Happy New Year

She was completely smashed. Spike's lips pursed thoughtfully as he watched one small, annoying, pixie-ish, red headed teen witch loll back on a swing, hanging by her arms. The gentle motions of the swing made her close her big, sad eyes.

Her mates decided that she had had a bit too much to drink at the lame New Year's Eve party that Xander had hosted in his basement. Personally, he thought half the reason Buffy had been so anxious to trundle Wilow off to their dormitory was that it gave her a good reason to make an early exit with her new steady. Apparently Willow had decided that she didn't want to stay in. He had gotten that much sense out of her when he had found her in the park being stalked by a pair of vamps. In a manner of speaking. They had been circling her a bit warily on her swing, caught up in a Willow-esque babble fest of epic proportions.

She was explaining why biting her was a potentially fatal mistake. The most obvious reason to his way of thinking being that she was the Slayer's best friend—and if she had trotted that one out, Spike had missed it. He had arrived in time to hear her gently, persuasively, drunkenly arguing that she was meant to be the future childe of a fourth of the Scourge of Europe; specifically, his childe.

"Spike?" the male vampire, a preppy bloke with an expensive haircut, wearing chinos and a striped t-shirt under a leather jacket, looked skeptical. "Sorry, dumpling, but Spike's been de-fanged. He couldn't bite you if he wanted to."

"True," she conceded, "But how long will that last? He's a century-old vampire. The processor in my laptop is guaranteed for three years," she gave a little wave of her hand. "Three years is nothing to a vampire. He's just biding his time. Getting to know the enemy."

Spike's eyes narrowed. The chit had a point. A bloody good point. Three years of un-living with the chip in his head sounded like hell, but it was hell with a termination point, which was something.

The preppy vampire's partner, a sleek-looking brunette with her hair cut in a bob that framed her china-doll face, grinned. "Too bad you won't be there," she taunted.

"Ah-ah," Willow shook her finger at the female vampire. "The point is that you won't be, either. You'll be all dusty," she teased. "Spike's going to be cranky if you kill me, and a cranky Spike is . . . a scary Spike," she shrugged. "But, you know, you gotta do what you gotta do." She gave a dainty burp, her hand covering her mouth. "Excuse me," she murmured, and then she giggled. "I was about to say that you should treat me like I'm a princess, and I burped," she looked around to see if her audience got the humor in that.

Any thought of leaving her there to become a vampire snack food had more or less evaporated. He had thought about what might happen if he stumbled upon one of the Slayer's little pals being turned into demon mince meat before. Being stuck with his loathsome dependence on the Slayer and her Watcher did not, to his thinking, require rescuing the former's mates. Under no circumstances could he imagine lifting a single finger to help Xander in similar straits. In fact, he'd have a smoke and watch for the fun of it.

He was going to rescue the witch. The decision had already been made. He swaggered out of the shadows, watching Willow twist on the swing, one foot, shod in a pink Ked tennis shoe paired with a fluffy orange sock, braced on the ground. He paused, letting the other two vampires register his presence, using the moment to pat himself down for his cigarettes.

"What in the name of hell are you doing out here in the middle of the night, Red?" he demanded of her.

She had her back to him and instead of righting the swing, she let her head fall back until he was in her line of sight. She was wearing jeans and one of her fuzzy sweaters, one with a v-neck, and the upper swell of her breast was visible. She was also wearing a pretty pink bead choker that was snug against her white throat. He watched her eyes widen in alarm.

"Spike!" she squeaked on a dizzying mental rewind of the last few minutes that was barely manageable, given general drunkenness and the swaying motion of the swing and her unsettling upside-down perspective on him.

"I asked you a question," his tone was deceptively mild, each word spaced out. He ignored the other two vamps. Barely a decade old between the two of them, he guessed. He was sending a message, reinforcing her claim in a manner of speaking by focusing his attention on her.

She frowned at his tone. Who did he think he was? "I snuck out," she admitted. "Buffy made me go home," she glowered. "She's so mean. I had a few measly little drinks, and she's all, 'you have to sleep it off,' spoiling my fun," she pouted. "She's a fun spoiler."

"That, she is, pet," Spike drawled, not unimpressed by the range of expression that she was trotting out in an effort to draw attention away from her predicament.

Looking at him upside down was doing weird things to her tummy. Willow straightened and picked up her foot, letting the swing spin her back around to face him. "Oh . . ." she giggled again. "You look better right-side-up," she said, closing her eyes and swallowing convulsively as the head rush from her spin caught up with her.

When the queasy feeling subsided, she cocked her head to one side to look at him with wistful eyes. "You aren't a fun spoiler, are you?"

He raised an eyebrow at her and let his attention return to the vampires, sizing them up. The male looked uncertain. The female stared back at him. "There isn't a mark on her," the male blurted out.

"Yeah? So?" Spike waited.

"So, finders, keepers," the female said.

Spike glanced around at the setting. "Playground rules?"

Willow got off the swing. She stood for a moment, holding on to one of the metal supports as she got her bearings. Reflecting on the stale-beer taste in her mouth she announced, "If beer tasted like chocolate, people would be drunk all the time."

The three vampires turned their attention to her and she beamed at them, pleased to know that, while she was a little bit drunk, she was also still smart enough to deliver an observation that struck her audience speechless. She started to make her way to Spike.

The female vampire started growling, as 'dinner' started walking away. Willow stopped, looking around warily. "Something's wrong," she said, her eyes narrowing as she tried to work it out. "Shush!" she said fiercely to the growling vampire. "I've never been on a boat, but I think I get the idea of having sea legs. I have swing legs," she cocked her head to one side, lips pursed, a fierce frown of concentration on her face, and then the expression broke with a goofy grin. "Duh! I forgot my purse," she rolled her eyes at the lapse, looking around for the bag. "There it is. Because, sadly, beer doesn't taste like chocolate," she mourned, though what that had to do with her purse was a mystery.

She picked up the bag she had dropped when she had made her way to the swing. It was a roomy cloth handbag of hand-woven and dyed wool lined in natural linen. Maybe not fashionable in the strictest sense, but her mother had bought it for her from a woman in Macedonia who had, with a small loan from an aid organization, turned her family's skill at weaving into a small business.

It was a purse with a political statement and the perfect girl-power accessory on the Hellmouth. She pawed through the purse. "Where's a candy bar when you need one?"

Spike shook his head. She was going to have a hell of a hangover in the morning, he guessed. "C'mon, Red. We'll get you a treat on the way home," he said, walking toward her. The twats stalking her looked like they were ready to fight, which suited him.

"I'm not going home," Willow announced. "I've run away from home," she backed up until her foot hit the margin of turf and hollowed out dirt under the natural arc of one of the swings and she stumbled a bit. She glared at the swing, and then at Spike. "You just want to spoil my fun, too," she whined. "You never fight nice. Buffy's all insult, punch, insult, stake, and no more vamps. You're all nasty body parts and disembowelment—you don't want to watch," she confided to the male vampire who was circling around toward her. "Its icky."

Spike gave a short laugh, "Then, cover your eyes, pet. I'll tell you when the icky part is over."

She was struck by the consideration and gave him a melting look. "Really? You won't cheat? Xander always says that he'll tell me when the icky part is over, like in Braveheart? But then he says 'it's okay' and eeew, decapitation."

"Xander's a prat," Spike told her. "Take one more step closer, and I am going to rip your fucking head off, mate," he told the male vampire. The icy vehemence of his even tone surprised everyone except Willow.

"Potty mouth," Willow snarked, digging around in her purse. "I've got this under control," she said. She produced a small bottle, unscrewed the cap and gulped the contents down. With a smile that was surprisingly vicious she bared her throat.

"Bring it on," she jeered. "O neg and lite beer, with a holy water chaser," she did a little dance of triumph. "Ha! Not so biteable now."

Tossing the bottle to the ground, she produced a compact, shocking-pink squirt gun. "I can take care of myself," she told Spike, flinging the purse over her shoulder and taking a two-handed grip on her squirt gun.

Spike knew the water pistol was filled with holy water. The other two vamps were catching on and they looked dumbfounded. "The next person who tries to spoil my fun gets it," she declared.

So much for rescuing the drunken girl, Spike thought, moderately amused by the way she had turned the tables. Drinking the holy water had been an inspired choice. It was time to wrap this up and nudge her toward the safety of her dormitory.

"Brilliant, pet," Spike complimented. "What do you say we let the vamps go? I'll walk you home and tuck you up in your cozy bed."

She glared at him, a lock of her red hair falling into her eyes. She blew at it impatiently. "No," she said mulishly. "I'm having fun. With alcohol and dancing. And maybe smoochies," she nodded to herself. "Yeah, lots of smoochies," her eyes got a little glassy with tears. "Because, you know, New Year's Eve. Midnight. You have to kiss someone."

Bloody hell. She was going to go maudlin on him. "Well, it's too late for that what with the holy water," he pointed out.

She pouted. "Oh . . . oops!" she frowned at him. "Er, not oops. I can have smoochies. Just have to find someone who is not a vampire," she reasoned.

He shook his head. "It's all frat boys with beer breath and idiots who were passed up for snack food."

He had a point.

"There's Willie's," the girl vamp said. "The music sucks and the floor is sticky, but no cover charge."

"No!" he said to Willow, not liking the gleam of gleeful interest in her eye. "You don't need anything more to drink," he pointed out. "And you're underage—I don't fancy calling the watcher at dawn to bail your arse out of jail. You are going home, pet, to sleep it off."

The male vampire looked over at his partner. "You want to go to Willie's? With a human?" his nose wrinkled.

"We can't eat her, Clay," the girl said. "She's spiked with holy water and, hey, I'm starting to get it now. Why Spike would be hanging around to turn her. That was pretty smart, don't you think?"

"Thank you," Willow beamed at her. There was very little more endearing to her than being praised for being smart. "It's true. I could have gone to college anywhere," she confided, and then realized that she sounded a bit like she was bragging. She wished she slipped her SAT score in before she remembered that she was bragging. Damn it.

"Oooh, oooh, I've got it! We can dump the boys and have a girls' night! My name is Willow," she added.

"Shoots your smoochies plan all to hell, pet," Spike pointed out.

Willow paused to look at him over her shoulder. "As if," she said. "I've kissed girls before."

Girl, actually, and she had been kissed more than kissing, but he didn't need to know that and the expression of surprise, arrested, and then wiped away, was entirely worth it, she decided.

"I'm Iris," the dark-haired girl offered. "Are from around here?" she asked, ignoring Spike and her vamp boyfriend in favor of Willow.

"Hellmouth-born and -raised," Willow said proudly. "And still alive and breathing. What about you?"

"Provo," Iris said. "Boring town. We were on our way to LA, but we had to see the Hellmouth. It's a thing," she shrugged. "Doesn't look like much, but there's a nice little buzz to it."

"Really?" Willow looked fascinated. "You can hear it?"

"Oh, for the love of hell, what did you think brings demons here? The wonders of Main Street, Sunnydale?" Spike asked.

Willow cast a disdainful look at him. "Men," she gripped. "If they aren't any good for smoochies, what's the point?"

Iris laughed delightedly. "Put away the water pistol, Willow. You're safe with me. Vamp's honor," she said. "We'll go to Willie's. Have you ever tried a rattlesnake?"

"A rattlesnake?" Willow repeated.

"Tastes like chocolate. Yum," Iris told her.

"I like chocolate," Willow admitted, relaxing her stance. "No hitting? No weird vampire voodoo? Cause, fair warning, I'm a witch. If you can't play nice, I'll get cranky."

"You're a witch?" Clay looked nervous. "Iris . . . maybe we should call it a night," he suggested.

"What kind of witchy stuff can you do?" Iris wondered.

"Minor glamours to cover up a pimple," Spike inserted.

"Hey!" Willow glared at him, pretty sure he was just guessing and annoyed at the accuracy of the guess. "I staked a vampire once by floating a pencil," Willow told him. "It was pretty cool," she told Iris. "I was all like, 'do you have permission to eat the hostage—I don't think so' and," she mimed a terrified cringe. "Poof!"

"Again," Clay's voice had an edge to it, "Witch? Let's not play with the holy-water-packing witch, Iris. There are drunk college kids, like three blocks over. Easy pickings."

Iris was laughing. "Poof!" She held out her hand to Willow. "Let's go. This is boring," she said.

Willow cocked her head, looking at Spike. "You aren't going to run off and get Buffy and tattle on me, are you?"

He looked disgusted at the notion. "No," he gritted out. "But, if you think you are going to Willie's alone, you're out of your mind."

She sighed, looking over at Iris. "We have to take Spike," she said, in a tone of resignation.

"Probably for the best," Iris conceded.


Willie looked slightly-horrified when he saw Willow Rosenberg totter in, arms linked with a cute brunette, trailed by Spike and another boy. He knew who Willow was. He made it his business to know things like who the Slayer's pals were. Aside from that, she had been in during daylight hours with her werewolf boyfriend once to pick up blood for Angel back in the day.

The foursome settled into a booth and ordered a round of drinks. Iris and Willow were merrily chatting about bands that they liked.

Willie caught Spike's eye, and the latter shrugged.

Conversation drifted to things to do in Sunnydale, taking a serious turn when Willow explained why they had to leave town. "It’s just not safe here," she told Iris.

Iris and Clay exchanged looks, and started laughing. The idea of a human telling them that they weren't safe was just too funny.

Spike picked at a blooming onion he had ordered.

"Okay, first," Willow waited for the laughter to subside. "There's the Slayer," she said, looking up from the table tent for appetizers. In the back of her mind the idea of a 'Welcome to Sunnydale' set of warnings for the undead was starting to take shape.

Iris and Clay exchanged glances. "Well . . . you're a witch. Stands to reason that you'd know about the Slayer," Iris said.

"She's my best friend," Willow told them, not unaware of Spike rolling his eyes at this announcement, coming about an hour too late from his point of view. Not every vampire leapt from 'Slayer's best friend' to kidnap or vamp the Slayer's best friend. Just him, and maybe Angelus. Dru hadn't had the slightest interest in the sidekick brigade, which made Spike wonder who was crazier.

"And this is her town," Willow was warming to her theme. "She's good at slaying, so if you stick around, eventually you're going to get dusted."

"Oooh, the Slayer," Clay mocked. "Never got what the big deal was about a Slayer."

"Aside from the slaying part?" Willow looked at Iris. "No offense, but he's not terribly smart, is he?"

"Nah, but he's a hottie," Iris smirked, blowing Clay a kiss. "And the things that he can do with—"

"Spare the little girl her blushes, pet," Spike interrupted.

When he was grumpy he sounded a lot like Giles, Willow decided.

"I'm not a little girl," Willow huffed on principle. "I've done stuff. I know about stuff."

Iris' lips curved into a wicked grin, "He's good at stuff," she said with a meaningful leer.

Clay winked at Willow. "All kinds of stuff," he hinted.

Color crept up into her face, and he chuckled. "You're blushing," he crooned. "That's so adorable."

Willow ducked her head, cursing her fair skin for the umpteenth time. Children were adorable. Puppies and kittens were adorable. Adorable sucked.

Iris patted her shoulder. "He's just flirting with you," she said comfortingly. "And it is kind of cool. Vampires can't blush."

Willow looked over at her curiously. "They can't?"

"Not out of embarrassment," Iris cracked. "It's pretty hard to embarrass a vamp."

"Oh," Willow heaved an inward sigh. Duh.

Iris stroked her hair, enjoying the texture. The warmth the girl was throwing off was drawing her in. She smelled delicious. It was kind of interesting being around a human she couldn't bite who was relaxed even though she knew exactly what Iris was. She squirmed a little on the vinyl bench, letting her fingertips graze Willow's cheek, feeling the slight increase in heat on her soft, warm skin and found herself meeting the coolly-challenging stare of a slightly-bored one-hundred-plus-year-old vampire.

Spike noticed the male vampire across from him in the booth tensing at the display. He waited until Iris' gaze fell on him and he stared the younger vampire down. Willow seemed oblivious to the undercurrent that was being played out around her. She shifted on the seat to tuck her foot under her, giving her leverage to reach across the table to cadge a celery stick from his appetizer. She dipped it in the dressing, swirling it around, cupping her hand under it to keep from dripping on the table as she brought to her lips.

She crunched on the celery, leaning back against the booth. She sighed. "Not hungry," she said, pursing her lips as she looked around Willie's for something to do. "Wanna dance?" she asked Spike, looking like she more than half-expected to be declined.

He shook his head. "We'll dance, pet. But not tonight," he said. "Time to get you home," he said, his fingers holding her chin.

Willie turned up the television in the corner as the countdown to midnight began.

She grinned. Nine seconds to midnight and she was going to kiss Spike. She was bad. "Yeah? How does that go? Are you going to do some kind of vampire voodoo thing and make me?"

He smirked, leaning forward, his fingers stroking her face as she went still. He tilted his head, his mouth hovering over hers until her eyelids drifted down, eyelashes fluttering softly against the delicate skin under her eyes. He dragged his thumb over her lips and her tongue stole out to wet them. When he didn't do anything else, a tiny frown appeared and her eyes opened as the ball dropped at the stroke of midnight.

"Wow," she said softly, impressed.


The walk home cleared her head a little, which Willow didn't regard as a good thing. She was tired and the lingering alcohol in her system was depressing. She was also aware that she was behaving badly. There was the whole 'Will Be Done' spell-casting fiasco fresh on her scorecard, and getting drunk for the second time in a week, and the embarrassing reality of being rescued by Spike, who was bound to use the incident against her at some point in the future.

He was pretty much free to come and go as he pleased. Giles had gotten tired of keeping him chained up, and he was living at Xander's since Olivia had come to visit. Xander didn't want him around all the time. Willow suspected that the new freedom had a lot to do with the fact that he had been initiated into auxiliary Scoobie-dom by virtue of having been the victim of one of her spells gone wrong.

Her vision swum as she considered that. She was a big, capital-L loser. The things that he had said to her outside the museum when they were looking for the Word of Valios trickled back into her consciousness. Crap. Her nose was starting to run. Great. Perfect. The crappy end to another crappy day. She sniffled back the trickle of snot and coughed when it hit the back of her throat.

Unexpectedly, Spike nudged her arm. "It's not as bad as all that," he said, sounding like he was trying to be cheerful. "You didn't kidnap anyone," he pointed out. "You didn't make a complete ass out of yourself weeping down someone's shirt front about your miserable life. For a depressed, mopey drunk girl, you were pretty funny," he told her.

"Uh . . . thanks," she said uncertainly. She cast him a sideways look. "I didn't throw up on anyone," she added in the same vein.

"There you go," he nodded. "If you are going to make a habit of getting sloshed, making a habit of not puking your guts up is a point in your favor."

"Yay, me," she said dispiritedly.

He lit a cigarette. "Might want to work on that, pet. Go for bitterlysarcastic instead of soggy and pathetic."

She sniffed again. "Can't help it. My nose is running."

He gave her a sideways look. She was in drift mode. He grabbed her elbow and tugged her back towards the center of the sidewalk. "Didn't know you were so impressed with the notion of becoming my childe," he said.

Her eyes widened. "Really?" she seemed surprised by that. "No one else has ever offered to make me a vampire before," she told him. "Not that I want to be a vampire, but you know . . . it's nice to be asked. More so since it's you. 'Cause you've always been, 'Yay, I'm a vampire, and it's bloody grrrreat'" she said, making him sound like a British version of the Tony the Tiger.

That made him laugh. "Never thought of it that way," he said.

"The only other vampire I know is Angel, and he's not real happy about being a vampire. And when he was Angelus, I don't think he wanted to make me into a vampire unless it was just part of a big revenge thing," she cast him a shrewd sideways glance, "which, I know, sort of figured into your whole 'you have a choice' thing, but it's still different. I think you'd be mostly content with the revenge and then it would be more, let's have evil fun."

He raised an eyebrow at her. God, but she was a strange girl. "Given this a bit of thought, have you?"

"Just another day for you, but big life-and-death moment for me, mister," she sniffed. "I wish I had a tissue!"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but it was rhetorical." He reached inside his duster and produced a neatly-folded handkerchief, handing it to her. She mumbled her thanks and loudly, wetly, blew her nose. He knew that he should have found in this reminder of the more annoying aspects of humanness a measure of distaste, but it eluded him. He was mostly thinking about how she had felt under him when he was trying to bite her.

He smiled to himself. Revenge against the Slayer would have been his first order of business, but she was probably right about the rest. Once he had killed Buffy, it probably would have been evil fun. Angelus would have forced one of Willow's friends to stake her just because it would hurt them. He probably would have gotten a bit of a kick out of teaching his baby vampire how to be a bad ass and spoiling her rotten.

Thinking back on the inventive piece of silliness in the park with the holy water, he was sure of it.

She finished mopping her nose and started to hand the handkerchief back before two things struck her. Snotty handkerchief, grossness and then the oddness that was the evil vampire with the clean, neatly-folded handkerchief in his pocket. She wondered if it was an accessory he clung to from his human life a century ago. The way Spike dressed you would have thought he had been turned in the 1980s rather than the 1880s. She wondered if he got caught in an era and then had to restart himself on a whole new look every two or three decades, like when the look started to come around again. She slipped the soiled handkerchief into her purse, making a mental note to launder it and return it to him.

Or not. Maybe she would keep it. It could be a souvenir of her night of semi-drunken fun. It wasn't likely to happen again. In the morning she was going to look back on this and realize that she was teetering on the edge of embarrassing herself horribly again. And that was if she was lucky and Buffy never found out about tonight.

A whimper escaped her at the thought of Buffy finding out about her latest screw-up.

Spike heard it and looked over at her. She looked like she was coming down from the sugared-up fun part of her buzz to the guilt and tearful recriminations part of it. Lightweight. If she ever did anything really bad she would probably kill herself, or convince herself that she had a very good reason for it.

He caught her arm and made her stop. "What's this? Your evening isn't complete without sniveling about something?"

She grimaced. "No dancing or smoochies, so yeah, I guess that's all that's left," she noted. "Unless I throw up."

He started to take a cautious step back. "Are you going to throw up?"

She thought about it for a second. "I don't think so," she said. "Though I guess if I spun around a lot I might."

He nodded. "Well, don't," he warned. "If you throw up, or start crying, you are on your own."

She started to point out that she was on her own anyway when he pointed a finger at her. "Don't say it," he cut her off. "Everyone knows about your inner turmoil. Demons in other dimensions know about your inner turmoil. Be a witch. Curse him, or do a love spell and make him come back, or go find him, or get over it. Do something or be done with it."

From the stunned and slightly-guilty look on her face it wasn't hard to guess that she had thought of doing some or all of these things.

She chewed on her lower lip, frowning. "None of that worked for you," she said, looking like she was working something out in her head.

It wasn't a taunt. He gave her a curt nod. "Noticed that, did you?"

They started walking again in the general direction of the campus and the dormitories. College wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be new and improved College Willow, the grown-up version of Awkward Teen Willow, who in her mind looked a whole lot like her Skipper doll after she dyed its hair red. Actually, College Willow looked a lot like the same Skipper because she was never going to be Barbie in the boobs department, and that was okay.

Meager though her breasts were, they were once loved.

The thought made her skin prickle and she closed her eyes, even though it made her feel dizzy to walk with her eyes closed, her face heating up with a stew of sense memory and misery. She hated feeling like this. She hated every part of her body that woke to sensation and refused to miss Oz.

The college campus was probably the most dangerous place that he could be, and Spike found himself tensing as they entered the quad. He lit a cigarette, nudged Willow to correct her wavering course, and resigned himself to getting her to her door. She looked like she was falling asleep on her feet and God only knew where she would end up left on her own.

She had her key on a bright pink stretchy band on her wrist and snapped out of her sleepwalker daze long enough to open the door. Curious to see if she had thought to un-invite him since he had last visited her room, he leaned against the doorframe, just where the barrier ought to have been and found his access unimpeded. One light, on a nightstand between the neatly-made beds, had been left on. A throw rug had been placed over the scorched carpet where D'Hoffryn had opened a portal.

There was a part of his mind that was taking in the apparent trust or lack of fear that his access to her room indicated and storing it away for when he got the chip out. He would come at them hard and fast and feed his newly-turned childe on the blood of a Slayer.

Even as the thought occurred to him, it started to collapse when she looked up at him, color washing in and out of her face as she swayed. Her eyes were tired and sad and full of frustrated longing, but she had walked off the drunkenness and the slightly-awkward way she was moving, fidgeting with the doorknob she was hanging onto, was a sham.

She started to thank him for walking her home, reaching out with one hand as if she meant to touch him and then falling short as if she realized what she was doing and how odd it would look.

The sound of a door banging shut, amplified by the stairwell, made her eyes widen and she grabbed a handful of his coat and tugged on it to pull him inside the room, letting go of the doorknob and letting the weight of the door pull it closed behind them. They had done this before, only he had been trying to keep her from getting out of the door while she fought him tooth and nail. The idea of fighting her off made him snort back a laugh since it actually occurred to him that he really shouldn't take advantage.

It was an idea that lasted no longer than it occurred to him to take control.

She still had a grip on his coat and was stumbling through an unconvincing explanation that someone was coming and it could be one of the Initiative soldiers patrolling the campus when he touched his fingers to her lips to halt the babble spilling from her. He was barely listening to her. She was saying something earnest and eminently sensible and at variance with her expression. She looked anxious, desperate, and slightly horrified by what she was not yet doing.

"Then we'll have to be quiet," he said.

She blinked several times. He found it oddly arousing. The way her eyelids lifted and fell between thoughts, reflecting doubt and hiding something subversive and bitter that was trapped behind her lips.

"Changed your mind?" his voice was as smooth as butter.

His cool hands on her hot and damp face got her attention. He didn't shove her away, he just held her face in his hands for a moment until she opened her eyes to stare at him. There was no grief. No sorrow. No yearning for something that he had lost. No rage for having been deserted. No compassion. Just a direct stare that saw these things in her and refuted them while her skin crawled with shame.

"I kissed a girl last night," she blurted out.

She wasn't sure why she said it. Maybe it was because he was looking at her like he knew something or everything about her and she wanted to startle him again.

His eyes narrowed the tiniest bit. "Did you go out tonight looking for something to compare it to?"

Had she? Willow frowned, wondering if it was as simple as that. Technically, Tara had kissed her first, but there had been some reciprocal kissing back before the clumsy coming apart at the door and a graceless escape on her part. She felt bad about that.

"There are two me's," she said. "There is the me that thinks about doing things that I shouldn't do. And there is the me that doesn't do the things I don't think I should do and when they come together, bad things happen."

"Sounds like they would cancel each other out," he said.

"No," she frowned, thinking about stolen kisses with Xander while she was with Oz, and not being over Oz, but kissing Tara.

She looked at him. "It will never go away, will it? There will always be a part of me who is Willow in love with Oz."

"Maybe," he allowed.

"I liked who I was when I was with him. I don't like me anymore without him. I feel like I'm flailing around trying to find someone to hang on to who will tell me who I can be now."

He needed a drink. This was the kind of conversation that you had when you were drunk and after you purged yourself of it, you slept it off. "Pick something to be. You can be sad or your can be angry, or you can shut the fuck up and kiss me. Pick."

He figured that given a choice she would chose something sensible. Despite her recent track record, she was a sensible sort of girl. Her death grip on his coat eased and she tried to smooth out the wrinkles she had made in his coat before she stepped away from him and opened a door to what he assumed was a closet that turned out to be a bathroom.

"I think I should brush my teeth," she announced, her nose wrinkling a little. "The inside of my mouth tastes kind of yucky."


When the bathroom door shut behind her, Spike's first thought was that he ought to leave. There had been a moment at Willie's when he might have kissed her, just for the hell of it. Just because she was so pleased with herself.

Just for the way her eyes widened the tiniest bit and the way she licked the place on her lip that his thumb had touched.

He locked the door instead and found himself reliving a moment when he turned the radio beside her bed on. She had the dial set on the college station. He started to change it and then realized what he was doing. It was ridiculous.

The whole evening was ridiculous, and it was some slight improvement on his plans for the evening was were essentially to stay out of the commandos' way and find a likely mark to finance the balance of the evening. He could still do that. Find a demon, kill it, loot the corpse and move on. Or he could stay right where he was for a quick snog with a girl he knew two versions of.

He hadn't been lying when he told her that he had been attracted to her last year. She had been terrified, but she kept her wits about her, and she stood up to him, shaking like a leaf, pulse throbbing attractively in her white throat, breasts heaving as she struggled to control her fear. He had thought about it then, and again when he came back looking for Buffy and found Willow.

Having become acquainted with her on a day-to-day basis, she was a lot less interesting, he reminded himself, picking up a pair of fluffy yellow socks lying on the end of her bed. The texture of the socks startled him. They were a pair of crew socks, turned down at the ankle, and they felt soft and pillowy in his fingers.


This was the awkward and almost-completely sober part of the evening that made Willow wish that she had never started drinking or that she hadn't stopped. When she came out of the bathroom with her teeth brushed and her face washed she paused in the doorway, blinking to adjust to the darkness in her room. She wasn't sure what time it was but it was late enough that Buffy should be home if she was coming home tonight, which probably meant that she wasn't.

She half-expected to find that Spike had left while she was in the bathroom. She was pretty sure that he didn't like her. He had no reason to. Her friends were not liking her on a consistent basis these days , and while that stung a bit, she was aware that it had a lot to do with the way she had been acting, though she hadn't figured out a way to fix it yet. That was one of the reasons she liked hanging out with Tara, aside from the common interest in witchcraft. Tara didn't look at her like Buffy and Xander did. Tara looked at her like she was brave and admirable and cool. Sometimes she wondered if that was what it felt like to be Buffy.

Spike was sitting on the side of her bed, looking even more out of place than she felt on a normal day, but unaware of it. He was looking at something in his hands and she realized that it was a pair of her socks left on the bed.

In the bathroom she had noticed that her hair and clothes smelled like beer, fried food, and cigarette smoke. She decided that ignoring the awkward situation she had gotten herself in was in order and went to her dresser to get a pair of pajamas, relatively certain that the next time she emerged from the bathroom he would be gone and she would go to sleep, or at least try to. But to be on the safe side, she left her bra and panties on when she changed into her pajamas, stuffing her dirty clothes into the laundry bag hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

When she came back to the room the second time he was lying half-way across her bed, looking out the window through the blinds. He turned his head to look at her and held up her socks. She sat on the bed and took the socks from him to put on, trying not to look at him.

When she couldn't avoid it any longer she found that he was watching her with a slightly-crooked smile. He sat up and turned to face her where she was sitting cross-legged with her pillows stacked behind her. She had put the socks on and left the cuffs to bunch around her ankles. He straightened one and then the other, smoothing the soft knit down with his thumbs.

The college radio station was counting down midnight in each time zone. The DJ came on to announce that they were coming up on midnight in Alaska.

She wondered if he was wondering where Drusilla was right now.

Maybe not, she decided, fighting the urge to ask that was bubbling up with her nervousness as he leaned in toward her. The side of his coat brushing against the part of her leg that was bared by her sleep shorts. There was an awkward moment of incompatible head turning and then she resolutely closed her eyes determined not to participate in this. It was worse than knowing she didn't have anyone to kiss at midnight.

She felt his lips on her forehead with a shock that went to the pit of her stomach. She had run into Devon on campus yesterday putting up flyers for a Dingoes New Year's Eve party. He had invited her to come, waiving the cover charge. She was pretty sure that if she had gone they would have kept an eye out for her, made sure that she wasn't alone at midnight. There wouldn't have been big, romantic kisses, but plenty of friendly hugs and friendly kisses, not unlike this.

And it would have been okay. Better than feeling bad. Better than feeling alone.

A shaky breath escaped her as he turned his head to press a light kiss to the corner of her eye. "I hope you have a better, less crappy year," she said, meaning it.

She opened her eyes for a second and discovered that his were closed. Half of his face was in shadow, the other half was stark in the light seeping in between the half closed blinds. Without thinking about it, she did something she always wanted to without realizing it before now. There was just the slightest frown pulling at his eyebrows, creating a crease that reminded her of the ridged aspect of his brow when he was vampy.

Before she could think about how weird it was, she kissed him there. It just seemed like the thing to do. You made a wish for someone and you sealed it with a kiss.

His eyes opened when she was done and there was a question in them. An old unanswered question that made her feel like she was on the top of a roller coaster. They had completely different ideas about what constituted a better, less crappy year. His eyes held hers with a hint of humor.

He had kissed her twice. Was he keeping count? This time there was no awkward, incompatible head movement. He lifted his chin and she lowered hers, meeting halfway, fleetingly. It reminded her of asking Oz if he wanted to make out with her. She was pretty sure that if he had said yes she would have stayed exactly where she was on the passenger side of the van praying that he would take the initiative and kiss her first since she didn't know quite how to follow up on the offer.

Spike gave her a hint when his lips came back, his lower lip brushing against hers until she got the hint and let her lips part. She felt the tip of his tongue against her upper lip and got a shivery feeling that went from her lips to the back of her neck making her bump her nose with his at the involuntary movement, terminating the kiss before it really began.

And that might have been that for him, if she hadn't given him that startled, wide-eyed look.

"You too, pet," Spike said.

Before she could frame a 'me too, huh?' that was forming in her head he moved, scooting closer to her, his hand smoothing over her hair once and then sliding up against the back of her neck, his fingers sliding into her hair making her skin prickle from her scalp to her shins. She barely had time to grab a handful of his coat before he was kissing her again.

For a moment there the distinction between her minty-fresh mouth and his was clear. He tasted like beer with a hint of the spicy dip from the appetizer and the sweetness of onion and something completely unfamiliar, and then that taste was part of her mouth, with his tongue. Then she was falling back into the nest of her pillows with too much weight on her crossed legs. Her muffled squeak of discomfort made him shift his weight off her a little and she felt his hand on her leg, untangling it from under them, shifting it to lie across his lap as she slid down a few inches, feeling her sleep shorts bunch uncomfortably.

He was nibbling on her lower lip when it occurred to her that she was sort of making out with Spike and she had a wedgie. And maybe she was still drunk or, given the Tara kissage, just kind of skanky in a less-than-graceful sort of way because the kissing was nice. Better than nice she decided as she got his lower lip between hers and sucked on it while she squirmed and tried to reach down and discreetly tug her bunched-up sleep shorts into a less invasive position.

Her squirming made him shift around until his hips were resting fully between her legs. Her foot in the fluffy yellow sock slid over the leather of his coat while she tried to shift her hips enough to unwedge her sleep shorts, inadvertently bringing her into full contact his groin and a very prominent shape that pressed against her while he made a sound in his throat.

He broke off the kiss, his fingers tightening in her hair. Willow opened her eyes and found him looking at her like he had never seen her before. For a moment neither of them moved, and then he drew his lower lip into his mouth, his eyes half closing and he rubbed against her in a deliberate way. Her wedgie had pulled her panties and sleep short tight against her and the added friction across the fabric made her breath catch.

He did it again, eyes narrowing in concentration.

Wedgie be damned, she thought, unable to find any purchase between her sock and his coat, but she could feel the back of his leg under her foot through the coat and his jeans.

She closed her eyes, waiting for the sensation to return. Her lips felt tingly when she ran her tongue over them.

Opening her eyes she found that he was still staring at her. She had never noticed how nice his lips were. "You have plushy lips," she whispered.

"How drunk are you? Right now?" he asked, sounding a little wary.

It was tempting to say, 'very'. There was a certain lack of responsibility for one's actions implied in being very drunk. Her nose wrinkled. "Not so much that I'm not noticing that I have a wedgie," she admitted.

His eyebrows shot up and he smiled, ducking his head to kiss the corner of her mouth. "Is that what's got you squirming around?" he teased.

She nodded, trying to get her hand under a bunched-up section of his coat to free her shorts.

"Let me give you a hand with that," he said, kissing her chin and then opening his mouth over it to suck on it as he shifted his weight to get his hand under her hips. She lifted her hips to free the trapped fabric, expecting him to give her shorts a tug. What she didn't expect was for his hand to slide under the waistband of her shorts and panties while he nibbled on her jaw.

"Better?" he asked, his voice as smooth as butter, holding the smallest hint of laughter before his lips found her earlobe and he rubbed against her again, one hand on her bare ass holding her.

Willow felt a stab of alarm. This was getting out of control, and not in a good, clean, 'I'm drunk and grieving' sort of way, but in a 'shut up brain and let me do something stupid' kind of way. She could feel the tip of his tongue tracing the outer edge of her earlobe and then blunt teeth dragging over it. She used to do that for Oz and it always made him shiver. She was getting the why of the shiver working its way down the length of her spine to where Spike's hand was on her bare ass.

She needed to say something intelligent to stop this, she thought as she felt his lips move from her ear to the hollow below it and then down her neck, She could feel his fingertips on her butt, getting dangerously close to non-butt places. His tongue stroked her neck, followed by his lips, and the intelligent thing to do was to turn her head to one side and let him, since necks were his thing.

Oh, yeah, that was the intelligent thing to do. She was going to have a big hickey on her neck tomorrow.

He tore his mouth away from her neck. "This is stupid," he said, sounding like he was out of breath.

She ignored the twinge of disappointment as he sat up, his hand slipping out of her shorts. He was right. The more reasonable voice in her head was going to wake up any second now and agree with him.

"We're wearing way too many clothes for this," he said, taking off his coat and unceremoniously dumping it on the foot of her bed.

She was nodding with the stupid part when she realized that he wasn't stopping with the coat. The boots were the next thing to come off, landing with a thunk on the floor beside her bed. She started to sit up, which was a bit tricky since he was kneeling between her legs on her bed, unbuttoning the shirt that he wore over his t-shirt. It was a new one. The familiar old red shirt that he used to wear had gotten shrunk and had been replaced with a blue one.

How to explain that accidentally having sex with someone, even when drunk, and especially when the drunk part had mostly worn off, was simply not something she could contemplate?


He looked down at her, tilting his head to one side, waiting for her to speak before his gaze moved from her face to the rest of her and then back with a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

Did she look funny? Willow looked down at herself. She was wearing her pale blue pajamas with the daisy print. The little yellow centers at least matched her socks, she thought, relatively sure that she looked less peculiar than usual. Not sexy 'come hitherish' either, because her jammies were jammies, not sexy 'come hitherish, do me now' jammies.

When she looked up the hem of his t-shirt was clearing the waistband of his jeans and she was at eye level with a chest and abdomen that could have been in a textbook if anyone gave really inappropriate classes on anatomy and physiology.

The t-shirt joined the coat at the foot of the bed, and for the briefest moment Willow thought that it wouldn't really hurt if she wrapped her arms around his waist and sort of hugged him from the hips up.

Almost as if he read her mind, he leaned in and she was nose to pectoral muscle with his chest, almost loosing her balance as he grabbed the hem of her top and pulled it over her head. If she kept her arms down—the thought occurred to her after her shirt was joining the growing pile of discarded clothing.

For a moment she was kind of confused by it. Oz never took her clothes off. Sometimes he seemed kind of baffled by them. Except that maybe he really wasn't. A mental image of the scattering clothing on the floor of his cage reached her as Spike's hands slid inside the center of her front closure bra, unsnapping it, and pushing aside the fabric covering her breasts.

"I don't think we should do this," she blurted out.

His hands stilled on her for a second, his fingertips resting lightly on her skin.

An hour ago he would have been in complete agreement. Spike lifted one hand to her face, forcing her to look up at him. Her lips were a little swollen from kissing. Her hair was a little messy from having his hand in it, she was naked to the waist with her bra straps just starting to slide over her shoulders, and there was a small red mark on her neck.

She looked a little lost and frightened and the sadness was back and he realized that it wasn't that she was less interesting when she wasn't fending him off or fighting for her life. She was every bit as interesting and compelling and it was easier if he could ignore it.

She was like her clothes. A riot of color and texture. Sparkles. Fluffy socks. She was more than the sad, wan, tired child that she pretended to be because it matched her mood.

"Then don't think," he advised, unfastening his belt, watching her eyes move from his face to his hand while she struggled with what she thought she should do and what she wanted to do.

He made it sound so simple. Don't think. She was a person who thought about things. She thought about things too much. She thought about things until she was so tired and loopey and addled from thinking that a single idea would blaze to life and seem like the perfect end to thinking, and she would get that giddy rush and go off and do that thing. Sometimes it was exactly right. Like figuring out that Angel would attract Eyghon at the right moment and then expel him when there was no other body to inhabit. And sometimes it was a disaster.

She felt his hand on her face. His thumb moved over her lips until she opened her mouth and touched it with the tip of her tongue.

The pad of his thumb slid over her lip, into her mouth and it wasn't that she stopped thinking exactly. When he started to withdraw his thumb her lips closed on it and, almost experimentally, she licked the pad of his thumb, sucking on it as she took more of it into her mouth. For a second, his hand faltered on the top button of his jeans and his hand flattened against the fly. She let her teeth rub against his skin as she released his thumb.

His thumb stroked her lower lip, and she did it again. Somehow not thinking had become thinking naughty thoughts about sucking on fingers, which was in a lot of respects less scary than thinking about what his hand was doing as he resumed unfastening his jeans one-handed.

When she was satisfied that his thumb was explored to her satisfaction she turned her attention to his index finger, and he made a sound that started his throat and ended against hers when he dove at her throat, nipping at the place his lips and tongue had been worrying earlier. Then he was kissing her shoulder and the upper swell of her breast while his hand moved from her waist, up her ribcage.

She still wasn't sure about this. Before his mouth reached her nipple, where it seemed to be heading, she grabbed a handful of his hair at the back of his head, tugging on it since she had two of his fingers in her mouth and talking around them was complicated.

He lifted his head. "What?"

His fingers left her mouth with a wet sound and she took at second to catch her breath. "Um . . . this doesn't mean that we are going to—" she tried to think of a good all purpose word for what they were or were not going to do. 'Do anything that requires me to take off my pants' sounded about right, but too wordy.

His wet fingers covered her mouth. "Get back to me when you can think of a word for it," he said, his head dipping toward her nipple.

Her fingers tightened in his hair. She was still sorting through an inventory of words that sounded like things that she really didn't want to say, so she went back to the wordy option. "This doesn't mean that we are going to do anything that requires me to—" her breath left her in a rush as his tongue circled her nipple.

"Go on," he prompted before his lips closed around her nipple, tugging on it lightly. When she didn't respond immediately, he did it again, licking her nipple this time before sucking on it. The tugging sensation seemed to travel from her breast to her stomach.

"Huh?" was the best she could manage.

He smiled. "We aren't going to do anything that would require you to do what exactly?" he asked before his lips returned to her breast with a tongue-swirling accompaniment that made her suck in a breath.

"That feels nice," she said instead when his lips left her and she opened her eyes to find him looking at her expectantly.

His gaze shifted from her face to her breast. Willow found herself looking down at herself. Most of the time she thought of her nipples as a mutant appendage. They were a little too large, but when they were perky and sort of damp looking they looked pretty nice, she decided, peaking at her other so-far-neglected nipple.

"Forget what it was that you won't be required to do?" he asked, sounding a note of sham sympathy.

She frowned. Pants, she reminded herself, watching as his hand moved from her face down to her other breast. There was her whole 'not taking off pants' thing that was pertinent, though in the interest of equitable treatment of nipples, it could probably wait for just a second.

His fingertips moved over her other nipple and she closed her eyes for a moment , feeling his hand settle under her breast before he dragged his thumb over her nipple. She looked down again and got an eyeful of breasts with perky nipples, and his smooth, relatively hairless chest down to where his jeans were hanging open and his cock was just sort of hanging, not exactly motionless.

Her eyes flew back to his face. There was a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as he shifted his weight to one elbow and settled the lower half of his body against hers. He moved around a bit to get comfortable, which she could appreciate because her jammies were combed cotton for extra comfort.

"I'm not taking off my pants," she announced, feeling him pressing against her through her sleep shorts and panties.

He didn't look particularly concerned or impressed as he leaned down to kiss her, his hand moving from her breast to her ribs and back as the kiss deepened. His lips were warm from her mouth when they returned to her breasts, taking lip biting kisses from each of her nipples as his cock slid back and forth against her between two layers of cotton that were becoming increasingly damp. When his lips left one breast his fingers replaced it, pinching her nipple and tugging on it as the head of his cock butted against her clitoris, and then it was gone as he moved down her chest, his hands on her breasts as he kissed his way down her stomach.

She shuddered when she felt his tongue dip teasingly into her navel.

"Are you sure I can't change your mind?" he asked.

She opened her eyes and wished that she hadn't, though even with her eyes closed she had noticed how nice his hands felt on her breasts, the slight weight of them holding her down. He was kneeing between her legs as sinewy and gleaming in the spare light coming in from the windows his head less than six inches from the damp crotch of her sleep shorts.

She made some kind of sound that was supposed to be. "Yes, I'm sure," but came out sounding more like a moan of frustration.

He leaned over and kissed her stomach above the waistband of her shorts and then his hands moved down from her breasts, leaving her feeling slightly weightless as they skimmed over her ribs and waist, peeling back the waistband of her sleep shorts and catching in the elastic waistband of her panties riding lower on her hips while his lips moved lower.

Through two layers of damp cloth she felt the back of his knuckles brush over her clitoris and then tug the tangled shorts and panties down lower.

He paused, looking up at her, listening to the radio. "New Year's in Hawaii," he told her, his fingertip slipping through damp curls to find her clitoris. "I want to kiss you right here," he said, leaning forward to kiss her mouth as his finger moved back and forth with increasing pressure.

She threaded her fingers through his hair while they kissed. It was something to think about later, maybe to marvel over or wonder at or feel just the tiniest bit scared of. The way he nibbled at her lips and sucked on her tongue while his finger moved from her clitoris, under her panties to slide inside of her while she moaned into his mouth. It wasn't coincidence or serendipity. It was timed and planned and perfectly executed in a way that made her feel a little sad for him that he had learned to be so clever in the art of pleasing someone and had no one to spend it on but her.

She didn't realize that she was crying until he kissed the corner of her eye and lifted his head a little. That slight hesitation made her open her eyes and stop whatever he might have said by kissing the corner of his mouth the way he had kissed her earlier and rolling her hips against the feeling of his finger inside of her.

"I think I may have changed my mind about," her lips quirked, "keeping my pants on."

His eyelashes swept down, as demure and discreet as a lady's fan. He kissed her back. "Thought you might," he said, sounding insufferably smug about it.


The door was locked, but just to make sure that no one interrupted them Willow thought about writing a short note to put on the door outside of her room for Buffy. What would she say?

Met someone. Having sex. Details to follow.

Possibly too much information for anyone cruising the hallway a little after two in the morning.

Spike solved the problem by taking her chair and wedging it under the door knob. It occurred to her to wonder if the necessity of taking that kind of measure wasn't a little off-putting, but he finished removing his jeans on the way back to her bed and he didn't look in the least bit put-off.

She finished stepping out of her sleep shorts and underwear and took off her fluffy socks, wanting to turn down the bed, but he stopped her, with his hand on her hip, keeping her there while he sat on the side of the bed and looked at her. He glanced over at the clock, probably thinking about how long it would be until he had to leave to get back to Xander's or Giles' or where ever he was staying these days.

She had decided that she was going to do this and more or less told him so, but so far he had done most of the doing, so she sank to her knees on the floor between the two beds, drawing his startled gaze back to her when she gingerly rested her arms on his thighs, scooting forward a little.

His cock twitched and she jerked back a little and then felt stupid for being so jumpy. She looked up at him warily. "You aren't going to tell me that there is a pet name for it and make me pretend that it has a different personality are you?"

He burst out laughing. "No," he said. "It's not a sock puppet."

She smiled back. "Good, because that would just freak me out," she said, bringing her fingertips to stroke the side of his cock before she wrapped her fingers around it.

His only reaction was to breathe in once, and then to slide his arms under hers. "Was I making you nervous, looking at you?"

She nodded. "A little," she admitted, letting her hand move up. He felt a little cool to her and there was the whole peculiar foreskin surprise that she was trying not to react to.

"Come up here, l—Red. There are some things that never start well on your knees," he said, moving to the other side of the bed to make room for her.

It was an odd thing to say, and it made her wonder what was behind it, but then he was bringing her hand back to his cock, making a slight adjustment before relaxing against her pillows.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

He gave a slight shake of his head. "It's too complicated to explain," he said. It was mostly true. There were whole dimensions of things that might start with her on her knees, but they had nothing whatsoever to do with what was happening tonight and it was an unwanted reminder of the chip since he couldn't do any of those things. In a broader sense it just wasn't who she might have been to him if things had gone a bit differently.

He shifted to his side, slipping his arm between her neck and the pillow under her head. What she was doing was mostly inept, but it felt good. He found himself finger-combing her hair away from her forehead to reveal the widow's peak that arrowed down. This was probably better than what he would have gotten if he had turned her, feeling uneasy as the thought touched on unpleasant associations.

He tugged on her hair to get her to lift her chin, and then swore at the awkward angle and started tossing pillows off of the bed. Still unsatisfied with the arrangement in her too-narrow bed, he moved closer to the edge and pulled her toward him before rolling her on her back, cutting off her startled exclamation by kissing her.

He wasn't lonely or unhappy. That was her problem. He didn't want the comfort of being touched. She was out of breath when he started kissing her throat, feeling her pulse throbbing under his lips as his hand wandered down her stomach. That was what he wanted. If she hadn't changed her mind about taking off her pants, he would have slid a second finger in her, and worked her shorts down just enough to fuck her with her legs drawn up against her chest.

This was better. This way he had all of her at his disposal. He felt her hips jerk as his hand slid between her legs and he sucked in a harsh breath, wanting so much to sink his teeth into her neck. The chip was warming up with the violence of his thoughts, forcing him to abandon her neck.

When he lifted his head, she wrapped her arm around his neck and used the leverage to reach his mouth, one hand coming to rest on the side of his face. He felt her lips slacken when he pushed his finger into her. Just one finger, but she shuddered and made a soft whimpering sound in her throat and her fingers flexed against his face, and it felt good.

For a moment he closed his eyes and concentrated on the blind stroke of her fingers on his face trying to remember the last time anyone had touched him like that, and without even thinking about it he found himself shifting her in his arms to get a little closer, softening the pressure of his lips on hers to keep from bruising her while her hand moved from his face, to his throat, to the back of his head. When the heel of his hand pressed against her clit, her head fell back and her lips opened on a soundless cry.

"Does it feel that good to you?"

He could have kicked himself for asking. It was a tactless question and a distraction that made her frown a little before her eyes opened, color climbing into her cheeks.

Her gaze cleared a little. "Saying something like 'been a while, sailor?' would not be of the good," she warned him with a little hitch in her voice. "But . . ."

Their eyes met for a moment until his shut and he took a deep breath, feeling her fingers in his hair, moving against his scalp and then smoothing his hair back down. "That feels good," he whispered.

"Does it?" she sounded surprised, and a little breathless, and she was holding herself so still that he could feel the tension in her.

"Yeah," he opened his eyes. "I'm going to show you something that will feel better," he offered, kissing her briefly.

She looked suspicious. "Is this some kind of sex secret of vampires thing?"

"Maybe," he allowed, taking the scenic route down her body, with a detour at her breasts and then her stomach.

When he looked up to see if she was watching she was looking skeptical. "I think I've seen this one. We have Cinemax," she said matter of factly.

He raised an eyebrow at that, shifting lower in the bed. When her hand started to fall away from the back of his head he grabbed her wrist. "I like that. Don't stop," he said.

She looked confused. "You like my hand in your hair?"

"Yeah," he turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. "I like your hand in my hair and I want to feel it there while I'm eating your pussy," he explained.

He wasn't serious, she thought as his hand left her and he pressed a kiss against her clit. To test the theory she started to move her hand away and he lifted his head to look at her. Tentatively she brought her hand back to his cheek and he turned his head to kiss her fingers and then he kissed her clit again, His tongue stole out to press against it and without any further encouragement, her fingers slid into his hair and her legs opened a bit wider, and she could have sworn she felt him smile before he said, "Liked that?"

"Do it again," she urged.


When the clock struck three and New Year's was celebrated in American Samoa he was just settling inside of her and she was discovering what she tasted like on his lips, still feeling a little lightheaded from a pleasantly-intense orgasm that she had taken an embarrassingly long time to get to. She kept wanting to tell him that it wasn't him, because it was all working for her.

For a vampire who had tried to kill her twice, he had been amazingly patient. She tried to tell him, but he kissed her again and told her not to be stupid. It started off slow, with lots of kissing. Since he liked her touching his hair, Willow expanded her repertoire with touching his shoulders and back.

It wasn't birds singing and bells ringing, but it wasn't awkward and awful either. It was just nice and slow, building into a feeling that seemed to spread all over until she was pressing the soles of her feet into the backs of his legs because the pressure felt nice and the leverage was even nicer.

She kept her eyes open, and so did he and when it was over and she thought for a second that she might cry, he rolled over on his back and then looked over at her and put his arm around her, settling her head under his chin so she could have some privacy while he rubbed her back and kissed the top of her head.

He didn't rush off, though sunrise was a few hours away and he had a place to be.

"Do you want me to wait until you fall asleep?"

She shook her head. "I'm going to take a shower, then go to bed." She ran her palm over his chest. "I guess New Year's Eve is pretty much New Year's Day."

"Yeah," he agreed. "The start of the newer and less crappy year." He kissed the top of her head again. "Right?"

"Right," she agreed, sitting up a little so he could get up and get dressed.

He was putting her chair back where it belonged when he turned to her. "Don't make too much of this," he said. "When you wake up in the morning and you start wondering if you've lost your mind? Take a deep breath. The world is still spinning on its axis. No one got hurt. And," he came over to her, cupping her face in his hands, "there's not a damn thing wrong with you that you can't make right."

Buffy was just coming in when Willow came back from the shower. She looked surprised and a little guilty. "Are you just coming in?" she asked.

Willow shook her head, giving her rumpled looking bed a quick look. Thankfully she had picked up most of the scattered pillows before she had gone to take her shower. "Nope," she said sounding more genuinely cheerful to her own ears than fake cheerful. "I've been listening to New Year's in multiple time zones. Did you know that there are students at UC-Sunnydale from the Aleutian islands and Samoa?"

"Uh . . . no. I hadn't really thought about it," Buffy admitted, wondering if Willow was mad about the early end to New Year's Eve at Xanders. "So, you've been up all night, by yourself?"

Willow put her shower things away and leaned down to pick up her yellow socks, folding them. "Buffy . . . I get it. You and Xander have Riley and Anya and there are times that you want to do couple-y things, and it's okay. What isn't okay is me making an ass out of myself and ruining things for you guys."

Buffy looked relieved. "There wasn't any ruining," she hastened to assure her. "We just worry," she said. It sounded kind of lame. She was so worried that she walked Willow home and went out to party with Riley and stayed over at his place until she was reasonably certain Willow would be asleep.

Willow smiled. "I'm kind of beat. What do you say we go to sleep and have a very late pancake lunch and do some best-friend bonding tomorrow?"

Buffy nodded. "It's a date," she agreed as Willow went to put the socks in her dresser. Looking down she saw the glint of something metal on the floor and leaned down to pick it up while Buffy talked about her evening. She and Riley had gone to the Bronze for a stake free evening of dancing.

It was Spike's lighter. Willow looked at it blankly for a moment, and then a tiny smile appeared. Spike's lighter. How would he get through a whole day without a lighter? She turned back to her dresser and opened the top drawer, tucking the lighter in under her yellow socks.

She got into bed and rolled on her side, still listening to Buffy talk about the Bronze, dancing, Riley, and the sneaking in and out of Lowell House. She smiled to herself again, closing her eyes.

Willow was falling asleep when Buffy startled her by asking her if she was still awake.

"No!" she said and spoiled it with a laugh.

There was no follow-up, so Willow opened her eyes and found Buffy sitting on the side of her bed looking at her with a puzzled but hopeful expression on her face.


Buffy smoothed her hands over her thighs, looking like she was trying not to say the wrong thing. "I want you to have a Happy New Year," she said. "More than just about anything, Will. I just want you to be happy."

For a moment Willow couldn't speak. She really didn't want to move. She waved Buffy over instead. "Okay. Hug!" she ordered, and then squeaked at the force of the hug. "Now, shoo," she said. "Go to bed."

A few minutes later she was sound asleep and Buffy was getting in bed and turning the ringer off on their phone in case someone uncivilized called before noon. She was just settling in and turning off the light when she looked over at Willow again. She looked tired. She hadn't been sleeping well, but she was sleeping now and mixed in with the tired was an expression that Buffy chose to interpret as less sad than yesterday.

"Be happy," she whispered before she turned the light out.