Spike hummed to himself as he carried the long box up to Stevenson Hall's second floor. For roughly two years now, Spike had had his eye on the Slayer's best friend, the beautiful redheaded witch. She wasn't just gorgeous; she was also caring, compassionate—even to a demon like him—smart and witty and funny and, unlike Dru, sane. At first, he had shoved away the thought of turning her and making her his new companion because he was still stuck on Drusilla, and, fearing change, he'd told himself that it was just a passing physical attraction and anyway Willow was no more obtainable than a Playboy centerfold as far as he was concerned. Friends of the Slayer were hard to kill. But slowly, especially as he became more estranged from Dru, he'd come to realize that he didn't just like the look of her, he liked her, and he wanted her. If that story of Anya's was anything to go by, Willow would make an incredible vampire, too.
When he'd gone to her dorm looking to kill Buffy, he knew there was a good chance he'd find Willow instead. He knew she was Buffy's closest friend and more importantly he'd seen her name on the dormitory register, just a few spaces above Buffy's. So he hadn't "settled," as Willow had thought. He had gone to that dormitory intending to kill Buffy and hoping, praying, that he'd get to claim his witch in the process. Buffy's absence had filled him with hope, not irritation; it would make Willow easier to turn.
Then he'd realized he couldn't bite her, and he'd been completely devastated. Not only did he love violence, killing and the like, but he'd made up his mind to sink his fangs into her delicious neck and then, as she rose from her grave, claim her as his childe and lover.
Stupid bloody military.
He'd brooded about it for days. Then he'd realized that he was acting like that idiot poof Angel, and he instantly stopped. If he couldn't turn her, then he'd have to find another way to make her like him, and truth be told he wouldn't be sad to leave her soul in her body. Her soul was a big part of her—and an added bonus would be that her choosing him would make the stupid Slayer collapse from shock. Maybe even die. Ooh.
The question was how to do it. It wasn't an easy job, though there were signs. Their conversation after his failed attempt to bite her, her refusal to let him stake himself, her attempts to be nice about his lack of scary factor… Still, he figured she'd need a lot more incentive. So his first step was to do something nice for her.
As they'd walked to the high school looking to avert yet another apocalypse, Spike had overheard that Willow had been called a nerd by some bloke named Percy and that it had upset her greatly. Percy wasn't a very common name in modern-day California, and, thanks to a few stories from the Scooby Gang, he was pretty sure that this Percy was the same Percy whom Willow had tutored and whom her alter ego had threatened and scared badly. Now, this Percy idiot was going to present Spike with his first opportunity to win Willow over.
He stole up to Willow's dormitory and, after listening for signs of life, jiggled the door handle, surprised to find it unlocked. Smiling, he set down his box and stole inside.
The Slayer wasn't there, perhaps out on patrol or shagging her new beau, or maybe just off in the bathroom momentarily. Whatever the case, he didn't plan to be there long.
He headed straight for Willow's bed, upon which she was sleeping soundly, and plunked his hand over her mouth so she wouldn't scream and raise the alarm. "Red," he said loudly, "wake up."
Willow's eyes opened. She took one confused look at Spike, paused while her sleep-fogged brain tried to rationalize the situation, and then started screaming into his hand.
"Shh! Shh! I'm not gonna hurt you, I swear it, and I can't do it anyway," Spike hissed. Willow stopped making muffled shouting sounds. "Gonna be good?" She nodded, and Spike removed his hand.
"What do you want?" she asked nervously.
"I've got a gift for you," he said proudly.
"No, really, what do you want?"
Spike sighed in annoyance. "I mean it, I've got a gift. You know, a… a return-favor, for… um… for not letting me stake myself."
Willow's eyebrows rose in surprise and she sat up. "Really?" she asked suspiciously.
"Yes, really. Come on, quick, follow me."
Spike retrieved his box and walked out; Willow followed, though still somewhat nervous. He smiled, pleased beyond belief. At last, he was going to get his girl.
He led her into the bathroom and set down his box. A chubby girl in a bathrobe standing by the sinks let out a yelp when she saw him and pulled her robe tighter.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" she demanded.
Spike, casting about quickly for some excuse to be in a girls' bathroom in the middle of the night, looked at Willow and then pulled her close. Willow let out a little squeak but did not otherwise protest; Spike knew she was probably shocked and scared, but he just smiled charmingly at the girl.
"My girlfriend's roommate's home," he said apologetically. "I'm sorry; I didn't know anyone was in here."
The girl raised her eyebrows, looking at Willow, who forced a shaky smile and tried to look a little less bewildered at being held tightly to Spike's side. The girl then cast an appraising eye at Spike.
"I understand," she said with a knowing grin. "My roommate never leaves. Really throws a wrench in things." She picked up her hairbrush and left with a wink at Willow.
"Um… o-okay, Spike?" Willow stammered. "D-don't take this the wrong way, but if your gift is, uh, something along the lines of s-smoochies—"
"Don't be ridiculous," he said, thoroughly amused at her utter terror. "I would never shag you in a bathroom. It's no place for fun, what with the smell and all."
"Oh," Willow said, looking relieved and stepping away from him. Then something else occurred to her and she frowned and looked back at him, wide-eyed. "Does that mean you would… you know… somewhere else?"
Spike grinned wickedly at her. "Tsk, tsk. Someone's being naughty."
Willow was dumbfounded. "M-me? No! You! I didn't—"
She was so much fun to poke fun at. Her face turned rosy with embarrassment instantly and she began to babble and stammer most endearingly. "I had other things in mind, actually," he interrupted. "But, if you fancy a toss, would rather go back to your room…" He gave her an unholy grin.
"No! No, no, no. No offense or anything," she added hurriedly, as always trying to prevent hurting anyone's feelings, "I mean, you're, well, you know, and everything, it's just… okay. Is there any way I can get out of this conversation?"
Spike stifled a laugh and picked up his box. "It's about that Percy bloke."
"Percy?" She seemed confused. "What about him?"
"Well, he insulted you, didn't he?" Spike said matter-of-factly. "How about a little payback?"
Willow's eyes lit up, but almost immediately clouded with suspicion and doubt. "How? It's not as if I can…"
She stopped as Spike opened the box and showed her what was inside—the black corset, pants and boots worn by her vampire double.
"Where did you get that?" Willow asked in awe, staring at the outfit in open-mouthed shock. "It was from another reality! She's not back, is she?" Willow turned her head this way and that as though expecting her evil twin to come out from one of the bathroom stalls.
"No, no," Spike said cheerfully. "You see, Anya told me all about your vampire self dropping by. Apparently, she knew all about the vampire, the reality from whence it came, because she created it and her powers permitted her to see all the changes made to the past because of her wish. So I figured, if this outfit was in an alternate Sunnydale, it might also be in this one, and I was right. Found it sitting in the back of some shop run by bloody poseurs."
"And you bough—Spike! Did you steal that?"
"Of course not," Spike replied, looking wounded. That was, of course, a blatant lie—he'd stolen the outfit and the entire cash register—but Willow didn't need to know that. He doubted she'd take stolen merchandise, and that would interfere with his plans. "Bought and paid for. I owe you one, don't I? In fact, I think I owe you several."
Willow looked sheepish. "Sorry. But… why with the outfit? What, do you want me to go dress up as vampire me and seduce Percy?"
Spike was very startled that this was her first thought, and Willow took his silence as an affirmative. "Spike, I am not se—"
"That wasn't what I had in mind, love," Spike said dryly. "No, I was thinking you could terrify him."
"I have it on several accounts that your double threatened and attacked Percy," Spike told her.
Willow's hands flew to her mouth. "That's right… Xander thought Percy was attacking me and stopped her…"
Spike nodded, knowing she'd heard bits of her double's exploits through her friends and Anya. "If you were to show up, wearing this, that fool would be put in his place, wouldn't he?"
For a moment, Willow looked horrified at the thought… but slowly, ever so slowly, he could see the idea take hold. He knew what it was like to feel small, knew what it was to have someone fear you and the terrible feeling of losing that power over someone. He also knew that nothing was more fun than smacking down someone who humiliated you.
"He doesn't go here," Willow said. "He goes to USC."
"But his girlfriend goes here, according to Xander."
"Laurie. She doesn't live far from here, actually. I sit next to her roommate in bio."
Spike grinned. "Come on, love. Show him what for."
Willow shook her head. "It's wrong, Spike. You can't just go around terrorizing…"
"Why not? It's fun. Look, if you won't do it for you, do it for me. Or are you really that much of a wimp?"
Willow looked up at him with a cold but playful gaze. "I know what you're doing, Spike. You're trying to goad me into it."
They stared at each other for a long while, both challenging and smiling. Then Willow reached out her hand. "All right, Spike," she said, "let's show him what for."
Laurie lived in a coed dorm not far from Willow's and Buffy's. Willow, after a long while of struggling to get the outfit on in the handicapped stall, led Spike to it. As they climbed the stairs to Laurie's hall, they heard voices, and paused in the shadows of the doorway to see who it was.
Willow pulled Spike's duster around her more tightly, hiding her leather clothes. Spike's offer to lend it to her had shocked her to the core; she doubted anyone had worn it other than Spike, and maybe Dru, since Spike had gotten it. Craning her neck to see around the corner, she saw them—Percy and Laurie, making their way into Laurie's room, hand in hand.
Suddenly, all fear and shyness was gone from Willow. All she wanted right now was to make Percy wish he'd never ever heard of the word "nerd." Or "egghead."
As the door closed behind Willow, she dropped the jacket from her shoulders and strode forward proudly, head held high. Spike, scooping up his precious duster, hastened after her, put a hand on her shoulder as she started to knock. "Wait," he whispered. "Let's make an entrance."
"You're not coming with me," Willow told him firmly.
"Fine," Spike said, "but I think knocking is a bit underrated, don't you?"
Willow smiled slightly, a smile that looked, he imagined, like one she would have made as a vampire. She nodded at him.
With one swift movement, Spike kicked the door open with a spectacular crash and moved out of the way so that he couldn't be seen. When Percy yelped and turned to look at the door, all he saw was Willow.
"Willow," he gasped, horrorstruck.
"Somebody's been bad," she said in a singsong purr.
Laurie looked from Willow to Percy and back again. Her mind connected the dots, made false connections—no nerd dressed like that, and Percy looked like he'd been caught sneaking around on his girlfriend.
"You lying, cheating bastard!" Laurie yelled, and stormed out of the room.
Willow didn't glance at Laurie as the girl stomped away, didn't acknowledge her presence. She kept her attention on Percy, who looked ready to wet himself.
"Willow, I… please don't hurt me," he whispered.
"You were mean to me, Percy," she said, ignoring his plea. "Called me a nerd. An egghead. Said I was nice, but you liked your women hot." She spoke in a mock-hurt tone.
"You… you heard that? But… but I didn't mean it!" Percy said wildly. "I didn't! Laurie was acting all jealous so I told her I thought you were a geek so she wouldn't think I wanted you!"
A small twinge of guilt gnawed at her insides. During her tutoring sessions with Percy, he'd often seemed surprised at the level of kindness she'd shown him, always pleased when she praised his progress, and sometimes she'd even caught him gazing at her in what looked like admiration. She had also suspected that he might have been saying those hurtful things to appease his girlfriend; once, when Oz had overheard her telling Buffy that so-and-so was hot (meaning "you should go out with him, Buffy,") Willow had rambled for half an hour in denial of it before finally breaking down and telling the truth and trying to defend herself and so on. Oz had found the whole thing adorable, but Laurie appeared the possessive type.
Still, Willow did not relent. She walked over to Laurie's desk, ran a finger along its edge casually, in the bored, coy manner her vampire self had used. Percy shrank away from her.
"You know what I'm capable of, Percy," Willow said softly. "Do I really need to teach you a lesson in manners again?"
"No! No, no, no!" Percy seemed very closed to bursting into tears. "I didn't mean it. I never thought you were a nerd. Okay, yeah, I did, but then I got to know you and I found out you were cool and I would have asked you out if it wasn't for Oz!" he finished in a near shout.
Willow looked away so he wouldn't see the surprise on her face. "Percy," Willow said, her pseudo-vampiric voice holding a note of warning, "it's time to stop being mean. Not just to me. To anyone. If I ever hear about you being cruel or even just a little teensy bit rude again— and believe me, I'll hear about it—you'll wish you'd never learned to speak." She grinned, reverting back to her old self once more. "Okay?"
Percy nodded emphatically. Willow turned and sauntered away.
Neither Spike nor Willow spoke until they were back at Stevenson Hall, Willow again wrapped in Spike's black leather duster. They paused by the building's entrance and looked up; there was a light on in Willow's bedroom.
"Looks like the Slayer's back," Spike said glumly.
Willow nodded but didn't speak. They stood together in the shadows in comfortable silence. At length, Willow said, "I like this coat. It's warm. And it has all these nifty inner pockets."
"Hands out of there, love," Spike told her worriedly.
Willow smiled and took off his duster, handed it back to him and held up her hands to show they were empty. She stood in her corset, not bothering to cross her arms over her chest self-consciously as she might have done under different circumstances, had done once long ago on her way to the Bronze with the gang every time she saw Xander and Angel glance her way. She felt strangely confident, as though nothing in the world could touch her. She didn't know why she felt that way, but she knew that it was all Spike's doing.
"Thanks, Spike," she said softly.
"For what? Oh, right. Yeah. Well, no big deal." He shrugged as though doing something as benevolent as what he had just done was a minor lapse in judgment that he couldn't be bothered with regretting. "Besides, I was the one who got to see you in that getup."
Willow laughed, and Spike smiled along with her. The insanity of the situation had just struck Spike—he had just lured the Slayer's best friend from her bed, given her a skimpy outfit and sent her out to seek revenge on some idiot boy, let her wear his coat to keep her warm and concealed. He didn't know much about the history of such things, but he'd bet everything in the world that he was the only person to do such a ludicrous thing, especially with the motive of eventually asking her out.
"You'd never get up the nerve to shag me, Spike," Willow said suddenly, looking up at him with a sort of surprised fascination that puzzled Spike. He couldn't understand, couldn't think. His only thought, and it immediately seemed a stupid one, was that he heard a tiny ounce of disappointment in her voice. "You're too much of a chicken."
Spike gaped at her, unable to believe she'd said something so forward and, at the same time, managed to call him a wimp. It would have been less of a shock to drop a bright purple mint-condition 1971 Dodge Charger on his head. "I beg your pardon?" he managed to splutter. "Watch who you're calling chicken!"
"If you're not a chicken, then ask me," Willow challenged. She moved closer, backing him against the wall, getting in his face. "Ask me to go back to your place. Or any place. Or right here on the front steps."
Spike was completely able to say a word. All he could think about was her, though some small part of him appeared to be trying to tell him that perhaps he'd given her a tad too much confidence in herself.
Willow smiled, and Spike could have sworn it was tinged with sadness. She leaned up on the tiptoes of her heeled boots and kissed his cheek. "Thanks again, Spike," she said, and turned to go back inside.
"Maybe I don't want to ask you," Spike blurted out, pleased to hear the boldness in his voice.
She paused at the doorway, looked back over her shoulder, and added, quite simply, "Bock, bock!"
Then she was gone.
Buffy was surprised to find the dorm room empty when she came back from patrol; Willow had already been asleep when Buffy had left. She paused for a moment, wondering if Willow was only in the bathroom or something, but by the time Buffy had changed into her pajamas and gotten ready for bed, Willow had not returned.
Just after she lay down and closed her eyes, she heard the door open, and she received quite a jolt to see Willow stride in purposefully, wearing the same outfit as Vamp Willow along with Willow's patented resolve face. She didn't spare so much as a glance at Buffy as she marched over to the window, flung it open, and yelled down into the darkness below.
"If you ever want to stop your clucking, let me know!"
With that, Willow slammed the window shut and lay down on her bed without bothering to take off the corset, leather pants and boots. She pulled the blanket over her and only then did she meet Buffy's thunderstruck gaze.
"Good night, Buffy!" Willow said cheerfully, and closed her eyes.
Spike had been leaning against the wall, trying to sort out this bizarre chain of events, when he heard her shout down from the window. A sudden recklessness came over him, and he started for the door, prepared to march up there, throw her on her bed, and—
—and get staked by the Slayer lounging three feet away.
Oh, yeah, he thought dismally.
He snorted. Didn't that just beat all? There he was, having done what he set out to do, being dared by the object of his affections to carry him off to his place and all he could do was stare at her in numb shock. He'd completely choked. Confidence boost, ha! She didn't need one anymore. She had it in spades.
Did she ever need it? he wondered, frowning. She fights with the Slayer all the time, risks life and limb and sanity to help…
"Who's she to call me chicken?" he burst out, the clucking noise she'd made on the doorstep still ringing in his ears. "She's the one hiding behind a Slayer. Couldn't go get her if I tried. What am I supposed to do, march up there and tell the Slayer that I just want to borrow her friend cuz I fancy her? And even if the Slayer didn't stake me outright, all the yelling she'd do would just draw the commando boys. Oh, bugger! The commandos!" Spike glanced about uneasily.
"I'll be back!" he shouted suddenly at the dark night sky. "I'll be back, Red, and then we'll see who's the bloody CHICKEN!"
"Hey, shut up down there," called a sleepy resident from a nearby dorm. "Some of us are trying to sleep."
"Sorry," Spike said distractedly. He walked glumly away, knowing that, when all was said and done, he would not be back tomorrow. But as he left the campus, he brightened slightly, felt a little bit of his depression ease.
At least he wasn't as pathetic as Percy.
End Notes: This story popped into my head six hours ago as a result of little sleep and fourth-season Buffy reruns and it wouldn't leave me alone until I typed it up. If I get feedback saying people would like a story out of this, I may do one; this story hit me so suddenly that I haven't had time to think of much beyond the scenes I just wrote. For now, it's a one-shot, but if inspiration is on my side and a few of you happen to think a story would be a good idea, I think I'd kind of like to play with it, time willing. Anyway, please review.