Buffy had just put on her black leather coat and was about to open the door and walk out for patrol when he burst in. Spike. He was panting, and gave her a worried one-over.

His look wasn't unjustified, she had two daggers sheathed at either hip and two stakes in the unzipped jacket. There was also a third one up her sleeve that he could not see.

'What, Spike?' she asked sharply. It was unlike him to burst through the door without knocking unless it was daytime. Most likely because he'd be facing the pointy end of a stake if he did.

'What's with the attitude, princess?' he shot back. He took a deep breath and regrouped. 'Listen, I only came to tell you. I was at the Bronz and Red's there, going through drinks as if they were bloody gummy bears.'

Without another word, Buffy shoved him aside and ran. The Bronz wasn't particularly far away from her house, perhaps a 30 minute walk, but Buffy was there in 10 minutes. She pushed open the door so hard that it trembled on it's hinges (Earning her a scowl from the guard) and scouted the room for Willow.

She found her almost immediately, sitting at one of the bar chairs, her elbows resting on the wooden counter.

She moved to the red-head as fast as she could, completely ignoring the fact that people weren't supposed to be that fast. Once at Willow's side, she saw that the girl was arguing with the bartender.

'C'mon j-jhust one mo-' The bald man behind the counter gave her a sad smile.

'Sorry lady, you've had your share for tonight.' He noted Buffy and his face lit up in recognition. 'She's been here for a few hours now, I think you ought to take her home.'

Buffy gave the witch a stern look.

'Willow, come on, let's go.'

Her friend made an attempt of getting off the chair, but fell towards the floor. Had it not been for the awesomeness that was Buffy's slayer reflexes, she most likely would've hit it head first. However, an inch or so before breaking her nose, she was caught.

'Can you walk?' Buffy inquired, hoisting Willow to her feet.

'Mm, I'm fine.' She followed Buffy out, although it was clear by the way she walked into people and things, that she had problems even staying upright.

'Why did you do it, Will?' asked Buffy the moment they were outside the door.

'Do wha?'

'Drink this much, in this city, you've no idea what could've happened to you. '

'It hurts, Buffy,' Willow mumbled, her voice trembling. Tears slid down her cheeks. 'I miss her so much.'

The slayer stopped and wrapped her arms around Willow's thin body.

'You should have talked to me, not had half the booze in Sunnydale.'

'Gotcha,' she murmured, leaning in against Buffy's neck in a manner that made the slayer feel a bit uncomfortable.

'You schmell good,' she stated.

'I-uh-Yeah, I guess.' Gently, she pushed Willow away, and put an arm around her shoulder, leading her home.

They only got another block before Willow stopped abruptly, looked at Buffy, then clumsily dashed off to behind a tree where she, judging by the sound, threw up.

Buffy waited, giving her time, but when two minutes had passed, she decided it had been long enough.

Her friend was at the edge of the pavement, on all fours, a pool of sick covering the asphalt.

'How're you feeling?' the blonde slayer asked softly, putting a hand on the witch's sweaty neck.

'Peachy.'

With some help from Buffy, Willow managed to get to her feet.

Slowly, but surely, they began to move home again.

Outside, the door, Buffy steadied her friend with her hands on her shoulders and met her unfocused gaze.

'Dawn's asleep in there, so we'll have to be quiet, alright?'

'Okhay.'

She opened the door with a soft creak and they slipped inside, sneaking upstairs as silently as humanly possible. Just in case, Buffy cradled Willow in her arms and carried her, not wanting the Wicca to accidentally stumble or break anything. Dawn idolised the girl and she did not need to wake up and see her like this.

Wisely, Buffy first brought her to the bathroom, where she spent another thirty minutes addressing the toilet god.

'I- I think it's okay now, Buff.'

'Good.' The slayer ran her hand along the witch's neck, through her by now quite messy hair and pushed the flush button an extra time.

'You know,' she continued. 'I think a hot bath would do you good.'

If she were to be honest, which she generally tried to be as often as she could (though, that wasn't as often as she'd like), she did not know what made her suggest it.

It was really only logical. Willow had been on the ground a lot, she was bound to be dirty. It had nothing to do with wanting to see the red-head naked. Right-

'Sure thing,' said Willow, a bit more cheerful and clear now that she was sobering up somewhat.

She got to her feet and staggered to the sink, where she washed her face with some water. Seeming to be satisfied, she tried to leave the room, but forgot to open the door, and fell backwards into Buffy's arms.

'Maybe a bit drunk still,' she murmured wryly.

'Still up for that bath, Wicca gal?' Buffy gave the bathtub a nod.

'Oh, okay.' She attempted, with limited success, to pull her jumper over her head, almost losing her balance until the slayer steadied her by putting her hands on her hips.

Buffy felt strangely perverted doing this, touching her bare skin. Willow did not seem to mind or notice, though, as she removed her pants as well. When she stood there in nothing but her underwear, it seemed to dawn upon Willow that it was an odd position.

'Oh- um. I'll just- well, you've seen me before.'

And while that was indeed true, that had been a brief glance or two during gym but that had been years ago and… as she slipped her underwear off, Buffy realised that things had changed. A lot. Damn.

Tenderly, she eased Willow into the bathtub and let the water flow, putting her hand down under the spray to make sure it wasn't too hot.

As she moved to sit back, her gaze trailed along Willow's leg, up her thigh, until she hastily looked away, flushing.

'You haven't been coping very well, huh?'

The small smile that had been playing on the witch's lips faded away.

'No,' she admitted, her eyes tearing up. 'I don't- I don't know how to- function- without her.'

Buffy embraced her as well as she could over the cool metal edge of the bathtub.

She wished she could say something to make things better, but could think of nothing.

The water had reached all the way up to those full- Oh god, what was wrong with her?

She had never checked out a girl before, never been attracted to one. One thing was certain, though, Willow did look good. But this was not the time, the poor girl was grieving, not to mention the fact that she was so drunk it was very unlikely she'd remember any of this in the morning.

Careful not to look at her friend's body, Buffy retrieved the showerhead and let the warm water pour down over Willow's head.

'What happened to Tara was unfair,' whispered Buffy, tangling her fingers in Willow's wet hair. 'But she loved you and I don't think she'd want you to suffer the rest of your life.'

She tilted her head to look into the witch's eyes, only to realise she had fallen asleep.

After having carried the unconscious Willow out of the bathtub and dried her off with a towel (A very awkward experience she'd prefer never ever mentioning), she put her in her mother's old bedroom and tucked her in.

A peak into Dawn's room told her that her little sister hadn't noticed a thing.

Reasonably satisfied with her handling of the situation, she headed to bed.

*****

When she woke the following morning, Buffy got up right away. Usually, she preferred resting as much as possible, as she did not always get much rest during her nights of slayer-related escapades.

And while there wasn't any big bad around, she had a friend to take care of.

She opened the door to Willow's room very lightly, but she was still asleep. She was lucky while it lasted, Buffy thought.

She went down and return upstairs with a large glass of water and two small white pills to deal with the headache.

Smiling softly, she put it all on the bedside table and turned to sneak out again. A quiet, hoarse voice stopped her.

'Buffy… Uh- How did I end up here? And uh- kinda undressed?' She moaned, clutching the back of her head.

'You had a few too many, then even more. Afterwards, you decided to go for a shotfest.'

'Is that why it feels like someone took one of those big uh-demolition ball thingies and hit me on the back of the head?'

'Yupp, had to carry you home.' She kneeled at the side of the bed, holding out the pills to her friend. 'Take these.'

She tilted her hand and let the pills drop into her friends mouth, handing the glass to the witch who grasped it very carefully and began to drink slowly.

'I'll go fix you some breakfast, Will,' said Buffy. She left the witch to suffer with the hangover and set out to cook her some breakfast. While she admittedly was a rather poor cook, eggs and toast was something she felt she could manage.

She had just put the bread on a plate and gone towards the fridge for some orange juice when Willow walked into the room. She still seemed unsteady and was clutching her head.

'Painkillers haven't kicked in yet, huh?'

'Oh, they have… It only feels like a small hammer now.'

'I don't see any hammers,' came a voice from the doorway. Xander stepped into the room and gave Willow thorough look. 'Speaking of which, it does seems my little Will got hammered last night.'

Willow blushed and Buffy hushed him hastily.

'Dawn's still here, be quiet.'

'Oh- right you are, Buffster.'

He went up and gave Willow a hug, kissing the back of her head.

'I'm going again,' he said, looking up over his friend's shoulder at Buffy. 'Giles wanted me to tell you that we're gonna have a Scooby meeting tonight, at 8. Be there.'

He waved at them and left.

The day went on. Buffy and Willow spent the day together without doing anything particularly significant. When the clock was closing in on 8 and Buffy had to go, she had been convinced by her friend's fake smiles that everything was indeed alright and that she didn't shoot down Willow's suggestion to stay at home while she went to the Scooby meeting.

There hadn't been much going on as of late. She had been doing the usual routine, patrolling the cemeteries, looking into paranormal activities wherever they were to be found. They had only gone on for about half an hour when Buffy got struck by a bad feeling. Willow had been acting strangely cheerfully all day and compared to the weeks and week of depression left after Tara's death, that sudden change did not fit.

She excused herself and left. There weren't any complaints as the meeting was more of a get-together than a "Let's slay some evil" meeting.

When she got home, perhaps ten minutes later, she found Willow in the couch by the tv with a bottle of whisky in her hand.

'Alright, drunky, that's enough.' She went and snatched the bottle out of her friends hand before she even had time to react and held it up high.

She observed it. There wasn't much gone, perhaps 10 centiliters. However, she'd only been at it for 45 minutes.

'C'mon, Buff, gimme.' She got out of the couch and made an attempt at seizing the bottle.

'Not gonna happen, Will. This has to stop.'

'Please Buffy… It hurts, all the time… I can't stand it. At least this makes it go away.'

She reached out for the bottle again, but Buffy put it down on the floor behind her, out of the witches reach.

'Give it to me,' said Willow, her voice firm now. She clearly wasn't asking anymore.

Buffy shook her head and sparks flew out from Willow's hands.

'Give me the bottle or-' She didn't specify her threat, she didn't even seem to be sure what she'd do, but held her hands out in between their bodies all the same.

'So do it,' hissed Buffy, taking a firm hold of the witch's right hand, placing it at her heart. 'I can take it. If it helps, do it. But you're not drinking any more.'

Willow's face took a strange expression. She looked at her hand and then her eyes strayed an inch north, where it lingered for a few moments before she met Buffy's gaze. There was something in her eyes… Some expression Buffy could not decipher.

As it was, she did not have to unveil the mystery by herself. Slowly, in a sort of creeping motion, Willow began to move her hand upwards, at first brushing the fingers against the bottom of her breast and then, emboldened by Buffy's reaction, a soft sigh, she cupped it in her hand and kissed her.

It was a bizarre experience, but most definitely a pleasant one. In her entire life Buffy had never- well alright, after catching Willow and Tara in a few heated making out sessions, she had considered what it might feel like.

Now she knew. It was soft, tingly, moist and quite wonderful. Willow definitely was a good kisser.

When she woke up, many many hours later in her bedroom, in a tangle of limbs with the slumbering red-head, she was very happy that Dawn had gotten home late. When Willow had shown her just how proficient she was at the use of fingers and tongue, things had not exactly been quiet.

'Morning,' she whispered, softly tucking a lock of hair behind her friend's ear. God, how sappy.

The red-head opened her eyes slowly, then gave Buffy a shocked look.

'Oh- oh dear, what did I do?'

'Huh?'

'You were trying to be good friend, and I- I- took advantage of you being nice. Oh god, I'm such a bad- bad- baddie.'

Buffy couldn't help but to smile, worried though she was.

'Look,' she began, cupping Willow's face firmly. 'I don't know how that happened last night, but I assure you I enjoyed it… A lot, and many times.'

They smiled shyly at each other, cheeks tinted red.

'Hey, Buffy, have you seen my-' Dawn burst in, and stopped abruptly at the threshold, looking at the two in disbelief.

'Oh, um- bad time. I'll go-'

She left, ignoring both girls calling out for her to stay.

It took some time for the both of them to come to terms with what they had done the previous evening. But, as time went by, they both calmed down.

Buffy watched Willow very carefully, though, to keep her away from anything with alcohol in it. Her friend still seemed down, but not quite as bad as it had been.

When a week had gone by, she was getting more and more certain that Willow was pulling through.

***

Buffy closed the door with a sigh. It was late, past midnight, and she had just finished her shift at the double meat palace.

Not wanting to wake anyone, she sneaked into the bathroom for that well needed shower, and then into her bedroom.

Upon hitting the light switch, she noticed Willow on her bed, eyes closed but with a soft smile on her lips. They had not shared a bed, other than once in a strictly literal sense, since the "incident". Buffy had simply guessed that Willow was freaked out and needed some time to adjust. God knew she did too.

Smiling to herself, she walked around to the left side of the bed where her friend lay, bumping her foot into something hard on the way.

She leaned forwards and found a bottle. It was a whisky bottle, the very same one she had confiscated a week prior. It was empty now.

'God, Willow…' she mumbled. She reached out and grabbed the red-head's thin arm.

It was cold. A horrible feeling began to spread through Buffy's body. She nudged her friend lightly, noting a framed picture of the entire Scooby gang that she had been holding. There was no response.

No, no, no… It just couldn't be happening.

Crying desperately, she reached out for Willow's throat to feel her pulse.

There was nothing. She was gone. Willow was dead.