Tomorrow Night And Always By Crys Loch

It'd been a few days since the end of Sunnydale, the defeat of evil and the beginning of a life unknown. Almost everyone had taken up temporary residence in a small beachfront motel in the next tourist town up the coast. The young slayers were recovering from the battle wounds quickly thanks to their newfound powers. Ex-principal Wood was doing well though recovering slower at a nearby hospital. There was a general feeling of time-out and readjustment as they spent their days alone or in groups: on the beach or in their rooms. No-one went out at night yet and the younger ones stayed with each other, holding back the nightmares.

Buffy lay on her bed in her darkened room, the windows and curtains open, listening to the sound of the waves against the shore. She sighed when she heard a soft knock on her door and when they knocked again, she got up to answer it.

"Who is it?" Buffy sighed again and called through the door. It was late and she would be worried except that eventless was the theme of the last few days.

"Hey Buffy, it's Willow. Can I come in?" Willow knew she didn't wake her friend, the knock had been too soft. She hoped that Buffy wouldn't be mad at the intrusion though.

Buffy was clothed still, in at least a tank top and shorts, so she opened the door, a little curious why Willow wanted to see her this late. The odd request kicked in years of habit, so instead of inviting her in, she chose a more subtle reply. "If you can."

Willow laughed and walked in the room. She noticed all the lights were off, but there was some light coming through the open windows. "That doesn't work in a public hotel, Buffy. If I was a vampire, I could still come in."

Buffy shrugged as she shut the door. "If you were a vampire, I'd kinda want it done with anyway. Just don't turn me, and we'd be cool."

Willow turned and faced her friend, a small half smile giving the appearance of mixing wry amusement with regret. "But how often have things been cool between us?"

Buffy was taken aback by her words and the look in Willow's eyes. "I know Will, but lately...and now, with everything finally being over...I thought maybe we could..." Buffy stumbled over her thoughts of asking for one last chance to reconnect.

"I know." Willow interrupted her, a full smile attempted and faltering. "That's why I'm here. Buffy, just so it's you that knows, I'm so sorry."

Before Buffy could ask what Willow was sorry for, she was embraced in a hug and simply returned it. The hug tightened, deepened, and she felt herself leaned back against the door, so she wrapped her arms protectively around Willow and held her. Her mind was a mix of wondering what Willow was specifically so sorry about; her own list of events she was sorry for; and a dim hope that maybe, if this was the beginning, they could work it out.

All the thoughts stopped when she felt the sting of fangs penetrating her neck. One internal cry filled the void and echoed around her mind, 'Oh god, Willow. Not after all this. Not Willow.' The feel of the bite was familiar, intimate and urgent; and as tears rolled down her cheeks, she felt herself getting weaker. She breathed and choked out a gasp as Willow's scent filled her, confirming this past all denial. Still, she held on; knowing her body should push Willow away, but her mind unwilling to follow that with killing her. She held on; even as her legs grew too weak to hold her up and she felt Willow's arms support her, their bodies wrapped and moving provocatively against each other, and her blood urgently pulled from her. If this, after everything, was the end- then she would let it go. It was finally over.

Buffy felt herself being lowered to the floor, Willow's body draped over her, the hot pull of the continued bite the only warmth she felt now. Still, she held on, and with a last effort moved her hand to hold Willow's head to her neck. Buffy felt empty as she dimly registered Willow pulling away, and she let go the feeble last grasp at the force trying to pump her heart; feeling it slip away she wondered if that was maybe her soul.

A voice entered her mind as the memories of her life started to also slip away; to follow. Willow's voice catching and blocking the fleeing memories, "Buffy, please, it's Willow. Please, I can't do this alone." Buffy felt something pressed to her lips and sharp liquid enter her mouth. Even as the last sense of herself protested, a memory focused in her mind: a sunny day in the high school courtyard, Willow sitting across from her, playing a game of 'anywhere but here'. Willow's continued plea held the memory to her and her lips closed around the offered wound. As she sucked the warm liqueur over her tongue and it slid down her throat, she thirsted for more; for all of it. She drank urgently the offered blood and her mind clamped down and held to her the memories of life. Gaining a little strength, she grasped the arm held to her lips and drank greedily, melting in the comfort of Willow's hand stroking her hair. And when Willow gently pulled the arm from her grasp, all that followed was dark sleep.

Buffy woke suddenly, startled and breathing hard. She looked around the motel room, noticing she was now on the bed and the curtains were drawn; sunlight dimly failing to enter. She spotted Willow seated in the chair beside the bed and she remembered Willow coming to her room and the confused and foggy events that followed. "Willow, did I have a nightmare? Please tell me it was just a nightmare."

Willow bowed her head slightly before looking back at her friend. "Define nightmare."

"Something I'm waking up from now." Buffy focused menacingly on Willow.

"Then no." Willow held still, waiting to see what Buffy would do before she would react. She took in the slightly wrinkled brow and yellow eyes. Buffy's face wasn't fully deformed but still held the defined edges of a monster. Willow willed herself to remain calm, even as she held the otherworldly eyes, even as she remembered that's what she was now as well.

Buffy rose from the bed, painfully aware of something inside that felt like hunger, but was closer to need. Denial pounding heavily in her head, she crossed to the window and reached out to pull the curtain back. Her hand recoiled quickly away before reaching the curtain just as Willow's cry of 'Buffy! Don't!' reached her ears. Turning toward Willow, anger and horror mixed and propelled her; charging her friend, she pulled Willow up and pinned her hard against a wall. "What did you do?!"

"I couldn't live near forever like this; alone." Willow let the honest reply show in her still unturned eyes. "I couldn't bear the thought of what hunting me down would do to you; or the next one of killing you, so that I could live."

Buffy pushed herself away from Willow and crossed the small room, cutting off the rest of Willow's explanation. Turning back towards the still and deceptively fragile looking form of her friend, Buffy felt defeat smother the demon and her face softened. "We're not alive, Willow. We're only the things we've spent our lives fighting for years."

"No. I don't think so." Willow was quick to object. "If that was true, I would have just taken off, and I'd be sitting in some demon bar right now impotently planning the end of the world over a pint of blood with the rest of them." Willow pulled forward from the wall and took a couple of steps toward Buffy. "I think because of who we are; yet again, we're different. I mean I spent so much time manipulating dark magics and controlling their power over me, whatever better part of a demon is inside me now doesn't just have control. And I know you still have the slayer in you. I can feel it. There's kinda this tickle down deep and low inside."

"Try being in my skin." Buffy acknowledged, running a hand through her hair. "Not sure this is of the good, but I think they're getting along." Suddenly, she almost doubled over, and looked up questionably at Willow.

"You're hungry." Willow answered, moving to Buffy and gently guiding her to the bed. "Here, sit down."

Buffy watched Willow cross the room and look through a bag she didn't remember seeing. A need so suddenly overwhelming forced a growl from her when she recognized the red liquid in a clear container as Willow pulled it from the bag. Still, she restrained herself, even as Willow removed the top and handed it to her.

Willow was astonished and a little impressed at Buffy's hesitation. She sat on the bed next to Buffy, her hand stroking Buffy's back in a comforting gesture; with gentle understanding, she encouraged her friend. "Buffy, drink."

Buffy felt like she was dieing again as the scent of the blood drew her near to tears. Closing her eyes against the onslaught of need, she realized there were still some last lines left to cross. Opening her eyes, she looked into Willow's unflinching gaze. "Is it human?"

"Yes." Willow's eyes held Buffy's look, unremorseful. "Buffy, don't go all fucking Angel on me. We may be different than a mindless demon, but we're not exactly as we were before, either. We don't have a soul. There's no redemption at stake. And damn it all, if after everything we've been through this is what we get, I don't believe there is such a thing anyway. And maybe you didn't notice, even with the me killing you and turning you and all, but there's a real lack of conscience as part of the package." Willow calmed herself and sighed out of habit, continuing to stroke Buffy's back, urging her friend to understand. "Buffy, we were left with a strong sense of self and the memories of experiences that made us everything we are, but this also made us. And with everything we've won, I think we have a right to go on."

"So now we kill?" Buffy questioned simply. Looking inside herself, she had to admit the sense of right and wrong was unfocused. It was more the sense of habit that prolonged her current torment.

"Yes, and not just that. We also live." Willow simply answered in return.

Buffy continued to look into Willow's eyes as she raised the container to her lips and drank. Feeling her face contort briefly, she relaxed again when the last of it was gone. Grimacing, she tossed the container to the floor. "That was stale."

Willow smiled in relief but was still wary. "Sorry, best I could do with the current sunlight. It should hold you over until tonight."

"Willow, what happened?" Buffy gently asked.

Willow rose from the bed and started slowly, randomly pacing around the room. "I don't really know. I remember last night I was going to come to your room; to see how you were and maybe even talk. I went for a walk outside, trying to boost my courage, collect my thoughts. It was just past sunset but not really that dark yet, and I just didn't think anything of it because I was so used to walking after dark. I wasn't paying much attention I guess and it all happened so fast." Willow stopped pacing and turned towards Buffy. "In Sunnydale, the vampires all jump out facing you, trying to scare you or something first. This one just suddenly grabbed me from behind and sank his fangs into my neck. I didn't even see him, and before I could think to do something, I was already dieing. I just kept thinking it wasn't fair, you know?"

"Yeah." Buffy reminded her friend of how well she might understand.

Willow started pacing again. "Anyway, I really didn't want to die. Then I felt his blood slipping down my throat and I thought frantically of a spell that might keep my soul in me. You know, become some good version of a vampire. So I let it happen, but it didn't work. I think it made the human part stronger, or just as strong, as the demon part. But when I woke up, I knew it didn't work." Willow paused and looked at the curtained window, briefly realizing she'd never see the sun again. "He didn't expect me to wake so soon. I guess the magics... And he kept going on about how pretty I am. When he started in about how he's my sire, I staked him with the wooden letter opener I noticed on his coffee table."

Buffy lay back on the bed, and looking up past the ceiling to the powers she imagined might be up there, wondered aloud. "So this is what we get?" Sitting back up, she asked Willow, "so why me?"

Willow crossed back over to the bed and sat back down next to Buffy. "You were the first worry to enter my mind."

"You didn't do this just so that I wouldn't stake you, did you?" Buffy asked in disbelief.

"No, of course not." Willow reached out to stroke some of the hair away from Buffy's face, the gesture surprising them both. "But I really didn't want to fight you again. And I knew it'd kill you anyway if you had to stake me. And it'd kill me again if I had to kill you. You wouldn't be able to just let me go and forget. And I guess I couldn't let you go either. I didn't want to be like this alone." Willow pleaded with her eyes for understanding.

"Besides, there really is a whole lack of conscience thing that happens with all this." Buffy acknowledged.

"Oh yeah." Willow gratefully and readily agreed. "I found out just how much when I left that guy's apartment. I was so hungry I killed the first person I found alone. Then I remembered you and killed a waitress in an empty diner for that cup of joe you just had." Willow laughed a little to herself at the memory. "Then with callous ease, disposed of two bodies and drove here to see you."

"Drove?" Buffy smiled questionably.

"Yeah. My 'sire' was kind enough to leave his car keys on the table. And since no-one will notice dust on the floor, I figured he didn't need it anymore and no-one would be looking for it. We have wheels." Willow grinned.

Buffy smiled excitedly. "What kind?"

"Typical, but kinda cool: a red Volkswagen Jetta." Willow smiled and let the last of her worries over Buffy's reaction go. "With a decent stereo system." She reached out again to Buffy, stroking her arm and shoulder; wondering if it was her lack of inhibitions now or if it was a sire thing that left her incapable of not touching Buffy. "My turn for a question. How did you not know I was a vampire when I came to your room last night?"

Buffy didn't pull away from the touch and instead turned toward Willow. "Am I sure you're a vampire even now? You haven't vamped out when I could see, yet. I know I've changed back and forth so far. You've seen mine, let me see yours."

Willow smiled and shaking her head slightly, let her demon come to the fore. "Was there really any doubt after last night?"

"I just wanted to make sure the reality check wouldn't bounce. It has before you know." Buffy brought her fingers to Willow's slightly wrinkled brow and ran them over the ridges, watching her lids close over yellow eyes in response. "Sensing vampires is just catching some other than human vibe from them. You've had that vibe for a while now cause of all the magic I guess. I used to worry about it some at first and would just open the door for you or something and see if you could walk in. I guess I stopped worrying and last night you just walked in."

Willow leaned her head into Buffy's touch and relaxed her face back to human. She opened her eyes as Buffy pulled her hand away. "I was worried there might be some epic battle before it even began." This brought another question to Willow's mind and she held Buffy's eyes to gauge the answer. "Why didn't you fight back?"

"Oh that." Buffy paused for a moment, searching in Willow's eyes for how to answer. She smiled as she decided to openly tell her the truth. "Well, it wasn't the first time I've been bit and didn't fight back. Because it was you, Willow. After everything, including almost destroying each other, then getting you back and finally winning the battle that won the war; after all that, I couldn't just kill you. You were right. And if that was the choice then I chose to die. I really thought I was going to just die, though."

Willow looked down at the ugly bedspread showing through the little space between them. "Then why'd you drink?"

"Cause everything I'd ever experienced was leaving me. And it wasn't fair. Plus, there was your voice in my ear asking me to stay. I do understand a little better now, you know," Buffy acknowledged. "And I think we should turn Xander."

Willow was a little startled at the suggestion. Not because she hadn't thought of it herself, but because it was Buffy who proposed it. "Why?"

Buffy shrugged. "For all the reasons you turned me. It's always been the three of us. We need him. He needs us. You know he wouldn't be able to just let us go."

"I know. But Buffy, it might not work the way we want it to." Willow gently took Buffy's hand in her own as she voiced the concerns that had plagued her mind. "I'm different because I'm used to feeling evil inside me, and because of the spell. I knew you'd be different because you're the slayer, or were, or whatever. Xander might just turn into a demon."

"I don't think so, Will." Buffy started the pro turning Xander case. "Not if I'm the one to do it."

"Why would that make a difference?" Willow asked, doubt coloring her tone.

"Well, I know a little something about vampires; not so much from Angel cause he would never tell me anything, but from Spike cause he couldn't shut up about it: it matters who the sire is. It's like if you reinforce it, with the back and forth blood, then they get a big dose of sire. And I never got a chance to tell you, but you know your spell? The saved the world spell, I mean. It did something to me too. In the battle, I caught a sword all the way through me, and it should have kill me, and instead I healed in only a matter of hours. I think what turned potentials into slayers, made me like a super-slayer or something. Or whatever I am now. I think it will be enough to turn Xander into something more than just a vampire." Buffy finished her argument with a sly smile.

"Wait. Jump to the left and step to the right. Are you saying you're all the slayer you were and then some?" Willow pulled her hand from Buffy's and leaned away. "So maybe the sense of slayer will overwhelm the demon. And, well..."

Buffy could feel Willow's fear and a predatory smile slowly crossed her face. "Relax, Will. The slayer's just demon juice too. The whole good and evil thing, it's just choices. Take Faith for example. I'm saying," Buffy paused to raise her arms over her head and stretch provocatively, "that I feel like I can do anything."

"Well, we probably can't swimsuit model. But I think you're right. Let's turn Xander." Willow responded with a smile of her own.

Buffy fell back on the bed. "Of course it'll have to wait for tonight. We're stuck at the moment in this room. Do you think the others will start to wonder soon?"

Willow traced Buffy's body with her eyes as she considered the question. "Well, no-one's bothered you for days now. And I told Kennedy I was going to see you. Try to reconnect. I guess I did that. She's so busy playing lead slayer now, with Faith staying at the hospital with Robin, that I don't think she'll even notice."

"We are trapped in a motel with a bunch of slayers." Buffy pointed out.

"And yet I'm not as worried as I probably should be." Willow shrugged. "Though seeing that spell in a new light, we didn't exactly make the world any easier for ourselves."

"Well you don't want to march to the other drummers and try to destroy it, do you?" Buffy raised up a little and looked at Willow.

"No. I just want the chance to live in it." Willow confirmed.

"Or not as the case may be. Besides, I've heard it advertised as full of happy meals with legs." When Buffy saw Willow's raised eyebrows, she clarified. "Spike's words."

"So maybe we should just take off. Head north or something and just keep going till we find a place to stop." Willow started to plan out loud.

"Turn Xander, load him in the car tonight, and disappear?" Buffy smiled at the plan. "Could be good. The occasional slayer doesn't worry me. But I don't think we need everyone taking off after us."

"So we write 'em notes." Willow reached out again and started stroking Buffy's leg. Shaking her head, she refocused on the plan. "A 'sorry, we needed time to ourselves to figure it all out' kind of thing. And I could write Kennedy a dear Jane letter. Oh, wait, but what about Giles?"

"He can never know." Buffy stressed. "He'll get involved in new slayers and new watchers. He'll be able to let us go."

"So you don't think we should turn him too?" Willow realized just how much a part of the group she felt he was.

"No." Buffy sat up. "No. He'd kill us if we made him spend eternity with us. He kept trying to break away. And he was right, it is time we tried this on our own."

"Okay, Buffy. But he'll need his own letter. Something a little more detailed than 'we had to go'. I think this will work. If we're careful, we could just disappear." Willow felt relief and excitement at the idea. "Oh, wait, what about Dawn?"

"Dawn." Buffy looked around the room, absently searching for an idea. "I don't know yet. But we'll have to think of something to say, or write. She's grown up so much, so quickly. Hell, she kicked me out of 'our' house, so she's more than I little ready to break away I think. We just have to make it okay for her to go on. She'll be mad. But I can't fix this one. Life isn't fair."

"We'll think of something, Buffy." Willow assured her.

Buffy lay back down on the bed. "Well, we have all day to write the letters. It seems all my life I've just been waiting for the sun to go down."

Willow lay on the bed beside Buffy. "Are you mad? That you're still, well, alive?"

"Again, not exactly." Buffy turned towards Willow and smiled. "I'm not mad. It's just another death. Third time's the charm. And by tomorrow night, it begins again, with just the three of us."

"Tomorrow night, and always." Willow moved her hand up Buffy's body and lightly traced random patterns over her chest and stomach.

Buffy looked down at the hand then back to Willow, a teasing smile on her face. "Willow, what are you doing?"

Willow responded by leaning down and kissing Buffy, her tongue quickly seeking entry into her friend's mouth.

Buffy let the kiss happen and deepen, meeting Willow's tongue with her own, she returned the kiss. When it ended, she looked up questioningly into Willow's eyes.

Willow moved her hand to her friend's breast and started to caress it. "I feel less empty when I'm touching you. Plus, there's no inhibitions stopping me from doing what I've wanted to do for years."

"But Willow, I don't..." Buffy closed her eyes and arched slightly.

Willow trailed her fingers down Buffy's body, over her thigh, and back up to firmly stroke Buffy's center through the thin material of her shorts. "Don't you feel less empty when I'm touching you?"

"Yes." Buffy moved against Willow's fingers, her hand reaching for Willow to pull her closer. "But I don't know..."

"Yes you do." Willow interrupted and let Buffy pull her down, beginning another kiss.

Willow ended the kiss and smiling at her newfound boldness, removed Buffy's clothes. As she was pulling her own clothes off, she wondered briefly at the marked contrast between the emptiness of her body and the solace she felt when she touched Buffy. Seeing Buffy's prone body and the timid, pleading look in her eyes, she reminded herself to wonder about it another time. Willow bent forward again, teasing one of Buffy's breasts with her tongue; she brought a hand again to Buffy's center, smiling as her fingers easily slid through slick folds to enter her.

Buffy bent her legs and raised her hips to meet Willow's controlled touch and rhythm. A hand tangled itself into Willow's hair as the other grasped the bedspread beside her. It seemed so sudden, the overwhelming sensations, and Buffy simply moved her body to Willow's touch, holding onto her friend for the ride. Buffy felt such comfort and consolation in the feel of Willow's fingers inside of her; filling and stroking her. When she felt Willow move to trace the recent bite with her tongue and gently penetrate her with fangs, Buffy's sensations exploded and filled every part of her. Coming down and drawing unneeded breaths out of habit, Buffy looked into Willow's human eyes and lifted her head to begin another welcome kiss.

Willow was pleasantly surprised when Buffy's rolled them over. She encouraged Buffy's explorations. A hand tangled in Buffy's hair and guided her friend's kisses to her breasts. Clasping Buffy's wrist, she brought her friend's hand between her legs and only let go when she felt Buffy's fingers begin to stroke and explore on their own. Urgent with the need to feel Buffy inside her, she met the hesitant first attempt at an entry with a push and thrust of her hips, a whispered plea of 'more' on her lips. She relaxed into the touch when Buffy became more confident, letting the rhythm and movement carry her mind away. When she felt Buffy's bite not at her neck, but into the side of her breast, Willow began begging for 'harder' and 'deeper', and finally exploded with a silent scream. Wrapping a leg around her friend's and her arms around Buffy's back, she held her desperately, fearing the empty feeling that would return.

Sleep carried them through most of the afternoon and when they awoke, they could feel the sun begin its decent. Reluctantly separating, they got dressed and began the chore of writing the letters that would excuse their escape.

"Here, Buffy, read this. Does this sound alright?" Willow handed over the dear Jane letter. "This is surprisingly hard. There's this whole part of me that just wants to write a big 'fuck you' in blood on the wall."

Buffy laughed. "Oh, yeah, that'd get 'em not to wondering and chasing after us at all." Buffy quickly scanned the letter. "Sounds like the old you. This'll work. Now how about mine to Giles?"

Willow read and reread the letter, editing for the imagined voice of who they should be now and making sure all the critical points were covered. "It'll have to do, considering that none of this would actually be happening. At least not this soon. I think eventually this would all happen in a way, anyway. We are wayward children now." Willow smiled at Buffy. There was only the letter to Dawn left.

"We haven't been children for a long while." Buffy reminded Willow. "Did we really get Xander's tone right for his letter? Cause I don't want to go back into his head again."

"Yes, Buffy. I think it's fine. Should we write one from him just for Andrew?" Willow arched her eyebrows and grinned evilly.

Buffy laughed. "Don't be mean." After considering it a moment, she changed her mind, smiling at Willow in return. "Okay, but just a little one. And you write it this time."

"We can't put off Dawn's any longer, though." Willow sobered some. "What are we going to say?"

"Well," Buffy started, "I guess we should say she's a beautiful, powerful adult now. Amazing and intelligent and..."

"You still love her, don't you?" Willow interrupted.

"Yeah." Buffy conceded. "I still have all my old thoughts in my head. I just want her to know that she's capable of going on. I stopped living just for her a long while ago, and she finally this year stopped needing me to and started deciding her life for herself. Is there a nice way of saying that? We need to tell her she can stay with the slayers and new watcher set-up if she wants or she can go off to college maybe. That's it. Let her know that it's time to go on herself. We already explained how we needed to let it go and move on, wished them luck but we couldn't be a part of it all again. Dawn needs to do the same thing. Let's tell Giles to take whatever he feels the watchers owe me and put Dawn through college. Let's tell Dawn it's okay to let go and to live. That's all that we've done."

"That sounds good, Buffy." Willow handed Buffy the paper and pen. "Just try to write that down and I'll read it and we'll try to make it as soft as we can. It's not like any of this won't hurt them, but maybe we can make it hurt less, and then disappear well enough that we won't hurt them again."

"You still love them too, don't you?" Buffy smiled in understanding.

"With everything I was and so much of that is still around." Willow acknowledged. "I just hope tomorrow night, when Xander wakes, he feels the same way."

"He will." Buffy assured. "The hellmouth made him more than human in a way as well. Just in a different way."

"Well then, let's finish this so we can get started." Willow put her own pen to paper and started a short but sweet note just for Andrew.

When the sun finally set, all the letters were long done and they were pacing impatiently around the room. Hunger created a nervous anticipation in Buffy. "There, that's it. We can go now. God, let's sneak out of here, and... and then return for Xander."

"Let's sneak out of here to kill? To feed?" Willow clarified bluntly.

Buffy hung her head briefly then raised it to look into Willow's eyes. "Yes."

Willow smiled reassuringly. "It's okay, Buffy. It's a part of who we are now. And that part needs it just as much as the other part needed to write these letters. Come on."

They exited the motel without being seen and started walking casually down the streets. Passing a bar, they caught the notice of two men talking by the door. The men were loud and almost lewd with their come-ons and Buffy smiled as they made her first kill easier for her mind. The men mistook the smile and readily followed as she guided and teased them into the alley beside the bar. Willow rolled her eyes at Buffy's selection, but followed behind.

Buffy didn't waste time teasing them further and pinning one against the wall, quickly let her demon to the fore and sank her fangs into his neck. Pulling and sucking quickly at the wound, she was amazed at her desire for the warmth and passion of his blood, his life. Easily withstanding his struggles, it seemed so soon he was nothing but a limp form in her arms and she let him drop. Turning, she saw Willow push away the lifeless body of his friend. Buffy noticed a knife attached to the man's belt and reached down to take it from its sheath. She cut each of their necks deeply across the evidence of the bites, and wiping the handle on his shirt, let the knife drop between the men. "So Giles won't know." She explained to Willow.

"Clever." Willow complimented Buffy. "So, how do you feel now?"

"Warm, alive, surprisingly comfortable in my skin." Buffy admitted.

Willow smiled. "So we ready to do this?"

"Yeah." Buffy stretched a little and shook away the last of the demon from her face. "Let's visit Xander."

They hurried a little back to the motel, slowing only as they approached it. Willow took Buffy's hand in her own and gave it a gentle squeeze before they snuck back into the motel and knocked on Xander's door.

Xander's answering smile was returned and they slipped inside. They didn't wish any pain or cause for alarm, so Buffy simply took her cue from Willow's example the night before and gave Xander a welcoming hug. Willow gently closed the door and leaned against it, intently watching as Xander's eye closed in comfort and his arms wrapped around Buffy in return. He gasped and opened his eye, staring in question at Willow, as Buffy's fangs penetrated his neck. He mutely struggled against her embrace before weakly grasping her and holding on.

Xander's immediate reaction was blind panic. He blankly stared at Willow simply watching him, his rapid heart rate only increasing the pull of the bite. With desperate rage against everything he hated and feared, he struggled to try and push this away and make it end. Xander continued the battle inside; as his arms could only weakly embrace his once friend, he tried to hold onto his life. Even as the last of his energy slipped from him and he felt his body stop; his mind grasped fiercely at the memories that tried to follow, letting the tangle of rage tie them to himself. Still, a defeated thought wove its way through each experience: 'they don't need me now: it's done'. But just as the relief of a lifelong struggle ending relaxed even his mind, Buffy's voice gently woke him.

Buffy lowered him to the floor and began a constant pleading in his ear for him to hold on, to stay with them. She reminded him how much they needed and loved him as she bit her own wrist and brought the bleeding wound to his lips. Smiling in relief when he began to suck the blood from her on his own, she turned to Willow and nodded as she stroked his hair, comforting and encouraging him. When she pulled her arm gently away, she watched him as sleep or death relaxed his face and body.

Buffy lifted his body in her arms as Willow laid the letters on the bed. Leaving the lights off and the door open, they slipped unseen down to their car. Buffy carefully laid Xander down across the back seat and got into the passenger side. Willow took the driver's seat and starting the car, they made their way to the freeway and north.

No-one spoke as they entered the onramp and moved to the left lane, passing all the exit signs on their way to escape. Buffy turned to check on Xander's lifeless form and gave Willow a small smile. Turning on the stereo, she found a classic rock station and simply watched as the road disappeared ahead into the night.

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