(Spike's POV)

(Spike's POV)

Spike wiped away his angry tears as he headed down to the basement. He couldn't believe they were back to this again. He took an angry swing at the punching bag, nearly sending it off its chain. Hearing the door to the basement open he expected Buffy to come down the stairs, but it was a different scent. Dawn's. That was great. Send someone to rub salt in the wounds. He didn't say anything as he turned around to look at her as she came to the bottom of the stairs. She looked scared, but she still walked down the steps with a confidence he hadn't seen before he left. He hated himself for not being here for her when she needed him and to watch her grow up.

Dawn bit her lip nervously. "Hi," she said, softly. "I was in the dining room when I heard what happened in the living room with Buffy and her friends." She paused. "I think Buffy should take a big girl pill and work this out with you."

Spike crossed his arms. "Is that all you wanted to tell me?" he asked, curtly. He didn't want to deal with Dawn's lectures right now. He wasn't up to feeling much guilt, just anger. He wanted to wring Buffy's neck after what he just heard. He was so tired of her games and he just wanted to be left alone. He needed to think about his life now. He had no chip, but he had a soul. After spending the night in Buffy's bed, then hearing her friends verbally attacking him, it was just too much. He didn't know what to think anymore.

"I just… I wanted to see if you were okay," she said. "Like I said, I heard the door slam. And I heard what happened in the living room." He watched as she crossed her arms and he could see his slayer- no not his slayer- but he could see a lot of Buffy in her.

Spike snorted. "I'm just dandy, Dawn," he said. "It's not nice to eavesdrop, you know." He didn't want to talk to anyone. He wanted to be left alone. He wanted to be angry and take it out on someone, someone who wasn't Dawn because she didn't deserve it. She hadn't made any effort to tell him she had forgiven him or that she wanted to work things out with him, so he didn't want to deal with this right now.

Dawn took a few confident steps toward him. "Spike, I know we aren't the best of friends," she said. "But I'm still worried. And it's not eavesdropping if the people you're listening to are too loud." She bit her lip and folded her arms. "So will you please talk to me?"

"And why do you worry?" he asked. What was she getting at? He was still angry at Buffy and that was making it really hard for him to cut Dawn any kind of slack. He couldn't cut the pope any slack at this rate. He didn't even have the mindset to think about what Dawn was saying and to set something straight. His heart almost melted as he watched her brown eyes bore into his. She still used those eyes on him, even now. What was he turning into?

She rolled her eyes and smacked him in the arm. "You're being a dumb ass," she said. "I've been sitting here, sick with worry while you and Buffy disappeared to find something at the Initiative. She brings you home and you have staples in the back of your head, so I know that she took the chip out without her even having to tell me. I assume she told Willow and Xander but she doesn't care what they think. So, why are you being a brat and slamming doors like a teenager?"

Spike chuckled darkly and moved away from her to sit on his cot. "Because your sister isn't who I thought she was," he said. "And I do not act like a teenager." There was enough of those in this house. But it was silly of him to think otherwise. He knew that it was too good to be true. It would never be different with Buffy. Never. She would never see him as anything other then a monster.

"And what was that?" she asked, going over to sit next to him.

"Thought she was different," he admitted, softly. "Thought things were different from last year." He'd thought wrong that was for damn sure. He couldn't take much more of Buffy's rejection.

"And they aren't?" Dawn asked.

The vampire shook his head. "No," he said. "She's just using me because I'm her strongest fighter. That's the only reason she took the chip out. Not because she trusts me without it. She'd never trust me with anything important." Like her heart, which was the one thing he wanted more then anything in this world. And he didn't think he'd ever get that.

"Did you hear me actually say that?" Buffy asked, surprising them both from the stairs. To Spike she actually looked upset and betrayed, but he was pretty sure that he was in trouble regardless. But he just wanted her to go back upstairs and be with her friends. He didn't want to hear any of her excuses. He'd already heard every one in the book.

Spike's blue eyes clashed with hers, but they were full of anger. "You didn't have to," he said, coldly. "What I heard from your mates was enough." They would always be more important to her, and the sooner he accepted that, the better he would be. The easier it would be to move on with life.

Buffy looked at her sister. "Can I, um… have a few minutes alone with Spike?" she asked. She folded her arms nervously and fidgeted from one foot to the other.

Dawn bit her lip again but nodded. She looked at Spike. "I'll be back later if you want," she said.

Spike shrugged but didn't say anything, so she got up. She looked at him one last time before going up the stairs. He could care less what the girls did. He just wanted time to himself the neither of them was so willing to give him.

Buffy's POV

Buffy waited for her sister to close the door before turning to Spike. "You didn't hear me say anything like that," she said. "You heard Xander being Xander and you just assumed that I'd just agree with them. You didn't even let me say anything to them."

"I don't have to let you do anything," he said. "You've never given me any opportunity to explain myself to you before you just made assumptions. And I know you well enough to know that your friends are more important to you than me and that you agree with them all the time."

"Spike, that's not true," she said, softly. "Not anymore. I just don't want them to justify what happened with us last night. It's not their business." She really let her friends screw this up again. All she wanted was for her and Spike to trust each other and have something between them.

Spike crossed his arms and glared at her. "Buffy, I really just want to be left alone right now," he said. He wasn't going accept her apology right now. But she wanted to make him understand where she was coming from.

Her heart practically broke when he said he wanted to be left alone. "You don't believe me, do you?" How could he not believe her? What did she do that was so bad? She'd thought things were fine. She didn't even say anything against him, but her intentions got all bent out of shape.

"Get out," Spike said, leaning against the wall with a hard stare.

Buffy opened her mouth, but no words came out. She turned on her heel and went up the stairs. When she couldn't think of anything to make him understand what he'd heard. As much as she wanted to say, she couldn't push the words past her lips. She just couldn't.

Spike POV

That night, Spike went on patrol. Dawn had asked him if she could go and he couldn't resist. However, Buffy, Xander, Giles, and all the girls went as well. Spike was less then thrilled with that. It got a little bit better when Buffy and Xander took a few of the newer girls and headed in a different direction than the rest of them. Dawn had stuck close to him, however, which made him happy. She seemed to be warming up to him and he longed to make things right with her. He had calmed down some since earlier and was able to listen to what she had to say, which right now, wasn't much.

He had noticed that one of the potentials, Rona he thought, was giving him strange looks. He didn't know why, but it was giving him an uneasy feeling. She kept whispering to Kennedy, who had the biggest mouth in his opinion, and Kennedy kept shooting looks his way as well.

Dawn had been making small talk with him. Just talking about school, and asking him how he was. But there was tension in the air. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dawn trip over a root of a large oak tree and he grabbed her out of reflex. "You okay?"

Dawn nodded. "Yeah… just not paying attention," she said. "Just hurt my toes, but that was it. Thanks." She shook out her foot and stood up straight.

Spike was still looking at her when someone jumped on his back and landed a solid punch to his temple. What the hell?

"Kennedy!" Dawn screamed. "What are you doing?"

Spike flipped Kennedy over his head and she landed with a hard crunch on the hard earth. He wasn't prepared for the tackle from Rona to his left, but he should have known. He punched Rona in the face, probably breaking her nose, and she backed away. He stood in front of her in a fighting stance, his vampire visage appearing on his face. "You do not want to mess with me, little girl," he seethed.

Dawn pushed Kennedy down when the girl went to attack Spike again. "Stay down," she growled. She went over to help Spike, but then she saw Buffy running over with Xander and the rest of the girls. Thank god, because the shit was going to hit the fan. She took a step toward Spike, but obviously Rona and Kennedy weren't done. Giles also seemed to notice that Spike wasn't in pain. But before he could comment on the chip, Rona dove for Spike. He wrapped an arm around her neck and lowered his fangs to her throat.

Buffy took a step forward to rip Spike from the girl's throat, but he pulled back and shoved her away from him. She should have known that he would pull away. She really needed to work on that. If she was going to work things out with him, she had to act like she trusted him. It disappointed him that things weren't any better.

Giles stepped forward and helped Rona up. "Your chip should have fired," he said, sending an accusatory look in Spike's direction.

Buffy stepped forward and sucked up everything in her as she stood next to Spike. "He doesn't have a chip anymore," she said. Now was a good time to put everyone in their place and make them keep their hands off her vampire.

Spike looked down at her and shook off his vampire face. "I didn't hurt anyone," he said in defense of himself. He didn't want anyone ganging up on him for something that he didn't do.

Buffy looked up at him. "Spike, I meant what I said last night," she said. "I trust you. I know you wouldn't hurt anyone unless you had a reason. You don't need to explain yourself."

Dawn stood next to her sister. "They attacked Spike for no reason," she said. "He was just defending himself."

Buffy glared at the two girls. "Why would you attack a vampire?" She asked. "Are you crazy? Especially a vampire as dangerous as Spike. You're damn lucky he didn't kill you." She was glad that he had enough control to not hurt them too much.

"Exactly. He's dangerous," Xander said. "Buffy, you can't let him run around now with no chip."

"Watch me," Buffy said, glaring at her friend. "He's dangerous when he has to be. When stupid little girls think they can take on a master vampire that even I haven't been able to beat in six years."

"You told me yesterday that you only needed him for battle," Xander said. "He just tried to kill Rona!"

"She attacked me!" Spike growled, taking a step toward the boy.

Buffy grabbed Spike's arm. "Spike," she said, softly. "Please. I don't need the situation getting any worse. I don't need you giving Xander a broken nose, even if he deserves it." She delivered a glare to her friend for his bullshit.

Spike yanked his arm from her grasp. "Don't start with me, Buffy," he growled. Now he ached for a cigarette. She was again throwing him to the dogs and not setting everyone straight. He wouldn't just hurt someone for no reason. He didn't really do that when he was evil. Well he grew out of it. He hadn't been like Angelus.

Buffy sighed. "Okay," she said, crossing her arms. "I've had it with this crap." She glared at Xander. "Shut your mouth and let me talk." She looked back at Spike. "I don't know what you heard, but you overreacted. I don't care what anyone thinks about what happened between you and me. I chose to have your chip taken out, and I stick by it. Yes, it's about needing you for the First, but that is not the only reason. So stop being a dumb ass." She turned her attention to Xander. "Got it? Its none of your business to stay out of it."

Spike opened his mouth to say something then closed it. He crossed his arms and stared at the ground. He didn't need her to break anything of his either. They hadn't had a fight in a long time, and he had forgotten how heartbreaking it was on his part. He hated hurting her or seeing her in pain. All he wanted to do was take her in his arms and kiss her pain away.

Buffy turned her attention to the two potentials. "I don't know what you were trying to prove by attacking Spike, but you're damn lucky that he didn't kill you. Anyone tries that again and he has my permission to finish it," she said, in a firm voice. "Now I'm going to finish patrolling. The rest of you can go home."

Dawn stood close to Spike as Xander sputtered. It seemed like he was going to protest, but Giles hushed him and began to lead the girls home. "Are you coming?" Dawn asked, looking back at Spike.

Spike shook his head. "I need to talk to Buffy," he said. "Think I really messed things up this time." Nothing was going right anymore. Something was always coming between them and he couldn't make it stop. He didn't think they would ever be able to get it right. Not with her friends always getting in the way. Just because she told her friends to mind their own business didn't mean they were going to.

Dawn smiled a little. "I don't think you did," she said. "But can we… you know… talk sometime?" If he worked things out with Buffy tonight, he'd be in a better mood and maybe he would talk to her.

He nodded. "We can do that. You should head home. Don't want you out this late by yourself." He definitely missed Dawn and he would love to talk to her, but he needed to work things out with Buffy right now. Especially when he was probably the one that messed up.

"Don't worry," she said, showing him the stake in her jacket. "I came prepared." She smiled at him again before heading after the group.

Spike chuckled as he watched her walk away, but then he turned to head after Buffy. He took off in a jog to catch up with her. "Buffy!" He called, as he caught up to her. Her shoulders were slumped and he could smell that she had been crying, breaking his heart even more. How could he make up for this?

Buffy paused and sniffled. She shook her tears away and looked at him. "Thought you were going home." Spike could tell that she didn't want to deal with anything else tonight. She wanted to be alone, but he knew they had to work this out.

Spike looked down at her. "Don't you think we should talk?" he asked. He wanted to talk to her about what she had said. He was probably going to apologize and get down on his knees and tell her he loved her. Actually he wanted to take her in his arms and protect her from everyone, even his words, but that was just a dream.

She crossed her arms protectively. "Not really," she said. "You didn't want to talk earlier. And I've already said everything that needs to be said."

He sighed. He deserved that from her. He felt like a real pratt for making her cry. "Buffy, look, I'm sorry about this morning," he said. "I just… I didn't know what to think once you didn't say anything to the whelp about my chip." Once her friends got in the mix, Spike knew that he was fighting a losing battle. At least he always had been before. He was still trying to adjust to the fact that things had changed between him and Buffy.

She bit her lip and looked up at him. "I would have if you didn't make me run after you," she said. "And I just said something to everyone." Her eyes were pleading with him and he wanted nothing more then to just push it aside and move on with life, but if he did that, it would just come up again.

"I know you did," he said. "But how did you expect me to react, Buffy? You're friends have always come first and I have always been booted to the curb for them." He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his pants as he looked at her. "I just couldn't stand being humiliated again."

"I want you to trust me," she said, softly. "Because I would never do that to you again."

"Well sometimes it's hard," Spike said. "After last year, Buffy, it's really hard for me to trust you. Especially where your friends are concerned. What did you want me to do?" She was asking a lot of him. He wanted to trust her, more then anything in this world, but how could he?

Buffy rubbed her face and sniffled. "I wanted you listen to what I had to say," she whispered. "But I guess if you don't trust me or if you're not past what I did to you last year, then I don't expect you to listen to me now."

Spike took a step toward her and his hand reached up to caress her arm. "Buffy," he said, tenderly. "I'm sorry. I over reacted. But I do trust you." His other hand came up as he stroked her upper arms. "I just hoped that one day I would be just as important to you, if not more, then your friends." He didn't want to pressure her or anything into loving him or being in a relationship with him, but he wanted her to know how he felt.

"You are," she said, relaxing her arms, and resting them on his hips. He could already feel the heat spreading from her body to his. His heart lurched in his chest when she said that he was important to her. "You have no idea how special you are to me." She stepped closer to him and released a shaky sigh. "I hate fighting with you and I would never hurt you like I did last year."

Spike in haled deeply through his nose as her hands touched his hips. He physically had to fight back a jump of surprise as he listened to her words. "I don't like when we fight either," he whispered, gently pulling her body towards his. Her scent of vanilla was assaulting his nostrils and he couldn't help the stirring in his body. "Buffy?" He expected her to pull away, to say she wasn't ready, to walk away, but she didn't.

"Yeah?" She whispered, looking up into his eyes.

"Would… would it be alright if I kissed you?" He asked, shyly. He wasn't sure if they were ready to go that extra step, and what of her friends? Eventually they were going to have to face them. It was in evitable. And where would he sleep? Would she want him in her bed already? He tried to shake those thoughts from his mind. It was too soon to think like that.

Buffy's pink tongue darted out and moistened her soft lips. "I think that would be okay."

His hands slowly made their way up to her cheeks as his lips descended onto hers. He pressed his lips gently against hers as he cradled her face. He thumbs stroked over her still damp cheeks as he shifted closer to her. He had never felt this with her before. Their kisses before had been rough and demanding, whereas now, they were soft and tender. The passion was still there, but there was more. This was almost like their first kiss. He hesitantly stroked his tongue over her bottom lip, seeking entrance and she didn't disappoint.

A moan escaped her throat, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. He felt her arms go around his waist as her hands traveled up his back. She had risen up on her tippy toes to press her body flush against his. "Spike," she whispered, as she pulled back to take a breath.

"I love you," he whispered, leaning his forehead against hers. He hadn't said those words in quite some time and he didn't want her to reject them. She didn't have to love him, but he wanted her to accept how he felt about her. He just wanted to love her and make her happy.

"I know," she said, bringing her arms up around his neck. "I know you do." She nuzzled her lips against his before pulling him down for another kiss.