Here's another chapter! I'm finding myself just completely dwelling on this story throughout the day and thinking about what I'm going to do with each chapter and how I'm going to wrap it up. I'm happy that it's all coming along, and yet kinda sad because I know it's almost over.

But I just wanted to thank everyone who has been reading this story and reviewing it. I'm really hoping that you're all enjoying it and don't hate what I'm doing with the story. Anyways, here's the newest chapter! Enjoy

Chapter 16:

As soon as she was alone, Buffy fell back onto the couch, her hands coming up to cover her face as she cried into one of the pillows. She felt like all the air had been taken from her in that moment. Her heart was racing a mile a minute and she couldn't seem to control the sobs that wracked through her body.

This day should have been the best day of her life. After all it was something she had dreamt of every single day for the past year.

Spike…

He had haunted her thoughts. Her life. Every single thing about him had followed her and wouldn't let her go. She thought maybe that was his doing…that he was clinging to her from some far away dimension. And that had been a comfort to Buffy. She didn't want to believe that a guy could make her feel so helpless. So desperate. Spike completely turned her world upside down. He took everything with him when he died. Her heart. Her soul. Everything.

No man had ever done that to her before. Not even Angel. Even though he definitely threw her for a loop. She felt sad…and depressed…and maybe even a little oxygen deprived when he left. But she got over it eventually. And that was the difference between them. Buffy got over Angel. But she never got over Spike.

Buffy let out a frustrated scream into her pillow. She couldn't believe that after all this…she still wanted him. A large part of her was screaming, Go out there! Go get him before he leaves again!

But that was just it. She didn't want to chase him. Buffy was stubborn. Very stubborn. Her pride meant everything to her, and she wasn't about to just up and forgive him for what he did to her. Spike had been alive for a year and he didn't even think for a second that he should put her worries to rest and let her know. Didn't she mean something to him? Buffy thought that she may have made up for all the times she was so horrible to him in those last weeks they spent together. She thought they built something…a romantic relationship maybe? After all she chose to spend those last nights with him. No one else. Because he was her champion…the man she had given her heart, body, and soul to…so wouldn't that qualify her to be one of the people that knew of him being alive?

"I love you…" she said, intertwining her fingers with his. Her eyes were welling up with tears as she stared at the man she loved. The man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. He was her hero. Her champion. And even though it took her so long to realize it…he was the man of her dreams. A soft smile crept up onto her face and she continued to gaze at him. Buffy heard his breath catch in his throat and her smile widened a bit.

But then she saw him sigh dejectedly. His features changed from wonder and shock to sadness. "No you don't," he told her. "But thanks for saying it."

What was that all about?

Why didn't he believe me?

More sobs coursed through her as she let her body sprawl out face down on the couch, her face still buried in one of the pillows. That was the one thing she never understood. She told him that she loved him. Even if he didn't believe her words, didn't her actions say it too?

She had spent her last nights in Sunnydale in his arms. She didn't have to choose him. Buffy could have slept alone in her room or even asked Angel to stay. After the kiss they shared, Buffy was pretty sure he wouldn't have denied her if she just asked him to stay with her. But no. She chose Spike. Because she wanted Spike. Why couldn't he see that?

Willow didn't know what to do. She was a mess right now and needed her best friend. She appeared in Xander's room and sat down on his bed. A moment later Xander came out of his bathroom wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, and another one in his hand that he was using to dry off his hair. He jumped when he saw Willow sitting there and quickly covered his chest with his second towel.

"Willow!" he shouted. "I told you, I'm not upset or anything!" But when Willow looked up at him with tear stained cheeks and red rimmed eyes, Xander's face softened. He slowly let the towel covering his chest drop as he walked over to his friend. "Willow?" he took a seat next to her, putting an arm around her and rubbing circles on her shoulder. "What is it?"

Willow didn't say anything. She just rested her head on Xander's shoulder and brought her hands up to her face as she started to cry into them.

"Willow?" Xander sounded scared. He had no idea what could have gotten Willow this upset. "Willow talk to me…please…" Xander shook her a bit with his hand to get her attention. After a few minutes, Willow looked up at him, her lip quivering as she spoke.

"I ruined everything Xander…"

"What? What did you ruin?" he asked an uneasy expression on his face.

"Buffy…" she started to cry again, and Xander brought his other arm around to pull her into a hug. He kissed the top of her head and slowly rubbed her back in an attempt to get her to calm down. "Shh…I'm sure everything is g-"

"Spike…"

Xander's brow creased in confusion, but he still continued with his movements on her back.

"Willow, Spike's gone…Buffy's upset, but there's no-"

"No…" she pulled away from him to look up into his eyes. "No…he's alive."

Xander jumped up from his seat on the bed, almost causing the towel around his waist to fall off. His hand darted out just in time to catch the material and refasten it around his waist.

"The who and the what now?" he said, his eyes bugging out.

"Spike…he's al-"

"Spike's alive?!" Now his eyes were even bigger and Xander let out a shaky laugh as he ran a hand through his soaking wet hair.

"Yeah…"

"How? What? How?" he asked. Xander was so unbelievably shocked in that moment. He had a hard enough time processing normal information, but this?

"It's a long story Xander…and one that I don't entirely know…" Willow looked down at her hands and swallowed audibly.

"But you do know some of it?" Xander asked, pointing at her with his right index finger. "And Buffy…oh my gosh…how did Buffy react when she found out?" Xander started pacing the room, bringing his hand up to his mouth every so often to gasp as he continued to process the information. Willow kept her eyes down, letting a few tears escape and glide down her cheeks.

"Willow?" Xander finally asked when the shock started to wear off. He looked at his friend who was sitting there slumping dejectedly on his bed. Her long red hair was falling forward and partially covering her face. Xander noticed that she was crying again and walked back over to her, putting his finger under her chin to lift her eyes up to him. "Will? Did you d-"

Willow shoved his hand away and stood up, walking towards the door. "No I didn't do anything! Will everyone stop accusing me of that?!" But she didn't wait around to hear Xander's reply as she angrily stomped her way out of his room and towards the door to his apartment.

"Willow?" Dawn asked. She was sitting on the couch next to Andrew, with her legs strewn across his lap, eating from a bowl of popcorn. She quickly put her feet on the ground and handed the bowl to Andrew as she got up and walked over to Willow.

"Hey!" Andrew whined. "I'm not pausing this you know! You can't get the full effect of 'Dr. Who' if you pause it!" He made a face and directed his attention back to the television.

Willow hurriedly wiped her face to get rid of any evidence that she was crying. She didn't want a pity party right now.

"Willow, are you okay?" Dawn asked in a worried tone. She reached out a hand to place it on Willow's shoulder only to have the red head back away.

"Yeah I'm fine," Willow said. Her voice was very unconvincing. And the fake smile she added after that let Dawn know that something was definitely wrong.

"Willow, wha-"

"Willow don't go!" Xander shouted. He was stumbling out of his room trying to put on a pair of pants while he ran after her. His foot got caught on the hem of his jeans and he tripped, falling into the back of the couch, sending Andrew's bowl of popcorn flying everywhere.

"Heeeeey!" Andrew complained. "I was eati-" Willow sighed and snapped her fingers, freezing the kernels in the air. "Whoa! That was so cool Willow! Can you teach me?" He picked up the remote and paused the show, before he skipped over to Willow. "I mean I've dabbled in the black arts before too…so it probably wouldn't take very long to teach me." He crossed his arms over his chest, a smug look on his face as he looked around the room as if he didn't care.

"Andrew! Go away!" Xander said once he got to his feet again and successfully buttoned up his pants.

"Geez!" Andrew said. He walked back over to the couch and sat down. "Everyone's so touchy…"

Willow started to walk towards the door again, but stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Willow, please don't go…" Dawn begged. "What's wrong?"

"I've already told you, I'm fine."

Dawn raised an eyebrow at that and crossed her arms over her chest.

"If you're so fine, then why did you come barging through the living room crying? That doesn't scream 'I'm fine.'"

Willow avoided Dawn's gaze and looked over at Xander who was looking at her, obviously waiting for her to respond.

"Look Willow, if you say you didn't do anything to cause Spike being alive again, then I-"

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Dawn said, holding her hand up in the air to shush Xander, before returning her gaze to Willow. "Spike's alive?!"

In the background, Andrew was trying to eat the floating popcorn kernels in the air with just his mouth. Once he heard what Dawn said though, he gasped, causing a piece to get lodged in his throat.

"Yeah, he is, bu-" Willow began only to be cut off by Dawn.

"How long has he been back? How did he get back? What did you do?" Dawn wasn't able to control all the questions that kept pouring out of her mouth.

"Spike," *choke* "is" *gag* "alive?!" Andrew said, coughing loudly and pounding on his chest with his fist to stop himself from choking. Nobody looked over at him. Rather, everyone's attention seemed to be focused on the petite red head standing by the door to Xander's apartment. "And nobody bothered to tell me?!"

Spike groaned and backed away from Buffy's door. He had been knocking for the past ten minutes, but she had refused to open the door. Meanwhile, Angel had his arms crossed over his chest and a smirk sitting on his face, as he leaned against the wall and stared at Spike.

"That a boy! If you knock long enough, maybe she'll forget everything you did and open up…" Angel let out a chuckle as he said it.

"Will you shut your gob!" Spike growled. "She's not too happy with you either…" he pinched the bridge of his nose, tilted his head to the side, and closed his eyes as he took a deep breath.

"Yeah she's upset with me, but I'm betting she'll forgive me. Whereas I don't think she'll be able to do the same with you," Angel said, standing up straight and pointing at Spike. "Plus," he began walking towards the door to Buffy's apartment and rested his hand on the knob. "I have an invitation…don't you?" He asked mocking Spike as he twisted the knob.

Spike watched Angel, and let out a laugh as he saw the older vampire struggling to open the obviously locked door.

"You might be allowed inside Peaches, but it looks like you're not wanted in there after all." Spike smiled as he reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, and lit up. He blew out the smoke in Angel's direction and his smile widened as he noticed Angel's annoyed expression.

"She wanted me earlier."

Spike practically choked on his cigarette. Once his coughing fit subsided, he glared at Angel, his jaw clenched and nostrils flared. "What?"

"Yeah," Angel began, taking a step towards Spike. "Our date earlier went really well…" Again he crossed his arms and smiled at Spike, who was in the middle of stomping out his cigarette on the hallway carpet with the toe of his boot.

"Don't think it could have gone that well mate." Spike was now just a few feet away from Angel. "After all when it comes to Buffy, it's still all about 'yours truly'," he said putting both of his hands on his chest.

Angel laughed.

"Oh yeah," Angel started to walk in a circle around Spike, "I bet you were at the very front of her mind when we were kissing…" he came back around to face Spike, saying that last word right in his face. Spike titled his head to the side, his jaw tightening as he tried to reign in his anger.

"It's just kissing…" Spike said.

"Yeah, but like I said our date was going really well, and if you hadn't of shown up," Angel began, getting extremely close to the bleached vampire, "who knows? Maybe I'd still be in there…after all…my soul is secured now."

And that's all it took. Spike had Angel up against the wall in an instant, with the older vampire's shirt collar clenched up in his fists.

"Watch your mouth…" Spike was shaking with rage as he glared at Angel, who moments later shoved him away, sending Spike slamming into the opposite wall.

"You're just mad because you know it's true!" Angel yelled. "You know that if it really came down it, Buffy would choose me." He pointed to himself when he said it.

"You think so Angel!?" Spike chuckled as he stood up straight. "You think after everything you put her through she would just jump right back into your arms?" Angel didn't say anything, but set his eyes into an even bigger glare as he stared at Spike. "Whose arms was it that she spent her last few nights wrapped up in?"

"That was out of pity," Angel said. "She kissed me when I showed up, remember?"

Spike felt his hands ball up into fists at his side. He remembered it so clearly, and it killed him. Doubt started to creep upon him as he thought back to that night. Angel had hardly spoken two words to her and she was already in his arms, her lips pressed against his. And when she showed up in the basement that night, ready to be with Spike like nothing had happened, he had his mind already set that he wasn't going to let her walk all over him. He had his pride.

But that plan crumbled fast when he saw her start to walk away. He couldn't bear the thought of not being with her. So he swallowed his pride and believed her when she said it was just a "hello" kiss.

Bloody hell…I was such an idiot…

"Yeah, so if you apparently meant so much to her, why was she all over me Spike?" Angel said. "I don't know about you, but when someone says they're 'in love' that usually means they're faithful too." Angel smirked at Spike. "She must have really loved you then."

Dawn was hurriedly making her way up the staircase to the fifth floor of Buffy's apartment building, since the elevator was broken. She couldn't stand everyone being so mad at each other and decided it was her job to fix it. Once she reached Buffy's floor though, she came to an immediate stop. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Angel and Spike standing just outside Buffy's door, both giving each other the death glare.

Even though she knew Spike was alive, the shock of actually seeing him was way bigger than just hearing about it. Dawn took a deep breath, regaining her focus as she walked towards the door.

"Dawn?" Spike looked away from Angel and stared at the young girl. A warm smile soon found its way onto the vampire's face as he stared at her. She had grown up a lot in the last year. Her hair went down past her shoulders and no longer had those bloody awful blonde streaks mixed in it. And her face looked older somehow too, with her eyes shining brighter, displaying wisdom. She looked more mature. More like a woman.

Dawn's cheeks quickly turned bright red under his gaze and she smiled up at him to. "Spike," she squealed running at him and capturing him in a giant bear hug. She let go in an instant though and glared at him. "Wait a minute. I'm mad at you I just remembered." She turned on her heel and faced Buffy's door. Dawn gave Angel a quick "hello," before digging around in her purse for her spare key and opening the door to her sister's apartment.

Once inside, Dawn set down her purse and walked over to her sister who was a mess on the couch.

"Buffy," she said as she knelt down by her sister's head and gave her a nudge on the shoulder.

"Dawn?"

"Yeah it's me," she replied. "Get up." Dawn gently pulled at Buffy until she was in an upright sitting position on the couch. A few strands of her hair were soaking wet from her tears, and black mascara streaked down her cheeks.

"Dawn, what are you doing here?" Buffy said, her voice cracking a bit because of all the crying she had just done.

"I came here to knock some sense into you."

"What?" Buffy asked, very confused. She expected Dawn to come here and comfort her. Tell her that everything was going to be alright and that she didn't need Spike or Angel.

"Willow told me everything," Dawn began.

"Oh great," Buffy said wiping her face to get rid of the mascara tracks she was sure were on her face. After a few seconds, she got up from the couch and headed over to her kitchen, pulling open the door to her fridge to retrieve a water bottle. "This is just what I need."

"It is what you need Buffy!" Dawn said. She followed her sister and rested her hands on the counter of the island sitting in the kitchen.

"You don't know anything about this Dawn." Buffy took a drink from the bottle, before screwing the lid back on and setting it down on the counter. She rubbed her hands over her eyes and sighed. "Look, can we just…not do this right now?"

"So…what? You think that if you just run from all of this it will make it go away?"

"I am not running!" Buffy yelled.

"Yes you are Buffy! That's all you ever do is run…"

Buffy let out a humorless laugh and looked up at the ceiling before setting her eyes back on her little sister.

"When things get hard or tricky…what do you do Buffy?" Dawn asked, but added "run," before her sister could reply.

"What do you know Dawn? You're just a kid."

Buffy didn't want to deal with any of this right now. She just wanted to be left alone to cry and wallow…and okay have a bit of a pity party. She didn't want everyone attacking her. Least of all Dawn. Dawn was just a little kid. She wouldn't know anything about what she was going through or how to fix it.

"No I'm not Buffy! I'm in my twenties now, just like you! And when things get rough, do you see me taking off at full speed to escape it all? No."

Buffy started to walk towards her bedroom door, only to be stopped by Dawn.

"See," Dawn said waving her hand in the air towards Buffy, "there you go. Running away again like usual."

Buffy whipped herself around angrily and shouted, "Okay Dawn! Since you're so wise, tell me…" her eyes started welling up with tears once again. "How would you handle the situation? I thought Spike was dead, but apparently he's not! And guess what? Everyone seemed to know that little fact but me!" Buffy's lips were quivering as she spoke.

"Buffy, Willow didn't mean to hurt you…" Dawn walked over to her, her face softening as she watched her sister break down in front of her.

"Oh really? Is that what she told you?"

"Yes…she feels horrible about it…you should have seen h-"

"I don't want to see her," Buffy spat out. "I don't want to see anyone!" She turned around and head for her bedroom, only to be followed by Dawn. She obviously wasn't going to leave until she said what she had to say.

Stubbornness definitely runs in the family…

"Yeah she mentioned that," Dawn said as she entered the room. "Look Buffy, I don't know why you're being so hard on her. Didn't you ask her not to tell you if she found out anything?"

Buffy froze. She had said that to Willow. But Buffy never thought Willow would actually find him still alive. And the fact that she did and didn't mention it to Buffy really hurt. Buffy felt like she deserved to know that.

"I did, but Wil-"

"No Buffy! Don't blame this on Willow." She walked over to her sister until they were just a few feet apart. "You said you didn't want to know." Dawn was pointing at her as she spoke. "You said you wanted to move on and get over him. So Willow does what you ask of her and keeps her mouth shut and you're mad?" Dawn's eyebrows were raised as she asked the question.

"If she was really my friend she would have told me."

"Or maybe she really is your friend and wanted to spare you all the hurt you would feel if you found out Spike was still alive and he didn't come to you right away."

Spike's confidence withered in that moment. He stood there standing before Angel and felt like for once in his existence—

"You're right Angel." Spike looked down at his feet. Everything that Willow had told him and shown him crumbled. Angel was right. Buffy may have been hung up on Spike for a while, but…

It's always been about Angel…

That was the last thing Angel expected to hear come out of Spike's mouth. His face went from happy to confused in less than a second.

"What?" Angel asked, still unsure if he heard Spike correctly.

"Guess you win mate." Spike didn't look at him as he started walking down the corridor to the staircase entrance. He stopped and turned around when he reached the door. "Just for the record…you don't deserve her."

And then he was gone.