All's Fair By Crys Loch



"Escape is beyond boring." Buffy complained as she slouched in the seat, resting her head against the window. Many exit signs had passed since the last time anyone said anything. The songs on the radio all long ago started sounding the same; each a favorite easily forgotten in the dull miles of nothingness. They've been driving for hours; on the one road, in the one direction.

"I thought I'd be more excited. I think there's just been too much time to think." Willow glanced toward Buffy, trying to gauge how much thinking her friend has been doing herself.

"Finally sinking in?" Buffy had enough of tuning out the radio and even this topic was better than their silence.

"Sinking fast. And you know what's the lead weight?" Willow was grateful to hear their voices instead of the radio, however the topic was received.

"What?" Buffy was honestly curious now.

"I keep thinking about everything I've done since last night. And I remember, I've done some pretty mixed up things before. But before, even with a reason or a good intention, there was some doubt and later guilt. So now I look on last night and tonight; and that part that tugs and pulls and pokes, it's just not there. I guess... I guess what happened really happened." Willow confessed and waited.

"Isn't that a good thing?" Buffy pointed out, shrugging when Willow glanced at her. "The lack of guilt. I mean we are evil now, right?"

"We're not evil, Buffy." Willow stared ahead at the dimly lit road and the darkness that surrounded it, trying to sort through what she meant. "I've been evil. And, and I've had it inside me." Willow paused again, searching, but not finding. "This just feels different."

Buffy watched Willow for a moment, considering what she was trying to say. "Well, it's not good. Feels kinda good, but..." Buffy started to lightly knock her head against the side window. "I feel like I should be out there, hunting."

"You're hungry?" Willow felt her own need for a kill, and quickly her mind locked it down.

"If that's what you want to call it." Buffy smiled a little to herself. "It's not exactly the stomach that growls. I'm restless and bored."

"Well, I'm thinking we should just go till we get enough distance between us and Sunnydale to stop and settle down. Start making a new life somewhere." Willow knew they couldn't keep running for long, night after night trapped in a car, without killing each other.

"Sun will come up before then." Buffy pointed out, noticing that Willow was ignoring the turn in the topic before.

"We'll stop when we have to. It'll only take a couple of days I think." Willow had found solace in thinking of their future when thoughts of her past were too overwhelming.

Buffy didn't let the change in topic continue. "Willow, don't you feel it? The night?"

"Of course I do." Willow whispered the admission.

"But you're fighting it." Buffy pressed.

"I'm controlling it." Willow corrected, glancing toward Buffy then back to the road. "Aren't you?"

"Well at the moment I'm stuck in a car. Long term future plans? I don't see where it matters." Buffy adjusted sideways in her seat so she could lean against the door and watch Willow.

Willow closed her eyes for just a brief moment at the words. "It does matter. We still have free will. We can define ourselves."

"I've always been defined. No choice." Buffy leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

"That's not true and you know it!" Willow erupted.

Buffy's eyes snapped open, the force and anger of Willow's words surprising her. "Willow, you said it yourself, we don't have a soul. And we don't have to save the world anymore. This whole question of right or wrong, it doesn't matter."

"I would think you wouldn't want to be a puppet of the Powers anymore, on either side." Willow challenged. "We don't have to be evil."

"I now hunt to feed. Not exactly non-evil." Buffy remembered the warmth and passion in the blood of that first kill, and closed her eyes.

"Well, the wolf isn't evil." Willow countered.

Buffy laughed shortly. "Remember when we thought any thing that killed a human was evil? If we're not, what is?" Buffy looked back at Xander.

"How is he?" Having no real answer, Willow hoped the topic would drop.

"Still dead to the world." Buffy settled back in her seat and sighed at the continuing road. "I just feel so empty inside. It's like I'm not connected to anything anymore." She stared at the dark nothing that lined this stretch of road, moving her hand over her chest to feel her heart not beating and listen to the silence of her breath.

"I know." Willow moved her hand to rest on Buffy's thigh, gently reminding her she wasn't really alone.

Buffy smiled in surprised relief at the contact. Covering Willow's hand with her own, she tried to quiet her mind. There escape continued in silence and the unheard static of the radio.

The few remaining hours of the night passed without any notice until the press of the imminent sunrise was felt. "There's a town coming up and the sun will rise soon. We should stop and figure out where to spend the day." Willow suggested. She was tired.

"Okay." Buffy was quick to agree, careless of where they were and only wanting to stop.

"Um, Buffy, where are we going to stay?" Willow moved to the right lane as the signs suggested any one of the next four exits.

Buffy thought a moment and making a face, removed one possibility from the list. "Not another motel. First off, I'm tired of them. Second, they're a little too public. I mean what do we say? Hi, we want to check in now and check out at midnight? Plus, if I'm not mistaken, we have no money. We'd have to kill everyone in there just for a good day's sleep."

"True, what cash we could find we've spent on gas. No plastic, no tracing seemed like a good idea at first." Willow couldn't think of another option though.

Buffy's mind had continued on with the puzzle. "There's staying in an abandoned building or breaking into a warehouse or something. But when sleepy head does wake up he's gonna be very hungry. So, we'll need someone. That leaves us borrowing that someone's house."

"Buffy!" Willow was a little shocked though she accepted Buffy's points. "We can't. Besides, who's gonna just invite us in at this hour?"

"We can." Buffy corrected. "Or if you prefer, we have to. I saw a sign for a community college. Head for some apartment complex around there and we'll see who's still up." Buffy knew this was the safest plan and crossing her arms, turned to Willow with her 'this is the plan' face.

Willow knew the look and more than that, knew Buffy was right. Reminding herself of the past two nights and that this hesitation was only in her mind, she conceded to the plan. "Okay."

Redding sat quietly on both sides of the I-5, sprawled seemingly in one layer on the bare patch of northern California between the mountains into Oregon and the more fertile Napa Valley. It felt like a suburb without a city, and unlike Sunnydale, without a beach or even a mall. Denny's was the only thing they saw open as Willow exited the freeway and followed the signs toward the community college.

They wove their way slowly through the parking areas in a collection of apartments near the college: five buildings, two stories each, and looking exactly the same. Passing the third building, their search for an awake tenant was almost ending in vain. Just like the ordinary chain stores that defined the town's center, the apartments were closed in sleep. As they headed toward the last two buildings, Buffy noticed a car pulling into the lot from another entrance. Pointing, she directed Willow to follow the car. Two men got out and made their way to a dimly lit apartment on the first floor. They stumbled over to the door, holding each other up and telling each other in loud slurred whispers to be quiet. Buffy smiled as Willow pulled into a nearby parking spot, watching as the men knocked on the door and waited. College boys would be easy.

"Okay, here's the plan." Buffy started as Willow shut off the car. "I'll go up, smile and ask if I can use their phone or something. They'll let me in. Once the renter's dead..."

"Buffy." Willow started but stopped, her thoughts tangled and tripping over the impulse for safety and her hunger.

"Willow, all this thinking you're doing, it's going to get you hurt." Buffy opened the door and got out before a debate could start. Leaning inside she instructed, "Just be ready with Xander when I open the door to let you in." She shut the door and walked up to the apartment.

Buffy smoothed her shirt, pulling it tight and cloaked her face in a smile. As the door opened to her knock, she recognized the man as the same one who let the others in. "Hi. Um, I saw your light on and I'm a little lost and I was hoping I could come in and borrow your phone to call my friend."

The man looked in question at Buffy, holding the door slightly open and keeping the view into his apartment blocked behind him. "Well, I can just give you directions if you tell me where you're trying to go."

Buffy was a little surprised that this wasn't all it took for the door to swing wide and with a lecherous smile, invited in. Thinking fast, she continued her story. "But, I don't know where I'm going. I thought she lived in these apartments. Please, it'll just be a moment."

The man checked inside quickly, then turning back, looked at Buffy, considering. Opening the door, he relented. "Okay, come in." As Buffy smiled and brushed closely past him into the apartment, he shut the door and started to lead her to the kitchen area. "The phone's here."

Buffy glanced around the apartment, noting the main room with the two men from before seated on the sofa; lost in animated conversation with each other, laughing, and not paying any attention to her or what was happening. The kitchen area opened to the room and a small hallway lead to the right of the two main living spaces. Veering off to the side, she started down the hallway.

"Hey!" The man followed after her. "Where are you going?"

"Sorry, looking for a bathroom first." Buffy passed the open door to the bathroom, choosing instead the only other door in the hallway. Opening it, she stepped into the bedroom and got a sense as to why her first request hadn't magically opened the door for her. Arching an eyebrow, she took in the provocative photos of men that decorated the walls.

He entered the room just behind her. Rushing past Buffy, he moved in front of her to stop her progress into the room. "The bathroom's back there."

"You live here alone?" Buffy asked him while continuing to look around the room.

"Yeah. Listen, I think you have the wrong idea or something. Maybe you should just go." He tried to guide her out the door.

Reaching behind her, Buffy shut the door. "I know. It doesn't matter now anyway." Buffy grabbed the man by the shoulders and pulled him to her. Before he could protest, she let her demon to her face and sank her fangs into his neck. He didn't struggle, only gasped at the pain, quickly weakening and sinking into her arms. She felt it again, the rush, passion and life in the blood as it filled her. Slowly, her body warmed and her senses roared. She pulled it from him, emptying him into herself. Closing her eyes as it ended, she let herself feel the heat and hum of life, like feeling the sun as everything woke in spring. She paused only the moment and remembering that Willow was waiting for her, she picked up the body and laid him on the bed.

Buffy exited the room and crossed the hall to the bathroom. Turning on the light, she started the water to wash any traces of blood from her face before entering the main room. She raised her head and looked to the mirror out of habit. Buffy stared at the mirror a long moment; seeing only the reflection of the wall behind her, a chill crawled through her body and she closed her eyes. Focusing on the rest of the night and what still needed to be done, she splashed the warm water over her face and dried herself clean with a towel, being careful not to glance at the mirror again.

Returning to the main room, Buffy was heading to the door when she stopped, staring at the sofa. The two men she had followed into the apartment were kissing each other, oblivious to what had just happened and the danger they were in. "Um, guys, sorry to interrupt, but I'm just gonna let some friends of mine in." Buffy continued to the door.

The men jumped apart. "You're still here? I thought you were going to just use the phone. Where's Jack?" One of the men asked, rising from the sofa.

"Oh, I never really needed the phone." Buffy remarked offhandedly, keeping the two drunk men confused and stalled. She opened the door just as she heard one of them wonder aloud, "What?"

She smiled reassuringly to Willow as she opened the door wide. Standing in front of her on the threshold, Willow was holding Xander in her arms, cradling him to herself. Buffy laughed at the improbable sight, the unease of not seeing herself in the mirror replaced with a more humorous affirmation of their current circumstance. "Wow, it's SuperWillow," Buffy commented with a smirk and making a sweeping gesture towards the room, invited Willow inside.

Willow rolled her eyes, adjusted Xander a little in her arms and walked into the apartment. She paused to orient herself, hearing Buffy shut and lock the door behind her. As Buffy walked past her into the main room towards the two men, Willow followed. She made her way straight to the sofa and laid Xander down as both men stumbled out of her way.

"What's wrong with him?" One of the men asked.

"He's cute," the other noticed, swaying and smiling.

Buffy walked slowly up to him. "You think so?" She smiled. "Then you're for him." She informed him just before she spun his head with a punch, knocking him out cold.

"Hey!" The other man tried to rush to his friend and Willow reacted; grabbing his arms, she held him firmly in front of her. Terror finally registered on his face as he struggled uselessly in her grasp. Willow watched the realization that he was going to die fill his eyes and closing her own, she let her face change as she bent forward to his neck, felt her fangs extend into his flesh and her mouth fill with his blood. She pulled quickly at his life, holding him to her as he died. When it was done, she relaxed back into human form and looked back towards Buffy.

Buffy had never simply witnessed Willow feeding yet, and felt a heated flush wash over her at the softly brutal and beautiful sight. A contented smile graced Willow's face as she fed and remained even now as Willow looked at her, holding the limp man upright in her arms. It reminded Buffy again of the sun.

Willow was a little surprised to find Buffy intently watching her and was unsure how to read her smile. It seemed to subtly move from predatory to sexual, then settle into friendly. In any case, Buffy was smiling at her and combined with the heat that now filled her, all seemed right in her world. "Where should I put him?" Willow quietly asked, trying not to break the ease of the moment.

Buffy shrugged. "Let's put him in the bedroom with his friend I guess. We'll stay here in the main rooms for the day."

Willow picked up the body and motioned Buffy to lead the way.

"Oh, right, it's at the end of the hall." Buffy started down the small hallway with Willow following and opened the bedroom door, letting them both inside. She watched as Willow laid him on the bed next to his friend. She nearly laughed when Willow looked around the room, eyebrows raised as she took in the pictures on the walls. She held it in though when Willow's troubled face returned to her own. "What's wrong? I mean I know the police are going to jump to all sorts of stupid conclusions now, but..."

Willow interrupted her, her thoughts straining her voice slightly. "It's just I don't think I should be killing my own kind, Buffy."

Buffy did laugh then, short and edgy. Smirking, she thought of who she had become even before the turning. Her mind quickly tallied her decisions leading to her final apocalypse and the human cost of that victory; then the choices of the questioning woman in front of her following a simple twist of fate that lead them to this now. She wondered if Willow smiled as gently when she turned her. "You're drawing squiggly lines in funny places, Will."

Willow opened her mouth to protest, then shut it and shrugged when she couldn't find a winning point. Instead, she looked again at the two men on the bed, trying to sort her tangled and conflicting thoughts, as Buffy closed the bedroom window blinds and curtains. Willow honestly acknowledged there was no guilt, only the faintly echoing memory of passion. She smiled, her troubled thoughts forgotten, when she felt Buffy's hands on her shoulders, gently massaging any tension away. "There should be lines, though, Buffy. Okay, maybe not that one." Willow conceded Buffy's earlier point as she leaned back into the bracing presence of her friend. "But some lines. You know how hard I worked to not be evil? I don't just want to go blindly into the dark, again."

"Well, the Powers obviously don't draw any lines." Buffy spoke softly, running her fingers down Willow's back and smiling when she shuddered. "This will happen, that won't."

"Mmm. I'm still pissed about that." Willow tilted her head back as Buffy's hands resumed their gentle massage on her shoulders.

"So I say we make our own rules." Buffy continued to coax Willow. "I did everything they asked of me, and then even more. And you gave up everything for them, even yourself. We know, I guess better than others, that life isn't fair. And I've spent enough time in the dark to know that the dark isn't all evil. We'll find our own lines. We'll make our own way." Buffy echoed Willow's reasoning back, still unsure herself how much of it she truly believed.

"I know." Willow turned to face Buffy, wrapping her arms around her waist. "I just keep trying to puzzle it out. I just want to make it alright."

Buffy laughed. "The more things change..." she teased her friend. "Will, you're thinking too hard. There's too many thoughts. Come on, we better get all the windows covered before the sun comes up." Buffy gently broke from the embrace.

They quickly moved through the small apartment, closing shades and putting up towels where needed. Buffy rummaged through drawers until she found some duct tape. She placed the still unconscious man in a kitchen chair and firmly secured him to it, a small piece over his mouth in case he woke up. They wandered around the apartment, double checking for any possible sunlight entry and familiarizing themselves with their temporary home. They eventually both settled on the loveseat in the main room.

"Buffy..." Willow scooted to the end of the loveseat; bending a leg and tucking it under herself so she could sit sideways, facing Buffy. "I want to know what you've been thinking. I, I need to know if you're mad at me."

Buffy ran her hand through her hair and glanced at Xander. She moved her focus to a James Dean poster framed on the wall across from her, considering how to answer Willow. She could feel Willow's intent focus on her as the silence extended, daring her for an honest reply. "I'm not mad at you," Buffy softly admitted. "I'm not thinking yet. I'm not letting myself think. Every time I start, I shut it off."

"Why?" Willow gently asked, letting her eyes drop to her lap.

Buffy closed her eyes at the question; steeling herself, committing herself to the conversation, she opened her eyes, her absent gaze focused again on the framed icon of a lost boy rebel. "Because I feel betrayed."

"By me." Willow jumped to the admission, as she forced herself to glance up, expecting to see Buffy's eyes accusing her, but Buffy was still looking away.

"No." Buffy smiled slightly, shaking her head a little, she continued. "No, Willow, not by you. What you did, then what I did, it's what we've always done. No matter how bad things got, no matter what we did or where we've gone, any one of us just isn't able to let any of the others go. We pull each other back, we take each other back." Buffy chuckled a little to herself and smiled. "I guess the betrayal would have been if we didn't do this."

"Then what?" Willow eyed her friend, warily curious.

"We were all betrayed by the Powers, by whatever gods the good side has. Whatever happened, we would always be in it together. I finally realized that at the end. And this, this shouldn't have happened. When I start to think, I remember. I remember I was in heaven once. I remember what that felt like. And fine, it wasn't my time. I mean it was, but then maybe it really wasn't. Maybe I had to be here. Long since doesn't matter. When the end threatened, the real evil end, I did what I had to do. I became almost everything I hated about the Slayer. The Watchers would have been proud. So many died. And I kept leading them back for more."

When Buffy closed her eyes, Willow jumped in before she could go on. "Buffy you saved everything. It wasn't just about people having to fight demons on earth again. This was evil taking everyone. People becoming like demons, earth becoming hell. I know. Remember, I could taste it." Willow wished Buffy would look at her. "Buffy, you figured it out, how to save it all. And you, we, defeated it. What happened next, I don't think the Powers did that."

"They didn't stop it." Buffy whispered. "And now, I know I'll never see heaven again. So I'm not thinking about it."

Willow let silence pause the conversation as she tried to reason out a response. "I don't know if they could have stopped it, Buffy." She adjusted herself a little closer to Buffy on the loveseat. Placing her hand on Buffy's thigh, she pulled her friend's attention to herself. "I mean yeah, I feel angry too. But I'm not sure who I can be mad at. Take it from someone who thinks too much and has for years. These Powers, I don't think they're all powerful. There's no-one playing chess in the sky."

Buffy frowned at the image, then smirked. "Gods as geeks." She wondered if she could just end the conversation here on that note; lay back, fall asleep, and return to the not thinking she promised herself. Looking into Willow's eyes, she realized she couldn't do that. She could see that Willow had something she wanted to say. She could tell that her friend wanted to start making all of this alright. Willow's hand on her thigh was a distracting comfort as it traced nonsense patterns over her skin. She felt the impulse to respond to the touch and gave in, laying her arm across the back of the loveseat and brushing her fingers through Willow's hair. Relaxing into the warmth of the connection, she settled into the continuing conversation. "Willow, we both know there's something out there. Chosen superhero chick, seven years running right here. There's someone writing the comic book."

Willow smiled at the altered analogy. This was Buffy. So much of her friend remained, even after being turned. She could feel her, connect to her still; even if, she realized, she had to be touching her. However disconnected they were now to whatever connected them before, it could be bridged with a touch. She knew just as certainly by looking into Buffy's eyes that nothing was the same, either. Willow wondered, just as she always secretly had, where the human stopped and the Slayer began, and now somehow in it all, there was a demon as well. Too many questions always running through her mind, so she refocused on the current discussion. "What we know is that there's more things on this earth than humans. What we sense is that this is true beyond this world and dimension. We've given names to what we believe. But just because we name something doesn't mean we understand it, or even that it exists."

Buffy groaned and shook her head. "Willow, there's gods. Remember, I had to fight two of them."

"Exactly my point." Willow cut in with an even larger smile. "They weren't all powerful. We're not all powerful and we beat them. Are there things other than humans? Sure. But I don't think there are any 'Powers that Be'. Even the creation of the Slayer was by humans. And we even altered that. I'd say the beings of this earth have more power here than anything coming from somewhere else, or anything influencing from far away."

Buffy's brow wrinkled in thought as she tried to put the argument together. "But the Powers for good, or 'others' as you say, whatever. You know, the side we were fighting on. Don't they have a say in what happens here?"

Willow's smile faded and she shrugged. "Oh, they try. Here, there, push, shove, pretty trinkets. They drop plot devices into our world. But their only power is if we choose to use the props and maybe do it their way. And maybe we shouldn't." Willow paused, collecting the sum of thoughts and observations. "I'm not that sure we should bend our wills or our knees. Maybe if we focused on what our society needs rather than what some thing who isn't here wants to see, things here would be better."

"Maybe." Buffy lay her head against the back of the loveseat, letting it drop to the side so she could still look at Willow. She let Willow's argument filter through her mind, seeing if any jagged points got stuck before accepting it for the moment and letting the anger ease away. She watched her fingers trace around Willow's ear and lightly trail down to stroke her shoulder, marveling at the sparks of connection the touch created. "But doesn't this mean that none of it mattered?"

"Of course it mattered." Willow countered, squeezing Buffy's thigh in reassurance. "We were a part of humanity and used what power we had to protect it and sometimes, when we could, save it. We were certainly fighting for our greater good."

"Past tense." Buffy pointed out and looked away, again absently noticing the poster on the wall.

"Hey," Willow pulled her friend's attention back, leaning closer and running her other hand through Buffy's hair. "Okay, yeah, we're outcast now from humanity. I feel it too. But we're not trying to destroy it. We'll find a place in this world to live. After everything, we at least get that."

"You have been doing the thinking thing." Buffy smiled, letting Willow's words and touch comfort her for the moment.

Willow smiled back. "Well, it started long before this most recent twist. Coming back from already going off the edge into total destruction mode will do that to a person." Willow's smile faded as she voiced her next thought. "What hurts so much now isn't this question of good and evil, cause I know we're not evil, I feel the difference. But I also feel the hole that remains from something being ripped out of me. I don't feel connected anymore to the cycle of life and death. I'm a witch, and now the sun will destroy me and when I try to tap into the energy of the earth, it burns me."

Buffy's smile faded as well. "Does this mean you can't do magic?"

Willow shook her head. "I can still do magic. There's much more to magic than just the earth, and there's much more to Wicca than the sun's cycle. It's just I'm used to feeling connected to all those things. And now, the only time I don't feel empty is when I'm feeding or when I'm touching you." Willow looked away from Buffy's eyes and let her gaze trail over her friend's body, smiling as desire that felt closer to hunger rumbled through her. Removing her hand from Buffy's thigh; she started to trace her neck and down to her chest, lightly skimming over breasts and taunt stomach, back and forth, easily feeling the muscles jump at her touch through the thin material of Buffy's shirt, gently caressing her breasts and smiling as Buffy arched into her touch.

Buffy closed her eyes at the sudden overtly sexual contact. She open her mouth slightly, moaning as desire raced through her as steadily as any pulse before. Opening her eyes, she watched Willow watching her own hand and smiling as it danced lightly over her body. Stroking Willow's hair, she brought her friend's attention back to her. "Okay, of all the things that have happened recently, this is the strangest."

Willow laughed. "For you maybe, but not for me. I'm used to touching women."

"I get that." Buffy acknowledged, arching again as Willow's thumb grazed across her nipple. "But I don't... from a woman... from you..." Buffy thoughts stuttered.

Willow smiled knowingly. "You mean to tell me you never thought about it?"

Buffy tried to bluff, but when Willow's hand squeezed her breast gently and again a thumb ran across her nipple, she smiled. "I wouldn't say that."

"Touch me, Buffy." Willow instructed; her smile easing to slightly parted lips, she closed her eyes as Buffy's hand began to tentatively explore her breasts and stomach.

Buffy watched her hand touch another woman's breast, travel down her stomach to just reach the waistband of her shorts and move up to caress the other breast. Becoming more bold as she recognized the look on Willow's face, she cupped the breast, feeling the texture of it. "You have that smile again. The one you get when you feed."

Willow opened her eyes. "I don't smile when I feed."

Buffy arched her eyebrows at the denial and smiled evilly. She pinched Willow's nipple, boldly teasing her. "Yes, you do."

Willow's eyes widened and staring directly into Buffy's eyes, she returned the gesture, pinching Buffy's nipple then trailing her nails down over her breast and stomach, satisfied when Buffy's eyes fluttered shut. "I do not." When Buffy opened her eyes and smirked, challenging the denial, Willow confessed. "I don't really know what I do. I tune it out when I feed."

Buffy was startled at the revelation. She started stroking Willow's hair, her earlier teasing switching to comfort. Her other hand released Willow's breast and started softly caressing her again. "You tune it out? You don't remember it at all?"

Willow looked into Buffy's eyes, grateful the teasing had stopped. "No. All I remember is that I feel warm." She let her hand rest on top of Buffy's thigh. "You... you remember what it feels like when you feed?"

Buffy noticed that Willow stopped caressing her, but she continued more aggressively. Moving her hand behind Willow's head, she started to stroke the back of her neck, easing her forward. She cupped Willow's breast, her fingers playing over the nipple. She let her voice drop to a seductive tone as she answered the question. "Maybe it's the hunter in me, but I experience everything. I can feel their pulse lapping against my tongue like a kiss. I embrace their struggle as they try to hold onto the life I'm pulling from them. I know when their breaths stop, when their heart stops. I feel buzzed by their passion as it fills me, and that fire, that life, it's like I can feel the sun again." Buffy paused and smiled knowingly at Willow. "Are you saying you don't even remember feeding from me?"

Willow smiled and licked her lips. Reaching up, she traced the scar she added to Buffy's neck, wondering if some things just always stayed with you. "I remember that," she whispered. "I remember you held me tightly to you, melting and giving into it. I remember there was a fire, a strength in your blood; it burned and I thought it was going to kill me. I remember you tilted your head, relenting and even encouraging me." Willow leaned forward to lick and kiss the scar on Buffy's neck, smiling as Buffy tilted her head, giving her better access. Rising slightly, she whispered in Buffy's ear. "I remember you."

"It was only because it was you, Will." Buffy whispered back.

Feeling Buffy's hand at the back of her neck pushing her forward again, Willow pushed back and brought her lips to Buffy's, parting them quickly with her tongue. The kiss was possessive and consuming, and she felt Buffy relax back against the loveseat, giving in. Willow felt Buffy's fingers kneading the back of her neck and shoulders as the other reached behind her and pulled her closer. She was pulled halfway across Buffy, her knee braced against the seat between Buffy's legs, her hand covering Buffy's breast roughly, pulling and kneading. Breaking the kiss, Willow's smile was predatory. "You're mine."

Buffy smirked, a challenge filling her eyes. Grabbing Willow's shoulders suddenly, she flipped Willow over onto her back and braced herself over her friend. "Don't even start with that Sire crap," she playfully warned.

Willow laughed at the fire in Buffy's eyes. Feeling herself pinned to the loveseat, she pushed back against Buffy, testing. "You remind me of Tara right now."

Buffy startled. "I remind you of Tara?"

"Aggressive Tara." Willow amended. "You probably never saw her. But we would play back and forth like this. Or there would be a bet, and the loser would submit to the winner for the night."

"Bedroom games?" Buffy leaned closer over Willow. "Sounds like me and Spike."

At those words, a fire ignited in Willow's eyes and her smile faded. With sudden strength, she pushed against Buffy, rolling them off the loveseat and onto the floor. Straddling Buffy's hips, she pinned Buffy's arms over her head. Looking down and seeing Buffy's smile, her own smile returned. "It was nothing like you and Spike. We didn't leave bruises on each other."

"Then what'd you do?" Buffy challenged, pushing up against Willow and rocking her hips beneath her. "Did you spank her? Did she spank you, Will?" When Willow smiled in response, Buffy knew she guessed it right. Rocking her hips again, she continued. "Did she tie you up, Willow? Did she have you on your knees?"

Willow dropped her head and rocked back against Buffy's thrusts, enjoying the tease of friction. She refused to directly answer. "It went both ways. Back and forth. She said it was a way to get my mind off the Hellmouth. I think now she was just trying to distract me for a time from magic."

Buffy let Willow set a rhythm as they rocked and thrust into each other. She bent her knees for better leverage, not getting the friction she needed, but knowing that Willow was feeling it. Testing Willow's strength, she tried to pull her arms free but they were pinned firmly to the floor. "Sounds just like Spike and I. The back and forth. Distraction. Feels just like it, too."

Willow wanted to shut Buffy up. She was back in the here and now, feeling Buffy move under her; feeling Buffy almost helpless beneath her; knowing even with her strength, Buffy could break away. She lowered herself completely onto Buffy, kissing away any further conversation.

The kiss broke when they both heard a moan from the kitchen. "Our captive is coming to," Buffy observed. She glanced over to Xander's sleeping form on the sofa.

Willow noticed the look, then smirked at the position they were in. "He's gonna like this new world."

Buffy laughed. "He liked you in the old one, too." When they heard another moan from the kitchen, Buffy nudged Willow off her and got up. "I'll go knock out our friend again."

Returning from the kitchen, Buffy paused and leaned against the edge of the short wall separating half the rooms. She smiled as she watched Willow kneeling beside Xander, stroking his hair. "So, is he gonna live?"

Willow turned towards Buffy. "Very funny. You sure he drank from you? He's sure taking his sweet time."

"He drank." Buffy assured. "He nearly ripped it from me. He was angry, fighting the whole way."

"Angry?" Willow turned her attention back to Xander, stroking his hair she noticed the gentle still features of her friend's face. Even the deepest sleep left evidence of dreams and thoughts. Xander showed nothing. The blank stillness refused to suggest he died in anger or would ever wake.

"Yeah. And more than the usual, 'I'm gonna die' kinda way." Buffy admitted. She watched curiously as Willow kissed Xander's forehead, then stood up, stretched and turned back towards her. Willow's eyes traveled slowly over her leaning form, seductively caressing her across the distance. She smiled helplessly in response and shook her head at her own reaction. "Strange."

Willow arched her eyebrows. "What is?"

"How it feels when you look at me." Buffy smiled shyly. "How I feel when I look at you."

Willow walked over to Buffy, her smile lighting her eyes with a hint of seductive victory. "As much as I'd like to think it was my own powers of seduction that have brought this about, it's more likely that whatever connection of friendship we used to just feel between us has to be expressed physically now." Willow's smile softened with the admission, her forehead creasing slightly as her thoughts continued. "It's interesting the parts that seem to be wholly connected with the soul."

"And she's off to figure it all out again." Buffy softly chided.

"Hey." Willow slapped Buffy's shoulder in mock self defense. "I just want to understand it is all." Her smile returned, seductively. "Besides, you can't say this new way to connect isn't fun."

Buffy reached out to run her fingers through Willow's hair. "True. And I'm sure I'll get used to the strangeness of it, soon."

"Oh god." Willow let her head fall against Buffy's shoulder.

"What?" Buffy asked alarmed, wrapping her arms around Willow.

"I just realized... it's just... Xander's been my friend since forever. I mean we always just felt connected. And now... to feel that... Hence the 'oh god'." Willow buried herself in Buffy's embrace.

Buffy laughed softly, the vibrations gently shaking Willow as well. She started to stroke Willow's back, comforting her. "Now you know how I feel."

"Yeah, I guess now I do." Willow smiled and relaxed, looking up into Buffy's eyes. "Or will. Whatever it takes I guess. We can't go on without each other. That's how this whole thing started."

"Whatever it takes." Buffy agreed. "We'll just have to make a place and a way for ourselves to belong."

"Oh, speaking of which, there's something I better get started on." Willow pulled away from Buffy, immediately regretting it as Buffy's arms released her.

"What?" Buffy, feeling the loss as well, was curious what would make Willow pull away.

Willow shyly closed her eyes when she noticed Buffy's obvious disappointment. She realized and admitted this turn in their relationship was overwhelming to her as well. Steadying herself, she opened her eyes and with gathering excitement, explained her plan. "I had an idea. With a little combination of magic and the computer I saw in the bedroom, I'm thinking I can end our money worries. I mean permanently end our money worries."

"How?" Buffy made the continue motion with her hand.

"Oh!" Willow smiled in certain triumph. "I can download some hacker software and augmented with magic, pick through the security codes that protect bundle transfers..."

Buffy held her hand up to stop the over explanation. "In more English than tech, please."

"Sorry." Willow smirked and chose to repeat the plan in it's simplest form. "I'm going to steal us a fortune."

Buffy's eyebrows rose in surprise. "You can do that? Won't they trace it or something?"

"Not if I choose the right bundles." Willow thought of another way to explain. "I'm gonna hit the bank transfers that are already illegal and hidden. And I'll have the help of magic to hide how it was done. Besides, stealing from terrorists, the CIA, and drug dealers is pretty darn close to doing something for the greater good. Not really that evil, you know." Willow smiled, then it faded in thought. "Why, you don't think I can do it?"

Buffy laughed. "Oh, I have no doubt you can do this. You had mad hacker skills before the magic."

"Thanks." Willow accepted. "It's gonna take some time though. And I want to be done before we go, so I kinda gotta start now." She said by way of explanation as she started down the hall to the bedroom.

Buffy watched as Willow disappeared into the bedroom. She shook her head at what Willow was about to do and ran her hand through her hair. Turning, she watched Xander laying absolutely motionless on the sofa. Buffy just stared at her lifeless friend, wondering curiously to herself that she was the one to do that. She killed him. She turned him. Or at least the demon did. Or maybe the Slayer. Shaking the thoughts from her head, she walked over to the sofa and sat down on the floor beside him. She stroked his hair for a moment caught up in the lack of reaction, the lack of anything. She let her hand rest on his chest.

"Xander, wakey, wakey," Buffy sing-songed. "It's a brave new world, here." She started to lightly trace her fingers over his chest and stomach, absently trying to coax, if not breath, then movement. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I hope you won't be too angry with us. It would have been worse, you know, if you had to, well, live with the fact that we're vampires. It's better this way." She paused, letting what she just said echo through her mind. "But it's starting to get to me, to really sink in. What it's gonna be like now, I mean. See, I have all my memories of everything that's happened and I remember, faintly, the feeling of purpose, and destiny. But my connection to that calling is gone. I can't feel the reasons anymore. I think Willow still has something. I mean she can still do some magic and she's always had that struggle in her of how to use her power, so it's kinda the same as before, you know? I don't know what I'm gonna do now. But I think she's right, we've at least earned the right to go on."

Buffy started to stroke Xander's chest more firmly, purposely caressing him. "Can you feel this?" Buffy waited for a response, watching for any hint of connection though she didn't feel one herself. "Funny side effect I think you might like. You're not even gonna believe what it's like or what it's turned into." Buffy thought a moment to herself, watching her hand travel across her friend's chest, searching still for a connection. She smiled when she realized she had never seriously thought of touching him this way before. "Willow and I, well, we... Oh, just wake up and see for yourself. But it's good, I think. It feels... It takes the edge off."

Buffy silently stayed beside Xander, caressing his chest, his cheeks, stroking his hair. She remembered his rage as he died, and hoped, with her touch, that he could be calmed, comforted and reassured. She wasn't sure how much time had passed when she sighed and still lacking any response from Xander, gave up for the moment. She stood up and reached out with her senses, trying to gage where the sun was in the sky. She could faintly feel its presence; low, dimming, but still a couple hours from dusk. Frowning when she remembered that was as much of the sun as she'll ever feel again, she wandered back down the hall and into the bedroom to check on Willow.

"Hey." Buffy announced her presence as she stopped behind Willow and peered over her shoulder at the computer screen. "What'cha doing?"

"Hey." Willow answered, turning her head to look up at Buffy then back to the computer screen. "I'm looking for names."

"Names?" Buffy looked again at the screen. A translation web page was up, set at English to French, and showing the inquiry 'flame' to 'flamme'. "I don't get it. Names for what?"

Willow turned her desk chair to face Buffy. "For us!" She answered with some excitement. "I realized our new deep pockets bank accounts will need some names attached to them, and if we don't want to be found, we'll need new identities."

"Okay, with ya so far, but..." Buffy finished the sentence by nodding questionably toward the computer screen.

Willow glanced back confused. After a moment, she realized what Buffy was asking. Turning back around, she relayed the history of her name search. "Oh, well, at first I tried to just think up some names. But then I thought, this is our new life, they should mean something. So I started to search mythology, history, heroes, that sort of thing. Especially for Xander. I wanted to give him a hero's name. He's earned it." When Buffy smiled indulgently at her, Willow shrugged and continued. "Anyway, it was getting a little over the top, you know. I mean you end up with something like Alexander Hercules. So I switched gears, thought symbolic. I started to look up words that kinda define us, translating them into something that could be used as a last name. For instance, look at this." Willow turned the chair back to the computer, quickly typing the word 'heart' into the search box, setting the translator at English to Spanish and clicking the translate button. 'Corazon' appeared on the screen.

Willow spun the chair around towards Buffy again, a smile reaching even her eyes. "That's for Xander. What do you think? Alexander Corazon."

Buffy's smile matched Willow's. "I like it. That's great Will."

"Good." Willow sounded relieved. "Cause he was almost the 'Dread Pirate Roberts."

Buffy laughed. "From the movie? He would have killed you." Buffy confirmed. "Heart. It fits him. Plus, it kinda sounds exotic in Spanish."

"Exactly." Willow rushed on. "I'm having a hard time with mine. With mythology, all I could think of that really fit me was Pandora."

"Not very flattering." Buffy cut in.

"Still, has it's accurate points." Willow countered. "Doesn't matter though, cause it makes a really weird name nowadays. You, by the way, mythology wise, fit Atalanta."

"As in the city?" Buffy's expression was puzzled and hinting at distaste.

"No, not Atlanta, or Atlantis. Which city?" Willow quickly waved the question away and continued before it could be answered. "Anyway, At-a-lan-ta," Willow carefully pronounced each syllable. "In the Greek Myths, she was a great hunter. But again, not a great name. Also, I thought maybe a variation of Joan of Arc, but... way too obvious and weird again."

"No." Buffy vetoed right away. "I like the name Joan, but I don't want to be some myth or legend. What's 'hunter' in Spanish?" She offered as an alternative.

"Cazador." Willow answered without needing to check the translator. "It didn't really feel right for you though. Unless you like it, I mean."

"No." Buffy confirmed. "You're right. Not really me." Buffy looked past Willow, trying to let names and words float through her mind but generally drawing a blank.

Willow spoke into the silence. "Back to mythology, there is one thing that kinda worked." She continued when Buffy returned her attention. "How about Pheonix?"

"Again with a city." Buffy shook her head in the negative.

"The first wasn't really a city." Willow absently corrected as she prepared herself for the next suggestion. Tentatively, after a brief pause, she offered the last possibility she had found so far. "Um, Buffy, I know cazador didn't really work. But, um, there is Morte."

Buffy just stared at Willow. The near apology evident on Willow's face cut short her first reaction of anger. Instead, Buffy closed her eyes, running the possible name over in her mind. She remembered the image of the first Slayer and the words, 'death is your gift'. Buffy held a small sad smile and she returned her attention to her anxious friend. "You put 'death' in the translator for me." It was a statement more than a question.

"I...I didn't mean to." Willow denied. Realizing what she just said, she shook her head slightly and let it drop back against the chair. "Okay, that was stupid."

Buffy's face softened and she cut off anything further being said by stroking Willow's hair, letting the caress give her time to consider the word again and what she should say. "It's okay, Will."

"No it's not, Buffy." Willow sat up, refusing to be comforted. "It's just 'Slayer' didn't translate at all and I shouldn't have even brought it up. You should have a champion's name. Not something like that."

"No. It's okay." Buffy cut her off again. She gently placed her fingers under Willow's chin, tilting her face and forcing Willow's eyes to meet her own. "It makes sense, Will. Death has always defined me, it's what made so much of everything's that happened happen." Buffy offered a small smile and tried again, intent on untangling her thoughts and her words. "It's been my own deaths that started the split in the Slayer line: that opened the Hellmouth at all at first, and eventually, it's what closed it, too. It's what defeated the Master and Glory. It's what's been with me every night." Buffy shook her head, the realization solid in her mind. "Every night I brought death. Every night. And now..." Buffy returned her eyes to Willow's. "Now death's finally, literally, a part of me. It's okay, Will. I accept: the name. That champion, she's gone, Will. The champion is gone. That whole thing is in others' hands now. It's done. Morte."

"Buffy, I'm sorry." Willow spoke the words so sincerely, for the briefest moment, there was guilt. Even after it was gone, the memory of it remained and Willow had to lower her eyes, shaken.

"I'm not." Buffy's flat admission pulled Willow's surprised attention and she shrugged in response. "Well, I'm not. It's long past time I was out of the game. And I meant it, what I said before about not being able to just kill you and not being able to just live and let you go, either. I meant it; when I didn't fight, when I tilted my head. And I guess I meant it, too, when I drank." Buffy's hands shook slightly at the memory. "What I am sorry about is that apparently, and all this time, we were fighting for the powers that be idiots."

Willow nodded to herself, accepting Buffy's willingness to use the name, and smirked a little at Buffy's latest choice of names for gods. "You're still going on about that?"

"Oh, I'm going to be going on about that for a while." Buffy promised. "Keep the Joan part, Will. I like Joan."

"Joan Morte." Willow jotted the name down on a piece of paper, grateful the name search had ended. "But won't we have to call you Joan from now on? That's just weird."

"Everyone was sure 'Buffy' had to be a nickname, anyway. Now it is." Buffy smiled, staring at her new identity on the paper.

"It's ironic. In a cool way, I mean." Willow tagged on at the end.

"What is?" Buffy tilted her head, wondering where Willow was off to, now.

"Your name." Willow smiled and continued. "I mean, who you were, are, whatever, it's gonna live forever."

"Willow, that whole destiny, champion thing; it did die." Buffy gently corrected.

"Yeah, but your memories, experiences, personality; all that stays." Willow countered. "I did understand what Angel was going on about before you so kindly cut him off that time: when we met my vamp self."

"And yet you are nothing like her, now." Buffy pointed out.

"Well, a lot's happened since early high school." Willow reasoned.

Buffy laughed. "True. Have you picked a name for yourself? What do we call you now?"

"Yeah, well, 'Willow' is a little easy to trace. But, you know, being my name I got used to it. So, I came up with Willameena. People can still shorten it to 'Willow' or 'Will', phonetically and it will screw with any search if you spell it out." Willow wrote her new first name on the paper just under Buffy's to illustrate.

"Okay," Buffy nodded her understanding, "but what about the last name?"

"I was thinking 'Flamme'." Again, Willow wrote it out. "It's the French spelling," she explained.

"I don't get it." Buffy admitted. "Why 'flame'?"

"Well, I'm like a pyromaniac." Willow took Buffy's hand in both her own, turning the palm up, she stroked her fingers over the exposed skin. "The magic, it's a lot like fire. When controlled, it can be used for good, to create. When out of control, it can destroy." Willow focused her power into Buffy's palm, her finger burning the flesh as it slowly moved across the skin. Letting Buffy jerk her hand away, Willow grinned. "I feel it in me still. And I can't stop playing with it."

Buffy watched as the burn mark healed and disappeared, the pain already faded. "I get it now, thanks." Reaching out with the now healed hand, Buffy traced Willow's jaw. She let her fingers trail down Willow's neck, her chest, and resting her palm between Willow's breasts, imagined she could feel heat. Buffy stared into Willow's eyes and smiled. "Never stop playing with it, Will."

"Okay..." Willow placed her hand over Buffy's. "But whole cities might someday burn."

"Good." Buffy smiled warmly, but let her hand drop back to her side. "I thought you were gonna steal us a fortune?" She nodded to the computer screen.

"I am." Willow confirmed. "It's stealing as we speak. I just needed to set up our bank accounts and new id's. I'm making accounts with a magically enhanced long history of deposits. And I'll put us all from L.A. Big city, harder to confirm or deny our records."

"Will, you know you border evil mastermind status, right?" Buffy playfully chided even as she was impressed.

"Well we battled enough of them, I learned a couple things along the way. As long as we pay our taxes on the withdraws of this new found fortune, everything should be fine." Willow shrugged self-depreciatively to counter the secret feeling of pride.

"Taxes!" Buffy's face scrunched in disgust. "We're evil. Do we really have to pay taxes?"

"If we don't want to make the mistake of every other evil mastermind, yes." Willow confirmed. "You know what they say, Buffy. The two certainties in life are death and taxes." Hearing Buffy's answering laugh, Willow smiled and turned back to the computer. "I better get started again. This will still take some time."

"Okay." Buffy impulsively kissed the top of Willow's head and moved towards the dresser and closet. "I'm gonna raid some wardrobe, I hope, and shower and change. Gay guy should have good taste. I'm just hoping anything fits."

"Mmm. A shower and some clean clothes does sound nice." Willow absently agreed while typing into the computer. "I think I'll do the same when this is done."

Willow wasn't aware of how much time was passing. She became engrossed in the creating of new identities and histories, watching with growing excitement as bank transfers disappeared from their intended routes and slipped into seemingly old accounts. She spread the monies wide and equally; giving each their freedom from the struggle of existence within human society and even from each other. She bounced a little in her chair as she listed Buffy Anne Summers, Alexander Lavelle Harris and Willow Rosenberg as missing and presumed dead in the Sunnydale earthquake. It was done.

Willow shut off the computer and rose from the seat. She stretched, smiling still at a job well done. Realizing she should get rid of the evidence, Willow physically opened the computer, pulling components out and smashing them in her hands. She saved the hard drive for last, tossing the remains on the desk and casually lighting all her notes with a thought and a spark from her fingers. Remembering how good the thought of a shower and some clean clothes felt, Willow started towards the closet. Her smile faded a little and she stopped to consider the two men laying on the bed.

"You know, I didn't think any of it would turn out the way it did." Willow leaned back on her elbows against the dresser, tilting her head as her eyes continued to survey the dead men on the bed. "Of course, if you could say something right now, you might say the same thing. God, I had such a crush on her back then, when all this started. Don't tell her that." Smiling at the absurdity of the conversation, she turned and started to open the drawers of the dresser, looking for something to wear, and continued talking. "It started out with the whole best intentions thing, my staying in Sunnydale after high school. Well, that and maybe just a little bit of ambition in a non scholarly way, plus, I mentioned the crush thing that we'll never mention again." She pulled a pair of jeans from a drawer and held them up, considering the size. "Plan was, I become this bad ass witch, helping more than needing to be saved. I wanted to be feared for a change. I wanted my own power. I wanted to be like her. Well, at least I got the fear and power part." Not finding a shirt she liked, Willow shut the drawers and went to the closet. She turned and addressed the men, again. "I did do some good, you know. Okay, you're probably not the ones to believe me right now. But I did. Especially at the end." Willow turned again and started to go through the closet, looking for a shirt she could wear. "It's not like I had a calling or anything. I had to learn and take every bit of power I have. I earned it." Willow took a shirt from its hanger, turning away from the closet, her eyes fell on the bed, now barely noticing the men. "And I was finally understanding what I should be doing with it, how I could really use it..." Willow shook her head, stopping the direction of her thoughts and letting her rising anger go. She looked up past the ceiling, then down at the men. "When they say that shit happens, they really mean it. I think you'd both agree with me."

Willow left the bedroom, crossing the hall to the empty bathroom. Dropping her new clothes on the floor, she started the water. She wasn't paying much attention to what she was doing, her mind occupied with her recent one-sided conversation. She stripped off her clothes, letting them fall into their own pile, as she remembered how much that lack of calling mattered in the end. She reminded herself again of each time she did good, and could still justify each mistake, but it wasn't until it was past too late that she learned how much that connection to life, that grounding meant. And finally having that after her recovery in England, it started to all make sense: the power, its use and its trust. Buffy always understood that trust, and even after everything, still showed it in the end, handing her the scythe. With that connection, she could finally become what she had intended to be at the very beginning. And now it was gone. Willow felt her anger rise again. Even as her mind tried to counter it, she could feel and understand Buffy's feeling of betrayal. That's when she looked up into the mirror.

"Buffy." Willow called as she stared at the mirror, searching for herself and seeing only the wall behind her. "Buffy!"

Buffy smiled from the main room. She had heard Willow in the bathroom and knew why she was calling out. What surprised her was that it had taken this long. Buffy got up and walked to the bathroom door, opened it and leaned on the jam. "Pretty messed up, isn't it?" Buffy didn't try to hide her humor, smiling as she watched Willow, naked and staring at the mirror.

Willow stood there, shaking. Her hands were clenched into fists at her side as she continued to just stare at the mirror. "It's beyond messed up. Everything, this whole world, is messed up!"

Buffy noticed the anger in her voice, saw the shaking. She rushed over to Willow, embracing her in her arms, she tried to calm Willow down. "Hey, it's okay, Will. It's okay."

Willow relaxed a little in Buffy's arms, but only enough to unclench her fists and automatically wrap her arms around Buffy in return. She continued to stare at the mirror, not even seeing a trace or glimmer of them in the reflection. There was only the wall behind them. "It's not okay," her voice ground out. "I'm going to fix this."

Buffy stiffened at the words. Her voice took a hard edge even as she tried to remain calm, not allowing herself to suddenly and violently shake the woman in her arms. "Don't you dare pull me out of heaven again."

The threatening tone of Buffy's voice pulled Willow's attention from the mirror. She glanced at the hard distant glare of Buffy's eyes and quickly cast her own eyes to the floor. She was still shaking, the anger she tried to contain through reason leaking and seeping through her body unchecked. "What do you mean?"

Buffy held her friend tighter. She could feel Willow shaking, sparks of magic rising and unfocussed, zapping and buzzing around her, around them. It hurt, it burned. "By 'fixing this' you meant restoring our souls, right?" Buffy started stoking Willow's back, trying to calm her friend and in turn relax herself, ease her voice, despite the static of magical heat surrounding them. "I mean, whatever a soul is, let it stay wherever they go. I may not ever see heaven again, but my soul went through everything my mind remembers. Let it rest."

"Buffy, I..." Willow relaxed, knowing Buffy was right, sadness quickly replacing anger. Burying her head on Buffy's shoulder, the frustration eased a little and the magic fell back into her. "It's not fair. To remember everything that's happened only to have this happen in the end. To be exiled from what we fought so hard and lost so much to protect. It's just not fair, Buffy."

"I know." Buffy continued to soothe her friend. "I know. But it's what we got now. It's what we are now. We're vampires, Will. And you're gonna have to let that demon out, at least a little. Not just around me, and not just to feed. We'll hunt tonight, really hunt." Buffy gently pulled Willow back and rested her hands on her shoulder. "But right now, shower." She grinned, checking Willow's eyes to make sure she was calm and steady. At Willow's grin and answering nod, she let her go and watched as she entered the shower. Buffy turned to the mirror. She waved her hand in front of it then shook her head, running the hand through her hair. She picked up Willow's old clothes to put in a bag with her own and left the bathroom.

Willow managed to get dressed and brush her hair without looking at the mirror again. Leaving the bathroom, she found Buffy going through the CD collection by the stereo. "Hey," she softly called.

Buffy turned towards Willow, a pile of CD's in her hand. "Hey." Buffy lifted the hand holding the CD's slightly. "Tunes for the road."

Willow nodded. "Cool. We should probably see what cash they have, too. We won't have access to our new fortune till we settle somewhere and I can get cards and checks mailed to us."

"Yeah, I figured." Buffy set the CD's on the coffee table. "I found some, enough I guess to hold us for a little while."

Willow looked at the clothes Buffy had chosen. She laughed a little when she noticed the bottoms of the khakis Buffy was wearing had been cut and frayed just above her shoes. "What's with the hippy look?"

"Huh?" Buffy wasn't sure what Willow meant until she saw Willow looking down with a nod of her head. "Oh, well, he's too tall, so I just cut them shorter. What? It's a look." Buffy put her hands on her hips, grinning defiantly and daring Willow to mock her fashion sense.

Willow smiled, admiring the curves revealed by the stretch of the tight white undershirt tank Buffy had chosen, easily noticing she wasn't wearing a bra. "I like the tank top."

Buffy smirked. "I'll bet." She took in the clothes Willow had chosen. "At least your jeans kinda fit." The red button up shirt Willow had found hung a little big, but the sleeves were rolled up so it wasn't that bad. Buffy walked up to Willow and started to unbutton the top and bottom buttons of the shirt, leaving only the middle two closed. "There. You are a vampire now, after all."

Willow shook her head and started to re-button the shirt. "Very funny."

"No, leave it." Buffy admonished. "You look sexy that way." At Willow's answering smirk, she shrugged. "I always noticed when you looked sexy."

"And I always noticed you looked sexy." Willow left the shirt alone and stared absently at the curtained window. "Sun's set. I can feel it."

"Yeah. I want to get out there, get out of here." Buffy looked at Xander. "Shouldn't he be rising and all that now?"

Before Willow could respond, indeed and on cue, Xander began to stir. Both women straightened in anticipation as they watched Xander shake his head, sit up and open his eye, the other still secreted behind the eye patch. He sat there, silently staring at them, then slowly rose to his feet.

"What I remember happening..." Xander's voice dropped to a menacing tone, "did that really happen?" He glared at the two women and when they didn't answer right away, glanced around the strange room. Xander locked his eye with Buffy's as she started to speak.

"Xander, it's just, well, it's always been the three of us." Buffy haltingly started the explanation, surprised at the level of calm threat she could see in Xander's eye.

"What happened, Buffy? You finally choose the wrong lover?" Xander spat the accusation then doubled over for a moment in pain. Straightening, he stared defiantly at Buffy.

"Xander, just hear us out." Willow interceded. She wasn't prepared for this. She had seen Xander angry before, many times, he was always angry. She had never seen him cold. And then, there was the nothing, the empty space between them, when before, always, there had been the ebb and flow of a love.

"Why?" Xander leveled his stare at Willow. "I guess she got what she always wanted." He indicated Buffy with a nod. "And you..." Xander doubled over again, the hunger painfully demanding to be filled.

"And I what!" Willow accused back, her own anger so near the surface as her own demon struggled to be let loose into the night.

Xander snapped back upright, looking around the room and past the women in front of him. He saw the man then, secured to a chair in the kitchen. Xander strode around the coffee table, past Buffy and Willow and knelt before the hostage taped to the chair. He slapped the man's face lightly, stirring him awake. Xander smiled when he saw hope fill the man's eyes and mumbled pleas started from behind the tape over his mouth and the chair began to rock with his struggling. Xander started by undoing the tape at the man's feet, releasing his legs. Then he undid the tape holding his wrists to the chair arms. Buffy and Willow simply watched uncertain as Xander picked the man up from the chair and held his shoulders.

Xander didn't remove the tape over the man's mouth. He smiled as muffled screams started when he painfully gripped the man's upper arms, holding him tightly. He relished the suddenly silent terror that filled the man's eyes when prominent ridges formed on his forehead and those eyes stared into one yellow eye. Xander parted his lips and let his fangs show, his tongue snaking out to lick his upper lip. He stood there, his eye dancing over the panicked struggling captive, easily controlling and holding him. Finally, as he heard true screaming start again behind the tape, Xander bent forward and thrust his fangs into the man's neck. He tore and bit savagely down, gulping the blood that rushed down his throat. When no more could be pulled out, Xander straightened and dropped the body back into the chair.

Buffy calmly watched it all, silently grateful when Xander turned and fed. She noticed Willow turning her head from the sight, and smirked when she heard the growl escape from Willow's lips anyway. She watched the body fall and land at an odd angle in the chair, the head resting crooked on the table. "Feeling better now?" Buffy crossed her arms, her voice steady, smooth and kind.

"What did you do?" Xander's face settled back to normal. His voice shook slightly as he turned away from the body, his face openly begging understanding.

"I think that goes in the 'this answer is obvious' column." Buffy held Xander's searching look. "What do you really want to know, Xander?"

"Why." Xander whispered. Shaking his head, trying to maintain control, he looked again to Buffy. "Why did you do this? Why did you turn me into the thing that I've hated."

Buffy uncrossed her arms and let them fall to her side. A small smile softened her face. "That one's a little more complicated though really, just as obvious. Because we love you, Xander."

Xander looked at Willow, saw her eyes searching for something in him, and he wondered what. He looked again at Buffy, her words tripping memories held and he smiled. "You only always say that when we're about to die."

Buffy openly smiled. Willow quickly glanced at Buffy, the answer surprising her. She cut in, her voice soft, unsure. "Xander, please, don't be mad. It would have been worse, the other way. Could you have lived knowing we were vampires? It's always been the three of us."

"And now it always will be." Xander spread his arms wide. "Well, here I am, wherever here is. Could have sworn I made out a Sunnydale Living Will, if in the event you're turned, just kill me." He let his arms drop and he took a step towards them, addressing Willow. "Really, it's not so bad. I feel strong for a change, aware. Jesse was right." Xander started walking again, past the women and towards the front door. "I'm still hungry. Let's cause some mayhem for old Sunnydale's sake." He opened the door and started into the night.

Willow turned to Buffy. "I think we created a monster."

"In true Frankenstein fashion." Buffy agreed. "He's a vampire, Will. We, I, turned Xander into a vampire."

"I thought you said he'd be different." Willow glanced at the open door and the dark outside. "You know, cause you're the Sire."

"Come on, Will. We better catch up to him." Buffy led them out the door. Shutting it, she glanced around, looking for a sign of Xander. She saw nothing so she smelled the air. It felt odd now, her chest rising as her lungs expanded with air. She caught his scent and nodded her head in the direction of a side street. "That way." They crossed the parking lot and started down the road after him. "I said that Spike said it mattered who the Sire was. That if you do the whole drinking the Sire's blood again and again you get a bigger dose of Sire. I'll just, you know, have to do that and see what happens."

"Any chance that Spike lied?" Willow dryly observed. She glanced around to see where they were going. It was a side street heading away from the community college. The houses were getting smaller and more run down the farther they traveled. When the sidewalk disappeared altogether, they continued down the road. "Where is he?"

"He's just up ahead. You can't smell him?" Buffy took another breath. She smiled at the scent of dry grass, and somewhere, roses. She could easily pick up Xander's lingering trace and others, fainter and unknown. There was also the overwhelming the scent of motor oil and garbage and what she thought must be rust and rot. Looking around, she saw houses unkempt, their porches leaning, their yards cluttered with old toys and broken cars. She stopped breathing.

"Smell him?" Willow took an experimental breath, coughing when the stench of old garbage spilled onto the road from a tipped over trash can overwhelmed her. "Yeah, okay, he's in there somewhere."

"And didn't he just pick the nicest part of town." Buffy noticed him then and pointed. Xander was standing in a lot at the end of the road circled by a dozen broken down RV's and trailers. They walked up to stand beside him.

"I know these places." Xander addressed Buffy and Willow without looking at them. "They call them retirement parks. Actually, it's just where old alcoholics can afford to live and drink themselves to death. I probably have family here. Where is here, anyway?"

"Redding." Willow answered. She thought it must be too far north for Xander to have any family here, but she knew Xander's family, and knew what he meant. "A small town in northern California. We've been going north."

"How long was I out?" Xander finally started to wonder what had happened since his last memory.

"Just a day." It was Buffy's turn to answer. "It seemed like forever, but we drove all night, stopped here, and it's been just one day."

"Drove?" Xander had a million questions it seemed to him in his mind, but they were being rapidly pushed aside by his growing hunger and rising anger. He stared at the trailers, his stomach turning at the thought of feeding from any of the people who could live here. People who beat their kids when they were too young to fight back and who cursed those same kids now for never visiting and never sending money. Or maybe there were people here who never had anyone and numbed the pain of loneliness still, waiting to die.

"Yeah." Buffy turned to look at Xander, curious why he was staring so intently at broken trailers, these poor scraps of shelter. She wondered what they were doing here. "Willow stole us a car."

Xander smiled. "Way to go, Will." He turned then, looking around and peering into the bare dirt spaces that separated the trailers. "You know what will fix this place right up? A gas can, and a match."

"Xander! No." Willow immediately protested. "We can't just... just kill people!" She stepped in front of Xander, making him look at her.

"Oh, don't tell me we're doing the whole vampires with soul crap!" Xander stepped away from Willow. "Just keep your mojo off me, Will."

"No, we're not." Buffy stepped in. "No souls. But Willow's right, Xander. Why kill these people?"

"Why not?" Xander countered. "Distraction, crowd, bound to be younger people there. I'm not feeding from them."

"There's a college here." Buffy hoped the suggestion would be enough of a distraction.

"That'll work, too." Xander smiled at the idea. "Where?"

"Back up the road, the other direction." Buffy pointed in the general direction. She was surprised that Xander had his human face showing. She expected to see the demon.

"Figures." Xander shook his head and without giving the park another glance, started running back up the road.

Willow watched him race back the way they came and quickly disappear into the dark. "Well isn't he just the barrel of monkeys."

"What was that all about?" Buffy turned to Willow for the explanation, guessing she did have some clue.

"I'm not sure, but I think it had to do with a family reunion and the rest of the summer spent with a great uncle when he was young. Long story." Willow confessed vaguely.

"Well, we better follow him." Buffy started to leisurely walk back up the road, Willow falling in step beside her. "I'm going hunting tonight, Will."

"Well, yeah, we all are." Willow glanced at Buffy, increasing her stride when Buffy picked up the pace.

"No, I mean I'm going to hunt them, not just feed once, quickly." Buffy clarified. "I'm going to choose, chase, slay. I need to feel the hunt. I need..." Buffy looked at Willow, waiting till the pause forced her friend to look over at her. "And so do you."

"I know, Buffy." Willow stared back up the road, after Xander. The hunger was consuming her thoughts and Xander's feral lust for the kill seemed to pull at her, tugging her into the dark after him. "I'm wondering, how fast can I run?" Willow took off. The houses lining the road became only a blur of muted grays rushing back past her. Her eyes clearly saw the dips and bumps of uneven road, sidewalks, a bus stop bench she hurdled, laughing. So quickly, she found herself on the sprawling campus. She took a breath, searching for Xander, smiling when there was now the scent of green grass, trees, roses, and there he was, to the left. She adjusted her course, speeding down a cement path. She looked back to see if Buffy was following.

Buffy was gaining quickly on Willow, easily passing her a moment after they changed course. With barely contained joy, Buffy turned to face Willow, running backwards as deftly and with as much speed as Willow could run forward. She smirked, her face morphing to show her demon, to taunt Willow's own. Motioning Willow with her hands to 'come on', Buffy turned and bolted down the path towards Xander and the main buildings of the campus.

Willow laughed and increasing her speed, darted off the path, hurdling another bench along the side and cutting across a lawn. Buffy and Xander were standing just ahead in a courtyard when she caught up to them. "Wow, look at me, not even winded."

Buffy turned towards Willow then glanced back at Xander. "Finally, you two can keep up with me."

"Funny." Xander confirmed with a hint of a smile. "Let's see how well you can keep up with me. I see a couple coeds now. It's time to see if this new Xander has any luck with the ladies." Xander left them, jogging to catch the two women who had just left one of the buildings and were slowly walking down one of the paths off the courtyard. Interrupting their conversation, he pushed himself between them, put his arm around each of their shoulders and introduced himself. He guided their protesting and struggle off the path to a dark patch behind some trees. Experimenting, he released one of the woman's shoulders only to grab her one handed around the neck, choking her strength and screams from her as she feebly tried to push away his arm. He paused, marveling at his strength, the ease with which he could hold her. The other woman, frozen at first by panic, suddenly snapped into full awareness of the danger she was in. She tried to pull away, kicking at his legs and twisting. Xander reacted, grabbing her by the back of the neck, he held her tightly against him and quickly sank his fangs into her neck. He ripped her throat and drank hungrily at the blood that spurted into his mouth. He wrapped his arm around her, hugging her to himself as she grew more limp and finally collapsed dead in his grasp. Xander let her drop to the ground and turned toward the other woman he held at arms length, hand at her throat. His mouth was bloody, his eye yellow under the large ridged forehead of the vampire's visage, and he expected renewed panic and another attempt to get away. But the woman hung lifeless in his grasp. In the thrill of the feeding, his hand had grown too tight, choking off the blood to her brain and the breath to her lungs. She was dead. "Damn, don't know my own strength I guess." Xander muttered to himself, his smile cold. He let her drop to the ground next to her friend. "Well, I'm sure there's more."

Buffy shook her head as Xander set out again. Looking around, she spotted a young man leaving one of the buildings and going down another path in the opposite direction. She turned back to Willow. "You wanna come with?"

Willow shook her head. "Nah. He's only one. We'll split up and meet back here?"

"Okay. Will, you're gonna let it out, right?" Buffy checked in, and smiled as she watched Willow's face lightly morph and fangs hinted past her lips.

"Yeah. I'll play. It's like I'm buzzed on too many mochas." Willow confirmed. "Go. Hunt. Slay."

Buffy nodded and turned to follow after the man she noticed before. She picked up her pace to catch him, easily catching the scent and turning down another of the paths through campus. She chose to pass him on one of the darker, more secluded sections of the path, noting that this clearly isn't Sunnydale and these students aren't even subconsciously aware of this type of danger. She wanted to clue him in. Turning so that she faced him and blocked his path, she held up her hand to stop him. "Hi," she addressed him, her face slipping into demon form, "I'm going to give you a head start."

The man started backing slowly away from Buffy, unsure and unable to interpret what he was seeing. "Who. What are you?"

"The other side of the coin." Buffy grinned cryptically. "I was once heads, but I guess now you could say I'm tales." She started to circle around him, directing him back towards the direction he was first heading. "At one time I'd have been jumping in right now to your rescue against something like me. But now, well, I guess you lose this coin toss. You might want to run."

He did then, he turned and ran as fast as he could down the path, not even caring anymore what it was or what it meant and only hoping he could reach his car in time. He slid to a halt, his feet slipping from under him and falling when Buffy seemed to suddenly appear in front of him.

"Changed my mind." Buffy looked down at the man who was trying to get back on his feet while crawling backwards away from her. "We'll do this here."

The man shucked his backpack and righted himself. The panic cleared from his mind as his recreational martial arts training told him he could defend himself. However ugly this woman appeared, she was still just a small girl. He brought his hands up and his feet apart, ready in his stance.

Buffy halted her approach and just looked incredulously at him. "This should be fun. I gotta warn ya, though, I've done this before."

"Yeah, you don't look like the virgin type," the man quipped, then steeling himself, started a series of strikes, aiming for her face and chest. He reached only air as she dodged and moved just out of his reach, swaying and sliding. He moved in with kicks at the knees and then to sweep her off her feet. Again, he found nothing and ended up twisted off balance and turned around.

"Too slow." Buffy informed him. "Come on, what are you, a virgin yourself? Harder, faster." She taunted him, content to simply move slightly out of the way and dance around the attempted blows. She was enjoying this.

He kept trying, his mind searching and attempting every move he could remember. There were no counter blows to block and he focused frustrated on the blurred form that all so swiftly alluded him. Winded, he paused, turning and searching as the woman he now desperately feared kept herself just past his sight.

"At least you tried." Buffy quietly commended, as she stepped quickly up behind him and wrapped an arm around his chest. Holding him firmly to herself, she easily sank her fangs into his neck and gently pulled at the racing pulse. Buffy wrapped her other arm around him and held him as he started to go limp in her arms. She drank softly, lapping her tongue at the wound, letting his death go easy and feeling his life slowly fill and warm her. When it ended, she picked him up and set the body down on a nearby bench. Stroking his hair off his face, her own relaxed and returned to human. "I used to kill for better purpose than this. Still, and especially at the end, I only killed. Ask the high school kids I found chanting around a Hellmouth. Maybe it's Karma. Maybe it's what I deserved. Don't ask me what you deserved though. I swear I don't know." Buffy straightened and looked up at the stars starting to show themselves on a clear night. "Hell, now Willow has me trying to figure this out."

Willow was left alone in the courtyard. She watched Buffy take off down a path after the young man. She turned and tried to see where Xander had run off to, but he was deep into the dark of the campus. She didn't see any people leaving the buildings or walking down the paths that intersected through the courtyard. Willow closed her eyes and tilted her head, curious what other heightened senses she might now possess. She heard laughter in the lobby of one of the buildings. They might come out soon. She heard a rustling in the bushes far down one of the paths, maybe a dog. A car moving down one of the side roads away from the college. Muted, faint conversations at varying distances away. Insects gave the picture a low hum of background noise. Then the sound of footsteps, distant and approaching from the path behind her. Willow opened her eyes, her face sliding back into human form, turned and headed down the path to meet them.

The path was well lighted in this part, benches lining the side for conversations between classes and smaller paths branching out from it. Willow walked casually towards the one set of footsteps, her eyes and ears noticing that there was no-one else in the area. They would be alone when they met, so there was no hurry. A form began to take shape out of the distance between them. Willow smiled as she realized it was a woman. The details cleared as Willow got closer. A beautiful woman, petite, long dark hair, she reminded Willow of Kennedy. Especially when she recognized an attitude; leather jacket, jeans, boots creating the footsteps so easily heard, and a confident swagger in her steps. The woman reminded Willow of so many things. Her demon growled, itching to come out and play. As they neared each other, Willow stopped in front of the woman, halting her progress. "Hey." She smiled what she hoped was in a friendly manner, though with the demon so close to the surface, she doubted it came across that way.

"Hi." The woman stopped a few feet from Willow, the search for recognition and doubt clearly evident on her face. Deciding she didn't know the person in front of her and a feeling of unease crawling inside her, she started to go around Willow, hoping to just continue on her way.

Willow didn't know what else to say and conversation felt unneeded. She wanted to feed. And she felt a craving desire to feed from this woman, a compulsion stronger than any she had felt before. Willow stepped in front of her again, close and menacing. She let her face reveal her hunger, yellow eyes boring into brown ones, relishing the challenge she found in them. She reached out and grabbed the woman by the shoulders, pulling her close and bent her head towards the woman's neck. Willow was shocked when she realized she was suddenly flying back through the air and landed hard on the ground. Picking herself up, she eyed the woman who was standing still on the path, hands clenched and staring at her angrily.

"Look you little freak," the woman spat at Willow, "I don't know what you think you're doing, but you better stay the hell away from me."

Willow smirked, moving back in front of the woman, she left some distance between them. She let the demon remain on her face, growling low in her throat as she recognized the only thing that could give this woman that kind of strength: her own spell. This was a slayer, untrained and unaware. Her demon danced inside her skin in anticipation. "Pretty strong for a young girl." She watched the woman's eyes harden, her stance lower and ready for a fight. "Pretty instinctual as well. You ready for a fight? Come on, give it your best shot. Here, I'll start." Willow stepped quickly up to the woman and punched her hard across the jaw, twisting the head sideways.

The woman didn't fall, only took a step back for balance and touching her jaw, turned to face Willow. Anger rose from deep inside her and pushed her into action. Stepping forward, she jabbed at Willow's face, missing, and followed with a left hook. She barely missed again, Willow's speed surprising her, and found herself turned around, almost off balance. She quickly adjusted her feet and threw her elbow back, connecting with Willow's face. Turning, gaining confidence, she bounced on the balls of her feet, facing Willow and ready for more.

Willow stepped back and shook her head. The power and sting of the blow reminding her this was still a slayer, however untrained. She offered the woman a smile and a nod of recognition and respect. With renewed focus, the fight started again. They traded blows and blocks. Willow dodged or diverted most, only the occasional hit getting through and kick sending her back. She had more experience with fighting, especially fighting for one's life. Willow connected far more often, sending strikes to the midsection and jaw, wanting to wear her down, content to wait for her to make a big mistake. She kept her eyes on the hands, ever watchful for an impromptu weapon or stake. The woman's hands remained empty and clenched into fists. Willow jumped over a sweep at her legs. The woman fell off balance and Willow quickly moved in for the kill. Grabbing the woman's arms, and pulling the slayer's back tightly against her front, Willow bent quickly down and bit into her neck. She heard the gasp and the blood flooded her mouth. She drank deeply and quickly, pulling the fight and strength from the young slayer. The fight was over. It felt like fire filled her and she nearly howled into the neck. Willow calmed only as the slayer died. She picked the body up and laid her down under a tree. Standing, Willow reached out to touch the rough bark, knowing that any of its branches could have been the weapon that might have saved this girl's life. 'But she didn't know that,' Willow remarked in her thoughts. 'Even in a spell for good, there is evil. They'll never reach all the new slayers in time.'

Willow stretched, excess energy vibrated through her. She felt hot, connected, there was something; deep, strong, she could almost touch. She searched the feeling, trying to place, name, what she was suddenly grounded to. 'The earth?' she wondered. She had felt it before with Buffy and thought it was just Buffy, but it was in all slayers. In their blood, there was a calling. Willow felt no more craving or desire to hunt, so she walked back to the courtyard. She would enjoy telling the others what she found tonight.

Xander moved on down the path in search of another woman. There was a swagger in his step now. He could literally feel the night and he was a part of it. A part of the cold that washed over the earth for a time. His time. His calling. It wasn't long till he saw another woman almost reaching the door of a campus building. Speeding up, he intercepted her, blocking her entrance and gleefully giving stuttered chase to her as she ran to towards a side door, then racing ahead to block that as well. Before she could scream for help, he clasped his hand over her mouth and shoved her hard against the wall of the building. Smiling at the panic in her eyes, he bent forward and fed. Her life vibrated through his body and he stretched his neck, enjoying the flush warmth. Xander tossed the body behind some bushes and looking around, started down another path for more.

Buffy continued in the direction the man was running towards, curious what safety he had hoped to find ahead and sure she might find someone else. The path led her to a parking lot, mostly empty. She walked around the few old small cars that were scattered around the lot, looking inside the windows and waiting for someone to join her. She found a newer car parked away from the others, a black Mustang, standing out and clearly boasting money. Hearing footsteps, she watched as a man approached. He looked sharp; short hair, dress shirt and slacks. His age uncertain, she couldn't tell if he was a student or a teacher. It was clear this was his car though, and he picked up his pace crossing the parking lot towards her.

"Need a lift?" He casually offered, his eyes traveling down over her tight shirt.

"I need something." Buffy flirted with him, leaning back on the hood of his car.

He grinned slightly, trying to act cool but unconsciously licking his lips. "Well, maybe I can help. Are you a student here?"

"No." Buffy dragged the answer out, realizing he must be a teacher, or more likely, a teacher's aid.

"Good." He stepped closer to Buffy. "So, what do you need then? Maybe a drink? I know a place..."

Buffy smiled and stood up to meet him. Standing very close, she reached up to the collar of his shirt. "Your collar's crooked." Buffy trailed her fingers over his collar to the top buttons and started to undo the first two, pulling the material away from his neck.

He reached up and stilled her hands. "Hey, maybe we should go someplace."

"Why not here?" Buffy countered.

He looked around the deserted lot. "Someone could come by any minute."

"This won't take that long." Buffy freed her hands from his and placed one at the back of his head, pulling him closer. She held his eyes as he readied for a kiss and when he closed them in anticipation, she morphed, altered course, and sank her fangs into his neck. She was prepared for his startled response, her other hand reached around his waist and held him firmly to her. His hands beat uselessly against her, trying to push away as she let his blood pulse steadily into her mouth. And there it was, that heat, pumping and flowing into her, through her, filling her with the life force she remembered having, feeling human. Then she felt the man die, the flow slip away to a halt, and she returned to how she is, hardened and buzzed with the fresh kill. She leaned his body against the hood of the car and checked his pockets. She found his wallet and removed the cash. She found his keys, and opening the driver's side door, placed his body inside. She noticed a pair of nice sunglasses on the dash and took them. Shutting the door, she put the sunglasses on and wandered back to the courtyard.

Buffy found Willow seated on one of the benches surrounding the courtyard. "Well, I feel... better." Buffy stood in front of her friend, ran her hand through her hair and stretched.

"Good." Willow smiled warmly up at her.

Buffy eyed her suspiciously. "Will, you did hunt, didn't you?"

"Yes." Willow confirmed exaggeratedly. "I..." She was about to brag about her hunt when Buffy cut her off.

"Good." Buffy bounced a little on her feet. "My first one, much too much thinking. This last one, no thought at all."

Willow nodded her head, enjoying watching Buffy dance with excess energy, buzzed from the hunt, the kill. She was reminded of the small slice of time when her friend allowed herself to accept the Slayer, felt entitled to it even. Moments only through the years, and all before they pulled her back from her death and her peace. Willow wondered that after all this, that feeling is what would be brought out in Buffy now. And she wondered if Buffy realized it. Willow shook the thoughts from her head. "Well, I'm still thinking enough for the three of us. Not worrying." Willow held up her hand to stop any of Buffy's protests. "Just thoughts. For instance, what's with the sunglasses?" She hoped to keep any conversation light, finding she was enjoying Buffy's mood.

Buffy shrugged. "I liked them. Can still see well enough."

"Well, did you see Xander?" Willow asked.

"No, but..." Buffy paused and looked towards the far end of the courtyard, nodding her head in that direction.

Xander nodded in response and strolled across the courtyard. He stopped in front of the ladies and stood relaxed and reserved. "Well, what's the count? I took three. A forth, too, but she died before I could feed."

Buffy scrunched her nose at him and crossed her arms, defensively. "Xander, we weren't competing."

"Sure we were." Xander countered. "What? You gonna admit I beat the Slayer?" He smirked.

"Well, I wasn't playing." Buffy declared. Uncrossing her arms, she shrugged and relaxed. "Two, and I'm plenty full. Plus some cash and these cool glasses."

"Cash, right. I didn't think of looting." Xander smiled and gave Buffy a short nod of respect for her forethought.

Willow kept her face blank as both her friends turned to her, their expressions expectant and challenging. "One." She quietly admitted, trying to keep the knowing smirk off her face.

"One?" Buffy's features fell to disappointment. "Will, I thought we agreed..."

Willow cut her off by raising her hand in a 'stop' gesture. Unable to keep the smirk off her face any longer, she let it slide across her lips and rose off the bench to meet her friends at eye level. "But she was a slayer." She just as quietly continued, feeling like she just pulled an ace out of her sleeve.

"A slayer?!" They both remarked surprised at the same time. They looked at each other when they realized what they'd done, then looked back at Willow when she started to laugh.

"Yep." Willow stopped laughing, but continued to grin at the dumbfounded look on her friends' faces. "The spell. You do remember the spell? She probably just woke up that way. Untrained, unknowing, still strong as hell." Willow touched her jaw, some of the sting still lingering. "She only had the impulse to fight. And the fire in that blood... more than enough for me tonight. I'm still humming."

Xander laughed. "Way to go, Will. I concede."

Buffy arched an eyebrow. "I think that's what they call irony."

"So, what now, ladies? We go back, torch the park and get a move on?" Xander rubbed his hands together in feigned excitement and honest amusement.

"Xander, no!" Willow turned on him, resolve making her face stern and her eyes hard.

Xander met her eyes, his own growing cold in contrast to his smile. "Oh, come on. Buffy got to blow up schools and a whole town. You tried to end the world. I just want to set one little drunks' park into flames."

"Why?" Buffy asked softly, her head tilted and eyes mild and open in curious question.

"Why not?" Xander countered, turning on Buffy, expecting to see resistance from her as well. When he saw only open curiosity, he continued an explanation, growing more agitated as he revealed what he was feeling. "They probably deserve it. It's just... everything's different now. I'm strong and I'm free. Like a storm. And I'm connected, too. I can feel the earth; the dirt and the heat deeper inside. There's this pull.." Xander paused, searching for the words. Unable to find any, he shook his head and crossed over to the bench in front of them, hoping he could just show it. "Look," he instructed them. He placed his hands under the bench seat and pulled up, snapping the hold of the bolts that kept it secure to the pavement. Lifting the bench over his head, he tossed it arching through the air to land and tumble in a dark clearing behind them. "I want to tear it all apart. This whole world needs rearranging."

The women stood stunned from the display, unable to understand his rage. He turned to look at them, his face still human and smiling. The smile faded when he realized they didn't get it. They felt like strangers. He felt alone. Noticing a look on Willow's face, a pleading in her eyes, his anger flared again and he glared at her. "Don't look at me like that."

"Like what?" Willow stepped back.

"Like you're searching for your friend." Xander shook his head slightly and the form of a vampire showed. "Xander doesn't live here any more. And it's good riddance. He was weak, he could do nothing."

"He was stronger than that little show. He had a strength you couldn't know." Buffy countered, stepping up closer.

"Oh, right." Xander moved both hands over his heart. "He was the heart of the group. Well guess what, Buffy. The heart doesn't beat any more. Whatever roll in the hay finally turned you saw to that."

"I didn't..." Buffy voice rose and her fist clenched, but her forward movement was intercepted by Willow.

Willow rushed up to Xander and grabbed his shirt in both hands. "Let's get this straight, for the record, right now. I killed the Slayer. The Slayer." Her face morphed to the vampire. "I turned Buffy."

Buffy rolled her eyes at the outburst. It was true, though. She took a step back and nodded at Xander's glance for confirmation.

"I'm the one who got turned first." Willow admitted in a quieter tone, her face shifting back to human form. She released Xander and stepped back a little, still holding his attention firmly.

Xander just watched her, absorbing the information. "How? Who?"

Willow relaxed a little more and shrugged. "Got jumped. He's dust." She wasn't in a mood to fully explain standing in a campus courtyard when they should be leaving the scenes of many crimes and getting back on the road.

Xander's face softened back to human, his anger deflated. "Willow." The name softly slipping out from his thoughts. "So it's just us, isn't it?" The chain of events beginning to clear in his mind, the questions of where they were going and why starting again.

"Yes, Xander." Buffy reaffirmed. "It's just the three of us."

"Not to break up the touching part, but we should get going." Willow pointed out. She started back down the first path they came in on.
Buffy and Xander willingly followed. Xander leaned towards Buffy, his voice lowered. "So, she's the boss of us?"

Buffy's reaction was immediate. "Ha!"

Willow called back over her shoulder. "I'm still close enough to hear you."

"And I'll say it again, ha!" Buffy replied louder.

Willow turned and started walking backwards to face her friends. "And I'll repeat the score. Two slayers." Willow smirked and turned back around, continuing on the way.

They arrived at the apartment buildings. Willow let herself into their borrowed apartment to grab the bag of their clothes, make sure they left no identifying items behind and get the CD's Buffy wanted. Buffy noticed Xander had grown sullen on the way back. She watched as he stared off in the direction of the trailer park, clearly wanting to return. She remembered what Spike told her about Sire's blood and wondered if it was true, or if Spike was just being...Spike. It had been the plan anyway, the reasoning, her argument in the pro-turning Xander case. She decided to try.

Buffy removed her sunglasses and placed them in her pocket, wanting Xander to be able to read her eyes. "Xander." Buffy pulled his attention to her by placing a hand on his chest. She smiled warmly up at him, reassured when she felt a small spark of connection.

"Hey Buff." Xander gazed down into her eyes, wondering at the sudden comfort he felt.

"There's something I want you to do." Buffy started, her fingers moving back and forth across Xander's chest.

"Something like what Willow's been doing to you?" Xander placed his hands on Buffy's back, returning the gesture. When Buffy looked surprised at his words, he explained. "I can smell her all over you. I've wanted you longer, you know. Not by much, but still." He smirked.

Buffy turned Xander and pushed him back against the side of the car, holding him at arms length. "What is it with you two and this longing since high school stuff?" She shook her head in amusement. Smiling again, she stepped forward into Xander's arms. "I have something better in mind." When Xander arched his eyebrows in disbelief, she tilted her head, revealing her neck and looked into his eye. "Sire's blood. Drink, Xander."

Xander looked into her eyes, the proposition hanging in the little space between them. He glanced down at her neck and licked his lips. Looking back into her eyes for confirmation and seeing only invitation, his face changed and he slowly bent down and slid his fangs gently into her neck. There was no pulse to push the blood into his mouth so he licked the barest trickle that started down her neck. Then he began to pull at the wound, sucking the sweet elixir into himself. He craved suddenly, his grip tightened around her and pulled her roughly to himself. She moaned and he pulled harder, drank deeper. He thought he could never have enough of this. He felt her hand tangle in his hair, holding him; felt her body sliding seductively against his own. He sucked, he licked at the trickles that escaped his lips. He vaguely felt her pull away and darkness clouded his mind to sleep.
Buffy staggered back, surprised at the intensity and how dizzy and weak she felt now. Confused, she barely held Xander upright, his body limp and to all appearances, dead, again. Needing better leverage in her weakened state, she stepped up, leaned her body against his to hold him and lightly slapped his face to try and wake him.

Willow locked the door to the apartment and shut it, leaving the police one more tragedy and riddle. She started towards the car and noticed Buffy holding Xander, and Xander apparently knocked out cold. "What'd you do, Buffy?"

Buffy turned her head to Willow. "Hey, a little help here, please." She nodded at the car door to the backseat, indicating for Willow to open it.

Willow stepped quickly up to the car and opened the door. "Why, what's wrong? What happened? Why do you look almost as bad as he does?"

There were too many questions and Buffy was losing the battle to keep Xander upright. She struggled to move him to the backseat, relieved when Willow just stepped in and easily lifted him into the car and shut the door. When Willow turned back to her, Buffy leaned wearily against the car herself. "I got him to drink. From me. Sire's blood and all that. I didn't know this would happen." Buffy groaned. "I feel drained."

Willow looked at Xander laid across the backseat just as he was the night before, then back at Buffy. "Pun, literal. You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm sure I will be. I just wish... there was someone..." Buffy closed her eyes and rested her head back against the car.

Willow had an idea. Giving herself a moment to go over it in her mind, she opened the door again, setting the bag on the floor next to Xander and the CD's in the space between the front seats. With everything ready for the road, Willow shut the car door and stepped in front of Buffy. She traced the bite mark with her finger, heard Buffy hum and their eyes met as Buffy's arms wrapped around her. "You need blood, Buffy, so here's the plan. Drink from me. As you say, Sire's blood. Besides, what's good for the goose..." Willow leaned closer, running her hand over Buffy's chest.

"Can't, Will..." Buffy's tone pleaded.

"Yes." Willow slipped her thigh between Buffy's, pressing up. "You need it. You want to. I want you to."

"You'll be just as weak as me and I'll probably be out like the light that is Xander." Buffy tried to protest.

"I won't let it get that far. And I'll find a snack for the road." Willow reassured. "Buffy, drink." She tilted her head, offering her neck to Buffy and leaning in, licked at Xander's bite mark.

Buffy couldn't hold back any longer and unheeding any worry, sank her fangs fully into Willow's neck. She sucked immediately, holding Willow tight and relishing the responding groan. Pulling the liquid into herself, she answered her thirst, the craving sudden and different than the others. There was no heat, no spark of life, but it was thick with a promise, a bond. Buffy stroked Willow's back, moving their bodies against each other's, sliding herself over Willow's thigh. She pulled with abandon at the wound, accepting what was offered: a connection, union. It felt like sex. It felt like love. Suddenly it was torn away and she moved instinctively to follow, Willow's hand pushing her gently back against the car. Buffy smiled, recognizing in Willow's eyes that she felt it too and reached up to stroke Willow's face. Her arm fell to her side with sudden weight and she felt her eyes flutter shut and her thoughts quiet in dark sleep.

Willow watched as Buffy's eyes closed and her head fell forward. Buffy's body began to slide down and instead of trying to hold it up, Willow controlled the fall, gently setting her on the ground to lean against the car. Willow ran her hand through her hair, pulling it away from her face and carefully stood up, resting her other hand on the car to steady herself. She was weak, weaker than she had planned. It had been too intense to stop in time. Slowly, she looked around. It was early evening still. Someone would have to be coming home soon. She saw her, another student Willow guessed, crossing the road and heading in their direction. As the woman neared, she staggered away from the car towards her, calling out. "Hey, can you help us. Please."

The woman looked up. She saw a young woman like herself moving uneasily towards her and another woman laying on the ground near a car. She was frightened, looking around she quickly ran up to them. "Are you okay? What happened? Do you need help?"

Willow let the woman run up to her. She put her hand on the woman's shoulder, letting her help hold her up, smiling as she felt the woman's arm wrap around her waist to steady her. "Thank you." Willow concentrated the last of her strength and placed her other hand on the woman's other shoulder, pulling her close. She leaned in immediately, as if falling into her arms and sank her fangs into the neck. Willow struggled to hang on, letting her body move with the panicked woman instead of fighting her. She sucked the blood from her neck in time with the pulse, hoping to weaken the woman before she managed to pull away. They both fell to the pavement, Willow bent over her, covering her, holding desperately to the body and the flow of blood. She felt the woman's arms fall away as the pulse slowed and stopped. Willow sat up, ran her hand again through her hair and stretched. "Thank you."

Willow stood up; steady, strong now, and looked around. She could see no-one, but that didn't mean that no-one saw them. Quickly moving back to Buffy, she opened the passenger door and set her friend inside. She just as quickly moved around the car and got into the driver's seat. With one last look around, Willow started the car and headed for the freeway, northbound.

Buffy stirred and woke, stretching and adjusting as best she could in the car seat. "Mmm. How long was I out?" She glanced over to Willow then looked out the windshield, seeing nothing that would tell her where they were. It looked, simply, like they were nowhere.
Willow looked at the clock on the dash. "About 6 hours. How ya feeling?" Willow stretched her neck and tried to pull herself from the zone she had slipped into. The road was straight and flat for hours now and she had long ago lost the sense of time passing. The stereo was silent by choice and only the occasional tractor-trailer let her know that there was anyone else alive in the world.

"Six hours?" Buffy stretched again and looked back at Xander. "He still sleeps the rest of angels." She turned back to Willow, smiling. "I feel great."

Willow looked over to Buffy and smiled in return. "Good. I was getting lonely. I've been feeling a little Linda Hamilton at the end of a movie, sole survivor. Or Sigourney Weaver."

"Willow? Not that it matters, but where in the nowhere are we?" Buffy took off her shoes and put her feet on the dash, settling in.

Willow shrugged. "Best I can tell, somewhere in the middle of Oregon. I stopped paying attention a while ago."

"Are you okay?" Buffy checked in. "Yeah." Willow assured her friend. "Just got used to the silence. Even the thoughts slowed down."

Buffy laughed then laid her head back sideways against the car seat to watch Willow instead of the road. "That was really intense back there. But next time, we probably shouldn't do that during our big getaway."

"Yeah, it was. And we shouldn't." Willow confirmed. "Did it feel that way with Xander?"

"Yes." Buffy quietly acknowledged, trying to gauge how Willow felt about that.

"Lucky you." Willow had spent the first part of the ride trying to figure out and understand the ties that held them together now and what it meant. Xander worried her. And more than that, the lack of connection, the stranger she saw in him, pained her.

"It will be okay." Buffy was quick to reassure her. "It does matter, Sire stuff." She reached over and let her fingers trace down Willow's arm, clasping her hand, she pulled it gently from the steering wheel and held it between them on the armrest. Buffy wondered if Willow would feel anything like what she had felt if she fed from her, or Xander, even though neither of them were her Sire. 'We'll find out.' Buffy smiled to herself. 'Just not during the getaway.' "You haven't slept yet."

Willow rubbed her thumb over Buffy's hand, the unease then empty stillness of the hours alone drifting gratefully away. "Haven't needed to. I figure we'll get to Portland and stop. Maybe I'll lay down then." Willow let the following silence be. It was comfortable now, easy. Her thoughts began to casually fill her mind again, but they were random and unworried. She remembered the night this all began and its unanswered intention. "Buffy, that night, when I was going to come to your room to talk. If what happened didn't. If I had just knocked on your door and you let me in and we talked like I intended. Do you think we'd still be friends? I mean, could we have really reconnected, like it was. It seems so long ago now. But could we have? Or after everything that happened, the way it all went down, would we have just gone our separate ways?"

Buffy laid her head back and absently stared at the car ceiling, trying to imagine that night a different way. It felt like that night just a few nights ago was ages away, much less the years in the beginning, when she called Willow her best friend. She remembered the few days alone she'd spent reflecting on everything that had happened. She tried to recall what she was feeling when Willow knocked on her door. Hope, that was it, hope and relief. "I know we would have. Reconnected I mean." She turned back to Willow. "Probably not in the way we connect now, mind you."

"Probably?" Willow glanced over at Buffy and squeezed her hand. She was relieved to hear that Buffy had wanted her in her life, anyway. That they would have been a part of each other's. That they weren't together now just because of the vampire stuff.

"Well, who knows." Buffy teased.

Willow laughed. "In my dreams."

"Really?!" Buffy pushed.

"It's a saying." Willow deflected.

"No, 'in your dreams' is the saying." Buffy countered, laughing as Willow squirmed a little in her seat.

"Well, I'm not saying." Willow resolved not to be led further into this conversation.

"Xander knows, by the way." Buffy turned the conversation to something just as fun, knowing by Willow's look she would get nothing more from her friend.

"Knows what?" Willow was grateful Buffy apparently let it drop, but was weary where it was now going.

"And I sorta quote," Buffy dropped her voice to an approximate Xander tone, "he could 'smell you all over me', end quote."

"Oh, knows that." Willow grinned over to her friend, the routine of passing the tractor-trailer not even getting her full attention. "What'd he say?"

"Something about wanting me longer." Buffy laughed. "What is it with you two anyway? You, not a clue. Xander, I thought that was long over. Where was I all those years."

Willow left the most sarcastic reply alone. "You never did notice the way so many people looked at you. I always thought it was un-conceited more than clueless."

"Thank you, I think." Buffy grudgingly replied. "I had a huge dose of knowing when I could read everyone's thoughts. Definitely went back to determined not noticing after that. So, you, who notices everything, which by the way, is so not true, who else did I miss."

Willow smirked in anticipation. "Giles."

"No way!" Buffy protested.

"In a big way." Willow confirmed. "He fought it in the beginning. Gave up on it near the end. Take it from someone who noticed everyone who noticed you."

Buffy thought back over the years, trying to remember any signs. "Anyone else?"

"Faith, of course." Willow thought maybe Buffy had noticed that one and realized this was her chance to answer a long running debate. "Xander and I have a bet. Maybe you can settle it now. Did you and Faith ever..." She let go of the wheel briefly to make a continue gesture with her free hand.

Buffy laughed. "No. So, who won the bet?"

"Xander." Willow debated whether to tell him or not.

"You thought Faith and I had sex?" Buffy needed to confirm she understood Willow correctly. The idea seemed absurd.

"Well, there was hope. If it happened once... dreams and all that." Willow confessed.

"I would think that'd be Xander's dreams. And isn't it better you're my first, one and only?" Buffy teased.

"This conversation just became surreal." Willow admitted, shaking her head. "Have you thought about what it's going to be like, with Xander as well, I mean?"

Buffy quieted down and closed her eyes for a moment. "Yes. Have you?"

"A little." Willow admitted to herself it was more like a lot. "It'll be strange."

"No stranger than this." Buffy raised their joined hands a little.

"Yes it will." Willow asserted. "Much stranger than this."

"You're talking about the three of us, aren't you?" Buffy suddenly realized.

"Aren't you?" Willow gently accused back. "You've thought about it."

"Before the past couple nights or now?" Buffy laughed at Willow sudden look in her direction. "I'll plead the fifth."

"Buffy!" Willow shot her friend another look. "You can't leave it at that."

"I'm teasing, Will."

"Really?" Willow wasn't ready to so easily believe that.

"Maybe." Buffy kept on her teasing tone. "Or maybe there were some strange after slaying dreams of my own."

"Buffy..." Willow pleaded.

"You tell me yours sometime and I'll tell you mine." Buffy promised softly and seductively. She raised Willow's hand to her lips and kissed it.

Willow let her head rest back against the seat, giving up. "Portland better get here soon."

The silence slipped easily in as they each let themselves get lost in their own thoughts. Buffy's thumb absently caressed Willow's hand. Time went by unnoticed again. Buffy closed her eyes, strangely more at ease tonight than she remembered feeling in a long time. She wondered if she had fallen asleep when she felt the squeeze of Willow's hand get her attention.

"Portland's coming up." Willow explained.

Buffy looked out the windows. The scenery had changed. Buildings, roads, and houses lined the side of the freeway now and stretched out through the tall pines and over the hills to disappear on either side. Exits to major cross roads arched over the freeway connecting the suburbs with the city. Billboards crowded along the sides and taller buildings started to show themselves ahead. The roads started to become tangled over each other, a twisted maze of concrete, and the exits signs were now grouped together, coming in rapid order. The names of the roads were not familiar, yet the feeling of city was there and a comfort. "Do we know where we're gonna stay?"

"We have cash, enough at least. Can we just get a room this time? Some nice hotel with indoor hallways. Something downtown." Willow suggested. She had heard of Portland, a city along the Columbia river, with bridges connecting its parts and the old riverfront. It was a place she had on her list to visit someday.

"Okay." Buffy simply agreed. She felt calm, too relaxed to come up with any plan that required action. The early part of the night had held enough mixed up excitement. She looked out the window again. Street lights illuminated almost everything, but there were shadows throughout the streets and darkened windows on every building. "I miss it."

"Miss what?" Willow was grateful Buffy so readily agreed and started to look for a hotel sign and exit suggestion.

"The sun. The day. I miss that I'll never see this in the daylight. It's like I can't really see any of it at all. Almost everything is closed." Buffy explained. She wondered briefly just how uncaring she was now if this was the thing that still had yet to sink in. "The daytime was always the reassurance that I was a human, too. And, right, well, I guess I just answered myself."

Willow didn't know what to say. She noticed Buffy close in on herself and stare out the window. There was nothing to say, so she chose to leave it alone. "How about the Hilton?" Willow suggested as she saw the sign on the road and the larger sign clearly on a tall building to the left.

Buffy leaned her head back on the seat and closed her eyes. "That'd be nice."

Willow gently removed her hand from Buffy's, regretting it, but needing to concentrate on negotiating the unfamiliar roads to the hotel. She parked in the garage part of the large building and turned off the motor. The silence and dim lighting created a clandestine feeling. "You stay here with sleepy head and I'll go get us a room."

Buffy nodded her assent and watched as Willow pulled her driver's license out and placed her hand over it. Willow's hand glowed slightly, then the card. She saw Willow smile, checking it over. "What'd you do?"

"A simple glamour spell." Willow placed the ID back in her wallet. "It changed my name, address, all that. You want me to do yours now?"

"No. Later." Buffy crossed her arms over her chest.

Willow noticed the defensive gesture and let that rest as well. She still couldn't think of something to say. Impulsively, she leaned over and softly kissed Buffy, hoping the gesture could speak better than words anyway. Willow saw Buffy's small answering smile. Repeating the motion, Willow closed the distance between them again, slower and with greater intent. She brought her lips to Buffy's in a sure, full kiss. Feeling Buffy respond, she parted their lips with her tongue, content to trace Buffy's lips and slowly build the kiss into passion. She felt Buffy's fingers tangle in her hair, pulling her closer. When she felt Buffy's tongue join hers, she let the kiss deepen for a moment, then pulled away. All that was missing was the panting. Without the need to breathe, Willow wondered if one kiss could last for hours. She would have to find out sometime. "I'll get us that room."

Buffy shook her head as she watched Willow cross the parking garage to enter the hotel. She looked back to Xander. He was still draped across the backseat. She wondered again at what she'd done. Her mind started to picture what they would do together. Willow was right, it was about to get stranger still. The thoughts, after the passion and connection of the kiss, brought a sly smile to her face.

Willow entered the empty lobby and crossed over to the reservation desk, disturbing the clerk from his paperwork. When the young man behind the desk greeted her, she automatically started through the motions of getting them a room. "Hi. I'd like a room for two nights. I mean two days. All the way through the day and into the next night, what ever that is." She stumbled, suddenly uncertain how to put it.

The man looked at her curiously and tried to clarify what she needed. "So, you'll be leaving not this morning, but the next? Wednesday morning?"

Willow calculated it out and nodded her head. "Yes, only we might leave sometime Tuesday night." She thought quickly of a cover story, wondering to herself why she had even started to explain. "We might want to get a head start."

"If you leave anytime after 11am, we'll have to charge you for a full day." The man clarified the policy, eyeing Willow cautiously.

Willow noticed his look and forced herself into calm control. They didn't care when their guests left, only that they paid, she reminded herself. Smiling at the desk clerk, she continued with more ease. "That's fine. Sorry if I confused you. To be honest, I sometimes confuse myself. It's been a long drive and I'm a little tired."

Responding to her open smile, the clerk relaxed, his professional attitude melting under her eyes. He smiled back, flirtatiously. "I understand. May I see a driver's license, please, and I'll get you settled in for the rest of the night."

Willow cocked an eyebrow at his words, retrieved her license from her wallet and handed it to him. She waited patiently as he typed in her information, keeping the smile on her face each time he looked up at her. When he asked if she would like two queen sized beds or one king, her smile turned mischievous, unconcerned with how he would interpret it. "One king bed would be fine." Finally, she got her license back, the room key and a parking permit. Thanking the clerk, she turned to return to the parking garage, shaking her head at how difficult she almost made it. But now their room was paid for two nights. It would feel good to get some rest.

Buffy carried Xander this time, following Willow across the parking garage and to the elevators that led to the rooms. Willow found the right door and slipped the key card into the reader, opening the door at the signal and let them inside. She turned on the lights out of habit and made sure the windows were well curtained as Buffy laid Xander down on the bed. "One bed?" Buffy's sly smile returned to her face.

Willow shrugged her shoulders, even as she returned Buffy's smile with a hinted one of her own. "One bed."

Buffy shook her head a little and looked around the room. It was just another hotel room. Nicer than most, but just as plain in the end as all the others. "You wanna rest or explore?"

"We should stay here." Willow sat at the end of the bed next to Xander's feet. She began taking off his shoes. "Just in case Xander wakes up soon."

"I didn't know it would do that." Buffy laid down herself on the large bed, slightly away from Xander.

"It did the same to you." Willow removed the second shoe, letting it drop to the floor with the other. She looked up at his clothing, deciding she better just let him sleep in them. "It's just you have the Slayer thing. It must be like your super healing or something." She looked over at Buffy and then back to Xander. "We're gonna have to get some new clothes for ourselves real soon."

Buffy looked over to her sleeping friend, noticing the dirt and grass stains now on his pants and t-shirt. "Yeah. Well, if Dawn can figure out how to shoplift, I'm sure we can think of something." She started to remove her own shoes and socks, tossing them to floor beside her. "Personally, I'd love to get rid of this 'commando' feeling."

Willow looked over to her friend, shocked. "You're not wearing any underwear?"

"Nope." Buffy smiled at the look on Willow's face. "I showered, remember. And I wasn't gonna wear dead guy's. No power on this earth could get me to do that. So..." She shrugged. Buffy looked down at her clothing, suddenly unsure what she should do. They weren't going anywhere for the rest of the night and presumably, the next day. Should she strip? There was Xander right next to her. She was barely able to contemplate the idea of that with Willow in the room, and certainly not with Xander yet. Should she get under the covers, though, if she's clothed? And what about Willow? And there's only the one bed. She chose to lay back on top of the bed and contemplate the ceiling.

Willow's thoughts of slipping her hand down Buffy's pants were intruded on by Buffy mentioning Dawn's name. "How do you think Giles and Dawn are doing?"

Buffy closed her eyes. "Can we not think about that yet?"

"Okay." Willow was quick to agree. She bent down to remove her own shoes and socks. Thinking about what Buffy had just disclosed, she walked to the bathroom. "I'll be right back."

Buffy curiously listened for what Willow could be doing in the bathroom, but heard nothing very descriptive. Turning on her side, she stretched out beside Xander and started stroking his hair, the memory of him feeding from her filling her body with a low hum. She felt the connection this time, muted, but there. She willed him silently to wake up.

Willow was cursing Buffy. Suddenly, she couldn't stand the idea of wearing the days old underwear any longer. She hadn't wanted to put them on before, but couldn't bring herself to just not wear any. Now, she had no choice. She stripped herself from the waist down and put the offending garment in the trash. Redressing, she shifted at the odd feel of jeans that didn't fit quite right against bare skin. Still, it was better, mentally. Willow paused just outside the bathroom door and watched Buffy run her fingers through Xander's hair. Strange and stranger was still to come. The space open on the bed was next to Buffy, so she crossed over and lay down.

Buffy rolled over onto her back when Willow laid down next to her. "What were you doing in there?"
"Doing what you did." Willow settled down on her side, facing Buffy. "Going commando." She squirmed at Buffy's answering chuckle. "Don't laugh. These jeans don't fit right and it feels really weird." Willow nodded in Xander's direction. "How's he feeling?"

Buffy smiled warmly. "He's there, I can feel it this time." She took Willow's hand in her own and stretched Willow over herself to place the hand on Xander's chest. "Here, try it for yourself."

Willow hesitantly ran her hand over Xander's chest. It was hard with muscles, strange in its stillness. She felt the spark, a bridge that crossed between the aching gulf and connected her to that feeling she always had around Xander. She felt the friendship and admittedly, the desire that remained below the surface. Gaining confidence, she caressed his chest, wondering if he could tell he was being touched and who was touching him. She pulled her hand away after some time and finding herself draped over Buffy, propped up on her elbows to look down at her friend. "I feel it." She gazed into Buffy's eyes. Willow lowered herself to meet Buffy's lips with her own. She was sure she intended a friendly kiss, a confirmation of this connection too. She felt Buffy's arms wrap around her and pull her body down. Their legs wrapped over each others. The kiss deepened and hastened, tongues tangling deep into each other's mouths. Willow brought a hand up to cup Buffy's breast, kneading it and caressing the nipple with her thumb through the thin fabric. She felt Buffy's moan across her lips. Breaking the kiss, Willow licked her way down Buffy's jaw and neck, sliding her tongue over the bite marks there, eliciting another moan from Buffy. Fingers tangled in Willow's hair, kneading her head and urging her on. She continued down over the tight shirt and closed her lips over Buffy's nipple, nipping with her teeth.

Buffy arched into the sensations Willow was causing, suddenly wanting very much to remove all her clothes. She gently guided Willow over to her other breast, started to push and suggest Willow travel lower. This felt odd still, foreign if she opened her eyes and glanced down at the red hair hovered over her, but so absolutely right. It filled her, excited her. She turned from Willow to Xander. "Can you imagine if he woke up right now?"

Willow moaned in agreement at the image. She moved down Buffy's chest to where her shirt ended and brought the material up, just under her breasts to expose her stomach. She kissed and licked the skin, teasing whether she would continue up or down. "He might you know. Should I stop?" Willow looked up across Buffy's body and into her eyes. Her fingers continued the caress across the bared skin.

Buffy considered Willow. Her friend, her best friend, her mind corrected when sudden memories of high school years flew through her mind, lay hovered over her body, suggesting things her mind had never rationally considered. Still didn't rationally consider. She had only been reacting before, needing the connection. Now she was asked the question. Asked for a 'yes' or 'no'. And it was Willow, clearly Willow asking her this. Xander, the other part of the question, what if Xander woke up. Buffy didn't think he would this soon. She realized she wanted this. "Don't stop, Willow." Buffy stroked the hair from Willow's face. "Please don't stop."

Willow licked her lips and started to kiss her way across Buffy's stomach, moving up and tracing her tongue just under Buffy's breasts. Moving the shirt further up and over the breasts, Willow started to slowly explore and tease with her lips, tongue and touch. Confidently she moved over and across Buffy's skin, relishing the repeated 'yes' and moans she heard from Buffy. Spreading Buffy's legs apart, she settled her body between them and started to kiss her way down her chest and stomach, pausing and licking the skin just above the waistband. Willow glanced up at Buffy once again as she unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, opening them. She smiled as Buffy stared at her, desire clear in her eyes, and nodded 'yes', lifting her hips slightly in invitation. They both heard Xander groan and Buffy's hips fell back to the bed.

"I'm gonna kill him." Buffy stated, turning to see if Xander was truly waking.

"Again?" Willow laughed. She stayed as she was between Buffy's thighs, realizing that the fact that Xander might wake was part of the desire driving her to do this.

Buffy saw Xander stretch to wakefulness and open his eye. She quickly pulled her shirt down over her breasts. It was all she had time to do before Xander's gaze shifted over to her. She laid her hands at her sides and relaxed back, tilting her head on the pillow to face him. She glanced at Willow and realized Willow was staying where she was as well. Her mind flooded with the possible implications and was surprised when the thoughts excited her.

Xander studied Buffy's eyes, his mind foggy still and unable to read the intensity he found in them. "Now what happened?" He shook his head, trying to clear it and looked around the room.

"You got a second dose I guess you could say." Buffy answered.

"Where are we now?" Xander continued to try and piece it together.

"Portland, Oregon." It was Willow's turn to answer. "A hotel downtown."

"We've kept on the run, huh?" Xander stretched his body again.

"How are you feeling?" Buffy noticed he was much calmer now, less angry. She smiled when she considered that maybe Spike hadn't lied and this would work.

"Hungry." Xander growled. He turned his attention back to the women on the bed next to him. His eyebrows arched as he noticed Willow's position and Buffy's open pants. "Did I interrupt something?"

Willow answered with a smile, but it was Buffy who reached across the short distance and took Xander's hand in her own, stroking the back of it with her thumb. "Do you feel something different when I touch you?" Buffy started to explain.

Xander looked down at her hand in his. "Yeah. A kind of comfort. Sort of warm, I guess. Something." Xander was unable to place it exactly, but didn't worry about it. He could tell that Buffy understood. He shook his head a little in wonder.

"Xander," Willow softly continued the explanation, hoping Buffy wanted to lead this in the same direction, "when we really touch each other, sexually I mean, it's that much stronger. It fills us, and makes us feel whole again." She slipped her fingers under Buffy's shirt, tracing them over her skin, then let them slide down to the open 'V' of her pants.

Buffy closed her eyes, unable to watch Xander's reaction and unwilling to stop what Willow was doing, what she was proposing. She gripped Xander's hand tighter.

Willow watched Xander watching her fingers as they moved over the small area exposed below the waistband, barely slipping inside the pants only to reappear, back and forth. She settled back comfortably between Buffy's legs. She silenced her racing thoughts, letting herself just react to the situation and her desire, their desire.

Xander looked on intently, transfixed by what he was witnessing. He shifted to his side, the beginning of an erection suddenly making his pants uncomfortably tight. "So, you two..."

"Three." Buffy interrupted and corrected before she could censure herself. She opened her eyes to look for confirmation in Willow's and saw Willow lick her lips and smile. Buffy reached her free hand down and stroked Willow's face. She brought Xander's hand to her lips and kissed it. "Us." Her mind was mildly protesting what her body was feeling. Thoughts were pushed aside by ever growing desire. When Willow started to gently pull her pants over her hips, she didn't hesitate to arch up and let them slide down her legs and off.

Willow let the pants drop to the floor and looked up to see her friends intently watching her, watching what would happen next. She focused on Xander as she leaned down and started to slowly kiss, nibble and lick a trailing path up Buffy's leg. She smiled as the leg fell open, almost resting against Xander's and granting access. She watched Xander watching her as her tongue slipped out from between her lips and slid across the underside of Buffy's knee. She had secretly wondered what this would be like, knowing Xander thought of seeing her with another woman, and knowing her thoughts of being with Xander had remained. 'Gay now' had silently always held that one precious exception. She heard Buffy moan her name and looked up into her friend's eyes. She realized she was moving too slow, her friends were staying so still. Everyone was a little afraid. Buffy's eyes held more need than fear though. Willow took in an easy breath, letting the scent of Buffy's arousal spur on her own. She bent back down to Buffy's leg and kissed her way more aggressively up the inner thigh. She paused only a moment above Buffy's center, set her hands over Buffy's hips and ran her tongue through the folds of her pussy to end with a kiss above her clit. Willow hesitated no longer and went down on her friend. Nipping, licking, sucking; she filled her senses with her scent, her taste. Buffy arched under the onslaught and she pushed her back to the bed, her tongue slipping inside and out, sliding around and up, her lips moving to hum and suck over Buffy's clit. A trailing, echoing faint thought wondered what Xander, her oldest friend, thought of this, thought of her now.

Buffy smiled when it was Xander that moaned. Willow's tongue felt electric and a heat suddenly pulsed through her. 'So right!' Buffy's thought screamed its encouragement, letting her body react to the sensations. She pulled her hand from Xander's tight grasp and quickly removed her top. She watched as he opened his pants, his arousal evident. He stared at Willow, then at her; her chest, her eyes. She needed to feel him again. In the small distance that separated them, he appeared as only the image of her friend. She reached for him and wrapped her fingers through his hair, clasped the back of his head and guided his mouth to hers.

Xander felt something open in himself with the kiss as Buffy's tongue parted his lips and thrust itself into his mouth, searching. He felt whole, sated with belonging, with love, secure, even as his need erupted through him and urged for more. He bent forward, pressing himself to Buffy's lips, stroking himself against her thigh. His tongue slipped between her lips, playing, taunting, seeking to consume her. He growled, the vibrations hummed through them both.

Buffy gasped at the feel of Willow's tongue forcefully stroking her clit and felt fingers moving steadily inside of her. Xander moved his hungry search for more of her across her jaw, down her neck and further to a breast, his lips clamping over her nipple and pulling. 'So right, so much', her mind repeated. She arched suddenly, the intense explosion of sensations slipping past her lips as a cry, her hand clinging to the back of Xander's head. She pulled Xander up to lay his head on her shoulder, keeping him against her as she fell back on the bed. She moaned, stroking Willow's hair with her other hand, as the now gentle tongue continued to slide and twist through her center, lapping her climax and slowly building the sensations again. "Oh, hell." Buffy relaxed and gave in. "Willow..."

Willow smiled knowingly, feeling Buffy twitch and shift and slowly start rocking. Carefully she inserted a finger again and started slowly stroking. She rested her head on Buffy's thigh and watched the growing arousal play across her friend's face and body. Her own body ached with a need to be touched, the jeans caressing oddly as she rocked her hips slightly in time with Buffy's. She saw Xander stroking himself as well against Buffy's other thigh. She stared at the lengthening bulge that showed through the open pants and wanted to reach across and pull it free of the underwear that confined him. She continued to stroke Buffy and looked up into her eyes.

Buffy met Willow's eyes. "Willow..." She laughed and threw her head back against the pillow. "Xander, do you see what she's doing to me?"

"I see." Xander met Willow's amused gaze. He watched her hand move back and forth between Buffy's thighs. He groaned when he saw Willow openly stare at his erection and lick her lips. He couldn't believe this was happening, or what was happening inside him. Memories that had felt dim, muted, lost, started flooding back. Kissing Willow on the library floor. Watching Buffy walk across the school courtyard towards him. The three of them, laying together in Buffy's room, watching TV. His life anchored back into his body. It was never like this before though. Not even in the wildest of his dreams could it feel like this. His hand reached up and cupped Buffy's breast, his fingers dancing over the nipple then trailing down over her stomach. He felt her muscles jump at his touch. He continued down and across, leaving Buffy's skin to stroke Willow's cheek, his thumb grazing across her lips. He smiled when she kissed his thumb, then moaned as she brought her lips around it and sucked.

Buffy smiled and sat up, regretting the loss as Willow's finger slipped out, but intent on her actions. "It's your turn now," she informed Xander. She grabbed the end of Xander's t-shirt and pulled it roughly up and off. Pushing him back on the bed, she removed the rest of his clothing. She licked her lips as she watched Xander's cock twitch, erect and angled over him. This, she knew how to do. She just never thought she would be doing it with Xander. Buffy gently stroked his length, her thumb smoothing the precum over the head. She straddled his thighs and lifted herself over his cock, guiding it to the right position, she slowly lowered herself. He filled her: the erection, the connection, it all felt like it belonged. They were bonded, bound to each other. She fell forward, her hair falling around her face and stared at him. Slowly, she started rocking her hips, feeling him slide back and forth through her, flexing and contracting her muscles around him. She stared at him, smiling at the wonder evident on his face. 'So full, so right,' her mind chanted.

Xander lay still, stunned by the force of the desire that suddenly flooded him, drowning in the memories that cascaded over his mind. He lost himself in her eyes as Buffy bowed over him, her hair draped around her face, the scent of purely aching arousal surrounding them. He remembered the first time, that clear sudden moment, when he fell in love with Buffy. It was the night of the Harvest. Buffy was on the stage, confronting the Master's vessel, fighting for her life. Chaos was around them as they tried to lead the people out the door to safety and the vampires attacked, fed, and tried to keep everyone inside. He was in trouble, struggling with a monster so much stronger than himself and losing. Desperate, he called out. And Buffy, in the middle of her own struggle, responded. He heard her call out to him, barely ducked under the flying cymbal, and was suddenly released as the vampire holding him was beheaded and turned to dust. He looked up at her. She was on stage, flooded and bathed in the spotlight, and he fell in love. Xander looked up at her now. A smile softened her face, her eyes fluttered shut as she slowly lifted herself and rocked back down over and over and over his cock. Love. He felt it, needed to feel it. His hands clasped her hips and he began arching up, meeting her, matching the slow rhythm.

Willow sat up and watched her friends beside her. They were naked, slow fucking in front of her. She watched fascinated at first. Their bodies joined, Buffy lifting up, revealing Xander's cock, then lowering and sliding it back inside. When Buffy bent forward and started to kiss Xander, her hair falling over their faces, his hands roaming over her back, fascination turned cold. Willow sat apart, alone and empty. Buffy and Xander seemed to melt into each other; their movements growing faster, their passion greater; as one, their bodies rocked, slid and thrust. Willow was left to the side, merely an observer.

Suddenly Buffy arched up and sat back. Continuing her rise and fall over Xander's cock, she ran her hand through her hair, pulling it away from her face, and turned back towards Willow. She expected Willow to be watching them, but was crushed at the closed looked on Willow's face. Buffy reached back and beckoned Willow over to them. When Willow resettled on her knees beside them, Buffy leaned over and kissed her, passionately, urgently, needing to pour into Willow everything fucking Xander was making her feel. She remembered the high school courtyard in the sun, the three of them tangled together on the couch watching movies, dancing at the Bronze, and last battles, so many last battles. And now their dark death, together. Buffy undid Willow's jeans and slipped her hand inside, stroking her, needing more. She whispered directly into Willow's ear, "Take off your clothes."

Willow nodded and turned to look down at Xander. She undid the two buttons holding her shirt closed and let it slide off her shoulders, smiling when Xander smiled. Willow reached down and removed her jeans. It was Xander that then reached out to her and pulled her to him, wrapping his arm around her as she laid down on the bed beside them. Willow started stoking his chest, circling his nipples with her fingers. He was gazing up at her with his goofy grin, the one that had always made her heart leap before. She had always loved this man, for so long she couldn't place exactly when she had fallen in love with him. She needed to feel that again. Willow leaned down and kissed him, felt his tongue thrust into her mouth and finally got her friend back. She felt Buffy's hand over her ass, then a finger slip inside her and start to move slowly in and out with the same rhythm Buffy moved over Xander. Willow broke the kiss with a moan and at Xander's questioning look, she whispered in his ear. "Buffy's finger fucking me, Xander."

Xander groaned with Willow's words, the image slamming into his mind. Willow was licking and kissing his ear and down his neck. Her hands playing over his nipples and chest. He could feel her body sliding against his, her breasts on his chest, her leg draped over theirs. Buffy was sitting up, watching. She set a faster pace now, her body pulling up and almost leaving him then falling back down, twisting a little at each down stroke. It was a barely controlled bounce, her breasts swaying a little and her hair falling again over her face. He couldn't see what she was doing to Willow, but he could hear and feel through Willow was it was doing to her. His mind ceased to function as the sensations condensed and tightened inside him and finally snapped loose, sending him over the edge. He could feel Buffy clenching and shuddering over him. He tasted blood and didn't remember biting down on Willow's shoulder. He gently slipped his fangs out and lapped at the blood that had trickled down. "Sorry," he mumbled as his head fell back onto the pillow, exhausted. He felt Willow chuckle in response.

Buffy remained seated on Xander, still and limp. Her hand traced random patterns over his chest. Willow lay half beside them, half across Xander. Buffy smiled and moved her hand from Xander's chest to Willow's back when her friend pushed against the finger still inside her, subtly reminding her of what she was doing just before. "Poor Willow," Buffy teased as she restarted the slow finger fuck. She gently nudged Willow off Xander and over onto her back beside them, letting her finger slip out from Willow and promising with a seductive smile something more. Carefully, she lifted herself off Xander and resettled over Willow, resting her body over her friend's and starting a slow deep kiss. She felt their breasts moving against each others', felt Willow trying to stroke herself along her thigh, felt hands in her hair and on her back. Buffy let their bodies tangle into each other. She continued the kiss over Willow's lips, across her jaw and down her neck. Buffy kissed her way down to Willow's chest, wrapping and curling her tongue around her nipples and over her chest. She looked across Willow's body to Xander. He was still, smiling, intently watching her. She winked at him impulsively and continued down Willow's stomach. She felt Willow arching into her touch now, heard her name softly called again and again. She watched as Willow reached blindly out and found Xander's hand, wrapping her fingers through his and holding on. She kissed her way down to Willow's thigh and paused as Willow's legs spread open to her. She had never done this before. Buffy took an experimental breath, then leaned in and ran her tongue through Willow's pussy. She smiled when she realized she could enjoy this, wanted this. Buffy looked up at Willow and met the intense gaze following her every move. She closed her eyes and leaned in; kissing, licking, sucking every part of Willow's pussy, exploring. She let Willow's movements inform her, felt a hand on the back of her head, guiding her. She heard her name called out with force and need. Buffy focused on Willow's clit, licking and sucking. She felt Willow twitch and rock against her face, felt nails dig into her scalp so she quickened the pace; letting herself go, letting Willow's reactions lead her. She didn't stop until she heard and felt Willow's orgasm crash through her.

Buffy sat up and saw Willow's eyes flutter open and Xander staring up at her. She licked her lips, suddenly uncertain and very aware of everything that had just happened between them. Still, her body told her this was right; she was whole, they were her friends, and now they truly had done everything together. She laughed quietly and reached out to wrap her hand around theirs. Buffy laid down on her side next to Willow. She could feel the sun rising into the sky and knew the night was well over. "I'm thinking sleep now." She draped her arm over Willow and rested her head. "I've had about as much strangeness as I can handle in one night."

Willow held Buffy close, idly running her fingers along Buffy's back. Her mind was running crazy circles around what just happened: Buffy and Xander, and especially Buffy and no less, Xander. She closed her eyes and the image of Buffy between her legs played over and over. Her mind told her sleep might not come easy even as her body pulled her into contented, exhausted rest. "Curious and curiouser. Alice fell down the rabbit hole and this must be what drugs are like." Willow mumbled and felt Buffy's lips on hers, briefly. A goodnight kiss?

Xander rolled onto his side, trapping Willow between them and wrapped his arm over Buffy's and Willow. "Better than drugs, Will. I feel..." He watched as Buffy opened her eyes and smiled knowingly at him. "That was better than sex." Willow opened her eyes at him and he shrugged. She leaned up and kissed him. He leaned over her and kissed Buffy. Her lips were soft, moist and he slipped his tongue out to taste. He felt her pull back and heard her amused admonishment, "sleep Xander." "Sweet dreams," he wished them and settled back down next to Willow. The three of them fell as one into sleep.

When they woke, the sun was still out and it was late afternoon. The room held a haze of muted light and pale shadows. Buffy stretched and sat up. She turned and watched her friends struggle more slowly into wakefulness. Willow was now turned on her side with her back up against Xander's chest. His arm was still wrapped around Willow and his body was curled beside her. Buffy stroked the hair from Willow's face then ran her fingers down Xander's arm. "I'm gonna shower," she quietly murmured, the look in her eyes clearly lost in other thoughts. She rose off the bed, gathered her clothes and walked into the bathroom. Soon, the sound of the shower traveled through the open door and into the room.

Willow followed Buffy's movements into the bathroom, then closed her eyes and snuggled back against Xander. She felt his erection behind her and open her eyes in surprise. She remembered this, with Oz, but that had been many years ago. In the mornings, most mornings, they would make love. No, that was wrong; morning breath, bed hair, half asleep; it wasn't making love. They would fuck. It was simple, caring but not passionate, and unmitigated. "Xander?" she quietly asked, trying to find out if he was also awake.

"Hmm?" he replied. He tightened his arm around her and kissed the back of her shoulder.

"You're awake." Willow's voice shook a little. She ran her hand over his arm to calm herself. "Very awake."

"You sound scared." Xander stilled his body and relaxed his hold.

"Nervous." Willow corrected. "It's been a long time since I woke up in a man's arms. And we, you and I, never did..." Her voice trailed off when she felt him arch and move suggestively against her back.

"Do you want to?" Xander teased in her ear then kissed her shoulder again.

Willow was quiet for a moment. Memories of life with Xander filled her mind as an answer: not so secret unrequited love, clandestine moments of stolen kisses that ended in disaster, and last night. There was last night and still they had never done this. "Yes. For a long time, yes."

Xander started to kiss Willow's neck and shoulder. His hand cupped her breast, kneading as his thumb grazed over her nipple. He ran his hand down her body and between her legs. He started stoking her as she parted her thighs and placed a leg back over his. "You're so wet. Is it me? Do I turn you on?"

"Yes," Willow confirmed. She started rocking against him.

"Not just a crush? Not just a fluke?" He continued whispering in her ear.

Xander's voice held more insecurity than seduction and Willow found it maddening. This was finally happening and if she was willing to give in to it, he was gonna have to get over it and believe it too. "Xander," her voice held an edge, "just fuck me. I want you to fuck me." She reached between her legs and stroked his erection, pulling it gently forward and guiding him inside her as she felt him push forward. He stretched her, filled her, and she gasped. His fingers continued to play over her clit as he rocked his hips, thrusting into her. Her body was forced up at each thrust as he pumped himself deeper inside. She started to rock her hips back, pushing and meeting him, setting a rhythm, speeding his motions until they were moving together, shaking the bed. "Yes," she encouraged him. "Yes!" she demanded. Her muscles started to clench around him as his finger danced rapidly over her clit. All the years; she felt all the years of knowing him, belonging to each other, condense into this one moment, binding them. His movements became more frantic, urgent. She felt his fangs at her shoulder, scraping but not entering. "It's okay, Xander. Bite me. It's okay. Fuck me." She felt him shudder behind her, and the sting of fangs slipping into her shoulder and the pull of his mouth at the wound. His finger stilled and pushed roughly against her clit as his orgasm overtook him, pushing her over the edge as well.

Xander first released his fangs from Willow's shoulder and lapped the blood that had trickled down. Kissing the wound, he slipped gently out of her and rested, limp, his arm now draped loosely over her hip. Willow clasped his hand and laced her fingers through his. She noticed the shower was stopped and looked over at the bathroom door. Buffy stood there, dressed, leaning against the door jam, watching. She met Buffy's eyes and was relieved when she saw Buffy smile and nod. Willow stretched with a groan and forced herself to sit up. She turned to Xander, watching his eye open at her movement. Bending forward, she gave him a short, sweet kiss. "I'm gonna shower now." Willow gathered her clothes and walked past Buffy into the bathroom.

Buffy watched as Willow dropped her clothes unceremoniously on the bathroom floor and started the water. She turned to the mirror, shaking her head as she saw only an empty room. "Clothes," Buffy voiced her distaste and reminding Willow they had nothing clean to change into. She smiled as she heard the answering, "I know," from the shower stall. Buffy turned and walked over to the bed, sitting down a short distance from Xander. He was laying on his back, nude, and seemingly unconcerned with it.

"Clothes?" Xander questioned as he watched Buffy sit down.

"Yeah." Buffy tried to keep her eyes to his face, only every so often glancing down. "As in these are stolen and nothing clean to change into. We need clothes. And a hairbrush." She added as she ran her fingers through her hair.

Xander shrugged. "Okay." He noticed Buffy glancing down his body again. "Whatcha' thinking?"

Buffy shook her head a little. "What am I thinking? Let's see, last night there was three way sex. This morning, I watch you and Willow having sex. What could I be thinking? Actually, I haven't even thought about all that yet." Buffy smiled at Xander. "If you really want to know what I was just thinking... I was noticing you don't look half bad. I never let myself notice that before. Strange new world, now."

Xander beamed a smile back. "I don't know, this new world is suddenly feeling pretty great."

"So you're not mad at us anymore?" Buffy settled back on the bed, resting against the headboard. She was growing more comfortable with Xander laying naked beside her. "You've seemed pretty angry."

Xander shrugged and turned on his side to face her. "Last night and this morning forgave a lot of sins." He reached out and took her hand in his, gently holding it.

Buffy laughed, comforted by the connection that sparked at his touch. "So that's it, huh?"

"It's just, I remember who I was when I'm with you, or Willow." He suddenly tried to explain. "And I want to hold onto that. But the world, it's all wrong. And I don't know what's wrong. I feel something missing now, and it wasn't like that, before, when I woke up last night. Last night, I felt a calling. I could feel the world tilt and night open like the jaws of a monster and devour it. I was part of that monster. Now... maybe it's because it's still day out. There's a hole." Xander shook his head and looked up into Buffy's eyes. "The sex- a great fix," he assured.

Buffy squeezed his hand, unsure what to say. She hadn't felt any calling with her turning. In fact, it separated her from a calling that had become as much a part of her as the other things now missing: her breath and heartbeat. She wondered if it was her blood that was pulling him from his, or if it really was just because it was daylight. She understood how empty he felt without it and thought maybe they should leave him simply a vampire. 'But these moments with us, when he remembers himself, they'll drive him mad,' Buffy thought as she remembered Angel and Spike. 'It's probably why vampires always just kill, never turn, their friends and family. So they don't have to remember.' Before she could think of any reply, Willow appeared from the bathroom and announced it was Xander's turn. Xander got up off the bed, picked up his clothes and headed to the bathroom. Buffy shook the thoughts from her head. Instead, she watched Willow try to comb her hair with her fingers.

"Does my hair look alright?" Willow asked Buffy, her arms falling to her side in frustration.

"Yeah," Buffy assured her. "Does mine?" "Yeah, just, come here a sec." Willow motioned Buffy up to the edge of the bed and started to fix and form Buffy's longer hair into how she usually kept it. "We're gonna have to rely on each other now, you know. This no mirror thing is getting to me. So no tricks!"

"Promise." Buffy swore in all seriousness. "You?"

"Promise." Willow smiled her assurance. They both looked over to the bathroom as they heard Xander calling their names.

Willow and Buffy entered the bathroom; both looking to the mirror, understanding why Xander was calling to them. Buffy walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest, peering at the mirror. "Kinda messed up, huh?"

Xander stared at the mirror; not seeing himself, or Buffy, or Willow when he glanced over to where she should be. "Yeah."

Buffy turned him away from the mirror. "Just take a shower, Xander."

"Yeah," he mumbled as he started the water and climbed in.

Buffy and Willow left him to his shower and settled on the bed. Buffy sat cross legged with her back leaning on the headboard. Willow curled up right next to her, automatically took Buffy's hand in her own and placed them both on Buffy's lap. "So.." Willow started. "Is Xander alright?"

"I guess. I don't know." Buffy shrugged, then smirked. "So, you and Xander..."

"Yeah." Willow smiled in response. "You jealous?"

Buffy startled a little at the question. "No. Were you jealous? Last night I mean."

"No, not jealous." Willow confirmed. "Just for a moment, I felt a little left out. And worried," she admitted. "I do remember that you prefer men. That you aren't really..."

Buffy quickly squeezed Willow's hand. A smile slowly spread across her face and she rolled her eyes a little. "I gotta admit, I'm getting used to this." She brought Willow's hand to her lips and kissed it. She felt Willow settle closer to her in response. "What about you with Xander? Was that a little strange?"

"I was too busy wanting it to worry about it." Willow smirked, grateful that she could no longer blush.

Buffy laughed. "We're freaks now."

Willow laughed with her. Her eyes caught Buffy's. Slowly, she leaned forward across Buffy and brushed some hair away from her face. The kiss that followed started gently, lips brushing over lips. Willow pressed forward; bracing her hand on the headboard, she traced Buffy's lips with her tongue and slipped it inside when Buffy answered by parting her lips. Slowly, she kissed Buffy, content to simply kiss.

Buffy opened herself to the kiss; tilting her head, she responded, kissing Willow back. Her hand let go of Willow's and started absently caressing her back. She was growing to love Willow's kisses, the way Willow focused on nothing but the kiss. She was beginning to want this, want Willow. It wasn't just about a connection anymore. They broke the kiss when they heard movement in the room and watched as Xander sat in a chair beside the bed.

"No, no, keep going," Xander protested.

Willow sat back against the headboard beside Buffy. "Shower feel good?"

"Yeah." Xander could see the moment that started was done. He rested his feet up on the bed and leaned back in the chair. "Mind if I ask you guys a few things now?"

Buffy smiled and rested her hands on her lap. Nodding towards Xander, she adjusted her mind from kissing to conversation. "Go for it."

"What happened?" Xander simply started.

"When?" Willow's face puzzled. So many things had happened in only a short amount of time.

"This." Xander motioned the three of them. "When this happened. How did we get from the tired victors yet again to vampires on the run? Is everyone else dead? What happened?"

"We're the only ones dead." Buffy answered part of the questions. The others were Willow's. "Well, us and you know, strangers."

"Oh, that when." Willow jumped in. "Two, no, three nights ago now, I went for a walk. I was going to try and talk to Buffy. So, I went for a walk to think of a way to talk to her. It was dark, but..." She paused and made sure she could look at him as she said the next part. "I got jumped. I got bit. I didn't want to just die."

Xander stared at Willow as she said it. He shook his head a little. It still didn't make sense. "That's it? You went for a walk and got bit? No fight against overwhelming numbers? No revenge plan of a master vampire? You just got bit?"

"Yeah." Willow looked down for a moment then looked back at her friend. "I woke up in his apartment. He started going on about how I was beautiful and he was my Sire, so I staked him. He was nothing, Xander. No-one. He just... he had the element of surprise and it happened too fast. That's all."

Xander was growing angrier as her story continued. "It doesn't make sense. You wouldn't just let... He couldn't just do that. Not after so many years in Sunnydale."

"I tried to do a spell." Willow defended. "To keep my soul. I was already dieing by then. But, it didn't work all the way. I'm stronger than the demon, though."

Xander laughed shortly at that. "Not really. Cause I'm guessing next came Buffy's turn." He looked over to Buffy. "And what, you also didn't fight back?"

Buffy didn't flinch. She met his glare. "I didn't. And I'm not going to defend myself to you now, either."

"Right, cause it's hard to justify getting what you've wanted." Xander's voice was quietly cold. It was all achingly clear again: the Hellmouth and the evil it brought into his town and eventually his home; the secret pride he took in doing what he could to fight it, doing anything to fight it. It wasn't supposed to take him down. Kill him, maybe, but not take him down. It was all so vivid again, close to the surface, and anger was rising to swallow it.

"I never wanted this!" Buffy sat forward; challenging him, ignoring her earlier statement. "I've never wanted this!" Buffy sat back, her anger fleeting. "It was Willow, you know?" she quietly admitted. As she looked at the stone coolness of his face, she realized maybe he didn't know. He had fought back, even though it was her. He had fought it, only failed. And when he remembered who he was, he still fought it. They shouldn't have done this. She reached over and took Willow's hand in her own.

Willow watched Xander's eye narrow when Buffy took her hand. "Xander?" she tentatively called to him.

He glanced over to Willow and his face softened, the anger retreating a little. "Then came me, right? What about the others? What happened then?"

"We left them notes." Willow quietly continued. She hoped her voice would continue to calm him. "Told them how we need space, time, whatever. Then we left. The idea is if they can't find us, then they'll never know. I don't want them to feel they have to kill us. And I don't want to have to kill them. Xander, we couldn't just leave you."

Xander nodded. "You left them notes. Dawn, Giles, Kennedy, Faith; they got notes." He shook his head and leaned it back on the seat.

"We know it's not fair." Buffy jumped in. "None of this is fair."

Xander erupted again, this time with laughter in his voice. "It's all fair, Buffy. What's the saying? 'All's fair in love and war.' That's all our lives have been: love and war. Every moment, one or the other. It's all fair." His laughter continued briefly and he stretched his neck, tilted his head. The demon slipped to his face then retreated, the anger letting it break through to the surface and push the memories back. "It's all good. I got superpowers. I'm finally one of you." He stood up, clapped his hands together and started pacing around the room. "I'm starved. So, who do we have to kill to get some food around here?"

"Xander, we can't. Not now, not here." Buffy admonished.

Seeing Xander turn on Buffy, Willow jumped in. "I used my new name to get us the room. The police would be all over the place, and it's daylight, so we can't just leave."

Xander turned on Willow instead. "So we kill the police, too. What does it matter? We shouldn't be staying in hotels anyway."

"No, Xander," Willow quickly tried to tell him the rest of their plans. "We all have new names. We'll have money soon. We can get far enough away and settle down, live our own lives. We won't have to keep running. After everything we've done, we deserve it."

"We're vampires. What we've done is kill people. What we deserve is underground in the day and to hunt at night." Xander corrected. He looked at Buffy, Willow, their joined hands. He addressed Buffy. "So, you're just following along with this now, this big plan. Will really is the boss of us. I remember how well that worked out last time."

Buffy rose off the bed and stood in front of him, challenging him. "Xander, I think your demon's a girl, cause you're being a real bitch right now."

Xander took a step back, but only one step. He swung his arms, indicating the room, and tried to appeal to the hard, dark edge his demon so readily recognized in Buffy. "You know we don't belong here. Showers and clean clothes, you're trying to live like humans."

"We don't belong anywhere, me least of all." Buffy glanced at the curtained window and looked around the dull hotel room. "But I swear to you, Xander, that I'm not going to live in some crypt or sewer. I'm not going to live like some animal. And even if I have to let you drain me 30 times, you're not gonna be one, either. You're gonna evolve, damn-it. There's gonna be some Darwin happening, even if it kills you."

"So, I'm not like you." Xander closed his eye in defeat. "I'm still not like either of you."

Buffy stepped forward and closed her arms around him. When he open his eye, she met his gaze with a smile. "You belong with us, Xander," she assured him.

Willow sat with her knees bent up, curled into herself, watching silenced as the argument wound down. She could feel the daylight fading as the sun fell. Hunger grew and stretched awake inside her. She had been thinking what Xander had said about her not being stronger than the demon, how she had turned Buffy. And she wondered which part of her decided to turn Buffy. If it was the human part, didn't that make it more evil?

Xander wrapped his arms around Buffy and held her close. He bent his head to hers, aching for a kiss, needing to confirm what she said. He was thrilled when he felt her respond, urging the kiss deeper. The tug of war between his demon and self over the gulf of void that once contained his conscience ceased. The missing piece replaced with the sated feeling of belonging, of love. The duel no longer mattered as he felt her acceptance of all of him. Xander ended the kiss slowly and looked over Buffy's shoulder to the curtained window. "It's getting dark."

"Yes." Buffy rested her head on Xander's chest. "We'll leave soon, hunt, then drive some more I guess. But we'll hunt, Xander, as soon as the sun goes down," she promised.

Willow watched the hunger show itself in their kiss. She no longer felt apart, even with the passion of the display. Understanding, acceptance was beginning to make way for the demon as it was pulled towards the night. She remembered her recovery in England and what the coven had said. She had to learn to live with every part of her or it would destroy her. It was all connected, like roots. Willow let her legs fall back to the bed and turning her head a little to the side, let the demon show on her face. "Xander," she smiled as they both turned to face her, "we belong with you. Don't forget it, don't doubt it. We belong together."

Xander smiled, revealing his fangs as his face morphed in response. Buffy tightened her hold around him, moving her body into his and reached up to pull his face down to her's for another kiss. She laced her tongue around his fangs, her own face sliding into the demon's form. Breaking the kiss, she laughed a little as his eye widened when opening and seeing her own yellow ones meeting him. "Trust us, Xander." Buffy licked her lips. "We're not about to start on some pig's blood diet. There's just no need to cause a commotion, draw any attention. We'll just slip away and live our own lives."

"Speaking of which," Willow cut in, "give me your driver's licenses, both of you. I'll change your names."

Xander automatically grabbed his wallet and removed the license, handing it to her. "Okay, this part, I still don't get. What does it matter about the names?"

Willow took the license and placing a hand over it, started the glamour spell. "Well, this way, we can't be traced by our new slayer friends. And I created trust accounts in our new names and stole a few million for them each." She grinned up at Xander and wiggled her eyebrows. "I'm sure you'll want to get into that. Besides, if that isn't good enough, keeping our licenses current means we can get into bars to hunt. I'm sure we'll be carded for the rest of our unlives."

"Oh, that's a good reason." Buffy readily agreed and handed Willow her license.

Xander looked down at the card showing his new name. "Alexander Corazon," he read aloud. "Why Corazon?"

Willow handed Buffy back her new license and looked up sheepishly at Xander. "Um, it means heart. The irony is kinda unintended."

Xander just shook his head. "And yours?" he asked Buffy.

"Joan Morte," Buffy supplied. When Xander looked at her in question for the story, she shrugged. "It's a long story, a Willow process. Just go with it," Buffy advised.

"Hey!" Willow half protested in her own defense. When Xander turned to her with the obvious next question, she answered before it was asked, "Willameena Flamme." When Xander started to laugh, she offered him a mild threat. "I can take the millions right back." Seeing he stopped laughing but still smiled, she shrugged. "There is a logic, but it doesn't matter. What matters is no-one can trace it and we can still call each other by our names."

"Joan?" Xander countered.

"Buffy's the nickname." Buffy explained. "Everyone thought is was just a nickname anyway. But no, my parents really were that strange."

"Can we go now?" Xander urged them. The sun had set and he was anxious to get out into the night.

"Yeah." Buffy bounced on her toes. "We can go now."

They left the room and waited outside while Willow returned the key. The air was chilled and damp, much different than the night before or what they remembered of Sunnydale. People walked by them, glancing curiously at their thin, light clothes and closed their own coats around them in response.

"No, we don't stick out at all right now." Buffy watched as two ladies turned and stared at her as they walked by.

"They must actually get winter up here." Xander suggested. "Well, we could always hunt indoors. Bar hopping, tonight?"

Buffy smiled at the idea. "Bar hopping it is." Willow joined them and was startled as Buffy linked their arms together and started walking her down the sidewalk. This part of the city was filled with closed office buildings, hotels and lined with museums of all sorts. Restaurants filled in the gaps and young well dressed office workers crowded in, not anxious to join the rush hour traffic and return to empty apartments. It was too early for any clubs to be open, but the restaurant lounges would do nicely.

"We're going out tonight." Buffy happily informed her friend.

Willow was a little puzzled. "Well, yeah."

Buffy laughed a little, scanning the street ahead, she looked for a good first stop. "I mean, if you hadn't noticed, we're a little underdressed with our lack of coats. Conspicuous they call it. So, we're going bar hopping."

"Oh," Willow's face lit in understanding. "Okay, sound's fun."

Buffy noticed a lively bar and grill up ahead and started towards it. Just before they reached the door, they noticed a pair of young women approaching from the other direction. One of the ladies pointed suddenly at a man who was just entering the building, and pulled her friend off to the side into the alley, animated in sudden frantic conversation.

Xander watched as they disappeared just beside the restaurant. "Um, you ladies go on in. I'll join you in a sec." He jogged ahead and cut into the alley.

Willow watched as Xander disappeared and followed Buffy into the bar section. She let Buffy slip away into the crowd and started to scan the room. It was smaller than the Bronze she was used to. High tables dotted the floor, the stools surrounding them occupied by an older crowd than she was used to seeing. A din of conversation and laughter drown out the background music and silent TV's showed the news and sports at each corner of the room. The bar stood at the center, its stools filling more slowly. The waitresses rushed back and forth at each end. Willow smiled as Buffy settled onto the seat next to a young man in a black leather jacket and started talking to him. She scanned the room again, but in the end, chose to sit at the far end of the bar and watch.

Buffy chatted for a while with the young man next to her, letting him buy her a drink and giving him her undivided attention. He was good looking and she found he was surprisingly easy to talk with. She guessed it was only an inability to commit that kept him single. A little like Parker she surmised. Guessing she could play on that, she offered that they go outside for a moment, for some fresh air. They left the restaurant and she brought him just beside the entrance and near the alley. She smiled as he removed his jacket and placed it over her shoulders so she wouldn't be cold. "You're a nice guy," Buffy complimented. "What do you do?"

He smiled sheepishly as he looked down into her eyes. "I'm a courier." He shrugged. "I run papers back and forth. But really, I'm an actor and a writer. I'm working on a screenplay."

Buffy smiled at him and taking his hand, pulled him towards the alley.

"What are you doing?" he asked, only slightly resisting.

"I've always wanted to kiss an actor," Buffy teased, "but I don't want to do it out here in the open." She hoped he would just follow and he did. They turned the corner and walked a short way into the darker alley. She was relieved that Xander had already left and that he had the sense to not just leave the bodies around. She backed herself against the wall and pulled him willingly to her. As he bent down for the kiss and his eyes closed, she let the demon out and sank her fangs quickly into his neck. She made it quick and in a way, gentle. He never even cried out. Buffy brought his body back further into the alley by a dumpster and returned to the bar.

Buffy looked across the bar finding Willow sitting alone at the end and no sign of Xander. She pulled the jacket a little tighter around her, disappointed she just couldn't walk up and surprise him with it. She walked up behind Willow and reaching around, grabbed her drink and stole a sip, startling her friend.

Willow turned to face Buffy and slapped her arm. "Don't do that." She looked at the addition to her attire. "You stole his jacket?"

"He gave it to me." Buffy corrected. "Sort of. I was going to give it to Xander. Any sign of him?"

"No." Willow finished her drink. "Shall we move on anyway? Nothing here really catches my eye."

"Okay." Buffy shrugged. They should probably leave before they're remembered anyway. "Where to next?"

"I saw a place just ahead as we were going here." Willow took Buffy's hand once they were out the door and led her to another entrance down the way. She pulled Buffy into the bar, stopping to assure the bouncer they were of age, and led her deeper inside to a table. This was more like a bar than a restaurant. Pool tables filled one side of the room and tables filled the other. A bar spanned the length of one wall and booths lined the rest. Willow sat back, watched Buffy, and waited.

Buffy looked around the dark bar. It was quieter than the other, the patrons more casually dressed. It took a while to notice but as she studied the people, looking for her next mark, her eyes widened in recognition. "Willow, this is a gay bar!"

Willow laughed and some of the people closest to them turn and looked. "Might want to keep your voice down a little," Willow admonished amusedly.

"How'd you know?" Buffy asked curiously. Nothing on the outside gave any indication that she noticed and to her knowledge, Willow had never been to Portland.

"It's all in the sign." Willow admitted. "The place is called 'The Otherside'. The only thing I was worried about it that it might just be men." Willow looked around and smiled when she realized how wrong that was. The bar was mostly women.

"And what happened to 'not killing your own kind'?" Buffy teased. She wasn't uncomfortable, but kept scanning the room curiously.

"You pointed out that didn't make any sense." Willow shrugged. "What am I going to do? Live on guys who try to pick me up in bars?" Willow shook her head at the idea and smiled. "I'm just gonna, you know," Willow said by way of explanation as she rose from her seat and headed to the bar. She sat in the middle and ordered a drink from the bartender, smiling as she was flirted with.

Buffy shook her head and sat back to watch. A couple of times she had to decline a woman's offer to sit with her by stating she was waiting for a friend. She was going to get Willow back for this, Buffy promised herself. She was amused more than anything and ordered a drink from the waitress, relaxing and watching Willow. Soon she saw a woman sit down next to her friend. They started talking and Buffy noticed the woman's hand cover Willow's on the bar, fingers stroking the back of her hand. Buffy tilted her head, trying to get a better look. Black leather dress coat, skirt, long blond hair and what she could see of her face, pretty; Buffy had to admit Willow attracted beautiful women. Buffy was surprised by how soon Willow got her to rise and be led out, and was shocked when instead of leaving the bar, they walked to a back hall passing a sign indicating the bathrooms. Buffy remained seated, staring at the hall entrance and absently nursed her drink, waiting for Willow to emerge.

Buffy jumped as Xander took a seat in front of her. "There you are," he exclaimed. "Where's Will?"

"Working her magic." Buffy smirked. Seeing Xander's confused look, she clarified. "She's getting a bite to eat."

"Oh, good. Why'd you guys leave?" When Xander couldn't find them at the first restaurant, he stepped into each one down the road until he found Buffy.

Buffy grinned mischievously and indicated the room with a nod of her head. "Look around. I'm not sure you should be in here."

Xander looked around as instructed, and with a goofy smile, returned to Buffy. "Oh, I think this is a great place to be."

Buffy laughed. "Yes, but it's only the two guys in the booth next to us that are checking you out."

"What!" Xander forced himself not to look, and glared at the amusement evident in Buffy's eyes. "So, where exactly is Willow?" he hoped to change the subject.

"In the bathroom, I think." Buffy indicated the hall at the end of the room.

"But we don't need to..." Xander cut himself off when he noticed Buffy roll her eyes.

"What, did you only eat blonds tonight or something?" Buffy teased him.

"Hey, you're blond yourself, I'll remind you." Xander defended. He looked back again at the hallway. "You don't think she's... you know, getting an appetizer too, do you?"

"No." Buffy was quick to cut off the idea. "She wouldn't do that. That's just wrong. Like serial killer wrong. Even you wouldn't do that." She gave Xander an appraising look. "You don't do that, do you?"

"No." Xander sat back and thought about it a moment. "What's that about?"

Buffy was relieved and shrugged. "Maybe she's right. Maybe we're not really evil."

Xander ordered a beer when the waitress came around. "Nice jacket."

Buffy looked down and remembering the jacket, removed it and handed it to Xander. "It was from a nice guy. Here, it's for you."

Xander smiled and put it on. They chatted quietly, waiting for Willow to reappear, and Xander snuck a couple of glances at the men in the booth beside them.

The body of a dead woman lay prone on the bathroom floor. Willow washed her face in the sink. She had on the woman's leather jacket and an open purse sat on the counter. Willow dried her face with hand towels and looked into the blank mirror. She could feel she was smiling, though she didn't see it. It all happened so easily that it still surprised her. She had simply let the woman pick her up. Willow had noticed the bartender's disapproving glare when the woman sat down next to her. Heard the pick-up lines for what they were and just played along. She felt the predator in the woman, the demon easily recognized it. Still, it surprised her when the woman so readily and simply suggested that they have some fun in one of the bathrooms. Leave it to a gay bar to have a hall filled with separate bathrooms, instead of one room with many stalls. She hoped the bartender didn't really notice her quickly leaving and wouldn't wonder about the obvious regular missing for a while. She wondered what Buffy was doing out in the bar after being left alone. Willow locked the bathroom door behind her and re-entered the bar. She spotted Buffy talking with someone at their table and hoped she could just pull her friend out and away.

Buffy spotted Willow heading toward them and stood up. Xander turned to look and started up as well. "See that smile on her face?" Buffy asked him. "She gets that little half smile when she feeds."

"Really?" Xander was surprised, but believed her when Buffy nodded.

Willow reached the table and stopped when she realized who Buffy's companion was. "Hey, Xander. Um, we probably should be going now." She started for the door, hearing her friends following. They slipped outside and started walking down the sidewalk. "In fact, maybe we should take this party to another street altogether," Willow further suggested.

"Wait up a little." Buffy caught up to Willow and linked their arms together. "I want details. You leave me alone in a gay bar and slip away with some woman to the bathroom, I get details."

"Me too." Xander joined in, putting his arm around Willow's shoulder.

"You know what happens." Willow deflected.

"So you didn't then. You know..." Buffy had to erase the possibility that Xander earlier suggestion brought to her mind.

"No!" Willow stopped. "You both don't..." "No. No." she heard them both chime in. "You're just jealous that I didn't have to go to some cold dirty alley." She started walking again.

"Impressed." Buffy corrected. "Nice coat," she added.

"And lots of cash." Willow supplied.

"Everyone now has a coat except me." Buffy whined playfully.

"Well, what can I get for the lady?" Xander offered. "See anything you want?"

Buffy studied the people walking down the sidewalks, shuffling between the bars. "That one." She pointed across the street to a woman wearing a full length black leather overcoat.

Xander shook his head. "This is Spike's influence you know. I'll be right back." He jotted across the street and approached the woman from behind. Checking and not seeing anyone behind him and no-one paying much attention, he paced himself with the woman and waited till she neared an alley entrance. When she was almost across the mouth of the alley, Xander stepped up suddenly and with blurry speed, grabbed the woman around the waist and covered her mouth with his hand. He spun her into the alley before anyone could notice and in the cover of the dark, drank her life away. He pulled the body back further into the shadows and removed her coat. Folding it over his arm, he stepped lightly out of the alley and back to his friends.

Willow and Buffy watched, stunned and astonished by his speed, grace and ease with the kill. It was only moments between his swift disappearance into the alley and his reemergence, black coat over his arm. They watched as he jogged across the street to them and with exaggerated gallantry, held the coat up for Buffy to slip into.

"Better?" Xander asked, his voice full of humor.

"Thank you." Buffy politely accepted, still shocked.

"Why don't we walk by the river, maybe even cross the bridges. Get away from this street for a while." Willow again suggested.

"Or maybe we should just leave altogether." Xander nodded at the police car pulling up to the bar they had recently exited.

"Good idea." Buffy confirmed. They crossed the street and headed back to hotel parking lot as a crowd began to form outside the bar. They were used to casually giving the police the slip.

Willow negotiated the car back onto I-5 north and they crossed the Columbia river into Washington state. The stereo was turned up loud, one of Buffy's stolen CD's playing. Buffy took her usual spot in the front passenger seat, leaving Xander to take the back.

"At least I get to see the ride this time." Xander called over the music. He looked out the window and saw only night and shadowed shapes passing by. "Of course, there's nothing to see."

"Just long hours of this." Buffy confirmed. "Be glad you were sleeping before." She turned to Willow. "We still need clothes."

"First Walmart sign you see, let me know." Willow volleyed back.

"Walmart!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Know anything else open this time of night along a freeway?" Willow pointed out. "It's just for now. We settle down and you can order from all the catalogs you want. If Xander's little show for your coat is any indication, I figure we can slip out of there with a few things and be gone before they realize their buzzers sounded."

"Fine. As long as we're stealing." Buffy grudgingly agreed. "Walmart's evil."

Xander laughed behind them. "Whatever." He settled back in the seat and watched out the window, content to simply follow them now. He felt calmer, but still ached to be out in the night, hunting. It wasn't hunger now, he had his fill. There was still the call, muted some compared to the night before, that urged him to come help destroy the world. They were right though, he belong with them. The bond they shared after the trials of all those years could not be broken by any demon or calling.

Buffy watched the road ahead as it blindly stretched out before them into the darkness. "Willow, where are we going? To settle down I mean."

Willow turned to Buffy then looked back to the road. She noticed Xander sit forward between the seats to better listen. "Do you trust me?"

Buffy arched her eyebrows and laughed shortly. She leaned to the side against the door and considered Willow and the question. "Sure, what the hell." She shook her head at the absurdity of it all.

Willow smiled a little. Buffy's reaction was fair. She glanced sideways to Xander. "I've been looking at the map. I figured we would need a big enough town to get lost in, go unnoticed. But the major cities are bound to get slayers assigned to them when Giles gets things organized and that's a headache and possible detection we don't need. There's a small city, near the border, Bellingham. I thought we'd go there and give that a try. It has a state university, so plenty of transplants, students. Okay?"

Buffy smiled. One thing she always trusted was Willow's research. "Okay. When do you think we'll get there?"

"Tonight." Willow assured them.

"Good." Xander granted his accent and leaned back again in the seat. He had slept through each of the drives so far and still, already, he was tired of this.

"Oh, god help me, Walmart." Buffy pointed up ahead.

"God help you?" Willow laughed.

"What does it matter?" Buffy countered. "They can't hear me now."

Grand, or not so grand, theft proved easy. They quickly grabbed jeans, shirts, socks and underwear. Buffy remembered shampoo, soap and a hairbrush. She refused to consider the cosmetics. They were in, out, and making their get-away before anyone even realized they were in the store. Tossing their bounty in the backseat with Xander, they continued north. Buffy kept the music changing and playing. No-one spoke much along the way. The nothing beside the freeway turned to urban sprawl as the freeway opened to four lanes. Traffic stayed beside them even deep into the night. They watched cities appear then fade. The only real site of interest was Seattle, glowing off to the side and seemingly swallowing them as they tunneled below downtown. Hills filled with homes surrounded them when they reemerged and crossed a bridge over a bay. As suddenly as it appeared, Seattle was behind them and the freeway narrowed to three lanes, and then two, and then the nothing of blank darkness was beside them again. Eventually the road stretched up and wound its way through steep hills. Dropping out the other side, exit signs for Bellingham started to emerge.

"We're saved." Buffy sighed as she noticed the signs. She stretched in her seat. "Where's our first stop? The day's coming up pretty fast."

"A hotel until we find a place?" Willow hoped they would just go along with the simple plan. She looked to Xander in the backseat.

"I'm good with that." He shrugged. He had cast his lot in with them earlier in the night and saw no reason to second guess his decision now. 'Or ever', he honestly admitted to himself.

They waited for a hotel sign and wondered what would happen next.


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