Willow wandered into Spike's kitchen in search of a glass of juice. She stretched as she walked, working the kinks out from sleeping on his couch. She had seen the open gifts when she had woken up and had grinned. She knew he wouldn't have been able to wait.
Taking out the orange juice, she poured some for herself, then leaned back against the counter as she drank it. That's when she saw the note. It was propped up against a kit-model of an old fashioned car. Setting her now empty glass in the sink, she picked up the note and read it.
We neeb to tawk. Wake me.
"Ut-oh, I don't like the sound of that," she said to herself. She set the note back on the table, then headed for Spike's bedroom.
"Knock, knock," Willow called out as she pushed open the door. She peeked her head around it and saw the blond vampire sprawled lengthwise across the bed, face first. His bare feet were hanging off the side closest to her, and with a wicked grin, she tip-toed into the room and ran her fingernails over them.
"AAAHHH!" Spike yelled, coming instantly awake and rolling over as he brought his knees up to his chest. When he saw Willow laughing at him, he scowled. "Not funny, witch."
"Yes it was," Willow gasped out between laughs.
He continued to glare at her as he sat up and scooted around until his back was against the headboard. "Are you through yet?"
"Uh...no," she giggled. At his exasperated look, she swallowed her laughter and sat down. "Ok, I'm done." A lone snigger escaped, then she put on her resolve face. "Now I'm really done."
"You sure?" he said.
"Yes," she answered seriously. "You left a note you wanted to talk to me?" Spike nodded and patted the bed next to him. As she sat, she asked, "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"I don't know if we should be friends anymore."
Willow blinked in shock. This she was definitely not expecting. "W-What? Why?"
Spike avoided looking at her as he said, "I'm a killer. I hunt humans for their blood and leave them dead on the ground with no remorse."
"I know that," she said quietly after a moment. "I'm not going to lie to you and say that I'm ok with it, because I'm not. At all. In fact, I really don't like it. But you have to have blood to live and it's not my place to tell you not to hunt humans."
Spike frowned. "I thought you'd be the first in line to tell me to stop."
"Spike," Willow said, taking his hand. "You're my friend. You're actually my best friend. You know more about me than Xander has learned in his whole life. Around you, I don't have to be the reliable one or the shy, quiet one. Not that I'm not those things, too. I'm just not those things all the time."
"I don't want you to have to choose between them or me, Willow," Spike said, finally meeting her eyes.
"I'm not going to choose between them or you," Willow told him. "Just like I'm not going to choose to tell you how to live your life. If I tried to change you, I wouldn't be a very good friend. Friends are suppose to like you the way you are, not the way they want you to be."
"But I kill people!" he insisted.
Willow was silent for a minute, then she stood. "Spike, I'm not going to stop you. If you don't want to see me anymore because of it, that's your decision," she said. "I'm going to go home now. If I see you later, alright. If I don't, that's alright, too."
She walked towards his bedroom door, then paused and looked back at him. "Just remember, you'll always be my friend." Then she turned and left.
Monday night, Willow sat in her room and stared at her French doors from sunset to sunrise.
Tuesday night, she did the same.
Wednesday, her parents came home, and she borrowed the car to make the trip to the teacher's store after deciding to think positive. But on Wednesday night, he never came.
Thursday and Friday blended together as she avoided her other friends and had a Disney marathon.
Saturday night, she went to play paintball. She had fun, but it just wasn't the same.
Sunday, she resigned herself to the fact that he wouldn't be coming and she asked the goddess to watch out for him wherever he may go.
A week to the day later, Spike came.
Willow looked up from her laptop at the light knocking on her French doors. She glanced at the clock, wondering if it was Buffy again, depressed over Angel's impending departure in a couple weeks. She got off the bed and padded quietly to the doors, not wanting to wake her parents. She winced when the handle creaked as she opened the door. "Buffy, if that's you, we have to be qui-" Her eyes grew wide when she saw who was standing there. "Spike!"
"Hello, luv," Spike said quietly. "Can I come in."
"Of course you can," Willow said, standing back. "You're always welcome."
Spike silently slipped into the room and Willow closed the door behind him. "Are your parents home?"
"Yeah," she answered. "So whisper." He looked around the room as Willow stood nervously where she was. "Um, did you want to talk to me? Or-or have you just come to sit? We can just sit and not talk. I don't mind not talking."
One side of his mouth quirked up. "How about I talk and you sit?"
"Ok," she replied, not moving. His brow went up and she blushed. "Oh, it would help if I sat." She returned to her bed, closing the laptop and moving it off to the side. Pulling her bare legs up under her extra-large t-shirt, she gave him her full attention. "I'm sitting."
Spike took the cigarette that had been behind his ear and began to play with it. "I have a question for you," he started.
"Does the fact that I'm over one hundred and seventy years older than you bother you?" he asked.
"I haven't even thought about that," Willow said. "I mean, you don't act like you're in your early two-hundreds."
He looked at her and grinned. "Known many bicentennials?"
"A few," she replied, returning his smile.
Spike chuckled and sat down at the end of the bed. "I guess you have at that, luv." He tapped the filter end of the cigarette on her bedspread. "I went on a little holiday this week." He looked up at her and grinned. "A sort of soul searching holiday."
Willow giggled. "Did you find any?"
"A few at Wal-Mart," he replied. "They're in the aisle with the loo cleaners."
"I read in the ads they were having a two-for-one sale on them," she commented. He rolled his eyes. "So, um, how was your trip?"
Spike became serious again. "Hard," he replied honestly. "Jokes aside, I don't have a soul, I'm an uncaring demon-"
He frowned. "What?"
"You just lied," Willow told him. "You're not an uncaring demon. You care about everything. Probably more than a ‘normal' vampire should, but that could be because of your age. I read that some of the older master vampires seem to have more emotions than the new ones. But don't tell Giles that I read about that, because I got it out of a book he keeps locked up, and..."
"Willow," Spike interrupted, a small smile on his lips.
She blushed. "Sorry. Go on with your story."
"I think you basically told it, luv," he said. "I went to LA to talk to a mate of mine. He's around three-hundred or so and has a taste for mortals."
"Taste as in ‘tastes like chicken'?" Willow said, her eyes widening.
"No," he chuckled. "As in, he has mortal friends and lovers."
"Like you do, with the paintball group and me," she said, then blushed. "Well, except for the lovers part. Unless you have lovers and I don't know about it. You don't, do you? Wait, I don't want to know about it, that's private. And you were saying...?"
"Cor, Willow, I missed you," Spike said.
"I missed you, too," Willow said quietly.
He smiled, then reached out and snagged her foot, pulling her leg out from under her shirt as he set it in his lap and began to massage it. "I asked Aaron if he ever felt bad about killing humans while he was friends with others," he said, continuing his story.
"What did he say?" she asked, stretching out her other leg.
"He said yes," Spike told her. "Then he told me to either buy a farm or change my hunting habits."
"There aren't many farms in LA," she said, wiggling her toes on her other foot.
"No, there isn't," he said, changing feet as prompted. "Aaron hunts what you would call ‘the bad guys.' And if he's in a pinch, he'll go to the terminal ward of the infirmary."
"A vampire Dr. Kevorkian," Willow commented. He groaned and tickled the bottom of her foot until she kicked him. "Stop tickling. Or you're gonna get it."
"Is that a threat, kitten?" Spike asked, cocking his head to one side.
"Just the truth," she answered with a devilish grin, tucking her feet up under her.
"And what is that you think you're going to do?" he said.
"This," Willow stated, then launched herself at him, causing them to fall off the end of the bed and onto the floor. She began tickling his ribs, the vampire laughing and squirming underneath her.
"Willow? Are you ok?"
Willow's head shot up and her eyes grew huge. "Eep! My parents," she gasped to Spike.
"Honey?" Sheila called through the door again, trying the locked knob. "Willow, your door is locked."
"Answer her, kitten," Spike prompted the paralyzed girl on top of him.
"Uh...y-yeah, Mom," Willow stammered back. "I, uh, tripped...a-a-and fell...over...something."
"I thought I heard laughing," Sheila said. "Can you open the door?"
"I was laughing at myself," she lied, trying to climb off of Spike. He let out a choked gasp of pain as she kneed him in the crotch. "Oops, sorry," she whispered to him.
"Right," Spike ground out through clenched teeth.
"Willow, open this door, please," Sheila demanded.
"Coming, Mom," Willow replied, finally managing to get to her feet. She looked down at Spike and gestured to the French doors. "Spike, shoo!"
"It was your knee, luv," he groaned, rising to his feet. "Not your shoe."
"Stop making jokes and get out," she hissed. She watched as he walked stiffly out the French door, closing it securely behind him. She took a quick, deep breath and smoothed her hair down, then opened her bedroom door. "Hi, Mom. I'm sorry if I woke you..."
"‘Who is this pet? Say! He is wet,'" Spike read slowly, holding the bright yellow book in his hands. "‘You never yet met a pet, I bet, as wet as they let this wet pet get.'"
"Good," Willow told him, a large smile on her face. They were sitting in Spike's kitchen a week after the vampire had taken his ‘soul searching' trip, working on his reading skills. The redhead was extremely pleased with his rapid progress, especially since she'd be leaving for college in two-and-a-half weeks. Orientation started for her on the nineteenth, with classes starting on the twenty-third of August.
Spike bounced his knee, as he had been doing on and off for the past hour. He glanced at the clock, wishing the sun would decide to go down earlier so he could escape the grueling work in front of him. He never knew that something as simple as reading could be so hard. Usually, he gave up after a few minutes, bored and itching for something else to do. But with the redhead prompting him, he'd been mostly sitting still for close to five hours every day for the past week.
He really wanted to get out.
"Ok, we'll do one more," Willow said, noting his antsy movements. "Your choice."
He grinned at her and immediately turned to the front of the Dr. Seuss book to his favorite one.
"‘One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish,'" he began. "‘This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot of fish there are.'"
As he slowly read, Willow walked around behind him, mouthing the words she'd heard over and over and over again until she knew it by rote. "‘Yes. Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are new. Some are sad. And some are glad. And some are very, very bad. Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know. Go ask your dad."
Spike turned to the last page of the tongue twister rhyme and finished with a flourish. "‘Some are thin. And some are fat. The fat one has a yellow hat. From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.'"
The book slammed shut, the vampire bounded to his feet, and the tutoring session was over.
"I can't believe I leave in eighteen days," Willow said, as she and Spike walked from his car into the armory. "Eighteen. That's as many days as I am old. Even less once it gets past midnight. Then it'll only be seventeen!"
"I thought you were excited about going to university," Spike said.
"I am," she replied. "But at the same time, I'm not. I mean, it's not here. I'm leaving Sunnydale for Los Angeles. Hellmouth for hellhole."
Spike chuckled. "It's not that bad, kitten."
"Yes it is!" she stated. "I won't know anyone...well, I'll know Angel...and Cordelia. Not that Cordelia and I are on buddy-buddy terms. And it's not like Angel can come out during the day. Can I change my mind and move into your basement for the next four years?"
With that innocent question, Spike felt like someone slammed a two-by-four across his chest. His mind flitted from imaginary image to image of what it would be like to have Willow living with him. How he would get her from the basement to his...
"Spike? Are you ok? You're looking kinda funny," Willow said, watching her friend closely.
"I'm-" he squeaked. He shot her an embarrassed smile, cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm fine." He spotted their friends and sighed in relief. "Why don't you take this," he handed her his weapons box, "and I'll go get your things."
"Um...ok," she replied, watching him strangely as he practically bolted. "I have the strangest friends."
"Who's there?" Willow replied.
"Horror," Kurt answered.
"Horror who?" she said.
"Horror ya doing tonight?" he finished, then gave her a smile full of fake fangs.
Willow groaned and thumped her head on the picnic table. "That was really bad, Kurt." Schu threw a M&M at him while the other seven at the table made gagging noises.
She lifted her head and glanced over her shoulder. "Oh, hi, Buffy. Hi, Xander. Hi, Faith." She turned back to her paintball friends, then did a double take. Slowly, looking back over her shoulder, her eyes huge. "W-What are you guys doing here?"
"We thought we'd come and see what's so exciting," Buffy replied. She gestured down to her fatigues. "Would I be dressed like this otherwise?"
"Er...no?" Willow said. Her eyes darted behind them, searching for Spike. This was so not good.
"You gonna introduce us, Red?" Faith asked.
"Oh, um, yeah," she said. "This is Jamie, Schu, Joe, Kurt, Matt, Deuce, Nel and Duffy." She pointed to each camouflaged person in turn. "Um, guys. These a-are my friends, Buffy, Xander and Faith."
"Hey," Faith greeted, straddling the bench next to Willow.
"Have you guys got your stuff?" Jamie asked the new trio.
"Er, stuff?" Xander asked.
"Guess not," Duffy said. "Semis, paintballs and masks up there." He pointed in the general direction of the other side of the shelter.
"Game!" a referee shouted.
"You coming, Will?" Joe asked as he and the paintball friends stood, grabbing their masks and weapons.
"I don't have my gear yet," Willow replied, shaking her head.
"NO!" Willow interrupted loudly. She blushed. "I mean, I'll, er, wait."
"Roger that, Red Lady," Duffy said, giving her a salute.
"‘Red Lady'?" Buffy said, arching her brow at Willow as the others left.
"Heh, heh," Willow fake laughed. She spotted Spike heading towards the table, and she began to panic. "Uh, why don't y-you go get your w-weapons and...now, please."
"You ok, Red?" Faith asked.
"Yeah...I'm ok," she squeaked. Quickly, she stood and grabbed Spike's mask, semi and hopper. "I think I'm going to play...yeah...you guys...bye!" She turned and practically sprinted towards where she had seen Spike, but he was no longer there.
A hand suddenly latched onto her arm and yanked her down onto a lap. She screeched and went to bash whomever attacked her with the semi. "Woah, kitten. It's only me," Spike said, blocking the swing.
"Spike!" Willow gasped. "You scared me!"
"Sorry," he apologized.
"You'd better be sorry, Mister," she scolded. "If it was Buffy, she would have sta-Buffy! Spike, Buffy, Faith and Xander are here!"
"I know, luv," Spike said, putting a finger over her lips. "I saw them."
"What are we going to do?" Willow asked.
"We're going to play paintball," he answered.
"But they'll recognize you!"
"Under this?" he said, pointing to the mask in Willow's hand.
"Well, no, I guess not," she said.
"Right then," Spike said. "Why don't you go help your chums get their gear so I can get to my box. I'll move it somewhere else."
"Are you sure?" Willow asked. "We could just leave."
"And miss a chance to hunt the Slayers and the whelp?" he answered with a grin. "I think not."
She grinned back. "You know, that sounds like fun. Too bad we can't just do a smaller group."
Willow told each of the other eight paintball friends that Spike had arranged for a private game, including Buffy, Xander and Faith. Thirteen players all together. The redhead didn't know if that was a bad omen or not.
"I can't believe Tramp arranged this for us," Jamie said, bouncing on her toes.
"Where is that dog, anyhow?" Kurt asked. The group, minus Spike, was gathered around ‘their' table, waiting for the private game to start. Buffy, Faith and Xander were all equipped, and Duffy and Deuce were giving out pointers.
"Tramp?" Buffy said. "Who's Tramp?"
"Sp-" Matt began.
"Another friend," Willow interrupted Matt. "You guys don't know him. Nope. Never met." She looked over at Kurt. "He had to...do...stuff. But he's playing."
"Private group! Game!" a referee called.
"That be us," Nel said, standing.
"This is gonna kick," Faith said, running her fingers over the barrel of the semi-automatic paintball gun.
"I think Faith's a little excited," Buffy whispered to Willow as the group walked out of the shelter towards the ref.
"Hey Lady," Schu said to Willow. He pointed to where half the group had already gathered. "Looks like Tramp is trying to get your attention."
Indeed, Spike, already wearing his unique, all-black mask over his old, beat-up, Marlboro cap, was gesturing her to join him. "Thanks," she said. "Excuse me, guys." She walked away from them towards Spike.
"Lady? Tramp?" Xander said, watching Willow.
"That's their nicks," Jamie explained. "Red Lady and the Tramp. Although Tramp's been Tramp since he started playing. He's got a Disney fetish."
"Kurt's the one who started calling Will ‘Red Lady' as a joke, and it stuck," Schu said. "But their nicks aren't as good as Squirrel Girl and Super-Monkey." He winked at his wife, then slid the mask over his face.
Jamie laughed and donned her own mask. Buffy, Xander and Faith exchanged confused looks, then followed suit.
"Luke, I am your father," Xander said, breathing heavily behind the mask.
"Like we didn't see that coming, Xand," Buffy teased.
"First game is Liquid Boundaries," the ref announced once they were inside the playing field. "Six of you will start touching this spool," he hit the large, white, old construction wiring spool, "and seven will start at that one. You'll have five seconds to get away after I say go before you get shot. Boundaries are to the back walls of buildings two and three. After five minutes, I will blow the whistle once, and the boundaries will become the inner courtyard. Any questions?"
"No," chorused the regular players. Buffy, Faith and Xander looked at each other through their masks and shrugged.
"Those six that are staying here," the ref said. "Take these red armbands. The rest, go to the other spool."
"Hey guys," Willow said, finding her friends. She had a red armband on. "You're on the other side."
"We're not on the same team?" Buffy asked.
"Nope," she shook her head. They couldn't see the huge grin on her face under the mask.
"How will we know not to shoot you?" Xander said.
"Xander, you're suppose to fire at me," Willow told him. "And anyone on the red team. But don't worry, you'll be hit looong before you even get a shot off." With that, she turned and literally strutted away.
"Red's a little cocky, ain't she?" Faith commented as the trio crossed the small courtyard. "I think she's going to be my first kill."
She found out she was very wrong.
"Oh goddess, you should have seen the looks on their faces!" Willow said, flopping down on the bench next to Spike. "I think they've played a total of five minutes in six games!"
"You are a witch," Spike told her, tapping her nose. In his other hand, he was holding his place in a book with his finger. Since he had nothing better to do between games, he figured he'd practice and earn some brownie points with Willow.
"Yup," she agreed. She gestured to the book. "Enjoying yourself?"
"I'd rather be with you," he replied, then looked away, slightly embarrassed.
Willow blushed. "I...I'd rather be with you, t-too," she stammered.
Spike reached out and brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Their eyes met and held, and he slowly ran his hand around the back of her head as he leaned closer.
"Private group! Game!"
They both sprang back in shock at the referee's loud voice close to where they were sitting. Flustered, Willow stood and gestured helplessly. "Game. Gotta go. Play. The Game. Paintball. Yeah. Game." She turned and hurried away.
"Way to go, you bloody pillock," Spike cursed to himself. "Friends, remember? Don't. Fuck. This. Up." He scowled, disgusted at himself. "Not after she wanted to keep your worthless arse around despite what you are."
Luckily, the tension between the two friends didn't last long. One really bad joke later, and they were back to their normal selves, the almost-kiss behind them, but not forgotten. As the days quickly passed and the time before Willow left for school dwindled, both felt as though they were slowly being ripped in two on the inside. Their surprise friendship was nearing a hard turning- point, and neither want to deal with it. So they acted as though nothing was going to change.
"I can't believe you did that," Willow said, falling back on her bed, phone at her ear, two days before she was due to leave.
"I'm not to bloody tickled about it either, kitten," Spike replied on the other end of the line. "Now are you going to help me? Or will you leave a poor, helpless bloke to fend for himself?"
"I don't know, Sexy Knickers," she hedged. "That's asking a lot."
"I don't beg," he told her. He paused, then, "Please help?"
Willow giggled. "I'll be over in ten."
Arriving at Spike's house ten minutes later to the second, she entered the front door and burst out laughing.
"Something funny, pet?" Spike asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"You-you-," she gasped between laughs. "Your face..."
Spike scowled at her and wiped his face with the back of his hand, only to smear the light blue paint more over his features. His clothing was spattered and stained with the same color, and he had streaks of it in his hair from where he ran his fingers through it.
"Oh goddess," Willow giggled. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Help me finish," he growled, stalking back into the covered living room. He had been bored, as usual, and had found cans of paint in the basement that morning. Deciding that the color would look good in the living room, he covered the furniture and began to paint. An hour later, he was bored out of his mind again, only now he had a partially painted living room, which looked exceedingly ridiculous. So he called Willow.
"Spike, we are going to have to find you a hobby," she told him as she dropped her bag and followed him into the room. "Something that doesn't involve redecorating."
"Just shut up and help," he muttered, returning to work.
She giggled again at his pouty-attitude, picked up a brush, and helped.
"Cor, everything hurts," Spike grumbled, flopping down face-first on Willow's bed, so his feet were hanging off one side and his head off the other.
"You're a vampire, you're not suppose to hurt after manual labor," Willow told him, climbing up onto the bed and straddling his waist. She began to knead the muscles in his bare back.
"Tell that to my bleedin' body," he said, closing his eyes.
"I guess we didn't have to paint the foyer, hallway and the spare bedroom, too," she said. "Maybe that was a bit overkill."
"You think?" he muttered.
"Oh, hey, after I rub your poor, achy back, do you want to see movie?" she asked. "Tarzan is playing at nine."
"Really?" Spike said in an excited voice.
"Yes, Walt, really," Willow replied with a giggle.
Outside Willow's bedroom doors, Buffy's eyes were huge. She had come over to see if Willow wanted to go out, but instead she found the redhead was already involved in something else entirely. For on the thin, white curtains, the Slayer could see the silhouette of Willow rocking back and forth on someone.
"Oh my god," Buffy gasped. "Willow is carpe-ing someone!"
"That was bloody awesome!" Spike exclaimed as he and Willow left the theater. He grabbed her hand and spun her in a circle, then bounced like a little kid as they headed back to the redhead's house. "Can we go see it again?"
Willow laughed. "I think someone liked the movie."
"Cor, yeah," he agreed, grinning unabashedly. "The past few Disney pictures have been pretty awful. Although Hercules had some funny things, but this..."
"Was bloody awesome, I heard," she smirked. They walked hand-in-hand in silence for a few minutes, with Spike's thoughts off in Disney heaven and hers about the happy vampire next to her. She found it both humorous and touching that he could get so excited over a simple cartoon. **It shows how big of a heart he has,** she thought.
"‘Go stop your cryin', it'll be alright. Just take my hand hold it tight. I will protect you from all around you, I will be here. Don't you cry.'"
Willow looked over at him as he began to sing, his low, quiet voice easily bringing forth the words to the song he'd only heard once during the movie. They'd been playing it on the radio, but she knew he didn't listen to that type of station. It amazed her that he picked it up so fast.
"‘For so small, you seem so strong. My arms will hold you keep you safe and warm. This bond between us can't be broken, I will be here don't you cry. Cause you'll be in my heart. Yes you'll be in my heart. From this day on, now and forever long. You'll be in my heart. No matter what they say. You'll be in my heart, always,'" he sang, his hand unconsciously tightening around Willow's
"‘Why can't they understand the way we feel. They just don't trust what they can't explain. I know we're different but deep inside we're not that different at all. And you'll be in my heart. Yes you'll be in my heart. From this day on, now and forever long. Don't listen to them, cause what do they know? They'll see in time, I know. When destiny calls you, you must be strong. I may not be with you but you've got to hold on. They'll see in time, I know. We'll show them together.'"
As Willow listened to the words, she realized they mimicked her and Spike's friendship. Her friends would never understand how she could be friends with him, how human he was despite the demon inhabiting him. And he was in her heart, and he would always be there. No matter how far away she moved or where life took her, he would always be there.
"‘Because you'll be in my heart. Believe me, you'll be in my heart. I'll be there from this day on, Now and forever long. Oooo, you'll be in my heart, you'll be here in my heart. No matter what they say, you'll be in my heart. I'll be there always, always. I'll be with you. I'll be there for you always, always and always. Just look over your shoulder. Just look over your shoulder. Just look over your shoulder. I'll be there always.'"
Spike quietly ended the song, memorized in an instant because of his love for Disney movies. But in this case, the words seemed to mean more than the scene that played when the lyrics were sang. He glanced over at the redhead beside him and felt his throat constrict. She was physically leaving him the morning after tomorrow, but she would never leave his heart.
She raised her head and met his eyes. He squeezed her hand and they exchanged small smiles, then they continued in silence the rest of the way to her home.
They stood on her small balcony, neither one wanting to say goodnight. However, Spike knew she needed to pack, and therefore needed to get some rest. But he really didn't want to leave.
"Well...," Willow trailed off, glancing up at him, then back off into the night.
"Yeah," he responded. He lifted their still-clasped hands and placed a light kiss on the back of hers. "I'd best get going, kitten. You have a lot to do tomorrow."
"I know," she sighed. "I don't want to go."
"Yes, you do," he said, smiling at her.
"Yeah, I do," she repeated, returning the smile.
"I know you'll want to spend time with your mates tomorrow," Spike said. "But I'm bleedin' selfish and want to see you, too." He glanced out onto the quiet street. "Can I pick you up at ten?"
"I'll be here," Willow replied.
"Right then," he said, dropping her hand after a final squeeze. He hopped over the railing instead of using the break, then turned and smiled at her from the other side. "Goodnight, luv."
"‘Night, Spike," she said. "I'll see you at ten."
He leaned forward and tapped the end of her nose and said, "On the nose." With a wink, he turned and sauntered off into the night.
"Hi Buffy," Willow said, opening her front door wider to let the Slayer in. "Welcome to the war-zone."
"Having fun packing?" Buffy asked, following Willow to her bedroom.
"I don't know," the hacker replied. "I keep changing my mind about what to take. I mean, I know I'm only two hours away and can easily come back to get stuff, but I'd rather have it when I need it, know what I mean?"
"Not a clue," Buffy answered, looking around the messy bedroom. "I'm not going away."
"Oh, Buffy," Willow sighed sadly. "I'm sorry."
Buffy shrugged. "No biggie. I've dealt." She picked up a stack of videos and looked through them. "Plus, knowing you're down there keeping an eye on Angel makes me happy."
"I'll keep him in line," Willow grinned. She glanced at her mostly empty trunk, then around her room. "So, wanna help me pack?"
"Actually, I wanted to know who you were having fun of the naughty kind last night," the Slayer said casually.
Willow frowned in confusion. "What?"
"I stopped by last night to see if you wanted to go out, and I distinctly saw you...," she wiggled her eyebrows, "...enjoying yourself."
"I don't understand," Willow said. "You saw me what?"
"Having sex, Wills," Buffy said, exasperated. "S-E-X. That activity where his thang fits in your thang..."
"Buffy!" Willow gasped, blushing furiously.
"I know, sounds Faith, but we've been hanging out lately since you've been busy with Bil-" Buffy stopped, her eyes widening. "You did it with Billy!"
"No!" Willow exclaimed. "I didn't have...you know...with B-Billy or-or anyone. Not even close. I'm so far from...that thing...I might as well be a-asexual." She nervously tucked and untucked her hair from behind her ears, then suddenly stared at Buffy. "Why do you think I did it?"
"I saw you last night..."
"Here in your room," Buffy answered. "I came to the doors," she gestured to the french doors, "and saw you were doing something that I guess you weren't doing." The Slayer frowned. "What were you doing?"
"Oh!" Willow said. "Backrub. I was giving S-Billy a backrub. We painted. A lot. Wait, you mean you saw him?" The last few words barely squeaked out.
"No," she replied. "I saw your shadow on the curtains."
Willow slumped in obvious relief. "Good...I mean, that you were wrong about...you know..."
Buffy grinned. "Never mind, Wills. So, want so help?"
After she'd finally gotten everything packed into one trunk, one suitcase, her laptop case and her backpack, Willow spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening with Buffy, Xander and Faith. They'd stopped by the library and had surprised the redhead with an impromptu Bon Voyage party, complete with cake and little party hats. Giles had even donned one just for her.
At nine-thirty, she was escorted home under a barrage of ‘Ooh, Billy' and other teasing remarks, and left them with the promise they'd see her at the airport the next morning. Instead of driving down, her parents had bought her a plane ticket, because they were taking a flight out of Sunnydale that same morning. Angel had promised to arrange for her to be picked up and taken to the campus when she got to LA.
Willow had no clue what she and Spike were going to do, so she dressed in a pair of jeans and a t- shirt because of the cool weather, despite it being August. At ten o'clock, on the nose, he tapped on her french doors. "Hi," she greeted with a large smile upon opening them.
"Hello, kitten," Spike said, dressed similarly in jeans and a t-shirt. He held out his hand. "Ready to go?"
She nodded and took his hand, closing the door behind her. They walked in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the cool night air. She noticed where they were heading and asked, "We're going to the park?"
"Yes," he replied. "That ok?"
"Sure," she answered. "I'm all packed."
"How many bags do you have? Twenty?" Spike grinned at her.
"Just four," Willow said, wrinkling her nose at him. "I have to fly, you know."
"Fly?" he asked. "Last time I checked, LA was only two hours away, luv."
"Mom and Dad," she replied, as if that answered everything. "Anyway, I'm suppose to be there by one for my first orientation do-hickey. My flight leaves at nine so I can get there early enough to find my room and stuff."
They arrived at the deserted park and Spike hopped up to walk along a low beam as he lead her towards the swings. "You'll have to give me your number as soon as you know it."
"I will," she said, taking a seat on the swing and pushing lightly on her toes.
Spike moved behind her and started to push. "I was wondering, kitten...," he trailed off, the squeak of the swing chains becoming the only noise in the park.
After a few moments, she prompted, "You were wondering?"
Whatever Spike was going to say was drowned out in a loud clap of thunder. Both of them were startled, the vampire grabbing her shoulders reflexively, pulling her back against him on the swing. They both looked up at the cloudy sky just in time for it to burst into rain, sending a deluge down upon the duo.
With a squeal, Willow got to her feet, holding an arm above her head as Spike grabbed her hand and began running towards a small shelter. Moments before they reached it, they both slipped in the mud, falling to the ground heavily.
They scrambled forward on their knees, laughing as they got under cover, their clothes and hands full of mud. Willow pushed her drenched hair back off of her face, coating it and her forehead in the dark, wet dirt as she grinned at him. "It's raining."
"Now what?" Willow asked a few minutes of non-stop, heavy rain later. She was sitting right beside Spike, their crossed knees touching, watching the crazy weather. She raised her dirty palm and looked at it.
"We wait," he replied, reaching out to snag her hand. He used his other hand to tickle her palm lightly.
"Stop that," she said, trying to snatch it away from him.
"Stop what?" he asked, grinning devilishly at her.
"Stop that," Willow repeated, getting her hand away. She looked at her palm again, as well as the other one, and frowned. "Yuck, my hands are dirty."
It was like a picture suddenly snapped into focus. Spike's thoughts immediately lit upon information he had filed away for future use. He would swear his heart was pounding in his chest as he slowly reached out and laid his hand over hers, palm up. "My hands are dirty, too," he said, swallowing heavily. He then continued, wondering if he was out of his mind, "What are you afraid of?"
Willow looked at him, frowning in confusion. "Afraid?"
Spike lifted his hand and cupped the bottom of her chin. Then he gently rubbed his thumb over her lower lip. "You're trembling."
"I'm not trembling," she said, her brows knitted together even though her heart began to race from his actions.
He couldn't help the slight curling of his lips as she unknowingly played the scene. However, his next words would sink in and she would know exactly what he was doing. "You like me because I'm a scoundrel," he said, staring into her eyes. "There aren't enough scoundrels in your life."
Willow's breath caught, her eyes widening. **Oh goddess, oh goddess,** she thought. Licking her lips, she watched as his gaze darted down to them, then back up to her eyes. In a whisper, she continued the lines, knowing what was going to happen if she did. "I happen to like nice men."
Spike's eyes darkened as he slowly leaned towards her. An inch away from her mouth, he said quietly, "I'm nice men."
"No, you're not," Willow whispered, her eyes falling shut. "You're-"
Exactly as in her favorite scene of the Star Wars trilogy, he cut her off by capturing her mouth in a kiss.
The kiss was tentative and shy, just like a first kiss should be. Spike's lips brushed over Willow's, as if they weren't suppose to be kissing, and she felt butterflies start to flutter around in her stomach. She began to kiss him back, her mouth equally as uncertain as his own.
Spike felt like his heart would explode when she returned the kiss. The hand cupping her chin slid along her jawline to her hair. He tangled his fingers in the damp, red tresses, angling his head so he could deepen the kiss. He'd been wanting to do this all summer and, now that he finally was, he wondered what took him so long.
If Willow had known the feelings that were being evoked by his mouth against hers, she would have kissed him well back in the beginning of the summer. The things she felt were nothing like what she had felt when Oz kissed her, or Xander. She felt as though her insides were burning and melting all at once, her heart was hammering in her chest, her breathing was in short, trembling bursts.
He was tasting sunlight. His lips tingled, his body burned, as the kiss continued. He never, ever, wanted it to end.
But, eventually, it had to, and he reluctantly dragged his mouth from hers. He pulled away from her to look down into her eyes as they fluttered open. "Was that ok?" Spike asked quietly and with some uncertainty.
"It was perfect," Willow breathed. Then she blurted, "I can't believe you remembered."
Spike chuckled, releasing her completely. "I remember every moment spent with you, kitten," he said, then looked out of the shelter. "Rain's stopped."
Willow slowly turned her head and looked outside. "Looks like it."
He stood and offered her his hand. "Come on, let's get you home before it starts again."
Accepting it, she stood and the two walked silently out of the shelter and into the wet night.
"Do you want to come in?" Willow asked as they stepped onto her small balcony.
"I'd best not," Spike replied, dropping the hand he held the entire way back. "Little witches need their beauty rest." Plus, if he did go inside, he'd want to do what the bedroom was properly used for, and it was just not the time for that. He knew it and he knew she did, too.
"Then I guess this is goodbye," she said, sadly.
"For now," he said. "I'll see you soon enough."
Willow raised her eyes to his, quashing down her tears. She was going to miss him. "Will you come visit?"
"Of course," he replied immediately.
"‘K," she said. She looked down shyly, tucking her hair behind her ear.
They both heard the door to Willow's bedroom open and then her mom's voice. "Willow, is that you?"
Willow turned around and opened her french door. "Yeah, mom. I was just getting some air," she said, sticking her head in.
"You should really get some sleep, honey," Sheila said.
"I will," she replied. Her mom nodded and left the bedroom. Willow turned back to Spike, only to see him several steps away, on the other side of the railing. "Spike?"
"You'd better go, kitten," Spike said.
Willow nodded. "I'll call you when I get there and know my room number and...I'll call you," she said.
"I'll be waiting," he replied. He gave her a small smile, despite the feelings churning inside of him, then turned and walked away from the best thing in his life.
"Goodbye, Spike," Willow whispered to his retreating form. Then she turned in the opposite direction and entered her house, closing the door behind her.
Willow stood staring at herself in the mirror. "You can do this," she told her reflection. "It's time to start a new chapter in Willow Rosenberg's life."
"Honey, time to go!" her mom called.
She gave herself a wane smile. "Time to go." Grabbing her backpack, she gave her bedroom one final look, then left the room.
Half-an-hour later, she kissed her parents before they headed off to catch their own flight at the Sunnydale Commuter Airport. Her luggage had already been taken behind the counter, disappearing on a conveyor belt. She wore her backpack and carried her laptop case over one shoulder, weaving through the crowd of early morning flyers towards her terminal.
"Look who decided to show up," Xander said in lieu of greeting when she got to the gate. Buffy, Faith and Giles were there, as well, to give her a proper send-off.
"Hey guys," Willow said. "I guess this is it. I'm college bound. Off to college. The big U. Higher learning, here I come."
"We'll miss you, Wills," Buffy told her.
"Yeah, I'm gonna have to start doin' research now that you're blowin' Sunnydale," Faith said. "That sucks."
"What I think Faith is attempting to say, your a-assistance has been invaluable," Giles said. "And we shall all miss you."
"Flight one-fifteen to Los Angeles now boarding at gate B-2," a voice came over the loudspeaker. "Flight one-fifteen to Los Angeles now boarding at gate B-2."
"That's me," Willow said. She hugged each of her friends, then gave them a fake smile. "Well, um, bye."
She turned and made her way to the open doors that led down to the plane with a chorus of goodbyes, pulling her ticket out of the front pocket of her red overalls. She stopped in line, forcing herself not to look back. The person before her handed the attendant his ticket, and she gave up and turned around. Her eyes lit on her friends standing in a small knot, and they waved at her, with Giles giving her a smile.
Then she saw him.
It was just chance that she had looked past her friends and saw him standing there in front of a bright blue door with an exit sign over it, well away from the sunlight streaming through the terminal windows. He was dressed in the first outfit he'd tried on at the mall in what seemed so long ago -- tan khakis and a long-sleeved, navy t-shirt with a blue on white stripe across the chest. He had the sleeves pushed up to his elbows and was wearing the familiar, old Dodgers cap backwards on his head.
Without thought about how ridiculous she looked or that her friends were standing there, Willow ran over to him and threw her arms around him. "You're here! Why are you here? It's too dangerous! Goddess, have you lost your mind?"
Spike chuckled, holding the redhead close. "I'll miss you, too."
"Last call for flight one-fifteen to Los Angeles, boarding at gate B-2," the voice repeated over the speaker. "Last call..."
"I gotta go," Willow said, looking up at him.
"I know," Spike replied. He met her eyes, then bent and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "Be safe, kitten."
"I'll miss you," she said, stepping away from him.
He reached out and brushed a stray hair behind her ear. "Goodbye."
"Bye," she replied. As she turned to go, she felt something plunked on her head. Looking up, she saw the bill of the baseball cap. She looked over her shoulder at him at the same time he gave her a slight push. "Thanks, Sexy Knickers."
Spike rolled his eyes. "You'd better go, pet, before I have to kill you for that."
Willow giggled, then faced forward and headed back towards the gate, only to be greeted by the wide-eyed stares of her friends. Not stopping, she grinned and said as she passed, "Bye guys. Oh, and be nice to Billy, will ya?"
At the gate entrance, she turned and waved, then headed down the ramp towards her future.
Spike watched as Willow disappeared past the doors, then turned his attention to the four staring at him. He sent them a cocky grin, lifted his fingers and gave them a mocking wave. Then he turned and went through the stairwell door, singing, "One jump ahead of the slowpokes, one skip ahead of my doom, next time gonna keep my nom de plume..."