In the lonely light of morning

In the wound that would not heal

It's the bitter taste of losing everything

I've held so dear

I had been totally unprepared for seeing Buffy. I wish I'd known she was heading here, not that I knew what I'd have done if I had warning. I had been harassing Knox, a new pastime of mine. He wanted Fred, any idiot could see that and he was afraid she wanted me. I agreed. Why else would she be working so hard to give me back my body? I knew Fred's reputation. First she was after Angel, then Gunn and Wes and Red. Now she's flirting with me and Knox. I'm not interested but I'm not letting Knox know that. It's not that I mind a good, old-fashioned good-time girl and Fred had that twiggy body I like to shag but she was too damn smart. She made me feel dumb and I couldn't deal. Besides, between Buffy and Dru, I'm not sure there's enough of my heart left to give to someone else.

Not that I'd tell Knox that. I was having way too much fun torturing him. Soul or not, I've always got some shameful joy from it. I've always been good at it. I could get under Peaches' skin practically from the day I met him and his bint, Darla, was even easier. Buffy and the Scoobies weren't even a challenge. If I hadn't trusted Adam, I would have destroyed them then and there. How different my life would have been. I was so good at getting in their heads, twisting them around that Buffy couldn't ever lie to me. That's how I knew better than to believe her inside the Hellmouth when she said she loved me. She didn't but she wanted desperately to die having someone to love. Maybe I should have let her have that but I didn't want to go to my death believing in a lie, no matter how much I wanted it to be true.

That was foremost in my mind seeing her mousing her way into the lab. Buffy looked utterly uncomfortable and I was sure it wasn't just seeing me again. She never did like school and science much, did she? That was more Red's realm.

Knox headed her way immediately. "You can't be in here,'" he snapped, taking the bad mood I had put him in out on her.

Buffy frowned at him. "Fred told me to come here."

Knox gave her an unhappy once over, taking in those chunky heels Buffy was partial to, the ones I never knew how she could run in. His eyes went up the trim line of her legs to her short black skirt. She had given up short skirts in the last few years. The older she got, the more resigned to her life of battle she became. Mini shirts were impractical for that but I liked them. Her low-cut shirt was russet silk and for a moment I thought, 'Those are Dru's colors.' "You can't wear heels and mini-skirts in a lab," Knox told her officiously. "They're against OSHA regulations."

I was surprised at that. Fred always wore heels and skirts that rode way up her skinny thighs. "Don't get your knickers in twist, Knoxie," I said and he scowled. "We'll go elsewhere. Come on Buffy."

I moved past her and right through the wall. When she came through the door, she looked freaked. "Sorry, I forget myself sometimes. Most everyone here is used to this."

She just stared at me, the muscles of her jaw working. She managed to say my name. Her eyes were filled with tears and it was killing me. I pretended not to notice. "I don't want to talk here," I said. "And they don't give ghosts an office around here. There's a nice little park, no Kews Garden mind you, but it's out the front door and down the block."

"I...I saw it on the way in," she managed to say.

"I'll meet you there," I said and went right through another wall.

Damn, I wasn't prepared for this. I had been dying, more or less, to see Buffy again, to hear her, smell her, assure myself they weren't lying to me about her being all right. Now she was here totally unannounced and all I wanted to do was run.

I was sure that Angel had no clue Buffy was on her way here. I know his moods too well for him to have hidden this. He's either all broody over this and that bit of nothing, or he's got this constipated look that means he's trying to hatch a plan. Given he's got more teeth than brain cells, it isn't easy for him. Then there's the 'I just had sex look' which I could do without ever seeing again. Wonder if Buffy has figured out yet there used to be orgies with me and Dru and him and Darla? Well, I won't be the one telling her.

I had no idea what to say to Buffy. I had gotten used to her being out of my life. It had begun to hurt a little less each day and I felt like I was getting control of this funny little being known as me. She was an addiction for me and Angel. It did us no good to see her occasionally. It was like getting high one last time then having to go cold turkey all over again.

Maybe I should just leave her sitting under the trees in that park, spare us all the heartache but I knew I couldn't do it. Even if I tried to, I knew Buffy would never let it go at that. I made my way to the park. It was harder than it sounded. I still wasn't used to being out in the sun. It actually bothered my eyes and I have to be very conscious when it comes to people dodging. That's what I get for being so lazy about it inside the law office.

By the time I got there, Buffy had found a spot near a stand of some kind of flowering bush. Flower names were never my strong suit. I wished she had chosen to sit on the bench instead of standing, looking somehow formidable despite her size.

We both just stared at each other in the bright light filtering through the leaves. I hadn't realized how worn she looked, like she was years older than she really was. My only instinct at that moment was to run off with her and force her to do nothing but sleep and eat until she lost the concentration camp victim look. Surely I shouldn't be able to count all the rib attachments to her breast bone, visible through the generous V in her blouse. Didn't she have more breast the night I first saw her in the dimness of the Bronze?

I opened my mouth to say something but she held up a hand. "No! Let me say what I have to first," she ordered and I sank onto the bench, looking up at her. She hesitated for a moment as if she hadn't expected me to just give in that fast. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and said, "I never wanted this to happen." She waved a hand at me and I took that to mean my ghostly state. "I just wanted..."

She broke off, looking away. I reached for her hand, forgetting myself. My fingers passed through hers. "Sit, Buffy."

She collapsed down beside me, her eyes misty. "Thank you, Spike, for everything. We would all have died that day if not for you. This world isn't ever going to know how close it came to having hell on earth or what it cost to keep it safe."

"One vampire ain't too much of a cost," I said and actually meant it. I might bitch and moan all the time that no one appreciated what I had done but the truth was, my death or whatever it was was the one good thing I had ever really done in my life. "Angel said that you lost Anya and Robin," I added and she bobbed her head. "I'm sorry...about them both." She gave me a look of disbelief over that. She figured I had to hate the man. "I miss Anya and I deserved what I got from Robin. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't enjoy the hell out of killing his mother 'cause I did."

"I miss them both, too," she said, obviously trying to ignore the ugly part of what I had said. She looked even older. "You're not just going to let me say what I have to, are you?"

"Not my style. I tend to ruin moments." I shrugged.

"I just wish this wasn't so hard," Buffy said, looking like she were in pain.

"It's pretty easy, luv. You can't be in love with a ghost," I said, practically. I never thought I'd be grateful for this noncorporeal state but I kinda was at the moment. It gave me an out. "And you never really were in love with me."

She collapsed in on herself. It was killing me to see her like this. "Why didn't you believe me when I said that?"

I leaned back. "You ain't a good liar...and you deserve better than me."

Buffy grunted angrily, slapping a hand on her thigh with a crack. "You and Angel, always deciding what I deserve. You two are so much alike."

"Take that back!" I flared my nostrils. Oh for a cigarette so I could blow smoke indignantly.

She stared me down. "It's true, in a lot of ways. I wanted to thank you for more than just that last day in Sunnydale, Spike. I wanted to say thank you for saving me from myself. I know we've talked about this before but I wasn't sure if you believed me. I was drowning in my own darkness and you were the only one to throw me a lifeline."

"Was I?" I asked and she gave me a curious look. "You used me, Buffy, just like you used Faith from what I've heard. You used us to touch the darkness, to play with it a little. We were someone to blame when you realized it felt good, even though you knew it was wrong."

She shook her head violently. "That's not true."

"No, it is," I said sternly. She needed to face this part of herself. If she didn't, it could be bad. I knew it from experience. "Look at all the things we've done together, Summers, especially when we were together. It's grim and ugly. You beat on me the way I used to beat on Dru. We both liked giving it and Dru and I both took it because we wanted to be loved so much it was worth the cost. Some people would say that's not love. I think that's a little too pat. It is love, twisted inside out, maybe but it's real."

"And it's wrong," she said weakly. "I can't do it again."

"Not asking you too, luv, even if I still had a body," I replied.'Liar,' my inner voice accused. Part of me wanted to but I wouldn't do it. I simply couldn't. "After what I did to you that time in your house, I don't deserve even having you look at me, let alone speak to me."

She wouldn't look at me. "Maybe. Anyhow it's not Angel making me say this stuff..."

"I know. Believe or not, we've talked about it," I said. Her head snapped up, her lips parted in surprise. "You gotta do what's good for you, Buffy. I know that if all things were equal and we were both standing here in the flesh you'd choose him."

Her eyes went huge, whirlpools of pity and pain. "Spike, you don't..."

"Yeah I do. I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt but I've always known it. I told you two as much, just like Dru knew I was going to fall for you. Damn her, she should have tried a little harder to fight for me. Never expected her to just bugger off and leave me." I looked away, watching some blasted squirrel race up and down a tree like mad. "She has to be afraid out there all alone. Dru always needed me or Angelus."

"So you planning on going back to Dru." She tensed. "'Cause I'd have to..."

I waved her off. "You can't go home again."

Buffy let her head fall back, sun washing down over her upturned face. "I just wish it weren't so hard."

"What's hard about it, Buffy? Do what you said you were going to do. Go find yourself. Maybe one day you'll come back to one of us." I shrugged. "Well, him. He'll probably still be waiting." That's right, Spike ol' boy, fall on your sword. She might even be touched by that. "Maybe I'll have a body by then. Fred's working hard on it. She's already spent over a million dollars trying."

Buffy raised an eyebrow, some of her heavy mood lifting. "So you're the six million dollar man's unwanted stepchild?"

I wagged a finger at her. "You're not even old enough to know who the six million dollar man was, what a bunch of bollocks. You should have seen the look on Peaches' face when Eve told him the cost, even before it hit a million dollars. If you had doubts you could shove a lump of coal between Angel's ample cheeks and get back a fist-sized diamond, you didn't after that."

Buffy put a hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh. "Spike...."

"Wot? It's true." I looked back toward the law office. "He oughtta be back by now, Buffy."

She followed my gaze then looked back at me sadly. "Spike, I still feel like there's something between us that needs finishing or something."

"There'll always be something between us. Maybe it's just friendship or maybe I'm just that touchstone you need whenever you need to channel a little of the dark side. Whatever. I'd love to say if you need me, I'll be there but that's a lie. I'm tied to L.A. of all bloody places." I shuddered, wishing I could light up. I mean, ciggies are one of my prime joys. "I can't leave here. If I could, I'd have you take that bloody amulet with you back to London. Not necessarily to be with you, no pressure there...just if I have to haunt someplace it ought to be home." She gave me that terrible sad look again. I had to tear my gaze away or I'd start crying; that's bad for the image. "How long are you going to be here, Slayer?"

"I don't know. At least as long as it takes me and Faith to do what we have to."

I glanced back at her. I am so out of the damn loop. "Faith's here, too?"

She nodded. "She had some unfinished business, too. We're staying in the firm's suites."

That made it hard, too easy a temptation to just ghost my way into her suite and wait for her, to tell her to wait for me, to do all the things I knew were wrong for us both. Instead, I just nodded toward the building. "There's been a lot of changes around here. I'm sure Angel will want to tell you all about it."

She knew I was trying to get rid of her and she looked a little grateful for it. She smiled at me, and tried to touch my cheek, stopping just shy of putting her hand through my head. "He'll be in his office?"

"Or moping in his condo in the penthouse." I got a wicked idea and ran with it. "Tell him you heard he loves my poetry." Her lips pulled into a little line. She had to have learned that look from Rupert. "Is he going to get mad?"

I smirked. "What do you think?"

She wagged her head. "You never change, Spike."

"Why change perfection, luv?"

I watched her go, thinking how wrong she was. I had changed, more than I could have thought possible, more than I ever wanted to. Once she was gone, I headed inside and did just what I said I wouldn't. I ghosted into the first of the guest suites. Women's clothes were strewn all over the bed where a battered suitcase rested. Mostly leather wear, not really Buffy's style. I heard the water running in the next room and walked through the closed door. I could just see hints of Faith's nubile body, like glistening caramels, through the steamed glass door of the shower. It's probably a good thing a ghost can't get a boner, at least not without extreme effort from what I've heard.

Even when the shower turned off, I didn't take off like I should. As much as I had cared about Buffy, if she hadn't come back in that night in her basement I would have gotten a leg over on Faith. I still wanted a look at that body of hers.

When Faith stepped out of the shower, I put on my best shocked face and tried to act all innocent. Faith yelped and took a swipe at me for all the good it did her. It did make her wet breasts bobble nicely. "Spike!"

"Sorry, luv. I thought I heard something." I tried to maintain my innocent look.

"What? You've never heard a shower going before?" She growled. Seeing I wasn't going anywhere, Faith just toweled off in no rush.

"Things sound different when you're a ghost." I shrugged. Maybe it would be believable. "Can't have intruders and all that rubbish."

Faith just rolled her eyes and headed into the bedroom. She dove under the covers. "So, why are you still here?"

"Bored." I smirked. "Just enjoying the view."

"Perv." She snuggled further down under the covers.

"This from the woman who dressed up like a school girl with a bullwhip?" I shot back, trying to imagine her like that. Damn if it didn't sound like a fun way to spend the night.

"Trust you to remember that." "Got a good memory," I assured her.

"What I remember is you calling me stupid and a traitor," Faith said, rolling onto one side, her hair spilling over her shoulder.

"You did force Buffy out," I bristled. This conversation wasn't going where I wanted it to. How could it have come to it? Me, the evil one, had been the only one standing at Buffy's side at the end.

"Not me, the others and put me in charge whether I wanted it or not. Contrary to popular belief, I didn't want it," Faith said, her eyes fluttering shut briefly. She seemed too tired to argue.

I decided not to follow up on that. I've had enough of the heart wrenching shit for one day. "I remember promises to ride me until my knees buckled."

She snorted, her eyes opening to regard me. "Kinda not possible any more."

"What?" I lifted one eyebrow. "You never saw Entity?"


"Before your time. I forget how young you and Buffy are." I sat on the edge of the bed. "Supposed to be a true story about a bint who was getting raped by a ghost."

"Lovely. And they made a movie out of this?" Faith swept her hair back off her face.

"Yeah. Doesn't seem bloody likely to me." I looked at my hands. "I can barely grab anything, even when I concentrate. Never tried to make my todger solid." I leered at her, running my tongue over my lips. "We could always give it a go."

Faith kicked me through the covers, her foot passing through my chest. "Men! You never change, even when you die."

"That's what makes us men." I grinned. "Was that a no to a good shag?"

"Drop deader, Spike," she said but she was smiling.

"Maybe after you get some sleep. You look knackered." I got up off the bed.

"Oh, that'll make for a good entry in the ol' Slayer's diary. 'Dear future Slayers, today I screwed the ghost of a vampire'." Faith stretched, letting her eyes close.

"It's a date."

She didn't even look at me as she flipped me off. I laughed and headed off. I gave a moment's thought to going to spy on Angel and Buffy but that wasn't playing fair. I had had my time with her. I was man enough to allow him his. Time to go back and annoy Knox some more.