Over the course of the last thirty minutes, Willow had made two trips to the kitchen; picked up the newspaper and pretended to scan it before dropping it again; wandered to the bookshelves; fired up the computer and shut it down moments later; and returned to the living room to stare at the flames in the fireplace. She turned to make her third pass toward the kitchen when Angel rose from the armchair to block her path.
"Would you sit down? You're making me tired," he grinned.
"I don't want to sit down. I want to know what they're doing," she scowled.
"You know what they're doing. They're pouring over Giles' books, looking for a way to stop all of this. Now, sit down."
He took her arm and hauled her over to the chair to settle her on his lap.
"I should be helping them," she grumbled.
"You should be here where you're safe," he argued patiently.
"Angel, I want to _do_ something! I can't stand sitting around waiting for this demon to come after me."
"Yes, you can, and you will," he said firmly. "He's not going to get to you. You know we won't let that happen."
"I'm sorry. I know I'm being a major pain in the ass," she sighed and tried to wriggle off of his lap.
Angel's arms tightened around her, and he placed a kiss on her temple, "I understand this is hard for you, love. Giles will come up with the answers we need, and then we'll take care of the bastard who's after you."
"Where's Spike?" she asked.
"He went out," Angel's gaze darted to the mantle clock. "Over an hour ago."
"An hour? Shouldn't he be back by now? Do you think something's happened?"
"I don't know. Let's give him a few more minutes before we panic, okay?" he suggested.
She looked at him uneasily, but nodded and settled back against him, resting her head on his shoulder and placing a kiss on his neck. Angel ran his fingers through her hair, toying with it mindlessly, as his eyes returned to the clock across the room.
Fifteen minutes of silence passed before they were jolted from their quiet worry by a soft thud from outside the front door. Willow jumped to her feet, and Angel stepped in front of her. Curling his hand around the doorknob, he threw open the deadbolt and glanced back at his redhead before jerking the door open.
Spike, who had been leaning against the door, nearly fell over the threshold. Angel slammed the door shut and reached out to steady him. Willow gasped at the bloody bruise on the blonde vampire's face and ran to him. He hissed as her hand wrapped around his wrist, and she quickly released it. Spike groaned and stumbled over to the sofa, dropping down onto it as Angel checked the lock on the door.
"Oh, Goddess, Spike! What happened?" Willow asked as she sat down next to him and eyed his injured arm.
The flesh on his forearm was blistered and burned, exposing part of the muscle underneath.
"Holy water, damn bastards," he groaned through clenched teeth. "There must have been a dozen of them. Fewer before they finally gave up and took off."
Angel sat down and took hold of Spike's wrist. His blue eyes gleamed amber, and his fangs descended as a bolt of pain raced up his arm.
"It's bad," Angel told Willow, ignoring his childe's low growl.
Spike was in full vamp mode as Angel tore open his own shirt and tugged it away from his neck. He curled his hand around Spike's head and drew his mouth down. Spike, completely surprised by the offer of his sire's blood, hesitated.
Angel lowered his voice and snarled the command, "Drink."
The dark vampire flinched as he felt Spike's fangs sink into his flesh, and Willow watched in silent fascination as Angel cradled his childe's head in one hand and gripped his shoulder with the other.
"Get two bags of blood from the fridge and some bandages," he said softly to Willow.
The redhead nodded and quickly vanished into the kitchen. Angel closed his eyes and allowed the long-forgotten sensation of his childe suckling his blood to reawaken within him. He groaned softly as Spike's uninjured hand moved to cup his sire's growing erection. His frenzied feeding had slowed, and he laved his tongue over Angel's cold throat while his fingers stroked his sire's twitching member. He unbuckled Angel's belt and freed his cock from its confinement. Angel's fingers curled through his childe's hair as Spike pumped him until his shaft was hard and fully erect.
Willow reappeared from the kitchen as Spike withdrew his fangs, and Angel lowered his mouth to run his tongue over his childe's bloody lips. Spike's lips parted, and Angel pushed his tongue inside as his childe continued to work his aching penis. A warm tingle suffused Willow's body, and she leaned against the entryway as her body responded to the erotic encounter unfolding before her.
Angel growled softly as Spike's tongue thrust against his, mimicking the motion of his hand on his sire's cock. Angel crushed Spike's lips to his and grunted as he came, and Willow moaned as Spike drew away and raised his hand to his mouth to taste his sire's essence.
Angel looked over at her flushed face and smiled softly, "Go get those bandages, and then we'll see about your turn."
She laughed softly and headed for the bathroom as Angel fastened his pants and examined Spike's arm once again.
"Thank you," the blonde vampire spoke softly.
Angel brushed his lips over Spike's, "I've missed you."
"Like a bloody toothache," Spike chuckled.
"Like my childe," he replied.
Willow returned with the bandages and sat down beside Spike.
"Someone else could do with a bit of attention," he told Angel as he caught the scent of her arousal.
Willow blushed to her roots and kept her eyes on his arm, "Let's tend to this first."
He laughed and lifted her chin with his finger to place a kiss on her lips. She placed her hand on his chest and pushed herself away.
"Arm. Bandages. Now," she ordered.
Gingerly, she lifted his hand in hers, and her eyes grew wide as she looked at the burns, "It's already healing!"
"Sire's blood," he grinned. "It's better than liquor."
"Thanks," Angel laughed. "I think."
Angel stared down at Willow's pale, still body and bit back tears. They wouldn't help now. He wondered if anything would. His brow furrowed at the dark thought, and he shook it away. She looked so very small and frail enveloped in the crisp, white sheets of the hospital bed. His eyes fixed on the dark bruise on her cheek as he strained to hear her faint heartbeat.
He looked up as the door quietly swished open, and Spike limped into the room. His ghostly pallor mirrored the redhead's, and Angel shuddered at the realization he had nearly lost both his childe and his lover, might very well still lose her, in fact.
"We failed her," the words rasped from Spike's lips as he stood beside his sire and took Willow's limp hand in his own.
"We didn't know. We weren't ready." Angel's words did nothing to assuage either Spike's guilt or his own.
Giles had found the way to destroy the demon who had been stalking Willow. They had met in the cemetery five hours ago--just after sunset. Neither vampire had wanted Willow to be there, but Buffy insisted it was necessary if they were to lure the demon out of hiding.
The demon had, indeed, appeared, but not alone. While Spike had no aversion to killing the mortals who had aided the demon's assault, Buffy was reluctant, and it had taken too much time and too much attention to fight them all off. Willow's frightened cry had signaled the demon's physical hold on her, and his human conspirators quickly fled the scene. Willow had struggled against his unnatural strength, and the demon had slammed her slight frame to the ground and enveloped her with his own.
Spike had lunged at him, only to be flung against a tall monument several feet away. The distraction had been enough, however, for Buffy to level her sword and sever the demon's head from his shoulders. The demon's dead body collapsed on top of Willow, but he had already managed to leave a part of himself within her. Fortunately, he had not had time to transfer his offspring to Willow, and Angel had scooped up her battered and bloody body and fled to the hospital, with Spike and the slayer fast on his heels.
Giles had returned to his home and had, with Xander's help, rid the redhead of the demon's presence. But he'd tempered this bit of good news with the warning that he didn't know how much damage the demon may have done to her mind or her body. Now, the vampires keeping vigil at her bedside could only hope she would awaken and give them the opportunity to love her back to health.
Buffy entered the room as Angel smoothed the hair away from Willow's face and bent to kiss her forehead. He straightened as she approached the foot of the hospital bed.
"I love her," the firm declaration was softened by the worried guilt in his eyes.
"You think I haven't figured that out?" she smiled softly. "It's okay, Angel. You and I have moved on. A slayer and a vampire--even a souled one--is just too painful a combination. If I have to watch you give those feelings to someone else, I'd want it to be Willow. She's the only person I know who deserves to be loved the way you love."
He returned the smile and reached out to squeeze her hand, "Thank you."
"Besides," she grinned. "If the poor woman has to suffer being chased around by Spike, she's going to need you to help keep her sanity."
Spike glared across the bed at her, "Willow doesn't seem to mind being 'chased around' by --"
"Relax, Fangboy. I'm joking," she said. "I know Angel won't let you hurt her."
"As if I would," he murmured as his gaze rested sadly on the little redhead in the bed, and he drew a gentle hand across her cheek.
Angel and Buffy exchanged a teary glance at the sorrow in the blonde vampire's voice. The door swung open once more, and Xander came in with Cordelia and Doyle. Buffy's blood froze at the grim expression on his face.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Giles finished researching the demon and what's happened to Will," he answered. "Buffy, she isn't--"
"Isn't what?" Angel demanded as the young man hesitated.
"When the demon entered her, he took a piece of her mortality. When he died, that died with him," Doyle explained. "She isn't going to make it."
"Like hell she isn't," Spike snarled and took a step toward him.
Angel's firm hand stopped him.
"She's dying?" Buffy whispered. "There's nothing we can do?"
"Oh, yes there is," Spike stated, turning to look at his lover.
"Spike," Buffy's voice lowered in warning. "I won't let you do that."
"Would you rather have her dead?" he growled.
"Than a vampire? Hell, yes, I would!" she shouted back.
"Well, Angel isn't so bad, if you ignore the blood bags in the fridge and the occasional grrrr," Cordelia reasoned calmly. "I mean, I agree we wouldn't want the leather-encased psycho-bitch that was running around Sunnydale, but couldn't you give her a soul?"
"Have you lost your mind?" Xander stared down at her.
She shrugged, "I've gotten used to living with demons. Believe me, humans can be a whole lot worse. She could come back to L.A. with us. I could use another female around when the testosterone level starts choking the life out of me."
"Would we have time to get all the ingredients?" Buffy asked, seriously considering the idea.
Angel gaped at her in shock.
"You don't need them," Doyle told her. "I can do it, and make it permanent."
"Buffy," Angel spoke. "You can't really be thinking--"
"I don't want her to die," she said softly. "And neither do you. You love her."
Angel looked back at Doyle, "You're sure you can restore her soul?"
"No problem," he nodded. "And we won't have to watch her sit around moping in the dark. No guilty past to brood over."
The dark vampire remained quiet, wanting desperately to keep his redhead beside him, but reluctant to submit her to an eternity of darkness.
"Angel," Spike spoke from behind him.
He turned and looked at his childe. Spike's eyes held his, and a dozen images of the past weeks together raced through the older vampire's mind.
"Don't give this up," Spike asked.
He nodded, and Cordelia smiled and tucked her hand in Xander's to pull him toward the door. Buffy's gaze lingered on Willow as she followed them out of the room. Angel turned and looked at Doyle.
"Ready whenever you are," Doyle said brightly.
Spike stepped back to give Angel free passage to Willow's side.
"No," Angel told him. "You do it."
He stared at his sire in utter astonishement. Angel smiled and put a hand on his shoulder.
"I have a childe. I have no desire to create another. I just want to be with her--with both of you. You'll bring her to L.A.?"
"We'll go when you do. That's a promise," he nodded.
Doyle moved to the other side of the bed as Spike sat down and took Willow in his arms. He kissed her softly and held her for a minute before pushing her hair away from her neck. Angel placed his hand on Spike's head as the blonde vampire kissed the pulse beating weakly under the flesh of her throat. He carefully pierced her skin and drank until her heartbeat slowed to the faintest of whispers. Withdrawing his fangs, he dragged a nail across his own throat and drew Willow's mouth to the wound. Doyle began to chant softly as Spike's blood trickled past Willow's lips.
Laying her carefully back against the pillows, he stood and turned to look at Angel as Doyle finished the incantation. Angel put his arm around his childe and kissed him slowly, drinking the last vestige of Willow's mortality from Spike's lips. Their tongues met and gently slid over one another's until Angel broke the kiss to look down at the redhead.
"I'll tell the others it's done," Doyle said and went to the door. "We'll have to get her out of here before the doctors come along and wonder why she's awakened with no heartbeat."
"How are we going to get her past them?" Angel asked.
"We'll just trot Miss Legs past them," he grinned. "With that skirt she's wearing, they'll be too busy trying to get a look at her bum to notice you ferreting away the undead."