At Long Last Love

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Written with Angel

The candy apple red convertible BMW pulled up in front of the Hyperion Hotel. The driver cut the engine as the passenger sighed. "Okay, Spike." Willow said seriously as she turned to face her roommate. "You have to promise me that you won't cause any trouble." Before the vampire could answer, the redhead continued. "And you have to be nice to Angel and the gang. They're nice enough to let us crash here with them while we're here."

"Oh, bugger." Spike said under his breath, doing his best not to grimace at the idea of actually being nice to Angel of all people. "Why couldn't you have just stopped at the not causing trouble part?" He asked his best friend.

"Where's the fun in that?" She asked with a smirk before reaching for the door handle.

"Don't see why the bleedin' Nancy boy couldn't just go to Sunnyhell and get the bloody books himself," Spike muttered as he got out of the car, torn between whining about having to play nice with Angel and being happy to be away from Sunnydale with Willow. The redhead witch had become his best friend over the last year, since the business with the initiative, and he'd shared a house with her for nearly ten months, but this was their first trip away from Sunnydale, just the two of them. He relished the idea of spending some quality time with his best friend without interruptions from the slayer or the moron, but that didn't mean that he enjoyed the idea of being Angel's guests for the week.

He cursed under his breath as he glared at the hotel, blaming Angel easily for his current emotional turmoil. He hadn't seen his grandsire since before he'd gotten the implant, their last meeting ending on a not so positive note, what with him torturing the elder vampire and enjoying every minute of it. He'd been a bit surprised that Peaches had offered him and Willow the use of his hotel during their vacation, knowing there had to be a catch somewhere. Of course, staying at the Hyperion meant he was stuck seeing Angel for the entire week and, since that was a personal form of Hellish torture in Spike's opinion, maybe that was his retribution for their last meeting.

"First of all," Willow announced with an air of authority, interrupting Spike's musings, having to speak twice to gain his attention and get him to stop glaring at the hotel, "These books are extremely valuable and rare. Angel asked Giles to borrow them, and he does have that pesky evil to fight in the meantime. Second, I *NEEDED* to get out of Sunnydale for just a little while, hence my volunteering to bring them here and spend the rest of my Spring Break here while I'm at it." The vampire moved to speak when the witch shushed him. "And third, *YOU* invited *YOURSELF*, mister. So, stop whining."

"What was I supposed to do, Will?" Spike continued to whine, deciding that he'd earned the right to whine and, darn it, he was going to get some whining in while he could, "Stay there and watch Slutty and soldier boy going at it like rabbits?"

"Spike," Willow started to speak, not able to finish the word before he was continuing.

"And, speaking of rabbits, do I even *NEED* to mention demon-girl explaining how many orgasms she and Xapper will be having all week?" Spike grimaced and visibly shuddered, earning a snicker from his friend.

"So, it's either be miserable and stay in Sunnydale, or be miserable in LA." She stated, amusement in her green eyes.

"Well, my best friend will be in Hell-A for a week," he pouted. Willow tried to cover her smile. She was extremely happy to have a friend like Spike. Spike saw her smiling and pouted even more as he added, "You know you're the only one of that ridiculous lot I even like, anyway."

"Okay, fine." Willow said in a business as usual voice again, knowing that Spike could go on whining and pouting and amusing her for hours if she allowed it. "So, you'll be nice to Angel and not cause trouble, and I won't ignore you and pretend you don't exist so you'll be stuck with having to spend quality time with Angel the entire week." She finished in one breath and with a Cheshire grin.

"Okay, deal." Spike replied. "I won't torment Paingel, and we still get to have fun this week away from the bloody slayer."

"Uh, you do realize Faith is here, right?" Willow reminded, smiling as she thought of the brunette slayer that had become a friend to her during the last few months. Faith had been released from jail on good behavior about five months before, earning her release much earlier than anticipated and with a little help from the council Willow suspected, and had eventually started helping Angel out in LA. She'd come to Sunnydale shortly after her release, apologizing for her behavior and trying to make amends. Strangely enough, she and Willow had spent a little time talking and had become pretty friends. The redhead hadn't seen Faith since that visit, looking forward to catching up with her new friend.

"I meant away from Slutty the vampire layer, pet." Spike replied as they got out of the car and got their things, not having anything personal against the brunette slayer. Of course, he'd only met her a few times, one of those times being when she'd inhabited Slutty's body, the others being when she'd come back to Sunnydale for a couple of days after getting out of jail. She was Red's friend so he could put up with her. He got their bags from the trunk, looking at Willow and noticing the happy smile on her face. For her, he decided, he'd try to be somewhat nice to Angel so he didn't ruin their vacation. Okay, nice might be stretching it. Tolerant. Yeah, for Red, he could be tolerant.

"You know, I'm really surprised Giles is letting us keep his car for an entire week." Willow mused, smiling as Spike got their luggage out of the car, growling at her playfully when she tried to take her bag from him.

"That's because he thinks you're coming back tomorrow, luv." The vampire answered matter-of-factly as he closed the trunk and carried the bulk of their things towards the entrance of the Hyperion Hotel.

"Spike!" She chastised. But, all she could do was follow the vampire to the entrance.


"They're here!" Faith said with a large smile as she noticed the fancy red car pull up in front of the hotel. She'd been watching for Willow since dusk, knowing that it would take nearly three hours for the redhead to drive from Sunnydale to LA, but excited at seeing her new friend and not able to resist taking peaks outside every few minutes.

"Finally," Cordelia muttered, having to smile at Faith's obvious enthusiasm over Willow's upcoming visit.

"Will you stop bouncing around like an excited puppy now?" Wesley asked dryly, earning a flash of the middle finger from the happy slayer.

"I'm gonna go see if they need any help," Faith decided as she started towards the front door.

"They?" Angel spoke up, putting down his book and frowning as he said, "I thought it was just Willow."

"Spike's with her," Faith shrugged, "You know those two are practically inseparable." The slayer saw the look in Angel's eyes and her eyes flashed as she folded her arms in front of her and threatened, "You had better be nice to him, Fang! He's Red's best friend and I do not want you glaring and brooding over the past and making her feel uncomfortable so she never comes back. Got it?"

"I can't believe she brought Spike with her," Angel muttered crossly, almost wishing now that he hadn't extended the invitation for Willow to stay with them during her break from Sunnydale, having never bothered to ask if she'd be alone.

"Oh, please," Cordelia rolled her eyes, "it's been over a year since he did the whole 'torture Angel' thing so stop with the brooding already. And be nice!"

"I love it when you get bossy," Gunn whispered to his girlfriend, earning a smile from her.

"Nice?" Angel grimaced as he looked back at Faith, saw her still looking at him, waiting for his agreement. He sighed loudly, finally saying, "Fine, I'll be nice."

"Good," Faith beamed at having won that round with the stubborn vampire, though she was well aware that it was a small victory. She'd have to keep her eyes on him and make sure he didn't start causing any trouble, she decided, not mind the idea of keeping her eyes on the handsome vampire nearly as much as she'd like to pretend. With a soft sigh, she turned to open the door, seeing that she was too late to offer assistance with the luggage. She smiled widely as she went outside to greet Willow and Spike.


"Red!" Faith called out as she moved to hug the redhead. She nodded at Spike, "Blondie."

"Slayer," he nodded back. "Why do you guys think laconic is cool?" Cordelia asked.

"Probably because the boss does it so well." Gunn answered for them. Spike nodded in appreciation at Gunn's answer, knowing he'd like the young man because he was also willing to make fun of that ponce.

"How was the drive down?" Faith asked as she hooked her arm through Willow's and walked the redhead into the lobby of the hotel, while ignoring Cordelia and Gunn's comments.

"Just a second, Faith. Let me look around," Willow laughed, her eyes wide as she looked around the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, seeing it for the first time. It was during her perusal that she noticed Angel, smiling at the vampire as she told him, "Angel, this place is great!"

"It's comfortable," he said with a slight smile as he moved forward to hug the redhead that have given his soul back.

Spike growled softly when Angel hugged Willow, not liking the wanker being anywhere near his best friend, much less hugging her like that. He moved past them, deliberately bumping into Angel and causing the hug to end quickly. Giving them his best innocent smile that was betrayed by the amusement in his eyes, he shrugged, "Sorry."

"Sure you are," Willow rolled her eyes before she turned her attention to the other people in the room. She smiled as she gave Cordelia a brief hug, "It's nice to see you, Cordelia."

"I'm glad you're here for a visit," Cordelia said sincerely, looking forward to spending some time with the redhead that she'd never really gotten to know.

"The name's Gunn," Gunn stepped forward and shook the pretty redhead's hand, arching a brow when he heard a growl, giving the bleached blond guy a curious look before stepping back away from Willow.

Okay, maybe he wasn't so alright after all, Spike thought. A bit grabby there, with the handshake. He saw Willow give him a look and smiled innocently, arching a brow as she reluctantly smiled at him, not able to be angry with him for very long.

"I'm Willow, and the growly bear is Spike," Willow smiled as she gave Spike a warning look. He just looked back at her with a smile, acting as though he had done nothing wrong, though he did roll his eyes when she called him a growly bear. She gave Wesley a smile and said, "Hi Wesley."

"Hello, Willow. I do hope your trip was pleasant," Wesley spoke up, having not seen the redhead since he'd left Sunnydale, which seemed like a lifetime ago.

"It was bloody wonderful, Wussy," Spike replied, making a face as he asked Willow, "Red, are the sappy little introductions and greetings over with yet? I want to see where we're staying."

"You're whining again," Willow pointed out with amusement before facing the others, "Excuse Spike. He's not very good at road trips because he hates being confined for very long, so he gets a bit..."

"Annoying?" Faith asked with a sweet smile, making a face at Spike as the blond glared at her. "Irritating? Rude? Unpleasant?"

"I was going to say impatient," Willow said with a smile.

"Faith was on the right track with annoying and rude," Angel muttered, earning him an elbow in the stomach from the brunette slayer. He looked at her with surprise, "What? You said it first!"

"I was teasing, you weren't," Faith hissed, glaring at him and hoping that he knew how serious she was about him being on his best behavior. She had been looking forward to Willow's visit since last week when she'd heard the redhead was bringing the boring old books to town and wanted to spend the remainder of her Spring break in LA. She knew how close Spike and Willow were, having spent a couple of days at their house after she'd gotten out of jail, and she knew that the redhead would leave if Angel started fighting with Spike, or vice versa. She wasn't overly concerned about Spike starting anything, knowing the blond wouldn't want to upset Willow, but Angel worried her.

"At some point, I need to call Giles explain to him the mix up about his car." Willow said to no one in particular even as she reprimanded Spike with her eyes. She added, "Don't let me forget!"

"Um, hi, I'm Fred," Fred moved forward and gave the visitors a shy smile, "Why don't I take you to your room so you can put those bags down and freshen up? I'm sure you must be a bit tired after the drive down."

"That's a great suggestion," Willow smiled gratefully at the woman, a bit surprised at Angel's behavior. Sure, she knew that Angel and Spike weren't best friend and really didn't like each other, but she'd figured that they could at least get along for a few days. After all, Angel was the one that had suggested them staying at the hotel.

"Yeah, a good idea," Spike echoed, his blue eyes flashing with animosity as he and Angel glared at each other. He'd promised Willow that he'd be nice and that was the *only* reason he was biting his tongue and not telling Angel exactly what he thought of him. He felt a hand take his, reluctantly moving his glaring eyes away from Angel and looking down into familiar green eyes. He relaxed as he saw Willow smile at him, deciding that he didn't give a damn what Angel or anyone else thought of him. His best friend liked him and that was the only important thing. He gave her a crooked smile letting her know that he wasn't going to start trouble before he glanced up at the skinny brunette that had mentioned taking them upstairs. He asked, "So, where are we staying, Twiggy?"


"My name is Fred," she stammered as she received the full impact of beautiful blue eyes looking at her with a mixture of impatience and amusement. She might be dating Wesley but she could appreciate the aesthetic beauty of Spike with no problem.

"Don't bother," Willow smiled at the shy woman as she explained, "He loves nicknames. Rarely uses anyone's real name. It's psychological, I think. A defense mechanism or something similar."

"Oh," Fred nodded as she smiled at the friendly redhead. "Faith does that, too."

"Hey," Faith protested, not liking being compared to Spike when the subject was psychological defense mechanisms and a bunch of other stuff she didn't really understand. She glared at her friends before she smiled as Willow winked at her.

"Hate to interrupt the little Freshman psych refresher, pet, but the bags are getting a wee bit heavier the longer we stand around chatting," Spike spoke up, giving Willow a look to let her know that he was ready to go see where they were spending the next week.

"Well, they wouldn't be nearly as heavy if you'd let me help you," Willow pointed out with an affectionate smile at her best friend as she started up the stairs after Fred.

"I see how it is, Red. A guy tries to be a gentleman by carrying the bags and his only reward is a hard time from his best friend," Spike griped, his blue eyes amused as he heard Willow laugh.

"A gentleman? You?" Willow laughed, "Try that one on someone that *isn't* your best friend, Spike. I know you too well. You took all the bags so you could use them as an excuse to escape being around Angel and the others because you knew you'd be able to make me feel a little guilty about you carrying them all and that you could use that guilty to make a break when you wanted."

"Have I mentioned that it annoys the hell out of me when you do that?" Spike asked, liking that Willow knew him so well. Of course, the redhead tended to give him way too much credit. He had taken the bags because he'd figured she'd want to be all huggy with the slayer and figured it would easier for her to greet her friend if she wasn't holding luggage. If he'd known Peaches was going to go for a hug, too, well, he might have let her carry her own damn bags.

"Probably as often as I've mentioned it being annoying when you do the same thing to me," Willow gave him a smile as she followed Fred down the hallway.

"This is the room that Angel had me prepare for your visit," Fred smiled at the couple as she opened the door, "I cleaned it up yesterday and got you fresh sheets and everything."

"It looks nice," Willow smiled as she entered the room and looked around.

"That's all well and lovely, pet, but where am I staying?" Spike asked as he glanced at the room before looking back at Twiggy.

"Um, well," Fred felt a blush cross her face as she looked from one to the other, "Angel only told me to make up one room. No other rooms are prepared for visitors. They're all dusty and haven't been opened in years. He just said to make up the room beside his for Willow. I don't think he was aware that there were going to be two of you."

"It's okay, Fred," Willow spoke up, understanding now why Angel had seemed so surprised and had acted so weird. He hadn't realized Spike was coming with her. Maybe it hadn't been such a great idea agreeing to stay at the hotel, after all. She knew that there some unpleasant history between her best friend and the souled vampire, but she'd assumed that Angel was willing to forgive and forget when he'd extended the invitation to stay at the Hyperion, never even considering that he hadn't realized Spike would be with her. Of course, initially, she had been planning to just run down to LA, maybe have dinner with her friends, and then come home. It was only after Spike had invited himself go with her that she'd decided to extend the trip to cover her entire break.

She had been excited about the idea of having a little vacation from Sunnydale, loving her friends dearly, but liking the idea getting away for a few days of relaxation and fun. When she'd mentioned her new change of plans to Angel, she could have sworn she'd mentioned Spike planning to come with her, he'd insisted she stay at his hotel, because he had plenty of room and it would save her a load of money that she didn't really have. She'd discussed it with Spike, wanting to make sure he'd be okay with their staying with Angel and the others, and had confirmed the plans with Faith when she'd called the previous day. Now, it appeared that Angel wasn't aware of Spike's joining her on vacation and wasn't overly happy about it based on his earlier behavior, and she didn't want Spike or Angel to be uncomfortable so she hoped they either did their best to get along during the few days they'd be in LA or, if that didn't work out, she'd just find somewhere else for her and Spike to stay.

"You say that Peaches' room is next door?" Spike asked, his eyes narrowing as he realized that the bloody poof had expected to just have Willow staying at the hotel, and the bloody wanker had put Red in the room next door to him. He could care less if Angel wanted him at the hotel or not, the invitation to Willow including him even if the broody bastard hadn't realized it. Probably planned to visit his Red during the middle of the night and brood and whine about his pitiful life, Spike decided, knowing full well that Angel loved to be miserable and would do his best to insure those around him were as miserable as he. Spike's eyes narrowed even more as he decided that Angel had sure as hell better not have planned on doing anything other than talking with Willow, not liking the idea of the elder vampire around his best friend at all.

"Yes, Angel's room is next door," Fred nodded, "I can make up another room for you. It won't be that much trouble."

"Don't bother," Spike said, his decision made as he looked at Willow, "Red and I can share for a few days, can't we, luv?"

Willow smiled, "It's not a problem, Fred. It's way too much trouble to make up another room. Besides, Spike and I have shared a room before so it's not a big deal."

"Are you sure?" Fred asked nervously, not wanting to be the cause of any problems. She could strangle Angel for putting her in this situation, wishing he'd paid more attention and had known that two rooms were needed.

"We're sure, Twiggy," Spike spoke up, pleased that Willow hadn't minded sharing the room with him. She was right, though. They had shared a room during the Scoobies little trip up the coast the previous summer and it had been fun, having someone to chat with when sleep had eluded him. It would be fun, he decided. Besides, it would give him a chance to protect her from boring nightly visits from Angel as well as letting him make sure that she enjoyed her vacation.


Meanwhile, the LA gang mentally let out a collective breath as the redhead witch and blond vampire disappeared up the stairs, playfully bickering along the way.

"That wasn't so bad." Gunn stated after a moment of serious thought.

"Definitely better than I thought it would be." Faith agreed with a pleased smile that faded as she glared at Angel, still not believing his rude behavior.

"The no bloodshed thing helps support that notion." Cordelia added, knowing that the implant definitely made her feel a bit more secure when she was around Spike, not that he still didn't give off a bit of a dangerous vibe even with the piece of metal in his head. She smiled as she said eagerly, "Anyway, let's talk about tonight."

"Yeah, are we still doing the whole movie night thing?" Gunn asked.

"I don't see why not." Fred replied rather curtly as she descended the stairs. She sat next to Wesley and he took her hand. She was still upset about making up only one room, knowing that it was silly to dwell on her mistake when it wasn't really her fault in the first place and when Willow and Spike had been so nice about sharing the room.

"Oh, and of course we invite Will and Spike, right?" Cordelia asked.

"I think they would enjoy it." Fred announced, looking forward to spending more time with their visitors, knowing already that they were both very nice because they'd been so understanding about the room mistake. She could do without Spike calling her Twiggy, but she did hope that she and Willow became friends during their stay, liking the redhead instantly.

"So do I." Wesley agreed. Angel went to speak when Faith interrupted.

"Good." The slayer said, as she glared at the brunette vampire. "Then it's settled. As long as Angel can stop being such an immature ass to Spike and making Willow uncomfortable."

"I second that." Cordelia stated, agreeing completely with Faith's analysis of Angel's earlier behavior.

"I am NOT being an immature ass." Angel protested. "Spike's the one being an ass." "Oh, you're right." Faith deadpanned. "Finger pointing. Very mature"

"Don't know why she wants to be friends with him anyway." The Scourge of Europe mumbled childishly.

"Really, Angel." Cordelia took over. "Spike is Willow's best friend. And you're making her feel unwelcome."

"No, I'm trying to make Spike feel unwelcome and get the hint to leave." Angel defended automatically.

"That's a good plan, Angel." Gunn told the vampire. "Good way to alienate Willow as a friend. Besides, Spike's not that bad."

"I think he's pretty cool." Faith added, thinking the blond vampire was actually pretty funny and smart besides being sexy as sin. She'd enjoyed hanging out with him and Willow in Sunnydale, having a lot of fun with the couple during her stay.

"What?" Angel asked, flabbergasted, staring at his friends as if they were possessed. They were *his* friends, damn it, yet here they were defending Spike. Spike of all people! Maybe they were possessed, he decided as he frowned at them.

"He is." Cordelia agreed. "Granted, the whole torture you thing that happened last year wasn't much fun." Angel flinched. "But, that's in the past. And, if Willow likes him enough to consider him such a good friend, then I don't think you should question her judgment."

"Well said, beautiful." Gunn told his girlfriend as he put his arm around her and kissed her forehead. The seer beamed with happiness.

"What was well said?" Willow asked as she went down the stairs with Spike following her. She'd gone to the bathroom and washed her face while Spike had bounced on the king size bed like some kid, declaring that it was much more comfortable than the beds that had been in their room at the Sleep Nook Inn, the motel they'd stayed at during their trip to the coast. They'd had two double beds in the small motel, both mattresses feeling about like sleeping on the floor. She was relieved to know this mattress was better since they'd be in LA for a week, several more days than their weekend on the coast. She'd decided to unpack later, grabbing Spike's hand and leading him downstairs as he'd grumble about having to play nice with Angel. They'd entered the lobby to hear Gunn's remarks, Spike making gagging sounds in her ear as they saw Gunn kiss Cordelia. She'd elbowed him, thinking that Gunn was very sweet for being so affectionate with his girlfriend.

"That you guys should join us tonight for movie night." Cordelia said happily, without missing a beat, thankful that they hadn't arrived a few seconds earlier. "We'd love to." Willow told the seer before turning to Spike. She saw the look in his eyes, knew that he was about to protest spending time with the gang, arching a brow as she asked softly, "Right?"

"Yes," he replied finally. It looked as if this answer was extreme torture for him. "We'd love to."

Willow put her arm around his waist and gently hugged him for putting forth such an effort. She was extremely proud of her friend. She turned back to the others, noticing that Fred still seemed upset over the mistake with the rooms. She had told the woman that it was no big deal, not minding sharing the room with her best friend at all, but it appeared that Fred was still bothered about the mix-up. Willow asked, "Fred, are you okay?"

"Oh, I'm fine." She replied. Of course her actions and tone of voice said differently.

"You don't have to be angry, Fred." Willow continued as she smiled at the woman. "I told you the room is wonderful. It's more than big enough, and we got settled in with no problems."

There wasn't time for Fred to respond before Angel spoke up, his eyes flashing with annoyance and anger as he said the one word that had caught his attention, "WE?"


Willow looked at Angel and nodded, "Yes, we. Spike and I are sharing the room."

"Over my dead body!" Angel said, not at all pleased at the idea of Spike and Willow sharing a room. It was bad enough that the redhead considered the annoying bastard her best friend. He wasn't going to sit back and let them share a room together and do who knew what.

"Coming from a vampire, that's *real* threatening," Gunn snickered.

"It's your fault!" Fred spoke up suddenly, shocking the others as the normally quiet girl snapped at Angel, "You said to prepare one room. One! That's what I did, cleaning it up and getting fresh sheets and making it real nice for Willow's visit. You didn't say to make up two rooms!"

"I didn't know she was bringing the bleached blond pain in my ass with her!" Angel defended once he was past the surprise of Fred yelling.

"I told you that Spike was coming with me," Willow said, not understanding what Angel's problem was. "You just weren't listening."

"I don't see what the big deal is," Faith spoke up, eyes narrowing as she looked at Angel. If he screwed this up for Willow, she would make him go shopping with Cordelia. Now, THAT was torture. "There's not a problem, is there, Fang?"

"Yes, there is!" Angel protested, being cut off before he could explain the numerous problems with the idea of Willow sharing a room with Spike.

"It's none of your business, Peaches. Sides, 's not like Red and I haven't shared a room before," Spike said, rolling his eyes at Angel's behavior. Bloody wanker was all ticked off that he wouldn't be able to bother Willow at night with all his brooding and 'poor pitiful me' act, wouldn't have a new audience to whine at. Yeah, he'd definitely made the right decision by suggesting he and Willow share a room, being able to save her from being bored to death by Angel. Or anything else the ponce may have wanted from her.

"What?" Angel demanded, looking at Willow for confirmation. She smiled as she leaned back against Spike, seeming to see nothing wrong with sharing a room with Spike.

"Spike is my best friend, Angel. There is nothing wrong with me sharing a room with him for a few days," Willow said as she squeezed Spike's hand, letting him know she appreciated him not making a big fuss over Angel's stupid protests. She sighed as she said, "If our sharing a room is going to be a problem, I'll find us somewhere else to stay."

"No!" Angel immediately spoke up, knowing that he could at least keep an eye on them if they were staying at his hotel. His eyes narrowed as he saw them holding hands, noticing just how comfortable they seemed to be with all the touching. Not good, not good at all, he decided. He pushed away his suspicions about their relationship and gave Willow his best apologetic smile, "I'm sorry, Willow. It was just, surprising."

"You have to stay," Faith insisted, resisting the urge to go over and kick Angel's ass for making Willow and Spike uncomfortable. She didn't get it, not seeing the problem with the two sharing a room. Hell, they'd been living together for nearly a year after all. She was going to have a little chat with Angel, she decided, make sure he knew that she'd beat him within an inch of his life if he did anything else to make Willow or Spike feel like they weren't wanted.

"Angel's sorry for being a jerk," Cordelia said, "so you have to stay now. He doesn't often apologize for acting stupid."

"Not surprising, luv. He'd never stop saying he was sorry if he had to say it every time he did something stupid," Spike said earning him a nudge from Willow. He heard the others laugh and saw Angel frowning and decided that it was worth an elbow in the stomach to make Peaches life a little more miserable. Meanwhile, Angel silently glared at his grandchilde.


"If that is settled, can we begin our movie night?" Wesley asked as he stood and moved towards the desk. "I believe it was decided to order pizza. I shall make those arrangements while the rest of you decide on the movie selection for the evening."

"Chicken!" Gunn called out to the former watcher, earning him a smile from his friend.

"After last time, I want no part in the decision making process," Wesley said as he gathered up the coupons and set about making a list of their order for the evening.

"We, uh, have some issues picking out just one movie that we all agree on," Fred confessed to Willow and Spike, smiling as she said, "There is usually a lot of yelling and arguing and last time, there was some throwing."

"Hey, I didn't mean to throw it that hard!" Faith defended, "I was just tossing the case back on the table and it bounced and landed beside Wesley."

"She wanted to watch Top Gun to ogle Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer when they were young and cute, but we all voted to watch Stand by Me instead so she was ticked off," Cordelia said with a smile.

"I still don't see why we had to watch that sad movie instead of the volleyball scene!" Faith muttered, "Stupid movie made me cry at the end and I hate crying!"

"Yeah, let's have a happier movie this week, okay?" Gunn spoke up, not admitting that he, too, had shed a tear at the end of Stand by Me.

"Oh, how about While You Were Sleeping!" Fred suggested as she looked through the titles of their combined movie collection. She smiled brightly, "It's just so sweet and romantic."

"Next," Faith said, not wanting to see sweet and romantic. "Maybe something with lots of violence and explosions. Oh, how about Die Hard? That kicks some major ass."

"Puh-leez," Cordelia rolled her eyes, "I am not sitting here listening to Bruce Willis curse and kill people for two hours."

I don't see anything wrong with that, Spike thought. Willow knew what the vampire was thinking and looked up at him, thankful he hadn't voiced that opinion since they were the guests of this little get together.

"Pizza is ordered," Wesley said as he rejoined the group. He sighed as he saw they still hadn't selected a movie. Smiling, he said, "Willow and Spike are our guests. Why don't we allow them to select tonight's movie?"

"Great idea," Gunn nodded, knowing that there wasn't much chance that those two would pick something that made him cry.

"Sure, what do you have?" Willow asked as she dragged Spike to the cabinet. She smiled at him, "What do you want to watch tonight?"

"I don't care," Spike shrugged, doing his best to pretend that he wasn't looking over the movies. She started to reach for Sixteen Candles and he said, "Nah, luv. We've seen that so often lately I could recite the whole movie! It's great and all, but how's about something new, different, fun."

"Okay," Willow smiled as she moved her hand over several different titles, each one earning a "nah" from Spike. Finally, she noticed one that made her smile widen, a knowing look entering her eyes as she looked at him, "You don't care, huh?"

"What can I say? It's a favorite," he winked at her as she pulled out Clue.

Willow laughed as she gave him a slight hug for being nice when Angel was rude and for just being Spike, her best friend. She put the movie into the DVD player and then let Spike drag her to the sofa, where he sat on the blankets that Fred and Cordelia had arranged while they'd been selecting the movie. He pulled her down beside him, putting a pillow behind her so she'd be comfortable.

"Thank you kind sir." Willow said to her best friend, her eyes shining with happiness and amusement as she settled back on the pillow he had put behind her.

"You're quite welcome, my lady." Spike replied in a refined tone of voice, his blue eyes amused and happy as he made himself comfortable beside Willow, his arm going around her shoulders and his fingers starting to play with her hair, a sigh of contentment making its way past his lips as she leaned against him to watch the movie.

Angel watched them with narrowed eyes, suspicions growing as he watched them hug and touch and smile at each other, whispering and other things that he did not believe suitable for best friends. He felt a pillow hit him, turning to glare at Faith who had thrown it. With a resigned sigh, he moved to sit down, making sure he had a clear view of Willow and Spike. He was going to study them during the movie, try to figure out if they were just best friends or if something else was happening between them that would require him to have a little talk with Spike.

"Hey, William the Bloody had manners." Gunn announced. "Who knew?" He mused playfully.

"Tell anyone, kid, and I'll find a way to torture you." Spike teased.

"Bring it on, bleach boy." Gunn taunted.

"Actually, now that I think about it, you get that type of torture every day spending all that time with Paingel." Spike conceded with a smirk, catching Willow's arm before she could elbow him, giving her an innocent smile that was ruined by the gleam in his blue eyes.

"Paingel?" Gunn asked trying not to laugh at his boss. That was a new one and definitely beat Faith's favorite, Fang. He'd have to use it, seeing how annoyed it made the brunette vampire.

Angel continued to glare, know that if he said anything, Faith would not be happy with him. Why he cared if she was happy with him or not, he didn't know, but he did know that she'd do whatever it took to make him miserable if he upset Willow again. The slayer's ideas of payback were something he didn't want to experience for himself, so he was content, for now, to just glare at his so called friends.

By the time everyone was settled, the pizza was delivered and handed out. Finally, the television was turned on and Angel saw that they had chosen one of his favorite movies. Damn. Why hadn't they chosen something he didn't like? That was going to distract him from keeping an eye on Spike and Willow. His attention eventually turned from the couple from Sunnydale until he was watching the movie completely, chuckling over the funny parts and drinking the blood that Faith had warmed up for him. Maybe it wasn't such a horrible night after all, he decided.


"Oh, that movie is such a classic." Willow said as she wiped her eyes. She had laughed so hard, she had tears in her eyes.

"Yeah, Tim Curry is a genius!" Gunn added.

"And see there, sweetie," Cordelia told her boyfriend in a sweet voice. "You didn't even cry like a girl this time."

Gunn looked completely embarrassed as Faith started laughing.

"As I recall, you were crying like a sissy-girl, as well, Faith." Wesley reminded the slayer as he stood to help Fred clean.

"Oh, that's just wrong, Wes." Faith replied, acting hurt.

"Okay, what's the next movie?" Cordelia asked as she jumped up before Gunn could get his revenge.

"I saw Murder By Death over there," Willow recalled with a smile as she watched her new friends, "It's sort of a similar theme as Clue. What do you think?"

"I love that movie!" Fred said with a smile as she picked up the dinner trash.

"It's decided then. Second movie is Murder by Death," Cordelia said as she moved towards the cabinet. "I guess that puts me on dessert duty." Gunn said as he stood, deciding that he'd get Cordelia back later, a wicked gleam entering his eyes as he thought of many ways he could 'torture' his lover.

"You need help carrying all the bowls, right?" Faith asked. Gunn nodded. "'kay, the two of us sissy-girls will get the dessert."

Angel, no longer having the movie to distract him, turned his full attention back to studying Willow and Spike, his dark eyes narrowed as he watched every movement for proof of his theory that there was more to their relationship than just being best friends or proof that Spike wanted there to be more.

"You guys need some help?" Willow asked.

"Nope." Faith replied. "What part of guest did you *not* get? Now, why don't you keep that cute little ass comfortable while we prepare for round 2 of movie night."

She'd been going to protest, but was pretty comfortable sitting against the pillow and half laying on Spike so instead she agreed. She snuggled against her pillow and Spike, declaring, "I think that has to be one of my favorite movies. I've seen it dozens of times and it never fails to make me laugh."

"It's one of the best," Cordelia said as she finished putting the new movie into the DVD player and sat back down. She noticed the way Willow was laying against Spike, the redhead resting her head on the vampire's shoulder, said vampire's arm around her shoulders and it looked like he was playing with her hair. A slow smile spread across the seer's face as she acknowledged how well Spike and Willow went together, wondering if something was up between those two. She'd have to consult with Faith, since the slayer had spent several days at their house she'd surely know if they were *together*.

She had to admit that she'd never seen Willow look so content and happy. Nor had she ever seen such a relaxed and gentle smile on Spike's face before. Her brown eyes looked away from them to glance at Angel, seeing him glaring at Spike as the blond whispered something that caused Willow to giggle. Suddenly, she understood why he'd been acting like such a jerk. He must have seen what she was seeing, deciding in his judgmental little mind that Spike wasn't good enough for Willow. Stupid vampire. You'd think he'd have learned during his two centuries plus that love was a mysterious thing and be happy that two people he cared about, because she did know that he cared about Spike no matter how vehemently he might deny it, had found someone that completed them and made them so happy.

"Have you ever seen Murder By Death?" Willow asked Cordelia, ignoring Spike's comments about the brunette not being smart enough to understand most of the jokes in Clue. She'd laughed at his words, having to agree that Cordelia was not the smartest person in the world, but scolding him anyway because she and Cordelia had moved past high school issues and were now friends of sorts.

"Nope, that movie is Fred's," Cordelia said in response to Willow's question as she decided to have a little chat with Faith as soon as she could concerning the possible development of a real relationship between Spike and Willow and Angel's obvious displeasure at such a relationship. The slayer would know what to do. Cordelia groaned at that thought, not believing she'd gotten to a point of thinking that Faith would have the answers. People changed though, herself being a prime example, and the brunette slayer had proven herself repeatedly over the last few months. Cordelia now considered the brash and arrogant slayer one of her best friends.

"It's pretty funny in a silly way," Willow smiled.

"It's no Clue, but it has its moments," was Spike declaration. He could feel Angel watching him, doing his best to ignore his grandsire's glares. He'd promised Willow he'd try to be nice, though he wasn't sure if that was a promise he could keep if the annoying prick kept this up. He didn't understand what Angel's problem was nor did he really want to, knowing only that it was getting impossible to ignore the glares and suspicious looks. Peaches was pissed that he was there with Willow, that he was her best friend, that they were sharing a room. Well, tough.

Willow was the most important person in his life, the first best friend he'd ever had, and Angel just had to deal with their friendship. Hell, he put up with *two* slayers plus the moron plus slutty plus soldier boy plus the watcher for his Red and that didn't even include these new people he'd just met. He figured Angel was throwing his tantrum because his plans to bore Willow with all his problems and pathetic life had been disrupted, Spike's eyes narrowing as he decided that that was *all* Angel had better had planned for his Red. He was glad that he'd invited himself along on this trip, even if it meant playing nice with these people, knowing that Red would have a much better time with him around. He could still feel the glares from the souled vampire, resisting the urge to look over and stick his tongue out at the brooding bastard. His lips twisted into a smile as he decided why not? No one was looking. He looked over at Angel, his blue eyes narrowing as he did a little glaring of his own before sticking his tongue out and flashing his middle finger before gracefully turning his attention back to Willow before she caught him.


"All righty, folks," Faith called out as she entered the lobby carrying a tray of ice cream. She noticed Angel's glaring immediately, rolling her eyes as she decided that shopping with Cordelia might not be bad enough to punish him for his behavior towards her friends. She put the tray down and moved behind him, smacking the back of his head as hard as she could.

"Ow!" Angel glared at Faith, rubbing the back of his head as he frowned at the slayer. He'd been slapped but Spike wasn't scolded at all. It wasn't fair, damn it. He still couldn't believe Spike had flipped him off and stuck his tongue out at him. And they called him childish. Ha.

"Staring isn't polite," she hissed, her eyes flashing with annoyance at his childish antics. "Whatever your problem is, get over it. You're making Willow and Spike uncomfortable and that makes me angry. Got it?"

"You didn't have to hit me so hard," Angel muttered, hating to admit that he found Faith's bossy attitude rather attractive. Not going there, he told himself, not wanting to get into the confusing emotions that Faith caused at the moment, concentrating instead on the subject in question: Willow and Spike. He guessed that he was just surprised by how close they were, not really thinking of Spike as the type to be friends with a human, much less such a sweet kid like Willow.

"Stop whining, you 250 year old baby. " Faith said as she handed him a bowl of ice cream and smiled sweetly, "eat ice cream."

"Spike, my man, you want some ice cream?" Gunn asked as he handed Willow a bowl, looking at the blond vampire and waiting for his answer.

"Nah, but thanks," Spike said before he leaned over and used his finger as a spoon to get some of Willow's ice cream.

"Spike likes to steal mine too much to get his own," Willow grumbled playfully as she leaned back against Spike, putting the bowl in a position where he could reach it if he wanted more.

"What?" Spike asked with a look that implied he wasn't doing anything wrong as he once again put his finger in the bowl..

"I'll give you a little more then," Gunn said as he tossed another dip into the bowl. He handed Cordelia a bowl and saw the speculative look in her eyes as she watched their guests from Sunnydale, arching a brow as he tried to figure out what was going on in her mind, finally shrugging as he decided he couldn't even begin to guess, and was probably better off not knowing.

"Ow," Willow said suddenly but quietly, only slightly shifting her position to face Spike. "What?" He asked innocently, but just as gently. Angel tried to lean in unnoticed so he could hear the conversation better. Unfortunately, Faith noticed, her eyes narrowing as she tried to figure out what he was up to now.

"Did you pull my hair?" Willow questioned softly.

"No, you moved your head." Spike replied with an affectionate smile. "There's a difference."

"Well, it still hurt." Willow pouted, her eyes whining with amusement as she teased Spike.

"Sorry, luv." Spike said as he positioned the witch to her previous position. "Won't happen again." He continued to inconspicuously play with Willow's hair. Angel leaned over even more and, with a little help from Faith, fell to the floor with his face in his ice cream bowl. Spike was the first to laugh, and yes, he did laugh loudest.

"That's why it's not polite to stare." Faith reminded the Irish man.

"Does anyone need anything else before we start the next movie?" Fred asked softly as she came back into the lobby from the kitchen. She looked from Angel on the floor to her laughing friends, noticing the wicked gleam in Faith's eyes and sighed, "I always miss the good stuff." She handed Spike a glass of warm blood that Willow had requested for him, smiling when he mumbled a thank you after Willow cleared her throat and gave him a look. "You're welcome," she responded before moving to sit down when it was evident that everyone was taken care of and didn't need anything else. Once Angel cleaned his face with a towel Faith had ready for him, he made himself comfortable next to the Slayer.

"Cordelia, I believe we're ready to start the movie," Wesley said as he sat beside Fred and pulled her against him to watch the next movie.

Willow enjoyed the movie they were watching but soon grew a bit bored. She'd seen it several times so her mind began to wander. She was so proud of Spike. He'd been nice and hadn't complained, too much, about having to stay at the hotel with Angel or about having to be friendly with so many people he didn't know. She was so happy that he'd asked to come along with her, knowing that she wouldn't have been enjoying herself nearly as much if she'd been alone. Having Spike around always seemed to make things better, in her opinion, whether it be patrol or research or movie night. She looked up at him, an affectionate smile crossing her face as she saw him watching the movie. She was so lucky to have a best friend as great as Spike, she decided.

The movie was half over when Spike felt her eyes on him. He looked away from the movie, staring down at the redhead that was smiling at him. His hand squeezed her shoulder gently as he gave her one of the special smiles that was solely reserved for Willow. He noticed that she was nearly done with her ice cream, a bit on the corner of her mouth. Without even thinking, he raised his right hand and brushed his thumb over the ice cream, giving her a soft smile as he said, "Had a little on you, pet," before looking back at the movie, Willow resting her head back on his chest. He brought his thumb to his mouth, tasting the chocolate peanut butter ice cream that Willow had been eating, sucking his flesh as he relaxed and enjoyed spending time with his best friend, thinking how lucky he was to have her in his life.

Across the room, stormy brown eyes watched the tender scene. Angel was resisting the urge to cross the room and grab Spike by his collar and demand to know what was going on between him and the sweet redhead. Angel considered Willow as one of his few friends, having never spent a large amount of time with the girl, but growing closer via email since he'd left Sunnydale. He'd not been happy at all to hear that she was sharing her home with Spike, but he'd acknowledged that Willow was a big girl and could have whatever friends she decided, after all, she did consider him a friend so he knew she had a large capacity for forgiveness. Sharing a home was one thing, sitting so close together and whispering to each other and there was touching and the finger suckage, a frown crossing his handsome face as he wondered if he could think of a more ridiculous term, well, that was something else entirely. He didn't like this, not at all. Willow was too trusting, too sweet, too innocent about matters such as these. He needed to protect her, he decided, keep her safe from whatever game Spike was playing. Tomorrow, he and Spike were going to have a little talk.


It physically hurt Angel not to be able to have a talk with Spike after the movies. Faith made sure the dark haired vampire was completely occupied long enough to give Willow and Spike an escape window.

Spike knew what the slayer was doing, and mouthed a thank you to her before ushering Willow up the stairs.

The next day, everyone headed downstairs around the same time. Fred and Gunn were in the kitchen making breakfast while Wesley manned the phones. Cordelia and Faith were in Angel's office just glaring at him.

Finally, after what seemed like a century, the brooding vampire could take no more.

"What?!" he asked irritated.

"What?" Cordelia mocked. "Is that all you have to say after your behavior last night?"

"See, it wasn't just me who noticed what a complete penis you were being." Faith added.

"Look, I'm only doing what's best for..." the vampire started.

"Don't even try to give me that 'for their own good' speech." Cordelia cut him off.

"Yeah, Angel." The slayer joined in. "You were down right rude to our guests!" She paced a few seconds while Angel had the good sense to look guilty. She couldn't tell whether he actually felt guilty, or if he was just falling back on the look he had perfected. Before she could contemplate more on it, Cordelia once again stepped in.

"You know, I wouldn't be surprised if Spike and Willow came down those steps this morning with their bags packed telling us to shove it." The seer exclaimed.

"You know you had no right to treat them that way, Angel." Faith chastised. Angel knew the slayer was angry because she never used his actual name. She always found cute little pet names for him that he secretly loved. He felt special when she called him those names. "And yes, you DO get last night's Biggest Asshole Award."

The two women looked at one another, as if communicating silently. Then, looked at the frightened vampire sitting at his desk. He opened his mouth to speak.

"Don't say anything, you're just going to make it worse." Cordelia snapped.

"Well, Cor, we can't just make him keep quiet all day," Faith stated. "We have to make him suffer."

Cordelia took on a strictly business persona. "Give me your Gold Card." The vampire stupidly hesitated. "NOW." Angel handed over his precious credit card knowing the seer would put a dent in his supposed 'undentable' 200-year-old bank account.

"Now, you will offer this to Willow as a token of your sincere apology to go shopping and take us with her." The slayer instructed. She then thought of something, and smirked, adding, "And you will tell her to buy something for her best friend, as well."

The vampire stared in wide-eyed horror.

Meanwhile upstairs....

Willow woke up slowly, stretching as she yawned, reluctant to open her eyes. She was comfortable and had been having a really good dream. She couldn't remember what the dream was about, but she felt peaceful and happy so she knew it must have been good. She wondered if she'd go back to it if she kept her eyes closed and went back to sleep, knowing that never worked and deciding that it just wasn't fair. Finally, she opened her eyes.

She was sleeping against Spike, his head on the pillow, hers resting on his chest. Her leg was laying across his, a sheepish smile crossing her face as she carefully moved her leg back to her side of the bed. Considering their waking position, she was definitely glad that Spike had volunteered to wear an old pair of sweats to sleep in. She hadn't even had to make the suggestion, Spike already pulling out the sweats from his bag. She'd been relieved, knowing that her best friend liked to sleep naked after entering his room one morning and catching sight of his bare bottom. While she didn't really care if he slept naked, often sleeping without clothes herself especially during summer, it would have been a bit awkward to share a bed with her best friend if he was naked.

Willow was still reluctant to get out of bed, finding Spike's chest a rather comfortable pillow and the covers made everything warm and toasty. She yawned again, smacking her lips as she ran her tongue over her teeth, deciding that brushing her teeth was going to be at the top of her list of things to do once she got the energy to move. It was then that she became aware of the fact that she had drooled during her sleep. Her eyes glanced down at Spike's chest, noticing that she had drooled on him. Great, she rolled her eyes, already hearing the teasing he'd do about her drooling on him. She wondered if she could manage to wipe him off without waking him up, having to admit she was a bit embarrassed at drooling in her sleep. Before she could make a decision, Spike began to stir.

Willow looked up at him, watching as he woke up. Blue eyes blinked sleepily before he slowly smiled, "Morning, Red."

"Morning, Blondie," Willow said with a smile of her own.

"Comfortable?" he asked with an amused gleam in his eyes.

"Very," she said as she rested her hands on his chest and her chin on his hands, "but I've gotta get my lazy butt up before Faith and Cordelia break the door down and drag me out of here."

"I'll protect you from the mean old slutty girls," Spike promised as he snuggled against the pillow, his hand moving to push Willow's hair behind her ears, "did ya sleep well?"

"Uh huh," she smiled, "did you?"

"Don't tell Peaches, but the bed was much more comfortable than that other motel," Spike confided.

"I won't tell him," Willow promised before groaning, "I've got to get up and take a shower and get ready. Faith said something about having lunch with the girls and she's probably already impatiently waiting."

"Not even time for breakfast much less lunch," Spike grumbled, "can't believe you're running off and leaving me here alone. Some friend!"

"Quit whining," Willow scolded playfully, "I won't be gone that long. Besides, you won't be here alone. The guys will be here."

"Yeah, that sounds like fun," Spike said dryly, rolling his eyes at the amused look in her eyes. "You'd better not be gone long, leaving me here with the brooding wanker and the other two."

"I'll be back before you know it," Willow smiled, "and I'm very proud of you for being on your best behavior."

"Yeah, well, only for you, luv," he grumbled though his lips curved into a pleased smile at her words.

"I've got to get ready," Willow said again. She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his cheek, saying, "I'll be back soon. Try to be good."

"I'll try," Spike sighed dramatically, amusement in his eyes as she rolled hers and got out of the bed. He pulled the cover back up, noticing that she had drooled on him during her sleep, his lips curving into a smile as he made a mental note to use that information to tease her later on, closing his eyes as the shower turned on, soon drifting back to sleep.


"Hey Wills." Faith said to the witch descending the stairs as she and Cordelia walked out of Angel's office. "How'd you sleep?"

"Good morning, you guys." Willow greeted the entire LA group. She turned back to Faith. "I slept better than I have in a really long time." As an afterthought, she added, "Almost too good."

Angel stepped out of his office behind Cordelia and Faith as Willow said the last part of that sentence. He growled softly, thinking of why she would've slept so well. He was rewarded with a slayer elbow in the left side of his ribs and a seer elbow in the right side.

"Hey Charlie," Faith called to Gunn without letting on about the assault she and Cordy had just made on their boss. "Can we eat some time today? Is breakfast ready?"

"First of all, I'm going to overlook that misuse of my name, slayer." Gunn stated. He then addressed the rest of the group. "Second, I suggest everyone else get their share of food before the bottomless pit also known as Faith gets to the food."

"Somebody must've got some last night to overlook the 'misuse' of his name." Willow teased.

"Oh, see." Gunn told the redhead in mock disappointment. He, Fred, and Wes had heard the two women chastising Angel for being acting the way he did the night before. "I was trying to save some food for you, Red. You're gonna need it, going shopping with my girl."

"Going shopping?" Willow asked, astonished. "I thought we were just going to go run around LA and have some fun, maybe lunch later." Willow said, with fear in her voice. She liked Cordelia a lot, but ? The witch sighed, thinking, 'I should've stayed in bed.'

"Not to worry, Red." Faith said. "I'll make sure she goes easy on us." She then turned to face Angel and waited.

Cordelia stepped to the side as she and Faith covertly pushed Angel forward.

"Oh, right." The brooding vampire started. "Um...I just...uh, I ...I wanted to apologize for the way I acted last night, Willow."

"Angel," Willow smiled. "You don't have to..." She was interrupted by Faith.

"No, let him do this. He needs to get this off of his chest." The slayer then shared a knowing look with Cordelia.

"She's right, Willow." Angel continued. "I'm sorry. I was just..." The seer cleared her throat loudly before Angel could continue to turn his statement into a lecture and ruin everything. He sighed and continued. "There is no excuse for my behavior. To show how sorry I really am, I want you to take my Gold Card and go shopping with the girls."

"Are you sure, Angel?" Willow asked, confused. "Yeah, Will." He smiled. "You're my friend, and I want to make it up to you." He handed the card to the redhead, who took it like it was a fragile piece of glass.

"Thank you, Angel. Really." She said sincerely. Suddenly, the sound of Faith loudly clearing her throat could be heard. Angel looked to the slayer with pleading eyes, but she continued to glare at him. He hated that. She was too cute to glare.

"Okay, fine." He said. "Also, why don't you buy something for Spike?"

"Don't argue. Just do it." Cordelia nudged.

"Um, okay." Willow said, flabbergasted. Cordy and Faith must've really done a number on him today.

"Now, c'mon." Faith announced. "Let's go get some breakfast." The group headed into the kitchen laughing and talking. Angel was the last one to leave the lobby.

"I bet that hurt like hell." A voice behind him said.

"Not now, Spike." Angel said with barely restrained anger.

"Not doing a bloody thing, mate," Spike said as he sauntered past his grandsire. "Just gonna go and have me some breakfast."


Willow was handed a plate by Faith, looking over the rather large choice of items, wondering if they always ate this way and, if so, how they could possibly all still be in such great shape! She usually ate one large meal a day, dinner with Spike and sometimes the rest of the gang. Breakfast was a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal before class. Lunch was whatever she could grab in between her classes. On weekends, lunch was usually whatever Spike prepared for them while they relaxed and watched movies on Saturday and while they did chores around the house on Sunday.

"Bacon is a must," Faith said as she tossed a few slices onto Willow's plate, catching the surprised look in the redhead's green eyes and smiling, "Breakfast is the first meal of the day and is very important. We always have a big breakfast before getting to work."

"Besides that, my man knows how to cook a killer breakfast," Cordelia said as she leaned over and kissed Gunn's cheek.

"I think I just lost my appetite," Spike snarked as he came up behind Willow. He saw her look at him and smile, noticing the question in her eyes.

"I thought you were going back to sleep," Willow said, not bothering to scold him for his remark about Cordelia and Gunn's PDA because she had to agree that it was much too early to see such sickeningly sweet loving displays of affection, especially for single people.

Spike shrugged, "Couldn't get comfortable. Decided to come downstairs and have breakfast with you before you deserted me for the afternoon."

"You heard?" she gave him a sheepish smile, "I'm sorry. I honestly thought we were just going to lunch. I'm sure I won't be gone that long."

Spike leaned forward, brushing his lips against her ear as he whispered, "Personally, I think shopping with the bimbos is punishment enough so you get off easy this time, luv. But, I do expect one hell of a prezzie, especially since the brooding wanker is paying for it."

Willow smiled as she heard his words, not denying that shopping with Cordelia was similar to punishment. She moved her own mouth against his ear and whispered back, "Thanks a lot, friend. You know, this is where you could have been the hero and saved me from the shopping thing instead of just being greedy and wanting me to buy you expensive gifts with Angel's Gold Card."

"You're the one that wanted to bond with the girls," Spike reminded with an innocent smile as he raised his head, his eyes amused as she rolled her eyes at him.

"Yeah, *now * you start listening to what I say!" she laughed as she looked back at the others, seeing a smug smile on Cordelia's face and a thoughtful look in Faith's eyes. She frowned as she asked, "Is something wrong?"

"Nope, not at all," Faith spoke quickly, giving the redhead a smile as she watched Spike put his arm around the witch's waist and rest his head on her shoulder as his blue eyes surveyed the breakfast choices.

"What's that stuff?" Spike asked as he motioned towards something that looked like messy bits of potatoes.

"Hashbrowns," Fred replied, "I use a family recipe so they're a little different. There's cheese and some other stuff mixed in."

"They're yummy," Gunn said as he got a spoonful and plopped it on Willow's plate.

"Do you need a plate, Spike?" Wesley asked.

"Nope," Spike said as he grabbed a bite of the hashbrowns from Willow's plate and tasted them, saying, "Charlie-boy, add some more of those to Red's plate. They're not bad."

"There are plenty of plates, Spike. You don't need to eat off of Willow's," Angels said sharply as he took a seat at the dining room table.

"Red doesn't mind sharing with me, you bleeding prat," Spike said as he shot the elder vampire a smirk, still not sure why the souled bane of his existence was so pissy about him being friends with Willow, but, nonetheless, enjoying the vexation of his grandsire. Especially when said irritation caused the LA gang to torment the annoying prat by making him be nice and hand over his Gold Card. He looked back at Willow, brushing his fingers against the back of her neck, giving her a tender smile as he asked, "Do ya, luv?"


"Not at all," Willow said honestly as more food was added to her plate. She laughed, "And I'm definitely going to need your help finishing all this food! Good grief, guys! How can you eat this much in the morning and not just be completely lazy?"

"Did you never pay attention during the nutrition portion of Health class, Willow?" Cordelia asked, "Food produced energy and energy makes you happy or something scientific like that. Wes, you wanna help me out? It's too early to think."

"What's your excuse the rest of the day?" Spike quipped, this time receiving the nudge in the stomach from Willow. Scowling at his best friend, he said, "If you keep doing that, I might bruise."

"If you'd quit being such a sarcastic jerk, I wouldn't have to keep doing that," she said sweetly.

"You and your silly logic," a brilliant smile crossed his face as he kissed the tip of her nose.

"And he was talking about *our* PDAs?" Gunn muttered to Cordelia, rolling his eyes as he sat down.

"Spike, why don't you sit here," Angel said tightly, glaring at the blond that was still smiling at Willow instead of answering him, indicating the chair in between him and Wesley.

"Um, do most vampires usually eat real food?" Fred asked quickly, sensing that Angel was about to say or do something stupid that would just get him into more trouble with Cordelia and Faith. "Angel does occasionally, but he's said it doesn't really have any kind of taste to him."

"Hmm?" Spike glanced at the skinny girl and shrugged, "I don't know. Suppose they don't, going more for the blood when it comes to human food, but I like it. As for the taste, I don't have any problems tasting the flavors and spices and textures. Peaches just wants something else to whine about. Guess most vampires don't bother with it."

"Spike isn't your typical vampire," Willow said with an affectionate smile at her best friend as Faith put the last possible bit of food that the plate could hold on top of the growing pile.

"You can say that again," Angel muttered crossly, wondering if Willow would forgive him if he accidentally spilled a bottle of holy water on the bleached blond nuisance.

"Let's eat," Faith said as she moved to the other side of the table and deliberately sat between Angel and Wesley, kicking Angel's leg hard as she sat down. She gave him an innocent smile and said, "Oops. Sorry."

Spike pulled a seat out for Willow and sat beside her, grabbing a piece of bacon before sitting back in his chair. Fred put a glass of heated blood in front of him and then took a seat beside Willow. He looked across the table at Angel, seeing the glare in the elder vampire's eyes, the scowl on his face, rolling his eyes as he looked at the cheerleader. Slowly smiling, he decided to remind Angel that he'd already lost one argument today and would be wise to keep his trap shut. He asked, "So, where do you chits plan on taking my Red today? She's got a Gold Card, ya know?"

"Well, I thought we'd head down to Santa Monica and hit the Promenade," Cordelia said, a wicked smile crossing her face as she leaned forward, "They've got some great shops down there. Not as ridiculously expensive as Rodeo Drive, and the clothes are much more practical. Willow, there's also some good bookstores, or so I've been told. Give me a few hours and we can max out that Gold Card in no time!"

"Max out?" Angel stopped glaring long enough to squeak out the two words. He looked at Cordelia and said, "There was no mention of maxing out!"

"Shut up, Fang," Faith said, catching Cordelia's playful grin and adding, "Not like you don't have a dozen other cards to use."

"While I still can't even get one!" Gunn spoke up, "What's up with that? The vampire that's been dead two centuries has a plethora of plastic but the black man that's got a heartbeat can't even get a gas card!"

"Gunn, remember who your girlfriend is. You *don't* want to get a credit card," Wesley said with a smile.

"Hey," Cordelia gave Wesley a smile, "Way to go with the money management for the future thing. Baby, he's right. Credit cards are highly overrated when you actually have to pay the bills."

"How's your breakfast, Willow?" Fred asked the redhead.

"It's delicious, but I don't see how I can possibly eat lunch, too," Willow said.

"Wait until you've gone shopping with Delia. You'll work off that breakfast in no time!" Faith laughed as they all went back to eating and talking about general topics, pausing every so often to kick Angel's leg when his glaring at Spike got too obvious.


Overall, breakfast was a successful event. True, Angel had a bruise on his leg by the time everyone was finished eating due to the numerous times that Faith had to kick him for glaring, but everyone else was smiling and laughing and having a pretty fun time. Wesley and Cordelia cleared the table and cleaned up, in exchange for Gunn and Fred having done most of the cooking. The others had helped them, and soon clean up was finished. Angel had watched Spike and Willow throughout the meal, his dark eyes noticing every little smile and gentle caress and private moment, soon ignoring Faith's rather strong kicks out of a need to figure out exactly what was going on between his annoying grandchilde and the pretty redhead. It was during clean up that he got further evidence to support his theory, determination entering his eyes as he decided that it was time for that talk, no doubts any longer in his mind concerning the nature of their relationship.

He had seen Spike give Willow *that* smile, the soft and loving smile that always graced the blond's face whenever he was with Drusilla. The devoted, I'd follow you to the ends of the Earth, you're mine forever, I don't want to imagine my life without you smile that had eventually faded from Spike's face whenever he was around Drusilla as he had fallen out of love with his sire. Angel had seen it, greatly resisting the urge to jump up and point and exclaim, A ha, just to show the others that he wasn't stupid or imagining things. They'd have seen the smile and the way Spike's eyes had moved over Willow's face and the way he'd tenderly brushed a lock of hair from her cheek and they would have had their proof that Angel was right and would have had to admit that he was smarter and more observant than they. While that idea had merits, Angel did not want to involve anyone else in his plans to talk to Spike. So, he bit his tongue and remained silent, the determined gleam in his eyes the only hint that anything was different from his hour of glaring over breakfast.

Luckily, clean up was over reasonably quickly with the extra helpers in the kitchen. Angel was anxious to get the girls out of the hotel so he could talk to his grandchilde, impatiently pacing and looking at the door and then back at the girls and casually mentioning that the stores were open now and didn't they want to go early, flashing a helpful smile that he hoped did not betray his true intentions. Both Faith and Cordelia gave him a warning look as they whisked Willow and Fred off to do some damage to his credit card. Angel was momentarily frightened by what Faith might do to him if she found out what he had planned, a few of those images not nearly as frightening as they should be, the term erotic coming to mind when he thought of her punishing him, shaking his head quickly and pushing those thoughts away to concentrate on the important matter at hand. Dealing with Spike.

Spike pulled Willow aside as she was about to exit with the other women. He wasn't at all fooled by Angel's sudden desire for the girls to have the ultimate shopping experience. He'd felt his grandsire's glares throughout breakfast, ignoring them because, well, it was fun to ignore Angel because it usually just pissed him off even more to be ignored and Spike was all for pissing off Angel, especially when it didn't require any effort on his part. Now, though, he knew that he was going to be stuck at the hotel without any defense, all the girls leaving to go shopping of all things. Did they not realize that they were leaving him with Angel? That, in itself, was just about his version of Hell. And Willow wasn't even feeling guilty, laughing with her silly little friends about shopping, an activity that he knew she detested and only did when necessary. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, his tone slightly amused but a sincerity underneath the teasing, "Red, please don't leave me alone with the king of boring and the poncey watcher for very long."

"Spike, stop being so dramatic," Willow whispered with a giggle. "You like Gunn, don't you?"

"Yeah, Charlie's a bit of alright." Spike conceded finally, a slight smile crossing his face as he saw the amused gleam in her eyes and the smile on her face. He loved making Willow smile, being the cause of any of her smiles was such a rush. He did add, just to make sure she knew how unhappy he was going to be while she was off without him, giving her his best puppy dog eyes as he said, "But, still, hurry."

"C'mon Will!" Cordelia yelled from the other side of the door, rolling her eyes as she knew exactly what was detaining Willow, a slight knowing smile on her face as she winked at a grinning Faith, "Bleach boy will be here when you get back."

"Yeah, YOU try to rush Cordelia when she's in shopping mode," the redhead told her best friend, giving him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I'll try, for you, but no promises. Now, go and do some male bonding." She said with a smile as she ran out to catch up with her friends.

Spike sighed and decided to avoid the pouf before he wanted to 'share his soul-induced feelings'. He turned and headed towards the stairs, hoping he would be fast enough to avoid any conversations or the male bonding that Willow spoke of, shuddering at the image of giggling and bonding with any of the men in the hotel. Gunn was decent enough, but the others? He'd rather hang out with Chubs, and that was saying something.

"Where do you think you're going?" Angel questioned the chipped vampire, thanking ever God he knew that the girls were finally gone.

"Well, since you obviously don't have powers of deductive reasoning," Spike stated as he turned towards his grandsire. "I'm headed to my room to get more sleep and avoid having any contact with you." He paused a split second before adding, "Wanker."

"My office," Angel ordered. Spike arched an eyebrow and gave Angel a 'you've got to be kidding' look. "Now." Angel said, ignoring the look and trying to contain his anger.

"Sure thing, Peaches." Spike said as he sauntered past the brooding vampire thinking of ways he can irritate Angel while in his office. Once he walked in, Angel shut the door. "What could you possibly want, Liam?" Spike asked as he walked over to Angel's desk and sat on it, deliberately scuffing his boots across the front and moving the papers that were stacked in orderly piles. He saw a nerve twitch in Angel's cheek, deciding this might be fun after all. He could make Angel's life a little miserable while doing nothing intentional that would earn him Willow's displeasure.

"Don't start, William," Angel replied, returning the favor of using Spike's human name. He walked to his chair and sat, still glaring at the bleached blonde. He sat back, his brown eyes looking at the blond that had moved from the desk to sit in a chair, his large boots now resting on the desk and pushing at the papers. Angel decided to get straight to the point, having no interest in prolonging this talk. He demanded, "What the hell are you doing with Willow?"


Meanwhile, Gunn and Wesley had managed to make their way towards their boss' office to eavesdrop. The two humans exchanged a look when they heard Angel's question, noting the angry tone in his voice.

"Oh, he is so gonna be in trouble," Gunn whispered, a slight smile crossing his lips.

"I definitely do not envy him when Faith finds out about this," Wesley agreed, wondering why Angel didn't just keep his mouth shut and allow Willow and Spike to have whatever relationship they wanted. While he wasn't a fan of Spike, it was obvious to anyone with eyes that he loved Willow, treated her like the Queen of his world, was completely besotted with the pretty redhead. And it was also obvious that Willow felt the same way and returned those feelings. Wesley just didn't understand why Angel felt a need to interfere when there was not a problem. If anything, Willow and Spike were very happy and enjoying their lives. That should be a cause of celebration, not of glares and threats and demanding questions.

"Almost makes me want to tell her," the handsome young street fighter said with a smirk, thinking basically the same thing as Wesley. Leaning closer, he listened carefully, knowing that Cordelia would expect a full report when she returned and he didn't want to miss a word.

{On the other side of the door...}

"What am I doing with Willow?" Spike repeated, keeping a smug smile on his face even as he was confused as hell. What kind of question was that? Trust the king of brooding and cryptic statements to catch him off guard, asking something that didn't make any sense.

"Yes, what are you doing with Willow!" Angel repeated sharply, his eyes narrowing as he waited for an answer.

"You're serious!" Spike laughed, still not sure what Angel was asking but no longer really caring. It was obvious that it was annoying Angel to have to ask and that was good enough for him to laugh at it, just to get an even bigger reaction from the gel haired prat glaring at him.

"This is not funny, BOY." Angel growled, warning, "You stay away from her."

Spike once again arched an eyebrow as he suddenly realized what Angel's problem was. He thought Spike and Willow were a couple. Spike had always known that Angel was a stupid git, this entire episode just confirming that belief. He slowly smiled as his mind raced at all the ways to make Paingel's life even more miserable by using his mistaken beliefs. Deciding to give it a try, Spike teased, "And what if I don't?"

"You don't want to know the answer to that, Spike." Angel threatened, his eyes blazing as he watched the amusement in the other vampire's blue eyes. This situation was not amusing, damn it. It was serious and his threat was serious! Well, it would be serious if he could get away with just staking the blond annoyance without then probably being staked himself by Willow or Faith or even possibly Cordelia. He glared even more as he realized that he was making empty threats, not liking the feeling of being helpless to stop whatever was happening, deciding it might be worth a staking just to wipe that arrogant smirk off Spike's face.

"Oh, come on, Angelus!" Spike said in an overly dramatic persona, tickled at the knowledge that Angel was not only wrong but that he was able to use this to get such a fucking great reaction from the elder vampire. He was pretty good at this acting thing, if Angel's reaction was anything to go on, deciding to get into it more. "Are you telling me you want my girl? Warning me away so you can swoop in with that poofy-gelled hair and attempt to steal her away from me? Well, tough. You're not gonna get her. She's mine!"

"So, she IS!" Angel said as if he'd confirmed the existence of aliens. Spike was hoping he could hold in his laughter as he watched the more mature vampire practically dance around in triumph. "You are going to stay away from her! I won't let you hurt her, Spike."

"Why do you think I would hurt her, Angelus?" Spike asked, the smile fading as he glared at Angel. He was no longer amused by this conversation, now completely irritated that the poufter could think he would hurt his Red. She was his best friend, after all. He'd never hurt her. He'd do anything for her, even attempt to tolerate the miserable wanker sitting in front of him. Anger flashed in his blue eyes as he said, "Just because you're a right bastard without the soul, doesn't mean Red has anything to worry about with me."

"I mean, it, Spike! I want you to stop seeing her," Angel demanded.

"And I want YOU to burst into flame, but that's not happening any time soon, is it?" He replied, and added, "Unfortunately." Angel glared at him. Spike got to his feet, his blue eyes still flashing with anger and the barest hint of hurt that his grandsire would believe him capable of harming Willow. Spike snarled, "So, if that's all Angelus, I'm going to go upstairs and rest up and wait for MY witch to get back."

Gunn and Wes hurried from the office door and pretended to be doing work, both covertly watching as Spike walked out of Angel's office where he left his grandsire in stunned silence and walked up the stairs, anger radiating from him as he stormed away. They remained silent until they heard the slamming of a door, finally looking at each other and whistling softly. Gunn shook his head slowly, muttering, "Angel really fucked *that* one up," before he went back to work, listening as their boss began to move around his office, slamming drawers and kicking things and having what sounded like a temper tantrum. Gunn almost smiled at the immature behavior from the serious vampire, wondering what was gonna happen next. On one hand, he was a bit worried, knowing that Spike had really been pissed off and that Faith was gonna be very unhappy that Angel had opened his big mouth and started trouble and he figured that Willow was not going to be very grateful for Angel playing Daddy and warning her lover away. On the other hand, he was kind of looking forward to seeing what they were going to do because he thought Angel had overstepped himself and had no right to interfere in Willow and Spike's healthy and loving relationship. Damn, he had a lot to tell Cordelia when she got back, that was certain. He hoped the girls were having fun shopping, the idea of them maxing out Angel's card causing him to smile as he started back to work.


Cordelia waited until they had been shopping for half an hour before she began the interrogation. She moved beside Willow, her brown eyes glancing at the rather orange shirt the redhead was looking at, smiling as she said, "Only you could successfully pull of that color, Willow. The shirt is too plain, though. We need to find you something sexier."

"I think it's just fine," Willow said, giving Fred and Faith a pleading look as Cordelia took her arm and dragged her to a rack of dresses that appeared to have less material than most scarves.

"I'm with Delia on this one," Faith smiled as she held up a pretty red dress, "what about this one? Red is definitely your color, Willow. I always heard redheads couldn't wear it, but it's great on you!"

"I like that one," Cordelia said as she snatched it from the slayer and held it up against the grimacing redhead. With a slight twist of her lips, she casually remarked, "Spike would love you in this! I bet he couldn't take his pretty blue eyes off you. All that flesh displayed, and the color is great on you."

"Yeah," Willow snorted, rolling her eyes, "he'd probably be scared that I'd catch a cold since there isn't hardly any material!"

"If you were wearing that dress, I don't think he'd be thinking about you getting sick," Fred said with a teasing smile, "I think he'd probably be thinking how he could get it off you and on the floor!"

"Fred!" Willow's eyes widened as she stared at the usually quiet woman.

"Damn, girl. I'm proud!" Faith beamed at the smiling brunette before looking at Willow and leering, "So, Red, she brings up a good point."

"What point?" Willow frowned at the slayer, not following the conversation nearly as well as she should have. To be honest, a very small part of her mind was still stuck on Fred's comment and how ridiculous it was to think that Spike would ever look at her and think that way. They were best friends, that was all it was and all it ever would be. True, she'd had a bit of a crush on him early on, when he'd tried to kill her and then listened to her talk about losing Oz. But, she'd made the decision to be his friend instead of languishing in unrequited love, crush not love, she mentally corrected.

"You and Spike," Cordelia spoke up, watching Willow closely, "what exactly is going on with you two?"

"What do you mean?" Willow asked, "We're roommates and best friends. That's it."

"C'mon, Red. You can trust us with the truth," Faith whined, "you two are shagging like wild monkeys, aren't you?"

"Shagging? Me and Spike?" Willow started to laugh, "What on Earth made you think that? We're just friends, Faith. Is it because we're sharing the room? You know, a man and a woman can be just friends without complicating things with sex."

"You two aren't shagging?" Faith frowned, looking at the other girls.

"It wasn't because of sharing the room," Fred spoke up, having had the same idea that Cordelia and Faith had, believing that Willow was deeply in love with the handsome blond vampire and vice versa. She smiled softly, "It was the way he looks at you as if you're the most beautiful woman in the world, the way he smiles at you as if just the sight of you makes him happy, the way he makes you laugh, the way you smile at him, the way you two touch and whisper and just seem to make each other so happy."

"Yeah, what she said," Faith said, watching Willow's eyes widen in surprise at Fred's words. Damn, she couldn't believe it. She'd have bet money on the two of them having the most loving relationship of all her friends and now she had to be disappointed and find out that they really were just friends.

"Um, well, I," Willow stuttered, her cheeks blushing as she tried to come up with some sort of explanation for Fred's beliefs, but she was at a loss. She had no idea what to say. Fred had to be mistaken, right? There was no way that Spike looked at her like that or that they seemed like a couple. Sure, they were happy to be together. They were best friends, after all. She loved being with him, enjoyed sharing her life with him. Fred had just misunderstood.

"You are buying this dress," Cordelia spoke up, seeing the stunned look in Willow's eyes and realizing that they'd been wrong. Well, they'd been wrong about Willow and Spike being romantically involved, for now, but she knew she wasn't wrong about their feelings for each other. She knew love when she saw it. She also knew lust and affection and respect and all the building blocks for a successful relationship that Willow and Spike had in abundance. So, they hadn't recognized that they were in love yet. They were definitely in love, and it just seemed to be taking them awhile to realize it. She slowly smiled, "We'll go out dancing tomorrow night. Have some fun, hear some good music, and you can wear this dress."

"Going out sounds fun, but there is no way I'm wearing that dress!" Willow laughed, relieved that the topic had changed and she was no longer having to try to explain whatever it was that Fred mistakenly thought she'd seen between her and Spike.

"Yes, you are," Faith smirked, "even if we have to dress you ourselves!"

"It is very attractive," Fred agreed with a smile.

"You're not going to give up until I agree, are you?" Willow asked, glaring at the three women.

"Hmm...let me think about that one," Cordelia paused for a moment before smiling, "Nope, we aren't."

"Fine, I'll wear the bloody dress," Willow muttered as she snatched it from Cordelia and added it to her pile of things to try on. Maybe it wouldn't fit, not that there was an abundance of material to have to fit. She took her pile to the dressing rooms, leaving the others to talk.

"Okay, I don't care what she says. Those two are in love!" Faith whispered as soon as Willow was in the back.

"I would have sworn they were involved," Fred agreed, a puzzled _expression in her eyes, "but she insists that they're just best friends."

"I've had best friends before and I never looked at them the way she looks at Spike," Cordelia said with a smile. "Ladies, those two are very much in love. They just need a little, what's the word, assistance in acknowledging that they belong together in a healthy, romantic, sexual relationship."

"Assistance, huh?" Faith slowly smiled, "Say, perhaps, like going out dancing with Willow wearing that sexy little dress and making sure Spike sees just how hot she is and maybe realizes that he risks losing her to someone else if he doesn't just take her and shag her senseless?"

"What's with all the shagging?" Fred asked, "Never mind. It is more polite than fucking, which is your usual favorite term."

"Oh, someone thinks they're tough," Faith laughed, "Seriously, we're gonna interfere and play matchmaker during their stay? Are we? Really?"

"Yes, I think interference is necessary," Cordelia smiled, "by the time they leave here, they'll be so happy they won't even mind that we did a little matchmaking."

"What about Angel?" Fred asked softly, "He definitely does not seem happy about the idea of them being involved as friends so I know he'd be annoyed if he found out we were trying to get them together romantically."

"I can handle Angel. I think he'll get over it once he sees how happy they are," Faith said, "if not, I'll kick his ass."

"Speaking of people that are too oblivious to see how they really feel," Cordelia muttered with a pointed look at the slayer.

"Shhh, Willow's coming back," Fred said, turning to look at the pretty redhead, "So, did it fit?"

"It's indecent," was Willow's response, still not believing how the little scrap of material they called a dress had molded her curves and showed off her flesh in such a way that she felt sexy and alluring.

"That means she looked hot," Faith smirked, "so, Red, what's been happening in Sunnydale since I was last there?"

The women began to talk as they finished their shopping, Willow doing her best not to think too much about what Fred had said, knowing the scientist had to be wrong about Spike. He didn't think of Willow like that at all. She was his best friend, his confidant, his roommate. He loved her, just like she loved him, but it wasn't anything like Fred had said. She shook her head, knowing that thinking like this would just confuse her. She and Spike were just friends, best friends, and that was all there was to their relationship. Her friends were just crazy, mistaking their affection for something else. She slowly smiled, deciding that had to be the problem. The others were just misinterpreting their friendship. She quit thinking about it as they entered yet another store, Cordelia insisting that her new dress required the appropriate undergarments and sexy stockings. Willow didn't bother protesting, knowing she'd lose the argument, talking with Fred about a book that they both loved as Faith and Cordelia continued shopping.

After all of the clothing had been bought, Willow noticed one of her favorite book stores.

"Guys, I'll be right back." The redhead announced.

"Where are you headed?" Faith asked.

"Well, Angel did say that I could get something for Spike." Willow replied.

"But, that's a book store, Will." Cordelia informed the witch.

"I know this, Cordelia." Willow said as she rolled her eyes playfully. "You guys would be surprised at how intelligent Spike really is. He just doesn't think it's very 'manly' so he tries to hide it behind his 'big bad' bravado."

"I can see that about him." Fred mused. "He seems to know an awful lot."

"So, what are you going to get him?" Cordelia asked, with mischievous smile.

"None of your business." Willow said playfully. "If he wants to share, he can share."

The redhead walked off and left the other 3 women standing.

"Oh no, she's not in love with him." Cordelia said sarcastically. The other two laughed.

"Well, we're at a book store. I'll go and look at some new physics titles." Fred stated.

"I can always check out magazines." Cordelia said.

"I'm with you." Faith replied. "Although I did hear about this really cool new book on Martial Arts techniques. Maybe I can learn something new."

"Oh, so you admit you don't know every thing there is to know about slaying?" Fred asked innocently.

"Okay, that's it!" Faith whined. "You're not hanging out with Cordy anymore without my supervision."

The three women laughed as they entered the bookstore and went their separate ways.

Meanwhile, Willow stood directly in front of the book that was perfect for her best friend. "Got it." She said proudly with a smile.


The women walked into the Hyperion giggling. Gunn was reading an ancient text on weaponry while Wesley played solitaire on Cordelia's computer. Both men looked up when the ladies entered with two or three bags in each hand. Angel was in his office brooding and Spike was upstairs resting and thinking over his earlier conversation with Angel.

"That was absolutely the most fun shopping experience I've ever had!" Willow announced with a large smile as she entered the lobby of the hotel. "And that restaurant was unbelievable!"

"Can you believe Faith is the one that told me about it?" Cordelia inquired, arching a brow as she shook her head in disbelief.

"Hey," Faith objected as she realized that Cordelia was insinuating that she was not a good judge of restaurants, "I may be from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, and fresh out of prison...okay, never mind." She finished quietly.

"I figured you girls would have way more bags than this." Gunn stated as he looked at the few bags the girls were carrying, knowing that they'd been gone long enough to buy out every store in the Promenade. That, coupled with the use of Angel's Gold Card, had him expecting dozens of bags each.

"Oh, we do." Cordelia assured her boyfriend as she kissed his cheek, "But that's what you men are for, right?"

"Hell-o!" Gunn replied incredulously, "You have a slayer with you!"

"Listen, since YOUR girl bought the most amount of stuff, I suggest you go out and get to bringing it in here," Faith taunted. "And grab the vamps, you two, we're parked in the shade."

"Yo, Spike!" Gunn yelled up the stairs. "Let's go."

Wesley walked over to Angel's office and knocked on the door before entering. Angel was already out of his seat when Gunn yelled out Spike's name.

"Angel, I'm sure you've guessed that the girls have returned," Wesley told the dark haired vampire. "They want us to bring the rest of their bags in from the car. And don't try the sun excuse. They parked in the shade."

Just then, Spike came bounding down the stairs. A smile crossed his face as he saw the happy expression on Willow's face, knowing that she had enjoyed her torturous day of shopping, pleased that she'd had fun, even if it meant he'd been stuck with no one to talk to.

"How *did* you find out about the restaurant, Faith?" Fred asked the slayer as she set her bags down.

Spike saw his grandsire leave the office, a cunning look entering his blue eyes. The blonde walked directly over to Willow, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek and temple before taking the bags from her hands. He saw her eyes widen slightly with surprise, a smile crossing his face as he asked, "Have a nice trip, luv?"

"Oh Spike, we had so much fun!" Willow said, actually bouncing as she smiled excitedly. She'd been surprised when he'd kissed her cheek, which was stupid because Spike was a very hands-on friend, always holding her and hugging her and kissing her platonically. He liked to touch his friends and be touched by them, well, he liked to touch her at least. Willow always assumed it came from years of never really having much contact with warmth or being particularly close to anyone. She was just over thinking his actions now because of those stupid women that called themselves her friends and their beliefs that something more than just friendship was happening between her and her best friend. That's the only reason she'd been more attune to the feel of his lips against her cheek and the way his smell surrounded her as he gave her the brief hug.

"Glad to hear it, pet." Spike replied as he gave the glaring Angel a mischievous grin, making sure his hands drifted slowly down Willow's back in a loving way as he kept the redhead close to him.

Faith sensed something was going on, and didn't answer Fred until the physicist called her name again. "Oh, right. Lindsey McDonald actually brought me there."

"WHAT?" Angel asked, forgetting about the redhead and the other vampire for the moment. "When?" He demanded.

"I'm guessing when Wolfram and Hart hired her to kill you, dumb ass." Cordelia answered for the slayer, not able to keep the smug smile from crossing her pretty face.

"And what do you care?" Faith asked, arching a brow as she glared at the vampire, somehow knowing that he'd done something when they'd been gone. She wasn't imagining the way Spike was smugly glaring at Angel or that the blond seemed to have developed a sudden fixation on touching Willow in friendly yet more than friendly ways, all the time smirking at Angel. She resisted the urge to go smack the dark vampire for doing whatever it was he'd done.

"I-I just..." before Angel could embarrass himself any more, Gunn managed to interrupt.

"Guys, those packages aren't going to bring themselves in." He reminded everyone. The men decided that now would be a good time to walk out and get the purchases.

"So, Will, what'd you get Spike?" Cordelia asked as the men left the lobby.

"Yeah, what could he possibly love from the bookstore?" Faith added, curiosity in her dark eyes.

Willow smiled playfully. "That's Spike's business. If he wants to tell you, he'll tell you." Cordelia opened her mouth to speak, but the hacker stopped her. "Uh uh! See this? Resolve face. I'm not telling nothing!"

"Are any of the stores you ladies visited still in business?" Gunn asked as all four men returned with mountains of bags, all carefully labeled with the owners' names.

"Very funny, Charles." Fred answered the youngest of the men sarcastically.

"I thought it was." Spike said with a smile.

"Same here." Wesley added with a wink at the men.

"Did you guys actually bond while we were gone?" Willow asked with amusement. She noticed the glare that Spike gave Angel and vice versa before the blond vampire moved to her side.

Instead of answering her question, Spike gave her a tender look, knowing that Angel was watching and enjoying being able to make the brooding wanker's life a little more miserable. He smiled lovingly as he purred, "I missed you, Red. Time always seems to stand still whenever we're apart."

"Huh?" Willow gaped at him, knowing that she was not imagining his, well, overly sappy words or the look in his eyes as he moved closer to her. She watched as he glanced in Angel's direction, her eyes doing the same, knowing that if looks could kill, Spike would be just a big old pile of dust right now. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as looked back at Spike, doing her best to ignore the flash of disappointment that went through her when she realized Spike was just playing with Angel for some reason. Not disappointment! No, Willow, not thinking that way. Ignore what those silly women said. Spike is your best friend, just your best friend. Nothing more. She slowly smiled at him, seeing his eyes widen in surprise before they gleamed with amusement as she huskily said, "Baby, you know how much I hate being away from you. Why don't you help me take the bags to our room and you can tell me how much you missed me?"

"Oh, pet, I think I'd rather show you," he teased, lowering his voice as he smiled at her, not sure how she'd figured out he was playing with Angel but rather liking this flirty side of his witch.

"Spike, not in front of the children," Willow scolded playfully as she moved her hand under his chin, finding herself enjoying this even as part of her said it was just wrong! She gave him what she hoped was a sexy look and said, "I'm gonna have to punish you for that."

"I think these bags really need to be taken upstairs," he said as he moved her towards the stairs, giving the others a smirk as he noticed their stunned expression, "Ta, luvs. My girl and I have some bags to put away."

Willow glanced at her friends, giving Faith a wink as she hurried up the stairs, waiting until they were in their room before facing Spike and demanding, "Okay, Blondie. What the hell is going on?"


"What?" Spike asked innocently, seeing the way she narrowed her pretty green eyes and knowing that she wasn't buying his innocent act.

"I mean it, William." Spike winced. Willow hardly ever called him that unless she was being really sweet or really angry. "What are you playing at with Angel?"

"Well..." Spike tried to think of a good excuse, but his mind drew a total blank. He'd spent a majority of the afternoon upstairs, thinking and growing more and more angry over Angel's warning and threat. He'd decided to make the wanker's life a little more miserable by pretending that his grandsire's suspicions were true, figuring it wouldn't all that difficult to act like he was in love with Willow. She was his best friend and meant the world to him. He'd not counted on Willow figuring out he was up to something, though he shouldn't have been surprised. His Red was a smart one, after all. Now, she was demanding answers and he didn't know what to tell her, so, he decided on the truth. He said, "That wanker started it!"

"Oh, very mature." Willow's sarcastic tone did not go unnoticed by her best friend. She was trying to stay on topic and not think of why he had to pick NOW to taunt Angel THIS way. She sighed, "Tell me what the hell is going on, Spike."

"Fine," The vampire shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked the redhead in the eye because he knew she'd see what was going on inside him, even if he didn't want to admit how angry that ponce made him. "Your FRIEND, Paingel, just warned me to stay away from you."

"Please tell me you're kidding," She said, running a hand over her face as she saw the anger and hurt in Spike's blue eyes. What the hell had Angel said?

"That Nancy boy couldn't wait until you birds left so he could tell me to stop shagging you and stay away from you," Spike stood suddenly and began to pace. Just thinking about the colossal nerves of that git was starting to grate on his own.

"Did you say, 'stop shagging' me?" Willow asked, her eyes widening as said image came way too easily to her mind. She glanced at the bed they were sharing and looked away quickly. Oh God, this was not good. Not good at all. Spike was her best friend, the most important person in her life, and she couldn't imagine her life without him. She could not risk their friendship by having naughty thoughts about him. She was going to kill Faith and Fred and Cordelia, she decided. It was all their fault!

"Yeah, the dim-witted wanker thinks we're going at it like rabbits," Spike said. Before she could respond, he continued softly, "He says I'll end up hurting you. Like I would ever hurt you, Red." Spike turned to Willow and saw that she was only partially focused on him.

"He honestly thinks we're a couple?" Willow asked quietly. After her discussion with the girls earlier, she was beginning to get a little confused. Sure, she was having some not so platonic feelings towards Spike, but they couldn't possibly know that. So, she didn't understand it. Why do people think we're a couple, she thought.

"Are you not listening, pet?" Spike countered, a bit annoyed that she was off daydreaming when he was telling her why he was so pissed at Angel. He wanted her to know that he'd never hurt her, that she meant the world to him, and that Angel was a miserable bastard for even suggesting such a thing. He headed towards her and stood directly in front of her so they were facing one another. He moved his fingers along her cheek, gaining her attention as he said, "That piece of shit thinks I would have little or no regard for your feelings and that I would purposely ruin our friendship."

"And that's why you let him believe we were doing the horizontal mambo," She stated more than asked, trying to ignore the feeling of his fingers against her cheek. Spike was mad because Angel thought he'd hurt her, in any way, and that he'd risk ruining their friendship by taking their relationship further. She was beginning to understand, figuring that there had to be some kind of miscommunication.

"Well, he made me angry," Spike replied innocently, his lips curving into a playful smile that faded as he said, "Besides, who the bloody hell does he think he is trying to order me away from you?" Rage had returned to his voice.

"Spike, I think you're over reacting," Willow said and sat on the spot Spike had recently vacated. "Maybe that's not what he meant. Maybe I should talk to him."

"Maybe I should put a stake through his heart," Spike snarled, not liking his Red defending Peaches at all. She was his girl, she should have been on his side without having to question the brooding wanker. Too damn smart, he decided crossly, wanting to have every question answered before making up her mind. Let her talk to Angel, she'd see he was right and then she'd have to admit that Angel was a meddling bastard and stop being his friend. He slowly smiled, rather liking that idea.

"Spike." The redhead warned, not at all sure she liked the smirk that was on Spike's face, wishing she knew what had caused it.

"Fine, Red. Talk to him," Spike conceded. "You'll see he's obviously not playing with a full deck."

"Okay," the hacker sighed. "Let's get some of these things put away, then I'll go down and talk to him. I want you to stay here, though. I don't want any provocation from either one of you."


End of Part 17