His Tender Mercies by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: A response to Helga Von Nutwimple's Vamp-in-the-Box Challenge. Wolfram & Hart make a slight error, and bring Drusilla back instead of Darla at the end of Ats S1. Drusilla heads straight to Sunnydale and Spike, and in the process throws a monkey wrench into Buffy's thinking. Oh, and Riley left after "Restless."

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Chapter 18 & 19

Chapter 18: Cloudy With a Chance of Rain

Spike entered the hospital waiting room as casually as possible. He and Buffy had spoken in passing before he left the Summers' residence for his own crypt. Things had been awkward between the two of them, neither of them certain of where their relationship was headed or what the next step might be. The Slayer had mentioned going to the hospital with Joyce when Spike asked what she was doing the next day, but she hadn't asked him to come.

He hadn't offered, either.

Thinking about it later, Spike had realized that it might be a good idea to join Buffy. She could probably use some company, and he didn't know whether anyone else would be there. Besides, if they were going to do this relationship thing, Spike knew he ought to at least attempt to get along with her friends and family.

It was for that reason alone that he had dispensed with the usual black on black ensemble. He would be changing as soon as he got back to his crypt, of course, but to show respect for Joyce, Spike thought he might try dressing up a bit. She'd been remarkably kind to him, and he wanted to demonstrate his appreciation in some way.

If that meant looking more like a "normal" boyfriend, he'd do it. Occasionally.

Buffy was the first to spot him. She came over to his side immediately. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

Spike blinked, trying to figure out if he'd done something wrong by showing up. "Thought I'd keep you company," he replied uncomfortably. "Where's your mum?"

"They just took her back," Buffy replied, making a face. "Of course, she was scheduled to start the tests two hours ago." She glanced around and then dragged him away, and Spike could see Giles, Willow and Tara off to the side. "I don't believe you came."

"You don't want me here?" Spike asked.

"No," Buffy replied. "It's just-" Frowning, she finally noticed that he wasn't dressed in his usual black jeans and black t-shirt. Instead, he was wearing dark gray pants and a dark blue shirt. "What are you wearing?"

Spike scowled. "Somethin' wrong with it?"

There was nothing wrong with it. Quite the opposite, in fact, and Buffy decided she did not want to jeopardize the chance that Spike might dress more up-scale in the future. "No, it's just-I've never seen you in anything like that before."

He shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, you know, since I thought I'd visit your mum."

Spike wasn't prepared for Buffy's reaction. She launched herself at him, shoving him back up against the wall, her lips locking to his, and her tongue coming out to play. After a split second, he got over his surprise and began to respond. Buffy finally pulled back to breathe, and Spike just stared at her. "Luv?"

"You are so sweet," Buffy exclaimed. It meant even more coming from Spike, since getting him out of his black jeans was something along the lines of a miracle. That he would willingly dress a little differently for her mom's sake-well, that said something.

For a moment, Spike contemplated arguing about being called "sweet," since that was definitely not an adjective he wanted applied to the Big Bad. On the other hand, as Buffy started kissing him again, it might not be such a bad thing after all.

"I can stay as long as you like, Buffy," Spike said quietly.

She smiled at him. "Good. It's going to be a while before Mom's done. If you could stick around."

"That's why I'm here."

Buffy took a deep breath, realizing that this relationship thing might work after all. Spike was willing to give a little. It boded well for things to come. Sure, she had to make some changes as well, but they might actually meet in the middle.

"I'm glad."

~~~~~

It wouldn't have taken a genius to know what was going on. Giles recognized the signs immediately. Spike was dressing differently and showing up in unusual places. Buffy was standing close by him, almost touching, the knuckles of their hands just brushing together.

Of course, the signs were subtle enough that the Watcher might have missed them-had he not already harbored suspicions. Willow and Tara's quiet snickers and knowing looks only served to confirm his thoughts. Giles rather thought that Willow might have witnessed something more obvious, because she had been rather smug all day, much like when she and Buffy had been sharing secrets back in high school.

Giles decided just to be grateful that his Slayer wasn't indulging in public displays of affection, since there was no corresponding blindness to protect him.

"I wanted to talk with you, Spike," Giles said.

The vampire's expression turned from slightly uncomfortable to suspicious. "Why?"

"It's about Drusilla and her visions," Giles replied. "Not to mention what happened with the lawyers. I'd like to know what they offered you in return for your cooperation."

Spike shrugged. "We didn't get that far. They made threats, I told them to shove off, an' then they made more threats. An' then they left me in a sunny room. Not the best day I've ever spent."

"I dare say not." While Giles didn't particularly want to, he could put himself into Spike's shoes and at least comprehend the discomfort. "I think I'm going to get a cup of coffee. Would you like something, Buffy?"

She hesitated, knowing exactly what Giles was planning and not being too keen on the idea of her Watcher cornering Spike. "I wouldn't mind a soda, but I can get it."

Giles ignored her looking at Tara and Willow. "Would either of you care for anything?"

"A soda would be great," Willow replied brightly, even as Tara murmured a shy affirmative.

The Watcher looked over at Spike. "Spike? Would you mind helping me?"

Spike actually minded a great deal. On the other hand, this seemed to be one of those things that would be required of him if he wanted to be with Buffy. As much as he wouldn't mind just getting the Slayer, she came with friends and family.

It had always been one of her most irritating qualities.

"Yeah, why not?" he muttered in reply, following Giles through the hospital corridors towards the cafeteria. Once they were far enough away from the girls, Spike asked, "So you goin' to give me the speech 'bout how I'm not good enough for her? Joyce already tried it, an' I'll give you the same answer I gave her."

"Did I say that?" Giles asked. "What happens when the chip stops functioning?"

Spike cocked his head. "What?"

"What happens when the chip stops functioning?" Giles repeated. "You're not stupid, Spike. You must have thought about it."

"I've thought about it," Spike replied slowly. "Why are you askin'?"

"Because I want to know what we can expect you to do should the chip cease to function," the Watcher replied. "If we were to have another Angelus on our hands, I would much prefer to know so that I can make preparations."

"You mean so you can stake me in my sleep," Spike replied sarcastically, knowing exactly where this was going.

Giles smiled coldly, sensing that they understood one another quite well. "Buffy seems to be growing fond of you, for some unfathomable reason. If we need to take you out, I'd rather do it before she's head over heels."

"She may never get there," Spike pointed out. "She hasn't said anythin' about a relationship. All she's done was rescue me from a bunch of lawyers, an' she might have done that for anybody."

"Perhaps," Giles allowed. "But the fact remains that she did it for you. So what happens when the chip comes out?"

Spike suddenly found himself pressed up against the wall, and unable to fight back without giving himself a migraine. The man would have his question answered, and he knew when it was time to give in. "Nothin' happens, Watcher."

"What do you mean by nothing?"

Spike looked away, unwilling to let his discomfort show. "If what you're askin' is if 'm goin' to pull an Angelus, you needn't worry. I don't want to hurt Buffy. I wouldn't hurt her."

"What about the rest of us?" Giles insisted.

Spike rolled his eyes. "Weren't you listenin', old man? I said I wouldn't hurt her, an' she likes the rest of you. That means you're safe too." He glared. "Before you ask, I'd say the same goes for the rest of the population. If I starting munchin' on the populace, Buffy'd have to stake me, an' I'm not interested in a dusty endin'."

Giles was inclined to believe him. If there was anything he'd learned about the vampire, it was that Spike was often ruled by his emotions, his passions. If Spike truly did love Buffy, Giles had no doubt that Spike would remain true to his word.

The question, of course, was whether or not Spike really did love her.

"Vampires aren't supposed to fall in love with humans," Giles pointed out.

Spike grimaced. "Yeah, well, I've never been normal. Can we leave it at that?"

"No," Giles said simply. "But we can leave it there for now. Just know, that if you hurt her-"

"You'll stake me," Spike said. "I know."

Giles shook his head. "No, staking would be too quick. I'll make sure you beg for death before it's all over."

Spike looked over at him with new respect. From the expression on the Watcher's face, he was inclined to believe Giles meant it, and that he would carry out his threat. "Fair enough."

~~~~~

"So, spill," Cordelia said after the guys had finally gone home. Angel had moved out the night before, and Wesley had dropped Drusilla off the next morning. Cordy wished she'd had a little more time in between guests, but she also wanted details. There was no way that Dru had spent a couple of days in a hotel room with Wesley without something going on.

Drusilla gave her an arch look. "Spill what?"

"Details!" Cordelia exclaimed. "I know something happened between you and Wes. So? Has he improved as a kisser?"

The light in Drusilla's eyes turned dreamy, but not from one of her visions. "Mmm."

Cordelia glared. "Share!"

"It's not just kissing that he excels at," Drusilla finally replied.

Cordy's eyes widened. "You're kidding! You and Wes? I never thought he'd get laid. And he was good?"

"Better than good." The other woman was obviously going off into a happy place. "He was so-right." In an abrupt change of subject, Drusilla asked, "What does one wear to the beach?"

Cordelia was still trying to process the fact that Wesley was actually good in bed. "Better than good?" she muttered. "Why couldn't he have shown a little skill when we kissed?"

"You kissed?" Dru asked in surprise. "Are you-"

Cordy waved her hand dismissively. "It was a really long time ago. Ancient history, actually. It's just-he slobbered on my chin. I don't get it. When did he practice?"

"Perhaps it wasn't meant to be?" Drusilla suggested. "Your future may lie with someone else."

Cordelia frowned. "Someone else?" She looked at Dru sharply. "Do you know anything I don't?"

"No," Drusilla hastened to assure her. "I haven't gotten any visions concerning you."

Cordy heaved a sigh of relief. "That's good. I mean, in some ways it would be nice to know my future, but in other ways, it might be kind of weird. Who knows what's going to change between now and whenever?" She finally caught up to Drusilla's question. "Why do you need a swimming suit?"

Dru shrugged. "Wesley said he'd take me to the beach."

"Wesley?" Cordelia was trying to picture Wesley in swim trunks, and was having a very difficult time of it. "Really? He said he'd take you?" She shook her head wonderingly. "You know, I think you might be really good for him. I think we should get you something that'll curl his toes."

Drusilla smiled a purely feminine smile. "That would be perfect."

"We'll have to go shopping later today, then," Cordelia decided. "It'll be fun."

She might have said something else, but her words were cut off by a short shriek as she clutched her head. "Cordelia?"

Cordy shook her head. "I see-a demon. A big one." Once the vision had passed, she could talk more normally. "You have to call Angel. We've got to stop this thing."

Dru nodded. "I'll take care of it. You just lie back now." Once she'd turned away towards the phone, she grimaced in pain. She was disturbed by the flashes she'd seen of Cordelia being sick-dying, in fact. Killed by her own visions. It wasn't something she had the cure for, but Drusilla wanted to do something.

She needed to do something.

~~~~~

The summer months were a time of productivity for Xander. He was making twice as much money working construction as he had at his last minimum wage job. Plus, there was overtime, which put him into the happy camper range.

Xander figured the only real drawback to working such long hours was that he rarely got to see his friends. Not that they didn't spend the odd day together here and there, but he felt much more out of the loop than usual. Witness the recent trek up to L.A. to get Spike back. Not that Xander cared about the bleached non-menace, but he might have liked to go along. Instead, he had to work.

Now, with Joyce in the hospital, Xander wouldn't have minded spending the day there with Buffy and lending his support. Mrs. Summers wasn't immediate family, however, and that meant he hadn't a chance at getting the day off.

Xander was stunned to see Spike as he entered the hospital waiting room, with Anya at his side. Not only was the vampire seated next to Buffy, the Slayer actually seemed to be enjoying his company. Even Giles and Willow, whom Xander would have places squarely into the anti-Spike camp, looked perfectly comfortable with his presence.

"What's he doing here?" Xander demanded.

The others looked at him in surprise. Well, everyone except for Spike, who had a smirk on his face now that he was fairly certain of his welcome. "What are you talking about, Xander?" Buffy asked with barely concealed impatience.

"Spike." Xander's tone was flat. "What's he doing here, Buffy?"

Buffy gave him a hard look and then leaned back in her chair. "I don't know, Xander. Why don't you ask Spike? He's sitting right there."

Spike glanced over at her, amused, and then looked at Xander, eyebrow cocked. "Well, Harris?"

If at first you don't succeed, ignore the irritant. "What is this? You rescued Spike, Drusilla isn't in danger. Isn't he supposed to be back in his crypt." Looking directly at the vampire, Xander clearly enunciated. "We don't want you here."

"Who said you could speak for me?" Buffy asked.

Xander blinked. "What-"

Anya put her hand on her boyfriend's arm. "Xander, let it go."

"No!" Xander retorted, staring at first Anya then Buffy. "What is it with you and vampires, Buff? I used to think it was just Angel, but apparently you really do like your men undead."

Before either Buffy or Spike could retort to that rather inflammatory comment, Anya gave Xander a smack on the arm. "What about me?" she demanded.

"Wha-Anya! This isn't about you!"

"Isn't it?" Anya gave him a very dirty look. "Every time Buffy gets a new boyfriend, you get upset. Only a stupid person would think you didn't have some kind of sexual attraction to her."

Xander took the piece of her statement that he felt he could respond to. "Spike isn't Buffy's boyfriend."

"Yes, he is."

You could have heard a pin drop in the waiting room after Buffy's quiet affirmation. Even Spike was knocked speechless, which was really quite a feat. "Buffy-"

"Don't," Buffy said quietly. "I'm not going to change my mind just because you disagree."

A full blown argument might have erupted right there in the waiting room, but the doctor came out and interrupted. "Miss Summers?"

"Yeah?" Buffy said, standing, Spike close behind her. "Is Mom-"

The doctor pulled her away slightly, even though Spike still acted as the Slayer's shadow. "We've found a tumor. They're taking Mrs. Summers back now in order to do a biopsy. Once we have the results from that, we should know more."

Buffy took a deep breath, feeling Spike's arm come around her shoulders. She leaned into him slightly. "When will you know?"

"In a few hours," the doctor replied in a sympathetic tone. "If you want to go home-"

"I'll wait," Buffy replied stubbornly. The voices of her friends behind her seemed muted, and only Spike's strong arm anchored her. "Spike-"

"Not goin' anywhere," he assured her, and felt Buffy lean into him. He had no plans to go anywhere at all.

 

 

Chapter 19: You Are My Sunshine

"You're hurt," Drusilla said as soon as Angel and Wesley walked through the door. Angel, naturally, assumed she was talking to him since he had a nice gash across one cheek. Drusilla, however, headed straight for Wesley, who was limping slightly.

Angel was a little put-out. He'd gotten his cut while fighting, while Wesley had tripped and twisted his ankle. "I'm alright," Wesley insisted, sounding both pleased and embarrassed to have her fussing over him.

"Let me look at it," Drusilla suggested, tugging Wesley over to the couch.

Angel grimaced. Having a vampire's sense of smell had never been so inconvenient. Knowing that Wesley and Drusilla were a couple was bad enough without having the evidence right in front of his nose, so to speak. "Aren't they cute together?" Cordelia asked, pulling him out of his thoughts.

He glowered. "Very cute."

"Say it like you mean it, Angel," Cordelia chided. "Come on. You've got to admit that Drusilla's really good for Wesley. And vice versa."

Angel watched as Dru gently checked out the ex-Watcher's injuries, while he interrupted her task with a gentle touch to her cheek. It was apparent that they thought themselves the only ones in the room. Cordelia was obviously right, but that didn't mean Angel had to like it. "I guess."

Cordy rolled her eyes at his stubbornness. "Geez, Angel, grow up. There are plenty of other fish in the sea."

"Not for me," Angel said quietly.

Cordelia tugged him away, towards her small kitchen, in order to give the two lovebirds some privacy. "How did it go tonight?"

"Fine," Angel replied. "Although, next time we have to deal with something that size, I'm going to call Gunn."

"Who?" Cordelia asked, frowning.

"Gunn," Angel repeated, realizing belatedly that he hadn't really told her about the gang leader. "Charles Gunn. He's the one who was in charge of that gang of kids."

"Oh," Cordelia replied. "It probably isn't a bad idea to have a little more muscle on hand."

"You know," Angel began in a tone that told Cordelia to be wary. "I may have to ask you to have Drusilla stay here for a while longer than we thought. Not that there isn't the money, but I'd feel better if she had a little more transition time."

Cordelia sighed, but she didn't argue. Drusilla wouldn't be so bad to have around. She was really nice, she understood about the visions, and she seemed to be getting along with Dennis, all points in her favor. Besides, it wasn't like Wesley didn't have his own place, so they wouldn't be making out-or doing other things-on her couch all the time.

Cordelia peeked around the corner. Or maybe not. "Maybe we should get back out there," she suggested. "Because if they keep going, I'm going to have to have that couch cleaned."

~~~~~

The front door squeaked a bit as Buffy entered, looking back over her shoulder at Spike. "Are you hungry?"

"I could eat," he replied. "You should probably eat somethin' too, luv."

She shrugged. "I'm not that hungry."

"Buffy-"

"Really, Spike. I'm not." She frowned. "You don't think I should have stayed with Mom tonight, do you?"

"They were goin' to kick you out, pet," Spike reminded her gently. The doctor had made the decision to keep Joyce in the hospital overnight for observation. Since the biopsy had occurred later in the day, they wanted to be certain she didn't have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia.

Buffy had wanted to stay, but Giles had strongly suggested she get some rest. Spike, taking his cue from the Watcher, had insisted on seeing her home. The Slayer was still feeling a little dazed by it all. The biopsy results wouldn't be in for a while, and until then they wouldn't have any idea of what would need to happen next.

She attempted a smile. "Yeah, I could see the nurse giving us the evil eye." There was a long pause. "Would you stay tonight?"

Spike blinked in surprise. "I don't-"

"I don't want to be alone."

There was only one response that Spike could make to that, of course. "Then I'll stay. You sure you don't want Willow, though?"

Buffy stared at him. "You don't want to stay?"

"No!" he replied quickly. "I just-I want you to be sure, luv. I want you to know, you're not getting rid of me, Buffy. We do this, you ask me to stay, and I won't be leavin'."

She stared at him, recognizing the warning for what it was. "And if the chip stops working?"

"We'll work somethin' out," Spike replied. "Told your Watcher today, I won't hurt you, Slayer. Whatever comes."

Buffy understood the faith that was required to believe him. Her concerns, stemming from the last vampire she'd dated, were valid, of that she had no doubt. Spike had been one scary guy before he'd been chipped. Even though they had never managed to kill each other-and even though Spike had teamed up with her to stop Angelus-he'd been a formidable opponent.

"I know." Her voice was steady when she did speak. A new strength coursed through her, replacing the fatigue that sitting in the hospital waiting room had brought. It was a strength borne of desire, of hope, of a deep sense of peace. She had seen Spike with Drusilla, knew how he could be with someone he loved-even human.

She knew, somehow, that he loved her.

Spike took a step in her direction. "Ready to take this to the next level then?" he asked, a challenge in his tone. "I could sleep in the basement."

"That would entirely defeat the purpose of having an empty house," Buffy pointed out logically. "Might as well take advantage of every opportunity."

"Not a bad idea," Spike agreed, his voice becoming husky with desire. "Never know when it'll happen again."

Buffy smiled, taking a step closer. "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. You really are going to have to do something about your crypt. At least get a bed."

"Only for you, luv," Spike said in reply, close enough now so that their lips met in a frenzy of desire.

Buffy needed to feel-to feel someone's arms, someone's lips and tongue. To know that she wasn't alone, and that her mother's illness would not completely shatter the foundations of her world. That Spike, at least, would stay constant-her north star.

Spike simply wanted her. He'd dreamed of this moment, though never of the emotion that lay behind it. He loved her, as crazy as it might sound. Somewhere along the way, Spike had fallen for the Slayer. It was bleedin' pathetic, was what it was.

At the moment, he didn't care.

The kiss was rapidly heading into previously unexplored territory as Spike allowed his hands to wander freely. Buffy's own hands were just as courageous, beginning to blaze a trail down the front of his shirt, leaving buttons undone in their wake.

His shirt was half off before Spike managed to suggest that it might be better to go upstairs. "Not that there's anyone here to see us, but a bed might be nice," he muttered against her lips.

"Bed," Buffy echoed, nearly incoherent. She didn't remember anything feeling this good in the past. "Upstairs then."

They managed to stumble their way up the stairs, neither one of them willing to lose contact. Once inside Buffy's door, however, things slowed down a bit. "There's no goin' back," Spike warned her. "This isn't a one night stand, Buffy."

"I don't do one night stands," she replied evenly.

And then there was no more waiting.

~~~~~

Buffy lay in a boneless, satiated heap on top of Spike, who was also sprawled out. She couldn't ever remember being this relaxed or contented, not for a long time. They were supposed to be heading out to pick her mother up at the hospital soon, but neither one of them cared to move.

"I love you."

The quiet words sent a thrill through Buffy. She'd suspected it, but hadn't been certain. For all she'd known, Spike just wanted her.

Moving just enough to see his face, Buffy caught a flicker of fear in his eyes. "I know you do, Spike."

Understanding lightened his expression as Spike realized that even though Buffy couldn't say the words, she would accept them from him. He didn't mind waiting, as long as she wanted him there. "Buffy-"

He was interrupted by an impatient knocking on the door. "Buffy! We have to leave in thirty minutes to get Mom!"

Spike frowned, at first not recognizing the voice. Buffy had no such problem, however. "Just give me a minute! I'll be right there!"

"If we're late, I'm going to tell Mom you were jumping Spike's bones all night and kept me awake!"

Spike frowned as Dru's words echoed in his memory. The second thing is the Slayer's sister. she's the Key to the whole thing. You have to protect her, Spike, just like you protected Mummy.

"I'm going to kill Dawn," Buffy groused as she pulled herself up. "We don't have to leave for at least an hour. She knows that! She just hates me."

"She doesn't hate you, luv," Spike replied, amusement displacing confusion. He'd have to discuss Drusilla's warning with the Slayer later, but they had more important things to take care of at the moment. "She's just bein' a pest. It's in the job description."

"I'm still going to kill her," Buffy mumbled, giving him a quick peck on the lips. "She ruined my afterglow."

~~~~~

Having Drusilla around was turning out to be something of an interesting experiment. Cordelia had never before shared an apartment on what could be a long term basis, but she thought it might work out with the other woman.

Provided, of course, that Wesley wasn't underfoot all the time.

With Drusilla there, the ex-Watcher always seemed to have a good reason to be there as well. Cordy was going to have to discuss the benefits of going out on dates, rather than staying in before she strangled him and broke Drusilla's heart.

Not that she didn't like seeing either of them happy, but Wesley in particular was just so-sappy about the whole thing. It was obvious that he was in love, but more than that. He was infatuated. He basically worshipped the ground that Drusilla walked on.

It actually was bringing back memories of high school, when Cordelia had men at her beck and call at all times. While Cordy wouldn't have gone back for all the money in the world, she missed that part of it. She hadn't had a date in-forever.

Not since Doyle had saved her life, at least.

Trying to explain the head-splitting visions to a guy was pretty much out of the question, though. The only men Cordelia thought might understand were Wesley and Angel. Wes was obviously taken, and Angel-

It was only in the depths of her heart that Cordelia could acknowledge the growing affection for the vampire. It wasn't love, but-there was something.

Something she wasn't ready to even consider as of yet.

Today, however, it was going to be just Cordy and Dru, going shopping. The paperwork for the trust had come through, and Cordelia-who had just barely learned about things like budgets and rent-paying-found herself in the position of teacher.

Cordelia was more than a little suspicious about Wolfram & Hart's ready acquiescence to Angel's demands. It smacked of them having something else up their devious little sleeves. She had also learned never to look a gift horse in the mouth. Lindsay and the rest of them might not be done with Angel yet, but then again, they probably never would be.

Cordelia hadn't had the chance to look for a new bikini in ages-of course, she hadn't had a lot of opportunities to go to the beach, either. So shopping promised to be fun and exciting, even if looking for swimming suits was about the hardest thing ever on a woman's self esteem.

"Try this," Cordy suggested, handing a deep purple two-piece to Drusilla.

The other woman eyed it doubtfully. "Are you sure? It seems a little-"

"Revealing?" Cordy asked. "Trust me, this is nothing. Besides, something like this is guaranteed to render Wes speechless."

Drusilla nodded and then handed her own choice to Cordelia. "I think you ought to try this one on."

Cordelia hesitated, having seen the price tag. "I don't know. I'm not sure that it's me."

It was definitely her. Drusilla was getting the hang of the fashion thing, and Cordy thought Dru might actually rival her someday. "My treat," Drusilla insisted. "You've been so kind, it's the least I can do."

Her hesitation only lasted a moment more. "Okay," she decided. "I'll give it a try." Cordelia looked over at Dru. It had been ages since she'd had a girlfriend to do these kinds of things with. After her parents had lost everything to the IRS, most of her Sunnydale friends had deserted her. Or rather, she had distanced herself, having no desire for anyone to find out what had happened. Now, however, Cordelia knew she had a shot at a real friendship with another woman.

It felt good.

"We should go to the beach sometime," Cordelia said impulsively. "Just us girls."

Drusilla smiled slowly. "I think I should like that very much."

~~~~~

Willow could barely hold her tongue on the way to the hospital. She'd offered to accompany the Summers girls to pick up Joyce from the hospital, having the dual motives of wanting to assure herself that Mrs. Summers was okay and to pump Buffy for information about Spike.

She'd noticed Spike's change of dress, and had her own theories on why the vampire would have done it. Once Buffy had picked her up, and Willow saw the post-coital glow, she had her confirmation.

Not that she wanted details, but Willow was a sucker for gossip, especially of the boy variety.

To curb her enthusiasm, the redhead willingly chatted with Dawn about the newest Harry Potter book and let Buffy concentrate on driving. The Slayer still wasn't that great at it, but at least Willow no longer felt as though she was taking her life in her hands when Buffy climbed behind the wheel.

Once they'd reached the hospital, however, and Dawn ran ahead, Willow looked over at her friend. "So? How was it?"

"How was what?" Buffy asked innocently.

Willow mustered her resolve face. "Don't give me that, missy. You have satisfaction face. You got satisfied last night."

A bright red flush began creeping up Buffy's face. "There might have been some.satisfaction."

"And?" Willow insisted. "On a scale from one to ten?"

Buffy got a dreamy look. "Off the charts."

Willow's eyes widened. "Really? That good?"

"Oh yeah," Buffy murmured. She grimaced. "Although, Dawn was threatening to tell Mom we kept her up all night. If she says anything at all."

"I'll distract her," Willow said loyally. "But there's definitely a you-and-Spike now?"

Buffy smiled. "Yeah. Pretty crazy, huh?"

"No crazier than there being a me and Tara."

~~~~~

Spike was in the kitchen heating up the last of the blood when he heard them come home. Dawn was telling her mom about everything they could do while Joyce was recovering, and Buffy was reminding her sister that their mom should be resting and Dawn shouldn't bother her.

Chuckling as he listened to the fight get started, Spike decided to drink his meal before going out there. He hadn't expected Willow to join him in the kitchen. "Hey, Spike."

"Red," Spike said evenly. He wasn't quite sure what to expect from the girl, even though she'd been in on the rescue attempt. "How're things?"

"Good," Willow replied. "I hear you and Buffy are good too."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "How would you know anythin' 'bout that?"

"Please, Spike," Willow replied. "Buffy and I have been friends for years. I know when she's had a good night."

If vampires could blush, Spike certainly would have. "Yeah, well."

"Spike-" Her unusually serious tone cause him to meet Willow's eyes. "Buffy's really happy with you for whatever reason. Don't make me regret supporting her decision."

Spike was slightly taken aback, recognizing her tacit offer of support. "I won't."

"Good," Willow replied, cheerful once more. "I'd hate to have to dust you. You kinda grow on a girl."

Spike couldn't keep from laughing.

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