Willow's eyes slid away from Spike's and she busied herself trying to make him comfortable. Finally he grabbed her wrist, preventing her from brushing his brow one more time.
"What...did you do...Willow?" His voice was so weak that Willow almost burst into tears.
"We can talk about it later, Spike. You need to rest and heal. We'll get you some more blood and..."
His fingers tightened and she winced. "What did you do?" he demanded through clenched teeth.
Tears spilled from Willow's eyes as reaction set in. "Oh God..."
Buffy hung up the phone and turned slowly, fully aware that Angel was standing behind her. She couldn't meet his eyes.
"Shall we get back to our 'date'?" he asked lightly.
Swallowing hard, Buffy stepped around him, intending to reenter the park. Angel caught her shoulder, dragging her against him.
"There's nothing you can do for them, lover."
"I...She and Cordy can't get him into the car or into the guesthouse alone." Her hands pushed unsuccessfully against his chest.
Her head whipped up and she glared at the indifference on his face. "Don't worry," she snapped snidely. "As soon as I get him there, I'll let you fuck me like the whore I am."
Buffy's words seemed to surprise him and Angel let her go. She stumbled backwards a few steps, still glaring defiantly.
"You think you're a whore?" Angel asked, his voice even and controlled.
"Isn't it obvious?" Tears sprang into her eyes and she batted them away. "I just let my best friend in the entire world give herself to you and I didn't even try to stop her."
"You couldn't have stopped her. I wouldn't have let you."
"And just what would you have done, Angel?" Buffy yelled. "Killed me?"
Anger crossed his face and his eyes narrowed. "I don't want you dead anymore than I want you a vampire, but you're no match for me, lover. You've tried to fight me before and you've never won."
"Neither have you."
"Because winning means your death, Buff," he replied silkily. "If you had fought me, tried to stop me from accepting Willow's offer, all I would have had to do was knock you out. I can do that very easily."
Buffy's fist caught him across the jaw sending him reeling. "You son of a bitch. You fucking cock sucker," she screamed as her foot flew up into his genitals. As Angel dropped to his knees, groaning, she kicked him in the head, sending him onto his back.
Driven by a guilt so powerful to make her nearly sick to her stomach, Buffy ran into the park.
"Bitch," Angel groaned, rolling on the ground, cupping his wounded parts.
Buffy found Willow and Spike staring at each other, both with extremely determined looks on their faces. She dropped down next to them and composed herself. "Cordy's on the way."
"Good." Willow glanced past Buffy towards the street. "Where's...Angel?"
"Don't care," Buffy mumbled, wrapping her arms around herself as her actions and possible repercussions sank into her brain. "How are you feeling, Spike?"
"Like I have...a bunch of fucking bullets...in me," he grunted, pain making him flinch from Willow's soothing fingers.
"Yeah, well...you're going to get better."
Spike's eyes flickered to Buffy. "Why did you let her do this?" he asked slowly, forcing the words out.
Fresh guilt suffused the slayer and tears trickled from her eyes as a jumble of emotions overwhelmed her. "Oh God," she sobbed. "I'll save you, Willow, somehow."
Still numb inside, Willow slid her arm around her best friend's shaking shoulders. "It's okay, Buffy. I...made my decision and I can live with it." The irony of her words hit her and a harsh half sob, half laugh broke from her. "Or not."
"I'll kill him first," Spike muttered, then groaned as a fresh wave of pain hit. His eyes fell shut and Willow drew in a shuddering breath, her fingers gently brushing over his still face.
"It's worth it," she whispered, her heart pounding as the implications of what she had done began to set in.
The screeching of a car's tires jerked both girls from their thoughts. Cordelia's voice came from the street, calling Buffy's name. Buffy yelled back, then reached for Spike, easily lifting him into her arms. Willow scrambled after her as Buffy headed for the car.
Cordelia had the passenger side open and together the three girls maneuvered the again unconscious vampire into the seat. Willow climbed into the back and Buffy followed her, after quickly glancing around.
There was no sign of Angel.
On the trip to the Chase estate, Willow filled Cordelia in on all the details, afraid that if she stopped to actually think about the deal, she'd burst into fresh tears. Cordelia was sympathetic and angry at the same time.
"Are you insane?"
Willow didn't answer.
The guesthouse was very comfortable and secluded in a grove of trees behind the main house. All three girls worked in silence to remove Spike's clothes, wash off the dried blood and tuck him into bed. Once he was settled, they moved into the sitting room, tired and worried.
"He might still die?" Cordelia asked hesitantly.
Buffy nodded. "Angel...wasn't convinced his blood would work."
"It has to work," Willow whispered, staring at her lap as her hands clenched into fists.
"'Cause if he dies, you'll go insane," Cordelia said.
"Nice and tactful, Cordy," Buffy snapped.
The cheerleader glared back. "We have to face the truth."
Willow interrupted Buffy's protest. "She's right. I have to face...the truth." She looked at her friends with empty eyes. "I just made a deal with the devil to save a man who may not even love me anymore."
"Oh Will, of course he loves you." Cordelia slipped her arm around the redhead's shaking shoulders. "And we'll find a way out of this deal."
"I'll...kill him first," Buffy said, her voice low and trembling. "I...can't let him...I've let him do too much already. Too much to all of us. I've been...so weak." Sobbing, she buried her face in her hands. "I'm such a failure."
Willow instinctively moved to comfort her friend and Buffy jerked away, jumping to her feet. "Oh God, Will, don't. Don't try to make me feel better." Gulping, she wiped the tears from her eyes, her chest heaving with sobs of anger and fear. "I don't deserve it. Here I am feeling sorry for myself and you're the one who..." Spinning, she fled through the front door.
Cordelia took Willow's arm, preventing her from following. "Let her go," she said softly. "Buffy seems to be facing her own actions, finally."
Willow stared at the open door, then slumped against the cushions of the couch. "She blames herself."
"She let Angel live all these months because she loves him. She loves a monster."
"So do I," Willow answered, a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"You know perfectly well that Spike is no where near as bad or as dangerous to the world as Angelus."
"If she kills him...it will destroy her."
"And what do you think your death will do?" Cordelia asked. "We'll find a way out of this, even if we have to keep Angel alive somehow. I'm not prepared to lose either of my best friends." She pulled Willow against her side, drawing her friend's head down onto her shoulder, petting her gently. "We'll make everything all right."
End Chapter 3