New Year's 2004

It seemed that everyone was celebrating but Buffy.

The champagne was flowing even for the ones that were still too young to drink legally, because tonight the rules didn't matter. It was New Year's Eve.

The worst year of her life was going to end. Didn't that mean she was supposed to be happy? Ready to greet the beginning of a new year with high expectations and giddy excitement?

She wasn't any of those things. Midnight was viewed with a sense of doom; because once 2003 was gone, she would be a little further away from Spike. It was in no way logical, and she'd never express it aloud, but as long as it was still 2003 she could say, "I was with him this year. It's only been a few months since we last made love, and he held me tight".

Buffy sighed and made her way to the window. Fireworks were glowing in the night sky outlining the Eiffel Tower in the distant. She glanced behind her to make sure no one was following her before she stepped out onto the balcony. Tears filled her eyes as she wished he was standing beside her. His arm around her shoulders as they celebrated together.

"I did…no, make that I do love you, Spike," Buffy whispered into the wind. "You knew it too, you liar. You knew it because you knew me. More than anyone ever did. You'll never know how thankful I am to have had you in my life."

Footsteps sounded behind her just as she knew they would and she turned to see who was coming to end her meager attempt at privacy.

"Buffy, are you all right?" Giles asked, coming to stand beside her at the rail. "It's quite chilly out here. Maybe you should come inside."

"I'm fine, Giles," Buffy lied. "Give me just another minute."

The Watcher nodded and left her alone again. They, her friends, Giles, the other slayers, all of them watched her constantly. The hovering was well intentioned but it annoyed her. She was an adult. No longer the only Slayer and damn it didn't she deserve a little peace by now? Not to them. The expectations hadn't stopped. They had just changed. No one had been there for her like Spike had been. Always trying to take care of her and she'd never seen. Not until it was too late. Her hand rubbed absently against the hand that had held his before…before, no, she wouldn't think of that.

Spike was too full of life to be dead and besides…

He was always going to be alive inside of her heart.

"Happy New Year, Spike," Buffy said, raising her glass.

Los Angeles was definitely the place to be if you wanted to party. Spike didn't. He touched the window carefully because he was still unused to being corporeal again. This wasn't the destination he'd imagined when he said he wanted to find out where it went. He didn't really think he'd make it to heaven. Not an evil creature like him but this…was worse than hell. What had he done to end up here? Hadn't his working with the Slayer…Buffy for the last few years earn him anything other than this? Something other than being stuck with Angel and his motley crew in the law firm for evil.

There was only place he wanted to be and that was with Buffy. She loved him. He knew she'd take him in but things weren't right. Stupid prophecies and universal balance was keeping him here with the ponce. Well, those and the fear that maybe, just maybe she really had lied. He'd been told she was traveling through Europe. She was free of her destiny. What if she didn't want a resurrected, former evil, souled vampire that couldn't even sacrifice himself properly?

"Bloody hell," he muttered and leaned his forehead against the cool glass as his insecurities once again rose to the surface.

"So, this is where you're hiding?" Fred asked. Somehow sneaking in without him realizing her presence. "We're all going upstairs to Angel's for dinner. Would you like to come?"

"They don't want me," Spike said, blinking back tears. He wasn't going to let anyone see him cry. "I'm nothing more than an annoyance to them."

Her hand closed over his arm sending an electrical charge through him. It had been so long since anyone had touched him with kindness. The last had been Buffy when she'd tried to make him go with her. Since then…since his return he'd felt William's aloneness so acutely.

"Please come," Fred said. "I want you there."

"Thank you, pet," Spike said. "But I think I'll stay here."

"She's going to call, our time, to wish us Happy New Year."

"Not going to do me any good."

Fred sighed and moved her hand into his. She'd been a good friend to him and the only one that seemed to see the changes in him. The only one besides Buffy who saw the goodness of the man within him and believed in him despite all the reasons that told them not to. So, when she tugged on his hand he followed. It was as he expected. They said hello, well, except for Angel who only glared at him. And that made Spike smile. It was one of the few bright spot in this existence that made it worthwhile. Beating Angel. If only Buffy could have seen it then he winced as he remembered the crudity of his words. He'd never 'put it to her' even…even…

Spike poured himself a drink and forced himself to change the direction of his thoughts. To think of the future that was waiting for him after this was dealt with. It was almost midnight and he made his way to a corner. Painfully he remained silent when she called, tears rolling down his face as he heard her voice then Dawn's wishing everyone a Happy New Year. His eyes met Fred's and knew that in the morning she would renew her efforts to balance the universe again so that he could leave. He raised his glass as Buffy laughed about something that Angel said.

"Happy New Year, Luv," Spike whispered. "I promise I'm going to find a way back to you."

The End