Title: Searching

Author: Diva Stardust

Pairing: Willow/Spike

Rating: R

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, etc. I'm not making any money off of this.

Summary: Set ten years after "Chosen". Spike and Willow run into each other halfway across the world. They've both been through some changes.

Distribution: If you'd like to archive this somewhere please ask first. I will most likely say yes.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Spikeyvamp for the beta! And thanks to Lovesbitca, Wicked Princess, Lyric, and Paratti for their constant support and inspiration.

~*~*~*~*~

She couldn't believe it was him. Not only because he was out in sunlight, basking in the sun by a fountain, not only because they were thousands of miles away from Sunnydale, not only because it had been ten years since she had last seen him, but because he was supposed to be dead.

Willow looked over the top of her newspaper, trying to cover her face, but wanting to get a good look. She didn't even know why she was trying to hide herself; it wasn't like he would be able to recognize her anyways. She didn't look like Willow anymore. Hadn't for a long time. When her hair had turned permanently white sometime during the night after that final battle, she hadn't bothered to cover it up with hair dye, she actually liked that she looked so totally different. She no longer had to pretend that she was the same Willow anymore. When she had come back from London she had looked like her, but had never felt the same. Her friends had always tried to pretend they didn't notice though. She still *looked* like Willow so she had to be just as she was before. When her hair had turned white people no longer had to pretend she was the same.

Spike didn't look the same either; she wasn't even sure how she had been able to recognize him. He looked ... older. And that was the strange thing because Spike wasn't supposed to look older, not ever, but she could see the gray in his hair from where she was sitting. Seems like he didn't want to cover up his changes either.

He wasn't wearing his typical all black, which she supposed was a good thing since the sun was beating down so harshly today. But even with all his changes she still knew it was him. She wondered if since she could see him through the changes, if he would be able to see her.

So she got up from her seat at the café and started walking towards him. Sat down by him on the edge of the fountain. He was reading a book, lost in thought, and hadn't even looked up when she had sat down.

Willow was surprised when he brought his head out of the book and simply stared in front of him for a minute. Sensing. But he couldn't be, she thought, he obviously wasn't a vampire anymore with him being in the sun and all.

He turned his head to look at her, studying her. Taking in all the changes that had happened to her face, increased worry lines, the dark circles under her eyes, and especially her long white hair. The book fell from his hand while he tilted his head, his eyes taking her in softly.

"Willow?" he whispered.

He looked so lost that she only nodded and took his hand, lightly stroking his palm with her thumb.

After sitting for what felt like forever in silence, just holding his hand, she led him over to the outdoor café she had been sitting at before. Tried to make jokes on the way about how very high school reunion-y the whole thing was, but he remained silent, looking very dazed. Willow put her hair back up as she sat down, she didn't like to wear it down very often, people were always staring at it when she wore it loose and free.

She didn't know what he liked to drink now that she presumed he wasn't drinking blood, so she ordered coffee for both of them and hoped for the best. He took small sips from the mug; tiny sips that would always end in him putting it down and looking at her intensely, then bringing the cup back to his mouth again.

Finally he spoke. "Hope I didn't give you a fright back there, you just startled me is all. I haven't seen anyone from Sunnydale since ... that day."

She smiled gently. "Me startle you? Last I heard you were dead. Or at least that's what Buffy told us. Died to save us all, which, by the way, thank you! And now I find you soaking up good old Mr. Sunshine halfway across the world ..."

"Yeah ... came as quite a shock to me too. Thought I was going out in a blaze of glory, only to wake up and find my body in one piece again, aching like you wouldn't believe, with no bloody clue as to where everyone else was."

She motioned towards the sun. "So ... since you're not bursting into flames I'm going to go on a wild guess and say you're human now?"

"Aren't you the quick one?" he teased.

"How the heck did that happen?" she laughed.

"The hell if I know, guess it was supposed to be some bloody saving the world prize. Didn't exactly get an instruction manual when I woke up. Just, heartbeat: check. Not bursting into flames: check."

He was making light of the situation and trying to be funny but Willow started to get a knot in her stomach thinking about it. He must've been so scared waking up to find himself alone and his entire life changed.

"What about you then? Looks like you've been through some changes yourself," he said, motioning to her hair.

"Ah ... this? Just another cracker jack saving the world prize, mine also without the instruction manual," she grinned.

He smiled and they were silent for a few minutes. Willow knew what he wanted to ask and hoped that he would hurry up, she dreaded telling him the answer, but better to get it over with.

He fixed his eyes at an angle so he wasn't looking at her. His gaze locked on a nearby table. "So ... how's Buffy doing? Is she good?"

There it was. "Yeah ... she's good. Real good."

A pause.

"Spike ... she's married. Has a few children," she said as gently as she possibly could.

"Oh." His face fell.

He straightened up and tried to compose himself. "Well, that's good. No, really. Was what I wanted, wasn't it? Wanted her to be able to have a normal life, course, didn't know at the time I was going to be given one," he laughed bitterly.

He continued on, this time looking at her again. "Don't know what I've been doing the past ten years. Just been walking around in a haze. Part of me wanted to find Buffy, see if she really meant it when she said she loved me. She tell you about that?"

"No ..." she answered truthfully.

"Yeah, well, told her I didn't believe her. But I've never been sure really. Part of me wanted to leave her the hell alone, but the other part ... I figured I could travel around, see if I could find her. Course, didn't tell myself that's what I was doing. Thought if I admitted that I was searching for her, that I'd never find her. Had some stupid bloody romantic notion that if it was meant to be, and if I wasn't looking for her, I'd just run into her one day unexpectedly and we'd know that it was fate," he mumbled.

She smiled sadly. "Sorry you just got me instead."

"Don't be sorry love. You're a sight for sore eyes, a little bit of home," he said quietly.

After his initial heartache at the news he began to feel a little better. At least it was closure, something he thought he might never have. He knew now that Buffy was happy and had moved on. About time he tried to do the same maybe. Plus, there was something ... something that had been nagging at the back of his head for the past decade. He hadn't wanted to face it though. But now with the news, he did. Realized that he had known it was over for some time. Ever since he had seen her kissing Angel. Known it was over then.

He started to question how long he had actually still been in love with her over the years, and how much was him just wanting to keep the dream alive that someone loved him. He hoped that someone might love him again, and would actually tell him during a moment where he wasn't about to die. Yeah, that would be nice.

"So you've just been traveling around all these years?" she asked.

"Yeah, but it's more than that too. More than Buffy. Guess I was trying to find myself, as ridiculous as that sounds. Didn't know what I was anymore."

"Don't feel ridiculous! If you're ridiculous, I'm ridiculous! What do you think I'm doing here? I don't live here in France, Spike. I've spent the last few months traveling." She paused. "Don't know when I'm going home or even if I want to."

Spike started to get concerned about her, wanted to ask her more questions but her shoulders had tightened up suddenly and there was a pained look in her eyes. Didn't want to upset her. He suggested they spend the day together and do some more catching up and she readily agreed.

They went to a museum and found they had the same taste in paintings. Willow was surprised to find out he knew so much about many of them and could talk her ear off on just one for minutes on end. Spike was surprised at something else though.

When a young man walked past them, Willow turned her head to look at him appreciatively.

"Hey, what was that now?" Spike asked, taken aback.

"What was what?" Willow asked casually.

"You were ... looking at that guy."

"Yeah?"

"Excuse me if I'm wrong, pet, but last I remember you were marching to a beat of a different drummer," he said drolly.

"Oh, I still do that too."

"When did this happen?" he asked, curious.

"Right about the time I fell for someone and realized that they weren't going to be growing female parts anytime soon." She answered dryly and then continued. "I sort of realized that it was silly for me to limit who I could fall in love with, you know?"

He nodded. "That makes sense." He realized a little jolt of excitement had gone through him when she had told him that. It scared him. Didn't want to think about what that might mean. Shouldn't think about her at all like that.

They walked on and she told him about some of her past relationships. None of them had lasted very long and she had never gotten her heart broken because she had never been in love with any of them. She was starting to worry that the problem was with her, that maybe she would never be able to fall in love again. Spike tried to say an encouraging word here and there but he felt out of his league. He hadn't been with anyone since Buffy, hell; he hadn't slept with someone in the same bed since her.

Willow found herself loving spending time with Spike. He was still the Spike she had remembered and yet, not at all. She didn't know how to sort it all out in her head. Maybe the parts of him she was seeing now had always been there and she'd just never seen them, or maybe becoming human had brought them out. She didn't know. She liked the thoughtful way he had about him, and almost felt like laughing when she realized he was always making sure to walk on the side closest to the street. Didn't men used to do that in the old days so women wouldn't get run over by runaway horses and motorcars or something?

The Spike she remembered popped up in little ways too, like the way they could've went and gotten anything to eat and all Spike wanted was hot dogs. The way he got all defensive when she asked if he was still into bad TV shows, but then laughed when he realized she was teasing him. Still ended up talking her ear off about them though too. Falcon Crest and paintings, Spike definitely had a lot of topics to pull from.

When it started to get dark out Willow asked about where he was staying. Spike shuffled his feet and looked at the ground and admitted he was sleeping on the floor of some place where hobo types gathered.

"How very Jack Kerouac of you," Willow said. "Why don't you stay at my hotel room tonight?"

She had to be mistaken, but Spike started to look positively shy at the offer. Was he blushing? Hard to tell in the dark.

"I'm not sure if that would be a good idea, love ..." he tapered off.

"No arguments! You're coming with me." And with that she dragged him off in the direction of his hobo hideout so he could get his things.

When they were in her room, she looked at his duffel bag as he began to take things out.

"Do you have anything in there besides books and clothes?" she asked.

He shrugged. "This stuff does me fine. Don't need anything else."

"I'm not trying to be insulting!" Willow insisted. "I think it's nice that you don't need many things."

Spike looked around the room then and froze up when he noticed there was only one bed. "Guess I'll take the floor ..." he said quietly.

"Spike? Do you see how gigantic this bed is? So don't start acting all crazy in the head. We can both sleep on it and do fine."

She had that look in her eye. The 'do what I say or I'll turn you into a rabbit' look so Spike didn't question her anymore on it. He got on one side of the bed while Willow went into the bathroom to change.

When she came out she was wearing some sort of silky pajamas pants and top set. He watched as she started to take her hair clips out and let her hair down. It was a pretty sight, reminded him of when he used to brush Dru's hair out.

"I like your hair," he said quietly. Felt like a gigantic fool for saying it afterwards, couldn't he say anything more creative or original than that?

"Really? Most people don't," she commented blankly as she got into bed.

He was startled by her statement and the way she had froze up when he had complimented her. "What's their problem?" he asked as she turned off the light.

"That was the problem in some of my relationships, actually. They'd want me to dye my hair. Couldn't understand why I was letting myself look so ugly and old, they said. They'd say ... they'd say that I was trying to drive people away on purpose."

Spike couldn't believe the nerve of some people. He couldn't take his eyes off her hair, the way the moonlight was streaming in through the window and shining on it. Made it glow, made it look ... luminescent. Had to forcibly stop himself from trying to find a word that rhymed with "luminescent". Wanted to reach out and touch it, stroke it, bury his face in it, see how soft it was but he held back and simply asked, "Were you?"

"I don't know ... it's just ... with this hair I don't have to pretend anything. And yeah, it does keep a lot of people away. Can hear them whispering about 'Willow, the scary white witch' at the Institute. Part of me hates the whispers and the way they avoid me and the other part ... doesn't."

She rolled over so she was facing him, wanted to reach out and touch his hair, it was so many colors now. Chestnut, gray, soft gold, and slightly curly. You could see so many different things every time you looked at his hair, lots more than was on the surface, just like him. But she kept her hand at her side. "I noticed you don't dye your hair anymore," she offered timidly.

He closed his eyes, didn't know whether he wanted to get fully into this or not. "Yeah, well, found out something about becoming human. Aging's a bitch. Didn't take very long for the years to catch up with me, and with the added bonus of mirrors ... turns out the whole look I had working for me for so long doesn't look so good at a certain age."

"I like the way you look now, it suits you," she said sincerely.

"Don't have to be polite, love. I see my reflection all the time now, right? Know I'm not a bloody prize," he grumbled.

Willow wanted to tell him he was wrong but there was a bitter edge to his voice that made her hold back. She didn't think he would believe her, would probably just think she was feeling sorry for him. Wanted to show him somehow but she didn't know how, so there was only awkward silence. They remained looking at each other in the dark, neither of them being able to sleep, or perhaps, not wanting to sleep. So many thoughts going through both of their heads but they never voiced a single one.

In the morning Willow woke to find Spike out on the balcony, smoking a cigarette and watching the sunrise. The picture made her happy, almost didn't want to disturb him, but the pull to join him was too strong so she went to him. The white button down shirt on him surprised her; she didn't think she'd ever seen him in white, almost felt wrong somehow, but not really, because he looked good in it. Peaceful. The blue jeans looked nice too; they fit him well although she was concerned that he was too thin. He seemed leaner and gaunter than she remembered him.

"Hey..." she said softly, touching his shoulder as she came up behind him. He flinched at first, but then relaxed and wished she wouldn't have taken her hand away.

"Didn't know you still did that," she remarked, looking at the cigarette in his hand.

He smiled wistfully. "Yeah, it's one of the few things that still feel the same now." He blew a stream of smoke in the air. "You don't mind, do you?"

She shook her head. "No, it's fine." It was comforting actually. Felt nice seeing him like this, the cigarette bringing back long forgotten memories. A hot sticky night during the summer without Buffy, Spike smoking in the house while Dawn complained about the smell. He had laughed and teased her as he often did back then, looking at Willow with twinkling eyes.

They watched the sunrise together, the bright crimson and orange hues reflecting back on them, as they stood in silence. Eventually Spike stopped looking at the sun and had turned himself so he could look at Willow, get his fill of her while she watched the swirling colors. He was happy to see that she hadn't put her hair up yet, there was a slight breeze that made it move softly around her, looked so beautiful and natural. She hadn't changed out of her pajamas yet either and he admired the way the silky fabric caressed her skin. Had to look away before she'd catch him staring.

"Do you do this often? Get up to watch the sunrise?" asked Willow.

He nodded. "I don't much care for most of the so-called perks that comes with being human, but this ... this is one I enjoy." When he had been a vampire he hadn't cared if he ever saw the sun again, didn't mean anything to him. He was a creature of the night, and he liked it that way, but all it took was that first sunrise to change him. There was just so much warmth, such vibrancy, such potent colors ... he tried to catch as many as he could since then.

She put her hand on his arm briefly, a tingle going through him at her touch, to lead him back inside. Ordered room service and watched him eat pancakes, insisted that he eat them all, which didn't take much convincing. He still liked to eat as much as he ever did which made Willow glad, but made her even more concerned about why he was so thin. Was he starved of something else? The thought troubled her, and she found it hard to eat, but she choked down her pancakes when she noticed Spike looking at her with concerned eyes.

They spent the day together again, this time spending a lot of it walking through the park. Watching Spike feed ducks and then yell at the ones who would hog all the bits of food was definitely one of the funniest things Willow had ever seen. There was just something about Spike cursing at ducks while they quacked at him in defiance which was instantly hilarious.

Afterwards, they sat on a bench and watched all the people go by. Spike whispering snarky remarks about them in her ear while she tried hard not to laugh, but failed. She tried to remember how some of those remarks used to be made about her, but she couldn't help it, it felt good to laugh again and she could feel Spike's smiling expression against her ear as he talked to her, every laugh causing him to talk more and more candidly about each passing person.

He stopped suddenly though when an old couple sat across from them on the opposite bench. Looking to be very much in love and suddenly, Spike couldn't say anything. Willow stopped laughing and they simply looked at them with silent envy.

"Must be nice," Willow whispered.

"What's that, love?" Spike asked.

"To have someone like that," she said quietly.

"Yeah ..." he agreed. There wasn't anything else to say. They had said it all.

Walking around the park again Willow remembered something Spike had said the other day about searching.

"You know what you said yesterday about your whole not searching for Buffy thing? I guess I did that too," Willow admitted.

"Really? When was this?" Spike asked.

"Before I came here. Years ago I told Oz that maybe when I was old and blue- haired, I'd turn a corner in Istanbul and there he'd be. Well, I *feel* old, and white hair is almost the same as blue so I went there a month ago. Didn't find him of course. Don't know what I was thinking," she laughed.

She stopped walking and an irritated expression filled her face. "No, no, that isn't true. I know what I was thinking. It wasn't even about Oz, really. Searching for love, I guess. God, how pathetic do I sound?" she exclaimed in an agitated voice.

"Not pathetic at all pet," Spike tried to reassure her.

"Figured he was the only one who might still be able to love me now, the way I am, what I've become," Willow said, trembling.

Spike was becoming disturbed by the conversation and pulled Willow over by a tree, making her sit down in the grass.

"Willow, what is all this? What do you mean 'what you've become'? What's happened to you? And don't say nothing, cause I can see it you know. See it all over your face, those dark circles under your eyes; you look older than you should, love. Please, tell me."

She laughed bitterly. "I don't even know where to begin."

"Take your time, love. 'S' alright," he said gently.

"You want to know why I left? Why I'm here? Because I'm nothing, Spike. I'm a tool. That's all I'm good for. When we left Sunnydale Giles started an Institute for all the girls who had become slayers and for witches too. Wanted me to use my whole connected to the earth powers to find girls who had the most potential for power. So I did. And over the years he's just ... he's become colder and colder, Spike. I'm just his tool. Always telling me to do more and more dangerous spells, not caring about what they could do to me ..."

Spike started clenching his jaw, he had never forgiven Giles for setting him up to be killed and this new revelation about him was causing bloodlust to stir in him that had laid dormant for years.

She kept talking, saying the words quickly. "At first it was okay, I wanted to please him. Figured I owed him for bringing me to England when I had my magic problems, and also because ... I thought maybe we would finally get to have the kind of relationship that he and Buffy had had. They never did really reconnect after that whole thing with you, you know. But it was never like that, it was just ... creepy."

Now Spike's blood was really starting to boil. "Creepy?" he asked.

"The things he says to me. He's cruel ... he ... he knows what to say to get under my skin. He didn't want me to leave, still wanted to use my magic. Said I was nothing without it, without him, and without the Institute. Said no one would ever be able to love me because of the things I've done. He's always throwing Warren and that whole rampage of mine in my face, to make me feel guilty to do what he wants. I just couldn't take it anymore so I left," she broke down sobbing.

Spike pulled her towards him, cradling her in his arms while he sat against the tree and she wept on his shoulder. Rage was burning so fiercely inside him that he couldn't see straight. Wanted to go find Giles and tear his throat out, didn't care that he wasn't a vampire anymore, would rip it out with his blunt teeth, he didn't give a damn. Couldn't say anything because he knew the only thing out of his mouth would be primal. Primal guttural snarls and growls, fuck the fact that he wasn't a monster anymore; he hadn't forgotten what it was like to be one. So he only held her to him closely, rubbing her back while she cried.

After Willow had calmed down somewhat she started to realize where she was. Essentially sitting in Spike's lap, with Spike's arms wrapped around her, while one hand made a constant soothing motion up and down her back. It felt ... nice. Really nice. Comfortable and warm. Smelled good too. She wanted to breathe him in, know that scent by heart, but she figured it was bad enough that she just had a messy crying fit all over his shirt without disturbing him anymore by taking big whiffs of him. She was so close to him too, and so close to that hair she had wanted to touch last night. It was just right there.

Spike's eyes closed and his mouth opened slightly in pleasure when he felt Willow's hand touching his hair lightly. So very lightly at first as if she was afraid he'd scold her and tell her to stop. When she realized he wasn't going to say anything, her hold on him became more sure. Possessive. Caressing his hair like a lover, and Spike reciprocated by holding her tighter, pulling her closer, wanting there to be only this forever. Her hand touching him so lovingly while he held her.

All the violent thoughts and images that had filled his head only seconds before were suddenly gone. All he knew was her, all he felt was her, she had overcome every single one of his senses, blocking everything else out entirely. Instead of the snarls and growls that had filled his unspeaking mouth earlier, now there was only ... softness. Wanted to lay her down on the grass and whisper sweet things in her ear, gentle sighs and murmurs that would capture his contentment.

Her fingertips continued its exploration of his hair, delighting in its softness while she played with every lock. Paying special attention to the patches of gray, wanting to show him what she couldn't say last night. Finally she let out a little happy sigh before kissing the top of his head, laying her head back on his shoulder.

Spike had tried to stay quiet, knew if he said anything when she had been stroking his hair that he wouldn't be able to hold back. Would say too much. Let too many feelings and words escape him and he'd scare her away. But when he had felt that sigh of hers go directly into his ear, that delicious breath striking him somewhere deep inside, a moan had escaped his lips. Couldn't hold that in. Especially not when he had felt her lips touching his hair immediately afterwards.

Willow felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of her; it had been so nice to get all those things about Giles off her chest. Had been holding it in for so long with no one to talk to. She settled back in on Spike's lap and suddenly became worried that he wouldn't want her there now, now that she was done crying. Maybe he would tell her to get up, or make fidgety movements showing her that she should move. So she stayed very quiet and waited. Waited for some sort of sign that he wanted her off of him, but there was none. His hold on her remained as firm as it had before.

When Spike felt he was composed enough to talk, he tried to reassure her. "Don't believe a word he told you, Willow. Forget it all. None of it's true. He only said those things to try to keep you down, love. Was jealous of all that power you have inside you and wanted to keep it for himself. The man's a fool, a wanker, a bastard who should be shot, or tortured. Yeah, tortured. Slow torture that lasts for days. That's what would suit him..."

While Spike continued to go on about what kind of torture would be the best kind for Giles, his head was turned at an angle talking to the air. Willow took that opportunity to run her fingertips across the nape of his neck, feeling that vulnerable softness before pressing a gentle kiss there.

Spike became still instantly. "So sweet ... God, you're so sweet," he murmured.

Willow's heart felt light for a moment, felt like she was having some sort of out of body experience. Everything was so light and airy. But then she began to think about her life back home again and the knot in her stomach returned. Her muscles clenched up and her head started to ache. She wanted to lose herself here in the moment with Spike but she couldn't, there was still so much she hadn't told him. Maybe he wouldn't want her touching him if he knew.

Spike noticed how her body had tightened up and worried that it was about him. Doing things all wrong again. Buggering things up as usual. He moved her off his lap so they were both sitting against the tree, staring at happy and carefree people playing frisbee off in the distance.

She turned to look at him. "Spike ... thank you. Just, thanks. This is nice, haven't been able to talk to anyone in such a long time."

Spike couldn't wrap his mind around that. Last he remembered Willow had had lots of friends. What had happened to that sorry lot? Had they deserted her?

"Don't you have anyone to talk to back home, pet? Aren't the good old Scoobies still together?" He tried to say the words lightly but inside he was a ball of nerves waiting for the answer.

"No ... things are different," she said quietly.

She paused. "I still talk to Buffy sometimes, but it's not the same. She has a family now, our lives are too different. She hasn't been the slayer, not actively, for years. That's not her world anymore, all that mystical stuff ... and it's the only thing I have now. So we get together occasionally and she talks about her kids and husband, and I ... well, I don't say much."

Spike's heart was starting to break; he couldn't bear to think of Willow all alone back there. "What about the little bit, you ever talk to her much?"

Willow smiled. "Spike, the 'little bit' is now twenty-six years old. She moved away a long time ago. She sends me cards and postcards though sometimes."

Spike tried to take that all in but was failing. "Can't imagine the nibblet being twenty-six, doesn't seem right somehow." His eyes became melancholy. "Wish I would've patched things up with her when I had the chance. That's always been real high on my list of regrets."

"Just so you know ... she cried. When you died, she cried. Or when she thought you died I guess I should say. Not right away, not when she first found out. But later ... that night I heard her crying about it," Willow said softly.

"Christ ..." He ran his fingers through his hair. He didn't know what to do with his hands suddenly, his eyes were becoming misty and all he could do was run his fingers through his hair awkwardly.

Spike considered asking her for Dawn's address later, maybe send her a postcard and let her know he was all right. Didn't know what he would say though. What exactly do you write on a postcard to tell someone that you're sorry for any pain you caused them before and after your death and P.S., You're actually not dead? Maybe a letter would be better.

She started telling him about the others. Anya had died in battle, Andrew had moved to Vegas and was doing something showbizzy, she and Kennedy had broken up shortly after the battle and then she had died only a year later during a routine patrol. She kept going through a large list of names, some people he had never even heard of before. He noticed that she left one person out though, while she went on and on through random people.

He interrupted her gently. "What about Xander love?"

She stopped with her list of names and looked at her hands. Couldn't stop looking at her hands. "He's dead."

Spike reached out to put a hand on her shoulder but she flinched away, kept staring at her hands. "He died ... years ago."

She laughed bitterly. "God, he was so stupid! Even with his one eye he still insisted on going out and fighting with the slayers, doing all that he could. Why couldn't he have stopped and just relaxed for one minute? Why'd he have to leave me too?" Her lip began to tremble but she shied away from any comfort Spike tried to give.

"So a demon got him and he was killed. It was all so quick. It's always quick, isn't it? But the worst thing was ..."

She tried to take deep breaths, needed to do this. Hadn't told anyone this. "I wanted to bring him back. Every night for a year it was all I thought about. Couldn't sleep at night, spent half the hours thinking about ways to bring him back and the other half fighting myself to make sure I wouldn't. God, it was so hard. I might've ruined him like I ruined Buffy."

She looked at him then with those big eyes of hers, with those dark circles under them. Those haunting shadows that never left her face. Now he knew what they were from.

Spike tried to look deep in her eyes, wanted her to let him in. Get all the pain out and let him in instead. But she looked away. He took her face in his hands and made her look at him.

"But you didn't, Willow. He's at peace now, love. I'm sure of it. It was hard, but you did it. You won."

"Did I?" Tears started to well up in her eyes. "If this is winning then why am I so alone?"

Her tears started to fall and he tried to catch them with his thumb, wiping them away. He couldn't get all of them though; they kept slipping away from him. Her pain continued to fall in the form of those little drops and he feared that he'd never be able to catch them all, to take it all away.

Willow wasn't sure how much time they spent under that tree. Felt like hours. Once her tears had stopped flowing they both simply sat against it again, thinking. After awhile though she just felt ... sluggish. Wanted to go home, or back to her hotel really. Although, she thought, the hotel is more a home than that other place she'd been living at for the past ten years. She felt tired and just wanted to rest, so she wearily told Spike that she wanted to leave and he looked at her with those soft eyes again and helped her up. They walked slowly back; she wanted to get to her bed as soon as possible, but she didn't have the energy to hurry.

She felt somewhat better when she emerged from the bathroom, having changed into her pajamas. Spike wasn't under the covers on his side of the bed like the night before; he was facing her, kneeling on her side of the bed. He was waiting for her. She gave him a puzzled look, moving towards him but he showed no sign of what he was up to until she reached the bed. She moved to let her hair down but his voice stopped her.

"Here let me do that for you," his voice melted around her, calm and soothing.

She sat on the edge of the bed and could feel him behind her. Could sense his body but he didn't touch her right away. She could only feel his breath hot and full of anticipation on the back of her neck. It gave her goosebumps and her whole body was tense from the waiting.

Finally he began touching her hair, taking the hair clips and pins out slowly. Letting her hair cascade down her shoulders and down her back, and she relaxed. His hands were running through her hair and somehow ... it made her feel at peace for a little bit. He kept touching it long after it was fully down. Stroking and caressing it with such care, like she might break at any moment. A shiver went through her when she felt Spike move his lips to her ear and whisper, "Such soft hair you have, love."

She closed her eyes, overwhelmed, as she listened to Spike's voice while he kept caressing her hair. He wouldn't let go of it. Needed to touch it all.

"Wish you'd keep your hair down all the time, Willow. Most beautiful hair I've ever seen. You're stunning, you know that?"

She didn't know how to answer that, so she didn't. No one had called anything about her beautiful in a long time, everyone always wanted to change something about her. Not accept who she was.

Willow stopped him eventually, figured if she didn't he'd just be there forever touching her hair. They got under the covers and tried to pretend they wanted to sleep, but neither could think of anything resembling sleep. Spike's entire body was anxious; he had to force himself to keep still. All he wanted to do was keep on touching her forever, felt more alive than he ever had in the past ten years when he had held her, and when he had caressed her soft hair. Willow's thoughts were different though, she started to feel guilty. Guilty that she had spent most of the afternoon talking about her problems and she hadn't asked him enough questions. There was something she'd been thinking about for awhile but she was almost afraid to ask him, it seemed like a sensitive subject and she didn't want to ruin whatever they had forming between them.

"Spike, do you like being human?"

He had not been expecting that. Of all the things he had thought Willow might say to him that had not been one of them.

"Yeah, sure. Suppose I like it all right. Sunlight and all," he offered lamely. Willow wasn't buying it.

"That didn't sound very convincing," Willow accused.

Spike started to feel defensive. "What do you want me to say?" Why'd she have to ask him a question like that? He only wanted to make her feel good, not talk about his stupid buggering problems.

"Just the truth," she said quietly.

He was silent for a long time. She started to think that he might never say anything. Had to ask him another question, felt horrible for prying but she *needed* to know.

"How did you feel when it first happened?" she asked in a small voice.

He laughed. "Those bloody supreme powers probably thought I'd be hopping up and down with joy at their little gift. I was terrified, wanted it to go away. Broke into a hospital the first chance I got and stole some blood packs. Thought maybe I could reverse it somehow, that it couldn't be true. The blood wasn't halfway down my throat before I was throwing it back up again."

She closed her eyes and started to wish that she hadn't asked him. She was causing him pain and she didn't want to do that to him, but now he couldn't stop talking. It was all coming out now.

"What's so great about mortality, anyways? I'm weak, did you know that? Got my arse kicked by a vampire the first time I tried to do things like I'd always done. Found out right quick that I couldn't go chasing down demons anymore. Used to be that I could snap their necks before they knew what hit them, but now ... don't have that sort of strength anymore."

She tried to offer some sort of support but it only made Spike feel worse. "It doesn't have to be that way; there are regular men that are strong. You could work out, lift weights," she suggested lamely.

He snorted. "Don't you get it? I never even had to *try* when I was a vampire, it was just in me. They took all that away from me. Everything that I was. What do I have to look forward to now? Getting even weaker and more pathetic? Growing older every sodding day until one day it's all over? Look at me, Willow. Look at my face, look at my hair. What do I have to look forward to? Watching myself age more and more until I'm a shriveled up old man that no one will even want to look at?"

He was getting more frustrated and was sitting up now, talking frantically. Willow tried to calm him down. "There's nothing wrong with aging, the rest of us have to do it. And yes, you're older, but so what? You're beautiful ... I wish you could see that," she said quietly.

He laughed bitterly and looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah, these lines on my face and my hair turning gray. That's real bloody beautiful. I don't want your fucking pity!" he yelled.

She sat up then too, was getting upset. "It's not pity! God, don't say that."

His face turned softer, hadn't wanted to upset her. "Sorry, love. Didn't mean to go off on you like that." He breathed a tired sigh. "It's just ... I hate this. Hate the aging, and knowing that I'm going to die but the worst thing is ... I don't know what I am anymore. It's been ten bloody years and I still don't know. What am I? What am I, Willow?"

He looked at her with desperate eyes and her heart sank. Wanted to help him, but she knew that no matter what she did it still wouldn't change the fact that he would keep getting older. That he would eventually die. He would never have the young looks he had as a vampire or the strength. Nothing she could say would change that. But still ... she wanted to do something that would show him that he could still be loved and wanted even while he kept growing older. That one part of him was never changing.

She moved her hand to his shirt and began unbuttoning the top buttons slowly. He looked down at her hand in quiet confusion and then looked at her face when she placed her hand on his chest, over his heart.

"This is what you are," she said quietly. She felt his heartbeat speed up at her touch; a constant pumping that was strong and vibrant, never ending. She tried to give him a laughing grin. "Don't worry so much about everything else, okay?"

He didn't say anything, simply moved his hand to her, placing his hand over her heart as she had done to him. Her heart was racing at the feel of him, but also because of the moonlight pouring in through the window showed everything. The way he was looking at her. Intensely and with love. With their hands still on each other Spike leaned towards her for a kiss. It was awkward at first, both of them adjusting to it, but then they gradually learned the feel of one another. The way their lips worked together, and the way the other liked to be kissed. It all had to be learned but they were patient. Spike's lips were gentle against hers, so soft and caring. Then she made the mistake to sigh his name into his mouth and that seemed to unleash something within him. His kisses became deeper, more urgent; his tongue was inside her, exploring her, possessing her.

She felt like she was going to fall, felt like she was falling already, so she moved her hand from his chest and put her arms around his back, holding onto him while he continued kissing her. Never stopping. He switched back to the soft kisses for a minute, his mouth moving slowly against hers. Felt like she was going to melt into him. Then she moved her hands to his head, grabbing his hair fiercely. He broke away and moaned, laying her back on the bed while he hovered above her.

She wasn't sure what he was going to do at first, he was just looking at her. He ran his hand up and down her cheek with appreciation, smiling a little as he did so. "You're not alone, Willow. Never going to be alone again," he said tenderly. Then he leaned forward and began kissing her face. Slowly. Right cheek, left cheek, forehead, all the little areas in between. Soon he was doing it all over again, only the kisses were even slower than before, tender and deliberate, sweet feather light kisses that left her gasping for air. She couldn't breathe, Spike was giving too much, and she couldn't breathe. He kept kissing her face and pulling back to look at her between intervals. Looking at her like ... he was in love with her.

"Shhh, s'alright love. Breathe with me. Breathe with me, sweetheart." Spike's voice relaxed her and she found herself breathing normally again.

"That's right, that's the way. Knew you could do it," his words poured out lovingly. He smiled at her and leaned down, kissing her again. Slow gentle lingering kisses where he seemed determined not to miss any area of her face. His lips never tiring. She realized suddenly what he was trying to do and tears started welling up because of it. She couldn't hold them back and she didn't want to anyways. Knew that was what he wanted.

"That's it, Willow. Let it all out; let all your pain out. Give it to me, let me in instead. Please, let me in," he murmured.

She only nodded and he kissed away her tears, happy to feel that salty taste against his lips. Wouldn't be satisfied until he had it all.

Eventually they found themselves lying on their sides, kissing each other through the night. Couldn't stop, their lips were constantly drawn to each other. She stroked his hair while he did the same with hers, never letting go for a second.

She tried to break away for a moment to say, "Need you to know this Spike, you, everything, it's all beaut ..." she was cut off when Spike's lips brought her back for another kiss.

Breaking away again, Spike tried to speak but his voice was raspy, it didn't want to do much talking. "Shhhh, don't fret, love. I believe you. Have to. I'll believe anything those sweet lips of yours tell me." He paused, lost in thought. "God ... so fucking sweet and soft. Never going to stop kissing you ."

Before she could answer his lips were on her again, claiming her mouth while her body was lulled into contentment. It was all so very healing for both of them. They knew that there were things they couldn't change. Not the past, and not unstoppable things in the future, but somehow ... it didn't matter as much anymore.

After what felt like forever Willow was sure she was going to fall asleep. She was so tired, worn out from everything that had happened that she was sure that she would fall asleep only to wake up in the morning and find Spike still kissing her. He noticed she was getting tired though and stopped, giving her a kiss on her forehead before pulling her towards him so they could fall asleep together, in each other's arms.

He was all around her, Spike was holding her, was with her, and she smiled. "I'm leaving tomorrow," she said.

Spike tensed up. Was she planning on leaving him? Was this it? "Where you planning on going?" he asked, his voice shaky.

"I have no idea." Her voice picked up with a sort of laughing excitement. "You wanna come?"

He laughed and turned his head to kiss up and down her neck. Nibbling her earlobe he whispered, "I'll go with you anywhere, sweetheart. As long as you're there, don't care where the hell we are."

That night, while they slept, they both shared the same dream. It showed the future, glimpses of it. The two of them dancing together in Italy. Her ivory colored hair flowed down her back while a white silk dress that he had bought for her clung to her body. Spike called her his lady in white and kissed her hand, before beginning the dance. His hair had turned completely silver but he didn't complain. Much. When he started to say something about it, she simply gently touched his hair knowingly and whispered something about her "silver shimmering man" and all thoughts and complaints left him for the moment. The dark shadows of the past remained around her eyes but she was smiling as he moved her gracefully around the floor.