Spike slouched in the chair as he watched the girl spin around on the pole. This joint, the Peppermint Stick, wasn't exactly his thing, and Sunshine was no where near his version of sunshine. He missed Buffy dearly. He missed her so bad it ached, and he couldn't figure out why he couldn't just bring himself to go to her. Angel was starting to get to him and he couldn't help it.

After getting his body back, Spike had every intention of just rushing off to Europe to find his golden beauty but at the last minute he got scared. He was still terrified. Maybe it was just better to let her think that he was dead. She was better off without him, and he didn't want to screw up her life anymore then he already had. He had given up his unlife so she could be happy. No reason to take it back now.

Then, smooth delicate hands covered his eyes. The sweet, subtle scent of vanilla drifted to his heightened senses and his blood froze. It couldn't be. Slowly, he brought his pale fingers up to feel the ones covering his eyes. He knew that skin. He knew that scent. He could feel the power coming off of her in waves. But yet, he couldn't move. Every cell in his body told him to get up and run, and he was frozen.

"You know, this is the last place I thought I'd find you."

Her voice made him jump up from his chair and spin around to look at the woman. "Buffy," he said, softly. She was more beautiful then he remembered. He should have known that. She was perfect. Her petite body had gained a little bit of weight, but she filled out nicely in all the right places. She still kept in shape. Her golden hair had lost its dullness, now full of shine and vibrence even under the harsh lights of the strip club. She looked amazing, but then again, she could be covered in mud with her hair shaved off and she'd still be beautiful to him.

The black jeans she had on hugged her hips and slender thighs nicely, and he could see the pink top under jacket as the satin shimmered in the light. She had a jean jacket over top, and her infamous boots to top everything off. Some things didn't change.

"Hi handsome," she said, with a smile, flashing her pearly whites. "Long time no see."

There was so much he wanted to tell her, but no words would move past his lips. She had that sparkle in her eyes. One that he hadn't seen since before Angel had broken her heart. One that he hadn't been able to appreciate all the times he had tried to get it out of her. But here she was, happy and as light as could be. Like the weight of the world no longer rested upon her shoulders.

Buffy bit her lip and crossed her arms as the light faded around her slight. "Can we go somewhere and talk?" She asked, softly.

Spike noticed the sudden change in her and remembered where they were as he snapped out of his daze. "Of course, Pet," he said, guiding her out of the club. "I'm not sure where we're going to go though."

"Where do you live?" She asked, pulling her jacket more tightly around her.

Spike stuffed his hands in his pockets. "No where," he answered, hanging his head, unable to meet her eyes. "I was a ghost for a long time and I just got my body back. Haven't figured out what I'm going to do." Finding a place to stay had been the last thing on his mind. He really didn't even think he was going to stay in L.A. and now that Buffy was here, that put a whole new twist on the ball game.

Buffy's lips formed a 'o' as she understood. "Well, we can get a hotel room," she said, leading him to her car. "Put it on Angel's tab."

Spike raised an eyebrow at the mention of the older vampire. "Angel's okay with that?" He asked. He wondered what Angel had said to Buffy when she saw him. And for that matter, how Buffy found him.

She shrugged and buckled her seat belt. "I don't know," she said. "I haven't seen him. Came straight to you."

"And how did you find me?" He asked. She hadn't seen Angel. He wasn't prepared to hear that. What did that mean? Angel was always involved in someway. Someone told her where he was, and whoever that someone was, he owed them. But what else had they told her?

"A phone call."


The tow blondes checked into a very nice hotel room, and Spike felt like he was going to throw up he was so damn nervous. He locked the door behind him and before he knew it, Buffy slammed him against it. He murmured her name in confusion before she smashed her lips against his. His arms banded around her waist as his mouth plundered hers. But after a moment he pulled back. "Buffy," he panted unnecessarily and leaning his forehead against hers. "You know I love kissing you, but we have to talk." He hated that he had to be the one to say that, but he couldn't risk any mixed signals.

She nodded and stole one more kiss before taking a step away from him. "I know," she said, licking her swollen lips. "Sorry."

"Don't be," he said, going toward her. "I plan on having you in bed, just after we talk." He wanted to make his intentions clear, that his feelings hadn't changed, but he couldn't put his heart on the line without commitment from her. Not anymore. If he made love to her now, only to find out in the morning that they couldn't work, he'd be devastated. He'd love her til the end of time, but he wouldn't give himself to her. He wasn't strong enough to go through that.

A smile formed on her lips as she sat on the tan sofa. "Good to know," she said then turned serious. "Come on." Her hand patted the side of the couch next to her. "Let's talk."

Spike shed his jacket and tossed it on the chair before sitting beside her. He sat sideways so he could look at her and be close to her as they talked this out. "I don't know where to start," he said. And he didn't. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her and missed her and wanted to be with her, but he didn't think he should jump in with both feet just yet.

"How did you come back?" She asked, timidly. "And when?"

"About 3 weeks after the battle," Spike said. "The amulet got sent to Angel and here I am. I was a ghost like I said. I tried to leave so many times, but I just kept getting sent back here. Couldn't eat. Couldn't feel. Couldn't fight. Walked through walls. It was hell. And I know a thing or two about hell." He had never felt so empty, so cold being a ghost. And not being able to leave Wolfram and Hart, he felt like he was being punished for some unspeakable crime. As evil as he had been many years ago, there was nothing that could justify him being stuck with Angel.

"But you're fine now," she pointed out, touching his hand for emphasis. "You didn't call or anything."

Spike sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I didn't know where you were," he said, softly. "Angel said Europe and he made sure there was no way for me to get in touch with you. Europe's a big place. My first instinct was to get on a boat and go find you, but I had no idea where to start. I needed a plan, and I just haven't come up with one yet."

"You tried everything possible?" She asked, raising an eyebrow."You may not work for Wolfram and Hart, but I know you. You would have found a way."

Busted. Sometimes she was too smart for her own good. If she had been in trouble of if Dawn had been in trouble, he knew he would have been able to find them. Fred would have helped him get to her, he just didn't try. Not really. He knew this was coming and he knew it was going to get ugly before it got better. "I was scared Buffy," he said, staring at the carpet fibers. "I sacrificed myself for you and the world, but mostly for you. I wasn't sure where I'd fit into you life anymore."

"That's silly," she said, shaking her head. "You've always been in my life whether I wanted you there or not. Why was it different this time?"

"Because I love you," he answered, meeting her gaze. "And I've fucked up your life enough times in the past. I didn't want to do it again knowing you were happy."

"Who said I was happy?" She asked. "Because they were very misinformed."

Sighing, he got off the couch before pacing away from her. "Buffy, it was very different this time," he said, softly. "Before you had the hellmouth, so I had your back. I didn't know what to do this time. I didn't want to complicate things for you." Before it had always been them against the bad guys. If she didn't have to do that anymore, where did that leave him? At least while he was in L.A. he had some purpose. He could annoy Angel and maybe help people.

The slayer rose to her feet to meet his stance. "Spike," she said, approaching him. "I understand what you're saying, I do. And I don't have the weight of the world on my shoulders anymore, but that doesn't make it any less lonely. I was heartbroken, Spike. I wanted you with me, Spike. And I thought I made that clear to you in the end. You just chose to be totally blind to the fact."

"You're not exactly a clear girl, Buffy," he said. "You've never felt the same for me as I did for you and I didn't want my heart broken again." His brain was no longer in control of his mouth as words just kept coming out. He tried to stop them, tried to take them back and locked them away forever, but it was too late.

"Is that what you think I'm going to do?" She asked, crossing her arms. "Break your heart?"

"That's all you've ever done," he pointed out. "What's different?" His word vomit wasn't stopping. And he could see how much he was hurting her. Maybe it was just better this way. Better if she didn't want to be here with him. It wasn't good for either of them. She deserved so much more.

Buffy stared at him with wide eyes as they glittered with tears. "Everything's different," she whispered.

Her tears were already breaking his heart, but yet he didn't stop. He really tried and he would have staked himself rather then keep running his mouth. "Like what?" He asked. "You couldn't possibly conceive of my feelings for you and how much I love you." He did stand by that. He had tried for so long to convince her to love him and he didn't feel like she really did. People don't realize they love someone one day. It was a process. A horrible process.

"How would you know?" She asked, furiously. "You never gave a chance to show you."

Spike ran after her as she quickly made her way toward the door. "You had plenty of chances, Slayer," he growled. He couldn't let her leave like this. "Remember? Using me for months. You had every chance to love me and more and you didn't." That was a low blow and he knew it, but he couldn't stop it. He wasn't going to take all the blame for this. She had to see it from his point of view as well.

She shuddered and met his gaze and he could see her struggling for control. "What about last year?" She whispered. "Things were different last year."

He agreed with that. Deep in his heart he did. He had some of the best nights with her last year. He got close to her, got to feel her out in ways she had never allowed before. But in the end, she had gone back to her old ways. "Were they?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at her. "Because I remember bearing my heart and soul to you once again and waking up alone, and then you kissing Angel. Where is that different?"

"You're right," she said, taking a step away from him. "But I felt horrible and I still came home and shared your bed. I still chose you as the one I wanted to be with, Spike. At least I didn't sleep with him when he was the only thing around like you did with Harmony. So let's not talk about who did what with who."

Spike froze and backed away from her. "Who told you that?" He asked. "Angel?" It had to be. Angel would be the only one who would care enough to tell Buffy that to keep them apart. But why would Angel call her and tell her where he was?

"Doesn't matter," she said, shaking her head. "But I told myself that it couldn't possibly be true because you couldn't possibly want to be with her after what we had."

"Which was what Buffy?" He flared. "You don't get to have a say in who I choose to sleep with." Fuck. He could have staked himself right there. He wanted to fall to his knees and apologize so badly to her, but he didn't. He wanted to tell her that Harmony didn't mean anything to him, but he couldn't. The words wouldn't come out.

"You're right, I don't," she said, opening the door. "I'm sorry that I came and disrupted your world. I was stupid to think that you'd still feel the same way about me."

Spike watched with wide eyes as she left, but he didn't go after her.