How Many Wrongs Does It Take to Get It Right?

He's curled up against her as if they're lovers. They aren't, but they could be and that's a wonderful thing.

That's a terrible thing.

She doesn't have a right to this.

"You better get a handle on your magic shite, little witch!" Spike voice is full of anger and menace and the knowledge of his chip does nothing to lessen Willow's fear of him. Why did she come here? Why did she think she needed absolution *now*?

"I'm sorry," she chokes out, withdrawal already whistling through her bones – turning them brittle and friable, doing the same to her heart and her soul.

"Bloody right, you are. Sorriest excuse for a…"

He stops in mid-sentence and she wonders why, not noticing for a moment that she has slumped to the floor, curled up small like a hiding child. Then she feels him crouch close to her. It's only when she opens her eyes that she realizes she'd closed them in the first place. "You're in rough shape," he says and there's an odd, solicitous note to the words.

He cares, doesn't he? Which is wrong and a mistake, because she's not worth it. Ask Buffy – or Dawn.

Ask Tara.

She's bad and evil and a junkie. She took everyone's memories, she nearly got Dawn killed.

No, she can't even think about what she did to Tara.

"Why did you do something so daft? Going to that Rack bastard?"

There are glossy, conventional answers to that, she knows, but now that someone is asking her – directly, but gently, almost kindly, as if he really wants to understand – she can't think of them. She decides to try to tell the truth… "I wanted to fix…" Wait. She'd meant to say 'a' fix, not 'to' fix, but somehow…

"What?" he asks, voice still gentle and his hand on her shoulder, "What did you want to fix?"

"Everything," she whimpers before adding softly, "Buffy."

She'd ripped Buffy out of Heaven and there's nothing she can do to make that right that doesn't add one more mortal sin to the long list she's been compiling since… since the day she was born, it seems. It makes sense, all of a sudden, why her parents never loved her, why Oz preferred some werewolf he barely knew.

Why Tara is gone.

Buffy isn't the only thing she wanted to fix. But then, she already knew that. So did Spike.

Spike pulls her into his arms and they sit silently for a long moment before Spike says, "You sure prove that nonsense about the road to hell… It isn't such bollocks after all, is it?"

There's nothing she can say to that, but she shakes her head in some sort of agreement and he pulls her even closer. "By rights I should still be mad at you, but…"

"But?" Her voice is nearly inaudible, except to a vampire, it seems, because he hears her just fine.

"She's not the same. Guess she needs fixing at that." He pauses and she feels what might be the barest touch of lips against the top of her head. "Guess you do too."

If she could have helped it, she never would have started crying, but she couldn't, so she does. In seconds she's bawling in Spike's arms, wondering, in spite of his observations about the road to hell, how everything had gone so incredibly wrong. Magic is supposed to be a force for good, isn't it?

Maybe the fault isn't in the power, but in the one who wields it. Because when Tara… Tara is never evil or bad or corrupt. She's perfect.

No wonder she doesn't love Willow anymore. She never really did, did she? Not the real Willow. Because no one could love the real her.

Which is why it's possible for her to do what she's going to do now. She's not giving up anything, because she would have destroyed it all on her own anyway, even without the magic she'll be using now.

One last time.

Because this time… yes, she'll be doing the wrong thing, but it's for all the right reasons and it'll all be okay. This time everything will go the way it's supposed to and everything will be exactly the way it should.

"She was with me, you know," Spike says softly, but the words roar in Willow's ears because she knows exactly what he means by 'with.'

"You guys… made love?"

A sharp bark of mirthless laughter. "Not hardly." Something lost and vulnerable flashes in those bright blue eyes before he drops the wall down again and he smirks. "Right fine shag, though. Slayers… they don't just *fight* hard, get my meaning?"

"You love her." It's a simple statement of fact – not like it hasn't been plain as day for a long time – but the words seem to pierce Spike's heart and she regrets them. How can they be so painful now that Buffy has taken him to her bed?

"Wants to feel," he mumbles and she tries to make sense of it. He's up on his feet in a flash, pacing, the words spitting forth like a machine gun firing. "Don't you get it? I'm not good enough to care for – can't be in her heart. But her body? That's another story. Spike can service the girl, get her juices going… be the one thing in this world that makes her feel *anything*. Not love, though. Never love. Just a monster and I disgust her all the while."

What? That's not Buffy. That can't be Buffy. Okay, yes, she's been kind of cold and distant since she came… was forced back to life courtesy of Willow, but that's still not Buffy, could never *be* Buffy. She says nothing, though, because she knows her denials would mean nothing to Spike. They'd hurt him because he'd think she doesn't care about his pain.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

He looks down at where she still sits, crouched, transfixed, and he implores, "Am I a monster to you?"

It seems as if her arms are around him before she's even had the chance to stand. "No, Spike, you're not a monster. I promise."

She's lain beside him, watching the way his chest doesn't move as he sleeps, thinking, for what seems like hours.

Tonight she's learned so much. She's heard the story of a rejected poet named William and a desperate vampire named Spike and through it all she's heard the story of a girl named Willow who's never been good enough.

But there's hope for one of them. Because Spike? Spike is good enough. He's more than good enough. He's gentle deep down and braver than anyone she's ever known and smarter than anyone gives him credit for and has so much love to give… more love than she imagined could exist within anyone.

If Buffy knew…

She will. She'll realize. She will. And then she'll finally be happy and being ripped out of Heaven won't have been a bad thing at all. But Willow needs to be out of the way. Everything Spike shared with her tonight? That needs to be Buffy's only.

So Willow gets up as cautiously as she has ever moved, leaving Spike in the peaceful sleep that is the last thing she'll ever share with him –and she goes home. There's a scrap of Lethe's Bramble in the back of her underwear drawer.

One last time and Spike will forget. He'll be all Buffy's, the way he should be… and he'll be happy. She knows it.

Willow won't forget, though.

She may not be Christian, but somehow bearing a cross seems like no more than she deserves.

It will burn.

The End.