Summary: Set after Same Time, Same Place. Buffy tries to overcome Spike's astounding news, feeling very undeserving of what Spike has offered up to her. Where will this lead them? This is my take of what I would like to happen between Buffy and Spike this season.

Spoilers, chapter 1 from 7.4, chapters 2-4 from 7.5, chapter 5 possibly 7.6 and chapter 6 possibly 7.6 and 7.7. Chapter 7 and beyond are all my own, with a little help from my friends. =)

A/N: Please read and enjoy. And, oh yeah, I want to know what you think and if I should continue on and on and on! Please review me, I'll even take some criticisms.

Disclaimer: Be forewarned, includes some spoilers from upcoming episodes. So if you are trying to remain unspoiled, don't go there! All these characters and spoilers that will really happen in the weeks ahead, all belong to one Joss Whedon and his affiliates. I'm just embellishing with the fluffiness because we all know Joss is not the fluffy spuffy type.

Definition taken from the Random House Dictionary.

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protect: to cover or shield from injury or danger.

Buffy wandered through the maze of hallways once again, her intent being to check up on the crazed vampire, who was once her confidante when she was pulled back to this world over a year ago. She kept telling herself it was just to make sure he wasn't doing anything else gruesome to himself out of her sight. In actuality, she felt better just seeing him, being in his presence; even if he was stark raving mad. And why was he like that in the first place?

She pushed that question out of her mind constantly for she knew most of his insanity was because of her. He harbored a soul, a soul in which he took off last spring for, a soul he told her he got for because he wanted to give her what he thought she deserved.

What did she deserve? Not him. Not now, she thought. He who was more man than demon when you stepped back and looked at the big picture. He who loved her completely with all his heart and all his soul. This man who wanted her to be happy and to live, who would do anything for her, even go to the farthest reaches of this planet to find someone who would grant him the decency to return to him what was his over a century ago.

Now his punishment on receiving his gift for her was sheer torture, killing him from the inside out. Throwing grief back into his face from countless victims he had taken the life from. Riddling his conscience from too many who he had decimated for his survival, for without their life's blood, he would not be living his undead life.

The thought of all the harsh things she had ever said to him, called him, the punches, the kicks below the belt, flowed through her mind now. He had hurt her; no, the demon within him had hurt her, physically hurt her that night that seemed so long ago. She remembered the look in his eyes when she threw him off of her. He was, the man was, absolutely terrified and sickened at what almost happened. He could barely speak to her and he took off quickly when she told him to ask her again why she could never love him. That was the last she saw of him til she stumbled upon him, raving mad in the school's basement, talking to someone not there, speaking to the walls.

Now that she knew what he had done for her, what he had won to give to her, she felt guilt- ridden. One selfless act he performed for another, for her, because of his guilty conscience that was destroying his humanity. Surely he knew the trauma it would inflict upon him. He was around when Angel was cursed with his. Maybe he thought that by asking for his soul, he would not have to withstand the pain and guilt that ripped Angel apart. She wondered what he had to have done, or had to give up for his soul to be returned. She didn't expect they were handing them out freely. And who were they to even be able to perform such a tremendous act? Those were questions yet to be asked of the one who had attained it, and probably would be unanswered until Spike was in his right mind, if ever he would be.

She rounded a corner and heard his voice, the ramblings of an insane person. When she reached the doorway, she could clearly make out what he was saying.

"Don't do it. I beg you, don't. Don't hurt the girl. She means everything to me. I know she has, but I deserved it. No, she is my light and I need that light. So dark here, so, so very dark, I need the light. Please, don't hurt the girl, don't hurt the girl, don't hurt the girl," his voice painfully drifted off.

"Spike," she softly called to him after walking into the room. He was sitting on his haunches rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, hands balled up at the sides of his head. She called him again, a bit louder. His head jerked up and he looked at her with fear and pain in his eyes. He stood abruptly, shaking his head no. He wouldn't look at her for very long, rarely making eye contact.

"No, no, no, shouldn't be here. No good. The light will go out if in the dark too long. Bad things trying to take the light away. Won't have it, but so weak. Don't hurt the girl, don't hurt---" his distraught voice drifted off, like his reality was swept into an alternate universe.

"Spike, please, I've come to check on you, to see how you are doing and to ask for your help again."

"I can help, help is good. I can do good, I can, really." He gave her a sideways glance, speaking like he was trying desperately to convince her of his abilities.

"I know, that's why I'm here. I've had a student come to me. I think she may be gifted, cause she told me of her possible death. I believe there may be other forces at work here, though. Have you seen or heard anything unusual?"

"Can't say, things here without permission. Need to check their tickets. The girl, she will die? Don't hurt the girl." He reached out and grabbed Buffy's arm tightly which startled her. He let go instantly realizing he was touching her and looked at her with an intense gaze.

"Don't hurt the girl," he repeated again.

"The girl? Cassie?" she asked him.

He placed his hands behind him and casually walked away from her shaking his head. Buffy let out a long sigh.

"I guess I will go then."

Spike whirled around then, panic in his face. "No, please stay. I---miss you."

Her face softened at his proclamation. "I need to go, I have to work. Besides, whenever I'm around you seem to get worse. I'll be back, I promise." She walked towards the door and stopped, turning her head slightly to watch him slump down against a few boxes.

"I miss you, too," she whispered before heading down the corridor of the basement.

Spike smiled slightly, as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

A few evenings later, Buffy's suspicions had been confirmed when she found out about a secret cult that was using the school facilities to perform their rituals. Sacrifices were without a doubt a part of the demonic ceremonies and Buffy planned on putting a stop to it right away, especially if human lives were at stake or demons were being called. There were enough demons walking around good old Sunnydale already, no more needed to be resurrected from other dimensions or wherever else they should be called forth from.

She found them in a secluded room in the basement. Red robed figures standing around a very frightened Cassie, chanting words that Buffy knew would bring no good. She had to act fast. Unfortunately she wasn't fast enough. The ugly, bumpy, horned demon stood in the center of the circle, not too far from the girl.

Buffy ran towards the group of boys, throwing them this way and that. The rest scattered, leaving only the two girls and the not-so-happy demon. Buffy placed herself between the girl and the monster and told Cassie to leave fast. That didn't make the demon any happier. It lunged towards Buffy, showing her his long, sharp claws and growling some obscenity at her. She reached behind her back and produced a long sword, preparing for the unavoidable battle ahead.

She lunged, she struck, she ducked, and she kicked; the demon was not wearing down. Suddenly, Buffy noticed out of the corner of her eye that Cassie did not make it out of the room. She was slumped down on the floor, leaning against the wall, her face ashen. That quick look cost her a moment's distraction and the beast took it for granted. It swiftly approached her, swinging its massive arm at her head, knocking her off balance and almost unconscious. She landed hard on the cement floor, trying to shake it off. Her sight kept dimming though as she tried to will herself from passing out.

Out of nowhere, a familiar figure flew through the air landing next to her. Spike was crouching over her, rumbling out a feral growl that she could only guess was being used to ward off the attacker. He was protecting her and she was relieved. Spike slowly slid the sword out from under her as the demon tried to attack from a different angle. Spike was cleverer and swifter. He feinted to the right but swiveled to the left, bringing the sword around with him in an arc, severing the head from the monster. It was a bit before its body followed the head down to the ground. Buffy sat up a little, amazed at what she had witnessed. Spike turned to her, and kneeling down next to her, asked how she was doing.

"I'm better than what I should be, thanks to you. That was...wow. Thank you, Spike."

"Couldn't very well have let him hurt the girl, could I?"

"The girl, Cassie." Buffy got up slowly and made her way over to her. She checked her over and found nothing, then looked over her shoulder at Spike who was standing next to the demon, kicking it with the toe of his shoe. He mumbled a few words to the decapitated form.

"Told you not to hurt the girl, mate."

"Spike," Buffy called. "Please stay here with Cassie. I'm going to get a blanket and I gotta go use the payphone upstairs to call 911. Spike, did you hear me?"

He looked up and shook his head yes as he headed over to them. Spike took Buffy's place next to her and he picked up the girl's hand. She looked up at him and their eyes connected.

"Don't let her worry about me. I told her I was going to die. Nothing that she could do. Don't let her blame herself, ok?" Spike shook his head yes. She gasped for breath and squeezed his hand tighter.

"One day, she will tell you." Cassie drifted away from the world into a peaceful, forever slumber.

TBC?

A/N Let me know if you think I should go on with more. I was planning on making this a short fic, but I could write more Spuffy goodness.