Time Frame: Takes Place after Season 6.


No one bothered the two passengers at the back of the bus. The others riders had avoided them like the plague ever since the bus had left New York. And that was just the way the two riders liked it, for they were not in any sort of mood to have people interrupting their discussion. They quickly shut up every time a new person got on or someone left, as if fearing that their secrets would be found out. For truth be told neither one of the riders was where they were supposed to be. One was a mere shell of his former self, once he was powerful, dangerous, and a monster.

But now he more resembled someone that was on their way out of this life. His breaths came in short and painful wheezes, his limbs feeling as if they would fall off, his body constantly wet with sweat, and he was constantly having to summon all of his strength to keep from vomiting all over himself and his most unlikely companion. The other passengers had often noticed her comforting him as if he was a small child that had awoken, bathed in sweat, from a particularly terrible nightmare. For her part the woman did her best to hide her appearance, for even though it was summer time she wore a long blue coat and a hat that she kept pulled down over her eyes as she constantly strived to avoid looking anyone in the eye.

Much of the journey through Ohio had been uneventful, except for the time that the man had, seemingly awakening from a nightmare, begun feverishly shouting and convulsing, wailing about there being blood everywhere. The other passengers had all moved a seat up after that, wanting to put as much distance between them and the weird two passengers in the back as they could. Even the bus driver had started to think of asking them to get off, but during a stop while the other riders got off he had gone back to the couple in the back and asked them if it would be best if they got off the bus.

The man had angrily stood up, bloodshot eyes and all, and grabbed him by the collar before lifting him off the floor of the bus. After that the bus driver had simply fearfully gone back to his seat, not venturing anywhere near the couple in the back of the bus again, and in hushed tones telling many of his riders to do the same. After fishing around in her bag for a bit the woman produced an apple and turned to her companion, letting a lock of red hair out from under her cap.

"Here Spike, you really should eat something," the woman said as she tried to give the apple to her friend. He took it reluctantly as another episode had just subsided and he had to admit that he was a little hungry, whereas a few months earlier he would have been hungry for blood, but with his new predicament the mere sight of blood was enough to get the bile to rise in his throat.

"Thanks Red," Spike said and took a big bite of the apple, nervously running a hand through his once bleached blond hair. Now it was more of a dark brown with blond tips that hung down around his shoulders. As he chewed he impatiently scratched his chin, scowling at the fact that he had forgotten to shave, again. It was not that having facial hair particularly bothered Spike, but it was the fact that now he surmised he looked like a bum to the other occupants of the bus.

"I have to admit that I'm still not used to you.eating and all," Willow said as she managed a smile and pulled out a banana for herself. Just a few short weeks earlier she had been in England, being watched over and cared for by a coven of witches that Giles had contacted before he had returned to Sunnydale. And now here she was, riding on a bus with William the Bloody, and returning home several weeks ahead of schedule.

"You and me both Red, but you still haven't told me how you wound up in Africa," Spike said eyeing Willow warily. Avoiding his gaze Willow fidgeted in her seat, desperately racking her brain for something to say.

"Uh.would you believe it was all just a big coincidence," Willow said giving Spike a big smile, one that she hoped would give him the answer that he sought.

"Ya right.and I'm Queen Victoria," Spike said snorting as he finished off the apple, and after looking around to see that no one was looking, and chucked it out the window.

"Well now that you mention it you do kinda look like.," was all Willow could get out before she broke down in a fit of laughter that got a light hearted glare from Spike.

"Oh sod off," Spike said as he turned and looked out the window before thinking, "but it's good to hear you laughing again." During their time together, which much of the early part had been taken up by her nursing him back to health after his transformation, Spike had managed to get out of Willow everything that had happened after he left town, from Tara's death to her going dark phoenix on the world. In those early days both of them had cried enough to float a boat. As the days wore on the topics of their discussion had changed to usually more lighter subjects. Spike had spent a good deal of time relearning what it meant to be a human, and Willow had not missed a single one of his missteps, usually asking him stupid questions like if he was sure that he had ever been human.

"Ah come on Mr. Big Bad, you don't really mean that," Willow said looking at Spike with her puppy dog eyes, ones that she had first used on Xander and Oz and later Tara. After a second or two went by and Spike had not answered her Willow lightly hit him in the arm. "Yo, you awake over there, I said you don't mean that do you," Willow repeated with a smirk as Spike slowly turned his head and glared at her, a glare that he tried to make as mean and angry and possible, but now in his condition it was more of a look of confusion and desperation. He intended to stay silent and ignore her, but try as he might he just couldn't do it.

"No," Spike said in a barely audible whisper. Willow's face brightened at his words, and Spike had to summon all of his will to keep himself from smiling back. Rather than keep looking at Willow Spike turned back to gazing out of the window, and he couldn't help but wonder, as he gazed out into the night sky, what Buffy was doing at the very minute.

* * * * * * *

"Hey Buffy, you going to eat that," Xander said as he reached for the last slice of pizza. Without looking back Buffy slowly shook her head and continued to stare out of the window with a sad look in her eyes. "Alright then, more for me," he said before taking a big bite. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Anya glaring at him with an unhappy look on her face. "What," was all her could muster before she started in.

"Xander Harris what do you think you're doing, you've already had five pieces, if you keep eating like that you'll end up as big as a Shirago demon," Anya said scowling heavily at him and slapping the back of his hand, causing Dawn to crack up laughing.

"Fat chance of that happening," Xander shot back over a mouthful of pizza and he did his best to cram the entire slice into his mouth before Anya could stop him.

Buffy lazily glanced back at them without letting the sad look on her face leave. After the events that had led to Willow and Spike leaving things had gotten pretty much back to normal. There even seemed to be a shortage of vamps and demons about. Such a shortage had prodded Dawn to begin nagging her so much that Buffy had finally decided to let her come along on patrols, deciding that it was safe enough for Dawn to be out with her on patrol. To Buffy's relief they had encountered few vampires and almost no demons of any kind, making their nightly patrols end up just being some good exercise. At first they had intentionally avoided Spike's crypt, with Buffy saying that she wasn't ready yet, and she had told Dawn not to go there ever again. But as she had done many times before Dawn had disobeyed and started visiting the crypt on a regular schedule, coming up with the excuse that Clem would be lonely so that if Buffy ever found out she'd have a good comeback. Dawn had purposely avoided bringing Spike's name up for fear of hurting Buffy, preferring to discuss the vampire with Clem, as she had asked him repeatedly whether Spike had contacted him or if he knew when Spike was coming back.

The answer had always been the same, with Clem telling her with a crestfallen look on his face that he had no idea where Spike was and no idea when or even if he was ever coming back. The first time Buffy had returned to Spike's crypt was a trip in which she had intended to put his duster back in the crypt, but the next morning while picking out clothes for the day she discovered that the old coat was still there, for she soon discovered that try as she might she just couldn't part with her only reminder of the man that she.loved? No I couldn't love him, he's a soulless evil monster that tried to rape me was the thought that she tried desperately to make stick, but on more than one occasion Dawn had peeked in through the keyhole and saw Buffy tightly hugging Spike's duster to her body, tears streaming down her face. When she had asked about it Dawn had only gotten silence in return.

The break had also been good for the Scoobies that were left, as even though she was a Vengeance Demon again Anya had ended up agreeing with Xander to at least be civil about what was left of their relationship. But it hadn't taken to long before they were back to their old selves, acting for the most part as if Xander leaving her standing at the alter was no big deal, and for that Buffy was glad, as it meant that at least some of her friends were happy. Xander had gotten work with a construction company that had gotten the contract for several new building and as such needed skilled workers. And as such Xander could now afford to live in the apartment that had earlier taken both his and Anya's salaries to pay for.

Dawn had even found herself a boyfriend. Dawn told Buffy that his real name was William but everybody called him Billy. Dawn made a point of making sure that Buffy and everyone else knew to never call him William, as when she had told Buffy that Billy's real name was William she noticed a very somber look suddenly appear on a face that had just moments before held a smile. It was obvious, to Dawn, that hearing Billy's real name had only stirred up memories of Spike in her sister's head.

They had left Willow's room almost exactly as it had been the day she left, as Buffy had simply locked it and told Dawn to never even think about even trying to get into the room. Believing that if they didn't have to look at the room that the painful memories of what had happened after Tara's death would slip away. However it had not worked, as Buffy now often found her thoughts torn between worrying about how Willow was recovering in England with Giles and the whereabouts of her ex-lover. She had avoided even thinking of him as her boyfriend, but as the days wore on she had begrudgingly admitted to herself that in even though he had tried to rape her Spike was in all truthfulness her boyfriend.

"So what do you think Buffy," Xander asked, snapping Buffy back to the here and now.

"Wha.what, what do I think about what," Buffy said as she shook her head and yawned.

"What color of crystals I should get next, I already ordered some more yellow ones you know the ones that look like little lemons, and I can't make up my mind between the orange ones that look like little carrots and the red ones that look like little cherries," Anya said with a very expectant look on her face.

"I don't care, whichever you think is best," Buffy said lazily looking back and forth between Xander and Anya. Anya just stared back at her blankly, while Dawn looked at her with an overly concerned look on her face. Xander meanwhile was to busy trying to swallow the slice that he had just shoved into his mouth.

"What's wrong Buffy, you okay," Dawn said as she stood up and closed the lid of the pizza box. Over the summer Dawn had actually grown an inch or two and was now a little taller than Buffy, something that Dawn hadn't let go unnoticed.

"Yah Dawnie I'm fine, I guess I just can't stop worrying about Willow..and Spike," Buffy said with the last bit being uttered in only a whisper because she knew that if she had spoken Spike's name loud enough then Xander would have gone off on his spiel of how horrible Spike was and then make his pledge that if Spike ever came back Xander would stake him before he could even get near Buffy or Dawn.

"Yeah.me to, but she's with Giles, he'll help her," Xander said as he sadly took a sip from his glass. Ever since Willow had left he had tried to put up a strong front and act like he wasn't worried to much about Willow, believing that she'd be back to her old self, and back with them in Sunnydale in no time. But as the summer wore on his demeanor had dramatically soured when it came to Willow, and lately he had avoided even mentioning her completely, as like usual with Xander he had let his fears and insecurities gain control over his mind. Anya on the other hand had not seemed to miss Willow very much. When questioned about it she had said that she had complete confidence in Giles and the coven and that it didn't help any to worry herself sick about, and on that thought she had begun buying what Xander considered way to many vitamins. Since then she had begun almost forcing Xander to take a bevy of them every day, in her words so that he wouldn't worry himself sick about Willow.

For the next few moments they just stared at each other before Anya spoke up in her usual chipper voice, "Oh my look at the time, we really should be going, I have to go count my money.I mean go over the books". Xander began to protest but before he could utter a word Anya had drug him out of the house with all her might, leaving him only able to say a meager goodbye.

"Okay Buffy enough games, you might have been able to fool Anya and Xander but you can't fool me, I know you to well, what's really bugging you," Dawn said with her hands on her hips and a look on her face that Buffy had seen many times on Joyce's face. The look that said I'm not leaving until I get the truth, and I don't think I'm going to like the truth.

"When did you become the mother all of a sudden," Buffy quipped managing a weak smile. But seeing that her words hadn't changed the look on Dawn's face Buffy slowly sat down and with her head in her hands muttered, "I miss him Dawnie.I miss Spike".

The words hit Dawn like a ton of bricks, after seeing Buffy curled up on her bed and crying herself to sleep while clutching Spikes duster Dawn had attributed it to just Buffy being sad about her whole state of affairs. But she hadn't considered that Buffy could actually miss Spike, after what he had done..