Disclaimer: See part 1, 6, or 11.


Spike yanked his half-smoked cigarette out of his mouth and stared at it irritably, twisting it back and forth between his fingers. The butt was thoroughly squished already, so he threw it to the parking lot with a sigh. Why was it that women were always what did him in? Their motives were never clear, their opinions vague, and their emotions... he'd need a few more centuries just to get a hint at what they felt. Certainly what they said and what they did were two different things.

"Hey, Spike," Dawn said from where she'd been leaning against the wall with her arms over her chest, watching him pace for the past two minutes. "Holes in concrete? Not so easy to do. Even for a vampire."

Spike halted his pacing, tossing her an annoyed look. "Oh, so you're talking to me again, are you?" Joining her at the brick wall, he ignored her comment as well as the benches spread here and there next to the hospital entrance. "What's the occasion?" he asked, digging in his pockets for another cigarette.

"Happy Vampire Day!" she said excitedly, grinning at him.

"Pet," he said in amusement, "that didn't work on me the first time you said it, it's not going to work now." That had been an odd night. Halloween, his first year in Sunnydale. He sighed softly, wishing things back to the way they used to be. Life was so much simpler then.

"Yeah," she agreed, nodding wisely. The effect was ruined by a giggle. "But that wasn't a real memory, this is."

"What do you want?" His mood was a horrible one, irritation was biting at his insides, snapping at him in much the same way he was snapping at Dawn. And who should be at the root of that irritation? None other than Willow, currently inside seeing Giles, and ignoring Spike. Whatever was wrong with her, it wasn't going to be fixed by a fantastic sex session spurred on by panic and desperation.

The sex hadn't hurt though.

Dawn sighed from beside him, drawing his attention back to Her Royal Annoyingness. "I wanted to apologize." She looked down at the aged concrete walkway, kicking at a pile of cigarette butts. "You saved us tonight. Again. And I realized that I've been an unfair brat."

"You?" he teased, chuckling at her rolled eyes. She did that so well, mastered it really.

"Shut up," she laughed, then turned serious again. "Who you love is your business, not mine. Not Xander's, not Buffy's... although--"

"And you were doing so well," Spike told her, pushing away from the wall to light the cigarette he'd finally dug out of his shirt pocket. The shirt was a little the worse for wear, since Willow had ripped it off of herself, but as long as he kept it tucked in, and didn't move a lot, he wouldn't be mistaken for a stripper.

"I know." Her head lowered, her foot kicking out again. "I just wish that you and Buffy were--" The doors around the corner swished open, and Dawn paused, waiting until the lone man hobbling by was out of earshot. "Well, you know what I wish."

"Yeah," he muttered, "I know what you wish. I know what Buffy wishes, I know what every damn person in this town wishes except Willow." Drawing smoke into his lungs should've calmed him down, but at this point, he was so wound up, he didn't think anything but a tranquilizer dart would work.

Dawn's forehead wrinkled up in confusion. "What do you mean? Doesn't Willow want you?"

Spike chuckled at the naive question, and forced himself to sit on the ground against the brick wall before he really did wear a hole in the sidewalk. "She wants me, but not in the way I mean." Raising his knees, he rested his forearms on them, and let his hands hang free. "One minute, I'm thinking I've got it made, a life with Willow, you know, it's not so bad. In fact, it's kind of... appealing. Like her. She's..." he trailed off, trying to find the right words.

"She's what?" Dawn asked, sitting beside him with her legs straight out in front of her. She folded her hands together and rested her chin on the tips of her fingers, resembling nothing more than a psychiatrist. "Hmm, pretty? That's a given. Smart? Also a given. And really sweet, the best friend a mystical ball of light could have."

"Well, yeah, she's all that," he said, waving a hand in a dismissive gesture, choosing to ignore the dig she'd gotten in about her origins. He was sure he wasn't the only one sick of listening to her complain about it, and secretly thought she used it for sympathy. "But she's a lot more than that. She cares, way more than she should sometimes, for people and... and demons. Cares for them-- for me," he admitted, rolling his eyes at himself. He felt like a nancy-boy. He sighed, giving in to the feelings inside him. "She cares for me," he repeated, his voice stronger, more sure. "And her blood, God, it's like--" he paused, sighing again, "unbelievably rich. Everything a vampire craves is right there in her blood. But I think it's the feelings that make it that way, rather than just her blood--" he stopped, realizing Dawn wasn't even listening anymore, her ears were covered by her hands.

When he stopped talking, she lowered her hands, raising an eyebrow at him. Her mouth, so much like Buffy's, twisted in disgust, also like Buffy's. "Spike," she said pleasantly, "do you have any idea just how disgusting that is? With the ew-factor being really high?" She stuck her tongue out as if she'd just eaten something sour.

He smiled, shrugging. Dawn didn't get it, but he did. He was pretty sure he wasn't just angry because Willow was mad at him for some unknown reason. He could say with almost absolutely surety that... he loved Willow. A frown was his response to that thought as he remembered the situation, and the way things now stood. For reasons he couldn't grasp.

"All right, I'll spare your delicate ears," he conceded. "Earlier tonight, at her house, I was thinking life wouldn't be so horrible with her around for a few centuries. Would be rather pleasant in fact. Now, though, I know better."

"Okay," Dawn said slowly, shrugging with her hands. "Maybe... maybe you could tell me what the heck you're talking about, 'cause, I'm pretty clueless at the moment."

"Willow," he sighed, drawing smoke into his lungs almost desperately. "And Buffy. I still love her, no matter how much I try not to. It's currently without all the scary stalker-type qualities everyone was so fond of, but it's still there." He leaned his head back, purposely banging it slightly. A little pain always helped clear the mind. "It's still there, and I think Willow knows it."

Dawn leaned against his arm, offering him comfort without encroaching on his personal space too much. Instead of flinching away like he wanted to, he lifted his arm and wrapped it around her, smoothing his hand down her hair, playing with the end of it. It was so silky smooth and soft. He had a thing about hair, he knew this. He dropped her hair guiltily when she sighed and patted his leg comfortingly.

"You love her, don't you?" she said quietly. She shifted against him, drawing in her legs. "Geez, Spike, who next? Anya?" She giggled when he tightened his arm threateningly. "Sorry. I'm kidding. But, wow, you're like the Elizabeth Taylor of vampires."

He burst out laughing, not at all offended. He should be, but at the moment, he just couldn't find it in him. "What do you know about Liz?" he asked in amusement. "She's a whole two or three generations out of your time."

She pushed away, staring at him incredulously. "Liz?" she repeated, her mouth open in a circle of awe. "You know Elizabeth Taylor?"

He shrugged, not wanting to burst her bubble. "It was a long time ago." Waving his hand, dismissing her hero-worship while secretly basking in it, he sat back, moving her back as well. "I don't talk about it a lot. How do you know of her?"

"I'm... not exactly sure," she admitted slowly, confusion marring her brow. "Maybe the monks were fans. Certainly wasn't me."

He shook his head with a chuckle. "Why do you do that? You're real now, just accept it."

"I accept it," she told him, shrugging carelessly. "But it's fun making other people freak about it."

Spike frowned at her. All this time, he'd thought she was just a whiner, now he was finally figuring it out. She was a manipulator as well. "Hey, don't take out your being here, on others."

"You mean the way you don't take out having the implant on others?" she asked hotly. Drawing her knees up to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them and stared off into the night, shifting a few inches away from him. "You're in love with my sister, and her best friend. I don't think you're a good candidate for doling out advice."

Spike climbed to his feet, and stared down at her furiously. "Go back inside, Dawn."

"No," she tossed back, glaring up at him, "I don't have to."

He clenched his fists, resisting the urge to hurt her, or someone else nearby. After fighting the urge for a few seconds, he spun away, his boots scuffing loudly on the concrete. "All right," he said angrily, "conversation over. I'll not have some teenage bint passing judgment on my love life." Looking over his shoulder at her, he saw her eyes narrow and her mouth tighten into a thin line. Oh yeah, the monks had definitely modeled her after Buffy.

Dawn jumped to her feet, glaring at him. "Yeah? Well, how about I tell Willow all about the fluffy feelings you're still harboring for my sister?" she asked spitefully.

Spike slowly turned around to face her, furious with the little twit. "Stay out of it, Dawn, it's none of your business. How many people have to tell you that before you finally get it?"

"How many people have to tell you to stay out of our lives before you do that?" she ground out, fisting her own hands by her sides. "Nobody wants you here, Spike. I'm the only champion you have, and you just took care of that."

"Champion," he repeated. "Dawn, the only thing you've done recently is bitch and moan." He really had no patience to deal with her at the moment. "Go inside."

"I said, I don't have to--" she screamed when he spun toward her, vamped out and snarling at her, their faces inches apart. "I am so telling Willow about Buffy," she hissed, running around the corner and back into the hospital.

Spike chuckled, letting his face morph back. Stupid twit. Taking a drag off his cigarette, he leaned against the wall, sighing.

Willow stepped back as Dawn ran through the entrance of the hospital. Keeping hidden behind a palm tree was easy enough since most of Dawn's attention was on herself and her pouting. Willow's own mind was on what she'd heard Spike say.

He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her? Well, he didn't find it a horrible prospect at least. Had even looked forward to it. Wow.

But he still loved Buffy. He'd out and out admitted it to Dawn. But he wanted to spend his life with her, with Willow. Okay, he sort of had to, with her being bound to him, but... he didn't mind. And he hadn't mentioned wanting to spend his life with Buffy. Or Drusilla. But mostly she was yay-ing over the part where he wanted to spend his life with her very own rich-blooded self.

And that it bothered him that she knew he was still in love with Buffy.

That meant... nothing that she could figure out. That he cared if she was hurting? But, how would he know she was hurting unless he knew she cared about him?

Well, duh, of course he knew she cared about him, he'd even said so, and it really wasn't like her to sleep with just anybody. He had to know that.

"Round and round you go..." she whispered, taking a deep breath and turning the corner to face Spike.

He spun around as soon as she stepped into sight, almost as if he knew she was there. Bond, or vampire thing? Did he know she'd been standing there listening since she'd exited the hospital with the limping old man? Nah, he wouldn't have admitted any of that stuff if he'd known.

No way.

Willow stopped a few yards away, not sure what to say. Maybe start with a neutral topic, and something uninteresting to him. "Um, Giles is... fine. I mean, obviously he's not fine," she amended, "but, he'll recover. He'll be out of commission for a while though."

Spike nodded, planting his cigarette between his lips.

Willow nodded a few times as well, still at a loss as to what to say. She drew in a deep slow breath, just for something to do while he stared at her, then let it out in a rush, her shoulders dropping their overly-stiff posture. Before she knew it, she was speaking. She could've slapped her hand over her mouth when she realized what she was saying, but it was too late. "You're still in love with her."

He watched the fading taillights of a car as it left the parking lot and headed out into the traffic of the street. "A little," he agreed, clearly reluctant to acknowledge more.

"It's more than a little." She stopped in front of him, coughing lightly from the smoke in the air. "I saw the way you-- never mind." She was being brave, laying everything out on the line like this, due to exhaustion and spent worry, but she didn't think she was brave enough to tackle the Spike and Buffy kiss yet, or, more importantly, the Spike-looking-at-Buffy-while-he-told-Willow-he-wanted-her thing. Not here in front of the hospital.

So she was giving him an out. If he wanted to take it, he could and she would move on without letting him know how much she-- loved him. Oh God.

She swallowed a little desperately, feeling like she was drowning. "Um, this-- this thing between you and me, maybe it's not real. Maybe... maybe it's the bond." His eyes narrowed at her, but he didn't deny it. "So, we should just stop," she finished quietly.

He didn't say anything, or look too broken up about it, so she nodded and started off in the general direction of her house, expecting him to follow. When he didn't, she turned around with a questioning look.

"I'm sort of tired, and my house..." she shrugged, dropping her eyes to the ground as she once again started moving. "I guess it's not quite five miles," she muttered.

"Confused isn't even on the same planet with me at the moment," she heard him mumble as he caught up. He looked sideways at her, holding her gaze. "I happen to think it is real, and that we should continue with it. Often." He winked at her with exaggerated lustfulness, forcing a smile from her.

This is exactly why she liked him so much. He could make her smile with the smallest things. At the oddest times. But was it a healthy relationship? One that would last when he still loved someone else? She still loved Tara too, love didn't go away that quickly or easily, but she also didn't fool herself into thinking that she would choose Tara over Spike now. She wouldn't. Spike, on the other hand, very well might still choose Buffy over her. And she couldn't stand that.

She stopped walking, facing him with determination, knowing that in order to break cleanly from him she would have to... break cleanly from him. State it plainly. "I don't want to."

He frowned in her direction, taking a drag off his cigarette. "Don't want to what?" he asked in confusion.

"Um, continue this," she elaborated, shrugging and resuming her walk home. She set her mouth in a firm, no nonsense line, her eyes straight ahead, so he would think she was telling the truth, 'cause, let's face it folks, she was lying like a cheap rug. Rolling her eyes at herself, she sighed and tried to calm her racing heartbeat, a surefire way to tell she was lying if ever there was one.

Hopefully, he couldn't hear her quickened heartbeat or see her hands as she twisted them in front of her, because that was another sure way to tell she was lying.

He grabbed her upper arm, pulling her to a halt and forcing her to face him. "Okay, I don't get it," he admitted, throwing his arms out from his sides helplessly. "I just don't get it. What happened?" he asked angrily. "One minute, you're all smiles and sunshine, the next, you're--" He stalked past her with a frustrated sigh, then stopped and turned back to face her. "You know what? I'm tired of trying to figure you out. How about you tell me what's wrong for once, rather than making me do all the work?"

She crossed her arms over her chest, frowning at him for a few seconds before dropping her gaze to the curb. She didn't want to tell him, because if she did, things were going to be said, things she couldn't take back. Things, that if said, wouldn't allow her to face him anymore if he laughed in her face. She looked up at him quickly, noting his scowl and uninvitingly angry eyes. "Nothing's wrong--" she started to say, but he wouldn't let her get away with the lie.

"I don't believe that one bloody bit," he said unpleasantly. His hands curled around her upper arms as he dragged her closer to him. "Explain it to me, Willow," he ground out in a warning tone, "or so help me..."

"Okay," she said softly, defeated in the face of such anger. She couldn't keep it from spilling out any longer, so, she told him. She stepped back, waiting until he released her arms before beginning. "I..." her voice came out in a whisper, so she cleared it and tried again. "I care about you." She crossed her arms over her chest and frowned down at the sidewalk. "More than I ever-- more than I want to. More than I ever imagined I could, you know? You're... soulless, an evil vampire. I'm a good-goody witch. It's-- it's wrong," she said, shaking her head at herself. "But that's how it is." She paused, clearing her throat again, but her voice still sounded low to her. "And I'm afraid." Seeing his eyes widen slightly in surprise, she shook her head quickly. "Not of you. Of me and you, us. The-- the getting hurt thing, 'cause let's face it, Spike, there's always hurt when feelings are involved. And what if it's just the bond, or what if you don't get over Buffy? I-- I couldn't stand it if that happened, because I'm already so deeply in... um, I care a lot," she backtracked oh-so suavely. She was sure he didn't notice her little slip-up, nope, not at all. Well, in for a penny... "Actually, um, I probably could use... that word--love--to describe some of these feelings in me," she whispered, smiling crookedly at her awkward admission.

She was quite surprised that he was able to follow her ramble, and started to wonder if he actually had, because he was still staring at her. Looking shocked. Quite taken aback really. He'd fallen silent way back in the beginning of her sad little rant, and now... his face was blank.

Was he happy? she wondered. Or about to laugh at her? Did he like that she loved him? Was he annoyed? Irritated? Maybe he'd only wanted to know why she was angry, not have her declare her love for him, and now his face was all impassive and not giving anything away.

Mortified, she dropped her gaze to her hands and tried to move past him. "Never mind. I-- I just-- forget everything I said. Pretend like..." but wait. She couldn't just leave it like that. She had to know. Turning back around, she tilted her head to the side, taking in his expressionless face. "You kissed her last night."

Finally he did something, made a move, gave her the smallest hint that he hadn't turned to stone in front of her eyes.

He sighed and tilted his head back in frustration, rubbing his hands across his face. "Ya know, things used to be so much simpler when it was just me and Dru and our insatiable bloodlust." Looking across the space between them, seeing her eyes narrow, he chuckled, shaking his head at himself. "She kissed me. And," he added, "she probably left out the part where I was the one who put a stop to it."

"She told me, even defended you, but she didn't see..." now it was her turn to sigh, because here was the other part she didn't want to discuss. Not now, not here. Maybe not ever. Did she have to tell him? Really, who said she had to tell him anything? It was her decision and she chose no. Indeed-y no. But then she went ahead and started to anyway, because she was curious and he was standing there clueless. "Do you even realize what you did?" Looking at him closely, she shook her head, marveling at his obtuseness. "You have no idea," she told him sadly. How could he not know it would hurt her to see him staring so intensely at Buffy while saying such sweet words to her?

He shrugged in frustration, sighing heavily as he tossed her a frown. "Here's a thought: Tell me!"

Her own frustration broke through and she huffed right back at him. "You," she told him. "That's what I'm talking about. You and Buffy." She darted her eyes away from him, afraid to see the pity and laughter that was sure to show up. "You looking at Buffy while telling me just... ooo, I want you so much," she said snidely, her sarcasm level rather high at the moment. "Do you have any idea how much that hurts?" she asked.

"I didn't-- I never did that," he protested, still looking confused and angry. "When I said that to you, I meant it. If I looked at Buffy at all, I didn't even notice it." He moved closer, reaching up to touch her face, but pulled his hand back before touching her. "You're the only one I want, Willow."

Her eyes dropped to his hand wistfully, wishing he'd touched her, reassured her by smoothing his hand down her cheek, across her brow, anything. "At this moment, yeah, I believe that, but--"

"No," he disagreed, lifting his hand again, tracing his fingers along her cheek, "not just now. I always want you. It's--" he sighed, looking defeated. "It's like this constant... ache that won't let me be, and I can't not want you. Buffy has nothing to do with this anymore. My feelings for her are... they're nothing compared to what I feel for you. I lo--"

A snarl sounded behind him, interrupting what he'd been about to say. Willow forced back a groan of frustration, looking over Spike's shoulder, her eyes widening as she spotted a Litchock.

"Spike!" She grabbed his arm, yanking him out of the way. A flash of red shot by them. "Litchock," she mumbled, "it's a Litchock."

A tree across the street burst into flames. The ball of magick incinerating it.

Willow's eyes widened even further in the light from the fire. "Oh, we need to capture it," she whispered. Hunkering down behind a car, she bit her lip, going through every spell she knew. "If it's the one that created the bond, we can get it reversed. We'll be free."

Spike stared at her incredulously, looking over his shoulder at the flaming tree. "Capture it?" he said in disbelief. "It's trying to kill us, maybe we should return the favor," he said harshly.

"But, no," she said softly. "I don't want it to die just for that, 'cause that's just mean." Shrugging at his raised eyebrow, she shifted her knees on her knees, wincing at every pebble and piece of gravel that poked at her. "The bond," she whispered, chancing a quick look around the front end of the car. She screamed, ducking back when another red ball soared toward her. It crashed into a car across the street, incinerating it as well. "Um, apparently we need to do something though."

"Stay here," he told her, jumping to his feet. He dove over the hood of the car with a snarl.

She cringed as another ball went flying past. This one a pretty blue. "Dang it..." she muttered, looking around for something she might be able to use as a weapon. There was nothing near. A handful of pebbles in the street, a single rusty nail, and that was about it. "Damn it." Hunkering down as low as she could, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to calm herself. Focusing solely on the Litchock, she said a quick protection spell, and then... "Discede!"

Silence didn't fall, there were still grunts and snarls coming from a few yards away, so she was pretty sure the teleportation spell didn't work. Forcing herself to look, she dodged her head out to see what was happening, but ducked it back in again when she heard footsteps approaching her hiding spot.

Now silence descended. With her heart beating in her chest, and her worry for Spike in the forefront of her mind, she started to get to her feet.

"Hey," she heard above her.

Stifling another undignified scream, she spun around, scraping her hands and knees on the gravel in the street. "Ow," she complained, glaring at Spike.

He winced the tiniest bit, looking apologetic. "Sorry." Holding out his hand, he pulled her up beside him. "Time to go, I think."

"What happened to the--" she stood on tiptoe, trying to see past him, but he stepped back in her way, turning her to face the other direction. She heard a siren wailing in the distance.

"It got away," he told her, shrugging stiffly. Taking her wrist, he pulled her quickly along behind him, not slowing his pace until they rounded the corner. Once out of sight of the flames and approaching fire trucks, he paused, dropping her wrist to light a cigarette.

"Oh well," she enthused, not letting it get her down. "We can always try again tomorrow night. "I can try a locator spell..." she said absently, "and you can try not to smoke so much," she coughed, waving the smoke from her face.

"What do you care?" he asked, "you're going to--"

She stopped walking, staring at him wide-eyed when he turned to look back at her. "What if I can still get sick and stuff? What if I get cancer and have to live with it for centuries while it slowly eats away at me, killing me with every--"

He chuckled, shaking his head at her. Sticking the cigarette between his lips, he reached back and grabbed her hand, pulling her along behind him again. "You think too much."