Chapter 1: Back so soon….

It was around midnight, and Willow, Anya, and Xander had been impatiently waiting for Buffy who had yet to return from "the mission". They had already sent the Potentials to sleep, but due to the lackage of one Buffy and the serious demeanor the slayer had left the house, there was no way that they were actually sleeping. Sure enough, soft voices were drifting down from upstairs:

"I'm not sure, but what if this has to do with the First. It would definitely explain why Buffy isn't home yet, with it being so dangerous and all", Molly stated. She flipped over in her sleeping bag and propped herself up on her elbows, hands tucked away under her chin. She looked at the other girls lying on the floor.

"No way, Buffy would have first off told us and secondly she would have brought us with, a least to watch, you know, kind of like the turok-han showdown, right?", Chloe said, slightly unsure.

"Well Willow mentioned someone… an ally or somethin'. His name was Spike if I seem to recall correctly. Does it tell any of you anything, 'cause I'm kinda drawing a blank here".

"Kennedy, you sure it was Spike, the name I mean", Vi said insecurely. Kennedy paused for a moment as if to think and then nodded her head.

"When I was in training, my watcher listed a couple of dangerous and old vampires. Spike, also known as William, the Bloody, was on it. I can't remember anything else though…", Vi continued," But, Buffy wouldn't bring a vampire in here, not with what's going on, would she?" Fear was now apparent in Vi's voice.

Rona put a comforting arm around Vi's shoulder, "Don't worry. Buffy wouldn't do anything that would hurt us, I think. Would she?"

Rona bit her lip and looked at the other Potentials worried faces. Only then did they realize how little they actually knew about Buffy's personality and with that little tid-bit out in the open, it scared them even more.

The chatter continued upstairs, though slightly more subdued and solemn, even as someone knocked on the door. Anya, Xander and Willow rushed to open it and saw Buffy with a fairly beaten up Spike limply leaning on Buffy's shoulder. By the looks of it, Spike had been tortured mercilessly for hours on end. His eyes were so swollen he could barely see anything, and just standing seemed like an impossible task at the moment.

"Willow, Anya go make sure the Potentials are sleeping and close their door. I don't want them to go all Curious George on Spike. Or at least not right now", Buff said quietly. Willow nodded in agreement and dragged Anya along with her upstairs towards the room where the girls were "sleeping". The vampire winced with every small step he took, as Buffy led him towards the couch in the living room.

"Xander, go get some bandages and disinfectant from the bathroom. They're under the sink," Buffy commanded. But Xander just stood there, unmoving.

"Xander, get over yourself and do as I say just for once!", Buffy silently shouted at Xander impatiently. He just nodded, rage and anger burning in his eyes. After his hasty exit, Buffy succeeded in her previous task and managed to lay the currently unconscious Spike on the couch. She pushed back a few of his bloodstained tendrils as his eyes opened just the slightest bit.

"Hey," Buffy whispered tenderly.

"You came," he wheezed, his voice rough as if he had swallowed sand

"Yes, I came. Couldn't just leave you there."

"Buffy."

Buffy noticed Spike slipping back into unconscisnious and motioned to Xander to hurry up. He placed the rather large first aid kit next to the couch, keeping his distance.

"Thanks, mate" Spike just barely coughed out.

"I am not your mate. And that just sounded to weird for words", Xander said, going towards Anya who had returned from upstairs.

"Anya, why don't you help Buffy? I've been awake the last 48 hours being worried sick about Buffy facing the Turok-Han and then infiltrating the First's liar for some stupid vampire. I'm goin' home for some well deserved shod-eye ", he said grabbing his coat and was about to leave when Anya retorted," As if you were the only one worrying about Buffy's well-fare along with all the Potential's impending death wish, Harris. You are so-"

"Problems," Buffy asked, wishing to make her ignored prescense known, seeing asthe ex- almost-married couple were arguing as if she wasn't there at all.

"No, Harris was just about to leave now," and Anya furiously grabbed the alcohol and gauze from Buffy's hands and stormed off to tend to Spike's wounds. Xander on the other hand had already made it half way to his car.

The petit blonde sighed as she sat next to Anya who had started to sanitize the open wounds meticulously.

"Anya, you should probably go home too. It's late", Buffy said and momentarily Anya was gone as well.

"No need telling me twice", was the last thing heard before she left the Summer's houshold.

She had picked up a cloth and dipped it into a bowl of water. She wrung it out and carefully started to dab off the dry blood on Spike's chest. She noticed three symbols cut into his chest and realized that the blood they had seen on the round wheel in the basement, was his blood.

"Buffy", he rasped once more.

"Shh, rest now. Talk later". She continued to survey the damage the First's minion had caused the vampire. Scars littered his arms and chest. Buffy knew that she had yet to deal with his manged legs and took a pair of sissiors from the med-kit.

Gentle she cut and pulled the jeans fabric from his calf. Unfourtunately, it ripped open old wounds making it all the more painful for Spike.

How can someone cause another being so much pain, she wondered silently. The slayer was forced to think of herself. Hadn't she been the one to use and abuse the vampire just last with no thought at all to what damage it may casue him? Hadn't she been the one to beat him to bloody pulp just because he was trying to help her. The more she thought about it, the more she realized how very wrong their relationship had been. Oh, what she would give to take it all back.

When the slayer had finally finished cleaning and bandaging Spikes wounds he liked rather frail and damaged to say the least. As carefully as she could, Buffy carried the resting vampire upstairs into her bed room.. Gently she laid him down on her bed, making sure not to hurt him in the process and softly said, "G'night" before leaving him to rest in the empty room.

She walked into the kitchen exhausted and sat herself into a chair next to Willow.

"Back so soon," Willow said sarcastically, trying to amuse Buffy, but she failed.