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Just A Human

by Am-Chau Yarkona

Title: Just A Human
Author: Am-Chau Yarkona
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine, Joss is God and the Grr Argh monster is scary. I'll play nice and not try to steal them or sell them into slavery. Summary: Spike is behaving oddly. When Buffy isn't interested, Willow sets out to discover what's wrong- and finds out something very interesting. Notes: I'm not sure why, but I love to write Vulnerable William-Spike. Here I go again. Lots of thanks to Beccy for the beta read.

Section One.
Giles' apartment, sometime post-Tara's arrival, pre-Riley leaving, and post-chipping-of-Spike.

"Ah- Willow, Tara. Do come in."

"I brought food, Giles. If Xander's coming, we'll need it."

"Thank you. Buffy and Riley are here already, and the others should be along shortly."

Willow and Tara sat, Willow in an armchair with Tara at her feet. "Hi guys. How'd patrol go last night?"

"Hi Will, Tara. Oh, only one vampire, not counting Spike, and no demons, not counting Anya," Buffy answered.

"Don't I count now, Slayer?" a mocking voice asked from the doorway. Giles shot up out of his chair, startled.

"Spike! Err, do come in," he blustered, already preparing to spend the evening trying to keep the chipped vampire and his Slayer from at each other's throats.

"Already did, Watcher. You invited me in before, remember?" Spike sauntered across the room and flopped into a chair, "So what's the latest threat to the safety of the universe to crawled out of the sewer hole that is the Hellmouth?"

"Don't get lippy about the Hellmouth, Spike," Buffy told him, teasingly, "I could get protective after all these years."

"You'd get even worse if I started on solider-boy there, that you've got all cuddly with," Spike pointed out.

"Yes," Buffy said simply, and smiled at Riley.

Someone knocked on the door again: Xander and Anya. "Come in, come in," Giles called, leaping up to open the door, and that was the moment at which Willow first noticed it. When Xander entered, Spike tensed, sitting up in the chair, a slight frown crossing his face, before he forced himself to relax. At the time, she thought no more of it, and decided to get the research going.

"Well, what do we need to lowdown on tonight? I have my laptop, to be all plugged-iny, but I need some search terms first."

Buffy grinned at her, and then looked over to Giles. "Yeah- just why are we here all, bookaholic?"

"Um," Giles fidgeted a moment, looking round for somewhere to sit, but, finding original or honoury Scoobies in all his chairs, settled for leaning against the counter. "Certain new prophecies- that is to say, old prophecies of which we were previously unaware..."

"More prophecies, right. Cut the pedantry, Giles, and give of the factoids."

"Well, we have to ascertain the, the facts here, but the prophecies relate to a Slayer working near a Hellmouth- in particular, a Slayer with friends. And as you, Buffy..."

"Are the first and probably last of that nature, it's about me?"

"It would seem so."

"Then lets have the bloody facts Ripper and get on with it. I have an unlife to lead, y'know," Spike burst out, earning him a hiss of, "Wow, touchy vampire," from Xander, and looks from the rest of the gang. "What?" he asked. "I just want to get on, right?"

"Yes, well, let me get the err, book..."

The research evening droned on, through fruitless searches and pointless book browsing. Willow kept half an eye on Spike, whenever she could spare it from her laptop screen, and noticed the little ways in which he was more nervous than normal: the way he jumped when Xander passed him a book, the way his accent slipped closer to Giles' as he answered question without lifting his head from the book on his lap, and the way he seemed much more open and helpful tonight than the last- and first- time they'd done this.

For some reason, a lot of it appeared to be linked to Xander, something Willow couldn't understand at all. Why should Xander make Spike jumpy, and not, say Riley? He'd have good reason to feel afraid of Riley. However, the others didn't notice anything amiss, and when it reached twelve o'clock they decided to call it a night, to give Buffy and Riley the time to patrol and the rest time to get to jobs or school in the morning.

When Spike was gone, Willow tried to tell Buffy what she'd noticed, but Buffy dismissed it as "your imagination, Will. And- focusing on Spike, much?" so Willow only told Tara that she planned to get Spike one-on-one.

"Go round to Xander's place in daylight, when Xander's at work," her Wiccan girlfriend suggested, and added, "Be careful." She didn't try to talk Willow out of going in her first free period the next day- she quickly learned that Willow could be stubborn at times.

"Hey- Spike?" Willow pushed the door- unlocked- open a fraction and slipped in, careful not to let more sunshine in the necessary. She'd decided not to try and pretend she'd come to see Xander, because Spike really wasn't that dumb.

Once inside, she could see why she hadn't had an answer. Spike was fast asleep on the couch, fully dressed, wriggling and fidgeting in his dreams. Suddenly feeling a twinge of sympathy for this lonely creature, she went over and knelt by his side.

"No," he murmured, rolling away from her. "Trapped. No- help! I'll do anything... Xander, no..." he threw out an arm, catching her on the knee. Unthinking, she acted on instinct and took his hand, before trying to wake him.

"Spike! Spike!" she called, and took his shoulder in her other hand, in order to shake him. After a moment or two her efforts were rewarded- the blue eyes snapped open, and suddenly she found herself pulled into strong arms.

"Willow?" Spike asked, his face buried in the red hair on her shoulder.

"Yeah, it's me, Spike. You were dreaming and..."

"Dreaming?" He let her go then, and she took a quick, grateful gasp of air. Vampire strength could be overpowering. "Is that what you thought?" he snapped. "It was a bloody nightmare!"

He stood and stalked across the room to lean his head on a doorframe, embarrassed to have been seen in his moment of weakness.

"Nightmare, huh?" Willow asked. "Do you want to, you know, tell it?" She was intensely curious, but she didn't want to push too hard, least he crack. She'd never thought of him as fragile before, but he clearly was now. "'Cos sometimes, mine stop seeming so scary and just look silly, when I tell them." Quietly, she came up behind him and touched his shoulder again, making him start.

"Look, red, why're you here? Let's deal with that and then you can be off again."

"The nightmare- or is it daymare, if it happens to a..."

"Hurry it along, witch."

"It might be part of why I'm here."

"What!?"

"I noticed you were acting all odd and jumpy at the Scooby meeting last night, with Xander, and now.." she trailed off. The look on his face when she said Xander's name- half surprise, that she had noticed, and half the fight that was what she had seen the night before.

"Spike," she said, quietly, calmly, trying to sooth him, "let's sit down, shall we?" She pushed him into the armchair, and perched in front of him on the edge of a coffee table. "Now, Spike, see here. We've known each other how long- maybe two years. Last year you kidnapped me to do a spell on your ex-girlfriend," he winced at the mention of Drusilla, but stayed seated, his eyes glued to the floor, refusing to look up, "and the year before that you tried to kill us all- until you made a pact with Buffy. I think that kind of long friendship deserves some trust, don't you?" He looked up then, and caught her eyes, confused, but saw only sympathy and laughter there, in a mix that should have screamed `enemy' but instead only said `friendship', he couldn't help himself. He smiled, but the image from his nightmare rose to the forefront of his mind again, and he stopped.

"Well," Willow said, "Now at least I know you're listening. What we have to do now is the interactive bit. We've pretty much covered `I talk; you listen' so now we have to try `You talk; I listen'. Up for it?"

He nodded, but didn't actually speak.

"Your dream, nightmare, whatever," she prompted. "Tell me about it."

"It was the same as the other times," he mumbled.

"Other times? Look at me, Spike, what other times?"

He lifted his head obediently, her finger under his chin. "Hey, bossy, you're not that Evil Willow the Slayer was talking about, are you?"

"No, I'm not."

"And I'm meant to trust you on that?" He grinned at her then, a pale imitation of his normal cheeky smile, but to her eyes it was better than the nothing that was there before, and she dropped her hand back to her lap.

"I came in through the sunshine," she pointed out, mildly.

"I didn't see you- how do I know..."

"You were having a nightmare, Spike. One you're just going to tell me about."

"It's not important." He looked away again; blue eyes scanning floor, ceiling, walls, everything but the girl who was trying to help him.

"Yes, it is," Willow said firmly. "Tell me."

He shrugged and blinked hard. "Well, it was the same as before. I'm standing a corridor, alone, and I don't know the way out. I run and run, but I can't get out, and then I noticed that someone's following me, and I can't fight them- and then they jump me, and just before they stake me, I see the face- Xander. And then I wake up, and I'm all- well, you saw. Shaky." The words have tumbled out in a rush, and when he has stopped there are tears falling freely down his face.

Willow pulls the blond vampire towards her, letting him bury his head in her shoulder again, and weep his fears away. "Hush, Spike. Hush."

A little while later, he was calm again. "You were right, Willow," he admitted, "It does seem silly now that I've told you."

"You probably won't dream it again then- and I really must be off. Class, you know. But if you ever- well, you always seem to know where to find me."

She shut the door behind her, and Spike decided to get some more sleep, thinking as he lay down of the way in which his Princess had always been able to take the nightmares away, exactly as Willow had just done.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Am-Chau Yarkona

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