Spike entered the ranch house to the sound of hammering. It had been four months since he'd read her computer journal, four months since the coldness seeped into his bones and refused to leave, four months of daily entries that read the same thing over and over.
Shaking the thought from his head, he removed his duster, then made his way down the hall towards the noise. So as not to scare her, he called out. "Will? I'm here, luv."
The hammering stopped as he turned the corner and entered the bedroom. Will was standing on a step-ladder, nails poking from her mouth, holding a large, piece of plywood flat against the wall.
Over the window.
"What are you doing?" Spike asked, moving further into the room. He saw that two-by-fours held the plywood up, allowing her to work easily.
Will's expressionless face just stared at him as she raised the hammer slightly.
"Sorry, dumb question," he said. He walked over and held the board to the wall so she could continue. When she had the last nail in place, they both stepped back to survey her handiwork. She pulled a slip of paper from her pocket and handed it to him before turning and leaving the bedroom.
Moving in was relatively easy. Spike had been living near the old mansion, away from the rest of the vampire population in Sunnydale. He had a few boxes of clothing and some momentos from the past, which easily fit into the sparse furnishings. His personal library, however, was rather extensive. He purchased a few easy-to-assemble bookshelves and filled them quickly. Most of his tomes were literature, with several occult references thrown in for balance, although there were a few dog-eared paperbacks hidden among the titles.
As time passed, he got to learn Will's schedule. He heard the bedroom door open at 6:00 a.m.; music from the basement from 6-9; the shower running at 9:15; things being moved around in the kitchen at noon and again around 4; then, as the sun set, he would find her sitting in front of the computer or television until it was time to go to the club. When they got home, she usually went to sleep around 2 or 3:00 a.m. He didn't know how she managed on so little sleep.
One morning, Spike couldn't fall asleep. Will had been making great progress towards healing, in his opinion. Her eyes always held some emotion and she left him little post-it notes stuck here and there. She still didn't speak, however, and rarely did a smile tilt the corners of her mouth. Her journal entries never changed either.
He heard the bedroom door open and heard her walk down the hall to the basement door. Music floated up through the floorboards as she began her daily routine. He climbed out of bed and threw on a pair of sweats over the boxers he slept in. He cautiously opened the door, prepared to slam it shut at the finest hint of sunlight.
The hallway was bathed in the shadows. Sun was streaming through the window in Will's bedroom, but it only went as far as the bed. He went down the darkened hall and stopped at the end. The sun was currently shining through the large kitchen window, so he was able to enter the basement door without worry of being burned to cinders.
The music increased in volume as he opened the door and tread barefoot down the wooden stairs. His steps were muffled by the noise, so she didn't notice him come down. She was in front of the room length mirror. Spike took a seat at the edge of the bench press machine and watched her and her reflection dance.
This dance was not like the competition at the club. Will had her short sword in hand and was moving fluidly through patterns reminiscent of Tai Chi. Slow, graceful. He continued to watch this part of her he'd never seen. Her execution was flawless, her concentration perfect, as her body flowed with the music.
He was watching a warrior.
Will didn't seem too startled to see Spike sitting there, even though she'd been facing the mirror the entire time and he couldn't be seen in the reflection. He figured it was because she was not afraid of anyone but other Immortals, and they had their own early warning system to tell when another was near.
She nodded to him and her sword disappeared into a hidden sheath on her back. He wondered how she managed to move as gracefully as she did during the competitions with a hunk of metal hidden on her body. Maybe one day she'd tell him.
When she started speaking again.
She grabbed a towel off the floor and wiped off her face, then drank out of a bottle of water sitting on a small table next to the mirror.
"You're very graceful," Spike commented, as she set the bottle down. The towel fell back to the floor and the young woman walked to the exercise equipment. "You're very beautiful, too."
Spike about fell off his seat, as the red tinged her cheeks and neck. He started to laugh in amazement. "You're blushing!"
Will glared a him, which caused him to laugh even harder. She started to use the free weights with jerky movements.
"I'm sorry, pet," Spike said, standing. "I'll just take my leave." Her answer was to clang the weights together in annoyance. He chuckled, went back upstairs and fell into a peaceful sleep.
It was the newspaper that caused all the problems.
One minutes, Spike was reading the sports page of the Los Angeles Times, the next, he was cradling Will in his arms.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Spike asked, pulling her away from the broken mug that had slipped through her fingers and smashed on the floor. She was clutching a portion of the newspaper in her other hand.
Sitting back down, he pulled her onto his lap, holding her close. With his right hand, he extracted the paper from her grasp.
Two Killed in Apartment Blaze
Spike quickly scanned the article until he found a familiar name.
Mr. and Mrs. Ira Rosenberg were the only two to perish in the devastating fire. Their only daughter, Willow, has been missing and presumed dead since police found her purse and jewelry at the infamous 'Red Bandit' massacre at Sunnydale High School in 2001.
He set the newspaper on the table. "I'm sorry, Will. I'm so sorry," he crooned quietly, stroking her hair.
Will abruptly stood up and left the kitchen. Spike quickly followed and saw the distraught woman retrieve her helmet from the closet shelf.
"Will, don't go," he said. She faced him and the world dropped from under his feet.
Her eyes were dead, matching her expressionless face once more.
Spike wanted to follow, but Will was long gone by the time he got his shoes on. He paced up and down the front porch, chain smoking.
Night soon turned to day and he was forced into the house. She still hadn't returned. "Where the bloody hell is she?" he whispered into the empty house. He sat in the protected hallway, watching out the living room window. From his vantage point, he could see the driveway. If he switched sides, he could see out the large kitchen window into the fenced backyard.
The sound of a motorcycle engine came closer and Spike stood quickly. Will pulled into the driveway on her Yamaha, followed by another biker. They parked in plain view, then walked to the side of the garage. Frowning, he waited a for them to reappear.
The sound of clanging swords was what turned his attention to the kitchen window. Whirling on his heels, he saw Will fighting with the stranger. They were participating in the Game.
Spike wanted to run out the back door and stop them, but could only watch in horror as the woman he'd come to care for was losing. The sun had never been so powerful an enemy.
The stranger brought his sword down and across her body, leaving a stripe of blood on the light material. She blocked the next strike, one hand over her wound, but the stranger was too fast. He sliced her swordarm, causing her to stagger back.
"No," Spike whispered in dread. He didn't want to see this. He didn't want this young woman to die before she had a chance to heal.
Sun glinted off the blades, as the two Immortal's continued to battle. He could see that Will was weak from the two wounds, the one across her stomach being a fatal blow to normal humans. "Come on, Will. Where's that girl that wins every competition at Club 911? Where's the warrior? Where's the survivor?"
As if she had heard him, she suddenly dropped to the ground and rolled, knocking into the stranger's knees. She gracefully stood, both hands firmly grasping the handle of her sword. She began to move in the patterns Spike had seen before, only faster.
The stranger continued to attack in earnest, but was getting frustrated that the once easy target was now blocking each swing. The stranger became clumsy, wanting to finish the redhead and claim the Quickening as his prize. But he made a fatal error.
Spike saw Will use the same move she made on him all that time ago. She dropped into a crouch as he tried to pierce her heart, then spun, coming up and knocking sword out of the way with her right arm. She continued the spin, and with a her left hand holding her short sword, cleaved the stranger's head right off.
She fell to her knees, her sword falling at her side. Clouds began to form rapidly in the sky as Spike watched. Soon, lightening bolts began to strike. He screamed out in panic, as one after another, the blue bolts hit the red-head.
After what seemed like an eternity, the lightning stopped and the clouds rolled away. The sun shone brightly down on the figure kneeling in the grass. She stood and walked slowly towards the house.
As soon as she was in the door, Spike ran across the kitchen, his body smoking as the sun's rays hit him, and scooped Will up in his arms. Not pausing, he spun on his heels and took off back to the shadows of the hallway and into his room. He shut the door with his foot, then sat on the bed with her perched in his lap.
He removed the sword from the young woman's hand, laying it gently on the bed beside them. He carefully lifted her shirt to see the wound that he knew would heal and gasped at its intensity. He felt her shudder once on his lap, then it seemed all the muscles went out of her body as she fell limp in his embrace.
"Will?" Spike said, shaking the woman slightly. "Will?" He checked for a pulse. It was gone. Will was dead.
"No," he whispered. "You can't be dead. You're an Immortal! You can only die if someone cuts your head off." He sat rocking the slight, muscular figure in his arms. "No, no, no, no, no..."
Will suddenly gasped in his arms, taking in a deep breath. She blinked several times, then looked into his startled expression. Bringing one hand up, she wiped at a tear that was falling down his cheek.
"I thought I'd lost you," Spike said hoarsely. He hugged her to him. "Twice. I thought that Immortal was going to...to..."
He couldn't finish, he was too choked up. He sat with Will like that for several minutes, before he asked why she brought the stranger back here to fight, why she ran out like she had, why wasn't there anything he could do to comfort her.
He almost didn't hear the harsh whisper fall from her lips.
"Immortality has its price. And that price was Willow."