Two weeks, everything seemed to happen in two weeks Willow Rosenburg thought as she made her way through the cemetery.
It had been two weeks since the death of Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer; sister, friend, Chosen One.
Two weeks since Rupert Giles, Watcher, friend, mentor had left Sunnydale California and headed back to his native Britain.
Two weeks since Dawn Summers had stopped crying herself to sleep every night.
Two weeks since the responsibility of the lives of the residents of Sunnydale had been thrust upon her and four sets of eyes belonging to her best friends looked to her for guidance.
It was wearing her down. She was a slayerette not an actual slayer, and yet her best friend since child hood, Xander Harris, his girlfriend Anya, Buffy's little sister Dawn and her own girlfriend Tara just didn't seem to grasp that concept. The only one who didn't look to her for instructions was Spike.
Of course Spike was a vampire and had been around for centuries, he was a strong and competent fighter and could take care of himself. It wasn't as if he needed guidance from her, a budding wicca and a lost little girl.
Although she had quite the history with Spike, including having him threatening her life on more than one occasion and almost getting bittern and sired by him, Willow thanked God, the Goddesses and any deity that watched over little Jewish wicca's for the presence of Spike in her life these days.
Willow felt that she could talk to Spike about anything, she never felt guilty about her thoughts no matter how uncharitable they were towards her friends because she knew that Spike had done so many evil things in his life that her grouching didn't even register as mildly annoying on his evil scale. Spike usually gave the distinct impression that he wasn't interested in anything she had to say and couldn't care less how heavy a burden had been placed on her young shoulders, but so long as he could maintain his usual "spot of violence" and she kept up a steady supply of cigarettes and blood for him Spike was willing to stick around. And Willow admitted, if only to herself that she was more than happy to provide Spike with his little vices if it kept him around.
She needed Spike whether he knew it or not.
Willow had a feeling deep in her gut that Spike did know it, and that was why he stayed, although the Big Bad would probably prefer to have a soul crammed down his throat than admit to doing anything remotely nice or helpful for her.
As she neared his crypt, Willow's eyes began to dart around more frequently, peering into the long shadows of the surrounding crypts and headstones cast by the moon, looking for Spike. One of his favourite amusements appeared to be slinking out of the shadows to frighten her. No matter how many times he did it, Spike never seemed to tire of it. Willow on the other hand did.
"Just us then, pet?" Spike's familiar British twang caused Willow to jump, her hand pressed to her heart. She spun round and glared at Spike who was leaning against the trunk of the big oak she had just passed.
"For goodness sake, Spike, do you have to do that?"
"Don't have to, just like to," Spike replied, taking a long drag of his cigarette, his blue eyes dancing with amusement.
Willow sighed softly. "Xander and Anya have started from the other side tonight, we'll meet somewhere in the middle if we're lucky."
"If I'm lucky I'll come across some big nasty ripping Harris' arms off and beating him to death with them," Spike said, a grin crossing his face at the mental image.
"You're impossible Spike!" she rolled her eyes and flexed her fingers over the stake she held in her hand. "Shall we get on?"
"After you, love," Spike waved a hand at her, indicating that she should begin to patrol. "No Glinda tonight?" he queried after a while.
"No, she looks after Dawn and we patrol, you know the drill, Spike," Willow replied, slowing her steps so that he could fall in beside her.
Spike patted down his coat looking for his cigarettes, he produced a crumpled packet from his pocket and proceeded to light one. He took a deep lung full of smoke, holding it captive before releasing it into the night air. He watched the grey smoke hang in the air for a moment before drifting away to nothingness. "Seems to me that you should have demon girl on baby sitting duty and have the witch patrol with us."
Willow blinked in surprise. "What makes you say that?"
"Chit's got magic, stands to reason she would be more useful on patrol than Harris' money grabbing piece of fluff. Come to that, she'd probably more use than Harris as well."
Willow rubbed at the back of her neck awkwardly. "I see your point, but well, I thought having someone with a little power protecting Dawn would be better."
Spike stopped walking and peered at her with shrewd blue eyes. "You gonna start lying to me now then, Red?" He grinned wickedly at her. "And here I thought we were closer than that."
She flushed guiltily at being caught in an outright lie. Willow sighed inwardly, she should have know that Spike of all people, a master liar and manipulator himself, would see straight through her and have the bad manners to call her on it too.
"If you must know, I think it's best that Tara stays behind with Dawn because she doesn't like using her magic too much."
"That all?" Spike prompted.
"That's all," Willow replied shortly.
"Lying again? Twice in five minutes, that's gotta be a record for you love."
Willow bristled, her muscles tensing with annoyance. Spike was just too good at reading people, at seeing what she kept hidden away. Of course that rather made sense to her, he had been around a long time and in order to survive he would need to hone his people reading skills to try and work out his enemies move before they made it.
But she wasn't his enemy any more, she hadn't been in a long time and Willow did so wish that Spike would remember that and at least make the effort not to harass her or have a dig at her. Spike being the kind of man and demon that he was however, Willow knew this was a lost cause.
In a way she understood it, since being chipped by the Initiative and having his natural tendency for violence and mayhem curbed Spike had to release the demon in him whenever and wherever he could, by way of fighting other demons and using his sharply edged words and barbed comments against her and the rest of her friends. It was a poor substitute for him, but he had to make the best of things and for that Willow could feel a certain measure of sympathy towards him.
She kept that to herself though, she didn't want to make Spike mad and have him storming out of Sunnydale not when she needed him so much.
"Shut up, Spike."
Spike laughed lightly, he knew it annoyed her that he could read her so well, but after having months of examining the slayer and her friends in such close quarters it was hardly surprising. They had hardly spoken to him when he had first gone to them for help, barely acknowledged his existence once they were used to him being around, it was only natural that he would therefore gain an insight into each and every one of them that even they were sometimes unaware of.
There was trouble in paradise, things were not hunky dory between Red and her witch. He didn't know exactly what the problem was but he had a pretty good idea. Red talked to him, more than she did to anyone else Spike knew that, and even though he pretended he held little interest in anything she said, he did rather enjoy being her sounding board. It was nice to have someone talk to him like a man and not just a thing that was merely tolerated. He gave her his opinions if she asked for them and generally when she didn't, but everything he said was good advice masked by a cold comment or a sexual innuendo. It helped him keep up the façade of the Big Bad and Willow allowed him to save face by never openly admitting she knew he was honestly helping her.
It was a system that worked well for them both.
Willow he knew, had taken on the mantel of group leader after the slayer's death and the watcher's return to England. She hadn't asked for the role but it had been thrust on her just the same, with Harris, Anya, Dawn and Glinda all looking to her for help and instructions. Willow was ill-equipped to become leader, she didn't like bossing people around and giving order or making all the hard decisions; but make them she did and when things didn't turn out right, like when Anya had received a hard blow to the head from a vampire the week before and Harris had stupidly almost gotten his neck snapped by attacking a perfectly peaceful demon who was meandering through Sunnydale on his annual pilgrimage; it was Willow they turned on and blamed.
Still, she squared her shoulders and took the heavy burden's from them, and they let her do it. They didn't see that the burden was too heavy for her, that she was floundering; and when she used her ace card to help them in patrol, her magic, that wasn't right with them either.
Dawn had told him she had overheard Willow and her girl fighting about magic. Apparently the dull as dish water witch thought Willow was using magic too much. Spike wasn't a huge fan of Willow and her magic himself, not after she had him falling in love with the slayer and planning their bloody wedding! But, if it save his ass from getting dusted he was all for the use of mojo.
"Sure you don't wanna tell old Spike all about it?" he teased, despising himself for making the offer. He really shouldn't care less if the witch was upset or not.
Willow stopped dead in her tracks, turning to him with a determined look on her face which both surprised and intrigued Spike. "Spike, if you don't…."
The loud scream that cut through the silent night startled Willow. "That could be Anya." She took off at a run.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Sounded more like Harris to me."
"Spike!" she yelled irritably.
"Oh I'm coming, I'm coming," Spike stubbed out his cigarette and took off after her.
Rounding the corner they came across Xander and Anya surrounded by a circle of six vampires. Anya held a stake high, ready to plunge it into the heart of the large male moving leisurely towards her. Xander was down on one knee a hand covering his arm protectively.
"My kinda night," Spike said with a grin, letting his ridges come through and his fangs protrude rather alarmingly. He didn't wait for Willow, didn't ask to form any kind of battle strategy; he just dived right it, throwing kicks and punches for all he was worth laughing delightedly.
Willow ground her teeth together for moment, the big problem with patrolling with Spike was that he could be very unpredictable and he absolutely could not be patrolled.
Still, she joined in the fray, pulling a water gun full of Holy Water from her bag and getting to work.
"Watch it with that thing, Red!"
"Sorry, Spike," Willow called, wincing when she accidently hit him with a stream of water.
A hand she didn't see coming caught her on the jaw sending her sprawling backwards onto the grass, her head collided painfully with the ground and the gun was jolted from her hands. Gasping in surprise, Willow just managed to curl her fingers around a broken branch and use that as a make shift stake when a woman with long flowing red hair loomed over her.
Spitting dust from her mouth, Willow crawled onto her knees to assess the situation. Xander's arm was broken, she could tell that much, he was doing his best with his one good arm but his best wasn't good enough and her water gun had been helping keep the vampires off him. Anya was struggling with a woman, trying to protect Xander and Spike was fighting with two men, he had already dispatched one and both she and Anya had taken one each.
There was a stake on the ground, one she had dropped but it was a little too far out of her reach. Concentrating, a hand on her head pressing over the pain as though she could physically push it away, Willow levitated the stake and sent it into the woman's heart. The vampire disappeared in a cloud of dust leaving Anya to flap her hands in the air to get rid of the dust.
"Let's get out of here!" one of the men called to his companion and the two remaining vampires broke free from the fight and disappeared into the night.
"Are you alright, Xan?" Willow crossed the grass to knee beside her friend.
Anya prodded his arm and Xander let out a loud yell. "Broken," Anya announced firmly.
Spike grinned and snorted with amusement, digging around for another cigarette. He'd rather enjoyed himself tonight.
"You need to get to the hospital," Willow said, helping Xander to stand, being careful not to touch his arm. "Anya's right…"
"Broken," Anya announced again, "Come on, we'd better take you to have it looked at. Not that it would have happened at all if Willow and Spike had been quicker."
"It wouldn't have happened if he was a better fighter either," Spike snapped. "Don't blame us because your boyfriend's incompetent."
"He's not incompetent, he's human," Anya turned to face Spike her hands coming to rest on her hips. "He isn't as strong as a vampire and he was outnumbered…"
"Then he shouldn't be patrolling, should he?" Spike challenged.
"Hey, man in pain standing right here!" Xander interrupted, "Can we get going to the hospital please?"
"You take him Anya, call Dawn and Tara and let them know what's happened, Spike and I will do another quick sweep and I'll meet you at home, ok?"
"Fine," Xander nodded, he was in too much pain to think about much else. Although he made a mental note to discuss magic with Willow at a later date, when the pain wasn't so bad.
"Shall we get on then, Red?"
Willow pressed a finger to her lips as she watched Anya help Xander down the little path. Once she was certain they were out of ear shot she turned to Spike. "We can't do this alone, Spike."
He took a drag of his cigarette and eyed her warily. "Do what?"
"Fight," she said simply. "You can't take on everything that goes bump in the night on your own, and most of the time the rest of us are more of a hindrance than a help. Anya almost split her skull open last week, Tara won't use her magic and now Xander's broken his arm and he'll be out of commission for a while. Truth be told Anya shouldn't have been out with us tonight either, although I don't know if recovery time is different for ex-demons?" she looked at him quizzically, but Spike didn't volunteer any information on the subject.
"I'm not a fighter either," she continued, pushing her hair out of her face with an irritated gesture. "I suppose I should learn, will you teach me? Just some basic stuff?"
"If you like," Spike replied, his tone non-committal. "Is that what the shushing was about? You being taught self-defence some kind of big secret?" Spike knew her better than that, and he also knew she could go all around the bloody houses before she ever got to the point she wanted to make.
"No," Willow twisted about on the spot, her fingers plucking nervously at the hem of her jumper. "We need help, Spike."
"Planning on putting an add in the newspaper are you?"
Her eyebrows drew together in a frown and Spike grinned. "Try to take me seriously."
"Love, I promise to take you very seriously if you ever get to the flaming point."
"You're right," she conceded with a nod, wincing and touching the back of her head. She could feel a small lump forming already. "Buffy's gone," she said firmly, refusing to allow her emotions to creep up on her at this critical juncture. "Faith is still alive, which means there's a slayer alive in the world so another one won't be called."
"Makes sense," he agreed when she paused for his reaction.
"Sunnydale's vampire's know there isn't a slayer in town, how many bands have we run across in the two weeks since Buffy has been gone? We can't fight them all alone, you can't fight them all alone. We need a slayer."
"Isn't the slayer in prison?" Spike had been told the story about Faith. He was pretty sure she was rotting away in her little cell as they were speaking.
"Yes," Willow said. "But I was thinking of breaking her out of prison and bringing her here to help us."
Spike blinked, his cigarette frozen halfway to his mouth as he stood staring at Willow in stunned silence. "Come again?"
"I want to break Faith out of prison and have her come to Sunnydale."
"And you don't think the authorities would come here looking for an escaped convict?" Spike took a pull on his cigarette, the nicotine steadying him.
"I've found a spell, it can alter memories, I can use it on the prison guards and other inmates and hack into the computer system and erase Faith from their files. It would be like she was never there."
"That would be a pretty big spell, Red. You sure you could handle it?"
Willow's spirits lifted, Spike hadn't laughed at her or dismissed her idea out of hand. He hadn't said that he wouldn't help her. "I know you don't have all that much faith in my magic after the will be done spell, but that was different, my emotions were all over the place, I wasn't centred or focused. This spell I can do, I know I can."
"Sounds like you have it all worked out, love. Just one other question, why tell me?" Spike wasn't sure what she wanted from him; approval? He didn't see anything wrong with the plan, he could see as well as Willow could that they couldn't go on the way they were, having a slayer in the mix would put them back on an even keel.
She couldn't possibly want his help. He didn't have any magical ability. Unless she was looking for his backing when she told the others, although Spike couldn't really see the logic in that, his opinion meant nothing to the others, except Dawn.
"I need your help," Willow said, catching her bottom lip between her teeth. "I don't expect it for free, I'll pay you."
Spike smiled lazily. "Always words I'm fond of hearing. What do you need me to do exactly?"
"I need you to take me to L.A. To Angel…."
Willow jumped, startled by the shout and the outright anger on Spike's face. "But…"
"But nothing! I'm not going to visit the poof and that's that." Spike spun on his heel and stormed off across the cemetery heading back to his crypt.
"Wait! Spike!" Willow hurried after him, not at all surprised when Spike increased his pace forcing her to run to catch him. "Spike, please, just listen to me for a minute."
Spike didn't listen, he didn't even wait, he simply walked into the crypt and slammed the door.
Willow trotted up to the crypt, leaning heavily on the door for a moment to catch her breath. She hadn't expected Spike to be thrilled at the idea of going to see Angel, but she also hadn't expected him to walk away from her either. Willow realised that she may not be able to talk Spike around on this, and if that was the case then she was going to have to be prepared to up her offer.
Squaring her shoulders, resolve face firmly in place, Willow entered the crypt.
Spike was standing by his sofa slugging back what smelt like whisky. "Get out."
"No. Not until you've heard me out, Spike." She crossed the dark room so that she could see his face properly when she was speaking to him. "Please listen to me. I have to go to see Angel, I need him to talk to Faith for me. To see if she would even be willing to help us."
"Getting her out of the slammer aren't you, pet? She'll jump at the chance."
"That's what I hoped, that Faith could be like Angel and fight the forces of evil for forgiveness instead of serving time in jail. She'd be much more use to the world if she came here. Faith gave herself up you know, so maybe Angel would stand a good chance of persuading her to come to Sunnydale."
"Why does he have to be involved?" Spike glowered.
"Because Faith trusts Angel. Angel knows Faith. He's my best shot at getting her to agree. Faith might not do it for me, or any of us but I think she would do it if Angel asked her."
"Oh of course," Spike said snidely. "Women always fall all over themselves to do anything the poof asks them to do."
Willow sighed softly. "I don't think it's like that with Faith and Angel. We are deviating from the point, Spike. Will you take me to L.A?"
"Why do you want me to go with you?" Spike still wasn't clear on that part of the plan, the rest made sense to him and he understood the necessity of Angel, even if he didn't like the great big fairy being involved.
"Well you're the only one who can drive. You don't have to be in work like Xander or Anya, you don't have class like Tara or school like Dawn. You're the only one who can up and leave at a moments notice."
"All valid points," Spike agreed, slouching down on his battered old sofa. "But I don't move from this spot until you at least give me the truth."
Willow fumed inwardly. It was so like Spike to demand a full answer when she was trying to skirt around the issue. "Because the others probably won't be all that happy at having Faith back and Tara won't agree with the magic part of it. I don't want to tell them anything at all until I know if Faith will or will not agree. I just want to up and leave for L.A, now, tonight. Happy?"
"Fairly." He surveyed her for a few minutes while he finished off his cigarette. Relationships between the little gang of misfits must be in a pretty sorry state if Willow wouldn't even tell them about her plan. Dawn hadn't given him the whole story, probably because she didn't know it, Dawn never kept secrets from him. "What's in it for me?"
She had rather hoped that the discussion about Angel would have distracted Spike from the matter of his payment. It was just her luck that it hadn't.
"And it better be bloody good if I've got to deal with the royal pain in the ass."
"Cigarettes, whisky and blood?" Willow offered. "I'd give you money but I don't have any."
"I know that," he said quietly. Hadn't it been him she had come to with figures and accounts she couldn't make sense of, her mind so dulled by grief that she had been unable to balance the accounts. He knew she had financial trouble just as he was the only one who knew she worked two nights a week at a student bar to try and subsidise the money she did have. He always met her after work to walk her home, although Willow pretended to be surprised to see him each time; she always had been sensitive to his feelings.
"You give me all that stuff anyway," Spike continued. "If I have to deal with Peaches I want something else. Something more."
When he didn't immediately state what he wanted Willow realised it was down to her to make an offer. It had to be something he couldn't refuse. She had hoped that it wouldn't come to this, but needs must. "I'll give you human blood."
Spike sat up a little straighter. "So you're going to break a criminal out of jail and steal from the hospital all in one week?" he made a disapproving noise in the back of his throat. "I don't know what to say, pet."
His mocking tone set her teeth on edge. "I'm not going to steal blood from the hospital. Don't be ridiculous. You can have my blood."
That certainly caught his interest. "You've got a deal, love."