The Magic of Computers


By Saber ShadowKitten





Part Nine







Edible. That's how Willow would describe Angel dressed in a pale grey button-down shirt, dark grey jacket and dark grey chinos -- simply edible. She couldn't stop staring at him, and the butterflies were back and doing the rhumba because of how attractive he looked.

Angel seemed to be devouring her with his eyes, as well. Her ankle-length dark blue shift, with scooped neck and tied at the waist, must've been a good choice from the way he kept looking at her. Willow felt as though her cheeks had developed a permanent blush because of Angel's appreciative gaze.

Angel had brought her to The Cosy Cafe, a small bistro on the Strip that catered to the middle class crowd. She'd been to the cafe a few times since it opened, and really liked their zesty chicken. It was very... zesty.

Angel had ordered a meal for himself, too, although he mostly pushed it around his plate. Willow noticed but refrained from commenting. She knew that vampires didn't need to eat people food, and most normal vampires didn't like it at all. Spike was an exception. Then again, Spike wasn't normal.

Then again, Spike was an exception to most rules these days

"I don't think you would've liked Beth," Angel said as he set his fork down. They were filling each other in on the past six years, including their significant others or lack thereof, as they ate. They had touched briefly on Angel's curse, and on how he'd learned to get around it and still have a relationship with someone.

"Really? Why?" Willow asked.

"She was very blunt and had a low tolerance level for other people. I don't even think she really liked me," Angel replied. He gave her a joking half-smile. "She just wanted me for my body."

"I can understand that," Willow said without thinking. Her eyes went round when Angel chuckled. "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I said that out loud."

"Well, even so, it's appreciated," Angel told her, his smile growing.

"I'm just going to eat my zesty chicken now." Willow dropped her chin and speared her food with vehemence.

Angel chuckled again. Willow glanced at him through her lashes as he sipped his coffee. His hands were cupped around the mug, and she couldn't help but notice how large they were. Very manly. She wondered if they would entirely cover her breasts, then blushed furiously at the direction her thoughts had taken her. She cleared her throat and ventured back into conversation.

"So, uh...," Willow wracked her brain for a safe non-naked topic, "...What's your favorite movie?"

"It's A Wonderful Life," Angel replied. "For obvious reasons: it's about second chances. You?"

"It used to be Some Kind of Wonderful," Willow said. "One of the heroines in that was in love with her best friend, and he didn't have a clue." She grinned. "Sound familiar?"

Angel chuckled. "A bit."

"Now, though, it's The Matrix." Willow gestured emphatically with her fork. "I know it came out almost a decade ago, but that movie was so cool, and it made you think, too."

"I've seen it," Angel told her. She looked surprised, so he explained. "When Cordelia was pregnant with Jocelyn, she was confined to her bed for the last few months. Wesley, Gunn and I used to sit and watch movies with her while Matthew was 'out.'"

The way he sneered when he said Matthew's name gave Willow the hint that Cordelia's ex was lower than dirt. She felt empathetic towards the other woman. The redhead could remember, quite easily, the number of slimeballs she'd dated over the years.

"Tell me more about your business," Angel said, changing the subject. "Do you like being your own boss?"

"Yes, I do," Willow said. "It's hard to force myself to get to work sometimes, though. There are days I just want to stay in bed."

Angel had no trouble conjuring up Willow in bed, her red hair mussed, the white sheet pooling around her waist and baring her unclothed body to him. He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. "That, uh, happens to me sometimes, too."

"Although recently, I've been pretty busy," Willow said. "I was hired to debug a new word processing program and it's a complete mess. I've only gotten a quarter of it done, and I've had the job for two months now."

"Do you have a deadline?" Angel asked.

Willow nodded. "December 15. The company wants to put it out before Christmas."

"I'm surprised you're not more worried," Angel said.

"I won't start panicking until December first rolls around," she told him. "If I still don't have it done by then, buy a hundred shares of Taster's Choice Chocolate Mocha because their stock will be going way up."

"For me, it's Flint's Polish." Angel set down his mug, a sheepish expression crossing his face. "When things get down to the wire, I tend to polish things. Swords, knives, revolvers, kitchen silverware..."

Willow giggled. "Well, next time crunch time comes around for you, come over to my house. I have a silver serving set that could use a cleaning."

"You're on." Angel leaned forward and, with his finger, lifted the small pendant of a willow tree that was around her neck. "And I'll polish this, too."

The redhead felt her heart pounding in her chest and her skin tingled where Angel's finger touched her bare skin. "Um, okay," she breathed.

Angel rubbed his thumb over the silver, but his eyes were focused on Willow. The space between them crackled with attraction. Angel lightly pulled on the chain, rising from his seat to lean further over the table at the same time. He felt the whisper of Willow's warm breath against his lips before he pressed his mouth over hers.

Trilling filled the air, like a bird's song. Angel's lips brushed back and forth over Willow's, enjoying the softness of her mouth under his. The delicate scent of her perfume invaded his senses, reminding him of springtime after a light rain, fresh and flowery. The bird trilled again, as if it were singing its song for them.

"Phone," Willow whispered into the kiss.

"Hmm?" Angel hummed against her mouth.

"Phone," she repeated throatily.

Angel reluctantly pulled away and opened his eyes. Her softly swollen moist lips were the first thing he saw, and he immediately wanted to kiss them again. Then he heard the trilling and what Willow'd said sunk into his muddied brain -- his cell phone was ringing.

With a silent groan of disappointment, he released her necklace and sat back down in his seat. He pulled his cell phone from the inside pocket of his jacket, opened it, and practically growled, "What?"

Willow pressed her hand against her stomach, trying to calm the fluttering inside. She licked her slightly tingling lips and rubbed them together. Angel had kissed her!

"I'll take care of it," Angel said into the phone before he disconnected. He gave Willow an apologetic look as he tucked the cell back into his pocket. "I have to go. Cordelia had a vision and--"

"You don't have to explain," Willow interrupted. "I understand."

Angel stood, rounded the table, captured her chin and placed a quick kiss on her mouth. "I'll call you," he murmured.

"'K," Willow said, and then Angel was gone.

The redhead sighed and cupped her chin in her palm, staring at the space Angel had occupied. Most times when men said they'd call her, it was a polite brush off. With Angel, she knew he was telling the truth -- he would call her.

Willow sighed again. She couldn't wait--

"Here you go, ma'am," the young waiter said as he laid a closed bill folder on the table. "I'll take it whenever you're ready."

--because Angel owed her a dinner!



*****



Spike was sitting on the top step of the porch, clad only in threadbare jeans and smoking a cigarette, when Willow came up the front walk. The blond vampire gave her a quizzical look. "Where's the poof?"

"Cordelia had a vision, so he had to go," Willow replied.

Spike's snort explained what he thought of that. Willow climbed the steps, pulled her dress in, and sat down beside him. "How's Xander?"

"Well-fucked."

"I meant emotionally, silly," she said with a roll of her eyes. "He seems a bit down lately."

Spike took a long drag off his cigarette before answering. "It's time for his checkup again."

"Oh," Willow said with understanding. She knew from experience that the doctor was going to tell Xander the same thing he always did: no change. "When is it?"

"Thursday." Spike crushed the end of his cigarette on the porch. "I'm going to need you to take him."

"Of course."

Spike didn't thank her, but she hadn't expected him to. He fiddled with the cigarette butt for a few moments, and Willow sat peacefully beside him, listening to the crickets and the muted sounds of traffic.

"Willow," Spike began quietly. "Do you think he still wants me around?"

"Why wouldn't he?" Willow responded, surprised by the question.

"Because I was once paralyzed like him and I healed," Spike flicked the cigarette but away, "and he never will."

"Spike, Xander loves you," Willow said softly.

"That doesn't mean he doesn't resent me."

"He doesn't," Willow reassured him.

Spike started to play with a thread on his jeans, twining and untwining it around his finger. Willow waited, knowing there was more. It wasn't often that the blond vampire confided in her, so she was more than willing to sit patiently until he went on.

"I dogged Xander for months, you know, before we got together," he began, twisting the thread between his thumb and forefinger. "At first, it was just a bloody game. 'Let's see how long it takes to get into Xander's shorts.' For weeks and weeks I did my damndest to seduce him, and he rebuffed me every time," he mimed a panicked Xander, "'No, get away, you undead queer. My man parts only like woman parts.' His protests only made the challenge sweeter."

Spike raised his head and looked off in the distance. "Then, one night, he plowed into me with his motor. I thought the little bastard did it on purpose, especially since he climbed out of the motor and immediately started screaming at me. 'Are you blind or something? Didn't you learn to look both ways before crossing the street? Or did you think the headlights meant you should jump in front of my car?'" he mimicked.

"I was still lying in the street when he stomped over to me, ranting like a loon the entire time. Then, he suddenly stopped and stared down at me. 'Spike?' he says, and that's when I realized he hadn't known it was me." An affectionate smile spread across Spike's face. "Xander had been spoutin' off even though I could've been some human he'd hit."

Willow was surprised. That didn't sound like Xander behavior, she thought. Then again, she sometimes yelled through her closed window at accident scenes for causing a bad traffic jam, so who was she to judge.

"I thought for sure he was going to start screeching again," Spike went on. "But he didn't. Instead, he picked me up, opened the boot and tossed me inside like I was nothing but a bloody sack of potatoes."

Spike shook his head, the smile still playing on his lips. "He left me in there for three days. I couldn't believe the knackers on the boy. I was all set to rip him a new one when he finally opened the boot again, pain or no pain. But he shot that plan to hell when he opened the boot and said: 'One date. Three hours. No touching.'" The blond laughed.

"That cheeky plonk runs me over with his motor, yells at me, throws me in his boot for three days, and then, without so much as an apology or even an embarrassed look, he tells me we're going on a date!" Spike released a small sigh. "Right then and there, I fell head-over-effin'-heels in love with him. Four or so months after that he told me he loved me back, and my unlife hasn't been the same since."

Willow smiled. "In an odd way, that's a very romantic story."

Spike made a sound of derision. "Pathetic is how I'd describe it."

"I don't think so," Willow countered.

"Yeah, but you chose to go on a date with my wanker of a sire," Spike said.

She frowned. "What's does that have to do with anything?"

"Pathetic never recognizes pathetic."

Willow lightly smacked him on the arm as he laughed. "Oh, you... frag-a-raga," she grumbled, good-naturedly.

Spike fell silent after a few more chuckles. He looked off into the distance again, a worried frown creasing his brow. When he finally spoke, there was a pained note to his whisper. "Pathetic or not, I don't want to lose him, Willow."

"Talk to him, Spike," Willow told him. "I know it's not what men normally do, but it may help allay your fears."

"I'm not afraid of anything," Spike said abruptly. He rose with his usual leonine grace and went into the house, closing the door behind him with a small slam.

Willow sighed loudly and shook her head. Men! She would never understand them. The only thing they were good for was opening stubborn jars and sex.

An image of her lying on the kitchen table, with Angel moving against her while opening jar after jar appeared in her mind. Blushing wildly, Willow quickly stood and rushed into the house. Some thoughts were simply to indecent to be having on her front porch.





Chapter Ten





"Sorry about that," Willow apologized after clicking back to Angel when she'd concluded her call on the other line.

"No problem," Angel said over the phone. "I didn't mind waiting."

Willow could hear the unspoken "for you" and the smile in Angel's voice, and it made her heart flutter. She was beginning to really like that feeling, just as she was beginning to really like the brunette vampire in a serious way.

They had spoken on the phone for several hours every day since their first date, and had seen each other almost every day as well. They'd gone to dinner, the movies, a cabaret, and on a carriage ride that had culminated in kisses that had left Willow breathless.

Willow had no reservations in accepting date after date with Angel, despite her looming deadline and other work. She was the boss; she could play hooky if she wanted. A piece of mental duct tape was slapped over her guilty consciousness' mouth, and she ignored the ribbing she got from her two employees.

Normally, Spike would have barged into her bedroom by now, or Xander would have buzzed her on the intercom, with some asinine question simply because she was on the phone with Angel. She easily put up with their antics because she was floating on Cloud Nine most of the time, even though their actions were more than a bit annoying.

Today, however, Xander was keeping an eye on an exceedingly plastered blond vampire. Spike had begun celebrating the tenth anniversary of having the chip in his head precisely at midnight. By three in the afternoon he'd consumed half of his liquor stash. Willow had hid in her office for most of the day, until a very drunk Spike had stumbled downstairs in search of his "Xandy." Then, she'd wisely taken refuge in her bedroom, leaving Xander to take care of his boyfriend.

Spike's drunkenness was actually sort of a good thing, in Willow's opinion. Xander was focused on making sure the bleached blond didn't do something stupid, like venturing outside during the day, which meant that her oldest and dearest friend wasn't focused on his paralysis. Depression had settled heavily over Xander after his last doctor's appointment, and Willow hoped that babysitting Spike would pull Xander out of it.

Willow glanced at the time as she fixed the pillows propped against her headboard. It was 8:15 p.m. She'd been on the phone with Angel for over two hours now. Shame on her.

"So, let's see, where were we?" Willow picked up a folded-over magazine from the bed beside her and pulled a pen from behind her ear. She and Angel had been taking a compatibility quiz when she'd received another call on her private line. "What's your favorite color?"

"Sky blue," Angel answered without hesitation.

"I thought, for sure, you were going to say black," Willow said with a grin.

"Can you picture me wearing sky blue?"

"Good point." Willow giggled. "Okay, my favorite color is soft pink." She wrote in her answer and moved onto the next question. "Favorite tv show?"

"Name that Hedgehog," Angel replied.

"Oh my goddess, really?!" Willow said. "That's mine, too! Did you see the episode where the hedgehogs played the Partridge Family?"

"Of course," Angel said. "Gunn's daughter, Ronnie, and I watch it every Saturday morning, religiously."

Angel had told Willow about his Saturday morning babysitting job for Gunn and his wife, Tanisha, while the couple worked breakfast at the shelter they ran. The idea of Angel in a rocking chair with a little girl sitting on his lap, rocking as they watched television, made Willow feel gooshy inside.

"Xander and I watch it every Saturday, too," she told him. "Though I'm usually just getting up, and he's planning on going to bed after the show."

"Spike doesn't watch?" Angel asked curiously.

"No," Willow said. "The only thing he watches is soccer when some English team is playing. Then I can hear him screaming at the television all the way outside. Xander thinks it's amusing."

"And you don't," he surmised.

"It's very... loud." Willow sighed. "I have the strangest roommates."

"You're just realizing this now?" Angel said dryly.

"Okay, so I'm really a blond," Willow responded. "You caught me red-handed."

Angel groaned. "That was so bad, Willow."

Willow tittered, then cleared her throat. "Quiz now," she crinkled the magazine in order for Angel to hear it over the phone, "there's ten more questions awaiting our answers."

"Shoot."

"Um... number eleven," Willow read. "Name a type of clothing."

"Dungarees," Angel replied almost immediately.

Willow's sculpted brow went up. "That was a quick answer."

Angel coughed and mumbled, "I'm looking through a J Crew catalog."

A broad smile crossed Willow's lips. Just when she thought she knew Angel, he threw her a curve ball. She would never have figured the vampire for a catalog peruser, especially a clothing one.

"I guess it's better than a Victoria's Secret catalog," Willow said.

Angel coughed again, loudly.

Willow burst into giggles. Somewhat-broody, ensouled vampire or not, Angel was all male.

"Oh yeah, I'm not embarrassed," Angel muttered.

Willow was about to respond when she heard a strange fizzing noise. She cocked her head and frowned. "Do you hear that?" she said into the receiver.

"Hear what?" Angel asked.

"That odd noise," Willow replied as she rose from her bed and headed for the bedroom door. "It almost sounds like--"

An explosion ripped through the house.

*****

The line went dead.

Angel looked at the telephone receiver then put it back to his ear. "Willow?"

No response. He tried clicking the button on the phone base. "Hello? Willow, are you there?" he said with growing worry.

A dial tone sounded in his ear. He quickly dialed the redhead's phone number. After a few seconds of silence, three notes of high-pitched chimes came over the receiver, followed by an automated voice recording.

"The number you have dialed five... five... five... eight... one... three... five... is out of service. Five... five... five..."

Angel disconnected and re-dialed. When he heard the chimes again, he disconnected and tried the number for Otherworld Technologies.

"The number you have dialed--"

The vampire swallowed back the panic, disconnected and tried again.

"The number--"

Angel was out the door and down the stairs of his apartment building before he realized he'd forgotten his car keys. Swearing emphatically, he flew back up to retrieve them, trying not to dwell on what the dead line meant.

Dead line.

Dead.

"Oh god." The panic bubbled inside of Angel like acid burning in the center of his chest. When he got to his car, he jammed the car key into the ignition, revved the engine once, and peeled out of the parking garage.

"Please be okay," Angel whispered in prayer, his knuckles white from his grip on the steering wheel. He didn't know what he'd do if he arrived at Willow's and found her...

He couldn't finish the thought. Willow was fine. The phone company was to blame for the bad connection. He didn't hear the beginning of a loud boom a moment before the line went dead. It was the phone company. It was the phone company. It was the phone company.

Oh god, what if he'd lost her?

Angel took a corner at full speed, his tires squealing in protest. He had to get to Willow's; had to see if she was okay.

He had to tell her that he was falling in love with her.

Blares of car horns echoed as Angel cut across three lanes of traffic. The light coming up was red. He flicked on his left turn signal, gripped the wheel even tighter, and blew through it.

The tires on the right side of the car almost left the ground as he took the left turn. More car horns and tire squeals sounded as other drivers hit the brakes. He didn't hear any crashes behind him, and he threw a quick thank you up to the heavens.

Angel reached Willow's Victorian fifteen of the longest minutes later, and he was out of the car before he'd even barely put it in park. Bright orange cones and sawhorses blocked the area around her house, and the red and yellow lights of the firetrucks matched the flames pouring from the open hole where Willow's office window had been.

"WILLOW!" Angel shouted, running towards the burning home. A yellow-clad fireman stepped in his path, and he barely restrained himself from violently shoving the man aside.

"Sir, you need to keep back," the firefighter told him.

"I need..." Angel's panicked gaze roamed over the house. The fire scorched the second floor of the Victorian, and he could see thick smoke pouring from the roofline where the siding met the roof. Pouring from Willow's bedroom.

Angel's heart got caught in his throat. "Willow..."

"Sir," the firefighter insisted, gently pushing Angel back.

Angel managed to focus on the firefighter. He cleared his throat and asked, "Did you get her out?"

The firefighter's stern face softened. "An ambulance left for Mercy General a few minutes ago."

"Thanks." Angel spared a single horrified glance back at the burning home before running back to his car.

The drive to Mercy General was as harrowing as the trip to Willow's house. Angel screeched into the visitor's parking lot, grabbed the first parking spot he saw, and ran to the worn-looking building.

The Emergency doors swooshed open, admitting the frightened vampire. He went right to the nurses' window and hammered on the shatterproof glass to get someone's attention. A pink-clad woman frowned heavily at him as she came up to the window. "Sir--"

"There was a fire. Willow Rosenberg," Angel interrupted, his dark eyes pleading. "Is she here? Is she okay?"

The nurse, who's badge identified her as Judy Ranwick, picked up a clipboard and scanned it. Angel nervously tapped his fingers on the window ledge.

"Rosenberg, Willow," Nurse Ranwick read. "Yes, she's been admitted, along with a Harris, Alexander."

Xander. Angel had completely forgotten about him. And Spike. Oh no, Spike... "Was there a third person?"

Nurse Ranwick shook her head. "Just the two."

Angel pushed back the unease he felt. "Are they okay? Is Willow okay?"

"Are you family?" the nurse asked in return.

"Yes," Angel replied without hesitation. He knew better than to say no in situations like this. "I'm Xander's brother and Willow's boyfriend."

Nurse Ranwick nodded. "I'll tell the--"

"Angel?"

Angel spun around and saw Xander wheeling towards him. He rushed over to the other man. "Xander, what happened?"

Xander had a wan complexion and reeked of smoke. Pain filled his brown eyes as he looked up at Angel. "I wasn't watching him like I was supposed to be doing," he said in a rough voice. "There was an explosion..."

The younger man wrapped his arms around himself and blinked rapidly against the tears that filled his eyes. "Willow pushed me outside and told me to call 9-1-1, before she went back inside for him. The whole side of the house was in flames," his voice hitched, "and I couldn't do anything."

"Is Willow..." Again, Angel couldn't finish.

Xander took a deep breath and wiped away the tears. "Willow's okay," he told Angel. "Her arms are a little burned and she inhaled a lot of smoke, but other than that she's fine. We rode here together in the ambulance."

Relief swept through Angel. He purposely inhaled and breathed out slowly. Willow was all right. Xander looked shaken, but was all right, too. No one was hurt in the-- "Xander, where's Spike?"

Tears once again filled Xander's eyes.





Chapter Eleven





The view was blurry and an ugly yellow color highlighted by brownish-green blobs. The first thought that came to mind was that the Higher Powers' decorator should've been shot.

"'Bout time," a gruff voice said.

Spike blinked several times and the world came into focus. The ugly yellow and brownish-green was a ceiling. He turned his head and saw Xander sitting in his wheelchair beside the really lumpy bed.

Correction, he saw a very pissed off Xander sitting in his wheelchair beside the really lumpy bed.

"Xan?" Spike's mouth felt like it was filled with cottonballs.

Xander picked up a mug with a straw in it from the chipped night-stand. He transferred it to his other hand, assisted Spike in raising his head and instructed with a clipped, "Drink."

The blood was warm and tasted wonderful. Spike gratefully sucked the red liquid through the straw, washing away the disgusting taste in his mouth.

Xander set the mug aside when Spike was finished. His brown eyes were hard when he looked back at the vampire, and he fisted his gloved hands in his lap. "Do you mind telling me what in the hell you thought you were doing?"

Spike flinched at the brutally harsh tone in Xander's voice. He wasn't sure what the brunette wanted to know. His eyes searched his lover's face for some clue as to why Xander was angry, but all he saw was a cold mask. "Er..."

It came back to Spike in flashes. A collection of empty of Knob Creek bottles. Xander in his wheelchair. Willow's trunk of witchy stuff. An open book. A smelly concoction. A loud fizzing sound. An explosion. Slamming into Willow's computer monitor head-first. Pain.

"Well?" Xander demanded.

Spike turned his head away, and Xander had to strain to hear his reply. "I wanted you to walk again, so you won't leave me."

Xander was stunned. He leaned forward, grabbed Spike's chin, and forced the blond look at him. "You what?"

Spike suddenly got angry and jerked away. "I don't want you to leave me, all right!" he exclaimed, sitting up quickly. He tried to get up, but the blankets were preventing him. He struggled against them, muttering curses and causing the blankets to further tangle. "Damn it!"

And then Xander had the vampire in his lap, blankets and all. Xander's face was inches from Spike's, staring intently into startled blue eyes. "Who said I was going to leave you?" the brunette asked.

"No one," Spike replied sullenly. "But you're going to because you resent me for being able to walk."

Xander's opened his mouth to reply and shut it again without a word coming out. Instead, he snared the back of the blond's hair and kissed Spike for all he was worth.

The motel room filled with the sounds of heavy breathing and the soft rasps of lips moving against one another. A tiny whimper pierced the quiet a short time later, followed by repetitive squeaks of the brakes straining against the rubber wheels of the wheelchair. Eventually, two deep moans twined together like lovers embracing, unknowing of where one ended and the other began.

For once, Spike was glad he was on the small side as he cuddled on Xander's lap, the blanket drawn up over both of them. He gently brushed his mouth over the slowing pulse-point on Xander's neck, enjoying the salty taste of his lover's sweaty skin. Xander's non-gloved hand lightly rubbed back and forth over Spike's hair-sprinkled thigh; his other hand curved around Spike's bare waist, holding the vampire on his lap.

"I love you," Xander whispered in the honeyed silence of the motel room. He tightened his hold on Spike. "You're my 'til death do us part...'"

Xander didn't say, "and the death part almost happened," but Spike heard it loud and clear. He raised his head and met Xander's eyes. He could see the fear he'd caused reflected in the soft brown orbs, and he said softly, "I'm sorry."

Xander nodded, indicating it was okay. Spike closed the distance between them and pressed a loving kiss to Xander's lips.

A knock on the door interrupted any furthering of the kiss, and the vampire broke away with a small snarl of annoyance. Xander chuckled, adjusted the blanket over them, and shouted, "If it's Willow or Angel, come in!"

The door opened and Willow started to enter the room, followed by Angel. "It's just us. We wanted--" she spotted the two males, "--eep! Sorry!" She quickly turned around and tried to push Angel back to the door. "We'll go away. We didn't know you two were... eep!"

Spike sniggered and moved to stand, but Xander prevented him with a glare. "You've seen me less covered than this, Wills," the brunette said. "And Spike's got nothing to write home about."

It was Spike's turn to glare. "Get bent."

"Too late," Xander retorted, causing Spike's lips to twitch as the blond tried to suppress his smile.

"We'll still go," Willow said, looking everywhere but at the two in the wheelchair. "I'm glad to see... No! Not see, cause I'm not looking. Nope, no peepage here..."

Angel's soft laugh covered her babbling, and he carefully took her bandaged hand. "I think what Willow's trying to say is that we're glad you've finally woken up, Spike."

"How long was I, er, out?" Spike asked.

"Eight days," Xander replied with a slight catch in his voice. "Eight very long days."

Silence pressed upon the four as each thought of what had happened. Spike pulled his hand from beneath the blanket and gently brushed Xander's cheek with his fingers. Xander gave him a tremulous smile in return.

Angel looked down at Willow, his thumb rubbing lightly against the side of her hand. Willow met his gaze and felt her heart jump at the wealth of emotions she saw. The butterflies in her stomach reminded her that they were still there, despite the ordeal she'd been through.

"Oh, hey," Willow said, breaking eye-contact with Angel before they ended up kissing in front of her friends like a couple of teenagers. "We came in here for a reason. Didn't we, Angel?"

"Yeah," Angel replied. "We most certainly did."

"Love you," Spike whispered to Xander, who practically lit up at the words. Then, to Willow, "What is it?"

"The insurance money on the house came today," Willow said. She pulled a check out of her pocket, started for Xander and Spike, stopped abruptly and turned her back to them. "Uh, Angel, why don't you show this to the naked men in the wheelchair."

With a chuckle, Angel took the check from her and brought it over to the couple. Spike was first to react after a short, stunned silence.

"Oi! How much bloody damage did my spell cause?"

"Enough for us to get a new fully-equipped office, to buy me a condo on the beach, and to get you two a house of your own," Willow said, her back still to the men.

"You mean, you don't want to live with us anymore?" Xander said, effecting a pout.

"Of course not!" Willow exclaimed, turning around. She blushed, but stayed facing them. "I love living with you guys... when you're clothed... but I thought, you know, you'd like a place of your own. Besides," she sent Angel a shy smile, "maybe I want some space, too."

"Xander, don't argue with Ms. Money-Knickers," Spike admonished. "If she wants to buy us our own love-shack, bollocks for her."

"Good. It's settled then," Willow said with an affirmative nod. "And now, Angel and I are leaving before my face is permanently red."

They left to Xander and Spike's laughter, which settled into broad smiles after the motel room door was closed.

"Our own place," Xander said with joyful amazement.

"Our own place," Spike echoed happily. "Just like a couple of married queers."

Xander chuckled. "I can see the mailbox now: Mr. and Mr. Harris."

"How come I have to be the bleedin' wife of this twosome?" Spike grumbled, hiding the fact that he liked the idea of taking Xander's last name as his own.

Xander's eyes danced as he slid his hand up Spike's bare thigh. "You looked better in the little black dress."





Epilogue





A week after Xander and Spike had moved into their new house, Spike had entered Willow's office at Otherworld Technologies' new location and thrust a Tupperware container filled with food at her. "I still only cook for Xander," he mumbled before he stalked out of her office. Every day after that, when she arrived at work in the morning there was another Tupperware container on her desk.

Willow opened her refrigerator and peered inside, searching for another soda. She pushed aside a stack of Tupperware containers, reached over the top of a another, smaller stack of them, and snagged the lone root beer hiding in the back. She shut the door and jotted down "soda" on the shopping list pinned to the front of refrigerator.

A small party was in full swing in the living room of her condo. Spike was by the low-playing stereo with Gunn and Wesley, deep in conversation about a Dicto'nth demon Angel Investigations was researching. Cordelia, Tanisha, and Wesley's girlfriend, Jody, congregated by the snack table and were nibbling on the hors d'ouvres Willow had set out as they chatted about their children.

Willow rejoined Angel on the couch just as Xander was finishing another story about his travels with Spike. Since the spell accident, the recently committed Harrises were rarely apart. The affection that they'd shown before seemed to have increased tenfold. It was very sweet to see, especially since their relationship had started simply because Xander had finally gotten annoyed enough to say yes to Spike so the blond vampire would stop bothering him.

Angel pressed a kiss to Willow's forehead as she settled on the couch beside him. They'd been dating exclusively since the fire and were falling more and more in love with each passing day. And as their relationship grew stronger, their caution wisely grew as well. Neither one of them wanted a surprise appearance from Angelus.

She sometimes had to pinch herself to make sure she was awake, though. Angel was a dream boyfriend -- courteous, smart, caring, had a good sense of humor, and he was sexy, too. She realized that if it wasn't for Angel's technophobia and her company's magic with computers, she might never have reunited with her old friends from Sunnydale, let alone date one of them.

"What did I miss?" Willow asked, snuggling into Angel's partial embrace.

"Georgia," Angel replied.

"Crashed a convention, terrorized some live-action role-players, made fun of the sci-fi fans," Xander summed up. He took a pull on his beer and glanced over at Spike. The blond vampire caught his gaze and smiled.

A warm, toasty feeling stole over Xander. He gestured towards the door with his chin and Spike, not breaking his conversation with Gunn and Wesley, pressed his palms together in a mockery of a prayer. Xander chuckled, finished off his beer, and set the empty bottle on the end-table beside the couch.

"Looks like Spike's reached his human-tolerance limit for the evening," Xander said to Willow and Angel. He unlocked the brakes on his wheelchair. "This was fun, Wills. Makes me want to have a bruhaha of my own."

"If you do, we'll be there," Willow said for both herself and Angel.

"Cool." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Spike heading for the door. "Well, 'night. Try not to have too much fun without us."

"We won't," Willow promised with a smile.

Xander saluted and made his way to the door. Spike was practically bouncing on his toes in anticipation of leaving. Xander gave him a scolding look. "Don't act so excited, Spike, or Willow might get offended."

"So what if she does?" Spike countered.

"Because I'm horny and I'd prefer you to be you when we get busy," Xander told him.

"Well, I wouldn't worry too much, pet," Spike gestured back towards the living room, "Willow's a bit occupied right now."

Xander craned his neck in order to look over his shoulder. He smirked in amusement. "And here I just told her not to have too much fun."

Spike laughed. "Guess she wasn't listening."

Oblivious to their friends and the show they were putting on, Willow and Angel were kissing deeply, wrapped tightly in each other's arms.







End