Disclaimer: BTVS, ATS, and all the standard characters belong to Joss Wheddon, Mutant Enemy, and anyone else to whom such ownership has been granted. Sadly, that doesn't include me. This story has no commercial purpose, and is written purely for the entertainment of like-minded fans.

Chapter 1 - The Beginning of the Rest of My Life - Part Two

I'm packing my bags. I didn't think I'd be doing this again. Well, at least not alone. It's hard. The past seven years have been hard but I thought I'd finally made it. I thought that I'd arrived at last, fully baked and ready for the rest of my life, but I was wrong. I might be ready for the rest of my life, but there's still something missing.

Not that I can complain. A lot of what I want, I've got. I've got a job that I love. I've got a business that I've built up and that's successful. I've got friends, although perhaps not as many as I once needed. I find it difficult to get close to people who haven't been involved in saving the world. It's something I can't explain to them, and without that explanation, they just don't 'get' me. But, hey, that's not a problem. I've found that I do better with a few close friends rather than a crowd these days. And, on balance, I like the person I've become.

So, what's the problem? That's not easy to answer, but like countless other times when I try to think seriously about what I want, what I need, his memory comes back to me. Maybe it's just my mind's way of reminding me that there was a time when I didn't have a clue what I wanted, so I've come a long way. And he was always able to tell me things about myself that I needed to know, no matter how unwelcome it was to hear them. I concentrate hard, knowing that I need to remember him.

Spike.

He was a vampire, and he loved me. Without the benefit of a soul, he loved me so much, that he changed his entire existence so that I would love him. And what did I do when faced with such an amazing love? I told him it wasn't real. I told him he couldn't love, didn't know the meaning of love. I did such a job on him that I drove him to absolute desperation. In that desperation, he did something wrong - he tried to hurt me. When I say he tried to hurt me, I know he didn't go into it with the intention of hurting me - nothing could be further from the truth. No, he wanted to show me that I loved him. Words hadn't worked - he'd used a lot of them, and I'd ignored what he was telling me. So, he used the only other alternative I'd given him.

The only time I allowed him to be close to me was during sex. Even then, it wasn't the sort of sex that stems from love or caring, it was a desperate kind of sex that stemmed from violence, from me hitting him with everything that I had, taking out all my frustrations on him. And, while he hit back, his heart was never in it. He was so desperate for a crumb from me, that, in his desperation, he tried to initiate sex, and when I resisted, he kept pushing. Really, in comparison to the way I treated him it was almost insignificant, although the nature of it, being every woman's worst nightmare, made it worse.

When you think about it rationally, the most amazing thing about the whole incident was that, when he realised what he was doing, he stopped. He was a vampire. I was food. It was in his nature to hurt me, to use me. But, when he knew he was hurting me, he stopped.

And what did he do then? He went and got himself a soul. He wasn't cursed with a soul, he didn't get it by accident or on the whim of some great power. He chose to win himself a soul.

I must admit, even when I first knew, with the memory of that night in the bathroom still clear in my mind, it moved me.

Over the months that followed him getting a soul, he showed me, over and over, how much he loved me. The difference was, that with the soul, he honestly believed that I'd never love him, that he didn't deserve to be loved.

And, of course, during those months, I gradually realised that I did love him. I won't say that I fell 'in love' with him - because, quite frankly, everything was just too crazy in my life for falling in love. And, I really don't know when it started - maybe even before the soul. But then, I mean, we had the First Evil, and a houseful of potential Slayers, and everything generally falling about our ears. Yet, despite all that, I realised that I loved him.

And, in the end, he was the one who saved us all. He gave me the strength to defeat Caleb, and he was the one with the amulet.

In those final minutes I spent with him, he knew exactly what was happening. He knew he was going to end his existence in that cave, but he did it willingly, knowing that he was going to save the world. He saw it as one last, great adventure, and in those minutes I saw the Spike I'd thought I destroyed - the Spike who put his whole being into everything he did. Strange as it is to say it of someone who was dead, he had more joy for living in him than any of the living I've ever known.

I told him. Just before the end, I told him that I loved him. He said he didn't believe me. I've always wondered whether he really didn't believe me, or whether it was his way of making sure I got out of the cave in one piece. I just hope it was the latter. I'd hate he to think he went without knowing.

I shake my head, wiping my eyes a bit. It's a long time since I've thought about that time, a long time since I've cried about it.

So, we left Sunnydale, those of us who survived. I felt the hole in my life from the beginning. I can't count the number of times I turned around, expecting to find him there, wanting to tell him something, only to remember that he was gone.

I don't think the others realised just how much he was in my thoughts. I dreamt about his final minutes often. Sometimes, I'd manage to wrest the amulet from around his neck, and leave it there to complete its work while we both got out. Other times, I stayed with him, feeling the heat from the amulet searing both of us, turning us both to dust that would mingle for all eternity.

He was beautiful. I don't just mean he was physically beautiful, although he was certainly that. It was what was inside too. The man who survived both the demon and the Slayer, and the soul that he won so he would never hurt me again - the whole package was beautiful.

And then he was gone.

It wasn't long before the group of us who'd escaped together dispersed. The Potentials went home, for the most part. I guess most towns have their demons that need fighting.

Willow and Kennedy went to Cleveland. The Hellmouth there doesn't seem as active as the one in Sunnydale was, but they believe they're making a difference. Will and I still chat fairly regularly, and it sounds like she's keeping her power under control.

Xander went there too, for a while, but he didn't settle. I think losing Anya like that was just too much for him. He spent a year doing the road trip he had planned for after high school – picking up work when he needed money and travelling when he didn't. When he'd had enough of that, he was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the 'home' of the chocolate bars that I always associate with him, and that's where he stayed. Well, not Hershey as such, but Pennsylvania. He said it was far enough from Sunnydale that he didn't have to remember it all the time. He's married now, to someone called Angie, and they've got a couple of girls.

I haven't seen him in a long time. Angie doesn't know anything about Slayers or demons or Sunnydale, and he wants to keep it that way. I've hardly spoken to him since he got married, and I know Willow hasn't either. It's almost as though we're his guilty secrets.

Faith and Robin headed off into the sunset, and I haven't heard from either of them in years. I can't help but wonder if they actually stayed together.

Giles went back to London. He wanted to see if he could set up a new Council of Watchers. It seems like he's done it, too. He managed to get access to the Council's funds, and he has recruited a small number of people to continue its work. A large part of that has been trying to replace the vast amount of information that was destroyed when the Council headquarters was blown up.

I think he was surprised at how many of the texts he prized were actually available in an electronic format. I've persuaded him to contact Wes about the rest. He has the resources of Wolfram and Hart at his disposal, and after being determined to have nothing to do with them, Giles has finally agreed to ask for help.

And, there was another other biggie that came out of Giles taking over the Council. There wasn't enough money to pay all the Slayers a salary or anything as normal as that, but Giles arranged for Faith and me to receive a 'redundancy' payment - at least that's what he called it. It wasn't a fortune, but it was enough to see both Dawn and me through college, and there's still enough to give us a bit of extra income too.

Dawn and I gave a lot of thought to where we should go, but in the end, well, we're both California girls, so we decided to stay there. We settled in San Jose, bought a condo, I got back into school, and Dawn resumed high school. When I finished, I was finally qualified to do what Robin had employed me as - I was a counsellor.

Dawn finished high school, and went to college out of state, majoring in political science. She's working now, in Washington DC, political research or something. I've never understood that sort of thing.

So, I started working. I was still in Silicon Valley then, and I was determined to make it on my own. The idea of working for someone after my years of being the Slayer didn't sit right with me. Unfortunately, things were really slow at first. My real breakthrough came when Angel contacted me. We'd kept in touch - just occasional phone calls - so he knew what I was doing. He asked me to visit LA to help him out with a client. This woman had been severely traumatised by some events of a strictly supernatural nature, and she needed professional help, but the professionals she'd tried just wanted to lock her up and throw away the key.

That was the beginning of my real career. It wasn't long before I realised that there was a real need for someone like me in LA, someone trained in counselling, and not likely to wig at what she's told. Initially, Angel put work my way, but it wasn't long before I was picking up work independently. I even managed to feed some work his way too.

That whole Wolfram and Hart thing seems to be going well for him. The concerns he had at first about their intentions seem to have been unfounded, or at least manageable.

Our contact with each other in those early days was limited. I didn't get involved with the 'fighting evil' gig, because LA's his town, and I was determined to leave the whole Slaying package buried in what was left of Sunnydale. Everything between us was kept on a business basis, which meant we didn't actually see a lot of each other, and he was careful that we were never alone together.

I sold the condo in San Jose, and rented an apartment in LA instead - because by that time, Dawn wanted her share of the capital to set herself up at college. Still, I kept a room for Dawn right up until she finally moved to DC.

In all the time since Sunnydale, I'd never really been close to anyone. I dated, some of them really nice guys, but when it came to taking things from casual dating to something else, I just couldn't do it. There was always a barrier between us. Whether it was real, or whether it was just a shadow of the memory of the two vampires I've loved, I'm not sure.

It seemed as if the move to LA was exactly what I'd needed. Almost as soon as I arrived, the dreams about Spike stopped. In the same way, I thought less and less about him during the day. I could remember everything, but as time went on, it just seemed vaguer, as if someone had drawn a curtain between me and my memories of him. Like now - I'm having to concentrate hard to remember the details about him. With that, I felt no need to talk about him any more. Not that I'd been a blabbermouth anyway. It was just with Dawn, and occasionally Willow, that I could talk about him. For the first time since he was gone, I felt I could go on with my life without any regrets about the past.

Then, six months ago, Angel found a way to make his soul permanent. Well, Fred and Wes did. The magic involved was pretty complex, but I only know what Wes told me. Angel never talked about it.

Wes is the only one of the Angel Investigations team I know well. I've met the others, but Wes and I had some history, and once I'd found he wasn't the same man who took over as my Watcher when Giles was fired, we got on well.

Once Angel's soul was anchored, he stopped avoiding me, and we started dating. It was strange, at first. I mean, after everything we'd been to one another, I think we both expected we could just take up where we'd left off. It was awkward. Sometimes, it seemed like he was treating me like the child I had been, expecting to make the decisions, and have me fall in line. Needless to say, I didn't, and there was some re-adjustment to do. Still, we managed it enough to try living together. I gave up my apartment and moved into his.

If I thought that would be easy, I've never been more wrong.

It didn't take me too long to realise that I wasn't in love with him. If I was in love, I was in love with the memory of what we shared when I was sixteen. As the day to day routine of being with him became just that - routine - I realised something was missing. I actually had no idea what it was, but I just knew that things could be - should be - better than they were.

We had a long talk last night. There were tears, from both of us, but I think he realises this is for the best. I'm going to stay with Wesley for a while until I get my own place organised. Angel went out when we'd finished, claiming he had a job, some demon nest that needed clearing, and I spent a last night in his bed, alone.

It's still early, because I'm determined to be away before Angel gets back. I suspect he's just as determined not to come home until I've gone.

I've collected as much as I can fit into my little car, and I'm away. One last look at the apartment, and I'm driving through the streets where the traffic's already building up.

Wes is married now and he's happy. His wife, Gina, a teacher, is someone I counselled for a while - her family had been wiped out by vampires. She and I became pretty good friends before she married Wes, and it's good to see them together. She's expecting their first child later in the year.

I arrive, and I'm met by Gina. She's slightly taller than I am, but dark. Her family originally came from Italy, and it shows in her classic mediterranean colouring, olive skin, black hair and dark brown eyes. Her face shows her concern for me, but she doesn't ask how it went. I'm grateful, because, right now, I don't want to talk about it. I rang last night, immediately after the talk with Angel, asking if I could stay, and she surprised me by commenting that she had known it would just be a matter of time. I sometimes wonder about that woman - it's almost like she can sense things about you - and she's never asked me to sing.

She's full of apologies about the state of the room. It's obvious that she's been clearing things out of the room they plan to use as a nursery, and this is where it's all being stored.

"It's going to be my summer project," she tells me. "I want to do as much as I can during the summer break, because once I'm back at school, there won't be a lot of time until I'm too big to be much use to anyone."

There's still a hint of sadness there – well, that's hardly surprising. She was pregnant when she saw her partner and parents killed. She lost the baby, and if Angel hadn't come along right when he did, she'd have died too.

I get settled in, avoiding the hazards of too much furniture. Still, it won't be for long. I'm going to spend some time apartment-hunting as soon as I can.

When I've unpacked, I head for my office. Fortunately, I didn't have any appointments early this morning, and I'd planned on updating some of the case records I'm notoriously slow about.

Once at my desk, I immediately access my email so I can let Dawn know what's happened. Once I've done that, I quickly send off a note to any other friends who might need to know my change of address. Email's wonderful. Almost instantaneous, without the inconvenience of having to explain things like you would on the phone. And, notes to multiple addresses. Perfect.

Now to work.