Chapter Seventeen:

Spike felt like her eyes were piercing his very soul. The glare on the simple glass door separating them wasn't enough to hide the look of shock on her face.

"Willow," he murmured so softly that Buffy barely caught the name. Her eyes widened. And she thought the run-in with Drusilla was awkward...

Finally, Oz shuffled past the two blonds and pulled open the door, slipping outside and closing it quickly behind him.

Spike cringed as he watched the two red-heads gesticulating wildly in front of the shop. The last thing he ever wanted to do was come between Willow and Oz, but he seemed to be doing a good job of it today. Why did everything always have to be so complicated?

Spike felt a tug on his t-shirt and glanced down at the small blonde by his side. He couldn't help but break into a soft smile at the look of concern on her face. It was like she actually cared about him.

"Spike...are you okay...I mean...I know you didn't expect to see her today..." Buffy trailed off, not really knowing exactly what she wanted to say. She was oblivious to her fingers still lightly gripping the side of Spike's worn tee.

He took a deep breath and nodded his head, "S'all right, luv...was bound to run into her eventually. Besides, it's not me that doesn't want to see her, it's her that doesn't want to see me..."

Spike glanced back at the front of the store. He was relieved to see that things seemed to have calmed down quite a bit. Oz was still talking and Willow was nodding her head slowly. He could feel his body buzzing with nervous energy. Would Willow actually speak to him?

Oz pulled the door open and gestured for Willow to enter the store. Spike held his breath as it looked like the slim red-head was going to turn tail and run instead. But she didn't. Keeping her eyes focused on the floor, she slowly took the few steps that would take her into the old building.

Oz followed her in and stood by her side, lightly draping an arm across her shoulders. After a moment, he broke the awkward silence by clearing his throat, "Uh..Willow...this is Spike's friend Buffy. Buffy, this is my girlfriend Willow."

Buffy glanced at Spike before turning her face back towards the couple in front of her. She was mildly surprised to find that Willow had raised her head and had now set suspicious eyes in her direction. She chewed her lip nervously.

"Umm...hi, Willow....nice to meet you." Buffy had to admit she felt somewhat inferior underneath the other woman's unwavering gaze. She felt even more awkward when she realized that Willow was showing no signs of responding. Just as she felt herself gearing up to start nervously babbling nonsense, Spike's rough voice broke the silence.

"Hey,'ve you been?"

Buffy could tell Spike was trying to sound confidant, but she didn't miss the small crack in his voice. Nor did she miss Willow's eyes slowly shifting from her own to meet Spike's deep blue orbs.

Willow stared at him for a moment and took a breath before replying, "I don't even know what to say to you, Spike. I thought I had so much built up...but right now, I just don't know what to say."

"'s been so long...things are...different now." Spike ran a weary hand over his face, "Look...I'm not saying we have to talk this all out right now, but if we could just get together sometime..."

"Different?" Willow raised her eyebrows, "Well, I can see one thing that is different. You've replaced Ms. Crazypants with Malibu Barbie."

"Look," Spike started firmly, "This isn't about Dru or...or Buffy. This is about you and me."

"And Xander," Willow spat out, "or are you forgetting him?"

"Dammit, Willow," Spike looked towards the ceiling before lowering his head again, "of course, I'm not forgetting him. How could I ever forget him, but I can't change the past. I can't go back and make different choices. It's done. It's over....and you aren't just hurting me by holding onto're hurting yourself."

Willow's lip trembled but when she made no move to respond, Spike continued softly, "Let's just get together and talk, pet. We can't bring Xander back, but we can try to repair our relationship a bit. I miss you, luv..."

Oz glanced between the pair before smiling at Spike, "Tomorrow night is lasagna night at the Osbourne-Rosenburg homestead also known as our crappy apartment. Why don't you and Buffy join us?"

Willow shot a surprised look at Oz. He smiled and nodded his head at her. A moment later she replied with her own light nod.

Oz clasped his hands together, "So what do you say, man? You guys, us, and some good italian fun? Willow makes a mean lasagna."

Spike smiled, "I remember." He glanced down at Buffy for a quick confirmation. She gave him a little smile and that bolstered his confidence enough for him to firmly give his answer

"We'll be there."

Willow blinked and glanced around at the group, "Well...I should get going...umm...Buffy, it was nice to meet you. I'll...uh...see you guys tomorrow." She gave Oz a quick peck on the lips before turning and hurriedly shuffling out the front door.

The three remaining in the store were quiet until...

"So, that's Willow."

Spike glanced down at the girl by his side, "Yeah, luv, that's Willow."

Buffy mentally shook her head. The complexities in Spike's life were beginning to make her life look more like a 50's sit-com than the mess it felt like. Maybe they could help each other out. She blinked at that thought. She was getting waaay too involved in this man's life. But how was she supposed to know a two day unwanted houseguest would turn into this?

"So, Oz..." Spike began with a curious tilt of his head, "What was Drusilla doing here this morning?"

Oz shook his head, "Oh...some crazy talk about wanting to let you know that she accepted your marriage proposal. It was pretty ridiculous, man. She was even wearing this big diamond ring that she kept flashing in my face telling me to look at what her prince gave her. She probably bought that ring herself. Who would buy something that expensive for that headcase?"

Spike cleared his throat, "I would."

So sorry! This chapter was actually done earlier this year, but I decided to turn my life upside down before I could get it posted. Thank you so much to guitarbabe2005, Doni, Angellia, and al .moe for the latest set of reviews. I'm going to try to be back in action, but with my current life, it might be slow-going.