ooooooooooooooooooooooo Here's my new story. Review and enjoy :)

"I love you."

"No you don't. But thanks for saying it."

Buffy woke with a start.

She hadn't been sleeping well for awhile now. She kept having dreams about Angel and Spike. Correction, she kept having dreams about Angel, and kept having that one recurring dream about Spike, the replaying of events of the last time she saw him, back in Sunnydale.

It had been over a year since the event, and Buffy still hadn't seen either man. Spike had died in the Sunnydale Apocalypse, only to be brought back to life in L.A.

She hadn't seen Spike, but Andrew had spilled the beans about his still being alive. That brought a smile to Buffy's face. It was good to hear that he was still alive, but as bad as it sounded, she didn't really want to see him.

If she came across him again, she would be happy to see him, and be proud at the sacrifice he made in the Apocalypse, and appreciate the man he had become, but that would be it. The part of her life with him in it on a regular basis was over.

She was in a bad place when she got with Spike. Overall, her time with him wasn't something to be proud of. It was bad. It was physical, and that was it, at first. It was only sex, it was a way to make her feel something, anything, after being pulled out of heaven and back to the hell that was her normal life on earth. She used him and he used her. She never loved him even though she knew that he loved her in his own twisted way.

She could never love him, not the way he was. What she was doing wasn't right, even if it was the only thing she could do that made her feel.

She had broken things off with him, and Spike couldn't handle that. She remembered the day when he tried to rape her in her bathroom. She could never forget that day, and it had become so clear then, even though she knew it before, that she could never love him.

When Spike had returned to Sunnydale with his soul, things had started to change a bit. She saw what he had done. He went out and fought for a soul, for her. Forgiveness had come, and a new relationship had formed, but never the same relationship they had had before. She would never let him touch her like she once had, not ever again, because too many bad things had happened between them, and because she was pulling herself out of the darkness. She was slowly becoming Buffy again.

This new relationship was built on trust and respect, and Spike really truly did love her this time around. This time she actually had real feelings for him also, she was grateful for how he was there for her and for all of his support. She grew to love him, not like you love your soul mate or lover, but as a friend, as someone special... She remembered her last words to him, she couldn't forget them as they kept repeating in her dreams.

"I love you."

"No you don't. But thanks for saying it."

She had said them for comfort, and because a part of her meant it, just not the way he wanted her to love him. And he knew it.

"I hope you're well, Spike," she said to herself, getting up.

She stretched her arms over her head in front of the mirror and smiled. She could actually relax today. No training the new Slayers, she was free to do whatever she wanted. And today, right now, what she wanted was just to take a walk. It was beautiful outside and she wanted some fresh air. She threw on a pair of track pants and a sweater, grabbed a bottle of water, and headed out the door.

Rome was great, she loved it here. The people were cool and the place was beautiful. She had found this sort of hidden walking path a couple months ago, and always took a stroll down it. It was peaceful because so little people knew about it. It was perfect for walking and thinking, plus it led to this big old tree that had a single swing hanging from it.

She would walk and then just sit on the swing, sometimes for hours at a time. It was so peaceful. She walked down her path and inevitably came to her swing, which she sat on with a childlike joy and excitement. This was her place.

She kicked her feet under her, to give herself more height on the swing. Here she was care-free, even if only for awhile. Here, she just was her.

She swung herself back and forth for a good twenty minutes just enjoying the nothingness, the content, the quiet. Eventually, she brought herself back to reality, and got off of her secret swing. She picked up her bottle and found the walking path again, continuing on her way.

"Why can't I go one night without dreaming about them?" she thought to herself.

Every night for a long time now, she dreamt of Angel and Spike. It was always the same one of Spike, and she kind of thought she knew why she kept dreaming that one. She thought it was her conscious reminding her of a dark time, something she could and would not ever go back to. She also thought that it was her conscious' way of making her feel bad over the whole Spike situation, a way to bring up that bit of guilt she still had.

Buffy stopped in her tracks for a minute and thought.

"Spike is my past. I didn't always treat him well, but he wasn't always great to me either... I have some guilt left about letting him die there in the fire, but I never made him do it, it was his choice. He wanted to be a hero, and I gave him that chance... I'm sorry I didn't love you. I'm sorry that I said I did. I was trying to be kind," she said, now indirectly talking to Spike himself. "I didn't love you, but I cared, and you did at least know that much. You need to stop making me feel guilty. I need you to leave me alone now, please. We're done. You were important to me, we were important to each other, but that time is over. I need you to go away now, I want my dreams back... Goodbye."

Buffy took a deep breath and kept walking. Saying that had actually felt really good. She never really admitted her feelings of guilt before, but she felt good about it. Maybe that's what she needed to do, admit the guilt. Maybe the dreams would go away.

Angel, on the other hand, dreaming of him was natural. She had been dreaming about that guy since she was sixteen, even after he left, she still dreamt of him. She dreamt of him when she was with Riley and she dreamt of him when she was with Spike. She couldn't get rid of him, even if she tried, and she didn't want to, she never had.

He had screwed her up big time, she couldn't love men properly, and it was his fault. He made her love him so much, she didn't even know how to explain it. He had this part of her that absolutely no other guy could touch, no matter how hard they tried, and God, how they tried. And she tried too, she tried hard to be with others, to move on from Angel. It never really worked, because she still thought about her and Angel, even when she was with someone else.

She hadn't been with him in years, but he still was still with her wherever she was. She still loved him like she had all those years ago... It was so hard to send him away the year before when he came to Sunnydale, offering to help her in the Apocalypse, and basically telling her that he wanted her back again, but she had made a decision earlier that day. If she survived the Sunnydale Apocalypse, she would be taking some Buffy time. No guys at all. It was time to figure out who she was, she needed to be guy free, well romantically guy free.

And that meant Angel too. Part of her was ecstatic that Angel had finally dropped his whole idea of leaving her for her own good, and the other part stood fast. If he still wanted her, Angel would wait for her, until she was ready, if she ever would be ready.

Buffy had come to the conclusion awhile back that it probably would never work out between her and another man anyway, not with Angel always with her the way he was. In the end, she could only see herself with him, or not with any guy at all.

Angel or no one. That didn't mean she would be with Angel though, as much as she still wanted that. She needed the time that she was taking. She was figuring out her life, what she wanted. She was spending time with her sister, Giles, and her friends, and she was doing well. She was becoming a full person, discovering all of herself, learning all she could learn. She was on a good road, a road that she thought would lead her back to Angel in the end, but right now, as much as she loved him, it was about her.

She couldn't be with Angel right now, maybe soon, but not yet. That didn't mean part of her didn't crave him. She thought about him a lot. She missed him. Her many different dreams about him and her, of the times they had shared, helped to satisfy some of that craving.

Buffy was surprised to find herself back at the beginning of the path, she laughed a little bit, and walked back to the house.

Dawn was awake when Buffy got in.

"You were up early," Dawn said, yawning.

"Went out for a walk," Buffy answered, closing the door behind her.

"Here," Dawn said, passing Buffy a plate with some waffles.

"You made me breakfast," Buffy said, happily.

"Yeah," Dawn laughed. "Someone's in a good mood this morning. What's up?"

"Nothing, I'm just feeling good," Buffy answered.

"Okay," Dawn said, not bothering to push any further. "Now eat."

"Yes ma'am" Buffy laughed.

It was good to see Buffy like this; it had been a good year so far. Dawn was just happy to see her sister with peace in her life.

"You two are crazy, did you know that?" Willow asked, coming out of her room, yawning a big yawn.

"Why are you awake?" she asked, tiredly.

"Buffy took a walk and I made breakfast. Yummy, see?" Dawn said, passing Willow a plate of waffles too.

Willow's eyes opened up a bit more. "Well I guess I can wake up for some of Dawnie's waffles," Willow said, with a smile.

"Waffles, did I hear you say Waffles, Dawnie?" Xander called out from his room.

"Yeah, hurry up. Come get some before we eat them all," Dawn said.

Xander came out of his room, rubbing his eyes.

"Hello ladies," he greeted.

The girls waved as they stuffed their faces.

"Save some for Giles," Dawn said, taking half of what was on Xander's plate away from him.

"I told him I'd bring him some over to the Fortress. I feel bad, he was working all night."

"Fine, I guess I can save some," Xander said, feigning hurt.

Buffy just laughed. Life was good right now. And she was happy.