The office was spotless not one speck of dust to be seen on the various artifacts lining the shelves. Dawn stared at the titles of the books on the shelves musing to herself that at one time when she was younger she had scoured each of those books during long research hours. She shifted the sleeping toddler on her lap as she waited for the owner of the desk to join her.

The door open and she looked up to see the dark haired man enter, he hadn't changed a bit in the last ten years. She shook her head slightly, of course he hadn't changed, if she saw him in a hundred years he'd still look the same.

"Dawn, how are you?" Angel asked as he took his seat behind the desk smiling as he noticed the child sleeping in her arms.

"I'm good." She looked around the office, "You seem to be doing well too."

"Business is good, I can't complain." He leaned back in the chair, "Is this little guy yours?"

"Yes, his name is Carson, he's eighteen months old." Dawn patted the little boys soft brown hair.

"He's adorable."

"We're proud of him, my husband and I that is." She grinned as the little boy moved a bit to get comfy.

"So, I guess I need to ask is this business or the pleasure of seeing an old friend." Angel asked leaning forward on the desk top.

"We weren't ever really friends were we?" She smiled slightly, "But I do have a problem and I think you can help."

He raised his eyebrow at her, "I guess we weren't really friends, but you are Buffy's sister and I'll do what I can, you know that. Now what's the problem?"

"I want you to tell me about Spike." Her expression became very serious.

"What about him, Dawn. It's been ten years since.....do you really want to dredge up ancient history?" His seriousness matched her own.

"I saw him last night....he came into this building. I was with my dad so I didn't follow him. It was him though, wasn't it?"

"Spike died ten years ago, Dawn. You're mistaken." Angel sighed at the hurt in the girls eyes.

"Angel, I don't know why he never let us know he was alive, or why he was here and right now I don't care. But Buffy needs him... and I know it was him. Please tell me the truth." Tears threatened to spill from her eyes as she pleaded with him.

"Buffy needs him? I talked to Giles just a few months ago. Buffy was fine." Concern filled his voice.

"Giles told you she's fine? Angel, Buffy's husband died two years ago from lymphoma. She's far from fine right now." Dawn shook her head in disbelief, she'd have to talk to Giles. she knew he meant well but sometimes he handled things completely wrong.

"But she just had her second child about two years ago, didn't she?"

"Yes, David died when Tierney was three months old. His insurance took care of most of the bills but she still had to sell the bigger house and move to a smaller one and she works at a law office as a receptionist. She's tired most of the time but she always makes time for the girls they go to the park every afternoon when she picks them up from daycare, she's a great mom, but she's lonely and needs someone in her life. When dad and I were out last night and I saw Spike....I knew that I had to tell him."

Dawn took a deep breath, "So, please tell me, where is he?"

"Dawn, are you sure Buffy would want to see him, she's believed he was dead, she moved on, she loved her husband right?" Angel ran a hand through his hair.

"Yes, she did love her husband, but he's gone. And you have to know that she looked for Spike for two years after he supposedly died, she'd go back to Sunnydale and search for him just in case. This isn't meant to hurt you, Buffy cares for you Angel, but you know who her heart was with the last time you visited Sunnydale."

Angel stood, "Dawn, please let me handle this, I know a way to get him to Buffy. But I need details about Buffy's life okay, like where this park is she goes too etc. And.....if this doesn't work out the way you want it too, I don't want you to be angry...because in the end this is their choice not ours."

"Thank you!" Dawn stood excitedly, she began to walk around the room as she filled Angel in on Buffy's life.

"I'll let you know something when it's all set up, okay?"

"Okay. I'll talk to you soon." Dawn smiled as she left the office.

******

Angel picked up the phone and dialed the number....he hoped this wasn't a mistake.

" Hello." Spike's voice answered on the other end.

"Spike, I've got an out of town job for you. Can you come over and get the details?" Angel asked tapping a pencil on the edge of his desk.

"Sure, I'll be there shortly. Where out of town?" Spike asked before he hung up the phone.

"Bartlett, Tennessee. You may be there a little while so please pack a couple changes of clothing."

"Fine, Peaches. I'll pack now so I get moving." He hung up the phone and pulled opened the closet pulling out a half dozen shirts in dark colors and three pairs of basic black jeans. Stepping to the bureau he smiled at the picture of the blond in the silver frame. One long finger touched her smiling face, "Got to go away a few days, sweetness." He whispered the words as he pulled out tee shirts and socks.

Turning off the light he swung the duffle on his shoulder and left for Angel's office.

"I'm here, oh broody one." Spike snarked as he opened Angel's office door and sat down in the chair across from his desk.

"Good, I need you to go to Bartlett and meet his guy for me, he's got some information for me about the whereabouts of a former Wolfram and Hart employee. I need to get in touch with this guy, I need his legal advice." Angel handed him a folder with all the information he would need in it.

As Spike listened to Angel explain the details of the job he caught the faint scent of someone familiar, someone from his past and another scent the scent of a child? No, his nose was playing tricks on him, Dawn had moved out of state ten years ago.

"Spike, are you listening?" Angel asked when he noticed the odd look on the younger mans face.

"Yes, I got it. Meet this guy in the park at dusk. He'll give me information about this Lindsey person. Why would you trust anyone who had even formerly worked for Wolfram and Hart?"

Angel shook his head, "Lindsey was different. He got out of there before he was totally corrupted."

"Okay, guess I'm leaving tonight," He glanced at the time on the ticket, "Better go now."

"They'll be a rental car waiting for you, and Spike, don't forget to check in this time." Angel rolled his eyes at his friend.

"I will, I will, dad!" Spike grinned as he closed the door behind him.

Angel sighed as he leaned back in the chair. Spike would either thank him or kill him for this and Buffy? He wasn't sure what to expect from her. The last time he'd seen her, she had explained about Spike, it hurt he wouldn't lie but so much had passed between them and he couldn't lie he'd found he could have feelings for other women since Buffy. He had not spoken to her directly for ten years now, getting his information through Giles, who it seemed had not been completely honest with him. He wanted to be angry with the man, but he realized that the former Watcher was doing what he thought best to protect Buffy and he couldn't fault him that. Afterall he'd kept something important from her too for all these years.

He closed his eyes and rememberd that night eight years ago when he had ran into a ghost. He had been sitting in a bar feeling brooding over the changes in his life, the ridiculous thing with Cordy that was doomed before it began, giving up Connor and fighting to regain his friendship with Wesley again. Gunn and Fred finally marrying and moving north.

****

He heard the voice before he saw the shock of platinum hair at the end of the bar. No, it couldn't be. But it was there was one William the Bloody standing there in front of him, alive - well undead as it were.

"spike!" He'd called out to the blond who had jerked around to see who was calling him.

The blond vampires face had frozen. "Angel."

"You aren't dust?" Angel asked suspiciously.

"Doesn't look that way." Spike had patted his coat and grinned guiltily.

"Why aren't you dust?" Angel moved to take the stool next to him.

"I'm hurt." Spike replied sarcasm dripping from his voice.

"No, you're not but I know someone who was hurt....she thinks your dead. How could you do this to Buffy?" Anger flared in Angel's voice now.

"She...she didn't need me. After what went down in Sunnydale, I knew she was finally going to be able to have that normal life. Faith was more then happy to be the Slayer. I figured it was easier for her to believe I was dead, hey I went out a hero in her eyes." Spike sighed as he sipped his drink.

"But she had the right to know, Spike." Angel admonished him.

"Well, I think she's better off, I'm sure she got over it and moved on. You would know - is she happy? No details please, just tell me she's happy." Spike's voice was an almost whisper at the end of the sentence.

"Giles says she is." Angel admitted.

"See, it's all for the best then. And you won't ruin this right, you won't tell?" Spike pleaded.

"On one condition, you come to work for me? I could use some help and I figure you'll work for cheap." Angel had grinned at the man next to him.

"What makes you think I'm still a do gooder?" Spike had asked over the rim of his mug.

"You still love Buffy?" Angel asked complete seriousness reflecting in his eyes.

"Of course, I do." Spike answered defensively.

"Then I would wager you're still a do gooder. Do you accept my offer?"

Spike had took another long sip of his beer before answering, "I suppose I do."

****

That had been eight years ago and Spike had been a model employee if you didn't count the times he deliberately disobeyed his boss, the name calling and the week long drunk he engaged in once a year on Buffy's birthday.

Angel sighed again as opened the dark blinds and watched the tail lights of the DeSoto head towards the airport.

*****

Spike arrived at the Memphis airport late, as promised the rental car was waiting for him. Grudgingly he admitted that at times Angel could be a good boss. After asking for directions he soon found himself at the hotel in Bartlett. Tomorrow evening he would find the park and his contact. He really couldn't imagine what Angel needed with Lindsey McDonald there were plenty of lawyers in LA. Oh, well it was a paid trip and Spike could use a bit of time away to think and brood , there was no way in hell he was going to brood in front of Angel.

***

The next evening

Buffy tried to smile as the Jan the head of the daycare explained why they were having to raise their prices again. Inside she was reeling, she wasn't sure if her already stretched budget could afford another increase. The two small girls clinging to her legs were tired and ready to go. "Mommeeeeee." The smallest of the two whined.

"Just a minute, Tierney." Buffy bent over to pick her daughter up.

"Anyway, I'm sorry, Buffy but we have no choice.' Jan's voice was sympathetic.

"It's okay, we'll make do. See you tomorrow." Buffy told her as Tierney lay her head on her mommy's shoulder and the older daughter Brenna took her offered hand. "Are you two sure you want to go to the park tonight, you both look tired."

"Yes, we want to go!" Brenna answered suddenly perking up in her booster seat.

"Park!" Tierney agreed from her car seat.

"Okay, I was just checking.' Buffy smiled into the rear view mirror as she looked at her girls. Brenna was four and a minature of her mother except her hair was a soft brown, she was shy like her father, Tierney at two had Bufy's mouth and blond curls, but she looked more like her dad, she definitely had her mother's temprament though.

'We're here!" Buffy exclaimed as she pulled into the small parking lot.

"Yay!" Brenna and Tierney called out together.

Buffy opened the rear door and unfastened the car seat buckles, after grabbing their buckets and shovels, the girls climbed from the car and raced to the sand box. Buffy followed closely behind taking a seat on the bench at the edge of the sand. The girls laughed as they played in the sand and Buffy mentally tried to figure out how she was going to keep them in the daycare.

So lost in her thoughts Buffy didn't seem to notice as dusk creeped nearer, she wasn't really worried about the dark, in the eight years she'd lived here she had only ran into two vamps and had quickly dispatched them. So she didn't hurry when she

began to gather the girls and their toys.

***

Spike quickly found the park, he parked the rental car and got out into the early dusk. He could see a woman with two children in the distance, something about the woman was familiar a small chill ran through him, she was blond and petite and no way, but the scent on the slight breeze. screamed 'it's her!'. He couldn't help himself he had to find out for sure. Walking slowly he headed towards the sandbox.

"Get your bucket, Tierney." Buffy said standing next to the sandbox.

"Don't want to go." Tierney stood and stuck out her bottom lip in a patented Buffy pout.

"Well, we have to. You have to eat dinner and take your bath." Buffy knelt next to the stubborn little girl.

"NO!" The little girl shouted and sat her plump bottom back down in the sand.

Brenna stood next to her mom her sandbucket and shovel in hand, she sighed at her sister's behavior.

Buffy felt the familiar tingle before she turned around, a vampire was near, great! of all nights.

She grabbed Tierney up in her arms the little girl struggling with her and took Brenna's hand tightly in hers. "Can you run to the car with, Mommy?"

Brenna nodded as Tierney pouted at her mom. Buffy turned towards the car, scanning for the vampire. She was startled to hear a familiar voice, "Do you need help?" She turned to find herself face to face with a dead man - literally.

Spike had seen her rushing with the children and was afraid she was in some kind of danger, he hadn't meant to speak. The realization that it was really Buffy hit him hard, he stepped back hitting the edge of the sandbox and landing on his rear.

Tierney and Brenna both laughed then, that sweet tinkling little girl laugh. Buffy stared down at her daughters and then Spike in the sandbox struggling to maintain his dignity. Despite her confusion she laughed too.

Spike finally found his voice, "What's so funny?"

"You fell on your bottom." Brenna shyly informed him as Tierney pointed and laughed again.

Spike stood and dusted off the sand, smiling he replied, "The oldest one looks like you, but that little one, she definitley acts like you."

Buffy offered a small smile in return, "It's really you. "

"And you with minature versions." He couldn't take his eyes off of her, it had been ten long years since he'd been graced by her beauty. Great I'm with her for two seconds and I'm reverting back to William the poet.

Buffy stared at him for a moment without speaking, she felt a small hand pulling at her arm, "Mommy, is he your friend?" Brenna asked softly.

"Um...yes, from a long time ago. Brenna, Tierney this is Mr..."

"Spike." He finished for her, he knelt down and took Brenna's hand in his, "Very nice to meet you, Brenna." The little girl smiled at him before hiding behind her moms legs. Standing he then took Tierney's hand, "And you too Tierney." The two year old just giggled at him.

"How? I thought...I thought you were dead. You...you stayed til the end." Buffy backed up and sat on the bench, "You sent me away."

"Long story, pet." Spike cautiously sat beside her, Brenna climbed up between them.

"So how long have you been back? Where were you? Why? Why didn't you let me know? I looked for you......" Buffy's voice was soft and tears were dangerously close to spilling. She brushed her eyes with the back of her hand.

"Mommy?" Brenna asked her little face scrunched with worry.

"It's okay, sweetie." Buffy ran her hand through the little girls hair.

"Can we go somewhere and talk maybe?" Spike asked hopefully, he had sworn he would never see her again, but now.....

"I...I.." Buffy stammered.

Spike sighed in realization, "Your husband is probably waiting isn't he? I'm sorry, Buffy. I didn't think. I'll go." He stood.

"My husband is dead." She spoke in an almost whisper.

"Oh....." Spike nodded his head, "I'm sorry....I didn't know." He sat back down on the bench.

"Of course you didn't. You don't know anything about me do you? Tell me how long ?" She wasnt' sure exactly what she was asking.

"Pet....I can explain. But not here, these little ones don't need to hear all of this. Have you had dinner?" Spike asked Brenna.

"No, we eat when we go home from the park." She answered matter of factly.

"What would you like to eat?"

"Happy Meal!" Brenna grinned excitedly.

"Happy meal." Tierney agreed.

"Well.....is that okay, mom?" He looked at Buffy for permission. He could see her confusion begging to be edged with anger.

"You can't just come charm my children and think....." Buffy started but the grins on the little girls faces stopped her, "Fine we can have happy meals tongiht but that means we can't have them Friday okay?" Her tight budget allowed happy meals once a week.

The little girls shook thier heads in agreement.

"Where is the closest McDonalds?" He asked as they started back towards the parking lot, "It's my treat."

"Just down the road., and you don't have to treat." He recognized the stubborn look on her face.

"I want too." He told her as they entered their respective cars. He followed her to the restaurant and parked next to her.

Buffy and the girls walked up to the counter with Spike following. "What kind do you want?" He knelt on one knee next to the girls.

Brenna spoke first, "Cheeseburger and sprite."

"One cheeseburger happy meal with sprite, please." Spike looked up at the girl behind the counter she smiled her brightest at the good looking man on his knee. "And you?" He asked Tierney.

"Nuggets." Tierney smiled brightly at him.

"A nugget meal with sprite?" He tilted his head towards Tierney as she nodded yes, "What about mom?" He stood up beside Buffy.

"I'm not hungry." She frowned slightly.

"Well you should be, still as thin as ever even after having babies." He looked at the menu on the wall, "Two of those number three's please with cokes." He paid for the food and carried the tray to the table the little girls followed. Buffy stopped to get napkins, straws and ketchup.

"Tierney needs a booster." Brenna informed him as she crawled into the booth.

"A booster?" Spike asked raising his eyebrow.

"A booster seat, she can't reach her food." Brenna told him as she herself settled in the booth, "Over there on the shelf." She pointed to a shelf with several plastic booster seats on it.

"Oh, I'll fetch one." He told her, turning and almost bumping into Buffy, "Sorry, got to go get the booster." He came back with the chair and sat it in the booth, Buffy helped Tierney climb up on it.

Spike handed out the food and was happy to see the girls giggling as they ate their meals. Tierney even offered him a nugget but he declined with a thank you and watched her alternately play with the small toy from the meal and take a bite of her food.

Buffy had been quietly eating her food, thinking, so many questions in her mind. "Why don't you come to the house and after the girls go to bed, we can really talk."

" I could do that," The thought of spending more time with her made him smile, Angel was never gonna believe...damn....he suddenly remembered his why he was here in the first place, " oh shi....but I need to check in first........" His expression sheepish, he changed his wording, "Oh, darn, I forgot I went to the park on an assignment, I guess I blew that, was there anyone there besides you and the girls?"

"Assignment?" Buffy asked curiously.

"Yeah, I actually work now. Detective agency. I was supposed to

meet someone at the park." Spike pulled a small phone from his pocket.

"There wasn't anyone else at the park tonight." Buffy commented, "Maybe he didn't show."

"Maybe." Spike dialed the number he was wanting and got a message, "Yeah, Peac...Peterman.....I missed that guy tonight at the park, I'll call when I get to the hotel with more details." He turned off the phone and stuck it back in his pocket.

He wasn't sure it was a good idea for her to know who is employer was yet.

"Tierney!!!!!" Brenna's voice suddenly startled the adults.

"Sorry." Tierney pouted as she looked at the orange soda rolling off the table and on to her sister's lap.

Buffy sprung into action grabbing napkins and soaking up the spilled drink, "It's okay, sweetie. It was an accident."

"But I'm wet now." Brenna complained

"We'll get you home and into some dry things." Spike began to clear the wrappers and trash from the table.

Tierney continued to pout at her sister, "Sorry." She repeated.

."She always spills stuff." Brenna frowned at her sister.

"She didn't mean to Brenna." Buffy mopped up the soda from Brennas shirt.

"She's not a big girl like you so she hasn't learned how to keep from spilling like you." Spike told Brenna giving Tierney a wink.

"Guess so." Brenna considered this for a moment, "It's okay, Tierney."

Tierney flashed her a brilliant smile before a big yawn escaped. "Time for a bath and bed." Buffy picked up the tired little girl.

"And a story." Brenna added as she took Spike's hand. He smiled down that small girl his eyes lingering on her small hand in his. Buffy also noticed Brennas hand, funny Brenna was usually so shy and she really wasn't exposed to alot of men. Spike's charm....Buffy sighed as she put the girls back in the car.

***

Spike followed Buffy to a small house in an older but nice neighborhood. He followed her to the door as he girls brought their small back packs with them from the car, she turned to Spike, "Come in, Spike."

He smiled as he stepped through the door. The house was comfortably lived in, a large overstuffed couch with matching chair sat in the living room a shelf held what looked like every Disney video ever made and another held lots of children's books. "Have a seat while I go run some bathwater." Buffy dissappeared down a hallway.

"Can you read?" Brenna asked him as she pulled a book fromthe shelf and sat down next to him.

Spike raised his eyebrow at her, "Yes, I can read."

"Good, " She handed him the book as Tierney climbed up to sit on his other side.

"Okay, I guess we'll read." Spike grinned at the girls, Tierney still yawning as she settled against him to look at the pictures.

He opened the book to find that it was a pop up book a huge spider popped off the page at him, the girls giggled as he began to read, "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, I wonder why she swallowed that fly, perhaps she'll die."

Brenna smiled up at him, "Go on."

He began to read again, "There was an old woman who swallowed a spider, that wiggled and jiggled and squiggled inside her, she swallowed the spider to catch the fly, I wonder why she swallowed that fly.."

"Girls," Buffy entered the room and called to her daughters, she was surprised to see them firmly entrenched one on each side of Spike as he read to them.

He stopped at the interruption, "Cor, Buffy this is as bad as some of those ancient spell books, swallowing flys and spiders. It's a wonder they aren't scared."

"Finish."Tierney pointed at the book.

"Yes, by all means, please fiinish then they can take their bath." Buffy smiled despite herself as she sat down in the chair across from the couch.

Spike began to make funny voices as he read the rest of the book, coming to the end, "There was an old woman who swallowed a horse......she died of course." He was solemn as he spoke the last words then closed the book and handed it back to Brenna.

"Time for a bath and then bedtime." Buffy put the book back on the shelf and led the girls down the hall,

"I'll be back in a few minutes. Television remote is on the endtable by the chair."

Spike stood and began to walk around the room, the endtable that held the remote also held a montage picture frame, he picked it and looked at each of the pictures, at the top was a wedding photo, Buffy in a simple white dress, her hair up with ringlets surrounding her face, beside her stood a tall man, he was nice looking and one look at this face proved to Spike that this man had deeply loved Buffy it was in his wide smile and his eyes. Buffy's face was equally adoring of the man beside her. Spike smiled at how happy they must have been, she'd deserved that. The second picture was one of Buffy in a hospital bed, a redfaced baby with dark hair wrapped tightly in a blanket that she held close to her breast, the third was another hospital scene this time the baby had fine blond hair and a little girl sat next to Buffy on the bed.

The bottom picture was sad , Buffy sat next to her husband, but he appeared thinner and frailer then in the wedding picture, his eyes still carried the love though as he sat with a small girl on his lap and Buffy held a tiny baby in her arms.

The wall down the hallway was lined with pictures of the little girls separate and together. And there was a picture of Dawn graduating and then Dawn smiling in a wedding gown and finally a family portrait with Dawn holding a little boy on her lap. Niblet all grown up. Pictures of Willow and Xander , Giles, Faith and even Andrew completed the gallery. He could hear the girls laughing as they bathed just down the hall.

"Time to get out and go to bed." Buffy's voice filtered into the hallway.

In a few minutes they exited the bathroom wrapped in towels. "Just a minute." Buffy told him as she took the girls to their room.

He went back to the living room and turned on the tv. "Spike." Buffy called from down the hall.

"Yeah?" He called back.

"The girls want to say goodnight."

"Okay." He walked down the hall to the bedroom the little girls shared. It was pure little girl decorated in pink and purple with Disney heroines on the walls. He grinned as he noticed Mr. Gordo sitting on a top shelf with many other stuffed animals.

"Goodnight, Mr. Spike." Brenna smiled from under her covers.

"Night, night." Tierney waved at him.

"Goodnight, sleep tight." He waved at them as he stood in the doorway.

"NIght, girls. Love you." Buffy kissed each girl and left the room. She turned to Spike, "Now I think it's time for my explanation."

He followed her back into the living room and watched as she settled on the couch. He took the chair, this was going to be more difficult then he had imagined. He was quiet for a long time, trying to decide how to begin. Buffy decided to begin for him.

" Have you even tried to see me before now? Please tell me you've been held prisoner somewhere for the last ten years! Telll me that there was no way you could contact me....please tell me." Buffy's voice rose slightly her eyes pleading for an answer other then the most obvious one.

"I..I..let me start from the beginning. After I sent you out of that cavern, I felt myself burn, I was sure it was over. But later I woke up, a bit worse for wear sore and burned in places but I was still me. I'm not sure how long I stayed there resting before I went above and found that Sunnydale was gone. I knew in my heart that you and Niblet had escaped I could feel it and I knew ....I just knew you had a shot at normal."

His blue eyes stared hopelessly at her willing her to understand.

"So you decided what you thought was best for me?" She shook her head, "Do you know that I went back and looked for you for two years? And all that time....you were just like Angel afterall. You left me for my own good. And you thought that the two of you were so different." Her words sounded bitter even to herself.

"I guess..I suppose you could say that. But at the time it seemed right and what if I had found you? Then what? Those two little girls in there sleeping, would you give them up? They wouldn't be here now if I hadn't left you alone. A long time ago, when I was still stupid," Buffy gave him a look that said maybe it wasn't that long ago, he shook his head at her and continued, "Back when I had the gem of amarra and I attacked you - I said something that at the time seemed witty, something about the ring of amarra sponsoring my killing you. Do you remember?"

She nodded at the memory, "Yes I remember, but what does that have to do with anything?"

"I'd like to think that my letting you think I was dead sponsored your life now, you had normal, Buffy. You married a man you loved, I can tell by the picture," He pointed towards the endtable, "and he loved you and you have two beautiful little girls. I understand why you're angry at me and I may be a selfish oaf but I'd do it all over again if it meant you got to have this again." He picked up the picture frame and shoved it at her.

She took the picture from him and ran her finger over the face of her husband, a tear ran down her cheek,

"But he left me too, Spike. The men I love always leave." Her voice was a whisper as soft sobs began to escape.

He was by her side in a fraction of a second, arms around her as she sobbed against his chest, letting go of long pent up anger and grief. He held her against him soothing her hair and letting her cry it out.

*****

After fifteen minutes of steady crying. Buffy sniffed and pulled away from Spike, "I'm sorry, and I'm snotty," she reached for a tissue and blew her nose, "I don't know where all that came from."

"I think it needed to be let out, have you been able to do that since he died? I mean to let go and be angry?" Spike asked as she pulled another tissue from the box and dabbed at her swollen eyes, "No, you've been big, strong Buffy haven't you?"

"I had to be strong for the girls. Tierney was just an infant when he died and Brenna was only two, they needed their mommy." Buffy explained as wadded up the tissue and tossed it in a small wastecan at the end of the couch.

"You know it's okay, you can be angry that he left you as long as you understand that he had no choice in the matter, and I think you know that, I can tell by looking at that picture that the last thing he wanted to do was leave you and his children." Spike reached his hand slowly towards Buffy pushing her hair away from her face, "You seem to catch a lot of lousy breaks, Buffy. I'm sorry about that. But those little girls they're the best thing that's ever happened to you."

"I know he didn't want to go, when he got sick we kept thinking, this will be okay, we'll get through it, but we knew after a few months that it was going to beat us, so we tried to make the most of every day, I was so afraid he would miss Tierney's birth. I sometimes think he held on just for me so that he could be there when she was born for me and so he could see her. He went downhill pretty quickly after her birth, he was in pain and so tired. Brenna would climb on his lap and I know that sometimes it hurt him just to have her there, but he would bear it anyway and read her a book or watch a cartoon. He only got to hold Tierney a few times, he was afraid he might drop her." Fresh tears filled Buffy's eyes as she spoke.

"How did you meet him?" Spike asked as he handed her a tissue.

"Dawn and I moved to Memphis after leaving Sunnydale, it's a long story how we ended up here, but anyway. About eight years ago, an apartment in our building caught fire, David was a fireman. The fire wasn't too big and was put out easily, but we were all evacutated, he knocked on our door to make sure we left the building and he had this smile, great big friendly Southern smile and when the fire was out he walked us back to our apartment and asked me to dinner. I told him I wasn't really looking to date right now, and he said good cause he really just needed someone to try out this new barbeque place - no commitment and Dawn was invited too." Buffy smiled at the memory.

"So you went for the barbeque?" Spike asked with a grin.

"Well, yeah. Memphis is known for it's barbeque." She laughed softly, "Also he had that smile and these sweet old fashioned manners and hey, fireman!"

"Wish I'd known about this fireman thing before, could have bought some suspenders way back then." Spike winked at her, "So after this dinner you decided to date?"

She rolled her eyes at him, "No we didn't decide to date then, we decided to try every barbeque place in town and two years later we got married and we had the reception at....."

"A barbeque place?" Spike replied.

"You got it, the one we had our first dinner in. I haven't been there since he died." Her voice was sad.

"You should go then."

"Not in the budget." Buffy shook her head as if that could clear away her sadness.

"You're having money troubles?" Spike asked concern heavy in his voice.

"We get by, just on a strict budget, the insurance paid most of the medical bills. But I do have to work and daycare just went up again and Brenna's feet are growing like weeds, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go on and on like that. Really we're okay." Buffy yawned and closed her eyes.

"I think that's my cue to leave. Is it okay if........would you mind if I came to see you again? I'm not sure how long I'll be here and I don't want to intrude." Spike sounded almost nervous as he stood up.

"I suppose that would be okay. The girls seem to like you, they don't really have a lot of male influence in their lives. " Buffy stood up and walked him towards the door.

"So I can come see the girls?" He asked a mischevious glint in his eyes.

"Yeah, they would like that." Buffy opened the front door and he stepped out into the darkness, "I'd like it too." She smiled at him shyly.

"Goodnight, Buffy."

"NIght, Spike." she called after him and then she closed the door and went to take her shower. She somehow felt lighter, maybe talking to Spike had helped. She checked on the girls before she went to bed smiling.

****

Spike's smile matched Buffy's on the drive back to his hotel. Despite tragedy she had been happy, she had the normal dream if only for a little while and she had two beautiful babies and she hadn't staked him, all in all it was a good night. Now he had to call Angel and try to get out of explaining how he had blown his assignment tonight. He wasn't ready to tell Angel about Buffy, maybe tomorrow.

He settled on the hotel bed and dialed the phone. "Hello." Angel's voice answered on the other end.

"Angel, I missed the guy at the park sorry. Any way to contact him?" Spike asked.

"I'll see what I can do. How did you miss him?" Angel chided.

"I guess he didn't show. I got to the park but there was.....there was a woman there with a couple of kids and she looked like she needed some help........so I got distracted." Spike explained nervously.

Angel picked up on the nervousness and smiled, "So you got distracted by a woman.....did you help her, was she pretty?"

"I think I helped her a little and yeah she's absolutley gorgeous, got great kids too and..." Spike stopped himself he didn't want to give anything away.

"Guess maybe you better stick around there a few days see if you can find that guy, that okay with you?"

Angel smiled on the other end of the line.

"Oh yeah, I think that's a good idea." Spike hastily agreed.

"How is she, Spike?" Angel's tone turned serious.

"How is she?" Spike repeated the question then it's meaning sunk in, "You....you knew she was here, that she would be at that park? How? Why?" He was angry at being set up now.

"Before you blow up, let me ask you a question, if I told you she was there would you have gone to her?"

"Probably not." Spike grudgingly answered.

"So that's why I didn't tell you, Dawn saw you in LA a few days ago. She came to me demanding answers. She's a stubborn girl, wonder where she get's that?" He laughed lightly.

"Summer's women trait, I suppose." Spike replied, "So the Niblet saw me, what does that have to do with you sending me to Buffy?"

"Dawn said that Buffy needed you. She explained the situation and although I'm not really sure why, I agreed with her. So how is she?"

"She's tired and worries about money I think. She has to work and put her kids in daycare and I think sometimes she's lonely. But she loves those kids and she's a great mum. You should see her with them."

Angel sighed, "So how did she take seeing you, finding out the truth?"

"She was angry of course, but I talked to her, I think she understands why I did it? Did you know that she looked for me - for two years?" Spike asked in wonder.

"Dawn told me, I'm not sure why that surprises you. She told me you were in her heart, she loved you Spike." Angel shook his head.

"She told me..at the end but.....I just wanted to get her out of there, so I didn't want to accept it and I guess over the years I've tried to convince myself that she didn't." It was Spike's turn to sigh now.

"Buffy doesn't say 'I love you' easily if she said it, she meant it." Angel replied softly.

"I know that now. But still I did the right thing by her, she has a family and with me around she wouldn't have that."

"And now? Now that she needs you again, what will you do?"

"I'm gonna help her out as much as the stubborn woman will let me. I..I love her Angel. I always will."

Spike's voice was strong and clear.

"I know the feeling." Angel answered, "Check in with me tomorrow, okay?"

"Tomorrow." Spike agreed as he ended the connection.

Angel picked up the phone again, "Dawn, he's made contact.....yes, I think it went okay. She was upset but Spike says she's okay.....he say's he's going to help her.....I'll let you know....Your welcome." He hung up the phone again.

Dawn hung up the phone and smiled, this was going to work out just the way she planned. She'd call her sister tomorrow night just to check on her. Buffy was going to okay.....she and Spike would make sure of it.

TBC