Do-right Woman, Do-Right man

"A woman's only human
This you should understand
She's not just a plaything
She's flesh and blood, just like her man
And if you want a do right all day woman
You've gotta be a do right all night man"

"No! Stop! Stop it!" Dawn was screaming.

Buffy couldn't help but roll her eyes as she ran with Slayer speed toward the large training room at the main Slayer Headquarters. Her sister had been visiting from school for all of four hours and she was being attacked by something. Buffy was really glad her sister decided to get out of the demon world and do what ever she was doing in college now. Political Science, at least it wasn't Philosophy.

Buffy came into the gym and elbowed the vampire in the face and he fell. The vampire was Spike. The vampire was Spike?

"Geez Buffy. High-strung much?" Dawn sighed, "You okay?"

Dawn asked Spike as she offered him a hand up. Dawn was offering Spike a hand up? Okay, there was so much that wasn't right with that. Of course, nothing had been right since Spike was here, or maybe it felt like things were right--right in a new way, but that was wrong. One of the many new wrong things was that Buffy's brain had gone into overdrive. Well, first things first.

"You can touch everybody now!" Buffy exclaimed to Spike, "Not just me? What happened? Did Willow finally find a good spell while I was teaching?"

"No," Spike said firmly, "There is no spell. This isn't something magic can fix."

"So, it just went away by itself? I told you!"

Buffy didn't understand why Spike was being so negative about all of this. He had been Mr. Happy Dance when they discovered Buffy could hit him, and well, touch him. He said it was "the poetry of it" and that the Powers had a sense of humor. Spike thought he could only touch Buffy because of the "emotion she evoked" in him. (Sometimes he talked like an old English guy now. Well, he was an old English guy, but…Maybe it was from hanging out with Wesley. Wesley who he had been friends with and somehow it would have been all so funny if Wesley wasn't dead.) Buffy knew that couldn't be it. She knew she couldn't be making Spike feel something that made him all touchable. And even if it was true, it was a sign that he wasn't a ghost, or good-bye gift, or whatever he was so sure he was. It was a sign that he was supposed to be here--that he was getting better.

"No," Spike said, "It's not going away. It's not a cold, Slayer."

"Hey Casper, Pipsqueak, B," Faith said casually as she strolled past them in nothing but a black sports bra and spandex shorts.

As Faith passed by she reached out her hand and ran it through Spike's head. There seemed to be this "whoosh" sound that happened sometimes when other people tried to touch Spike. The "whoosh" didn't happen with everybody, most of the time when other people touched him there was no sound at all. Maybe the "wh oosh" was a sign he was getting more solid; unless it was a sign he was getting less solid. Faith seemed to think the "whoosh" was a great novelty.

"Hey," Spike and Dawn said in unison as if the three of them saw each other everyday and Faith brushed her hand through Spike's head.

She had Kennedy bounding after her as usual. They were going to train. Kennedy had to soak up all the Faith time she could possibly get, because apparently Faith was the coolest thing ever. Buffy had accidentally seen Kennedy present Faith to one of the Slayer classes she had taken over. She said Faith was "the real deal" because she was "street" and "had done it all solo without any glory." Yeah, it was hard to be glorious when you were in jail for murder.

"Hey, that is kind of cool," Kennedy said as she stopped near Spike as if he were a sculpture.

Kennedy began poking through Spike with her fingers like he was a baking cake. All of them stood on the refinished waxed gymnasium-like floor by a training matt. Well, Spike would say he wasn't really standing there, but he was, damn it! Faith was already across the room at the punching bag. Buffy was expecting Spike to give Kennedy one of his good tellings-off for poking him. She was kind of looking forward to it, but Spike was barely giving the girl a glare. He looked bored.

"Nothing," Kennedy said to no one in particular as she poked Spike, "Faith says you feel a little hot, but I get nothing. Well, that isn't much different from every guy I've touched. So, this is the reason my girl is locked up in a room with Giles--you. She's gone all hardcore research mode trying to save your ass. I tell ya, Willow is the real super hero around here. She's the best."

"Red's probably one of the best, but I had the best in LA. Fred really wanted to save me; it wasn't just about cracking a code. Fred had passion," Spike said.

"Willow has passion, vamp," Kennedy said, "Believe me she has---

"We all know that Will rules. What's going on? You just touched Dawn," Buffy asked Spike.

Buffy really wasn't interested in hearing about the passion Willow had from Kennedy's perspective at the moment. She also didn't think it was a good idea to talk about this girl Fred. Buffy knew she was the one who died after Cordy. The one she couldn't help. Not that she could help any of them. Buffy would help Spike.

"Maybe it's only with girls he can get somewhere with," Kennedy said.

"Oh, don't even…" Dawn began when all Buffy could do was give Kennedy a look.

"In a manner of speaking she's right," Spike said, "I knew if I could touch Buffy, I could touch Dawn too."

"And on that note I'm outta here," Kennedy snorted and went to join Faith.

"Yeah and I was so kicking your butt in training until you cheated with the tickling thing. What am I, twelve?" she said.

"No," Spike assured her, "You're a very beautiful woman, Nib. I always knew you would be, but I'm still surprised at how much. Glad I got to see it especially with out you setting me on fire and all."

Buffy felt a familiar dull ache that she thought happened in her chest, but she could never quite place it. She should be happy Dawn and Spike made up. It wasn't that she was upset about it, but if Spike…left again. Before she could think anymore Dawn was talking:

"Well, if I tried to set you on fire it probably wouldn't take, you'd go all poof. Hey, maybe we can try it, as an experiment. The last time you died it was from fire so maybe setting you on fire would make you solid again," Dawn said as if Spike hadn't said anything about her being beautiful.

As if she didn't care that she was beautiful, or "all woman sized" as Faith would say. It was like her and Spike had never been apart, but they had been. And Dawn was still a dork! A beautiful woman-sized dork. Who in their right mind would think setting someone on fire was a good idea?

"It couldn't hurt," Spike shrugged to Dawn, "Well; maybe it would, but if you really wanted to try it…Just remember what I said. Don't get your hopes up. I think the real point in all this was to make peace with you and now it's done."

"Maybe," Dawn filled in the gap of silence that Buffy couldn't, "But who knows maybe fire is the key."

"Do you listen to yourself when you talk? Both of you," Buffy said

Maybe she said it a little too loudly, or maybe there was just an echo bouncing off the steeple sealing that fell in between the echoes of Faith's punches at the bag.

"Buffy, you gotta relax. I really don't miss the old high-strung-fighting-The-First-Buffy, and you can't let this do that to you," Dawn said.

"I was not high strung with The First. I'd say I was strung just right to play my little tune in order to get rid of the origin of all evils," Buffy said to her sister.

"I agree," Spike smiled, "That was a good tune you played, a good move you made, making all these Slayers to beat the biggest bad back."

He looked over at Faith and Kennedy training. They had been joined by those three Slayers that always hung out together that were kind of obnoxious. Not that they weren't good. All the girls here were good. They had to be, but these three were all Scottish, and had these really thick accents. It took Buffy hearing them a few times to realize they were speaking English. She could always understand the cursing that they did constantly. They really were in love with the "c" word. Xander called them Larry, Moe, and Curly and because of that Buffy could never remember their real names.

"I didn't do it alone. You played some notes," Buffy said as she put her hand on Spike's arm because she could.

"Can't it just be like this," Spike sighed in a way that made Buffy pull back her arm.

Buffy was going out with David. David, The Immortal, was fun and exciting, and yes, even a little bit of a bad boy. Yet with David there would be no deaths or heartbreak or little sister's losing innocence by proxy because she slept with him. David would never tell her she didn't care enough because he was stronger than that. That's what Buffy needed, the strongest guy in the universe. She knew that was a tall order but luckily she was The Chosen Slayer. Faith was right--being a hot chick with superpowers did have its perks.

"I mean," Spike smirked as if he read her mind, "Can't it just be a reminiscent sweet good-bye. Can't we just have a good laugh and talk about the things we did. I mean the things that we did that are fit for civilized conversation. I just got out of a doomed fight, and I don't want to go back into one. Especially one with no purpose but pain."

"You want to have a civilized conversation?" was all Buffy could get out of her mouth.

Yeah, right. Nothing could be any less civilized than his conversation. Why did he have to talk so much? It wasn't just that he talked a lot; it was that his words hit so hard.

"Going back to your roots there, English? Trying to get all civilized and Victorian again. Sounds like selling out. You know what they say. Everyone's roots are really in Africa," Faith was standing next to Buffy now talking as usual.

She did it far too much too. Buffy always found she was reeling about things they both said. People didn't have to talk like this. People could say things that were less direct and made sense. Somehow Spike and Faith said things very directly that Buffy still didn't understand. What did Africa have to do with anything? They talked this way on purpose. They should both shut-up more.

"Shut-up, Slayer," Spike barked.

Buffy was going to say that she hadn't said anything, but she gladly realized that Spike hadn't been talking to her. Well, almost gladly.

"There's no way to stop this, Buffy. I was given this gift to say goodbye, and that's all I want to do," Spike said.

Yeah, he had said this a bunch of times already, and Buffy just ignored it. But, there was something about the way he was saying it now that was making it harder to ignore.

"So, you're saying death is your gift," Buffy said as she felt her nostrils flare, "Well, if that 's your gift to me, I don't want it."

"Here's a surprise," he said, "Not everything is about you. This is my gift--mine-- from the big man upstairs. I get to say good-bye to you. It's about me. It's what I want and that's that."

"No," Buffy said as she felt her voice get higher, "That is not that. That is the most moronic that I've heard. What happened to you? Did that place change you? The Spike I knew always tried. The Spike I knew fought for what he wanted bravely, and annoyingly, and sometimes evilly but you always---"

"Hello! Am I speaking Chinese? This is what I want. Look, I don't want to upset you Buffy, but there's---"

"Well, you are upsetting her!" Faith said and Buffy heard the whooshing sound of Faith trying to shove him, "And you seem to be fighting pretty hard to do it. So, I think that means that you want to upset her. And I think that means that you're a liar. In fact, I know you're a liar and---"

Faith hit Spike now. It was more of a shove really but she seemed to have moved his body. No, he had to be just reacting out of reflex.

"I don't like liars," she finished, "Tell her, or I will."

"I am not lying about anything!" Spike returned Faith's pseudo-shove by hitting her in the face.

Spike had just punched Faith in the face and there was so much wrong with that, and none of them were that Faith couldn't take a hit to the face. She returned Spike's hit really well.

"What I want," he said as he grabbed Faith by the shoulder straps of her sport's bra and backed her into the white brick wall, "is to have a nice peaceful time where no one gets hurt."

"Ow!" Spike said as Faith head-butted him down.

Buffy finally got over her shock enough to run over and hit Faith. It wasn't too difficult when all Faith was doing was standing there, but she could have started kicking the downed Spike at any minute.

"Bastard," Kennedy ran over and said, as she apparently viewed this as Spike's fault even though Faith started it.

She was trying to stake Spike. Buffy grabbed the Unchosen Slayer by the wrists as she tried to draw the stake down.

"What are you guys doing?" Faith laughed.

Buffy swore Faith wouldn't think this was funny when it was over. Then, Buffy saw the three Scottish Slayers trying to hit Spike with their Scottish fists going through him as he was laughing too. Okay, he wasn't going to think this was funny when it was all over either. Buffy grabbed him by the duster and hauled him up partially through one of the Three Stooges Scotts that were cursing and saying things Buffy couldn't understand for a change.

"What the hell is going on?" Buffy demanded looking into Spike's eyes that seemed to go wide with that concerned look all of a sudden.

What? He didn't think that lying with Faith would cause her pain?

"Yeah, what's going on, Spike?" Faith still laughed.

Then her voice got hard as she called over to the Scottish Stooges.

"Shut-up! That means you too, Violet. Just chill out. It's friendly fire. It happens sometimes with the boys. You'll learn," Faith told them.

They seemed to understand that. At least the shut-up part.

"Yeah, well," Kennedy said as she got up from where Buffy had thrown her, "I don't want any boy's fire aimed at me. Friendly or otherwise. I don't know how you do things, Buffy, but I was taught not to trust vampires. Kinda goes with the name 'Vampire Slayer.'"

"The shutting-up extends to you too, K," Faith said, "There's stuff going on here you don't understand."

"Her and me both," Buffy said, "Maybe she's on to something. Maybe I shouldn't trust vampires. "

Buffy never thought she'd be pairing herself with Kennedy, let alone someone who just tried to kill Spike. But, she could sort of identify with the feeling of wanting to stake him right about now. The only thing she couldn't identify with was Kennedy's obvious shock that Faith had hurt her. Spike could touch Faith, and he was hiding it. Faith, as usual, wanted Buffy to know she could touch a vampire just like Buffy could.

"Yeah, right," Faith said, "Go on and tell her what you told me last night."

"Last night?" Buffy demanded.

Then, Spike started to vanish. He had told Buffy that he was vanishing in and out, but she hadn't seen it for herself. Maybe part of her hoped he was being metaphoric, or he was making it up. She hated it. He faded out like one of those bad "Star Wars" holograms. It would be better if he just disappeared all at once. That way she wouldn't have to see his face, and that he knew it was happening.

"Oh, no you don't!" Faith grumbled and reached out to grab his hologramy wrist.

Buffy was thinking how Faith really could be a little slow, until Spike appeared solid again. No! That couldn't have worked.

"You know that doesn't work. It'll only give me a few seconds," Spike said to Faith.

"A few seconds is enough to say what you have to say," Faith said.

"Right, say it and then never come back again. Good plan, doe-eyes, that won't upset her," Spike scoffed.

And then he vanished with that sneer on his face. He was gone. Really gone. Buffy wondered what it was like for Faith to feel his wrist in her grasp and then have it fade out. Was it like if you held on to him when he turned to dust?

"He's so full of it," Faith said, "He's coming back. His Houdinis aren't happening any more than they were at first. He's just No-where man a little longer each time. It's like they get ten seconds longer each time, or maybe five or twenty seconds. I was kinda in the middle of something else when I decided to try and time it. But, maybe we got lots a' time. Maybe he'll start being gone for days, weeks, months before he goes to Hell completely."

"Goes to Hell?" Dawn demanded.

Kennedy and the Three Stooges seem to get bored with this. They told Faith they were leaving and she nodded 'good-bye' and didn't seem to see Kennedy's dramatic stompy exit.

"Yeah," Faith said, "At least that's where he thinks he's going. Makes sense after last time."

"Last time? When he'd disappear last time he went to Hell?" Buffy demanded.

"Yeah, I mean where else would he go. Murderer, right?" Faith shrugged.

"And it doesn't bother you that someone like Spike would go to Hell? A murderer?" Buffy demanded of Faith.

"That's not fair!" Dawn said, "He made up for the stuff he did. I--I thought he'd be the first person in my life who died I would get to say 'goodbye' too."

"Well, didn't you already say 'bye?' Didn't he tell you what was up? Besides, he's coming back, Pipsqueak but you still--"Faith began.

"Oh, what do you know?" Dawn yelled, "You were probably too drunk or high or half naked when you supposedly 'timed' his last disappearance to know anything. And no, he didn't tell me what was up. He didn't tell me he was going to Hell and he didn't tell me that you got your ho' hands on him."

"Dawn," Buffy chided and that was all she could let out of her mouth.

She held her lips tight together so nothing else would come spilling out that might sound like what Dawn said. It wouldn't be right to blame Faith for any of this.

"Pip," Faith grinned, "I really resent that. I wasn't drunk. Spike hadn't come up with the money yet to buy any hooch. Supposedly, this guy from like 1957 owed him some money and we were waiting for him to show with it. And if I remember I think I was fully dressed in a rather tasteful number from this fall's K-mart collection, a darling black T-shirt, set off with the perfect pair---"

Spike came back with this sneer still on his face.

"Oh no," Faith said mockingly, "I guess we'll have to finish the fashion chat later."

"What the hell happened last night?" Buffy demanded.

"I missed you too, love," Spike smirked.

"You tell me what happened now, or I swear, I'll make you both sorry."

"Last night," Spike looked confused, "Nothing really. We waited for Mouse and he never showed with the bloody money. So, we played some video games and I watched Faith get men to buy her drinks while she killed a few demons."

"And you touched Faith and she touched you. How did you figure that out?" Buffy demanded.

"That," Spike rolled his eyes, "I don't even remember. I think it was when she told me I was bitching like a woman and I went to smack her, or was it when I saved her from that Anexul demon in that bar? Or…I think it was when she said The Pistols were nothing but a boy band. Yeah, that was the first time I tried to hit her and made contact. A bloody boy band you really---"

"This is wasting time. Tell her what you told me," Faith said.

"It's not worth it. It doesn't mean anything," Spike said looking down now.

"Really? Because it seems like you've been telling Faith stuff that means a lot. You told her when you disappear you go to Hell," Buffy said.

"Well, I don't really know if that's true. It was just last time that was what happened. Look, it doesn't make any difference---"

"How can you say that?" Dawn demanded, "How can you say it doesn't make any difference? After everything you've done and how hard you've tried? We have to stop this, Spike. You can die all you want but you can't go to Hell. Not after I've forgiven you."

"I don't think you're the one that gets to make these decisions, nib," Spike said gently.

"I'm sorry," Dawn said, "I've--I have to go."

Buffy watched her sister run out of the gym.

"Wow," Faith said, "She's really grown up. Before she would just start bawling and run out. Now she says she's sorry. Plus, she called me a 'ho. Both signs that she's your average woman."

Buffy wanted to start screaming and calling Faith a 'ho or choking her. But she couldn' t. Those things were for other people to do and for her to stop. Spike was the one that was screaming now and choking Faith.

"You bitch! If I'm going to Hell you're coming with me," he said to Faith.

Buffy took a second to observe that he really had a good hold on her and that he probably could kill her right now if he wanted to. Then, Buffy knocked Spike off of Faith.

"All in good time, baby," Faith coughed and looked up at Spike, "All in good time."

Her eyes were all teary from being choked. That had to be why they were teary because Faith was smiling at him, but she kind of still looked sad. It couldn't be because she thought she was really going to Hell, or that Spike was. That was just stupid. No one here was going to Hell.

"You can't blame her for something you did too!" Buffy yelled at Spike now as she wanted to get back to what was really going on here.

Whatever that was.

"I didn't do it. I went out of my way to not do it. I did everything I could to not disrupt you and Dawn. All I wanted was to make you happy with my end and she has to bloody ruin it!"

"Yeah, you can see how you fading to black when you don't have to, like the world's biggest chump, is really going to make them jump for joy. If you could see B' s face when you start to go---"

"I do see her bloody face when I start to go, you stupid bint!" Spike yelled, "And that's why I don't want to give her false hope."

"What---what are you guys---You think the fact that you can touch Faith would give me false hope? That's why you didn't tell me about it?"

"What?" Spike looked at her confused, "What are you talking about---touching faith? Oh you mean touching The Slayer. Why would you think I'd want to hide that? You think I---"

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Faith grumbled, "What Spike is hiding is that their might be a way to save him. That waif girl Fred came up with a way to do it."

"And Fred is dead, so there isn' t--"Spike began.

"But that blue bitch goddess has all of Fred's memories, so all we have to do is play nice with her and---"Faith continued.

"And doing that is next to impossible; plus I'm not even sure how the Blue Meanie's memories work---"Spike continued.

"But, while we're trying to get a hold of the blue bitch to open her head up we can work on getting the stuff we need to make him solid which is--" Faith began.

"Which is this powerful nuclear energy of some such that's in the forbidden jungles of Africa no one will ever be able to find." Spike folded his arms.

God! The two of them together were like listening to Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, or poloticians. They wouldn't shut-up and they kept erasing what the other said.

"This was all that you were hiding from me. This was the big thing that you were hitting and choking each other for?" Buffy said.

"Hey, he hit me first and choked me second. I was just trying to save the bastard's life," Faith said.

"It's not going to save my life. It's just going to get their hopes up, and then I'm going to let them down again," Spike said quietly.

"Hey, join the club, I think we have jackets, but you can't lie to them," Faith said.

"I was not lying," Spike grumbled, "I wasn't sharing irrelevant information that would only cause pain. "

"Oh quit whining like a woman. You know that B wants to know that information, and that makes it relevant. You know what I think? I think you're just worried about the pain it'll cause if you do get solid. You wanted a nice little happy ending for your story and now it still has to be a question mark--that's what I think."

"Well, you aren't too smart. It was never going to be a happy ending, bitter sweet at best. I'm sorry I hurt you anyway, but did ya have to tell nib I was going to Hell?" Spike grumbled.

Sorry? He was sorry he choked Faith? Out of all the people he could apologize to, it had to be to Faith. The person who always thought they were justified and right somehow.

"Faith is right," Buffy said because she happened to be right about this, "You wanted it to be a happy ending for Dawn, and that's not right. If you're going to Hell she should know. She always liked you when she was younger because you were the guy that told the truth when everyone else couldn't."

"Really? Is that why Dawnie liked me? You're saying that like someone who really knows," Spike said with sad eyes, but somehow he also had that cocky raised eyebrow.

"Yeah," Buffy said as she ran her hand up his arm, "Even when you were evil you could do something for her other people couldn't. You always knew how to put it all to her."

"I guess it's just like how you could put it to B back when you were evil, but ya know, in an X-rated way," Faith said, "Oh, this was supposed to be one of those subtle things, wasn't it?"

"Slayer!" Spike grumbled.

"I know. I know. Why don't I go make myself a pot of coffee?" Faith smirked and then turned and left.

"She makes me so angry," Spike said.

"Really?" Buffy said, "'Cause you seem all touched by her."

"Touched by…Oh, that's only because she makes me so bloody angry, pet. Don't worry about it. If you want I can hit her some more," he said.

"I want you to be able to hit everybody not just her," Buffy said.

"And here I thought you were jealous," Spike smirked.

"She can't be making you that angry. Why--why did you tell her everything and not me?" Buffy said as she felt something rising up in her body like bubbling soda, but she refused to let it affect her voice.

"Don't worry Slayer. I still get angry at you too, like I am angry about you and this denial business. Besides, you and I were never much for talking," Spike said.

No! That wasn't true. They talked. They talked a lot. She told him things she wouldn't--couldn 't tell anyone else. Then, in the end, she talked to him just like she used to talk to Angel, about battling evil and being the Slayer, and how no one understood. In the end…but that wasn't really the end was it? Both Spike and Angel had gone on to do other things without her. Buffy didn't want to be a part of those things. The things that Spike and Angel had been doing since they were no longer in the world of Buffy seemed dangerous, stupid and wrong. Buffy had to go on with her life and forget them. It would hurt her too much if she didn't; it may even hurt the world. It wouldn't hurt Faith, or the world, if Faith was a part of those things.

"You told her because you wanted to be alone with Faith in your special club without me. You don't care about me enough to tell me the truth anymore because I didn't come help you in LA. I moved on, and I'm not a part of your world," Buffy said and she didn't care if her voice was affected.

Angel had to feel this way too. That was why he hadn't come around like Spike to tell her that he was okay. Angel had the decency to stay away to not make things hurt more. Spike had never been decent. Or maybe Spike was just more honest. No! Spike had just lied to Buffy. Maybe Angel was angrier at Buffy. You are not a part of my world anymore! You moved on. That's great. I can't! Of course, Angel had come back, twice, just like Spike, and said he was sorry and acted like he was eleven in that cute way he does. But, he hadn't come back again and his old words, back when Faith won, were ringing true now. Spike was saying that it was all over and it was time to say good-bye for good, and now Angel's words would be true forever.

"You moved into this whole different place, this different world, and then you blame me for it. What am I supposed to do? What was I supposed to do?" Buffy demanded at the bleached blond vampire that stood before her with the twisted up mouth.

"That's the bloody rub of it, Slayer!" Spike barked and it made Buffy want to withdraw from him and runaway like Dawn.

But, Spike had grabbed her arm as if he was reading her mind again. Spike seemed to revel in this mind-reading power. She didn't seem able to read Spike's mind or know what he was thinking anymore. Well, Buffy didn't want to be able to read Spike's mind. She was sure it would say how Spike was mad at Buffy for not saving him in LA, even though it was very clear she had never been invited to do it. They said they loved her for being something that they could never be, but they really hated her for it. All of them. Buffy wanted to run to David's place, The Immortal, just to not have to tell him what was wrong. She'd say she didn't want to talk about it, and she wouldn't have to. He'd take her somewhere she'd ask to go, like Via Luciani 21, and she'd put on a colorful dress and pretend to be like the rest of the women there. There only job was to be young and beautiful and slurp pasta, and everybody loved them because they were so good at their jobs. Buffy could pretend she was one of them. He'd make her feel like she was one of them.

"You're not supposed to do anything!" Spike yelled, "You were never supposed to do anything. I may've moved on to a different place, and now I may be moving on to a different place again, but I never moved on to a different world. You will always be my world, Buffy, and I didn't want to hurt my beautiful little world especially when it's doing so good with out me. So, I just went to another place to talk and drink and fight and do all the ugly things I do. But, I was a fool for a change. I should've known that making you see that there 's nothing you could do is the thing that would hurt you most---"

Spike had stopped talking. He had been yelling and then talking, and then talking in that sad-Spike-way, but he stopped. Buffy supposed it was the fact that she was kissing him had something to do with it. She had meant to just give him a little peck, and now they were really kissing. Maybe the only time she could ever give Spike a little kiss was that first time, when he was badly beaten and broken up. Maybe it was like trying to take a little piece of chocolate from a Toberlarone bar, or maybe she was just curious because Spike's mouth felt wet and warm, just like before. Maybe Dawn was on to something, maybe setting Spike on fire, or making him all hot in other ways, was truly the way to save him. That would be…that would be wrong, especially to David, who had done all of these great things for her, not to mention the Slayers. But, he said he was helping the Slayers because it was a good cause not because he wanted to date Buffy. Still…

"Spike," Buffy broke away from him, "This isn't a good idea. I mean maybe it is, for you. I mean maybe…doing what we did can save you. I mean, make you not a ghost, or whatever, and if it is…I'm sure we can find another way. I'm seeing someone, as you know."

"You think having physical ties to this world will keep me here," he laughed, "That's cute. Sometimes I wish I was still evil. It would be fun to convince you that sex was the only thing that could save me. Somehow I'd figure out a way to work in that we had to do it in public places, as well as private ones of course."

"It's not cute!" Buffy said as she could feel herself redden, "I mean stranger things have happened. Angel lost his soul because of sex with me and there was that time me and Riley got sucked up by that house and kept having to do it over and ov--"

"Okay, Slayer!" he grumbled, "One thing I know that will make me want to vanish from this earth is hearing about all your sexual misadventures with those Gits."

"Yeah," Buffy realized with a disappointed sigh, "I guess sex never led to anything good in my life--mystically speaking, I mean."

"See, this is exactly what I didn't want to happen," Spike frowned.

"Well, I didn't want...You really don't--don't want to be with me at all anymore," Buffy stammered as she saw the resolved look on Spike's face.

She sighed and collected her own resolvedness.

"You have moved on, like I'm trying---like I have. I guess a girl can't be too insulted if a guy picks going to Heaven over hanging out just to be her friend. I mean, Angel picked LA over hanging out and being my friend. It's like you said that time, 'We'll never be friends.'"

"Buffy, I know you know that I would stay here forever just to be your friend, even if they were letting me upstairs. What I didn't want to happen was this."

"What? More bad kissing decisions. We've gotten over that before-- kind of. I don't get it. You said that we could be friends just now-- didn't you?"

"I think that we could be--- Oh, what the hell am I saying? I think that--Look, it doesn't--" Spike stammered and sighed.

"What I didn't want to happen is what is happening right now," he said, "The only reason you want me now is because you can't have me. I'm a challenge to you, a tough nut to crack, a project, something to work for. I'm not something that's just handed to you anymore. It was like the time that you were invisible turned on its head. It's better to just have a good ending and not have it go on and on like you an' Angel. It's better for you and---"

"What the hell are you talking about? I'm not doing this to date you, Spike. I'm already dating someone, who isn't Angel by the way. Did Angel say that--- I'm doing all of this to save your stupid annoying life because that's what's right!" Buffy said.

She was outraged, livid, no, pissed.

"Oh is it really now? Well, little Miss Do-right it seems that you forgot to do the math. Let's see, this is the fourth time I've died now and none of the people I've killed got even a second chance at life as far as I know so--"

Spike had the nerve to sound like he was pissed too, so Buffy just had to show him he was wrong. She was the angry one.

"You are so stupid! Aren't you thinking about all of the people you've saved? Aren't you thinking that you are still around--alive--standing here for a reason other than to really piss me off. You're so stupid you can't even count how many times you've died-- it's three not four."

"Actually, it's four," he said calmly now, "There was a whole thing with the Blue Meanie Goddess. She killed everybody, but then she went back in time and made us all better."

"You died while you were with Angel twice?"

"Don't worry. I don't even remember it with that whole time paradox business. Angel just told me about it. He's the special one that gets to remember everything, apparently."

Buffy didn't think that having to remember horrible stuff like that sounded special at all, but she wasn't going to say that to Spike. Then, he'd never shut-up.

"Well, then, that time doesn't really count," she said instead.

"I dunno, maybe you're right," Spike said thoughtfully now, "Maybe I just liked saying I escaped death yet again, back when I was alive. Well, undead. Well, you could count that time the chip almost killed me and you saved me almost as a half a time, and the time with the Blue Meanine as half---"

"Shut-up!" Buffy snapped, "I get it. You're stupid. You want to die. Well, I don't care. I'm still going to work my ass off so you don't and you can't stop--"

"The only stupid one here is you. I do not want to die. I'd do anything I could to live, but I wouldn't do anything to you and your ever expanding group of Musketeers. The problem is that I'm already dead, and bringing me to life is going to cost whoever's corporeal hands grab at the power to make it so. And that's just what I bloody don't want. That's the definition of sacrifice, Slayer. It's giving up something you want for the good of something bigger than yourself. It's not working yourself to the bone to get what you want because you don't like being hurt, or maybe because you do like it."

The sound of Buffy slapping his so-called-non-corporeal face echoed in the gym.

"Fuck you!" She yelled.

She couldn't even believe she thought she was mad before. Now she was really mad. She forgot how Spike makes you think you feel one thing only to realize you hadn't really been feeling that way at all until the minute he really made you feel it. Maybe it was the minute he really wanted you to feel whatever emotion it was--anger, love, hate, confusion, pity. And if that was true he could go fuck himself all the more.

"How dare you say that to me?" Buffy spat.

Sacrifice was the thing that kept Buffy from being what she wanted--just a girl. She didn't even have to dip down to think of all the things she gave up in order:

Being the girl everyone liked on the outside, being the pretty LA cheerleader, being the new girl in Sunnydale everyone could have liked, being the pretty Sunnydale cheerleader, dating cute boys, dating any boys, seeming at least semi-normal in school and at home, (Maybe if she seemed more normal and if she had gotten along better with Dawn back in the day Dad would have kept coming to visit more. Mom wouldn't have been so stressed. Maybe stress led to her tumor that led to her aneurism that led to her…) dating Angel, her life, loving Angel, sex with Angel, and then finally Angel. All of Angel, any hope of Angel ever. Angel would have made it all worth it.

After that Buffy realized she would never be just a girl anymore, and it was okay, because she didn't want to be just a girl anymore. She wanted to be the Slayer, and the key to being the Slayer was sacrifice, but for that sacrifice you were given something it return--- you were given power. Just when she thought that was the key to all of it, and she could lead a happy life, she had to give up that life. This time for real, only not. Her friends (the few people she hadn't had to sacrifice) brought her back. Little did they know what she would have to sacrifice for that--- feeling alive in her own life that she finally owned.

Then she had to start all over again, and give up things she never thought she could give up and still be alive. It was too painful to really list these things out in her head. She wouldn't do it. No one could make her. Especially not Spike. But, he had always been the one to make her do things. She refused to list all the things he had made her sacrifice when she no longer was a part of her own life. They weren't tangible things that you could list, and that's what made it even harder to know that you could give them up, or how to protect them. Things like dignity and pride. Sure, she had gotten things in return, whatever they were:

(ecstasy, full acceptance, and something Giles called "carte blanche" which meant she could do whatever she wanted, which wasn't good. When she was really little, before Dawn, she could remember her parent's letting her do pretty much whatever she wanted. Then, it stopped and Mom and Dad started fighting. Then everything fell apart. So much for carte blanche. Maybe if you had everything, you had to sacrifice everything. Wasn't that what Buffy had done?) In the end, Buffy had even sacrificed the only thing that made her whole life of sacrificing special--her power. She didn't have to give it up, but she did have to share it. Buffy would gladly give it all up to have certain things, certain people, but there was no doing that. Spike was supposed to be the one that understood that.

"If you think I don't know about sacrifice, then you don't know me at all," she whispered to Spike bitterly.

"So, there you have it then. I don't know you. I treat you badly. I come into your happy life and I make you cry. Am I really worth the forbidden jungles of Africa? I know I was worth the forbidden fruit thing once-upon-a-time, but this is grown up time now, pet," he said all too easily.

Make her cry? Oh yeah, she was crying, and who wouldn't be? If the one person who knew you told you that you didn't know the definition of the thing that made you who you were, you'd be upset. Upset and alone. Alone in the crowd of people who wanted to be around you. Buffy felt like she had come full circle and was back to being the popular LA girl again.

"I hate you. You suck," Buffy said, like any Valley girl might.

"Okay, maybe it's not so much grown up time, but it's time to do what's right and that isn't always about what looks pretty or polite," Spike said

"You're right. Go back to your pot smoking, video game playing, and fight starting, Grown-up guy," Buffy said feeling comfortable with her old-old-school Buffy persona.

Maybe the spirit of Cordy was helping her out. There was a popular girl that was really so much more than her persona, or had been.

"Hey, I never said it was grown up time for me. I'm dead, too late now," Spike said.

He would have done so well in High School; he always had a come-back. Buffy didn't. She left him there. Maybe he'd vanish again.

"Amore, how I've missed you. Are you finally done with that vampire-ghost? How did it end? It doesn't look like it ended well; I knew he would only upset you."

Buffy had rode up in the elevator to David's penthouse trying to figure out what she was going to say to David. He now had his arms around her.

"And you couldn't have been more on the money," she said gently turning away from him to look out his window, "I'm done with him. Done with being his friend, done with caring about him, done with making out with...him being okay. He's not okay. He was never okay. He'll never be okay."

"So, he is fading as he said he would?" he asked.

"Fading?" Buffy asked as she watched out David's window. All the little matchbox looking cars raced around the big open mouth of the coliseum, "That, oh yeah. He did it once in front of me. He never did it in front of me before...It was weird."

Horrible was more like it, but weird fit too. Out of all the things Buffy experienced she never had someone she cared about slowly fade away in front of her eyes before.

"He's fading out of your world. It would be a good metaphor if it wasn't so true, no?"

"No," she said, "I mean yeah, I guess, but he's not going to fade. I'm going to stop it," Buffy told David as she turned to him now.

"How?" David, the Immortal, someone that would never die asked.

He didn't seem that concerned, but then again he never seemed too concerned about anything. Even when he was trying to convince Buffy they should date there was a casual air about it. It was like it was perfectly okay for her to say no. It didn't bother him. He didn't act rejected and start insulting her. He didn't brood about it while also saying she was probably right. He just kept casually trying. That was what Buffy liked about him though. You could throw anything at this guy and it didn't faze him. Buffy wondered how long you had to live to get like that.

"By asking for your help, anything you can do. We need to get to the forbidden jungles of Africa to get some stuff to make him solid. I know that really isn't narrowing it down but I'm sure now that we know of the basics of how---" Buffy was interrupted by a smile.

She didn't think you could get interrupted by a smile, and yet…

"You are asking me, your lover, to help you save a man you say you hate," David said as he kept the smile, "A man that was once your lover, a man that most likely wants to be your lover again. A man that has done some good, but who we can never fully trust because he has done so much bad."

"Yeah, u-huh," Buffy said casually back to him.

"You must be in love with him still, or you wouldn't ask this of me. If you are I understand...Well, I don't understand, but I--"

"What's love got to do with it?" Buffy blurted out, "That phrase isn't really usable anymore, unless you want to look like an idiot."

Buffy remembered Spike had said that once about a song phrase. What was it?

"I wouldn't say the phrase is what's making you look that way," David said as he sighed, again with the casualness that Buffy wasn't really into at the moment.

Not that she wanted to get all serious over this. That was the last thing she wanted. She just had to ask him, and then she wanted the topic closed unless they were discussing how to solve the Spike-ghosty problem. It was business.

The Ghostbusters song, that was it! Spike had said: "Who ya gonna call?" when he was asking who she was going to call about the chip. That was funny. He could be so cute when…Buffy called Riley and Riley did the right thing.

"I want you to help me save him because that's what's right, "Buffy said "It may not look right. I may look like an ass-- an idiot, but sometimes that's what being right is about. And, it's about giving things up you want. What I want more than anything in this life is peace. I think I came as close as I ever could get to it with you. If you don't want to be with me anymore because I asked you this at least I tried."

"I don't think peace is what you want most in this life," The Immortal said and he was actually looking very serious and much more like The Immortal than David.

"Oh, not you too. Men, I swear," Buffy scoffed.

When would her boyfriends stop insisting she wanted a hard life? She didn't. She wanted an easy life, but, surprise, life was hard and she had to deal with it.

"I think what you want most is to help and to think that you have done what is right. I don't think you can have peace without that, and yet, doing what is right will never bring you peace. I don't envy you, Buffy the Vampire Slayer," David sighed, but then smiled.

"U-huh," was all Buffy could say.

She knew she could get him to help with the Spike thing. He couldn't turn her down if he knew it was what she wanted, and the right thing to do. And it was the right thing to do and that was that. Buffy really hoped doing right wouldn't mess up this good casual thing she had with David. She really wanted to go to Via Luciani 21 tonight. It wasn't like she wanted to sit around with a know-it-all asshole vampire ghost watching him fade while she could do nothing, but soon that would change.

TBC...