Holy God was it a bad morning for a hangover.

A shrieking alarm clock awakened Will 'Spike' Pratt at six am, setting off a killer headache that would follow him for the rest of the day. Lurching across the hallway into his closet-sized bathroom, he quickly flipped up the lid of the toilet and spent the next fifteen minutes hugging the cool porcelain, retching up the small amount of alcohol still left in his stomach. Climbing shakily to his feet, he rinsed the sour taste from his mouth and dragged the back of a shaky hand across it, staring at his image in the mirror over the sink.

He looked like hell.

His hair was only half gelled, spiked and messy on one side, the other side pressed flat against his head by his pillow. Black eyeliner was smudged in heavy rings around his eyes, contrasting darkly with pale, clammy skin. His stomach was still rolling ominously, and chills were rolling down his spine. He wanted nothing more than to close the curtains tight over the window and crawl back into his bed for the rest of the day, but calling in sick wasn't an option this morning, so instead he peeled out of last night's sweat-and-vodka stained jeans and climbed into the shower.

Cranking the water as hot as it would go, he stood under the spray and scrubbed until his skin was red and raw. Running his hands over his face, he let out a shaky breath and climbed out. He knew that while the shower could wash away the dirt and grime of his latest bender, it couldn't wash away the guilt or the shame, or the memory of the nightmare's that always followed. Drying his bleached hair roughly, he parted it neatly on the side, slicking it back in a way that reminded him of old fashioned church-going. Wrapping the damp towel around his waist, he headed back to his room in search of clothes.

Even in his condition, the state of his closet never failed to amuse him. The rest of his apartment was everything that anyone would expect of a young, single man's living quarters; slightly under furnished and fairly messy, magazines scattered across the coffee table, dirty socks on the floor, pizza crusts in a box on the counter, but his closet was another story. Impeccably organized, and neatly bisected down the middle, it was a better reflection of who he was than the face in the mirror had been; one side Will, one side Spike.

'Tara would have a field day in here,' he thought, sliding open the right-hand door.

Precisely why he had never invited the girl into his bedroom. Not that she would have accepted the invitation if he'd offered; she had been batting for the other team since he'd met her at university. Sliding hangers along the bar, he selected a soft, long sleeved cotton shirt in a muted shade of olive green to wear with his jeans and his boots. He also pulled out a short, seldom-used flak jacket, his 'Will' jacket. Spike's long leather duster would be staying where he'd left it the night before, tossed sloppily over the back of the couch.

Closing the closet door, he collected his keys and his wallet from the top of his bureau and headed for the front door. He debated stopping off in the kitchen for a cup of coffee, but he was already running late and he doubted that the bitter liquid would help to settle his stomach. Locking his apartment door behind him, Spike snagged the paper off the doormat and dropped easily down the two flights of stairs to the car park beneath the building.

The drive to Effulgent was quick; it had to be since he was always on call, but it was still a trial for his old Desoto. He had neglected the car over the course of the summer, letting it while away the months under a cover while he tooled around happily on his Kawasaki Ninja. Maneuvering the motorcycle would have been more a hassle than a pleasure this morning, but he probably would've taken the car regardless. If he was going to be Will today, he was going to do it right. Cough and wheeze in protest though the old car did, it got him to his destination safely, and he gave the dashboard an affectionate pat before climbing out.

Fighting the childish urge to kick the sign denoting the parking spot as belonging to William Pratt, he breathed in a deep lungful of cool, foggy, morning air and wished desperately for a cigarette. Unfortunately, those were a Spike thing, and Will shouldn't smell like nicotine on intake day. Tara's little green VW Bug was parked in its own space nearby, the condensation on the windshield a good indication that she'd been there for a while. He had been hoping that she wouldn't be in the office when he arrived, but he wasn't surprised that she was, and supposed that he could fake it well enough to get past her without much fuss. Unlocking the glass doors, he stepped into the lobby of the treatment facility and aimed for his office.

He made it.

Shutting the door quietly behind him, he sighed in relief. Leaving the lights off, he skirted his room and instead cracked the blinds over the window, slipping into his leather office chair where a small amount of sunlight trickled in at his back. Dropping his forehead to the desktop with a clunk, he groaned softly under his breath. It was going to be a long day. Luckily for him, there was a bottle of Extra-Strength Excedrin in his desk drawer for just such occasions. Before he could reach for it, a gentle knock sounded at the door.

"C'mon in luv," he called, sitting up and straightening the sides of his jacket.

"Morning," Tara smiled softly, slipping into the office on a breath of jasmine scented air. In her hands she held a steaming mug. "Tea," she said, taking a seat on the other side of the desk and pushing it across to him.

Spike eyed her speculatively, wondering how he'd been found out. He thought he hid a hangover better. But she misinterpreted the look, and in doing so, reassured him that she was unaware of his condition. For now.

"Made the proper way, I promise." She held up a palm as if taking and oath.

Taking a long swallow of the strong, hot beverage, he smiled in appreciation. "Finally learned how to make a proper cuppa. Ta, pet."

"Well I had to," Tara said with a stern look. "Someone threw away all the instant."

"Cheap American…."

"Yeah, yeah I've heard it all before," she laughed lightly. Watching silently for a moment while he sipped at his tea, she aimed a frown in his direction. "Did you eat this morning Spike?"

"It's Will today luv," he replies, smoothly avoiding the question. "You know that."

"I'm worried about you," she countered softly. "You know that. Separating yourself like this isn't healthy…"

" 'S not Wednesday luv," Spike said firmly, pushing his mug to the corner of his desk. "And I don't have time to fit in a session right now."

Tara's face fell, making him feel like a real git. Reaching out to cover one of her hands with his own, he gave it an apologetic squeeze. "I'll eat a big lunch yeah?" he said, trying to catch her gaze. "Actually, why don't you join me? I'll take you out to Clem's."

"I can't," she replied sadly. "I have a consultation with Jenny at one."

"Then we'll order in," Spike said, standing to pull a folder from the filing cabinets along the wall. "We'll go up to the loft in the gym, like we used to."

"I'd like that."

Spike smiled at her, glad that he'd managed to salvage the conversation while still steering the topic away from himself.

"So," he said, dropping back down into his chair and spreading the file out before him. "Intake day."

Tara nodded. "Intake day," she agreed.

"You read the file?" he asked.

"Yep. Female, twenty two, being checked in by her mother," Tara ticked off on her fingers. "Blonde and hazel, five foot four, one hundred and ten pounds, name…"

"Buffy Summers."