It was hot. No one thinks about how hot Arkansas gets in July. Miserable, humid, hot, hot, hot. The pretty flowers in pots on her deck were wilted and begged for a drink. Buffy sighed as she turned on the hose and watered the pots of pink and purple petunias and glanced at her watch. If she didn't hurry she wouldn't get lunch before she started her shift at the hospital.

The small diner where she ate lunch could only be described as quaint. It was a mom and pop operation ran by a matronly woman named Margie and her good natured husband Frank. Buffy had found the place not long after moving to West Memphis and had become close with the owners in the six months she'd been here. Of course to Margie and Frank, she was Beth Anne Harris, that cute girl who lived in the Stachey's rent house and worked as a ER clerk at the County Hospital.

Buffy smiled at Margie as she placed her order. She pulled a letter out of her purse and reread the address she'd written on it again, she missed Dawn. Six months ago, Giles had sat her down and explained how Angel, Spike and Wesley had been killed in LA fighting the good fight. She had left the next day, somehow she just couldn't' bear to be around anyone from Sunnydale, she needed to be alone. So she had taken some money and flown to Atlanta, bought a new identity and rented a car. She had driven for days before she came to West Memphis, Arkansas and stayed the night. The next day the small town had seemed like the perfect place to settle down for awhile. She'd come up with the name Beth Anne Harris, knowing that none of her friends would ever suspect that she would use Xander's last name.

Looking at the letter one more time she handed it to Margie. "Could you please give this to Joey? Ask him to mail it for me?"

"You want it mailed from up North or somewhere else this time?" Margie raised her eyebrows questioningly.

"Up North is fine." Buffy nodded.

"You know Sweetie, your sister might like to know where she can answer your letter." The older woman patted Buffy's hand.

Buffy smiled, "Maybe soon."

"Okay, Joey will be in tomorrow. I'll give him the letter for you." She tucked the letter in her apron pocket as she served Buffy's lunch.

"Thanks, Margie." Buffy sighed as she thought about Joey. He was a nice guy, all American, nice looking, reminded her of Riley. He was sweet on her ,as Margie would say,. She realized he was the kind of guy she should settle with, but she knew it would never work - nice guys just weren't for her. He had agreed to take her letters and mail them out of state when he was on a job though and never asked her why she didn't' want her sister to know where she was.

Buffy finished her meal, paid her bill and left for work. She had started at the hospital a month after arriving. She signed people into the ER took their insurance information etc. She liked the evening shift and the ER could be a very interesting place, there was no telling what you might see there on any given night.

Tonight, however, had been a slow one. An elderly man from the nursing home had fallen and broken his hip. His whole family had come to the hospital filling the waiting room for a couple of hours but after that all had been quiet. She clocked out at 11p.m. and walked out the side door - she froze for a moment. The tingling sensation was definitely there, she had not seen one vamp since arriving in West Memphis. She peeked from behind the dumpster by the door. Two men were half carrying, half dragging a third man to towards the ER doors. They did not appear to be vampires as she listened to their conversation.

"I say we leave him out by the door. Someone will find him and take him in." The first guy stated in a loud whisper.

"Shouldn't we take him in? Make sure he's okay?" The second man replied.

"I couldn't find a pulse on the guy, if he hadn't grunted I would swear he was dead. I say we just leave him before we get in more trouble." The first man answered.

Buffy stole another look around the dumpster as the two men left the third guy lying on the ground several yards from the ER doors. They quickly left the parking lot not looking back. She cautiously walked towards the man lying on the ground, the tingling got stronger. Maybe her spider sense was off, surely this guy wasn't a vamp. As she got closer to the injured man and into the lights around the ER she noticed the color of his hair - it was bloody but definitely a bleached blonde just like… She shook her head of those thoughts as she knelt next to him, he opened swollen eye, it was a familiar blue and it blinked at her in shocked recognition. She pushed a bloody curl from his face, "Spike?" She asked softly.

He was in a lot of pain but managed to nod his head as he continued to stare at her, "Buffy?" His voice sounded raspy.

"Yes, it's me." She touched his shoulder, "We need to get you to my place. Can you stand?"

He nodded and winced as she helped him to his feet, wrapping her arm around his waist she helped him to her car.

"I don't live very far. Just hold on and when we get to my house I'll try to make you more comfortable." She started the car.

He only nodded and closed his eyes before slumping in the passenger seat.

She had never even considered seeing Spike again, she'd mourned him, he was a major part of the reason she was living here alone away from her loved ones. So many questions to ask, when she turned to him ready to ask "how he was here", he was asleep. The questions could wait for now.

She had never even considered seeing Spike again, she'd mourned him, he was a major part of the reason she was living here alone away from her loved ones. So many questions to ask, when she turned to him ready to ask "how he was here", he was asleep. The questions could wait for now.

She made the short drive even more quickly then usual, still in shock every time she looked at his battered body. One thought kept repeating itself in her head. Spike is here, he's really here. She kept sneaking peeks at him as he slept. He was the closest to home that she'd felt in a very long time, despite having spent the last year with her closest family and friends. Spike made her feel like she wasn't alone - she had by no means been miserable in Italy. Quite the opposite she'd been happy but something always niggled at the back of her brain - something was missing and after the loss of Spike and Angel , she'd felt compelled to go find that missing part of her. The shock of seeing Spike lying on that parking lot had brought it everything back, she had thought that the end of Sunnydale, watching Spike shoo her out of that cavern was her closure on that part of her life. Finding out that Spike had somehow been brought back and in LA only to die again had opened up that wound again - maybe this time by helping him she could heal herself too.

She pulled into her carport and turned off the ignition. Spike jumped in the seat beside, she could see his uneasiness when he woke in strange car but it only took her hand on his arm to calm him. She smiled, "We're here."

She went and unlocked the front door before returning to the car to help her passenger out. She settled him on her couch and went to find her first aid kit. She hadn't needed the kit since she'd moved her but old Slayer habits die hard. She stopped in the kitchen to fill a bowl with warm water and returned to the living room.

Spike was lying on the couch scanning the room with his one open eye. "Here we go, I'll just try to clean up that cut on your head first and then we'll tackle the eye, and if I'm not mistaken there are some broken ribs too." She gently moved his hair until she found the scalp wound and began to dab at it with the warm washcloth, "Scalp wounds always bleed a lot." She rinsed the cloth out leaving the water in the bowl pink tinged, "I'm going to put some of this antibiotic cream on it and put a bandage it."

He only nodded as she bandaged his head. She sat back to survey her work, "You'll have funny hair for a couple of days," she winked at him, "But you should be used to that." She laughed soflty at her joke before taking the cloth up again to start cleaning around his eyes.

His hand wrapped around her wrist stopping her soft ministrations, he whispered one raspy word, "Italy?"

"Italy? Yes, I was there, but you know that, Andrew told me he saw you. I haven't been there for six months, though." She unwrapped his hand from her wrist and continued to clean his face before continuing, "Giles told me that you and Angel, that everyone in LA was dead. What happened?"

His jaw clenched when she asked the question,his voice strained as he answered, "Don't know about Angel, but yes, Gunn and Wesley are dead. It was another of those apocalypses that you're so good at. Peaches isn't as good at you apparently - we averted the apocalypse but lost some good people."

"Someone once told me that casualties are a part of war." Buffy told him as she applied a butterfly bandage above his eye. "I'm sorry about Wesley and Gunn, but what do you mean you don't know about Angel?"

"Didn't see him get dusted but I haven't seen a trace of him since that night in the alleyway either. Woke up and he was gone." His eyes filled with pain as Buffy sat him and began to probe his ribs.

"Sorry." She sighed as she pulled out a bandage to wrap them with. "So you don't know if he's really dead or not? Giles seemed sure you were all gone. I..I..never mind."

He grimaced as she tightly wrapped his ribs and help him to her bedroom. "You can have my bed, it's more comfortable then the couch. We can talk some more tomorrow when you're feeling better."

"I can't take your bed, Buffy. Where's Bit? If she's not home maybe I can take hers instead?" His voice was tired.

"Dawn isn't here…I mean she doesn't live here. She's still in Italy with Giles." Buffy fluffed his pillow.

"Why are you here?" He asked as she reached for the light switch.

"We'll talk tomorrow, okay? ." Without thinking about it ,she leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his forehead before turning out the light, "Goodnight, Spike."

With that she left him alone in the dark room. He whispered "Goodnight Buffy." to the closed door and settled himself under the covers surrounded by the scent he'd only dreamed of for the last year and a half. He tried to stay awake arranging the questions he wanted to ask her in his head. But pain and tiredness overtook him ,as he felt safe for the first time in long time and soon he was fast asleep.

Buffy cracked the door and peeked in at him sleeping. He looked so vulnerable, what had happened to him? And why did he have to look so good even wounded, she shook her head. Nope, no reason to go there, why should she even think like that when he had failed to let her know that he was alive - not once but twice! She'd find out what happened, help him anyway she could and let him go his own way ,she told herself determinedly. She closed the bedroom door again as a small voice inside said , "Sure you will, Buffy."