Disclaimer: This goes for every chapter. Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own all rights to the characters, places, history, etc of the Buffyverse. Just because Joss Whedon stopped playing, doesn't mean I have to ;)

Summary:The Scoobies & AI have to come together as they face a foe that knows everything about them and everything they fear. With the help of old friends, can they figure out a way to beat it before they are lost to their dark secrets?

Chapter 1: Prologue

"What are we going to do now, Buffy?"

The blonde just smiled at the thought. She had done it. They had done it. They had stopped the First and, in the process, they had destroyed the Hellmouth. No. Spike had destroyed the Hellmouth. The smile faded just as quickly as it had come. He was gone from her…forever. She wasn't ready for him to leave her yet. Buffy knew that she probably wasn't ever going to be ready. He had always been there for her, had stuck up for her, comforted her, but that was all gone. Salty tears ran down her face as she thought of the man she'd loved. She'd finally told him that she loved him, even though she had known for some time. What he had tried to do didn't matter. She shared fault with him. Sex had always been a game between them. "No" meant "yes". In the end, it didn't matter that she had finally said the words to him because Spike hadn't believed her. Why would he? She had waited until it was too late, letting him think that what she felt for him was pity. Now he would never know.

"Buffy? Are you okay?" Dawn looked worried, as did everyone else around her. Concern was etched on their faces, as they watched a few tears slip from her eyes. They were joking and celebrating, and no one seemed to understand the reason for her sadness.

"Fine, I-I'm fine." Even as Buffy said it everyone, including herself, knew she wasn't.

"I believe it is time to get going. The faster we get to L.A and the sooner we get everyone some medical attention, the better." Giles explained as he started gathering the new slayers onto the bus, preparing to leave. Everyone started to head back, until they realized that Buffy wasn't following. She was staring at the giant crater.

"Yo, B, what's your problem? Aren't you coming? There isn't anything left here, and I don't want to be around when people or the cops come to investigate the giant hole. Too many questions. Plus the fact that I'm a wanted criminal makes me want to leave here as fast as possible." Everyone nodded in agreement; most, just because they wanted to rest after all that had happened this past year.

"No." Buffy's voice turned to a whisper." There is something left here."

Xander, oblivious to the meaning behind her words, said sarcastically "Yeah, a nice big hole. Actually it's more of a crater. Who would want to leave that behind? Come on, Buffy." Some of the group smiled, suppressing a giggle or two, until they saw more tears rush down her face.

Buffy's moment of freedom slipped from her as the weight of everything she lost crashed around her. Spike, her mother's grave, Tara's grave, Anya. So many memories were lost in that crater, so many memories that she cherished. Defeating The First was all that had mattered and now that she had done it, she never fully understood the extent of the sacrifices she had made speeches about.

She had lost Angel in an apocalypse and had to escape the city to cope. A similar feeling was smothering her now. This time, however, she hadn't just lost a lover; she had lost one of her closest friends. Her confidant. The only person who never had left her, even when he wasn't wanted.

"Buffy please, we have to go. We are going to head to L.A. People are injured, Buffy. They need medical attention and we have to go now." Dawn's voice shook with concern and worry for her sister.

"I-I can't just leave him here all alone; he never left me all alone. Never." Her eyes were lost in the crater and unconsciously took a step closer, as though bringing herself closer would bring all that she lost back.

"Buffy, I know losing Spike must be difficult for you. He was a good fighter, and I know that you two were getting close…"Buffy turned her head and stared at Giles.

"Difficult? Difficult doesn't even describe what I feel." Buffy faced her friends, whose expressions were full of shock and a bit of confusion. "You weren't there. You didn't notice how he had changed. He is-was a good man. I trusted him, relied on him, "She turned away from her friends and stared aimlessly at the ground. "And…I loved him."

"Buffy-" Willow took a step forward, but Xander put his hand on her shoulder.

"I think I can take it from here. Get everyone ready to go. I'm going to talk to Buffy." Xander looked over at his friend, and felt what she felt, just didn't express it so openly. He knew there would be time to grieve for Anya later, but now seemed as good a time as any.

The group did as they were instructed, though Dawn wanted to stay behind with her sister. She was still worried, but she too went back to the bus.

"Buffy?" Her teary eyes looked up at her one eyed friend. "I know I might not be the best person to help you. I never was part of the "I Love Spike" fan club, but I saw that you cared for him. I also saw the way he looked at you. Even with one eye I could tell he would do anything for you."

Xander took his friend in his arms. "I lost Anya, and it feels like the world is ending, but the truth of the matter is, it's not. Spike wouldn't have wanted this for you. He died so you could live. If we stop living now, Spike and Anya's deaths would mean nothing. If they could, they would probably smack us both over the head right now."

"Why did he leave me? He could have run. There was still time left, he could have run with me and gotten away." Buffy let her tears flow freely and folded into her friend's arms.

"No, Buff, he couldn't have. For once he did the right thing and stayed behind. He went down fighting, and hell, Spike took the entire town of Sunnydale with him. That's the way he would have wanted it. I know it would be that way."

"Still, Spike was always there. I know it's what he wanted, but I feel like Sunnydale isn't the only hole he left. What we had wasn't perfect, hell, we were at each other's throats most of the time, but, regardless, it worked."

Xander sighed, but a smile formed at his lips. "I guess I can see what you mean. Even when
Anya would describe the men she mutilated or just said what was on her mind, I knew she was the one. I just wished I never let her go…"

Xander and Buffy turned and looked out on the horizon, lost in thought about the people they loved and lost, until Xander broke the silence. "There will be plenty of time to grieve, but now we have people who need medical attention. Plus, here isn't the best place. I'm thinking more of a cheap rent motel, with the radio going on some depressing country music channel, while we stuff our faces with tons of twinkies and ice cream."

With that, Xander earned a smile from Buffy. "Xander, when did you become Mr. Insightful?"

"Ahh, it is just one of the many qualities that come with the Xander package which includes a healthy dose of sarcasm as a gift with purchase." Xander smiled then asked, "Are you ready, Buffy?"

Buffy and Xander took one last look at the place that had been their home. She truly didn't know where they were headed, but she knew that part of Spike would always be with her, even if now she couldn't feel it.

"You know, Buffy," Xander said with a smile on his face as he watched his friend stare into the empty crater. "Spike knocked down the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign."

"He always liked doing that," Buffy laughed, for what felt like the first time in ages.

"I know Buffy, I know. Now let's get moving. We got a hospital to go to and slayers to find."

With that Xander and Buffy back to the bus, remembering the ones they had lost and thinking of the ones they had yet to find.

TBC