"I was out of my mind. I did things I can't even…
It won't happen again, I promise."
Consciousness returned slowly, and Willow fought it every step of the way. She didn't want to wake up, didn't want to face the reality of what had happened. She was a vampire now, against her wishes. She didn't know how she would cope.
She slowly began to realize that she was warm. Far warmer than a creature of the night should be. Reluctantly, she opened first one eye, and then the other.
Sunlight was streaming across her hospital bed, heating the blankets with its rays. Willow stared in astonishment. Sunlight. On her. And she wasn't bursting into flames.
Quickly, she brought her hand up to her neck, to feel her pulse. It was there, strong. She'd never felt anything quite so wonderful in her life. She was alive! But how?
The movement attracted the attention of the other person in the room. Buffy got up from her chair and came to Willow's bedside.
"Will, how are you feeling?" she asked, concern on her face.
"Alive!" was the joyous response.
"The doctors said it was a close call. You'd lost a lot of blood."
"What happened?" Willow asked, still confused.
"We were hoping you knew. There was just a note shoved under Giles' door, saying you were here," Buffy explained.
"Spike," Willow said with assurance.
"Maybe," Buffy conceded, "But why would he bring you to the hospital? Why not just drain you and turn you?"
Willow shuddered a bit at Buffy's words, realizing just how close a call she really had. She got a hold of herself, though, and got back to the point.
"I was the one who wanted to be turned. I don't think Spike wanted to turn me, not anymore," Willow explained patiently, "He loved me."
"Funny way of showing it, nearly draining you," Buffy commented, then asked, "Wouldn't he want to turn you, though, if he thought he was in love with you?"
"He wanted to, for a long time," Willow said, reflecting back, "But I think he realized that he wanted the Willow that I was, not the Willow that I was turning in to." She shook her head sadly. "Buffy, I've been such an idiot!"
Buffy patted her hand, uncertain of what to say. Willow looked at the sunlight streaming in, clutching at the wonder of being alive. Slowly, she noticed the emptiness of the room.
"Where are the others?" she wondered.
"Xander had to work. Giles is supposed to be here later, to relieve me. I should call him, let him know you're awake."
"Anya…I think she feels guilty about what happened. We were kind of hard on her the other day," Buffy confessed.
"Oh, Buffy, you shouldn't have been. It wasn't her fault!" Willow protested.
"I know, but if we'd known sooner, we would have stopped this thing, nipped it in the bud," Buffy insisted.
"I don't think so," Willow said slowly, "I think you would have just sped up the process if you'd found out. I was so mad at you guys for the way I thought you were treating me, that I'd automatically do the opposite of what you'd say."
"We haven't been very good friends to you, lately," Buffy confessed, "I'm sorry about that."
There was a long silence after that, during which Willow took her pulse three times, still basking in the feeling of being alive.
"Oh, we brought you some clothes to wear," Buffy offered, proffering a bag, "Something other than hospital gowns."
Willow took the bag gratefully, and pulled out a pair of sweatpants. She put them on under her gown, and began to get up, using her I.V. stand for support.
"Will, are you sure you should be doing that?" Buffy asked, worried.
"I want to see the sun," Willow insisted, making her way over to the window.
She leaned on the frame, and looked out. The sunlight was streaming in the window, bathing her face in its rays. She looked up at the sun for a brief moment, dazzled by it. Then she brought her attention down lower. She looked out at the town of Sunnydale, and the world beyond. Spike was out there, somewhere, on the road. Maybe he was driving his foil-covered car, maybe he was sleeping in some shabby roadside motel, but he was out there. She sent good thoughts his way. He'd given her a precious gift, and she wasn't about to squander it.
Willow mused about how clever he had been, letting her think that she was getting her own way. He must have known that he could scare her out of it, that she really had no desire to die. Once she had started wanting to live again, the rest of her attitude had just fallen away.
Willow turned back to her friend, still hovering anxiously.
"Buffy, I do want to apologize for the way I've been acting lately."
"It's okay. It was Spike's fault," Buffy declared.
Willow shook her head. "I'll admit, he was an influence, but the decisions were mine. I'm sorry."
"To be honest, it'll be nice to have the old Willow back. You've been acting kind of…"
"Bitchy? Slutty? Crazy?" Willow offered.
"Yes," Buffy confirmed.
Both girls laughed at that, easing the tension between them.
"I don't think I'll be the old Willow, anymore, either," Willow said, sobering, "I've seen too much. Spike opened my eyes to a lot of things, the depths of my own potential, whole worlds of possibilities, and I can't just look away. But I won't be that same selfish bitch I was becoming, either. I've learned my lesson."
Buffy came over and gave her a hug, which Willow gratefully returned. She made her way back over to the bed, just as a nurse came in.
The nurse took her pulse and blood pressure, and explained that Willow would be staying overnight, for observation. She started to leave, then remembered something.
"Oh, your personal belongings are in a bag in the nightstand," she told them, "Your clothes and your jewelry." With that, she walked out.
"My jewelry?" Willow said, confused, "I wasn't wearing any when Spike bit me."
Buffy got out the bag for her, and the two girls dumped it on the bed. The contents tumbled out into a heap. White sundress, black lace underwear, and a necklace. The heart-shaped pendant sparkled in the sunlight, and Willow knew, without touching it, that it said 'Princess' on it. She got all choked up at the sight.
"Willow?" Buffy asked, concerned.
"Help me put it on," Willow asked, taking it up off the bed.
Buffy held off on her questions and fastened the slender chain around her friend's neck.
"He really did love me," Willow mused, still misty-eyed.
"Will, I know you thought he did, but…"
"He did, Buffy. And if you're going to stay friends with me, that's one thing that you'll have to accept. Spike can love, and he was in love with me," Willow informed the other girl, putting on her best 'resolve' look.
"If you say so," her friend replied, still doubtful.
"He sacrificed his own happiness to give me back my life," Willow persisted, "It was an incredibly selfless act, something he once told me that he was far too selfish to ever do. He truly loved me."
"Did you love him?" Buffy asked, curious.
"No, not really," Willow admitted, "But I care about him."
"If he ever comes back to town, I'll have to stake him," Buffy cautioned, "You know that, right?"
"I know," Willow acknowledged sadly, "He is still a killer, even if he stopped for a while, for me."
She paused then, letting her thoughts drift as she looked out the window. They drifted towards Spike, and she wondered again where the bleached blond vampire was. He'd shown her so much of herself, both the good and the bad. Willow thought of all the new vistas she'd explored with him, new landscapes within herself. Without him, she never would have awakened to the depths of her own sexuality and sensuality, to the wild power of her magics. Of course, without him, she might not have explored her dark side quite so much, either. Then again, she was definitely wiser for the experience, now. It might even give her more insight into the forces that she and the others battled, in fact. Spike had given her all this, and more. He'd given her back her life, as well, done his best to restore her to the kindly soul she had been. Hardly the act of a soulless creature, she mused, her brow wrinkling somewhat.
She pushed the thought away for the moment, knowing it was too deep a puzzle for her to tackle in her current state. It was almost painful to realize how much the vampire must have loved her, to do such a thing. She hoped he was okay, that he wasn't taking the loss of her too hard. But she knew he was probably curled up with a bottle of hard liquor somewhere. She sighed.
She realized Buffy was watching her, concern written large on her face. Willow forced a smile and shoved away thoughts of Spike. The realization struck her of how hard it was going to be, trying to fit back in with the Scoobies, with her new awareness. She had to try, though, for him.
"I guess it's time to get back to my life," she said bravely.
A/N: Well, there you have it. I hope this story has entertained, and that I didn't fall too short on the resolution (endings are not my strong suit). A big, big thank you to everyone who commented, it really helped a lot to know that people were not only reading, but truly getting what I was trying to show. Also, thanks again to my sister for her early beta reads, it made this a stronger story, I think. It's too bad life got in the way of further edits. And I can guess that some of you, at least, will be asking for a sequel. I won't rule it out, but it might be a long time in coming. I write very slowly, this one took years to finish. Anyway, thanks again for all your support!