Survivor Guilt

He watched her leaning on the brightly painted railing and staring off into the ocean. The sun had barely set and the breeze was cool as it lightly blew her hair around her face. She kept reaching up to push it behind her ears.

He took one step, and then another step towards her, before stopping. He could smell her perfume and the conditioner she always used on those golden locks. He longed to go to her, place his hand on her shoulder, pretend that she could make it all right.

She knew he was there, could feel him, could almost see the bleached curls as he watched her. She had been in LA for a week now; Giles had sent her to check out a huge blip on the supernatural scale. She had arrived to find Wolfram and Hart destroyed with no sign of Angel and his crew.

Andrew had broken down and told her about Spike only hours before she boarded the plane to LA. She almost throttled him as she finished her last minute packing for not mentioning this bit of information sooner. He stepped back from her with fear in his eyes, but had tried to stand tall and explain that Spike had told him he would sort it out on his own. She then demanded to know why he was telling her now and he could only say, "It's just time for you to know."

Her anger with Andrew faded quickly after that. She had the entire plane trip to think about what to say to Spike when she saw him, so many questions, so many things still unsaid between them. She would get this "blip" taken care of and then she would take care of some unfinished business with a certain bleach blond vampire.

She cried when she found what remained of Wolfram and Hart, not for the loss of the evil law firm, of course, but for the loss of her friend and her lover. She let out a bitter laugh later when she thought about that, years ago Angel would have been the lover she grieved, but now he was the friend; the only lover she thought of was Spike.

She found a newspaper and read all about the explosion of the office - no survivors - and how evidently the gas released during the explosion had made several witnesses hallucinate about dragons and strange creatures being slayed by three men and blue woman in an alley. A rancid smoke had covered the three blocks surrounding Wolfram and Hart and when it cleared everything was gone, just ashes on the ground.

The next evening she dragged herself out to get something to eat. That's when she felt him watching her. At first, she thought it was wishful thinking, but she knew that tingle up her spine and it was definitely Spike. He had been following her for the last three days. She prayed that tonight would be the night he made contact. She wanted to prove to him that she could be kind, that she had meant what she had told him in the cave.

Spike took one more step and hesitated again. Really nothing had changed, as far as he knew she didn't know he had come back and was probably still with that annoying Immortal. He still didn't feel like he had done anything to top sacrificing himself for her in that hole in Sunnydale. In fact more people had died because he had followed Angel's lead in that alley. He questioned over and over again why he had survived.

Buffy could hear his steps and his hesitation. She decided it was now or never. As angry as she had been when she'd found out he was alive and hadn't told her, it didn't compete with the immense relief and happiness she felt knowing that he was still alive despite whatever had happened at the evil law firm.

She turned quickly to face him. "So are you going to speak?"

He stood staring at her for several moments.

"I'll take that as a no, to the speaking thing." She stepped toward him, placing her hand on his sleeve, "Are you okay?" She smiled at him. "You can nod, can't you?"

He found himself smiling back at her despite the turmoil in his head, he finally found his voice. "I can still speak."

"I'm glad to hear that, because you have a lot of explaining to do." Her hand still rested on his sleeve and she noticed that he was staring at it.

Spike sighed as he stared at her small hand on his sleeve, she was really here, touching him. He needed to explain to her and a lot of it wasn't going to be pretty. "Want to sit down for this?" He nodded towards a bench against the railing.

"I think that's a good idea." She surprised him by taking his hand and leading him to the bench.

Spike wasn't sure what to think, did this mean something or was it just kindness because of what had happened?

"So, first things first, I guess. How are Angel and Wesley? Did they survive whatever happened at Wolfram and Hart?" Genuine concern filled her voice.

"Angel survived. Wesley didn't." He felt a pang of guilt over that, "I don't really want to talk about it now, okay?"

She sighed softly, "Okay. I am sorry about Wesley though. Willow said he had changed since he came to LA."

"He had at that, been through a lot. Was a good man."

"I'm sure he was." Buffy paused as if trying to find the best way to phrase her next question. But there didn't seem to be a good way, so she just blurted it out. "Why?"

Spike looked at her questioningly. "Why?"

"Why didn't you tell me you were back?" Buffy sighed.

"Well, at first it was all I thought about - getting back to you. But the more I thought the more I realized that I couldn't top the dying for you back in Sunnydale and it kind of took away from that to come back and say "here I am", then you might have felt obligated. It was better to let you get on with your life. And you obviously did, I saw you in Italy, you know, with him." Spike's words were soft and unsure.

"First that was a stupid reason not to tell me. When Willow brought me back, did it take away from my sacrifice? Did you take care of me out of obligation for something you felt before I died?" Buffy placed her hand on his cheek and looked directly in his eyes.

"Of course, it didn't take away from your sacrifice, Buffy, but you were good and noble. I. I wasn't." He shook his head wearily.

"When you died in that cave, you were good and you were noble." She smiled at him.

"I'm not so sure about that."

"I am."

"You can't argue that you didn't move on though." He raised an eyebrow at her.

"No, I can't but in my defense I did think you were dead. And the Immortal can be quite charming." She nodded her head.

"So he let you come on this mission without him?" Spike asked curiously.

"You know me well enough to know that nobody 'lets' me do anything. Anyway, we aren't together anymore. You know he was more then just a little full of himself. And it was annoying that he was prettier than me." She grinned at him.

He found himself grinning back. How long did it take you to figure that out?" In a lower voice he added, "And no one is prettier then you."

She blushed. "Not long after you and Angel left Italy. Andrew told me you came by, of course, he didn't bother to tell me until right before I left."

"I asked him not to tell you I was back, so you can't blame the boy."

"Oh, Dawn and I can always think of something to blame Andrew for."

Spike laughed softly. "How is the 'Bit?"

"She's good. She said to say hello when I saw you. She's gotten even taller and she's really enjoying school. She can already speak Italian much better than me." Buffy smiled when she talked about her sister.

"The others?, Harris, Red, Rupert?"

Buffy pulled her arms around herself, as the breeze was getting cooler. Spike noticed, "Let's get you somewhere inside where it's warmer. You fancy a hot cocoa?"

She nodded, "That sounds good."

"There's a shop right down the street." He stood and she followed him.

They walked down the street close but not touching, enjoying the familiarity of each other, Buffy gave him the low down on the others as they sat in the coffee shop sipping hot cocoa.

"So, Red and bossy girl still together then?" He played with the spoon in his cocoa stirring the melting marshmallows.

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Yeah, they are."

Spike grinned, "You still don't like her?"

"No rule says I have to like every slayer." She smiled at him over her cocoa, "After all, I don't hate every vamp."

He had to grin at that, "No, I guess you don't. I've liked a few slayers in my time too."

"I thought you connected with Faith," she teased.

It was his turn to roll his eyes.

The waitress began to clean up signaling it was time to leave. "Would you like to go to my hotel room?" Buffy asked as they paid for the cocoa.

He looked startled at the question, "I'm not sureā€¦" He cocked his head at her, "What exactly do you mean?"

She shook her head and laughed, "I mean that I am enjoying talking to you, please come back to my room and we can talk some more."

"Oh, okay. I think I'd like that too."

She let them into the room and sat on the foot of the bed. Spike took the chair across from her.

"This is nice, just being here with you." Buffy smiled at him, "Spike, I want to tell you something. I want to thank you for what you did in Sunnydale, for fighting beside me and believing in me when everyone else was against me."

"Buffy, you don't have to."

"No, let me finish," She leaned forward towards him, "Thank you for the sacrifice you made, for saving us all."

He closed his eyes and thought for a moment before speaking, "Do you remember that night - when I told you that there were always casualties of war?"

She nodded, "I do."

"Do you remember what you told me after that?"

"Yes, I said that it made it sound too casual, that these were girls whose lives were lost." She studied his serious expression, "Why?"

"Because I figured out you were right. In Sunnydale, those girls, I didn't really know them well and it was such a big fight. I just accepted that we would lose some of them." He leaned back in his chair again, "But this last fight - it was more intimate somehow, Angel, Illyria, Wesley, and Gunn. The four of us thought we could take on all of Wolfram and Hart. We were all willing to die for it; but in the end, only Wesley and Gunn died. Angel and I live on, Illyria lives on. After a century of wreaking all that havoc, and we survived, while Wes and Gunn two very brave, good men died. It's not right. I don't deserve this." His voice broke slightly and he covered his face with his hands.

Buffy moved to kneel in front of Spike, taking both his hands in hers, she lay a soft kiss across his knuckles, "I don't know Illyria. But I do know you and I know Angel and I know how hard you two have tried to make amends for your past. The good you've done has to make up for part of it, it has to. As for Gunn, I didn't know him either, but I knew Wesley I think that he would have been proud to go down fighting, he died doing what he thought was right."

"Doesn't make him any less dead." Spike mumbled.

"No, it doesn't Spike. But, what you're feeling is survivor's guilt. I should know better then anyone, I've gone through it more times then I can count. Why did Tara die? She was a good person. Why did Anya die? Why did Xander lose an eye? Why did all those slayers have to die while I'm still around. I can tell you all about the guilt." She sighed.

"Buffy, I keep trying to tell you, luv. It's different with you, you deserve to go on."

"I'm telling you that you deserve that too. Spike, please don't torture yourself?" She leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips.

He pulled away, "Buffy, this isn't a good idea."

"I've wanted to do that all evening. This isn't me using you, Spike. I promise." She took his hands again, "This is me happy that you're here, happy that I might get a second chance to make things right." Her eyes glistened full of emotion.

She raised her face to his and this time he met her halfway, lips touching tentatively. She stood up and took his hand leading him towards the bed.

They lie there just kissing and reacquainting themselves with the other for a very long time.

Later that night he recalled her answer to a question he had asked before they had finally made love, "What do we do now?"

She had replied, "We surviveā€¦together." Watching her sleep, their bodies still entwined, he had to believe that they could do just that.

The End