When Spike awoke, he glanced at Buffy. Her skin was no longer frozen, and her lips were their usual pink. But she wasn't totally out of the woods yet. Carefully he slipped from her grasp and went downstairs to find something to eat. For himself. He'd make her something when she woke up, but for now, what she needed most was sleep.

As he began to search through the Summer's cupboards for the blood he was sure he'd left behind after his stay during the summer, Dawn came trudging down the stairs. He didn't know what he'd do without the younger Summers' girl.

"Morning, Spike," she said, glancing at the clock, confirming that it was indeed morning. "Some storm." She hadn't said anything about Buffy; she didn't want to hear any bad news about her.

"Morning, Nibblet." he said, still rummaging through the fridge. He was sure Dawn kept blood for him in the fridge, but obviously she had hid it on him. His stomach was begging for blood.

Dawn grinned. "Spike, move," she said, pushing him out of the way. "You obviously can't see what's right in front of your face. And I had to hide it from Buffy's friends."

Spike watched as Dawn dug out a few packets of blood from the very bottom crisping tray. So she was hiding it. "Thanks," he said. "You must have had to hide it from me too."

His mind wandered again to Buffy's condition, his keen ears picking up her heartbeat. She sounded fine, but that didn't ease his. He'd feel better when she woke up and had something hot in her stomach. She almost died last night, and that thought alone was killing him. He almost lost her again.

"I make Buffy keep them in case of an emergency," she said, sitting at the counter. "But I also make her hide them. You know. In case I have friends over. Can't have them asking why I have blood in my 'fridge." Dawn laughed, an odd sound in the heavy silence of the kitchen.

"Buffy's temp's up and she's pretty much back to normal. We'll have to keep an eye on her for the next couple of hours but she should be fine." Spike said comfortingly, answering her unasked question. The girl was babbling and she was obviously worried about her sister, but didn't want to say anything. He went over to her where she was sitting on the counter. "Don't worry."

"You're here. Why would I worry?" Dawn asked, ducking her head a little. Her hair fell down over her shoulders, making a curtain on her left side. She loved having Spike here with her and Buffy. It made her feel like she had a family again. Spike was the closet thing she had to one over the summer and she felt abandoned when he all of sudden stopped coming around. "What was she doing at your place anyway?"

"She said she was just out patrolling, but she got caught in the snow. She just came to my place because it was easiest to get to. I feel right shit about it, too," Spike sighed.

He'd never forgive himself for putting either girl in danger, whether directly or not. He kissed the top of Dawn's head tenderly as she passed him. He had missed being around Dawn. They had gained such a connection when Buffy was…. gone, and he wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

"It's not your fault," Dawn said as she peeled an orange into the trash. "It was an accident. And if it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I asked her to check on you before she came home."

"She should've stayed home in her warm, comfy bed," Spike said, draining his blood. "And it would figure she can't check on me of her own accord. You have to force her to do that." Dawn was probably growing tired of this pity party, but he couldn't help but feel guilty at not being there when he was needed, and also hurt that Buffy hadn't appeared to have thought of him. It was going to take more than Dawn's reassuring words to make him feel better.

Dawn frowned and set down her half-peeled orange on the counter. "Spike, we were both worried about you. You can't hold that against her or me. Especially me, mister." She raised an eyebrow and dared him to challenge her. She knew he would, he was stubborn just like her.

"I'm not," Spike stated as he rinsed his cup. "I'm not, I promise. But she could have died. Again. And I wasn't there when she needed me. Again." His promise to keep his girls safe was beginning to tear at his heart. He wasn't doing a good job and if Joyce were still around she'd beat him in the head again. He was failing, one way or the other, he was failing his girls.

He'd never blame anything on Buffy. This really wasn't her fault. He hadn't expected her to be worried about him, especially since she was so distant didn't really seem to care about anything -- especially him. She just hung out with him because he kept his mouth shut. He didn't mind, he'd do anything for her, he just wanted to be near her. He needed to be near her just to make sure she was okay.

"You're an idiot. You know that?" Dawn exclaimed exasperatedly, hands on her hips. How could Spike be so blind to see what was right in front of his face? How could he not see how bad both she and Buffy needed him, with no consideration of their own feelings? They just wanted him in their life and the hell with the consequences.

She tilted her hip in a way that reminded him of the Buffy's stance right before her fist tended to land in his face. It was nice being able to watch Dawn grow up a little bit more each day. He wasn't going to miss much more of that with her. He needed to be here with her. She was like his little sister, and he had missed her since Buffy's return.

He looked at her curiously, her last sentence registering with his brain. "What?" He didn't think he was being that outrageous. If he asked anyone they would agree. Except Giles. Giles said last night he was glad that Spike was there. That meant a lot. He knew none of her friends would approve of him being near the girls. Now that Buffy was back, they didn't need him.

"Buffy's so in love with you she can't think straight," Dawn said. "You guys are just blind." She went back to peeling her orange now that she had made her point. She really had to help her sister and Spike open their eyes and get together. It would lift the tension out of the house, and Buffy would be happy. Buffy needed to be happy.

"Hey! She knows I love her," Spike retorted defensively, instantly denying that Buffy could love him, when she'd made it so abundantly clear in the past as to her feelings for him. Loathing and disgust were more like it. Even recently, after all they'd been through, she hadn't shown any signs of affection, merely tolerance. He was good at reading people, especially Buffy and even through her defenses. He would have caught that.

"Yeah but you don't see the look in her eyes. When she looks at you and you're not watching. And she's scared and stubborn so she's not gonna admit it," Dawn said, looking out of the window as she changed the subject. She had to be careful how far she went with that subject. She didn't want Buffy to be made and take it out on Spike just to despite her feelings. "We're gonna be stuck here for a while. Why in the world is it snowing anyway?"

"I've not idea, Li'l Bit," he said. "Is it a bad thing if we're stuck here?" At the moment, he couldn't imagine being anywhere else. But he knew snow in southern California had to be something demonic. He could feel it last night when he had come to check on his girls. He was pretty sure as soon as everyone could get out of their houses, they'd be doing research. His favorite thing in the whole world, he thought sarcastically.

"Depends on when you and Buffy will be at it." Dawn shrugged, with a smirk. If things went the way Dawn wanted, they'd be boinking before sunset.

She was such a teenager sometimes, he thought wryly. "Nice language," he muttered. Even if Buffy did claim her undying love for him, he highly doubted they'd be rolling in the sheets already. It wasn't his style nor was it Buffy's. "You think whatever you want, Nibblet," he said as he headed toward the stairs. He needed to check on Buffy. He just needed to see her. He tried to deny what Dawn had said about Buffy loving him, but he couldn't help the spark of hope that she had ignited in him. Anything was possible.

Upstairs, Buffy was groggily rolling around her in bed. She was mostly awake, but she didn't want to move. She was still a little cold, but she could move on her own, which was better then nothing. She sighed and rolled on her back as she stared at the ceiling. She could hear Dawn downstairs, informing Spike about what she thought Buffy felt.

Did she love Spike? She definitely didn't love Spike. However, she liked him a little bit. When he wasn't being an asshole. But she was pretty sure he was an asshole because she was a bitch. They always had that banter between them. It made the fight a little more interesting. But now… sometimes the things he said really cut her to the core. But she supposed she deserved it. She didn't know who started things anymore, but the things he said sometimes hurt her more then she would care to admit out loud.

Dawn had asked her to go and make sure Spike was okay, while she was out on patrol, and Buffy had begrudgingly agreed. But once the snow got worse, she found herself getting a little worried, and she couldn't shake the feeling. She didn't know why she was close to Spike, or why she was drawn to him more then her other friends, she just was.

She growled in frustration and rolled on her stomach to try and go back to sleep. All this thinking was making her brain hurt. Spike had become a constant in her life. Sometimes an annoying constant, but he was always there when she needed a friend, or anything else. He'd helped her find Dawn a few days ago when she had snuck off with a boy on Halloween. He'd helped her drown that demon in the basement. He helped her just by listening. He didn't expect anything out of her, and that was what she needed. That's what she had always needed, but how far was she willing to take it?

She tried to drown out what Dawn was saying, but it wasn't working. Now Spike was going to expect Buffy to fall at his feet, and that wasn't her style. She turned on her side and snuggled into the blankets. She could do dinner. Dinner and a movie. At her house. She could do that. She rubbed her face wearily and heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

He slowly pushed open her door and smiled as Buffy snuggled deeper into the covers. He went over and carefully sat next to her. She wasn't sleeping. Her heartbeat told him that she was just dozing. But she was moving. So there wasn't any serious damage to her body. He could relax a little and not worry about her taking a turn for the worst or something.

After a moment or two, Buffy opened her eyes and smiled at Spike warmly. "Hi," she said. There was no use in keeping her eyes closed. He knew she was awake and she knew he'd want to talk.

"How are you feeling?" Spike asked. Her eyes twinkled a little bit, surprising him. She hadn't shown any emotions in her eyes since her return. It struck a nerve, in a good way. It was nice to see her with some life behind her eyes. He hoped it didn't take a near death experience for her to get her spark back. She couldn't have one of those whenever she got depressed.

"I'm not as cold as I was last night. So improvement," she said, sitting up to meet his eyes. "I can move on my own and feel everything. So I'm fine."

"Good," Spike said, smiling a little. "You had me scared for minute there Slayer." More then scared, but she didn't need any more burdens on her shoulders by thinking about how worried he'd been about her. He'd been sick with worry and she didn't need to have that on her conscience. He didn't really want to admit that to himself or anyone, but he had been. He'd been terrified that she'd have frost bite or hypothermia and he'd have no way of getting her to the hospital. That thought scared him.

She could have died again. But no need to mention that. She was fine, so it was best to just leave it where it was.

"Hey, you scared me first," Buffy teased. And he had. She knew that vampires couldn't get cold or feel a difference in temperature. But she didn't know how long he would be stuck there, or how much supplies he would have to last him.

"I didn't know you were gonna be looking for me. I was coming here to check on you and Dawn," he said, avoiding her look. She was doing her best to lighten the mood, but he just couldn't let it go.

Buffy frowned. "Spike, it's not your fault. You have to stop feeling guilty for everything that happens to me,'' she said gently. "When I went out on patrol, the weather was fine. It started snowing a little when I hit the first cemetery, but I didn't think anything of it. By the time I got to your cemetery, it was freezing cold outside and the snow was getting worse. I just wanted to stop and see you. It must have been a sudden thing while I was inside your crypt. The snow came out of nowhere."

"Buffy, a lot of the time, things are my fault," Spike said softly. "Besides, you should have known that I'd come to check on you and Dawn." What kind of person did she think he was? That he would check on his girls in the middle of a snow storm?

"Like what things?" Buffy asked. She chose to skip his last comment for now. She'd come back to it later. She was beginning to see that something was eating away at him, and for some reason she knew she had to find out what it was.

"Like the reason you jumped. If I had kept my promise to keep Dawn safe, you wouldn't have died. If that hadn't happened, Red wouldn't have pulled you out of heaven," he said. "And you wouldn't be miserable."

Buffy moved so she could see his eyes. "That wasn't your fault, Spike. I promise you. Things happen. You have to stop blaming yourself for everything that happens to me. I'm a big girl," she said, running her hands over his face. He was such a good man. He always wanted to keep her happy and make sure that she didn't have any worries or problems.

"I promised myself I would keep you safe. You almost froze to death," he said, his jaw clenching. That was no okay. She almost froze to death. At his place. If anyone had found her other then him, he would have gotten blamed. He knew it.

"Oh my God, Spike!" Buffy cried, in frustration. "It wasn't your fault. I was just… being stubborn. You know me", she smiled with a shrug. She always bounced back. She got a little cold. It wasn't a big deal. Well to most people.

"I could have headed you off at the pass, but I didn't" Spike said softly. Her patrol route was always the same. She barely varied from her routine. He just took the quickest way to her house, not thinking that she would be outside in the storm.

"But I'm sitting right here in front of you, and I'm fine," she said, wrapping her hand over his. "So stop," she said, softly. "Dawn and I were both worried about you. I thought I could get there quickly and come home. It's my own fault that I went out in the blizzard. I should have known that you'd be coming here anyways."

Spike shook his head. "You're a pain in the ass, Summers," he said. "It's freezing outside and you went out without the right jacket. Worried about a soulless vampire like me." Hearing him say those words, even to him, sounded harsh. It was killing him inside to think about how she felt about him, but he didn't bring up what Dawn had said.

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "You know that's not true," she said. "We're… we're friends, Spike. And I worry about all my friends." After a pause she added with another small smile. "Soul or no soul."

He looked at her. "We aren't friends, Buffy," he said. "And if we are, I must have missed the memo." He was just someone for her to lay her problems on so she didn't have to hold them alone. He was okay with that. To ease her pain, but he didn't think they were friends. He would never consider her a friend, not with the way he loved her.

"Why aren't we then?" she asked. Sometimes she thought they were. She was more close to him then she was to anyone else in her life. Maybe it was her own fault, but no one else really seemed to care about her pain, only that she let it go. Telling Spike about her problems, sometimes made her think about them, and sometimes she had a solution.

Spike shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "It's just… Well… You only really come to me when Dawn disappears or if there's a new big bad in town." She went to the bronze with her friends, and had dinner and went to a movie. He had never done those things with her. Not that he didn't want to, she just wouldn't let him. She probably never would.

She bit her lip. "Ok," she admitted, "I could see how that would be wrong on my part and I'm sorry. But I do think of you as my friend and it's really important to me that you're around. I like having you around."

"And what does that mean exactly?" He didn't even bother trying to guess, because if he got his hopes to high, they would just be shut down. So it was better just to ask her to spell it out for him.

"That you're welcome here. And maybe, you know… when the snow clears up you can come over and watch a movie with me and Dawn or something." She ducked her head to hide a blush that was creeping up her cheeks. She had chickened out a little bit at the end and included Dawn. She wasn't sure she was ready for the one and one thing. She didn't think she could do it yet.

Spike cracked a smile. "Sure," he said. "I'd like that." It wasn't exactly what he had been looking for, but he wouldn't pass up a night with his girls. Whether it is one or both. He loved spending time with them both. Maybe Buffy just wasn't ready to take the full leap with him, but he could wait.

She smiled. "Great," she said, pushing the blankets off. "Now, I'm hungry." That sounded strange coming from her mouth. She was never hungry and she knew it. She hadn't had much of an appetite lately.

"Yeah, Rupert said you had to eat something hot," Spike said, standing and helping her out of bed. "I'll make you something." She didn't really need his help, but the contact was soothing to them both.

Buffy followed Spike downstairs and Dawn was in the living room watching. "Hey, Dawn," she said, smiling as Spike stood next to her.

"Hi guys," she said, smirking. "How'd the smoochies go?" Her eyes were wistfully wide, hoping that they had at least gotten to that part.

"It's not what you think, Nibblet," Spike said, darting his eyes away from Buffy. He didn't want her to get any kind of ideas about him, or his intentions for her. He also didn't want her to think he was a bad influence on Dawn.

"Sure," Dawn said, smiling still. "That's why you guys are all with the closeness of the bodies, and you can't even look at her straight."

Buffy looked up at Spike then at Dawn. "What's going on?" she asked. Spike wasn't looking at her, and that made her uncomfortable. Dawn was on some dangerous territory and Buffy wasn't sure what it had to do with Spike, other then she heard Dawn earlier in the kitchen.

"Her idea," Spike mumbled, heading toward the kitchen.

"Dawn," Buffy said warningly, glaring at her sister. "What did you do to him?"

"You like him," her sister said.

"We might be going on a date when the snow clears up," Buffy admitted, smiling. "Not that that would be any of your business", she added with a glare. She didn't want anything between her and Spike to blown out of proportions before it even got started. They needed to take things slow, and just because Dawn was doing cartwheels didn't mean anyone else would be.

Dawn squealed and jumped up to hug her sister. "This is so awesome."

Buffy hugged her sister. "Now I need to eat something," she said, "Doctor's orders." She went into the kitchen and smiled at Spike cooking at the stove. "What are you making?" she asked.

"Soup," he answered as she sat at the counter. "Okay with you?" He knew it would be. He knew what she liked.

"Definitely," she said, smiling. "Thanks for being here."

"You know me," he said. "So, pet, any ideas about the snow?" he asked quickly changing the subject.

She shrugged, allowing the change. "My only experience with snow was a few years ago when a freak snow storm saved Angel and we called it miracle snow," she said. "So, no idea."

Spike's jaw clenched at his sire's name. "How wonderful," he ground out.

Buffy got up and ran her hands up his back to smooth out the tense muscles she found there. "Spike," she said. "You asked. I didn't mean anything by it. Okay?" He asked, she answered. What did he expect from her?

"I know." Spike told her, relaxing into her touch. "I just don't like hearing about him. 'Specially coming from you,"

"I know." Buffy said. "I'm sorry…I just…" Buffy recognized the smell of what Spike was making and it instantly brought back happy memories. She just couldn't place, exactly, what it was about the smell that did it. "What kind of soup are you making, Spike?" she implored peering over his shoulder to look into the pot.

"Chicken and stars," Spike responded instantly. "That okay?" He couldn't find anything more adult in the house, but it must have been there for a reason.

Buffy nodded dumbly as she thought of all the times her mom had made that same soup for her when she was sick. She'd always taken it for granted and here was Spike making it for her. Her hands dropped to her sides as she went to the sink to stare out the window.

Spike noticed her blank stare and turned the pot down to a simmer before moving towards Buffy. He put his hands on her shoulders for a moment then started massage her back as she had done earlier for him. "What is it, luv?" He asked her after a few moments.

"Mom," she said turning her head to look at him. "Mom used to make that soup whenever Dawn and I were sick. I'd forgotten what it smelled like. I always used to just expect it whenever I didn't feel good. I never thought, though, that it wouldn't be Mom who made it for me." Buffy turned completely around and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. "Thank you, Spike. For being here, for making me soup, for everything you've ever done for me."

Spike didn't know what to say so he just returned the hug until she pulled back. Buffy leaned up and brushed a brief kiss across his lips, then went to the refrigerator, leaving Spike smiling stupidly at her back. He turned around and stirred the soup, noting that it was done. He turned away from the stove to walk towards the bowl cabinet, but instead turned right into Buffy.

"Looking for these?" Buffy teased as she handed him three bowls. It was nice to just… be around each other and do little things together like making soup. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.

"Not now," Spike teased back as he took the bowls from Buffy and ladled soup into each. He couldn't stop thinking about the kiss she had just given him. There was no passion or anything behind it, it was more of a thank you kiss, but it still burned on his lips. "I'm assuming you meant for me and Dawn to eat with you?"

"Yep," Buffy said cheerfully as she placed spoons in the bowls. "I hate eating alone. Dawn, come eat!" She yelled, nearly at the top of her lungs, startling Spike enough that he sloshed some soup onto the counter. "Oops," Buffy said as she grabbed a towel tucked into the oven handle, and cleaned up the mess. "Sorry, Spike."

Spike mock scowled at her. "I'm sure you are," he teased. "Gotta scream loud enough to hurt the dead man's ears. She's right in the next room." But in all truth he was glad. If she was screaming like that, she was going to be fine.

Dawn came bounding into the room with a smile. "Aw, you made soup for me, too?" She teased. "And did you have to be so loud?"

"Ha bloody ha," Spike said, pouring soup into the bowls for both his girls. "I didn't know it was a crime. I sure as hell know Buffy isn't going to eat it all. And you're sister is just proving her lungs still work."

Buffy giggled and sat at the counter. "I'm trying to watch my girlish figure."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Your girlish figure is a bag of bones," he accused. "You need to put on some pounds." He had been secretly worrying about her health, but he had never brought it up with her. It really had never been his place. But he figured now while he was cooking for her, he'd see what he could do.

"Yeah, Buffy," Dawn said. "You're way too skinny." Dawn noticed the sunken look of her sister's face and was worried, but Buffy seemed to be running fine, so she tried not to be too worried about it.

"What is this? Pick on Buffy Day?" the slayer asked, raising her eyebrow. She didn't think she was that skinny. She was a little underweight but she thought she looked fine.

"After you almost froze to death?" Spike asked, and then looked a little thoughtful. "Yeah."

"That's not fair!" Buffy pouted. "Dawn got to stay home all nice and warm! Pick on her."

"Hey, now! I'm not the one who chose to go outside, with a little teeny jacket on, with snow coming down faster by the minute." Dawn threw back at Buffy, as she sipped her soup from her spoon. "Mmmmh, Spike, this is really good. It tastes just like…" Dawn threw a quick look at Buffy to see if she noticed the slip up, but Buffy just nodded.

"It does," She agreed, turning to Spike, in her seat. "Did Mom teach you?"

"Actually, she did. Your mom taught me to cook a lot of different food. I knew how to cook before but…" Spike trailed off. "I loved the food Joyce made. 'Specially the hot cocoa," he added with a grin.

"Well, I, for one," Buffy stated, "Would very much like it if you cooked for us more often. I suck at cooking and Dawn does okay…but only with box instructions."

Spike and Dawn both looked shocked for a minute before quickly covering it up, each taking a bite of soup. Spike was going be around more. They were both trying not to grin like idiots. They knew that if Spike was going to be around, they'd have to ask Buffy's permission, but she had beaten them to it.

"We could have, like, a dinner night," Buffy said, liking the idea more with each word. "We could all make dinner together. A couple times a week, maybe? And you could show me and Dawn how to cook," she said looking at Spike. She was pretty sure Spike would love this idea, but she wanted him around too. She just didn't want to sound desperate. "It'll be fun!"

Dawn was nodding and smirking into her soup after looking at Spike, who had yet to pick his jaw up off the floor. "Yea, Spike," she said chiming in, "It'll be fun!"

Spike regained his normal composure, after a few minutes of staring at Buffy like she had three heads. "Yeah. Okay. That sounds good. Any idea what days?" He was going to be cooking for his girls. That was definitely way more then he imagined. At least he could keep them healthy.

"Well, how 'bout Tuesday's and Thursday's? Before patrol and then we can just patrol together?" Buffy said before taking a big spoonful of soup.

Inside, Spike was jumping for joy. "I'd love that, pet," he said. "But first we need to fill up your belly with nummy treats," he added, winking at her.

As they set there, enjoying their meal, and chatting about everything, until Dawn glanced out the window.

"Hey! The snow stopped!" She got up excitedly from the table and ran to the window, with Buffy quickly following. Spike sat back and watched his girls as they joked about going out to build a snowman before all the sun melted. Yes, he decided, 'My girls.'

Smiling, Buffy turned to him. "You wanna?" she asked, hurriedly putting her dish in the sink. "Make a snowman that is? I know it's the middle of the day, but in Sunnydale, the snow might be gone by tomorrow, and in my experience, snow equals no sun for a while."

Spike stayed silent as he watched her and Dawn go get their coats on and scrounged around in the closet to find gloves. He made sure both of them were bundled up nice and tight before smiling and saying, "Yea, luv. Sounds like a wonderful idea." He slid on his own jacket and Dawn handed him some gloves before he went outside with them.