been asleep for 18 hours and 20 minutes now. Come on and wake up."

<Spike.> With the remembrance of his name came the painful images.

"Hurt." Willow was trying to form a whole sentence, but found it impossible, as whole thoughts werent yet forming.

"I know it does, luv." Something cool and damp brushed her forehead. "You can go back to sleep if you want to. You sure as hell deserve it."

"No," the redheads eyes blinked open.

Spike, clean but with a tired look about him, was sitting on the computer chair beside her bed. His usually slick hair curled above his eyes and stuck up in odd places on top. Tape spanned the bridge of his nose, and the blues and greens of fading bruises around his eyes made their blue color stand out even more. He winced as he leaned forward to brush the damp cloth over her face.

"Im not going to force you to, but you really *do* need to rest."

<Stupid vampire. Doesnt he know I wasnt talking about me?> "No... I meant... I meant youre hurt."

Spikes shout of startled laughter caused Willow to jump. A moment later, the room was swarmed by an ex demon, a Key, and a carpenter, all smiling and hugging the witch. Giles followed closely, carrying a glass of orange juice and a bottle of aspirin for Willow along with a large mug of blood on a small tray.

"Im glad youre back." Dawn stretched out beside Willow, resting her head on the older girls shoulder.

"You had us worried, Willow."

"I wasnt worried." Spike gulped at the blood.

"Sorry, Giles." Willow obediently swallowed the two pills Giles handed her and sipped at the orange juice.

"Yes, well, do try not to do it again."

"How long was I out?"

"Eighteen hours and twenty-five minutes." Spike answered before anyone else could turn their wrists to check the time.

"But you werent worried at all." Anya gave the vampire a look of pure amused disbelief.

"I was concerned. Its not the same thing."

"Keep telling yourself that, Blondie."

Willow caressed the back of Spikes hand. "Thank you."

"I should be thanking you, even though what you did was insane. Not to mention one of the more stupid things youve ever done."

"You were hurt. There was blood." Willow set her nearly empty glass back on the tray. "I had to help you."

"Not that I dont appreciate it, Red, but you cant just go around offering that sweet blood of yours to every hurt vampire you come across."

"I didnt offer it to just any vampire, Spike. I gave it to you." As an afterthought, Willow cocked her head to one side. "You think my blood is sweet?"

"The best I ever tasted."

"Youre just saying that because its been a while since you had fresh." A bit of the Willow who had comforted him in the dorm room that night when he couldnt bite her peaked through in the blush coloring her cheeks.

"Nah, pet. I meant that. Youre a nummy treat."

"Okay, not really what I needed to know about my best friend." Xander rolled his eyes and sank down onto the bed beside Dawns hip. "Now will you tell us what happened?"

"Yeah, Spike, who hurt you?" Dawn had been twisting a lock of Willows hair around her finger as the others talked. Now she focused all her attention on the blonde sitting on the other side of her favorite witch. "If whoever it was turns out to be human, Ill take care of them."

"You gonna be my hired gun, now?" Spike smirked at the girl.

"Hey, I know people." Dawn affected a casual shrug, though Willow could feel the strain in the girls shoulders.

"Well, Buffy started it," Spike hurried to finish before Dawn could finish sitting up in shock. "A bunch of newbies tried to finish it."

"Why did Buffy start it?"

"Things have been different since she came back, Nibblet." Spike puffed his cheeks out and ran a hand through already disheveled hair. "We got into a fight, started hitting, and she ended up being in better form. Nothing that hasnt happened before."

"It still isnt right, Spike." Willow smiled wanly at Spike.

"I know. Just not sure what to do about it."

"So this happened in your crypt?" Anyas eyes were twinkling after taking in how Spike and Willow were acting, and Willow was happy the ex demon had kept any comments to herself.

"No. We were in Grandview."

"You *do* know that the Magic Box is closer to that cemetery, right?"

"Yeah, well, I wasnt figuring on any kind of last minute heroics." Spike shook a cigarette out of his pack. "Thought I should say my goodbyes while I could."

"Thats so sweet." Dawn pulled a surprised Spike into a tight hug before scooting out of the bed. "Giles said that I had to go home after you woke up."

"Willow needs her rest." Xander leaned over and hugged Willow gently. "Take care of yourself."

"Im going to stay here and sleep, Xan. I doubt I can hurt myself too much. Besides, Spikes got a supply of blood here now, right?"

"Yes, he does." Giles bent to hug her before continuing. "There is more than enough for two days, in case he needs extra."

"Well be fine, guys." Willow spoke over Anyas shoulder as she found herself surrounded by the other girls strong arms. "Im going to sleep and maybe try to get some reading done."

Everyone said their goodbyes to Spike before heading out of the room. A few minutes later, the front door closed and Willow sunk back down on the bed.

"Are you going to tell me what *really* happened?" Willow patted the space Dawn had left beside her. "Did Buffy do all of this?"

<I knew she was different, but this is just inexcusable. Please dont let it all be her.>

Spike kicked his boots off and slid to lie on top of the covers after making sure Willow was fully tucked in. "Im not lying to you, luv. Buffy and I did fight, and she was in better form than me. I was pretty beat up when she left, but nothing that I couldnt heal from in a night.

"I was making my way out of the cemetery when a big group of fledglings found me. I took out five or six, but there were just too many. They left me to die, said I shouldnt be dusted so quick for helpin the slayer and all. I made it to the tunnels, though, and made my way here."

"Im glad you did."

"So am I, pet. So am I." Spike finished smoking and ground the butt out in the ashtray he must have found downstairs. "I was wondering something."


"This thing with Buffy, its not good for me. You know?"

"Im aware of that, yes." Willow let her head drop to the side, resting it lightly against Spikes on her pillow.

"Thing is, I dont think I can let it go if Im always seeing her all the time."

"I could see how that would make breaking things off harder to do." Willow smiled at the hesitation in the blondes voice. "Do you want to stay here for a while?"

"Wouldnt want to impose."

"I offered, didnt I?"

"Well, if youre insisting." Willow could tell there was a small smile on the mans lips without seeing him.

"Im insisting. Now go to sleep."

"Never let it be said that I refused an offer to unlive with a beautiful lady." Spike wound an arm under Willows shoulders and let himself be lulled to sleep by her even breathing.


She's Like Candy, page 3