Angel sipped his mug of blood slowly as he watched the pair that was perched on the couch together, watching a movie. Spike had his arm draped over Willow and she was snuggled into his side, a look of contentment on her face. They were both still paler than what they were usually but Spike had managed to walk unaided down to the lounge room and Willow had happily bustled around the kitchen making popcorn and mugs of blood for both of her vampire house guests, so Angel figured they were recovering from the incident.
Willow yawned and Spike pulled her closer to him, so her head was resting on his shoulder as they watched the film. Angel hadn’t seen the film before but he found it funny and it was a good excuse to be near Spike and Willow.
They both had changed so much since he had last seen them, other than Buffy’s funeral. For Willow, it had been the Thanksgiving just after she started college. For Spike, it had been when the bleached blond vampire had gone to L.A. seeking out the Gem of Amara.
They both had been beaten down and victimized by the Scoobies because of what they were. What made them them. Spike, because he was a vampire, and Willow, because she was a witch who’d had no training or support when she was learning the craft and had therefore predictably gone off the deep end. They both were drowning in their own guilt and Angel was the one who held the life buoys, ready to cast them out to his two friends and haul them to safety.
Angel’s own guilt was intense and he knew that, at least partially, all this was his fault. With Spike, because Angel had been the one who had taught the freshly turned vampire the art forms that was killing and torture, and with Willow, because the reattachment of Angel’s soul had been her first piece of magic, the first time that she had touched the power within her that had previously lain dormant.
Now, they were both suffering and Angel felt their pain keenly. In his heart, un beating as it was, Angel knew that neither witch nor souled vampire would ever fully recover on the Hellmouth, where darkness seeped into your very bones, especially when there were reminders everywhere of what Spike had once been and for Willow, of what she had lost.
In L.A., Angel knew that the pair stood a fighting chance, especially if they were together and were allowed to do whatever they wanted together without the stigma that a romance between the two would undoubtedly raise if they tried it in Sunnydale. Willow and Cordelia were friends and she and Fred had really hit it off the last time they’d seen each other. Angel had a feeling that Gunn and Spike would become drinking buddies and would find a friendship with one another and Spike would find a friend in Wesley due to their shared country of origin and would be able to have long conversations about the things that only English people could possibly understand, like soccer and cricket. (Angel doubted that Giles and Spike had ever stayed up late watching Manchester United play Liverpool or something. The very idea was laughable.)
They could both settle down well in L.A. and it would get them away from the Hellmouth. Spike could still go out and kill things and Willow could become Net Girl again, if she so desired, and help Wesley out in the magic department, once she’d regained the confidence in her powers and the control she had lost.
“Peaches, if you’re going to spend the whole night gawking at us, you may as well sit down while you’re doing it,” Spike said from the couch. Willow tried to hide her smile at the comment but Angel saw her grin. He sat down in an arm chair and rolled his eyes at Spike.
Of course, that was one downside to having Spike living underneath his roof but Angel figured that as long as his grandchilde and the red haired witch he owed his soul to were happy, he could live with the teasing and banter.
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Willow sat alone in the lounge room of her house, holding a book loosely in her hand. It wasn’t a research book but rather a Jane Austen romance. She wasn’t sure what had caused it but when she’d woken up, she’d had a distinct desire for some Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett action.
Both of the vampires were still asleep upstairs, having apparently stayed up long into the night. Willow had fallen asleep next to Spike on the couch while they watched a movie and had woken up in her own bed, the blond vampire sleeping soundly beside her, obviously having been carried up to her bed by someone. (Willow was betting Angel because, although Spike was recovering, she figured that he would struggle carrying her up the stairs.)
The phone rang in the background and Willow quickly moved to answer it before it woke either of the sleeping vampires. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been sleeping and she didn’t know how much a cranky Angel could handle of Spike all day long without snapping and staking the younger vampire, soul or not.
“Willow, how’s it going?”
“Hey, Xander, I’m at home, reading about Mr. Darcy yumminess. How’s work?”
“Fine, thanks, Willow. You up for a research party tonight?”
“What are we researching?”
“Some demon Buffy spotted on patrol. She was able to kill it but we’re just making sure that we shouldn’t be expecting more of them.”
“Sorry, Xander, I’ve got something planned. By the way, have you seen Spike lately?”
“Thankfully not. Haven’t seen him in ages. Maybe he’s left town or killed himself, although we can’t get our hopes up, can we?”
“No, I guess not. Bye, Xander.” Willow sighed sadly.
“See ya, Willow,” Xander replied. Willow hung up and put the phone down, a frown spread across her face. She knew that Xander had never liked Spike but the way that Xander treated Spike, with such contempt and loathing just because of what Spike had done in the past, hurt her, especially because theoretically she had almost done so much worse than Spike when she’d tried to end the world. Spike had never done that. He’d even actively helped Buffy stop it from happening when Angelus had tried to do it and that was before he was even chipped. Going by that theory, Xander should hate her but he still called her and worried about her and cared about her and loved her in a best friends slash brother-sister kind of way.
Willow still cared about Xander and he was still her best friend but sometimes his blatant, one-eyed view of the world being black and white was very annoying.
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Willow had returned to her book by the time Angel emerged from her parents’ room, stretching his back sleepily, although the redness to her eyes and the lingering salty scent of tears in the air told Angel that the red-haired witch had only recently stopped crying.
“Willow, what’s wrong?” he asked.
Willow looked up from her book, startled. She hadn’t realized the older vampire had been watching her.
“Oh, I was talking to Xander this morning. He doesn’t care about Spike, despite everything he’s done for the group. It makes me wonder how much he cares about me when, you know, I almost did a lot worse than Spike ever has.” Willow’s voice caught as she spoke, her eyes filling with tears again. Angel was at her side in a moment, his arms carefully around her.
“Willow, I haven’t seen Xander since when Buffy died but I know that he will never stop caring about you, no matter what you do or what he does, you’ll always be one of the ones that he cares the most about,” Angel counseled.
“How do you know that, Angel?”
“Back when I was Angelus and I was watching you guys, I figured out the best way to hurt all of you. With Buffy, it was by hurting or killing any of you. With Giles, it was killing Jenny and with Xander, it would have been hurting or killing you. Not Buffy and him losing Cordy would definitely have hurt him, but not the most. You two share a bond. You grew up together, almost brother and sister, best friends, and nothing can break that bond, not even what happened. Losing you to me, whether it is by me turning you or torturing you or killing you, would have destroyed him at that point of his life. Even now, he might not get over it. Besides, I’ve always known that Xander would always hate anyone who was a vampire, soul or not, chip or not, except perhaps you.”
“Because of what he went through with Jesse. He had to stake one of his best friends after only knowing about the paranormal for only a couple of days. In Xander’s head, he killed his best friend. Back then, Xander didn’t understand the concept of the person being gone and the demon being there in its place,” Angel slowly explained. Willow nodded slowly.
“Not to mention, he hated me on a personal level because I had Buffy,” Angel added as an afterthought and Willow snorted.
“He was a teenaged boy, what do you expect?”
Willow pulled out of the hug and settled back down on the couch, picking up her book again as Angel chuckled at her comment.
“I’ll let you go get your breakfast.”
Angel nodded and got his mug of blood, drinking it in the kitchen before rejoining Willow in the lounge room. Loud, clumping footsteps from Willow’s bedroom indicated that Spike had woken up and they both watched as Spike cautiously went down the stairs.
“Morning, Spike,” Willow greeted cheerfully.
“Morning, Red, Peaches,” Spike greeted, flopping down on the couch beside Willow. Angel studied them for a moment before speaking.
“I’ve been thinking lately…” Angel began.
“This isn’t good. Peaches thinking, it never turns out well,” Spike stage-whispered to Willow, who lightly elbowed him in the ribs, grinning.
“You both are going through… things at the moment. Big things… and I just want you two to know that, if you need it, there’s always going to be a place for you two at the Hyperion, if you need to get away from Sunnydale.”
Spike and Willow were silent. Willow had been expecting the invitation but for Spike, it came completely out of the blue.
“Aren’t you worried that I’m going to get in the way?” he asked and Angel fought the urge to roll his eyes. Regaining his soul had made many of Spike’s insecurities show through painfully, even though the budding relationship between him and Willow had certainly helped the bleached blond vampire.
“I’m kind of hoping that you’ll be helping out. I mean, even though you have a soul, you can still kill demons.”
“Won’t that be like stealing your thunder? I mean, that’s your job, Angel, not mine.”
“We could always use the help and having a extra, good fighter is going to help keep the others safe, then it will be fine. I don’t mind you stealing my thunder a bit,” Angel explained.
“What about Red? I want to stay with her.”
“Willow can help out too. Wes is good with magic, so they can back each other up and Cordy and Fred are always going on about how they need another girl to spend time with and Willow’s better with computers than any of us, so that’s got to make researching easier.”
“Thanks, Angel.” Willow smiled shyly. Spike wrapped an arm around her comfortingly.
“It was just a suggestion. I’ll leave you two to think about it. There’s no rush at all.” Angel got up, and walked back upstairs, leaving the couple sitting on the couch, both of them overwhelmed by their thoughts.
Spike pulled Willow closer to him, breathing in her scent, which was rich with magic, flowers, and a certain spice that Spike could never identify.
“What do you want to do?” she asked him quietly. Spike smiled. It was pure Willow, putting his happiness before her own.
“I want to go wherever it is you are, Willow. I can’t face this… my soul without you. You remind me that there’s still good in the world, despite everything that I did, everything that I destroyed.”
“Spike, you can do this, I know you can. I love you, every part of you. The vampire, the demon, the soul. I love it all. The fact that you started killing and hunting demons and vampires before you got your soul back is amazing. I was proud to call you my friend, you were so brave. You were the only one that understood what I was going through when Oz left and you looked out for me when I was using, even when you had every right to hate me after everything I did to Buffy and Dawn. I love you so much, Spike, I realize that now and I don’t want to lose you like I lost Tara. I thought I lost you when you were unconscious and I didn’t what to think about what would happen then. Wherever you are, Spike, I’m happy.”
Spike leaned his head back against the couch and rolled it sideways so he could look at Willow, who leaned back against his chest and looked up at him, her green eyes glistening with un shed tears. Spike tilted his head down and tenderly brushed his lips against hers.
“We’re both suffering here,” he murmured. “Soul or not, the others are never going to really accept me as one of the group and the Hellmouth’s darkness can’t be helping you stay away from dark magic.”
Willow nodded. “It calls constantly. Whenever I’ve risked opening up to the Goddess, like I was told to at the coven, I can feel the Hellmouth calling to me, luring me into the darkness. Buffy and Xander, they’re not going to treat me the same ever again. They’re scared of me, as they should be. They shouldn’t have to live with the object of their fear living under the same roof as them.”
Spike sighed and kissed Willow lovingly. “Will it be better in L.A.?” he asked. Willow balked.
“We can only hope for both of our sakes, because I don’t know where else we could go,” she said. Spike nodded in agreement.
“So, we go to L.A. with Angel?” he asked, seeking confirmation. Willow nodded.
“We go to L.A.,” she confirmed
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The week that followed kept Spike and Willow busy as they packed up their lives in Sunnydale. Spike, still recovering from his starvation, left most of the heavy lifting of boxes to Angel, who had stayed in town to help support the newest residents of the Hyperion. Willow called Buffy and told her the truth, that she and Spike were leaving Sunnydale and going to live with Angel in L.A. Buffy had argued and protested, trying to persuade Willow to stay. Xander had argued more, pleading with Willow not to go with the Brood Brothers, but she had sadly smiled and shaken her head.
The entire Scooby Gang showed up the evening that Willow and Spike were set to leave. They all stood clustered around the sidewalk outside Willow’s house as the last of the boxes were packed into Angel and Spike’s cars. Xander glared stonily at Angel as Willow and Buffy hugged. Dawn had her arms wrapped around Spike and had her head buried into his shoulder.
“Willow, I want you to know that you can always come back, alright? No matter what happens.”
“I know, Buffy.” Willow nodded. “And I’ll stay in touch.”
“You better, Willow,” Buffy said, pulling back a little, a smile on her face. Willow blinked back tears. It looked like Buffy had accepted her choice and was willing to let Willow go. The blond Slayer stepped back and Xander stepped forward.
“I’m going to miss you, Willow,” he softly said. Willow hugged her oldest friend tightly.
“I’m going to miss you too, Xander,” she whispered tearfully.
“You don’t have to go, you know. You can always stay here,” Xander said hopefully. Willow smiled and shook her head.
“No, Xander, I need to go, get out of town. I’ve been here for a long time now. It’s time for something different.”
“You’ll stay in touch?” Xander asked, echoing Buffy. Willow nodded, a grin on her face.
“Are you kidding? I’m going to be living with Cordelia. Give me under a week and I’ll be calling you asking if we can reform the ‘we hate Cordelia Chase’ club,” Willow joked.
Xander and Willow both laughed at the comment and Xander wiped his tears from his eyes.
“It’s going to be okay, Xander,” Willow reassured, hugging her best friend tightly. Xander snorted.
“You’re the one that’s been going through all the bad stuff lately and yet you’re still the one reassuring me, not the other way around.”
Willow shrugged before pulling out of the hug.
“See you, Xander.”
Willow stepped back a bit before being approached by Dawn. “Look after yourself, Dawnie, and keep and eye on Buffy and Xander, alright?” Willow said. Dawn nodded before jumping up and hugging Willow.
“I’ll miss you, Willow. Have fun in L.A. and make sure you send lots of emails and call lots. I want to know what’s going on with you and Spike.” Dawn wriggled her eyebrows slightly and Willow blushed.
“Dawn,” she protested as the teenager laughed.
“Take care of yourself, Willow.”
“Hey, Dawnie, can I ask a favor?” Willow hesitantly asked. Dawn nodded enthusiastically.
“You don’t have to do it every day, just once a week or something, if it’s safe and you’re not too busy, but… can you just go and visit Tara? Maybe put some flowers on her grave, talk to her, tell her what’s been going on. You know…”
Dawn nodded, tears leaking into her eyes and down her cheeks, and hugged Willow again.
“I promise I’ll take care of her.”
“Thanks, Dawn.” Willow smiled, feeling like a load had been lifted off her chest now that she knew that Tara’s grave was going to be looked after.
Not far away, Buffy and Spike were saying their farewells. It looked awkward and there was a thinly veiled animosity in Buffy’s eyes that had Willow nervous. Obviously, Angel felt the same because he cleared his throat.
“It’s time to go,” he softly said. Willow moved to the passenger’s side of Spike’s car as the blonde vampire said goodbye to the one who his entire being had once revolved around and walked to the driver’s side door of his car. Angel walked to his car, which was parked in front of Spike’s, and was about to get into it when he heard footsteps approaching. Looking up, he was surprised to see that Buffy and Xander had followed him.
“Deadboy, you look after Willow… look after both of them, alright? If anything happens to them, it’ll be your fault and I will be using your dust as fertilizer on my garden,” Xander said.
“We mean it, Angel. Willow gets hurt or dies or whatever and you will have one very unhappy Slayer knocking on your hotel door. Same goes for Spike because if something happened to him, then it would be hurting Willow,” Buffy added.
Angel nodded. “I’ll look after them both, I swear.”
“Good,” Xander said, moving back to Spike’s car. Buffy looked up at Angel.
“Tell Dawn if she wants to come up and visit Spike and Willow, she can,” Angel said and Buffy smiled, nodding.
“I think she’ll like that.”
Buffy waved once and then followed Xander away from Angel’s car. The two cars rumbled into life and Angel’s was the first to pull out, with Spike’s close behind. The remaining Scoobies waved as the cars drove down the street and they could see Willow waving from Spike’s car, the biggest smile on her face they had seen since Buffy’s death.
“She’ll be happy there,” Xander softly said, comforting himself and the two Summers girls. Buffy and Dawn nodded in agreement as the two cars turned the corner and disappeared from sight. Xander slung an arm over Buffy’s shoulder and the other over Dawn’s shoulder and the three made their way back to Buffy’s house.
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Willow and Spike watched the back of Angel’s car as he led them out of Sunnydale, heading towards the highway that would take them to L.A. A thoughtful look crossed Spike’s face as they dove past the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign.
“Hang on, Red, I forgot something,” he told her. Willow was still grinning happily.
“What?” she asked. Spike glanced meaningfully at the sign. Willow caught the glance and sighed dramatically.
“It’s a tradition,” Spike protested as he did a U-turn and lined the sign up. Willow grinned.
“Traditions should be upheld, even though I always thought you did it coming back into Sunnydale, not when you were leaving.”
Spike shrugged, gunning the motor and planting his foot on the accelerator. The car sped forward, jumping curb and flattening the sign with a very satisfying bang. Spike and Willow sat in silence for a moment before they both cracked up.
“That is fun,” Willow commented and Spike nodded, backing the car up, turning around, and pointing his car back towards the highway. He spotted Angel’s car, pulled over on the side of the road, obviously waiting for them to catch up. Angel pulled out in front of Spike’s car again and the two cars sped off into the night.
FINA.N. Thanks for reading. Reviews are much appreciated. I hope you’ve enjoyed this story.