Disclaimers: Everything belongs to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon. I'm just having fun with the characters

Summary: Begins at 'Once More With Feeling' and pretty much takes on a life of it's own after the exit from the Bronze

Pairings: Buffy/Angel, Spike/Tara

Reviews: Welcomed and appreciated

Notes: Started this at the same time as 'Family', one story sort of went two directions, so you may see some similarities. Hope this one's different enough and hope you like it

Spike rushed out of the Bronze, leaving Buffy and her Scooby gang to finish their little ditty without him. Where do we go from here indeed, he knew exactly where he was going and he knew it was alone. He wasn't a part of it, of them, and to be honest he didn't want to be. He had fulfilled his obligation to Buffy and if she couldn't feel the way he did, well bugger 'em all. He sat on a crate in the alley and lit a cigarette. He hated the whiney, needy bastard he had become since he had fallen in love with the slayer. Love, what a joke. Obsession, that was it, he'd fallen into obsession. Again. He shook his head and took a deep drag. It started before she died and was even worse since she'd been back. Damn that stupid wicca for bringing her back.

'You always treated me like a man.' He cringed as he remembered his words to the Slayer the night she died. What a pussy whipped wimp. It made him hate himself even more than the girl and her little gang. Spike inhaled deeply again.

Tara had seen Spike dash out of the room and knew she would follow him out. She slowly backed up, exiting as unobtrusively as she could. Not that any of the group would really notice, she thought. She wasn't one of them and no matter how they tried to include her she felt the barriers that was put up by all but Dawn. Even Willow didn't trust her, which was obvious by the bramble's breath. She quietly shut the door and leaned her head against the cool metal.

"So, pushed out or just feel that way?" Spike queried.

Tara turned to him with a sad smile. "I don't belong in there, don't think I ever did." She sat next to him taking the cigarette from his fingers and taking a long drag.

His eyes opened wide with surprise. "So, what other revelations does the little white witch have up her sleeve?"

"You'd be surprised." She sighed heavily and looked up at the vampire with wide trusting eyes. "Will you take me back to the house so I can get a few of my things? It's dark and I'm nervous to go alone. I'll need to find a hotel and I'd rather do it before they all show up."

"And so when did I become your best mate and confidant?" He sarcastically inquired.

With a deep sigh, she softly whined. "Spike."

The two had become closer than the others during the summer of Buffy's demise; they had bonded with Dawn and with each other. So Spike wasn't really surprised that Tara would trust him to take her anywhere. And he wasn't surprised that she didn't take his sarcasm seriously either.

He rolled his eyes and flicked the cigarette to the ground, his mood changing mercurially.

"You sure pet?"

She nodded. "Please."

"Alright then, you can stay at my place tonight if you like." He almost laughed at the look on her face. "You'll be safe love, don't force myself on unwilling ladies. 'Specially if they prefer other ladies." He hopped off his seat and held his hand out to her. "Let's be off then."

Tara took his hand and shivered at the energy she felt transferred though his fingers. Strange, he was cold but she could feel his heat.

"Thanks Spike, maybe I'll take you up on the offer, at least for tonight."

Buffy looked around at all her friends and family. Spike was gone and so was Tara. She shrugged, the two of them really didn't need to borrow all this trouble. Dawn came to her sister and took her hands.

"I'm so sorry Buffy," she sniffed, trying to keep the tears at bay, "I...didn't know. I mean of course I didn't know about heaven, but I had no idea they were going to bring you back." She took her sister in an embrace. "But Buffy, I missed you so and I was just so glad to have you back…please say you forgive me."

"Oh Dawnie, forgive you for what?"

"For being glad you're back, even if it means you aren't in heaven anymore." The guilt over her feelings was choking the younger girl.

"If it had been you I would've gone to hell and back if I thought you were suffering. I know how you feel, really, and I don't blame you." Buffy pulled out of her sister's arms and went to Willow.

"And I can forgive you too. But you have to understand…Will, you have to see…" She found she could no longer articulate, her throat filling with bile. She rushed out the door, Giles fast on her heels.

Giles held her up as she trembled and became sick. "Oh Giles, what can I do? How do I live again?" She sobbed as she let her mentor take her into his arms.

"Buffy, we'll figure this out, somehow we will." Giles racked his brain for an answer.

"How about you and Dawn come to England for a respite, you can just sit back and consider your options…" He trailed off, feeling lost for her.

"I can't Giles. Willow needs me. After what she did I'm not sure Tara can forgive her and we all know she could react badly. All these secrets Giles, all the deception. And I'm as guilty at the rest, I couldn't let you know where I was, what Willow pulled me out of." She looked up at him.

Her voice was so small. Giles pushed Buffy to arms length and looked into her eyes. "We'll find a way to work this out Buffy, we always do, don't we?"

Buffy nodded and sniffed. "I suppose we do."

Angel was restless. He had a second chance, Buffy was back, alive, and he had a chance to tell her why he really left, to let her know how much he still loved her, would always love her. But so much had happened, his dark side, Darla. All of it. And getting his soul bound. He had wanted to tell her when she had first come back, when they had met. But she had been so vulnerable; she had told him everything then. Where she had been in death, how wonderful it had all been. She was convinced she had been in heaven.

"Oh Angel, the love. The peace. It was there for me. And Angel, I knew that eventually you would've been there too. It was as close to perfection as anything could be and you would've made it complete and I know, just know that if I waited long enough you would have come to me." She had dug deep into his arms and wept.

"Baby, you have me here, you have me now…" Angel had no idea how to comfort her, he just knew that he wanted to hold her in his arms forever.

She had looked up at him with that sad smile he had come to recognize, the sad smile he had put on her lips. "I only want you forever. You make me feel Angel. And since I've been back I don't feel. Anything. But being here with you, since I've been back this is the first time I've felt alive. Thank you Angel."

And then it was time for her to go back to Sunnydale, to her sister, to her 'friends'. Her obligations, she had said. 'And you know what those are like.' She had given a sad laugh. And then she was gone. He had been unable, unwilling to claim her. To add to the complications in her life.

How could anyone have thought Buffy would ever go to a hell dimension? Especially after saving the world again? What was Willow thinking to abuse her gifts like that, he asked himself? He wanted to get in his car and drive up to Sunnydale right now and take her away from them. All their sanctimonious, territorial possessiveness of the woman who would always be his.

Cordelia stood in the doorway with her arms crossed and shook her head. What was it about that stupid slayer that would allow no room in his life for anyone else? She was prettier, smarter, she had visions which in her opinion aced Buffy's slayer strength. Why couldn't Angel ever look at her that way? He even slept with Darla and he never came near her like that. It was so unfair. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh.

Angel turned at the sound and frowned at her. "What?"

"Don't you dare take that tone with me. You know what. I know what. You're gong after her, aren't you?"

Angel shifted his gaze to the ceiling. "I love her Cordy. Always have, always will. It's just the way it is. When that witch was able to bind my soul my first thought was of Buffy, I could be with her. But she was with that stupid soldier boy and I didn't want to get in the way of her happiness. And then the whole Glory thing and she died…" his voice caught, "…but nothing Cordelia, no one can ever change the way I feel about her."

"Whatever Angel. It's your funeral. You know what happens when the two of you are together, you may love each other but that doesn't mean you are good for each other. Just don't come running to me when it all falls apart…"

"Just stop it! Just stop with your fucking nay-saying! I know it won't be easy and I know I'll have a hell of a time even convincing her how right we are for each other. But hear me Cordelia. She will be a part of my life. And I won't be put in the middle of you and her. She will always come first. I want you in my life Cordy, you've become an important part of my life, but don't think you can put a wedge between us if I can win her back." His eyes were blazing and Cordelia took a step back.

"Yeah, okay so I get it. Just don't forget Angel, I've stayed for these past three years, she hasn't, she…"

"I'm the one who left her Cordy, not the other way around." With those words Angel got up from his seat, gently pushed Cordelia from his office and closed the door.