Possibly, it should be weird, standing in his kitchen and crying in front of Winnie, like, Spike is reasonably sure that this is not a thing he's ever done in front of an actual girl before (his Ma doesn't count) and seriously, could he feel like more of an idiot? But when she pulls away slightly, her eyes are red and she smiles up at him, brave in a way he's not sure he's ever been, and says, "You wanna play Monopoly?"

Last thing he'd have expected to come out of her mouth, ever. And like, no, he doesn't, it's a terrible game and it goes on forever and he always loses at it and like, the fuck, Monopoly? But he thinks about not having to be alone, not having to hear this weird overlap of Donna and Lew and Boss in his head and before he realizes what he's doing, the words, "Uh, yeah, sure," are out of his mouth and out there in the universe.

"You have it? I have it if you don't."

This whole day has been a little much and now they're talking about Monopoly and he really can't find anything, intelligent or otherwise, to say, ends up just staring at her stupidly.

She nods decisively. "Okay. So we'll go to my place. You wanna change first?"

The plan had been to head back to the hospital after the funeral but he can't bring it up, not now when it feels like his whole body's been put through a washing machine on a violent spin cycle, that panic when he thinks about having to sit there and wait some more and face everyone else and in any case, Jules calls him when he's looking for a clean t-shirt, says that she and Sam were already in the waiting room and that he should just take it easy and he has no idea how she knows but he clears his throat and tries to tell her that he can come too and she doesn't have to handle him but she says, "Spike? Remember when you started and we used to get doubles after shift when we patrolled west of Spadina?"

Of course he remembers, they'd eaten them until he'd been sure he never wanted to see another one as long as he lived, had watched Jules hoover down four of them once and then complain the whole drive back that she was going to be sick. "I-yeah. Course."

"Just so you know. You and me?" She clears her throat. "We're still the same. Always will be."

And it chokes him up so bad that he can't even answer, kind of stumbles out something that may be "ditto" or may be "yeah" and even if he could think of something else to say back, something about how he'll do anything it takes to make sure that she and Sam get forever, something about how he'll never let anything else detonate ever again, his throat won't let the words out.

"Take it easy, okay? Seriously." The way she says it makes him think that she knows, knows all about how it feels like he's been suffocating every time he thinks about Donna and Jimmy, all the ways he has to tell himself that it wasn't anyone's fault except for the guy who set the bomb in the first place. All those moments where he succeeds and all the ones where he doesn't.

"Yeah," he says and his voice comes out hoarse. "I-you too."

Winnie glances over at him from the driver's seat of his own car and she's such a rough driver, all this break neck acceleration when the light changes to green and weaving in and out of traffic but she gives him such a nice smile that he doesn't say a word about it (plus, no one likes a side seat driver and it's not like she doesn't know how to merge so. Pick your battles and all of that).

He follows her numbly down the hallway, keeps thinking that she's going to bring it up any second now and why did he put himself in this position in the first place and seriously, he must need his head examined. She slides her key into the lock and he clears his throat, wants to say a thousand things, doesn't know where to start with the girl he's got a-little-more-than-friendly feelings for but she glances at him and very seriously says, "I put candy in my ice cream. Just so you know."

And it's not news, not like he doesn't already know but it makes him smile, not having to talk or think and he wants to ask her what made her just turn up out of nowhere and walk right into his house like she belonged there but he doesn't because the answer's one of those things that doesn't really matter.

She pulls the game out from her closet, dodges the three other things that come raining down on her head and shrugs at him as she puts the box on the coffee table. "I need more space."

He snorts. "I'll set it up."

"No cheating," she warns him over her shoulder.

He shoots her an affronted look. "Would I ever-"

"Yes," she answers promptly. "So don't think I won't count your money or check your pockets."

He's almost laughing as he takes a seat on the floor and it's the first time anything's felt like anything resembling normal since the wedding. He holds his breath, is kind of waiting for everything from earlier to come rushing back in but it doesn't and he exhales slowly. It's still there but it's muted, stereo set on low and it's bearable.

Monopoly is pretty much as awful as he remembers it being, Winnie gets all the railroads and all the orange properties and she's building houses on the green ones when he's mortgaging Illinois Avenue (plus, he's ended up in jail twice and both times, Winnie rolled her eyes like this was a thing he could control and he was doing it on purpose). There's a bowl of melting ice cream at his elbow and Winnie's got half a gummiworm hanging out of her mouth as she narrows her eyes at the dice.

He sighs heavily. "Just roll them." Not like it matters because she must have been touched by The Monopoly Gods at some point in her life.

She ignores him, mutters something into her fist and then blows on it twice before dropping the dice onto the board. "You know, Park Place is supposed to be a poor investment." She grins at him widely.

He sighs again. "You're buying it, aren't you?"

"You know me so well."

He lands on one of her hotels on his next turn, stares mournfully at her pile of money and then huffs. "I hate this game."

She's cackling madly, makes a big show of counting out her hotels and then shrieks when he tosses a piece of candy at her half-heartedly. "Don't be a sore loser," she advises. "Better luck next time."

"Next time? No next time. I'm never playing this game again. The entire thing is composed of chance-"

"And community chest," she interrupts, smirking.

He ignores her. "-and you don't have to do anything."

"And yet. I won."

She looks all pleased with herself and he can't help but grin at her, feels worlds away from earlier, from Donna, from all those things he couldn't face on his own when he was standing outside in the sun.

It's funny, but it's a feeling that sticks with him on the drive home, even when he stops off at the hospital just after visiting hours are over, ducks his head in on people who shouldn't be there. Like he's not really alone, not at all.


He's lying on his couch watching a tv show he can't even follow when his phone rings. He lets out a heavy sigh, like how annoying is it that he has to reach over to the coffee table for it. Doesn't check the caller ID and only answers because he gets this cold fear in his stomach that something's happened to Boss, even though- "Hello?"

"Hi. Um. It's Winnie." His brain is already analyzing it, she sounds a little embarrassed, something else he can't figure out buried deep in there but also, something in him relaxes because – Winnie's voice. Just one of those things.

"I know. I mean. Hi. Sorry. Hi." He clears his throat, mentally rolls his eyes at himself. "What's uh-what's up?" Seriously. Why him?

"Did I wake you up? I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was so late. Um. Nevermind, I can just-"

"It's fine. Really. I wasn't sleeping." He stares at the ceiling. "Everything okay?"

"Oh yes. Everything's fine," she says hastily. "I just. Uh. I wanted to ask for a favour."

"Anything." He winces as soon as the word's out of his mouth. Things like that are going to get him into trouble. "I mean. Sure. Go ahead." There's really no excuse for his loose tongue, what in the hell has gotten into him? Can only chalk it up to being tired, how he hasn't been able to sleep properly, almost like even when he's asleep, his body thinks it needs to be awake, like the threat's still looming somewhere on the horizon.

"You can say no, it's not a big deal, seriously, I'm not going to be like upset if you-"

He tries not to laugh because she still sounds a little sheepish and seriously, he knows her, knows she's not going to ask him for something he can't give her. "What is it?"

"I um. Wasn't sure what Dean and Marina have been eating. I just wanted to drop some stuff off for them. Just. Kind of a lot to carry on the subway. Do you think-"

"You need a ride?" He's already sitting up like there's a chance she might ask him to drive her now, even though it's nearly midnight.

He hears a soft laugh and it makes him smile. "You mind? I don't want to-"

"I don't mind," he interrupts, really does roll his eyes at himself this time. "Now?"

There's a pause and he's mid-way through rolling his eyes at himself again because quite obviously, 'now' is way too eager, when she says, "Tomorrow morning? I'm um. Only on standby and Sid said there's no way he's calling in so-"

"Yeah of course. Of course. Um. I'll come over in the morning."

"Thanks, Spike." She sounds relieved, like she thought he might say no, like she may even be smiling and seriously, he has got to stop breaking down all those things he thinks he's hearing in her voice. If that's not a path to nowhere, he doesn't know what is.

He's up and pacing before eight the next morning, keeps checking his phone like he's a junior high girl waiting for a call from her crush. It's so ridiculous and absurd but still, when she calls at 9:30, he answers on the first ring.

Gets to her place and she meets him at her door, hands him a mug of coffee. There's an almost-endless amount of Tupperware sitting on her tiny kitchen table.

"What is all this stuff?" He's got just about absolutely nothing to show for the past few days, is all, especially if you discount all the Tim's cups in the hospital waiting room's recycling bin and Winnie looks like she's been spending all that time outside of the hospital in her kitchen.

She shrugs. "I don't know. That one's spinach quiche. That one's baked chicken. Um. That one's vanilla pound cake. Those are chocolate chip-"

He unsnaps the lid and snags one of the cookies, gives her a charming smile. He's always been a little leery of those weird carrot muffins she makes but her chocolate chip cookies have always had the right ratio of chocolate chip to cookie and plus, they're chewy. So.

She sighs but he can see the smile tugging on her lips. "Those are roasted vegetables. That one's cheese."

There's a beat where he stares incredulously at her, showing off some half-chewed chocolate chips before he can stop himself. "Cheese? Like. From the grocery store?"

"It goes with crackers," she insists. "Like. Easy snack. Spike, I swear to god, if you don't stop making fun of me-"

He snorts. "Cheese? Really?"

She ignores him but she's starting to smile for real now. "That one's a Thai curry. I mean. It's supposed to be. Um. And that one's soup. With like. Stuff in it."

"Stuff soup. Sounds appetizing." He's full on grinning at her now. (He's liked teasing her from the day they met.)

She rolls her eyes at him.

He pops the last of his cookie in his mouth and chews thoughtfully. "That's nice. That you did all this." It sure does beat handing Marina a bag full of bagels like he did yesterday.

She shrugs. "Yeah well. They don't have the time, right? I do. Not like I'm at work."

He raises his eyebrows at her tone. "Right," he says slowly. "I'm not either."

It's how it goes, you get a hot call like the one they had and that's it, you're on stand-down until Holleran says you're not.

"Right. Right. Sorry. I forgot that I wasn't the only-" She sighs and then glances at him. "I feel really useless." She says it fast, like she's confessing some kind of terrible sin.

He looks at her, how there's a piece of hair falling out of her ponytail, fingers fiddling with one of the Tupperware lids, kind of thinks maybe that feeling he had yesterday when he was lying on his couch was the same kind of feeling. "Yeah. I know. Me too."

"Yeah?" She shakes her head and he hears the barest hint of relief. "I was going to bring some stuff over to Ed's too but like. I don't know. Is that weird?"

Her brow is all furrowed and he really has to restrain himself from reaching out and doing something wholly embarrassing like touching her face. Masks it by starting to stack all the containers. "I don't know. Am I really the person you want to be asking something like that?"

"What?"

He rolls his eyes. "Winnie, no. It's not weird." Those lines between Sergeant and TL and Constable have always been blurred on Team One. Never in the field but everywhere else? Everywhere else, those lines have never been clear. He's never really minded it.

"What do I make? I mean. Okay, don't be like 'an eight course meal, obviously' because that's just. Ridiculous. But-"

"Why don't we make gnocci?" He's not going to apologize for being Italian over here, his Ma and the pasta and the wafer cookies, that's just how it was his whole life until she moved out of the country. And plus, he knows his way around Italian food, could probably do it in his sleep. He's also not going to apologize for shoving himself into her space with the 'we', doesn't know if it's because he thinks he should owe her something for crying all over her or because he wants to.

She lets out a breath. "Yeah? Really?"

"From scratch."

She makes a face at him. "Oh, Spike, come on. Why can't we just use-"

"The sauce too." Any other day and there's no way in hell he'd be suggesting any of this stuff, no way no how, not after she turned him down, doesn't want her to think that he can't take direction, but he thinks about all the work that's going to go into it and it just sounds like all the things that used to make sense when he was a kid and too young to know any better. And the fact that it'll be with her beside him – it's just icing on the cake, even if she's never going to feel any different about him than she does today.

She's giving him one of those looks like she can see right through him and then she nods slowly. "I-okay. Can we drop this stuff off at Boss's place first?"

"Whatever you want."

It takes them two trips to get the stuff downstairs and into the car and every time he looks at her reusable shopping bag, he starts laughing, asks her if she has one of those little carts that you pull behind you and she rolls her eyes, tells him yes and she's celebrating her ninety-second birthday next week, so there. He grins the whole drive over, doesn't even roll his eyes when she keeps flipping through the radio stations before they can get through a whole song.

Winnie has the key, shrugs at him and starts filling up the fridge. "I borrowed it from Dean yesterday. He's been sleeping in the waiting room."

He'd kind of figured as much, thinks the kid deserves that spot, a son who learned to trust a father he didn't even know, based on nothing more than a feeling.

"He's at least been showering and changing his clothes though. Think Mira might have had something to do with that." She raises an eyebrow at him. "You know."

"Yeah, I got it, thanks." He's smirking though, remembers what that kind of love is like (before you realize that large parts of it can really really suck). "She's a nice girl."

"She is," Winnie says, making a face at some carrots that have seen better days. "Smart too. She got into McGill for something to do with bio chemical molecular-something."

"That does sound smart."

She rolls her eyes at him. "Anyhow." She pauses. "You think I should leave the cookies on the counter?"

He looks up from where he's just started chomping on another one and shrugs. "As opposed to where?"

She gives him a look, shakes her head at him like he's a totally lost cause and it's only later when he's lying in bed after a trip to the grocery store, a pit stop at the hospital and a few hours spent making pound after pound of gnocci with Winnie laughing at his jokes and loudly remarking that she thought he hadn't wanted to be her assistant in the kitchen and shoving playfully at him when he tries to tell her that she's pressing too hard with the fork, that he realizes that it was a good day. Not a perfect day, they were both trying a little bit too hard for that. But a good day.

It makes his breath catch, same as it did the first good day he had after Lew died.

It's not like he thought life was going to suck forever, experience has taught him that it doesn't work that way, that the human body won't let it, but the surprise is still there.

He also kind of thinks that Winnie Camden might be one of his most favourite people ever.


He drags Leah to a movie three days after Jimmy's funeral. She talks through nearly the whole thing and eats all his popcorn and they have to walk out of it before the end because it's so goddamned bad and she punches him on the shoulder and says, "That sucked," but the smile on her face is genuine and honestly, he doesn't know how Ed does it sometimes, the way he knows his team and what they need (Spike had balked at first, Ed telling them all to spend the whole day out of the hospital, that he didn't want to see them back there until they'd had a day off. Sam had looked like he might protest too but neither of them had said a word and Ed had nodded sharply and then gone to sign the papers to get Clark discharged).

And he really wants to point out that she's the one who picked it but he loops his arm around her neck and hugs her hard. "Can't beat the company though. Am I right?"

She snorts rudely. "I'm just casually throwing this out there but maybe that right there is why you're still single."

He raises an eyebrow. "Doubtful."

She laughs, digs her elbow a little painfully into his ribs and okay, it took a while for him to really see all that stuff about one door closing and someone opening a window and he resented her for long enough that it's embarrassing to think about but now he can look at her and know that loving Leah doesn't mean he didn't love Lew, that she doesn't have to take Lew's place in order to carve out her own, that seeing all her good and all her decency doesn't mean that Lew didn't have his own good and his own decency (and he's going to blame thinking all of this stuff at all on how rough the last week's been, knows he'd have thought all of this stuff even if the last week hadn't happened).

He follows her home and she makes them dinner, lets him sit on one of the barstools in her kitchen and cut up the bell peppers and it's easy until she glances at him as she puts the lid on top of the pot and says, "It's not your fault. You know that, right?" Seriously, sometimes Leah's got all the tact and timing of a herd of elephants stampeding the wrong way down a one-way street.

He doesn't say anything, fiddles with the edge of the cutting board. "I know that." Of course he knows. Logically, he knows.

She keeps looking at him and he has a hard time not looking away. "Okay. Just in case you didn't." She lets him off easy for once. "So. Winnie. You two've been looking all cozy." Or not.

"Was that a question?" He's stalling, has no idea what she's asking or what he's even going to say. (Winnie said no, he reminds himself. There's been an ease between them though, different than how things usually are. It's new, something he knows hadn't been there before Donna's funeral. Doesn't know what it means, if it even means anything or if he's just looking for meaning where there isn't any at all.)

She shoots him an exasperated look. "You convince her that cops are awesome?"

He snickers. "Uh. We're just friends."

She lets out a wholly unpleasant-sounding "HA!" and then cackles like a witch before crossing her arms and leaning against the counter. "Puh-lease."

"We are!" he insists. They are. They're friends. They are friends. There is nothing weird or illicit about it and there's absolutely no reason why the back of his neck should feel hot.

"That what they're calling it now?"

He rolls his eyes. "We're friends," he says with heavy emphasis. "The kind that play board games and get coffee and hang out in hospitals. We're not…it's not like…that."

She gives him this slightly pitying look like she finds him indescribably stupid for some reason and seriously, she can be so annoying sometimes. "You'd tell me if it was like that though. Right?"

"Yeah, probably not," he says, ducking when she flicks a piece of green onion at him.

"Spi-ike!" she complains.

"Le-ah!" he mimics, knows how that kind of thing irritates her.

She glares at him and then shrugs. "You'll tell me. Eventually. You can't hide from me." She sounds ridiculously self-assured about it.

She's probably right, this awful thing she has that makes him lie really badly but since there'll never be anything to tell, he's not even remotely worried.