A few years after the end of both "Buffy" and "Angel" Buffy runs into Spike, and he's changed...

Central plot idea by SupportSpike, thanks a lot for your permission to use it. Let me know when you're ready for that movie!

Beta job – and more – by ebineez01, thanks a lot for beta'ing and throwing in ideas!

~o0o~

"You look -"

Buffy stops mid sentence. He's still hot. The weight he has put on is mostly muscle, his waist still slim but his shoulders and chest broader, his cheekbones still prominent but no longer razor sharp. His eyes are different. As if he's aged. How is that possible? And he's not blond any more. That's probably what throws her off the most. She's always known it's not his natural hair color, but she's never seen him with brown hair. There might even be a hint of gray at his temples. That's just not possible. It's been a few years since he closed the hell mouth - but he's a vampire! Or not? Her slayer senses kick in. Yes. He still is a vampire. Souled. But not human.

He tilts his head. The smile is the same.

"- old?"

"No! I mean, yes, older, different, but that's not possible."

He smirks.

"Was human for a while. Didn't stick."

Huh. A myriad of possibilities open up in her mind. Before she can voice any of them he straightens.

"So how have you been?"

"Human. Full time."

He chuckles. She's missed that sound.

"Off duty, mostly. Went to college and got a job. Stayed out of the slayer business as much as I could. Helped Angel a few times. Never ran into you."

"Would you have liked that?"

She hesitates.

"You never told me you survived. No one told me."

She drops her gaze.

"I thought I'd lost you."

Spike swallows. Everything he's ever felt for her is coming back, hitting him like a freight train. And then his world crumbles as he notices the slim golden ring on her finger. He closes his eyes for a moment.

"When did you get married?"

"Two years ago", she softly says, and her voice sounds like it's coming from very far away.

Two years. If only...if he'd gone to find her, talked to her. Hell he'd even been human at the time! He swallows once more and draws a breath he doesn't need any more.

"I guess I'll better get out of your hair."

Her head snaps up.

"What? That's it? Just like that?"

"You're a married woman. And don't tell me we can be friends. It's ripping my guts out."

She can't believe he admits that.

"He's out of town", she blurts out before she can change her mind.

Spike looks utterly lost at that.

"Please? For old times' sake?", she presses.

He starts to smile, weak, defeated. No way can he resist her.

"You have to tell me about that being human number. All I heard was you were a ghost."

"Yeah, that was fun. Got to haunt your ex."

Buffy can so see that - how much Spike must have enjoyed annoying Angel. She starts to grin.

"Let's go for a walk."

They walk in silence for a while, neither one of them knowing where to start. And then Buffy turns to him and looks him straight in the eye.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you come to Rome, or call, or -"

"I did come to Rome. Actually it was a business trip with Tall Dark And Forehead. But you were - occupied."

Buffy blushes.

"That didn't last."

He doesn't tell her about the boat ticket he bought. Still doesn't fully understand why he didn't go. He told Harmony why - but that wasn't even half the truth. Pain. Insecurity. Fear. To face her and to be turned down, again. Better to stay away from her. He's been a fool. He has to know.

"If I'd come to you, before you met -"

"Steven."

"- what would have happened?"

She drops her gaze.

"I told you. Once."

"And you were lying."

"No! I wasn't! How can you say that? You told me that back then, but how could you know what I did or didn't feel?"

He deflates.

"I just did. You might have loved what I did, you might have been proud of me, for living up to your high expectations. But you didn't love me. That night I held you, I thought... But I was wrong. You could never love me. I knew that. Deep inside I knew, and that's why I stayed away from you."

For a long time neither of them said anything.

"Tell me. About - I mean how did you become human? Was it the Shanshu prophecy?"

He snorts.

"Hell no. I ran into a demon, don't remember what it was called. Red would know. Anyway, turned out it likes to suck the life out of people, only there wasn't any in me. Annoyed the hell out of it. Came back for me a few nights later with a witch in tow. She cast a spell - one that turns a predator into their prey. Et voilà - I was human. That demon made use of it and sucked a few years worth of life out of me before I managed to get away. So there I was, aging for the first time in like forever. I bulked up to make up for the vampire strength I'd lost, but I wasn't much of a fighter any longer, not much of a lover, not much of a drinker. So I decided I needed to be re vamped."

"Who did it?"

Spike doesn't answer. Who could he have gone to? Certainly not Angel.

"Drusilla?"

"I tried. I thought she'd love the idea of siring me again, but she laughed so hard when she saw me, human, weak, as desperate as I'd been the first time she did it. She made me - ask real nicely, and when she finally did bite me she almost killed me for good. Only she wouldn't let me feed on her. Said I wasn't fun anymore. She just left me, didn't give a fuck if I lived or died. Barely got away."

He's sprawled out on the ground, his sire looking down at him, her eyes and hands roaming.

"So beautiful", she purrs.

He's so weak he can hardly keep his eyes open, and still they're glued to her face.

"Give us a kiss, sweet Spike", she says in the same sensual voice, but he recognizes an order when he hears it. He closes his eyes, gathering all the strength he has left to push off the ground. She doesn't lean in. He has to close the distance, and he does. She moans into his kiss, and then he can taste his own blood, but he refuses to back off. She keeps kissing him, but he can't hold himself upright any longer. She smiles as he drops to the ground. And then she's gone.

Buffy gives him a long look, soft, gentle. He looks lost and vulnerable, and she's not sure if it's because of her or because of Dru or both.

"So who? If Dru didn't, who -?"

It's the lowest he can get. Asking Harmony of all vampires to sire him. Barely a fledgling. Granted, she's come a long way from the annoying half wit she used to be, and part of him even likes her. But she's Harm! And can he even ask that of her? After the way he's treated her? Oh she'll have a blast. What is she gonna demand in return? That he stays with her? Could he? Maybe it would work out better this time around, but he's not sure she even wants that any more. She's probably moved on by now, so what does he have to offer? It takes him weeks to make up his mind and go look for her. She's still in LA. And she smiles when she sees him and calls him Spike, nothing else. Huh. They talk, and he apologizes and even means it, and it turns out she's willing to help him and take nothing in return. So he's back in the game and takes his leave from Harm with a long hug that almost feels like friendship – and respect. Wonders never cease.

"Harm", he just says. "It's why I'm here. Didn't think I'd ever come back to the City of Angel, but hey. Can't be picky."

He turns serious.

"Didn't think I'd run into you here, either."

"I'm glad you're here", she says, and it sounds almost shy. She looks at him and her eyes turn soft, and then she moves in and puts her arms around him, her slender body melting against his. So good. He closes his eyes, pain evident on his face.

"Did you ever feel anything for me - besides lust?" His voice is low, full of pain. "Did you ever respect me, as a person?"

"Of course!", she rushes out.

"Then please let me go." Resigned, pleading, as if she was physically subduing him. "Don't play that game with me again."

She looks up at him.

"I'm not playing."

He snorts, a bitter, pained sound.

"You remember what it was like. Your body remembers me. So you figure you'll have another go and then toss me away when hubby turns up."

She takes a step back, away from him, and her arms fall away.

"I'm sorry, Spike. I should have said this years ago. I'm sorry for the way I treated you, for using you, for causing you pain. It's sad that you feel like I'm playing with you, but I guess I can't blame you."

He just looks at her for an eternity, and then he smiles.

"Thank you for saying it", he says and turns to leave.