Actions

Work Header

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Chapter Text

All Things Bright and Beautiful

 

The small white rat peered through the glass of her cage at the red-haired girl talking to her.

“I bought you something today Amy. I hope you like it.” Willow slid the screen lid open and placed Amy’s present inside. “I remembered that you used to jog before school every morning so I thought maybe you’d like this." Amy, the rat, looked at the gleaming new hamster wheel that Willow had just placed on the cedar shavings. She trotted over sniffing curiously. Satisfied she stepped into it and began running enthusiastically. Willow smiled at her and slid the lid closed. “I bought myself something too. It’s a new book…see?” She held the book up so the rat could see the title Shapechanging through the Ages. The rat squeaked in terror, leapt off the wheel and buried herself under the cedar shavings in the corner. Willow made shushing movements with her hands. “I know I promised I wouldn’t do any more spells. And I won’t. I just thought maybe something in here would tell us how to fix you. Then Giles could do it…or Tara.” The rat poked its head out of the shavings and gave a small squeak. “I promise, no more spells.” Willow placed her hand over her heart. Amy came out of hiding and went back to running on her wheel.

Willow placed the book on her desk next to her laptop. She glanced at her watch and sighed. “It’ll have to wait though. Meeting at Giles’. Research girl time.” She grabbed her new leather coat and headed for the door. Right on cue there was a rapping from the other side.

“You decent, luv’?”

Willow opened the door and grinned at the bleached blond vampire leaning against the door jamb arms crossed over his chest.

“And if I wasn’t?”

“Bloody hell luv I’d break the door down to get at you.” Spike leered, straightening up and taking her jacket from her. “Then I would ravish you,” He held the jacket for her to slip her arms into. “And leave your drained body across the Slayer’s bed as a token of my great affection.” He spun her towards him and zipped her jacket for her. “It’s cold out tonight. You’ll need that.”

“You threaten to drain me, then you tell me to put my jacket on cause it’s cold? Thanks Mom.” Willow giggled. She started down the hall towards the exit. “Coming?”

“Oh, was that foreplay pet?”

“You…you…” Willow blushed the same color as her hair. Spike raised an eyebrow at her as he held the door open for her.

“Was it something I said?”

-------------------------------

“Ugh, my hair is sticky.” Buffy pulled a honey blond strand forward and glared at it. “Why didn’t you tell me he was going to explode into…into..”

“Goo.” Xander supplied examining Buffy’s hair.

“Possibly because I didn’t know that he was going to explode into ‘goo’ anymore than I knew that he was even here. Of course if a certain Slayer would keep me more informed perhaps I would be able to warn her when her opponents were going to decompose into a ectoplasmic state.” Giles muttered as he fished for towels in his linen closet.

“What? Ecto..huh?” Buffy looked up from trying to pull her shirt away from her body.

“Goo.” Xander supplied again.

“Yes, quite. Perhaps you should take a shower Buffy while Xander tells me about your…um…encounter.” Giles handed the sticky Slayer some towels. Buffy grabbed them and flounced up the stairs to the bathroom. The door slammed and then there was the sound of running water and muffled grumbling as the Slayer peeled off her ruined clothing.

“So then…Xander,” The ex-watcher began trailing behind the boy as he went in search of food. “Where did you find this…err…creature.”

“Cemetery.” Xander stuffed a handful of cheese doodles into his mouth and collapsed onto the leather couch in the den. Giles took the swivel desk chair next to the desk where he had been looking through some books before Buffy had returned from patrol.

“Which cemetery, there are currently nineteen that Buffy makes rounds through.” Giles forced himself to remain patient as Xander picked up the remote from the oak coffee table and flipped on the TV.

“Everlasting Peace.” Xander hit the DTV button and watched as the screen guide came up displaying all 600 channels.

“And…” Giles ground out through gritted teeth. < It is a wonder that the boy’s mind hasn’t completely disintegrated with the amount of ‘boob tube’ he watches. >

“Huh? What?” Xander turned the TV to Monday Night Nitro.

“What. Did. He. Look. Like?” Giles enunciated clearly over the grunts and thuds that accompanied Xander’s professional wrestling viewing choice.

“Mph. Tall. Dark. Ugly.” Xander mumbled around another mouthful of munchies.

Giles sighed and removed his glasses realizing that he would have to wait for Buffy if he was to get an accurate report of the incident. He turned back to the books on the desk. < Perhaps I can finish the section on that Fungus demon that Spike mentioned. > He winced at the sound of a metal chair striking someone on the back and Xander’s immediate cheer. < In the kitchen. >

---------------------------

“Mmmphh.”

“What?!” Willow turned to stare at the vampire beside her.

“Sorry luv, got your hair in my mouth. I said: no, I haven’t known any shapechangers in the last 126 years. I seem to remember something about Dru wanting to be a bird once,” he frowned trying to capture the memory. “I think she even started looking for a spell. “

“Did she find one?” Willow asked trying to pull her hair into ponytail. Now that the wind had picked up it was flying everywhere.

“Angelus stopped her. Said it wouldn’t work, he didn’t want her to fly away from her ‘daddy’.” Spike’s lips twisted at the memory. He shrugged. “Sorry I couldn’t help pet.”

“Why did she want to?” Willow asked.

“What luv?”

“Drusilla. Why did she want to be a bird?”

“Oh, so she could fly up and talk to the stars.” Spike pulled his leather duster tighter around his lean frame as the wind once again tore at it. “Cor. There’s going to be a storm luv. Might want to jog a bit.” As if to emphasize his warning the first fat drops of rain hit the pavement.

Witch and vampire sprinted for cover.

-------------------------

Giles jumped as his front door banged open.

“Watcher! You got any towels ‘round this bloody place?” Spike’s voice came from the front hall. Giles headed for the linen closet again.

Xander looked over the back of the couch into the front hall. “What happened to you two?” He asked noticing the definitely damp state of Willow and Spike.

“Got caught in the rain.” Willow said shaking her hair out.

“Hell luv, I’m wet enough as it is!” Spike yelped trying to duck the water flying at him.

“Sorry.” Willow grinned up at him through the curtain of her hair.

“Like hell you are. This is about that crack at the dorm isn’t it?”

“Payback’s a bitch.”

“And so are y…” The towel hit Spike in the face cutting off whatever he was about to say.

“Oh. Sorry about that Spike. Here you are Willow.” Giles came around the corner and handed Willow his last clean towel. < Must do laundry in the morning. >

“Hmph.” Spike toweled off his hair and shed his duster hanging it on the coat rack by the door. His red silk shirt and black jeans hadn’t gotten very wet thanks to the coverage of his coat. He joined Xander in the den where they resuscitated the weekly argument about Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Big Sexy Kevin Nash and who could kick whose butt.

“As soon as Buffy is done with her shower I think I will need your assistance on that infernal contraption over there.” Giles waved a hand to the corner of the room where the computer sat.

Willow finished wringing out her hair and nodded. “Shower?” She raised an eyebrow at the ex-Watcher.

“She had a run-in with a demon who, when killed, transformed into an ectop…”

“Goo.” Xander called from the other room.

“Quite. A ‘puddle of goo’ according to your young friend in there. Buffy was coated in the substance and so I suggested that she make use of the facilities before you arrived.” Giles adjusted his glasses.

The upstairs bathroom door opened and a much cleaner Buffy emerged wearing her work out sweats.

“Ah, Buffy. Now perhaps you could give me a description of your opponent?”

“Sure Giles. He was tall and had these little silver specks all over his skin.“ Buffy reported as she came down the stairs. “Hi Will. New coat?” She glanced at the burgundy leather jacket Willow was hanging next to Spike’s duster.

“Hi Buff. Yeah. It’s weird though, I didn’t buy it. Remember that big Fed Ex package that I signed for yesterday? This was in it. Cool huh?” Willow stroked the soft leather as she spoke.

“Cool. Who’s it from?”

“Beats me.” Willow shrugged. “I’m thinking secret admirer. Rich secret admirer!” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Actually it’s probably from my parents. They always sent me stuff from their trips and they never send a note with it.”

“Perhaps we could forget about Willow’s wardrobe for a moment and return to the subject of your attack this evening? Good. Was there anything else odd about him?” Giles was starting to sound frustrated by the Slayer and her friends.

“Um…nope. Oh wait. He had purple eyes. But what’s the big anyway Giles? I gooed him and we’re done!” Buffy flung up her hands and headed for the couch. Willow followed her into the other room leaving Giles to mutter “Purple eyes, purple eyes now where have I read that recently.”

“Giles?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes Willow?” Giles jerked his head up and pulled his glasses out of his mouth where he had been chewing on the earpiece.

“Do you want me to…” she motioned to the computer. She winced as a huge crack of thunder rattled the window and a streak of lightning illuminated the night.

“Perhaps that might be unwise considering the storm.” Giles decided as the TV reception suddenly went fuzzy.

“Damn.” Xander muttered as he turned off the set. “The storm’s screwing up the satellite signal.”

“Duh!” Willow smacked her head with her open palm. “How could I have missed that?” She ran over to the couch and started pulling at Spike. Xander, Buffy and Giles stared at her in bewilderment.

“Now hold on a moment pet…” Spike managed as he was dragged to his feet. “What’s got your knickers all in a twist?”

“Hit me.” Willow demanded.

“WHAT?!” Spike’s jaw dropped. “Can’t do it pet. Implant you know…not to mention your little friend over there.” He nodded at Buffy who had dropped a stake into her hand the moment Willow made her request. The look in her eyes just dared Spike to do anything that foolish.

“Oh fine then.” Willow sighed turning away from him. She suddenly whipped back around and cracked Spike full force across the mouth. He instinctively grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm behind her, pulling her to him.

“Now that was a mistake pet!” He growled as his face morphed and he dragged his fangs across her neck. He felt a slight prick against his back as Buffy came to stand behind him with the point of her stake resting along his spine.

“Let her go fangless, unless you want to go back into the wheelchair for good this time.” Buffy prodded him lightly with her stake. Spike growled and released Willow. She moved a few paces away from him rubbing her wrist and grinning like an idiot.

“I don’t see the humor pet.” Spike grumbled his game face still on. Giles was staring at Spike in shock. Then he turned his glare onto Willow.

“That was certainly one of the most foolish things you have ever done!” He chastised her.

“I made my point though!” Willow returned.

“Uh. What point would that be Wills? The only one I see is the one that Buffy is about to drive into Deadboy Jr’s back.” Xander pointed out. Willow moved to where Buffy was still holding Spike at stakepoint and swatted her arm.

“Let him go.”

“No. He tried to eat you.”

“Well he won’t try again if you let him go. Right?” Willow promised looking at Spike.

“Wouldn’t have tried the first time if the chit hadn’t slapped me.” Spike allowed his features to return to their human form and dropped back onto the couch sulking.

“Don’t you get it? Don’t you see?” Willow asked exasperated as the lightning flashed again. Everyone except for Giles shook their heads. “Are you in pain?” Willow turned to Spike. He shook his head.

“No, luv, I’m fine…” He trailed off as comprehension began to dawn.

“But he should be! I mean the implant and not hurting humans and all that!” Buffy glanced between Spike and Willow.

Spike reached out and casually grabbed Xander by the neck. He picked the boy up by his throat and let him hang there for a few moments before dropping him onto the carpet. “Nothing!!” His eyes lit up with an unholy joy.

“Yeah, that’s great. Gonna kill us all now?” Xander gasped from where he lay on the carpet. Spike looked down at him and grinned, Xander hastily scooted back until he was behind Buffy.

“No, he’s not. Not if he wants to know why the implant’s not working.” Willow pointed at Spike. “Right?”

“Right.” Spike sat down the picture of innocence. “Alright Witch, how’d you do it and who do you want me to kill to thank you? Dog-boy?”

“No thanks. And I didn’t do anything. The storm did.”

“Of course. Electromagnetic interference. And we completely missed it.” Giles muttered. Willow nodded. Buffy raised her hand.

“Um. For those of us not well endowed in the science department: huh?”

“It hit me when the TV stopped working. The DTV system works off of satellite signals and when there is a storm those signals get blocked and the picture won’t come through. That’s why Giles didn’t want me to use the computer. If the lightning struck close by while I was using it the computer could get fried but the real thing is the Web. If I had been online I wouldn’t have been able to get through to anything because of the lightning interfering. Lightning causes electromagnetic interference which causes things like TVs, radios and computers to go screwy.” Willow paused for breath.

“And because this chip in my head is linked to The Initiative’s satellite system and is controlled by radio waves…”

“The storm interferes with it.” Willow finished. Spike’s face fell slightly.

“But that means that I’m only free as long as the storm lasts.” Thunder rumbled farther away from the house as the storm started to move on once again emphasizing his words. Spike stood up and grabbed Willow’s wrist and squeezed making her squeak with pain. His features contorted slightly. “It’s back. Not as bad yet but it’s back.” He released her wrist.

“It looks like the storm has to be right on top of you to really make a difference.” Giles looked thoughtful.

“Well I guess unless you can figure out a way to permanently attached a storm to your ass you’re still fangless.” Buffy sneered at him still playing with her stake. Spike didn’t even rise to the bait he just sat staring at his hands.

“Nothing’s changed then. We’ll just make sure he’s tied up during a storm and one of us will vamp sit again.” Xander shrugged grabbing the remote and turning the TV back on. The picture came in crystal clear. Spike made a noise that sounded like a strangled sob and strode quickly from the room.

“Guess I’m still too much of a liability.” He grabbed his duster and vanished out the door slamming it behind him. Buffy stared after him.

“What’s his problem?”

“Oh Buffy.” Willow shook her head at her friend as she walked past, grabbed her coat and followed Spike into the night.

“What?” Buffy asked the closed door. She turned to look at Giles. “What?”

“Think Buffy. We have promised to help Spike remove the chip’s influence and now we know how. But the moment that we discover this information we begin to make plans on how to keep him “controlled” the next time. Imagine that you have been blind and have been allowed to see for one brief moment but then your doctors tell you that you have to go back to being blind.” Giles turned away from her and picked up a book that had been lying on his desk.

“Oh.” Buffy looked at the closed door. “I really screwed that one up.”

---------------------

Willow tore out of Giles’ house at a dead run tugging her jacket on hastily. “Spike?!” She shouted searching the empty street. < Damn. > She stopped and glared at the den window. < Why couldn’t you think before opening your mouth Buffy? Just once. > She sighed.

“Come to twist the stake a bit pet?” She jumped as the dry British voice floated out of the shadows by the porch. Peering into the darkness she saw the glowing ember on the end of his cigarette.

“Are you okay?” She joined him against the side of the porch near the roses Olivia had planted.

Spike snorted. “Right as rain pet.”

“Oh, I thought you seemed a bit…hurt.” She turned her head away and began playing with one of the rose bushes.

“Demons don’t hurt that way luv, no emotions remember?”

“Bull.” Willow released the leaf she was shredding and turned to face him catching the look of pain on his face before he had time to mask it. She reached a hand up to his cheek. “I’m sorry.”

Spike jerked his head away the impassive mask he wore slid down onto his features. “Sorry for what? For showing me a life I thought I had lost and now can’t have anyway?” He glared at her with hate filled eyes. “Why should you be sorry for that?” He stalked out of the shadows and headed down the street back towards the crypt he was living in. Willow ran to keep up. She grabbed his arm and pulled him to face her.

“Buffy…she doesn’t understand. She’s spent the last four years fighting everything that you stand for, you can’t expect her to just put all that aside. And Xander…Xander’s a moron. He never was able to see what was in front of his face. Giles understood. He’ll help.” Willow looked up at him imploringly. “Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t do it to hurt you.” Spike’s eyes softened as he looked at her sincere expression.

“I know pet. But the others won’t let you help. They’ll come up with reasons to keep me as I am.”

“That doesn’t mean that I won’t do it.” Willow pointed to her face. “See this? It’s my resolve face. I don’t break promises to my friends and I promised that I would find a way to…what?” Willow asked suspiciously as Spike grinned suddenly.

“Friends witch?”

“Uh..I mean…” she took a deep breath. “Yeah friends. Who was the one who listened to me while I moaned about Oz? Who offered to chase him down and bring back his bloody carcass if I wanted it? Buffy and Xander said that they were sorry and that they were there for me but they were never around to listen to me.” Willow let go of his arm and walked off a few paces her face held down. “They didn’t even notice when I wanted to die.” Spike winced as he heard the pain still raw in her voice. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. She shook him off and looked back up at him her normally gentle eyes hard as flint.

“You know that night that you came into my dorm room?” Spike nodded. “ You know what I was going to do that night? I had a knife in there. My witch’s atheme. I was sitting on the bed trying to figure out the best way to slit my wrists when you knocked on the door. And then after you couldn’t bite me and I was convinced that no one would ever want me you told me I was wrong. You listened to me. That’s more than Buffy or Xander did. And that makes you more of a friend than them. And I always help my friends.” Willow glared at him a moment as if daring him to deny her that right.

“All right pet if you’re so bloody convinced to do this I’m not going to stop you.” Spike held his hands up in self-defense. “We need to get you home.” He took Willow’s hand and tugged her in the direction of her dorm.

“I just don’t get why I didn’t see all this before. I mean look at me big bad computer nerd couldn’t think of a way to deactivate a computer chip. Maybe I should change my major…to basket weaving or something that doesn’t require much thought.” Willow continued to grumble as the passed The Bronze. A wave of hyper teenagers rolled out of the door and across the street in front of them. The sounds of a rock band grated from the open doors before cutting off sharply as the bouncer banged them shut. Willow’s eyes filled with momentary tears.

“Thinking of the wolf pet?” Spike asked putting his hand under her chin lifting her face up. “I already told you ducks. His loss, your gain.” His thumb wiped at the one tear that slid down her cheek. She brushed the others away impatiently with the back of her hand.

“See? That’s what I mean.” She started off down the street again. “You are actually trying to make me feel better. You, the same guy who kidnapped me and threatened me with a broken bottle. Buffy can’t look past her relationship with Angel to notice that someone else is suffering. You would think being separated from Angel would give her some insight into what I might be feeling but she’s still stuck in the loop of self-pity. And I think hearing about my pain only made hers more real.” Spike grabbed her arm and pulled her across his body as a drunken couple stumbled across their path. Willow watched as they clung together groping each other.

“Get a room.” Spike requested as he pushed them out of the way.

“And Xander is too busy being…um…”

“Shagged, ducks.”

“Right…shagged senseless to notice if the sky fell down. And considering that he never noticed ten years of puppy love from me I suppose hoping he would notice one little gut wrenching heartbreak would be overestimating his abilities.” Willow paused for breath. She glanced at the building in front of her with some surprise. They had managed to walk back to Willow’s dorm during her ranting.

“Look’s like your home ducks. Better get inside before it starts raining again.”

“Tomorrow? Same bat time?” She smiled at him.

“Same bat place.” He nodded. She stroked his arm softly before disappearing into the building. He waited until the light in her room went on before he turned to walk away. “Besides Red, you’re my friend too.”

-------------------------

“Wills? Will? Willow?!” Buffy burst through the door shaking water from her hair. Willow started up from where she had been dozing in her desk chair.

“What? What’s wrong? Is it Xander? Giles? Spike?” The dazed redhead stumbled towards the door ready to race out if needed.

“What? Oh no, everyone’s fine. I was just worried. You know, when you and Spike ran out and all…” Buffy shuffled her feet a little. “I was wrong about what I said to him. We promised we’d help him if he helped us.” She looked up into Willow’s surprised eyes. “Well he’s helped us! I mean he’s saved my life and your life and Xander’s life. And he’s helped us figure out what to do about different demons that weren’t mentioned anywhere in Giles’ books. So we owe him.” She said defensively. “I told him that I didn’t agree with what the Initiative did and I meant it. I just have a hard time agreeing with what he does.”

Willow giggled.

“What?”

“Well I think that’s probably one of the cardinal rules of the Slayer: Don’t agree with demons.” Willow gasped out around her giggles. Buffy glared at her friend for a minute before she too started to laugh.

“Yeah that one’s right after ‘Don’t ever take a demon to the prom.’ Xander blew that one.”

“How about ‘Don’t ever say ‘it can’t get worse’ on the Hellmouth’?” By now both girls had tears running down their faces and they had collapsed on their beds. Willow struggled off her bed as something on her computer beeped. Wiping tears from her cheeks she opened the file that had just been downloaded. “Got it.” She said in a satisfied tone.

“What is it?” Buffy got up to look over her shoulder.

“I wrote to a Physic’s major friend of mine to ask him what sort of things would produce an electromagnetic field strong enough to permanently deactivate computer chips.”

“And?” Buffy asked trying to skim the file on the computer screen.

“He actually suggested that I try something much simpler first. Magnets.”

“Magnets? As in magnets? The cute little cows and such that my mom used to hold my grade school papers on the fridge with? Those magnets?” Buffy stared at Willow incredulously.

“Well, more powerful magnets but yeah. I should have thought of that one too. No one who cares about his or her computer ever lets a strong magnet near it. And I think I know exactly where to get one strong enough to destroy that chip.” Willow closed down the file and shut off her computer. She started for the door stopping only to grab her jacket. “Coming?” She asked Buffy over her shoulder. Buffy scrambled to follow the witch out the door.

“Where are we going anyway?”

“DiPetrio’s Junk Cars and Scrap.”

--------------------

Spike stared through the ruby liquid at the stars. He tilted the bubble glass slightly to allow the rich scent to reach him. He inhaled ignoring the slight twinge that his implant gave him as he relished the smell of human blood. It was Willow who had reasoned that he could still drink human blood as long as it was taken without causing the human pain. Spike hadn’t seen the logic in that until she had rolled her eyes at him and in her most biting tone had said “People who donate blood aren’t being hurt now are they?” She had tested that theory by ‘requisitioning’ two pints of blood from Angel’s contact at the hospital and feeding it to him. His implant gave a little twinge but that was all. As long as he kept his mind on something else while he drank he wasn’t bothered. Willow had grinned at him and demanded that he admit that she had been right. When he did she had gleefully danced in place singing “I told you so!” Spike smiled at the memory. What was it about the little witch that made him want to see her happy? And why was it that tonight when the Slayer and the git had torn his joy apart had he been so glad that she had said she would still help him? He shook his head. He was turning into a poof just like his sire. It was that damn implant! Making him think strange thoughts and feel things that no demon should feel.

He sighed and slugged back the glass of blood. No, if he wanted to be honest with himself this had all started long before the implant. He startled as his phone rang. < Who the bloody hell would be calling this late? >

“What?” He picked up the phone on its fourth ring.

“Spike?”

“Who else pet?”

“I need you to meet me at the junkyard on Crescent Street. You know it?”

“Hell pet what are you doing out there this late at night?” His voice rose as he thought of her tiptoeing around one of the busiest vampire hunting areas alone. “You just stay there.” Spike slammed down the phone and raced out the door dropping the goblet in his rush.

A dozen glass shards sparkled in the light of the stars above.

-------------------------

“He’s on his way.” Willow handed the cell phone back to Buffy.

“Good.” Buffy pocketed the phone and continued to stare up at what Willow had dragged her out of the dorm to find. The giant car magnet loomed above them. “Are you sure about this Will?” She looked at the hacker who was reading the instructions for running the crane the magnet was attached to.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Well no. But I don’t think I will be able to control myself if Spike is lifted up off the ground and sticks to that thing when you turn it on.” Buffy snickered as the image flitted through her brain.

“Um. Yeah I can see how that would be hard.” Willow suffocated a giggle of her own. “But I am pretty sure that I can reprogram this is lower the magnet to the ground and do a self-diagnostic. When it does it will emit a strong magnetic field for a few seconds. That should be enough for the implant to be deactivated but not enough to hurt Spike.” Willow punched a few more buttons and watched with satisfaction as the giant magnet slowly settled to earth next to them. “Now we just wait for Spike.”

------------------------

< Bloody Slayer. Going to get her friends killed if she can’t keep better track of them. What the bloody hell does the witch think she’s doing roaming around at night alone? If the Slayer weren’t so busy moping over soulboy she might actually notice when one of her friends is about to become dinner. > Spike’s thoughts kept going round as he ran through the underground tunnels of Sunnydale. He stopped at a junction and quickly climbed the ladder bolted to the wall. He slid the manhole cover to the side slowly and peered out checking to make sure nothing else was stirring along this dead end alley. Sensing nothing he climbed out and continued his headlong dash towards the scrap yard where Willow waited for him. < Don’t leave me now Witch…don’t be someone’s dinner. You’ve been strong…don’t be weak now. > The gates to the scrap yard lay directly ahead of him. He studied them carefully before backing up and getting a running start. He vaulted them cleanly and leaned in a crouch on the other side. < What the? >

“Hello Spike.” Buffy greeted him from where she sat on a metal square that had once been a Buick. She was toying with a stake, a habit he noticed that she indulged in when she was nervous. “Look I have to tell you something. And I have to do it fast so I don’t lose my nerve.” She held up a hand as he started to speak, to demand where his witch was. < My witch? Where the hell did that come from? >

“Look I was wrong earlier. We had a bargain and you’ve kept your end, more than kept it really, and I didn’t give holding up my end a second thought. I’m really sorry Spike.” She smiled at him shyly. He supposed that she wasn’t used to saying sorry to anyone. < At least she has the nerve to admit when she’s wrong. And if she has that much nerve then.. >

“Apology accepted luv. Care to kiss and make up?” He leered. Buffy rolled her eyes.

“Eeew.”

“Well then since you didn’t call me here for a menage-a-trios, you didn’t, did you?” He looked hopeful. Buffy shuddered.

“Well then what was that call from Willow all about?”

“It’s about getting rid of that chip in your head.” Willow answered him coming into view from behind a pile of crunched cars. “Come here my little pretty.” She croaked, crooking her finger at him. “Come to Auntie Willow.”

Spike backed up a step. “Now luv, you know I would do anything to get rid of this bloody implant but what exactly do I have to do?”

“Nothing. Just come over here and stand next to this magnet.” Willow said innocently.

“That’s it?” Spike still looked suspicious.

“That’s it.” Willow nodded to Buffy who grabbed Spike’s arm in a grip of iron and dragged him over next to the magnet.

“Have a seat.” She suggested forcing him down until he was sitting on the edge of the magnet. Then she wagged a finger at him. “Stay.” She moved to where Willow was standing next to a control panel.

“Now I don’t know if this is going to hurt…”

“Just bloody well do it!” Spike growled forcing himself to remain seated. Willow nodded and flicked a switch. There was a hum as the power raced through the cords and activated the magnets self-diagnostic procedure.

“Well?” Willow looked at Spike expectantly. He shrugged.

“Not a th…aaaarrrrgghhh!” Spike fell to the ground twitching violently. He grabbed his head as sparks shot across his closed eyelids. He didn’t realize that his game face ad slid on until he felt himself bite through his own lip. He screamed as his dark blood trickled down his throat. It felt as if he were drinking liquid lightning. And then it stopped. He lay still tensed to feel the next jolt of pain. Instead he felt a soft hand on his forehead.

“Spike? Spike? Oh Goddess I didn’t know that was going to happen. Spike?” He heard Willow’s frantic voice from far away. He forced his eyes open blinking away tears of blood. He saw Willow crouched over him her hand stroking his forehead. Buffy knelt beside Willow clutching her stake, just in case.

“Red what the hell happened?” He had meant to bellow the question but it came out as barely more than a whisper. She’d heard him though.

“I talked to a guy I know and he said that a magnet could generate a strong enough force to deactivate the chip. This was the biggest magnet I could think of and I made it give off one really strong pulse when you were sitting on it. It..it should have destroyed the chip.” Willow continued to stroke his forehead. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the heat of her hand for a moment while he searched inside his head. < Tearing Xander limb from limb. > He deliberately pictured the act. The blood. The screams. The look of agony on the git’s face. He waited for the implant to ‘punish’ him. Nothing happened.

“Slayer.” He croaked, his voice a bit stronger this time.

“Yeah?” She leaned closer, still wary and clutching the stake. He reached up and yanked her hair. Hard.

“OUCH!! That HURT you rotten son of a she-demon!” Buffy clutched her head where the hair had been pulled from the scalp. Spike grinned as he looked at the blond strands still tangled in his fingers.

“It worked.” Willow stated.

“It worked.” Spike confirmed as he dragged himself off the ground. Willow shoved her shoulder under his arm as he staggered.

“It worked.” Buffy sighed still rubbing her head while Willow and Spike grinned at each other and began to do the ‘dance of joy’.

---------------------------

“We are the champions / we are the champions / and we’ll keep on fighting / till the end / my friend…” Willow staggered into Spike causing him to lose his balance and fall heavily against the dorm room door. He fought to keep himself upright and, failing that attempted to keep the half-empty bottle of whiskey from crashing to the floor. He landed on his ass with Willow sprawled on top of him. She giggled and reached for the bottle he had managed to protect. An arm snaked in and snatched the bottle out of reach.

“That is enough of that.” Buffy stood, hands on hips, and glared down at the witch and vampire wriggling on the floor. She tossed the bottle into the recycle bin at the end of the hall. “Spike!” Buffy reached down and hauled Willow off the vampire who had begun to stroke her neck lovingly. “Willow!” Buffy reached down again and lifted Spike out of range of the redhead who was stroking his thigh with her foot. She booted the door open thankful that she had failed to lock it earlier. She stalked inside dragging her two captives.

Willow’s eyes fell on the cage that housed Amy. “Ooohh. Hey I bet I could try that de-rat spell again now that things are working for me. Hang on Amy while I find my notebooks…” The rat squeaked frantically and quickly buried herself under her cedar shavings as Willow rooted around her desk looking for the incantation.

“Willow, why don’t you rest before you try the spell.” Buffy suggested nudging the witch onto her bed. “After all you’ll need your full power if you are going to change Amy back.” Willow nodded sleepily as the effects of the celebratory whiskey caught up with her.

“OK Buffy.” Willow curled up around the stuffed wolf Spike had given her after Oz left. Some stuffing spilled out of the gash along the animal’s neck.

Buffy turned her attention back to Spike who had pulled away from her and was attempting to light a cigarette. “NO! No smoking in here.” Buffy flicked the cigarette from his lips.

“Alright. I’ll just go outside. Should be going anyway…lots of murder…and mayhem to plan, you know.” Spike weaved his way towards the door. Buffy blocked his exit and steered him towards her bed.

“Later. First we need to discuss some things, like what are you going to do to thank us for getting your bite back.” Spike sat on the edge of Buffy’s bed and glanced at the sleeping Willow across the room.

“Don’t worry Slayer I’ll thank her proper.” Spike leered and then looked confused as he slowly toppled over. He was asleep before his head hit Buffy’s pillow.

The Slayer rubbed her temples wondering what the Council would think if they knew that she had a drunk vampire sleeping in her bed. < I bet that breaks one of their rules > she smiled thinking back to the game that she and Willow had been playing earlier. < Okay, Spike has his bite back. That’s bad. Willow was the one that gave Spike his bite back. He is grateful to her. That’s a good thing. He promised to “thank her proper”. That’s a bad thing…I think. > Buffy sighed. Her head hurt. Deciding to worry about things in the morning she made a mental note to call Giles and then rooted around under her bed until she found her sleeping bag. She spread the bag out in the middle of the room between the two beds. Before climbing into bed she swiftly tacked a heavy blanket across her window and grabbed her lucky stake. She folded her legs and dropped onto the sleeping bag. < Definitely going to need some Tylenol. > She rubbed her aching head again. Baby-sitting a drunken witch and vampire was not her idea of a fun night.

Buffy grimaced as she looked at the softly snoring witch passed out on her bed. She never would have believed the Willow would get drunk as fast as she did. After she and Spike had finished with the dance of joy she had insisted that they call Giles to let him know what had happened. Spike had agreed to let them use the phone at his place but the Slayer had been suspicious of his offer. She demanded that they use the nearest payphone and then part ways. In their search for a payphone < we must have been on the only four blocks in Sunnydale without a phone > they had passed an all-night liquor store. Spike had darted inside and purchased a bottle to ‘celebrate’. He had convinced both of them to drink a toast with him. Buffy was still surprised that Willow had slugged back the fiery liquor with no hesitation, she was even more surprised when the redhead didn’t even flinch as the whiskey shot down her throat. Spike had laughed and hugged her to him saying, “That’s my girl!” After that he kept offering her a drink every time he took one. Willow was so high on success that she had accepted. The results were one sloshed witch who was going to have a major headache in the morning and one irritated Slayer who had a headache now. < And one vampire passed out in my bed. > Buffy sighed and lay back, cradling the stake in her arms the Slayer succumbed to sleep.

------------------------

Giles groaned as the phone on his nightstand rang. He opened an eye and peered at the clock sitting next to the phone. < 5:30am. Someone had better be dead. > He reached for the phone and dragged the receiver to his ear.

“What?” He grumbled.

“Rupert?” Olivia’s voice drove the vestiges of sleep from his brain and he lifted his head from under his pillow.

“Olivia? Why are you calling? Is everything alright? Your parents?”

“Everything’s fine Rupert. I just called to tell you that I will be taking an earlier flight home on Friday. I’ll need you to meet me at 10:00 instead of 2:00. My parents say hello and want you to know that they are glad that I finally found myself a ‘nice English gentleman’. How are things in Sunnydale?”

“Oh the same. Willow thinks she might have found a way to deactivate Spike’s implant. Buffy appears to have fought yet another variety of demon that doesn’t appear in any known literature. The standard.”

“Rupert…I know we promised to help Spike but before Willow goes and does anything rash I think we should all sit down and ask Spike just what he intends to do after the implant is gone. We could probably get him to agree to leave Sunnydale in return for our help.”

“Hmm. You’re right of course. I’ll call Willow and Buffy a little later and arrange to discuss it with them.”

“Fine then. You go back to sleep. I love you.”

“Love you too.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.” Giles laid the receiver back in its cradle. < Perhaps I should call Buffy now…no they wouldn’t do anything this soon. It can wait until I’ve had a cup of tea. > Giles pulled himself out of bed and drew on his robe before padding downstairs to begin the day as it should begin. With Earl Gray.

---------------------------

“…luv.” Buffy woke to Spike’s whisper. Cracking open her eyelids she caught him in the act of licking gently at the bite mark that marred the white flesh of Willow’s neck. She carefully felt for the stake she had fallen asleep with as flames filled her mind. Finding the sharpened piece of wood she tensed to strike. Before she could move Spike lifted his head from Willow’s throat and looked over at her, his eyes met hers. She was shocked to see his human features and the true warmth in his blue eyes.

“What are you doing?” She snarled reminding herself that he had just been fastened to her best friend’s neck.

“Thanking her…properly.” Spike straightened up from where he was crouched next to Willow’s bed. “She’s marked as mine now. She’s safe.” He headed for the door.

“Wait. What do you mean you ‘marked’ her?” Buffy called to him as he slid out the door shutting it firmly behind him. < Damn him! > Buffy surged to her feet only to trip over the entangled folds of her sleeping bag. By the time she reached the door and rushed out into the hallway Spike was gone. Returning to her room Buffy crossed to Willow’s bedside and laid her fingers against the witch’s throat. She nearly groaned in relief as she found the pulse strong and steady. Her fingers brushed the marks made by Spike’s teeth. < Not deep. > Confused she headed for the phone. < Giles will know what to do. >

------------------------

“You say he used the word ‘marked’ to describe what he had done?” Giles sipped the last of his tea from his favorite mug while listening to his slightly hysterical Slayer’s voice go up half an octave. He pulled the phone farther away from his ear and winced.

“That’s not the point Giles! He was biting her neck! Drinking her blood! Remember vampire equals bad evil demon who was sucking on Willow’s neck! Remember Willow? Nice quiet girl uses the computer a lot…” Buffy continued to rant as Giles left the kitchen and entered his library. < Now where was that book? > He trailed his finger along the spines of the books in the bookshelf trying to find the one he needed.

“And then he just walks out! Doesn’t even seem afraid of me! The Slayer! Not scared at all of me and after he’s just bitten my best friend!” Buffy went on to describe exactly why Spike and any other vampire in Sunnydale should fear her automatically. Giles muttered a few “Of course, Buffy” and “Quite right” comments hoping to calm her down. < Ah, there it is. > He flipped through the pages until he found the section he was looking for. Skimming the page quickly he sighed in relief.

“Buffy..”

“Did he even bother to say thank you? Nope just up and..”

“BUFFY!”

“What?!” Buffy asked petulantly rather annoyed at Giles for interrupting her tirade.

“You are certain Spike said that he ‘marked’ Willow?”

“Yeah.”

“Well then I see no reason to be concerned. In fact he’s quite right to say that was the proper way to thank Willow for what she has done.” Giles put the book back and turned to more serious matters. “Now, Buffy, since Spike will no longer be able to help you with patrol I suggest that we meet here to work out a new schedule…”

“GILES!” Buffy’s angry voice cut him off. “Why exactly should we not be worrying about Willow?”

“Oh, well, you see it used to be common practice among vampires to ‘mark’ the humans who worked for them so that they would be protected from other vampires. By marking Willow with his bite Spike has ensured that no other vampire in Sunnydale will bother her. She is under his nominal protection and given Spike’s reputation I do not believe there would be many who would be willing to incur his wrath simply for a meal.”

“So that’s what he meant when he said that she was safe.” Buffy slowly returned to her normal calm acceptance of the weird things that went on over the Hellmouth. “Okay. So what’s this about a new patrol schedule?”

--------------------------

Willow awoke slowly. She whimpered when the sun streaming in through the open curtains came in contact with her slited eyelids. She placed a hand to her forehead and groaned. < No more alcohol for Willow. > Squinting she pulled herself off the bed and headed for the bathroom. She leaned against the cool tile of the counter and splashed cold water on her face and reddened eyes hoping to banish the fog that still permeated her mind. < Oh goddess what ever possessed me to share a bottle of Jack Daniels with Spike? > As she searched her memories of the previous evening she had to admit that she hadn’t been that hard to convince. Riding high on the successful disruption of Spike’s implant she had been more than willing to join Spike in toasting his new life. Than she had accepted, modestly of course, a toast in her honor. She had then toasted Spike for placing his trust in her. Spike had toasted Buffy for not staking him when he had originally asked for help. It was around that point that the whiskey had gotten to Willow. She vaguely remembered proposing a toast to Mother Nature for causing the storm, which had given her the idea in the first place. She groaned again and leaned her forehead against the cool glass of the mirror over the sink. She looked point blank into her puffy eyes.

“No more drinking. Especially with recently un-neutered hyper bleach blond vampires.” She frowned as something on her neck caught her attention. She sucked in her breath sharply as she raised shaking fingers to the twin fang marks along her jugular. < Oh goddess he bit me…and that means…that means… > Willow began to hyperventilate. She turned the water on again and splashed a bit more forcefully. She peered at her dripping reflection. She studied the bite mark carefully. < Definitely real. > She looked sadly at the girl in the mirror.

“Oh Willow, what have you gotten yourself into now…oh great now I’m talking to myself and staring into my own eyes…staring into…I have a reflection!” Willow sagged against the sink as joy flooded through her. She still had her reflection and she wasn’t dead so that must mean that Buffy had stopped Spike before he could hurt her. Smiling Willow left the bathroom and headed back to her bedroom to confront her friend and fill in the missing gaps from last night.

Returning to the room Willow found Buffy gone and a note next to her computer.


Wills,
Join me at Giles’ house when you wake up. He’s still worried about that
demon from last night. He needs you to help him with the computer.
Buffy

Willow stared at the note. < After everything that happened last night couldn’t she have at least waited for me? > Willow crumpled the note and tossed it into the wastebasket next to her desk. < Well they can just wait for me to take a shower and get something to eat. > She grimaced as she looked down at the wrinkled dress she had been wearing last night. < I am not going to show up looking like a rag bag. > Peeling off her clothes she scooped up her shampoo and body wash and, wrapping a towel around herself, headed back to the bathroom to take a shower.

Once in the shower Willow turned the water up until it was so hot she was turning pink and then stood with her head tilted back letting the water sluice over her body. She struggled to clear her mind using a mediation technique Tara had taught her. < The water is rinsing all emotion from your mind. The water is rinsing all doubt away. The water is leaving a clear path in your mind. > When her mind felt sufficiently clear Willow deliberately recalled the events of the previous night and analyzed them dispassionately. She recognized her correct choice in which course of action to take with Spike even though it had meant that she had sided against her friends. She winced as she thought about how impulsive she had been to run out and put her plan into motion without consulting Giles. But she also found deep satisfaction in knowing that she had been able to help one of her friends and that she had been able to accomplish all of it without relying on the others.

A significantly more self-assured Willow stepped from the shower scrubbed clean physically, emotionally and mentally. Wrapping her long hair in a towel she returned to her room. The message light on the answering machine was blinking. Willow frowned, < Hope it isn’t Giles or Buffy > she stabbed a finger at the blinking button but before the message could begin to play the phone rang. Willow scooped it up before the first ring was completed.

“Hello?”

“Wills, it’s Buffy. Listen Giles is seriously wigging about this demon from last night, we really need you right now.”

“Okay, just let me get dressed, unless you want me to come over there in a towel…” Willow trailed off as Buffy squealed. “Okay, okay, I’m on my way.” Willow slammed down the phone and grabbed some sweatpants and a tee shirt from her closet. She pulled the clothes on and reached for her hairbrush, as she did she noticed the blinking message light again. She pushed the button and picked up the brush. While she dragged the brush through her hair she listen to the message. She nearly dropped the brush when she heard a familiar cocky, accented voice.

“ ‘Ello, luv. Look I’m sorry to tell you this way but I haven’t got much time. I’m leaving Sunnydale, you see. I figured it’s only fair for me to go and leave the Slayer and her friends alone, at least for a little while. Do say my good-byes for me, won’t you, pet?” Spike broke off and Willow could hear someone shouting in the background. “I’ve got to go pet. Just wanted to say thanks and goodbye. Oh, and I’m glad you liked your new jacket.” There was a click as the message reached its end. Willow placed the brush on her dresser with trembling fingers.

Spike was leaving? That would mean no more late night talks while she researched the latest threat to the Hellmouth. No more someone getting her a cup of coffee made the way she liked it.

“Where did a vampire learn to make coffee?”

“I have all sorts of hidden talents luv.” Spike waggled his eyebrows.

“I just bet.” Willow giggled sipping her coffee.

Willow sighed. She was going to miss the vampire she had come to think of as a friend. She knew he hadn’t thought of her that way but it hurt that he could leave so easily and so quickly. < At least he said thank you. > Willow glanced over at her bed where her new jacket lay crumpled on the floor. She picked it up and held it to her nose sniffing the leather. She could faintly smell smoke from Spike'’ cigarettes and the whiskey from last night. She pulled it on and hugged herself trying to pretend that she could feel his arms around her soothing her as he had many times before when she had fallen apart over Oz’s departure. If she closed her eyes she could almost believe that he was there with her. It would have to be enough.

Willow flicked at the tear in her eye. < No more crying, Rosenberg. > She straightened up and, head held high, walked out the door shutting it softly behind her.

Across town a black Desotto with tinted windows ran over the ‘Now leaving Sunnydale’ sign.