"Bloody hell," he cursed as he poured the scotch into the glass and pounded it back. He threw himself into the leather recliner and grabbing the remote, turned the TV on. At any hour he knew he could find Passions. "Wonder what I missed," he muttered.

It was good to be able to pick up the remote. Turn the TV on. Feel something besides the physical pain that seemed to ache through his entire body. He hadn't had a good fight since he and Angel got back from Italy, but he seemed to ache everywhere anyway. Spike was afraid to admit to himself that it wasn't his body that was aching, but his heart.

What the hell had happened in Rome anyway? He'd seen her. Christ, he'd smelled her before he'd even seen her. There, in that crowded Euro trash filled club, he'd smelled that Slayer blood and then he'd seen her. That shinny blond hair bouncing and waving in the glittering, flashing club lights. And that lithe body, writhing on the dance floor, gyrating and grinding, rubbing up against that sodding Immortal.

"Buffoon!" he muttered and he wasn't sure if he was talking about Buffy, himself, or that ridiculous, posturing vampire.

Spike had wanted to go and grab her, pull her into his arms, devour her mouth, her flesh, take her blood into his veins and bury himself in her. The urge had been overwhelming and if it hadn't been for that poof Angel and well, that posturing Immortal, Spike would have done it.

But he hadn't.

She hadn't even known he was there. She hadn't sensed him; like he'd sensed her.

But then, she'd never loved him.

Not the way he'd loved her. Never.

And now, really, how could he go to her? It had been months since he'd seen her last; months since he'd taken that tacky Elizabeth Taylor looking amulet and saved the world, burning in the fires of hell to do it. She'd held his hand.

"I love you," she'd said, tears pouring down her face.

"No you don't, but thanks for saying it." And he'd let her go. He'd known she hadn't loved him. He'd seen her with Angel, kissing him. He'd known that she would always choose Angel over him.

So that's why he hadn't been surprised when, in Rome, she hadn't even acknowledged his presence.

But he had been surprised when she hadn't acknowledged Angel's.

And the ponce had been surprised as well.

They'd hurried back to L.A. Angel fuming over the snub, Spike feeling the usual pain and betrayal. Apparently burning to ash to save the world hadn't burned away the pain of loving Buffy and not being loved in return.

But it was time to get back to work. Time to rejoin Angel's gang and fight the good fight; it wasn't a bad gig, Spike thought. Not a bad gig for a vampire with a soul. And, at the end of the day, it saved him from being alone for most of those hours.

He poured himself another drink and turned his attention back to the TV, hoping that the trials and tribulations of the soap would distract him.


"Spike, I want to run one more test," Fred said as she bustled around the table in her white lab coat.

"Whatever you need luv," he said, grinning at her, his blue eyes sparkling. "You can run as many tests on me as you'd like."

Fred flushed and scratched at her nose, grinning. She tilted her head to the side and grabbed her clipboard. "Your radioactive emissions are completely normal. You are definitely corporeal."

"I could have told you that pet," he murmured suggestively. "Could have shown you too."

She laughed and jotted a note on the clipboard. "Spike," she replied with the slightest hint of reproach. It was only slight; definitely not enough in her voice to really mean it.

"Take the coat off, I want to take another sample of your blood," she continued.

"Fred," he teased, the low timber of his British accent causing her body temperature to rise by several degrees. "No need to beg luv."

She rolled her eyes and reached for the syringe as he shrugged out of his long leather coat.

"One good thing about Wolfram and Hart," he said, flinging the coat over the back of a chair. "They keep me in fine leather coats." As he said this, a piece of paper fluttered from the inner pocket to the floor.

Fred bent over and picked it up. "Here's your-" She glanced down at the worn and bent picture in her hand. She recognized it from the Hyperion. Angel had had one exactly like it, tucked away and hidden. Unless…

"Did you take this from Angel?" She said, staring down at the picture of the blond haired young woman. Fred knew who she was and looking up from the picture, she met Spike's blank gaze.

He reached out for the picture and she gave it to him. He turned away, briskly, his voice harsh. "Yeah. Figured what with dog girl, the git wouldn't need it anymore."

Fred's heart softened as she stared at his lean back in its customary black t-shirt. He carefully folded the picture and tucked it into his back pocket.

"Wes told me that you and Angel saw her in Rome," she said softly.

"Yeah," he muttered. "Busy shagging the Immortal."


He sniffed. "Posturing ponce, he is. All dark and brooding. She always did have a thing for all that depressing, maudlin shite."

Fred glanced at him, saw through his own posturing.

"You didn't talk to her."

"She didn't even know we were there."

"You didn't call her did you," Fred stated.

Spike looked over at her askance. "When? In Italy?"

She rolled her eyes. "When you were hurled out of the hell dimension saving the world had sent you to."

Spike chuckled roughly. "Come on pet! Surely you remember. I couldn't pick up a phone."

"And since then?"

Spike waved her comment away. "She doesn't want anything to do with me."

Fred reached out and touched his hand in a maternal, non scientific gesture. "Spike, you don't know that."

"Ha! I know pet. Burned in hell saving the world remember? There are few things I don't know. And I know that the Slayer doesn't want anything to do with me."

Fred perched on the stool and stared at his bent head. The platinum blond hair, freshly razored at the back of his neck made him look young and vulnerable. Looking at him, no one would guess that he was over a hundred years old and had once been the scourge of Europe. But that was in the past. Since he'd fought to regain his soul, Spike had been all about fighting the good fight. Fred figured that saving the world had pretty much redeemed him.

"Do you think she knows you're back?"

He shrugged. "How could she not? Especially after Angel and I tore up Rome on our motorcycles and sent the Immortal running."

A slight exaggeration, he thought to himself as he remembered that humiliating dash through the winding streets of Rome; both of them on one very tiny Vespa.

"I'm sure that Andrew told her," he added, just in case there was any doubt.

"Maybe she'll call you," Fred said.

"She won't."

She doesn't want me, he thought. I'm a monster. She'd never forgiven him for that night…

As Fred watched him fiddle with a test tube, something in her heart softened even more as she finally understood.

"You're afraid," she murmured.

He shot her a hard glance, but she read the vulnerability behind those glittering sapphire eyes. "Of course not!" he protested quickly. "Fred – big bad remember?! I'm not afraid of anything."

"Oh, I don't know about that," she said. "You are afraid of your feelings for her."

Spike sighed. "Fred, I've been love's bitch so long that I'm not afraid of my feelings anymore."

"You're afraid she'll reject you."

He laughed harshly. "Again? I've grown accustomed to it."

She shook her head. "You fought for your soul for her. To be a better man for her."

"And she turned me down pet," he pointed out.

"You were her champion Spike," she said. "That has to mean something. You burned and saved the world for her."

"And here I am," he said, standing up and pointing to himself. "What will she think of my big sacrifice now eh pet?"

Fred stared at him. He was a marvel. A beautiful, soulful, heartbreaking marvel. "My goodness Spike, if she had any sense she would get down on her hands and knees and thank you for saving the world. For being her champion."

He grinned cockily. "Not known for having much sense she is." He shrugged. "Besides, champions are supposed to die, luv," he murmured . "They are supposed to fade away."

She quirked a smile at him. "Well, you did sort of fade away."

"Burned away more like ," he replied. "And faded right back into existence. Not exactly heroic."

She shook her head. "I think you're wrong Spike. The Powers that Be sent you back for a reason."

"I highly doubt it's some romantic reunion with the Slayer."

She smiled. "Maybe that's exactly why Spike. Maybe being with Buffy is your reward for your sacrifice."

He shoved away from the table and grabbed his jacket. "You've got it wrong pet, in the fairy tales the monsters don't get rewarded." With one last glance at her, he strode from the room.

She stared at his departing back, the long leather coat flapping behind him.

"I don't have it wrong Spike," she whispered. "You aren't a monster."

* **

Buffy delivered the final kick and slammed the stake into the vampire's heart. "Buh bye!" she muttered. She turned, dusting her hands, just as the cell phone rang.

"You got that Kennedy?"

Kennedy slammed her stake through the heart of the other vampire and pulled the cell phone from her pocket in one smooth move. "Hey you." She tucked the phone into her shoulder and dusted her hands on her sweater with a grimace. "Yeah, cleaned out the nest over on 54th. They were fledglings and not very good ones. No leader." She turned her back to Buffy, her voice lowering as she murmured something private. Then she straightened and turned back to Buffy, tossing her the phone. "Will wants to talk to you."

Buffy caught the phone. "Yeah Will?"

"Buffy, I need you and Kennedy to come home."

Buffy heard the strain in her best friend's voice. "What did Dawn do now?"

Willow bit back a chuckle. "It's not Dawnie."

"Now why do I think you are lying to me?" she said with a smile. "It's Tuesday, it must be Dawn."

Willow chuckled nervously. "It's not Dawnie. Giles is back."

Buffy straightened and headed for the car. "Giles is here? What for?"

"Your decoy in Rome was compromised," Willow said.

Buffy shrugged and then remembered that Will couldn't see her. "No biggie. I told you it wouldn't work anyway."

Willow sighed. "It was working Buffy. The decoys were working."

After the closing of the Hellmouth in Sunnydale and the destruction of the Watcher's Council, things had spun out of control. Add to that the surplus of Slayers and there had simply been too many things to do. Giles had returned to England to rebuild the Council and Xander and Andrew had gone with him to work on training the European slayers who'd wanted to return home. Willow and Buffy had set up a training camp for the American contingent in Cleveland on top of another Hellmouth.

The decoy slayers had been Faith's idea. With all the slayers around, the big bads the world over had started to believe and act as if the slayer power was diluted. While it was certainly an advantage to have that many slayers available for slayage, they were not well trained and not all that threatening. So, they'd grabbed a few of them, died their hair blond, trained them in special ops and called them Buffy, setting them up in especially heavy spots with high demon activity.

And it had worked. The demon activity in those hotspots like Prague, Toronto, Berlin and Melborne, had lessened. Just the presence of The Slayer in those spots had served as a threat. It worked until that fool Kaitlyn in Rome had gone and started the affair with the Immortal. It wasn't that the underworld didn't believe that The Slayer would hook up with a vampire, afterall, she had a reputation as a vampire groupie. It simply drew too much attention to her.

The Rome decoy was the third to fall.

Buffy sighed as she unlocked the car and threw Kennedy the keys. They got in. "I told Kaitlyn not to hook up with the Immortal," she said to Willow. "It was too obvious. She was supposed to stay below the radar. The Immortal for crying out loud!"

Buffy thought she heard Kennedy mutter something about 'Angelus' beneath her breath and she shot her an annoyed look of warning.

"We'll be home in 5 minutes," Buffy said as Kennedy took a corner too quickly. "Make that 3."

"Ok, see you soon."

Buffy hung up and gripped the seat as Kennedy stepped on the gas. "Kennedy!" she warned, but the girl only grinned.

Within mere minutes they had pulled up to the tall brownstone in a quiet suburban part of Cleveland that they called home. Kennedy parked the car behind Gile's rental and they hurried into the house.

"Giles!" Buffy called out and Giles turned, in the middle of sipping a cup of tea and smiled at her. Buffy noticed immediately that there was something wrong and she came to a dead stop. Glancing over she spotted Andrew. "What are you doing here?"

He pulled himself up, full of self importance. "I'm the one who brought the news."

"News?" She didn't like the sound of this. It didn't bode well. Perhaps there was more to the fall of the Rome decoy than just an affair of the heart gone bad. "Please tell me we don't have another apocalypse on the way."

Giles shook his head and set his cup of tea down. Andrew opened his mouth and Giles held up his hand. "Andrew!" he said sharply.

"But I wanted to tell her!" Andrew wined.

Giles removed his glasses and nervously wiped them on his handkerchief. "Buffy, you might want to sit down."

"Is Kaitlyn dead?" she said. There had been so many deaths in the last year. It never got any easier.

Giles shook his head. "No Buffy, she's alright and she's back in London. The only thing she's nursing is a broken heart."

Buffy shook her head. They were all so young. And like she'd been at that age, naïve and somewhat stupid when it came to their hearts.

But she'd learned. The hard way. And so would they.

She just hoped they didn't have to die and get expelled from heaven to learn their lesson. She hoped they didn't have to watch their lo- She shook her head, casting that thought, that memory , from her mind. It hurt more than even she could bear.

"Buffy, this isn't about Kaitlyn."

Buffy looked confused. "But Will said on the phone that our cover in Rome was blown." She glanced around, suddenly noticing that Dawn was missing. "Damn, this is about Dawnie but you didn't want to say anything over the phone."

Will jumped up from Kennedy's side and grabbed Buffy's hand. "No Buff! Dawn is over at Elaine's, they're studying for midterms."

Willow pulled her over to the coach and they sat down. Willow looked up at Giles. "Just tell her."

"Spike is alive!" Andrew shouted with glee.

Buffy froze. She turned and glared at the little weasel of a boy man.

"What did you just say?"

Giles sighed in frustration. "Andrew! Shut up!"

Buffy shifted her glare from Andrew's flushed face to Giles' worried one. She stood up and faced him. "Giles, what is he talking about."

The glasses were pulled out again. The handkerchief fluttered.

"Buffy, it is true. Spike is alive."

"Impossible," she said flatly, turning away from him. Her anger was sharp as a blade and it split through the shards that remained of her heart. When would they stop? When would they stop trying to use Spike and his memory to hurt her, to peel back the layers and force her to feel?

She didn't want to feel anymore. To feel, to remember those last moments and all the ones that came after would be more than she could bear. She couldn't be the Slayer they needed and wear all this human pain and regret like a shawl.

"He's not alive. I watched him burn. I watched him turn to dust! You saw what was left of Sunnydale. You saw what he did to save us! There was nothing left!" She closed her eyes, not wanting to remember her last sight of him, his flesh turning black and falling to ash.

Oh God….

She felt a hand touch hers and she flinched.

"Buffy, it's true," Willow said softly.

Buffy turned and looked at the only person in the world she knew would never lie to her.

"What are you saying Will?"

"Angel and Spike were in Rome last week. They were there on Wolfram & Hart business. "

Buffy grinned, shaking her head. "Will, you can't believe this. Angel and Spike together? Working on a case? Now I know that Angel's gone over working for the L.A. big bad on some twisted idea of reverse psychology and justice. But you not only expect me to believe that somehow Spike is alive but you want me to believe that he's working with Angel?"

'I watched him die!' she wanted to scream at them. 'I held his hand and watched him burn.' But she didn't. She didn't yell. She didn't scream. She didn't tell them what was in her heart.

She'd never been able to. She'd always known that, as Spike had once sung to her, the Scooby Gang couldn't deal. He'd been right about so many things.

And wrong about that last, bittersweet claim.

'No you don't,' he said while his flesh blackened and fell away. 'But thanks for saying it.'

Buffy would never forgive herself for letting him die feeling alone and unloved.

And now they wanted her to believe that he was alive? That he was working with Angel?

She shook her head. "Impossible."

Willow took her hand in her own. "I called Wolfram & Hart."

Buffy stared at her and Willow saw the hope and the fear. "Will?" she whispered.

Willow nodded. "I spoke with Wesley . Apparently a few months ago, Angel received a package from Sunnydale. When he opened it, that amulet you gave Spike fell to the ground. There was a flash of light and there he was."

Buffy stared at her and shook her head. "Will," she said. "I can't.."

"He's alive Buffy," Giles said. "Somehow, someway, he was sent back to this world. This dimension."

She shook her head. The heat in her heart was melting the ice, cracking and shattering that protective layer. Alive.

He was alive.

She gasped and pressed her hands into her eyes, pressing, burning, shaking her head. "No! Not possible!"

"It's true! And it's so cool!" Andrew said gleefully. "Spike is back!"

Buffy's head shot up and she stared at Willow, unable to hide the agony. "He's been back all these months and he hasn't called me?" Her voice cracked beneath the weight of the dawning awareness and sadness.

Willow looked up at Giles, Andrew and Kennedy, and she gestured to the door. Getting the gist of her non verbal communication, all three left the room.

Buffy stared down at her hands, shaking her head.

"How could he not call me?" she whispered. She stared up at Willow. "That night…. He said I was the one. The only thing he ever believed in. How could he be back and not call me?"

Willow shook her head. She knew pain. She knew the betrayal of a broken heart. And so did Buffy. Buffy had experienced a young girl's first love and heartbreak with Angel but her feelings and her relationship with Spike had always been more complicated. There had been nothing young and innocent in that relationship.

"I don't know Buff. Only Spike can answer that."

Buffy laughed harshly. "And I'm just supposed to show up at Wolfram & Hart and ask him?"

Willow shrugged. "Can you live the rest of your life not knowing? Knowing that he is alive and never know what happened? Buffy, there could be a dozen reasons for why Spike hasn't contacted you. I'm sure there is a valid reason and we just don't know it."

Buffy shook her head. "The Spike I knew would never have come back and not contacted me."

Willow glanced down at her hands. "I don't know Buffy. He was different. You were different. Things were, are different."

Buffy thought of how she'd treated him. Hot and cold. She'd taken and taken, used him and tossed him aside, played the victim when things had gotten too intense. And even after that, he'd hunted down a myth and fought the trials of hell to get his soul back so that he could be a better man; be the man that he thought she'd wanted.

And she'd still turned him aside.

During one of their last nights together, he'd held her in his arms and watched her sleep and he'd told her it had been the best night of his life. And then he'd asked her what it had all meant. Even then, she hadn't been able to tell him the truth. "Does it have to mean something?" she'd replied instead. He'd opened a vein and poured his heart and soul out and she'd taken it.

Until the last minute and then, as he'd burned, she'd thrown him a bone.

She dropped her head in her hands. "Will? What am I supposed to do?"

Willow wiped away a tear. "I know that if Tara had been given a second chance, I wouldn't let anything stop me from going to her."

Buffy looked up, her face soft with empathy. "Ahhh Will," she murmured.

Willow cracked a crooked smile. "Don't tell Kennedy I said that," she said. "She'd probably stake me in my sleep."

Buffy smiled and put her arm around her. The two women hugged each other tight.

"Go to him Buffy. Ask him."

Buffy nodded, her face pressed into Will's shoulder.

Really, what choice did she have?


"Kittens are better," Spike said as he threw a card down onto the table.

Fred shuddered. "I can't believe demons use kittens as currency in poker games," she said, marveling.

Spike shrugged. "They are cute and cuddly love. All that and tasty too on a cold winter's night."

Gunn handed Fred a plate of Thai food. She folded her cards. "I'm out."

Spike shot Angel a look from hooded eyes. "It's just you and me."

"I raise you 5 dollars," Angel said.

Spike snickered. "You need to collect a bigger salary from the big bads if you can only raise 5 dollars ya ponce."

Angel rolled his eyes. "Nice bluff."

The phone on his desk rang and he cursed. "Let it ring!" he shouted as Wes reached for it.

"I'm expecting a call," Wes said as he reached for it. "I've been researching the Shanshu prophecy."

Spike and Angel exchanged a glance. The Shanshu prophecy.

Now that Angel wasn't the only possible champion to fulfill the prophecy, life had suddenly become more interesting.

"Answer it," Spike snapped.

Every little bit of information Wes could find would bring them one step closer.

To one of them being a real boy at least.

And while neither Angel nor Spike were quite willing to admit they wanted it; neither was willing to admit they didn't want it either. At least not in front of each other.

"Yes Harmony?"

Only Fred noticed the dip in Wes's voice and the sudden pallor on his face as he responded. "I see."

He hung up the phone and exchanged a glance with her. He nodded. Fred knew what that meant and her heart leapt in excitement. She glanced at Spike, then Angel. Not the ideal circumstances. But maybe it was good that Wes and Gunn were here. They might be able to prevent some bloodshed.

Fred was certain there would be bloodshed. She just wasn't certain whose.

The door flew open and slammed against the wall.

Angel looked up.

Spike took advantage of Angel's sudden lack of attention to slip a card to the bottom of the deck. Then he stiffened. That…that smell….

"Buffy?" Angel said, his voice filled with shock.

Fred had her eyes peeled on Spike. She watched as he straightened from his insolent slouch.

"Angel," Buffy said. She didn't take her eyes off the bleach blond hair and the man sitting across from Angel.

Spike stood and turned.

God she was gorgeous. All that blond hair, those angry eyes, that mouth. That petite body. He'd kissed every inch, done things to her that he couldn't even spell. She'd done things to him that he'd never even imagined; not as Spike and never, ever as William the Wanker.

She was tiny, a mere 5'2", but she towered over every other woman he'd ever known. Especially in her fury.

She stalked towards him, showing no fear, the anger emanating from her in waves.

She stood in front of him. She stared at him.

Spike looked into her eyes. As usual, they gave nothing away. She gave nothing away.

"Hello pet," he said with a cocky grin. "Fancy seeing you here."

"You – you bonehead!" she bit out. And then her right fist shot out and connected with his face.

Spike gasped in pain and his body shot across the floor, slamming into the TV and sending it crashing to the floor.

"My TV!" Angel shouted petulantly.

"Spike!" Fred cried out. She hurried to his side and fell next to him, cradling his battered face in her lap.

He grinned up at her. "Told you luv," he muttered, wiping the blood from his mouth. "Told you she didn't want anything to do with me."

Fred looked up at the woman towering over them and saw past her rage to the deep pain beneath it. Fred knew the pain and she recognized it.

"You must be Buffy," she said with an empathetic smile.

"You must be Fred," Buffy replied.

Fred nodded.

"Now get away from him so I can kick his ass," Buffy bit out.

Fred tightened her grip on the blond vampire in her arms. "I don't think so."

Buffy cocked an eyebrow and tried to hide the sudden sense of unease. What was Fred to him that she hovered over him so protectively? Was she the reason Spike hadn't contacted her? Buffy glanced over at Wesley who was watching the exchange with an oddly painful look on his face. But, I thought… She shook her head.

Spike shoved himself to his feet and reaching down, helped Fred up. "Nonsense Fred, let Buffy have a go. Probably been a while since she fought someone stronger and better than her."

Buffy stared at him. She wanted to punch him.

And she wanted to throw herself into his arms and devour his mouth, take him inside her deeply until she felt him in every single pore. She drank him in, taking in those eyes the colour of gas flames, those chiseled cheekbones, that determined chin, and that damned cocky grin.

"Damn you," she whispered, her heart shattering.

"Aye pet," he whispered, all cockiness gone. "You damned me alright."

Fred glanced over at Wes, Gunn and Angel. Angel looked like he'd been punched in the gut. Fred stepped away from Spike and joined them.

"We should leave them," she whispered, pulling at Wes' hand.

"But it's my office," Angel protested. He pointed to the shattered TV. "My TV!"

She grabbed him by the hand and dragged them to the door.

"Oh well," she whispered "Wolfram & Hart will buy you another one. Lorne will see to it." And she pulled them out, shutting the door and leaving the lovers to repair themselves.

Buffy stared at him. There were so many things she wanted to say. But mostly she was torn by what she wanted to do; and that was fairly typical of their relationship. He'd done all the talking and she'd done all the doing and most of the time, when he'd tried to talk to her, she'd turned her back and walked away. She'd been unwilling to listen to him because that would have meant acknowledging his pain, acknowledging her feelings, and since Angel and then Reilly, she hadn't wanted to do that.

She tightened her fists and stepped towards him.

He tilted his head to the side and curled his tongue behind his front teeth. He grinned and opened his arms wide, as if waiting for an embrace.

"Come on Slayer," he said. "Hit me. You know you want too."

Oh she did. God she wanted to hit him.

And she wanted to rush him and throw herself in his arms.

It depended on what urge was stronger.

"I'm waiting Slayer," he teased.

There it was, a moment when he let that cockiness slip. And behind the bravado and arrogance, she saw the fear and the pain.

She shook her head. She felt overwhelmed by the pain that suddenly shot from the centre of her heart to every inch of her body. She'd felt surges of power before, surges of Slayer power, surges of fear, surges of anger and physical pain. But she'd never allowed herself to feel such longing and its accompanying emotional pain. The only time she'd ever come close to feeling this was when her mother had died. Buffy had simply shored up her strength and moved on. There was no time for weakness and human frailty when you were the Slayer and the world was depending on you.

But now with the world filled with a surplus of Slayers ready, willing and able to save it, Buffy knew she wasn't alone.

And yet she'd never felt more alone in her life.

"Why?" she asked, her voice cracking.

He couldn't hold up his façade, he'd never been able to hold that cockiness for long in front of her.

"Buffy?" he asked, losing the smile. His arms dropped to his side.

"Why didn't you call me when you knew you'd survived?" She stared up at him, her lips trembling as she tried to contain her emotions.

He stepped towards her and reached out. She slapped his hands away. "No! No! You aren't going to touch me until you've explained yourself damn it! As soon as you touch me I'll lose my train of thought and then, and then we'll end up rolling around the floor and-"

"Not a bad bit, that would be pet," he said with a shaky grin.

"No! You are going to talk and I'm going to listen!"

He stared at her. "Well, that'd be a first, luv."

"I know," she replied softly.

He threw his hands up and stepped back. "Alright pet! Alright!" he said and he hitched himself up on Angel's desk, his hands dangling between his knees.

"Talk!" she ordered.

"You see luv, it's like this," he said. "I died yeah? Saving the world and all, champion of the people, yeah? A much better way to go than that first time I'd died so many years ago."

She nodded, following his train of thought.

"You remember don't you?" he stared at her, deep in to her eyes and he could see that she did indeed remember those last moments, that last day. "The world was ending around us, those evil uber vamps were in the hundreds, the walls crashing in, and I was burning to ash and you took my hand and told me you loved me. And then, then I just faded away. You were gone, Sunnydale was gone, I was gone."

"Where did you go?" she whispered. "Were you in heaven?" She knew what it felt like to be dragged from heaven and she didn't want that for him. But for the first time she understood now how Willow and Xander had felt. The possibility of getting him back… Would she have been able to resist doing whatever she could to have him back with her?

He laughed and pointed towards himself. "Me? In heaven? William the Bloody? Big bad remember?"

"Spike, you saved the world, you deserved heaven," she whispered.

He tilted his head and grinned. "There's no way dying is ever going to deliver me into my heaven," he said softly.

An awkward silence descended and Buffy looked away.

He shrugged. "But I don't know where I went. I don't remember it. I couldn't even tell you how long I was there or where 'there' was. All I know was that I was going down in a bloody fantastic way, saving the world, the Slayer declaring her love, the big bad going down and me, the champion, burning. It was a good way to go yeah?"

She nodded. She could see that.

"And then bam, I was here and surrounded by the poof, Fred, Wes, Gun and Lorne."

"That doesn't explain why you didn't pick up the phone and call me!" she exploded.

"I was a ghost luv," he said. "Couldn't pick up the phone. Couldn't do anything but walk through walls and fall through chairs. I was here, but I wasn't."

"Why didn't you ask someone to call me for Christ's sake?"

"And what?" he said, sliding off the desk and facing her off. "Come and get your long lost ghost? Come and get your champion? The one who saved the world? The one who sacrificed himself? And what would you do with me? A ghost?"

She looked at him. Reached out to touch him and let her fingers brush against the coat. He was real. She could feel him. He flinched away from her touch and she bit back a cry. It was agony to have him turn from her, flinch at her touch. My God, how had he survived her repeated rejections?

"But you- you're real now."

"Fred is still trying to figure it out."

"And when did you regain your – your life?"

"I'm still dead luv," he said, laying his hand over his heart. "Still a vampire, still no heart."

She wanted to correct him, but from habit, didn't.

"How long?" she asked, not willing to give it up.

"A few weeks now," he held up his hand. "And don't ask, it's complicated and I'm not even sure I understood how it happened."

"Why didn't you call me then?" she whispered. She wasn't going to give up on it.

He ran his hands through his platinum hair in frustration and turned away from her, striding towards the wall of windows. He stared down at the city that never slumbered.

Since he'd fallen in love with the Slayer he'd gained an all new appreciation of the subtle acts of torture that love could put you through. She'd redefined his idea of torture.

Just like she'd redefined his idea of love.

Spike had always been the anomaly. As William, he'd been a fop and a wanker who wrote bad poetry and loved women who were far above his station. As William the Bloody and then as Spike he'd tried to reinvent himself as a big bad and he'd done a fairly decent job with it. Scourge of Europe and all that. But he'd never lost his capacity to love and to need love. He'd never been able to burn that one aspect of his human life out of himself. He'd loved Dru. Crazy or not, he'd adored her.

But she'd always been Angel's creature.

And then he'd fallen in love with Buffy.

Apparently he'd never outgrown his tendency to love women beyond his station either.

Because Buffy had always been Angel's.

He pressed his hands against the glass. In its reflection, he could see her watching him.

"I saw you," he whispered. "Have you forgotten?"

He saw the confusion on her face and then the realization.

"The kiss," she said quietly.

"Aye, the basking in his glow, the tongues and all that," he replied angrily.

"Spike…" she said in frustration. "I explained that!"

"Aye, how did you put it? It was a hello kiss. Bollocks."

"I told you! You were, are, the champion! I gave you the amulet. I spent the night with you, in your arms! I told you I loved you! Damn, when will you start believing me?" she cried.

"When you start believing yourself!" he shouted, turning away from her reflection to face her. He strode over and grabbed her by the arms.

"Do you think I don't know what I killed that night? On that bathroom floor? And I've tried, so many times since, to make it up to you, to make up for the fact that I was a monster without a soul. How could you love me? How could you trust me? I knew that no matter what I did, what I tried to be for you - you would never be able to look at me and see past that night. You wonder why I can't believe you? Because, in your heart, you don't believe it. And there is nothing I can do. I will never be enough for you."

"So you decided to be nothing?" she whispered.

He shoved her away. "I was tired of being love's bitch, Slayer. I figured being the world's champion was a safer bet."

"And were you right?"

He threw his hands up in the air. "Apparently not, because here we are again. You. Me. And this – this torture between us." He pointed to the door. "Go! He's there on the other side, probably waiting and brooding."

"To hell with Angel!" she yelled.

He stopped pacing and stared at her. "To hell with Angel?" he asked, frowning.

"Yes, I kissed Angel," she said. "I thought we were all going to die. I thought it was the last time I was going to see him. I was happy to see him. He is and will always be a part of me."

Spike rolled his eyes and looked heavenward. "This is hell. Over and over again I play second fiddle to Captain Forehead."

"Would you shut up!" she said and grabbed him, forcing him to look at her. It felt so good to touch him. He felt amazing; hard and strong, smelling of Spike. Cigarettes, leather and, and that unique smell that was all of his own.

"He was my first love Spike, but he doesn't own my soul."

Spike shrugged, fighting for composure. "Good thing that is. Who knows what he'd have done with it."

"Oh for crying out loud! You are so dense at times." She reached for him again, needing to touch him; wanting him to touch her with something other than anger or pain or frustration. "You saw me kiss him Spike, but you obviously didn't hear what I said to him."

"What you said to him?"

It was her turn to throw her arms up in frustration. "Yes! I sent him away." Well, there had been some terribly convoluted cookie analogy but she didn't need to go into that.

He frowned. "Why would you do that?"

"For you! I told him that you were in me. In my blood, in my heart, in here!" She pounded her chest. She turned from him, not wanting to watch him as he assembled her words. "And then I went to you and we spent the night in each others' arms. I trusted you! And then. ..then…. I told you I loved you and you – you"

"Said thank you," he replied, trying to be charming in that disarming way of his.

She spun around and pointed at him. " 'No you don't, but thanks for saying it'. What kind of response is that?"

He shrugged. "I didn't believe you. I was grateful you tried. But pet, I didn't believe you. How could I?"

"Because I went to you those nights. I told you how you'd given me strength. Because I let you hold me," she whispered, only realizing now how inadequate those gestures might have seemed. How weak those words were after all.

Who did she think she was, Buffy thought, that a couple of words from her and a night in her arms could make up for every other thing she'd ever said to him in anger. How could he trust her feelings, Buffy thought to herself, after the way she'd treated him.
She turned from him and bowed her head, burying it in her hands.

They would never get it right.

He had over a hundred years of life experience.

She was the Slayer, gifted with great power and skills.

And between the two of them, they couldn't get it right.

"I thought of it you know," he said softly.

She straightened. "Thought of what?"
"Calling you. Going to you. I tried, that first day," he explained, remembering. "My first thought was to go to you. And I tried to leave L.A and couldn't. There were limits you see, to my ghostly form."

She didn't say anything, simply let him continue.

"So I decided to stay here, help Angel and his gang. And Fred, Fred was trying to figure out what was going on with me you see. I was fading away every day, my connection to this place lessening."

"And when you became corporeal again?"

"I went to Rome with Angel. I knew you were there. And I saw you," his voice had lowered and there was his pain in those rough, British tones.

"Oh God," she murmured. She knew what was coming next. Damn Faith and Kaitlyn, damn that whole decoy business!

"You were with the Immortal." He looked up at her, his blue eyes sad and beseeching. "And it was like before, yeah? You'd moved on with another brooding blockhead."

She shook her head. "It wasn't me," she explained.

He laughed harshly. "Don't go there Slayer! I smelled your blood across a crowded Euro trash club! It was you. Grinding and rubbing all over that posturing git!"

She sighed. "You smelled slayer blood because it was a slayer – it just wasn't me. It was one of the other slayers posing as me." Quickly and matter-of-factly, she explained the decoy system.

The look on his face was priceless.

Vintage Spike.

"I get it," he said slowly.

He took a deep breath, a habit that after a hundred years, he'd never been able to break.

He opened his hands in a gesture of submission.

"So where do we go from here?"

She chuckled. "Hopefully not into a song and dance number."

He curled his tongue behind his front teeth and chuckled. "Not bloody likely!"

She took the first step towards him. She reached out and laid her hand on his chest. The night before the world had burned around them, she'd lain with him and when she'd closed her eyes, she'd sworn that she could hear the ghostly cadence of his heart beat. She had never felt more close to him than that night, as they'd lain, fully clothed, in each other's arms.

"So many times since the day that I watched you die, I've thanked God that I had those last nights in your arms, being held by you. You healed my heart those nights. And yet, so many times I've regretted not giving myself over to what my body wanted."

Spike felt her hand on his chest.

"Buffy," he murmured, his voice catching.

She stepped closer, replacing her hand with her whole body.

Spike gasped and stumbled back, falling against Angel's desk.

"I love you Spike. I love your soul, I love your heart," she leaned up and he felt her breath against his neck and he felt his entire body harden with longing. "I love your body and your mind."

"Damn it Buffy," he muttered. "Don't do this to me."

"Oh, I will," she whispered. "Today and everyday for the rest of our lives."

He closed his eyes and inhaled. Sweet slayer smell. Sweet Buffy smell. The scent of both heaven and hell. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her high against him and plundered her mouth with his.

"God!" he muttered against her mouth.

"Spike!" she said, breathing into his mouth, giving him life, giving him breath, filling him with her love. She wrapped her legs around his waist, feeling him pressing hard and urgent against her. She'd missed him. God how she'd missed the feel, the smell and the taste of him. All these months without him; until she'd lost him forever, she 'd not known how much of a part of her he was. How necessary to her. As necessary as food and water and air.

"Have to have you," he muttered, pulling at the button and zipper of her jeans. He needed to feel her around him, he needed to plunge into her over and over again and erase all the longing and the sadness in his soul. It had been so long that he'd been without her. So long since he'd held her.

He turned around and laid her across the desk and looked down as the flashing lights of LA played across her face like twinkling stars.

She looked up at him and laid a hand on his cheek.

"William," she murmured.

He cocked a sarcastic grin and shook his head. "William was a wanker. I'll always be Spike to you Slayer."

She smiled, her hands reaching for his jeans. "Ok."

She released him from the confines of his jeans and he felt hard and hot in her hands and Buffy closed her eyes in pleasure. He pressed into her, slowly filling her, his forehead against hers, his eyes closed. They both savored those long, sweet moments of coming home.

She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her lips to his ear.

She murmured something about cookies being baked and read y to eat.

"Hmm? What's that luv?"

Her lips curved into a gentle smile. "I love you Spike. I really do. Believe me."

His lips softened into a smile. "Thank you pet."


The Powers that Be stepped from the shadows and walked across the lobby of Wolfram & Hart.

Whistler looked over at them. "Did that go as planned?"

The goddess smiled and nodded. "Yes. Spike got his reward."

"And the Shanshu prophecy?"

"He will have to figure out what he wants to be," the God said.

"So he is still a candidate?"

The Powers that Be both nodded. "More than ever."

"What do you mean, figure out what he wants to be?" Whistler asked.

The goddess reached over and touched his hand. "If Spike wants to be a real boy again, there are sacrifices to be made. If the Slayer loves and accepts him as he is, becoming human again may not be to his advantage."

Whistler nodded. "It wouldn't be good to lose all that vampire strength when you're dating and fighting along side the Slayer. I get it." He glanced at them. "And Angel? No Buffy for him?"

The god grinned. "Angel made his choice about Buffy a long, long time ago. He diverged from that path and it is too late to turn back."

The goddess smiled. "He will have his moment. But he too has work to do."

Whistler chuckled as they reached the elevator. He reached out and hit the up button. "Well, it would seem as if they all still have some work to do."

The goddess smiled at him. "Of course, that is the gift and the punishment of being human. We are the powers that be, and they are all works in progress."