Think of Me as Your Family (Chapter Seventeen)

"A Skench? Really?" Willow had to admit she'd never heard of that species.

Spike shuddered. "Ugly buggers. Nasty phlegm. Stuff's even worse than Fyarl mucus."

Finally alone with her guy and what were they doing? Discussing the icky demon Gunn and Fred were out (hopefully) slaying. Which was actually not what they most needed to discuss.

It seemed like they were always being interrupted by something, so she just blurted it out: "Angel knows."

Spike seemed totally confused. "What? What are you talking about?"

"He knows. About you and Buffy."

"How…?" He didn't seem too happy and Willow became very nervous.

"I kind of, sort of thought you had probably said something already and so I sort of said something and he kind of… figured it out." Oh god. She wasn't in the habit of babbling anymore. It felt strange – and not in a good way.

But then Spike pulled her into a close embrace. "'S'okay, love. Probably best if you don't tell Buffy, though. Don't think she'd be too pleased about Angelus knowing her secrets."

It didn't escape Willow's notice that Spike was using the name of Angel's soulless counterpart again. Not surprising, she supposed, considering that confrontation in the kitchen. "I'm guessing you guys didn't talk while I was gone."

She could feel the shake of Spike's head. "Not bloody likely," but he sounded sad as he said it, not his usual airy sarcasm.

"I keep trying to tell him how wonderful you are."

He kissed the top of her head. "Thanks for that." He still sounded dispirited though and Willow wondered about that. Or maybe she shouldn't. After all, she still wanted her parents to love her.

"Sorry about the car," she offered. "I'd been thinking we'd go home tonight, but now…"

"Not your fault, pet." He sighed softly. "Can't say I wasn't hoping we'd be leaving." Despite the words, though, Spike's tone was far less certain than her own had been and she was sensing that same strange ambivalence.

Again, she wondered about the spell, but she said nothing about it. "Well, on the plus side, maybe I'll get to eat at In 'n Out again." That was a plus, too.

Spike chuckled. "A hamburger makes this all better?"

"Well, no, but… I'm trying to look on the bright side."

"That's what I love about you."

Just when it looked like they were about to close the door to their room and have a lovely, and very welcome, romantic moment, the sound of arguing drifted up from downstairs.

"What do you mean Wesley's in the hospital?"

Oh great. You know, the least Angel could do was keep his employees updated.

"Thought the cheerleader was supposed to have turned into a seer or something. You'd think she'd already have the lowdown about what was going on without needing to be told. That Miss Cleo on the telly would have known."

Willow giggled, but she pointed out, "Being a seer isn't really like that. She gets the visions she gets. It's not like she can just look in a crystal ball and see what everyone's doing whenever she likes."

"Not much use then, is she?"

It was obvious that the argument downstairs had moved out of the lobby because, while voices could be heard, Willow could no longer make out what was being said. "We better get downstairs and see what's going on before someone gets killed."

Spike rolled his eyes, then said, "It'd be just like Angel to make me clean up cheerleader blood at that."

Her guy. There was no one like him. But there was a look in his eyes… Oh gosh, there was a memory attached to that offhand quip. It seemed to be an oddly nostalgic one, if her interpretations of his expressions were accurate, and she realized she'd been noticing that more and more since they got here.

He missed having his sire, she already knew that, but now… now there was a specificity to his feelings and she realized that, for all his bluster and sarcasm, Spike missed Angel. Guess that explained the heightened tension and this morning's nasty fight. No one knew better than she did that Spike's way of dealing with vulnerability was to lash out. He'd done it to her more than once.

Once again marveling at her ability to entangled in deep thoughts at the worst possible moment, she headed down the stairs, Spike by her side, and made her way to the office – where Angel was standing glowering guard over a box of what looked like personal belongings. Wesley's, she'd guess.

"He's not welcome here."

"I get that, okay? I just…"

Much to Willow's – and Angel's – shock, Spike put both boots into the argument. "He sent your boss's pup off to a Hell dimension, in case you forgot. Oh wait. You didn't even know. Because you were too busy getting your groove on with the hunk of the month over there," he gestured dismissively towards poor Groo, who looked lost and confused. "Why don't you leave the important matters to the grown-ups, eh?"

"Spike," Angel growled, but there was a look in his eyes which belied the hostile tone of his voice. Was it… fondness?

Cordelia, however, was completely and totally hostile and there was no mitigating emotion whatsoever. "Look, you neutered excuse for a vampire, Angel's the one who sent me off on vacation! And for your information, I'm not defending Wesley or what he did. I love Connor. He's… family, and I'm just as angry about what happened to him as anyone. I just want the chance to talk to Wesley, that's all. I want to understand…" There was something close to tears in her eyes and Willow felt… well, kind of horrible, actually. It was clear that all of this was a rude and overwhelming shock to Cordelia and she was having a hard time. Wesley had been her friend and finding out what he'd done had to be a real blow.

Her old nemesis had clearly matured; Willow could see that. Maybe it was time to hold out an olive branch. "I'm sorry," she offered. "I guess in the heat of things, we all kind of forgot how confusing this has to be for you. I mean, you and Wesley work together all the time, fighting evil, you go away for a week or two, and – Blam! He turns out to be evil too."

A slackened jaw and widening eyes were Cordelia's first response, followed by a surprising and heartfelt, "Thank you." Of course she then glared at the two vampires and added, "At least someone here understands human feelings."

"You're right. I'm sorry." An apology from Angel. That was good because Willow knew there was definitely not one coming from Spike, who proved her right by merely snorting and rolling his eyes.

"It is good that we are no longer arguing." Groo's voice and inflection were an even clearer indication than his eyes that he wasn't quite all the way human – though possibly closer to it than Anya.

Oh gosh, that reminded her… "I really need to call Buffy. Let her know that we won't be back for awhile. Mind if I use the phone?"

"Can it wait?" Angel asked. "I was hoping you'd take these things to Wesley." He all but spat the man's name.

For a split second, she thought of asking what the hurry was, but then – duh. Why would he want to have Wesley's stuff around for a moment longer? Yes, Connor was home now, and safe, but it had been a close run thing and the pain of those days without his son wasn't just going to go away. Willow got that.

There was, however, one very good reason why she could not do this. "My car's in the shop, remember?"

Angel was about to say something when Cordelia – proving that, no matter what, the universe would never stop being surprising – chimed in. "I'll take you." Okay… huh? Why didn't she just offer to take the stuff herself?

But if Willow thought there was a way out of this, she was probably wrong, since Angel immediately handed her the box and, with a look that was full of undercurrents she didn't quite get, said, "Thank you."

Spike clearly saw the writing on the wall as well and, instead of starting a brand new row, said, "I'll call the Slayer for you, let her know what's up and that you'll be calling her yourself later."

She was about to thank him, but instead the words that came out were, "I love you."

With a surprised, but very pleased, smile, Spike replied, "Love you too, pet. Be back soon, okay?"

"I will." As she followed Cordelia out of the hotel, she concentrated on the sound of Spike's voice…

And not on the look in Angel's eyes.

To be continued…