He didn't expect to see the witch sitting by herself. No, not the witch any longer. She was trying with all that was in her not to be the witch. He still resented her, for excluding him, for putting Dawn in danger. But there she sat, all by herself, surrounded by empty cups. He guessed he wasn't the only one with a need to drown some sorrows.
"Hello, Red," he said, standing next to her table.
"Oh, hi Spike. Want to sit down?" She gestured to the chair across from her, and with a 'why the hell not' raise of his eyebrow, he sat. Her eyes were foggy with drink. Still, a look of shock spread slowly over her face. "What happened to you?" she asked. "Your face..."
"Yeah, well, that. No big deal. You should see the other bloke." He tried to smile at her, but the effort was too painful. The wounds went beyond the surface bruises. She'd broken some bones underneath. They'd heal.
"Can I get you a drink?" she asked, tottering as she rose to head to the bar.
"Thanks, pet, but I can get my own." He pulled her gently back down. "Don't you think you've had enough?"
"What's enough? What's ever enough?" She leaned in towards him. "It's so hard. I haven't done a spell in weeks. Feel like I've cut off my right arm." She raised a half filled cup and drank. "This helps. Better than bottled water."
"I'm not one to talk, luv, but it doesn't help. Not really. Not in the long run." His eyes strayed towards the bar. He really wanted that beer.
"I'm buying you a drink. Don't argue." She stood and walked too carefully to the bar, and brought back two big cups of beer. "Drink this. Good for what ails ya." She demonstrated by talking a big gulp. "Hey, you coming to Buffy's birthday party?"
He had forgotten her birthday. Not that she expected anything from him, but he should have remembered. "Not invited."
"Y'are now. Next Tuesday night." She smiled. "Bring beer. Oh, and bring someone, if you like. The more the merrier."
Spike sipped at his drink, but the beer tasted sour in his mouth. He'd never seen the witch like this. It disturbed him. "That's enough for tonight, Red. Let me walk ya home."
"Don' be silly." She raised the cup to her lips, but miscalculated and spilled it down the front of her sweater. "Damn! Yeah, okay. Take me home." She stood and stumbled, but he was there to help her to her feet, supporting her under her arm. She looked up at him. "You know, you're kinda cute, vamp boy."
"Yes, I'd definitely say it's time to go home." He started to walk with her, holding her up, until they were a block away from the Bronze. She passed out beside him, and he picked her up and carried her the rest of the way. "Poor little witch. Just can't cope, can ya?" She was light in his arms. He noticed how thin she had become. Just as the turned onto Revello Drive, he put her down and shook her awake. "C'mon Willow. Time to get home on your own steam." He watched her fumble for her keys, and shakily put one in the front door lock. She staggered inside and shut the door behind her.
He stood under the front lawn tree, watching Buffy's window. The light was off. He hoped she was asleep. He thought of the women inside. Buffy, struggling to find her way again, Dawn, lonely and angry, Willow, frustrated and on the edge. Maybe the bloody house was cursed. He turned away and headed home.