disclaimer: I don't own them Joss Whedon does.



Looking back on it now, running off to meet Angel probably wasn't as good as idea as it seemed. I mean the look on Giles face told me it was a mistake. But you know me - I have to do things my way.

Angel had sounded so intense on the phone - as if his world would crumble if he didn' t see me right away. I admit the sound of his voice made me shiver - it always does, brings back lots of memories. Yes there are good ones, I mean he's always gonna lay claim to a piece of my heart. But really how many times do I - do we - need to be reminded that its not going to ever happen for us ? So I took off and met him halfway at a small all nite diner - at least it wasn't a sewer.

I got there first and orderd a coffee - just plain coffee, no lattes served here. I added four packs of sugar and two of those little creamers so that it didnt' even resemble coffee anymore. I took a drink and waited, wishing that this coffee was a good stiff drink. But Angel would never approve of me drinking. Lots of stuff Angel would never approve of . But Spike, he's offered me his flask before. Where did that come from? I need to be thinking about the vampire I am meeting the love of my life, not the vampire who wants to be part of my life.



I felt him come in the door behind me, I still do that, I feel him. But it's different now. I still love him, but its so mixed up and bittersweet now. I stood and waved at him, his chocolate eyes lit up and an honest to goodness smile crossed his lips. I've missed him, even before I died and here he is.

He's hugging me and holding me close to his chest and it feels so good. The other diner patrons are beginning to stare. I smile at him and sit down in the booth he sits across from me.

"I can't believe you are back!" He smiles at me never taking his eyes from me as if I might dissappear. I swear he's got a goofy grin on his face - I don't remember Angel ever smiling much - and I'm sure I've never seen him look goofy before. What exactly has happened to him since the LA move?

I can't help but compare his goofy grin at seeing me to Spike's quiet reaction. Angel is talking to me and I'm remembering Spike being so quiet as if I was this precious gift standing before him - it was an achingly tender look. Uhhhh...yeah Angel is talking - I should be listening to him.





"I can't believe it either." I say softly maybe too softly, because he's looking at me as if he knows.

"Buffy if you need to talk about where you were, I think I can understand what you might have been through." He pats my hand comfortingly across the table. And I realize he thinks I was in a dimension like the one he was in. I don't have the heart to tell him that it wasn't like that at all. I wonder why I can't tell Angel - I used to tell him everything. I can tell Spike my secret and I can't tell Angel - weird.

He then takes both of my hands in his, reminding me of how Spike had gingerly taken my wounded hands in his when I first came back. Angel notices the light scarring and his brow furrows but he doesn't ask about my hands - why?

Spike didn't dance around it - he asked about my hands right off. And he knew why they were hurt and he didn't shove it away - he understood the pain in my hands and in my head. Why doesn't Angel push me for the answers, doesn't he care? I know thats not really fair to him, I mean Spike saw me right after I came back. Angel gets to see the cleaned up version. Again, I wonder why am I thinking of Spike now?

Concentrate, Buffy! This is Angel he always makes things better. Doesn't he? He's asking about everyone else - I explain that Tara and Willow and Giles are staying at my house now. He nods head as if this makes sense - it doesn't make sense to me. I want my house back - I've only been back a little while and I am tired of my every move being scrutinized by my well meaning friends. I'm tired of smiling and saying I'm okay. I want to tell Angel this - but the look on his face says that I better not. He is living in the land of denial with everyone else - everyone but Spike that is. So I tell him I'm okay. Its what he wants to hear.

And he takes a deep breath and he's getting ready for a good broody conversation I can tell. He starts to apologize - and I can see Spike in his crypt apologizing for not taking care of Dawn. I hear Angel's voice droning but I see Spikes face as he explains that he failed and then tells me how he saved me everynight after that. And I wonder unfairly - I know it's unfair but hey life isn't fair ,so I wonder did Angel imagine every night how to save me?

I don't think he did. And suddenly I'm angry, I know its irrational but hey I've been dead I'm allowed a little slack.I interrupt his apology. "Angel do you know how many days I was actually gone?"

He looks at me like I've grown an extra head, I know he doesn't know the exact number of days. I answer for him, "One hundred and forty seven days."

"One hundred and forty seven?" He thinks about this.

"Do you know who kept track of that?"

He shakes his head no.



"Spike....Spike knew without hesitation how many days I was gone." I throw the words at him. I want to hurt him - why did he insist on this meeting? To make himself feel better - not for me!

Oh he loves me - but its not the same. He has his own life in LA now and once he thinks I'm okay he can go back there with a clear conscience - as clear as Angel's conscience ever gets anyway.

He looks hurt, "Spike?"

"Yeah, Spike. And he was there you know - there when I died." Good going - Buffy, rub salt in the wound. I am not sure why I'm telling him this I can't describe the look on his face.

"Why was he there?" He asks softly.

"Did Willow not tell you that Spike had been helping us? That he was trying to protect Dawn and I?" Did my friends completely forget about Spikes part - that he had been a real help? No wonder he left so quickly when they came in the other night. Had anyone thanked him? Have I thanked him?

"No, she didn't mention Spike and he obvioulsy didn't do a very good job protecting you." Angel's face is marred by a deep frown.

"He did his best Angel and he got thrown off a tower for his trouble." I shake my head and sigh. It really bothers me that Willow didn't tell him about Spike.

"So Spike is trying to be a good guy now? Why?" Angel askes pointedly, "He always has a motive."

I am not going into Spike's reasons for changing with Angel. "All I know is that he was there for me and for Dawn after I died."

"And I wasn't." He sighs again.



I am not going to make this about his pain, I refuse, yes,Angel I love you and no you weren't there, but we haven't really been there for each other for a long time. And I'm okay with that - I really am - I'm okay with it! It took dying to make see that I can be okay without Angel.

I finally speak - I need to take that pained look off of his face.

"Angel, you came when my mom died and honestly I don't know what I would have done without you. I know that you are always there for me if I need you. It's just that its time for me to *not* need you anymore." I smile at him and lay my hand on his cheek. I have to leave, I can't be here for another minute. I've left everyone worried and I need to get back to Dawn and my friends and Spike. Yeah - Spike's name is on the list now. Who would have thought?

He looks worried, but he's gonna humor the recently dead girl and rewards me with a small smile, "I do understand. You need to find your way - I am always here though." He doesn't sound like he understands but for once I just don't have time to sit and make him feel better. This didn't end the way either of us would have liked it too, but with us it never does! We don't get hearts and flowers and forever and it's time we accepted that.

I stand up to leave - "Goodbye, Angel." I smile at him and turn to leave. It really hurts to let go.

He follows me as I pay for my coffee, I feel the tears welling in my eyes and he can see them too. It's really over now, we have our own lives - our own separate lives. He opens the car door and kisses my cheek before he closes it. He waves as I start the car and then the tears start and I cry for Angel - for what we had, what we can never have. I don't look back - from now on I have to look forward.



My nose is stopped up and my eyes are puffy and I think I need to get cleaned up before I go home or everyone will be worried about me again. I stop the car at a park I saw on the way to the diner. I get out and walk around to calm myself - can't have anyone thinking I've been upset. I sit on one of the benches and Spike's words come back to me, he'd offered to take out my friends even though he would suffer a headache for it and I knew he was teasing me and it actually made me smile. He does that - he makes me smile.

He cares for Dawn and I know he cares for me. And I remember that I haven't thanked him yet and I've got to do that - I add it to Buffy's 'to do' list right after 'excrucating meeting with Angel' and 'pick up supper on way home."

.

I drive home slowly wondering how a visit with Angel spurred on so many Spke thoughts? But the thoughts continue to tumble through my muddled brain - He fought for Dawn and I. He took care of Dawn even after I died. He is good to have around in a fight and he's very perceptive. But sometimes he is too perceptive - he told me once that Angel and I could never be friends - he was so right. And I think this little visit just proved that - again.

He's not pushy like the others since I got back. He lets me talk and listens. He can keep a secret. Or at least so far he has kept mine. What does all of this mean? I have no idea - all I know is that I just left Angel brooding in a diner - and I have no guilt about it!

***

I stop and pick up a bucket of chicken for dinner. And when I get there they have already eaten, but politely take some chicken anyway. Why? It's okay my feeling aren't hurt but they are all going out of their way to make me feel better. It just annoys me even more.



And they are all asking about my visit with Angel. I don't tell them anything - whats to tell? More angst and drama in the Buffy and Angel show except this time I walked away first? And are they ready to really know what I'm thinking about right now? They are bombarding me with questions and all I really want to think about is ..................a good excuse to go to Spike's crypt.

"I'm going to patrol, now." I announce after having eaten my chicken dinner.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Giles asks anxiouosly.

"Yes, I'm really sure." I smile at Giles and pat his shoulder. I look at Dawn across the table she looks worried, "I'm okay, Dawnie. I'll be back soon." She gives me a small smile as I leave.

***

The crypt is sparsely lit with a few odd candles. Spike is sitting in front of the television, he hears me come in and turns towards me, he doesn't say anything he just nods as I sit across from him. He breaks the silence with a grunt and question, "So how is the poof?"

It hits me then why the attitude he knows I went to see Angel. Aww, Spike if only you knew....I have to gather my courage and I speak - well its more like a whisper when I get the words out, "Spike, thank you."

He looks up from the tv then, "What did you say?" It's like he can't believe his own ears.

I stand and walk towards him, I place my hand on his cheek, "I said thank you."

He lowers his eyes then and clears his throat, "For what?"

"For taking care of Dawn," I want to touch him more, I lean and kiss his forehead softly,

"For knowing that I was gone for one hundred and forty seven days."

He sighs then, a little sigh full of emotion and without looking at me he raises his hand and lies it on my hand that rests on his cheek. In a choked voice, he says "You are welcome."

I take my other hand and lift his chin gently, staring into watery blue eyes, "Spike, it's okay - you can show your emotions to me. You're the only one I seem to be able to show mine to right now."

He wipes at his eyes with the back of his hand. "I'm not like Angel - not all poncy and emotional. I'm a monster remember? One you'll never love."

I continue to stare hard into his eyes, my hand still on his cheek even though he has lowered his from mine.

"You're right, you aren't like Angel. You're Spike and you're not a monster - you're a man, a good man."

He looks at me and the tears start falling from my eyes and from his eyes and his lips are on mine and ourtears are mixing and our lips are dueling and our hands are roaming and for the first time since I got back I feel like I'm home. This is it , this is where I belong - wrapped in Spike's arms, his lips on mine. And then he's carrying me downstairs and he's holding me oh so carefully as he stands by his bed and his eyes are begging permission.

And I kiss him soundly - granting permission. And the next few hours are a foggy blur of passion.



I wake up tired and sore, but it's a good kind of sore. The kind of soreness that means I was loved well and true by the man who loves me. His arm is lying across my waist and he's smiling in his sleep and his hair I never noticed just how good *bed hair* could look on someone. I hate to do it but I have to get back home or they are good send out the scooby version of the calvary. "Hey you." I shake him gently, he opens his eyes and grins when he sees me lying beside him. "I have to go, they are going to come out looking for me soon."

"So, let them." He grins and stretches as she sits up.

"They might even call in Angel Investigations to help find me." I can't help but tease him a little bit. He doesn't get angry though he just laughs, "Oh that would be bloody amusing, why yes, Angel your poofiness, I have seen Buffy. As a matter of fact the reason she's late coming home is that we shagged most of the night away."

I know it's wrong on one level but I can't help it, I join in his laughter and I feel good and I feel alive and it feels like home to me.



The End