Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy and as a result can get no monetary benefit from playing Joss. I promise faithfully to put them back after I am done. This is written for love and entertainment

Author's note: Spoilers up to Chosen and not Fade Away. Also spoilers for After the Fall. This follows on from Chance which you might want to read beforehand but it is not essential. Please read and review. Thanks

Hope

The door bell rang in Buffy Summer's quiet apartment. The petite blonde girl jumped up off her chair and made her way to the front door. She pulled the door open and was met with a sight that she never believed that she would see again.

"Spike" she choked.

She blinked believing that it was nothing more than an illusion and that the vampire she saw before was not really there. However he was still there when she opened her eyes. He looked just as she had remembered him with the startling blue eyes and peroxide hair.

"Spike, are you real?" she asked, her voice trembling. He looked at her, his eyes filled with emotion.

"Yeah" he affirmed softly.

They stood there for a whole minute before she threw her arms around him. He pulled her close and kissed her forehead.

"How?" she sobbed.

"It's a long story, pet. One that might be best told inside away from prying eyes" Spike said quietly nodding pointedly at the glances that they were getting from passersby.

She nodded and stepped aside from the doorway to allow him access.

"Come in Spike" she said.

He took a deep breath. It was a habit of several lifetimes that he never quite could shake. He followed her inside looking about the room.

"Nice place you have got" he said trying to delay the inevitable questions that would follow. However instead of an answer he was met with a fist. His nose smashed under her blow.

"Nice right hook you've got!"

He gave her a sheepish grin that quickly wilted under her patented Buffy glare.

"This is familiar! You pounding on me for information." He said with a little asperity.

"Well you know how it goes then. So spill!" Buffy demanded. So he did.

Buffy sat quietly while Spike told her of his time in Wolfram and Hart, both as a ghost and vampire. Spike could see that she was fit to interupt but she held her tongue. He also told her about what he had been doing since the battle he had waged with Angel against the Senior Partners and his experiences in Hell and all that had happened since. He gave her all the facts but he did not answer the one question she wanted to know most of all. After all how could he tell why he stayed away when he did not really know himself.

*****************

Once he was finished Buffy finally exploded.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't stake you here and now!" she yelled.

"Because you missed me!" he whispered with a smirk.

She hit him with a well placed right hook.

"Ouch" he yelled, "why is it always the nose?".

She glared at him. His brash and arrogant swagger wilted under her glare.

"You missed me a little didn't you" he said tilting his head looking almost like a little lost puppy. Her anger evaporated a little.

"What's wrong with me? I totally have a right to be angry" she thought to herself. She balled her fists. He was as frustrating as ever.

"Yeah well greener pastures and all that! I obviously forgot how irritating and annoying you were."

He looked sheepish.

"I am sorry pet for what it's worth. If it means anything I really missed you and I was wrong to keep mum ."

"Huh! Keep whose mum?"

Spike rolled his eyes but when he spoke it was patiently.

"It means to keep quiet about something."

"Spike you didn't just keep quiet about this. You let me think you were dead all this time"

"I was dead"

She screamed and threw a dishcloth at him.

"You don't get to joke your way out of this one you bastard. It is not a laughing matter. Do I matter in the slightest to you anymore?"

"Buffy, I" he began but he was quickly interrupted.

"No you don't get to talk. For once in your life, uh unlife, you will listen and shut up!"

He nodded in acquiescence.

"I would have expected this from Angel but never from you. You always came back no matter what. There was no getting rid of you whether I wanted to or not! Then after everything that happened and everything between us you do this."

That stung him. Comparing him to his grandsire was always a sore point. He had resolved to remain calm. After all he was in the wrong but the woman always riled him up.

"I came in the end just took a detour is all!" he said defensively.

She glared at him. He could see that she was getting steadily angrier.

"I mourned your sorry ass while you were taking a "detour" with your grandsire whom you apparently hate." She roared

He could see the pain behind her anger and he felt incredibly guilty. However he fought the rising emotion within in and embraced his own anger instead.

"And while you were mourning me you were also throwing yourself into the arms of the Immortal" he snapped angrily.

She flinched. As soon as the words were out of his mouth he wanted to take them back. She was radiating anger and hurt.

"Buffy, love, I'm sorry!"

"What part exactly?" she asked coldly. He walked towards her and she turned her face away. He gently turned her to face him.

"For everything" he said looking into her eyes trying to convey to her the sincerity in his statement. She stepped back from him and he wondered again for the hundredth time that night whether he had done the right thing in coming back to her. He really needed a cigarette but the mood that the Slayer was in he knew it was not a good idea. He had done enough baiting tonight. He settled for pacing instead.

"Oh Buffy, why do we always do this?" he said exasperated and gesturing frantically when the silence got too unbearable. He could see the tears in her eyes and he hated being the cause of them. She rubbed her eyes.

"There was a time when we could have had a civilised conversation" she said in a dead voice.

He raised his eyebrow sardonically.

"Oh my bad. I forgot who I was talking about! I should have said almost" she said with a half smile.

The ache in his chest lessened a little. If she was feeling up to banter then maybe there was a way they could both could end this day without ripping each other to pieces.

"I missed that. I missed you" he said softly.

"Hold me, Spike!" she said softly and he duly obliged. She basked in his presence his smell. He was there, really there. She pulled away slightly and brushed her hand on his face. He watched her with a mixture of wonder and adoration.

"Stupid dumb vampire!" she said affectionately. He smiled, really smiled.

"Bossy bint!" he retorted but in an equally loving tone. They did not know what the future held just basked in the moment. The time for recrimination was over for now. Those serious conversations could wait for another day. For now it was enough to just be there with one another. They looked at each other and laughed. For the first time in a long time Spike could feel that flicker of hope that he had thought was long since quenched.

To be continued...

Endnote: Hope you enjoyed this. This is only going to be a short fic concentrating about how Spike's return would impact on the life Buffy has now and also the reaction of the other Scoobies to his return. I may have to change the name at a later stage as I am not fully happy with it.