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Her mind peacefully blank, Willow drove home from the mansion, managing not to wreck her father's car. She exchanged meaningless pleasantries with her parents and retired to her bedroom. Stripping off her clothes, she walked into her bathroom and turned on the water in the shower.

As the water heated, she turned and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. There were bruises forming on various parts of her body--she could make out the shape of fingers on her breasts and hips--but what caught her attention was the expression on her face.

Or more accurately the lack of expression.

Her face was a pale, smooth mask, empty of all emotion.

As empty as her eyes.

Steam filled the room and Willow stepped into the shower and under the spray. Picking up a loofah and some soap, she began to scrub herself.

Her head filled with the image of Angel fucking her brutally, slamming into her from behind as she gripped the bars of the headboard.

The loofah dug into her breast, making her wince in pain. Shaking her head, trying to empty it again, Willow ran the sponge down one arm.

'You're letting a demon fuck you.' Angel's harsh words rang in her head and she shivered, rubbing the sponge over her stomach in quick, hard strokes.

Another image formed, of Angel between her legs, licking and sucking her flesh. And she screamed his name...and it wasn't Angel.

"Oh God."

Angelus. She had called him Angelus. She had known what he was. He was Angelus, the killer, the psychotic killer.

Stunned, Willow slipped to her knees, keening softly, gripping the loofah tightly with nearly numb fingers. She began to scrub roughly, desperately, not even realizing it. Every inch of flesh she could reach grew red, then bruised, then abraded as she scrubbed, trying to cleanse herself.

Finally, her body aching, her chest heaving from suppressed sobs, she dropped the sponge and curled into a ball, shaking and whimpering.


An hour later, much calmer, all emotions neatly buried in the darkest part of her heart, Willow lay in bed, staring towards the French doors. She couldn't help but remember when she eagerly had anticipated his knock on those doors.

The phone rang and she looked at it, then finally on the fifth ring picked it up. "Hello?"

"Hi Will."

The gentleness in Buffy's voice made Willow cringe. Had she become that pathetic that her friends had to walk on eggshells around her?

"I called earlier but you didn't answer. Are you okay?"

With a crash, the images of sex with Angel flooded Willow's mind and she paled as her heart began to pound from anguish and something else.


"I...must have been in the shower," she said slowly as fresh horror filled her. She had slept with Angel. Buffy's Angel.

Okay, technically he was neither Angel nor Buffy's. But, technicalities really didn't count.

"I just wanted to check and make sure you were okay."

"I'm fine, just tired," Willow lied, biting back her need to tell the truth, thus hurting her best friend even more. Fresh tears pricked the corners of her eyes, but she managed to say goodbye and hang up before the sobs began anew.

As she cried, her mind wandered back over the past week to all the times Buffy had been there for her, comforting her, trying to make her laugh, trying to get her to talk. Starting with that horrible night with Spike.


A quiet knock on the motel room door roused Willow from her stupor. She rose to her feet and mechanically walked to the door, opened it and stepped outside.

Buffy gave her a concerned look and took her cold hand. "You okay, Will?"

Willow nodded, her lips pressed tightly together for fear of screaming her pain into the night.

"Okay. Let's get you home." Buffy was troubled by her quiet, but began to lead her friend home.

About halfway there, Buffy finally asked the question that had been bothering her for the past hour. "Did you...take care of business, Will?"

"For this month," Willow replied tightly, staring straight ahead at the street lights.

Buffy's next question was just as hesitant and was spawned by the lack of emotion she saw in her best friend. "Did he hurt you?"

"...Not physically."

"Oh, Willow, I'm so sorry about all this."

"I'll survive...or not."

The bitterness in Willow's voice made Buffy wince.


The week that followed was a blur to Willow. She had gone to school, taken tests she couldn't remember, eaten meals she didn't taste, moved like an automaton through the days. The only things she really could remember were the afternoons and evenings spent in the Library and chemistry lab researching, trying to find a cure for her condition.

Her condition. That was what it was being called.

Her friends were concerned about her, but that concern really didn't register. On the exterior she was focused, using her intelligence to search for an answer. On the interior, she was a mess, her thoughts and emotions all jumbled together. It was easiest to concentrate on the one thing and push everything else aside.

So, she researched, logically, methodically, running tests on her blood, searching the Internet, reading arcane tomes.

The bruises on her body faded and she began to put on weight. She knew she had to eat to survive, so she did so, often not even realizing what she was consuming. Sometimes she wondered why she wanted to survive, but her will to live was strong enough to overcome those moments of despair.

To most people, she seemed her normal self--quiet, unassuming, meek, yet brilliant. To her friends...

They tried. They tried to bring her out of the shell that she had built around her true self. Xander joked. Cordelia yelled. Buffy commiserated. Even Giles tried to convince her that she could lead a normal life.

Willow just wasn't ready to accept their help.


And now she had done something even more stupid and she had unwittingly hurt her best friend. She had willingly slept with the man Buffy loved, cheating on her. She was the other woman.

That thought made her feel sick to her stomach and she whimpered and hugged herself.

Willow didn't know how to make herself feel better, didn't know if she deserved to feel better.

Hesitantly she reached for the telephone and hit speed dial.


Spike sat in the garden, staring blankly into the gloom, his mind racing. The image of his sire's head between the legs of the woman he loved, the sound of her voice crying 'Angelus', kept playing over and over again in his head.

How could Willow betray him like this? Of all men she could have gone to, could have fucked...

Did she think this in any way compared to his relationship with Drusilla? If she did, she was disastrously wrong. Fucking Angelus for revenge was a cold, empty thing to do. His own relationship with Drusilla was based on a love that had lasted over one hundred years.

Willow was in the wrong here, not him.

Spike fixated on that belief, refusing to allow in the tiniest hint of doubt. He refused to acknowledge how young she was, how hurt she was. It was much easier to despise her for breaking his heart.

Growling low in his throat, he smiled as new images played before his mind's eye. Willow on her knees, cowering before him, his demon free to treat her as humans should be treated. Willow tied to his bed, taking his cock in every orifice, screaming for him to stop, pleading that she was sorry.

Twenty three days to go.

If she had thought their last sexual encounter was brutal...

Closing his eyes, Spike pushed the last of his humanity aside and let his demon out. It was so much easier that way.