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Softer Pillow, The

by Cynthia Liskow

Title: The Softer Pillow
Author: Cynthia Liskow
Summary: Willow and Spike suspend their disbelief. I ask that you do the same. Rating: NC-17
Author Notes: This is for Rachel, who bitched once too often. Really, it's a silly story. So silly that to give it notes and/or place it in context of any sort of canon beyond "This takes place sometime after 'As You Were'" would be ridiculous. Its purpose is purely hedonistic. Kiddos, run away: When I say "hedonistic," I mean meant for adults. Warnings: Vague Season 6 spoilers up through "As You Were." Did I mention the rating? NC-17? I'm checking ID at the door. Love it? Write me at cynthia_liskow@att.net Hate it? Rachel made me do it, blame her! ranton1013@aol.com THANKS (I think): Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. I finally got a leg up on you by finding Buffy first, and what do you do? Find an unconventional relationship, start writing about it, and get me all curious about it. It's freaking Skipperdom all over again. Disclaimer: Yeah, right. Like I'm making any money off of this stuff. Joss and them, those're the one's who're taking it to the bank. They rule the world. I don't even rule my cats. Or my toilet, for that matter. Anyone got a spare plumber?


Part 1

"Eyes that watch the morning star
Seem a little brighter;
Arms held out to darkness are
Usually whiter.
Shall I bar the strolling guest,
Bind my brow with willow,
When, they say, the empty breast
Is the softer pillow?"
--Dorothy Parker


Outside, the paint bubbled and cracked on the windowsills and walls. He could hear it popping, hissing as the air within the tiny bubbles expanded past the lacquer's limits.

He sympathized. True, it was cool enough here, in the requisitely refrigerated embalming room at the sleaziest of Sunnydale's funeral homes, but there are any number of ways of overheating, boiling over, bursting open like a ripe blood blister.

They'd been here nearly 24 hours by the clock on the wall. Spike suspected it of being enchanted, though. It felt like years, eons of ticking seconds crammed into every agonizing lurch of the minute hand.

'Course, the redheaded one, tippy tapping away on her blasted machine, helped with that illusion. It wasn't possible for someone to type that fast without magical assistance. Surely she was off the wagon, then? She hadn't stopped for more than five minutes since they'd retreated here, since the whole blighted town had gone all midnight sun on them.

"Look, Red, give it a rest, won't you?" he snapped for what must have been the thousandth time. There was a momentary pause in the clacking, and the split second of silence was deafening. "If that sodding machine hasn't coughed up any answers by now..."

Her fingers danced on the keyboard anew, and her voice was not even slightly dulled by dejection. "I've almost got it, I can tell."

Spike felt a premonition of pain as he imagined cleaving her skull with the narrow bulk of the laptop. Closed his eyes, stretched his fingers and toes, ground his teeth.

Tried a different tack.

"So, I get you not wanting to do any kind of a spell. Really, I do." There was another heavenly pause in her typing. When it picked up again, it had slowed considerably. There. He had her attention.

Spike leaned against the metal slab in the center of the room, where he'd napped fitfully several hours earlier.

"But suppose you were to tell me how to do the spell? If you were to just... point the way, you know?"

He looked over at her when the racket stopped altogether and stayed stopped. Willow's tousled red hair was flipping over her hands where they supported her forehead. Her voice was muffled when she responded.

"Eyeunno..."

Ah, she was weakening! Spike slid across the waxy linoleum to her. "What's that, then? I couldn't quite hear you."

"God, Spike!"

He startled at the volume with which she snapped, and tried much too late to cover it up by running a hand over his stiff hair.

"What?"

"You're just so... Errrrghhh!" Willow slammed out of her chair, shoved off the corner of the table, and launched herself past him, giving his shoulder an unbalancing clip as she went past. "You're so annoying!"

Flummoxed, Spike gaped at her.

"I'm... Me? I'm annoying?" He guffawed with disbelief. "You're composing the complete works of Shakespeare on that bloody noisemaker, in a room with metal furnishings and no insulation, and I'm annoying?"

"You never have anything constructive to say," she said, tone returning to its familiar whine.

"I do so," he retorted. "Show me the spell, I said! I'll work the mojo, I said, so you can stay pure and untempted. That screams constructive in my book."

Her perpetual pout deepened. "Well, it's not," she countered, and he almost expected her to finish with a resounding "So there."

Spike resisted the urge to slap her. Amazing how she could look like such a child when it suited her. Worse than Drusilla that way. And Dru had an excuse, being insane and all. But this one...

She was pacing, chewing her nails in a way that made Spike's stomach growl.

"Look," she said in her teacher voice. "Amy's trying to ruin me, drive me to magic again. She puts me in a situation where it's my only out." She spun around midstride, waving her sharply jointed arms to indicate their pen. "Traps me in here--binds the door and windows so I can't get out. Added a bit of endless, blinding sunlight when you tagged along with me, just in case."

"Ha! Tagged along!" he spat, indignant. "I'll thank you to remember who invited whom, missy." Spike's voice rose and went quavery in a fair imitation of the girl's intonation. "Spike, you wanna, you know, come with? 'Cause, you know... bodies! At the morgue, I mean, you know, 'cause of the being dead and all... And with you perpetually chippy, well, pretty much hungry all the time, right?"

"Hey, I was doing you a favor, buster." She got all puffed up when she broke stride to confront him. "So you just... stop making fun of me," she finished lamely. "Besides," she rejoined, "I was right, wasn't I? Plenty of blood here. But have I had anything to eat in, like, a year? No. Hmmph."

"Oh, choice tidbits you offered me, Red. Formaldehyde-ridden, all. Even the ones what haven't been embalmed yet. They're all... canned tasting. And I think that last one, the little girl?" He turned to inspect the white-lace clad munchkin he'd snacked on earlier. "I think she's gone bad because my stomach is none too steady all of a sudden. Botulism, maybe."

Spike turned back to Willow to continue his rant, but something in her flushed face stopped him. Was she crying? He almost laughed. What a baby! But her swimming blue eyes and trembling mouth stopped him, oddly enough. Fancy that. He actually felt bad for the girl.

"Huh," he wondered. "Go figure."

Willow turned her back and sniffled wetly.

These women! How he put up with them at all was a mystery to him.

"Here, now," he said, awkwardly approaching the sniveling girl. "Don't cry, kitten, I didn't mean nuthin' by it." Spike put a tentative hand on Willow's hitching shoulder. "Buck up, there. See? I'm sorry. We'll find you a nice treat. Take the edge right off your hunger, it will."

The odd thing was that he was sorry. The odd thing was that he was scanning the room for crackers, Twinkies, anything to get into Willow's stomach to get her to stop with the disturbing weeping.

Spike continued to pat Will's shoulder ineffectually. "There, there," he muttered, disgusted with himself for comforting the silly bint in the first place, then for making a piss-all job of it, and lastly for feeling bad to've made her cry to start with.

This Sunnydale, this place was going to be the undoing of him yet. When was he going to figure that out, already?

Instead of drying up at his words of comfort, as he would've liked, Willow sobbed something utterly incomprehensible and flung herself against Spike's chest, leaving the vampire's arms sticking awkwardly out to either side.

"Here!" he said sharply but not without compassion. "Pull yourself together now, will you? You're blubbering all over me coat." When she gave no sign of letting off, Spike rolled his eyes and gave up, folding his arms around Willow's shoulders. "What are you going on about, pet?"

There was more mumbling from the girl, and Spike pushed her face away from his chest in time to catch the tail end of her complaint.

"...mean all the time?"

"Pardon, love? You don't know what I mean?" he questioned, seeking clarification. Like there was any clarifying a weeping woman's words, but it seemed the polite thing to do.

Willow pushed the rest of the way from Spike, shoving him back with one hand and wiping her dripping nose with the other.

"Why are you so mean all the time? I said," she repeated, glaring sideways at his confused gape.

Spike felt the cool, recycled air on his tongue and realized his mouth was open. "Well isn't that the bleary end! I suggest a way out of here, I offer to find you something to nibble on, and you blow your nose all over me and tell me I'm a meanie. Well guess what, you ... you ... ingrate! You're not exactly my choice for being trapped on a desert island... er... morgue with you know? I'm none too pleased about this myself, and you don't see me going all with the waterworks at the drop of a bloody hat."

Willow's voice had lost its quiver, though her face was still slick.

"See, you're doing it again!" she screeched. "Right with the sucker punches. What, do you, like, study us and sit up nights thinking of the fastest route to hurting our feelings? Cause that's just, well, mean, and we've been really nice to you, what with the whole not-killing-you-when-you're-down thing, and the inviting you to parties and stuff, and just when I start to think that maybe you're a nice guy under all that pale, evil, creature of the dark persona, you go all Mean Mister Mustard on me." She stomped her foot. Actually stomped her foot at him. "And I'm sick of it."

Another stomp, with an arm-crossing thrown in for emphasis. "So there."

There was wind in Spike's mouth again.

The redhead--red-faced now, too--glared at him some more. "I'm waiting."

Spike fished his cigarettes from his pocket, tapped one out, slipped his lighter out as he returned the pack.

"Well," he said, pausing to flick the Zippo and suck the fag alight. "I gotta have my fun somehow, don't I?" he said with frankness that surprised him. "Plus, reception in my crypt's for crap since they replaced the cables I was snitchin' off. Telly's not near as much fun as it used to be."

The crease between her eyebrows eased clear, and she wiped her face dry.

"And I gotta say, the Creek sucks these days, with all them crazy kids off to university. Oughtta've just let them graduate an' let 'em rest in peace."

"I'm serious," Willow said seriously, but Spike could see a smile teasing the corner of her mouth.

"You think I'm not? That show's a joke since they left high school."

The smile broke through, even if briefly, and Spike smirked in return, greeting it with a point of his cigarette.

"There, see, I knew you weren't going to keep bawling all day. Not your style."

Willow raised her eyebrows and tipped her head in concession. "Maybe not, but I still want an answer."

Spike shuffled over to the tray table he'd been perching on and hopped back onto its end, letting his legs swing as he smoked, glad that it didn't matter if his circulation was cut off. The ledge on the table would inspire gangrene in human legs, the way it dug into the thighs.

"Never was one for the sweet talk, Red," he answered eventually. "Fighting--or fighting with style--it calls for figurative fangs as well as the literal kind. Throw your opponent off, you know. You've seen Buffy at it. 'S no different with me."

Her face was losing its fierce flush as she ambled over to his gurney.

"But you're not doing much in the way of literal fanging lately. And we're not trying to kill you all the time, or vice versa. So what's with the 'tude? Why won't you let us like you?"

She hitched her knee up onto the other end of the table and hoisted herself up, settling into a cross-legged pose that spoke of long conversations.

Spike sighed, resigned, and spun around to face her, crossing his own legs and rearranging his coat behind him.

He shrugged and avoided her expectant gaze, examining his fingernails and talking around his cigarette.

"I 'spect it's all the bite I've got these days," he admitted, begrudging her the sincere, open vulnerability that coaxed such reciprocal honesty out of him, that made him want to sip at her jugular like warm summer drink at the same time that he wanted to stroke her hair and murmur sweet nothings in her ear.

An odd one, this Willow was.

She apparently didn't think he was done, because her gaze was no less expectant, and Spike continued, despite his trepidation.

"Used to be, if I wanted to get a rise outta someone, all's I had to do was look sideways at 'em. Used to work on you, Red, remember? Back before the chip." He took a long, wistful drag on his cigarette, squished it out between his fingers, then tossed it off to the side. "I remember the look on your face that night. When I found out about this..." he pointed a yellow-stained finger loosely toward his head. "You smelled so delicious, the fear pulsing off you like expensive, deadly perfume..."

There was the beginning of a grimace on Willow's face, but she said nothing, so he ignored her obvious distaste and continued with his reminiscence.

"And your little limbs were all tight and seizing up with terror, and the screams... God, it was lovely."

"Yeah, um..." Willow started, but then seemed not to have a rejoinder. "Ick."

"And then, ZAP!" Spike pounded his fist down on the tray between them, making Willow jump and denting the metal. He let the metal's reverberations play out as he mourned his pain. "All over. You tried to be afraid of me, but I knew it was over." She tipped her head again, and Spike answered the question he knew was coming. "Oh, sure, I can still scare the pants off strangers, just by flashing a little fang-and-bump face. But it's not the same. You lot are different. You know me, you've had your little meetings about how to take me out, and while I will admit an annoying success rate on your part, and a shameful number of ass-kickings on my part, I was always just enough too clever, too resourceful, for you to take down. But now..."


Part 2

"But now we... we invite you to parties!" Willow prompted, the false note of cheerfulness in her voice irritating like a skin rash.

"Now you tolerate me because I'm handy in a demon fight, and because I helped out with the Bit and the Bot this summer. I'm like a trained dog to you lot," he accused, then pushed his chin out and said in an embarrassingly petulant voice, "and I do what I can to remind you that I'm not your mangy mutt to kick around as you like."

"Well, did you ever think about, you know, not being mean? Then we might not be mean back. 'Cause, you know, you're really not such a bad guy now that you've stopped trying to kill us all the time. Dawnie loves you, and you've been great for Buffy since she's been back."

She didn't seem to notice his face twitch.

"Is 'at right?" he queried, adding after a mulling-over pause, "An' what about you, Red?"

"Me?" She shifted, knees tilting as she rocked. "I think you're okay. You're funny, and weirdly loyal, and you know all sorts of useful stuff, and you're great in a fight--as long as we're fighting non-human types."

"But do you like me?" He was mildly astonished to find that he really wanted her to. Interesting.

Willow squirmed some more and nibbled on her thumbnail.

"Yeah, I guess I do. I mean, in some ways I feel like you're one of the gang, you know? A lot of ways, really. Like, you're the one we can count on to cover our backs and have them actually be covered. And you're honest, you know? You're not afraid to call us on it when we're being stupid." She paused, frowning slightly. "In fact, you seem to really enjoy it when we're stupid."

"But..." he prompted, knowing that she wasn't through.

She raised her shoulders and eyebrows in a gesture of acknowledgement. "But it's like you're always saying--hello? evil! And I'm just not sure how much of your yay-team attitude is because of your chip, you know? Like, would you have eaten me by now if you were chip-free? Or, which one of my friends would Buffy be out hunting because you'd gone all sire-crazy on them? Would, like, Xander be your minion?"

"Not bloody likely!" Spike scoffed.

Her blue eyes narrowed slightly at his dismissal of her friend. "Would I?"

"See, now that's a much more interesting prospect," he said with the hint of an appreciative growl.

"See!" Will yelped. "I never know if you're serious when you say stuff like that."

"Funny," he said with an unconcerned chuckle. "Neither do I."

Willow dropped her previously flapping hands onto her thighs. "See, there's the problem. I want to like you. I want to like you a lot. But there's always this question, you know--what would you be like minus the muzzle."

Spike sighed in exasperation. This conversation was going nowhere, and it was taking the scenic route.

"What's the difference?" he snapped. "I am muzzled."

They sat in silence for a few seconds, and then he added, "Thanks for not saying 'neutered.' I'm really tired of that. Also 'impotent.' I'm not, you know."

"You're welcome, and we were only speaking metaphorically."

"I know, but still. They're not words a bloke likes to hear."

Willow smiled slyly. "Gotcha. And it does matter," she continued, not letting him distract her.

He sighed. So close.

"It matters because I can't know you for real if I don't know what your real nature is. Like, are you evil at the core, like we're all taught, or are you redeemable? Will you still be on our side if the chip comes out, or will you just revert back to making it your life's aim to serve us up as a buffet some evening?"

"I am what I am," he stated firmly and then snatched another smoke from the pack in his pocket. "What's it matter?"

Willow crinkled her nose at the smoke. "It matters because I don't hang out with evil people. I don't like evil, remember? Gave up the dark side of the Force with the botched memory spells and bad mojo trips."

"Hey," he interjected, waving the smoking cigarette toward her. "Good job with that, by the way. I didn't think you'd pull it off."

"Thanks!" Willow chirped, sitting up straight and flashing her toothy grin. The she gasped and pointed. "There! See? Random niceness--that's what I'm talking about!"

Caught but pleased, Spike lifted his chin in concession. "Yeah, but did you see how I hedged it? Implied that I thought you were gonna go all Anakin Skywalker on us?"

"True," she acquiesced, "but it just goes to prove my point. It's your usual check-me-out-I'm-the-big-bad-and-don't-you-forget-it routine. Your standard defense mechanism against intimacy. Keeps you from being vulnerable."

"Vulnerable?" he said, using his whole face to demonstrate his disbelief. "To you? Piffle!" He tossed his cigarette to the floor as he waved her aside.

"See?" The girl positively squeaked when she got this excited. "You're doing it again!"

"Am not!" he squawked, alarmed at the squeal in his own voice. He readjusted and continued, letting the anger sound through rather than the disbelief. "I open up. I hurt. I just don't advertise it on the side of the local bus. You think that because I don't spend my time moping about, whinging and weeping, that the crap you lot throw at me--the things that Buffy says and does--don't hurt? You should know better, Witch."

He was much more worked up than he'd planned on getting, and much too close to the compassionately penetrating gaze that flickered and shone at the name he'd used for her. Spike whipped his left leg up and over, whirling about and leaping off the gurney. Willow grabbed at the edges when the table lurched beneath her with the force of his dismount.

"Ohhh..." she pity-sighed, the syrupy sympathy in her voice sickening him. "Oh, Spike. You know Buffy doesn't mean anything by the stuff she says. It's like you said--barbs."

His duster was still settling down from his landing, and it flared out again as he twirled toward her.

"Didn't mean it, did she?" he challenged. "Didn't mean it when she said I was convenient? When she took out her personal I'm-shagging-an-evil-beast-so-I-must-be-evil-m'self issues on me, and I let her? I begged her for it--if that's what she needed, if it coulda helped her? Says she wants to stop, but she can't, what does that mean? Can't stop because she knows I'm what she wants, what she needs. She just doesn't like what she thinks that means about her. An' then the brave and righteous Captain Dudley bloody Do-Right sweeps through town and ruins everything! Bollixes up a perfectly good deal that woulda gotten Buffy out of that burger joint for good, blows up my crypt what that I just got fixed up and posh, and then messes about with my girl's head so she dumps me on my ass even though we both know I'm the best thing she's had. The thing that's kept her goin' since you lot went and yanked her outta heaven and into a bloody coffin buried six foot deep!"

When he finally ran out of rant, Spike looked for something to smash. A refrigerator drawer was in range, and he set at it, enjoying the shocks that shot up his shin as the steel toe of his boot sank farther and farther into the metal door.

Willow's voice, soft but powerful, reached him, and he shook out his leg, shifting his weight until the vibrations subsided.

"Wow." Willow unfolded her legs and slid off the gurney. "Spike... wow. You and Buffy? You've been doing it?"

It was a relief to have it spoken, even if she'd chosen a schoolyard verb.

"Had been. No longer, many thanks to the Secret Agent Man."

"Wow. Since when?"

He shot a sideways glance at her to find her face devoid of judgement or anger.

"Round about the time you bottomed out," he answered, and his voice got thick at the memory. "Brought the bleedin' house down, we did."

"Wow." Willow mulled for a moment or two, then her face brightened in indication of the light bulb clearly going off over her head as she worked it out. "Wow! So that's why she was... Spike... Just wow."

"Right, I got it---surprised that Buffy'd actually stoop so low... You don't know the half of it."

"Wow."

"Seriously now, sweets, say 'wow' again, and I'll..." He stopped, nothing to threaten her with, and his heart just wasn't in it somehow. "I know you're all shocked and disgusted, so if we could just move beyond the stammerin' stage and get right to the part where we fight, I'd be ever so grateful."

"No, Spike, not 'wow, I can't believe she had sex with you'--well, okay, a little of that at first, I admit--but 'wow, you opened up.' I'm impressed. And kind of flattered, I think. And, hey, new wow! The indignant kind this time. Wow, I can't believe she didn't tell me! We tell each other everything!"

Spike raised a speculative, slightly lecherous eyebrow at her, and her face flushed to match her hair.

"Well, okay, not every detail, but, you know, the main fact that there are nitty-gritties to be glossed over--we tell those!"

"Dunno what to tell you, pet. She made it clear enough to me that she was never telling a soul." He paused on the irony, then revised his statement a bit. "'Cept for Soldier Boy, come to think of it. But she didn't exactly tell him. He walked right in on our afterglow. God, that was priceless..."

"Riley?? Riley knows? And you're still alive? I mean, alive in the dead but not dusty way?"

"Oh! An' your ex, too, I think. Got a vibe off her at the eternal birthday party."

"Tara? She told Tara?"

"Now, don't get all worked up over it, Red," he said with surprising sincerity. "She probably didn't want you to be jealous, seein's how you're not gettin' any at all of late."

Willow scowled at him and used her sarcastic voice.

"Oh, thanks, Spike. Thanks a lot. That makes me feel so much better."

"Hey!" he rebuked, "I was serious that time!" Spike tossed up his hands in frustration. "I give up!"

"Fine, me too." Willow set about sulking again. At least she was quiet about it this time.

"God!" she growled, making Spike curse himself for jinxing the peace of the moment, "What is it her and vampires?"

Spike's response was quick and to the point. "What's with you and girls, eh?"

"What? What do you mean, me and girls? Hello? Been singing a gay old tune for a couple of years now!"

"Right. Exactly my point."

Willow rolled her eyes. "Duh, Spike. Buffy's not gay."

Spike narrowed his eyes in return. "Well, obviously! But she's not exactly Little Miss Straight an' Narrow, either, now is she?"

She was rolling her eyes again. Spike wondered if she knew how stupid that, especially when combined with the perennial Sunnydale favorite, "Duh," made her look.

"And?" she sighed when she'd finished with the cow eyes.

"And I'm saying that Buffy's got a preference, same's we all do. She's just not--"

"What? Out of the crypt?"

Spike spread his hands, presenting the obvious fact she'd struggled to see. "I'm jus' sayin'."

Willow ppfffff-ed at him. "Wait, you're saying that digging vamps is a whole other sexual orientation? Whatever." She waved him away. Actually dismissed him.

Just made him believe it more strongly.

"One could call it a lifestyle choice," he said haughtily. "A bit less crass, less vulgar."

Poor girl's face was all twisted--lips grinning and sneering at the same time, eyebrows not sure which way to point. It was quite satisfying. He could practically see her knickers knotting.

"But... But Buffy likes men," she stammered. "Living men. She sleeps with them, too, you know!"

Spike gasped in mock distress. "Curses! Foiled again!" he blurted, then had a good laugh at his Bloody Red Baron impression. "You used to sleep with men, didn't you, pet?"

Her face settled down, choosing a resolved expression. "One man. Oz. And--"

"Didja like it, Red? He do the job for you?"

Ah, he loved to see her blush. The creeping stain that started in the dips of her collar bones and raced up to meet her sweetheart hairline made his mouth water.

"Well, yeah. Oz was great."

"Mmmm. And you loved him?"

"Of course!"

"But you're gay."

"Yes!" she squawked. "I'm gay. I just hadn't worked it out then. And before you go all ... Doctor Laura or whatever... on me, it doesn't mean I didn't love Oz, or that I couldn't have enjoyed... that... with him. I just... I'm just gay, it turns out. I like girls."

Spike chuckled again, loving her discomfort at the suddenly frank discussion. "Look, no need to break out the militant gear. I'm not tryin' to talk you out of it. I'm just sayin' that one's lifestyle preference doesn't mean you never vary. Not everyone gets it right the first time out. Or the second."

Her defensive posture eased, and she leaned in just a bit, a tiny line appearing between her brows as she listened.

"Buffy's tried the straight, and she's tried the narrow," Spike continued. "And she found them both sorely lacking. Parker was a joke--I could tell that the instant I saw her sniffing after 'im like a puppy dog. And the Corn Fed One couldn't keep her occupied--what's more, he knew it. Tucked tail an' ran, he did. Left Buffy to rediscover her roots, which, as you'll remember, are quite dark. And, if I do say so myself, I got a lot more goin' for me than Angel ever did. No nasty curse, for starters." Spike felt a leer stretch across his lips. "She can make me happy seven times a night with no unpleasant side effects."

"Oh, that's right. You don't have a soul to lose," Willow bit, "so your love must be true and untainted." She fixed him with a steady glare. "You're such an altruist, Spike."

"Hey, Witch!" Spike said, recycled blood suddenly rising to his throat. He kept his voice cold and steady, though it wanted badly to waver. "I've done more to bring her back to life than you and your dabblings in the dark arts, so don't you get all high an' mighty on me."

There was satisfaction when he saw her lip tremble, but it was shortlived. What, had the stupid bint fucked a conscience into him? The Reverse-Angel curse?


Part 3

"Oh, now!" Spike sighed, "Can we not? Please?" She didn't stop. Instead, her whole face set to quivering. "Come on, pet, where's the brave face?" Spike closed his eyes and gathered his strength. Sidled over to the weeping Willow and eased an arm across her shaking shoulders. "I didn't mean nuthin'" he said with an annoying sense of dj vu. "I never mean nuthin', sweet. I'm an idiot, remember? I'm mean, right?"

She stiffened under his arm, lifting a hand and wiping her face with it. Better that than his coat, at least.

"No, you're right, Spike," she quavered. "You're always right. That's why you can hurt us so much."

He felt his dander rise, and came up with at least three zingers to hit her with in response, but stopped himself. "I'm sorry," he said instead, and meant it. "I'm sorry I'm mean to you. I don' mean to be."

She sniffed one more time. "I know." Willow sneaked a look at him from under her wet eyelashes. "That's part of what makes it hard to take, you know?"

Willow sighed wetly and slumped into Spike's strong frame, letting him hold her up, which he did gladly.

After several minutes of listening to the air conditioner hum busily, she spoke again.

"So, what're you?"

"Hmmm?" he hummed.

"I'm gay. Buffy's vampy. What're you?"

Spike tilted his head to the heavens--or the ceiling tiles--and chuckled sadly.

"I'm impossible," he answered.

He could feel her smile without looking at her.

"Well, duh. But what's your lifestyle preference?"

He gave her shoulders a squeeze in acknowledgement of her acknowledgement. "I love women who can't love me back."

"Well that sucks."

He laughed aloud. "Yeah, I'd have to agree."

She shifted in his one-armed embrace, turning to face him. "What about Drusilla?"

"Are you kidding?" Spike said lightly. "She was insane!" He was being flip, and they both knew it, but it felt good to make fun. But he knew she wanted a real answer, and he wanted to give her that much.

"Dru loved me, but she was..." How did one put this politely? "Dru was fickle. Comes from being insane, you know? Couldn't keep her mind on annathing for very long."

Funny, it still hurt, even after he'd willingly given her up. Even after he'd been ready to put a stake through her treacherous little heart.

"T'was all well an' good when I was the only thing in her line of sight." He was getting nostalgic, but he couldn't keep it at bay. "That century... after Angelus left, and before Buffy brought him back... Happiest years of my life, they were. I was real careful not to let anyone get between her an' me."

He covered a sigh with a shrug, but was pretty sure Willow caught it anyway. "But, Angel went bad and thus our love went bad. You know how it goes. He was her sire--her death. Her life. Her love. And she was mine, even if it was Angelus who brung me up. 'S hard to compete with the bond between a sire an' his childe."

"Hmmmm. Sounds impossible."

Spike smiled, and found himself doing so into her hair, soft against his lips.

"That's me."

"Spike?"

It was his turn to hum. "Mmmmm?"

"Are you kissing my head?"

Caught. "Um... Little bit."

"How come?" There was no accusation in her voice, only curiosity.

He considered for a moment, swaying his head to and fro to feel her silk against his cheeks, too. "I 'spect it's 'cause you can't love me back."

In that moment, he did love her. He loved her openness, the impossible honesty of her face, incapable of deceit. Terrible poker player, he'd wager.

"What if we broke type?"

She looked very serious. Straight flush serious, but like she didn't care that she would sweep the table with said straight flush.

"I'm sorry, what?"

The corner of her mouth curled mischievously. "What if we... varied?"

That's what he thought she'd meant. Spike choked but covered it with a nervous laugh. Better than nothing. Scratched his chin for effect.

"You know what I mean," she said, and he could swear he heard flirtation in her voice. "What if, right now, right here," she pulled herself in closer to him, and suddenly he could smell her--sweat despite the cool air being piped in, and desire, and day-old breath that humans thought was unattractive but that was more true than Dent-o-Mint any day, and of butterscotch under it all--"What if we changed?"

His throat was dry. "Into what?"

Willow's front was against his, and the softness on his ribs must have been her breasts, but that couldn't be right. He suddenly wished he could benefit from oxygen--her face was too close, her breath too warm.

"I'll love you back," she whispered. "If you love me." He could feel her breath hot against his face, and was suddenly humanly dizzy. "Just for today, just for here. I'll want the vamp, I'll want all of you, if you'll just love me."

Willow's lips tickled his as he husked, "That's more'n a bit of a change for the both of us, Willow. Are you sure you--"

She cut him off in the most agreeable way. Her mouth, the soft under parts of it, were swallowing up his words, taking away any sense of 'this is madness' that had been scurrying about his brain since who knew when. Her hands in his hair, pulling him down, urging him to deepen their kiss. Spike held back a moment, confused and impressed at the same time, and then gave up. Easy thing to do with her little body pressing him against the counter, her sharp-for-human teeth nipping at his lips, her birdlike limbs clutching him to her.

Spike opened his mouth over hers, mindful of the risk of vamping on her--cutting into her--and with unaccustomed passivity let her fierce, knowing tongue plunder his mouth.

She pulled back, breathing heavily, and rested her fevered eyes on him, expectant.

"So," she gasped, "whaddaya think?"

God, her lips were so red. Had he done that? Brought the blood that close to the surface?

"Uhh... Far be it for me to be the voice of moral reason here, love," he said in as steady a voice as he could manage, "but perhaps you'd like to take a moment to consider the reactions of our respective lady-loves. I for one do not fancy another whupping at the hands of our fair Slayer. Especially if I'm not gonna get laid after."

She frowned, and Spike wasn't sure whether he felt regret or relief at her pause.

"Not to mention," he added, "'Thou shalt not mack on thy best friend's man' is the eleventh bloody commandment."

Willow dropped her eyes for a moment, then raised them again, defiance smoldering behind them, challenging him.

"Ex," she said.

"How's that?"

"They're our ex lady-loves," she said in a just-the-facts tone. "And they dumped us."

Ah, horny logic! Spike smiled internally, enjoying the rationalization show Will was staging.

"And besides, we wouldn't tell them."

"More dirty secrets, eh?" he sighed. "I've done my turn with those. Not so interesting to me these days."

"No!" Willow exclaimed, and he saw empathy in her body language. "No, not a dirty secret, just a ... a friendly one. A secret just for us. Because we get each other--most of the time. And we're ..."

"Pathetic?" he offered. "Randy? Bored? Trapped in a bleedin' morgue?"

She ran a damp hand up his face and stroked up over his ear, petting his head like a favorite cat.

"Kindred spirits," she corrected, and lowered her hand to his lips, tracing them, tugging them gently open by pulling down on the lower one.

"I think..." Spike let himself swim a lap or two in the sea of her eyes. "I think change can be a good thing. A necessary thing." He felt his tongue slip out to slide over his lips--lascivious despite his best intentions. To his delight, hers flicked out to mimic his.

He threw his head back and laughed lustily enough to match the wicked twinkle she sent him. "You minx!" he teased. "I always knew there was naughty lingerie under those funny sweaters."

She ran her fingers over his lips. "Shhh. Don't be creepy."

"All part of the package, kitten," he purred, deliberately sliding his hands from her shoulder blades to the soft swell of her ass. "It's a vamp thing." He tensed, pulling her hips into his. "Love it or leave it."

When she said she loved it, right before her mouth closed over his again, even more amorously, he believed her. It was a wonderful feeling.

Willow made a distinctly agreeable noise--the closest thing he'd ever heard a human make to a purr--and slipped her hands up his neck, fingertips dancing over the corners of his jaw as she kissed. Spike wondered at her responsiveness and pressed down with his hands, kneading, stroking her bottom. She kissed with her whole body; her hips swayed, and her shoulders tilted, sliding her breast across his torso in a distracting manner.

Astonished by her enthusiasm, Spike disengaged to squint down at her.

"What?" she asked, pouting lips moist and red and simply lickable.

He wasn't sure what to say--he didn't think "I never figured you for a sex pot" would gain him any points with the girl. "'S just..." Spike felt a sly smile spread over his Willow-warmed lips. "Your mouth is positively ... sinful."

Willow's smile lit her whole face.

"Yeah? Sinful?"

"Quite," he insisted, taking hummingbird's sips from her. then, inspired, quoted: "Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again."

"Mmmmmm Shakespeare," she hummed appreciatively. "Very hot."

"No, see, you're supposed to say 'You kiss by the book.'" he prompted her. "An' you call yourself a nerd?"

Willow's eyes slanted shut and she tipped her head back, which raised the lips in question back into tempting proximity.

"Called, Spike," she corrected. "Past tense. And I knew the line. But you're supposed to kiss me again before I say it. And you, by the way, just outed yourself as a nerd with--"

Spike descended on her before she could finish, putting a satisfying end to her prattle with a kiss that rivaled her earlier aggression--hands planted in her hair, lips playing nimbly over her face, tongue swooping fast and deep to steal her breath, hips circling in a slow, steady grind.

When he released her, she conceded. "You kiss by the book," she gasped.

"There's a good pet," he praised her, and ground harder as he went for her panting mouth again.

Done playing, Willow pushed back against his hips, and he felt the give of her belly against his hardness. Her hands went straight for the hem of his shirt, curved, firm nails skating over his skin just in advance of her smoothly padded fingertips. Spike shuddered and clapped his hands over hers, pressing them flat and guiding them up the sides of his ribs. The gentle teasing touch was too much--too unaccustomed. Her hands were massaging now, gliding over his planes, exploring his ribs, and Spike insinuated his own hands under her shirt, pushing it impatiently out of the way. He had to see her, had to taste the milk he could see in her skin.

Sensing his urgency, Willow pulled away long enough to unbutton the top of her flouncy blue sweater and deftly duck out from under it, pulling the cotton over her head with an unexpected lack of modesty. She blushed when he stared--her face was already flushed enough that a human might not have noticed, but the tops of her breasts were mottled, and her throat was appetizingly pink. And she was hot--heat coming off her body in pulses.

"Very naughty indeed," Spike commented, and as he'd hoped it would, Willow's color deepened and spread. From under the lavender embroidered flowers of her bra, he could feel the excited blood rushing to saturate the sensitive tissues, filling the tips that he could see swelling, even under the lace.

"You now," she prompted, and he heard a flicker of her usual bashfulness in her voice.

Spike shrugged his coat off and stepped away from it. The t-shirt joined the duster, whipped off in a black streak and tossed aside. He watched Willow carefully, curious as to how she'd react to him. Spike knew he was vain, but he also knew it wasn't without reason. Spike loved his lean, tight body, and nearly every woman who'd been willfully exposed to it felt the same.

Willow stepped in close again, but her attention was focused on the gleaming white skin of his torso rather than on his face, his mouth.

"You're so..." She reached her right hand out and let it follow the curving slide of the muscle that started behind his ribs and swept down to point the way, along with its twin, to his groin. His belt ended her hand's slide, but Willow simply reversed the route and added her left hand to the other side of his body.

"So...?" he urged her.

"So... firm. I mean, geez, Spike, you're all muscle and bone and like, sinewy and lithe--like a lion. Or, no, sneakier than that, less sleepy-in-the-sun. A leopard, stalking through the jungle at night, hunting, hungry."

He slid his hand into Willow's hair and cupped her head, tilting it up and smiling. "Naughty lingerie and she talks dirty," he mused. "I like you more an' more."

Willow's halogen smile ignited again. "It's just.... different is all," she said by way of explanation.

"Yeah," he agreed huskily, thumb tracing the tantalizing drop of her earlobe. "Different. C'mere."

He stepped to her, into the pocket of warmth she created in the cooled room, and settled both palms on her shoulders. Spike's tongue was reaching for her mouth the instant she tilted her head in invitation. She was so soft inside, so warm.

"An' you, love," he whispered wetly between tastes, "you're soft everywhere."

He dropped his head, leaving her to kiss and nip at his forehead and temples as he watched her breathing move through her chest. Watched as he skimmed the flats of his hands down the slope of creamy pinked skin to the swells of her breasts, slowing to weigh, to sample the fruit with pressing fingers, and then his eyes flicked back and forth between the drape of purple straps sliding off pale arms and the fluttering eyelids, pearly teeth worrying garnet lips. She was humming, vocal cords vibrating, as he slipped his hands round to release the clasp, and then she gasped when the lacy trifle fell away, leaving her rose-tipped and naked above the long red skirt.


Part 4

"You're a bleedin' work of art, you know that? Venus in red corduroy." She was bouncing on her toes, causing her liberated bosom to jiggle entrancingly.

"Whassa matter, Red?" he asked. "Why're you prancing about like that?"

Willow's eyes flew open, pupils so dilated despite the bright light from the windows that for a moment, Spike thought she'd gone Black Magic on him.

"Less talk," she suggested. "More touching."

Priorities declared, she caught his hands in hers and drew them up to cup her, then groaned feraly and recaptured his mouth.

So soft! he thought, using the small part of his brain that wasn't overwhelmed with want and curiosity and shock. How could she be so soft? She wasn't fat or even plump, but Willow's body was a series of small but bountiful curves, no sharp corners to bruise him, blunted nails that curved and teased instead of gouging, teeth sharp and playful but not tearing. Buffy was all sharp angles and steely limbs and iron hands, viselike grips everywhere.

He clasped his arms around her carefully, not wanting to snap birdlike ribs, and lurched toward the table, setting her down on the edge. He remembered the jutting steel lip, though, and scooched her down the table so her knees bent over the ledge, rather than having it press into what he suspected were smooth, supple thighs.

That wants verifying, he thought and slipped his hands under the ribbed fabric of her skirt. Meanwhile, she was at his throat and shoulder, licking, sucking, biting with her feeble little teeth, thumbs making rhythmic circles around his nipples all the while. Yep, Willow was a breast girl, all right.

Her legs were long and silky, and they tensed when he reached her knees, pressing them apart enough to wedge himself there. The effect was not what he'd hoped for; he found himself pressed amorously and uncomfortably against the cold, hard metal of the table's lip.

"Wait," Willow said. "Give me your coat."

He frowned in query but did as she said. He grabbed their discarded shirts as well, figuring out her plan in mid lean. When he turned back to the gurney, she was in the final stages of shimmying out of the skirt. She dodged his eyes as she lifted her hips and hastily tucked the skirt underneath, confirming his interpretation of her request for clothing. Spike sauntered back to her, letting his eyes take her in. Longer limbed than he'd realized, narrow but curved hips, slender, boyish waist, hands nervous the way he'd always known them--fluttering about, looking for something to do.

"All right, Red?"

Willow tried to rest her hands nonchalantly across her chest, but frowned at the position, looking down to see one bosom perking out on either side of her forearm. She quickly rearranged the arm over her stomach, hand draping casually across the waist of her pink knickers.

"I'm good," she confirmed, "I'm just..."

"Nervous?" he finished for her, purposely keeping the satisfaction out of his voice.

"No, no," she hastened to assure him, and, perhaps, herself. "I'm fine, I just never thought I'd be so turned on by--"

"A man?" Spike coaxed, letting the smugness through this time, enjoying it. "A vampire?"

Willow laughed. "I was gonna say 'by doing it in a mortuary,' but if you need the validation, I can say it's the vamp thing getting me all excited."

Spike chuckled approvingly and tossed the cushioning at her. "You're a sassy one--much more with the kink than I'd thought, even with the girl-on-girl scene."

The clothes gave her something to do with her hands, and she set about distributing them over the gurney.

"Still game, then, are we?"

Willow looked up from his duster, and the wicked grin he was coming to reevaluate and appreciate for the true vixen behind it was back.

"We're gonna need more padding," she said, and nodded toward his lower regions.

"Jolly good!" he cheered, and made haste in kicking off his boots and shucking off his trousers. With an elegant leg lift, he kicked them into his left hand, then folded them into a neat square before he levered himself onto the metal table.

Willow grinned even wider, shaking her head. "I knew you'd be going commando. It's such the bad boy cliche. Very predictable."

He tipped his head in nonchalant concession. "And you... You're the opposite of predictable, Red," he breathed. "You're gorgeous. You're positively edible."

He straddled her, knees and arms brushing hips and shoulders.

"Kiss me," she asked simply, raising her head to him. He leaned down and nuzzled her ear as he tucked his folded jeans under her head.

"You like the kissing, eh?" he whispered, purposely putting a lot of air behind the words.

Willow made a choked noise, high pitched and throaty, and Spike swept in, latching onto those lips, sucking her hot, questing tongue into his mouth and caressing, squeezing, sucking it. Her arms folded around him and she arched, putting her weight into drawing him down atop her. The heat of her skin rushed into his body, heating the blood moving restlessly in his veins. Here again, she was soft, welcoming. Funny, he'd always found the fight to be the most exhilarating part of the dance--the struggle for control, for entry. But Willow's invitation--by no means passive--was all the more intoxicating because it was offered freely.

Her volition became even more clear when he felt her legs scissor open and one of them hitched over his hip.

Spike groaned--groaned! not growled, imagine!--and <http://webmail.att.net/wmc/v/wm?cmd=ComposeTo&adr=imag ine%21%2D%2Dand&sid=c0> pushed against her, urged on by the hands that were suddenly clutching at his ass.

"You like that, do you? Miss it a bit after all?"

Though she was flushed and gasping, Willow still called him on his ego rush.

"Get over yourself, Spike. Like girls don't have hip and thigh bones that do the same job."

He laughed as she squirmed and hitched under him, legs and arms grabbing, pulling, rolling.

"Right," he said, "Look, I'm not sayin' it's better or worse, I'm just sayin' this seems to be doing the job, is all."

"Oh, uhnh." She sucked in a quick breath as he slid more purposefully against her clinging panties. "Oh yeah. This works."

"Want more?"

"Yes, please."

Spike slid down her body a bit, keeping his weight squarely centered against the crux of her, licking and kissing at her tempting, lovely neck, her shoulders, her damp, salted underarms. He pressed his face to her breastbone and plumped her soft, supple flesh against his cheeks, pinching lightly at her nipples. Turning to one side, he lapped at the creamy skin, scooting farther down to get at the succulent undercurve, then nibbling his way up to the peak and teasing it--just dampening it with the very tip of his tongue until Willow growled her want and roughly pushed his mouth on her.

"Go!" she grunted. "Stop it and go!" Spike raised his head to get clarification.

"Just stop teasing!" Her tone lightened considerably when she elaborated. "It's mean, and we talked about that."

"Oh, don't worry, baby," Spike crooned. "I'm all done being mean to you. You'll be amazed how nice your Spike can be."

To prove his point, Spike closed his mouth firmly over the nipple under discussion and carefully caught it between his teeth, adding firm strokes of his tongue to the flat top of it, enjoying the rough slide under his slick tastebuds. She mewed again, high and breathy and long, and Spike's cock responded to the noise, jumping against his leg. He reached back and up and snared a knee, lowered her leg so he could ride it, press his aching shaft against something warmer and more pliant than the shirt between him and the examining table.

Willow gasped some more and thrust up, stroking him with her thigh.

"Jesus, Red."

He turned his attention to her other breast, teeth catching the nipple, and shook his head slightly, watching at an awkward angle as the creamy mound undulated. Feeling another sigh building in her, Spike increased the pressure in infinitesimal degrees, tongue whipping to and fro, worrying her nipple until the breast it capped shook like the luscious custards Mother used to present at Christmas.

When Willow's mewling hit the level he'd heard so many seasons before, when he'd considered, hazed by grief and drink, taking her in the basement of that dreadful factory, Spike abruptly released his grip and slathered the tightened skin with all the tender parts of his mouth, stretching his jaw to take as big a swallow as he could, using his tongue to press the overstimulated little bud against the firm ridges on the roof of his mouth.

"God! Wait! Stop!" she cried, hands flailing, slapping without harmful intent at his shoulders and back. "Please, too much, too much." Reluctant but mindful, Spike dragged his mouth away, licking across to the swollen, flushed swell's mate and lovingly lapped and nibbled a few times before rising up enough to kiss Willow's reaching mouth, open and panting.

Spike tilted to his left for a moment--the skin on Willow's chest was wet from his ministrations, and had adhered to him, stretching their skin taught and uncomfortable. Her breasts swung back to their natural position, and he settled himself onto her cushioning body, still drinking at the pool of her mouth.

As his weight shifted, Spike felt the solid length of his cock bend as it pressed against her pubic bone. The pressure was sweet, and he rocked gently side to side until he found the notch just south of the firm, spongy pad over the bone. Willow whimpered almost silently--indeed, Spike felt the noise against his diving tongue more than he heard it. A few more subtle twists of his hips, tilting so the angle was more vertical, and he felt the tiny pyramid near the top of her seam. Her whimpers deepened, volume and vibration confirming contact, and Spike began to purposely thrust diagonally against her, reveling in the way random parts of her body jerked every time the push of his cock toggled the joyful little bump.

Willow tore her mouth free of his with a noisy, sucking breath, and Spike slaved at her bared throat as she tried to catch her breath. Her pulse roared under his lips, reaching for him, and he let himself latch onto the skin that danced with her shifting tendons and leaping heartbeat. The urge to drink was strong, but easier to resist than he expected. He felt full of blood, no need for more, not when he seemed to have his share and then some--his whole body felt as swollen and ready as the flesh he was playing over her clit. It was good, though--familiar and foreign at the same time--to suck at unbroken skin, to draw the blood to him with flat, human teeth, suckling without drinking. He could feel her essence flowing out to him, heating and coloring her neck everywhere his mouth paused.

Willow yelped when, in his enthusiasm, Spike caught an unchanged but still sharp canine on the crest of her collarbone, and a new rush of desire swept through him and down to his burrowing sex when he realized that there was no branching pain to accompany the unintended bite.

Willow grasped his face between moist palms, her fevered eyes seeking.

"Accident, pet," he assured her, tipping his head to check her blotched throat. "No blood."

Her voice was thick. "Do you want that, Spike?" she asked. "Blood?"

He'd pondered in the time since the muzzling, whether drinking from a willing vessel would trigger the chip. It seemed likely enough, but now, he thought, now wasn't the time for that particular experiment. No way was he wanting to beg out of this game because of a headache.

"No, love," he answered. "I don't think I'm hungry just now. Not for your blood, anyway."

Her mouth shifted in and out of a pleased smile between gasps and lip-biting, and she arched under him again, lifting her hips so that he slipped off course. Spike groaned as the eager tip of his cock plowed clumsily into the pocket of skin and tendon where her leg ended and her fanny began. The seam of her panties teased one side of the head, and the silky, sweating skin of her thigh caressed the other.

Rather inelegantly, he snaked a hand down and between them to readjust. Pausing to drag three fingers over her perky little button and listen to her whine, he grasped himself lightly and explored the wet cotton until he could feel her entrance, then pressed experimentally. The fabric at her crotch stretched tightly between them as he pushed inside.

Willow was surprisingly still now, though she was panting in short bursts of "oh, oh, oh," and Spike looked down and groaned tightly when he saw her waistband dip, sliding down as he pushed to reveal the top of her patch of shiny, curly brown hair. The cotton of her knickers was stretched around his head fully now, but he could feel her furnace-heat and dampness through the flimsy barrier. Another gentle nudge and he felt the first heady slick of juices on his shaft.

He held himself up, leaning heavily on his right forearm, and ran his left hand down her side, enjoying the slight bulge at the outside of her hips, where her underwear, pulled to the limits of elasticity, cut into her flesh.

"Do it," Willow hissed. "Please just do it."

Spike wasn't done with the girl yet, wasn't ready to abandon their game to the frantic rush of rutting--she'd expect that of the penis-having population. But he couldn't deny his own yearning, and longed to do as she urged.

The strained cotton tore easily when he eased back enough to get his hand under the waistband and then pressed his fingers against the sheer tissue while inching forward again to take up the slack. When it gave, tearing with a satisfactorily violent sound, he backed out again, just far enough to push the useless garment out of the way--it hung loosely now around her other thigh--and then watched intently as he coaxed her slick lips open and slid the head of him into her scalding wetness.

Much as he wanted to slam himself home, Spike held back, moving shallowly in and out of the initial ring of clenching muscle. Willow panted and cursed and twitched, but he silenced her protests and beckonings with kisses deeper and wilder than the movement below, fucking her with his tongue while he sampled her with his cock.

The strength behind her shove threw Spike off guard, and he lurched out and away from her unexpectedly, landing unchecked on her middle and eliciting surprised grunts from both of them.

He checked her face for hurt or rage, but found neither. A hint of frustration, perhaps, and that expression directed his tone when he spoke.

"Problem, my sweet?" he inquired in his most silken voice, getting his knees under him and lifting some of his weight from her so she could breathe.

"You're driving me crazy, Spike," she gritted, pulling at his biceps, urging him back on top of her.

"All part of the evil plan, my flower," he teased.

"I'll 'my flower' you, you big bully."

Spike lost hold of his seductive charm and snorted into her neck.

"Should'a known you'd go all jabberwocky in the throes of passion," he said, bemused.

She took on the know-it-all voice that Spike had long ago recognized for its frantic covering of her backpedaling.

"That wasn't throes," she insisted. "That was... distraction, aggravation, frustration. And, okay, arousal, but there were no throes. Throes, if you'll remember your vocabulary, are spasms, you know, seizures, and ... stuff."


Part 5

Spike looked seriously into her eyes.

"Ah, yes, quite right, Professor," he capitulated. "Those were not throes." He pulled himself back onto his haunches, dragging his belly, chest, mouth, down her body. "Let me see," he mused, being purposely inexact as he took the intact side of her underwear between his lips.

She saw him change--Spike could tell by the slight edge of alarm he heard in her gasp, the sweet tang of fear that pulsed from her for two heartbeats when he morphed into his true face just long enough to razor through the cotton remnant at her hip. He kissed her thigh and nibbled gently with human-again teeth to show her the change was temporary.

"Yes, let me see," he repeated, picking up his commentary where he'd left off, pushing her knickers away and taking his first unobstructed view of her.

"Throes, as you said, are defined as spasms," he droned as he ran his fingers over the triangle of hair that pointed his way. "The word 'shudder' comes to mind," he suggested, as she demonstrated. "But I'm of the opinion that 'throes' is a more violent state than simply shuddering."

Her legs were twitching, he remarked, and eased the trembling by laying hands on the bellies of her thighs and pressing out, watching her open before him.

"There's the sweet flower I was referring to earlier," he murmured, and breathed in the scent of her, tracing the edges of her petals with the lightest of touches. "Now, back to our discussion--throes... convulsions, that' s another way of defining it."

Her fists beat him about the head and shoulders, and he gave her what she wanted, closing the inches between her lips and his, licking her open, testing and tasting her.

The first sip was thick, strong, pungent, but as he finished the upsweep, curling his tongue around the twitching bead in its sheath, he felt a new rush of wet heat against his chin, and he dove back down to sample, savoring the blood-heat of her.

She was writhing against him, and Spike slid his hands up under her bum to hold her in place, feasting, drinking from her as if from her neck. It hadn't been so with the other women, but as he licked and sucked at Willow's plumping sex, Spike felt a rush of energy and excitement he'd only felt during the feed. He lifted his head and checked his teeth with his tongue, half expecting to taste blood as he sliced himself on fangs, but he hadn't changed.

Her humming broke, and he busied her with his fingers to keep her from hitting him again, and took the opportunity to watch her move, watch her react to him. She arched and twisted with feline flexibility, and the purring noise was starting again. God, he could listen to her make that sound til forever.

"There's my pretty kitten," he praised her, cooing the words as he stroked her with long, cool fingers, coaxing her to deeper thrums of pleasure. He lowered his face to her again, moving his fingers down and into her, closing sucking lips over her clitoris and strumming with his tongue.

The purr was growing to a rumble, punctuated with high-noted gasps for breaths, and Spike moaned against her, adding his vibrations to hers.

"Sweet, lovely kitten with her sweet, pretty pussy," he hissed, barely lifting his mouth from the luscious flesh. "Ready to snap, my Willow is, isn't she?"

Her volume raised in assent, urging him on.

He gave her one more long, languid stroke with the flat of his tongue, then whispered hoarsely, "Oh, yeah, gonna make my kitten roar."

Determined and done with teasing, Spike grabbed at the joints of her hips and thighs--she pressed her legs wide against his hands, instinctively giving him the leverage he wanted--and buried himself in her, hair tickling his nose as he whipped and sucked at her clit, pressing harder with every one of her racing heartbeats. Willow thrust at him, pushing up against his restraining hands, adding pressure to his strokes until he felt her breathing change, her pulse hover.

She did roar for him, legs and torso and pussy jerking tight around and against him. Spike whipped one hand from her hip and pressed into her with two fingers, pushing up to try to join with his tongue, which was tweaking her clit with as much force as he could muster without bringing on the change, sucking and pushing and pulling and thrusting all at the same time.

Snapping about, she sobbed and moaned and crowed her release, limbs flexing involuntarily, kicking and knocking. Spike rode it out, drinking freely and taking life from her flowing nectar, coaxing more spasms out of her until they became quakes, then shudders, and then, finally tiny tremors that ran up and down her body as he eased back up to take her in his arms and kiss her temple.

Seemingly boneless, Willow rolled easily when Spike pulled her onto her side and tucked her head onto his chest, her shoulder nestled cozily into his underarm. She was silent except for her breathing, which quieted on its own. After a few minutes, she stirred against him.

"That was nice," she said, and he could feel the heat of her blush on his skin.

"Nice, hmmm?" he asked with gentle mock indignance. "That all you got to say for all that caterwaulin' an' thrashing about?"

Her face heated even more, warming the spot over his heart. "Very, very nice?"

Spike shrugged with enough exaggeration to jostle her.

"Better'n nothing, I s'pose."

He felt her lips against him, stretching into a smile. "Totally better than nothing." Willow wiggled her arm free and pushed hair off her face. "You're pretty good at that," she complemented, pushing up onto her elbow to look at him.

"Pretty good?" he scoffed. "I'm a bleedin' miracle worker, and you know it."

Willow's face was a mask of amused disbelief. "Geez, Spike, ego trip much? You think you're God's gift to the ... the vulva or something?" She had the good sense to wince and backtrack. "Or something less gross sounding, maybe?"

He nodded slowly, exaggerating his agreement. "Oh, right. 'Cause you bein' a lesbian and all, you're an expert, right?"

"Well," her eyebrows arched and he could see her lips forming the D in "duh," so cut her off before she could say the loathsome word.

"Don't bother, my sweet. Bein' a woman yourself, you know that women know what feels good, and therefore do the best work downtown, am I right?"

She laughed at him, but had to nod. "Well, yeah, that's the general idea."

Spike pursed his lips, then licked them lewdly. "An' how many women you been with, pet?"

She saw his logic path and stepped carefully. "One," she conceded. A look of pure evil spread over her features, and she continued. "But Tara and me? We did it a lot. Really a lot."

Admiring of her tactics, Spike allowed his mind to play with that image for a moment, but not long enough to lose momentum.

"Right. And Tara--obviously she's been 'round the block a few times, but with how many different girl scouts?"

Willow frowned. "Um, three, I think. Counting me. Well, and one boy. So four. Four."

"Mmmmm hmmm...."

"What?" She poked him when he didn't answer. "What??"

"I'm just sayin' that's, what, six lovers between you? In the space of about five, six years?"

Her eyes narrowed, and she tilted her head warily. "Your point?" she asked grudgingly.

"My point, kitten, is that I've been with hundreds of women, thousands of times, over a century and a half. And two of those women, the ones who taught me the ropes, they bloody beat me to a pulp if I didn't get it right the first time, you know what I'm sayin'?"

"That you have twisted taste in women, I think, but we covered that earlier."

"Funny, Red. You're a riot. It means that I know what I'm doing is what it means." Willow tucked her chin and rolled her head luxuriously on her neck. "Okay, I'll grant you that." She lifted a limp arm and loosely tapped either of his shoulders, adopting a particularly horrendous British accent. "I hereby declare you Honorary Lesbian," she sing-songed, "and thereby reward you the Sacred Order of the Tongue."

Spike caught her hand as it lifted up from his left shoulder. "You're a strange bird, you know that?" he asked, dragging her hand down his chest and stomach. "And you talk altogether too much when there's important, pressing matters at hand."

He pressed her hand through the crinkling hair that trailed from his navel to his cock, folding her fingers around the root of him and squeezing once to show her what he wanted.

Her eyes widened as she shifted her weight so that she was looking down on him. "You realize it's been a while since I've had anything to do with one of these, right?" she asked, mischievously.

"Jus' go with yer instincts, Red," he mumbled, trying to keep his voice carefree despite the clenching and pulling she was doing below.

She trailed her fingers up his shaft, skittering them over his foreskin. She frowned slightly and turned her head down, folding to inspect more closely.

"Huh," she mused, carefully pushing the hood of soft skin back. "Weird."

Spike felt an odd mixture of embarrassment and annoyance flare in his chest. Americans and their circumcision hangups. Honestly. You'd think they'd never seen a National Geographic special.

He thrust his hips up in hopes of bringing her attention back to the act at hand, rather than the sideshow of his uncut cock. "Here, pet," he reminded her, "let's stay on task, shall we?"

Willow's eyes flashed up his body to meet his, then swept back to his twitching member. Spike groaned as her tongue pushed out from between her lips and her fingers moved just enough to unsheathe him. The first wet touch nearly sent him over the edge.

He clasped the hard, sharp lip of the autopsy table and clenched all the muscles in his body, keeping himself firmly reined in as her fluttering, unsure little tongue danced over him, hands sliding down the pole to his balls, cupping, weighing, slithering back up to meet her mouth.

"Jesus, Red," Spike groaned. "Get on with it, already!"

Hot breath blew over him as she laughed, clearly enjoying reciprocating his earlier torment. He pushed up once more and grunted as her mouth softened and slid over him, engulfing him in wet warmth.

Spike felt his hands clenching, reaching, and floundered them about until he found her body, then, pleased to have something to do, sent them over her until he located her ass, then slipped them between her cheeks, seeking out the slick seam again. She moaned against his cock, and he thought he might explode right then.

But that wasn't how he wanted it to happen. He wasn't ready yet. Spike curled his fingers, pulling on her ass to get her attention. Willow's eyes flicked up to meet his, and she caught his meaning, dragging her mouth from him with a wrenching pop.

"Already?" she asked, sounding pleased with his reaction to her unpolished technique. Willow lifted a leg and swiveled on her other knee, spinning and straddling his narrow, tense hips. She sank down on him, letting her sex simply rest on his, scalding him.

Spike ran his hands up her thighs to her hips, then up her sides, over her swaying breasts to her shoulders, and then up to grasp her head and pull her down to kiss him. The action moved her forward, and he clenched the muscles in his crotch, making his cock bob up as her weight shifted off him. As he licked and sucked at her mouth, musky with his own scent, Spike put pressure on her shoulders, easing her back just enough to nudge his twitching head into her damp heat.

She sighed into his mouth, then sank back, drawing him in until he ass rested on his thighs and he was encased in the molten heat of her body. Willow's closed eyes squeezed more tightly shut, and her mouth worked, tongue slipping from between her lips in the same rhythm her hips were establishing.

"Fuck, love," he growled, "that's so good."

Eyes still clenched shut, Willow crooned a wordless tune punctuated with gasps and groans every time her hips met his. She sat up straight, and he slid even deeper into her clasping cunt; Spike gasped as if he suddenly needed the oxygen after a century of holding his breath.

She picked up her pace, her knee slamming into the metal of the table on her left side where his jeans had been pushed up by their scrambling. The fierce thud urged Spike's eyes open to take in the vision of bouncing beauty above him as his body flushed with the heat their friction was generating. Willow's pale skin was pinking up, the blood pushing out to the farthest reaches of her capillaries, starting up from her apex and spreading like a fan over her belly and limbs. Her bosom, which was dancing in a counter rhythm to her hips, was mottled with passion, nipples brightly pink and standing out sharply, so hard they looked almost painful.

He had to test them. She cried out as his fingers danced over them, marveling at their turgidity, pinching to check their resistance.

The magenta stain was spreading up Willow's neck and creeping over her cheeks, and she heaved faster and heavier over him.

For a moment, Spike relaxed--everything but the crucial bits, anyway--and simply took her in. Took in the impossibility of Willow Rosenberg, best friend to the Slayer and the insufferable Xander Harris, lover of a certain witch, all around goody-two-shoes by all appearance, bleating as she impaled herself on him. Her eyes flashed open and she smiled down at him.

"I know." Her voice jerked along with her body. "Weird, huh?"

He growled his agreement.

"But good, yeah?" she asked, pausing for a split second too long.

Spike gritted his teeth and grabbed her shoulders, forcing her down heavily against his bones while he hauled himself up to a sitting position.

"Good," he grunted, and thrust extra hard a few times to hitch them toward the edge of the table so he could find some leverage. Willow moaned and called out with every unpredictable drive of his cock inside her.

With his legs dangling over the lip of the table, Spike had more control of their movements. He held his lover by her narrow shoulders and attacked her mouth, plundering it with the same energy and intent as he was doing below, arms wrapped about her ribs and hips, pushing their lower bodies together with thrusts that were shallower but that involved more rubbing. Her song raised a notch when he crushed her clit against his pubic bone, and Spike clenched, his jaw, his arms, his ass, his everything, tighter to hold on long enough.

"God, oh God, Spike," she chanted and rocked heavily to her right, sinking down hard on him as she swept her left leg from under her and around his ass, then repeated the maneuver on the next up-thrust, so that her legs clasped at his lower back. "God, it's so good, so good, Spike, so good..."

He nipped at her bared throat, bent his head to nibble her nipples, locked his arms about her, clenching her ass in his hands, reaching lower to tease the wetness pooling between them, stretched his fingers to touch his tightened balls.

"Come on, baby," he urged, letting whatever words came into his head flow out his mouth in time with their rut. "Come on, you know you're gonna, you know you can, you know I wanna feel you explode around me, come on, baby, come on my gorgeous fucking kitten, my sweet red darling, give it to me come on."

She was keening again, her voice raising and falling erratically, and Spike hoped that meant she was almost there, because he was about to go off like a freaking cannon.


Part 6

Willow's blunt fingernails bit into Spike's shoulder blades with enough force to hurt, spurring him on. He tightened his grasp around the yowling girl and pumped her up and down even more forcefully and with just enough conscious thought to tilt her hips so her clit continued to scrape against his root.

"Oh, fuck, Red, come on," he growled, desperate. "Don't do this to me! Come on, come on, come on!"

And then it was too late, and he threw his head back and howled as he burst, growling in satisfaction and frustration at the same time, clutching her hot, pulsing body against him.

Willow groaned along with him, enveloping him with her arms, her legs, her pussy, her mouth--everything he saw or felt or heard was Willow, and he wanted to drown in her, thought he would drown in her because she was everywhere, everything and bloody hell, all he'd wanted to do was get the girl off...

She was rocking them again, in time with his coming thrusts, lowering his face into her breasts and letting him rest there as he came down into his body again. But Spike, as soon as his brain was his again, stopped the soothing, sleep-inducing motion short by heaving them to the side. He caught their weight with his left hand and quickly arranged Willow, who was still gasping and moaning, on her back. He slipped ungracefully out of her as he retreated off the table. He slid his arms up and around her bum and dove eagerly into her twat again.

His assault lacked the finesse of his earlier efforts, but the thrashing girl didn't seem to care. She bucked against him so hard that Spike hardly had to move his head at all. He steadied her with strong hands on hips so that he could stay on target, and thrashed her clit with a steady up and down tongue, putting the weight of his head into the upper part of each concentrated stroke.

She lasted less than thirty seconds under his assault. Her legs, which had dangled only momentarily over his shoulders, tensed and tightened against his neck, and Willow's hands slammed down onto Spike's forearms--grabbing tight and holding on, arching against the counterweight he offered, pushing up so that all her weight was concentrated on the half inch of nerves under his dedicated mouth.

Spike pressed infinitesimally harder on his next caress and laughed into her saturated pussy as she broke under him again, finally. Willow screamed her joy, almost identical to the throaty cries of fear she'd made so many lifetimes before, and Spike shuddered with the visceral memory as he rode her waves.

As she began to still, he pulled himself back onto their table and pulled Willow up into his arms, wrapping himself around her heaving body.

"You're so bloody beautiful when you come, Red," Spike whispered into the damp hair behind her ear. "Did you know that? Fucking gorgeous." He pressed his lips against the throbbing vein that normally would be his chalice. "Thank you," he mouthed.

Something hot dropped onto Spike's cool cheek and slid down to his mouth, where he tasted salt. He frowned and raised his head.

"What're you cryin' for, pet?" he asked, confused and bordering on annoyed.

Willow clapped a hand over her mouth and turned toward him, burying her head in Spike's neck, leaving the befuddled vamp to stroke her hair and shush her until she got a grip on herself.

"There now, love," he crooned in the voice he'd perfected talking Dru down from various unstable ledges. "What's this, then? Remorse hit you that quick, did it?" He was half afraid it was true, that she loathed him again already.

She was speaking wetly and incomprehensibly into his collar bone, so Spike pushed gently at Willow's shoulder and wiped her face with the nearest piece of clothing--her shirt, he was wickedly relieved to note. His own clothes had enough of her tearful fluids on them.

"Say again, pet?"

Willow sniffled and smiled shyly. "Sorry," she mumbled and took a deep breath. "It's just..." her lips wobbled again, but she maintained control, thankfully. "It's just been a really long time since anyone made me feel that way."

Spike smiled his wolf smile. "Been flying solo recently, eh?"

She swatted him halfheartedly. "Not that," she said, blushing again. "I mean, yeah, okay, you have a point, that's not what I mean."

"No?"

She sniffed again, and then drew her warm hand up from his biceps to his cheek, petting him. "I mean, since I felt... I dunno... beautiful, I guess." He could feel her face heating even further against his chest. "You know. Loved."

Spike pressed a cool kiss into Willow's forehead.

"That was the deal, pet," he said simply, and went back to stroking her hair.

They were silent for a moment, and Spike counted her breaths, laying mental odds on how long she'd keep it up.

"Spike?"

Three breaths. He smiled and made a note that he owed himself a beer.

"Mmmm?"

"Did you..." Willow pushed herself up on an elbow and looked with great concern into his face. "Did you feel it, too?"

He raised his eyebrows so far his scar stretched and then chuckled as her blush fired up again.

"I didn't mean... I mean, well, I know you felt that, but what I meant was, did you feel the other?"

Her cheek was smooth and hot under his cool fingers as he caressed her, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Oh yeah, love. You kept up your end of the bargain."

Willow's smile was like daylight minus incineration.

"Good," she said, and she leaned to drop a soft kiss on his mouth before settling back into his embrace.

She yawned like the kitten she was, and Spike petted her hair, missing her purr already. "You should sleep, pet," he murmured. "You've been up forever."

"Mmmmmm," she agreed, and in seventeen more breaths she was dozing cozily.


A fierce pounding at the door lurched the pair to attention before they were all the way awake, their abrupt movement violently shaking the wheeled table where they'd nested. Willow squeaked as she came back into herself and grabbed the closest piece of fabric to her chest.

"Get down! Get down!" she hissed, shoving him. "Oh God, I'm all naked. You're all naked! Get dressed!"

"You've got my trousers!" he hissed back, and she frowned, threw them toward him, and fumbled for her own clothes.

"I so don't want Amy to kill me when I'm naked," she whispered, flinching at the continued banging. "Oh, man! I just need, like a minute..."

Pants on, Spike reached casually for his shirt and drew it easily over his head, then efficiently tackled his boots.

"Where's my bra?" She was back to being topless over the long, badly rumpled skirt. "Wait, my underwear! What'd you do with my undies?"

"Tore them off with my teeth, pet, remember?" he teased, pausing to pull the lilac lace of her brassiere from under his duster and hand it to her.

"Shut up, Spike. This isn't fun for me!" Willow stuffed her arms through the straps and turned her back to him. "Help me!"

A voice joined in on the racket outside, yelling Willow's name. "Are you in there? Willow? Are you okay?"

They both froze, Spike's fingers clasping the hooks between Willow's shoulder blades.

"Willow!"

"Hey," Spike started, "that sounds like--"

"Come on, Will! Please say something! Please be okay!" The door rattled in its frame, Buffy apparently having applied some Slayer strength to it.

"Oh, thank goodness." Willow sighed, then hollered "Buffy! We're in here! OUCH!"

"Are you daft?" Spike growled.

"You snapped my bra, you big jerk!"

The voice again, from outside, alarmed now. "Will! Are you hurt? What happened?"

Spike's face was tense. "Put your bloody sweater on. You want Buffy seeing you like that?"

It sank in, finally. "Oh. Oh! Right. Gimme!" Then to the door, she called "Um, yeah, I'm okay. I just, um... stubbed my toe."

Spike groaned.

"What?"

"Stubbed your toe?"

Her face disappeared into the cotton. "Well, what do you expect?" she asked. Her head popped out of the neck. "I'm flustered."

The pounding stopped.

"Hang on, Will!" Buffy's voice seemed closer now that the fear had left it. "Tara's got a spell to get the door open."

"Tara?" Willow squawked, voice cracking. She turned to Spike, and repeated, more quietly but with reinstilled panic. "Tara? Crap. Seriously, where's my underwear?"

"Oh," Spike complained, "Oh, so now you're worried."

Willow shoved his duster to the floor, but the cotton scrap she was looking for didn't appear. "Duh, Spike, I was worried before. I just don't want..."

Spike felt his face fall, and Willow must have seen it too. She gave up her frantic search and quickly took his hand.

"Look, it's not that I regret this, or am ashamed of it. Not at all. It was fun. And it turns out you're really sweet, and--I admit it--for a guy, you're pretty fantastic--" He raised his eyebrows at her, but she plowed ahead. "But we talked about this. It was just for today. And you know I'm in love with Tara."

Right. And he was in love with Buffy. Spike nodded. "I got you, Red. You're right. Neither girl'd be thrilled to hear about our little interlude. I guess I just..."

"I know. Me, too. We'll talk about it later, okay? Right now we find my the remains of panties and hide them until I can give them a proper burial."

Spike withdrew his hand from her warm, clammy one, and hooked his thumb into the front pocket of his jeans. "Don't worry, sweet. I've got 'em right here," he said, patting the slightly bulging pocket.

She gaped at him. "Oh my god, you freak! Why didn't you tell me?"

He gave her his best creature-of-evil grin and raised an eyebrow. "I like to watch you panic," he teased. "It's sexy."

Her mouth was opening to shoot back a response when a sudden and swiftly building hum began emanating from the doorway. Spike grabbed Willow by the shoulders and turned so that his body was between her and the door, which blasted open with a rush of heat and a shower of silver particles that stung hotly on his skin before they fizzled out.

"Watch it, would you?" he groused loudly, clapping at the sparks falling onto his bare arms. "Highly flammable being here!"

He stepped away from Willow and glared at the entourage storming into the examining room, weapons and spellbooks at the ready.

"Spike?" Buffy asked stupidly, stopping a few strides into the room. Xander and Tara poured past her, heading for Willow.

"That's my name, don't wear it out," he answered lamely, taking the "ask a stupid question" tack.

Xander turned from Willow and assessed him with his usual mix of disdain and reluctant tolerance. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"Me!" Willow offered quickly, then grimaced at her word choice but elaborated hastily enough that her fellow Scoobies probably took the flub for general Willow-ness. "He was helping me. Protecting me. From Amy."

Three heads swiveled back toward Spike, who shrugged. "Red here wanted some company--cross-town trek after sundown and all--and pointed out that I might be able to stock up on the blood without robbing from the living over at the hospital." He made a sour face at the memory. "Last time I stray from organic. Preservatives kill the taste."

Willow looked at him with gratitude; the others just looked at him.

"I almost didn't make it in here," she explained. "Amy... Well, you know, we obviously didn't get away clean. I mean, she locked us in here, but, before that she had some big nasties after us--me. Spike held them off, though."

Xander sneered in Spike's direction. "Doesn't look like he did a very good job of it."

Willow's face was blank. "Huh?"

"Your neck." Tara's voice was soft and calm, as usual, and her hand stretched out to Willow's throat, which Spike now realized was black and blue and not nearly covered enough by the scooping neck of her droopy sweater. "It's all..."

"Oh!" Willow yelped, hand flying up to her neck, face staining red. "Oh, um..."

Spike jumped in. "Venkrash demon," he offered, pulling the name out of his ass. "Salt suckers. Nasty little buggers."

The Scoobies looked at him, waiting.

"Yeah, uh, you know, did'ja ever see that Star Trek? Original one, you know, with Kirk and Spock and them? None of this spin-off crap."

More blank stares. "Oh, come on! Harris, I know you know what I'm talkin' about, you Trekkie loser. I've seen the ears hidden in your desk."

Xander coughed uncomfortably and the women smiled, and Spike knew he had them.

"Right, so there's that one, with that beastie they called the salt vampire. 'S'why I remember it. An' it went about possessing people, then attacking the people close to it, and it sucked the salt right out of their bodies, see? Left these terrible blotches all over 'em, not to mention turnin' 'em into piles of dust. Poor Bones. Not like the guy didn't always look like death--and not death like I make it look, but really wretched. His old flame gets possessed, see, an' she attacks him, but ... I can't remember, someone rescues him in time, and he's left with a wicked mess of hickeys."

Willow was blushing again. Shouldn't'a said "hickey."

"Right, so, anyway these Benkrash demons--"

"VENkrash?" Buffy corrected.

"Oh, yeah, well, they're Mexican of origin, so the pronunciation and spelling's all wonky. Anyway, they work like that. Latch on and just suck the salt right out of a person, but they do it, like, through the skin, so no blood, see?" He paused to see if they were buying it. "Perfect waste, if you ask me," he added for effect. "All that neck and no blood? There's plenty of salt in it, too, really, you'd think they'd go for the whole ..."

Buffy cut him short with a sharp wave of her hand and a firmly stated "Ick," then turned to Willow. "Are you sure you're okay? Those look like they hurt." She stepped in closer to her friend and peered much more intently than Willow seemed comfortable with. "Not very big, are they?"

"Huh?" Willow stammered. "Oh, no, they were like, monkey size, but, um... climby and sucky."

Tara's hand, which had been hovering, settled on Willow's shoulder. "That must have been really scary."

"Yeah, uh, it was a little. But, you know, Spike ran them off, and then we got locked in here, which, you know, not so great because of being locked in, but on the plus side, no monkey salt suckers."

Spike could see she was going to ruin all his careful lying if she didn't shut up, so he took over again. "So, what's with the Wicked Witch, then? You lot kill her, or what?"

Xander answered, eager to take the morality flag and wave it in Spike's face. "We don't kill humans, Spike, remember? We're the good guys."

Spike resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at the twit.

"Not very good, though, are you?" he shot, surprised at his sudden, real anger. "Took you long enough to root out where Willow'd gone and to get her out, didn't it?" Spike grabbed Xander's arm and pulled it up so he could look at his watch. "What time is it, Harris? Oh, look, Wednesday o'clock, you wanker!"

Buffy stepped between them and grabbed Spike's wrist, hard. He leered at her, dragging his eyes over her as repulsively as he could to remind her he liked it rough. 'S long as he was diverting attention from Willow with the letch act, he figured, he might's well go full bore.

"Hey! Macho men. Cut it out. Point is, we're all safe." She eased off on Spike's wrist, and he released Xander's. She pushed him away, but followed up with near sincerity. "Spike." He looked up from nursing his fresh bruise. "Thank you for looking out for Willow. And, by the way, shut up. Amy zapped us, too, you know, which is why it took us so long to figure it out and get here."

Tara piped in, serving the dual goody-goody purposes of cutting the tension and pointing out the fundamental badness of magic abuse.

"She sealed our mouths shut so we couldn't do any defensive spells," she explained. "I had to check out all the library's Latin tapes and splice the reversal spell together."

It was hard not to snicker, but Spike managed, mostly.

Tara stammered a little and blushed to match her ex. "S-s-so after, when we, you know, g-got our mouths back," she flushed deeper but forged ahead, "we, um, did an im-imobilzing spell on her so she c-can't do anymore spells."

Willow had inched toward Tara during her struggle to explain, and Spike felt the world begin to settle back into its proper order. Scoobies in a protective circle, him on the outside.

"Sounds like a great spell, Tara," Willow said with what sounded like equal parts admiration and longing.

"Did the trick," Xander confirmed. "And it must've gotten rid of your monkey suckers, too," he added. "God, did I just say 'monkey suckers'?"

"Sorry to say," Buffy confirmed.

Spike remembered to nod just in time, and then followed up with the more obvious danger. "What about the midnight sun? Still looks like egg-frying weather to me."

Tara's stutter was resolving itself. "Oh, that--that's because it's really day. It's like, three o'clock."

"Oh. Well, all right then. Claps on the shoulder all around."

Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed exaggeratedly. "Ungrateful creep," she muttered, not quite under her breath, and Xander chuffed in agreement.

"Will," the whelp said, with overstated kindness, "you must be starving. Come on. We'll get you home and fed."

"Yeah," Tara agreed, fluttering nervously, "you've gotta be just worn out. You should let them take you home."

The coy look she'd shot at him earlier was back in Willow's eye, and Spike winced inwardly to see it directed at Tara. What'd you expect? he asked himself scornfully.

"Come on." Buffy slipped an arm over Willow's shoulders and steered her toward the unhinged door. The quartet was nearly out when the redhead stopped.

"Hey, what about Spike?"

The others turned to follow her gaze back to the vamp, who busied himself lighting up a smoke.

"What about him?" Harris asked.

"Well," Willow said, and Spike thought he heard some indignance in her voice. "He's stuck here. Sun's still out."

He could see the Scoobies forming dismissals, so he cut them off.

"Don't you worry 'bout me, kitten," he said, waving them off with a toss of his hand, cigarette dangling casually to confirm his words. "I'll just hang about here til the sun goes down." He met Willow's eyes. "Reminisce. Play puppet show with the corpses. You know. Evil stuff."

There was a chorus of "eew" from the gang, and Spike smiled to see that Willow was laughing at him. She turned to leave with her friends.

"Hey! Red!" Spike called after her, and she snapped back around, the rest of the group tensing with impatience. "Don't forget the dread machine." He pointed to her laptop, still humming softly at the desk where she'd left it running hours before.

"Oh, yeah," Willow acknowledged, pulling out from under Buffy's arm and crossing the room to meet Spike at the desk. He folded the laptop shut and handed it to her, ducking his head so the others couldn't see his smile.

"See you round, kitten," he said quietly.

She surprised him--and her friends, by the sound of it--by grabbing him by the shoulder and pressing a swift kiss onto the side of his mouth. "Thank you," she said in her normal-loud voice. Then, lower, just for him, "Be nice."

She scurried back across to the gaping Scoobies and took Xander's hand with her free one, tugging on it. "What? He was really nice to me," she insisted. "He saved me from those monkey suckers, you know."

Xander, Buffy, and Tara turned their gaping faces back to their charge, who urged them out the door.

"Come on," Willow prodded in her little-girl voice. "I'm starving. Hey! Can there be pancakes?"

"Circles, or funny shapes?" Tara asked, voice echoing back to Spike from the hallway.

Several doors slammed, and then he could hear their laughter floating outside the window, before it drifted away on wind and distance.

Spike took a long, dry drag on his cigarette and jumped lithely back onto their autopsy table, folding his duster--still strewn across the tabletop--into a pillow and reclining for a good round of reminiscing. Arms and legs folded comfortably, Spike grinned to the world at large and considered the impossible.

THE END

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