By Ruby D
"Spike!" Willow shouted as the blonde vampire crossed the street to stand beside her. "You've been spying on me--at Angel's request?"
"Why not? I have to do something for entertainment, and trust me pet, following you around is _very_ entertaining," he grinned.
She glared at Angel, "This makes no sense whatsoever. You do realize that, don't you? What business is it of yours who I go out with? And, anyway, you and Spike hate each other!"
"Spike and I have come to an...understanding," Angel replied, lowering his eyes as if he were suddenly captivated by the redhead's shoes.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? Okay, so Spike has been helping us for the past few months, and I've figured out that he's actually pretty okay to spend time in the dark with...."
Spike threw an arm over her shoulder and lowered his mouth to her ear, "I'd be happy to show you just how much fun I can be in the--"
"Oh, shut up!" she snapped, wriggling out from under his arm. "That isn't what I meant! So, when did he go from being one of the gang to being my personal shadow on your behalf?"
"Actually, he's always been your personal shadow. Why do you think I told him to get his ass back here? I figured, as long as he was tailing you, it would be a lot easier if he was helping all of you."
"You're telling me the real reason you sent him here was to follow me around?" Willow asked, moving closer to Angel and turning her furious eyes upon him. "You better start explaining yourself, buster!"
"Bloody hell. She's hot when she's angry," Spike grinned in appreciation, his eyes riveted on her.
"Shut UP!" she shot back at him. "Angel, what the hell is going on with you? What is Buffy going to think when she finds out--"
"She isn't going to find out because you're not going to tell her," Angel answered calmly.
"Think so?" she hissed. "Don't bet on it."
"Look, Willow, just calm down for a minute. Let's go someplace and talk about this," he suggested.
She looked around at the deserted sidewalks, "What's wrong with here?"
"It's a little public, don't you think? Do you honestly think I'd ever do anything to hurt you?"
"Well, no," she admitted, a bit of her anger seeping out of her tense body.
"Then let's go someplace quiet, and I'll explain everything," he asked.
"All right, but this had better be good," she warned him.
Willow threw herself down on the sofa in Spike's expensively furnished apartment.
"You know, I'd always just figured you got all this stuff by turning some rich fool. Angel helped you get this, didn't he?" she asked Spike.
"Dear old Dad can be very generous when it's for a good cause," Spike answered.
"Since when have you ever thought of Spike as a good cause?" she asked Angel.
Angel groaned and sat down in an armchair, "Willow, _you're_ the good cause. I had to be sure you were safe, and Spike was the logical choice to help me do that."
"So, how does Drusilla fit into all this? Is she dancing around in the dark, following me, too?"
"It's just like I told you when I came back here. I left Dru in South America, happily screwing her latest demon lover," Spike told the redhead.
"Huh. What do you know? Not everything was a lie. Are you following Buffy around, too? Or Xander? Or Oz?"
"Hell, no. Just you, pet."
Willow fixed her green eyes on Angel and asked, "Why?"
"Because I needed to know you were safe. Willow, when I left for L.A., I closed the chapter on Buffy and me. I knew, given time, she'd move on with her life. Our feelings had slowly sunk from love to a kind of depressing obsession a long time ago. Letting go of each other was the best thing for both of us," he explained.
She nodded her head slowly, "She said something like that not too long ago. It wasn't as easy for her, though. She hurt for a long time, Angel, after you left."
"It wasn't any easier for me, Willow. It's like a drug addict going cold turkey. That's what we'd become to each other--an addiction. We thought we had to be together in order to survive. But the reality was that we were hanging onto each other because neither one of us knew how to let go. So, I just--did. I think what we were suffering from was the pain of withdrawal, not broken hearts. Our hearts hadn't belonged to each other for a very long time, way before I left. Can you understand that?"
"I think so," she nodded. "But none of that explains why--"
"I'm getting there," he interrupted her. "When I got to L.A. and had a few weeks to kind of sort things out in my mind, I realized it wasn't Buffy my heart was aching for. It was you."
She looked over at him as if he had sprouted ringlets, "You were...your heart was...WHAT??"
Spike chuckled and sat down beside her. Noting the blonde vampire's sudden proximity to Willow, Angel removed himself from the armchair and plopped down on the other side of her.
"You heard what I said. And I said exactly what I meant," he told her. "I don't think I even realized where my pain was coming from, at first. Willow, you always put yourself out there as someone I could talk to, someone who would listen without judging or handing me answers I couldn't or wouldn't accept. You liked me for me, and through you, I eventually learned to like myself. Do you know I haven't had a good, long brood in two months?"
She grinned and took the strong hand he opened up in invitation to her.
"You did that for me, Willow. But it took leaving you here to realize it. It took missing you for weeks before I realized just what it was I was missing. That's when I started phoning you. I just wanted to hear your voice again. Then, during one of those meandering conversations, you happened to mention you and Oz weren't seeing each other, anymore. I'd already sent Spike back to Sunnydale to watch over you, so I called him, and we talked--"
"About me," she said.
"Yeah. He's had a thing for you since before he kidnapped you and Xander."
"A thing?" she asked Spike.
"I wanted you to do that love spell because I thought having Dru back would make me forget about you," he answered. "Then, when that got sidetracked, I took off out of Sunnydale figuring distance would do just as well. But it didn't. I never even bothered trying to get Dru back after that. I just went back to South America and tried to drink you out of my system. Then, after Angel contacted me from L.A., I told Dru to fuck herself into oblivion, and I headed straight back here."
Angel felt Willow's small hand tremble slightly in his, and he squeezed it reassuringly.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
"I'm confused," she admitted. "I mean, I realized Spike was kind of different towards me when he came back, but I thought maybe we were just becoming friends."
"I haven't had a friend in two centuries, until you," Spike told her. "And now soulboy, here."
She looked at him, her eyes wide in astonishment, and he laughed and took her other hand.
"He isn't nearly the wanker he used to be, since he stopped pining over the blonde bitch."
"Do you mind? That 'blonde bitch' is _my_ friend!" she reprimanded him.
"Everyone has a character flaw," he shrugged. "Fortunately, yours tends to fade into nonexistence whenever I look at you."
"This just couldn't possibly get any weirder," she mumbled. "So, what about the guys I've been dating? Have you been chasing them off? And how did you find out some of their names?"
"Through Spike," Angel answered. "And he only chased off the ones who made me worry."
"Worry about what? That I might actually start liking one of them?" she asked, slightly perturbed.
Angel cast a cryptic look at Spike, and the blonde vampire returned his stare and said, "You're going to have to tell her."
Angel hesitated under Willow's questioning gaze.
"Just tell her! We're here to protect her!" Spike prodded.
The dark vampire nodded and moved a little closer to Willow, "Someone is after you. We just don't know who, yet."
"After me? Why?" she asked.
Spike ran his eyes over the length of her body, "You really never look in a mirror, do you, luv?"
Willow blushed crimson and refused to meet his eyes, "Oh, come on! I'm not exactly the type to stir unbridled lust in men!"
Spike snorted, and even Angel struggled to control his laughter. Willow looked from one to the other, baffled by their amusement.
"Pet, why do you think all those boys have been lining up on your doorstep? Bloody hell, you really don't get it!"
"Maybe she needs to be shown," Angel suggested, his eyes flashing playfully.
Willow gasped as she felt Angel's hand drop to her knee and begin to slowly travel up her thigh as Spike's arm wound around her waist. A soft squeal escaped from her lips as Angel squeezed her upper thigh, his knuckles brushing lightly over her sex. Spike cupped his hand under her chin and turned her face to his. He lowered his head to capture her lips, his tongue brushing lazily over them, seeking entrance to her mouth. Angel turned slightly on the sofa, raising his other hand to her breast, running his thumb over the soft nipple, teasing it until it hardened under his touch.
Willow moaned, and Spike took advantage and slid his tongue between her parted lips. Angel unbuttoned the top four buttons on her blouse and lowered his mouth to the soft curve of flesh that peeked up over her lacy bra. Nuzzling the silky material away with his nose, he captured the hardened nipple and suckled gently. Both vampires caught the scent of her arousal as her juices seeped from her core to moisten her panties. Spike coaxed her tongue into his mouth as Angel pulled the hem of her shirt out of her jeans and ran his hand up under the fabric to gently rub the flat plane of her tummy.
Spike broke the kiss long enough to allow her to swallow several rapid breaths before descending to recapture her lips, nipping and sucking at them. Angel unfastened her jeans, sliding his hand down beneath the waistband of her panties to rub his fingers over her moistened folds. Spike's hand found her other breast and kneaded it gently, and Willow arched into him and ran her hand over his hard chest. Angel caught her free hand in his and cupped it over the hardening bulge beneath his pants. Willow left Spike's mouth to look around in wonder at the dark vampire, and his mouth took her reddened lips as Spike trailed soft kisses from her throat to the valley of her breasts.
Willow whimpered softly as their persistent ministrations overwhelmed her senses and sent reality fleeing. Her left hand gripped Angel's painfully hardened cock as her right snaked under Spike's t-shirt and pressed against his cool flesh. Angel undid the rest of her buttons, and Spike helped him pull the garment from her shoulders. The blonde vampire nipped the soft flesh of her creamy shoulders, and his hand burrowed under the denim of her jeans to find the soft folds that Angel's hand had recently vacated. Angel paused his assault on her mouth to allow her to breathe, then reclaimed it in a deep kiss. She responded hungrily as Spike's thumb began a merciless rhythm against her clit.
Willow's cry was swallowed by Angel's kiss as Spike worked her to orgasm. Angel left her mouth to stare down into her glazed eyes. He stroked the lush red tresses of her hair as she panted softly between the two vampires. Spike and his sire exchanged a look, and Angel nodded as Spike stood and scooped the redhead off the sofa. Angel followed, his hand on Willow's arm, as they headed for the bedroom down the hallway. Willow jumped slightly in Spike's arms as the doorbell rang behind them.
"Spike!" Buffy's voice shouted from the other side of the door. "Spike! Is Willow with you? I need to talk to you guys for a sec!"
Willow pushed herself frantically out of Spike's arms, her eyes wild with panic. He kept one arm encircled around her waist, and Angel bent to give her a quick kiss before disappearing down the hallway and into the bedroom. Spike grabbed up Willow's shirt from the sofa and tossed it to her. She dragged it over her shoulders and quickly buttoned it with trembling fingers as the slayer continued to knock on the locked door.
"Hold on a fucking minute, will you!" Spike shouted at her.
He grinned down at the redhead who was jamming her shirttail inside her jeans. She looked up at him, too afraid to return the smile, and he put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her softly.
Buffy's fist was raised in mid-knock when Spike abruptly flung the door open.
"Bloody hell, why don't you just pound the damned thing off its hinges!" he grumbled as he stared down at her.
"Is Willow here?" she repeated, stepping over the doorstep and around him. "I tried her dorm, but she had gone out, and I figured she might--oh, there you are."
Willow gave her a weak grin and waggled her fingers at her. Buffy's eyes took in her unkempt red hair, her disheveled shirt and the pink flush of her cheeks.
"Are you okay?" the slayer asked. "You look like you've been attacked!"
"No! No, really. I'm fine!" Willow answered quickly. "Spike and I were just...uh..."
"Practicing some moves," Spike said, sending the flustered redhead a knowing grin.
Buffy took the explanation at face value and sat down in the chair that Angel had occupied a short while ago, "Oh. Well, I need to talk to you guys. It's pretty important. Giles called me while I was out with Riley, and I phoned him back when I got in. Willow, we've got trouble."
"We do?" she responded.
"Yeah. Apparently, Giles thinks you're in some kind of danger," Buffy nodded soberly. "Someone is trying to get to you. He's pretty sure it's a guy--a regular, mortal kind of guy, I mean. But whoever he is may be working for someone less human."
"Like who?" Spike asked, suddenly very serious.
"He isn't sure, yet, but he's pretty concerned because it could be anyone, including any of the guys on campus," she continued. "Will, you have to be careful."
"I will be," she answered softly.
"No, I mean really careful. Giles wants you to move out of the dorm," Buffy explained.
"And go where?" Willow asked in surprise. "I can't go home! Even if I wanted to, which I don't, my parents are overseas traveling for another two months, and they didn't leave me a key."
"She can stay here," Spike jumped in.
Buffy turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows, "Stay here?"
"Why not? I think I've proven by now--even to you--that I wouldn't hurt her," he answered.
"I--I guess so," she replied.
"And who better to keep her safe from evil demons but another evil demon," he grinned.
"You've got a point, there," the slayer answered dryly. "What do you think, Will? If Giles thinks it's a good idea, would you move in here?"
Willow chewed on her bottom lip, nearly sending Spike through the ceiling, and swallowed a giggle, "Um, yeah. I guess that would be okay."
"Great! I know I'd feel better, even though we're talking about Spike, here."
"Hey!" he protested.
"Oh, calm down. I know you wouldn't hurt her. For some strange reason, you seem to have taken a liking to her. Besides, I'd stake your dead ass if you even thought about nibbling on her."
Spike chuckled at Willow's embarrassed reaction to Buffy's statement and turned to the door, swinging it open for the slayer. Buffy smiled at Willow and went to the door.
"I'll let Giles know you're okay. Maybe you should stay here tonight, and I'll help you gather your things together and bring them over here tomorrow," she suggested.
"Okay," Willow agreed. "Thanks, Buffy, for the warning."
"No problem. I just want to be sure you're safe. See you tomorrow."
Spike closed the door behind the slayer and walked over to Willow as Angel appeared at the end of the hallway. The redhead swallowed nervously and looked from one vampire to the other.
"Is this what you were talking about, before we--"
"Got distracted?" Angel smiled and took her hand. "Yes. I don't know who the guy is, either, which is why I tracked down the names of the ones who seemed to pose the greatest threat. None of them panned out, though, including that Aaron bastard."
"This could really freak a person out," she confessed.
"Hey," Spike whispered and turned her face to his. "Neither one of us is going to let anyone hurt you. You're safe here, pet."
"And between the two of us and Giles, and Cordy and Doyle back in L.A., we'll find out what's going on," Angel promised.
"Cordy and Doyle know about this, too?" she asked.
"Yeah. You should have seen Cordelia's reaction when I told her the problem. She's like a bloodhound determined to track down her quarry," Angel smiled.
"Really? Cordelia?" Willow said in amazement.
"She's had a lot of time to think about things, too," Angel nodded. "Anyway, try not to worry too much, baby. We'll nail this guy, eventually. And in the meantime, no one can get to you here."
"Okay," she said softly.
Spike's firm hands kneaded the tense muscles in her shoulders, and he leaned down and spoke into her ear, "I think Angel and I could find some way to make you feel better."
"I think we were about to," Angel agreed. "Before Buffy started beating on the door. Let's see, if I recall, we were just about--here."
Willow squealed as he swept her up off the floor and into his arms, and Spike followed as he carried her, successfully this time, to the bedroom.
Willow awoke to find herself lying between two cold, hard bodies. Spike's solid chest was pressed against her naked back, one arm curled snugly around her stomach. Angel's hand lay on her thigh, and Willow's head rested comfortably against the dark vampire's chest.
She lay very still, hardly daring to breathe, and wondered if vampires were grumpy--or hungry--when they first woke up. Carefully, she lifted her head to find herself staring into Angel's deep brown eyes. He smiled and drew his hand up to caress her soft cheek.
"Are you all right?" he asked quietly.
"I--I don't know," she confessed. "Is all of this--what we did--okay?"
He kissed her forehead and brushed his lips down the length of her nose until they settled on her mouth. Her lips parted, and his tongue moved inside to play lazily with hers for a long moment.
"What do you think?" he finally asked.
"It--it feels okay," she answered, then blushed a deep red as she realized how that must have sounded.
Angel grinned and cupped one warm, round breast in his hand, tracing the hardening nipple with his thumb. A soft moan drifted from her lips as his mouth took hers again. Spike suddenly shifted behind her as he lowered his hand to part the thick folds of her sex. Willow pulled away from the kiss with a quiet gasp. Angel's mouth followed hers, and his tongue traced her lips while Spike rubbed her sleepy clit with his thumb and inserted a finger into her hot channel. The blonde vampire's lips fluttered cool kisses along her throat and shoulder.
Angel gently pushed her onto her back, and Spike spread her legs and inserted a second digit into her slippery core. Her walls clamped around his fingers, and she cried out against Angel's mouth as a delicious, tingling sensation began to burn in her womb. She whimpered in protest as Spike's fingers withdrew, and Angel lowered himself over her and entered her with one quick thrust. Willow arched into him, driving her pelvis against his as he pumped in and out of her. Spike turned her head toward him and captured her lips, his tongue delving inside, stroking hers in a rhythm that perfectly matched the darker vampire's deep thrusts.
Angel growled as Willow's muscled walls constricted around his swollen cock. She tore her lips away from Spike's and screamed out Angel's name as her orgasm ripped through her. Angel's mouth dropped to her throat, and he nipped and kissed it, careful not to puncture the flesh. He groaned out her name as he flooded her womb with his cold seed. Pulling out of her, he collapsed on the bed and pulled her over onto him to kiss her deeply.
Angel placed soft kisses along her jawline as her heartbeat slowly returned its normal pace. He smiled as her eyes began to flutter closed, and he kissed her forehead before slipping quietly out of the bed.
"I need to eat," he said to Spike, his voice hushed so as not to disturb Willow. "Can I bring you--"
"I'll get my own, later," the blonde vampire answered.
Angel nodded and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. Spike watched Willow as she gave herself over to sleep, and he dropped a kiss on her shoulder, then pulled her close to him, stroking her back as she snuggled against him. *** The redhead awoke a second time to find herself alone in the bed. She quickly got up and pulled Angel's shirt over her shoulders and buttoned it as she walked out to the living room. Angel was seated in an armchair, reading a book.
"Hey," he smiled as she sat down on the sofa.
"Are you--okay?" she asked, her eyes searching his.
He nodded, "You? I realize that everything--I mean, you and Spike and me--has happened pretty quickly."
"I'm all right with it," she assured him, but blushed all the same. "I was just afraid that, maybe, you might be--"
"What?" he asked, leaning slightly forward, trying to decipher the question in her gaze. "Are you afraid that I'm sorry about what happened? I've wanted you for a long time, Willow. I'd only be sorry if you were."
"No," she answered, her voice softly confident. "I'm not sorry."
"Good," he smiled. "Spike's gone out to get you something to eat. Oh, and Buffy called while you were asleep. Giles knows where you are. He agrees this is probably the safest place for you."
"Okay," she nodded.
"The sun will be up in a little while, so Spike will be back any time, now. Why don't you wait for him while I grab a shower?" he suggested.
She smiled and nodded again. Angel studied her for a moment, slightly concerned that there really was something more bothering her. When she picked up the newspaper that lay folded on a cushion of the sofa, he shrugged and stood up. He looked back at her once more before disappearing down the hallway.
"No Angelus," she whispered to herself after she heard the shower come on. "Not that I wanted Angelus, but--"
She threw down the paper and scowled at her thoughts.
"Great, Willow," she berated herself quietly. "You're sitting here moping because you obviously aren't the woman who can give Angel a big enough happy to make his soul go 'poof.'"
Just the thought of waking up next to Angelus sent shivers of terror down her spine, but still, the thought that she clearly wasn't the one to effect the happiness clause in Angel's curse left her feeling more empty than she could comfortably admit.
"I'm so hopeless," she groaned, dropping her face into her hands. "I'm more shook up over the fact that Angel is still Angel than I am over the fact that I just climbed out of bed with him and Spike. Goddess, get a grip, you idiot!"
"Hey," Spike's voice spoke as he came through the front door. "Who are you calling an idiot?"
She grinned in spite of her embarrassment over having been caught talking to herself, "Me. I'm the idiot."
He dropped the bag of groceries he was carrying onto the coffee table and pulled her onto her feet. He wrapped one arm around her and tilted her face to look up at him.
"Why? For waking up between two vampires?" he asked.
"For thinking I belonged here in the first place," she answered.
"You do belong here, pet. This is where Angel and I both want you."
"I'm not so sure."
"I am," he told her. "And so is Angel."
He looked into her eyes, but the doubt he saw there did not diminish. He bent and kissed her, softly at first, then firmer, more insistently, as one hand nudged its way under the hem of Willow's borrowed shirt to cup her firm, rounded buttock. He pulled her close to him and tucked her head under his chin. Willow relaxed against him, until the shower suddenly shut off, and Spike felt her body tense in his arms.
It took less than two hours after her morning class to pack Willow's few belongings and move them from the dorm to the apartment. Angel carted the last of the boxes down the hallway as Buffy went to the door.
"You don't have to leave already," Willow told her.
"Actually, I do," she smiled. "You may be done with finals, but I have one more in an hour. I can stop by tonight, though, after patrol."
"I thought you and Riley were going out to celebrate the end of the semester," Willow replied.
"He won't mind. We can--"
"No, I'd feel better if you did. There's no sense in turning everyone's lives upside-down just because some creep is after me."
"Will, I think that rates more than a 'just because.' But if you're sure you don't mind--" the slayer looked at her friend hopefully.
Willow grinned, "I want you to go out and have a good time. Angel and Spike won't let me so much as step out the door tonight without one of them with me."
"Good," Buffy said. "We just want you safe."
"I know. I am," she nodded. "So, go have fun."
"Okay," Buffy agreed. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, then."
"Right," Willow said as she opened the door and watched Buffy walk away.
She went back to the sofa and sat down to find Angel staring at her from the end of the hall.
"Willow," he spoke softly. "Are you all right?"
"Sure," she shrugged.
He walked over to her and sat down beside her, and her hand tensed as he took it in his.
"No, you're not," he argued.
She sighed and nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, "I'm just adjusting; that's all."
Angel didn't accept that explanation for a second, but he let the comment slide. Spike entered the room, his hair still damp from a shower, clad only in a pair of black jeans. He sat down on the other side of the redhead, and Angel noticed the look of relief that passed over her face. He glanced at the blonde vampire, and Spike shrugged silently and let his arm drift around Willow's shoulders.
"You should eat," Angel suddenly decided. "I'll see what we've got."
He left them to go into the kitchen in the hope that Spike would have better luck at persuading Willow to talk about whatever was bothering her. Not that finding herself sleeping with two vampires wasn't enough to unsettle the young woman, but the dark vampire knew her uneasiness went beyond that, somehow.
Willow sat and silently stared down at her hands until Spike took one of them in his own.
"Pet, over the past few months, I've seen you happy, sad, excited, afraid, angry, and confused. But I've never seen you this quiet. What's wrong?"
She giggled softly, "You really have been watching, haven't you?"
"Don't change the subject," he insisted gently.
"Sorry. I really don't want to talk about it," she told him. "I just have to work through it--"
She jumped as Angel returned from the kitchen, and Spike felt her fingers digging into his hand.
"Willow--" Angel whispered.
"Would you guys mind if I went out for awhile? Just to take a walk? I'll be back before dark," she promised, scrambling up off the sofa.
"Luv, you can't go out alone. Dark has nothing to do with it. The bastard who's after you is human. Daylight won't put him off," Spike reminded her.
"Oh, yeah," she looked down at her feet. "I won't go far--"
"Spike is right, Willow," Angel told her. "You're not safe alone. We have no idea who this guy is. There's a pan of soup on the stove. You can heat it up whenever you want it. I'm going to call Giles and see if he's found out anything. I'll use the phone in the other room."
The redhead realized he was trying to offer her as much space as he could, and she felt incredibly guilty for making him feel so uncomfortable. She kicked herself once again, but couldn't bring herself to look at him. She knew it shouldn't matter that she wasn't the woman who could send Angel's soul on a permanent field trip. She would never want that to happen again, anyway. But it did matter, and though she angrily reminded herself she was just being ridiculous, her disappointment still ran bitter in her heart.
Willow felt her cheeks grow hot under the blush that spread over them as Angel's eyes continued to study her. He looked at Spike and shook his head sadly before walking off down the hallway. Spike stood and went to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. The tears in her eyes when she looked up at him brought an involuntary gasp from his dead lungs.
"Baby, what is it?" he asked softly. "Has Angel done something, said something?"
"No," she whispered. "It isn't Angel. It's me."
The last word tumbled past her lips on a sob, and he pulled her into his arms. Spike held her tight as she cried hot tears against his chest. Finally, she pulled away a little to look up at him. He cupped her face in his hands and brushed his fingers over her tear-stained cheeks. His mouth lowered to hers, and Willow parted her lips, her tongue delving inside his mouth to seek desperately for his. Spike returned the kiss with equal passion as the little redhead clung to him. He broke the kiss, and she took in a ragged breath and lowered her head to his chest.
"I'm such a fool," her voice was the softest of whispers. "Goddess, this shouldn't matter."
He crushed her to him and nuzzled his cheek against her hair.
"What shouldn't, baby?"
"You won't tell him?" she asked. "Not a word--not ever?"
"Not if you don't want me to," he promised.
She debated for a moment, then nodded against him, and he pulled her back over to the sofa and settled her on his lap.
Willow took a breath and forced her eyes to meet his, "This morning, when I woke up, and both of you were gone--"
She paused, and Spike waited patiently for her to find the words she needed to say.
"This is so stupid," she sighed.
He kissed her softly and placed his mouth against her ear, "Just say it, sweetheart."
"I haven't had much experience with--you know," she began again.
He nodded, and her body relaxed a little as he grinned at her.
"I mean, other than Oz--and that was months ago--I haven't--" she blushed, and Spike chuckled softly.
"Go on," he urged her, rubbing her arm comfortingly.
"So, anyway, I know I don't have a lot to compare it with, but last night, with you and Angel, was--wow," she confessed.
He laughed out loud this time, "I think so, too, luv."
"Then, why doesn't Angel think so?" she asked. "I know I really shouldn't even expect that he would. But I do, and you do, and I thought, maybe, he would, too--"
Spike was genuinely surprised by her words, "He does."
"Well, than, why--" she paused, then sighed softly and plowed ahead. "I guess I knew that it would take more than--wow--but I thought Angel cared about me."
"Pet, I don't understand what you're trying to say. Angel is crazy about you. We both are," he assured her.
She shook her head, "He can't be."
"Why not? Willow, what the hell is going on in that beautiful head of yours?"
"If he cared...if he really...you know...loved me," she swallowed.
"He does!" Spike insisted. "As much as I do!"
"Why else would Angel phone me and insist that I keep an eye on you? Why else would I flatten anything that even threatened to get in your path just to keep you safe? Nobody means more to us than you do. We want you here, with us, because neither of us could stand for you to be anywhere else."
"Then why is Angel--Angel? I mean, why isn't he Angelus?"
"Angelus!" Spike's eyebrows shot up. "What the bloody hell does he have to do with this?"
"After last night, if Angel really loves me, shouldn't he be Angelus, now?" she asked as her eyes filled with fresh tears.
Spike stared at her for a moment.
"Well, shouldn't he?" she shifted uncomfortably under his gaze.
"Is _that_ what all of this is about? You think Angel doesn't love you because his soul didn't--"
"Go 'poof,'" she nodded.
Her brow wrinkled as Spike burst into laughter.
"Oh, pet, you should have said something hours ago!" he told her, still laughing.
"I couldn't. I was too--" she stopped and glared at him. "You think this is funny!"
"Angel!" Spike barked. "Get your souled ass out here!"
Angel immediately appeared from the other room and looked at Spike's wide grin as if the blonde vampire had lost his mind. Willow was staring at Spike in complete confusion.
"Angel," Spike began, barely controlling his amusement. "Willow thinks you don't love her."
"Spike! You promised!" she shouted angrily, her cheeks burning bright red.
"What?" Angel asked and strode over to her, pulling her up out of Spike's lap. "Willow, I do love you. That's why I came back here. That's why I want you here with us. I'd do anything to keep you safe. Why would you think I don't--"
"Because you didn't do an Angelus after last night," Spike explained.
An overwhelming sense of relief washed over the dark vampire, and he hauled Willow into his arms.
"That's all? That's what's been bothering you?" he asked.
Willow's soft voice was muffled further by his hard chest, "I don't want you to be Angelus. Really, I don't. But I don't understand. If you love me--"
"Willow," he drew away and turned her face to his. "My soul is anchored, now. It's permanent."
Her green eyes flew open, "What?!? When?"
"In L.A--Doyle discovered the way to anchor my soul. I never told anyone here in Sunnydale other than Spike because--well--I never saw any reason to. I'm sorry, Willow. I should have thought. I should have told you before we--"
"You can't lose your soul?" the hope in her voice lit up her face as she looked up at him. "Not ever?"
He smiled and placed a cold hand on her cheek, "Not ever. No matter how much I love you."
The tears that spilled down her cheeks were tears of happiness, this time, and she hugged Angel tight to her.
"Oh, Angel! That's wonderful! You must be so--"
His lips stopped her words as they captured hers in a deep, hungry kiss. He lifted her up, and she wrapped her legs around his waist.
"I love you, Willow," he told her, kissing her wet cheeks.
A smile of delighted relief graced her face as he carried her toward the hallway.
Angel stopped and spoke over his shoulder to Spike, "We're going to celebrate. Get your dead ass over here and help."
Spike chuckled and leapt off the sofa to follow them down the hall.
"Willow, where are you going?" Angel's soft, firm voice asked from behind her.
Her hand immediately dropped from the doorknob, and she spun around, looking for all the world like a child who'd just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
"Um...nowhere?" she squeaked.
The dark vampire fought the grin that threatened to curl his lips, "You were just testing the door for termites, I suppose?"
"Well, I--" she jumped away from the door as it suddenly swung open, and Spike strode inside.
"Going somewhere, pet?" he asked, looking from the blushing redhead to Angel.
She sighed and let the keys hidden in her hand drop onto the table beside the door, "Obviously not."
"You can't go out there--"
"I know," she nodded, throwing Angel a look of pure exasperation. "Everyone keeps telling me that. But Angel, if I have to spend one more day locked up in this apartment, not that it isn't a nice apartment, Spike, because it is, and not because I don't like being here with you guys, because I do...."
"Willow," Spike murmured.
"You're babbling," he grinned.
"Oh," she sighed. "Sorry. I just need to get out of here before I lose my mind. Please?"
She turned large, pleading eyes on the blonde vampire, silently hoping to urge him to her side. He chuckled and drew her into his arms.
"I could be persuaded," he told her, brushing his lips over hers.
"Spike--" Angel's voice lowered in warning.
"On the condition that we go with you," he added, ignoring the other vampire.
"Would you?" she asked him and turned her head to look over at Angel. "Please, Angel?"
Realizing there was no way he was going to win the battle against that hopeful plea, he grabbed his jacket from the coatrack beside the door and shrugged it on. Willow rewarded him with a dazzling smile, and he bent to give her a quick kiss.
"So, what do you think, luv? Has Sunnyhell changed much in a week?" Spike teased as he laced his fingers through hers.
"Oh, shut up," Willow giggled and stuck her other arm through Angel's. "A person can only stare at the same four walls for so long before she slowly loses her grip on sanity."
"Those four walls are keeping you safe, Willow," Angel reminded her. "And you have exactly one hour before you're staring at them again."
"Or the ceiling, with any luck," Spike grinned.
He squeezed her hand playfully as her face turned red, and Angel laughed softly and raised her other hand to his lips.
"Maybe we could rent a couple of movies," she suggested in an effort to change the subject. "If we cut through the park, we could be there and back in less than hour."
"All right," Angel agreed, steering her across the street.
"Where's Willow?" Angel asked as he came around a display of videos at the front of the store.
"I thought she was with you," Spike answered, his eyes scanning the store for the redhead.
Angel turned to the young woman behind the cash register, "Have you seen the woman who came in here with us?"
"Yeah, I think so," she nodded, looking the dark vampire over with obvious interest. "She left--just a couple of minutes ago."
"What!" Angel barked.
The girl stepped back a pace from the counter and trembled under Angel's heavy stare, "Some guy was waving at her from outside."
"Bloody hell," Spike muttered, pushing open the door and racing outside.
The two vampires stood still for a moment, trying to hear or see or sense Willow's presence. A muffled cry came from the street around the corner, and they took off around the building to find Willow struggling against a strong arm wrapped firmly around her waist. The tall man who had grabbed her had clamped his hand over her mouth and was attempting to drag the squirming woman across the street. A low growl of warning rumbled up from Spike's chest as the vampire morphed into game face.
The sight of angry amber eyes stilled the man for a moment, and Willow took advantage of his frightened inaction to bring her foot down on top of his. He howled and loosened his grip on her waist. Angel's hand curled around the attacker's wrist and twisted it, hard. Spike grabbed hold of Willow, pulling her free from the man, and shoved her behind him. Angel's fist connected with the man's jaw, sending him sailing backward across the street. He clawed his way to his feet and took off in the opposite direction.
"Spike, get Willow home!" Angel shouted as he bolted after the assailant.
The blonde vampire virtually dragged Willow all the way back to the apartment. The door was closed and securely locked behind them before he finally spoke to her.
"What the hell possessed you to leave that--" he stopped his angry tirade as Willow sank onto the sofa and gingerly brushed her hair away from a bloody wound just above her left ear.
"Shit," he hissed softly, dropping to his knees in front of her. "You're hurt, pet."
Willow flinched as his cold fingers gently probed the tender skin around the gash. He kissed her forehead and rose to get a wet cloth from the bathroom. He returned and sat down beside her to gently dab at the blood trickling down from the wound.
"What happened back there, baby?" he asked softly as she tightened her fingers around his arm to stop herself from crying out. "Why did you go outside alone?"
"It was--Aaron," she answered.
"The sod Angel found you with on campus a few nights ago?"
"Yeah. He was outside, motioning to me like he needed help. Angel said he'd checked Aaron out and that he wasn't a threat. I only stepped outside the door. And then that guy grabbed me."
"What happened to this Aaron bastard?" Spike asked, pressing the cloth carefully against the gash.
"I--ow!" she gasped and tried to pull her head away.
Spike pressed his hand to her cheek, holding her still, as he continued to clean away the blood.
"I don't know," she continued. "I was trying to get away from that guy, and he shoved my head against the side of the building and dragged me around the corner. I didn't see Aaron after that."
Willow's eyes darted nervously to the door as the lock clicked free. She breathed a relieved sigh as Angel entered and relocked the door.
"It was Aaron, Angel," Willow told him. "He was outside the store. I thought you said he wasn't the one after me."
"He wasn't," Angel answered, going to the sofa and eyeing her wound with concerned eyes.
"I'll be okay," she assured him. "He was the one who motioned for me to go outside. How can you say he isn't--"
"Because he isn't the one who grabbed you."
"But he must have been helping that guy," Willow argued.
"If he was, he didn't know it. Or he didn't have a choice," Angel told her.
"How do you know that?" she persisted.
"Because I found him in an alley down the street from the video store. He's dead, Willow."
She stared at him in silent disbelief, and he took her hand and squeezed it gently.
"How?" she whispered.
"Someone broke his neck."