They meandered around a bit longer, and he had the impression that Willow's real goal had been to allow them to have their fight, and to then make them see that they could work together. To set up a situation where they would realize it on their own.

Apparently, she'd been paying attention, and the vampire Spike was just as bad about not wanting to follow orders as he was. Willow was smart, and she should be easily capable of keeping him on his toes, or rather, the vampire.

It was also rather funny to see the pair of them sneaking glances when they thought they wouldn't be noticed. Almost as if they didn't want anyone to know that they liked each other. All someone would have to do would be watch their body language, it was filled with passionate yearning.

Maybe if he asked a few questions, it might distract them from that little game of can I watch without getting caught. "So... why were those vampires so different from you?"

"They were bloody minions!" His voice was indignant, as if the question was somehow insulting. "I'm the Childe of Angelus, who was the Childe of Darla, Childe of the Master of the Order of Aurelius! Of course I'm better than some bloody expendable minion."

Willow looked over, the questions and thoughts shining in her eyes. "You... are there minion vampires in your world? What sort of levels of power do they have?"

He gave a small shrug. "Vampires were never my area of expertise. But they're not idiots. They start out as normal people, and end up fanged, mind-controlling lee... well, not too different but with fangs and a bloody diet."

The vampire was still muttering about minions and not wanting to be insulted. Willow glanced over, a small smile tugging at her lips. "Umm... I guess I'll explain it then. Not all vampires are created or turned equal. I'm a bit fuzzy on the actual details of the methods, but I think it has to do with how much of their Sire's blood they're given. Most people who are turned wake up as minions, like the ones we just dusted. Minions aren't very bright, they don't generally have any useful skills. Their whole purpose is to put another body between their master and danger, or to be another body to throw at his or her enemies. They're expendable."

She paused for a moment, as if gathering her thoughts. "But sometimes, a vampire decides that a person has something they want to keep. Useful skills, or they want to make them part of the family, so they make them a Childe. Childer are stronger than minions, and they have all the memories, skills and intelligence that they had before. Those are the ones that can be expected to last a while, to grow up to become Masters in their own right. The dangerous ones."

"I suppose that makes a bit more sense. Got your bloody Igor's, and the ones you want to keep around. At least I didn't show up and find I'm expendable." If Childer had to be created carefully, then obviously this Angelus person had found appealing qualities in his double. Something more than being good in a fight. It wasn't logical, but it gave him a warm, almost proud feeling.

"Of course I'm not expendable! I'm the big bad! I've killed two Slayers and saved the world! I am Spike!" The vampire sounded a bit indignant.

"and as soon as you get that chip out of your head... unless it already stopped working somehow, which could be a complication... umm... quiet Willow, stop talking to yourself while Spike's having a 'big evil' moment." Willow's soft words were actually amusing.

He didn't like the idea of the vampire killing Slayers. That brought up images of Buffy, and he didn't want to think of her injured by someone that looked like him. "Maybe we should go back. Get some rest, have these injuries looked at. Red looks a bit tired."

The vampire grinned at Willow. "Going to patch me up, Red? Kiss the owies and make them all better?"

She turned crimson, and there was an incoherent squeak before she looked over to him, and asked a simple question. "Who will patch up Garou Spike?"

A thought leapt into his head, and he voiced it, hoping that it would work well for him. "Maybe I can ask Buffy to help me with these."

Willow smiled, a devious gleam in her eyes. "Right, you go ask Buffy to patch you up. Be sure to say that it was from the demons... Otherwise she'll go off on this rant about how the two of you shouldn't be wasting your time with manly cases of testosterone overload. Don't whine about it hurting, but if you look at her with those blue eyes, maybe just a little hint of widening there... and the no shirt part will definitely help you. Yeah, go ask Buffy to help you. I can make sure this Spike is okay."

Part of him wondered about that gleam, trying to figure out if he should worry. But it was quickly lost in the eagerness to see Buffy again.

end part 11.

He had no trouble finding his way to Buffy's house. He'd already been there, and it had her scent all over, flavored with a hint of her vanilla body wash. A nice, comfortable house, somewhere that felt like a home, instead of just a place to sleep and eat. He knocked on the door, feeling a bit nervous.

A light came on, and the wooden door behind the screen opened, revealing Buffy in a pair of dark slacks and this pale blue shirt, the light almost making her appear to be glowing. "Hey it... oh, Spike? What happened? You're bleeding... I'll get the first aid kit."

Following her inside, he could feel one sort of tension leaving him, and he stood a bit awkwardly, not wanting to stain her furniture with the blood. It was nice furniture, soft fuzzy looking beige with a muted print, and it looked soft, comfortable. The sort of furniture that made a person relax and feel welcome.

She came back, arms full of a box with a brown bottle that looked like Hydrogen Peroxide, and a few towels, and a pair of sweat pants. "What happened to you? I mean... your clothing..." Her eyes traveled slowly over his body, lingering over his naked chest. "And I know you weren't injured earlier."

He remembered Willow's careful warning, and decided to follow it. "Since the other Spike and I were tense, Willow suggested that we go on a patrol. There were some vampires, and there was this thing covered with disgusting slime in the woods..." He neglected to mention that they hadn't fought the slimy thing, and that part of these injuries were the result of him and the vampire Spike taking the measure of each other.

"Slime? Yuck, definitely going to need the peroxide then... At least you two didn't spend the whole night glaring and growling at each other." She used one towel, dampened with warm water to wipe away the blood and dirt, her eyes worried and holding something more than simple concern over his injuries. Her motions were slow, with particular care, and a decided gentleness.

The feeling of her hands running over his skin was causing most interesting sensations, like a fire burning hot inside of him, an anticipation and excitement unlike anything he'd felt with any other woman. But none of them could have been his equal. He wasn't certain if he wanted her to notice the effect that she was having on him or not. But he was definitely breathing a bit faster.

"Spike... are you... your eyes have that golden thing going. Are you okay? Not wigging out on me, are you?" Her voice held worry, and it was worry based in bad experiences of the past.

Spike could remember the little hints that Willow's words had given him, about how difficult it was to have a normal life with a sacred duty. How Buffy had lost her bloke and he'd run out of the very country to leave her. He didn't want to frighten her off. "I'm not... wigging, you said? It's just... You're beautiful, Buffy."

She gave a small snort. "You're eyes went yellow because I'm pretty. Yeah, right..." As she looked away to put the towel away, her eyes fell lower, and paused right over... certain evidence that he found her more than 'pretty'. "oh my..."

"Not just pretty, luv. Bloody beautiful..."

Her eyes met his, shining with hope even as her words were tinged with sorrow. "But I... guys have this problem with me."

"I'm not afraid of your strength, and if you let me, I could be right there with you defending the world. But who's there to defend you? Who's there to hold you when the fight is over? Who can remind you that you aren't just a warrior, but a woman?" His voice held a slight tremor of hope and need.

The words were barely more than a whisper. "Are you offering?"

"If you'll have me." He felt hope stir in his heart, even as something far closer to lust stirred in his blood and his body.

Her response was to draw closer, her fingers trailing down from his shoulder, tracing over his chest, feather light down his stomach. The path that they'd traced felt almost burning with sensation. "That sounds very good."

The words had barely registered to his mind before her lips found his, and they were kissing.

end part 12.

Willow watched as the other Spike left them, clearly eager to see Buffy. It was so obvious that he wanted her, that Buffy had managed to snare yet another wonderful guy's heart. She could only wish... but it would do no good to dwell on what if's and if only's. Her crush on Xander had taught her that.

"He's got it bad, poor bloke." Spike's voice pulled her away from her wistful thoughts to more clearly here and now.

"Yeah... but you make it sound like that's a bad thing. He doesn't have that evil clause in a soul curse that meant she couldn't be with Angel, he's not going to get jealous of her Slayer abilities and shatter her trust and leave the country like Riley, and he's... well, he's sort of you, so he's loyal. Not to mention good looking, so why is it a bad thing for him to want Buffy?" She wasn't certain why Spike seemed annoyed by the fact.

"Only if... yeah, he likes her. But how does she feel about him?" There was a trace of bitterness in his voice. "Ahhh, why should I care about the Slayer's love life? Think I can convince you to patch me up? Kiss the boo-boos away?"

For a moment, her mind raced away, turning the simple idea of tending Spike's wounds into a rampant seduction sequence, ending in... Well, she shook her head, aware that the real Spike was still there, looking at her. He looked a bit puzzled, making Willow wonder just how long she'd let herself follow that little fantasy. She could feel herself blushing. "Sorry, I got... never mind. I can patch you up. Walk with me?"

The walk back started quiet, the sort of silence that is filled with thoughts. Willow wondered what Spike was thinking, even as part of her mind continued that little fantasy and another part worried about Buffy and the living Spike. "I think they'll do alright. Buffy and the other Spike, I mean."

Spike gave her a sideways glance, and she could see the little muscle behind his jaw tense a bit. "Bloody wonderful for him. Someone might as well get who they want."

The silence lasted right up to the point where they turned onto Maple Street.

"This isn't the way to the dorms, Red." Spike's voice was tinged with puzzlement.

She almost smiled. "I know. We aren't going to the dorms, we're going to the Rosenberg house. I've got bandages and stuff there... and um... I picked up some blood for you earlier."

He looked stunned, and the silence lasted until they reached the door, and he followed her up the steps, pausing on the small porch while she unlocked the door. The yard was looking overgrown, and the shrubbery had reverted to a wild shape that only said bush, no longer the neat ovals that her mother had landscaped.

She pushed the door open, one hand automatically reaching over to turn on the lights. Her softly murmured "Come in, Spike" hung in the air.

She could hear his boots on the floor, not loud, but noticeable. It was oddly reassuring to know that she wasn't entirely alone in the house. "Follow me, I've got the blood in the kitchen."

She settled the first aid kit on the counter beside him, and from the mostly empty refrigerator pulled a bag containing Red Cross blood units.

"That's... Willow, you got me human blood?" His voice was filled with surprise.

She could feel herself blushing again. "Yeah... I remembered how nasty you said the pig's blood was, and pig blood isn't kosher, so... umm, I thought it might help you heal."

Carefully, she cleaned his injuries as he drank the blood, noting his near ecstatic expression. 'Right, you are a sad, sad person Willow. Giving the vampire you have a hopeless crush on human blood just so you can see that look on his face and pretend that it's for you... just so you'll know how his face looks lost in pleasure to add that little detail to your fantasies... sick and sad and hopeless.' Her inner monolog was disturbed by a question from Spike, something she didn't even catch. "Pardon? I was... umm... I didn't catch that."

"I asked if you'd ever considered moving on after your mutt boy. Ever considered trying the whole relationship thing again." There was still an intensity to his gaze.

She could feel herself blushing again. Had he known, or was the question coincidental? "I... well, I didn't mean to. There's someone that I've sort of found myself... liking."

Something flickered in his eyes, and his left hand briefly clenched into a fist. "Does that mean you're going to go after some lucky bloke?"

"No." Some of her dismay must have showed in her voice. "I mean, I like him, and he's... handsome and smart and all. But there's two major problems. One of them is that I absolutely suck at relationships, the other is that he's still... hung up on his ex. It was an ugly break up. So, he wouldn't be interested in me. If he wouldn't be interested, there's no point in making any umm... moves, because he'd just say no. Which would lead to embarrassment and humiliation and that's just bad."

"It would have to be quite an ex to compare to someone like you." Spike's voice was low, and there was a hint of something underneath, something that had to be important. If only she could figure out what it was...

Willow looked away from Spike, eyes now focused on the first aid kit. "She was everything to him... and she broke his heart. Even if I could find the courage to say anything, it's unlikely that he'd be over her. After all, how to you just move on when the person who defined your whole world isn't there anymore?"

Spike's voice was thoughtful, and soft, as if he was edging around some secret. "Maybe it's time his world changed. Nobody can spend forever in the past."

"What about you? Have you moved on after the whole thing with Dru?" His words sounded almost reasonable, and they inspired a wild, crazed hope that sprouted inside, reaching up through her like a vine on fast forward.

Spike looked at her, his eyes slightly narrowed. "I've decided to never let someone else become everything, to never again let my whole self be defined by one person. But as for another serious relationship... I've got a few standards, and most people just don't meet them."

Hope thrummed under her skin like a second heartbeat, and her words were a soft whisper. "What if you did meet someone that met them?"

"I just have to convince her that I can meet her standards. That I can be the sort of guy she needs and deserves."

Part of her mind was trying to analyze the way he'd phrased that. "But... I thought you weren't going to change who you were for someone?"

"Facets, luv. There's more to me than just one thing. Dru wanted me to be the big bad, and part of me will always be that. But it's not all of who and what I am. For her... I want her to see me as more than just a bad man. Even if I do look all sexy." There was something in his eyes, an intensity that had to be important.

"Of course there's more to you than just the coat and the look, which is really... sexy. But... umm... what about telling her... you have someone in mind, don't you? How will you tell her about being a vampire?" Something seemed to wobble inside of her. Spike had his eye on someone. He'd found someone that he wanted.

"I don't think that will be my big problem this time around."

Willow was left to puzzle over that as she cleaned up the kitchen. It was important, but she couldn't quite think logically around the bleak lump of dread. Could she stand seeing Spike happy with someone else? She tried to remind herself that he wasn't hers, that he'd never been hers. It almost worked. "Good luck with convincing her."

end part 13.

Spike felt like beating something to death. Slowly. He even had to admit that it might be just a little bit his own fault. If he'd only figured out sooner that he liked Willow, then maybe, just maybe he could have set about trying to prove that he wasn't just a monster, that there was also the man within him. Maybe then he could have a chance to be the 'someone' that she had her eye on. But no, he'd been an oblivious idiot and hadn't realized how important she was until he'd seen her smiling up at that other Spike.

It was annoying to be partly responsible for his own frustrated misery. He finally figures out that he wants the woman, and she's got her eyes on some guy... and not even someone that would appreciate her, no, his red had to fall for someone hung up on his ex. Someone that would never see her for the treasure that she was. Someone that was probably human, meaning he couldn't go rip him into pieces for putting that sad wistful look into her eyes.

She had wished him good luck at convincing his someone that he was good enough, that he wasn't just a big bad.

Considering that the lady in question was Willow herself, who had her eyes on someone, he would need all the luck he could get. Good luck had never been his strong point.

He really needed something to kill. This frustration and aggravation would drive him crazy otherwise. The chip meant that the something had to be demon, vampire, or the other Spike, since he somehow didn't get counted in by the chip. Furry Spike had been too busy with the Slayer to have a nice stress reducing fight. It was annoying, and boring. Spike hated boredom.

"What does it take for a bloke to get a decent break?" He glanced skywards, not really expecting any sort of answer.

It was only a few moments after he'd spoken that he caught the scent of blood on the slight breeze. The Slayer's blood, and also from the other Spike, not very much from either, but he noticed it. Turning, he waited, wondering what the two of them had found.

They smelled like each other, a sure sign that they'd been close before the fight, the sort of close that said they were getting along very well indeed, and the pair of them were verging on a sexual relationship. He felt a line of acid envy curl in his guy, not that the wolf had Buffy, but that he had the person that filled his dreams.

"Spike... we have a problem. Hope you're still up for a little demon bashing." Buffy's voice carried a hint of worry.

He could feel himself perk up. Finally, the chance to do something! "What's the problem?"

"We ran into two of these creepy looking demons, tall and skinny with these sort of lavender gray scales. And they made this horribly annoying clacking noise... Anyhow, the serious part is that they have the rest of their group somewhere, planning to open the 'Mouth of Darkness' and I have a guess exactly what this mouthy thing is." Buffy was frowning as she spoke.

"The Hellmouth... if they're trying some sort of ritual, we should get Willow." Part of him was delighted at the chance to do something, to have a channel for his aggression. Another part was both worried that Willow could get hurt, and aware that she needed to be challenged, to have things to do.

Buffy sighed, leaning back against her Spike. "I tried to ring her at the dorm, but there wasn't an answer."

"Try the Rosenberg house, where her parents' mail goes." He remembered how she'd tended his wounds there, even having blood in the refrigerator for him.

Buffy poked in the number, a small frown of concentration of her face, followed by impatience as the phone rang. Spike listened carefully, hoping to hear Willow's side of the conversation.

:Hello? Rosenberg residence...: She sounded uncertain. Perhaps it was just the slightly hollow sound the connection gave her voice.

"Willow? Thank goodness. We have a demony situation. Some gray lavender things, tall and skinny, wanting to open the mouth." Buffy's worry was showing again. "Think you can help any?"

:Of course I can help! I think I have just the thing... Shall I meet you guys there?: She sounded almost offended.

"Yeah... meet us there. Me and both Spikes. Hurry, Willow." Buffy ended the connection, a lock of hair falling into her face.

"So, where exactly is this mouth?" The other Spike's voice held a small trace of amusement.

"Right in the middle of our high school library. Or at least, where the library of the high school used to be before we blew the whole thing up." Buffy's voice sounded almost calm, but there was just a hint of teasing underneath.

When had they become comfortable enough around each other to tease? He felt a flicker of confusion, and a bit of jealousy, wishing that Willow was that comfortable with him. "Best get a move on it then. Don't want Red to take on all the demons by herself."

end part 14.

He saw Willow, the moonlight shimmering on her hair, turning her skin to alabaster. He felt a little stirring of a very old, long ignored part deep inside of him, the part that had once been the source of pages and pages of bad poetry. Willow would be the perfect inspiration.

"You said they wanted to open the mouth, so I got some things for a binding ritual. And umm... good evening to both Spikes." She ducked her head, blushing some as she let her hair fall like a crimson curtain between herself and the world.

She looked as if she was trying to hide from the world, even as she prepared to try to save it. He also noticed that she had packed a few extra smaller weapons, just in case, and it looked like there was a red candle peeking out of her bulging backpack.

"Evening to you, Willow." Why was it that with her, his confidence abandoned him? He lost his smooth charm, his confidence. Maybe it was because she had slipped inside of him, gaining a real hold on his heart. A harsh word from her would hurt, and if she rejected him...

She looked at him, and smiled, a slightly sad, shy smile that was still beautiful. "Hey... I brought you a few things... umm... the description sort of sounded like something I was indexing for Giles, so I grabbed a few steel weapons... if they're Malat demons, they have problems with iron and steel, and if they aren't, well... iron and steel don't break easily." She pulled out a knife that she passed to the other Spike, and with a slight tremor to her hand, passed him an axe and a pair of metal shapes that at first his mind refused to identify, but a faint hint of oil and diesel smoke gave it away. Railroad spikes.

"You brought me railroad spikes? You've been reading up on me... can do a lot of damage with these." He wasn't quite sure what to say. He'd always found them versatile and convenient, but... he didn't want Willow dwelling on the violence and mayhem in his past. He didn't want her to look at him and see a violent, rampaging demon.

She blushed and looked away, for a moment intently studying a tuft of grass forcing it's way up a crack in the sidewalk. "I remember that you said they were easy to work with, and these demons sound like trouble. And, umm... since we're going to be in a fight anyhow, and you still can't go hurting humans, why not let you have a little fun while we go?"

An oddly warm feeling filled him, and it stayed until they reached the scorched and shattered remnants of the high school. Bits of shriveled near charcoal flesh littered the halls, and he wondered what could be so vile that even the scavengers over the hellmouth wouldn't eat it.

"Try not to slip on any rubble or the bits of Mayor McDemon, okay?" Buffy's voice was filled with a tension, and an obvious distaste for being here.

Spike glanced at the ground again, no longer quite certain that he'd wanted to know what the chunks were. Not that he would let anyone know, after all he was the Big Bad, the scary Master vampire... he tortured people to death and had left a bloody swathe through Europe, walking on crispy bits of someone shouldn't be any problem at all. Really. Well, as long as nobody ever guessed that it made his stomach a bit uneasy, he'd be fine. But burning... he couldn't quite resist a shudder.

"Can you feel it?" Willow's voice was low, and had an odd almost echoing quality to it that made the hair on the back of his neck rise.

That was power in her voice. He could also feel the power in the air, cold and almost greasy feeling, undoubtedly the power from the hellmouth. Something in Willow was trying to respond to that power, causing her voice to go odd like that.

Buffy looked tense, one hand clenched around a wickedly curving weapon related to an axe with a few more sharp bits around the edges. She was half crouched, and he could tell that she was alert for the faintest hint of danger. Furry Spike was growling low in his chest, and looked a bit taller, a bit rougher and furrier around the edges. Apparently, he had shifted slightly in response to the evil power, registering it as a danger to be guarded against.

"Right... all we have to do now is find the demons, stop their ritual, and kill them all. It would help if we knew where and how many." His voice was only slightly tinged with sarcasm.

"Library, or whatever's left of it. Same place you discovered that you could still hit demons." Buffy sounded tense.

Willow's voice was slightly distracted, and that odd echoing effect had intensified, now sounding as if she had two voices not quite in synch with each other. "There are nine of them... three casting and six warriors... They're still preparing their circle."

Spike wasn't certain that he wanted to know how Willow had known that. Best to simply move on with the fighting of the bad guys and hope that everyone got out as alive as they went in. He moved to stand beside Willow, his fingers brushing lightly over her arm, feeling something prickle at his skin. "Nine of them. I was hoping for a cure to boredom. Lead on, Slayer."

It was almost too soon that they entered the scorched and cracked walls of what had once been the library. Six tall demons, the darkness leaving them ominously gray, holding blades stood between them and the open area, a place where three more, the same type only shorter and frailer were chanting softly, pouring small bags of colored sand into intricate patterns that formed a triangular design on the floor.

Both Spikes and Buffy leapt towards the warrior demons, weapons in hand. Spike was eager for violence, and was actually looking forward to the chance to kill something or several somethings to vent his frustration over his non-relationship with Willow. The fighting was intense, and he could feel the frustrations melting away, evaporated by the heat of battle. He was aware of Willow, standing in a place where the fighting oddly didn't quite go, her lips moving, her hair streaming in an unseen wind, golden light surrounding her hands as she reached towards the trio of demon mages.

There was a feeling, almost like an explosion, and a brief... well, more like the after-image of a flash without the flash, and the three demon mages collapsed. Willow walked towards the place that they had been, and began carefully kicking all their precise lines into a colorful disarray, the tip of her tongue barely visible between her lips.

She would be the death of him yet.

Finally, the last demon warrior collapsed, blood that was just a few shades off the red of a human's gushing around a sharpened railroad spike. The library fell quiet, no, not quiet but ominously silent, with the very air feeling to thick. Something was going to happen. He only hoped that it wouldn't be something catastrophic.

Then Willow looked over at them, her eyes orbs of pure black, power crackling all around her, making her into a dark goddess of fire and shadow. She looked beautiful and terrifying, and he had a bad feeling about her standing in the middle of the sand from the demons' mystical workings.

end part 15.

Willow could feel the power in the air, and the feeling had only increased when she'd touched the lines of the diagram that the demons had been establishing. The feeling was sort of the magical equivalent of picking up a live electric wire, a bit painful, and lots of energy that wasn't quite the right sort to flow easily through her. But it was trying... the same way that they'd been trying to harness it's energy, to unleash it's power to enhance themselves.

The power was there, and it needed to be shaped into something, otherwise it would flow out, just seeking anything that it could slip into, any thing that could receive the dark power of the hellmouth. That was just the perfect recipe for disaster, which was why she couldn't allow that to happen.

With this power, she could... the ideas and images flickered through her mind, almost too fast to follow. Images of destroying her enemies, wielding and controlling power unmatched by any of her rivals... But she didn't have rivals. The images were coming from the hellmouth, a temptation to try to use it's power, to fill herself with it's darkness.

The temptation was powerful, and it was only now that she realized that the diagram was not meant to contain the power of the hellmouth but to tap it. To connect them to this power, enabling them to perform their real ritual, intended to infuse the power of the hellmouth into their clan. Now, instead to the power being carefully channeled and accessible to them, it was flowing into her.

This was a very bad thing.

Glancing down at her hand, she discovered that her skin seemed to have gotten paler, and almost looked as if it was glowing from within. Deep green power flowed around her in a flickering aura, and she could feel her hair shifting in a non existent wind. The sands were glowing, adding an uncanny yet impressive looking light. She found that she could see everything, the darkness of the ruined library no impediment to her eyes.

She looked up, discovering Buffy staring at her, the entire left sleeve of her shirt gone, several cuts on her arms, a darkening bruise over her right eye, and dark reddish stains over her pants and the rest of her shirt, staring at Willow in what looked like horrified dismay. Garou Spike... he'd changed a good deal more than he had before, and now stood almost nine feet tall, his head reminding her of nothing more than a pale wolf, his body covered with pale fur bristled into a furry mass, a low growl filling his chest, ears tipped back. She had no idea what had happened to his clothing... oh, there was part of it over there, torn apart at the seams. As for her Spike, he was looking at her, his eyes wide with surprise. He looked a bit worse for wear as well, and sharp claws had ripped his shirt open, exposing his chest.

They were all staring at her in dismay and surprise. Apparently the glowing thing looked not good. She was inclined to agree with them, and then it dawned on her.

She had all the ingredients needed for a binding ritual. There was bountiful power. And a prophecy on their side for once.

She could seal the hellmouth.

With a gesture, she caused her fallen backpack of supplies to cross the empty space, essentially leaping into her hand, and she started pulling out supplies, setting red candles around the spilled sand, a flicker of will igniting them as she placed them in a circle. She followed the circle of fire with one of water and air, pouring out a careful blend of diluted aromatic oils of sandalwood and cedar and violets.

"Spike... both Spikes actually... come here. I can close this if you'll help me." Willow noticed for the first time the echoing of her voice, making it sound like a small flock of Willow's speaking instead of just one. She could try to decipher why later.

Vampire Spike approached first, his expression still a bit wary, but filled with a look of... almost awe. It was as if he had looked at her and saw some glorious vision. He walked towards her, one hand raising up, fingers spread, reaching towards her as if to touch her, to run his fingers over her skin.

"This is pretty impressive, Red. Although I thought there were only two good reasons..." His voice was subdued, but the last bit held a bit of his normal flirtatious confidence.

She wasn't in the least surprised this time by the rush of images those words brought to her mind. A small smile flickered over her face. "I'd think there would be a few to many people for the second option, and we already did the first one. But you're still bleeding, I can use that if you don't want me to draw any more. You two are the Darkened Mirrors and the Twinned Blood. If you will, well, the blood is sort of a mark that you both want this sucker closed. Like a signature on a legal document.

The werewolf that was also Spike came near, his fur flattening down and his ears pinned back. He reached out one wickedly clawed hand, and with a voice several octaves deeper that normal, spoke. "Do it. Close the damn thing."

Her spike glanced over at the currently towering werewolf, and gave a small scowl. "Not going to let some bloody fur ball show me up. Go ahead and do it."

She felt a warm glow of something that wasn't quite pride at their actions. They were trusting her to do what she'd said, to seal the hellmouth. She closed her eyes and began the chanting, her words calling on balance in nature, and demanding that this place be brought one step closer to balance and order by sealing the hellmouth, to prevent it from opening and spilling forth evil creatures. Her words did not call on the powers of specific gods, as she had learned how easily their natures could be concealed. She called on the powers of Good and protection, and on the forces of nature. As a seal, she drew a knife blade across the hands of both Spike's, allowing a token amount of blood to fall to the ground.

There was a small tremor in the earth as their blood fell, and something much more powerful that was felt, but not from the physical world. It was as if there had been a loud clap of thunder right here, and it made her head ring and throb.

The candles extinguished themselves, and the glow from the sand stopped at once, in the time of a single slow heartbeat. She felt as if the world had slowed around her, and her pulse was like a slow tide in her ears. When she spoke, her voice was a single, low sound, and almost sounded as if she were underwater. "It's closed."

Everything went dark and she could feel herself begin to fall.

She was completely unconscious by the time Spike caught her, before she'd actually hit the floor. She was the only person who missed the careful, tender way that he brushed her hair from her face. Missed the look of naked worry on his face.

"I think she needs some rest. I'll take her home, you two can go... whatever you want that doesn't require him to have his pants anymore." The vampire wasn't even looking at the Slayer or Garou as he gathered up Willow, intent on carrying her back to a safe place to rest.

end part 16.

Her next awareness was of pain. She felt as if everything were bruised, and as if her body had been drained of everything, shriveled and stiff like a dry sponge. Her head was throbbing, and it was with what felt like great slowness that she realized the loud pounding was her heartbeat, now returned to normal speed.

Eventually, she gathered her courage, and slowly opened her eyes. She was in her bedroom at the Rosenberg house, laying on her bed half undressed. It was dark, but she could still see everything clearly. The stars outside were twinkling in a clear sky, and there was something different about them, they almost seemed happier, if the term could be applied to the shining of distant stars.

The biggest surprise was that Spike was sitting vigil over her bed, his hands clasped as he watched her. His blue eyes were looking at her, bright with so many emotions, worry and joy and... something that looked more intense, more personal. It reminded her of the look in Oz's eyes back when he'd loved her... It was almost too much to hope for, that Spike could care for her.

"Spike?" Her voice was a bare ragged whisper, and her throat felt as if she'd screamed it raw at some point... but she didn't remember anything like that happening.

He twitched as if startled, and picked up one pale hand in his own, one hand beneath hers, the other curling almost protectively over the top. "How do you feel, luv? You collapsed at the school..."

"Was there screaming? My throat thinks there was, but I don't remember any... and everything hurts." She had to make sense of everything. And the way he was looking at her, with so much concern and tenderness... Maybe she was actually having a dream? But why would she hurt so much if it were a dream?

"No luv, no screaming. But when you chanted... back at the school you had too many voices. Maybe that's what's wrong with your throat. I was a bit worried when you didn't wake up..."

Didn't wake up? What had he meant by that? "How long... and what happened to my clothes?"

He shifted a bit, looking uncomfortable, almost embarrassed. "Ahhh... I took them off of you. You seemed pretty out of it, and I didn't think it would be too comfortable staying in them until you woke up. That was yesterday, by the way."

"Yesterday..." She was stunned. How had she lost an entire day? And he still had that look in his eyes, the one that made her hope that he cared. "Have you been here the whole time?"

He turned, reaching with one hand to grab a glass of water. "Thought you might be thirsty... I've been sitting here with you. I... I was worried."

Her hand was shaking as she carefully sat up, reaching for the water. She could feel it's coolness spreading through her, soothing her sore throat. "You were worried about me? But... what about... I thought you'd be... maybe trying to spend time with the woman who finally measures up?"

"What makes you think I haven't been?"

Hope flared inside her, more powerful than the hellmouth had been. "But... has there been anyone here besides me and you?"

His thumb was rubbing gently over her hand, the skin hypersensitive to his touch. "No... nobody else. I just... well, it's feeling, not brains. Probably not much of a chance, considering that you said you had a thing for someone hung up on is ex, but... When you collapsed, it hit me that if you never knew, it would be even worse than if I told you how I felt and you pushed me away."

"Me? This special woman that caught your interest is... me?" Hope and astonishment filled her voice, apparently obvious even to Spike, who looked up at her, his eyes intense and brilliant, blue as... as forever.

He gave a small, almost shy smile, reaching out to brush over her cheek. "You, luv. Why would that be such a surprise? But what about..."

Her voice was shaking, and still far weaker than she liked. "But... I thought you were still all hung up over Dru. Remember her? Your dark goddess, your princess, your bloody everything? When... how..."

"You made her go away. There will always be a place for her in my heart and my past, but... when I look into the future, the only person I want to see is you. It's your image that fills my dreams, not hers. Only you. Why were you so worried about Dru..." his words trailed of into stunned silence, and then hope filtered into his eyes. "Did you... could it be... oh, bloody hell, I've started babbling like you do, luv."

Willow couldn't help it, she started to giggle. "Of course it's you, silly. I just didn't think you'd want me. Remember, all human, and alive? And I remembered how upset you were about her... I figured I'd never have a chance."

"Sounds like a right comical thing. I didn't want to tell you on account of thinking you might not want a monster, and you didn't want to tell me for thinking I was still hung up over Dru." He had this shining, intense look in his eyes. "Maybe... since we know that I'm not still hung up on her... Am I as wrong about things as you were?"

Her head was spinning, and she was certain that it wasn't all from being weak after the binding. "Oh, Spike... how can a smart guy like you be so silly... you haven't been just a scary vampire for a long time. I knew there was a lot more to you than the Big Bad when you kidnapped me and Xander. How did you put it? Facets. You have them, just like I do, just like everyone does. Of course, you are a vampire, so days at the beach and picnic lunches would be out, but that doesn't mean we couldn't try... If your willing to try that is. I mean, everyone looked a bit freaked in the library, so you might not want to try..."

"Luv, you were gorgeous... all fire and shadow. Glowing with power, like Tolkein's elves are supposed to be. The thing with your eyes was a bit unsettling..." He shook his head, a small smile on his face. "So you do see the facets."

Willow remembered her hand looking as if it was glowing, but what had he meant by her eyes? "Spike? What do you mean 'the thing with my eyes'? What did my eyes do?"

"You didn't know? Luv, they went solid black." He looked a bit surprised.

Her eyes had gone black? Willow shivered, remembering the whispered temptations of the hellmouth. "I was being tempted by the power of the hellmouth. Sort of the 'Luke, come to the dark side and together we can rule the galaxy.' Except that Vader looks better than the hellmouth. The Master looked better than the Hellmouth."

"Tempted by the dark side, hmm? By the Hellmouth?" Spike looked impressed. "Would it be vanity to ask if I look better?"

She looked at him, filled with hope, and smiled. "You look lots better. So... if you aren't scared of briefly black eyed Willow... umm, did they go back to normal? If you aren't afraid to try a relationship with me... then I'm not afraid to try a relationship with you."

He smiled, his eyes flecked with amber. "Trust me, Willow, I'm not afraid of a relationship with a dangerous woman. The idea's actually a bit of a turn on. Now, if you can deal with the whole vampire thing... this might have a chance."

Remembering all the naughty images that had gone through her mind, she smiled at him. "I think I can deal with the blood thing. Maybe... hmm... maybe when I'm feeling less bruised and wrung dry, we could try that second way to make you... ummm." Willow felt herself going absolutely crimson, part of her amazed that she'd had the nerve to put any of that into words.

He looked amazed as well, and delighted. "That sounds good to me, luv."

end part 17.

So things settled into a new pattern. Buffy had her Spike, the Garou delighted by her strength and protectiveness. They seemed to be entirely besotted with each other, which made Giles happy. Buffy had someone to be with, someone to allow her a relationship, and at the same time, her Spike, now calling himself William, would not allow her to shirk her sacred calling. Buffy was content, and William would keep her safe, would keep her from abandoning her duties.

As for himself, the Garou had no desire anymore to return to his homeworld, even if they happened to discover a way to send him. This world had so few protectors, and such a great need for them. How could he abandon them to the Wyrm, to darkness, chaos and corruption? Here was someone he could stand beside, battle beside and protect. A mate that could be his equal without violating the most sacred teachings of the Garou. Life for him was better than it had been before.

Giles had asked very little about the individuals of the Garou, content to ask about their history and traditions instead. He was also very curious to learn how the Garou increased their numbers if it was not passed by biting. He was curious and fascinated by the fact that it was instead something that they were born with.

Xander and Anya were glad that Buffy had someone that wouldn't be frightened away by her destiny. The fact that he could keep her safe and wouldn't loose his soul like Angel had were powerful benefits in their minds. With Buffy happy and safe, things would be safer for them as well.

The fact that somehow, Willow and the vampire Spike had decided to date each other was considered yet another baffling thing blamed on the hellmouth. The only reason that nobody tried very hard to convince her otherwise was that considering that this was the hellmouth, and the nature of the current and previous dating histories of everyone involved, Spike wasn't that abnormal. Not for the scoobies anyhow.

Giles was the only person who seemed to have any idea why a quiet murmur of 'reason number two, luv' would make Spike get this distant look, accompanied by a smile and the closest that they'd ever seen a vampire come to blushing. Giles apparently had no intention of sharing anything to do with an explanation.

As for Willow, she seemed quite content to be involved with Spike. She was more confident in everything except her magic, getting this oddly worried expression every time she was asked to perform any major rituals. Giles wasn't certain what could be the cause of it, because Willow's power seemed to have made a sudden increase.

Only Spike seemed to know what made her nervous, and he wasn't talking about it. Although Buffy and her William also clearly remembered the black eyes that Willow had displayed when sealing the hellmouth. Nobody asked what had caused them.

Perhaps they didn't want to know.

Perhaps they were all content to remain without the potentially painful answers. For the moment, they were all healthy and happy. On the hellmouth, sometimes all you could ask for was to be healthy and happy right now. For the scoobies and their loves, 'right now' was enough.

end part 18, end Fur and Fangs.