By Crys Loch

Rating: NC17
Pairing: B/W (with all other up to season 7 pairings implied)
Summary: They're survivors barely recovering. They can help each other.
Notes: Spoilers: These are Season 7 characters without the Season 7 plot. (forget the potentials, First, et al.)
Disclaimer: I did not create, nor do I own the characters or their premise. Joss Whedon did and does. This is for fan fun and no profit.
One Last Thing: A darker fic than the others.


Willow said she wanted to go on patrol. Said she needed to get out of the house. Said she had to get back into the fight. And now Willow was probably dead.

Buffy was cursing to herself as the four vampires circled around her. Her mind screaming she didn't have time for this as she pulled her stake from the fifth disintegrating vamp. Just before she was attacked, she saw three others drag Willow away; heard Willow calling her name; then heard only silence from that direction.

Buffy was growing impatient and angry as the four remaining vampires only circled her, trying to keep her detained. She taunted and teased them, trying to force them to engage in the inevitable battle. Every time she moved towards one, they shifted as a unit, keeping her in their center. She almost drew one into attacking, remarking that his mom must have been a werewolf in heat. She knew she needed to get to Willow. That silence as Willow left her sight echoed with panic in her mind.

'You don't have time for this!' her mind screamed at her, pushing her into more direct action. Deciding she had higher priorities than this fight, Buffy tried to run through the group. Two of the vamps closed together to block her and finally, at least, she could hit something. Kicking one at the knees to drop him to the ground, she knocked the other back with a fist almost through his jaw, then finished him with a stake through his heart. Again, she tried to simply run and catch up to Willow. Again, the other two vampires blocked her escape. 'Fine.' Her mind focused and her smile grew predatory. 'You boys just committed suicide.'

The remaining fight lasted longer than Buffy wanted or planned. The one she had sent to the ground with a blow to the knees was easily staked when he rose and attacked her again. But the remaining two, they were trained fighters. Perhaps they were soldiers once, or maybe they had lived the unlife for a time. They met her blow for blow, and in the violence of the kicks and the strikes, the blocks and moves: her body fell into the rhythm of the fight and her mind got lost in the lust for the kill. Her expression drained to a blank and her eyes focused on blocking their next move and taking her next opportunity. She only wanted the kill. And when the battle was done; there was only dust and new bruises. Her labored breathing and racing pulse felt empty and lacking life. She felt there was little in her heart now to feed her body. She hunted and she killed. And for a little longer each night, she felt that was all that remained of life inside of her: the Slayer. Then her mind slowly again became aware of what had happened earlier and that Willow needed her help. Her heart beat rapid again, this time with a purpose, caring; mixed with anxiety and fear. She raced into the direction the vampires left with Willow, but was forced to slow down and track where they might have gone.

'This can't be happening this way, not now,' Buffy pleaded with the unknown as she followed broken branches and footprints through the cemetery.

The night had started with a little hope. A day filled with more stuttered conversations than awkward silences was an improvement. They had talked, with each other, in short parts, starts than halts, almost throughout the day. The little conversations slowly tempting the remains of their friendship back into their home. It all reminded Buffy of the time a stray cat had chanced to their door hoping for food. She would leave a little food outside hoping one day the cat would approach a little closer in her presence, stay a little longer when there was movement in the house, hesitate to run when she opened the door, and maybe even someday come inside. That was how she thought of her friendship with Willow. Maybe if they kept feeding it, it would keep coming back, and one day, trusting again, would remain. And so they joked a little. They shared dinner. They talked in kind voices with open hands. Little movements. Pausing the conversations. Like leaving the food out then easing the door shut.

And this day had been easier than the others since Willow's return from England. They even talked of magic. How it's a part of Willow now. How it is not now or ever was a drug in her blood, but it was now the blood itself. And the awful truth of what that meant- that it was her that chose to use it to do what was done. It reminded Buffy of her Slayer powers and strength, what she could choose to do. It reminded Buffy of Faith. But what was left unsaid this day was as important as what was said.

They even talked about Spike. A soul returned, the chip gone bad and removed, and a continued relationship she could neither justify nor explain. She appreciated what Willow left unsaid. Willow had been back for months and today they had finally started really talking, in parts. The night had started in a little hope. And since everything is relative, that had meant a great deal.

She needed Willow. Needed her in a way she dare not admit or it would be taken. Willow understood now, they both knew these things: the loss, emptiness, pain, the never ceasing fight, the desire for destruction, and the will to create a sustainable life anyway. A sustainable life. It was all she hoped to build now. After finally accepting the dull scars caused by having to kill the ones she couldn't save. Realizing there was a thrill to the hunt, the chase. Releasing her passions, so tainted and stained by being mixed with her power, on one who would not be hurt. And by accepting these, accept also the love of family and friends. There was laughter, music, food and sleep. There was a sustainable life. And the never ending fight.

The trail finally led to a crypt at the other end of the cemetery. She paused only the moment it took to put her thoughts and fears to the back of her mind, leaving it blank and hard as stone. She did let all the worry she felt feed her anger and ready her body. Prepared to kill, she kicked open the door and ran down the stairs, pausing only when the scene before her contradicted every fear she still held locked in her heart. Buffy stopped in the middle of a seemly empty room. Torches were lit and hanging from stone walls and she noticed footprints on the dirt floor and dust swirling and filling the air. She looked around slowly for the vampires. Her breathing was labored she noted as she listened intently for danger her eyes could not find. There was nothing but stillness, silence. Her eyes focused on the only moving image: Willow hung in chains against the wall. Buffy's breath stopped, adding to the silence.

Willow's wrists were locked to the wall above her head. She was staring blankly across the room, her breathing slow and calm. Buffy noticed the black roots in her red hair, and eyes as dark as coal. 'Dieing embers,' thought Buffy, 'that could still set the world ablaze.' Buffy took one more look around the room then started slowly towards her friend.

"Willow! Are you okay? I was afraid... so much time had passed." Buffy glanced at each side of Willow's neck, quickly and covertly, but still intent on facing this fear. Their eyes met and Buffy closed her own against the cold smile that formed on Willow's otherwise expressionless face.

"Did they bite me, Buffy? I was knocked out. I woke up here. I'd check myself, but..." She rattled the chains that held her arms to finish her sentence. Buffy's heart almost stopped at the suddenly loud echo of metal against stone and at the equally shattered tone in Willow's voice. Something more than just a fight had happened here, Buffy realized. Willow was alive and apparently victorious, but she sounded defeated. She watched as Willow returned her stare to the far wall.

"No. They didn't bite you. I think you're okay. Are you okay?" Buffy moved towards Willow, intent on getting her friend out of the chains and out of this crypt.

"Don't come near me." It was a whisper, harsh and urgent.

Buffy stopped. "I only want to get you down." She whispered in return.

"I didn't even need a pencil this time to save myself." Willow continued as if not hearing Buffy's words. "They just burst into flame one at a time." She paused, still staring at the far wall. "These irons are nothing."

Buffy felt the buzz of magic fill the space around Willow. She could smell a dry acrid residue in the air, and she wondered if magic had a scent or if it was the smoke of burning vamps and their dust that now grated the back of her throat. "Stop!" Buffy commanded, slightly panicked, then waited until Willow finally looked at her. "Keys," she motioned to the wall and continued slowly forward. Buffy reached up against Willow to unlock her arms. She could feel the static air around her. She herself was still taunt with energy from the fight and the need to reach Willow in time. Releasing Willow, they took a few steps back away from each other. Silence again fell across the room.

"You should go. Away. Leave. I need... I need to..." Buffy heard Willow's words and she watched her friend's internal struggle. Willow was shivering slightly, though the crypt was not cold. Buffy's heart leapt with fear than sank in pain as Willow's face betrayed the struggle. She watched Willow's eyes spark and a joyless smile spread, though only for a moment, but a moment too long, before her face fell to show defeat near tears and settled back to an expressionless blank. Buffy watched and realization settled inside of her, absolute. Willow had used magic again and for the first time since coming home to the Hellmouth. And just as with her own coming home, darkness had found a way inside. That was why even in victory, Willow seemed defeated.

"No." Buffy finally understood too well what this darkness was, in herself and in Willow now. It was a void: empty cold space between death and life. Always there was the ache to fill it. And that couldn't be done alone. If ignored it only seemed to grow until you didn't care that it was there. Buffy knew it had to be filled. Willow needed to feel life, let it fill into the space until what little remained could close up and scar. "No. I can't leave you alone. You have to come with me." Buffy started to reach out with her hand, then let it drop at seeing Willow's cold eyes. She started to take a step then hesitated and settled back into just standing and waiting for Willow's reaction.

Willow noticed Buffy's hesitation. "You're afraid of me."

"No." Buffy still didn't move. She wasn't afraid of Willow, but she couldn't explain her fear. She remembered again the stray cat.

"You're afraid for the world." Willow was thrilled briefly at the thought. "First time out and your little sidekick is back in black, huh? Well, this is how it is now, and I've got to learn to live with that. But I'm afraid you can't live with me. And you're just afraid."

"No. I'm not afraid of that, Willow." And to prove it, Buffy started slowly walking to Willow. She didn't want to provoke her, but she wanted to reassure her, convey she understood what had happened and what she was feeling now. "You did something you had to do to survive. You did whatever you had to do to survive." Buffy reached her friend and gently took her hand. "But I'm going to ask that you trust me. You can't stay alone. You have to feel, remember, why you survived."

"Buffy, just go. I promise I won't end the world. I can deal with this." Willow let her growing anger be heard in her tone.

"I know." Buffy tried again. She had thought of her friendship as something lost or hiding. Now she realized they had just been angry with each other. Each time one was hurting and the other didn't seem to notice, care or help; they took a step back away from the other. The distance making it harder to reach out the next time, and so it had continued until now they stood at the edges of their chasm; stubbornly hoping a bridge could be built; neither daring to be the first to cross. Buffy was ready to make the leap. There wasn't much to lose anymore by crossing the distance only to be rejected. If they could just trust and help each other, all the rest would work out. They needed each other too much and needed too much from each other after all these years to just walk on egg shells hoping it could mend itself. "Willow, I don't think you're gonna end the world over killing some vamps. But you got the after fight deadness going on. And I can help."

"If you leave I can just deal with this on my own." Willow's voice lost some of the anger and she stared slightly confused at their joined hands.

"If I leave you'll just swallow it and it will stay inside of you. If you trust me, we can burn it out." Buffy held her breath. There it was. Would Willow trust her? She watched as Willow's gaze traveled up to her own eyes. Buffy let a calm sureness show in her eyes and a small smile erase the worry on her face. Still, her heart raced, waiting for the answer. She didn't fear Willow anymore, in her currant state or her potential. This shared darkness was like a common ground they could finally stand on together. She stared unflinching into Willow's black eyes, willing her to see that this time, this night, she could be trusted: to understand and to help.

"I feel cold." Willow offered a weak smile and gave Buffy's hand a light squeeze.

"I know. Come on." Buffy took the admission as acceptance and started to gently pull Willow out of the crypt. She had an idea, a plan to burn off the residue of the fight, spark life and remember the fun. It usually worked for her, even if it was Faith who introduced it to her.

They continued, leaving the cemetery and moving down a deserted street. The Bronze wasn't far from the cemetery. Nothing in Sunnydale was ever far from a cemetery. "Normal cities have central parks," Buffy muttered to herself.

When Willow saw their destination, she stopped. "What the hell! I'm not going in there."

"Why?" Buffy challenged.

"I can't. Be around people. I'm not safe right now." Willow was looking at Buffy like she betrayed her, or was a little insane.

Buffy sighed and took both of Willow's hands in her own. She heard the hint of pain in Willow's voice and noticed a look of failure gray her eyes just before Willow bowed her head to stare at the ground. Buffy tried to reassure and push her. "You're safe, Willow. Or at least as safe as you've ever been." She smiled to take all the harm out. "There's music and dancing in there. The stuff to take the mind off it and the blood pumping. I promise, if the magic bleeds out and the place goes Technicolor disco land, I'll say something."

Again, Buffy met and held Willow's blank stare. There was no expression on Willow's face to give a hint at the decision being made. So she kept her own features open and her eyes caring. "You're safe, Willow," she repeated. "You're safe with me. The people in there are safe with you. And this isn't about them anyway. It's about us. Me, pulling you back into life." Buffy continued, trying to get Willow to understand that she understood. Trying to ask Willow to trust. "I'll bet you can't even feel your heart beating right now. I bet you barely feel my hands on yours." She kept a non-judgmental sureness in her tone, and watched as Willow took in a sudden breath as her words hit home.

"Okay, but if people start turning into frogs, it's your fault. Frogs creep me out." Willow relented.

Buffy's smile widened in relief as she pulled her into the club, paying at the door along the way. The first stop was the bar. Buffy wasn't sure alcohol was the best idea right now, but thought it really wouldn't hurt either. Buffy left Willow at the edge as she slid through the crowd to order their drinks. Returning with two beers in her hands she stopped to observe her friend. She noticed most of the people were avoiding Willow, moving away and around her, probably not even aware of why they were uneasy. But two guys, and she smirked when she realized one girl, were trying to get Willow's attention and acceptance. Buffy watched for a moment as they moved into Willow's space. She wasn't sure if they were flirting or challenging, but she could tell by the expression on Willow's face and the way her hands flexed into fists and then released that they were unwelcome and would soon be turned into frogs. She wondered what it was in some that attracted them to the dangerous as she hurried back through the crowd to run interference. Whatever it was, she knew she had it in herself.

Buffy handed Willow her beer and ignoring the others, pulled her from them and over to a table. In an attempt to make it clear they were not to follow, she placed her arm around Willow's waist as they made their way through the crowd.

Sitting at a table, Willow watched Buffy take a seat opposite her and start on her beer. "Okay, um, thanks for the escort, but what was that about?"

"Your rescue. You didn't look overly happy with the guys, or even the girl." Buffy shrugged and took another sip of her beer.

"Well, you're right. Though the girl wasn't that bad. But there was about to be a little mayhem if they didn't back off." Willow looked down and then took a long sip of her beer.

Buffy smiled and took Willow's free hand in her own. If there was one thing she could readily empathize with a tendency for, it was violence. "If they didn't back off, there would be a guy flying through a wall, slayer style."

Willow looked up. "Why are we here again?"

"To remember the fun. The why we survive." Buffy repeated, touching her beer to Willow's as if it was a toast. "Screw guilt."

"To strange bedfellows." Willow toasted back, then drank till she had to breathe. "Besides, you have less to feel guilty over."

Buffy just stared at Willow for a moment. She gave herself time to think about just what she really wanted to say and how to say it. Things between them were actually getting better now. And if she could say this right, maybe they could finally say anything to each other again. "Well, I could give the list, but many you were the one to call me on in the first place. Or just forgave me outright. So lets just move along to my two most recent crimes."

"Buffy." Willow tried to interrupt.

Buffy continued. "No, Will. This is good. Guilt's shy, can't screw with the lights on. So lets talk about this. The second most recent being I was so angry and empty at being brought back here that I abandoned you, all of you. I turned my back and left you to fight your demons on your own. And there were consequences and as the Initiative would call it, collateral damage."

"That wasn't your fault, that was mine." Willow just stared at what remained of her beer.

"Fault, no. That was no-one's fault save for one bastard in particular. Guilt? There's plenty of guilt all around. Plus, the next most recent is the fact that I asked those same Initiative guys to remove Spike's chip. Thus giving him his teeth back and perhaps killing us all in our sleep. Though his style is more take your time and hear 'em screaming." Buffy wasn't sure what compelled her to this conversation and confession. This is not what she had in mind, but she wanted Willow to understand she wasn't the only one trying to live with herself.

"While we are on this subject, what the hell were you thinking?!" Willow erupted accusingly then slouched back down in her seat, letting out a breath and staring at the table. "And when did everything go from black and white good guys and bad guys to shades of gray slippery slopes that could end the world?"

Buffy laughed again. At least Willow was going to play along with this little bit of clearing the air. "I don't know. That he has a soul now. But please don't think for a moment that means he's not dangerous. He's no Angel." At Willow's shaking her head at the bad pun, she continued on. "He's not safe, Willow. He's just obsessed. But he could be one of the good guys. With everything he's done, I thought he deserved the chance. We'll find out I guess."

"You love him?" Willow offered.

Buffy shook her head. "No. But two out of three ain't bad."

Willow thought a moment about the reference, finally placing it. It only added to how messed up she thought they were right now. "Spike's back and Warren's dead." Willow touched her beer to Buffy's in another toast and took a long sip.

"That about sums it up." Buffy agreed and joined her. "I am glad I have you back. You, how you are. Not past you, back in high school times." She held Willow's disbelieving eyes, refusing to blink or take the words back. "It must feel like being pulled back into hell, being here, around all this again." Buffy offered.

Willow's breath caught at the reference. She looked at her life now and tried to explain. "It's just that everyone is so afraid of saying anything around me, of saying it the wrong way. Or maybe they're just afraid of me. And it's so lonely. Plus, every time I do magic, it touches something here. That something being the Hellmouth. But I can't not do magic. Cause there's this whole fight for the Hellmouth thing. And yeah, there's some anger, that you all would let me go that far, then expect me to come back and fight some more. Oh."

"I know." Buffy was relieved that Willow said it out loud. Now maybe she could get back on track and show Willow why they even bothered with the fight in the first place. "Still, I'm so glad to have you back. You know what we need to do now?"

"Try to destroy the world?" Willow tempered the suggestion with a grin.

"No, Brain. Dance." Buffy drained her beer, smiling when she was able to down the almost full bottle without spilling a drop.

"Pinky, you're nuts." Willow pointed out, she felt, yet again.

"Will," Buffy rose from her seat and taking Willow's hand, pulled her towards the dance floor. "If you're gonna fight me the whole way it will only make me want it more."

Buffy pulled Willow to the dance floor. Dancing always got her blood pumping and her mind off death and violence. She moved effortlessly to some no lyrics techno that the DJ piped through speakers turned up too loud. So quickly, she seemed lost in her own world and a beat that interfered with her heart's rhythm. Her eyes were closed, hands moving through her hair and over her swaying hips, as if there was someone dancing with her. Then she felt that no one was dancing with her.

Buffy opened her eyes and sighed when she saw Willow barely moving. She looked strained and afraid, like when she first met her in high school. She knew Willow had spent the years since then opening with self confidence and even sexual energy. She knew Willow knew how to dance. She moved towards her, putting her hands on Willow's hips to draw her in even closer and leaning up to place her lips near her ear to be heard over the music. "Willow, dance. Dance with me even. Just feel the music at least. Let go." She stayed close, her hands remaining on Willow's hips as they started to move. Buffy smiled when Willow's arms rested over her shoulders and she felt her relax. She started into a rhythm they could move to together, holding Willow close. Buffy was determined to pull Willow back towards life and hold her there.

The music never stopped, blending one song into the next till they lost count. Buffy watched the effects of magical energy from the fight ebbing from her friend and through the crowded dance floor. The urgency in the crowd's dancing heightened. Their gazes glowed with more fire. They needed and their desire grew and they didn't know why. She was the only one who noticed that it was change. But it wouldn't hurt them. Whatever possessed them tonight would fade with the day, and whatever consequences there were, they could just deal with it themselves. Everything was relative, and compared to what they've done before, this was nothing. What she really wondered about was how easy it was dancing with Willow. She thought maybe the magic was affecting her as well. Willow of course was used to dancing with a woman. And she had danced before with Faith. But the more they relaxed into the music, the closer they became. She thought maybe it was as simple as they both needed to feel someone was close right now. Buffy felt Willow rest her head on her shoulder, then she watched as Willow suddenly pulled up and away, stopped dancing, turned and walked though the crowd and out of the Bronze. Cursing a little to herself, she followed.

Finding Willow near the entrance to a dead end alley beside the club, Buffy approached slowly. "Willow, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong? What isn't wrong? What those people are feeling in there right now, that's wrong. You thought I didn't notice? What I'm almost feeling, that's really wrong." Willow started pacing and backing further down the alley.

Buffy noticed Willow was backing herself almost against the back wall and hid in the shadows. She followed, slowly. And when Willow stopped, she stopped and leaned calmly against a side wall. "What are you feeling, Willow?"

At the question, Willow started pacing again, never looking directly at Buffy, and nearly shouting. "You know, Buffy. At least you keep saying you know. And I'm guessing you could at least catch a clue. I feel so cut off. God, I just want to connect to something. And the music isn't doing it, babe." Willow stopped again and tried to calm down. In a quieter voice, "I know what I could connect to; but it's really not cold, dark power I want to feel any more. And... and anything else, I'd just hurt someone right now."

"You wouldn't hurt me." Buffy almost didn't believe she said that. But her need to pull Willow back from the void was now mixing with her own need to feel life as well. She knew what Willow was feeling, what she wanted. She briefly reasoned that doing this was certainly less evil than having sex with Spike, then never thought of it again. She wanted so desperately to feel connected to Willow again. While they were dancing, she almost felt Willow open up. She realized if she wanted Willow to open up, she would have to first let her in.

When Willow's only reaction was to shake what she'd heard out of her head, Buffy tried again. "Willow..." Still, Willow only looked at the ground. "Willow, look at me." Willow then raised her head and Buffy's breath caught with the intensity of the black eyes as they traveled over her body and finally held her eyes. Her breathing resumed a little deeper than before, her pulse racing a little faster. Willow broke her stare, only to let it wander over Buffy's body again. "Will, I tore through five vamps trying to reach you in time. You don't think I know what you're feeling right now? Or what I'm saying?"

Willow charged Buffy, stopping directly before her. Placing both hands against the wall, she trapped Buffy between her arms and leaned in. "I think you have no idea what you're saying. Or what it does to me." She closed her eyes, but opened them again to stare at Buffy's lips.

Buffy watched Willow watching her. She licked her lips unconsciously in response. 'How long has Willow wanted me? Have I ever wanted Willow?' Buffy pushed the thoughts from her mind. Even through the coal eyes, she could see the hunger and thirst. She remembered what it was like: starving to feel connected to someone again, terrified you'd only hurt them, sure that the only way you'd feel anything ever again was through overwhelming passion. The passion could be from anger or lust, or both. But at first it seemed that passion was the only thing that could get through the cold. She placed her hands on Willow's hips and relaxed against the wall. "You can't hurt me, Willow."

She watched Willow's eyes respond to the challenge, a fire finally tinting the cold black as Willow stared into her own open, accepting gaze. She let Willow fall forward into her arms and against her body, welcomed the crushing kiss that quickly deepened. Her arms circled and held Willow tighter, a moan escaping around the kiss when she felt Willow's thigh move between her legs and press against her center. Willow pulled back slightly, breathing deeply as a predatory grin spread over her flushed face. Buffy felt Willow's hand slip between them to knead her breast, pinching a nipple. She shuddered in response, her eyes willing Willow to continue. Nails dragged over her chest and she leaned her head back and moaned, pressing herself forward into Willow's hand and moving against the thigh between her legs, increasing the pressure. She whispered Willow's name when she felt her arms untangled from Willow's back and pressed to her sides against the wall. A tingled pressure covered her body as she heard Willow's whispered command, "Stay," and she realized she was pinned, immobile. The look of passion and desire that now filled Willow's eyes stalled any reaction and a moan as Willow's fingers traced under her skirt and up her thigh was her only response. She gasped as a spark of heat from magic removed her panties and Willow's fingers slid through her wet cunt and slipped inside. Her eyes closed as Willow pressed against her and another kiss began.

Buffy never mentioned that she couldn't move below the neck. She simply responded to the kiss, reacted to her touch and let it consume her. She only wanted to feel Willow, know her, let her behind every wall she had, let her inside. And in return, she would drive herself into Willow, let her know she wasn't alone. She would give her herself, her body, a thousand times over for Willow. And always would have if only asked. Still a lone thought managed to be heard through the haze, 'One of these nights, maybe tonight, this reaction to darkness and danger is going to hurt you.' It wasn't taken as a warning, only a thrill. She wished her body could shudder as the sensations rolled through her. It felt like Willow filled her and she wasn't sure how. She could feel the fingers inside her, pounding and reaching for her center. The heel of Willow's hand pressed roughly over her clit. Her other hand was pinching her nipples. Willow's mouth was now kissing her neck, biting her collar bone. God, if she could only shudder, shake, move into the hands that now had her, possessed her. She stood prone and frozen against the wall as Willow drove her to a mind blinding climax, her body's only possible reaction an almost muted screaming of her name. She wished her body could slump to the ground.

Buffy recovered, slowing her pulse, mentally finding and filling the rest of her body. She watched Willow slowly take in what happened. She could see regret warring with victory, fear facing need move across her face. She was relieved to find Willow's eyes had lost their black emptiness. She noted that still, with the magic that held her, the red hair was tinged in dark. Quietly, she whispered the reminder. "Willow, release me."

Willow look up, confused for a moment before realization followed. With a motion Buffy was freed from the spell. "Buffy, I'm so sorry. I knew I would hurt you. Oh God, I... I..."

Buffy cut her off. Once again able to move, she closed the distance between them and holding Willow's head brought their lips together, deepening the kiss when Willow was startled into parting her lips. She moved her hands down to her back, holding her as close as she could. She wanted to cut off the regrets and fears that fueled the apology. She had better ideas for an explosion and wanted Willow to know she wasn't alone. She was loved and wanted.

Willow pulled away after a moment, then turned and ran out of the alley. Cursing again, Buffy carefully followed, waiting till Willow slowed to a halt in front of a closed store front to approach her again.

"Again, I'll ask, what's wrong?" Buffy was confused. She could tell by the kiss that Willow still wanted more. She could feel the desire and passion awaken the friend she was trying to reach all night and still, she pulled away.

Willow looked defeated. "Buffy, I forced myself on you."

"I practically dared you to, Willow." Buffy reminded her.

"I guess since I couldn't destroy the world, I chose to ruin our friendship." Willow admitted the fear in a faint voice, staring at the pavement.

"Hey, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere." Buffy smiled and wrapped her arms loosely around Willow.

Willow looked into her eyes, disbelieving. "I pinned you against a wall with magic."

"And I didn't say anything, did I?" Buffy pointed out.

"Buffy, just how much with the kink did Spike turn you?" Willow accused suddenly. She couldn't believe something like what she had just done would ever be alright with Buffy.

The question made Buffy pause a moment, her smile fading. Deciding it was more confusion than accusation, she shrugged and let a smile again soften her features. "Let's leave that confession for another moment of insanity." Buffy noticed the store had a solid door, and the front windows were blocked by displays. 'Perfect.' She released Willow, taking her hand and leading her to the door. Breaking the lock with a kick, she pulled them inside and closed the door.

"What are you doing?" Willow was shaking slightly. "Buffy, I said I'm sorry. I just... It just..."

Buffy's smile grew seductive as she pulled Willow to her and kissed her again. "Believe me, I know what you did. I can still feel you." Her eyes held Willow's, she watched the fear tangle with the need. "Willow, trust me," she whispered once again and leaned in slowly, beginning another kiss.

This time Willow responded. Buffy felt arms wrapping around her, stroking her back, tangling in her hair and pulling her closer. When the kiss paused, Buffy continued to try and ease Willow's fears. "I want you to feel what I felt. That we aren't alone. That I know: what the constant fight has done to you, what you feel now, what you need to feel connected back to life in the daylight world." Buffy backed Willow against the door, kissing her again and pressing her thigh against Willow's center in a mirror image of what had happened in the alley.

Buffy heard Willow moan around the kiss and felt her relax against the door. Buffy's hands on her shoulders kept her as pinned and steady as the earlier spell. She moved a hand down over Willow's breasts and continued down to undo her pants. Slipping her hand inside, she traced the wetness through and around her lips.

"Buffy. Yes, please." Willow arched against Buffy's touch.

Buffy found her clit and started to lightly circle it. She brought her other hand to Willow's right breast, gently stroking the nipple. Smiling at Willow's words, she traced an ear with her tongue and laid kisses down her neck.

Willow groaned, a little frustrated, and started to move against Buffy's hands, trying to increase the contact. "This is payback, for the spell, isn't it?"

Buffy chuckled and increased the pressure. "No. This is me, never really doing this before."

"Mmm. Better." Willow smiled, letting herself finally feel, letting go to the sensations. Noticing the scar on Buffy's neck, she traced it with a finger. "Did Spike ever bite you?"

Buffy couldn't feel the touch over her scar, but her mind flooded with the memories. Her body reacted. She increased the speed and pressure over Willow's clit. She ran a fingernail over her breast and across her nipple, causing Willow to gasp. Her whole body began to move against and with Willow's. Whispering directly into her ear, "No. Why do you ask?"

"Ah, um, I just imagine it feels something like this." Willow managed with some effort to get out.

Buffy smiled at Willow's response and her reaction. She felt Willow pull her closer and she pressed Willow harder against the door, melding their bodies, trying to push herself inside if she could.

"It does, when it's not taken from you, when it's something that you give, it feels very much like this." Buffy confessed. "Should I ask Spike to bite you so you know how it feels?" She teased then started to nibble Willow's neck.

"No! No, that's okay. I'll let Spike be your after fighting work it out guy." Willow shuddered at Buffy's touch and tilted her head as Buffy nipped at her pulse point.

Buffy could feel Willow was nearing a climax. She felt Willow relax in her arms as she shook and jumped in rhythm to her touch.

"Then I'll be yours." Buffy promised. She pressed hard on Willow's clit and bit down on her neck. She didn't draw blood, but sucked at the skin, trying to draw Willow to her. She heard Willow scream her name and shake in her arms. She felt Willow's hand on the back of her head, holding her against her neck, so she deepened the bite, reacting to Willow's reaction.

Buffy stopped when she felt the shaking end and Willow stood limp in her arms. Buffy raised her head and closed her eyes, not daring to see Willow's as realization of what she'd done caught up with her. "Will, I'm so sorry." She felt a finger over her lips, stopping her from saying anything more and she opened her eyes.

"Don't. You feel strong. I feel safe, and warm and whole again." Willow closed her eyes and relaxed into Buffy's arms.

Buffy just watched the friend in her arms as she breathed deeply, regaining her strength. Then Willow's smile faded and she noticed fear return to Willow's face as what happened tonight finally settled in. She wondered if fear would ever leave the features of the once confident woman.

"Buffy?" Willow asked as she opened her eyes and pulled back.

"Yeah, Willow. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. Well, we should get home." Buffy assured her, though she was unsure herself about what would happen next. If Willow regretted this, it would cut deeper than any words before, than any of the silences now.

Willow let a breath escape and relaxed. "Good. I was just worried. You know. That we just screwed us up."

Buffy felt Willow pull her closer and held her in return. "Well, I'd have to say we were closer now than we've ever been." She smirked then grew more serious. Holding Willow tight and softening her tone, Buffy tried to take any sting out of her next words. "You know this doesn't mean... I mean we aren't or can't be..."

"I know." Willow cut her off and pulled away enough to let Buffy see her smile. "And thank you."

Buffy smiled and relaxed, letting her arms loosely wrap around Willow's waist. "Friends?" At Willow's answering nod, she reached up to stroke away stray strands of hair from Willow's face. "It's nice to see your natural hair and eye color again."

Willow laughed softly and leaned her head back against the door, exhausted from the events of the night and relief. "You gonna do this every time I go all Black Magic Woman?"

"Every time." Buffy smiled. "Seriously, you go down into the darkness to stand at the edge of the abyss, I'll go in after ya. What happens after that... end of the world, sex in an alley..." Buffy shrugged. "Damn near the same thing, really."

Willow's grin was sweet and soft and she put her arms up around Buffy's shoulders and started to play with her hair. "And when you get all edgy? Can I come in and play, too?"

"Will, my edges all have violent tendencies." Even if she felt she couldn't turn to Willow in those times, just admitting it to her felt like so much more than was even possible just earlier in the night.

"We'll see. I'm stronger than I look." Willow warned her. "Buffy, lets help each other. Lets finally just fucking help each other instead of always protecting the other."

Buffy's eyebrows rose at the curse but she got over it quickly. "Agreed."

"Good. Now all I gotta do is deal with wanting you since high school and we're all set." It was Willow's turn to smirk.

"Willow!" Buffy's shocked expression quickly faded into her blush and she lowered her head to hide it.

Willow laughed, genuinely laughed. "With all that happened tonight, you blush at that?" Willow tilted Buffy's head with a finger till the warmth in her eyes could travel to Buffy's. "Don't worry, I can deal with a crush on a friend. In fact, it will be easier now."

"I know, it's just... well, I don't know what it's just." Buffy took a calming breath. "We should go."

"Yeah, lets get on home." Willow agreed.

Before Buffy thought better of it, she leaned in and gave Willow a quick kiss on the lips. "We'll be okay." Willow smiled and nodded.

They walked home in a silence easier than any conversations they'd had in years.

The End

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