Willow knocked on the bathroom door once, twice, thrice (and for the first time in a long while, she didn't think of the magic of threes as she did so). The hard wood made a satisfying noise against her fist, and she heard a voice sighing within. She heard, however, no answering footsteps. "Buffy, come on, this is important," she said again, sounding just as nervous as she felt.

Some mumbling she couldn't quite make out, and then the door opened to reveal Faith, still rubbing leftover eyeliner from the corners of her eyes. "Whassup," she mumbled.


Willow still wasn't sure how she felt about the ex-con currently living in their house. On one hand, it was hard to forget the multiple times that Faith had hurt or tried to kill the people she loved; on the other, she'd almost ended the world herself the previous year, so hey, perspective. She got where Faith was coming from, anyway, even if she didn't like her blasé attitude.

"Willow," the other woman acknowledged in return. "What can I do you for?"

"I'm looking for Buffy," she said, the words rushing out faster than she intended. Damn. She hated feeling like old tenth-grade Willow, with the nervousness and inability to spit her words out. Still, tenth-grade Willow was still better than world-endy Willow. Perspective reigns again.

"Oh." Faith cocked her head. "She's not here."

"Yeah, I get that."

"I think she's in the basement," Faith offered. Willow nodded thanks and rushed back down the stairs, nearly running into Kennedy as she did so.

"Hey, what's the hurry, hottie?" her girlfriend asked playfully, raising one well-shaped eyebrow. Willow gave her an apologetic smile and a flirty arm brush.

"I, uh, I just need to talk to Buffy about something. Sorry!" Her feet tripped down the stairs ungracefully.

She felt a sort of hush fall over her when she opened the basement door. It was so quiet down there, like a grave or a church or something. Her steps sounded unreasonably loud on the cool steps as her eyes adjusted to the sight of the sleeping figures on the bed.

Her mouth formed a tiny "o". It was Buffy and Spike, cozy as cozy could be, wrapped up in each other's arms like there was nowhere else to be in the world. Willow's heart tugged unpleasantly.

See, she hadn't really thought about the implications of "basement". It was just a place in Buffy's house where she might be found, and sure, that was where Spike slept, but she hadn't really considered that or why Faith would know that she was down there. But now, to see them like this (in an obviously intimate moment, which she hadn't really thought they had nowadays but whoops, looks like she was wrong!)…it almost reminded her of Tara. The pure safety and contentment that she'd always felt when she was resting in her lover's arms.

Spike's eyes were closed. In all the years she'd known him, she'd never seen him look so peaceful. It was kind of strange; he still looked alive, not like the dead body she might have expected. It took her a second to realize that was due to the slow but steady rise and fall of his chest, unnecessary breaths that he wasn't even conscious to enjoy. Huh.

And Buffy…oh, goddess, Buffy looked like an angel. Willow hadn't really comprehended how much she missed her best friend, how much she'd lost when they gained a commander, but here she was in all her glory. Not the Slayer, not the general, just Buffy Summers, a woman of strength and beauty. To wake her up now would be to tear her out of heaven all over again.

Willow's throat was dry as she turned to leave. She made her way over to the steps, but in her haste, she tripped over one of Spike's clunky boots.

She froze.

"Willow?" Buffy asked, in her patented sleepy voice. This was a flavor she hadn't heard in a while, though – "pleasantly rested" as opposed to "I don't care who you are, I will stake you if you are coming to wake me up".

She turned slowly. The Slayer was awake, although she hadn't extracted herself from Spike. That was even worse, because Willow couldn't pretend to ignore the purposeful threading of their fingers or the gentle leaning of body into body. At least they were both fully clothed.

"Yeah," she said, "it's me."

It was too bad that she hadn't come up with some kind of awkwardness-curing spell back when she was hooked on magic, because she could have really used the help.

Buffy, on the other hand, didn't seem bothered at all. She finally let go of Spike's hand and stretched out her limbs like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like she started every morning this way, which, Willow realized suddenly, she might have. When was the last time she'd gone to look for Buffy before she was up? The Slayer general was always up before the crack of dawn. "What's up?" Buffy asked casually.

"I needed to talk to you about something, but if it's a bad time, I can come back, or –"

"You're good, Will," Buffy interrupted. "Be right up."

And then, in a moment so painfully intimate that Willow had to force herself not to look away, she gently brushed her hand across the sleeping vampire's face. He stirred only slightly as she rose from the bed. Buffy trained her eyes on Willow, but the other woman could tell that it was through sheer force of will.

Oh goddess, she realized suddenly. She's in love with him. Really, this time.

Now that she knew, she couldn't un-see it. Every little moment between the pair that she'd absently caught now played back in her head, another piece of evidence screaming the truth. Willow tried not to look as if her world had been shaken.

Buffy drew her arms over herself, even though the basement air could hardly be colder than Spike's undead embrace. She nodded to Willow to indicate that they should go up the stairs.

Yeah, better let sleeping vampires lie. Willow wasn't sure she could face Spike right now, knowing what she knew now.

They climbed up in silence, and when they reached the top, Buffy only glanced back for an instant. Something in that green gaze made Willow suddenly aware of the other half of the truth.

"What was it you wanted to tell me?"

Buffy loved Spike, but she didn't know it yet. And maybe she wouldn't know until it was too late, but Willow didn't have it in her to be the one to tell her. Not yet.

"You know what?" she said, unable to be anything but honest. "I forgot."