Title: To Live A Lie

Author: AJ Hofacre

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: Kay. This is it! I shall not continue these sequels after I finish this. Besides, I think there are enough POVs out there about "Smashed" and "Wrecked" and everything else after those episodes. Anyway. I have to think up a little title for this trilogy. Anyone wanna help? Hehe, sorry. This is the third installment, and is a sequel to the one shots "Risk The Pain" and "Working Through." This will focus on Buffy's first meeting with Spike after she is brought back, and continues on through all three Buffy/Spike scenes in Afterlife. I think it's longer than the others...?

Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm about to make a couple of clones of James Marsters that will be mine, though. AHAHA!

Otherwise, all characters belong to Joss Whedon and Co.

Feedback: gimme gimme, pwease? Actually, you know what, I can take money, too...

Small note: The title is taken from one of the *best* songs ever. "Live a Lie" by Default :)

Okay. I'm not a vampire. Can you blame me for freaking, though? I mean, if you were dead, and knew you were dead, and then all of a sudden were brought right back up out of the ground... Having to face your tombstone and deal with telltale signs of vampirism...

Yeah, you'd be a bit frantic, too.

I wanted to kill myself. I actually thought about it. I was back up on the scaffolding of the tower... goddamn that sonofabitch tower... and I was contemplating leaping off. But then... Dawnie. My Dawnie... followed me up there. Dawn put her own life in danger because she wanted to keep me alive.

This 'I live and die for you' thing is getting really old.

But I wasn't about to let Dawn be killed. I saved her from death once, and I was gonna keep that little brat alive if it killed me again.

Which it didn't. I grabbed Dawn, then grabbed a hold of this pulley thing that had been hanging off of the tower. Jumping on, we slid down, then stopped altogether, about ten feet or so off the ground. We dropped down, then took off running, just as the tower gave it's last creak and groan, then finally collapsed.

I'm home right now. Home.

It's an empty word. I feel nothing behind it. I recognize this place. I used to live here. But this isn't my home anymore. Home was up there. With Mom.

Someone's taken me away. And what nauseates me is that I know who that someone... or someones are.

Wha... oh, Dawn's talking to me. We're upstairs. She's just finished washing me up. I had to hide my hands from her. I'm... ashamed of them. I nearly destroyed my hands trying to get out of that coffin.

They changed Mom's room. It's Willow and Tara's room now. I guess they moved in after I died to take care of Dawn.

"Yeah, well, it seemed to make the most sense. No one was using it, and it's the biggest. But, you know, now that you're here, we'll have to figure out something to do."

Huh. Dawn explaining why Will and Tara have Mom's room. This is getting nerve-wracking. What the hell else did they change here? What they ruin? I turn to go out and I'm stopped by Dawn. She looks frustrated. Oh-ho, you don't even know the beginning of frustration, honey.

"Buffy! You wanna, like, stop?" Hopeful. "We can... we can sit down and talk."

I don't want to talk that much.

"What else is different?" I ask, gazing at her. I'm looking at her, but I'm not actually seeing her. It's just this weird myriad of colors. I think that may be one of the first full sentences I've spoken since I was dragged back.

Dawn sighs. "Do you mean about the house, or..."

I shrug. It doesn't matter. I don't care. The colors are starting to make me dizzy. I can't look at her.

"Um. Let's see... Giles. It's so weird. He, he left today. Because you were..." Oh. Great. My replacement father is gone. How nice. Care to drop anything else on me, Dawn? "He, he'll come right back, I'll call him. Someone'll call him."

He'd better come back. No, of course... of course he will. Of course he'll come back. He's Giles, he has to come back. My mind starts to form question. "What..."

Dawn responds immediately. "What what?"

Shit, I've lost my train of thought. Something about Giles. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I blink once. "Uh... What, um... will you say to him?"

Out of nowhere, the door opens downstairs, and I jump. What? Who? Who's here, and what the hell do they want? I look around the room, feeling almost paranoid. "What's that?"

Dawn jumped, too. "It's okay, it's okay." I think she can tell how badly that stupid door wigged me out.

"Dawn? DAWN! Are you there?"

There's something familiar about that voice. Hard and angry, but warm and weathered at the same time. Dawn looks at me. "It, it's just Spike." Looking toward the door, she calls, "I'm here!"

She turns to look at me, like she's telling me to come with her. Like I won't listen.

So Spike's here. This should be interesting. Strangely, the second I was out of the grave, he was the first person I thought of. Wonder why.

Maybe it was that 'crawling out of the coffin' thing we now have in common.

I follow Dawn toward the stairs, and I can hear Spike. He sounds genuinely frantic, and extremely pissed. "Thank God! You scared me half to death or... more to death. You - I could kill you!"

Dawn starts down the steps, and she looks back up at me quickly, then down at Spike again. "Spike."

"I mean it! I could rip your head off one-handed and drink from your brain stem!" Oooh. Visual. Very nice to know that Spike hasn't entirely changed.

Dawn's hit the bottom of the steps now, so I guess it's my turn to go down. I start down the steps as slowly as possible. I still haven't seen Spike's face yet. He's shut up, though, and I hear Dawn say, "Look," which means that I've become a bulls-eye.

Spike looks me over, and doesn't look impressed. "Yeh? I've seen the bloody bot before. Didn't think she'd patch up so --"

He stops right in the middle of his sentence, and I can hear him draw a deep breath. Yep. He's figured it out. I'm Real Deal Buffy. Spike looks like he's just had the life shoved back into him.

Wow. I'd forgotten how handsome he was. And even though I am now officially scared to death, I can't stop looking at him. Dawn starts talking again, but her voice just drones in my ears. "She's kind of, um ... She's been through a lot ... with the ... death. But I think she's okay."

Okay? Eh. Not so much. I stop at the middle step, and my shirt flaps against my hand. Oops. Spike's not supposed to see any of that. I start buttoning it as Dawn looks at him closely. I think he thinks that he's dreaming.

"Spike? Are... you okay?" she asks.

I can hear the catch in his voice. "I... What did you do?"

No, no. Dawn didn't do anything. Blame my so-called friends. They did this to me.

"Me? Nothing," Dawn replies, sounding surprised.

I look up at Spike again, and now I'm starting to freak. He won't stop staring at me and, and I can't get my fingers to finish buttoning the rest of this goddamn shirt, so I grab it with my hand and pull it closed. I'm starting to get scared... I'm scared of Spike. He isn't even looking away from my face. He's more interested in my face, than in the rest of my body, like I thought he would be. Why did I think he'd be more interested in my body? Am I that anal about him? He blinks once.

"Her hands," he mumbles. Shit. He's seen them. I jerk my hands down and hide them behind my back. Dammit, I know there's a God, so get me out of here!

"Um, I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that," Dawn replies.

"I do," Spike replies. "Clawed her way out of a coffin, that's how." He looks at me again. "Isn't that right?"

I bite my lip. "Yeah. That's... what I had to do."

His voice is quiet. "Done it myself."

That's right. I forgot... Spike knows exactly what I'm going through.

After a bit, Spike blinks a couple of times and shakes his head a little. "Um... we'll take care of you. Come here." I let him take my arm and walk into the living room myself. The different... post-death Buffy living room. He speaks again, but this time to Dawn. "Get some stuff, uh, mercurochrome, bandages."

Dawn nods. "Okay." Off she goes. I sit down on the sofa as Spike follows me in. He sits on the coffee table, and stretches his hands out, taking mine. Strange. His hands should feel colder. Instead, he's cool, and warm. Soothing. He looks up at me then and... I can't look away again. I haven't seen him in so long. Why is it that he can hold my gaze, but I can't stand to even look at my own sister? We've locked eyes.

"How long was I gone?" I ask softly.

Spike ducks his head a bit, then looks up again, his eyebrows creased together as he thinks. "Hundred forty-seven days yesterday. Uh... hundred forty-eight today." He smiles softly at me. "'Cept today doesn't count, does it?"

I don't answer him, but right now, I'm amazed. He knows how long I've been gone. Not how many months... anybody can count the months. Spike's been keeping track of the days. He knows precisely how many days I've been gone. He looks down at my hands again, then back up at me.

"How long was it for you... where you were?" he asked quietly, like he senses that it's a touchy subject and I might not want to answer. I let a pause grow between his question, and when I answer, I take a huge breath, then exhale it. "Longer."

Dawn comes back in, holding the stuff Spike wants to clean my hands. "Got the stuff."

And suddenly, I'm attacked. Willow, Anya, Xander, and Tara run in and bombard me with a barrage of questions. And suddenly, I feel like I'm suffocating. I can vaguely feel Spike's presence next to me, and when I look at him out of the corner of my eye, he's glaring at the Scoobies, looking absolutely disgusted.

He knows. He knows that they're the ones that did this to me.

Good.

However, the next thing I know, Spike is moving away from me, glaring hatefully at the group. I, unfortunately, am surrounded, and I lock eyes with him before he ducks out, begging him with my eyes to get me out of here. He looks at me helplessly, then looks down, shakes his head, and storms out the door.

I don't remember much after that. The Scoobs were getting a little too pushy, and Dawn was getting mad. I was really tired... so I went to be.

It was all I could do.

It's the next day. I kinda walked around like a zombie, so far. When I woke up, I didn't move out of my position. I just laid there, glaring at my ceiling. What in the hell did I do to deserve this? I saved the world from an apocalypse seven different times on seven different occasions. I sacrificed half of what I was in order to be the Slayer. I killed Angel to save the world from Acathla, I stabbed Faith to save Angel, who in turn left me after I saved the world from the Mayor, and then I sacrificed myself to save the world from an evil hellbitch goddess. Why is it that nothing is fucking enough for the Powers? Why do they agree to drag me out of Heaven of all places, kicking and screaming up through my grave, then toss me in front of my "friends," who think they did a good thing by messing with supernatural forces and resurrecting me? Nothing is fucking enough, my whole damn life is just one big fucking joke to them!

Anyway.

There's a new demon out and about. And of course, they expect me to jump right to my old job and make it go smash. We were having a meeting in the Magic Box... so weird without Giles there... and I just got so fed up, that I made the excuse to patrol, just so I could get the hell out of there.

So here I am right now, walking along a row of tombstones, and around some trees. Supposedly doing my job. What job? The job that I was supposed to be relieved from? You know, by dying? Cuz I did die. And yet, here I am, still searching out vampires and demons, and killing them. Doing it all over again, to protect a town that's pleasantly clueless, and a world that doesn't even give a shit.

Ain't it disgusting how life works?

I don't want to patrol anymore. I can't stand it. I have to go somewhere, have to get away from the rows upon rows of headstones.

Well, at least somebody up there isn't entirely against me. I just came upon Spike's crypt. Visiting Spike is better than this. At least I can get some sort of entertainment out of Spike.

I walk up to the crypt and open the door, striding inside slowly. My eyes dart around, taking in what I haven't seen in four months. Hmph. He has furniture. How about that. Ooh. Coffee-table. Nice. With magazines. Even better.

Sighing, I move over to said coffee-table and sift through the magazines. He's got an assortment. Housekeeping. Sports Illustrated -- the actual magazine, and not the swimsuit issue, and somehow I am incredibly relieved.

"Buffy."

I turn around and look at him. That could be bad; he actually startled me. If I'm gonna be forced to work a job for a world that doesn't care, then I need to be on my toes. He's got a dagger in his hand. Oh. Self-defense. Probably didn't realize it was me.

"You should be careful," he says quietly. "Never know what kinda villain's got a knife at your back."

Check, Spike. I gotcha. I look down at the knife-wielding hand. Hmm. It's bleeding. "Your hand is hurt," I point out.

"Hmm." He nods toward my own hand. "Same with you."

I look down at my tainted knuckles, covered in scratches, and probably with wood splinters stuck under the skin. Oh. Yeah. "Right."

Spike looks at me for a little bit, then fidgets, moving toward the wall and setting the knife down. I think I'm making him nervous. Hey. New way to scare vamps. Make the Slayer come back from the dead and traumatize her by making her see her own grave.

"Willow's gettin' pretty strong, isn't she? Bringin' you back. It's hard to get a good night's death around here." He tries to laugh, but I think he can see that it's pointless. I don't want him to make me laugh right now, anyway.

He nods behind me. "You can sit down. Got furniture."

Already noticed. I sit down on a chair anyway.

"You should see the downstairs, too, it's quite posh," he adds.

Right. I'll bet. You've done good, Spike. Here's a cookie.

Actually, it does look nice, and I bet the downstairs probably is, um... quite posh.

He sighs and walks over, sitting down in front of me on the edge of the table.

Good God, why can't I stop looking at him? This could prove to be a problem sometime down the line.

Hark. He speaks. "Uh ... I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her." He stops for a second. He won't look at me. "If I had done that ... even if I didn't make it ... you wouldn't have had to jump."

And it has officially come out. He does feel guilty about my death. Something inside of me does something completely unexpected then -- my heart twists at the sound of his voice. He sounds so... ashamed. I can't say anything. I don't want to say anything. I just want to listen to his voice. It's stirring something inside of me.

He continues. "But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but ... after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again ... do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways ... " If I could smile, I would. He received my messages to him. When I manipulated his dreams. Good. I'm... I'm really glad. "Every night I save you," he finishes softly.

You're welcome, Spike.

They're all looking at me. It's the morning after, again. A demon created when I was brought back tried to kill me last night. It went solid, and I killed it. Hah. One up for me. We're at the Magic Box, and I just saw Dawn off to school. I'm supposed to be saying something, but it's complete bullshit, because it's what they want to hear. It's not what I really feel.

But I have to say it. Because I understand why they did it now. And I don't want to hurt them by letting them know the truth about where I was. They thought I was in Hell.

Except I was in Heaven.

You see my dilemma.

"You brought me back. I was in a ... I was in hell. I, um ... I can't think too much about what it was like. But it felt like the world abandoned me there. And then suddenly ... you guys did what you did."

Sounds good, right? Tara interrupts. "It was Willow. She knew what to do."

Hate to break it to you, Tara, but your girlfriend didn't know what to do. She only thought she did.

"Okay. So you did that. And the world came rushing back. Thank you. You guys gave me the world. I can't tell you what it means to me," I say. Willow's eyes are filling up with tears. "And I should have said it before."

Willow walks up to me and hugs me. "You're welcome," she whispers. I close my eyes and hug her back. Xander walks over and puts his arms around the both of us and we three-way hug. "Welcome back, Buffy," he murmurs.

Even though I know what they did to me, it still feels good to hug them again. But I'm not happy. I don't know if I'll ever be happy again.

We pull away from the hug and I look up at them, a tight smile on my face. "I think I'll go for a walk or something. Okay?" Hmph. I have to ask permission of them before I can do anything now, or else they think that I'll go suicidal.

Not a bad idea, but no. I have Dawn back, and that's a good thing.

They nod, and Willow squeezes my hand before pulling away. I give them a tiny smile and head toward the back of the shop. I don't want to be in sunshine right now. The alley feels better. Not so bright. Not so hard.

"Buffy."

Jesus H. Christ, he has to stop doing that! I look up, and there he is, standing right there in the alley, looking at me all concerned. I oughta poke his eyes out.

What a sec. How in the hell did he get here in the first place? It's day. "Spike, it's daylight, and you're..."

"Not on fire?" He shrugs and looks up at the sky. "Sun's low enough, shady enough here."

I put my arms around my waist. It's kind of cold out here. I'm not gonna do anything stupid, except I think that if I let my arms go, I might grab Spike and hug him back to death.

He sounds a little revolted. "I was gonna go inside, but I overheard you and the Super-friends exchanging a special moment and I came over a bit queasy."

No kidding. Don't think he has any idea how it felt for me. A lock of hair falls down over my cheek and I push it away.

I think he can tell that I'm in kind of a grubby mood. But he speaks again, anyway. "Say, aren't you leaving a hole in the middle of some soggy group hug?"

Nothing out of the ordinary. They put one big ass hole in me. "Just wanted some time alone."

Oops. I think he got the wrong impression. He looks wounded. "Oh. Uh... right then." He get s up and walks to the edge of the alley. Goofy vampire. He forgot. Sunlight. He can't get out unless he made one helluva run for it. He tilts his head up and glares at the sky.

I watch him quietly. And now I don't want him to leave, so I say what pops into my head. "That's okay. I can be alone with you here."

Oh, I keep saying things the wrong way. He looks apologetic now. "Thanks ever so." But he still smiles at me. I can't look at him. If I look at him, I won't be able to stop myself from staring.

"Right."

Here comes a really long pause.

He looks over at me. "Buff? ... Slayer? Are you okay?"

No. But I sit up a little bit and nod at him. "I'm here. I'm good."

He starts walking back to me. "Buffy, if you're in ... if you're in pain ... or if you need anything... or if I can do anything for you..."

Oh... he's sweet. That doesn't seem right. Spike and sweet in the same sentence. Hmm. I look down at my lap. "You can't."

He sits down next to me. I like the proximity. Very close. At the moment, I'm fighting the urge to cuddle up to him. "Well, I haven't been to a hell dimension just of late, but I do know a thing or two about torment."

I inwardly wince about that, thinking back on just what exactly happened to him the last time he was tormented. Yeah, Spike. You would know, wouldn't you? He's gone through so much because of me. Maybe it's time I gave a little back to him. Maybe I should let him know about it. Let him know where I was.

"I was happy," I whisper, still looking down. I can feel him looking at me. He's confused. According to my friends, I was in Hell, so he's wondering why I'd be happy. I continue. "Wherever I ... was ... I was happy. At peace."

Yeah. He gets it now. I can hear him draw in a sharp breath. He's shocked.

Still fighting the urge not to lean on him, bury my face in his chest and sob my eyes out. "I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time ... didn't mean anything ... nothing had form ... but I was still me, you know?" I look up at him for a second, and I actually have to force myself to look away. "And I was warm ... and I was loved ... and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or ... any of it, really ... but I think I was in Heaven."

Wow. I think I've actually frightened Spike. He's looking at me in complete alarm.

And now the tears try to force their way through. "And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out ... by my friends." Spike is still staring at me, just listening to me. I like that. He just wants to let me talk. "Everything here is ... hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch ... this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that ..." My voice softens, and I force back a sniffle. "Knowing what I've lost..."

Then it hits me that he's still there. I look up and swallow hard, feeling uneasy about everything I just told him. Why had I said all of that to him again? I get up, and Spike looks as if he wants to go with me, but he doesn't. He just stays right where he is. I think I've actually stunned all the words out of him. I walk to where Spike stopped earlier. The entrance to the alley. But I move into sunlight. I stop, just for a second.

"They can never know. Never." I know he won't tell them. But I just have to issue the warning. I continue on my path, with Spike still sitting there, looking after me.

I know what you're thinking. It's cruel that I've placed this sort of thing, this... enormous secret on his head. But he's the only one that may have been able to understand. I can't talk to anyone else... They wouldn't get it. They'd be horrified.

He listened, and didn't comment, didn't chastise me for lying to my friends. He understood... and right now, that's all I need. Someone who will understand me.

And I can still count on Spike for that.