Spoilers: The whole damn lot.
Summary: London, Summer 2002. Spike and Willow cry into each other's beer.
Disclaimer: In Joss we trust. Kinda.
Distribution: Asking gets.
Authors note: Title taken from Jacques Brel's Voir Un Ami Pleurer (pretentious, much!) And I've nicked a line from a Tindersticks' song just because.
Dedication: Rachel Anton and Cynthia Liskow for making me love Willow and Spike again. In a third way.
The sun was sinking slowly, casting it's dappled light onto the Thames and making the water look something other than dingy and grey. And although she was a long way from the Pacific and the smell of ozone and suntan lotion that went with it, the redhead clutched the railings of the bridge and swayed gently, calmed by the lap of the water. Behind her the throng of hurrying, merciless commuters had given way to tourists and pleasure seekers ambling slowly towards the bars and concert halls and foyer art displays of the South Bank. They seemed so happy and she hated them for it. But hated them more for being there at all, as she put one foot on the support that ran along the railings and braced her hands against the rusting metal to launch herself up...
"Red?... Will is that you?" The voice was hesitant in her ear but those tones that were as much a part of this city as the rich, dark clay at the bottom of the river made her foot slip between the railings and she gave a cry as one of her clunky sandals descended into the depths. Lucky Birkenstock, she thought. Lucky, lucky, lucky, lu...
Then there was a cool hand circling her wrist and she pulled her leg free and turned awkwardly, bare foot just scraping the surface of the dirty pavement.
"Spike. You're here," Willow said flatly, neither surprised, nor particularly curious.
"Looks like it, doesn't it?" He grinned. "So were you going for a dip? Hoping to swim to France, maybe? 'Cause if you were, you'd have been heading in the wrong direction."
Willow squinted up at him. The tufts and curls that hadn't ever really suited him, had given way to the Spike coiffure Version 1.0 that he'd been sporting that first night in The Bronze when he'd started yelping about a man trying to bite someone. But it wasn't just that, there was something off about him. It could have been the way that he was standing there, still with fingers loosely curled around the narrow bones of her wrist, patiently allowing her scrutiny. Or it could have been the way his grin never slipped but also never reached his eyes and made them dance with malice or amusement or just plain, patented Spike snarkiness.
Plus, hey (and it was a big hey), no duster. Just a thin, black cotton shirt over black denim jeans.
"Where's your coat?" she asked stupidly.
For a moment his face was clouded. "Left Sunny D in a hurry, didn't I? After..." His voice tailed off and he looked away.
Willow didn't want to feel anything, let alone empathy and understanding for someone whose (despite all his truly heinous acts like trying to kill her and sleeping with her best friend's girlfriend and, oh yeah, trying to rape her other best friend) biggest crime was to stand in front of her like some black clad, bleach headed reminder of all the things she'd lost.
"Are you OK, Will?" There was that soft inflection again.
She shook her head, dismayed that her tear ducts were still functioning as she felt the familiar prickle at the back of her eyelids. "No, I'm not OK. I left OK about a million exits back. And you have to go now, Spike, 'cause I can't be near you. It hurts too much."
In the few minutes that they'd been standing there, dusk had settled round them but she still caught the flash of panic that illuminated his face.
"What's happened? Is it Buf-- Dawn? Are they alright? You have to tell me, Will..."
"They're fine, no thanks to me. Everyone's fine," Willow muttered, dipping her head down so her hair obscured her face from him. "I've got to go."
She had to turn and limp away. Not even caring that she had one bare foot and the ground was filthy and there were junkies that congregated at the bottom of the steps because even if she did tread on a discarded syringe, septicaemia or even a long and lingering death that began with a dropping of her T cells and ended with melanomas and pneumonia was all that she deserved. But there was Spike, no longer an undead someone that she'd always been just a teeny bit wary of (even with chip,) but now just an annoying insect that was buzzing round her and wouldn't be swatted away.
"And your witch buddy, she with you? Nibblet told me you two birds were flying again."
"She's gone, she's not coming back. She's not ever coming back, Spike."
Then she was enveloped in his cool arms and where her face was pressed against his shirt she could smell lemon verbena and cigarettes. And her tears were going to make up an ocean. Her tears were going to make up a sea. She could pour them out. Pour them all over him and it still wouldn't be enough. Would never be enough.
"There, there, pet," he murmured. "I've got you."
When the storm was passed, he took her hand and they walked off the bridge, through the station concourse and up Villiers Street to cut across the Strand and into Covent Garden.
Willow felt calm again. Hollow. Hollow was good, meant she didn't have to think. And Spike didn't talk about Tara or Buffy or any of the people they'd left behind but pointed out the steps of the Opera House where he'd stood and waited for a glimpse of some long dead ballerina when he was younger than Willow. Showed her the house where he'd sat, loving and silly, fingers full of pencils and loose sheaves of paper and composed frightening verse.
By the time they'd reached Bloomsbury with its imposing Victorian terraces and stopped outside a house identified by a tiny brass plaque that had the words: "Watcher's Council of Great Britain" embossed on it, Willow could manage a tiny smile.
"How did you know?"
Spike shrugged. "Just an educated guess, is all. You OK, now?"
She smiled again.
"I keep asking that. Always was a persistent bugger, you should know that."
"I'm OK for now," she replied. "For now, I'm OK. Don't think I can face all that wall-to-wall tweed though. Everyone being all tact-y and trying not to mention the 'r' word"
Spike gave her a sly smile. "Call you a rug behind your back, do they?"
"R for rug muncher, d for dyke, l for les--"
"I was with you after, erm, muncher actually but I meant r for rehab and rug muncher is a very derogatory term and, y'know, lesbians do other things besides, well, that."
"So do you want to get a drink then?" Spike tilted his head and gazed at her softly, and now that they crying jag was over, it unnerved her slightly. But not as much as the next words out of his mouth. "What was it that you chits like to drink? Mocca, frappe, latte, what have you? There's probably a Starbucks round here."
"I'm not meant to have caffiene," she told him primly and he shuffled his feet in that unnerve-y way again.
"It was just an idea," he said. "Should go now anyway."
But what had started as a chance encounter engineered by The Powers was now their only barrier against loneliness and she caught his sleeve between her fingers.
"They didn't say anything about alcohol," Willow announced. "I could have alcohol. Lots and lots of it."
The pub was dark and through the open door the strangely comforting smell of beer and stale cigarettes and old carpet assaulted Willow's nostrils. This was the same pub that Giles had taken her to that first night when the rain spilt down from the heavens and cleaned the sweltering streets. It had cleaned everything but the dark, dirty place where her heart had been. She'd sat huddled in a chair in the corner, knee-deep in grief and guilt, and Giles had gone to the bar and returned with some green and fruity drink in a bottle that had tasted slightly of limes and air freshener. Then he'd talked to her in a kind voice about how she had to stay in that building with the watchers and that no-one was punishing her but she needed time and guidance in order to start the healing process. Willow had said nothing.
She turned to Spike now. "I want a Lime Barcardi Breezer and a tequila shot."
Then she limped over to an empty table that was cut off from the after-work drinkers in their shirt sleeves and smart summer dresses by a wooden partition. Spike had offered to pop into one of the shops that stayed open late and buy her a pair of shoes but she'd shook her head and dropped the remaining sandal into a bin. He hadn't tried to persuade her otherwise.
"Here you go," said the strange kindly creature who was inhabiting Spike's body and offering to buy her shoes and asking her if she was OK every five minutes.
Willow took a long swig from the bottle and then tipped in the tequila.
"Cheers," she deadpanned, clinking her bottle against the pint glass he set down on the table.
"Don't know how you can mix good tequila with that bitch's piss," Spike grumbled. "Not that it's good tequila. Have to go to Mexico for really good tequila."
Willow took another deep gulp from her bottle. "Don't know how you can drink beer. It's all bitter and urgh."
"You're putting it away at breakneck speed, aren't you?" Spike commented. "Never had you down as much of a drinker."
"I've got an addictive personality," she recited parrot fashion. "I have to learn to control my impulses towards things that I know can be harmful to myself and others. I need another drink."
She looked him in the eye, daring him to contradict her. Spike tilted his head again, opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it and instead dug into the pocket of his jeans and produced a handful of coins and a couple of crumpled notes. "While you're up there, get me another pint of Guinness and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, pet."
An hour and several empty glasses later, Spike was filling in the silence by speculating on how England had fucked up in the quarter final of the World Cup. And Willow wondered why he called it football when it was soccer and kept throwing lit matches in the general vicinity of the ashtray.
"Hey Red, highly combustible vampire sitting in your line of fire!" Spike's indignant yelp pulled her back to reality.
"Sorry, my head's all elsewhere these days," Willow said.
"Know the feeling, pet," agreed Spike with some vehemence.
And then at the same time, they both said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
There was a moment more of awkward silence, a wry smile apiece and then a flurry of "sorrys" and "you were saying"s.
Willow poured another shot of tequila into the half empty bottle of Barcadi mix. "You go first," she ordered.
"Uh, uh," Spike demurred. "Ladies first." Then he lit a cigarette and waited and waited while she tore at a beermat with agitated fingers.
"I'm sorry about Tara, that she went... left you," Spike said eventually, choosing his words with care which in itself was Hellmouth kind of freaky. "Thought you two would stay the distance. So what happened, love? Guessing you fell off the no mojo wagon..."
"You really want to know, Spike?" she suddenly turned on him furiously. "You want to know? You want to know how Warren shot a stray bullet through my bedroom window while Tara stood there and told me how she wanted to get naked with me. How her blood dried in tiny red splashes all over my top and they wouldn't let me bring her back. How I got my dark magic groove back and I killed him and Rack then I tried to kill Jonathan and the other one and when my friends tried to stop me, I went after them. Was going to make Dawn all Key-y again and I bitch-slapped Buffy all the way round the Magic Box but she just wouldn't die, nearly murdered Giles and then I decided it would be a really fantastic idea to destroy the world. How can I tell you that, Spike? How can I tell you what I've done?"
And with one frail arm, Willow sent her bottle skittering violently to land with a crash on the floor and then brought her head down sharply on the table-top once, twice, three times so that people turned to look and then turned away because the sight of the red-headed girl with the bleeding feet, banging her head against wood was too painful to look at.
Spike reached out a hand and touched her shoulder.
"No! You don't," Willow cried. "Don't be like them. Don't say you understand. Please, don't forgive me. Everyone wants to forgive me and I, I..."
"You want them to hate you, is that it?" Willow had forgotten Spike's talent for sounding out the truths that no-one else could face. "Because their hate is easier to cope with than unconditional bloody love. Don't knock love, Will. There's sod all else worth living for. Or unliving."
"But it's so hard, Spike," she whimpered. "How can they love me? Tara loved me and she's gone and it's too hard. Oh God, there's nothing worth living for."
"C'mon Red, sing me a new one. Isn't this the Slayer's tune?" Spike reminded her harshly. "Life is hard. It's fucking misery and unhappiness. And what gets any of us through to the next sundown are the little things. A smile and a kiss from someone who cares about you. An all-new episode of Passions when you were expecting a re-run. A shot of tequila. Bumping into an old friend when you're alone in a city where the only family you had are nothing more than dust in a coffin. It's all there is. Nothing more than that."
Willow stopped hiccuping and rubbing her fists into her eye sockets long enough to stare at Spike incredulously and ask him again, "What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you all, well un-Spiky?" Spike leaned back in his chair and looked at her warily, lips twisting. "Went and got myself a soul, didn't I?"
There was a moment's silence before Willow began to laugh. It was slightly hysterical laughter that threatened to spill over into tears but it was still laughter.
Spike seethed silently and continued to pull on his cigarette but when Willow carried on with her silent gasps for air and the shuddering and shaking, he stood up and stalked over to the bar. When he returned and pointedly placed a glass of water in front of her, Willow was swollen-eyed and grim-faced again.
"Was it to make Buffy love you?" she asked with a thread of desperation in her voice.
He nodded. "Thought it was but you want to know the funny thing, Red?"
Willow raised her eyebrows encouragingly to signify assent.
"Now I'm all souled up, I know why she can't love me. There's a load of bollocks talked about the soul-having but it gives you clarity, I'll say that for it. Clarity and fuck all else."
"Why aren't you all broody?" She sounded like the old Willow, who wanted to know how vampires could shave and believed in fairy tale endings and sunny days and that friendship would conquer everything.
"'Cause I'm not a great, big poof," Spike snapped and then checked himself. "Way I see it, I did terrible things and all the brooding and lumbering about with a furrowed brow is going to do sod all to change it. It's what I do now that matters, isn't it?"
"And you've done good stuff without the soul too," Willow reminded him gently. "Last summer when Bu... when she was gone. You helped us, looked after Dawn and the thing with, y'know, Buf... I think it was what she needed. Sort of."
He stiffened. "She said that, did she?"
"Nuh huh, but I think it helped her to feel something."
Then it was her turn to reach out and clasp his hand in hers. "Don't, Spike. What you've done, what you did, apart from the thing with the demon eggs which was skewy even for you, don't you see? If you want redemption, you were already halfway there."
He squeezed her fingers and shook his head. "I didn't do it to be redeemed. I did it for her. There's a difference, you know. Doesn't make me any less of an evil, dead thing."
The tiny flicker of anger surprised her. It was so strange to feel anything other than utter despair. "See that's where she wrong," she insisted with quiet force. "Angel spent 100 years after he got his soul sucking on rats and being racked with guilt and it wasn't until the Powers asked him to help Buffy and he fell in love with her that he started being all avengey. You've got a huge head start on him."
"That so?" Spike smirked, despite himself. "So give it 50 years and some change and I'll be poncing about LA in a convertible helping the helpless and draining the city of its hair gel supply? Can't wait."
"Be nice," she admonished him, picking up her bottle and draining the last drops.
"I am nice now," he reminded her. "All part of the all-inclusive soul package."
Instead of more Willow babbling about the meta-physical properties of his shiny, new soul, she merely frowned at her now empty bottle.
"I need another drink," she said plaintively, casting longing looks at the bar.
Spike shook his head. "No can do, Will. They called last orders about 10 minutes ago."
"Damn archaic licensing laws." A pause, a sly look under her lashes and then: "We could go to a bar, bars open late and they sell alcohol."
"So how comes the Watchers have your Mocha-free but don't seem to mind you going on a tequila fuelled bender?" asked Spike casually, scooping the pile of coins that lay on the table pocketwards.
"I said I wasn't meant to have coffee," Willow pointed out. "Emphasis on I. Alcohol numbs everything but the caffiene high just makes me feel everything more. Like there's something in my chest clawing to get out. So drinks with alcohol good, caffiene bad. Baaaaad."
"I should get you home," he said, ignoring the blatant demands for more booze and stood up. "Before someone comes looking for you and decides to shove a sapling some place it could do some dusty damage."
Willow scraped back her chair and wobbled to her feet. "Bar?" she said hopefully.
"No bar for you, you've had enough," Spike stated firmly and gripped Willow's upper arms to steady her when she lurched into him.
She lay her head against his chest, the faded flame of her hair still bright on the black cotton and he ran a finger through the dull locks.
"C'mon, Will, you should be tucked up in bed with your teddy bear." He started to manoeuvre her towards the door.
"I don't have a teddy bear," she mumbled, her voice muffled.
The look he gave the top of her head was tender. "Yeah, well you're not up to the only other thing you can cuddle, are you?"
The temperature had dropped as the night had got darker and the cold pavement abraded the tiny cuts and blisters on her feet. But with Spike's arm wrapped round her waist, holding her upright and guiding her so she didn't stumble into lamp-posts and letter-boxes, Willow found that she barely had to put one foot in front of the other.
As they neared Watcher Central though, she put her feet firmly on the ground and stilled to a halt.
"Red, quit dawdling," Spike said sternly.
She turned her face up towards him and the glow from the streetlights showed her swollen eyes and drawn features in harsh relief. "Your soul... does it have a clause... a happiness clause?"
He shook his head impatiently. "No. It's not some half-baked, gyppo curse. It's a cast-iron, 100% guaranteed, no refunds allowed soul. And why does it matter anyway?"
"Because I don't think I can make it to morning on my own."
Spike froze for a second and then it was as if his body was jerked by some unseen force as he thrust Willow away from him, narrowed his eyes and was in her face. Lips curled back, finger jabbing accusingly.
"What the fuck is it with you damn women? First the Slayer, then demon girl and now you!" A tiny drop of his spittle landed on Willow's bottom lip and she dabbed at it with her tongue but stayed unflinching in the path of his impotent fury.
"Cold comfort! Is that all I am? Is that all I bloody am to you?"
Willow shut her eyes and sighed, wondering if the bone-deep weary would ever dissipate. He whirled around, his back to her, his shoulders hunched. Every millimetre of muscle and skin shrieking his displeasure and she tentatively touched one taut shoulder blade.
"You've already saved my life once tonight," she said dully. "And I'm asking you to do it again. As a friend."
"Jesus, Will!" Spike exploded once more. "That's not fair."
"Life isn't fair," she cried. "If it was fair I'd still have her and you'd have Buffy. But we don't get to have fair, we get to have each other instead. Please, Spike, don't leave me alone."
"And what about tomorrow night and the night after that and all the other nights? I'm not aspirin, baby, I can't make the pain go away. You have to work through it, hope it doesn't kill you."
"And tonight it might and, y'know what, Spike? I kinda hope it does. I'm kinda hoping that you're just some figment of my drunken imagination that's going to disappear, pouf! Because if I go into that house... There's a bathroom full of pills and a kitchen full of knives and a weapon's room... I'm not coming back. And part of me wants it so badly. Not to feel like this anymore. I just can't feel like this anymore..."
"Don't, Will, don't say things like that." He turned to her and cupped her chin gently. "I make a funny kind of guardian angel, don't I? Must have had my wings clipped on the way down."
"So, you'll...?" Willow couldn't finish the sentence. Didn't need to.
"Yeah, I'll..." Neither did he. "I'm staying in some shithole in King's Cross and you've drunk most of my money away but we could get a bus."
And just as he'd been pre-destined to stumble along the bridge at the precise moment when the water beckoned, a big, red London Routemaster bus (just like the ones on the postcards that said 'Greetings from London Town') lumbered towards them. Spike grabbed Willow's arm and half lifted her onto the platform and as the bus pulled away he was forced to pick up speed and grab at the pole to haul himself aboard.
Spike was staying in a cheap B and B on Grays Inn Road that was mostly inhabited by Kosovan prostitutes on forged passports. When he pushed open the front door, the smell of boiled cabbage and damp made Willow gag.
"Makes my crypt look like the bloody Holiday Inn, doesn't it?" he remarked caustically. "Are you going to puke?"
Willow rubbed her stomach. "Don't know, maybe." She gulped a couple of times. "I think I'm OK."
She eyed the rickety wooden stairs with some trepidation. "There's a lot of stairs."
"Your feet," he said, remembering and looking down at them. "They'd look even worse with splinters."
And with a sigh because he'd half expected, half-hoped she'd back out of her crazy plan and take him with her, he gathered her up in his arms and started climbing up to third floor.
Willow didn't make a murmur of protest. Just inhaled the lemon verbena, which he'd never used to smell of and revelled in the safeness she felt wrapped in the arms of a vampire who'd spent more than a century with the blood of the the world on his soft white hands.
His room was full of mis-matched furniture, all fake teak veneer and beige formica. Spike lit some candles and walked over to open the window to let in the hum of traffic and a cool breeze. Willow sat on the edge of the bed, twisting the flowery brown and yellow cover around her hands and snapped her eyes shut when he switched on the light in the bathroom and started to run water.
When Spike returned with a washing-up bowl and a towel, she was still in the same position, clutching one of his cigarettes between her fingers like she didn't know what to do with it. Spike set the bowl down on the floor and rummaged in his shirt pocket for his lighter.
"Those'll kill you, love," he drawled trying for irony and giving up halfway. He held the flame against the end of the cigarette and smiling slightly as she struggled to inhale enough to light it.
"Thanks for the tip," Willow said dryly. "You going to bathe my feet? You're really doing this whole Jesus thing properly, ain't ya?"
Spike pursed his lips. "So, is this how it is, pet? After the maudlin, alcohol-induced hysterics comes the bitchiness." He took a firm grasp on one of her ankles and rolled her eyes when she snatched it away and dumped both feet in the bowl, making the water splash over the sides and onto his jeans. "Been taking lessons from the Slayer, have you?"
"We're not in Sunnydale anymore, Toto," she sniffed. "You can never go home again."
"You're mixing up your cultural references, Will," Spike informed her with a vague facsimile of a smile. "Now be a good girl and smoke your fag and let me look at your feet."
She puffed on the cigarette, never really inhaling but enjoying the way the smoke rushed out of her mouth. Sitting here in this dingy room, lit only by street lights and candles, while a sharp-faced man washed her feet. It appealed to the side of her that would sit through French Film festivals at the Sun Cinema, never really understanding why the actors needed to pontificate so much but savouring her intellectual cool never the less. This whole scene was like something out of a Truffaut film. Or no, one of those '60's English kitchen sink dramas, black and white, full of girls with harsh voices and bouffant hair.
Spike was lifting her feet out of the bowl and placing them on his towel-covered thighs while he patted them dry.
"We should have got you some shoes," he fussed and leant back, startled, as she placed a finger on his lips and shushed him. He didn't know how to react to this new, contrary Willow of pulsating moods and variable emotions.
He watched with hooded eyes as she began to unbutton her dress. She'd just slipped the third button loose of the material, when he felt compelled to speak.
"You don't want to do this, Will. You're gay now, remember?"
Her eyes filled with tears. Again. "I couldn't... I can't with a girl, it's too much like her."
"It's OK, you don't have to explain..." he began to offer her more empty words of comfort but she shook her head frantically, not prepared to listen and carried on slipping buttons through holes and standing up to slip the fabric down where it pooled on the floor in a puddle of green.
Willow stood in front of his kneeled figure. Rollerskate skinny in a thin white camisole and briefs and stroked the top of his head.
"I'm getting into bed now, you should take your clothes off," she ordered calmly.
As she slid under the sheet, Spike toed off his boots, bent down to deal with his socks, slowly peeled off his shirt and turned away from her to undo his belt.
He could feel her eyes watching the muscles in his back shift as he kicked off his jeans and moved to turn off the light in the bathroom.
"Leave it on," she said. "I want to see you."
He tried again. "We can just talk. Hold each other. Do anything you want, Red."
Her voice was resolute. "What I want is for you to shut up, come here and fuck me."
As he smoothed back the sheet to slide into bed beside her, Willow grabbed at his hip and his arm, pulling and tugging and coaxing his stiff body until he was lying on top of her.
"I'm too heavy," he muttered and tried to shift slightly but her tiny hands on his back were relentless.
"I'm stronger than I look," she told him. But it wasn't true.
He'd never really been with human girls before Buffy. Had sometimes fucked them against a wall before puncturing a vein. And Buffy hadn't been human. Not really. Her stamina, her grip, the way she flipped and twisted was something other than human. With Anya again, it had been different. 1000 years experience in how bodies smooshed together and she'd had the strength of the lovelorn. But the girl he hovered over was frail and pale and three quarters broken. He could snap her wrists as easily as lighting a match.
As he held himself away from her and rested on his hands, Willow was wriggling out of her briefs and pulling up her vest to bare breasts that barely mattered.
"C'mon," she whispered in the stillness. "I'm good to go here, Spike." She parted her legs and then yanked at the soft hair under his arms to try and force him down to her.
Spike sank gently into her embrace but despite her frenzied attempts to rub against him and pull him closer, their bodies didn't fit. Too much bone and angles and flatness jarring and scraping together.
Willow snaked a hand between them and grasped his flaccid cock.
"What's the matter? Why don't you want me?" she mewled.
He tried to stroke her hair but she jerked her head away.
"There's no time for that," she insisted and grasped his shaft with clumsy hands. After moments of getting nowhere fast and Spike staring unseeing at the damp spots on the ceiling, Willow pushed him away from her with a disgusted groan.
"Fuck you," she spat. "Fuck you. You're no good for anything, are you? Buffy was right. You're just a dead thing. A dead, useless thing."
"I'm sorry," he said hoarsely, kneeling on the scattered sheet. "This is wrong, we both know it's wrong. Let me hold you..."
"I don't want you to hold me," she shouted, dry-eyed and whiter than the moon. "I want you to be inside me, to fill me up with something other than this emptiness and if you can't do that, what good are you to anyone?"
And as he went down under the rain of her fists and futile blows, it was him who cried. It was him who curled up amid the debris of sheets and bedspread and sobbed. And it was her who gathered him up and lay his head on her lap and ran loving hands over him and whispered endearments and "baby, don't cry" and "it's going to be alright, everything will be alright" and "please, sweetie, please don't cry anymore."
She fell asleep, his head resting in the concave dip of her belly. Sometime in the night, he must have pulled the covers over them and closed the curtains because when she opened her eyes the sharp sunniness of another summery London day was filtered through beige polyester.
Willow gently disentangled herself from Spike's arms that had held her loosely while she slept and slid out of bed to pad towards the window. Carefully adjusting the curtain she looked out and saw the buses and cars and taxis. She saw the harassed looking commuters climbing the steps that led from the Underground. She saw a queue of people standing outside the bank, waiting for it to open. And the street cleaner and the prositutes on the corner waiting for an early morning punter and the guy opening up the amusement arcade across the road. It was life and in it's own strange, insidious way, it had suddenly started to work its magic on her again. She wanted to get out there into the sunlight and be a part of it. She didn't want to be in the shadows anymore.
Willow pulled the drape shut again and silently began to gather her clothes and get dressed. Then she cautiously approached the man lying on the bed and bent down to brush his cheek with her lips.
Spike opened an eye. "You going then?"
Willow nodded. Took a deep breath and looked at him tenderly. "I feel different today," she told him. "Still hurty but, you know, hopeful. Not afraid so much."
He smiled at her lazily. "It all looks better in the morning, doesn't it? So I'm told anyway."
"Thank you for saving me," she said. "I'm going to be OK now. I promise you."
She turned to go but he reached out a hand to curl around her wrist, like he'd done all those hours before on the bridge.
"What?" she asked with a lopsided grin that was almost her's again. "You want another crack at it?"
"Nah," he pretended to shudder then drew her closer to him. "I didn't save you, Will," he said softly, insistently. "You saved me. I wouldn't have made it through the night without you. Only went up on that bridge to sit there and watch the water and wait for sunrise."
"I guess we both made it, baby," she said.
And Willow loosened his hold with a soft caress of her hand and walked towards the door.
"See you in Sunnydale, Spike," she said and stepped out into the new day.
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