Angel had been trying for the better part of an hour to get Willow to eat. Spike watched as she once again pushed the mug away, and he dropped down beside her on the sofa and pulled her onto his lap. Gently cradling her head in his hand, he pulled her mouth toward his throat. Her body went rigid as she tried to fight the unrelenting desire in her belly, and he stroked her back with his free hand, drawing her ever closer. The part of her that was still the same old Willow--her mind and her soul--was repulsed by the burning hunger building inside her. The demon, however, was drawn inexorably to the blood singing in her sire's veins.
"Drink from me, sweetheart," Spike's deep voice murmured low in her ear.
His soft words, the slow caress of his hand on her back, the scent of his blood was intoxicatingly hypnotic, and Angel held an unneeded breath as he witnessed, for the first time, the amber gleam in her eyes. Willow snarled quietly as the demon broke through, and she sank her fangs into Spike's neck. He groaned and wrapped his arm tightly around her, stilling her body as the nectar flowing from his wounds seeped past her lips and flooded her senses.
The demon sated, she withdrew her fangs and lapped at the punctures with her cold tongue. Spike ran his fingers through her silky hair and looked over at Angel as she rested quietly against him . The dark vampire smiled in relief, and Willow pulled away from Spike and looked at her lovers.
"I'm sorry I'm being so...difficult," she said softly.
Angel took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly, "This is more difficult for you than it is for us, love. You were brought over with your soul intact. That's never been done before, as far as I know. Maybe inflicting this on you was selfish of us, but neither one of us knew how to give you up."
She graced him with a shaky smile, and he leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers. He pulled away as the doorbell rang and rose from the sofa. Buffy and Xander entered, and the slayer looked up at him with anxious eyes.
"How is she?"
"See for yourself," Angel smiled and nodded toward the sofa.
The redhead pushed herself off her sire's lap and stood up. Buffy took a hesitant step toward her until their eyes met. Then, with a wide grin, the slayer threw her arms around Willow and hugged her fiercly.
"You can stand me like this?" Willow asked as Buffy stepped back a pace.
"I couldn't stand to watch you die. You're here, and you're Willow."
"Only a little different, or a big different, maybe," she nodded.
Willow felt a strong hand curling over her shoulder, and a low growl rumbled in her throat, startling both herself and Xander, who quickly jumped back.
Willow's fingers flew to her lips, "Geez, did I do that? Was that me?"
Spike laughed at her surprised expression, "That was you, baby."
"I'm sorry, Xander! I didn't mean to go all grrr on you! I didn't even know I _could_ go all grrr. I'd never--"
He grinned, but waited until her hand reached for his before moving closer to her.
"I'm sorry," she repeated.
"It's okay," he answered. "I'll just remember not to grab hold of you so suddenly again."
Her eyes clouded with sorrow, and Xander pulled her into a hug, "Don't be sad, Will. We'll get used to it. It'll just take a little time. We still love you."
He squeezed her tight to him, and Spike reached out and took her arm and pulled her out of the embrace, placing her between himself and Angel.
"Okay, maybe a lot of time," Xander continued as Angel's arm moved around the redhead's waist.
Willow growled, amber eyes burning angrily, as the vampire swung the heavy tree branch into Angel's shoulder. Buffy raced to help him, and Willow shoved her out of the way and threw herself at the attacking vampire, knocking him backwards onto the ground. He placed his hands on her shoulders to push her away, and Willow slammed her knee into his chest, grabbed a fistful of his hair, and ripped his throat out with her fangs. She watched for a moment as the blood poured out of his body, a cold smirk curling her lips, before plunging a stake into his heart.
"Willow," Angel spoke softly and reached down to pull her up off the ground. "Honey, I'm okay."
Her fingers were clenched around the stake so tightly, the dark vampire had to pry it out of her hand. He pulled her close to him and felt her tiny body trembling in his arms as the fury inside her burned itself out.
"Angel," she whispered.
"It's all right," he said, gently stroking her hair.
"How could I--I never felt so--"
He pushed her slightly away to look down into her green eyes, "Baby, it's all right. The demon reacted to--"
"I don't want a demon!" she cried out. "Make it stop. Make it go away."
"I can't do that. It's part of you. You'll learn to cope with it," he promised her.
"I was afraid of this," Buffy said quietly and smiled at her friend as she turned to her. "I shouldn't have agreed to let you patrol with us. You aren't ready for this. It's too soon."
"I wanted to come along," Willow reminded her.
"Will, you're asking too much of yourself. You haven't even had time to figure out what you are, yet."
"I know what I am!" the redhead hissed. "Every time I look in a mirror, every time the sun rises, every time I smell blood, I remember what I am!"
"Willow," Buffy murmured sadly.
A red tear spilled from Willow's eye at the misery stamped on her best friend's face. She shoved Angel away and took off running through the trees that bordered the cemetery.
"No," Spike barked as the slayer moved to follow her.
Buffy felt Angel's hand on her shoulder, and she turned to him and buried her face in his chest as the blonde vampire went after his childe. *** Spike caught up to Willow as she wandered aimlessly through the park. He walked silently beside her until she finally turned her face to look up at him.
"Sometimes, I wish you had just let me die," she told him, bitterness edging the sadness in her voice.
"Sometimes, I wish we had left you soulless. This would have been much easier for you."
"Angel never would have agreed to that," she said.
He looked down at her, surprised that she wasn't angered by his words.
"I don't know how he does it," she continued softly.
"He's got a few years on you, sweetheart. He's learned how to deal with it." Spike pointed out. "From what I've heard, he had a pretty rough time all over again after you resouled him, and he returned from hell."
"That's true," she conceded.
He felt her hand slide into his, and he smiled, his worry somewhat abated, and raised it to his lips.
"I scare myself, though," she told him. "You never scare yourself."
"No, I scare everybody else," he grinned.
She giggled and squeezed his hand, "I love you."
"I love you, too, baby. You make me proud."
"Proud? After the way I acted back there?"
"Hey, you know I love Angel, but I'm no soulboy. I love your demon just as much as I love your soul," he said. "Besides, it was the bad guy you went after back there."
"But what if I get angry someday and go after someone I care about?" she asked.
"You couldn't do that anymore than Angel could," he assured her.
"Buffy thinks I was a liability tonight. I let her down."
Spike stopped walking and turned her to face him, "You didn't let anybody down. You just shocked the hell out her. Personally, I think you ought to make that a daily ritual. She's the slayer; who gives a bloody damn what she thinks?"
Willow laughed and put her arms around him, "I do love you. Thank you for being so patient with me."
He brushed his fingertips over her cheek, "With you, pet, it's easy. Let's get you home."
"Okay. I want to see Angel, and I'm so hungry. All that blood back there--" she stopped with a shudder, suddenly disgusted by her thoughts.
"It's a natural reaction," he said, kissing away the scowl that had formed on her brow. "It just means I get to have those lips attached to my neck, and Angel has to sit there and wallow in horniness. You won't hear me complaining."
She grinned and tilted her head to brush her lips over his, "What would I ever do without the two of you?"
"You'll never know, sweetheart," he promised.
"Angel?" Willow spoke from the open bedroom door. "What are you doing?"
He tucked the last of his belongings into the large duffle bag on the bed and zipped it shut.
"I have to go back to L.A.," he told her.
"Why? When?" her puzzled eyes stared over at him.
"Tonight," he answered. "I got a phone call from Doyle. He's had another one of his visions. He and Cordelia have already started back. I'm needed there."
"You can't!" she protested, going to him and taking his hand. "What about Spike and me? We need you, too!"
He smiled softly down at her, "And I need you, Willow, but Spike is your sire. You'll be fine--"
"We won't be fine!" she said angrily. "We love you! We belong together! Don't we get any say in this at all?"
"What's going on?" Spike asked from the doorway, having been drawn to the room by his childe's desperate voice.
"He's leaving! He's going back to L.A.!"
"I have to," Angel told him. "I wasn't going to go without telling you, first. I just got the call from Doyle a half an hour ago, while you two were out."
"I should have seen this coming," Spike snapped. "I should have known you'd run out on us as soon as--"
"I'm not running out on you," the dark vampire insisted. "My work is there, now. People need me, and I need to be there for them."
"You can't just leave us! We need you more than they do!" Willow knew the argument was selfish, but she was beyond caring.
"Look, it won't be forever. It won't even be for very long. I'll come back as soon as I can."
"Then we'll go with you," the redhead decided brightly.
Angel shook his head, "Willow, I can't ask you to do that--either one of you. You belong here, with Spike."
She put her hands on her hips, "We belong with YOU, you bloody wanker!"
Spike snorted as Angel's jaw dropped open.
"See, it works like this," she explained patiently. "You're his sire; he belongs with you. He's my sire; I belong with him. We love each other; we belong together. Simple enough, Gramps?"
He chuckled and looked over at the blonde vampire, "She's becoming a mouthy little thing."
"Takes after her old man," Spike shrugged. "Mouthy, but smart. She's right, you know."
"Besides," Willow added, stepping closer to Angel and running her hand over his chest. "You don't want to ride all the way back to L.A. alone. We'll make Spike drive, and you and I can pass the time in the back seat."
"Hey!" her sire shouted.
She giggled as Angel shook his head, a slow smile forming on his lips as his eyes met Spike's, "Or we could take turns driving and--riding."
Willow's arms snaked up to encircle his neck, and she reached up to kiss him, "Then we're going with you, right?"
"I suppose I really can't leave you here with him. He's a terrible influence," Angel answered.
She kissed him once more and stepped back, "I'll call Buffy and let her know--"
"We're leaving tonight, Willow. Make it fast," he warned her.
"Yes, sir," she saluted and turned on her heel, giving Spike's ass a quick goose as she brushed past him.
"See what you've created?" Angel grinned at his childe.
"Yeah," he nodded and turned to follow their redhead as she disappeared down the hall. "Bloody brilliant, isn't she?"