Buffy walked down the street, silent tears streaming down her face. She sensed a vampire but knew instinctively who it was. She really wanted, needed, him now, but had no voice to tell him. Girls were dead because of her. Everyone was right, she should have waited, come up with a better plan.

Spike walked up to her side. "Buffy… You really should come home," he said, quietly. He was always trying to help her, make her feel better. But this couldn't be fixed with a hug and a kiss. Not this time. Xander… he would never get his eye back. Those girls… would never see their families again.

Buffy turned to him. "I can't. Too many reminders that I failed." She started walking away again. She couldn't face them. Not yet. She needed time to herself, to get her head on straight, to figure out how they were going to defeat this guy. Without anymore fatalities like they just had. But in war… who knew what would happen? But this was her fault because she didn't listen.

Spike, being the stubborn idiot he was didn't let her get off that easy and moved in front of her. "Buffy, this is nonsense. I know you're upset, but come home. We need you."

"What about what I need?" Buffy yelled. For once, she needed it to be about her. She didn't care about anyone else at the moment, only what she needed. And if Spike was going to be part of the problem and not part of the solution then he could just go home and leave her in peace. She did not care either way.

Spike looked at her with soft, understanding eyes. "What do you need, Buffy?"

In truth, she wanted a hug, but she wouldn't dare ask Spike for one of those. She just looked at him helplessly but sighed in relief when he wrapped his arms around carefully and hugged her tightly. Her body started shaking and tear drops fell on his shirt. "It's okay, Pet. I'm here." He kissed her hair. "I'm always here." Before much longer the heavens opened up and rain came pouring down. "Let's get you home." He kept her close to him as they made their way back towards the Summers' house.

When they walked in the door, Buffy saw glared coming from everyone. She couldn't face them and headed back out on the front porch. Spike watched as her shoulders slumped and growled at everyone else. "What the bloody hell is wrong with all of you?" Were they all mad? She needed their support.

"She was careless!" Giles yelled.

"She was doing her job!" Spike yelled back, vamping unconsciously. He had his stones back, he could argue just as well as anyone else in the house. And he would stand by Buffy no matter what. Even against Giles.

"She refused to listen to us!"

"Buffy doesn't need to listen. She needs you sorry idiots to fall in line. Buffy knows what she's doing," Spike going to his slayer and swallowing the demon. She didn't need his anger right now. She needed him to be there for her, to help her, take care of her. He needed to be the strong one for once. "Pet?" He joined her on the porch swing, hoping to get some kind of reaction from her.

Buffy turned to look at him. "Giles is right. I don't know what I'm doing and I'm not being a very good slayer." She bowed her head, and swallowed hard. It broke his heart to see her tears, but he did not want to see her crumble inside again.

He sighed. "Buffy if you didn't know what you were doing then they'd all be dead," he said. "You're the best slayer there ever was, and I know a thing or two about slayers. You've got a good head on your shoulders, and you do more then what is asked of you. Those morons just don't realize how good they have it, even in a tough time. You're trying to protect them. If it weren't for you, they'd be dead all over the world. And your watcher is just miffed that he can't be in control anymore. You don't need a watcher anymore."

"How did things get so messed up?" She whispered, leaning her head on his shoulder. "How are we going to fix this?"

Spike kissed her hair. "Let's get some sleep and talk it over in the morning," he suggested. "You're wet. Soaked to the bone and you could still catch cold. You aren't immortal. Believe it or not, we still need you Buffy. We look to you for guidance. Tomorrow, everyone is going to ask you what to do next. Believe me. We'll figure something out."

"I don't think I could sleep tonight," she mumbled. "The house is packed."

"Take my bed," Spike offered. "I'll make sure no one bothers you." She lifted her head and he could see she was about to argue. "I promise, it'll be fine. I can manage. Go try to get some rest, get dry clothes." He gave her a gentle nudge and smiled at her as she finally went inside. He stared out into the darkness, watching the rain fall for some time before heading inside himself. He made his way to the basement, locking the door behind him. He shrugged off his duster, and changed his wet clothes as silently as he could. He settled himself in the easy chair across from her and was asleep seconds later.

Some time later, Spike was woken by a whimpering sound. He looked at the clock which said 2:48, and he glanced at Buffy, who was involved in some sort of night mare. He got up and crouched beside her. "Buffy, wake up," he said, putting his hand on her cheek. "Its just a night mare." She was soaked with sweat, a bad nightmare at that. Much like the ones he'd witness after she'd been brought back from heaven.

Buffy's eyes flew open. "Spike?" She asked, panting. It took a moment for her eyes to clear and focus on him and when she finally did, her heart rate slowed down considerably.

Spike sat on the edge of the cot. "It was just a nightmare." He brushed a lock of hair out of her face. "You okay?" God she looked terrified, and it broke his heart. The weight of the world on the girls shoulders was too much for her. And he knew it. She needed a break, but at the moment, she wasn't allowed. She was never allowed to take a break, to have some peace to herself.

Buffy took a few deep breaths. "I don't know," she said. "Just… a really bad dream. It just felt so real." She leaned into his arms gratefully and her muscles relaxed gradually. "I'm okay now."

Spike rocked her back and forth and smoothed her hair back. "I'm here and I'm not going anywhere," he said. "Promise." Taking a risk, he slid behind her on the cot so he could pull her against him. With his arms closed over her, she fell asleep again almost instantly, Spike's calming presence helping her relax. He stroked her hair, and kissed her temple. "I love you Buffy," he whispered, before settling down to fall asleep himself.