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Chapter 10

~~~~~~~~~~ Spike ~~~~~~~~~~

It had been a week since Spikes world had changed, and he had accompanied Willow to San Francisco. An entire seven days of basking in the company of his Red with no one to mess it up for either of them. He had woken up that morning to the feeling of a warm body pressed against his side, soft breath puffing against the bare skin of his chest, as Willow slept on. He had lain there, not wanting to move for fear of waking the fiery goddess at his side and thought of how he would hate to go back to sharing her with her little friends when they went home.

So, it was with a sinking stomach that he answered the ringing telephone late in the afternoon on the 25th of December. He didnt remember Willow giving the watcher her number, but the old man was nothing if not resourceful.


"Spike?" Giles soft, cultured voice floated down the telephone wire. "Is Willow there, please?"

"Not ere, Watcher." Spike smirked at his small victory.

"Oh," Giles managed to fit a wealth of emotion into that single word, and Spike realized that his week in heaven was over. "Theres a problem that we need her help on."

"Yeah?" Spike held the phone between his ear and shoulder as he moved around the room gathering up all the clothes that he and Willow had managed to accumulate over the course of their stay.

"Yes, a demon." The watcher huffed slightly, and Spike quirked an eyebrow.

"Figured that out for myself." Spike turned as he caught the scent of Willow coming through the opening door. "Youre in luck. Here she is."

Spike held the receiver out to Willow, catching her bewildered expression. "Its the watcher. Something about a new demon."

"Hi Giles. I was gonna call you later, but Merry Christmas anyway." Willow set her bags down and shrugged her jacket off as she listened to what the Englishman said. "So Buffy couldnt kill it?"

A thrill went through the vampire, only to be stopped by Willows small grin. The Slayer couldnt be dead if Red was smiling at all.

With a small shake of his head, Spike began shoving his things into the bag he had brought with them before realizing that there were now too many to fit. Willow had taken it upon herself to purchase him any- and every-thing that she thought he might like or look good in while shopping, and he now had more clothes then he thought he had owned in the last fifty years combined. Remembering that the phone in the other bedroom was on a different line, Spike moved through the sitting area and picked it up.

Hitting the button for the lobby, he nodded to himself when an overly polite and happy feminine voice answered. "Front desk! This is Jessica. How may I help you?"

"I was just packing and realized, with all the things weve bought in the city, that we no longer have room in our suitcases for it all." Spike had put on the cultured, blue-blooded accent he had used when alive. He used it when he wanted to fit in or be remembered as nothing more than a slightly eccentric rich man. "Would there happen to be a store close by that would sell that sort of thing?"

"Yes, sir," the voice sounded just as cheery as it had when the woman greeted him. "Ill transfer you to the concierge, and hell take care of it."

"Thank you, Jessica. Have a nice evening."

"You too, sir."

There was a soft click as he was put on hold, and he nearly jumped when a voice spoke behind him.

"Whos Jessica?"

Willows eyes belied the frown on her lips, and Spike grinned. "Wouldnt you like to know."

The redheads eyes lost their laughter. "I have to go back."

"Figured that out, luv. Im callin the concierge to get some more luggage to cart everything home in."

"Youre coming with me?"

Spikes answer was cut off by the phone being picked up, and he asked about luggage once again. After telling the man what he required, ignoring Willows questions on why they needed as many garment bags as he said, Spike thanked him and hung up.

"Our new bags will be here in less than an hour, ducks." Spike ran his eyes over the dresses hanging in the closet and the things lying on the bed. "Better start folding and deciding what goes where."

An hour and a half later, two bellhops stepped out of one elevator as Willow and Spike emerged from another. Spike almost felt sorry for the two young men who maneuvered the baggage cart and toted garment bags over their shoulders. The feeling was gone in a flurry of movement as he pulled the worn leather of his beloved coat over his arms and shoulders. Leaving Willow to stand by one of the large sofas, Spike went to settle the bill. He barely batted an eye at the final tally of $7,800. It was actually far less than he expected it to be, and he bid the man at the desk a fond farewell before collecting the receipt.

"Oi! Red!" Spike grinned as several people jumped and everyone looked. "Lets go, luv."

"You always have to make an exit, dont you?"

Spike nodded and wrapped a possessive arm around her waist as they moved to the parking garage. Handing the attendant his ticket, Spike gave an appreciative whistle when the DeSoto slid slowly toward them. The dents and bangs had been worked out. The body had been sanded down, primed, and repainted. The new, deep red paint nearly screamed from the side accents and back corner panels. The rest of the car was an unrelieved black, and Spike grinned openly as it stopped in front of them.

"This is a sweet car, man." The young man slid out from behind the wheel and came to stand beside Spike and an obviously shocked Willow. "I mean, there were some dents, and the paint was a little worse for wear, but other than that, this baby is cherry!"

"When did you do this?" Willow turned wide green eyes to Spike.

Spike chuckled, loving the shine of happy surprise in her face. "I didnt do it. I just paid for them to bang out the dings and give her a paint job."

"I doubt that paint combination was around in 1959." Willow grinned up at Spike as the attendants went about loading their things into the trunk and backseat.

It was Spikes turn to be surprised. When did the witch become such an expert on cars? "You know cars?"

"Well, Im research girl. Arent I?" At Spikes slow nod, Willow continued. "When you came to town, someone mentioned it. Im good with dates and numbers, to I remembered the date easily enough. The Adventurer was top of the line for DeSoto, so that wasnt hard to remember either."

"So, you *do* know cars, then." The kid, Spike decided he was too young to even buy alcohol, was gazing at Willow with a twinkle in his eye that Spike found decidedly too familiar.

The demon tried to force its way forward, and Spike trained his eyes on the redhead. If she had looked at the boy, some little scrap of nothing, with the look of love and devotion he had seen trained on the blonde witch, the look he dreamed of one day being in her eyes when she looked at him, Spike didnt know what he would do. Little snaps of pain sizzled along his temple at the unbidden images that whispered into his head.

"My dads younger brother Stephan was into cars." Willow still hadnt taken her eyes off the DeSoto. "When I was little, and they went away on trips, my parents would leave me with him and my aunt. Wed spend a whole summer going from car show to car show with his Mustang. Id like to go visit them sometime soon. Its been too long."

Spike caught the soft sadness in her voice and knew that there was more to the story than what was being said. He had been around the Scooby gang long enough to know that Willows parents were never around. There was a moment for him to wonder how old Willow had been when the visits to her uncles house had stopped. Did they slowly peter out, or was she ripped suddenly away from what sounded like a happy retreat from the lonely existence of her family home?

Their things were loaded, and Spike shook the heavy thoughts from his mind. He tipped each of the bellhops and the car attendant before leading Willow to the passenger side of the car. Opening her door, he held it for her before moving to the other side and sliding behind the wheel.

He looked over at the small redhead as they rode in silence. The CD player he had had installed in the dashboard of the car held a disk, but it didnt seem right to play it somehow. There was something sad about driving through the streets filled with people going to see family and last minute holiday shoppers with Willow. They were going home, but Spike was far from looking forward to it. He was leaving the safely cocooned world that they had lived in for the past week and going back to the hellmouth.

Strangely, the hellmouth, and all the dangers that went along with combating the evil that was drawn to the equally evil place, were at the bottom of the list of things Spike was worried about. What were they going to tell the slayer and her merry band of hapless idiots? There was no way that the slayer or her watcher were going to believe that he didnt somehow take advantage of the girl in her weakened and mourning state, even if the very thought of doing so made him very nearly physically ill. Neither they nor Xander would want to hear it.

If he *did* somehow manage to make it through the night without turning into a big pile of dust, how did he go back to living in that dank crypt after knowing the warmth that was Willow? How did he tell his body that the softness of her sleeping form wasnt something it was supposed to be used to? Would he even be able to make it through the coming mornings without her soft, sleepy voice telling him good morning as she drifted off beside him?

Willow had been keeping his hours for the past week, and he knew that she would have just as much trouble adjusting to it as he would. Would she lie awake, struggling to keep from missing him beside her, or would she simply fall back into the routine without so much as a sleepless dawn? Which would he prefer? He didnt wish her discomfort of any kind, but he hated to think that she could move past him and the friendship they had built without giving it a thought.

"Spike?" Willows quiet voice drew him out of his thoughts, and he realized with a start that they were only an hour away from Sunnydale.

"Pet?" Spikes voice trembled ever so slightly, and he cleared his throat as he searched for the pack of Marlboro cigarettes he had shoved into the pocket of his coat before leaving the hotel room.

"You havent said anything since we left San Francisco. Thats not like you."

"Thinkin pet," Spike rolled his window down to vent the smoke.

"About what?"

Spike took a deep drag before glancing at her. "Your friends arent going to be happy that you left with me, luv."

"I dont care." Willows face hardened into determined, grim lines. "I needed to get away, and so did you. Its not like we did anything wrong, and its really none of their business anyway."

Spike gave a soft chuckle. "I know that, and you know that. Hell, they probably know that. It just wont make all that much of a difference when they decide to gang up on you and drag you back into the routine of life on the hellmouth."

Willow blinked at him in the darkness of the car. "Are you going to stop being my friend?"

"Hell no, Red," Spike took glances at her between watching the road and dragging on his cigarette. "Not unless you want us to go back to the way we were before we left."

Willow shook her head and pressed a soft kiss to the vampires cheek. "Not a chance. Im counting on you to always be my friend."

Spike patted the hand the rested on his arm before leaning over to finally turn on the cars stereo. "Always, Red. Always."


Chapter 11

~~~~~~~~~~ Willow ~~~~~~~~~~

It was nearly midnight when the pair pulled up in front of the Summers home. Giles had said that Joyce insisted on a dinner, and that they were going to do some research there afterwards. The fan in the cars engine whirred quietly in the soft California night.

"Sure you want to do this, pet?" Spike looked over at her with raised eyebrows.

Willow sighed and looked up at the glowing windows of the house. "Not really."

"Could always just kick her back over and keep goin, luv." Spike grinned, and Willow found herself grinning back at the thought. "What do you say? Fancy seein where the road will lead us again?"

"Sounds like fun, but I cant." Willow let her head drop back on the seat and she stared at the roof of the car before turning her big green eyes back to Spike. "If someone got hurt because I wasnt here to stop this new demon, then Id hate myself. I dont need that... Not now.

"Besides, I cant leave without showing off my new look." Willow gestured to the clunky boots that slid up her legs to end at the knee. A skirt made of two Union Jacks sewn together rode low on her hips and ended just below mid thigh. A simple white t-shirt, remodeled into a jagged hemmed crop top by Spikes cunning use of a knife, completed the ensemble.

Spike chuckled. "You *are* a sight to behold, luv."

Spike slid out of his seat and lit a cigarette before moving around to Willows door. "Shouldnt go blamin yourself for what other people have done, luv. No ones good enough for you."

"I think youve got that backwards, Spike." Willow felt her chest ache at the thought of never finding anyone that she could be happy with for more than a few months. She looked up at Spike, the blondes sharp angles in stark relief against the black of the night, and felt her heart give an extra little jump. "I never seem to measure up."

"Thats cause youre always tryin to measure up to what other people want. You should only worry about what you think of yourself."

*Spike would never leave you.* A voice spoke to Willow within the confines of her brain. *You saw how he was with Dru. You could have that kind of love and devotion. All you have to do is open yourself up to it.*

Willow sighed as she rummaged through the shopping bags on the backseat. Spike had told her he loved her, had stayed with her for the entire week, but she didnt know if he had meant what he said. Both Oz and Tara had sworn their love to her, and both had left. The first because he couldnt seem to stay faithful or control the animal inside him. The second because she feared the power the redhead wielded.

Willow had seen, firsthand, and on more than one occasion, that Spike could control the demon. Spike was the demon, but it wasnt all that made up the man. He was smart, calculating when he didnt let his impatience get the better of him, and caring in many ways that other vampires seemed to lack. Willow somehow knew that he wouldnt leave her or become frightened of the things she could do with her magic just as surely as she knew that he would one day change her to keep her with him for eternity.

Now, if only she could find her way through the irrational fear clawing its way around her chest, she would be a happy girl.

"Find them all, pet?" Spike had leaned in the car door to look at her.

Willow swallowed and nodded. "Yeah. Lets go see what theyve got on the new baddie."

"Probably dont have anythin, pet." Spike took two of the bags from her laden arms. "You know the watchers the only one who actually reads those old books of his. The others just sit around turning pages from time to time. Well go in, theyll whine about you leavin for a bit, youll give out your presents, and Giles will order you to get on the computer and look for stuff."

"Giles doesnt order me to do anything, Spike." Willow ran fingers through her hair as they turned to cross the street.

"The... Bloody hell." Spike had stopped walking at his softly uttered curse, and was staring at something that was too far away for Willow to see.


"Peaches." The word came out as a growl.

"Huh?" Willow went up on her toes and tried to follow Spikes line of sight, but still couldnt make out anything in the dim lights coming from the few lighted windows on the block. Everyone seemed to be either out of town of in bed. Willow was guessing the former. Who wants to spend their holidays anywhere as negative as Sunnydale?

Willow gave up her search with a shrug. "I cant see anything."

"I can." Spike looked down at Willow, meeting her questioning eyes before shifting the bags he carried so that his leather coat fell just right so as to flap as he walked. "Brood Boy is here."

"You sure?" Willow found herself fidgeting. Angel had always made her nervous, and she wasnt sure what he was going to say about her and Spikes little vacation. "Of course youre sure. That was a stupid question, so just ignore it. You can probably even feel him or something, since he *is* your sire and all that. Can you feel him? Or do you only get tingly from Buffy?"

Spike chuckled and lit a cigarette as they made their away across the street and up the steps leading to the sidewalk at the front of the house. "I can feel Peaches like a whispering voice in the back of my mind. Slutty makes my skin feel like millions of ants are running along my body. Youre the only one who makes me get all *tingly*."

Willow felt her face and chest flush at the leer Spike directed at her. She had a moment to wonder how a simple look could steal the words from her lips before the door was ripped open and Spike was jerked into the house.

Angels arms barely strained with the effort of holding the blonde off the floor and against the wall opposite the door. His human facade had slipped, and the ridges of his forehead nearly brushed his childes as he held the smaller vampire at eye level. "What the *hell* did you think you were doing dragging that girl on one of your little road trips?!"

"Sod off," Spike growled just before he twisted at the waist and brought his feet up even with Angels chest. Slamming his feet into the other vampires body, Spike was able to dislodge the strong hands and put his sire through the large dining room table all at once. "Stupid prat."

Angels response was cut short as he was suddenly suspended, immobile, in midair.

"Stop it, Angel." Willow kept her eyes focused on the dark vampire as she moved around the carnage of the oaken table and scattered books. "Spike didnt drag me anywhere. I dragged him, if you must know. We were in the most wonderful hotel Ive ever seen, and I got to see a great concert as well as a play and a performance of The Nutcracker. We were going to go to the opera, but nothing looked good. If youre going to start accusing people of things, then you should at least get your facts right."

"Willow, I know hes treating you nice right now." Angel had to fight to get his neck to turn his face to the little redhead.

"Angelus taught him that. But hes not nice, Willow. Hes a mean, horrible demon. Let me-- Hey!" Angels speech was cut short as he was slapped on the forehead by his own left hand.

A smothered giggle caught Willows ear, and she turned to face the woman who made the sound. A pretty brunette who most definitely was *not* Cordelia was standing slightly behind Wesleys shoulder and to the right of an attractive, if somewhat tough looking, younger man. The more familiar form of Cordelia sat on the couch beside Anya, both obviously too interested in the scene to notice the pretty purple nail polish dripping on the couch from the brush the former demon held poised over the seers fingers.

"Hi Cordy." Willow wasnt sure how the former May Queen would react to her, but was pleasantly surprised when the other girl smiled in return.

"Hey Willow." Cordelias ever-present eye for shopping took in the array of colorful bags just inside the still open door. "Get anything good?"

Willow giggled. "You should see some of the dresses Spike bought for me! There are even shoes and bags to match. We also went to some thrift stores and some other places and got great punk wear."

"You? In punk wear?" Xanders eyes slid over Willows body, a slightly confused glaze filling his eyes. "Thats just... odd."

"I think you look fabulous!" Dawns excited voice squealed from the kitchen doorway before the redheads arms were full of bubbly teenager.

"Hey Dawnie," Willow hugged the girl closer before directing her to the gift bags. "Can you hand those out?"

Gunn, Willow knew a little about him from the sporadic updates Giles passed along from Angel, stepped out of Dawns way and skirted Angels still prone body. "Any chance youre gonna be lettin my boy down anytime soon?"

"Gunn, right?" Willow grinned at the mans nod. "Im Willow, and this is Spike. Ill let Angel go as soon as he promises not to pick fights."

"I wasnt Ow!" Angels left hand once again made contact with an audible smack.

"We hadnt even gotten into the house and you were on him." Willows eyes blazed with anger at the unfair tactics Angel had used in attacking his childe. "I say that counts as picking a fight."

Angel sighed heavily, and Willow knew she had won. "Fine, Ill try not to pick any fights."

"Okay," Willow grinned as the tall vampire was slowly floated to stand beside Wesley.

The books that littered the floor slid into the air with soft creaks of aging bindings. The table was righted, the splintered pieces sliding back together seamlessly. Giles beloved old tomes formed small stacks as they were set back onto the newly repaired surface.

"That wouldve come in handy when the girls were young." Joyce smiled at the redhead. "Have fun?"


"Mom!" Buffy interrupted before Willow could go into any detail of the wonderful trip. "I cant believe youre okay with this! She went to San Francisco with *Spike*, for a *week*."

"I seem to remember a certain daughter of mine running away *alone*, for *months*, when she was much, much *younger*."

"Mooooooooom!" Buffy pouted and stomped over to sit in the soft recliner sitting to the left of the couch.

"Oh, hush and open the present Willow brought you." Joyce turned back to the kitchen without waiting to hear what her daughter would say.

"Yeah, check out this henna kit!" Dawn held her present up for the others to see.

Anyas voice soon joined the younger girls in thanking Willow. It was followed by Xanders, then Giles. Finally, a little reluctantly, Buffy unwrapped her gift and thanked her friend enthusiastically.

Giles cleared his throat and set the books aside before turning to face Willow and Spike, both now sitting comfortably on the floor in front of Dawns chair. "I think its time we get down to business."

Joyce carried a tray full of steaming mugs into the room and set it down on the table. "Yes, I want to know what it is that has you all so frightened."

"Were not afraid, mom." Buffy rolled her eyes as she retrieved her mug of hot chocolate from the tray. "We just dont know how to kill the baddy yet."

"Is that what theyre calling it these days?" Joyce winked at Dawn as Buffy huffed back to her seat.

"This demon, his name is Gonulundo, has the appearance of a large gargoyle. He stands between eight and ten feet tall. His wings are constructed like those of a bat and reach higher and have a span of thirty feet or more. He has an army of vampires working for him. We have not been able to find any reason for their assistance other than the possibility to rid themselves of the slayer.

"The only information I have been able to find in any of my books is that this Gonulundo was captured only once before. It was in the infancy of the Watchers Council, before they had even devised a way to find and train an activated Slayer. They found that this demon was impervious to swords, cannon fire, or any other conventional form of death. A wizard was finally called in, and was in fact able to weaken Gonulundo, but was killed by an overwhelming wave of vampires just after the setting of the sun."

"And we still dont know why old Gonzo is here." Xander popped a piece of chocolate into his mouth as he spoke. "We cant even find out what hes got on vamps."

"Gonulundo, Xan," Willow shook her head at her friends annoying habit of mispronouncing the names of demons. "It sounds like elvish to me. Gon meaning stone, and ulundo meaning monster."

"Oh," Xander looked deflated for a moment before grinning at Willow. "He is pretty big and ugly."

"Yes," Giles frowned at the younger man. "Thank you for that extraordinarily in-depth observation. Now, I suppose we should do a patrol before settling in for research."

"Wait," Buffy stood and moved to stand in front of Willow. "I wanted to tell you that Im sorry for the way I reacted to everything. I dont understand running off with Spike, but I know what its like to *have* to get away for a while. Even if I dont agree with who you ran with, or where you went, I should at least know by now that you know what youre doing."

"Yeah." Xander nodded at Willow from where he now stood beside Buffy as Willow moved to stand. "Im going with what she said."

"Im just kinda worried about you. How can you be so powerful and *not* have something bad happen to you because of it? I mean, look at all the stuff Ive gone through because of being the slayer!"

"Its okay, Buff." Willow shrugged. "I knew you werent doing any of this to be mean."

The three friends slid into each others arms and held on tightly until Spike muttered a bloody hell and pulled Willow away toward the front door. "Lets get movin people!"

Chapter 12

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Spike ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ten uneventful minutes after leaving the house, Buffy staked the first vampire of the evening just outside the gate of a cemetery. Spike snorted at the lack of skill the minion exhibited and wondered if the varsity jacket he had been buried in was any indication of his intelligence before his untimely departure from the mortal coil. Spike was of the opinion that stupid people should not be made into anything at all close to eternal.

After a short argument over whether or not they should split up or keep moving together, the group moved on to the park.

Spike groaned quietly as Angel slowed his gait to walk beside his childe. Deciding that it would be wise to let his sire speak first, Spike made a show of taking the last draw on his cigarette. Blowing the smoke to the side, he flicked the butt into the grass and grinned at Angels disapproving frown. Sometimes it was just too easy.

"Spike," Angel kept his voice pitched just above a whisper as he spoke to his childe. His dark brown eyes never stopped their scanning of the humans walking in front of them or the shadowed park.

"Sire." Spike spoke plainly with his usual loud, drawling accent.

"We need to talk."

"Think you got me alone so you can yell at me, do you." It was more of a statement than a question, and Spike could see the gleam of faint surprise in Angels eyes. Spike mentally put up a mark in the Spike section of his imaginary score board. "Dont try to deny it. I was your favorite childe for fifty years."

"Fine, I wont." Angel glanced at the group in front of them. "You cant do this, Spike. You and I both know that youre falling in love with her."

"Think you still know me that well?" The blonde wanted to deny it, to tell his sire that there was nothing more than friendship in his heart for the petite redhead, but he couldnt force the words out of his mouth. Even the demon refused to cooperate. With a sigh he put a mark up on the Idiot Sire side of the board.

"Im still your sire, boy."

"You havent been my sire for eighty years." Spike shook his head, dismayed to realize that the movement did nothing to dislodge the heaviness in his chest. "Ill not let you tell me who I can or cannot be friends with."

"My not being around doesnt give you any excuse to ignore my warning. You *cannot* pursue Willow!"

"Spike?" Willows voice was silk after the steel of his sires.

"Yeah, luv?" Spike gave Angel one of his lopsided grins designed to anger the older vampire before turning to give his sire his back in dismissal as he focused on Willow.

"Are... Are you planning on going back to stay in the crypt?" Willow kept letting worried green eyes slide to take in Angel as she spoke, her shoulders pulled close to her body.

"Kinda have to, Red. It bein my home an all."

"Well-" Willow took a deep breath and fastened her eyes on his. "Would you want to come and stay with me? It wouldnt be a problem or anything. Tara and I were going to move in this summer and stay there for the school year and everything. My parents are pretty much living out of hotels and wont be home for months. I could even sunproof the windows and doors so you can walk around without burning."

"Red!" Spike nearly shouted to get her attention. He loved her rambles, but it was hard to concentrate on what she was saying with the moonlight glinting off her hair and the breeze ruffling her short skirt so that the bows on the tops of her thigh highs winked in and out of view. "You didnt have to try so hard. Of course Ill stay with you."

Willows chirped okay was nearly drowned out by Buffy and Xanders what! and no way!. Willow barely glanced at her friends before turning and continuing down the sidewalk in the direction they had been headed in before Angel and Spike started arguing.

Spike mentally did a happy dance and put two points up on his board. After all, something like this called for more than one.

"Willow," Xander rushed from Anyas side to catch up with his friend. "You cant be serious."

"Why not?"

"Its bad enough youre even friends with the bleached undead. Why make it worse?"

"I like Spike, Xander. He was there for me when no one else wanted to bother."

Buffy came to stand beside Xander, both facing Willow. "We cared, Wills. We were... are just worried that you wont be able to handle whats going on with your magic. I couldnt figure out which one I should focus on when you told us about Tara leaving."

"I understand that, really I do. I just want you guys to know that I felt abandoned, and Spike stopped that. I left feeling crappy, but Spike makes that better. He makes me not hate myself, or the world, or even Tara."

Spike found himself grinning slightly at Willows little speech. He had agreed to the little trip as a way to spend time with the little witch and get as far away from Sunnydale as he saw himself getting in the foreseeable future. Taking her to a few shops and introducing her to things that she never would have gotten to experience in her hometown was a bonus. To hear that he had been able to do the unthinkable and make her actually happy in the face of having her heart ripped out nearly put him into orbit. Another three points were added to his side, because that whole speech was worth way more than one, of that he was certain.

Willow was still speaking, and Spike shook his head before trying to focus on what was being said.

"I get that you guys might not agree with me on my friendship with Spike, but I really dont care. Its *my* friendship, and *I* like him! Other than to make sure Im alive and healthy, you really have no say in who I hang out with."

"We just want to make sure youre okay." Buffy was either studying the tops of her boots or the patch of cement below her feet instead of meeting her friends eyes.

"I know, Buffy." Willow pulled the other girl into a hug. "I just want you to realize that Im not a little girl, and that I know what Im doing here. You can worry all you want, but Im not going to stop doing magic or hanging out with Spike. You dont get to do that."

Buffy nodded against Willows shoulder and Spike fought to keep from saying anything that might get him uninvited from the little redheads house.

A buzzing tingle slid up his spine, bringing him to attention as cerulean eyes scanned the surrounding open meadowland of the park. Angel had moved to the other side of the group, his brown eyes moving over the trees and bushes that heralded the southern border of the park. Buffy had pushed away from Willow, moving the other girl behind her as she moved to face the direction they had been heading.

"My Slayer sense is doin the wiggins, guys."

Spike snorted, but was beaten to his comment by another English accent.

"I think that decidedly asinine comment should be met with a duh." Wesley shook his head and went back to squinting at the shrubs.

"Good on ya, mate!" Spike toasted his fellow Englishman with the long handle of the double bladed ax he carried.

Willows tinkling giggle was met by a low growl that shuddered from the bushes to her right. A tall, slender vampire slid from the shadows on the rush of air. The redhead made a small sound of surprise and stepped closer to Spike in response.

"Now, now," the new vampire chuckled around the fangs of his true face. "Youre not *afraid* of me, are you?"

"Not afraid," Willow slipped a trembling hand into Spikes to hold on to his strong, sure fingers. "Just trying to figure out if youre an undisciplined, stupid childe or a slightly smarter than average minion."

The laughter drained from the demons eyes as Willow spoke, and he stepped closer as a curved blade slid from his palm and clicked into place in its handle. "I should cut you for that, you stupid whore."

A large white fist crunched into the vampires jaw, ripping his neck like so much meat.

He twisted in a shower of blood before landing on the cement. Spikes stake slammed into the other demons chest so hard that the loud, wet clink of the blood covered stake nicking the sidewalk was clearly heard before he exploded into dust.

The blonde stood and adjusted his coat before catching the rest of the group studying him. "What? No one talks about Willow that way."

"Spike?" Angels eyes held amusement as well as concern.

"Shut up, sire."

Before the older vampire could reply, the surrounding trees and bushes rustled and shed leaves as vampires pushed through them to stand in the small circle of the clearing. They all stood in the dim light of the shrinking moon in game face, amber eyes flashing with malice and hatred.

"It is she. The redheaded sorceress." A tall demon with light brown hair and a thin, white scar running down the right side of his face growled from just behind two other vampires. "The rest are of little import. Kill them or leave them, it matters not. Bring the burning witch."

With that, the vampires moved as one in a single wave of force. They came at the Scooby gang and their friends from all sides, each trying to get past the combatants in order to make a grab for Willow.

Spike pulled the redhead to his side, silently vowing death to anyone who tried to take her away, while the girl began throwing what looked like tiny balls of sunlight at any demon that gave her a clear shot away from Spike and Angel. A handful of them were writhing on the ground in pain before it was realized that Willow was the one causing them to scream and cover their eyes as they fell. Spike gave what he knew to be a cocky grin to his sire as vampire after vampire fell at the hands and words of his little witch.

Yeah... She was his.

Chapter 13

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Willow ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The group slowly made its way through the door of the Magic Box a little over two hours after leaving the Summers house for patrol, each member taking stock of their aches, pains, and cuts. Willow noticed that everyone kept glancing at her. Dawn, Anya, and Fred were in open awe of the spells she had used, while Giles and Joyce looked concerned in the way that only true parents can. Buffy, Xander, and Gunn all looked a little more afraid than anything else. Cordelia and Angel managed to pull off a combination of concern and admiration.

Spike, always the one to be different, had an arm slung over her shoulders and that loping, swaggering move to his stride that Willow remembered seeing when he had first come to town. The corner of his mouth was turned up in a grin that made things low inside Willow tremble, in fear or anticipation, she couldnt be sure. His eyes flashed blue fire. He looked just like he had before the Acathla mess, before Drusilla left him, and far before the Initiative inserted a bit of plastic and electronics inside his head.

Willow felt heat slide through her body... This was the way Spike was supposed to be. He was never meant to crawl after some woman who could never return the feelings he was somehow always so willing to give. The confident, devil-may-care smirk should never have faded or been replaced with wilted smiles or the thin line of barely controlled hurt and anger. His glinting, sharp eyes should never have been softened with the pain and humiliation of being made to come to the slayer and her friends for help.

For the first time, Willow realized exactly what had been stripped from the blonde vampire over the years that she had known him. Buffy had ripped some of his pride away while Angel and Angelus had both done their parts in cleaving his Drusilla from his life, forcing him to be alone. The Initiative and their little chip had only finished the job of making him a complete outcast among the vampires and demons of the world, taking the only friends he had ever truly been attached to and making him a laughing stock to those who should fear him.

Willow disguised a hiccupping gasp with a line of soft coughs before wrapping her arms around Spikes lean form. She felt him tense for a moment before simply accepting the feel of her arms around him and relaxing into the hold as they made their way to a chair. Spike scooped Willow up to sit on the table while he took the chair in front of her, a finger slowly tracing over her stomach.

While Willow was focused on a group of five vampires who had taken on Anya, Cordelia, and Fred, one of their friends had gotten close enough to do her some damage. Willow had barely had time to throw herself onto her back to avoid the slashing of his long, wicked blade. The bruise she could feel forming on her back hurt ten times more than the long slice of red that bisected her abdomen just above her navel.

"Alright luv?" Spike stroked a damp cloth over the weeping wound.

"Y-yeah," Willow cleared her throat and tried again. "Im fine... thinking."

"Bout what?"

Willows response was cut off in a loud hiss as Spike applied antiseptic to the cut. The pain cooled and eased a moment later, and Willow forced her face to relax out of its wince enough to open her eyes. What she found stole her breath as surely as it did her reason.

Spikes eyes were closed and his lips brushed her abused flesh as he blew away the sting. She watched, her breathing coming in soft, short bursts as bright blue eyes slid open to meet her soft green ones. Eyes still locked on hers, Spike opened his pale pink lips and slid his long, pointed tongue to swipe at a lingering trail of blood. Awareness stronger than Willow had ever known shot through her, and she felt a sudden need to rub her thighs together as she sat.

"Hey, Bleached Undead!" Xanders voice cut through the hazy spell and jerked the witch and the vampire back into the shop where they were surrounded by the rest of the gang. "Get your tongue off my best friend!"

"Didnt hear her complainin none."

Buffy looked like she was gearing up to join in the argument when Giles voice once again acted as the one of reason. "Lets not fight amongst ourselves when there are bigger, worse things to worry about."

"Giles is right." Angel didnt sound happy about ending the conversation, and gripped the back of Spikes chair to pull it, and his childe, away from the table and Willow. "Those vampires werent all minions, but childer as well. And, they were after Willow."

Spike shot from his seat and hopped up on the table to sit beside Willow before Angel could move to stop him. "Of course they were after Willow. Shes got the best blood in town."

"I do?" Willow raised her eyebrows at Spikes theatrics.

Spike leaned close enough to Willow that she felt his lips brush her ear as he whispered. "It makes me all tingly."

Willow gulped heavily and felt the tips of her fingers go numb as her face flushed.

"I know some of those vamps were working for Gonzo the other night." Buffy placed her weapons back into their trunk as she spoke. "If theyre after Willow, it means that he ordered it."

"Why?" Fred wrapped some gauze around Wesleys arm as she spoke. "Hes a demon. Shouldnt he be after Buffy instead?"

"Hes old. Very old." Willow shivered. "Maybe hes been up against other slayers before and was able to beat them. Maybe magic is the only thing that can stop him."

"Hes trying to get rid of the threat of Red." Spike rubbed her arm as he spoke, and Willow wondered if he even realized he was doing it. "Its one of those if I cant have her, no one will sort of things."

"And you know this how?" Anya leveled her gaze at the blonde.

"The name Drusilla ring a bell?"

"Oh yeah." Anya shrugged. "Nevermind."

Cordelia finished cleaning what blood she could from the hem of her blue sweater. "What are we going to do?" Willow was struck by the lack of hysterics that would have been present only a few years before. "If this Gonolundo thing can have so many vamps working for him, cant he get other things too?"

"Ive been thinking about that, actually," Giles slipped off his glasses to polish them as he spoke. "Thats why Willow is not to be alone."

"Not a problem, since Ill be bunkin down at her place anyway." Spike had slid his arm around Willows waist and held her to him firmly as he spoke. "Theyll have to go through me to get anywhere *near* the witch."

"See? No worries." Willow knew her voice gave away her fear, but she also knew that she wasnt about to turn into a mass of tears when Spike obviously had faith in both their abilities.

Angel spoke over the resulting din. "Gunn and I will be staying with Willow as well."

"Huh?" Willow looked at the vampire as if he were crazy. She had never been very comfortable with the dark, brooding demon, and did not want to deal with him in her private space.

"Like bloody hell you will be!" Spike stood in front of the table, blocking the rest of the room from Willows sight with the narrow line of his leather clad back.

"Spike," Willow could hear restrained anger in the older vampires voice. "No one here besides Willow trusts you farther than Xander could throw you."

"Doesnt mean you can just go an invite yourself into a chits home."

"Spike. That stone demon could have actual humans working for it. If they come through the door or a window at her, you wont be able to stop them."

"Okay." All arguing stopped at Willows softly spoken word.

Angel was the first to recover. "What was that?"

"You can have my old room, and Gunn can take the couch in the living room. See? No reason to fight at all."

Angel actually grinned at Spike. "If Im in the guest room and Gunns on the couch, I guess that leaves you with "

"My room."

"What?!" Willow couldnt be sure, but she thought she heard every voice besides her own and that of Spike.

"Well, it isnt like we havent been sleeping in the same bed for nearly a week."