by Sweetprincipale

Set Post- Series, AU. Buffy and Spike realize some wounds leave scars that even time won't heal. A short piece made of little moments and finally finding out what makes it better.

She showed it to Willow several weeks after. They'd just settled into the apartments and the cheap market-stall furniture she had for her and Dawn was scraped into place. It was then she noticed one battle scar still hadn't healed.

"Hey... Wills?" Buffy knocked on the adjoining flat's door.

"Coming!" Willow answered the door in fuzzy flannels and a camo tank top that must've belonged to Kennedy. "What's up, neighbor? Flour, sugar, eggs?"

"Medical advice."

"Oooh, that's a fun one." Willow pulled her inside. "What kind of icky or owie?" In the aftermath of such a huge crisis, her amiable perkiness had somehow grown back. All of them had done a little bit of reverting to their more juvenile selves, a sort of "thank God it's over" cover up to deal with the heart ache of all that was over. Town. Lives. But not the whole world.

"Look at my palm." Buffy held it out. There was an irregular reddish grazing on it, a network of fine searing marks. "It doesn't hurt, but it hasn't gone away, either. And I might have shared out the power- but I still have some too. All the other horrifying injuries are gone." She tried to joke.

"I don't know what this is. It looks kind of like a burn. Kind of like a scar, too."

"A burn?" She hadn't told them about her last moments inside the Hellmouth.

"Yeah." Willow didn't notice the tremor in Buffy's voice, too busy examining her hand with squinted eyes. "Did you get burned?"

No. He did.

"Did you burn your hand on something?"

Trapped in a burst of flame. Him and her. Fingers interlocked. Palms pressed together. Buffy jerked her hand away.

"It's fine." She shrugged and plastered on a goofy smile. "Me, big super gal, making a deal out of a little red mark, that doesn't even hurt."

"Well, let me know if it's still there in a few weeks."

She nodded and walked off. It'd be there forever. That pain inside, unacknowledged, uncertain. Buffy was certain of one thing.

It's done and everything will fade eventually. Even scars.

A few weeks later...

He talked to the science-y one. Pretty little smarty pants. He liked her straight off. Later he would say that was because he had a thing for the ones fated for big destinies. Bad or good, but big.

"Got this scar. Ain't healin'." He said gruffly, scooting onto her pricey lab table.

"You're going to knock over all my pathogen samples." Fred groused, but looked at the hand he thrust out to her. "Huh. Angel always heals."

"I know. Pretty boy. If you like the cro-magnon type." Spike snarled. Fred giggled once and tried to hide it quickly.

"But... you have a scar." Fred looked at the black arch above the deep blue eye. She hesitated, then touched it. "What made this?"

"Some old sword from China. Slayer trinket." He waggled the brow under her finger, just to watch her jump back. Ha. Like he'd ever attempt to get in her lab coat. Sorry. Had too much of not real love, thanks anyway. Right up to the last soddin' moment on earth and again as soon as I got my solidness back. Speaking of which- "But I was a ghost. A vampire ghost. Dead squared to you, Brains." They exchanged a teasing smile. "Shouldn't I either be a mass of rot an' ashes, or perfect all over?"

"You'd think so." Fred jerked his hand under one of the criminally expensive microscopes in the lab and pinpointed the small irregular patch of redness against milk white. "It's like burn tissue. Only not."

"Come again?"

"It's burnt."

"Well, all of me got pretty bloody well done." Spike pointed out. "Why's this patch hangin' around?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's magical, not scientific. I mean, I'm gettin' pretty good at both," she blushed with some of that leftover school girl modesty, "but Wesley's the one you'd-"

"I'd rather not talk to the Watcher. Had enough of them." Spike took his hand back. "Maybe haven't given it enough time to heal." He murmured to himself, to his questioning heart.

"How long ago did ya get the one over your eye?" Fred's soft Texan twang followed him down the corridor.

"Only a hundred an' four years ago." I might forget about her by then.

No. I'll never forget her. But maybe I'll get over her by then.

Several months later...

"Dawn says she's worried about your hand. That it hasn't healed." Giles confronted Buffy as she curled up on her couch. "I hadn't even realized it was injured."

"No big." Buffy huddled under her blanket and smiled a large, false smile.

"Well, I'm afraid it is big." Giles sat down next to her. "You may not be the only Slayer anymore, Buffy, but your'e still the general of our little army. We need you. We worry about you."

She'd forgiven him for everything, and he knew it and he knew he didn't deserve it. The same went for her. The same went for them all, actually. But that's what happens when you completely begin again sometimes. Everyone washes everything bad away, clinging to each other in the flood just to stay afloat in a new confusing environment. You're so desperate to keep swimming that you let go over everything that might way you down. Only Buffy had one weight strapped to her that no one knew about.

Unless they had been watching her the most devotedly, and the longest. As he had. "Let me look at it." He held out his hand, and she held out hers.

"I uh- I know you're busy an' all that." Spike tapped on Wesley's office door. The man lay sprawled in his desk chair, unmoving, hand dangling over the edge, fingers on the lip of a now empty glass.

"I'm not busy. I'm not busy at all." He answered in a flat monotone.

Spike came to take the rapidly running to seed man's mind off his woes, and maybe to do the same for himself. "She said- I had better ask you. Only we don't much get on."

"I won't be getting on much with anyone." Wesley answered, raising the glass again, finding only ice meeting his lips. Cold lips. Dying lips. Ice blue eyes and hair... He hurled the glass angrily away. "You see?" He asked with bitter sarcasm amid the shattering.

"I see." Spike sank down on the desk, and kicked the chair to the side so they faced each other, one haggard man to another. Angry eyes flared, unspeakingly threatening the vampire for daring to disturb him in his grief, in his- unwed yet newly widowed state. "But you can shoot me a few times if you like. I won't bleed to death like Charlie."

Wesley considered it. Then in a low, abused tone, so full of anger and exhaustion, he asked softly, "She said I could help you?"

"I want to help you. We all do." Giles turned the hand back and forth in his own. "We- erm- we've been very supportive of your new friend."

"You don't have to be. He's just someone I hang out with. I don't love him." Buffy said. And this time I mean that. I don't love him. He is just someone I hang out with. Charismatic, charming, spoils me at expensive little Italian places and with big Italian daggers and fast Italian cars. Also undead. Seems to be my type.

No spark, even though there probably should be. I mean, he's got everything you could want if you don't mind ambiguous evil. Everything but what I know I want now. That perfect mess. Snarking, smiling eyes. She'd seen him in every mood and wearing every face, but whenever she thought of Spike, the first though was always the sarcastic half smile.

Her new friend, Mr. "Immortal" , would never pull it off. He'll never be that- that not really describable thing Spike was.. Never be a jerk or throw out a wrong word or a hand raised to hurt me. Never a complete fool for me or offering me a shoulder to cry on, a fist to duck, a fight to have, a night to share. He doesn't love me, either.

I loved Spike. He loved me. He's gone.

"He's gone." Buffy's hand gripped another, laced her fingers through others, in a mirroring of how she'd locked her hand with his, many months ago. She sobbed.

Giles knew who she meant.

Wesley knew what Fred had meant the second he closely examined the hand. "If a human has scars at the time of their turning, they remain with the vampire. The body is still the body, after all. But other scars and wounds heal fairly quickly. Although the one you have above your eye-"

"Get off!" Spike batted the absent minded hand away as it prodded him in the temple.

"-was made by a blade crafted by an order of holy monks to be given to the 'virgin warrior', or as we knew her, a young slayer active in the Shanxi province in the years 1898 to-"

Spike let him ramble, a small smile on his face. He knew what it was like to be grateful for a distraction.

"Do you have any other marks like this?"

"No... nothing like that." Buffy whispered. She appreciated Giles trying to change the subject for her, for being her human kleenex, and mostly for not asking complicated questions.

"What happened after everyone else got out- and you and Spike remained?" Giles asked softly.

So much for that burst of gratitude. Really though, she supposed it would be nice to just say it out loud to someone. "He saved us. He burned for us."


"He- the light. It burned him, but not right away. He was in it and it was holding him. Like some bad alien mothership thing, only I know I shouldn't joke about it." But he would.

"But he would have?" Giles smiled gently.

For some reason that made her sob all over again.

"I assume the fact that the monks were all baptized in the tears of a Slayer's great grandmother means something?" Distraction was all well and good. Watching Wes's half-turned off, overwrought mind spit forth every random fact he knew about a particular sword and slayer was making him nauseated.

"Oh. Yes. The point being-"

"Halle-bloody-lujah, there's a point." Spike rolled his eyes and took his hand back for the third time as Wesley roughly held it up in the light.

"Only blessed or cursed objects can wound the immortals enough to leave a lasting mark."

"Only something powerful, a magical object of great good or evil would be able to wound you to the point where you'd scar and remain unhealed." Giles put her hand back on her knee.

"Spike was cursed?"

"Or blessed. Though I doubt it."

"He died. I kind of doubt it, too." Buffy crossed her arms to hold the ache in.

"But I take it- you two had- ah-" He groped for the accurate term.

"Made up." Buffy whispered. "Become friends. Become- everything. For a whole second, Giles." Her smile cracked.

He was overwhelmed at first, revulsion and sorrow and acceptance and realizing it was all for naught now, no matter what he'd felt. "One second is better than nothing." He consoled.

"She was blessed, an' cursed." Spike scoffed and praised all at once, in the way peculiar to him. Wesley understood it.

"I know what it's like to love someone like that." He murmured.

Spike looked at his palm closely. "That's her hand in mine then?" A smaller irregular square with unique lines and tiny scratches. The imprint of her skin, branded to him. "I thought it might be."

"Oh, the mark is decidedly hers, but I don't think she was the force which caused it, I think it was the amulet's light that-" Wesley stopped talking as he saw everything hard dropping out of the vampire's face, watching him stare in awe and sadness at faded red lines running across his skin. He kept silent.

Of course it was her hand. That's what blesses a dying man.

"He burst into flames, but I didn't want to let go. I wanted to pull him free but he was sure he was supposed to stay. And I said- that I-"

"I know what you said." Giles knew.

"He told me to run. So I ran. Because, you know for being an idiot a lot of the time, he was also pretty good at being right." Buffy cradled her hand in the palm of the other. "So I ran and I tried to believe him when he said- that I was wrong about how I felt." Her eyes shimmered up at one of her oldest friends. "Guess he still could be wrong sometimes."

"He was doing one noble thing. He paid for his crimes."

"I guess he did." I think he paid for them a lot more than you know. Not like it matters now.

"So that's why you've got that small patch of irregular skin. It won't dissipate, I'm afraid, but at least it's not painful, or even noticeable in most circumstances."

"Yeah... But burns don't work that way, Giles." An outline of rough skin not her own, scorched into her. Burns ruined your own skin, they didn't give you someone else's.

"I wish I had answers for you."

"I believe the answer lies in-"

"Shhh. Don't question miracles. Too bloody few of 'em." Spike left the man's office.

Wesley crashed back in his chair, suddenly deoxygenated and limp once more. His own miracle had been stolen. Spike would get a second chance.

If he'd take it.

"WILLIAM!" He thundered loud enough to make even the boldest and most arrogant- which Spike could surely be- turn back and rush into the room.

"What? What is it?"

"She said I would do something for you. Now you do something for me. Not immediately. But soon."

Spike heard himself agreeing before he could censor himself. "Alright. What?"

"So that's what happened?" Dawn hugged a throw pillow to her chest.


"Why didn't you say anything?"

"He was gone. It was private." Buffy whispered.

Dawn bit her lip. "I'm sorry I asked Giles to-"

"No! No, it's okay." Buffy hurriedly forestalled the guilt. She was very, very done with guilt. "It's over, Dawn. We don't have to talk about him. Not this part, okay? We don't have to worry about what anyone will say, or do, or what's okay or not okay." That was a relief. But yet- if he'd just come back, she didn't really care about any of that list she just rattled off. If he came back, he'd be Spike. But it's not like he can come back. And we all know the way badness of resurrection spells around here so- no. "Everything is over."

Two months later...

"Everything is over. All present an' accounted for?" Spike sat in the crater sized hole where the law firm had been a day ago.

"Accounted for. Not present." Angel looked at the two of them. "You still got it. Ten hours in a fight and you're ready to kill something?"

"I learned from the best." Spike praised. Then gagged. He flicked ash on his sort-of-not enemy-at the moment.

"Ow! Hey!"

"You just got blasted in the face by a dragon. A dragon. But one Camel's gonna make the big broody boy cry?" He asked in a patronizing tone.

"I just want to know how your cigs survived a trip to hell on earth." Angel moved farther away and looked up at the clearing sky, still filled with ash and debris.

Spike contemplated and dragged smoke into his cold chest. Survived hell. Hell on earth. And inner hell. An' what survives? Me. An' her. Us. He looked at his hand.

"I'm goin' to Italy as soon as I get some clean clothes on."

"What? We both said-"

"No. We didn't decide anything except that she's a bloody lot of trouble." Spike held out his hand, showed off something no one ever even noticed. "She's my blessing an' my curse. You ever meet someone who does that to you? Not in the lose your soul way, in the- in the lose your mind way. Lose your heart way. An' you know it's stupid and you know she'll probably break your face before you can even say hello because she'll be so happy to see you- and that's how she shows it?"

Angel swallowed multiple times. Cordy. Love like Spike was describing. If I'd ever disappeared and then just shown up a year later- she'd break my leg with one swift kick of her designer heels- then kiss me and call me dumbass. When dumbass sounds like the best music in the world- and when a broken face means she's happy enough and mad enough to have wanted you the whole time...

"You ramble like her." Angel finally croaked.

"Sometimes." Spike conceded.

"You know the cars are blown up, right? I can't drive you to the airport."

Spike chortled out smoke and tossed the filter away. "I'll take a cab."

They stood, brushed down, shifted around. The only two left. The world was about to be very lonely for both of them- or maybe just one of them.

"Are you sure?" Angel asked.

"Yeah." Spike sighed. "Besides, I promised Pryce. He told me to not pass up chances he'd kill for. Figure I owe it to him an' Fred as much as I owe it to her an' I."

Angel blinked. Maybe Spike shouldn't be the only one taking this chance, maybe he should still be trying.

"Spike. Tell her- tell her-"

Spike gave him a cautious look, a look that meant they would never be friends, but they might not have to fight all the time- if he could just let it go. Let it be someone else's joy and torment.

It was always going to be his torment. And that was safer. "Tell her I said hi."

Three days later...

"Hi." Spike waited until no one else was around before he knocked.

Buffy went white. Then she slammed the door.

Spike frowned and laughed in turn, surprised. Of all the reactions he'd expected, that wasn't one of them. "Buffy?"

"You're not real!" Buffy shouted through the thin wood.

"Bloody am!"

Hesitation. "I drank wine at lunch. I'm not used to it. But it's Italy, and there's wine like- everywhere, so... you're not real."

He rested his palm on the door. Felt her warmth coming from under it, and knew she was just on the other side. "I think I can prove I am." He offered softly.

"No. No. No." Buffy yanked open the door, crossbow loaded and pointed, tears twinkling in the corners of her eyes. "If you're the First again, I am going to find away to corporealize your ass and then- Oh!" He had reached out and wiped away the glistening trail forming on her cheek.

"Could you just not hit the heart? Defeats the purpose of me comin' all the way back here." He offered, one hand over his vital organ, the other arm spreading wide, letting her take a shot.

She dropped the weapon instead. She breathed hard for a second, not knowing whether to sob or shout or laugh giddily.

He'd know of course. A stinging slap against his face, and a kiss right after. Heaven after hell. Literally and figuratively and all the -lys. He grabbed for her, only to find her shying away, wiping her just christened lips.

"Wh-who are you?" She wanted to believe, but you can only have so many gifts from fate. Loved ones do die. Hers died more than others, it seemed. "I saw him- I saw him burning and you're not an angel and you're solid so you're not-"

"Don't I taste the same? Feel the same?" He whispered. "Buffy, please, if you could-"

"Ha! He hardly ever called me Buffy, he always-"

"Slayer! I called you Buffy all the time once I fell for you, you brat, Slayer was when I was feelin' fighty. An' I'm not at the moment." Spike had known it wouldn't go smoothly. But he'd hoped for a little more trust than this. Guess that's stupid. Leave her on her own even though you're alive, never call, and tell her she doesn't mean it the one and only time she says she loves you. I wouldn't give in too easy either.

"I don't believe it." Buffy said through thinned lips. "Whatever you call me and whatever you feel like or taste like... or look like. God, you look just like him." She marveled and made a note to ask for soda next time.

"Me. Look just like me. Because I am. Because I made a mistake. I said somethin' I shouldn't have and I came back to tell you what I should have."

Her thoughts of a few months ago made her blink. If he'd just come back, she didn't really care about any of that list she just rattled off. If he came back, he'd be Spike.

He'd be Spike. Spike's back.

But how? "But I saw you... you died."

"So? He can crawl up from hell but I can't?"

"You- you crawled up through-"

"Not exactly, but that's my point! Men come back from the depths of oblivion for you." She stared, half-hopeful, half-skeptical. "It's a long story." He hoped to delay the telling of it.

"I have a long time." Buffy felt hope winning over doubt. It had to be him. It HAD to be. So much evidence was there, and it just kept growing. Who else could show up, from beyond the grave even, and start a battle of words within the first five minutes? He's home.

Her eyes had gone all soft and melty. Is she thinkin' about me, or him? Dammit... "Well, I'll tell it to you. But maybe not all in one go." Spike stopped the silence as it was dragging on.

"Tell me a little. Just the beginning." She pressed, arms struggling to remain at her sides, not to pull him in or feel him all over, keep touching him to make sure he was real.

"Well, the beginning bit is the harder bit, 'cause no one ever really worked out the logistics of why I died and could get sucked up in the amulet all at once, and then get through the bloody mail and then be Angel's pet ghost for weeks while they tried to make me solid again an-"

"Angel knows you're alive?" Buffy screeched, eyes narrowing. "Why didn't he call me?"

" 'Cause I'm not for you." Spike smiled, watching the eyes of his beloved turn predatory. Oooh, Angel's in trouble, Angel's in trouble.

Who the hell is he to decide that? And for that matter, that's not really the issue. "Why didn't YOU call me?" Buffy reached out and slapped his arm hard.

Ah. I'm in trouble too.

"I'm a soddin' idiot." Spike answered simply.

"We agree on something." Buffy muttered, wanting to pace, and yet not daring to even turn a half-inch, in case he somehow vanished. "Are you telling me Angel knew about this and didn't even try to get you to call me?"

"Uh... yeah." Her skin turned dark with anger, and he smiled in satisfaction. For a second. Then that bloody little soul poked at him. "But he did give me the money for the plane ticket. He says hi, by the way."

Buffy stared. "I think my brain is unraveling. You and Angel are like- buddies? Lending each other money to fly out and see your girl- see me?"

"Well... I knew his credit card number. 'Buddies' isn't exactly the right term, either." He raked his hand through his hair for a second and then tacked on, "The part about him sayin' hi is true."

She laughed. She laughed, shook her head, and covered her mouth with one hand.

Buffy watched him lift his hand, gasping deeply when she saw the small imprint across his palm, the inverse of her own, and heard him prompt, "If you could just give me one more chance to say what I should've, Luv..."

Her hand shook on its way up, pausing.

His hand fell as hers hovered. "Oh. I - maybe I was right the first time." I'm a fool. I'm a fool, an' I believed her this whole time... No matter what I told her, I thought it was for real. "No worries. At least now I can say I'm back, kickin' around an'-"

Her hand sprang into place, lips completely broken in their smile as it threatened to split her cheeks.

He peered. Smiled at what he saw. "Looks like we match."

"Looks like."

Hands met. They were suddenly, and yet not entirely unexpectedly, bathed in flames. Soft glowing ones, not burning ones.

Wounds healed, sinking into each other, skin repairing skin.

"Guess we have a little leftover magic." He coughed after a moment of stunned silence. "They said nothing would make that go away." Spike pressed her now perfect palm with his restored one.

"They were right." She blinked. "It's not gone. It's just- back where it belongs."

He smiled bashfully. "Me, too, Slayer?"

"Welcome home, Spike." Buffy whispered. She swallowed, and pulled her hand free. They spent a moment staring at the repaired flesh. They no longer needed the reminder of another half waiting to be found. The other half was finally standing in front of them.

Her heart healed. Whole again. Maybe for the first time ever.

Buffy blinked harder and collected herself. "Let's see what happens this time." Her hand went up, his followed suit. "I love you." She forced the words out over the lump in her throat and the fear threatening to devour her.

"I love you." Spike replied solemnly, firmly.

They kept their hands joined, but lowered them, arms swinging softly between them.

"Come on." Buffy pulled at him gently. "Let's get your stuff." Her eyes gave a sudden worried flash. "You are staying, aren't you?"

"Never gonna leave again." He tapped his fingers against the back of her hand. "Hurts too much when part of you is a few thousand miles away."

"Nope. Besides, looks like you always come back to me anyway." She leaned in and kissed him softly.

"Never really left you, Pet." He held up their hands, so recently wounded in a way that only the other could heal. "You never left me, either."

Thank you for reading.