"Someone like you makes it hard to live without somebody else. Someone like you makes it easy to give never think about myself." - Rod Stewart

"Something is changing. 30 degrees all around. That's your baseline temperature now. You're getting colder," Dawn said seriously as she waived the little ghost reading meter over Spike.

"Yeah, it's almost time. I think I can feel it," Spike sighed.

Giles looked up from his computer screen with concern and Dawn frowned. Xander was over a book almost asleep.

"I think you feelies might be out of touch with your touchies, Spike," Willow said calmly as she just kept her face with her now long red hair flowing down it in her book.

"According to most of this research most ghosts stay on this plane until they have their conflict solved," she said.

Buffy released her breath not realizing she had been holding it.

"Oh great," Xander said, "He'll be here forever."

"Sod off," Spike muttered, "and we all know I'm no normal ghost."

"Eow, you just jumped to 40 degrees," Dawn said.

"I think his solid comeback skills left with his solid body," Xander said.

"Keep it up and I'll show you something solid," Spike retorted.

"48 degrees," Dawn said.

"Like what? That pencil that you were so excited you could throw," Xander said as he looked over at Spike from the oak table.

Buffy would never know his glass eye was fake even as the sunlight came into the reading room, which she hadn't realized by now she made to look like the old school library as much as possible.

"That's right! I'll stick it right in you if you don't quit it," Spike said.

"55 degrees," Dawn said as she still held the ghost temperature thing up to Spike.

"Well, I can stick it right back in you if you're corporeal enough to stick it in me, right Will? And who knows maybe I'll get lucky and get your heart and you'll dust just like you want to, Constantine, and then we can all finally stop busting our asses while you float there bitching and giving up," Xander said.

"The only one bitching and giving up is you. And the only thing that is going to bust your ass is me. If you had any kind of brain may have noticed that when I do get solid in the day I don't go up in flames. So, you won't be getting lucky enough to stick me with any wood," Spike said.

"I could too stick you with wood---"Xander began.

"Kennedy was right!" Faith laughed with pizza in her mouth, "You two are so gay."

Faith had been leaning in the doorway holding the pizza that Buffy was sure belonged to her. She had ordered it a while ago. Delivery was slower here. You wouldn't think that with the way everyone drove, but they didn't seem to care to get places on time. David said he was going to be out late tonight, but at least he called.

"Yeah, I'm getting a little lame these days with all this researchy stuff," Xander sighed and stretched, "I was much better at it in Africa, where I was outside. Is it me or does the researchy room look way too Sunnydale library?"

"God, you are so far in the closet you're finding Christmas presents," Faith laughed again, "I don't mean gay as in losers, although…I mean gay as in gay. You two have some repressed thing going on for each other."

"What?" Spike and Xander exclaimed.

"Wow, 70 degrees Spike," Dawn said to him as she looked at the meter.

"Yeah, I was getting hotter too. Makes up for this cold weird pizza, " Faith said as she came in and set the pizza down, "Listening to the two of you go on about busting each others asses and sporting wood for each other. I mean, as much as the two of you are like bitchy old bats, you're not bad to look at and the thought of the two of you…"

"I'm going to start bringing one of those personal CD players with head-phones to research," Giles muttered to no one in particular.

"You don't think I'm bad to look at?" Xander asked Faith.

"You know every time you and your round little ass come in here and interrupt…" Spike said.

"Yeah, yeah, we know you like 'em bony, ghost white boy. Hmm, that's just like a guy to like his girls bony and his guys with bulk," Faith smirked.

"You think I have bulk?" Xander asked.

"….I want to knock you to the ground and show you who's on top all over again," Spike sneered.

"Eow, Spike you're up to 80, and I think you might be solid again!" Dawn said.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Faith went from grinning to raging at Spike.

"Do you mean bulk like fat bulk or muscle bulk? I've been worried since I' m not working construction," Xander said.

"A personal CD player with very large head phones that goes to a volume of 20," Giles said.

"I'm talking about beating the bloody tar out of you!" Spike said to Faith, "You haven't changed a hair. You still hurt people; you're as dangerous as you ever were. You were afraid you'd hurt the only good man you were with, so you ran away from him to here, but you're causing more pain and destruction than ever."

"Oh Spike, 98! You are solid now! For the first time a week! Oh, I guess you already knew that," Dawn said.

Spike had a grip on Faith's tattooed arm as Dawn was holding the ghosty meter to his back. There was a microsecond of silence where Buffy thought everyone might be waiting for her to say something. She didn't. She was tired of talking; all the conversations went the same. Everyone was trying to help Spike, but they weren't finding anything. Willow was hopeful. Dawn was fevered to find out more about the science of ghosts. Giles pulled every connection he had, but seemed to be on Spike's side that there wasn't much hope, while Faith and Xander grumbled about Spike giving up. It was all so beautiful and touching. Buffy didn't want to talk. She didn't have to. Everyone was just doing their thing and they would solve this. They would.

"Five things, English, Number one," Faith said, "I'm not hurting anyone here except for the extreme possibility of you. Number two, the only thing I was running from when I came here was the fact that I could be arrested. Number three, remind me that any drunken thing I say to you can and will be held against me. Number four; get your cowardly misdirected anger half-limp hands off me."

Buffy was surprised. Spike had said a lot of hurtful things to her, and while she shot back a lot of multi-syllable insults to him Faith remained calm.

"Cowardly!" Spike roared.

Buffy was not surprised by Spike's anger.

"Did I stutter? You do nothing but gripe all day, and then you do some more at night. You're not even trying to stay alive while everyone else is busting their ass," Faith said and then she punched Spike off of her, "And that's five."

"And whose fault is that?" Spike demanded as he jumped up, "You had to tell them about Africa. You had to tell them that the Blue Bitch might know how to restore me. Only we can't find either of those bloody things just like I bloody told you! It's like if someone in that movie told Mary Tyler Moore there was a cure for her little girl's cancer out in the Sahara and instead of getting to spend a few good weeks in New York they would have been sweating and combing the bloody desert."

Faith looked at him with her dark brows confused and knitted until Spike hit her. Then they were exchanging blows. Buffy remembered that movie. Mom liked it. Buffy was just a kid, and she didn't really get that the girl was dying. She just thought the girl was getting to do fun things in New York with her mother. Buffy kept whining that she wanted to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, like the girl. Then in the end the girl died and Buffy cried and cried. Her father yelled at her mother for letting Buffy watch a sad movie. Then, her parents did take her to New York to skate, and by that time Buffy was over the movie.

"You know all about cowardice and dying don't you? Trying to take a dive with Angel twice, if you wanted the one that did a Slayer in you should have come to me," Spike spat at Faith.

Wasn't that the truth? Well, no not really Spike never really "did Buffy in." Not the way Angel had anyway, by turning into Angelus, but that was so unfair to think, it wasn't Angel's fault. So, Faith had wanted Angel to kill her again? Buffy had to admit that was a little pathetic. A cry for attention maybe, there was no way Angel would ever do that. Maybe Buffy didn't get what Spike was saying, but Faith was certainly getting a lot of attention now. And she looked like she was much more in kill mode than in die mode. She was on top of Spike with her hands around Spike's very corporeal throat.

"Who would ever pick you over Angel?" Faith screamed her calmness gone, "You say he's probably in some cave somewhere feeling sorry for himself. Even if that's true he'll come back. He always comes back. He takes every chance he has. What do you do? Fade the fuck out after you fail everyone—B, Angel, Wes, Gunn, now B again for good measure. You're not a vamp! You're a failed parasite. You'll never be the vamp Angel is!"

Buffy had to admit that last part looked very true as Spike threw Faith off of him and gasped for breath. Buffy recognized that furious look on his face. He was in full demon mode, only he didn't have the game face as he ran to where he approached Faith. Faith definitely knew what to say to piss him off. Angel. Buffy had never even thought of that in her it's-fun-to-piss-Spike-off-days. Maybe it was pretty obvious, but still Faith knew that, while Buffy didn't.

"Buffy, do something!" Dawn demanded.

Buffy noticed that Spike could have kicked Faith in the ribs while she was down. That would have hurt most. Instead he hauled her to her feet and they started hitting each other again. Spike wanted a fair fight, a good dance.

"I think the two of you should have sex," Buffy said; as she felt her face wanting to curl into a frown she kept it straight.

Spike was the one that looked up first as he and Faith wrestled on the ground. Then, a second later Faith looked up at her with her usual lined brow of confusion. Spike had let go of Faith while she still held on to his lapels limply. They were kind of both on their side looking up at her. Buffy was reminded of Willow and Tara smiling up at her while they lay on the college campus grass.

"Buffy, jokes about me and Spike is what set him off in the first place," Xander said, "I guess I'm more secure with my manliness."

"I'll show you manliness," Spike muttered.

"Anytime, baby," Xander winked.

Faith laughed loudly.

"You just walk your bony ass into things," she said as she looked at Spike.

"And with you he can...walk into things," Buffy said.

Buffy glanced around to see if everyone got it. All she saw were the stunned faces of Willow and Dawn and the waiting face of Xander. Giles still sat at the computer screen cleaning his glasses.

"That was an excellent technique to get them to stop their useless altercation, Buffy. But, I must say I'd prefer you to use violence," Giles said.

"I'm completely serious," Buffy said and she took a breath before she began, "Faith and Spike should have sex. We all know Spike's ghosty-ness is getting worse. He fades out more and he can get solid less. It's just like he said it happened at Wolfram and Hart."

"Buffy," Willow said, "things were different at Wolfram and Hart. They had--- "

"I know," Buffy interrupted. She couldn't bear to go through it all again especially with Spike's hopelessness.

"Wolfram and Hart was completely different. The rules have changed. That's why this will work. Spike is connected to me, to Dawn…and to Faith. When we touch him he gets more solid and stays there longer. So, Faith and Spike should have sex."

"This is that wonky idea you had before only now your throwing doe-eyes into the mix because you don't want to lose The Immortal," Spike said angrily.

"I don't want to lose you!" Buffy insisted maybe a little too strongly.

"I don't know how my becoming solid around you and staying there longer leads you to sex," Spike said a little less angry now.

"I think I know," Xander said, "Do you want me to explain it?"

Buffy was expecting Faith to take this opportunity to make a joke or tease Spike, but Buffy saw that she had walked to the other side of the research room and had her back to them. It looked like she was examining some videos Andrew made as if they were much more interesting. Maybe this was all too funny to her and she was just savoring what she would say next.

"Ties to the world, Spike," Buffy said, "They seem to be helping you stay here. You can't deny that. Maybe it will just buy us some time. It's not like we have anything to lose. Maybe if you had the ultimate physical tie to someone---"

"You really do make me laugh, B," Faith said, but she wasn't laughing.

She still had her back to everyone. Faith had to see this the way Buffy did. She had to see they were desperate and had nothing to lose too. It was an awkward situation, like the most awkward one in the world, but it wasn't as if it would make anyone miserable.

"You think sex is the ultimate tie to someone!" Faith turned to them looking miserable even as she laughed, "It's nothing. It's shit. You of all people should know that. Look where it got you and Angel. The ultimate tie to someone isn't sex; it's doing whatever it takes for them. No one here needs to fuck me."

"Let's not be too hasty n---"Xander began

"Shut-up!" Spike roared so harshly it made Buffy jump, "Let her say what she has to say. This isn't funny."

"No, it is funny," Faith said, "It's the biggest fucking joke ever. I totally deserve it but…Ya know. I don't really have anything else to say. I—I gotta go. There's a thing…some of the girls…they might want…training, something. You're right, I should never have come in here interrupting the book stuff…see ya."

"Maybe she just needs some time to think about it," Buffy said, "I thought she would be all over it. So to speak."

"How could you suggest something like this?" Giles said in his whispery voice.

"Giles," Buffy chided, "I know it's icky, but remember what we talked about with the not having secrets anymore. I mean it's not like I want detai—"

"He doesn't mean that," Spike said, "You just insulted the girl, and you insulted me. I'm used to it, but for her it's different."

"I didn't insult her," Buffy said, "Faith and I insult each other all the time. It's our thing. So, I'd know if I was insulting her."

"Apparently not," Giles said and gave her a slightly disappointed look, but then he smiled a little, "I think I'll go get that personal CD player now, or maybe an IPod."

Then he left. He was uncomfortable and joking and Buffy expected that, but what was with the disappointment? Couldn't he see what she was doing? She had to save Spike, in any way, and if the way included a good time for Faith she would be all for it.

"Okay, is there some weird English thing about suggesting that two people should get it on?" Buffy said, "Because if there is, you guys should have gotten this pissed when Faith was talking about Xander and Spike hooking up."

"And on that note I'm leaving," Xander said as he rose, "I'd do almost anything for you, Buff, but having sex with your ex on the off chance it will save his life isn't one of them."

"Um. That thing that Faith mentioned for the Slayers. We should go to it too," Willow said to Dawn.

"Yeah," Dawn said and looked at Buffy with disapproving eyes as she was talking to Willow, "Maybe your girlfriend can teach some sensitivity courses to ALL the Slayers. It would be an improvement."

"Yeah," Willow said absent mindedly, not really getting the joke because she was too busy pretending to arrange her books to avoid looking at Buffy.

"Okay," Buffy said to Spike, "Note to self: My people are never going to do as the Romans do even when we're in Rome. They're going to get weird about sex, and don't you start with me. I brought that up as a real solution. I am not trying to test anyone."

"That's what makes it so bloody awful," Spike said, "That poor girl. To treat her like a prostitute after the life she had."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Buffy said, "No one is treating anyone like a prostitute. Faith isn't exactly a virgin. She has no problem with---Wait? That poor girl? A second ago you wanted to rip her head off."

"Yeah," Spike said, "and you know what that has to do with you? Nothing! It's something you'd never understand. She's tryin' to get me to live by killin' me; it's the way us real demons work. It's not your way and you see it and all you think of is---"

"Don't you think I know that?" Buffy yelled, "Don't you think I know it has nothing to do with me? But that's your fault not mine."

"And that just drives you crazy, doesn't it?" Spike actually spat on her when he yelled, "that there's a piece a' me—one sodding piece you can't have. Even though you don't want me, even though you want to toss me into some arrangement that makes your Slayer nothing but a concubine to me because she owes you. That way you can control us both. I never thought you were that into control after going all those rounds with the handcuffs and the public places, and the chains…and that odd hanging thing at Rack's place, but maybe it makes sense. You're getting more and more like your rich boyfriend everyday. Pretty soon you won't need his blood money to spray everything with roses; you'll have enough of your own."

She smacked him so hard he bled around his mouth as he was backing her up into a corner. He laughed and licked the blood and then seemed to react like he might have licked off slightly old yogurt.

"I'd say it was just like the bad old times, 'cept it's not at all," he laughed.

"No," Buffy said, "It's not except I was still stupid enough to think I could ever have peace in my life with someone like you around, no matter how you change. I don't need you around here with your changes and your same old insults. I have Faith for that."

"Yeah, your Slayer an' me. I said she's keepin' me alive by tryin' to kill me but it's you who'll really kill me, Slayer. It's always you. Just you," he said.

"No," Buffy said and her voice cracked, "It's not just me. It can't be just me. I know that now, because I do kill you. You think I wanted to do it the first time? You think I wanted you to die and then go off into Angel's new world that I can't even begin to understand?"

"Buffy that was---, "Spike just looked confused now.

"Shut-up!" it just made Buffy mad, "I killed you once, and I didn't think you were ever coming back. I mean, I really didn't, but I should have known better. You are a Champion, and now you are back and I have to save you again. I have to! But, I know I can't do it on my own. I need help. I need Faith. I know she was in Angel's mind to save him, and now she can be in your body and save you."

"Buffy, that's—that's—listen—"he was stammering as he tried to touch her.

"Don't touch me!" Buffy yelled, "Don't ever touch me anymore. I don't want to be the reason you stay around—dying. I'm not trying to keep you here. I'm not trying to control you or anyone. You come to me, and say you don't want help, but you need it. And then, then, I am willing to do whatever it takes to help you. I am willing to give you up to someone else to save you. Again, I'm sacrificing, which was something you defined as giving up something I wanted and I get called a controlling bitch."

"You don't want me. You don't want someone like me," Spike said through gritted teeth, but there was still something pleading about it.

"You want to die, Spike?" Buffy demanded.

"I don't—"Spike began.

"Fine, go ahead. You got what you wanted. The quest to save you is over. Now you can say I' m a heartless bitch instead of a controlling one," Buffy told him.

"Buffy, stop," Spike said gently, "You have to understand what it was like for me an' Faith to hear that coming from you. We have a history with you—"

"'We have a history with you'? 'We have a history'?" Buffy repeated numbly, "Like I wasn't there. Like I don't know about you and your poor defenseless murdering Slayer's fucking history with me because I was off getting a manicure. I know all about your history with me. You both put me up on some pedestal and then you get at mad when you can't spit at me from there, and I can't do it anymore. I just can't."

Buffy had been looking over some of the performance scales of the Slayers. It was really interesting. All of the Slayers clearly had super-powers, but none of them could quite perform as well as Buffy. Maybe it had something to do with being a Chosen Slayer. Buffy wondered how Faith would perform on these physical aptitude tests she made up. Like she would ever take them. Maybe she would. Who knows maybe she'd perform as well as Buffy. Faith seemed to train a lot and all the girls were very impressed by her. Buffy decided to do some solo training herself. It would help her get her mind off the whole Spike fight she was not going to think about. She wasn't going to let Spike distract her from her responsibilities. She didn't even let her super great boyfriend do that. Still, Buffy was feeling a little self-humiliation. Spike was always so good for that. She realized just a week before she had told Spike off, she had hit him, and she said she wasn't going to help him. And this weak it was rinse and repeat. She finally had a boyfriend she didn't have the same fight with over and over. So, why did Spike have to show up? At least this time there was no kissing. But now Spike had everyone else thinking Buffy wasn't trying to save his life in the right way. This wasn't the kind of action Buffy expected when she said Spike and Faith should sleep together.

Buffy left the Slayer's building and realized she couldn't go to her apartment because Dawn might be there. Dawn was clearly in a snit about Buffy suggesting that Spike sleep with Faith. Looking at her sister's glaring eyes and hearing her mouth off about how Buffy knew nothing about relationships was not what Buffy needed right now. If Dawn wanted to know all of what was really going on and be treated like an adult she had to stop being so sensitive. There was a message on Buffy's cell phone from Will gently asking her if she'd like to talk about "um, today." Buffy couldn't face that either. Willow was the one who would understand and not judge and maybe even tell everyone to shut-up in the end, but Buffy didn't want to face her awkwardness around the issue. It would just remind her of how much she screwed up.

Saying that Spike and Faith should have sex in front of everyone, what was she thinking? She wasn't. Well, she was, but that was the problem. She was thinking too much about what would save Spike and not enough about everyone's feelings on sex and stuff. She should have approached them more delicately alone, and gave them time if they had problems with it.

Still, she honestly thought that Faith would be the last person to have a problem with it. She just thought Faith would smirk and then brag about how she was the best thing Spike would ever have and then it would be over. Except it wouldn't be over. Buffy would probably have to suggest they keep in contact a lot so Spike didn't lose his corporealness. Maybe Buffy wouldn't exactly have to suggest that they do that, since they probably wouldn't mind having sex.

They probably wouldn't mind having sex! They'd be really into having sex. It wasn't like it was just some mutual activity to save Spike's life. Buffy wondered if Spike would want to play a lot of the games he played with Faith. He had been evil when they had sex, so maybe he'd have calmed down or something. She doubted it. Then, something horrible happened. Buffy started actually thinking about Spike and Faith having sex. This was something she hadn't done before. Yes, she had accepted that they would have sex for the greater good, but she hadn't really thought about how they would have sex. Oh my God! She had told Spike and Faith to have sex.

(She would not picture Spike and Faith kissing. It was already bad enough having the image of Faith and Angel burned into her brain with the kissing. Never mind the ideas of clothes coming off and the other stuff. Then there was the time she saw Faith and Angel cuddling. Spike wouldn't do that with her. Buffy didn't let Spike do that, and there was no way Faith would. Unless, unless she did. It wasn't like Faith fought off Angel's cuddling. Spike was a severe cuddler for sure.)

As Buffy exited the Slayer headquarters she saw someone sprawled out on the steps smoking. Great. Now her night could be complete.

"Hi Faith," she said, "You're still here? It's probably good all the other girls have left. They might see you smoking and get the idea it was cool. I know they look up to you a lot."

"Heh," Faith smirked, "This is Europe, B. Half of the girls started smoking at ten and drinking at twelve, and they're already pros and the other stuff too."

"I haven't seen that," Buffy said, "So, when did you become an expert in European culture?"

Buffy made sure she kept her voice very light and peppy.

"It started when you made all these Slayers. Gave them all this responsibility that they weren't ready for. I was an expert in that, so I try to apply it to the girls," Faith said.

"I didn't give them responsibility they weren't ready for. I helped them. I saved their lives!" Buffy said.

"No one's saying anything different, B. That's what you're an expert at after all," Faith grinned.

"I'm an expert at saying something different?" Buffy demanded, too confused to be mad.

"No, at life saving of course," Faith said.

"Oh," Buffy said, "Well, yeah. We all have the stuff that we're good at. You seem to be good at knowing all the little details of the lives of theirs I saved. That's—that's important. It makes you very popular with them, I know."

Good. Buffy could at least have a nice conversation with one of them tonight. She said something nice to Faith and Faith said something nice to her. This day wasn't a total disaster.

"Yeah," Faith laughed, "The popular girl who's popular for all the wrong reasons, that's me. I'm fun and slick and I slide into town to take all the glory, but I'm not the dependable hard working honor student home-coming queen they'll love forever. That's you. I'm the one everyone will fuck; you're the one that everyone will marry."

Of course, Faith couldn't let an opportunity for a disaster go by. Buffy really wanted to hit that cigarette down her mouth as it bounced up and down between her thick ruby lips as she laughed at her own joke.

"Faith, that's not what I was saying at all! Every time---"

"No one said that was what you were saying," Faith said, "That's what I'm saying. I'm telling you not to worry. No one will remember me here when I'm gone."

"You're leaving? When? Now?" Buffy asked, "I mean, I'm not worried. I mean. I'm sure people will remember you."

"At least Spike would," Faith said, "If we took you up on that slap and tickle to save his ass idea. I came on to him once before you were together and he remembered every word I said all these years later. So, if he remembered the talk, it's highly unlikely he'd forget the walk."

Buffy felt her eyes narrow, but she made herself smile. This was the Faith she knew. The reaction she had expected. Where was it when she needed it? Not that she needed it, or Spike needed it. They'd find another way to save him. Buffy strutted up to Faith.

"Was that when you were in my body and hoping I was off some where dying in yours?" she asked, "Why didn't you take me up on the offer than Faith? I know you're not an expert in saving lives but maybe if you tried it with something else you were so practiced in…"

Buffy had no idea why she was asking Faith why she didn't want to sleep with Spike, or why she was asking in such a mean way. No, she did know. Faith made her angry with her meanness once again, and Buffy would really actually like to know the answer being that she had no idea what it could be.

Faith seemed to frown for a moment but then broke into that cracked grin. She tossed away her cigarette and bent down into a bag she had at her feet to get another.

"I woulda gladly taken you up on your genius plan and rode him into the sunset to save him, set his soul on fire. Except with my way it woulda brought him to life—not killed him like when you set his soul on fire with that Liz Taylor necklace. That's what you do to the cool vampires you know, huh B? Kill them. But, hey, it saves the world, right?" she said.

Buffy was going to hit her right in the face, but something about the look on her face when she bent back up from her bag made Buffy stop.

"Killin' the vamps, makin' the Slayers, and now you want me to make it with a vampire. You always have the cool ideas," she said, "Too bad this one had a huge glitch."

"What's that?" Buffy said as she felt her own chest rise and fall with angry breath.

She still was deciding whether or not it was a good idea to hit Faith.

"It wouldn't a' meant shit," Faith smiled a sad sort of smile, "So, even if your Pollyanna theory is right, it wouldn't a' worked. You want to keep your boy on this Earth with touchie feely stuff. You said that Spike should fuck me because we have some kind of connection, and that screwing was the ultimate connection. Ultimate, that's such an 80s word. You're getting old, B. If me and Spike bumped uglys we wouldn't have been connecting at all. For someone like me screwing means nothing, so it wouldn't a' kept him here."

"Well, I guess someone like you shouldn't sleep with Spike then. I guess we'll find another way," Buffy said feeling a little triumphant.

"Looks like you'll have to, since you can't sleep with him without crossing your Guido Immortal boyfriend, and word on the street is no one crosses The Immortal. So, who else makes Spike solid besides you 'an me? Hmmm, what's the woman sized Dawn up to?" Faith asked.

Before Buffy knew it her fist was swinging at Faith and it was moving so fast she could hear the air whip when Faith ducked. Buffy grunted with her exertion, but she hadn't gotten that satisfying crunch.

"Look Ma, no hands," Faith said as she came up from her duck, "Maybe you're getting slower, B, or you're just too predictable. Still, I do wonder whether you won't send Dawn into do the dirty work because you're still in love with the vamp or 'cause you're not."

"Again, with the predictable," Faith said as she ducked Buffy again.

Buffy knew she wasn't trying her best with that last hit. Faith flipped over the steel back railing of the Slayer headquarters just for dramatic affect.

"Sorry, girlie," Faith said, "I've had enough of your love bites tonight. I'm callin' in my safe word."

"You haven't even—"

Suddenly, there was a loud obvious throat clearing.

"Am I interrupting something?" a girl's voice asked dryly.

Oh god. Just what Buffy needed, one of the new Slayers seeing this. How could they ever look up to her as a teacher now? Buffy looked over and was immediately relieved to see that the girl was not a Slayer. She definitely was not a Slayer. Every Slayer had a little bit of individual style, but Buffy would have remembered one that went around in a skin tight satin spandex leotard with a conveniently styled cut out hole in it to show off her perfectly muscled stomach. If that wasn't enough the girl had a few locks of her long spiraled hair streaked red with matching lipstick. Not that she needed the lipstick or anything else. She was one of the most beautiful women Buffy had seen and since she lived in Rome now that was saying a lot. She had the classic face of a porcelain doll that didn't match her get-up at all. She also had sixteen hole Doc Martins. Great Doc Martins, probably another hotheaded unstable person.

"My ride is finally here!" Faith beamed and hopped down the steps and grabbed the girl's hands and stretched them out to arms length.

What a surprise an uber-slut Doc Martin wearing girl was a friend of Faith's. Where did they meet? Prison?

"Well, well, well, God Bless the internet even though that picture you sent didn't do you justice," Faith said.

"Your meeting someone from the internet in front of our headquarters?" Buffy asked.

Great. This could be even better than a prison friend. Buffy knew people met on-line all the time now, but she still wasn't into it. This girl could be a circus freak, or some kind of crazy person. Not that this was much different than the people that Faith probably met off-line, but still, the girl could be a freak, and Faith was exposing the Slayer headquarters to her.

The girl's whole demeanor seemed to shift out of her coolness. Buffy saw that she was lacing her fingers through Faith's slowly as she looked down at them like they were these amazing things she'd come all the way to Rome to see.

"When I saw your picture I thought it had to be fake. No one who's been in the slammer looks that good," she said modestly and bit her lip, "I wasn't exactly wrong you look better, much better. You're beautiful. He said you were. Beauty with the mouth of a truck driver and the fists of a Samurai or some blah blah. He sent me so many emails with pretty words in the end. After he got all his fancy suits and everything it was like he appreciated beautiful things more. That was probably my fault. I gave him a taste of the finer things in life and then…"

"And then he never got anything finer than you, but he made all his own choices, right until the end. He'd have it no other way," Faith said.

Then Faith hugged the girl and she seemed to get a look of fear on her face. Her doll eyes grew big with fear that Buffy saw on the faces of girl's all the time who had unexpected things thrown at them. Then her eyes shut and her face had that look of peace, but then her delicate face seemed to wrinkle with pain. She looked like she might cry when she hid her face in Faith's shoulder. Then as quickly as all that happened the girl stepped away from Faith as if she remembered Buffy was there. Her face got its hardness back immediately as Buffy saw her eyes travel over her.

"You told me Spike was short, and blond, and a real cherry, but I always thought he was a guy," the girl said.

"Spike?" Faith said as if she forgot who that was, "Oh yeah, were not gonna hang with him tonight. Things got kinda weird and he'd just be a pissy downer anyway. I don't know why I even thought bringing anyone in with us would be cool. We'll be at our best as a team of two."

"I get you all to myself," the girl smiled, "I've never been with a girl freak like me before."

"No one is a freak like me," Faith told her.

"That's not the way I heard it," the girl said, "I heard Slayers were a dime a dozen now, and I'm still one of a kind."

"You met a girl on the internet? This girl? And you told her all about Slayers on the internet? And she came here to meet you from America? From the internet?" Buffy said a little louder than before.

She knew the girl was American right away, but it hadn't occurred to Buffy how that was weird until this moment. There was also a black limo that the girl came with that seemed to have a driver in it. Faith had used her Slayerness to hook up with someone rich from the internet. That did seem like Faith, but a girl? It seems like they had told each other their life stories from the sound of it.

"Don't worry, B. I know she's not a psycho killer. We have buds in common," Faith smiled sliding her arm around the girl.

"Yeah, we met through super-freindster," the girl said and she seemed to think she said something really hysterical that Buffy didn't get, "Bedsides aren't you the psycho killer?"

"Yeah, I think we have a leg up knowing right away which one of us it is," Faith grinned looking at the girl.

"Yeah, you be the psycho killer and I'll be the bounty hunter. I usually like being the Jewel thief, but for you, cherry…" the girl said leaning into Faith almost touching her face.

"You're a bounty hunter?" Buffy said.

Great, two unstable girls that both thought their sick or cryptic jokes were the comedy of the year. Buffy could so do without this. Why did she think Faith would bring anything other than trouble? Who was this girl?

"Who is this girl?" the girl asked looking at Buffy with that cool look.

"She's B," Faith said simply.

"She's B!" the girl exclaimed and her eyes seemed to widen and then returned to giving Buffy the cool look.

"Yeah, don't gawk at her," Faith said, "She's had a rough day with trying to save the vamp with the attitude."

"Isn't that what you do?" the girl asked silkily.

"Well, I do it dirty, she does it straight," Faith said.

"Straights boring, but to each their own," the girl said.

Faith brushed back the girl's long hair like it meant something, and the girl looked like she had gotten a full body massage from Faith. Now that they weren't hugging the girl no longer seemed shy. She greedily seemed to put her arm around Faith and pull her in. Gay. Had to be. If just for this one girl. Leave it to Faith to get the most gorgeous yet shady Glam girl to be gay with.

"That's what I always say," Faith said, and she surprised Buffy with stepping over to her.

"See ya later, B" she said quietly, "No hard feelings, okay? I know you're wicked stressed."

Buffy felt Faith's hands wrap around her head and she thought she was about to get some head-butt warning. Faith would just love to show off in front of her new friend, and Buffy was so emotionally tired she might just let her do it. She couldn't take anymore. Buffy wanted to save Spike and somehow it all ended up in some mash-up with sex and Faith. Now everyone was mad and disappointed except Faith, who made Buffy mad, and it turned out Faith was now probably gay with some bitchy weird girlfriend so she could never have slept with Spike to save his life anyway. So, why shouldn't Faith head-butt her? Whatever. Instead Buffy felt Faith's cool lips on her forehead.

"Don't worry, B" she said, "I'll make it all all right, and I won't have to screw with a single one of your boyfriends to do it. At least not much."

Faith said after she pecked her forehead like a mother looking in on her sick child. Buffy looked up into Faith's grinning eyes feeling a weird sort of hurt and confusion. Faith frowned and opened her mouth to say even more.

"Aw, and here I thought we were gonna charge up a vamp and bring him back to life," the girl pouted coyly.

"Yeah, from what you say it looks like we will," Faith said.

"I thought you said you weren't hanging out with Spike tonight," Buffy said as she only looked at Faith.

Buffy would rather chew tinfoil than spend an evening with Spike right now, but the thought of him hanging out with Faith and this bitchy spandex grabby girl was too much.

"We're not," Faith said, "Don't mind Gwenny. She just likes to make her Frankenstein jokes."

"It's alive! It's alive! I made its heart go pitter patter and I made it stand up straight," the girl laughed.

"A'right, Gwenny," Faith rolled her eyes, "Don't scare B anymore."

"I'll be a good freak," the girl said as she took Faith's hand and pulled her back to her, "As long as you come away with me now so we can plan out our capers. It's cool having an accomplice."

"Well," Faith said to Buffy, "We have stuff."

"Yeah, stuff," the girl said giving one last glare to Buffy.

"I guess you do," Buffy said.

As Buffy watched them leave she wondered just what stuff they had. She got it. She wasn't invited in on their stuff and she didn't want to be. She wanted to tell the girl there was no need for the glaring and grabbing, if she wanted Faith she could take her. Please take her. Away. Lock her up in your black limo with the tinted windows and do your stuff forever, as far as Buffy cared.

Still, Buffy was more than a little miffed. Who was this girl? How did she know about Slayers? She was trusting Faith with a lot. Faith hadn't told her a thing accept that she wasn't going to screw her boyfriends anymore. Buffy wished that was all it took to make everything all right.

It wasn't like Faith hadn't let some evil woman into the Slayer world before, and wasn't that evil Watchers name Gwendolyn? What did Faith call that girl? It sounded a lot like... No, that would be too much of a coincidence, even to happen to Buffy. She would have to find out details on Faith's girl later some how. It really pissed her off that she didn't already know. Buffy always tried to include Faith in things. Accept her personal life, and this was Faith's personal life. Then Buffy remembered that today she tried to include Faith in too much into her personal life and that was a disaster.

No! It wasn't her personal life. Spike was not Buffy's personal life. He was strictly her responsibility to save. Still what was she thinking? Suggesting that Spike and Faith have sex? What? She was back to this question again, which didn't seem any easier to answer than what was up with that girl and Faith. A car beeped at Buffy as she almost wondered out into the road. Well, it didn't matter what she was thinking, because they weren't doing it. It wasn't happening. Faith said it wouldn't have worked because it meant nothing. Thank God Faith and Spike actually realized what it would have meant while Buffy was being an idiot. They realized what it meant? It would have meant something to them? Faith said it meant nothing. Then why had they acted that way! Why couldn't they have just had sex and laughed about it? Wait. Was Buffy mad at them for not having sex now? Maybe Spike was right. Maybe she was a controlling bitch.

No! She wanted to save Spike. She also wanted to go on with her life and not get tangled up in him to do it. Allowing…no suggesting that Faith keep Spike solid in any way was a good way to do that. Meanwhile, Spike had totally been tangling in Buffy's life, taking up her time, and she wasn't saving him he was disappearing more often and longer than before, and she suggested an idea that not only no one had done, but that everyone hated her for.

How could she be a controlling bitch when she got nothing she wanted? Why? Why did she keep trying to save Spike's life? She should just let him die and be done with it. Why couldn't she be a believer in the right to die? She was a Slayer after all. Buffy verbalized a few of these thoughts as she fought some freshly rising vampires in the cemetery in St. Peter's Square. She did this alone like in the good old days. Accept there were some good old days when Faith was with her. Those were really really old good old days. They hadn't lasted long. It wasn't like Buffy wanted or needed another "old school" Slayer around to fight with. She was sure she hadn't needed Faith's crap tonight. She had Spike for that, right? Faith couldn't be as hurt as Spike. It was just sex. It's nothing. That's what Faith said herself. Sex was nothing at all to someone like her. She also said Buffy was predictable.

Of course Buffy was predictable. She was tired, so tired. She was through thinking about saving people and their sex lives. For once, she wanted to think about her sex life, which had actually become something that was simple and fun. She was through being predictable. She knew David probably would not be in his penthouse until very late, but she decided to go up anyway. She would take a bath in the Jacuzzi and just hang out. Then, she would surprise him naked and covered with red wine. She definitely hadn't been seeing enough of him lately, and part of the reason was because she was trying to restore the life of her smart-ass ex-lover. David understood. He even found it a little funny, but he was just jealous enough. On top of that he was helping to try to find an answer to save Spike. How awesome is that? He was even a total hottie. He was a good man. Yeah, Buffy knew he did business with demons, but that didn't make him a demon. He just preferred to keep the peace in a different way. Buffy didn't know what gave Spike the right to say anything about it. Doing big business with evil demons had worked for Spike and Angel for a year. Well, with the way things ended it hadn't exactly worked but…

Buffy saw Kreshmir, David's personal assistant in the lobby of his building talking to a pretty Italian woman about how great David was of course. Kreshmir was the nicest demon. Buffy wasn't sure what kind he was. He kind of had some early "Star Wars" fish head thing going on. He'd kind of be like Clem, if Clem had been really sophisticated. But, Buffy was glad he was distracted. Sometimes he was a little jumpy about Buffy going up to David's apartment when he wasn't there, even though David said it was okay. A few times he hadn't let her up at all. It wasn't like Buffy was going to go through David's stuff. Buffy supposed Kresh was just protective of his beloved boss. David had saved him and his family from being slaughtered in Chezikulvakia or was it the Chek Republic now? David told her she should keep up on these things being a leader and he was probably right.

Buffy slipped past Kresh as he was telling the story about David and Michael Angelo again. After all the crap Buffy heard tonight coming from people this would be a great story to hear again. But, Buffy was really tired of all the blah blah blahs from everyone. She just wanted to slip into David's bed with the awesome sheets and wait for him.

Buffy was already smiling as she slipped in the key to David's apartment. She loved the scene the minute she came in. There were candles lit everywhere. There were also red lacey things thrown over the lamp shades. Buffy thought that was a bit over the top, but she'd forgive him for knowing that she was coming. Buffy could hear him in his bathroom bumping around. Actually, there was quite a lot of bumping. Oh God! David was being attacked by a demon. Buffy raced to the bedroom door which was locked, so she kicked it open. Then, after kicking in the very strong door that was probably built for demon attacks, Buffy was at the bathroom door.

Apparently, the demon hadn't heard the kicking or they were still locked in too much of a struggle to come check it out. She decided to wait for a moment, and see if she could get a sense of what was going on and get a drop on this demon and to see if David was okay. Maybe he wasn't even in there and this thing broke into his place. It was supposed to be some kind of a fortress, but Buffy realized just how easily she got in here. Buffy really hoped David wasn't in there as the bumping was starting t o sound kind of funny. He was in there. Buffy heard him say something faintly in Italian. The bumping really sounded funny and not ha-ha funny.

Buffy thought she heard a child laugh and then she heard the sound of splashing water.

"Oh little playmate," she heard a voice sing, "She's here. Slide down your door. You won't be jolly friends for evermore."

"What?" David gasped loudly at the same time Buffy's head was asking the same thing.

She wasn't quite sure if she heard that right. She was hearing it through a door and she thought it sounded like a kid. Now she heard a lot of scrambling. Buffy didn't want to think anymore as she kicked in the bathroom door.

"Buffy!" David cried as he was rapped in a towel all glistening wet.

He would have looked like the perfect movie scene where you see the hot tortured hero get out of the tub. Except this was a different kind of scene all together. A girl began laughing. It was definitely a full grown woman that was laughing and thought this was funny. Buffy went to push forward into the bathroom when David grabbed her by her arms to hold her back.

"Dovete andare immediatamente! Avete saputo che la mia ragazza, il mio san uno stava venendo! Se persino persino ponete i vostri occhi sul mio amore non otterrete che cosa desiderate da me. Siete una ragazza difettosa! Dovete andare immediatamente!" he turned his head towards the back of the huge bathroom and shouted to where he didn't want Buffy to see.

It was the angriest Buffy had ever heard him sound, and it was pretty damn angry, but he'd see real anger in a second.

Buffy heard more giggling and splashing coming for the back of the bathroom bouncing off the beautiful pink and black tile work. Buffy pushed forward as hard as she could and David was still able to hold her back.

"You don't want to see this, Amore," he said straining to hold her back.

"No, I don't, but you made it so I have to," she said.

"No, you don't," he insisted as he held her arms.

"So, it seems like you've been hiding a few things. How strong you really are," Buffy grunted and pushed forward and then she kicked David in the face, "And how weak you really are."

David landed on his back sprawled out naked on the tile. Buffy didn't bother to look as she stepped into the bathroom. What the…? The girl was gone. Buffy considered the possibility that David had been cheating on her with a ghost. It wasn't like it couldn't happen. Then she saw the window open and the gossamer curtains blowing back in the night air. She saw some clothes-- a velvety dress crumpled up on the tile with a really elaborate push it all up bra but no underwear. There was no way some girl could have climbed out the window in her underwear. She'd be freezing on the penthouse fire escape. Buffy stuck her head out of the bathroom window. She saw nothing.

"Hello?" she called, "You can have him, giggle skank and your clothes."

Buffy brought her head back into the luxurious bathroom that she was supposed to be hot-tubbing in right now, damn it! Instead she was glaring at David.

"I guess she only speaks Italian? I understood 'go now' and 'bad girl'. I didn't get the rest, not that I have to," Buffy said.

"I told her she wasn't worthy to look at you," he said, "I called her a warped girl, and she is. Bad girl is 'ragazza cattiva,' remember? Wasn't it fun when I taught you that?"

He actually had the balls to be smiling at her. She glared at him and looked away.

"Tell her to come back in. As much as I'd love her to freeze I'm not into hurting people," Buffy said.

She moved the glass of red wine off the window sill and saw how it moved too slowly and clung to the glass. It was blood.

"Actually," Buffy said, "Tell her to come back in here. I'm not into hurting people, but I'm so into killing her. A vampire, David. A fucking vampire! "

She rose and almost brought herself to hit him but she couldn't quite do it. She didn't want to have some brawl with him and his nakedness. It really wasn't worth it. She just wanted to leave.

"Don't worry," David said, "She's long gone. She won't bother you."

"She's already bothered me as much as possible, and I'm the one who's long gone. Everyone's telling me not to worry, and you know what? I won't. I should just go off and have a good time and not care about anything. That's what you all do, right?"

Buffy really wished she wasn't crying or sitting on the tub. She wished she was long gone like she said.

"But that isn't your way," he said, "You can't do that. That's why I love you so."

He was slowly approaching her.

"You better not think of touching me ever again!" she yelled, "How can you say you love me after you've done this? You lied to me. You hurt me. You fucked an evil soulless thing instead of me, because I wasn't enough. I gave you all I could. I gave everybody all I could. My life is supposed to finally be getting better and then you go and…"

"You don't understand. I do love you. You are more than enough. You give everyone more than they could ever ask for. You are perfect. Tonight, what I was doing, it had nothing to do with how happy, how satisfied I am with you," he said.

She noticed that hurt was coming around the edges of his eyes that looked so sincere. She'd never seen him look like that before. His eyes were so beautiful Buffy found she didn't actually mind that they were looking at her with that hurt. He said that she was more than enough; that she was perfect and he was happy. These were rare things coming out of the mouth of a guy that said he loved her. The last guy that she made perfectly happy did a lot worse than screw a vampire. But, if all of what he said was true, why would he do this?

"Tonight was just something that had to happen. You've been working so hard these days for those girls, and now that vampire---"

"That's what this is all about! Spike! You're jealous, and instead of admitting it, and talking about it, you decide to be all smooth and perfect and take it out on me in a way that you thought I'd never see," Buffy said.

This was reminding her too much of Riley. Xander had said that the Riley thing had been her fault. She was going to give Riley another chance.

"You couldn't be more wrong. I'm not jealous, as long as the vampire knows his place, and you seem good at keeping him there. You are right in a way that tonight was about…" his voice trailed off Buffy noticed he was smiling again.

Except this was nothing like Riley. Buffy actually found that she could smile back at him. David wasn't saying that he did this because of something she did. He was taking responsibility for it. Well, he wasn't exactly saying what he did was wrong.

"There are some things, amore, that people like me have to do in this life in order to keep things going, or else my world would stop, you know? We really aren't that different. You have to do the things you have to do too. You know you can't let that vampire die without trying to help him and I—"

"Oh my god!" Buffy rose from the edge of the tub, "You are not comparing me trying to save Spike's life with you cheating on me with a vampire. You are not! I'm trying to save a life and you are fucking a dead thing because you have to. For what?"

Buffy felt like an idiot for the millionth time tonight. She should just barricade herself up in her apartment and stay away from all people. It was too bad that if she did that people would probably die from demon attacks.

"Have I done anything that you haven't done?" he asked coyly.

"Yes!" Buffy said, "You cheated on me…with a vampire. You did, right? I mean that wasn't you drinking blood. You don't do that, do you? I thought I knew what you did but…It doesn't matter. I may have slept with my share of vampires but—"

"I have been alive for a long time, amore, and I know there had to be a night or two when you slipped with the vampire, and that's all right, because I love you."

"There was no night I slipped with---How can you even think that? How can you even accuse—"

"Amore, please. I'm not accusing. As I said, alive for a long time here. I know the power of lust in a desperate situation," he said giving her humoring eyes.

"I kissed him," Buffy said and then bit her lower lip, "But then, I stopped and I promised myself I wouldn't do it again."

"Ah, so young, Amore," he laughed.

"This is all funny to you?" Buffy demanded, "You want me to sleep with Spike so you can go off and screw dead whores?"

"It's not about what I want," he said with a bit of seriousness coming into his face, "It's about what I understand. I know that you think that it is your flesh that keeps him in this world. I understand if you have to give him a bit of it every now and then. That is what tonight was all about with that girl, so now you see. It's all okay. It all meant nothing."

"You thought I was sleeping with Spike to save his life," Buffy gasped, "So, you went to someone for comfort. Oh, David!"

She actually reached out and touched his cheek. He tried to take that opportunity to pull her into a kiss, but she pulled away. She wasn't ready for that. Not yet. David should have trusted her. She could understand why he would think she would do anything to save a life. She understood how awkward it was to ask him for help to save Spike, and yet he was doing it. But, when it came to the two of them he should have known that the rules were different. She had screwed up and kissed Spike, but it had stopped there.

"No, it wasn't about comfort. It was about what I needed to do. If a meaningless yet pleasurable act will make things right, what's to lose? You slept with the vampire when he was evil," David said, "You are the best Slayer in history because you know how to affect the others around you. There was an opportunity to make him a very powerful ally and you---"

"What?" Buffy couldn't believe that she could actually get more shocked, "You think I prostituted myself to Spike so he'd help me fight the mission! I didn't sleep with him to get his help. I slept with him because---because---he made me feel something."

"But it didn't mean anything to you," he said, "It was just for the pleasure of it and there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all, especially when the end result probably kept the world turning, no?"

No! No! Buffy just stood frozen studying this man's face who she'd been with for half a year. What was he saying? Who the fuck was he? She realized she'd so much rather have the other people in her life looking at her with hurt eyes, instead of these pleasant ones. She'd so much rather have someone yelling at her and telling her she was being a hypocrite than to say these things he was saying in the way he was saying them. Like it all meant nothing at all. No one had ever made her feel so horrible.

"It wasn't to keep the world turning and it meant---it meant something," Buffy said desperately as tears sprang into her eyes.

For some reason it was the sudden thought of Faith that made her cry. Faith, grabbing a hold of that beautiful but totally shady girl that would probably just fuck her over. Faith, giving her a kiss on top of her head after Buffy tried to get her to sleep with Spike. Faith would pretend all of this meant nothing, but it couldn't be true. If it all meant nothing Faith would have slept with Spike. If it meant nothing she wouldn't be reaching out and grabbing to touch people all the time. How could Buffy do that to Faith? What was she thinking? Yes, this wasn't the first time she was asking herself this, but this time felt the worst.

"But you told me yourself that when you were with the vampire when he was soulless it meant nothing to you. You told me you valued him after you were able to change him into a worthy man. It's okay for things to mean nothing sometimes, amore."

"No!" Buffy cried now.

Why was he saying such awful things? She looked at him and she saw that he had true concern for her tears. The thing was, unlike Spike, he had no idea he was saying awful things to her. Spike! She cried more when she was just about to stop. Buffy wasn't the one who changed Spike into a good man. At least not the way David was saying it, like she put a secret chip in his head or something. Buffy never thought Spike was worthless when she was sleeping with him, did she? She said it meant nothing, but it didn't mean nothing.

"Maybe it didn't mean everything, but it never meant nothing!" Buffy said.

"Don't cry amore. Trust me when I say this vampire truly meant nothing to me," he said, "I knew you wouldn't like knowing about this, but if I knew it would break your heart so…I won't have anymore affairs like this since they hurt you so much."

"Affairs, plural. Was there an 's' on the end of that?" Buffy demanded, but she found that she didn't care as much as she thought.

Her pain was coming from somewhere else. Some place deeper she couldn't name that was beyond all this boyfriend shit. She was in a place where she wished she was dead again, and it had nothing to do with this guy, and everything to do with her.

"I know it's hard for you to understand someone like me at times, and that's why I love you. You must believe I love you. You must believe that tonight with that crazy cow meant nothing," he said.

"It doesn't matter what I believe," Buffy said, "I could never love someone like you."

"Just give me a chance. If you want me to go away I still will," the guy said.

"How can you expect that? I never thought you were coming back. You just left me here," the girl said way too dramatically.

Over acting much?

"Please, Sarah…" the guy said.

Please was right. This had to be the dumbest movie ever, but it was the only thing on in English Buffy hadn't seen. What was it with Italians and slasher movies? This town was way stupider than Sunnydale. There was a deranged minor that hated Valentine's day because he was trapped under a mine during a Valentine's dance. So, what do the people do? They have a Valentine's dance in the mine of course. At least in that other Valentine's day slasher movie the killer had been a hottie. Well, the inane stupidity was getting Buffy's mind off of things. It wasn't like she could do a thing about any of the things that were bothering her. Except think about them at nausea which she wasn't going to do.

Girls on their patrolling schedules—check. Funds and fund raising in order despite the personal disaster she had with one of her biggest financial backers—check.

David had long agreed that he would keep funding and/or helping Slayer Corp. despite anything personal that happened between him and Buffy. He had even signed a contract stating this when he asked Buffy out the first time. At the time she thought it was ridiculous, now not so much. Was this how her life was going to be? Was she the kind of woman that needed dating pre-nups?

All big bads under control—check. All girls and Scoobies out of mortal peril—check.

Yeah, the girls and her family were okay, but so much for the people in between. Buffy caught Faith bringing that Gwen girl around the Slayers, and yes, the girl's name was Gwen, just like Faith's old evil Watcher. Well, she didn't exactly catch Faith bringing her around because she never told Faith she couldn't do it, and it wasn't like Faith was sneaky about it. They were pretty much jointed at the hip.

While Faith wasn't sneaky, Gwen was still really shady as far as Buffy was concerned. She had Giles do a full search on her and he came up with virtually nothing accept for someone saying that she looked somewhat like a girl rumored to be an international spy named Lisa. Buffy had even tried to go through Gwen's stuff once, but Gwen at caught her! Giles told Buffy that there was no reason to assume Gwen was bad because she was "saucy." If it wouldn't make Buffy throw up she'd think Giles was letting his testosterone trust Gwen. So…Buffy had to come up with some new rules and regulations on when and how and who the Slayer's should reveal their Slayerness too. Leave it to Faith to force Buffy to have to come up with stupid rules.

The only good thing about Gwen was that Kennedy didn't seem to like her either. Buffy wished she didn't think that was a good thing, because it really wasn't. Kennedy may be a difficult Slayer. She was like a Faith jr. with a college diploma who never went crazy and started killing people, but she was also Willow's girlfriend. If Kennedy wasn't happy Willow wasn't happy and Buffy really wanted a happy Willow.

Willow might not be happy anyway because of the other thing that had happened the past few days. Or the thing that hadn't happened the past few days, which was Spike. Leave it to poor Will to feel responsible to not find the perfect spell to save the life of a mean century old ghost boy. His ghosty-ness had disappeared sometime he and Buffy had their same scripted fight. Dawn said she thought she saw him in her room saying good bye to her, but she thought it had been a dream. It had taken Buffy forever to get that out of her sister. She thought Dawn had been mad because of the Buffy's Spike and Faith having sex idea, and Buffy never got why Dawn was so mad about that in the first place.

But Buffy realized it had been wrong—very wrong for her to suggest that idea, even though it was only a suggestion. She couldn't put into words just why it was so wrong, but after her last night with David she knew it was. With her luck Spike will have vanished and she'll never get to say any of this to him…and in some ways maybe that would really be luck because how well could that whole conversation go.

Slayer, you've really turned out to be a piece of work. I know I was your slave, but to be a whore, just so you could feel better about yourself.

Of course, Faith seemed to be in her face all the time and Buffy never even attempted to say anything about the sex suggestion. She could see Faith gloating and saying more insulting things, or blowing it off and yet saying more insulting things. Why bother apologizing to her if she was just going to react the same way whether Buffy apologized or not? Faith didn't seem any worse for wear. She was on to her new toy Gwen and she didn't seem to miss Spike at all. Not that Buffy brought Spike up around Faith. Faith would probably just remind Buffy how Spike got what he wanted and died, and shouldn't they have a party for him.

But Spike wasn't gone, he was not dead. He couldn't be. He wouldn't end things like that with Buffy, not like that. He'd find away to come through, to get back to at least end things well, wouldn't he? Yes, Buffy had been very angry at him. She had told him that the quest to save his life was over, that he got what he wanted. But, he couldn't think that was true. He couldn't think that she'd give up on him like that, unless he thought she had become some horrible person.

Yeah, Slayer. Why would I think you'd do something just because you said it? I'd be a bloody fool.

So what if she was a horrible person! Why would he just give up like that, decide to stop living just because of her? It wasn't fair!

Guess what Slayer some things, like a man's death, have nothing to do with you, and that just kills you, doesn't it? Did it ever occur to you that I'm really dead? That I can't get back to you. Bloody hell just let me rest in peace!

"Stop it!" the girl on the TV yelled and smacked the other girl, "Can't you see he's dead? Now get up. C'mon we have to go!"

The blonde was leading the blubbering brunette out of the mine as she didn't want to lead her pick axed boyfriend behind.

"We're gonna make it!" the blonde yelled, "You're gonna make it!"

Buffy wished she would shut-up. She was more annoying than the hysterical screaming girl. Then, a guy in a minor suit jumped out in front of them and they screamed. God! Why was Buffy watching this crap? She had hundreds of DVDs. What could she go for? Something stupid, but not like this slasher stuff too much like real life. Maybe something from the Ringwald/ John Hughes collection, now there was surrealism. No, that had too many men, and she couldn't stand to see Ducky not hook up with the girl of his dreams one more time. Thelma and Louise, no that had the whole- let's-go-down-together-theme, depressing. "Under the Tuscan Sun," was she kidding? Okay, she had to do something, the mining men were still popping up and the girls were still screaming.

Then all of a sudden she was one of those screaming girls with a man popping up out of nowhere. Well, it was only a little yelp.

"Where have you been?" Buffy demanded as she looked at the typical frown/grin on Spike's face when he reappeared like this.

"Would you believe me if I said I went out to get fags," he sighed.

If Faith were here that would become another gay joke. Thank God Faith wasn't here, even though Buffy was standing frozen by her oak cabinet with some stupid movie with an Italian lover in her hand.

"God, what are you watching? They could at least try to make the blood look real," Spike said.

He was good at the whole pointless conversation thing when he wanted to be.

"I guess that's a dumb question, huh?" Buffy sighed ready to face the truth, "That's the longest you've been gone. Are you starting to remember where you go?"

"I remembered this time," he said sitting on her crème couch putting his hands on his black denim knees.

"Please tell me it wasn't Hell," Buffy said softly.

"Pretty much, I was in England in a hole. Awful weather this time of year and the company wasn't much better," he said.

"Oh thank God," she said, "I'm so glad you're back I really thought---Wait. You went to England! I think you're gone, maybe forever, and you're in England drinking in some pub? You should have gone to work at the Wolfram and Hart there, since that's what you like to do when I think your dead."

"I don't think they'd hire me with our past history and I never worked for---Look, I was in Nowhere Land for about a day's time. Then, I decided to take my reappearing disappearing self to the mother country. Since, the last time we talked you didn't exactly—"

"I know what I said, and it was wrong," Buffy said," But, I think you're wrong too, Spike, wrong to give up. You have to be here for a reason."

"I'm not---"

"I don't want to here it," Buffy said, "So sometimes I can be a little…over-focused on the big picture. I know and I don't think about how other people might feel when I see a way to fix a problem. But, it's not because I don't care about their feelings it's because I want to do what's best in the end for everyone. Of course I know that you have the right to make your own choices, you have a right to decide how you want to save yourself and with who, and if you want to save yourself. I'd never get in the way of that. If that's what it seemed like I was doing it wasn't. I wasn't trying to use you to save yourself or anyone—I wasn't trying to hurt---"

"Are you apologizing to me?" he asked with his forehead totally wrinkled up in knots.

"Yes Spike," Buffy said," Enjoy it. I'm saying you were right and I was wrong. You got a gold star, while I have to stay in at recess. You won the beauty pageant while everyone talks about how flat I looked in my bikini during the swimsuit competition. You're the home coming queen, while I'm the dateless nobody in the corner."

"Okay, stop," he said seriously, "as much as I'm enjoying these metaphors where I have stars and attractive bosoms, it's not about whose on top because that would always be you, as long as we're in keeping with just the metaphors anyway. Buffy, it doesn't matter if you made a mistake; everyone's allowed to do that especially you. What matters is that you are a glowing wonderful woman that always tries her damnedest to do what's right."

"How can that be all that matters if I make a mistake and everything gets even more screwed up and people I love die?" she pleaded.

Great she was pleading to him, about what? What could he do? She realized how ridiculous and bratty she was being. You stop that dying right now, Spike. She realized how stupid she had been through this all along, and that was probably why he didn't come back here in the first place.

"Because that's the way it bloody is, Buffy. Things go really wonky and then straight to hell sometimes. No matter how well you play the game people are going to get hurt and die. It's one of those bloody awful things real people have to do no matter what and it's not your responsibility or anyone else's to stop."

"But don't real people have to at least try?" she did more pointless pleading; "Even if they can't stop it at least they should try to put it off or make it better or do something."

"I suppose real people can try to do anything they like. As long as it's not entering some pageant with a swimsuit contest or a homecoming queen prize, I mean, what kind of pointless prattle is that? But who am I to say? Not exactly a real person here with the whole temperamental ghost thing going on."

"You've been the realest person to me these last couple of days," Buffy said in her not crying strong voice now.

All of what he had said actually made her smile. She was sitting across from him on the crème couch, and then he started to get that look on his face. The strong but needy look, like he wanted her to do much more than say nice things about him. She wished he wouldn't do that. Couldn't he see she wasn't able to save him like he wanted?

"I mean, you know, you've been the most honest," she said quickly as she looked away and then got off the couch, "Not that you've had a lot of competition. Between my encounters with Faith and David, oh and let's not forget Faith's new bitchily enigmatic girlfriend that seems to know all about me, not to mention all Slayers, I feel like I've run the triathlon of mind games. At least when you play mind games with me it's a straightforward boxing match."

"Did you just say that perfect sculpture of a man is playing mind games with you? Davy Crocket, Mr. Immortal, isn't treating you right?" he asked plainly.

"Yeah, Davy Crocket. Hmm, maybe he is the real king of the wild frontier," Buffy quipped, then she frowned and looked back at Spike, "Wow, maybe he is the real king of…Anyway, you caught that, huh? I thought I would throw in all that other stuff about Faith and Faith having this new mean sexy girlfriend and that would distract you. So you wouldn't gloat over the millionth bad boyfriend choice."

"See now, you never said the Slayer's new pet was sexy, just bitchy and mysterious. A doxy bint will raise anyone's eyebrow, but I'm through with the mysterious lot. That's your thing," he told her, "I always figured I was too forthright with you, I should've used more smoke and mirrors."

"The disappearing ghost going-off-this-plane-or-to-England-thing you're doing now totally gets mysterious points, you know?" she felt herself grinning flirtatiously.

"But, I'm totally through with mysterious too," she reassured him and turned away,
"Totally through. The next guy I have, which will be about a million years from now, I want to know where he is at all times and what he's doing and who he's with and if their alive and—"

"So, he cheated on you with a vampire, did he?"

Buffy whipped her head around to him quickly to see a perfect mixture of a smug-sympathy grin. He wasn't gloating, even though he figured it all out.

"Can you believe it? I mean he's supposed to be the ultimate hero!" Buffy groaned and collapsed back on the couch with drama like Spike was her long lost high school girlfriend.

She hadn't talked to anyone about what actually happened between her and David. It was all too humiliating.

"Yeah, I mean it's been known to happen, ultimate hero's going for that cold blooded thing for the rush. Though I don't think that the old boy was the ultimate hero between the two of you. I know him to be the cold blooded one."

"You wouldn't be the first to say that about him, you know? I know he has a lot of good in him, I mean, all I saw was the good in him," Buffy sighed and ran her hands through her hair.

She hadn't even tried to put her head around all of the David thing yet. There was too much going on as usual and she hoped there'd be too much going on for the next 40 or 50 years.

"He has all this power, and he really spends most of it doing what he can to rescue kids and puppies. I know he makes deals with demons from time to time, but who hasn't? " Buffy insisted and she found Spike wasn't arguing, "But, the way he was using his power the last time I saw him. It's a place I don't ever want to go. The scary thing was he almost convinced me it was all okay. The cheating, the way he sees things, does things, I could almost believe it was all okay. I was so close. I have to be careful. It's cliché but I'm weak around men."

"That's bullocks!" Spike grumbled and Buffy braced herself for the worst kind of attack.

It wasn't like she didn't deserve it. She had been stupid and weak again.

"You're never weak, at least not like that, and that's where it counts. The Immortal maybe the ultimate charmer, but he goes to bed with demons and you'd never do that, not ever!"

"Um hello?" Buffy snorted as she felt her eyes widen in surprise, "Did you get brain damage in your last fade away or are you trying to be funny?"

"I thought you'd realize we'd gone back to metaphor. Keep up," Spike said, "You tried your hardest through everything to do right by everyone except maybe yourself. You'd never do something to gain more power just to have it, even though you know that you'd probably wield it better than anyone."

"Would I? Would I really? There are a lot of things I haven't done right, I'm mean to people sometimes just because I can be," Buffy had to pause to hold in a sob and she hated it, "Because they forget I'm the Slayer, at least David is never mean to anyone without a real reason."

"You're not mean," he said.

"You're just saying that----to make me feel--- better," she sobbed.

This was nothing compared to how she had cried over the cheating. What she had done to Spike and Faith by suggesting what she had, she really had no intention of it being cruel, but maybe deep down in some way she had. Was she trying to ruin whatever it was that was between Faith and Spike? And the things she had said to both of them after, and the way she had wished them away, and the way they had both went away in their different ways. Faith with that girl that was probably going to cause her trouble, and Spike, Spike had just been gone. Then every mean thing she had ever done seemed to pour into her mind. Why had she started that rumor that Missy Bell smelled in fifth grade? It was because she thought Ford might like her.

"Well," Spike asked as Buffy sat in tears, "Is it working?"

Buffy laughed and cried at once.

"Look," he said, "You may come of as a bit controlling at times, but that's only because you care. It doesn't matter how much you like to gripe about getting the short end of the stick because you always help. You truly want to help for the sake of helping no matter where that leaves you. That's a glowing goodness you can't buy or sell or shag to get."

She just turned to him and looked straight into his eyes. Very solid, very blue. He had his resolve face that may not be as cute as Willow's but it was a lot damn sexier.

"All that being said though," he said a bit too loudly after the silence, "You have bloody tragic taste in men."

"As long as we're stating the obvious I just want to come out and say that when you're solid you are a real man," Buffy decided to say.

"Yeah," he said, "That's stating the obvious with some subtle sexual overtones."

"No, I mean, when you become corporeal when you're touching me or Dawn. Or Faith. You're human," she said.

"You noticed that did you?" he grinned a little sheepishly, "I was kind of hoping you wouldn't."

"Why not?"

"It's embarrassing for one. I mean if I'm not a vampire what am I?" he asked looking straight at her face as he ran his hand over his bleached blond hair.

"You're a man," Buffy answered, "God, Spike, don't you know that? You may have been a vampire forever, but for a long while now you've been a good strong man."

"Yeah, I'm still strong, bloody well strong. Sometimes I think I may even be a bit stronger, or maybe that's just wishful thinking... Not that it matters in the least," he sighed.

"Because you really think your dying," she found her voice was trying to run away, "You don't want to die you just don't think there's anything we can do."

"Well, there's that," he rolled his eyes as if dying was really inconvenient, "and there's the fact that you don't want a man, not one that's really human... You like a bit of a monster in there."

"I think you're right in a way," she sighed, "I think I like them a little bad, but I definitely want a real man and I need him to be someone stronger than hell."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure you'll find someone like that," he said.

"You mean someone like you," she said.

"Yeah, I mean as long as it's no one from your old lot," he told her, "Forget The Immortal, forget vampires forget---Wait what?"

"Someone like you, that's what I want. Not that I want you, not that I don't want---," she stopped for her mouth to spit out her foot, "I mean I don't want anyone, really. I don't want a relationship. I mean I didn't want a relationship, but if I did it would be with someone like you. "

"I completely understand—"he said something.

"I mean," she laughed, "Of course if I still believed that stupid theory of mine… "

"It was pretty stupid," he said as she couldn't seem to stop laughing, "and even if it did have the slightest chance of working imagine basing a relationship on that. 'How did you two get together?' 'Well you see, if she doesn't shag me blind I become a sodding ghost and disappear, so it was all very convenient' "

"That would be the worst," she laughed.

"We'd be right back where we started," he said.

"With the ever present threat of you disappearing forever, to really add to the doom," she added.

"As if the doom needed any adding with us," he said.

"With our luck I'd be wrong and us getting together would kill you," she said

"Oh no, it couldn't be that simple, it would kill us both and take out Vatican City here so we'd have a bit a' extra karma to work off," he said.

Buffy cackled and grabbed her stomach and then she stopped.

"At least we're smart enough to realize that now," she said.

"This isn't a good idea," she said.

She was climbing him, riding him, no not yet she wanted to be riding him though why wasn't she yet? Oh yeah clothes, clothes in the way.

"It's one of your worst," he said in between kissing and breathing, "if you're doing it to try to save my life."

His lips were so…To save his life? Oh, yeah that. God, he could go away soon! Disappear at any minute. No! That couldn't happen. Not when his body was so solid, so solid and giving off such heat, sweat. Sweat that she could taste as her tongue was in his ear. She wouldn't let him go. She gripped on to his back tightly and drank in his mouth and then pulled back to look at him.

"Saving your life would just be gravy," Buffy said, "I want to touch you."

Her hands traveled down his pants. She felt the familiar bulge that was crushing her hand up against the denim as she worked to get room she squeezed a little. He bit his lip and tilted her back by her thighs. She felt a lot of uneven bumpiness up against her back-- her head. Oh yeah, stairs. There were stairs in her place. Her place in Rome where she now lived and was now climbing on her back like an upside-down crab as she hooked her claws and mouth into Spike. Spike.

"Spike?" she whispered, "Is this really happening?"

She ran her hands through his white-blond hair that looked like it was loosing its gelled back look and kinking at the ends.

"God," he said as he gazed at her, "I hope so."

She grabbed his head and pulled him down into a locked kiss. He pulled her embroidered outer-wear camisole over her head and off as he unclasped her bra with his other hand. So his new body or new humanness hadn't affected that skill. He was caressing her breasts- licking them. It was when she started to take off his clothes when she started giggling with moaning.

"Haven't reached the tickle place yet," he whispered almost shyly as she unbuttoned his pants.

"I just don't get how this ghost thing works at all," she said tracing his nipples, "The clothes get ghostified too, but you can take them off, and they feel like normal clothes, just like you feel like normal you. It would almost make more sense to me if you were like Casper with your clothes painted on all permanent."

"Casper didn't have any clothes," Spike said with misery as he looked away and tried to pull away from her.

"I'm sorry you're right," she said, "But don't get mad. I just wasn't as up on that cartoon. Ask me anything about 'Scooby-doo' and I promise I'll get it right."

She rolled them over so she was on top before he could pull any further away. She couldn't believe that they weren't having sex yet. Maybe he was really trying to make the bed this time. Maybe all of this would be harder on his back being human. He looked like he was trying to do that mad face where he stuck out his chin but it was kind of giving up midway and looking sad. What she couldn't make jokes about him being a ghost? Just him and everyone else?

"Spike," she said, "You feel real to me. That's all that matters."

"I AM real when I'm with you. When I'm with you, I'm not a ghost. I'm a man. I thought you said that you could live with that. Not that you'd be living with it for very long, which is prolly why you're so gung ho to do it."

"You think I want you because I can't have you," she stated, leaning back on her heels and biting her lip.

She was so tired of this. Why did she have to prove everything to everybody all the time? She could only be herself.

"And you deserve better than that, Buffy. Better than The bloody Immortal, better than Angel, better than me. You deserve a real man that can and will stick around," he told her as he sat up.

"No," she said smoothing his cheek sitting on him, "David could and would have stuck around. It was easy for him with all his money and people taking care of things. It was easy for me because I never had to do much or prove anything. What I need is a real man that truly wants to stick around above anything else, and who will die trying to do it."

"Buffy, I—"

"And one who can shut-up every once in a while would be good too," she said.

And then kissed him like she was trying to suck the new found breath out of him. She finally got him inside of her with one smooth motion, and it was all a downhill, uphill, exciting, chilling, thrilling ride from there. She thought she might disappear into some kind of pleasure delirium because they reached the high note of just moaning and rocking and held it for so long. She shuddered when he got really bumpy under her and gripped her hips with all his grunting.

They did actually make it to the bed, thanks only to him gently pulling her there. She wanted to ask him if he could feel everything or did everything feel ghosty but her, since Italian sheets were really amazing, but she didn't want to make him ghost grumpy again.

She felt more relaxed about the whole disappearing ghost thing herself. Spike just felt so real and good and even better than the sheets. She mumbled a few jokes about all of that and nibbled at his hipbones before she took him into her mouth. The way he messaged her head while she did it made her have to go another round.

His humanness seemed to soften him a little. She really liked it or maybe it was his soul. They had never gotten grindy with the soul. They had done a lot of cuddling. It occurred to Buffy that this was the first time that they were doing both of these things together. It felt like they had never done these things apart, but it did feel like they had been apart.

"I missed you," Buffy said.

"I thought of you occasionally too," he said and laughed.

"Yeah," Buffy said, "We still got it, and now all we have to worry about is one impending tragedy."

He was pulling away from her too look at her again. Wow, those were some steel blue eyes when they were in the sun. Spike in the sun. She never thought about it. She had thought about it with Angel a million times, dreamed about it, wrote about it in her diary. With Spike she hadn't thought about it once, why would she? And it wasn't really because she hadn't seen herself having grandchildren with him. He was just so comfortable in his vampness and she was pretty comfortable with it too.

"Is it me you miss?" he asked, "Or is it this?"

He circled his fingers inside her and she totally forgot the question.

"Or is it being a player in a tragic farce?"

"Spike, I—"

"Oh forget it," he said and pulled her into him, "I don't care."

She was tired, really tired. The last thing she wanted was to be in a tragic farce, and it was definitely him she missed, well the sex too, but that was part of him. And it didn't matter whether he was a human or a ghost or a vampire or a vampire-ghost or a…whatever. He always loved her. He'd always been Spike, and that was the someone she wanted now. She was finding a way to tell him this when he vanished, very suddenly, with no fading.

"Shit," was all she could say and wait for him to come back.

The thing about being in a tragic farce was that the farce was always on you.