Title: A Friend's Choice - Chapter Two
All disclaimers and stuff are in Chapter One.

NOTE - I'm having trouble uploading Chapter One. You might want to wait to read that first before you read this. I get a successful upload message but I can't find the fic!

PART FIVE

Willow stood motionless behind the trunk of an old tree. Across the street was the place she had called home for as long as she could remember. There were no lights on and she was tempted to walk over there. Just to touch the doorknob, maybe look into a window. Very tempted. She promised herself that she wouldn't cry. Her lower lip was quivering but she had kept her word. Willow closed her eyes.
"You can come out now, Buffy. I know you're there."
The bushes in the yard behind Willow rustled and Buffy emerged, brushing off her jacket. Frowning, she walked up to Willow and put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's my lilac scented shampoo, isn't it?," asked Buffy.
"That, and the fact that you're nervous. Oh, your heart beat is a little faster than normal."
Buffy opened her eyes wide at hearing that.
"Honestly, Buffy, sometimes I don't know how you sneak up on vampires."
"Will, you shouldn't be here. Someone might see you."
"I know. But it's late. I just wanted to look. One last time," said Willow, staring across the street.
"Okay, if we don't get going soon, I'm going to start crying," hinted Buffy. "Now, this is a really bad analogy, but being here is like being hungry and watching your neighbor cook a steak on a grill in his backyard."
"Except I don't eat steak anymore."
"Well, imagine a really juicy, rare steak," added Buffy. Willow looked at her friend and smiled, but with only one side of her mouth.
"Hey, I said it was a bad analogy."
"I get the point. Oh. Get the point. Steak. I made a funny!," smiled Willow. It was Buffy's turn to pout.
"Well, I thought it was humorous," complained Willow. "And why are you following me?"
"Well...I...I'm worried about you, that's all. And so is Oz. You didn't talk to him before you left tonight."
"Buffy, I know you worry but I don't want you distracted. That's not good. And I'll talk to Oz later. I was a little upset before."
Buffy tugged at Willow's arm and they started walking, being careful to avoid the streetlight.
"Upset? That's putting it mildly. Angel told me what happened. He's really sorry, you know."
"Well, he should be. What were those two thinking? That I was Ursula the bad witch all of a sudden? Oh, let's not talk about it. What's done is done."
They walked a little further, not saying anything.
"Buffy, I don't want to go back to Angel's. I need to find my own place. And it's not just about what happened. You two need your time alone, too. I'm the third wheel."
"Will, it's too soon. Okay, we'll think of something, maybe start looking. But I'll feel so much better knowing you're safe there. How about spending a few days with Giles?"
"No. I don't want to be a burden."
"Burden!," said Buffy as she stopped walking. "You're not a burden! You're family."
Willow suddenly grabbed Buffy and pulled her behind a bush. A car approached and drove past them.
"Willow, you're like my sister. Now more than ever. That's it! Mom. I'll tell her everything. You'll stay with us!"
"Buffy, no."
"Yes, it's perfect! She knows what I am. She'll understand what's happened to you. Willow, you'll be safe there. You don't want me distracted? I can protect you there. Please?"
"Oh, not the puppy dog eyes. That's not fair!"
Willow knew she wouldn't win this argument. A smile slowly spread across her face.
"Thanks, sis," said Willow, hugging Buffy.
"Come on. Let's go home. I've got some 'splaining to do."
"Okay, but I have to stop at Willy's first. Real quick," said Willow. Buffy hesitated, not sure what to say.
"Want me to come with?"
"No. You're not popular with that crowd. Don't take it personally. It must be that Slayer thing. I'm sure if you gave them the chance to get to know you...okay, shutting up now."
"Be careful. I'll patrol for a while and meet up with you in about an hour. At Angel's?"
Willow nodded.
"Buffy, what will you do if you find Ruth? She's dangerous, but she's not responsible for what she's doing. We can't hurt her."
"I don't know. Hopefully Giles will figure something out soon."
They began walking again. Across the street, about a block away, was a parked car. Inside, the driver sat with her hand holding the key in the ignition. She was afraid to even breathe, afraid to make a noise that someone might hear. The two girls were far away but not far enough from her that Cordelia didn't recognize them.
"Willow? What's going on here?"

*****

"Willy, what's up? You seem distracted. In fact, I might even use the word nervous," said Willow, sitting on a stool at Willy's bar.
"Me? Nervous? Not at all. I'm just...busy. Yeah, that's it. Busy."
"Willy, there's only three...well, not people, let's say patrons, in here tonight. And that's counting me. Are all your Saturday nights this busy?"
"It's early," replied Willy, not looking at Willow.
"Willy."
Willy looked at Willow and sighed but still didn't say anything.
"You know, you have me at a disadvantage. Because you know I'd never hurt you for information," said Willow, trying on a menacing face that only made Willy smile.
"Kiddo, I like you. And I can't say that about many of my...patrons. Remember, you didn't hear this from me."
Willow nodded and leaned a little closer to him so that he wouldn't have to speak too loudly.
"There was a girl in here tonight. Human, I think. Tall, blonde hair, green eyes. And she talked kinda funny."
"Did she tell you her name?," asked Willow, although she already knew it.
"Said it was Kathy."
Willow opened her eyes wide at hearing that.
"There was something, I don't know, different about her. Everyone in the bar picked up on it right away. That's why they all cleared out. In a hurry."
"They were afraid of her?," asked Willow, concerned.
Willy shrugged. "She left about an hour ago."
"And?," asked Willow.
"She was asking if I had seen a young, red-haired vampire. I told her no, of course. Then she just nodded and left. You in trouble, kiddo?"
"Not yet."
"Oh, I almost forgot. Spike left a message for you. He said he couldn't make it tonight, that you'd understand."
"Yeah. Dru wouldn't let him come out to play."
"How's that?," asked Willy.
"Nothing."
"Sorry I wasn't straight with you before. That girl, she just spooked me, I guess. I'll still ask around about that other vampire for you, okay?"
"Thanks, Willy. Guess there's no sense in me sitting here all alone like some skanky...oh, never mind. See ya."
Willow stepped out into the night. Something, a movement, caught her eye down the street to her left.
"Ruth?," whispered Willow, breaking into a run. She slowed down as she reached the corner. Whoever had been here had turned here. Willow tensed.
"Oh, no," said Willow out loud. Slowly she turned around.
"Willow? It is you!"
"Cordelia."
"You're alive!"
"Well, I'm here," said Willow.
"I don't get it. What's going on?," asked Cordelia.
"Shh," warned Willow, putting a finger to her lips and walking towards Cordelia. "Do you know where you are? It's not safe for you in this neighborhood."
"It's alright. See, I have a cross," said Cordelia, pulling a large wooden cross out of her jacket and holding it up. Willow jumped back.
"Put that away! If someone around here sees that they...they might get upset. Like a bull with a red flag. Get it?"
"Someone like a vampire, you mean," said Cordelia.
"Yes! Cordelia, please, you're in danger by being here."
"And you're not?"
"I'll explain everything later. In fact, Angel knows the whole story. So does Buffy. Why don't you go back to Angel's and wait for me there?"
"Oh, right. And get everyone mad at me for leaving you here all alone? I don't think so," said Cordelia, taking a step towards Willow. Willow jumped back again.
"Hey, what's with you?," asked Cordelia. "Wait a minute. You...you're afraid of this," said Cordelia, holding up the cross again. Willow frowned and took another step back. She was almost at the corner where she had been standing and she glanced behind her.
"Cordy, it's not what you think. Well, okay, maybe it is. I'm a creature of the night, I guess."
"You're a prostitute?"
"What? No! Uh, think of Angel, but in a skirt."
"Huh? He might be color challenged in his choice of clothes, maybe drab even. But in a skirt? Ew! That's just kinky."
"No, silly! Me. I'm like him," said Willow.
"Oh. Oh! You mean you still have your..."
"Yes! Look, you really have to go. Find Buffy. She's patrolling somewhere, I don't know where. But if you can find her, tell her I think I've found Kathy. You and me, we'll talk later. Okay?"
"I don't know, Willow."
"Do I have to get all fangy to convince you?," demanded Willow.
"Just leaving!," smiled Cordelia, turning around and walking away. "Angel in a skirt? Ew!"
"Oh, so sorry you're dead, Willow. Tough break. Have a nice day!," said Willow to herself, shaking her head.
Willow turned and walked back to the corner. Without hesitating she walked past it and turned right. And entered a dead end. There was a fire escape ladder to her left but it was too high off the ground to reach. That only left the dumpster.
She stood there for a minute and knew something was wrong. It only took a few more seconds to understand what it was.
"Xander, come out of there!"
The lid of the dumpster lifted up an inch or so. Two eyes peered out for a moment and then Xander tossed the lid back and sat up.
"Let me guess. It was my cologne. No, wait. I don't wear cologne. Shampoo?," offered Xander.
Willow shook her head.
"Mouth wash?"
Willow shook her head and smiled.
"Brand of toothpaste?"
Another shake of the head.
"Oh come on, Will! I use deodorant!," complained Xander.
"Xander, you could never play hide and seek. I always found you. You were either too loud, too clumsy or too obvious in your choice of hiding place."
"Oh yeah, what about that time I hid from you for a whole hour. I hid in the neighbor's...garbage can," said Xander, looking at his present surroundings.
"You cheated! I knew where you were but I had called my yard only. I was mad and let you stay in there."
"You were mad! You should've heard my mother complain about how my clothes smelled. And if I remember right, it was a hot day."
"Yes it was," smiled Willow. "Now get out of there."
Xander sheepishly stood and jumped out of the dumpster. And landed in a muddy puddle, splashing Willow.
"Xander!"
Xander looked up and couldn't keep from laughing.
"It's not funny!," complained Willow.
"No, it isn't," said Xander, still laughing. "Come here."
He started brushing off Willow's jacket, still laughing. She couldn't help herself and started laughing too.
"Xander, I think you splashed some on my face. Could you...a little help, please? Indulge a girl's vanity. I have this problem lately with mirrors."
"Hey, you've got something on your nose. Let me get it," said Xander, stepping very close to her. He touched her nose with his thumb and let his hand rest on Willow's cheek. Xander looked into her eyes. There are moments when two people who have known each other for many years can express themselves without having to speak.
"Oh wow. Willow, do you remember that time you had ice cream on your nose?"
"Oh yeah. We almost had our first kiss. We never did talk about that."
Willow felt his hand begin to tremble on her face.
"Willow, I'm so sorry. I've been such a jerk," said Xander, hugging her and unable to hold back his tears. He couldn't see the big smile on Willow's face as she fought back her own tears.
"It's okay, Xander. Everything's going to be alright now. I have my Xander back," she whispered to him, returning his hug gladly.
"I've missed you so much," he said softly.
"Me too," answered Willow, a tear rolling down her cheek. It was then that she noticed the manhole cover to the side of the dumpster. And understood where Ruth had gone.
"Xander, I need you to do something for me," said Willow, pulling away from him and wiping the tears from her face. Xander didn't wipe the tears from his face and didn't care that Willow saw them.
"Go find Buffy. I don't know where she is but she said she'd be at Angel's in less than an hour. Tell her where I am. Tell her I think Ruth is in the area. I'm going to look for her."
"Willow! Maybe I should stay with you."
"No. I'll be fine. I can't walk you there, I have to start looking. So run. And be careful. Okay?"
"Willow, I...we'll be back soon. Be careful," said Xander. He looked at her and then gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
When he was gone Willow lifted the iron manhole cover and slid it to one side. She peered down into the darkness, looked back once over her shoulder and then disappeared into the blackness of where Ruth had gone.

*****

("Giles, Buffy knew she was very sick, hurting big time. Maybe even near death. Did it bother you than she came to me instead of you?," asked Angel.
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They both knew he was only doing this to stall for time. He didn't want to answer the question. He put his glasses and looked at the still form of his Slayer. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Giles knew better.
"Yes. It bothered me. I know how you feel about her and she about you. But that doesn't make it any easier. Perhaps I'm being selfish. But it's my responsibility to protect her. Do you understand that I do that willingly, not because it's my job?"
"I understand. More than you realize," answered Angel. "But she was scared. Maybe my place was just closer at the time."
They both knew that wasn't true.
"Tell me again what she said to you. Before she passed out. I know you've told me three times..."
"Four," corrected Angel.
"Yes. Four times," continued Giles. "But tell me again. Maybe there's some detail that I've missed that could help her."
Angel didn't argue.
"She was running through the cemetery, chasing a vampire. She caught up to it but had to tackle it. It was a quick kill. She stood up and one of those nightmare demons practically ran into her. She thought it was another vampire. Of course, we didn't know it was a nightmare demon either until you researched what she said it looked like. And she didn't know that it was running away from another vampire. Instinct made her punch it. The demon bit her forearm as it tried to get away and she staked it. It was then she realized that it wasn't a vampire.
"Buffy heard a cry of pain behind her. She said the other demon had such a look of anguish and pain on its face that she dropped her stake. Then the other vampire appeared. By the time she had killed it, the demon was gone. That's about it. Except for one thing."
"Oh?," asked Giles.
"Before she lost consciousness, she said to tell you that she was sorry that she had let you down. So Buffy may have come to me first, Giles. But her last thoughts were of her Watcher. Not me, not Joyce, not Willow. You."
Giles looked back to Buffy. He stood and bit his lower lip.
"Excuse me, Angel. I need to..."
Giles left the room.)

*****

Willow felt her way along the tunnel. Her hand touched the metal rung of a ladder. She listened and heard nothing in the darkness but the sound of slowly running water. The rungs of the ladder were wet in the middle but dry towards either edge. Someone had recently gone up this way. Willow followed.
Pushing a stone slab aside, Willow found herself in a large, dark room. It took a moment to realize that it was a crypt. And not ten feet from her was a body, lying atop a large cement box that obviously held a coffin or body. It was Ruth.
Willow cautiously walked to her side. She didn't need to check for a pulse. She sensed it. Willow shook her shoulder but didn't call out her name, knowing Ruth couldn't hear her. Ruth suddenly opened her eyes as if she had been awoken from a deep sleep.
"Willow! Where am I?"
"Ruth? Is it you?," asked Willow.
"Of course! What do you mean?," asked Ruth.
"I think we're in a cemetery, a crypt. You don't remember how you got here?," asked Willow, helping her sit up.
"No. I'm a little dizzy. What's going on?," Ruth, looking around.
"I'll explain later. Why don't you try standing up? I want to get out of here," said Willow, looking for an exit. The was an iron gate on the other side of the room. Ruth slid off the tomb and turned to look where Willow was pointing.
"Guess that's the way out," said Willow.
"But that's not the way you came in," said Ruth. Willow tensed as she realized Ruth had her back to her and yet had heard Willow talk.
"And how did you know that?," asked Willow.
"Let's stop playing games," said Ruth, still not looking at Willow. "We both know that I'm not Ruth." The girl slowly turned to face Willow. "Just as we both know you're not really Willow."
Willow stepped back as she saw that Kathy held a stake in her right hand. Kathy lunged forward but Willow easily grabbed her hand and realized that she was much stronger physically than the witch. Then she felt a sharp, searing pain on her right side. She looked down at the bloody knife Kathy held in her other hand. Willow's shirt was torn; the knife had cut through and left a deep gash along her ribs.
Distracted by the pain, Willow's grip on Kathy loosened and the witch wrenched her hand free. She kicked Willow in the stomach and Willow doubled over. Kathy raised the stake over her head and drove it down at Willow's chest. Willow raised her left arm to block the blow and hit Kathy in the face with her other elbow, sending her stumbling backwards.
They stood a few feet apart, glaring at one another. Willow held a hand to her side.
"What's the matter? Didn't think you'd feel pain just because you're dead?," laughed Kathy. Willow answered by morphing her face into demon form.
"Oh, I'm frightened now," taunted Kathy.
"Ruth, I know you can hear me. Fight her! Fight for control!," yelled Willow.
Kathy laughed as she raised her arms over her head. Too late did Willow understand the gesture. Kathy pointed both hands at Willow and she was flung back hard against the wall behind her. Willow slid down to the floor, stunned. Groggy, she opened one eye and thought she saw a figure walking slowly towards her.
"You think you're only fighting a vampire?," asked Willow calmly, closing her eyes. Kathy froze. Behind her, on a shelf above her head, was a large stone urn. Kathy turned as she heard it move but was unable to duck her head in time as it came flying towards her. She crashed to the floor, a large gash opened on her forehead.
Willow sprang up and pounced on the witch. She got in two good punches before Kathy grabbed her by the shoulders. Willow felt a surge of energy go through her like an electric shock. She rolled off of her, holding her sides and screaming in pain. Kathy stood and raised her hands above her head again.
Just as she brought her arms down, Willow kicked out, hooking a foot behind Kathy's legs and knocking her off balance. Whatever energy had been directed at Willow instead smashed into the ceiling. Willow looked up in horror as a large stone support pillar came crashing down. She backpedaled but the pillar fell across her right leg. The pillar rested across a step in the floor, preventing her leg from being crushed, but her leg below the knee was pinned down. Willow cried out in pain.
As the dust settled Kathy stood above Willow, stake once more in her right hand. Confident now of killing Willow, she knelt down and drove the stake down hard at Willow's heart. Kathy was quicker this time but Willow still was able to grab her wrist. Then Kathy touched Willow's shoulder with her other hand and she felt that electric pain starting again.
Willow reached out with her other hand and grabbed Kathy by the throat. Kathy dropped the stake and with both hands tried to free herself from Willow's grip. Willow squeezed tighter. Kathy clawed at Willow's hand, drawing blood. She squeezed even harder, her demon eyes now full of hatred. Kathy pulled at Willow's hand and then her arms fell loose at her side. Still Willow held on.
Suddenly a wind blew dust and debris around the room. Willow's head snapped back in horror as she realized what was happening. She let go of Kathy and she collapsed to the floor next to Willow. Willow grabbed her head with both hands.
"No!," screamed Willow.
The wind ceased. The crypt was quiet. Willow raised her head up and looked at Kathy. And she smiled. Resting on her elbows, Willow closed her eyes.
"Xander. Hear me! Listen to my voice and you will be able to find me. Come to me now, Xander. I need you."
Willow rested her head down on the cold floor. And she smiled to herself until she broke out in laughter.

*****

Buffy stopped walking and turned completely around. She sensed rather than saw that something was wrong, seemed out of place. The smell of the salt air was strong. It was quiet. She wasn't sure what had made her come here. Maybe just to see the place where the witch had last killed. Maybe to see if she would return to the scene of the crime. Buffy walked cautiously across the railroad tracks towards the warehouse.
She slipped a hand around a stake. It gave her a sense of balance. Something to draw strength from. Buffy only walked a few more steps when she saw her. She knelt down beside her but there was no pulse. The girl was still warm. The vampire who did this had done it moments ago, in sight of the Slayer. Buffy got angry. Very angry.
Tilting her head, Buffy listened intently, then sprang to her feet. She ran, not even sure if she had heard something. Just ahead was an empty boxcar, its doors open on one side. It sat alone on a side track. An unlit lantern was hanging from a hook by the door, swinging slightly back and forth. But there was no breeze.
Buffy paused, standing at arm's length from the open doors. Again she thought she heard something, like the sound of someone walking on sand. And now she smelled lilacs! Shaking her head, she peered into the darkness of the boxcar.
The vampire stood there, arms crossed, fully illuminated by the moonlight. Blood still trickled down the side of her mouth. She tilted her head and looked at Buffy as if she wanted to ask a question. Except for the ridge across the forehead and yellow feral eyes common to all vampires, the girl looked familiar. Too familiar.
Buffy dropped her stake and stumbled backwards, falling on her butt. Her mouth opened in horror as she stared at herself, how she would look if dead. Like one of them.

"Willow! Oh my god, are you hurt?," asked Xander, kneeling down beside Willow and putting his flashlight to one side so that it shone on her face.
"Xander, you found me," answered Willow weakly. She tried to raise her head but didn't seem able to.
"Willow, is Ruth..."
"No, she's not dead. I won, Xander. I won!"
"What do you mean?," asked Xander, putting his hand under Willow's neck and raising her head.
"The witch. I beat her. I was strangling Ruth. I almost killed her. But I remembered that if the witch was driven from her body, it would go into the next closest body. And that's what happened. But guess what? I'm dead!"
"And so is the witch! When it knew Ruth was about to die, it entered you. But didn't it know what you were?," asked Xander.
"Yes. But I was its only hope, I guess. Xander, I don't feel so good," said Willow softly and wincing. Xander gently laid her head back down on the floor.
"Willow, there's a lot of blood here. Too much. And I think it's all yours."
Xander touched Willow's side and she moaned in pain. He slipped his shirt over her his head.
"Willow, slide your shirt up."
"Xander! What are you doing?"
"Just a little bit, not all the way! I'm going to try to stop the bleeding."
"Oh. Sorry."
Willow raised her shirt up and saw the worried look on Xander's face.
"That bad, huh?"
Xander ignored her and pressed his shirt against the wound. Willow winced but didn't cry out.
"Sorry you have to see my face this way," said Willow, not looking at Xander. "I tried, but I can't change it back."
"Hey. I didn't even notice," said Xander, making Willow smile.
"How's your leg?," asked Xander.
"Oh, it feels kinda dead," said Willow, laughing. She stopped because it hurt.
"That's not funny," said Xander.
"No. It isn't."
"So, how did you summon me? I mean, that was weird. It's not like I heard your voice, but somehow...I don't know. I just knew!"
"My first summoning spell. I was always afraid to try it. You never know what you might summon. I finally had the confidence to try it after..."
"Willow! Hey, are you falling asleep? Stay with me here," said Xander, raising his voice and still applying pressure to Willow's side. His shirt had already soaked through with blood.
"Oh, sorry. I'm just so tired."
"When was the last time you had something to eat?," asked Xander, trying to keep Willow talking so that she would stay awake.
"Um, I don't know. What day is it?," asked Willow with a slurred voice.
"It's early Sunday morning."
"I think, maybe Friday. I don't remember."
"Willow, try to keep your eyes open, okay? Talk to me. I think the bleeding has stopped."
"Xander, can you move that thing on my leg?"
Xander looked at the pillar and shook his head. He got up, straddled it and lifted. It didn't move.
"Willow, how about a levitation spell. Are you up to it?," asked Xander hopefully.
"No way. It's too big," said Willow, not even opening her eyes.
"Hey, Yoda got that X-wing fighter out of the swamp, didn't he? That was much bigger than this!," encouraged Xander.
"That was in the movies, Xander. This is real life."
Xander got up and knelt back down beside Willow.
"Willow, I'm getting concerned here. Big time."
"It's okay. You know a vampire can't die this way."
"No, but your body can't heal itself without help, either."
"Huh?"
"Willow, you need some blood. Not soon. Now!"
"Xander, you can't mean what I think you mean," said Willow, her eyes wide open now. "I won't let you."
"Will, there's no other way."
"No!," yelled Willow, closing her eyes because of the effort it took to raise her voice. She opened them and Xander and her stared at one another. Willow reached out and touched Xander's hand.
"Xander, I appreciate the offer. But we can't. It's too dangerous. And I know you're afraid of me."
"No! I'm not afraid of you," said Xander, withdrawing his hand. "I'm afraid of the demon inside of you."
Well, guess what? We're sort of a team now."
"You couldn't control yourself?," pleaded Xander.
Willow shook her head very slowly.
"No. I know I couldn't. I'd lose control and you wouldn't be able to stop me."
Xander ran his hands over his face.
"Wait a minute," he said, picking up the flashlight and shining it around the room. The light reflected off of Ruth's knife. Xander put the flashlight down and ran over to the knife, picking it up. He slowly walked back and knelt down beside Willow.
"Okay, here's what we're going to do. I have a cross in my back pocket. I'm going to cut my arm and let you drink. If you can't stop, I'll pull out the cross. Deal?"
"Xander, you're so scared. Don't do this."
"I'm not..."
"I can hear your heartbeat. I know," said Willow.
"Willow, just this once, let me be the hero. I want to do this. If I'm scared it's because I don't want to lose my best friend. Again."
"Okay. Let's do it. But get a good grip on that cross. Don't let me knock it out of your hand."
Xander nodded.
"And you'd better rip off a piece of my shirt."
"Huh?"
"You'll need a rag to hold against your arm. To stop the bleeding? Your shirt has my blood on it. I don't think it should come in contact with your open wound. Understand why?"
"Right. Why take the chance?," agreed Xander. He gripped Willow's shirt where it was already torn and pulled, exposing Willow's stomach.
"Hey, you look good in a tube top! I hear they're back in style," said Xander. Willow could only shake her head and smile.
"And Xander, if it helps, I'm scared too. I don't want to hurt you."
Xander bent down and kissed Willow's forehead. Quickly he sat up and flicked the knife over his forearm. The knife was sharp and cut deeper than he had anticipated. Xander winced in pain. He placed his right arm under Willow's head and tilted it forward.
Willow looked Xander in the eye and gave him a smile. She mouthed the words 'thank you' but no sound came out. He placed his arm against her mouth and Willow closed her eyes.
At first she sucked slowly. Xander felt a burning discomfort and he tried to relax by breathing slowly. A chill ran through him and he felt a trickle of sweat drip down across his face. Then Willow bit into his arm, causing him to inhale sharply but he didn't try to pull his arm away. He reached into his back pocket and gripped the cross.
Xander bit into his lower lip, drawing blood. How long should he let this go on? He thought his nose felt tingly. His grip on the cross loosened and he realized he was getting light headed.
"Willow," he called softly. "Willow!"
If she heard him he couldn't tell. Xander tried to pull his arm away but Willow grabbed it firmly in her hand.
"Willow!"
Xander brought the cross around from behind his back and held it up. Willow let go of his arm, glared at him and hissed, fangs bared, eyes wide open in mad fury. He looked into those soulless eyes and was so frightened he dropped the cross. A change seemed to overcome Willow. She let go of his arm and Xander collapsed to the floor.
"Xander!," screamed Willow, her face morphing back to her human form. "Xander!" She sat up and shook him, looking at his arm which still bled freely. She grabbed the fabric that Xander had torn from her shirt and held it to his arm, pressing down hard.
"Hey! Wake up! Don't do this to me, Xander. Come on, now," cried Willow, getting scared. "Xander, please."
Xander opened his eyes.
"Willow. It's you," he said, very softly. Willow smiled and pulled him up to hug him.
"Thank god," she whispered. "Xander, here, hold this on your arm. Press down hard. Okay?" Xander nodded. He put his hand over the bloody shirt and Willow put her hand over his, pressing down.
They didn't speak for some time. Willow rested her head on his shoulder and listened to him breath.
"Xander, you'll never understand this because you saw me for what I really am. But I saw how scared you were and I won. Again! I had control over the demon. I could've killed you. Hell, I wanted to. But I didn't," said Willow, lifting her head from his shoulder. "You got through to me. And unless you were like me, you can never understand what that means."
Xander smiled at her but looked very pale. Willow lifted his hand and examined the wound. It was still bleeding.
"Xander, you have to get to a hospital. You need some stitches on this. The cut is too deep." Willow pressed down on the wound with the now red fabric but with her hand only this time. Xander looked at his right hand, now covered in blood.
"Will, how about a healing spell?"
"It won't work fast enough. Something like that only helps the healing process. It's almost dawn. I don't think that you should leave until then," said Willow, looking at him. Her face was very close to his.
"Willow, I don't know if I can wait that long. I feel very dizzy."
"Fifteen more minutes then. It won't be light out yet, but most vampires will have found shelter by then. We are in a graveyard, you know," reminded Willow.
"I'll be alright. We have to get help. Get that pillar off your leg."
"Xander, you wouldn't be able to fight back if something was out there."
"I'll take the cross. Where is it?," asked Xander, looking around them.
"Behind you, to your right. Oh, I don't have to see it to know where it is. Here, put pressure on this," said Willow, placing his hand on the wet cloth. Xander crawled over to the cross and picked it up, then staggered to his feet.
"Xander, please wait. Just a little while longer. I had a cross with me the night I died, remember? I have a bad feeling about this," said Willow nervously.
"I don't think I have a choice, Will. I don't feel so good. I'll be careful."
Willow looked at Xander, saw how unsteady he was on his feet
"Be quick instead."
Willow closed her eyes and listened as Xander stumbled out of the crypt. She was very tired. Running a hand over her ribs, she was amazed that the skin had already closed over. Then she became aware that someone else was in here with her.
"Xander?"
It wasn't Xander. This one didn't have a heartbeat.
"Spike! You're out awfully late, aren't you?," asked Willow nervously.
"Yes. I can't explain it, either," said Spike, taking a drag from his cigarette. "I had this feeling that I should be here. Place could use a little fixing up. It was as if someone had used a summoning spell and had been thinking about me at the time."
"Oh."
"Well, Red. What do we have here?"
"You know, you shouldn't smoke so much," said Willow, trying to buy time so Xander could get away.
"Yeah, it's killing me," replied Spike deadpan. "Besides, I always smoke after a kill."
"A kill?"
"Just finishing your leftovers."
"Xander! No!," cried Willow, sitting up.
"It wasn't nice of me to stand you up tonight. But then again, that's one difference between you and I. I'm not nice. Oh, please! Don't give me that look! Don't you think that I caught on to your act? You and Angel both make me want to retch. Vampires with souls! But, still, you are one of us. So I'd like to welcome you to the club in my own way."
"What do you mean?," asked Willow, no longer hiding her fear.
"I'm going to lift this off of you. And then you have a decision to make. And you'd better hurry, because you only have a few minutes."
"To do what?," demanded Willow.
"That's the spirit. To decide whether your friend Xander becomes like you. I mean, you and Angel. Or you can watch and let him die. Or you can fight me and not watch him die. Now I like a good row as much as the next bloke, but you're not up to par tonight, so I wouldn't recommend it. Any way you cut it, it's your choice," smiled Spike.
Spike bent down and easily lifted the pillar off Willow's leg. She quickly slid it out and tried to stand but found she couldn't put any weight on it. She looked Spike square in the eye and spit in his face.
"This isn't over," growled Willow, once again in full vamp face. Spike laughed and wiped his face as she limped away.
Xander's body was lying face down outside the open gate of the crypt. Willow fell down beside him and rolled him over. There were two puncture wounds on his throat but he wasn't bleeding from either that wound or his arm. He had a pulse but Willow knew that it was very weak.
"Xander, can you hear me? Xander!," cried Willow, shaking him by the shoulders. "Xander, no. This isn't fair! Xander, please! I don't know what to do! Don't make decide this alone. Please, Xander, wake up!"
Willow lifted him gently and held him.
"Xander, please help me," whispered Willow. "I can't choose...I don't know what you would want. I can't lose you after all this...please, Xander, hear me," whimpered Willow, tears rolling down her cheeks.
She rested her head against his neck and sobbed. It took a moment or so before she realized how close her mouth was to his neck. She lifted her head, looked at Xander, and knew what she had to do.

*****

"Willow! No!," screamed Buffy, sitting up in her hospital bed.
"Buffy! You're awake!," said Xander, rising from his chair where he had dozed off. He leaned towards Buffy, smiling. And she promptly hit him with a roundhouse right to the face. Xander collapsed to the floor, out cold.
"Why didn't you listen to Willow!?," screamed Buffy. "Hey, wait a minute. Where am I?"
Just then Willow ran into the room.
"Buffy! You're...Xander!"
Buffy gave her friend a very embarrassed smile.
"Oops?," said Buffy.
"Well, it's good to see you're feeling better!," admonished Willow, hands on her hips.

End Of PART FIVE

PART SIX

The young woman sitting on the end of Buffy's bed looked to be in her early twenties. She was two or three inches taller than Buffy, wore dark sunglasses and had an auburn ponytail pulled through the back of the baseball cap she was wearing.
"So you're a Nightmare demon," said Buffy.
"Human words. Not mine. Actually I never liked that name. You can call me Maggie."
"Maggie," repeated Buffy, smiling. "That's not so terrifying."
Now Maggie smiled. "Sorry there's no fangs or talons. But what you see is what you get."
"That's an understatement if I ever heard one," answered Buffy.
"Perhaps."
"Perhaps? You're not English, are you? My Watcher says that a lot."
"Been there, but no. I'm not English."
"So, is this part of my nightmare or am I awake now?," asked Buffy.
"No, you're awake. We have maybe fifteen minutes to be alone and talk. No one should come in. They'll either forget why they were coming here or suddenly get the feeling that they really don't want to be here. It would take a very strong spirit to enter this room now."
"You cast a spell?"
"No. It's just my influence here," replied Maggie modestly. "Before I go I'll try to explain what you experienced. Yes, I am a demon. But my kind are a very peaceful race."
Buffy frowned.
"Slayer, your life was never at risk. Nor is it now. It's not our way."
"Then what did you do to me? That was more than a dream! I felt the sun on my skin, I smelled the salt air, I...it was real!"
"It was a gift, from me to you," said Maggie, her tone serious.
"A gift? Next time say it with flowers," replied Buffy coldly.
"Not all demons are evil. You know that. Most are, yes, but there must be a balance in nature. Without evil there can be no good."
"So you're good?," asked Buffy.
"Indifferent might be a better word," suggested Maggie.
"Hi, I'm Maggie the indifferent Nightmare demon! That's one I haven't heard before," laughed Buffy. Even Maggie smiled.
"We observe but we don't interact. Everything in nature is in balance. When the balance of power shifts, when evil becomes stronger than good, we are drawn to it. Sometimes we can influence people or demons and in so doing change events. Restore balance."
"And if good gets stronger than evil?," asked Buffy.
"Very clever. Yes, though you will not understand why, we would be drawn there as well. That is our way. Balance, while not perfection, is peaceful. Of course, that's a very simplistic explanation. It's much more complicated than that."
"Fine. But let's get back to this gift thing," said Buffy.
"Okay. One thing that is fascinating about humans is that to gain wisdom you have to give up the gift of seeing things for the first time, of new experiences, of the simple wonder of it all."
"Youth is wasted on the young?," asked Buffy, not convinced.
"A cliche, yes. But there is truth in that. You don't understand your influence on others or the lasting effect they have on you. A simple hello. Now that's power. And Slayers don't live long enough to gain wisdom. In fact you, more so than other humans, can become very numb to your gift, blind because of all the death that you see."
"And cause," added Buffy.
"Maybe I have failed you. Perhaps I should have shown you a rerun of 'It's A Wonderful Life'."
"No. I think we understand one another more than you realize," agreed Buffy sadly.
"I hope so. It's like speaking another language, trying to make you understand. The meaning of the words, or images, gets lost in the translation. If your loved ones feared for you, maybe now, at least for a short time, they may appreciate the gifts that they have."
"I'm sorry I killed your...boyfriend? Husband? It was an accident," said Buffy sincerely.
"Mate. I know. It was done without malice."
"So what happens now?," asked Buffy.
"I die."
"What!? Why? I don't understand. You're not hurt."
"No, you're wrong. I'm very weak. In fact, I couldn't have kept up your dream for much longer. You see, when our kind chooses a mate, it is for life. The bond between us is so strong that whatever happens to one, happens to the other. I've seen it among humans, as well. An old couple is married for fifty or sixty years. Then one dies and the other passes on a few weeks later. I believe your expression for it is a broken heart," said Maggie.
"I'm so sorry. There's nothing I can do?," asked Buffy. Maggie shook her head.
"How long?," asked Buffy, softly.
"A day. Maybe less."
"It's not fair," said Buffy, sounding childish.
"Everything dies, Buffy. Nature in balance."
Buffy was shocked at how deeply grateful she felt because Maggie had called her by her name.
"How old are you?," asked Buffy, trying to make their talk a little more lighthearted.
"Buffy! You know a girl never talks about her age," smiled Maggie. "It's time that I go."
"But, wait! I have so many questions. Like, why did I see myself in that boxcar? What did Willow decide to do for Xander? Why do you wear glasses?," asked Buffy desperately.
Maggie stood but had to steady herself for a moment. She lowered her glasses and Buffy saw that she had very dark circles under her eyes.
"It isn't much. In fact, we can move freely among you and blend in. More so than other demons, anyway. You'll have to ponder why you saw what you did. I can't answer that for you. And as for what became of Xander, why don't you ask Willow that herself? Here she is now," finished Maggie as Willow walked into the room.
"Hi. Oh, am I interrupting something?," asked Willow.
"No, not at all. I was just leaving. It was nice to meet you, Willow. I'm very impressed that you're here," said Maggie. She turned and smiled at Buffy. "Be happy, Buffy." Then, bowing slightly, she turned and left.
"Do I know her?," asked Willow.
"No. She's nice, though. You'd like her. She knows how to get the most out of life."
"So, how are you feeling?," asked Willow, slinging her bag down on the bed.
"Great. I'll be out of here this afternoon. Let's see. You have your bathing suit on under your clothes, a straw hat on, a beach bag and a radio. Little cool yet for the beach, isn't it?," asked Buffy.
"After the story you told me? I'm taking Oz to the beach, sunburn be damned! I have this sudden need to be in warm sunlight. I'm really not a night person, you know?"
Buffy laughed.
"Maybe you should check the weather on the radio before you go," suggested Buffy.
"Good idea," agreed Willow. She clicked on the radio that was on the bed next to her bag.
"And here's a blast from your past, a song from the summer of '75..."
Willow clicked off the radio.
"Hey, I liked that song. Wasn't it about a horse?," asked Buffy, trying not to smile.
"Hello. Summer of '75? How can you not be wigged by that? And yes, I think the horse dies," complained Willow. "Leaving now," said Willow, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "Oh! Now why did I say that? Isn't that what that other Willow used to say?"
"You mean the one who liked leather?," asked Buffy.
"You know who."
"Willow, get Oz, go to the beach and have fun. Now! I'll see you tonight. At the Bronze."
"Okay," said Willow, picking up her things. "You don't need anything?"
"Nope. I'm fine."
"See you tonight, then," said Willow, walking to the door.
"Oh, Willow?"
"Yes, Buffy?"
"I love you."
Willow smiled a very big smile.
"I love you too."

*****

"How does she do that?," asked Buffy.
"You mean Ruth?," asked Willow. The Bronze was crowded tonight and for a change the band was good.
"Yes. The dancing. I mean, she's good!"
"She feels the beat through the vibrations in the floor," answered Willow, who turned and smiled at Oz. She reached over and held his hand.
"Maybe Xander should listen to his feet!," giggled Buffy.
"Hey! No Xander bashing tonight. He's still upset, you know," said Willow.
"Upset? Willow, he's not speaking to me!"
"Give him some space. He's just being Xander," said Willow.
"Didn't you explain to him about the dream and everything?," asked Buffy.
"Twice. I think you hurt his feelings more than his face. Then again..."
"Willow! I told him how sorry I was."
"Buffy, he was the only one who never left the hospital. I had to help Giles with the research and the spell thingy. Angel, well, you know. Sunlight? Even you're mother went home for a few hours of sleep because Xander insisted on it," said Willow, putting her arm around Oz.
"Guess I have some major groveling to do," sighed Buffy. "Hey, you two want to get a room?"
"Don't mind her. She's been all clingy since you told her about your dream," explained Oz.
"Oh. Understandable," agreed Buffy. "Hey, maybe I should ask Xander to dance?"
Willow gave Buffy her wide-eyed 'you sure that's a good idea' stare.
"Willow, that was over a year ago! Can we move on, please? I think he's over that."
Willow lowered her head and raised her eyebrows.
"Okay, okay!"
"I only meant that you might hurt Ruth's feelings if you cut in. She's having a good time," said Willow.
"Sure you did," protested Buffy.
"Buffy, something's bothering me about your dream," said Willow.
"What? Other than the whole thing, that is."
"I never told you about playing hide and seek with Xander when I was a kid. Did he?"
"Actually, no."
"I didn't think so. Okay, getting spooked again," said Willow, squeezing Oz a little tighter. He responded by kissing her cheek.
"And I haven't been able to find my silver cross," said Buffy.
"Oh! The one you lost in Miller's Woods? In your dream?," asked Willow.
"Willow, I'm sure I just misplaced it."
"We could look for it out where...," began Oz.
"No!," said Willow and Buffy at the same time.
Buffy took a sip of her soda.
"Willow, you haven't told me what you would've done. To Xander, I mean. In the dream," said Buffy.
"I know what you mean."
"Well?"
"Buffy, I can't talk about. It's just...not yet."
"But...did you at least decide, one way or another?," asked Buffy.
Willow nodded. "But I'm just not ready to talk about yet. Maybe you and I can sit outside somewhere, in the warm sunlight, sometime, and tackle this. Soon."
"Good. And what about my decision? What I did to you?"
"I told you, I understand. I'm good with it," smiled Willow. Buffy smiled back.
Ruth caught Willow's eye and waved. Willow waved back and signed a few words.
"Will, that was great! What did you say to her?," asked Buffy.
"I told her I liked what she was wearing. Actually, I think I told her she was hot," frowned Willow.
"Really? You're not hitting on her, are you?," teased Buffy.
"What? I...no! Buffy! Xander asked the same...or, let's not go there!"
"I'm just kidding!," said Buffy. Even Oz smiled.
"Buffy, I told her she looked hot!"
"Willow, just because you said that..."
"No, you don't understand. Ruth never taught me how to sign that. So how did I know how to say it?," asked Willow with a confused look on her face. Buffy looked at Willow, then Oz, then stared back at Willow.
"Oz, you busy tomorrow?," asked Buffy.
"Not particularly. Why?"
"I want you to help Willow and I look for a silver cross in Miller's Woods."

End Of PART SIX

PART SEVEN

Xander's body was lying face down outside the open gate of the crypt. Willow fell down beside him and rolled him over. There were two puncture wounds on his throat but he wasn't bleeding from either that wound or his arm. He had a pulse but Willow knew that it was very weak.
"Xander, can you hear me? Xander!," cried Willow, shaking him by the shoulders. "Xander, no. This isn't fair! Xander, please! I don't know what to do! Don't make me decide this alone. Please, Xander, wake up!"
Willow lifted him gently and held him.
"Xander, please help me," whispered Willow. "I can't choose...I don't know what you would want. I can't loose you after all this...please, Xander, hear me," whimpered Willow, tears rolling down her cheeks.
She rested her head against his neck and sobbed. It took a moment or so before she realized how close her mouth was to his neck. She lifted her head, looked at Xander, and knew what she had to do.
Willow tried to stand but found that she still couldn't put weight on her right leg. She let Xander down gently, laying him on his back. Crawling behind him, she slipped her right arm under his right arm and around his chest. Willow dragged him back into the crypt and kicked the iron gate shut behind them. She pulled him inside a little further to be sure that the rising sun wouldn't bother them later. Sniffing at the air, animal-like, she sensed that Spike had left.
Instinct was taking over. Willow didn't have to remember what Angel had done to her. She looked at Xander one last time, softly pushing his hair back off his forehead and leaving her hand there against his face for a moment. Leaning over him, she brushed her lips against his neck. A chill ran through her as instinct once again guided her, moving her mouth away from where spike had bitten him. Willow's fangs slid gently into Xander, piercing his skin. His body tensed but he didn't cry out.
Her tongue rolled across his skin and rubbed against her teeth. She fought the urge to penetrate him further and lapped up the first drops of sweet warm liquid. The blood flowed more freely now and Willow moaned as she swallowed, her insides warming and increasing her desire.
While she still could, Willow pulled away. Again she looked at Xander. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Willow understood that she had just made a connection with him that she would never be able to explain to Buffy. She had become one with him and she would be able to smell the scent of his blood if he was anywhere nearby. She could single him out of a crowded room with her eyes closed. Once more she touched his hair.
"Just a little longer, Xander," whispered Willow. "If I look half as bad as you do, I must look like...well...like death warmed over," laughed Willow softly, smiling at her own joke.
Not wanting to waste time looking for the cold knife that lie somewhere on the floor behind her, Willow raised her left forearm to her mouth and bit deeply. She tilted Xander's head far back, opening up his throat. Placing her open wound against his mouth, she massaged his throat with her right hand and kissed Xander on the forehead.
Nothing seemed to be happening. Confused, Willow knitted her eyebrows together. She pulled her arm away and rubbed his throat with both hands, her blood dripping on the floor next to them.
"Xander?," whispered Willow. "Xander, what's wrong? Did I wait too long? Xander!"
Willow stopped massaging his neck and sat up, slowly raising her hands to cover her mouth. She felt the first tears beginning to form at the corners of her eyes. Suddenly Xander's eyes sprang open. Startled, Willow jumped.
"Xander! Xander, can you hear me? Hey! It's me. Willow."
Xander looked at her but didn't seem to focus on her face. He opened his mouth as if he was going to speak but then grabbed in sides in pain, clenching his teeth. Closing his eyes, Xander's body shuddered, his muscles convulsing horribly. He never cried out. After another spasm or two he lie still, his face turned away from Willow at an odd angle. Willow didn't have to feel for a pulse. She could sense that he was dead.
"Xander! Oh god, what have I done!?," screamed Willow.

*****

"Willow! No!," screamed Buffy, sitting up in her bed. She knew immediately where she was but didn't understand what had happened. Buffy reached out for her stuffed pig, clutched it tightly, brought her knees up to her chest and rocked herself back and forth.
"Buffy! What's wrong?," yelled Joyce, bursting into her daughter's bedroom. She froze as she looked into Buffy's eyes. She couldn't remember seeing Buffy look that scared and helpless in a long time. It was a side of her daughter not open to Joyce anymore.
Buffy's lower lip trembled. Joyce sat down next to her and hugged her. Buffy threw her arms around her mother and started crying, her face buried in her shoulder.
"Oh, honey. It was only a nightmare. It's okay. It's over now and soon you'll forget all about it," soothed Joyce.
"No. It isn't over. It's still happening," mumbled Buffy, not looking up.
"Buffy, you know what Mr. Giles said. As Maggie grows weaker she may lose control over her powers. He told you it was possible to have another vision or two until she was dead."
Joyce pulled back from Buffy and held her head in her hands.
"I know they seem real, especially now. In the morning you'll feel better about this. I promise," said Joyce. Buffy nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes. Her mother kissed her forehead, smiled and got up.
"Why don't you leave a light on?," suggested Joyce.
"No. I'll be fine. Good night."
"Good night."
Buffy took a deep breath. She felt cold and noticed that she had left her window open. A slight breeze was moving the curtains so she slid off the bed to shut the window. Buffy hadn't taken more than two steps and when she froze, her body tense. She fought the urge to cry out.
It was lying on the floor as if someone had tossed it through the open window. There was dried mud caked on its edges and two of the arms were bent as if it had been violently stepped on. But there was no mistaking it. Buffy was looking at the cross she had lost in Miller's Woods.

The End