A/N: This story takes place after the end of both series. I tried to be fairly true to the Buffyverse, so please feel free to let me know if I messed anything up—I haven't seen the shows for a while. Please read and review.

Chapter One

Buffy sighed and looked at her coffee.

"Too much work talk? Sorry. Now that I don't live near a Hellmouth anymore, it's hard to give my stories the same umph as before," Xander said.

"No! Definitely not your story's fault. It was a good story, with many technical words and important sounding procedures," Buffy said.

"So why the sigh, then?"

"You wouldn't want to know what I was thinking," Buffy said.

"No? So it could be about three things in the world. Dark Willow, Anya or Spike. Willow's as sunny as a summer's day these days, and Anya's still dead, so I'm guessing that means Spike. You can talk to me about him, you know. It's not every day you have a best friend type in town."

"But that's just it. It's not every day you're here in town. I don't want to spend the whole time talking about Spike."

"Time limits are good. I have no desire to talk Spike for a week straight. But right here right now seems like a good place to talk."

"You sure?"

"Hey, the last time I saw Spike he died to save the world. I'm not feeling entirely bitter towards the guy," Xander said.

"Okay. Well, I know he's not your favourite person, but I have been doing some serious best friendy jonesing and would really like to talk about it. It's just—I miss him," she said.

"Why isn't he in your life anymore?" Xander asked. "I thought he was determined to follow you to the ends of the earth or stalk you until you loved him or whatever."

Buffy smiled fondly at Xander's characterization of Spike. "I think when Spike got his soul, things got a little complicated for him. He…realized that there was more to him than just loving me. He felt the guilt of the things he had done for the first time in, like, a hundred years."

"So, what's to stop him from making up for his years and years of evil by fighting by your side?"

"I don't know. There was this pipe dream he had about some gem that could make him human again, but I think that he's pretty much given up on that."

"He really should stay a vampire if he really wants to make up for the things he's done. He'd need like a hundred human life spans to do enough good deeds to make up for just a few weeks during his bad old days in Sunnydale."

"I don't know. I think maybe staying away from me and letting me have a normal life for once, you know, not having to worry about his guilt and sunlight and everything, is part of what he thinks he's doing to make up for the evil stuff."

"Well, pardon the observation, but you don't exactly seem to be pining away. I know you depended on him in Sunnydale, and that nothing could shake his loyalty, which is more than I can say for the rest of us—"

"—Things were bad. When Spike was at his best, the rest of us were pretty much all at our worst," Buffy said.

"—But you've made a life for yourself. You go out on dates. You don't pine," Xander said.

"I don't even know if I want to be with Spike that way. But I do—well, love him. I miss him. I wish I could go out on patrol with him again," Buffy said. She glanced at Xander nervously. She had never admitted that she loved Spike to him before.

Xander seemed to know what she was thinking. "Hey, no one understood me and Anya, either. Or me and Cordelia for that matter. Wait, does no one have the ability to understand any woman being with me?"

"I think it was the nice guy dating a soulless evil being from hell thing," Buffy said.

"That explains why people wondered about me and Cordy, but what about me and Anya?"

Buffy laughed; she was glad that Xander was once again able to talk about both of his dead ex-girlfriends. "Cordy wasn't so bad."

"Love is weird. And we never really got to know Spike-with-a-soul in normal circumstances. Maybe he would have been good people, if everyone wasn't tense about the apocalypse and constant, mind-numbing death."

"And if he hadn't been brainwashed to kill people and stuff."

"Yeah," Xander said.

ooooOOOOoooo

Spike jolted awake, wondering if the horrors he had just witnessed were dreams or memories. He frequently got flashes of things that he couldn't remember doing but was confident he was capable of—or had been.

"Turnin' into a bleedin' old man," he mumbled, stumbling into the shower.

He was still hurting from patrolling the night before. He was back in New York again—not because he loved the city, although he did, but because it was close to a sleepy little town that had something extremely beautiful and valuable in it.

"She's better off without you," he murmured. But when he thought of Buffy nothing else seemed to matter. Yes, his feelings had gotten a bit more complex than they had been when he had been a soulless vampire fixated on the most powerful, beautiful girl in the world, who hated him, of course—but even with a soul, the story remained the same. It was all about Buffy. Everything he did, everything he thought about—somehow it all came back to her.

Spike towelled off his body and walked naked into the main room of his bachelor apartment.

You have to kill Buffy Summers.

It was almost a voice, almost a thought. Where had that come from? "I'm bleeding sick of people trying to control my thoughts," he warned the voice.

Buffy lives in Plainsville, NY.

"I know that, you git!"

Buffy is still the most powerful slayer in the world. She'll come for you.

"I wish," Spike murmured. Although the words were coming out of nowhere, he felt no compulsion to follow them. It wasn't like it had been with the First. It was almost like listening to an answering machine—there was nothing personal, nothing to indicate that the man speaking was speaking specifically to Spike. "If he's talking to all the vampires in, say, New York, at least a couple will probably go try to kill her," Spike thought.

Although Spike knew that Buffy could handle an entire army of vampires, he thought he better help her out. After all, she was so close at hand—barely a couple of hours drive. In a case like this it would be rude to just call and warn her about the danger. And if he could talk to her and be with her for a few hours, or maybe even a few days…well, it would make every calamity he'd suffered since he died worthwhile.

"See you soon, Buffy," Spike murmured.