Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own any of the amazing characters or story lines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that all belongs to Joss Whedon and the other writers.

Smoke steamed around Spike. Buffy's heart swooped in her chest making her feel queasy. His ramblings had finally centered on a central theme, one that was making her entirely uncomfortable.

"Can we rest now, Buffy?" he asked.

"Your soul," she whispered. "You got your soul back."

"Can we rest now?"

Buffy felt her knees trembling. It was all too much. It was one thing when Spike was crazy, rambling senselessly, but a soul. What was she to do with that? This was the same demon who had tried to rape her, not even months before; granted, their entire relationship had been nothing but violence. Now here he was, burning before her on a cross, begging her to let him rest.

A shaky breath escaped her. Buffy's feet were moving without any conscious thought on her part. Suddenly she was standing behind him, her hand reaching out to touch his shoulder. Her fingers were trembling severely, skimming over his bare skin.


So close to him, she was breathing in the dry ice smell of the smoke pluming up around him. It sparked her back into action. Gripping his shoulder, Buffy pulled him from the cross. A part deep in her soul was repelled to be touching Spike, touching him after he had grabbed her, after he had – Buffy fought not to remember.

Spike fell back from the cross, pushing Buffy to the floor. He lay against her. Her body shook with a noxious combination of revulsion and concern. Spike's skin was marred by the searing scar of the burn from the cross. His head on her shoulder, he breathed rapidly.

Her left hand quavered as she raised it to run it against his hair, trying to offer a comfort she wasn't sure he deserved. "You can rest now, Spike," Buffy whispered.

His body gave a long shudder before he became completely still against her, only his breath, a habit so old it could not be broken, raising his chest which was very slowly healing before her eyes. His right hand sought hers, Buffy bit back a cry of desperation as his fingers curled over her cold ones.

In the hour that followed, Buffy tried to come to terms with the situation as it was. Her mind went back to when Angel returned from his hell dimension, soul intact. He had been a savage beast, but she hadn't thought twice about helping him, he was still Angel to her, the first man she had ever loved, possibly the only one she ever would. Angelus had destroyed so much, he had murdered Jennifer, he had tormented Buffy and her friends; and still, without hesitation, she had come to his aid when he returned.

Maybe it was because Spike's assault had been done while he professed his love, because he had tried to violate her in a way unimaginable, that it was not so easy to forgive him, to come to his aid. Buffy couldn't stop the images of the attack from rising in her mind's eye, from causing her to jump slightly back from Spike as he moved in sleep. Buffy was as disgusted with herself now as she had been when she was sleeping with him.

The sky grew darker outside the chapel, a chilly breeze ran through the building. Spike drew himself closer to her, Buffy fought not to pull back completely. Exhaustion crashed over her, she wanted to rest just as much as Spike did. Desperation took control of her mind; she had to get out of here.

As gently as she could, Buffy inched Spike to the cold hard floor. He stirred, but didn't wake. With tears welling, she ran from the chapel.

As she ran, Buffy thought of all of the contradictions that comprised Spike. The absolute demon and fiend that had plagued her early years in Sunnydale. Who had trapped her mother, who had come close to killing her on multiple occasions. The Spike after the chip, who was intolerably vicious, but couldn't attack, the one who slowly slid into being almost docile. A Rottweiler, that was held back by a chain. The Spike who professed his love for her, following her around like a love sick puppy, having entirely lost his edge.

Then there was the Spike who was there for her after she came back. The only one who was there for her, the one Buffy could tell all her darkest thoughts to without fear of being questioned or condemned, or hurting his feelings. Buffy had used and abused that Spike to no end of her shame, but what he had done to her in return, was that forgivable?

Was it any worse than what she had done to him? She had very violently taken what she wanted from Spike. Buffy had taken it from him because she knew he wouldn't protest. She had set violence up as a standard in their relationship as an okay means of demonstrating desire. Spike's actions were as wrong as hers had been, but were they any worse?

Her heart ached. The Spike that was dangerous, there was an allure to him that called to the Slayer in her. Buffy could never be with someone who was docile and tame, it wouldn't work with the violence and energy that was constantly thrumming through her life. There were aspects of Spike that she had found frighteningly attractive, aspects that she didn't necessarily want to admit to. The fact that he didn't look utterly repulsive as a vampire was certainly one of them. She found his feral form to be . . . Honestly Buffy wanted to kiss him just as much when he was a vampire as she did when he was standing strong behind her, no questions asked, in a way that not even her friends could ever do.

Spike never doubted her, even as a soulless vampire, he had been there for her every chance she gave him. But it was a mess. Spike was not the person she was supposed to be with. He was demonic, evil. And now he had a soul. What did that mean?

When she reached home, Dawn and Willow were already sleeping. Buffy could hear Andrew muttering to himself in the spare room, it was a never ending habit of his. It was close on three in the morning. Buffy was exhausted, but she felt the need to cleanse herself of the evening's events.

Kicking off her boots, she headed upstairs into a burning hot shower. Buffy let the flaming water and soap melt away the sense of dirtiness that lingered over her after having been in such close contact with Spike, she let it melt away her indecision over what to do for him, if anything.

When she finally reached to turn the shower off, her skin was pruned, the entire bathroom steamed up. Buffy wrapped herself in one of the fuzziest towels; standing before the mirror, she stared back at her reflection, her green eyes filled with her worries and anxieties. With one finger, Buffy swiped a line across the steam covered glass, blurring her image.

She padded across to her room, trading her towel for a pair of sweat pants and an old t-shirt. The shirt was either Riley's or Angel's, Buffy didn't stop to ponder the original owner. Old t-shirts were all that she had left of her previous boyfriend's. Of course, Angel still stayed in contact the way he always had, showing up without a moment's notice, emerging from the shadows. And her heart still beat three times over at the very sight of him. She would always love Angel, there was no question of that. But would he always be the first one in her heart?

She crawled beneath the covers of her bed, relishing their familiar smell on a night when nothing made sense. Try as she might, Buffy couldn't block out conscious thought any more than she could control what she was thinking.

With her head sunk into her pillow, her thoughts ran back to the song Spike had once sung her. He had told her, "You know, you got a willing slave." It scared her to think that was true. Tonight he had told her, "I got a soul for you." What power did she hold over him?

Buffy focused all her energy on falling asleep, pinched her eyes closed. Eventually, blessed darkness floated her away from consciousness.

The morning sunlight streamed in through the window, her shades doing a poor job of preventing the light from penetrating her dreams. In the bathroom Buffy could hear Dawn getting ready for school. She rolled over onto her side. Who could she tell about Spike? If things had been as they were the year before, Buffy would have been able to confide in Tara. A sense of sadness swelled up inside her chest, she beat it back down. There were so many losses after all these years.

It was all building up. All of the tragedies, big and small, year and after year of being the Slayer. It was all there, resting on her shoulders, pushing her down. And who could understand? Only someone who had been alive for as long as it took for such tragedies to build up.

Shoving this from her mind, Buffy threw her feet over the bed, feeling her soft carpet beneath her feet. She stood up, moving to her wardrobe, swapping her pajamas for day clothes. Buffy was looking forward to patrolling tonight. Working out her excess energy and nerves.

Tramping down the stairs, Buffy poured Dawn some cereal for breakfast, and put two slices of bread in the toaster for herself. She sat on the kitchen stool, sipping orange juice as she waited for her toast to pop up.

Should she look in on Spike? Tension tightened her fingers on the glass, but Buffy was careful to keep her strength to herself.

"Good morning," Willow said. She swung around the island, pouring cereal for herself then taking the seat beside where Buffy was standing. "You were home late, a lot going on in the cemetery?"

Her lips creased. "You could definitely say that."

Willow looked up at her, pushing her bright orange bangs from her eyes. "A new evil?"

"No, not exactly. More like a revised one." Buffy bit into her toast.

Willow reached across the counter for the orange juice. She waited for Buffy to continue as she poured a glass for herself. When Buffy didn't seem inclined to explain her comment, Willow lifted an eyebrow. "So are we into secret keeping again? Because I kind of thought that died with the whole musical jamboree last year."

Buffy finished off her slice of toast. Her right foot begged to tap out her anxiety of telling Willow about Spike. It all seemed like horrible flashback to Angel coming back after being Angelus.

"Right." Her hands gripped the island, her knuckles white from clenching it. "Spike isn't just living in the school basement being crazy."

"He isn't?" Willow asked clearly confused.

Buffy shook her head. "He – he has his soul back."

Willow's jaw actually dropped; she stared at Buffy incredulously. Buffy gave her an understanding frown. Before they could discuss the implications, Dawn walked in.

She took in their dower expressions. "Did the milk go bad?" she asked, eyeing Willow's cereal suspiciously.

A nervous laugh bubbled up from Willow. "No! It's the orange juice. Too sour." She stuck her tongue out to emphasize the sourness.

"Yes. Much too sour," Buffy agreed. Grabbing the container, she poured it down the sink, grateful to be pouring money down the drain instead of having to tell another person about Spike.

"Okay." Dawn sat down across from her bowl of cereal, added milk, and munched down the sustenance.

"Anything going on at school today?" Willow asked, attempting to recreate a semblance of normalcy in their conversation.

"Well," Dawn paused between bites, "I'm planning on hitting on Davie Smith during fifth period. He's totally dreamy, and from all of the effort I've put into asking other people about him, he doesn't appear to be any type of demon or monster or more evil than a normal boy is."

Buffy walked around to the sink, getting a glass from the cabinet and filling it with water. She passed it across to Dawn who happily accepted. "I could look into his student file for you. As guidance counselor they have granted me such powers as these."

"No!" Dawn thumped her glass on the table. "I mean, thanks for the offer, and it means a lot that you care, but, I'd like to attempt to be a normal high school girl and find out about him from all my friends and his, you know, kind of stalkery."

"What's more stalkery then looking into someone's file?" Willow asked.

"Too much stalking. It's like crossing a really creepy invisible stalking line."

Buffy smiled at her little sister. "I'll make you a deal, I'm still going to look into his file, since as your big sister it is my job to be overbearingly overprotective. However, I won't tell you what it says unless you ask."

"That's what people always say when they are finding out the sex of their child and someone always ends up telling," Dawn pouted.

"Good connection!" Willow nodded. She picked up the used dishes and deposited them into the sink. "Especially because I'm going to ask what's in the file."

"Ugh!" Dawn shoved up from the counter. "Let's go."

"See you later, with the info," Buffy wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at Willow.

Willow beamed, "Don't worry, Dawny. My lips are sealed. Unless, of course, Davie Smith ends up being a robot or a werewolf or –"

"Goodbye!" Dawn threw the keys to Buffy and headed out the door.

Willow and Buffy broke down giggling. "God, I don't miss high school."

"Funny that you work there now then."

"Yes, but without all the classes and homework and tests, it's really not even the same place."

"Or building."

"So true."

Their giddiness faded, they looked at each other. "So later?"

"Yeah," Buffy nodded, "later."