Seeking Asylum


by Anya



Willow's jaw clenched, the muscles shrieking in pain from the rigid set she'd consistently been locking her face into. The faint taste of blood swirled in her mouth, her own blood from her own tongue that she'd self-bitten in an effort to find self control and not go bloody screaming down the street.

Instead, she was planning on going quietly insane while Buffy and Xander discussed her life, her safety and Spike's motivation as if she were both not even there and a helpless child.

Their eyes darted about the darkened world around them, while they walked beneath the bright white street lamps that lined the major roads. Buffy cautiously scanning the quiet nooks and crannies on the right side of the street while Xander studiously screened the world to the left. Each of them letting their eyes pierce the shadows for the next boogey-man to come and make their friend a stranger yet again. And their discussions…

"Obviously, he's connected to the Green-Ick demon." Buffy had concluded, receiving an affirmative and agreeable grunt from Xander. "Why else would Spike be here? I bet Drusilla summoned the creature."

"Or maybe it's an alliance? Weirder things have happened." Xander muttered. "They took out Giles, and now they're trying to get our Willow."

Buffy grunted, her fingers tightening painfully on Willow's arm. "No one leaves her alone. 24/7 guard on Willow, until we get to the bottom of this."

"Right." Xander agreed, looking over Willow's head to catch Buffy's eyes.

Willow sighed, a long sound of long-sufferance. "I'm right here, you know. And I don't need any guards." The feeling of suffocation was getting stronger. At first, the smothering affection and protection the Slayer and Xander had bestowed on her at the library had been cute, even endearing, but it was wearing very thin now.

Xander patted her arm condescendingly. "Hush, Willow. You don't understand how much danger you're in."

Willow stiffened instantly, stopping dead in her tracks though the town-house that Buffy and she had rented for their second year at University was in sight. "I beg your pardon?" Her voice arched incredulously. "I don't know what kind of danger *I'M* in? Excuse me? I don't think it was either of you two that took on a Pit Fiend and won, or stopped the stigmata spread at campus."

Buffy tugged on Willow's arm. "Oh, ignore him, Willow. He's just scared for you. We know you beat the Baa---thingimibob -"

"Baatezu." Willow corrected automatically, her tone flat.

"Right, Baatezu," Buffy reassumed her babbling easily. "And the stigmata thing… bleeding from the hands and feet like that was so ick, but this is Spike we're talking about. You were lucky, the thing with the demon and all, but I can't risk you to luck."

"Luck?"

"Aww, you know what I mean." Buffy groaned. "I mean, if you weren't helping me out with the research thing, you wouldn't have known how to bash a big ugly with magic, or that whole thing with the blood stuff."

"Blood rituals. Do you ever even listen to me?" Willow nearly growled. "A bloodpath sorcerer was inflicting stigmata's so he could raise power and open the Hellmouth."

"Whatever." Buffy tugged at Willow again, careful not to apply her supernatural strength and hurt her friend. "Can we get in the house? I'm getting a wiggy feeling, and I don't want you left in the open."

Willow's eyes narrowed. "Oh, of course not. Helpless little me… something might hurt me."

Both of them accepted her words as if there was no sarcasm laced throughout, which just seemed to set her fury all the higher. Buffy and Xander each grabbed her arm, and they pulled her to the house. "I'll get Giles on this." Buffy announced, as soon as she swung the door open. "You two stay here, and I'll go get him." Poised at the doorframe, with the dark sky and the moon hanging low as backdrop to her blond perfection, Buffy seemed a fierce huntress.

"He's got a concussion!" Willow shouted. "Leave the poor man alone!"

Xander just pushed her towards the kitchen. "Coolness, Buff. Me and Willow will hold the fort here until you and G-man get here. Then, we'll figure out how to protect our Willow from badness."

"I'm a witch, and I slept with Spike." Willow announced in a loud voice, stomping her foot. "I party down with the undead all the time, when I go to LA, and I've a kick-ass reputation in the community here."

Buffy nodded to Xander. "Great, twenty minutes, tops. I'll do the 'I'll look after my Dad' routine at the hospital, and if you'll order a pizza, we can pull an all-nighter. Give Oz and Angel a call too. If Spike's involved, it's big."

"He just wants my body." Willow continued, pushing her way between the two.

"Got it!" Xander saluted Buffy, grabbing Willow's wrist and pulling her to the kitchen as Buffy closed the door. "So, Wills… got anything good to eat?"

*~*~*~*~*

Willow slammed the bathroom door with all the energy she had, and, just as a precaution, flicked the lock on. "They ignored me." She growled, staring at her reflection balefully. "I could have stripped naked, and no one would have noticed." That really irked her.

Just like they had several weeks before, when presented with evidence that good old Willow wasn't all that good and innocent, they blocked it out. Apparently, it fell under the 'too much information' school of thought.

Oh, not to say all of them were in denial, Giles was certainly suspicious, since all the good books on magic had suddenly disappeared from his library, and Angel had been persistent in trying to talk to her privately with each visit he made to San Francisco - visits that were becoming far more frequent than ever before.

Buffy, of course, insisted that it was because of her. Despite her protestations to having moved on, she really was convinced the sun, moon and stars, where Angel was concerned, all rose and set as a result of her life.

It irked Willow to no end. 'I was so afraid they'd figure it out! Ha!' The problem was they wouldn't figure it out, not really. The acceptance she secretly craved would never be hers. If she acted out of character, it was PMS, fatigue or possession. Never anything as simple as true change.

'I'm NOT staying here tonight.' She swore fervently to her reflection. Her personal demons were howling, and a night of raunchy romping with Spike and crew sounded like the perfect cure. To dance and drink away all her anger, to relax in a place where she wasn't prejudged - oh, it sounded so perfectly perfect.

The decision made, Willow yanked the straps to her overalls off her shoulders, and kicked the corduroy away. Pulling her soft white T-shirt off, she reached over to the tub, and made another quick decision. Rather than a shower, something that would be over quickly and likely before Buffy and Giles returned, a soothing bath in some relaxing and witchy ingredients was definitely in order.

Setting the tub to fill with warm water, Willow glanced at the bathroom door indecisively. Most of her supplies were in her room, the shower scrunchy and her bath oils were in the bathroom, but her supplies for ritual or spellcraft were tightly locked up in the room. Now that she was nicely locked up and away from Xander's endless prattling, she really didn't want to be distracted in another run in. Otherwise, her best friend would start resembling a frog.

Sighing, she simplified her desire for an exotic 'make me gorgeous' spell-over, and settled for some simple mood enhancers. The Goddess only knew, but her mood certainly needed it. Tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ears, Willow glanced once more at her reflection, before opening the medicine cabinet door.

The cabinet was an interesting and diverse universe on it's own. Many a-time, Xander had dared open it in futile search of a painkiller or headache tablet but had run screaming from the horror behind the small mirror. Aside from Buffy's birth-control, various medical necessities for patching up regular Slayer abuse, and the assortment of shaving creams, razors, anti-blemish cremes, body lotions, soaps, potions and more lotions were the more creepy instruments of feminine doom. Eyelash curlers, tweezers, files, waxing instruments and hair-brushes, combs, clips, pins and barrettes.

In general, it was a cupboard no male, in their right or wrong mind, should dare open. There were too many tools that were beyond their fragile comprehension lying there, and many of those utensils seemed geared for the entrapment of the males. After all, what girl would willingly curl and darken her eyelashes for her own benefit?

However, beyond the girly-things, was a small little black cosmetic bag of "Willow's junk." It was her emergency oil stash, useful for on the spot bathroom magic, and the backup for when her mainline supply, kept in a small wooden chest at the foot of her bed, ran low.

Freeing it from the top shelf, without causing an avalanche of the other items crammed into the small medicine cabinet, Willow sat down on the closed toilet lid, and sifted through her bag. The vials of oil were no bigger than perfume sampler tube, but a little of something oftimes went a long way, especially when use properly. 'Lavender… lavender… aha!' Willow lifted the vial with a feeling of accomplishment, never noticing how her bad mood was lifting while pursuing these small goals. 'Now, a little bit of rose geranium, and that should be perfect!'

In truth, they were two primary ingredients for a simple love spell, something to draw out a true love. Years ago, Willow might have used them to awake Xander to her existence, but now, it was the last thing she wanted. Xander's friendship combined with is obtuseness left her feeling stifled on a regular basis. To be in a intimate relationship with him was the last thing she wanted, right now. 'Spike, on the other hand…'

Snickering slightly, at the mental image of a bemused worshipful and very naked Spike, Willow extracted the rose geranium oil, and set the black cosmetic case down. Pouring half the contents of each vial into the water, Willow dipped her foot into the bath, stirring the contents as if her leg was nothing more than an elaborate and long spoon.

Sinking into the tepid water, she firmly chased all the Buffy/Xander/Giles stress from her mind, and focused on bigger concerns. Like the pressing fact that she didn't have a single thing to wear for Spike's party.

What was a witch to do?

*~*~*~*~*

"Where's Willow?" It was the first two words out of Buffy's mouth from the moment she stepped in the door, pulling a dizzy and dazed Giles behind her. Carefully steering her Watcher towards the living room, such as it was, she propped him on the threadbare couch, and tucked a pillow behind his head. The way he was clutching at his head, and the big white bandage shrieked "headache".

Xander swallowed around the Twinkie, and jerked his chin towards the stairs. "In the bathroom." He mumbled. "I think she's angry at me."

Buffy shrugged. "Probably. What did you say?"

"I dunno. How's the G-man? What the doctors say?"

"Wake him every two hours, and to try and avoid further head trauma. Do you know how big his chart is? He's got a small binder instead of a file for all the visits he's made. I'm sure the emerge department has a standing order for MRI's when Giles walks in the door." Blithely patting Giles' hand, Buffy cocked her head to the side, listening for sounds upstairs. "Awfully quiet up there."

"Water was running a little while ago." Xander retorted defensively. "She locked herself in the bathroom!"

Buffy glanced as Giles, noting he hadn't heard a word, but smirked nonetheless. "Tried the door, did you?"

The boy shrugged, licking his fingers of the sticky cream from the pastry treat. "Yeah, well… it seemed like a good idea at the time. I wouldn't have looked, or anything… that's what shower curtains are for."

"We have clear glass sliding doors." Buffy reminded him dryly.

"Oh yeah. Anyway, you told Giles about the Spike attacked Willow thing?" Xander waved his hand, dismissing the bathroom incident as if it were ancient history.

Buffy nodded, her eyes still looking towards the stairs. "Yeah. How much he actually understood, however, is up to debate. Did you call Angel?"

"Yeah. Deadboy's on his way. Oh joy. He said not to let Willow out of the house, though. What was that about?" Xander folded his arms across his chest, his face growing sternly disapproving of all statements and decisions made by Angel.

"Dunno." Buffy stepped around the sofa, moving closer to the stairs. The faint lines on her forehead became more pronounced as a frown set on her fine features. "Hey, Willow? You up there?"

"No." Willow calmly announced, stepping away from the kitchen doorway and entering the brilliant lighting of the living room. "I'm right here." The calm in her voice, the rich maturity in her tones made all eyes, including Giles' half closed, turn towards her.

Xander, curiously, managed to speak first. "Oh Lord, who opened the Hellmouth."

*~*~*~*~*

"The Hellmouth is fine." Willow rolled her eyes. "Nothing is wrong."

Buffy's eyebrow arched skeptically, her blue eyes sweeping up and down Willow's frame in clear doubt. "Ah - Willow? I wouldn't be too sure of that. Have you looked in a mirror lately?"

"Why?" Willow replied, looking down past her scalloped edged top and the snug black skirt to the oh so sweet leather boots. Sweet in the fact they gave her two additional inches in height and looked kick-ass in the way they smoothly cased her legs to the knee. She had checked in the full length mirror, and knew she was put together right. Sure, it was rather stereotypical club wear, but hey, clubbing had a universal fashion code.

And, mirrors didn't lie about things like how good the footwear worked with clothes. Maybe, they added two to ten extra pounds on the hips, but a mirror never lied about a woman's shoes. There were some cardinal laws that mirrors had to observe, after all. "I'm wearing a skirt, boots and a lace top, right?" She asked, fingering the light scalloped hem of her lacey top. The silver and black woven together in a light but concealing way, suggesting to the pale flesh underneath.

Of course, the wide neckline and bare arms would do the rest of her work where Spike was concerned. If there was one thing Willow knew, it was that vampires loved an open neckline. It shrieked 'lick me, bite me, abuse me' to their erotic senses. Which were the only kind of senses Willow wanted to see tonight out of Spike.

Buffy nodded slowly. "Oh yeah. You are wearing that… but it's not real Willow-like."

"Definitely not." Xander breathed, fanning a newspaper in his face. "Possession. Or, something. This is Spike's fault." He continued to mutter, his eyes glazing over slightly.

The smirk tugging Willow's mouth couldn't be denied. Stepping boldly into the living room, she made a firm point of resting one hand on her hips, and then shifting her weight to give her tiny waistline some very clear definition. The result thrust her hip out, a subtle but sensuous pose. "Hardly. You saw me like this a few weeks ago, remember?" Willow deliberately jabbed at her friend's fading memory. "With the Baatezu. Angel, you and Giles all saw me in clothes like these." She swept her hands down, indicating her clothing.

'Yes---saw this before. Yes.' The truth was a dawning light in Xander's face. The sexy dark clothing that had exposed all sorts of glorious pale skin. The armor worn by a strong and powerful young witch against a demon ten times her size. The memories of Willow, her arms upraised and lifting the strappy top to expose her flat abdomen danced through Xander's head, the panic and fear for his friend in that past moment long since forgotten.

Slowly, his mind left the past and moved to the present, to the clever clothes that pointed out her physical maturity, and it spoke of adult hungers. Hungers, he recalled, like what those kids had suggested in naïve ways. Hungers he just didn't want to picture Willow satiating..

Pale fragile hands smoothed down along her hips, caressing the soft thin fabric of her skirt, not intending it to be sexual action, just as she had not chosen her outfit for the sexual value it suggested. The clothes were lightweight, easy to move in, and comfortable. It was her disguise, the cut of clothing and colors that allowed her to blend into the community she planned on joining for the evening. The type of garments that warned off the predators while made her desirable prey. She looked good, not slutty, and that's what she was aiming for.

"This is me, just as that was me with the Baatezu." She told them all, softly. "The real me, the girl who grew up. This is your researcher, your Hacker, and your friend. But I'm also an adult, a witch, and a woman."

There was an unvoiced plea for acceptance, a silent request that they examine their memories of the past two years, and see where it was that they had failed to accept the changes she had quietly wrought. The stress of conforming herself into being what they expected had forced their friendships into a slight drift.

Buffy, however, shook her head. "Nuh-huh. Something's not right here. First Spike, now you… something is really wrong."

A subtle pain blossomed in Willow's head, somewhere behind her eyes. It was a headache, her body responding to the tension that it was anticipating. "Nothing's wrong." She sighed wearily. "I have plans tonight, and regardless of Spike or your slaying, I'm holding to them."

"Plans?" Xander squeaked, still fanning himself furiously. "Dressed like that?" The problem here, was his hormones were speaking. "What kind of plans?"

"Witch stuff." Giles mumbled, having turned away from the sight of Willow. "Things she won't tell us about, but things that brought her to the level she's at. No innocence can defeat a fiend, and no dabbler…" His voice trailed off as the words slurred more.

Willow frowned, casting Buffy a stern glare. "You should have left him in the hospital." She scolded, stepping around Xander and kneeling beside Giles. She ignored the look that passed between Xander and Buffy, instead reaching out to softly touch Giles head. "Poor man." She sighed aloud.

Reaching to the top of the couch, she pulled down the knitted afghan and gently covered the man she considered more like a father to her than her own biological parent. These frequent knocks on his head had to be causing further problems for Giles, but it was the casual attitude they all displayed to his recovery that probably did the most damage.

It wasn't intentional negligence, but Buffy, Xander and even herself tended to forget that Giles didn't heal as speedily or as easily as they did. He had over twenty years on them, and even as Willow didn't recover from bruises or cuts as fast as she did when she was little, Giles didn't heal from bumps on the head as quick as, say, Xander might. "We really should make him wear a helmet." She murmured.

"Probably." Buffy agreed behind her. "We'll talk about that later. Right now, I'm more worried about you. You can't go out tonight." The Slayer spoke with finality, as if Willow had no say in the entire matter.

Willow turned her head, an amused smile on her mouth. "Indeed?"

It was the way she said it, the way Giles' mannerisms had rubbed off on her that convinced both Buffy and Xander that possession wasn't an issue here. "Yeah." Buffy sighed. "I think we'd better talk. Either we've been really dumb and missed something, or you've been keeping big secrets."

Willow shrugged. "You missed something, but I've also been keeping secrets to spare you the disappointment. I'm not the same kid from highschool, but neither are either of you." Sighing, Willow rose to sit on a free edge of the couch, not disturbing Giles, but gaining the perspective needed to look directly at Buffy and Xander.

"It's hard, you know." She continued softly. "Being something I'm not for you guys, and well, sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes, I just need to get out and shake the feeling off." The truth seemed like the best plan, and what better than getting the air cleared? Spike had been right about letting her inner witch come out to stay. It did feel-right. More natural to be herself rather than what others perceived she should be.

Xander fidgeted, "Uh. So, you go to LA? Why not the pub?" His voice still squeaked.

"Because you're there and you're NOT in LA." Willow answered flatly, giving brutal honesty. "Because the place I'm going to aren't the kind of places you can get into." That raised their eyebrows, but it was the only explanation Willow was going to give. Exposing the sanctuaries to a Slayer was the last thing she wanted to do. "Look, don't ask. You're not a Witch, you're not in a coven, and nor am I going to introduce you to my community. You've needed the skills I have, whether you know it or not. And once I started on this path, once I started questioning my Jewish heritage, there was only two possible outcomes. Either I would reject witchcraft, or embrace it."

"You embraced it." Giles murmured, sleepily, his eyes closed. "Brought it close, opened it to your soul and became a force of the Wiccan's. Neither Child, nor Maiden; not yet Mother, doubtful Crone; the Goddess' spark danced the Hearth again."

Willow turned quickly to study his face, eyes glued on the faint movement of his mouth even as his whispered words faded. Disjointed as it was, Willow heard the prophecy buried beneath an apparent concussion. Whether it was one he was prophesizing or another written, though, she didn't know. "Weirdness." She murmured.

"Yeah… it's a night full of wigguns." Buffy muttered, the fine lines harrowing her perfect forehead were pronounced. "You're not going out, Willow."

This time, it was Willow's eyebrow that curved upwards in surreptitious disbelief. "And as I said before, indeed?"

Arms folded across her chest, Buffy displayed her 'don't mess with me' pose. Shoulder's tense, and face riddled with the bad-attitude expression that always manifested before a fight, she stared Willow down. Or, at least, she tried to. "I don't like all this." Buffy confessed, seeing her battle-readiness was getting her nowhere. Instead, she reached out to Xander for support, and found that he was unable. Confusion radiated behind his brown eyes as intensely as it did through her. "I don't UNDERSTAND all this." The truth emerged in an exasperated sigh.

"I know." Willow smiled serenely, a striking expression when pared with the her shining hair, brilliant and emphasized eyes. "You don't need to understand. I'm asking you to just accept."

Xander just gawked on, his breathing only somewhat approaching normal. Each time Willow leaned forward, however, he felt hyperventilation knocking on his door. Distance was needed for oxygen to reach his brain and anything resembling rational thought to kick in.

Much distance. Four or five states worth. "Accept?" He finally squeaked. "Um. Okay. Sure."

Buffy's eyes squinted at him, a sour expression on her face. "He means we can accept that you're not who you were in highschool, but we've always known that, Will!"

Willow shook her head sadly. "No, no you haven't." She murmured, tucking the blanket tighter about Giles. The Watcher had slid back into sleep, his breathing evening out and including the softest of snores.

Buffy stalked about the room, her fists clenched at her sides. It wasn't fury that moved her, but frustration. A frustration reflected in each stride, the strong long legs boldly taking broad steps forward, before she pivoted and strode back to her beginning point. This was how Buffy processed information, via action. "We have." She insisted, her voice a sudden fierce sound in the tense silence that had lingered for but a moment. "I mean, you're the witch of the group, the researcher, the genius. You're the most likely to break into the FBI network, and to get married and enjoy a long happy life. You're not party animal, or the neighborhood tease. You're not a soldier, I am. So, I really think something's off here. Someone's delusional, and it ain't me."

"Right." Xander breathed, oddly enough looking at his right hand. Neither girl was sure that this was his confirmation of Buffy's statement or his own way of checking his thought processes.

Either way, Willow took a dim view of it. "Fine." She assured Buffy shortly. "We'll carry on the game your way. I always thought, after all we've seen, we were above the Sunnydale Denial Syndrome, but apparently not." Briskly, she stood up, approaching the Slayer with strength in her face and shoulders. "But, regardless of anything you might do or think- I Am Going Out."

Buffy's hand shot out to wrap around Willow's bare arm, fingers curling instinctively to hold, but not hurt. Fire lit inside Willow's green eyes, a brilliant spark of a shining light that broke Buffy's will and concentration. In short, without so much as a word or a struggle, Willow walked freely past her friend.

'What just happened?' Buffy asked herself in wide-eyed shock. 'I just let her walk away from me!' The instincts Buffy fell back on in battling the undead were second nature to her, when the brain faltered, her body fell back on the survival instincts to take over.

"Don't!" Xander shouted, stepping in front of Buffy even as Willow shut the door. "Just - don't. Wait for Angel." He advised, his own confusion shining in his eyes and the tension in his mouth. "Please, we can't chase her away."

Buffy closed her eyes, tightly. The constriction in her chest seemed to rise up to her throat as an feeling of fear swept through her. There were certain things in her life that she cherished. Her survival, her mother and father, Giles, her successful battles, the joy of helping another possible victim survive, and most importantly, the open and honest friendships she shared with Xander and Willow. Friendships, she had thought up until now, that were solid through and through. Unable to change, or be altered. 'But the people do change. Oh God, help me.' A shudder rippled through her, "Okay." She sighed. "We wait." Until Angel comes.

"Good." Xander's shoulder slumped. "She was like this that night, too." He murmured, looking blankly at the door. "Sometimes I think we don't listen to her. I mean, not that we aren't talking to her or hearing her, but that we aren't… um."

"Listening." Buffy agreed. "I do it with Giles all the time, he says. I hear what I want to hear, and nothing more."

"Right. Only with Willow, I think maybe it includes seeing her." Thus spoke Willow's oldest and most obtuse friend. "She's always been there, and I think maybe what --- I mean, all this is about how we just take her for granted."

Buffy frowned, her lower lip jutting out slightly, and her teeth grazing at it thoughtfully. "Maybe. I don't know."

"Yeah. Me either."

In silence, they stared at the door, each uncomfortable in the same room with the other as they tried to unravel their thoughts and analyze the past. Conversations from years, months, days and hours ago all rattled through brains, each word said to be studied and taken apart for a newer meaning.

"He wants her body?" Xander suddenly said incredulously, his voice rising to a shout.

"She slept with him!" Buffy gasped, blue eyes huge. "Oh God. He wasn't biting her."

Xander raced to the door, just inches behind Buffy, a blazing truth scorching through them both. "He was kissing her."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow slammed her hands into the tiny purse at her hip, her fingers not finding the invite she had thought she'd stuffed in it. 'Oh, crap.' She sighed, a sudden picture of the last location of the damning evidence flashing in her mind. Clear as day, in the middle of the kitchen table like a lit flare for Buffy and Xander to find. 'Bad, bad subconscious.' She scolded herself.

Still, what was done was done. Time was not on her side, right now. If she knew Buffy, at all, the shock of the moment would pass quickly, and the Slayer would hit the streets to find her 'confused' friend. "Not tonight, Buffy. Not until I'm good and ready."

The club's location wasn't written on the invite, not obviously, at least. One of the more dramatic tricks of the sanctuaries was to ensorcell a document to include the address. Only a true vampire, witch or shapechanger would 'see' it, a mortal human would not. 'So, when Angel shows up--- eek. Oh well. What can he do? Drag me out of Asylum? Ha!'

The moon was full high, now, a sliver of it's fullest beauty, the light was still sufficient to illuminate the dark city streets. With her heels clicking almost quietly on pavement, Willow kept a steady quick pace, allowing her mind to wander while the neighborhood flowed past her. 'That didn't go as well as I'd hoped.' She admitted reluctantly, although, truthfully, to expect Buffy and Xander to wake up and actually look at the word around them after 2 years of being blind was a little off.

Giles, dazed and out of it as he was had a firmer grip on reality than the Slayer. Perhaps it was maturity, or his own past as "Ripper" that disinclined him to ignore truths when the evidence was presented. He'd seen her with the Baatezu, he knew what the price of such power was, and he'd been watching ever since. 'Although, those books your hiding, Rupert, are already long since mastered.'

Lost to her thoughts, the bemusement of Giles' frantic quest to keep her innocent and the stress of now dealing with Buffy and Xander with the truth exposed but denied, Willow never heard the revving of a motorcycle along side her, nor did she smell the cigarette smoke or hear a dry chuckle.

She just kept walking, eyes narrowed to slits as she absently saw the empty sidewalk ahead of her. The swing of her skirt, slight as it was, brushed her thigh with each step, and the night air swept along her body, teasing her flesh beneath the lacey top. All of it was soothing, and none of it was noticed.

"PET." Spike's voice was a loud boom in her head, snapping the head back and up. Almost flinching, she turned and looked at him on his bike, the appreciation in his eyes clear. "Care for a ride to the club?" He offered, tone blasé.

Willow's eyes widened, her breath shortening. "You know where I live!" She gasped, feeling shocked for no reason in particular.

"Of course." He nodded. "That was the first thing I did when I got to San Francisco. Nice job on the demon, by the way."

"You - You!"

Spike grinned, taking another long pointless drag on the cigarette before tossing it into a sewer grate. "Me, indeed." He chuckled. "Now, about the ride. You're precious Slayer is running like hell to catch you, y'know." He jerked his head back the way Willow had come.

Following the action, Willow winced to see he was right. 'Like you could out-walk a running Slayer.' She scolded herself, not wanting another confrontation, especially with Spike right there. 'Rock and a hard place. Which will it be?'

With-holding the urge to sigh, Willow reached out to Spike with one hand, her body shivering in anticipation as his cool fingers closed about her warmer grip. His tug was surprisingly gentle, as he pulled her towards the motorcycle, one hand sliding to her waist providing her balance as she threw her leg over the seat.

Arms wrapping around Spike's waist, and her cheek pressed to his back, Willow smiled as the bike took off… just as Buffy's scream of recognition manifested. Sure, there would be hell to pay, but it seemed like tonight was going to be well worth all the trouble that would follow.

End

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