Author's Notes: I've been trying to write this bridge chapter forever and also healing up from the whole biceps incident. I've been typing small things (like on the find-a-fic forum at spuffy realm), building strength to type longer things such as actual chapters. I apologize for taking so long updating this but it is far from forgotten or abandoned. It's just the suckage that is my life right now that has caused such a long delay. Please forgive me. I hope you will continue reading and reviewing as I get going again on this one, although you have been sorely tried by my long silence.

This is a relatively short chapter. A lot happens and not a lot happens. It needs to be so I can get to where I need to go. I wish it were more after all this time but I need to get it out here so I can continue. I hope you won't be disappointed.

Disclaimer: The characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Fox studios. This story is not meant to infringe upon anyone's rights, only to entertain.

Chapter Eighty-One


Pop Quiz


Usually the school day flashed by in a blur of secret smiles and knowing smirks, stolen kisses and classroom study groups. But this Monday dragged on interminably for Buffy. Sleep had been restless and wakeful the night before and Buffy felt like she was running on fumes by third period. She just wanted to hang with her boyfriend and forget the rest of the world for a little while. No deep thoughts today. It was mid-terms week. Fat chance.


True to his word Spike had shown up early with coffee and a cheese Danish which they shared as they sat in the DeSoto in the school parking lot. He had hoped that she would tell him all that was bothering her but she was so exhausted she mostly yawned and spoke of inconsequential things until the first bell rang for class. He was frustrated but he didn't want to push the matter when she was so obviously tired. But it bothered him.

For all of Buffy's openness about her longing to see her daughter she was completely closed to him regarding her life with the Smiths. It was as though a switch clicked over whenever he brought up the subject of her home life. Now that he was giving it more thought he could see that this had not always been the case; where she used to confide in him, lately she shrugged off questions and diverted the topic to other areas. And the more she didn't want to talk about it the more he wondered exactly what it was she didn't want to talk about.

Well. She wouldn't talk to him about what was happening in that house? Then he'd find a different source.


"Did you know they shipped Aura off to some Christian boarding school in Colorado?"

Buffy frowned as she fixed her hair in the girls' room mirror. "Um…No?"

"Yeah, after what happened at the New Year's party her parents took her out of school and they just sent her to live with her aunt." Willow leaned her back against the long mirror while she waited for her friend to finish up. "Poor Aura."

Buffy grabbed her purse and turned to Willow. "Okay I have no idea who Aura is, but what happened at the party that was so bad that it got her sent away? Wasn't that the party you guys went to?"

Willow realized her mistake too late. She had completely forgotten that the night of the New Years' party was a dangerous topic that she should be avoiding, especially in the girls' restroom during snack period. Spike had led her to believe he had fessed up to Buffy about the party shenanigans that night. In retrospect the fact that Buffy hadn't said anything to Willow about it was a big fat sign that Spike hadn't admitted to anything he did that night. If he had told her anything at all about that night he had obviously skipped some important parts.

And Buffy was still waiting for an answer.

"Well…there was some stuff that happened in the Jacuzzi and Aura was pretty drunk and it was kind of embarrassing for her so I guess she just decided to make a change. You know, to where people wouldn't so much remember her as naked Jacuzzi girl." Big smile.

Buffy just stared at her.

"I mean, you know. Parties! I mean, there were so many people! Hardly anyone saw them out there. I mean, I just heard. Well, I saw a little bit. But then there was Oz, and dancing. And I really had to pee, you know? I mean, beer, right? It just goes right through you. Did you ever wonder why that is? I mean, milk just sits there but beer–"

"Willow!" Buffy's eyes were huge. "What are you talking about?"

This was a nightmare. She was babbling nonsense and that never worked. Buffy was going to see right through her and know Spike was with the naked girl. The other naked girl. It had been months. No one was talking about this any more so maybe Buffy never needed to know but here she was, babbling about it in the girls' restroom like an idiot. Spike was going to kill her. No, she should kill him for putting her in this position. If Buffy didn't kill him first. Or maybe Buffy would kill her for keeping Spike's secret. They were supposed to be friends. Girlfriends didn't keep secrets like this from each other. Did they? She wished she was better at this…

"Are you okay?" Now Buffy just looked worried.

Think!, Willow, Think! "Um…"

The bell for third period rang, interrupting what Willow was certain was her complete inability to form coherent sentences. With a deep breath, she gave her friend another hopefully sincere smile and nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine. Let's get out of here. You know how Mr Ivanovich gets when anyone is late after snack period. Russians! All with the seriousness!"

Willow put her arm through Buffy's and led her quickly out of the restroom and down the hallway, chattering about her own need to get to Algebra before she missed what she absolutely knew was going to be a pop quiz.

Buffy let herself be led away, part stunned and part amused by the weirdness that was Willow. But there was another little part of her that wondered why Spike had never mentioned the naked girl in the Jacuzzi…


Thank goodness for PE! Willow thought as she grabbed Spike right before he disappeared through the big doors into the boys' locker room before fourth period. Buffy was off bemoaning today's pop quiz in her own Algebra class but Willow and Spike shared PE and this was the perfect opportunity to warn him about her earlier conversation with his girlfriend.

"Ow!" Spike rubbed his arm where Willow had punched him. "What'd you do that for!"

"You didn't tell her!" she hissed as she dragged him to a more private corner of the hallway. Seeing his confusion and not a little irritation, she elaborated. "About the New Year's Party and the nakedness and Cassie! You promised you'd tell her!"

Spike paled. This couldn't be good. "How…what?"

"She found out that Aura was naked in the Jacuzzi and got shipped to Colorado!"

"How did she find out about that?" Spike asked incredulously. "It's been three months. It's Easter! for fuck's sake!"

Willow deflated a bit. "I told her. But it was an accident!"

"You just happened to mention that I spent the night with a naked girl by accident?"

"Well, I didn't tell her about you! I told her about Aura. And she has questions, okay? I mean, nobody mentioned that there was nakedness at the party and now she finds out and she's got to wonder why nobody told her about the nakedness and where were you and…You see how it goes."

"Again. How did this subject come up?"

Willow sighed. "It was stupid. I was just gossiping a little bit during snack time and I mentioned Aura getting shipped off and Buffy put two and two together and believe me when I say it won't be too long before she wants to know what you were doing that night." She smacked him on the arm again. "You promised you'd tell her!"

Spike ran his hand through his hair and sighed in frustration. This was not what he wanted to be dealing with right now. He gave Willow a hard look.

"Fine. Fine…But you owe me now. And I need something from you," he gazed levelly at her.

"What? Why do I owe you?" Willow glared at him. "I didn't do anything wrong here. You're the one keeping secrets!"

"Yeah, secrets. And you've got some I need to know about, don't you, luv?"

She didn't like that predatory smile he got when he knew she knew something and was powerless to keep it from him. Like right now, although she had no idea what he was talking about.

"What secrets?"

"What's goin' on at Buffy's house? I know she's tellin' you, Red. Spill it." He had her backed into a corner and she was nervous as all hell. Good.

Willow thought briefly of denying it, but she too was worried about the things Buffy was confiding in her about her current situation with the Smiths. Buffy kept assuring her that she was handling it, but Willow could see how tense and exhausted she was lately. The pressure was really getting to her. She considered Spike, standing here before her, demanding to be given answers. She knew him. She knew he had Buffy's best interests at heart. Maybe he could find a way to help her friend before things got any worse over there.

"You promise to talk to Buffy about New Year's?"

He didn't want to do it but he knew he had to do it. He nodded and took a step back to allow Willow a little breathing space. She was going to tell him what Buffy was hiding from him. Part of him felt bad that he was going behind her back like this, but he needed to know. It was the only way he could help her.


A bridge to somewhere. Just a tidbit to get the juices flowing and the story on track. Please do not despair. It gets better. I believe it gets better. :)